I’m putting much of this book online. I’d love feedback. What do you like? What would you have liked to hear more of? What did you not like? Why?
I don’t need praise. I need real critique. If what you read sucks, tell me.
But whatever. Finishing this has been far more fun than my Europe book… which I may rebrand to make a whole series of “Travels with Charlie” books.
This book is travelogue. It’s about a California trip I took a couple years ago, and, yes, my title’s a spoof on John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley.
Now, I’m not spoofing Steinbeck. Travels with Charley was all right. It was an interesting slice of Americana from the year of our Lord 1960. Steinbeck “set out to find out what Americans are really like” as he drove across the country and realized he can’t define Americans at all. The book is, basically, anecdotes involving people and places from Maine to California. There’s wit. There’s humor. Overall, I’d say its mediocre.
Of course, I have no doubt some would say my writing is mediocre. I have no doubt some would say far worse things, especially with the title I’ve chosen. And you know what? I don’t care.
The fact is that the Golden State of California is turning into a communist hellhole. It already is in many places, and it’s going to get worse. There’s a reason why so many people are leaving the state, and this phenomenon is called the Great California Exodus. As one article so perfectly stated, “what caused and continues to cause the exodus out of California is not tax burden, or regulation, or cost of living, or housing prices. Rather, it is the burden, and regulation, and cost of living, and housing prices, and more.”
That “more” certainly refers to insane traffic, horrendous commutes, unprecedented homelessness, feces and needles in streets and, frankly, Marxist liberals controlling the state. Liberals as a whole think think their despotism is enlightenment, but the villains who control California take it to a whole new level. They do.
Thus, “Commifornia.” It’s the land of a million rules. It’s the land of a million tyrants. It’s the new Sodom and Gomorrah, and things will only get better after they first get worse.
Now, dear reader or listener, as you may already discern, though most travelogues avoid controversial subjects to maximize readership, I don’t. Avoiding politics and religion is not my strong suit, and I don’t think avoiding them is strength in the first place. Both subjects are always pertinent; they deeply convict my soul; and leaving out such commentary would only make this book castrated slop. Let soy boys write a neutered narrative of traveling California in this 21st century.
But I don’t dwell on politics and religion. Yes, I can become apoplectic hearing the drivel from liberals who have no clue their Orwellian ideologies are destroying civilization, as California literally demonstrates. But there is more to life. There are good and beautiful and amazing things to see under the sun, and many of them are in the State of California.
The fact is I love it there. God help me I do. There’s no other place on earth I’ve been that continuously fires my imagination more. There’s always some new, romanticized vision that fosters desire to travel there.
The black silhouettes of rocky, palm-topped coastlines at a blood-orange sunset make me understand why people pay millions to live in Malibu. Add the salty smell of air cooled by Alaskan waters, and, well, I think I would have headed straight to the Santa Monica mountains in 1890 to homestead.
There’s also where I was born: San Francisco. My first continuous memory in life was with my father under the Golden Gate Bridge on cold, brilliant day. This memory always fostered a longing to return to the Bay Area. Palo Alto and Sausalito – at least when I first saw them – were, wow. You can’t swim there like you can at Malibu, but that water north of Big Sur cools the air to make the ocean feel omnipresent. Maybe I would have headed up there instead.
Of course, it’s hard to unsee sprawling cities. It’s hard to unfeel decaying civilization. That’s part of the resentment that impels me to liberally say “Commifornia.” Yet, through the grime and haze and crap, a halcyon aura can still glow above the land, and the fact that almost forty-million people still live there testifies to this. If Commifornia were only a public toilet, the Great Exodus would be greater.
However, on this six-day trip I took in June, 2019, I’d not pass through the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas. I’d only pass through Bakersfield and Fresno – and not by choice – on the way to the Crown Jewel of California. Of course I’m referring to the Yosemite country on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
John Muir called the Sierras the Range of Light. John Muir was of course the founder of the Sierra Club who purposed to protect the Sierras – especially the sequoia trees which only grow on the Sierras’ western slopes – from the ravages of unrestricted free enterprise. Whereas now I regard the Sierra Club as governed by literal psychopathology, Muir had purer intentions. Frankly, I’m grateful there were California tree huggers in the 19th and 20th centuries who knew people in the 21st century would appreciate still being able to see giant sequoias and coastal redwoods.
I’d never been to Yosemite before. To say my imagination heaped unrealistic happiness on the projected experience of seeing mighty waterfalls is probably an understatement. But that’s also part of what makes traveling so much fun. To a certain degree, it doesn’t matter that the experience doesn’t live up to the hype. It doesn’t matter that there always comes a point, in a new land, where you’re ready to go back to the hotel, or just go home period. The anticipation felt while traveling can be as joyous as the destination itself.
My mode of travel is by car. To fly to a land feels incomplete. You’re not getting the full perspective of a destination without comparing it to its surroundings. You don’t see the uniqueness of beautiful land without seeing whatever ugliness exists between where you are and where you’re going, and there are certainly more desirable places in America than along Interstate 40 in Eastern California.
But that doesn’t matter. Yes, the Mojave Desert ain’t the prettiest part of the Golden State. Its heat’s miserable. Its desolation’s depressing. But that joyous anticipations carries me a long way, and so does a love of maps and geography.
And here’s another area where I’m going to differ from Steinbeck, in addition to liberally broaching politics. In Travels with Charley, Steinbeck doesn’t teach physical geography. He sure as hell doesn’t teach terms like “endoheric basin” or “orographic lift” or “rain shadow.” On the same stretch of highway I took between Bakersfield and Flagstaff, Steinbeck wrote two pages. He came up with boring gibberish about the struggle for life in the Mojave, and that’s it. That’s all he saw. He wasn’t looking at the land. He was looking for Americans.
Fine. I recognize Travels with Charley will be more remembered than this book. I’m just saying that most travelogues don’t evince a passion for “physiography” because they never talk about in the first place. Physiography is an abridgment of the term “physical geography.” It’s a sub-field of geography that explains the interplay of land, sky and ocean to produce weather, flora, fauna and more. It endeavors to explain why landscapes are as they are.
For example, physiography asks why the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas is desolate desert while the western side produces the most agriculturally productive land on Earth. Why’s the east brown and the west green? That’s a good question. I love answering it. Another question is why do the biggest, tallest and oldest trees in the world all live in California? I have no answer for that. However, it’s fun to imagine that maybe you’ll come across something that will lead to such an answer.
Regardless, the fact is that there’s a lot of communication between the ocean, land and sky out California way to create some really cool natural phenomena. If these dynamics were explained clearly at an elementary level, most Americans would think they’re neat. You’d think they’re neat. That’s why I talk about them, in addition to other things obviously.