[SoundStage!]Paradise with James Saxon
Back Issue Article
July 2000

Ten Reasons to Move to Paradise

Several years ago I submitted an article listing my top ten reasons to move to Paradise. Included were such items as beer, women, and volcanoes. The article earned a rejection slip. Apparently, mentioning volcanoes in a family-oriented online audio magazine is a no-no.

Times have changed and so has Paradise. Therefore, I think it’s time to update the list of reasons why a comfort-loving, audio-oriented person should move here.

(10) Price Smart. For those who are addicted to Costco or Sam’s Club, you can now purchase 32-ounce jars of mayonnaise, frozen Italian sausages and cheap extra-large shirts at Price Smart Buyers Club. Prices are slightly higher than in the States, but availability is the key. When I owned a bar-restaurant a number of years ago, it cost a fortune to import rubber padding for the bartenders to stand on. Now rubber padding is only 20 minutes away by car. The same is true of automotive products, bed and bath wares, and electronic gadgetry. (Unfortunately, Price Smart sells low-priced DVD players, which bites into my audio/video business. After protesting to the store manager about it, I received a discount coupon toward my next Toshiba purchase.) An intangible benefit to having Price Smart around is that whenever I feel like soaking up Americana, I hie on over to the warehouse and walk around for an hour. Afterwards, I’m glad to return home, and it doesn’t cost airfare.

(9) Imported beer. The local brewing monopoly produces some of the best beer I’ve ever had, including Heinekin under license. However, coming from New York City, where every brew on earth is available, an aficionado like myself occasionally yearns for a little variety in his hops-and-barley juice. Enterprising entrepreneurs heard my plea. We now have a decent selection of imported beers to swill, including such brands as Paulaner, Grolsch, Stella Artois, Guinness, Dos Equis, Sapporo, and Budweiser. I’d still like to see Foster’s from Australia and Modelo Negro from Mexico, but I'm quite content to drink the local Imperial brand about 70% of the time. Wes Phillips would like it here.

(8) Foreign cars. Time was when the automobile selection was limited to cars with tiny motors due to the import-tax policy. A person of modest means had to choose between an anemic Nissan and a buzzing Toyota. Of course, the rich bought big German sedans but paid a 400% tax for the privilege. A year and a half ago, the government reduced the tax on new cars to a more reasonable 100% of dealer cost with no restriction on motor size. The result is a cornucopia of exotic car makes to choose from. The latest saucy models from Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Opel, Renault, and Fiat have joined the list of available rides. For hot-rodders, certain Japanese street-legal racers can be ordered. A neighbor owns a fire-breathing Suburu with turbo-charger and Z-rated tires that does 0-100 KPH in about five seconds. I invited him over to listen to hi-fi, but he was too busy terrorizing Audi A4 owners.

(7) ESPN 2. Amnet, the local cable-television service, has finally gotten around to improving its sports programming. For years, we have had important contests from the NBA, NFL, major league baseball and CART. Missing were the minor events that fill in athletic down time between titanic battles. Last month brought a welcome change. We now have ESPN2 en español. This means beisbol from Mexico, car racing from South America and soccer from all over the world. The commentary is in Spanish, which is fine with me, since years of listening to professional sports color commentators has proven that on-screen action speaks louder than words. Besides, the Ivy League football game of the week might be more interesting with shouts of "goooooooaaaaaal."

(6) Computers. Within the past five years, Paradise has become awash in computers, computer stores and computer installers. The government’s enlightened policy toward modernization encourages the importation of computers and software via low tariffs. For a computer illiterate such as I, the availability of products and expertise means few installation worries. With the help of an audiophile pal, I am undaunted by computer complexities. Of course, if Boris accepts a job offer in the United States, I’m paté.

As a minor sub-development of computerization, many importers in the field have turned to audio/ video entertainment media for relaxation. If you move to Paradise and open an a/v business, eventually you will see them in your store. Don’t believe anything they say about me.

(5) Aerocasillas. This mail and courier company has been around for awhile, but I only discovered them two years ago. They ship personal items into and, more importantly, out of the country. Until I started using Aerocasillas, I found it next to impossible to return broken components to the US for servicing. Red tape at the export office included such ordeals as typing one’s application on an ancient Underwood with no mistakes permitted. I tried this once and ruined five application forms before being asked to bring someone with me who could type. Aerocasillas does the form-filling for me now. This means when a CD player refuses to respond to troubleshooting, I can box it up with the expectation of factory repair. This is important because lately a number of Philips-based CD players have reached their built-in expiration dates.

(4) Global warming. This phenomenon, if it exists, hasn't affected us, except as El Niño and La Niña bringing weird non-seasonal storms. Still, our year-round spring-like climate has been unaffected by heat waves, droughts and African mosquito plagues. Recently, when it was 90 degrees in San Francisco, it was a seasonal 72 and cloudy here, perfect for jogging or sitting outside drinking beer. (Did I mention the beer?)

(3) Always-on Internet access. Another inspiration from Amnet, the cable company, always-on Internet access means I can go online 24/7 without having to dial a telephone connection. The service costs $80 a month. This is a progress of the first order. Under the old dial-up system, I often had to wait an hour or more for access, had to pay by the minute, and was often disconnected in the middle of a chat. My Internet bill used to run over $100 every month even as I used the resources of the World Wide Web about a third as much as now. The downside is that it’s easier than ever to post to audio discussion groups while under the influence of local beverages. Before, I at least had the discouragement of a dial-up buffer.

(2) Chicharrones. Within the past two years, I’ve become habituated to the Paradise equivalent of barbecue, to the point where I’ve joined the local chapter of Chicharrones Anonymous. Chicarrones are chunks of pork sliced from the hog’s leg. I don’t know how such cuts are prepared in the States, but here they are deep-fried in lard. Surprisingly, the meat is not as fatty as bacon but has as intense a flavor without salt and preservatives to adulterate the pure cholesterol. Traditionally, chicharrones are eaten with cabbage salad, plantain vinaigrette and a splash of salsa picante. This Latin soul food tastes best when washed down with an ice-cold Imperial. (The beer here is very good.)

(1) Ultra-high-end audio equipment. After spending a number of years trying to satisfy the needs of middle-class audio hobbyists, I’ve decided the frustration of never having the right inventory isn’t worth it. Therefore, I’ve recently moved even further up the hi-fi beanpole. At la casa Saxon a rich expatriate can compare the sound of reference-quality products. In fact, at this moment, we have on hand both the Mark Levinson Reference No.32 preamplifier and the Audio Research Reference 2. Soon we will have new monoblock amplifiers from both companies to drive our latest reference-quality loudspeakers, the Wilson WATT/Puppy 6. With the introduction of Wilson Audio products, I foresee a Golden Age of Audio in Paradise. Now is the time to sell those stock options, pack up the music and come on down!

There you have it -- ten excellent reasons to move to Paradise. If in the past you’ve been a skeptical couch potato, you need hesitate no more. Communications are excellent. Creature comforts abound. Life is good. And don’t forget the volcanoes. They’re fantastic.

...James Saxon


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