California Dream Meets Fiscal Nightmare

Friday, 28 May 2010 10:16 AM

By Jon Friedman

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Maybe it is the unseasonably chilly temperature outside. Maybe it is the prospect of another Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals and the sobering memory of Boston beating L.A. like a drum two years ago. Or it's just the economy, stupid.

The only thing that seems the same as ever is the mighty, lovely view of the Pacific Ocean.

But something appears to be going wrong in La-La Land.

A weekend in Los Angeles has chastened me. I used to love visiting the city and shaking my head at the childlike hopefulness of the natives — and especially the new arrivals to town.

Now it's different. The people I know here seem to be in a funk. California, as a whole, appears to be on the edge of fiscally tumbling into the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps the gloominess from Sacramento has filtered its way down the coast.

Then there is life in my little town. New Yorkers, I am proud to say, have kept a stiff upper lip through our own financial crisis, on Wall Street. Sure, housing prices have plunged and the Street has lost a lot of its luster. But I must say we have not let the bad conditions wipe the natural scowl off our faces.

Maybe the Angelinos will feel better if the Lakers go on and win the NBA title, as most hoops fans think they will. If that doesn't do the trick, maybe nothing will.

What concerns me is that California has traditionally set the pace in the United States in cultural and societal matters. They say that Manhattan is an island somewhere off the coast of America. But California is said to be barely in touch with the Western Hemisphere at times. Usually, as a matter of fact, Californians are way ahead.

Does that mean the state's malaise will move east and pick up speed till it infests New York and Washington?

God, I hope not. In New York, we already have enough problems (and no, I don't see the Knicks capturing an NBA championship for many, many years, thank you very much). I hope that Californians can regain their mojo and natural optimism. The country is better off when Los Angeles has a swagger, not a limp.

Meanwhile, let me tell you something: The Pacific Ocean is still spectacular!

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.




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