A wide, paved walking path climbs between two symmetrical neighbourhoods. Like an axis of reflection, it separates bays formed in u’s on either side of it. They remind me of the looped boutonnières my mother sewed down the back of her sister’s wedding dress some sixty years ago. At the tip of one of those bays, a father plays catch with his son on the street just before dusk. A basketball net suspended from a thick black plastic support is planted on the edge of the traffic and faces the street. The games occur in the round of the bay, it seems; not much traffic here to worry about. I’m not at home, though, in my small town in Saskatchewan. I’m in Valencia, California, about forty minutes north-east of Los Angeles. That surprises me, a testament to stereotypes I may have built around California despite three visits. It surely mustn’t surprise the residents of Valencia. I feel at home here, and that surprises me even more.
I’ve learned a lot on this visit, when I’ve had time to get to know the area.
· Drivers in the greater Los Angeles get a bad rap. We have encountered only courtesy and respect. Throughout our road trips to Encino, Pasadena, Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Malibu, along with shorter jaunts around Valencia, we have witnessed only proactive consideration for drivers on all points. Waters part on the freeway when a vehicle signals to change lanes, and an automatic zipper effect begins whenever congestion limits accessibility to a roadway. LA drivers consider others because, as our son says, they have all experienced a traffic congestion. It’s karma. They are considerate, they receive courtesy in return, and they pay it forward. The cycle continues. Yes, we experienced congestion, but never road rage.
|Santa Monica Pier|
· The communities associated with Greater Los Angeles, like Santa Clarita, Beverly Hills, and those I’ve just mentioned, have a vibrant sense of their own identity separate from the metropolis.
· Los Angeles is in a basin. Mountains and canyons surround it. When you drive into the city, it’s downhill. Never quite understood that.
· I have to sign my credit card slips. Over time, I bet I could even forget my pin number.
· You need a bottle opener to open pop bottles.
· Solar panels adorn the roofs of many neighborhood homes and businesses. They also power electric lights or signs in isolated locations.
· Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt are everywhere.
· Businesses and residences have courtyards. No need to worry about how to get the snow out of those enclaves in the winter, I guess.
· People are friendly, and service is always courteous and affable. They are interested in Saskatchewan, if the subject comes up, and ask questions.
· It’s been a heat wave this week with record-setting temperatures in California. After eight months of -25 C, though, I won’t be the one complaining about + 35 C.
· I forget that so much of California is desert. My images of endless soft, sandy beaches and gigantic surf persist from TV shows and movies. The sections of northern California around Baker (true to its name, coming in at 41° C today) trump southwestern Saskatchewan for bleak, desolate landscape. Like the grasses and hills of southwestern Saskatchewan, however, those valleys and canyons exude their own majesty.
So, California, I hope to be back before too long to discover more of your treasures, and to meander along more walking trails so pastoral that you can forget you’re in a metropolis. Thanks for the hospitality.