WARREN’S WORLD: Southern California

By Beacon Staff

Sometimes writing is not easy. This time, I don’t know whether I am overloaded on recent experiences or fatigued from a whirlwind, one-week long, marathon tour of Southern California. It’s probably a combination of both.

At about midnight, I rode in a van from the LAX airport to the hotel, with a driver who spoke no English, only Spanish. Because of my late-night arrival at the hotel, they had to get someone from a back office to translate what I was saying in English into Spanish so that I could register. The next day I started off on my week-long journey, logging almost 400 miles on car-choked freeways.

I enjoyed meals in 19 of the 21 different restaurants I ate at during my one-week adventure. One meal was particularly enjoyable because I had lunch with some old surfing friends, one of whom I had not ridden a wave with since 1943. The lunch with my surfing friends brought back a lot of good memories from the ‘40s and ‘50s – memories of big waves, freezing cold winter days without wet suits and big fires on the beach.

Sometimes I have some trouble with the finances of some friends in my generation. Take, for example, three of them who made a lot of money in their professions. They meet every Tuesday for lunch in a local restaurant because on Tuesdays they get two hamburgers for the price of one. Two of my friends are 92 years old and we all have the same stuff burnt into our brains: the same Great Depression frugality that will be ther forever. I usually don’t think the frugality is bad, but this time I got stuck for the luncheon check for seven people. After some spirited conversation with my friends, I said to one of the guys, “You can’t take it with you,” meaning his money. He replied, “I can’t go anywhere without it.” His caretaker who was pushing his wheelchair said, “I have written instructions to get the remains of his fortune converted into one-hundred dollar bills, cook them for his last supper and then get him cremated.” Knowing my old friend, he will probably do just that.

I took another day out of my whirlwind Southern California trip to ride the train to San Diego to see my grandson. It was the first time I had been on a train in America since I rode one from Boston to Pittsfield, Mass., in 1953.

The train ride to San Diego was smooth, clean, and comfortable and I would suggest that if you ever go to LA, you spend a day on the train just for the enjoyment of it and an opportunity to see the backyards of Southern California. It starts out with miles and miles of graffiti covered walls. Then, in a prelude to just what might be coming in America’s financial future, there are dozens of boarded up factories. Their parking lots are overgrown with weeds because they are no longer able to sell whatever they used to be making. Then on through Orange County, which has changed from acres and acres of farming into tens of thousands of houses and hundreds of mini-malls. I used to drive through Orange County on a two-lane highway, south to surf at San Onofre as early as 1940. Interesting how the entire world has changed in the last 70 years.

When I was born in 1924, LA had just grown to 1 million inhabitants. Today, the Los Angeles basin is home to more than 15 million people. And that is a lot of people when most of them get on the freeway at the same time, twice a day. The population explosion is not out of the ordinary because people go where the job opportunities, weather, and recreational pursuits are readily available.

As I rode south on the train to San Diego, it seemed as though all of those 15 million people were either driving down the freeway alongside of the train, or had parked at a beach to enjoy the sun and surf of Southern California.

I came home from my one week in the sun thoroughly exhausted and slept long and hard for the next two days. I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer travel like I used to, when I showed my ski movie in Detroit and then caught the midnight plane to LA, took a taxi home and was in my office early the next morning to catch up on business. I always made sure I was in my office by 6 a.m. back in those days. I sure am glad those days are gone and that all I have to do when I go somewhere is get there one day early so I can take my afternoon nap after my flight and be ready to spend some quality time with the people I will be visiting.

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