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Significant Details: California’s plain plates a golden opportunity

January 28, 2014

When it comes to catchy license plate slogans, California’s plate is empty. It’s devoid of any crumb of creativity, boosterism or even buffoonery. The state’s car plates have no cool colors, no catchy slogans, no boasting, no bragging, no nothing. Just the word “California” and the DMV website. That bland combo can’t compete with, say, New Mexico’s bright yellow, art-accented “Land of Enchantment.” Or even the totally bogus boast, “Ski Utah,” from a state with a mere sliver of mountains.
Lucky for California, I have spent an inordinate amount of time pondering this sad situation, and am prepared to provide the creative spark that will set the Golden State apart from such dullards as South Dakota, which can only boast, “South of North Dakota.”
Actually, there need to be quite a few “creative sparks” on the license plate front, since California is such a big state that most of its distinct regions could have their own license plate, with their own identifying slogan, moderate fib or promotional puffery.
Los Angeles/Southern California could be tied together nicely with a plate proclaiming, “SoCal: The On-Ramp to Road Rage.” More realistic plates would declare, “Got Smog?” or “Where Actors Become Waiters.” OK, a bit harsh. A little TV thievery can create the perfect L.A. plate: “Carlandia.” (Google it.)
San Diego is also fairly simple. It’s either, “Sailors, Surfers and Slackers,” or “Disneyland with Sand.”
The Mojave Desert can be summed with three words and a drawing of a shrub: “The Sagebrush Sea.”
Can’t forget Bakersfield, which could proclaim it is “Buck & Merle’s Oil Patch.” (Too young to know Buck and Merle? Google ’em, pard.) If a license plate could twang, this would be the one.
The Coastal Range that ranges along the coast (duh) is also an easily articulated region: “Land of Golden Hills of Dead Grass.”
San Francisco is a bit more complicated, in many ways. Luckily, since driving in SF means you are always just 7 inches from the car in front of you, a long license plate slogan in small type will still be readable: “The People’s Republic of the Rent Controlled Bay Area Bioregion.”
The fertile Central Valley? “Lettuce Enjoy the Valley of Veggies.”
Northern California, meaning everything north of Sacramento, is “Oregon, But With Annoying Laws.”
With legal reefer madness being lit up across the nation, Humboldt County’s “agricultural” bounty could use a marketing boost: “Home of California Chromosome-Crosser.”
Forget the waterfalls and Half Dome. Yosemite Valley could reveal it has all the wilderness characteristics of a Kmart parking lot: “Yosemite, Where Tourists Outnumber the Trees.”
There is one place where there is no need for my creative spark. All that is necessary is some literary thievery to pin down the perfect license plate tag for Inyo County and Death Valley. “The Land of Little Rain.” Thank you very much, Mary Austin.

(Jon Klusmire of Bishop has been trying to be funny for decades. At best, he’s just trying.)

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