Dazed and confused

I took a break from the WEA meetings in San Diego, and decided to walk outside and look for some lunch.  Although California is suffering from a heat wave, it’s only 80 degrees (27 C.) in San Diego (and not humid.)  I walked a few blocks and picked a Cheesecake Factory, with a lovely outdoor eating area.

I care much more about restaurant amenities than food.  And I can usually find at least one good dish at a bad chain restaurant.  I noticed that everything on the menu had calories attached, even the various toppings that could be added.  Most dishes and deserts were quadruple digits, even some of the salads:

The menu said the average adult should have 2000 calories a day.  So all I can eat in 24 hours is a salad with grilled chicken on top? (Plus water.) Not even fried chicken?

So I picked the ahi tuna salad and “Tropical Ice Tea”, which totaled only 500 calories, and the tuna was actually pretty tasty.  If I ate 1930 calories for lunch I’d be too sleepy to get any work done in the afternoon.

Walking back to the Marriott I cut through a typically over air-conditioned Hyatt with lobby decor that would impress Trump.  Then back out into the blinding sunshine.  The Marriott had 4 giant stairways to nowhere, each having 4 railings. They were capable of handling the crowds at Tokyo’s busiest subway, and yet all four were completely empty, despite the Marriott being 100% full:

When I reached the shady side of the Marriott I noticed an odd plaque on the wall:

No wonder the WEA chose the Marriott over the new Hyatt–our venue is the hotel analogue of Love Canal.  They must have gotten a great deal.

And another thing puzzled me—hasn’t California banned smoking in hotels?  Then another 100 feet along the wall I spotted another plaque:

Wait a minute.  If there is no smoking within 25 feet of the hotel, then how did those dangerous tobacco fumes get inside the San Diego Marriott?

Then it occurred to me—the Marriott was much older than the Hyatt.  Perhaps someone smoked in the Marriott a few decades back. It is not inconceivable that a few molecules of tobacco smoke linger in the corner of one of the ballrooms holding panels discussing the latest VAR studies of monetary policy.

As I reached the entrance I hesitated.  Dare I enter this repository of dangerous toxins?

Then my mind wandered back to when I was twelve, and spent long evenings sitting next to my dad at a bar, where he smoked one cigarette after another, occasionally asking me to go to a vending machine and buy him another pack (for 40 cents).  I recall his disbelief when they set up no smoking zones in restaurants and airplanes.  “You mean to tell me you can only smoke in the back rows?”  On my first trips to Europe in the 1980s I asked for smoking seats, even though I was a non-smoker.  By that time those sections were pretty empty and I could lie down across 5 seats.

I realized that I’ve already been exposed to so much second hand smoke (and lead, asbestos, etc., etc.) that I’m already a dead man walking.  At age 61 I have nothing to lose.

I feel like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. And next month I move to this crazy state, to spend my golden years.




30 Responses to “Dazed and confused”

  1. Gravatar of Kevin Erdmann Kevin Erdmann
    26. June 2017 at 18:46

    Disneyland also is known to the state of California to cause cancer.

  2. Gravatar of Colin Docherty Colin Docherty
    26. June 2017 at 20:15

    It’s crazy and irrational, and I think it’s going to keep getting worse for a long time. We are subsidising people’s psychologies, and although placebo-giving works better than you’d think, without clear lines to the truth, kooky social experiments like these will deliver mediocre outcomes and never have to defend themselves.

  3. Gravatar of Jerry Brown Jerry Brown
    26. June 2017 at 20:19

    Well Professor, smoking pot was illegal for many years also. I am sure it happens at the Marriott occasionally though, along with all kinds of illegal activities. Hopefully you have a competent chaperone with you to keep you safe. We would like you back, but if you don’t make it- who should we get advice about NGDPLT from?

  4. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    26. June 2017 at 20:44

    Florida>California, IMHO. And Michigan will be the new Florida in the next half-century, thanks to Global Warming. So I can rest easy.

  5. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    26. June 2017 at 21:22




  6. Gravatar of Rajat Rajat
    26. June 2017 at 21:44

    Congratulations, Scott. You have talked on your blog about retiring and moving to California for years, but now it’s actually happening. Does this mean you’ll be leaving Mercatus as well?

