I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Southern California, where my husband grew up, went to high school, and still knows people. (Do you still know anyone from high school? I don’t. I’m okay with this, except I’d like to find Marilyn again someday) Ever since we were dating, we have come down to SoCal at fairly regular intervals.

There’s lots to mock about LA, especially for a girl who calls Oregon home. There’s the concrete rivers, the enormous parking lots, the tendency in general to cover every single little bit of land with asphalt—even when you drive into the enormous hills west of town, you’ll see little dribbles of concrete spilled down their uninhabitable barren sides, as if the locals just couldn’t stand to see all that actual ground! The freeways and the traffic and the smog are famously detestable. We went to Mauritania in 2001, and came back for the first time in 2004. In that time, Humvees had become popular, and I was stunned (and judgmental) as I watched these enormous vehicles whiz by on perfectly smooth, paved roads, as in my mind I could see the streets of Mauritania, full of ancient Mercedes sedans bumping along through sand and dirt. There’s also the focus on superficials, although that’s not limited to Southern California.

But I’m working on being a nicer person; being all sweetness and light about the place, as it were. And so, I’m going to tell you about the nice part.

First of all, palm trees. Palm trees are great. Palm trees are fun. Palm trees look like they were copied from a Dr. Seuss drawing. Add a blue sky as backdrop, a few blown clouds, a sea breeze—life doesn’t get much better than this.

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Second of all, the Pacific. It’s a gorgeous ocean.

We spent a day at Huntington Beach. Donn surfed; the kids and I swam; Abel even made a new friend who loaned him a boogie-board. The water temperature was perfect. The air temperature was perfect–not too hot, a little cloud cover.

 

Brown pelicans flew overhead and plunged down into the surf, rocking on the waves as they gobbled their catch. Lifeguards roamed the beach in Jeeps, surfboards strapped on top for them to grab at first sign of trouble in the swells offshore. A pod of dolphins came through, frolicking in the water, flipping their tails up, doing flips, riding the waves with the few surfers. They stayed a while, no doubt enjoying the admiration—no one can be blasé about dolphins.

Afterwards, we wandered the streets. HB is a little surf town on the California coast; as such, expect to see a lot of people in swimsuits, with great tans, and sun-streaked blonde hair—whether the sun did it or not. These people are not all beautiful, but they have a certain expectation of what is beautiful. You will see a lot of skin. If you have just spent a lot of time in a Muslim country, you might not want to go to HB right away. Just a little thought. Cuz your eyes will hurt. On the other hand, it helps us get to know what’s in style in California at least—it’s very different from what’s in style on the streets of Nouakchott.

We cruised the sidewalk sales. I went into several women’s stores, and quickly realized that I wouldn’t fit any of those cute styles. At least, I wouldn’t feel comfortable—maybe I should put it that way, since I saw many women much larger than myself who obviously felt they fit into those cute little styles.

We got the boys some new t-shirts at a huge sidewalk sale. The sun shone; the sea breeze blew. I ate a huge salad at a sidewalk café; we watched the world walk by. A beautiful day, livin’ the life on the beach.

Disclaimer: The photo is in Hemet, not HB; do you KNOW what sand can do to cameras?

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