California Manicure, 2010
If all goes according to schedule, I should be in sunny San Diego as you read this, talking to Californians about their various plights.
Despite its proximity to the international border, I find San Diego to be the most normal of the California cities, sort of like the way I find Tampa and Jacksonville to be the most normal cities in Florida. Most people just go about their business here. They didn’t come here to be discovered. They’re not trying to make a statement about something. They’re just trying to enjoy themselves and a pleasant climate.
I know a French newspaper executive who, like a modern de Tocqueville, is fascinated by Southern California, particularly places like Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach and La Jolla. He comes here often to visit. The lifestyles he witnesses are so otherworldly, so narcotic to his Parisian sensibilities that he refers to this place as the “land of the lotus eaters.”
I chose to illustrate this post with California Manicure, above, because it so sums up Southern California for me. Even slum neighborhoods are verdant. And better off neighborhoods seem to be nothing if not well groomed. Bring on the lotuses.
I can’t say I’ve been as mythologically inspired by California as my French friend. (I also, as it turns out, don’t have the allure of a Southern Californian mistress to be my SoCal siren call.) Over the years I’ve had the chance to visit a lot of California. I like a lot of it. But I go there, do my business and am happy to come home. And I won’t be looking to the gods on Olympus to get me back to the East Coast safely. This time I’m depending on US Airways.