  7. Gravatar of Matthew Waters Matthew Waters
    26. June 2017 at 23:16

    California shows why not to have direct representation. There is no penalty for posting unnecessary or wrong warning signs, so signs are simply posted in every business.


  8. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    27. June 2017 at 02:09

    I saw one of those cancer warnings on a soda machine last the time I was in California.

    I think aspartame and BPA are both on the list of cancer-warned products. Perhaps the Marriott used recycled BPA containing plastic in some of its fixtures?

  9. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    27. June 2017 at 04:03


    As I suspected, California is not as irrational as you assume in this case. Smoking is permitted in 65% of a hotel’s rooms and 25% of the lobby space, under law.


  10. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    27. June 2017 at 05:21

    I wonder if that large institutional-appearing stairway is a fire code requirement. Looks like something from a major ballpark.

    The weather in SoCal makes up for everything.

  11. Gravatar of Kenneth Duda Kenneth Duda
    27. June 2017 at 06:35

    And yet you’re moving here — revealed preferences?


  12. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    27. June 2017 at 07:36


    funny that you’d feel like that even as a US citizen, just from a different state. When I came to California from France, these inanities just symbolized “this is America” to me. Note – all this has been in place since at least the 90s when I lived in LA. It already had these kinds of useless signs posted all over the place.

  13. Gravatar of B.B. B.B.
    27. June 2017 at 08:08

    You might want to get some solar panels so you will have electricity when the grid collapses there.

    Have a well-insulated house so you won’t freeze in winter.

    Keep a sense of humor because the place is insane.

  14. Gravatar of JayT JayT
    27. June 2017 at 08:23

    The large staircase is for the convention center, which the Marriott is attached to. If you visit during the San Diego Comic Con it will be 100% full most of the day.

  15. Gravatar of Doug M Doug M
    27. June 2017 at 08:50

    B.B. Well insulated house? To keep out that 65 degree winter chill?

  16. Gravatar of Doug M Doug M
    27. June 2017 at 09:13

    Regarding the over-lawyered aspect.

    Prop 65 (the safe drinking water act) has little to do with drinking water. When California passes some of these regulations, they do not provide any funding for enforcement. Instead we rely on “whistle blowers” to do this enforcement.

    Of course, the whistle blowers are law firms that specialize in civil prosecutions for these issues of regulatory non-compliance. So, a lawyer show up at your place of business, tells you that you are non-compliant and that they intend to sue. You pay them their blackmail to go away and you put up a sign.

    When you have an ADA violation, you have a bigger problem, because it usually can’t be fixed with just a sign, and usually it is a bigger bribe to settle.

  17. Gravatar of Jeff B Jeff B
    27. June 2017 at 09:23

    Hey Scott,

    As someone living in Cambridge MA, I’m interested in what is sending you off to the west coast. My friends and girlfriend want me to move, but my sense is that the state is an increasingly risky investment — so I’m interested to know why you’re going that way.

  18. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    27. June 2017 at 10:07

    Next month? Wow, I didn’t know it was so soon. Well welcome to the left coast Scott, home of fruits and nuts! Don’t fight it: just join in the fun. What area/city are you moving to?

  19. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    27. June 2017 at 10:10

    We just had our “Summer Solstice” parade & celebration in Santa Barbara this past Saturday:

  20. Gravatar of Gordon Gordon
    27. June 2017 at 12:54

    Look at it this way – once you move here you’ll never run out of material for blog posts given all of the legislative insanity and economic cluelessness that comes out of Sacramento and the various municipalities.

  21. Gravatar of Mike Rulle Mike Rulle
    27. June 2017 at 13:04

    I am a couple of years older than you, and I too think of moving out of the Northeast. I live in NJ (which, despite the ubiquitous jokes about the 40-mile corridor along the industrial section near the Hudson River, is quite a lovely state).

    But I too have wanderlust. California (except LA which I find intolerable) is beautiful. But I don’t think I could live there. Don’t like the politics,(although NJ is surely as bad or worse), don’t like the earthquakes, don’t the like the Central Valley etc., don’t like the economic inequality (true!!). But I do like Clint Eastwood, so if he loves it I probably am missing something!

