As one who has never lived in Southern California I can only speak from casual observation. I don't know how it is really. I can only say what I see. That being said, the closest metaphor I can come up with for the past four days in SoCal is "smoke and mirrors". A study in stark contrasts, perhaps?
Here's the thing that started it all. 6 years ago was the last time I was there. I was on a work assignment similar to ones I had done in the past where one of my best friends was always there. Not so this time. He had just been diagnosed with a very serious illness so he was in the hospital and I was working without him. I had also just barely started learning about adoption issues a few months before that. So not only was I up in arms about my friend, I was very fragile emotionally as I began that journey into dealing with all the adoption issues. Not a good combination really. I don't remember much about that trip besides overwhelming sadness.
As I headed back there last week I wondered how it would be now that things in my life are so much different yet somehow the same. I still struggle with the same issues as I did then but to a somewhat lesser degree. I've definitely become older and wiser as the story goes. How did it turn out? My head is still spinning from it all.
First of all, my hotel roommate was a fellow adoptee. How serendipitous! I had to marvel at her strength and things she has overcome. She's only 18. I still had my head stuck up my hindquarters when I was 18. I had no clue why I was so sad all the time. So I have to give her props for that. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk with a fellow adoptee/kindred spirit. We had a couple of good talks but she also wanted to be with her friends. So I don't know how much of a friendship we will have but I guess I'll just have to see how the universe works this one out.
I also struggled, once again, with being there without my friend. He's from there. I heard so many stories about SoCal from him. Very gritty and crazy stories because he came from several bad neighborhoods. So that's partly what I base my theories and observations on.
What are my theories? I see sharp juxtapositions. Gorgeous scenery blanketed with heavy smog. I see areas of heavy poverty and crime yet I marveled at the beauty of some of the graffiti. We saw all this as we drove to and from posh museums on the hills that contain some of the most celebrated art pieces on the planet. Being surrounded by gazillions of people yet being able to sit on a beach surrounded by said people and being able to have a few minutes of pure peace and oneness with the sounds and sights of the sea. The ultimate was having some time to wander on my own in a shopping center near our hotel in Anaheim. There was a karaoke talent contest with impressionable and beautiful children, no more than 6 years old, participating. God bless them for chasing their dreams and paying their dues in the trenches. I could never take that away from them. But I have to wonder.... how much of it really is their dream? How kind will the world be to them in chasing their dream? Not very. What are their chances, after paying their dues, of keeping their head on straight and seeing through the smoke and mirrors that is fame? Celebrities whose lives have turned into train wrecks just make me sad for them and those who choose to laugh at them. Sure they chose that life. But everything is supersized there. The myth of Hollywood hangs in the air. Its intense and its intoxicating. I even found myself groping in the smoke and mirrors a bit and I was just watching that world from a bus window and meandering in and out of it on our various stops.
There are many things and places that make my soul sing in SoCal and many people who I think would be my kindred spirits especially compared to my current locale. I have to say though that going back there was exactly the stark contrast I needed to show me where I was back then to where I am now as well as how much some things never change.
Much needed reality check!