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GOLIS: Different? You can’t mean us


I drove through San Francisco last week and saw absolutely no one in a state of undress. It may be that folks otherwise tempted to disrobe anticipated the next day’s headline in The Press Democrat.

“Bare majority for nudity ban,” it said. (At times like this, newspaper editors can’t help themselves.)

The story recounted how a San Francisco supervisor named Scott Wiener convinced his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to support an ordinance banning public nudity.

Pete Golis.

The 6-5 vote responded to what the New York Times described as the city’s “habitual nudists.”

The Times, which reports only the most important news, explained: “The vote means that there will be no more lounging nude in the city’s plazas, parading up and down city streets sans pants, or riding subways and buses bare-bottomed.”

Somewhere in New Jersey, a Little Old Lady is imagining a city of naked people here, there and everywhere.

During the (very) public hearing, the Times reported, one dissident removed his clothes and shouted, “Recall Wiener! Wiener is a Republican!”

This story, of course, arrives ready-made for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and for almost anyone eager to believe that people in California are different from the residents of other states. This means almost anyone living east of Lake Tahoe.

To be honest, it’s difficult to argue that we aren’t different in this case. I’m guessing folks in Pascagoula, Miss., or Topeka, Kan., won’t be debating anytime soon whether nudity is protected by the First Amendment.

But, in California, we’re happy to oblige. We pass measures to outlaw traffic roundabouts. (Good morning, Cotati.) We debate ordinances to ban public WiFi. (Hello, Sebastopol.) We create nuclear-free zones. (Ditto.) We argue over prohibitions again chain outlets. (Hello, Sonoma.)

In this state, it turns out, we’re always happy to debate issues that matter to someone.

And even if we occasionally wander into the weeds, I would argue our unconventional politics is something to be proud of. Let people in other states be afraid of new ideas.

I like it that we’re tolerant of people’s differences. I like it that we’re disinclined to condemn anyone who doesn’t think or act the same as we do. I like it that people feel welcome to explore alternative lifestyles.

Usually for the better, California sets the standard for other states to follow. Social change starts here, and so do important breaks with convention that later become conventional wisdom.

Consider just one example, among many: In every state in the union, the air is cleaner today because this state insisted on limiting emissions from internal combustion engines.

By the way, there is a serious case to be made that innovation and creativity are more likely to occur in California because people aren’t mired in convention.

It’s not an accident that Apple is a California company. Its founder, Steve Jobs, grew up in the Bay Area, not Alabama. This self-described hippie and iconoclast loved computer technology, counter-culture music and Japanese design. Put them altogether, and you get the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and all the rest.

Yes, there’s a price to be paid for our quirkiness.

When you meet them for the first time, Midwesterners or Easterners may ask where you’ve stowed your surfboard, or your marijuana. (The Atlantic Wire reported this week that California drivers are twice as likely to be high as to be drunk.)

It isn’t always easy being a Californian — surfing, smoking dope, running around naked and building the ninth largest economy on earth. All in the same day.

But we manage.

I have friends (who will go unnamed) who are forever complaining about the weirdness of California and of Sonoma County. If only California were more like such-and-such a state, they say, usually referring to somewhere the rest of us would consider boring.

It is a free country and my friends could move to their favorite boring place if they wanted to move, but somehow they remain Californians. Funny how that works.

We’re glad to have them, of course — so long as they keep their clothes on.

Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at golispd@gmail.com.

11 Responses to “GOLIS: Different? You can’t mean us”

  1. Skippy says:

    @Michael Koepf,
    San Francisco is a sewer of human debris; each of them celebrated by the Democrats as pillars of diversity and free expression.
    Visiting SF once a year is more than enough for normal people.
    Each year multiple public Liberal Indoctrination Centers…err…schools, close due to a lack of students.
    Reason? No sane family would allow their children to live there.
    Try to find a child on the streets that isn’t homeless, or an adult not on some form of public dole.
    It’s a very pretty place, run by the ugliest, hateful leeches.
    It is no accident that, every 100 years or so, the whole place crumbles to rubble and burns to the ground.
    Nature has a way of disinfecting itself.

