First, the good news. After carefully reviewing our finances, I discovered my book sale royalties were a whopping $1.32. Since most of you are polite, please don’t ask how much I’ve spent on this new hobby. Last year, I made $49.16 in book sales.
Even better news! The sale price of each of our travel journals is now down to $5. Even the cheapest of you can explore our National Parks, travel to Alaska, or sail to the Bahamas. Head over to my website and look under “Books.” The pictures alone make them a great deal. If you buy a book, please leave a (favorable) review, and let me know. I’ll send you a personal note. This will become extremely valuable when the New Yorker picks up something I write. Follow this link to my website.
Ok. Plug over, and on to more hallucinations about California. Many of you will remember my short blog extolling the virtues of the Golden State. Yes, California, by itself, is the world’s fifth-largest economy. More food is grown in California than in any other state. California feeds the nation and most of the world. There are more National Parks in California than even Alaska. The highest mountain in the contiguous forty-eight is Mount Whitney, and the deepest spot in North America and the hottest place on earth is Death Valley. The weather is always great, and the miles of beautiful coastline make California a great place to live.
At this point, either you’ve moved on or fallen asleep. For those still hanging in there, let me highlight some of the less attractive aspects. Lillian and I were happy we could stay in California for less than six months of the year to retain our South Dakota residency. No state income tax gave me more spending money to buy more useless stuff. With my mother’s failing health, Gary’s playtime was on hold. Now we are official California residents. Unlike South Dakota, California requires you to take a written test before they give you your driver’s license. Not taking any kind of test in about fifty years didn’t help, and the driving test has some of the most obtuse questions ever devised. If you’re interested, the fine for dumping livestock on the side of the road is $1,000. Get the book. Unlike my books, the DMV books are free. Luckily, Lillian and I are waiting for our new cards to arrive. Don’t tell anyone. I lied about my weight.
I opted to get the coveted “V” on my license. That’s V for a veteran. I did this because an officer is less likely to write you a ticket in the event of a traffic stop. In my 102 years of driving, I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket. Lillian is not a veteran. She’s only the spouse, or as the military likes to say, a “dependent.” She hates that. She also gets lots of speeding tickets. We have a friend back in Maryland who trained to drive an ambulance. He’s not a veteran, but he likes to go fast. He can also put on flashing lights and has a loud, cool siren. I don’t have that. I just have a V.
While we’re on the subject of driving, let me tell you about California drivers. Not all of them, just 99% of them. People don’t drive as much as they aim. They point their wheels toward your right bumper and floor it. They go either too fast or way too slow. The slow ones are either on their phone or hopped up on marijuana. I’m not a judgmental guy. I’m just giving you the facts. The fast ones start out at 90 and jockey for position. I’m talking about the right lane here. The left lane is reserved for Jay Leno and Elon Musk, and about a million fools drag racing. Every car has a dent or is missing a bumper.
When we sold our Airstream and truck, we bought a Prius—one of those hybrid go-carts. We wanted something to counteract the $6-a-gallon gas prices. Our $30k new car only cost us $40k. We had to pay a “market adjustment” for ‘supply chain issues.’ Because we spent more than the actual car was worth, we had to buy ‘gap’ insurance in case the vehicle was totaled. We got a great deal. Lucky for us, Lillian dented the door two days after we bought it. She was getting gas. She never gets gas. I think she’s filled up the tank three times in her life. Serves her right. Our car now fits in.
Lillian has always been interested in voter issues and working as an election official. Volunteering with the Ventura County League of Women Voters, she helped register forty-one people to vote. She organized a team of folks to visit all the assisted living facilities in the county. When you change addresses, you need to re-register. Also, as an election official, she got hired by Ventura County to work at one of their polling sites. She made a cool thousand bucks. The $49 contributed to her 401k means her new retirement age is 305. When we got our driver’s licenses, we also registered to vote. Lillian pointed out that the American Independent Party was the first political party on the list. This is not for folks who want to be independent of all political parties. It is for those ultra-right-wing nut jobs. I apologize to all my ultra-right-wing nut job friends if I offend. To register as an independent, you must scroll through about twenty wacko parties, blue, red, and green. I considered the magenta party. I’ve always liked that color. Today I’m officially unaffiliated. I have no political opinion whatsoever. Whatever wacko crazy stuff you believe, I agree with you. I’m now a get-along guy.
For most of our working lives, Lillian and I lived in a quiet suburb of Washington, D.C. We both had important jobs and worked and met very important people. I thought we’d met all the important people in America. Once, I got my picture taken with President Clinton. Not the actual Bill Clinton, but a life-size cardboard cutout we saw on the way to the Smithsonian. Shortly after retiringwe moved to the Eastern Shore on the Northern Chesapeake Bay. Most of the folk we befriended were from New Jersey or Philadelphia. Doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs. The usual scoundrels. Apparently, these places have important people as well. Who knew?
Now we live in the land of the rich and famous. You know, people in the “industry.” Not the military-industrial complex industry – THE industry. Everyone in California is beautiful. Not just beautiful but glamorous. The only doctors in California are plastic surgeons. Had God not made me so ruggedly handsome, I’d have made an appointment.
In no other place in the world is the disparity of wealth so prominently on display as it is in California. In our travels, Lillian and I have witnessed abject poverty at its worst. We’ve searched for BBQ in Selma, Alabama, spent the night in Oxford, Mississippi, and gotten lost on the Lakota Sioux reservation in North Dakota. Our nation could do better. We should do better. When we lived on the Chesapeake Bay, I was an environmental nut. Save the Bay and all that. I learned of the political cycle of ecological calamities. First, there’s a public outcry for action. Then, the smart people study the problem. Next, even smarter people sit around and yak. Finally, when the public hears the cost of fixing the problem, everyone goes back to sleep.
The dichotomy in California is the contrast. More one-percenters live in California than anywhere else. There are so many one-percenters that most 99-percenters make an excellent living tending to the rich and famous. When these folks are not polishing the toenails of the world’s most glamorous, they’re hiding in their gated communities. We all live in gated communities to hide from all the migrant workers and the homeless. The folks who harvest our food have one of the most backbreaking jobs in the world. Right next to some of the world’s most opulent homes are whole communities of the homeless. LA County stopped putting up outhouses in these areas because they became mini drug stores and worse. We could fix homelessness. We could fix the burden of poverty. But we choose not to. I guess I’ll go back to sleep.
Wait, this just in from the wonderful person who manages our gated community…
We just heard that the Camarillo Springs freeway ramps are briefly closed, following a stolen car chase. Sounds like the suspect is not willing to get out of the car, so the police have shut down the area.
In other news, there was an accident at Gate #1, and one of the entry gates was damaged. It had to be removed for repairs. It is expected to be back up in about 4 days.
As I release this blog, we are getting pelted with hail. Snow is falling on our friends further inland.
Is California a great state or what?