"Escape Los Al."
So said a sign I glimpsed as I sped down the main drag in Los Alamitos. Were Realtors in trouble? Or was this some sort of crazy way to spotlight a somewhat obscure municipality? (see photo).
Certainly California has a rich history of such stunts, ranging from "Tan Your Hide in Oceanside" (see photo) and "Where the Hell is Norco?" to El Segundo's"A Million Miles from L.A." (see photo) and Calipatria's "Lowest Down City in the Western Hemisphere." (You could also throw in Gardena's "Freeway City" though it was apparently a serious effort; yes, people once bragged about how many freeways they had in their back yards.)
Anyway, I researched the Los Al warning and found that, as I often do, I had jumped to the wrong conclusion. "Escape Los Al" involves nothing that local home-owners need worry about (or taxpayers). It's a live-action game, sponsored by the city, in which teams of residents buy tickets and try to solve fun mysteries such as "a quest for the antidote to battle a zombie apocalypse (ages 14 +)."
And, there goes my Pulitzer.
• But the incident did give me a chance to check up on the slogans of the previously mentioned cities. Many have adopted more moderate, Madison Avenue-like approaches. "Tan Your Hide in Oceanside" is now "Take Pride in Oceanside," "Where the Hell is Norco?" is "Horsetown USA," and Gardena's "Freeway City is "City of Opportunity."
• And El Segundo's "A Million Miles from L.A." directional has disappeared from the city's billboards; it never was recognized by Google Maps, anyway.
• One city that hasn't lost its sense of humor is Calipatria, which, at 184 feet below zero, still calls itself the "Lowest Down City in the Western Hemisphere."
• I still don't know where Norco is.
• And as for a certain freeway...
Just vacationed in Seattle, where I was startled when I noticed our driver was on Interstate 405 and we weren't in a traffic jam. The dreaded 405 runs through Washington! Think of it: A freeway that follows you wherever you go. That's scarier than any zombie apocalypse.
Steve Harvey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @sharvey9.