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The Slice What’s Surf Without Turf? Are Cougar Fans Mere Beefeaters From The Back 40? Cultures Collide In L.A.

There has been a collision of cultural stereotypes down here, and two realizations are certain to emerge from the wreckage.

More than a few Southern Californians have had to confront the facts that Washington State University exists and many of its students and alums wear shoes.

A valet parking attendant at the concierge-infested Loews Beach Hotel explained. “It’s not just you guys,” he said. “People here think everywhere is the backwoods. Iowa, Wisconsin, whatever.”

Cougar backers, on the other hand, are learning that gunshots are simply not required to make driving in the Los Angeles area a thrill-ride adventure. Who needs Disneyland when there’s the Golden State Freeway?

And just think. The back-and-forth lessons have only begun.

One thing is clear already, though. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

Wish you were here.

Cougarland by the Sea: Several sizable WSU contingents have made the people-watching festival known as Santa Monica their base camp. Right on the ocean, it’s a dizzying mix of palm trees, trendy shops, in-your-face wealth and homeless people asking in-line skaters for spare change.

Late Saturday afternoon, as the sun melted into the Pacific - a sight worth seeing - it was easy to forget about the Rose Bowl. Tourists along the waterfront could be heard speaking a world of different languages. And a leather-faced old woman in a Dodgers cap shouted something about knowing Jerry Lewis.

But if you walked a few blocks into town, you heard drums. Loud, urgent drums. It was the WSU marching band practicing in a parking lot across from their hotel.

Oh, yeah. There’s a game in a few days.

Welcome to the Hotel California: In the Verandah Lounge at Santa Monica’s DoubleTree Hotel, you can order a “Cougartini.”

It’s vodka and cranberry juice.

Heard on an L.A. radio station: “What our visitors forget is that, for those of us who live here, there’s a Rose Bowl every year.”

Slice survey: Sunday morning, half a dozen WSU students were powering down some breakfast at a Santa Monica McDonald’s. Most were dressed in shorts and T-shirts. It wasn’t wishful thinking. The weather, already balmy, was headed for swimsuit numbers. By Sunday afternoon, downtown Santa Monica was packed and felt like the scene of a staged-for-a-movie midsummer festival.

Anyway, back to those guys at McDonald’s. They were asked how one could spot someone as a Coug if that person was not wearing any items of WSU apparel.

“They’d be drunk,” said one guy.

“They’ve got class and it shows,” offered another.

Finally, a guy named Milton Neal spoke up. “Without a shirt or a hat or something, there is no way to tell,” he said with an air of finality. Hmmm. We’re not so sure. More on that later.

Overheard: In an elevator at a hotel crawling with Cougs, a gray-haired guy in a “Michigan” sweatshirt was talking to a frowning woman: “I think I’ll change my name to persona non grata.”

Today’s Slice question: At least in terms of American popular culture, can any city make a better case than Los Angeles for thinking of itself as the center of the universe?

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Staff illustration by Milt Priggee

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