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16 1/2 Wild and Wacky Things About Southern California (That I Forgot)

California’s a wonderful place to live, if you happen to be an orange. ~Anonymous

You know, there are places in this world where fools are worshiped! Like Hollywood, California! ~H.M. Murdock

It would be perfect...if Frankie weren't there....

I don’t take many vacations. If I did, I might just be tempted to stay in my destination location. Take San Diego, for example, from which I just returned. The weather’s gorgeous, the flora and fauna would make James Cameron or George Lucas green with envy, and everyone surfs and eats fish tacos all the time. Or so I thought. It’s been ten years. My memories of SoCal are colored, almost like Luke Skywalker landing on Dagobah and thinking it was a dream after eating too many Bantha burgers. Something like that.

Turns out a lot of my memories were wrong, or distorted, or as false as the exotic jungles of Pandora. Going back to the land of Fruits and Nuts, I was reminded of certain truths. Some of them were actually novel to me. Others provoked a “WTF” reaction right away. Here’s what I was able to observe from a strictly neutral perspective:

#1. California, or at least San Diego, has the right idea when it comes to green transportation. Sure, there’s the LA-style gridlock on the freeways. But there’s also a city-wide trolley system and bike lanes everywhere. Wish my city, and cities across America, would look into that.

#2. The Chargers are screwed. I tried to go to an “open” practice, only to be told it was closed. The stadium’s old, the fanbase is tired and L.A. is begging for a team. “L.A. Chargers” has a certain ring to it.

#3. Paradise is fleeting. For all the beauty and Tuscan-style landscaping, San Diego is pretty much a desert. I have no idea how they get all that water.

#4. Wine in supermarkets is a good idea. No idea why Southerners are so hung up on this. Why is it OK to indulge your fix for Budweiser at Kroger but not Yellow Tail? I never got that part.

#5. Lizards are everywhere…be mindful. Any desert has plenty of local herps, including lizards and snakes. I almost stepped on one before I even saw the little guy.

#6. Californians may lean mostly left, but at least they’re tolerant. I may be more of a libertarian…but I’m all about accepting people as they are. I was sadlyreminded how narrow-minded a lot of natives are where I live.

#7. It smells really good. Think of sea breeze, juniper, hyacinth, citrus…all gently blended together. I don’t know what it is about San Diego, but I have such good odiferous memories.

#8. Nowhere in America is recession-proof. As I drove around, I saw the gaping holes where Mervyn’s and Borders used to be in shopping centers. You can build all the fancy new malls you want…but it doesn’t change the cold, hard facts, it seems.

#9. Next time you think gas prices are high, visit California. Everything…and I mean everything…is more expensive on the Left Coast. Which reminds me…

#10. How can anyone on a working salary expect to live in San Diego? I realize salaries have got to be a little higher for cost of living, but still. I know my cousin (a teacher) was living at home until age 30 or so because of the high rents.

#11. Conservation is alive and well. San Diego is home to its famous zoo and Wild Animal Park as well as Sea World, but is also responsible for protecting species like the California condor. Green space and parkland is plentiful, like the beautiful Torrey Pines park.

#12. California is the recycling capital of America. Again, I don’t understand why other parts of the country don’t follow this lead. Recycling helps everyone and it’s easier than one would think.

#13. It’s spread out…just not like L.A. San Diegans as a whole are more friendly and outgoing than their neighbors to the north. No idea why this is, but I think it has something to do with smog (the coastal breezes usually keep it at bay in San Diego County.)

#14. San Diego is hard to beat for beauty. I’ve been to a lot of scenic spots…Maine, Sun Valley, Miami…but none of them come close to the awe-inspiring beauty of Southern Cal. The vista from Point Loma (seen above) is a jaw-dropper.

#15. Sure, everything’s an arm and a leg. But it’s worth it. I quite envy my family members who get to enjoy the Mediterranean-type climate while I’m shivering in January. Not sure I’d want to trade places, but it’s a thought.

#16 (and a half). I missed it a lot more than I’d thought. This trip was Memory Lane. We saw my dad’s old house, where I hadn’t been in over 20 years. Then to the top of Mt. Helix, right in his old backyard. His father’s old police station. His high school. And, of course, my grandmother’s house, the same as it always was. Like Bilbo’s house in the Shire: something I’ll always associate with comfort and good food. And that was worth the trip by itself.

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