Elaine Rosenberg Miller
Elaine Rosenberg Miller

California dreamin’

I’ve been in LA, on the border of Brentwood for the last few days.

I was last in California (San Francisco) six years ago. At that time the aggressive and wild-eyed panhandlers made the trip challenged. “I didn’t receive my check!” a woman said rushing me on the sidewalk. There were discarded hypodermic needles and trash everywhere. The park around City Hall looked like a Matthew Brady photograph of the Battle of Gettysburg dead.

A block or so from where I am staying, there is a line of blue tents alongside a fenced park. Last night an SUV jumped the roadway and hit one of the tents. Three people were injured, apparently none seriously. I’ve been told that these homeless people claim to be veterans. There seem to be no Port-a-Sans. I saw BBQs and lawn chairs.

The schools are closed.

I read a community newsletter written by a school board member describing the teachers union, students and parents as mutual COVID victims. No, the children and parents are the victims. The teachers’ union forced the schools to remain closed months after other states opened theirs. People are starting to ask “When did unelected city employees get the right to determine whether schools are closed?”

I took a drive to Venice. It needs a trainload of Lysol and an army of broom pushers.

The houses look like they are about to topple on one another.

Nothing is vertical and horizontal.  Everything is topsy-turvy, yet even in such a skewered world, with potholed narrow streets, there are cameras on every shanty, iron gates and heavy locks.

Down in the art district, I saw the same wrinkled rags I saw in the West Village in New York City in the late 1960s when clever opportunists moved into the decaying Ukrainian neighborhood and opened retail stores selling used Army-Navy clothes they probably got for pennies and then re-sold for as much as they could get.  How do I know this? One of them was a Holocaust survivor neighbor of my parents. He couldn’t believe people would pay money for these clothes. He told my parents that if someone said the garment was too long, he would go around with a pair of shears and then charge them for alternation. He was carrying the cash away in wheelbarrows. Back in the old country, he couldn’t even qualify as an assistant to tailor but in America, he was a modiste.

The best-looking thing in downtown Venice was the stately brick of the 1923 stores. The worst thing are the louche denizens. Eleven-thirty a.m. and one of the hawkers had a beer in his hand (probably not his first) urging me to inspect the fluttering tie-dyed dashikis.

There is not much to see or do in LA.

The museums are closed.

Bistros that had survived COVID are just beginning to re-open.

I never knew they were so many ways to cook red pepper.

To my surprise, I found a variety of closeted conservative thinkers in LA.

One way to sound them out is to say something about the COVID vaccine.

Once they realized that we were fellow travelers, they let their guard down.

(California is Blue country and the committed have no hesitation in intimating and punishing free thinkers.)

I found a long-haired carpenter, a young post-college woman, a Greek restaurateur. Others.

They were thoughtful, informed people. They used their personal experience and common sense to reach their conclusions.

The most sensational thing about southern California is, of course, the coastal geography. Huge soaring sand-colored cliffs drop down to the sun-filled shores.

California has traditionally been a place where people go in order to re-invent themselves.

Perhaps, more and more of its 40 million inhabitants have seen the light and will take back their state from the Newsomites.

About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her books,, FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES, THE CHINESE JEW and THE TRUST are available on Amazon and Kindle.
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