If you're remotely interested:
- Chi and I continued for 4 nights in Santa Monica.
- Made friends with a SoCal Foodie who match-made us with Mexican food (as in, REAL Mexicans constructing ceviche tostadas with culinary prowess and zero English in the back of a parking lot).
- Church visits to Reality LA (Tim Keller's church plant) and Mosaic (where my definitive "I think I could seriously move here" moment occurred).
- Pot Lucked at The Comedy Store on a Monday night, only to learn that Jerry Seinfeld made a surprise guest appearance the Tuesday night following (!)
- Free ticketed our way to the front-ish rows of The Dr Phil Show at Paramount Pictures.
- Drove on the Californian Freeway, on the right hand side of the road, and schooled ourselves in how not to change lanes safely.
- Stayed with old friends in Santa Barbara and fell in love with their pit bull Ozzie.
So, blogging while tourist-ing proved harder than I thought.
We stayed in 4 different locations around Southern California over 10 days. My more-extroverted sister lovingly did not judge me while I stayed in our AirBnB apartment writing that other post; but I still wished I could simultaneously journal, traipse around the sites and reflect on why this trip was remotely significant to my growth as a human.
So, in true economical blogger style, I am going to partition this post into 3 sections: Mexican Food, Margaritas and Money Matters; to collect wisps of seemingly disconnected lessons into one synergised orchestra:
In my last post, I mentioned that California, Texas and Arizona bordered on Mexico. Ramifications of this tiny geographical detail include:
- Eating the best shrimp taco I had ever eaten in my life at Mariscos Jalisco (above).
- Shaming myself for a lack of Spanish-speaking ability every time we hired an Uber.
- Learning that Santa Monica was named after Saint Monica, Santa Barbara after Saint Barbara, San Diego after Saint Didacus, and so on and so forth.
- Los Angeles was part of Mexico for 27 years before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo purchased Los Angeles and the rest of California in 1848.
- Wanting to put in America's Suggestion Box: Please re-school adults on human rights, because Trump is making no effort to hide his racism toward Latinos.
- The Comedy Store's Pot Luck Comedians capitalised on their resignation to despair about the direction of North America due to Trump's millions of supporters.
All this to didactically assert: We need to do something about Trump's hate speeches toward Latinos.
Words like "racist", "Fascism", "Hitler" and "bigot" characterise Donald Trump's political campaign. This is very concerning. His supporters are mostly comprised of ordinary, white, working-class Americans. Two Trump supporters urinated and beat up a homeless Mexican man with a metal pole after a Red Sox game, commended as "passionate" by Trump himself.
While I am tempted to just go ahead and call Americans stupid, the situation is so beyond comical that it's left me highly concerned that history will repeat itself.
Pleasure in America is easy to come by. Things are just open so much later into the night.
My sister and I stayed with old friends, one of whom we'd met in Sydney. They were the loveliest hosts and of course, one night we ordered a round of blood orange margaritas. This is significant because I'm not a huge drinker, and when I do take even 100mL of alcohol it goes straight to my brain and threatens my ability to dance in a straight line.
So hoping this connection is sufficiently established, this is what I think of the American people. (And by American people I mean Southern Californians):
- Socially well-trained, good communicators.
- Chatty, friendly.
- Spoilt for choice with regard to breakfast cereal.
- Dog-owning, because they're dog-loving.
- Crazy drivers.
- Able to open up a savings account for every animal they own to give them pet insurance.
- Weighed underneath heavy student loans.
- Constantly barraged by cosmetic surgery ads; then made to feel irrationally unattractive by said ads (see my inspired Poem about this here.)
- Busy with frivolities, as they epitomise that gift-buying dilemma for when 'no one can buy you anything anymore, because now you have absolutely everything you could ever need.' Hence - sororities, Ladies Who Lunch, fraternities, too many burger restaurant varieties, bringing your well trained hound dog to Macy's (our Myer equivalent), buying too many things at Wholefoods, etc.
In summary, while Americans are caught in a deep-dished, multi-levelled, consumerist stupor, which I really can't blame them for; they really are lovely people.
Investment Bankers on Wall Street are greedy.
On the flight home I watched The Big Short. It proved the perfect summation for my American experience, simultaneously educating me on the cause of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
It was like all my possible reflections about the US were compiled into an insightful comedic reel about WHY America is the WAY it is.
Here is a given:
All Americans would like to reach the American dream.
Further, the capitalist, free market ideology that the American dream could be reached - that is, if a man worked hard enough he could own a house for his family one day; is fast-tracked through high-risk borrowing.
This is money-lending for a person's home ownership, children's university education, adequate health care and disposable income; except it comes with complex investing ramifications if you don't have the money upfront.
And who does?
I could call regular Americans greedy, but the above items that these huge bank loans are being taken out for are completely reasonable.
If one were ignorant for how the money were being circulated (which, many Australians are also financially illiterate) when borrowing mortgage money from a bank, and adding to their quality of life seemed attainable, there wouldn't be much thinking space left for the wider, macro consequences.
[Insert Big Short Trailer clip to briefly educate us here:]
We can't afford to be financially ignorant. Watch this trailer. It'll take you 3 minutes worth of video data (but don't be an inconsiderate douchette and watch it on the train without headphones!).
Wall Street Investment bankers can't be trusted. They screwed over responsible American families who were paying rent and mortgage payments on time. I know I'm showing my left wing bias here, but deregulating the housing market allowed a greedy powerful few to take advantage of the American people, and consequently, the entire world.
So here is my elementary, extremely conservative money advice in response to Wall-Street-Investment-Banker-right-wing-republican-greed:
- Refuse to own a credit card. Don't spend money you don't have.
- If you really need it, borrow it from a trustworthy person who won't charge you high interest.
- Pay back the money as quickly as possible.
- Or if you really don't need to borrow, don't. Learn to go without, save up for things, where the reward will be so much sweeter when you can finally afford to buy those things.
Who cares if you still shop at Valleygirl, rent your suits from Roger David, or can only afford coffee when you go to brunch with friends. You are still wealthier than 87% of the world's population, and your friends whom go shopping for fun on a regular basis deserve severe judgment. Nobody needs that many pairs of black shoes!
To be rich and successful is wonderful, but as Tony Robbins puts it:
Success without fulfilment is awful. It's when you achieve everything you've ever dreamed of, and think "is this it, really?".
So aim for wealth, but aim for wisdom with this wealth. For "better the little that the righteous have than the abundance of many wicked." (Psalm 37:16).
Wealth is not an indication of superiority. Strong work ethic that has led to righteous wealth is cause for some bragging. So, let the self-made man or woman boast in their life's work.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The price of a progressive, advanced nation produces generations of apathetic people who didn't fight for their wealth; whom grow accustomed to a comfortable society but are not schooled on how their forefathers got there.
And the result of acquiring every item you've ever wanted believing the lie that "riches will make you happy" is a surefire depressive-spiral with a dollop of existential crisis.
So money should sit where it belongs:
Subservient to us.
To summarise and hint about stories for another time:
The USA is Australia's how-to-do-a-capitalist-society role model. Except she's getting a bit out of hand (re the concerning Trump situation).
Instead of blatantly stating that we are superior to America, I would rather we stay on our toes and keep the main thing the main thing: (Oh, and label me left wing all you like):
Respect for human life, equal access to health care, and not allowing the acquisition of more money to control our lives while 87% of the world's population starves.
Did I like the US? Yes.
Would I go back there? Of course!
Would I live there? Only if Trump stays out of the White House and I can live on Mexican street food.
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