I went to my son’s college Family Day. We started the morning off with pastries and coffee, and then were treated to panels of students who presented various projects they were passionate about. One group shared pieces of art that told of the physical and mental abuses of women, another shared a You Tube project they had done related to the myths and truths of being biracial and another created posters of popular Hollywood movies with the casts changed to more appropriately include people of color. I was so impressed with the courage and commitment these students have. And I have told my son that previous generations had made such a mess of things and it’s up to them to save us from ourselves. I have such hope!
Then we, the parents, heard about the issues of off campus housing in Santa Cruz and why it was so expensive to live there. (No surprise that people working in Silcon Valley come over the hill to Santa Cruz to live, leaving no affordable housing for anyone else.) Finally, we were treated to a group of a cappella singers and then lunch. And of course we were in Santa Cruz and that meant our meal (e.g. utensils, plates and left over food) was compostable. Gotta love that too! My son was too busy with his studies to join me for the morning’s events, but he did join me for lunch. Then he went back to studying and I did this piece just a few steps from his dorm room. Such a lovely day, by the way.
Sitting on my bubble wrap in the dirt and leaves, looking at this view, got me thinking about the sometimes-glaring differences between northern and southern California. And if you are looking for such differences just at the coastline from Santa Cruz to below Santa Barbara it’s just the tip of the “difference” iceberg. (No icebergs here, but the Pacific Ocean is pretty cold and most would need a wetsuit to spend any time in that frigid water, even in San Diego.) To the untrained eye you just see the trees with a big sky that blurs into ocean way off in the distance. Could be anywhere along the California coast, right? Well, that’s because what you can’t see has always been the real story in California. How do I put into words what I am trying to describe? OK, first, those trees you see in the foreground are huge conifers, and there are groves of giant redwoods just behind me and out of this line of site. This is no SoCal or central coast scene. In fact you wouldn’t see these trees once you got south of Monterey. They have these really cool trees called Monterey Pine or Monterey Cypress there. Look them up on Google, you won’t be disappointed. Of course Big Sur has some mighty redwoods, but that part of California’s coast is not as subtle as Santa Cruz. It’s wild and windy there. When my son was little we dared to run around in the screaming rain and wind at a beach near Big Sur. When we were completely soaked and hoarse from yelling, we found a public restroom nearby and changed into our jammies. I put our wet clothes in a bag and we drove home.
By the time you get down to Hearst Castle (Central California coast) there really aren’t many trees to speak of near the ocean, except maybe an occasional grove of eucalyptus (non-native to California). But in winter that area is tossed and blown around until there are huge piles of detritus on the narrow strips of sand below Cambria’s amazing bluffs. And once you get to Santa Barbara, and further south for that matter, many of the trees you will see along the coast are palm trees (only one is native—California Fan Palm). And I am obsessed with palm trees!
Every area of California is different with different attractions for all. Our coastline is often foggy, so, it isn’t always sunny in California. But lots of people come here looking for a kind of intangible sunny weather that they hope will lead to some kind of “California Dreamin” (Beachboys song, right?) lifestyle. I think the most energetic come to California for the technology in Silicon Valley (northern CA). But now there is a high tech area in Santa Monica (SoCal) and it is called Silcon Beach. Some come to experience the wine country. That used to be exclusively in the northern Napa Valley, but now wineries can be found in the inland areas of Napa on down to Los Angeles in cities/towns like Lodi, Paso Robles, Templeton, Santa Maria, Simi Valley and Temecula—to name only a few. Funny that the people who dream of the creative world of movies and entertainment still need to come to LA. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed.
So, I am at the point in this story where there is way more to tell about the differences and similarities of the people and regions in this huge state. And I didn’t really know how to end this without going on and on. So, I will leave us at the beach for now.
I guess I’m not done. I just can’t seem to stop. OK, here’s a question and answer that people want to know about those of us who live in southern California. “Who in their right mind would live in LA? I mean, how do you put up with all that traffic?” I’ll tell you the slice of a story that should begin to answer that. I remember a perfect southern CA evening where we watched the sunset at a friend’s house at the top of Mount Washington. They had a huge window that overlooked a canyon and out to a thin silver ribbon that was the Pacific Ocean. From that window, we watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean while the twinkling lights of planes landed at LAX. And oh yeah, I think we were drinking a particularly lovely Napa Valley Cab while eating guacamole made from CA avocados. You get it, right?