SF vs. LA

San Francisco was a thriving and important city in the 1850s, while Los Angeles was a sleepy, insignificant Hispanic village.

San Francisco was the terminus of the transcontinental railroad (OK, technically Oakland, but same difference) in 1869. The Southern route arrived in LA seven years later. It cost LA $610,000―$4.5 million in 2023) to keep it from terminating in San Diego.

It’s a little easier to figure out why LA beat SF despite the northern city’s head start. SF was on a peninsula and the area that surrounded it was hilly land, difficult to access and hard to build on. So, it was hard to squeeze more people in.

LA, on the other hand, had land spreading out so far and wide, mostly flat as a pancake. So it was filled with inexpensive houses. My father-in-law was selling 3/2 homes for $500 in the 1930s ($10,000 today―still pretty cheap). More people, more money, more political influence. Alas, Nixon and Reagan.

Plus, LA was helped by its climate. Sunny skies brought the movie industry to Hollywood (the motion picture capital started out in Fremont, which would have helped SF, if not for the fog) as well as the defense industry (easier to do test flights in the sun than in the rain).

Today, LA rules while SF drools (and I don’t know what San Diego does―perhaps kick itself for not coughing up $5 million back in the day). SF is quaint while LA is powerful. Except for the inexplicable fact that holders of statewide office are disproportionately from NorCal.


Written vs. Spoken Vocabulary

I think almost all of us have a larger written vocabulary than spoken vocabulary. I was put in mind of this by the Elevate Ap ($5/month of $50 a year) on my iPhone. Elevate has a pronunciation game. Usually I ace it.

This wouldn’t always have been so. When I was 10 years old, the Columbus Day Storm devastated Oregon with mass destruction. The newspapers that somehow made it to our porch constantly described debris everywhere.

When it was safe, my family drove around to look at the devastation, I said, “look at the debb-riss.” My mother gently corrected me (look it up).

I know “soak-rats” for Socrates is a joke, but I did hear it once and I don’t think the person who said it was kidding.

Of course now that reading is a gendered activity, most boys won’t have a spoken OR written vocabulary. I’m not looking forward to the first novel written in emojis, or the Pulitzer Prize for best first-person shooter game.


Why Does One City Win? Portland Vs. Seattle

What is it that make city pairs flip in importance and influence? If you know of another pair (I know little about the economic history of any states except Oregon/Washington and California), please let me know what happened.

I suspect flips vary from pairing to pairing, but certainly one significant factor is the presence of the aviation industry.

For decades, Portland, Ore. (the largest Portland in the world, meaning it is the largest of the 31 in the U.S.) was the dominant city in the Pacific Northwest. For much of the 19th and early 20th century, it had the largest number of millionaires per capita of any U.S. city. Most of that money came from timber and beaver pelts. (Funny: I grew up in the Beaver State and ended up at a university with a beaver mascot, and I wear a beaver ring)

Seattle was a secondary city. It must be more than population. Portland had 821 people in 1850; Seattle wasn’t even included in the Census until 1890. It’s been bigger than Portland since 1910.

Portland was joined to the national railroad system in 1887, six years earlier than Seattle.

Portland is considered an ocean port since the mighty Columbia River is dredged deeply enough to carry ocean-going vessels 50 miles inland. Score one for Seattle; it is much closer to the ocean. Which has nothing to do with the federal decision to base nearly all Pacific Northwest offices in Seattle (they always choose the most important city in a region).

For whatever reason, Seattle won the race to be  “King City of the Pacific Northwest” decades ago, certainly by my birth in 1952.

(continued―next week LA versus SF)


Right Column Redux: Audio Editing Hacks

The column to the right on this blog contains permanent content, most of which has appeared at one time or another in the main body. I’ve decided to include a reminder.

Fun with electronic editing. At WTBS, these were called hacks. Back in the 70s they were done with spliced magnetic tape. Now they can be done with electrons.

Alphabet Medley

Frank Sinatra/Ella Fitzgerald Duet: I've Got A Crush on You

Alphabet Song from single sung syllables


Apropos Of The Lunar New Year

This is the year of the dragon, as was 1952, my natal year. According to the East Bay Times, dragons have good luck, intelligence, charisma, optimism, strength, and health. Also boundless energy

Many’s the time I have been compared to Tigger because of my bouncy energy. When I worked in offices, decades ago, people would come up to me and say, “Are you all right,” if I walked in exhibiting what would, from anyone else, be normal energy.

As long as I am breaking my arm patting myself on the back, I was thrilled several times over the years when people told me I “lit up a room.” A few of them invited me to parties just for that purpose.

Finally, while talking to the Kaiser Advice Nurse this week, at the end of the conversation, he said, “May I ask what you did for a living?” I told him I was a journalist. “I just wondered. You’re so articulate, you clearly know medical terminology, and in this job I seldom get people who are so calm and nice.”

I have probably mentioned that I have a policy: I try never to visit a hospital without making at least one staffer laugh. My go-to line? “What else can I do for you?” “Tell me the meaning of life.” Lots of interesting responses, but not, so far, a direct answer, although “Whatever you think it is,” came close.


Hip Op Music

I was supposed to be playing Hip Op music on Feb. 9, but my hip replacement surgery got postponed indefinitely. So, instead I am playing the Volga Boatman (a trite piece of music often used to represent death or depression). But because I expected to be recuperating, I preposted my columns  for release on Feb. 12 and 19. They will be just a little short and timeless. I've already done the work, so, barring a miracle reschedule, or earth shattering news,  I'll just take a couple of weeks of cruise control and do stretches to reduce the pain in my back and leg. I have lived with this pain, on and off, for 18 months; I can stand a few more. Old age isn't for sissies.


Groundhog Day and Buddhism

As usual, I expect new material for my Groundhog Day The Movie website from my avid readers. Fire away if you have something you don't see here. It’s getting harder to find things I missed: the site has been up since 2001.

I run this item every year in conjunction with Groundhog Day (Friday, Feb. 2 this year). The Bill Murray movie of the same name is the 34th funniest American film of all time, according to the American Film Institute. It is also my favorite movie of all times. This is the fourteenth time I've run this item!