07/08/2009 08:24 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

California Theming On Such a Summer's Day

I'm a New Jersey resident who recently returned from a conference in California, and I'm here to report some surprising similarities and differences between the two ends of the United States.

-- When you look south while on the East Coast, the Atlantic Ocean is to your left. When you look south while on the West Coast, the San Diego Padres are in fourth place.

-- When you look north while on the West Coast, the Pacific Ocean is to your left. When you look north while on the East Coast, New Hampshirites can't be alive if they pay for housing in a state where people "live free or die."

-- Starbucks started in Seattle. First mate Starbuck and the rest of Moby Dick's Pequod crew sailed from the East Coast in a futile search for a good Whale-Oil Latte.

-- There's a Portland in both Maine and Oregon, and lobsters are fleeing from the former to the latter via Crustacean Airlines.

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger went from The Terminator to governor of California. Mark Sanford went from governor of South Carolina to terminating his chance of becoming a 2012 Republican candidate for non-hypocrite.

-- New York is the "city that never sleeps." Residents who live atop San Francisco's steep hills are always up, too.

-- The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have the same last name but different first and middle names.

Speaking of newspapers, the California conference I attended was the National Society of Newspaper Columnists gathering in Ventura. Great group, marvelous meeting. Speakers included columnists Steve Lopez (The Soloist) and Jeff Zaslow (The Last Lecture), along with many others. Attendees included staff writers, freelancers, and bloggers.

The NSNC has also met on the East Coast a number of times. The difference between those conferences and the Ventura one was that this year's meeting took place during the worst recession since the Great Depression, yet more than 125 people attended. Unlike New Hampshirites who pay for housing, columnists aren't dead yet!