Notes on this and that
Hmm. Just reread the last blog to see where we were and promise to avoid using the word "excellent" today.
Lyn and I did the Eisenhower hike with Karen yesterday (other participants wimped out). Started out at 8am from the trailhead and were back into the Living Desert by 10:05. Very nice hike: chilly starting out but we were warm on the return. There was a woman showing a female American Kestrel (handfed since being found as a chick and now dependent on the zoo). I was surprised at how small it was—not much bigger than an American Robin but still able to chow down on the birds at a feeder.
Thought I'd muse today on some general experiences of being here in California. I've already passed comment on the drivers and haven't had any reason to change my mind. Most are good and very polite but the occasional driver here is downright mad (or possibly drunk: the dent in the resort wall being evidence of the latter).
In general here, people seem exceptionally careful with one another. If, as a pedestrian, I step off the pavement at an intersection, an approaching car will stop 10 feet back from the stop line and the driver will wave me across. I'm not sure whether this is because the chances are high down here that I am carrying a weapon and giving any kind of offence could be hazardous to one's well-being or whether there is a genuine desire to please. And don't forget that most of the people in these cars around here at least are millionaires...or perhaps even really rich, and such people aren't known for their timidity.
On that topic, this is an area that reeks of wealth. From the hikes that we go on, you look down on a chequer-board pattern of golf courses as far as the eye can see. On our bike ride down 111 the other day, we passed one after another: the lush grass and gardens in front of each solid wall tended by an army of people cutting the grass, cleaning up the (literally) tons of fruit falling off the fruit trees in front, or simply sweeping. There is no sign of a run-down or derelict district and the one person asking for spare change outside a McDonald's a week ago was the only sign of any sort of poverty. There are walls in front of these resorts but a child could climb them so there's clearly a reliance on an absence of any threat anywhere in the vicinity. I can only think that there must be a kind of invisible wall around this region; one that makes it clear to anyone with the wrong intentions thatthey aren't welcome here.
On a street 50 meters from a line of stores that include Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Apple (it's jammed) and other high enders, there's a gun store advertising shotguns and revolvers in the window. Just up the street from there is a US Army recruiting office. It doesn't seem busy. I'm just wondering if they misread the market here.
But that's another thing. We rub shoulders with another stratum of society down here. Larry Ellison (owner of Oracle, a software company only slightly smaller than IBM), Orlando (of Orlando and Dawn) and a whole host of other "notables" live next door to at least one person we know and yet everyone—both richer and poorer—seem to muddle about in the same social milieu. Name-dropping seems to be a large part of many conversations. Is it because the millionaires create an atmosphere of social equality deliberately so that they feel at ease being on a hail-fellow-well-met terms with the billionaires? Or is it really a demonstration of that classless society that the US aspires to?Since we have not met and have hardly seen a non-white person in said social milieu since we've been here (except for the largely Spanish population of maids, restaurant clerks and gardeners who attend to us) it isn't a complete ideal it would seem but...
Gayness is largely absent...or invisible...too.Like skin-color variety it isn't someone that one notices until one has reason to stop and check...as in, we have met people who seem to be letting us know that they could be but in a let's-keep-this between-us kind of way.
American flags are everywhere, displayed in gardens, the backs of trucks, in stores and one President's Birthday, lining the streets. Here again, the explanation could be that there are so many Canadians down here (who, to my dismay, seem to have a tendency to clump together) that those few real US citizens feel obliged to signal whose territory this really is. But nah, I think it is just a US thing. Sure we Canadians hang out the maple leaf here and there but not with quite the same sense of defiance...or what is the word?
One expects to experience a certain Republicanism around this much wealth but it isn't glaringly apparent. I've overheard quiet mutterings expressing both liberal (grumbles about the lack of attention to water and energy conservation) and redneck sentiments (a sneer about the "myth" of global warming), but loud pronouncements for either side. There's perhaps a silent agreement that while we're golfing, hiking, playing tennis (and anyway we're retired and almost dead) let's keep that stuff off the table.