Our summer trip was great. I seldom use the term "vacation" anymore. Too many people who know me ask, "Vacation? From what?" Air travel was uneventful. Except for having to get off a plane and into an air terminal to wait out a violent thunderstorm. But flight attendants assured us, "It is much better to be down here than up there... ."
California is still California. And Los Angeles is still La-La Land. The dry, rugged country was designed to support only a scant population, at best. But it is now covered with and weighed down by far too many people, with the count still growing by leaps and bounds. There are too many buildings and automobiles, and more than enough smog. Highway signs that read, "$1,000 Fine for Littering," seem to go unnoticed and unread. But the flowers are beautiful. And they are everywhere, helping to make up for any other shortcomings the state may have.
Evidence of great wealth is also everywhere. And signs of abject poverty are almost everywhere. Often a whole city block of beautiful new buildings is balanced by one homeless, hopeless person shuffling by with all of his or her belongings in an old, stolen shopping cart.
Parks, schoolyards and gymnasiums teem with youngsters playing soccer, baseball and basketball – sports that, on The Coast, know no season. Grandsons Justin and Jake gave us reason to see a lot of grade school and high school level basketball and baseball practices and games.
We saw a great stage play, "Ragtime." That was son-in-law Jeff's generous treat, and daughter Pam took us to the Museum of Tolerance (perhaps the kids thought this old man's social consciousness and sensitivity needed an up-grade). We also saw a Dodgers-Giants game. We didn't see many celebrities this time, but I had a nice chat with Christopher Atkins who, as a youngster, starred opposite Brooke Shields in the movie "Blue Lagoon." In addition to various chores in front of the cameras and several entrepreneurial projects, Chris finds time to help coach his son Grant's Little League baseball team.
We found a few things out there that reminded us of the Midwest and home. One set of customized California auto license plates proclaimed: GO PACRZ. Another set spelled out the feeble, almost hopeless prayer: PLZ CUBS. And we cranked up the Internet and found an issue of the Telegraph Herald that contained my column titled "Weather Vane."
The urge to roam burns deep and strong,
The need to travel, move along,
Need for variety, to change
Familiar sights for new and strange.
We turn our backs on home and nest,
Take old advice: Young man, head west!
Across the rolling prairie ground
Where wheatfields and cattle abound.
Over the Rockies' rugged rise,
We soar through wild and untamed skies.
At last, reaching the fabled Coast
Of which writers and poets boast.
Tall palm trees sway o'er golden sand,
There soft waves kiss the beaches grand.
Rich homes cling to the mountain's side
Till floods and earthquakes make them slide
Down nearer to the ocean's shore,
Thus making room for many more.
A land of leisure and the arts,
Of actors playing out their parts,
Gold, diamonds, furs, and fancy cars
Entrepreneurs and movie stars.
People, and more. People galore!
With each day bringing hundreds more.
All with big dreams, and working hard
More than a few with no green card.
And no one seems to know or care
About the homeless, always there.
Their treasures, saved since lifetime's start,
Hoarded in an old grocery cart.
Place of imperfect beauty, this,
A land where we find peace and bliss
Too often punctuated by
Gross violence and mourners' cry.
We have, with no more urge to roam,
One great option...we return home!