Charles E. Richardson

‘California Dreamin’, not

I had forgotten how stark the terrain in California had become since the drought compared to Georgia. While we have come out of our years’ long drought, the Golden State is still technically in drought condition that started in 2014. It hard to think about a drought here because where we are staying is almost surrounded by water. “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” I had to explain to my grandson Paul, who is traveling with us, that salt water is not tasty.

The Left Coast, however, still has its charms, but those charms come at a high cost-of-living. As I explained to grandson No. 3, you have to make the salary of a king to live like one and that means you have to have an education that is world class. But even with an education, the Bay Area is a daunting place to survive, particularly if you are a public servant.

Teachers, police and firefighters have found it increasingly hard to live where they work and end up wasting hours in head-banging traffic trying to get back and forth to their jobs. San Francisco is doing more than talking about developing public housing restricted to public servants because the housing availability for those who aren’t — at this point — making a mint in the tech sector (tech companies like Goggle has its own employee transit system) are out of luck when it comes to finding an affordable place to hang their hats. Buying a house? Oh, please. Don’t even thinkaboutit. The average home price in this area is above $700,000. Question: What can you get in Middle Georgia for that price? Answer: Just about anything you want.

So why do people live here? Because this is where they live. Many were raised here and don’t know what its like to live anywhere else. This is, I have to tell you, a millennial’s paradise. The atmosphere is charged with everything a young person would want to plug in to. And there are young people everywhere — in the sidewalk cafes, on the trams, ferries, parks and festivals. I forget sometimes how many people reside in this state that’s four times the population of Georgia.

There was a time when I was one of them, but through the grace of God, I went from paradise to heaven and ended up in Georgia. California is a great place to remember the good old days and to be thankful for them, but that was then, this is now. California is a great place to visit, but I’ve lived in Georgia longer than I lived here.

And it bears reflection, internal and external, that I believe I need every once and a while. A wake up call to smell the roses growing in my own yard rather than those of my neighbors.

The roses (just a metaphor, I only have but one rose bush and some would say calling it a bush is greatly overstated) in my yard. But it’s mine. I can’t reach out and touch any of my neighbors. Sure I can take a walk to their homes next door and across the street, but touch, no. Here, that’s a different story. You can touch, shake hands and hug without ever leaving either of their houses (only somewhat of an exaggeration).

I’m not sure Lowe’s or Home Depot do much business in the riding lawnmower sector. There’s not that much grass to cut for two reasons. First, homes here don’t have much property and two, homeowners are discouraged from planting grass because it needs water — water the state doesn’t have.

I will have to tell you one thing I miss about California. This state isn’t black and white. You might see some of everything from Hispanic, Asian, black and white and every race in between. Do they all get along all the time? I don’t know, but probably not, but every issue doesn’t devolve into race because you don’t know where most people came from. Most came from California. The illegal immigration debate doesn’t exist here from what I can tell and hasn’t for a good long time. And I would bet it will go away in Georgia as soon as growers add up their losses this year.