I have been mired in a writing slump for the past several months. The reason is diabolically simple: I only want to write about Annie. However, I have made an agreement not to do so, because she is uncomfortable being the subject of my prattling. Therefore, in an effort to snap out of my [writing] funk, I have decided to adopt the strategy that many bloggers employ during the month of April, and begin an A-Z adventure. Today’s letter is C, for California. What? It’s not April? Sue me.
I was lucky enough to have been born and raised in in Southern California, and though I have since relocated to the northern part of the state, it doesn’t really matter. California, for me, is the best place in the country, if not the world, to live.
No other state that I can imagine, holds the same promise as California. Though I like to stay on the politically correct side of the street, I will just say that there is no other place which reflects the ideals and principles of life, that I hold most dear, than California. People of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds reside in California. My father worked in a steel factory during the formative years of my youth, and he told us stories of the other denizens of his worksite, consisting of mostly Mexican and black men. His best friend was a black man named Pete DeCarlo, and I remember visiting Pete and his family as a child.
Papa introduced tortillas and beans into the house in the early sixties, a result of being offered samples of these commodities at work, when he ate lunch with the guys. This was many years preceding the advent of Taco Bell, or other fast-food Mexican outlets. It wasn’t until the late sixties that the first of this type of restaurant opened in downtown La Puente, The Green Burrito, which my oldest brother Eric used to frequent.
The uptake of all this interaction with the men of the shop, was that Papa taught us from an early age, that skin color was irrelevant, when it came to deciding the worth of a person. He had very little good to speak of, when it came to the management at State Steel, represented by, what else? White men. So I grew up with a healthy sense of appreciation for people of all diverse backgrounds.
While growing up in the San Gabriel Valley, in the fifties and sixties, we were within a half-hour’s travel time of the San Gabriel Mountains, with plenty of snow in the winter; we were within forty-five minutes travel time to the ocean, for either surfing or bagging rays; and we were within an hour and a half from the high desert, for hiking or just driving through for the views. California had it all.
When I got to college-age, there was never any doubt that I would attend a school of higher education. Though Papa was not an educated man, having settled for acquiring a G.E.D. at some point along the way, he was instrumental in instilling in all of us, that higher education was the only way to go, if we wanted to avoid a lifetime of factory work. Of the nine of us kids, there are two P.H.D’s, at least three M.A’s, and the rest of us have degrees from four-year schools.
I began school at Cal Poly, Pomona, got drafted and spent twenty-one months in the army at the end of the VietNam conflict. When I got out, I moved up to San Jose, where I then attended San Jose State until I graduated in 1979. Then I went back in a masters program, for another two years. So out of twelve years, I attended school for ten of them, all at the most ridiculously inexpensive rate. It cost $359.00 per semester at San Jose State, not counting books. The G.I. Bill covered much of it in the seventies, so all was well.
When I relocated up to Mendocino County in May of 1982, I was convinced I had found paradise. We bought twenty acres of land in 1975, for the paltry sum of four hundred dollars per acre. Only in California? I don’t know. I just know that there can’t be a better place in the Union, with people who are so friendly and accepting. I have spent time in the Mid-West, and time on the East Coast, but there is nowhere that I have found the people to be so true, as the people of California.