Southern California dreamin’

The jet landed on the tarmac and my seat started instantly vibrating. The pilot quickly pulled back on the brakes and we slowed after a short while to a slow roll. When we started our trip, we looked out over the gray clouds. With us now stopped, I looked out the plane window to see that the clouds had been replaced by a bluish Southern California sky. When it came time for my wife to collect our carry-on luggage, I joked that we “weren’t in Kansas anymore.” 

We were in for a week unlike many others. Here’s a few of the things I learned:

–We drove down one heavily traveled highway and we counted more plastic surgery centers, one after another, than exist for the next 200 square miles surrounding our home. 

–I know the weather forecasters call it a dry heat, but 103 degrees in the shade is still hot. 

–We traveled across California and paid $4.37 for gasoline, more than a dollar what we regularly pay at home. In fact, according to a 2020 Cost of Living Index, the average city in California has a 38% higher cost of living than the average city in the nation. Yea, I’ll visit again, but I won’t be moving to Cali anytime soon. 

–We encountered a woman at breakfast who was complaining about how her omelet was made. The woman was upset. I understand not getting what you ask for, but I thought an encouraging thought might cheer her up. I smiled and said I hope her day went better. Oh, ye, of simple faith. You would’ve thought I was a wanted murderer. I swear to God she gave me a look that said, “what in the hell are you looking at.”

–With Covid run amuck last year, we’ve were stuck at home for much of the year. It felt awkward to finally get out and about — were we supposed to still wear our masks or could we take them off? It didn’t matter, we erred on the side of respecting others and being safe, but we were thankful all the same. 

–In the book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?” Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle ask what the Brown Bear sees. I don’t know about Brown Bears, but I looked out my car window I saw nothing but brown mountains, brown trees, brown deserts, everything was brown except for the fancy resorts and golf courses where they sprayed the grass non-stop to keep it a dark plastic-like green. I think there should be a new line to the book: “Brown Bear, what do you see? I see a gardener looking at me.”

–As much as California is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever visited — the surfers and free spirits in San Diego were certainly different from anything else I’ve seen — I’m still struck by how much it’s alike. For example, I felt for the husband and wife trying to keep their young son busy with toys and crayons while they enjoyed a dinner out. I haven’t had to deal with that problem in a while, but it’s a memory that is still fresh in my mind. They reminded me that, no matter the location, skin color, religion, people are people!

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