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Published: April 2nd 2010
When we crossed over the border into California, we approached an inspection station and were ready for an interrogation. Outside of El Paso/Juarez, we'd been asked if we were US citizens or where we've been - which isn't an easy answer when you've been traveling as quickly as we did. Grace was ready to answer Yuima, AZ and yes, we're Americans. As we approached the California border guard, he was a relaxed 20 something who I could imagine sitting in a rocking chair with a piece of grass hanging off of his lip. He had a big smile on his thin latino face and casually stated "It's a beautiful day huh?" We answered yes and he waved us on.
Could it get any more relaxed and inviting than that? We were giddy from crossing the border. This was much better than the strip search that I had going into Germany in 1989 on the outskirts of Amsterdam - but that's another story.
I continue to spot people with these huge toothy smiles for no apparent reason. People on bikes, people walking down the street. There are smiles everywhere except the homeless and I think that's intentional.
If you look all happy and begging for money, who's going to drop a wad of cash on you. I bet if I drop a handfull of dollars on them, I'd get a beaming smile too. But since I'm getting those for free already, I'll save my money.
So why is everyone so happy here?
Is it the weather?
California has incredible summer weather and I'll bet you $5 that I won't get rained on until October - if I stay here. I know the abundant sun and lack of rain are part of it. It just feels good to be out in the sun and soaking it in like a sleeping dog. Arizona has more sun though, so that's not the whole picture.
Is it the air?
I have to give some kudos to the air quality off the ocean. When the air is blowing off the ocean, it's refreshingly vibrant since it has been at sea for months and is happy to be back on land. Most people live miles from the ocean. As soon as we crossed the California border, we noticed the degradation of the air quality when we couldn't see
Amtrak on the Beach
Take the train to San Diego for some sweet views. This was right below our campground.
for 100 miles like in AZ. LA air is know for low quality as well. I always remember when Jed Clampett said you could cut the Beverly Hills air with a knife, but "I don't know why you'd want to, cause it'd get your knife dirty." So the air quality hits the lucky few who live by the ocean breezes - including my brother Eric - but that doesn't account for the security guard who was over 150 miles from the ocean.
Is it the weed?
They have medical marijuana here and hundreds of subscription shops in LA alone. In the weekly newspaper, an advertisement shows a distorted doctor who can give prescriptions 24/7 if you suffer chronic pain. There's a November ballot initiative in California to make casual use legal. The proponents are selling it as raising $1 billion in revenue for the ailing finances of the state. I could do a study of the smiling ratio to marijuana use since Denver has opened up 200+ medical marijuana stores since I left there two years ago. If I go to Denver and seem many broad smiles, maybe that's the answer I've been looking for. I don't think
I think you make tequila out of this.
it is though.
Is it the money?
If you've owned real estate here for decades, you're probably sitting on some good equity. Most people don't own properties though because of the expense. I would think that would detract from the smiles, but it sure isn't stopping them. Money can't buy happiness of course, but extreme lack of it can push you into forgetting about it. So extreme lack of money, where you basically throw in the towel on becoming financially successful, could lead to hapiness like in India or in priests, but I don't think that is the cause.
It is the attitude!
Let's face it, attitude is everything and California has it. There isn't a single cause, but the combination of many factors has built up to a general state of happiness that pervades this state. Of course there are whacked people here, but you should avoid those and follow the guys with the smiles.
Here's one of them. My brother Eric is on a roll right now and hiking yoga is taking off. Check him out in his latest news coverage here:
Did you see his smile at the end
Grace shows how she backed our trailer into a tight parking spot. When we pulled out to the left, our RV almost pivoted into the red RV until we made a less sharp turn.
of that? He's got it. He's got a few reasons to be happy right now. He also featured on page 52 of April's Men's Journal magazine for hiking yoga.
I hope you have a smile on your face.
Several of Grace's friends have moved to the US and we stopped by Alhambra to visit some of her classmates. Grace went to junior high with Vickey and grade school with Phyllis. They both moved to America right after high school. Vickey married George who grew up in LA and used to be a deputy sheriff in his twenties. He just graduated with a PhD at USC and teaches part time. He loves going to San Juan island (in the San Juan islands) where he has a cabin. We hope to visit them this summer and hop over to Victoria, BC as well.
Vickie and George made us a nice dinner of stuffed peppers washed down with a bit of champagne, chardonnay and pinot noir. Dylan, their son took a liking to me and we played quite a few games. I gave him my new camera and he started taking more shots than a Japanese
Dylan and Us
Pictures over dinner.
tourist. I thought many of them were interesting, so I posted them. He liked closeups and shots of his father, me, Grace, Vickie, champagne, slippers, hummus, whipped cream and more. Check em out.
Vickey is a kindergarten teacher and grew up on the right side of tracks in Hsinchu. Grace and Vickey tell the story of being in rival gangs at their junior high. They never got in a rumble like Westside story, but I like to imagine a good cat fight. Vickey's gang was clean and fashionable while Grace's gritty girls liked to cause trouble and skip school. While Vickey was at the top of the class and adored by teachers, Grace wanted to go for joy rides on scooters and get tattoos (they've since been removed). Grace and Vickey had lost touch until her friend Christy (featured in this post http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/blog-466503.html) got them back together. Now they laugh about the old times and all is well.
Phyllis is a real estate agent and just started a few months ago. She's got a knack for business and she was the top agent in Southern California last month. She ranked 19th (probably sales revenue) in the whole West
Coast too. She works very hard for her money and her Chinese husband is an engineer like me. Phyllis has a soothing personality and interesting conversationalist.
Next time, I'll tell you about some of my old friends in Santa Barbara. I haven't lived here since 1993 and a couple of them still have their landline phones from back in the day.
Have a Happy Easter!
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