California Über Alles!
For number two number eight I journeyed to the Golden State, sunny California. California has always held a sort of magical magnetism for me, but I had never actually visited there up until five years ago when I made my first trip to Los Angeles. I've been to LA several times since then, as well as San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and San Jose, but not Sacramento. I mean, why the hell would I ever go to Sacramento? Well, to poop at the capitol and to attend a beard competition, that's why. Two birds, one stone.
Sacramento had been on my radar for the past several years, ever since I met the one and only Lando Commando, an esteemed member of the Moustache and Beard Social Club. Landon and I met in the pool at the Dixie Motel on Hollywood Boulevard while attending another competition several years back. I knew from the moment I saw the thong tattoo peaking out of his skimpy swim trunks that this guy was of a rare breed. We would later meet on the beard circuit on a strip club crawl in Portland, OR and a desert drinking marathon in Mesa, AZ. Each time, he would implore me to come to Sacramento for the Northern California Beard and Moustache Competition. "One day," I would reply, and in April of 2018 that day arrived.
I landed at SMF late Friday evening and checked into my Airbnb. There I met the hosts and the two adorable dogs that were promised in the listing. Einstein and Prince were cuter than advertised, and Prince was a non-stop face licking machine. Very good boys. 10/10. It was gonna be a good stay. I took it relatively easy that first night to give myself the best chance of mission success in the morning.
I woke up to glorious weather (it was 85 and sunny for my entire stay), the kind of weather that I believed never ceased in all of California when I was a kid (as an adult I realized this theory was based solely on Nickelodeon's Wild & Crazy Kids). I found a lovely coffee shop nearby to kick-start my campaign and meandered towards the capitol. I was blown away by the lushness of the vegetation everywhere, which locals told me was in stark contrast to the recent drought years. When I got to the capitol grounds I was flabbergasted to find orange trees. Fully ripe oranges just falling left and right! Like a hobo's dream.
Flora that I had never seen before in person - Redwoods and sequoias and all sorts of trees and flowering plants - surround the gleaming white capitol. Incredibly beautiful. As was the building itself.
As I passed through the security checkpoint, the California State Trooper on duty complemented me on my beard and I remembered watching old episodes of CHiPs on daytime TV during the summers of the mid 90's. He directed me to the tour office in the basement of the building, which also happened to be located right by the souvenir penny machine!
The tour office directed me to meet at the statue of Ronald Reagan in 10 minutes. "You can't miss it," they said. Sure enough...
Our tour guide, Alison (yes, that's right I finally managed to remember the name of a tour guide), explained the 100-year-old murals depicting the history of California surrounding old bronze Ronnie. She gave some insight into my dreamy notions of California, explaining that 400 years ago California was the end of the world. It was almost the farthest place imaginable to Europeans. It may as well have been Mars. Even in the 19th century it was at the far end of a vast continent. So it's always drawn the most daring and independent spirits westward, and eastward from Asia, to seek adventure and fortune, or to sell the screenplay they've been working on or end up doing porn.
California was ceded to the U.S. in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. Incredibly, just one week prior to official U.S. annexation of the territory, James Marshall found gold at Sutter's Mill. California's population exploded and she was fast-tracked to statehood in 1850. Capitol construction began in 1860 but wasn't completed until 1874, due to a little interruption called the Civil War.
Alison nimbly guided our small tour group through the throngs of (state capitol trademark alert) fourth-graders that packed the halls and into the Assembly and Senate chambers, where fourth graders on private tours were not allowed. She pointed out several quirks of the legislature unique to California. California compels its elected official to attend sessions. They send troopers after any truant Senators. They also force each representative to have a desk buddy from the other party to facilitate bi-partisanship. A nice touch. Also, the governor is not allowed into the chamber. Ever. Apparently, a certain governor once tried to forcibly enter a session but was turned away by the guards. It went something like this.
That governor was, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served from 2003 to 2011. Arnold donated his state employee's salary to charity and paid for his own portrait in the capitol, which is way bigger than all the other portraits. The massive painting doesn't even say his name because, come on, who's not gonna know Arnold Schwarzenegger?
The final stop on the tour was the governor's office, which we were told is huge and has a courtyard inside it and is off limits. Our guide Alison said she'd never even been in there in all her years working at the capitol. The entrance is guarded by a bronze bear statue that the Governator bought in Aspen, CO and donated to the capitol.
After the tour I found myself a nice secluded bathroom and I shat, wondering if Arnold or Ronnie or Jerry Brown had ever graced the same stool. One can only hope.
Victorious, I said farewell to the capitol, and set out to accomplish my second objective: win this beard competition.
Lando wasn't foolin'. I've been to many a beard competition, but the MBSC put on one hell of show. Well-over 100 competitors and a packed house at the California Automobile Museum (a very cool venue, they even had a 1987 Corolla) made for an excellent night, and raised a ton of money for charity. Hats off to the MBSC for their hospitality and charity. I ended up in second place in the full beard over 12 inches category. I was very honored and pleased given the competition I faced, and it was only my second trophy won on the road after my third place finish in Arizona.
We partied hard that night, as we beardos are wont to do. In the morning there was brunch and the parting of ways and the usual hugs and "until next times." When one gets home from these events the so-called "post-comp blues" set in, but luckily I had already booked my trip to the next one: the Boise Beard Bazaar in Idaho's capital city.
Sacramento struck me as a lovely small city. Like, it's California but there's no beach or traffic or outrageously priced drinks. Like Denver minus 200,000 people and without marijuana everywhere. Doesn't that sound appealing? It had that same vibe that OKC and SLC had. The "why the hell is there an NBA team here?" vibe. I reckon I'll have to return.
Stay tuned for Boise.