  2. Michael Koepf says:

    Gee, Pete, recently I too was driving through San Francisco, and while crossing Market Street with friends from Virginia (a lesbian couple) we espied two naked guys roller skating up the boulevard with their exposed, private parts dangling in the wind. However, they were wearing their city mandated, bicycle helmets. My friends, both social workers, made some humorous comments on the collapse of civilization and we drove on at a brisk rate of speed. Earlier that year, my sweetheart and I witnessed a tourist along Market Street hailing a cop demanding that the policeman do something about a homeless man (pants half down) making love to a light post. (Metal, no less!) The tourist was accompanied by his wife and children. I was in earshot and the copper informed the tourist that it was useless and a waste of his time, because if he hauled the wanker in he’d be sent to a brief hold in the loony bin and released. Not long ago, I saw a shirtless, unconscious man on a San Francisco street with a syringe stuck in his arm. Since I also “like it that people feel welcome to explore alternative lifestyles,” as Pete says, I walked on leaving the reclining zombie to his fun. Also, it’s a common occurrence in San Francisco these days to find piles of steaming, human excrement in secluded doorways down along the Embarcadero, and the odor of urine in public places is now taken for granted in the beautiful, liberal city by the bay. Jeeze, Pete, I hail from three generations of San Franciscans, and intolerant person that I am; I find the above behavior disgusting. But, like Pete Golis says: “It is a free country” to do whatever you want and people who feel otherwise “could move to their favorite boring place.” Thus, one supposes, the civil move on and the shameless remain. I say, don’t leave, stick around and help clean up this endless, broad-minded mess.

  3. Snarky says:

    Pete Golis has clearly never been around the annual Bay To Breakers festivity in San Francisco.

    Go take a look next spring, Pete, and you will witness elderly men walking around naked.

  4. Sue St. Claire says:

    Golis, I would not stick my self inflated chest out too far praising Cali. This state ranks first in poor government, second in unemployment and first in debt among its other stellar achievements.

    Little North Dakota and that state you would never want to enter, Wyoming rank first and second in good government.

    This state has a long way to go before claiming its high and mighty first in something other taking the blue ribbon in unemployment, extremely poor business climate and public debt to name just a few of its glories.

    Golis you need to reset you vision of the once golden state.

  5. Skippy says:

    Hating those unlike yourself is required to be a good Liberal.
    Rich white straight Christian men come to mind, but anyone not sufficiently perverse will do in a pinch.
    Don’t believe me?
    Believe the peace, love, drugs, tolerance drivel?
    Put an “I love Sen. Joe McCarthy” or “Abort all embryonic Democrats” sign on your lawn and get back to me after the insurance adjuster sifts through the ashes and rubble.
    I got your peace and love right here.

  6. GAJ says:

    Golis wrote:

    “I like it that we’re tolerant of people’s differences. I like it that we’re disinclined to condemn anyone who doesn’t think or act the same as we do.”

    He then goes on to put down New Jersey, Kansas and Mississippi in sweeping generalization.

    Nice tolerance Golis.

    Smug much?

  7. Snarky says:

    Yes, California IS different.

    Although, you’ll never learn that if all you read is the Press Democrat and its never ending “reporting” on real estate and DUI enforcement.

    “”California ranked in the bottom half of states in the overall high school graduation rate in the 2010-2011 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.””

    GOOGLE THE STORY. The Press Demo is covering chickens in Santa Rosa.

  8. Critic at Large says:

    Different doesn’t mean it is good. In too many cases here in the mother ship of leftist political thinking, out of control public unions,and one of the final outposts of the old soviet thinking, craziness has replaced common sense thinking by the political leaders and their followers.

    This state does lead the nation in state debt, progressive, out of control spending and racing faster and faster toward the fiscal cliff.

    No Golis, its not all wine and roses. There are too many thorns in the roses and the wine is stale.

  9. Sheryl says:

    I think your sense of self is rather high. I’m pretty sure that little old lady in the south has never heard your name and couldn’t care less how we live out here. Naked or clothed!

  10. Dick Tracy says:

    In California, even comic strip characters are fully accepted.

  11. Dan J Drummond says:

    Somewhere in the Deep South, a Little Old Church Lady is imagining Pete sitting naked at his keyboard smoking a joint while writing this piece, because he lives in the Devil’s Democratic California. Even the company he works for has Satan’s word “Democrat” in its name. It says right there at the bottom, “Pete Golis is a communist for The Press Democrat.”

    She also believes,
    President Obama is a Muslim
    Voter fraud stole the election from Romney
    Romney is not a real Christian
    The Bible was written by her God
    Solar power is bad for America

    Freedom of thought is good for America = thumbs-up
    Freedom of thought is bad for America = thumbs-down