The big news of out of Southern California these past few days was the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – William’s first visit to the Golden State; Catherine’s first visit to the U.S., period.
And what a visit it was: a polo match; hobnobbing with Hollywood royalty.
Not mention a nifty iPad 2, courtesy of Gov. Jerry Brown, complete with all sorts of California-related goodies: music (The Beach Boys, The Eagles, The Mamas and Papas, L.L. Cool J, Tupac Shakur); movies (“The Social Network”), plus a rad U.C.-Berkeley-app.
. . . What, Stanford wasn’t good enough to make the cut?
Well, at least it’s an improvement on the measly old iPod that President Obama gave William’s grandmother, when he visited Buckingham Palace back in the spring of 2009.
Personally, I could care less about the iPad, the iPod – or, for that matter, how electronic gadget seems such . . . shallow and obvious gestures.
What I’d like to see instead is the background briefing for the future monarch’s California stay-over. Someone with a sense of mischief could have had a little fun – at the expense of the two lands divided by a common language. For California and the United Kingdom have more in common than meets the eye:
- Monarchy. The coming Sunday marks the 94th anniversary of George V officially founding the House of Windsor. Here in California, its 37.3 million subjects celebrate the first year of the second reign of Edward the (Moon)Beamer, son of Edward the Builder, who ruled from 1958 to 1967 before being vanquished by Ronald the Magnificent, founder of the House of Reagan. The younger (now considerably older) Edward first ruled from 1975 to 1983 (interestingly enough, welcoming William’s then-unmarried father to California during a 1977 visit to the Golden State). He resumed his royal duties this past January after fending off a challenge from the House of Whitman. One difference: William and Catherine likely will be ruling decades from now – not so for Edward the Older Younger, unless he changes that pesky two-term limit.
- Economy. The royal couple might want to prolong its North American stay. Back in Britain, inflation is on the rise, along with commodity prices; the economy is approaching stagnation. Then again, California’s no great shakes either. Unemployment isn’t expected to fall below 10% until the middle 2013; the Golden State finds itself in a curious state of economic tradeoffs and compromises – housing prices are falling while stock portfolios are growing; inflation means the dollar doesn’t go as far, while a weaker dollar overseas open the door to more California exports.
- Military. Britannia no longer rules the waves; with fewer ships and planes than it held a generation ago, California’s hard-pressed to defend its coast. The Royal Navy is without an aircraft carrier for at least another decade (a historic first since 1918); British naval aviators are studying French in order to fly sorties off the only carrier available, the Charles de Gaulle. America won the Cold War; California, with its decimated aerospace sector, lost the peace. The Golden State lost more jobs via base closures than the other 49 states combined.
- Culture. California-born Kevin Spacey is the toast of London’s West End for his revival of “Richard III”. Meanwhile, “Becks” and “Posh” live the good life in Beverly Hills. Advantage, England. Then again,Simon Cowell left “American Idol” and devoted his considerable charms to British broadcasting. Advantage: California (at least, until September when he’s back on American TV as a judge on “The X Factor”).
The comparisons go on. Britain noticed what was happening in Silicon Valley and created its own high-tech corridor. American performers like Gwyneth Paltrow discovered that nothing generates Oscar buzz like a fake British accent.
And, of course, there’s that royal in-law enjoying her own 15 minutes of fame: the perma-bronzed Pippa Middleton. She embodies youthful English high-society; her pigmentation embodies the California credo of life, liberty and proximity to a tanning salon.
All of which reminds me of a line from the first “Austin Powers” sequel, in which our hero is riding along in a convertible, surrounded by ocean, mountains, canyons and abundant sunshine.
Says the “international man of mystery”: “You know what's remarkable is how much England looks in no way like Southern California.”
He wasn’t kidding.