We went yesterday, Sunday, to visit C & J at their new home near the Pacific.
They moved here, retired and prosperous, in good health and of their own free will, to be nearer their children and family.
Tall, well educated, erudite, self-confident, witty, they both exude a mastery of life. She runs her own design business and is a great cook. He was a financial whiz and worked in that industry and retired young.
Now he can joke about his busy life: playing tennis, bridge, and reading novels on Kindle.
They moved to a privileged slice of California, one that is available for only a chosen few, a place where the temperature is always 30 degrees cooler than the baking interior, and the lovely fog settles over the land every night, bathing the abundant roses in moisture, insuring that youth and spring are eternal.
The host drove us around the neighborhood in a BMW convertible. His impressions of the Golden State were effusive. We descended towards the Pacific, and he spoke, “The state is bankrupt, but look at the marvelous parks and recreational facilities they provide.” He marveled at those drivers who let him into their lanes, and who stop at four way intersections. His California was benevolent, courteous, lush and unhurried.
He characterized his life as “blessed”. The kids were doing well. One worked in executive compensation and made a “shitload”. He recalled his own fortunate work life, and told of leaving one company, and then semi-retiring, waking up one day and realizing he needed money again and then earning it, copiously.
Back inside the home, we walked past a fountain and into freshly painted white rooms scented with baked butter and ocean air.
C showed us her enormous kitchen with countless driftwood stained cabinets, acres of countertop, and floor-to-ceiling pantry painted in an exact shade of medium green that matched a leather purse purchased in Italy. We drank mimosas and ate Cobb salad. The windows and doors were left open. No flies were present and the temperature never deviated from 68 degrees.
We went back into the convertible and drove down the coast and stopped by a new red-tiled resort. We took a golf cart tour of the property and saw the golf course, the swimming pool, the casalitas, the cabanas wired with wi-fi, the restaurants, and the requisite environmental park, a piece of do-goodiness meant to offset the rapacious materialism and overt gaudiness of the overreaching resort.
In the car, I had a deja vu experience.
30 years earlier, my Uncle B, eminent cardiologist from Glencoe, Illinois, had divorced my Aunt M and absconded to Hawaii with his girlfriend. He then came back to practice in Newport Beach. We went to visit him, and he lustily and happily showed us his new life in Southern California with his stucco covered, cathedral-ceiling home and gleaming white medical office tower overlooking the lushly landscaped luxury shopping mall.
I was young then, but saw coastal California for what it claimed not to be. Even then knew it was a mere slice, a dessert topping, a chimera, a dream, a fabrication, a tangible and mythical construction of lies, temporarily seductive, but ultimately unreal, sustainable only by the sheer force of a mind that can block out the state’s vast interior with its suffocating, smoggy heat, and ignoble, sprawling insipidness.
Today, I am back in Van Nuys and the temperature will be close to 100. I will search for a job, and hope I can find a way to make a living, and I will think about that certain Sunday along the ocean.