    I admit to a bit of irrational bias. So while I have a desire to move (which is all a game of mental fantasy anyway, as my wife, who is from Cuba (!!), has said we are not moving) I cannot figure out where I would go. I have thought about the South Carolina coastal areas—but way overrated and too humid and too swampy. The western mountains of NC are nice but is a much smaller area than I thought. The Rhinebeck area of NY is nice—except for the winters.
    I have even thought of St Barths—but the islands eventually get you claustrophobic.

    Colorado and Montana are probably where I would first start to look. But who knows. When all is said and done (except for those damn earthquake faults) California may just be the overall prettiest state in the US.

    I hope you enjoy yourself in your new home and State. Change is good as one gets older—I really believe that.

  22. Gravatar of AbsoluteZero AbsoluteZero
    27. June 2017 at 13:06

    1. Welcome to California
    2. Welcome to Cheesecake Factory

  23. Gravatar of Scott Sumner Scott Sumner
    27. June 2017 at 16:35

    Everyone, Thanks for the info.

    Rajat, No.

    Matthew, California is not direct democracy—Switzerland is. And it works very well.

    Scott, But this particular hotel does not allow smoking. Or so they claim.

    And even if you are right, that doesn’t make the sign non-insane.

    Ben, Good point, especially after that recent fire in London.

    Ken, Yes, I still love California, despite all the insanity.

    BB. I grew up in Wisconsin, you think I won’t be able to survive SoCal winters?

    Jeff, The weather and the natural beauty. Lots of great restaurants too. And no potholes.

    Tom, Orange County.

    Gordon, Maybe, but I wonder if I’ll even pay attention to local news.

    Mike, Earthquakes are an overrated risk–no worse than tornados or hurricanes further east.

  24. Gravatar of Greg DeLassus Greg DeLassus
    27. June 2017 at 19:32

    I was just in the same part of San Diego last week for the Biotech Industry Organization meeting. The weather in San Diego was so beautiful that I forgot (until I got to the airport, where they were showing weather across the U.S.) that much of the southwest was in the grip of a heat wave.

    If you are eating in the Cheesecake Factory, you are wasting an opportunity for a good meal. In the same little set of shops is a taco place called “Puesto” that has fantastic lobster tacos (the cactus and zucchini flower tacos were also quite good).

    I advise avoiding the BBQ joint across Harbor Dr, however. It was awful.

  25. Gravatar of Mike Mike
    28. June 2017 at 10:34

    Those signs are everywhere in CA. They’re useless because they don’t tell you what specific toxins are there and they are in so many day to day places. All they do is induce some anxiety that you might be getting harmed by something, but you don’t know why.

    Welcome to California! What part of our state are you moving to?

  26. Gravatar of Cory Cory
    28. June 2017 at 19:03

    I went with the shrimp tacos on the “skinnylicious” menu at Cheesecake Factory last Sunday. My one-year old knocked one on the ground but they were tasty enough. I suppose the calorie counts talked me out,of getting a cheeseburger that would’ve probably been just ok.

    My wife just chews nicorette constantly in this anti-smoking world.

    I have a cell phone holder on my desk that says the State of California knows it to cause cancer (what is the chemical???) and now the state of california knows that my lawn care products also cause cancer.

    And I live in marginally beautiful central Ohio along the Olentangy river.

    California is creeping everywhere. If you can’t beat em, might as well join em in the beautiful weather.

    I know, #CoolStoryBro

    Congrats on your “retirement” to Cali. Don’t find the time to read as much with my munchkin around now but I thanks for blogging!

  27. Gravatar of Dots Dots
    29. June 2017 at 11:31

    welcome, Scott. please don’t retire from blogging

    29. June 2017 at 19:46

    Maybe the “may have tobacco carcinogens” sign is there for the same reason airplane restrooms have ashtrays – people will smoke where they aren’t supposed to anyways.

  29. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. June 2017 at 14:18

    Greg and Cory, Interesting.

    Mike, Orange County

    Dots, I won’t.

  30. Gravatar of James A James A
    1. July 2017 at 21:08

    Those salads sound French-style salads, i.e. merely cold food with few vegetables.. But even the richest of rich French “salads” can’t quite compare in terms of calories

Leave a Reply