“California is about the good life.
So a bad life there seems so much worse than a bad life anywhere else.”
(Sarah Vowell)

Last weekend/earlier this week my family traveled to Southern California. It was a personal and business trip, visiting my mother and my older sister and her family, and for the biz matters, doing another college exploratory trip for Belle. Monday evening, minutes after our flight took off from the Ontario airport heading for PDX, MH and Belle saw this sight, from the right/east side of the airplane.

http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=9212007

It was a multivehicle crash, with even more emergency vehicles responding.  Strange, how an event so tragic looked so surreal and…well…picturesque [1]…from the window of an ascending jet plane.

*   *   *

As I have whined about described here previously, I am not fond of trips to So Cal (more specifically, Orange County) for a variety of reasons, and this trip included the cranky-inducing reason of getting up at 3:55 am to make our 6:15 boarding time. In what has become the proud tradition of American aviation, our two hour flight included no breakfast service [2].

After fetching our rental car we searched for the nearest non-fast food food venue near the Ontario airport. The first restaurant-looking place we came to was a Farmer Boys. Although the chain of restaurants is a “Southern California Icon,” [3] So Cal native moiself had never heard ’em. Guess their iconic status was achieved after I left the state.

But I digress.

Picking at my Farmer Boys breakfast, I realized how spoiled I’d become, living where I live in Oregon. What with the abundant local organic grocery stores, farmer’s markets and our CSA membership I have become used to the idea that eggs should taste like eggs and tomatoes like tomatoes.   Had I been blindfolded I would have had no idea what I was eating, as my over-medium [4] eggs and tomato slices were remarkably flavor-free.

I was in California, supposedly the produce capital of the US if not the world, and it was August, eighty-plus degrees, and a restaurant with the word “farmer” in its name can’t serve a decent tomato and a fresh egg?

tomatoland

*   *   *

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming, Dissing So Cal, to ask readers to engage in a moment of bedlam on behalf of Men With Righteous Cojones.  Specifically, actor Mark Ruffalo, who sent a stirring letter to a reproductive rights rally in Mississippi, [5] In his letter Ruffalo defends women’s reproductive rights and shares his mother’s own experience obtaining an illegal abortion.

“What happened to my mother was a relic of an America that was not free nor equal nor very kind. My mother’s illegal abortion marked a time in America that we have worked long and hard to leave behind. It was a time when women were seen as second rate citizens who were not smart enough, nor responsible enough, nor capable enough to make decisions about their lives. It was a time that deserved to be left behind, and leave it behind we did, or so it seemed.”

 How I wish Mr. Ruffalo’s eloquently penned sentiments were also a relic. That is, how I wish I could show his letter to my children and their response would be along the lines of, Wow, what was going on back then?

It’s déjà vu all over again.  Nevertheless, it is with great appreciation that I bestow the Men With Righteous Cojones award to Mark Ruffalo.

big_balls_std

    * *  *

When the Oakies left Oklahoma and moved to California it raised the I.Q. of both states.
(Will Rogers

No recounting of a trip to So Cal is complete without my complaining about the region’s water usage. The state has been in a drought since the last time Anthony Weiner sent a weiner-free text,  and this year has been the state’s  hottest year on record, and what did I see during my morning walks around my mother’s neighborhood?  H-two-O, all over the sidewalks and running over the curbs and into the gutters and drains, runoff from all of those consequence-denying, Colorado River-sucking hydro-vampires watering their lawns, their stupid, ugly, vanity, royalty-imitating[6] status-flaunting lawns.  Not only that, I passed several houses with NEWLY SEEDED FRONT LAWNS, as in, the kind that require copious watering to keep the sprouts alive.  Made me want to slap somebody upside the head with a water witch’s dowsing stick.   Which would, you know, hurt.

DOWSE

I have three words for the average So Cal homeowner.  Okay, I have six, but the first three I shall keep to myself. [7]  The second three: Drought. Resistant. Landscaping.

*   *   *

 Back to reasons for the trip: Belle and MH sat in on an Admissions Talk for Claremont McKenna College & the Claremont Colleges consortium, on Monday afternoon.  K and I passed the time at Claremont’s library and then joined Belle & MH for the campus tour, after which we had a couple of hours before needing to get to the airport. Belle, exhausted from the tour (and the summer cold that plagued her during the entire trip) nixed MH’s offer of a drive to/tour of his college, Caltech, which turned out to be a good move as we enjoyed a scenic drive up the San Bernardino’s highest peak, Mt. San Antonio (more commonly known as Mt. Baldy).

LODGE

We had dinner at the Mt. Baldy Lodge Restaurant, where my curiosity if not my appetite was piqued by the entrée menu item described thusly:

“And for all you healthy people….
THE PLUMBER’S WIFE: steamed vegetable medley with chunks of chicken topped with melted cheddar and jack cheese.”

They got me. I had to order it. About the “healthy” descriptor – yeah right. Not with that portion size.

MH was concerned that I might find it necessary to imitate the sartorial accoutrements of the entrée’s namesake.  I assured him that my pants and health would remain plumber-influence free.

PLUMBER

*   *   *

Our friend LAH graciously agreed to house/cat sit during our trip to Southern California. We had her over to dinner last Thursday, the 15th, to enjoy the pleasure of her company and to give her house/cat care instructions.  Somehow, the table conversation was steered to [8] the story about the dinner many years ago wherein I first served Brussels Sprouts to a leery LAH.  Although LAH later came to appreciate the oft-maligned brassica, she gave me a hard time about it that night.  She reminded me that, after that momentous dinner, as she was walking home on a frosty night, she put her hands into her jacket pocket and found an unexpected bonus: a plastic baggie of the still-warm Brussels sprouts.

Inspired by L’s generous reminder of one of my better pranks, I launched into infomercial announcer mode:

But wait – there’s more! It’s a cruciferous-cancer-fighting veggie AND a hand warmer!

 Which prompted son K to share his opinion of the vegetable in question:

“Brussels Sprouts are the devil’s back hairs.”

Of course, I had to ask. Why, in K’s opinion, are Brussels Sprouts the devil’s back hairs?

“Because they grow in stalks and are disgusting.”

DEVIL

 Try sautéing your devil’s back hairs in olive oil with diced shallots. And may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Or perhaps “cinematic”

[2] But the beverage service included complimentary beer and wine.  Yo ho ho for SkyWest Airlines.

[3]  Well, according to Farmer Boys.

[4] “Eggs served any style” the menu said, so I asked for poached.  “Any style” translation: any style but poached.

[5] New regulations threaten the state’s only abortion clinic, which has been targeted by an anti-abortion group, the ironically named Operation Save America.

[6] Historians tell us the 17th century European royals flaunted their wealth with lawns, which, besides  showing off castles and manor homes, let the neighbors know that the lawn owner was so wealthy he could afford to use his land as a playground rather than a source of food. Thus, the lawn became a status symbol.

[7] They are best shared with a sympathetic listener, both of us armed with an adult beverage.

[8] “Somehow the table conversation was steered to…” I should come up with a suitable acronym for this phrase, which, in my house, introduces many an anecdote containing (or excusing) a plethora of fart jokes or other stories of questionable taste.