R E D    C L A D    L O O N

Winging It, Vol. 18

Are you going to the Rose Bowl? Don't answer that, stupid, it's a rhetorical question. Of course you're going to the Rose Bowl. Judging by all the chatter around here, everyone in the whole blasted state is migrating west. Such mass movement hasn't been seen since the mid-1800s, when the first band of brave pioneers making their way to California got fed up with their children wailing from the back seat about having to go to the bathroom, decided to stop, and then got lost from the rest of the wagon train. So they built a small mud house. And that, friends, is how the great state of Nebraska came to be (sigh).

Some of you may recall that I spent a fair amount of time (5.7 years) in the land of froots and knuts. When the bride and I decided to move back to the Fatherland this spring -- I swear the presence of eight home games on the schedule had absolutely nothing to do with it -- our State Farm agent slyly said: "Oh, you'll be surprised at how Californian you've become." We looked at each other quizzically, wondering what the agent meant. Then we bought some life insurance that we really didn't need.

In the months since, though, those soothsaying insights have come screeching back to me. Particularly when I'm piloting my car amid the monolithic, slow-moving barge-style vehicles on the Lincoln surface streets. Or when I try to find a Mexican restaurant that doesn't have a blonde guy named Skip working there. Or when I see a bleach-blond white kid decked out in FUBU gear. Or... or... oh, sorry, I digress.

But, hey, that's OK! One Mangino-sized advantage to living in Lincoln now is that I no longer have to waste precious vacation time in Nebraska any longer. Which is precisely why I'll be winging it to Cali on Jan. 1 -- hopefully, you'll be along for the ride, too. If you're lucky enough to make the migration, you'll really appreciate this annotated guide to the Golden State.

You'll blend right in if you:

The first thing to consider, Huskerboy, is that Californians are a bunch of nancy-boy sissies. The only exception to this is Arnold Schwartzenegger, and I'm saying that because he is a fine action film star, and not because he once picked me up by my neck. The point is, you'll be in the Golden State in the middle of the dead of what they call "winter." So by now, all the native folk will be dressed as if they were training for the Iditarod. After all, it might get down to 60 effin' degrees or so in the evening, thereby threatening to freeze the state's tofu supply. But what that mean is that it's easier than Courtney Love after six shots of Cuervo to spot the tourists -- who are usually decked out in shorts and t-shirts. In other words, do what my high-school girlfriend's dad used to tell me while polishing his Winchester. Keep your pants on, boy.

In fact, you may want to keep the red stuff with the white "N" in the suitcase the days before the game. Yes, yes, I know -- in Nebraska this type of blasphemous talk constitutes legal grounds for the Husker Nation Loyalty Patrol to freeze your assets and force you into a mountainous cavern hideout. But if you're going to don the sacred scarlet in and around Greater LA, pack a gat, dawg, cuz you may need to smoke a couple rival gangstas while you're at it. See, if you're a California street gang member, you're in one of two categories -- either you're a blue-clad "Sureno" (southern), or you're a red-clad "Norteno" (northern). So, it figures that red N-gear is wildly popular with certain California youngsters. That said, it's doubtful that a large, pale white woman named Bobbi from Crab Orchard, Neb., is going to be mistaken as a hardcore gang-bangin' Norteno. But if you happen to be strolling through West Covina looking for Lawrence Phillips' old house, find something else to wear. Painful as it may be to wear Wyoming brown or Oregon green or even (horrors) Colorado black, a slug from a chrome 9 mm hurts much, much worse. Dawg.

Let's say you are staying in lovely Palm Springs for your Rose Bowl trip and one day, you kindly ask the hotel attendant directions to the big game. He'll look at you for a second (undoubtedly thinking, "Do you realize you're in Palm Springs, moron?") and then he'll say something like this: "Mmm, OK. You'll need to take The 111 up to The 10. You'll go past The 215 and The 15, then you should look for The 210, and that'll get you into Pasadena." In six years on the West Coast, never did I understand why a long ribbon of pavement deserves an article in front of it. Maybe Californians think it makes the road sound more important or something, kind of like how "THE" Ohio State University does it. Heyyy ... or did the folks from Columbus pick up that little "THE" trick during one of their trips to Pasadena? Hmmm... the world may never know.

Oh, don't get me wrong. On Jan. 3, there will be about 100,000 people watching the Grandpappy of 'Em All who will care a whole buncha bunch. But unlike in the Husker Nation, you can't walk up to just anyone on the streets out there and start talking about football. La-La Land is a world of its own, with lots and lots of things to do, nearly 60 percent of them legal. And remember, this is the No. 2 market in the United States, their last NFL team left six years ago, and they still haven't noticed. So, Husker fan, don't get too discouraged if the natives don't give you the time of day when you try to strike up a pigskin conversation with 'em. To most of these people, the Rose Bowl is merely another distraction keeping them from figuring out whether brown is really the new black yet or not. Consider it a major victory if, after they see you in red and white, they don't think you're from Wisconsin. (P.S. They don't really like to talk about the weather, either.)

This is the single most important thing to remember during your time in Southern Cal. Try to fight the urge to apologize for the low voter turnout or the fact that Crouch threw more picks than scores. And whatever you do, don't take a single drop of poop from Hurricane fans -- one of the six who have tickets to the game -- who undoubtedly will want to remind you that former USC Trojan and memorable murder defendant O.J. Simpson voted for Eric The Red.

After all, O.J. lives in Miami now.

Red. White. Loon.
Show your true colors in THE POND,
Home of Nebraska's RED CLAD LOON.