I spent some time in Southern California – Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Carlsbad, San Diego, Westminster, Venice Beach.  For eight months I stayed in a hotel overlooking I-5 in San Clemente, the ocean in the distance touching clouds.  The region is elevated in the thoughts of many, it’s flawless, magical like Disneyland.  Beaches, weather, and culture are strong drink; a cup from Lethe snatching all memory of ugliness.  It is a lie.  Not only does it rain in Southern California but it also carries the distinction, as do other areas in the state, of being the cool kid from school, the place where everyone wants to be and everyone wants to know.  People run from their “backward” towns, leaving ignorance supposedly behind and escaping to these places, to really live life, to really find beliefs and people that exemplify sophistication, right thinking.  I left California entirely.  But if I could pack everything into a bag, I would bring the Central Valley, family and memories secured forever.  How else are you to treat the world that wiped at your mouth and put you to sleep; the world that taught you abc’s, where you skinned your knee, broke your heart, escaped death and burned your hand a thousand times at sin’s door?  As snobbish as I am against Southern California, nothing removes me farther from my sentimentality to the Central Valley as the welfare of my wife and children.  I read about my beloved region, especially Merced, the way an ex stalks an ex online.  From what I read, she’s only gotten uglier and more dangerous.  Fat and emaciated.  She doesn’t know what to do with herself. She’s gone south.  She talks of gangs and crime and lack of jobs as an overwhelming enigma.  We will know the truth about the deaths of Paul Armstrong and Steven Lombard before she rehabilitates herself.  I rubberneck from states away, half congratulating myself for taking my family away from such a pernicious state and half lamenting the distance between my family and the origin of memories.  But that was then.  My family is here, our memories are here.  Their voices and laughter slowly and precisely snip away the meaty cord of land and man.    

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