Second Order Predator
I closed the nineties as a hired gun in the computer industry; it was a good time to do that, and I made some good friends in the process. It was an exciting time and the community was filled with interesting people from a wild range of places and backgrounds. For some months in 1998, I found myself doing contract PC support at Gulfstream Aerospace in Savannah, GA. It was a great gig for a lot of reasons, and I enjoyed working with the people there and getting to walk around the best jet in the world. If you ever find yourself with the means to acquire one, I highly recommend obtaining a Gulfstream executive jet. People who dream of Ferrari's and Acura NSX's are pikers, the great thing is to have a Gulfstream and use it to travel to interesting places.
One of the other contractors also working there in the heart of Dixie was an expatriate Los Angeleno with delusions of cultural superiority. Much of his identity was centered on the notion that he was from the most advanced culture in human history and that his ideas, fashion, and attitudes were the ideal. He had worked a gig in Cleveland and was now in Savannah, and nothing he saw challenged this vision of the world. He took no small pleasure in trumpeting his superiority in general, and too special care to demean some of the local good ole' boys. This is where I came in.
I am from Oregon. I have lived other places, many other places, but home for me is Oregon. Like a lot of other people, before I lived in Oregon, I had lived in California. (I had the good taste to have been born elsewhere.) Like many people who have endured California and enjoyed Oregon, I have gotten quite good at repudiating all things Californian. Don't get me wrong, there are many areas of California that are worthy, interesting, and good. Many of those things have been paved over, though. Most of the rest are ignored by the people who live there now. My mother's side of the family is from California, but they arrived there in covered wagons, not mini-vans. One of the first houses in Vista, California is my Grandmother's, who occupied it until she died this year a couple of days after her 99th birthday. She loved that house and the land it stood on, and she taught a love of the land to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I love my cousins because they appreciate the land and growing things, and they refuse to accept plastic as a substitute for culture.
While this contractor from California thought of himself as an Alpha predator, a colossus of cultural superiority; that was only because he had never met a dyed in the Gore-Tex Oregonian. All of the pretenses of golden state that I had spent my life piercing were the bedrock of this man's identity. Leaving him alone or at least with a sufficiently intact ego to continue without opening his wrists became a personal struggle. When he would open up on the local rednecks, demeaning their culture and identity, I would stop restraining myself. Most rednecks today are not bad folks, and in many ways their lifestyle is much more sustainable than the glitterati of SoCal.
The rednecks really didn’t have much of a defense against the cool sophistication of a Californian; the Lakers fan was as ready for me as a possum is for a pickup truck. This guy was like a sheep to the slaughter. He kept setting himself up for getting slammed. One time he came in wearing the latest in fashionable footwear, started giving crap to the redneck wearing cowboy boots, whereupon I pointed out that his shoes were almost identical to military oxfords that I could get for $27 a pair. I realized then that I was a second order predator, intellectually evolved to demolish Californian pretensions.
Since then, I have generally avoided Californians and usually made it a point to use my powers for good. Sometimes, it is quite hard. Occasionally, the attitudes of assumed superiority are a red flag waved in my face that I yield to. I have been accused on some lists of hitting, and I have to admit that restraint has not always been my greatest strength. I do try, though. In part because decorum and cordial conversations occasionally change people's minds and flame wars entrench positions, especially ridiculous ones. Mostly it's because I have brushed up against enough third order predators to want to avoid their wrath, at least until I can become a fourth order one.