California is to America . . .Northern California Vs. Southern California . . . Vs. Wisconsin

“California is to America what America is to the rest of the world.”  

Howard Ogden

When I flew from Wisconsin to California over thirty-five years ago in pursuit of a higher education and warmer weather, I gazed out of the airplane windows in awe.   In my sheltered teen life, I didn’t know what was out that window.  Were those large mounds sand dunes?  I didn’t realize there was so much desert in California!

Landing in San Francisco, I met my former high school English teacher who gave me my first introduction to “the city,” with sourdough bread, Coit Tower, and an impromtu accidental visit with another student from my hometown we  ran into at Fisherman’s Wharf.

 I fell in love with the ocean, the fog, and yes, those mounds that turned out to be the golden hills of grass in a California summer. 

As my teacher/friend drove me to my new home, the Central Valley, a wave of dry heat hit me in a welcome like no other.  When I was given the perfect job in one of my majors  at the Child Drama Center on the first day of school and met a group of people in the children’s theater department who turned out to be great friends, I knew I found THE place.  What is better than hot summers, good friends, and creating art for kids? 

Years later, after graduation, directing children’s plays, teaching, marriage, writing and my husband’s transfer, we now enjoy Northern California, and visits to THE CITY, one of my favorite destinations in the world. 

My aunt Dorothy, who lived in Southern California, would call me to let me know why she thought her half of the state was better.  I told her why we knew she was wrong.   In plastic L.A.  (anything south of Santa Barbara we northerners consider to be L.A.), you have to look like a botoxed fashion model who hasn’t eaten in a week.  Since eating is a  passion of mine, and my wrinkles are MY wrinkles, you know where I stand.

While visiting my aunt down in LA LA land, we switched on a television weather report.  The blonde newscaster, teetering on high heels and a too-tight mini-skirt squeeked, “Oooh!  We’ve got puffy clouds!” 

My husband, son, and I all looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Puffy clouds?”  For that, we could have looked out our window. 

When I’d  visit my Wisconsin relatives and they’d recite California’s horror stories of  fire and earthquakes, they’d shudder and ask, “Why would you ever live out THERE?” 

But when I listened to their tales of the coldest winter on record, the most snow, the worst tornado, the winds that took off the neighbor’s roof . . . . I’d say to them, “Why do you want to stay HERE?”

I must admit I do miss snow at Christmas, midnight mass, a real-honest-too-goodness fall, fish fry Fridays, lakes, Milwaukeese, European ethnic foods found everywhere, (not just at one expensive restaurant in The City) spacious green backyards, and affordable housing.

I don’t miss slipping on ice while walking, driving on black ice, shoveling snow, that bitter north wind, and Jello salad. 

Now if only we had transporters so we could see the people we love from both areas more often. 

“When you get tired of walking around San Francsico, you can always lean against it.”  Travel Brochure

“You can’t find true affection in Hollywood because everyone does fake affection so well.”  Carrie Fisher 

You are from Wisconsin if . . .

  • Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost.
  • You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.
  • You find minus twenty degrees “a little chilly.

Writer’s Prompts: 

1.  Write about the various places you’ve lived, pro and con.  Funny and not-so-funny.

2.  In your latest story or project, make the geographical place important in some way.  Show us where the character is by using your senses, description, and dialogue without actually telling us the actual place.  Can you do it by giving clues?

3.  Which trip have you gone on that has been your favorite place?  Why? 

4.  Create a “bucket list” of places you’d like to visit.  Choose one and research it.  Plan your itinerary.  Now place a character here and take the character on that trip.


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