Friday, October 26, 2012

I Could Learn to Like California

Morro Rock, 2012
(Click on images to see larger)

It’s true. I could learn to like California.
I’ve been visiting California off and on since the mid-1970s. I’ve never gotten north of Marin County or more than seventy-five miles east of the Pacific coast in any other conveyance than an airplane. (Oh, wait a minute. I did go to Sacramento once to give a speech.)  But I’ve seen enough to appreciate what California has to offer.
I’ll confess, I’ve brought all the usual Easterner biases to my consideration of California. Why would you live in a place where you stand a chance of sliding into the ocean, having your house collapse around you or spend at least one season of the year worrying about whether it’ll be consumed by a forest fire?
I like where I live. So I don’t plan on moving. But still, there’s a lot to like about California. Watching the waves crash on the rocky shores of the central California coast is the kind of natural drama you have to go practically to Maine to find here in the East. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway you can start out in the morning in bustling Los Angeles, drive up through the rolling ranches north of Santa Barbara and by lunchtime find yourself staring at a giant mountain of rock sticking up all by itself on the beach at Morro Bay. By mid-afternoon you can be ducking and weaving along a narrow band of asphalt that alternately hugs and clings (sometimes not so successfully) to the higher and higher bluffs as you wind your way up the coast to Big Sur. The geological drama of that latter stretch alone is enough to make you want to stick around a while and take in a little EST study before you wind your way back down to sea level.

Big Sur, 2012

And really, outside of LA or the Bay Region California’s cities are no more congested than Chicago, Dallas or Minneapolis and no harder to get around in during the afternoon than, say, the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area.
They face a lot of challenges in California, to be sure. They’ve got politicians as crazy as anywhere. (But who can beat the Midwest these days when it comes to that?) And what place doesn’t face serious challenges? Besides, I sometimes wonder if other states make fun of California just because they’re not associated with the same air of opportunity that’s so long characterized California?
I’m going to be less judgmental about California from now on. For one thing, it turns out we Virginians can throw a pretty serious earthquake, too. So I’ll stop worrying about what those swaying light poles outside my California hotel window were trying to tell me about the underlying strata. But you’ll understand if I still ask for a room on a lower floor.  
Sunrise in Santa Monica, 2012

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