I've been thinking about Southern California which I visited just a year ago. Particularly the coastal region. On my previous visit in 2000 when I attended a college reunion, I flew into the Ontario International airport--Ontario, California, in San Bernardino Country, some 35 miles east of L.A. Attractive tile-art on the walls showed California's iconic orange groves. But, as I already knew, those orange groves were gone.
My grandmother owned one in the '20s. An aunt and uncle raised avocados. Lemons were also abundant as were walnuts. But even as a child, those very groves were being bulldozed to be replaced by tract housing with pink-tiled bathrooms. What was so beautiful about the area, what was bringing in residents was that which was being destroyed so that contractors could rip out, build up, and earn bucks by housing those same new residents. Instead of enjoying the reality of orange groves, people had to make do with old-timers' descriptions of them.
In fact, there's now a state citrus park in Riverside where you can see some fabled orange groves. Doesn't that sound just a little too familiar? Like what's happened with the Tibetan monasteries. Tear them down, then keep one or two as museums. Or the American buffalo. Shoot them all, then put a few into a protected park. Let destruction take over. Then when what you loved about the place is no longer there, charge admission to experience a commercialized version, turning it into some sort of folklore. The Old West. California's Orange Groves. Pretty Little Coastal Towns. (Even fables themselves have been commercialized, to wit: Disneyland.)
I'm the first to agree that the region has a perfect climate and the opportunity for great beauty. But even the pretty little coastal towns are becoming caricatures of themselves with property values so expensive, many residents can no longer afford to live there. One Santa Barbara acquaintance said she'll have to go into a mobile home. (Now called a manufactured home.) A chiropractor told me he can't afford to retire there and is thinking of moving to Mexico.
|Santa Barbara .... yes, it's beautiful!|
An artist in Laguna Beach related how she had to keep switching galleries where she showed her work because each Now-Best Gallery had to fold from increasingly high rents. Now, she says, those former spaces sell t-shirts.
Of course, it's not relegated to the West. When last visiting Ogunquit, Maine, a t-shirt shop was standing where a splendid bookstore had been.