Northern California is a lovely place—no doubt about it…Towering Redwoods…an incredible coastline…historical towns. There’s really no place like it on earth. Most of the natives are friendly—even overly-helpful.
But some of the folks? Oh my! They are really wacky.
It’s a true culture-clash, here in NorCal. Folks with purple hair, nose-rings, tongue-studs, dred-locks and full-body tattoos versus the Mercedes/Beamer crowd who sport bumper stickers that say:
“Frugal is such an ugly word”. And “I love Big Brother…” and “Forget Peace…War is the Answer”.
I’m telling you, it’s downright scary.
When I first arrived here, my fiance, Steven, took me touring Old Town Eureka. The people there were startling, but the buildings were even worse. Inside the historical shops were signs that said: “Earthquake Warning—these old buildings are NOT reinforced and could collapse. Enter at your own risk!”
Oh yeah. Welcome to California.
We went to a restaurant called Hurricane Kate’s. It was full of curious pictures and peculiar folk. Adult diners were busy scribbling on paper tablecloths with color crayons.
I was perplexed…both by the people and the menu.
Enchanted-Forest-Pizza…? Hurricane Dinner…The Holy War? I was mystified, but did my best to cope. I ordered “The Holy War”…white sea-scallops vs. blackened-livers wrapped in bacon. When my meal arrived, the two opposing forces were lined up on opposite sides of the plate, all ready for battle: Archangels versus Devils-on-Horseback…
Now, tell me folks. What kind of people encourage food to fight? Lord have mercy. It’s a culture-clash—even on the dinner plate.
Life is strange in NorCal.
I’d been here just a short while when my new world suddenly went ka-BOOM. The whole apartment started to shake and I was rattled out of my senses.
“Help…dear God… Help!” I fled outdoors onto the sidewalk. “Oh somebody help!”
The neighbors watched with interest as I trotted about frantically in my stockingfeet. I knocked on several doors before someone came outside to reassure me.
It was a small quake—-just a 4.5—-hardly a hiccup to Californians, but it felt like the end of the world to me. I went to sit in my duct-taped little Saturn till the aftershocks subsided. I didn’t want to go back inside.
The neighbors thought I was peculiar.
Steven, himself, seemed to think I was odd. He didn’t say so, but I know it was true.
One day, Steven took me to a new beach—-a wild and wonderful place —full of raging waves. The heavy surf washed colorful rocks onto shore.
“Oh my!” I said. “Look at all the striped rocks! Even a few agates…!” I snatched them up before the waves could carry them away…hoarding them like a squirrel storing nuts for a long hard winter. Soon my pockets were bulging.
Steven was aghast. “Darling, what are you going to DO with all those rocks?”
“DO with them!” It was my turn to be incredulous. “How can anyone pass up these kinds of rocks? Look at the colors!…And look at all the shells and driftwood! This beach is incredible.”
I promptly filled Steven’s car trunk with rocks and shells and twisted piles of driftwood. Being a gentleman, Steven humored me, but there was a worried look in his eyes that said: What the dickens have I gotten myself into?
He retreated to a log and sat there reading, while I ferreted about in the surf, looking for more treasure.
Then a Concerned Citizen walked by…One of those helpful Californians who frequent these beaches. He paused.
“Ma’am…” the man said. “This beach has a rip-tide current that carries tourists out to sea all the time. They drown. Don’t you know the rule around here? ‘Never turn your back on the Sea….’ Ever!”
With that, the man turned and walked on down the beach.
I stared after him—feeling terribly Touristy and utterly dumb. Nobody had told me about Rules of the Sea. I didn’t know they existed. I could’ve died right here on the California Coast….Could’ve been carried out to sea, and been eaten by sharks and Killer whales.
And all because I didn’t know the Rules.
The incident dampened my beachcombing spirits, but only briefly. I was soon at it, again—albeit a bit more carefully this time.
In the following days, my penchant for collecting Nature’s Treasures grew worse…and so did my countrified longings. A farm gal needs a garden plot, but I had nowhere to plant one.
Every time I went shopping, I found myself yearning after the tomato and squash plants in the garden center.
“I really must have them!” I told Steven one day, while shopping. “I can plant them in pots on the balcony.”
He didn’t bother arguing….Just sighed and hoisted a bag of potting soil onto his shoulder while I trotted on ahead, carrying my Early Girls and Zukes and Crookneck squash.
My deck garden grew massively, and I settled down amongst the plants and shells and rocks and driftwood, trying to feel content. I bought myself a real-looking Alligator to keep me company. Together, Al and I sat soaking up the sunshine, listening to the tinkling fountain…staring longingly over the rooftops at the distant mountains and the bay.
It was all very lovely…but I needed something more.
I needed acres of countryside and miles of freedom. I yearned for some real garden dirt to dig around in…lots and lots of it. My squash and tomato babies were yearning to stretch out, as well…They needed re-potting.
We all needed dirt.
I went searching the coastal country for good black dirt, only to discover that this was a Land of Sand…and sand….and more sand. Not much else. With mounting frustration, I drove the highways and byways, watching for rotting vegetation and good black dirt.
Suddenly, I saw some. Piles of it on the side of the road.
Stopping the car, I jumped out and started scooping like mad, filling up plastic bags and depositing them in the back. I was still scooping when a passing driver pulled over. A helpful Californian. Just what I needed.
I hid my bags of dirt as best I could, and waved the gentleman away…
“Um…you’re so kind, but I think I’ve got it. Thanks!”
He drove off with a wave and a Good Samaritan smile, and I rushed back to my scooping. Putting the last bag in the car, I jumped inside and drove on down the road, feeling just a bit smug. I’d pulled it off without mishap…the Great Soil Heist.
Heading across the long Samoa Bay bridge, I came upon a traffic jam. I pulled over to let things clear. My car stopped abruptly. I didn’t mean to hit the brakes so hard.
The dirt from my plastic bags went all over the place.
My suitcase popped open and contributed to the chaos. I found myself strangling in piles of underwear and debris….brassieres and panties and hose and good black soil—all mingling together sociably.
Passing cars slowed. People peered at me oddly…. This crazed gal with Nebraska license plates… Pantyhose and bras and undies everywhere… Are they all like that in the Midwest?
The Californians shook their heads and drove on.
I slumped lower in my seat. Dear Lord…! My humiliations and mortifications in this state had hit a new low. It was more than I could bear. Somehow, I always ended up being the weird one in this Land of Wackiness.
What trials I’ve endured!…the trials of a country gal, trying to live in the city.
When will it end? Tell me, Lord—when will it end?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~To be continued~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~