by Stephen Michael Murphy
“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray, California streaming on such a winter’s day”. Seems like yesterday the entire country was sweltering in wicked summer heat with LA being the most Icelandic spot in the nation. We blasted out of steamy Orlando traveling thru an irradiated Jet stream complements of Fukushima landing in LAX with 3 hours of east coast daylight left in the overhead bin. As the plane taxied, I was occupied with my new Galaxy S8. I swore never to be one of those ADHD guys, checking my phone every two minutes with an occasional lobotomized glance into space. I can’t help it though, it’s so beautiful. All the data is streaming into my sweaty palm making my pulse race. I’m assimilating the technology and managing the machine without alien intervention. Oh wait, I am Borg.
Sue, Keynan and I left LAX for the beach hotel in an Armenian cash cab (we missed the question about unripe Turkish figs). That night we had tickets for the last regular season Angels Red Sox game in Anaheim. Next morning LA got a little foggy and so did I. Don’t ask me how, but I whacked my head hard on the armoir in the beach hotel room. I had myself a con-cuss-ion and everything went south. What a weird hiatus having the stream of thought slow down for those days. Sue said if she had known she would have knocked me on the noggin years ago.
The following day we were on the road again driving just east of the beach when traffic came to a halt and the smell hit us. It was like being transported to Grand Isle, Louisiana two June’s ago with that Eau de perfume de gas station. We looked up and there they were the three amigos Exxon, Chevron and Mobil with their massive oil and gas refineries; fuel central right down the road from the moody Pacific. It’s all happening at once here; the good the bad and the busty. What a contrast when fathomed from the pier on Manhattan Beach. First, my eyes scoped the 76 beach volley ball nets then the jam-packed surfing contest. Glinting in the sunshine, rows of bustling bodegas gave way to homes rising up on the hillside, dipping down and rippling up like an accordion snaking away from the beach. It’s the perfect temperate playground (except for earthquake faults) for miles along a corrugated coast with rugged bueno vistas in between.
I love LA. To stay in business, even the most conservative have to cater to an across the board demographic. We ate breakfast at “Eat at Joes” on Pacific Coast Highway. The menu had as many healthy items as it did hazardous ones. While I had a veggie egg white omelet, the guy next to me was eating the John Wayne special. A breakfast made for the famous actor on premises back in the day (eggs over, cheese, home fries, tortilla, smothered in Spanish sauce and surrounded by sausage). It was rumored that during his autopsy, doctors removed 45 pounds of fecal matter from his lower intestine. This information is nowhere on the menu. My omelet was tasty but somehow I couldn’t stop thinking about “Duke’s” colon while I ate it.
Time magazine had an article on the organic food “debate”. There’s still a debate? It’s the toxic burden stupid! California totally gets it though, the Whole Foods Organic Market chain is huge and for once Beauty is on equal footing with the Beast. Even regular supermarkets have something extraordinary going on amd it starts with direct access from farm to market. The veggies are too fresh, so heightened, meanwhile east coast merchants frequently peddle shimmering produce on life support that expires on the ride home. The Romaine lettuce made our Florida greens look like a poor country cousin. The Caesar salad Sue created could have been served to Julius Augustus himself or even Paul Newman. That’s when Sue tapped my shoulder breaking the stream of thought and said, “Okay, concussion boy; time to go to Big Bear”.
We lit out west then northwest up from 7 to 7200 feet above sea level (makes my 3% swoon). Through San Bernardino and the foothills up and up, popping ears with hair pin turns, soon everything became sky blue; shear white cliffs with high altitude pines. After reaching the pinnacle, we started down a long ski town boulevard packed with Scandinavian sounding specialty shops and American sounding fast food franchises. Then it hit me (not in the head) I’m going to write a travel guide for goofballs; I’m going to call it “Travel Guide for Goofballs”. Still delirious, I took a hard right in the rented Celica passing the base lodge of the Bear Mountain Ski Resort. The pavement was about to end when Ginger the GPS purred “you’ve reached your destination”. The driveway was too steep and for a Florida guy a San Francisco treat. It was a 90’ hike almost straight up from the street to the log cabin porch. By the time I made it to the top step in the rarefied air, it was like reaching base camp at K2.
The three bedroom cabin was a solid redwood with amenities. The climate was great, a perfectly parched light sauna. Everything was outstanding until the second night when a church group of two dozen teenagers and their Christian fundamentalist pastor moved in next door, too close for comfort. That evening, they began a marathon prayer vigil proclaiming the way in song (at the top of their lungs) with struggling acoustic guitar accompaniment. One drama princess screamed and sobbed hysterically for more than an hour while the group chanted “give it up to Jesus“ in a caucasian halllelujah style. From the sound of it, they performed at least two more exorcisms before sacrificing a mountain goat, all with their windows wide open and eyes wide shut. Sue tried to call 911 but you can never get reception above 7000 feet (unless you believe). Two days and 20 hours of praise later, they shouted their love for each other in the street and drove off in a Mercedes caravan. After that, life returned to outstanding once again. We enjoyed numerous tourist activities including swimming in a frigid glacial lake, watching big bear eat streaming salmon (on animal planet) and renting Repo Man at Blockbuster. I learned that repossessing human organs as a vocation would be only slightly worse than working in banking. Three invigorating days later we headed back to sea level catching a flight and the flu from a middle aged Asian man with a Cubs cap in 25E. He slept and laid bombs all the way from Little Rock to Orlando smirking at us each time he let go. Sue tried to call 911 but you can never get reception at 37,000 feet (except on flight 93).
So there you have it, my goofball submission from the fine line between the sublime and absurd. From the moment the monolith dragged our ancient ancestors into the upright position life’s been kind of awkward, kind of bizarre. Two things for certain though, our temporary lease on this blue marble is beyond precious and the Golden State remains nature’s finest gift, an energetic paradise. May we never have to kiss it goodbye.