Only a few days after returning from Greece - without enough time for recovery - I flew, still a bit sick, to California with my parents to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all those I love who dwell in southern Cali.
Both my parents grew up in Southern California, loving the ocean and loving the sunshine. Even though both have had some encounters with sun damaged skin, cancer and the like, I don't think either of them would trade their childhoods near the ocean for one moment. Without fail, I can not visit a beach in California without hearing my father's tales of surfing, diving, fishing, or sailing in the area. Both my parents majored in marine biology in college with the intent of never leaving the beauty of the ocean. Even my mother, who is a known wimp with cold water, can't help but get her feet wet and look longingly out into the ocean with every beach visit.
Both will admit, however, that southern California is a very different place than it once was. We visited the house where my father lived in college in Laguna Beach, across the street from the beach. Back then, there were no mansions on the cliffs, and he payed 50 dollars a month to live there. The tiny little house now sells for far more than our huge lake house in Colorado. Every outing we made had to be planned around rush hour... but inevitably we would find ourselves stuck in traffic anyway. Overall, the L.A. area appears a bit trashy... sorry to all who live there. I would say the only beauty I saw was in my grandmother's upscale Pasadena neighborhood and those glimpses of the ocean. It seems ironic to me that the buildings and freeways appear so trashy when the people appear in classic cars and wear designer clothing. I often found myself feeling self - conscious about my less than designer duds and wishing I had spent more time on my hair... for a trip to the beach? And with all the amazingly wealthy people that live in the great state of California, economically it is in such serious trouble that the next time I visit my family I will have to pay a 5 dollar tourist fee. I wish people put more money into their state and their public schools than their fancy cars and beach side mansions... and with such a serious traffic problem you would think someone might invest in some form of public transportation!!!
In spite of the frustrations I encountered in California, I am always glad to have time with my family. My parents are both totally awesome people. My aunt, new to facebook, sent me "excited for your visit" messages almost daily leading up to our trip. My grandfather, in his late 80's, sometimes forgets my major in school but remembered to wear the shirt I got him on my trip to Ghana last year when he saw me. I love that he wears it! My cousin, who I know has lively adventures with his pals on a daily basis, always devotes his days to hanging out with me and my fam when we are in town, no matter how low key our plans are. I also greatly enjoyed my time with my grandmother on the couch sharing Nyquil, cough drops, hot tea, and book recommendations.
I don't know why I was so struck by this trip to California - we go almost every year. The southern California glamour is lost to me, and I am continually grateful for my decision to not attend college there- even though I can't hide my jealousy of my cousin's membership to the Cal State Long Beach Sailing Club. I find myself agreeing more and more with comedians such as Fred Allen who say, "California is a fine place to live - if you happen to be an orange." Still, I do love hearing of the California glamour that did exist during my parents childhood days and seeing my amazing family. I will be back- even if I have to pay my 5 dollar tourist fee next time.