California Weirdos by David Arthur Walters

California has represented the bright future of This Great Nation of Ours ever since young men were told, "Go West, young man." Pure Land Buddhists in China also say El Dorado is in the West; they take a short cut and go East to get to California. Now it appears that a Chinese navigator arrived in California long before a Caucasian barbarian set foot there, and he did not say "Eureka!"

Go West, young man, indeed! Today pundits say, "As California goes, so goes the nation." The Golden State of course goes for the gold, as we can see in its golden mineral, golden poppy, golden trout, and golden-orange garibaldi. Fortunately, by way of contrast, we have the California redwood, gray whale, and brown grizzly. The prospect of going West for the gold alone is not so alluring to those who prize their integrity during the great American pursuit of happiness - all that glitters in the moral sphere is not golden. To begin with, the golden state is a stolen state. But to make a long story short, it is the most bizarre state in the union.

I have been to California several times. I was a young man back East when kids were dropping California Sunshine, hence I always thought of California, not Florida, as the Sunshine State. By golly, I wound up in San Francisco, where hippies were eating out of garbage cans in front of St. Francis Church as the bishop, wearing a Rolex, got into his stretch limousine. I nearly starved because I was a finicky eater. I wound up selling Collier's Encyclopedia door to door, and riding horses between gigantic redwood trees up north of the city.

Gary, our sales manager, was a Hells Angel. He was a good salesman but Carol was our team's top producer. Carol came back to our Volkswagon van one night and reported that she had written 24 contracts because she had put her foot in a minister's door and he introduced her to his congregation to whom she put her pitch. I had written one contract the whole week, my first, with a thirteen-year-old fellow who already had a wife and kid; his father made us cancel the order on the grounds that the youth was a minor - imagine that, a father depriving his boy of an encyclopedic education!

Carol always wore mini-skirts and high heels, and she used tons of makeup, so when she hustled encyclopedias around those smaller towns, supposedly protected from the likes of us by something called the Green River Law, concerned housewives who saw her hoofing along the sidewalks mistook her for a hooker and called the law. When she did not show up at the van, we would drive around looking for her, then head to the police station. That's where we found her one night in Eureka. We vouched for her, then headed for a motel. Just as we pulled into the parking lot, we were surrounded by cops with big guns drawn; we had to get down on our bellies and clasp our hands behind our necks - I got some greasy dirt in my mouth and scraped my chin. There had been an armed robbery; we were suspected of being the culprits. After a gun battle ensued with the real gang of outlaws across the street, we were let go. We got some beer and went to our adjoining rooms. I drank my share, read some of Gibran's The Prophet, fell asleep and crashed into some crazy dreams. I will never forgot Eureka.

As strange as it may seem, such weird events were par for the course during our sales expeditions, especially given the nature of our sales manager; he liked to unscrew the 'No Solicitors' signs and present them to the residents; he was not beyond seducing prospects providing they were not married - a shotgun blast turned him off of married women. He certainly was a slick character when not riding with the Angels. To this day I cannot figure out how he closed so many sales. It was not just the canned pitch; we were not supposed to vary from it, but I varied after a man took a swing at me because I said, "Would you deprive your kids of food? No, you would not. Would you deprive them of food for the mind?" By the way, the encyclopedias were free to qualified people - the ones qualified to pay for the updates.

Back in San Francisco, I could not stand it. I liked the big pine cones on Angel Island, but the city was too rough for me. I was as poor as Texas dirt, yet I was constantly harassed by panhandlers, and I got mugged in Chinatown for three dollars I had won shooting pool. Plus I was often groped by men in restaurants and bars. Prostitution of both sexes was running rampant. The acid- and pot-heads were no problem, but people were reacting violently to other mind-benders. A regular job was hard for newcomers to get. I finally managed to raise enough money to get back to civilization - the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As the bus went over the bridge, I dared not look back at San Francisco lest I be turned into a pillar of salt. I returned on a business trip a few years later - the city gave me the creeps. Maybe I would like it now, but I don't think so.

There are other parts of California that I like, like San Jose - so what's wrong with San Jose? Why are people shaking their heads? Never mind. All in all, I think California is a very weird state. Just observe what goes on there; Arnold Schwarzenneger just won the Mr. Governor of California title - can you believe it? But fear not, for nothing is impossible.

Please mistake me not, I love you, California. You're the greatest state of all. I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall, but sometimes I think that a gigantic electric fence should be erected around the most populous state in hopes that enough juice might be found on the grid to keep the weirdos inside. But that would not work, for people would watch the show on jingo cable television and be freaked out anyway. Normal Americans would not even know what hit them; abnormality would become the norm. For instance, a recent media study reported that seventy percent of jingo cable "news" viewers still believe the three major lies propagated to justify Bush War on Iraq II. The administration fessed up but is still spinning in the same direction; if you prevaricate long enough, you begin to believe your prevarications, so keep a positive mental attitude. The seventy percent of viewers who believe jingo cable propaganda just happens to coincide with the seventy percent who usually agree with any recognized authoritarian figure whatsoever, whether he is right or wrong.

Anyway, who cares about substance when maya is everything? Fools, that's who. Why does the word 'hypocrite' still have a negative connotation? It only meant 'actor' to the Greeks. So let the actors speak for us from behind their masks. Still a few censorious diehards believe that the unwitting moral majority of the United States are being transformed into the immoral majority by leading-edge Californians! If I were not such a great fan of Goddess Liberty and so terribly afraid of the dark, I would suggest that California be blacked out altogether. That being said to talk myself out of it, maybe I will check out California again. It's a bore here.