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Thursday, December 13 2001

California state of mind - 3

Though yesterday's subject, Santa Barbara, is very much in Southern California, Southern California in general is an entity apart, like no other in the world. It's truly a state of mind for most Americans because we've seen so much of it in the movies and television and imagined it along with radio scripts for years before television that we generally feel at home there from the moment we arrive. Though there are songs celebrating many places, probably no place has inspired more of them than Southern California, and some of them have even made the top 40 pop music charts ("California Dreamin'," "It Never Rains in California," "Hotel California," for starters) Others, like Jimmy Webb's "Palm Desert" and By "the Time I Get to Phoenix" (leaving Southern California, of course) try and with some success manage to capture the essense of the Southern California experience.

Both because of the fame preceding it and its natural geography, Southern Calfornia (which includes everything from Santa Barbara County on the west to Death Valley on the east, down about 200 miles south through San Diego) seems easier to find your way around in than many places I've been. The naming of freeways for familiar places—Ventura, San Diego, Pasadena, Harbor, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Santa Monica—suggesting their general direction or major destination, are part of the ease of travel there. The fact that greater Los Angeles is a large "basin" rimmed with mountain ranges that can be memorized quickly and other landmarks like the Hollywood Sign help facilitate keeping your bearings. You're going to or from the ocean, or to or parallel to the mountains at all times. At least on my first visit I couldn't wait to hit the freeways, and found the driving exhilarating, which I'm sure a major source of the region's major headaches (smogs and commuter woes).

My brother Bob and his wife lived in South Pasadena when I first arrived in the state, which as the name suggests is adjacent to Pasadena, which is the quintessence of Southern California. One of the oldest of the Los Angeles suburbs, we've all "been there" on many New Year's Days, participating in the most beautiful parade in the world, Pasadena's annual Rose Parade. It almost invariably takes place in perfect weather, when even the smog is hardly in sight on the TV cameras, which is a source of the region's other headache, constant population growth. The Pasadena Freeway, by the way, is the oldest and curviest freeway in the state, and Pennsylvanians are always comparing it with the Turnpike, even down to the Freeway's several tunnels between downtown LA and downtown Pasadena.

Everywhere you go in Southern California there is great beauty. There is always a profusion of colorful flowers and exotic plants, the laid back lifestyle is always in evidence and everywhere you go there you feel you're in discovery mode, whether you're discovering a movie or pop star, flora, or geological formations you've never encountered before. There are promises around every bend that keep beckoning: keep on looking.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Worst jokes (first of three)

Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. However, all the records of their league were unfortunately destroyed in a fire. Thus we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.

—Sent by Jim Martin

Advent thought for the day

"You go on being worldly, frivolous, and giddy because you are a coward. What is it, if not cowardice, to refuse to face yourself?"

—Blessed Josemaria Escriva
Sent by Bud Macfarlane, CatholicCity

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