California Beauty

Leaving the dilapidated shacks that line the famed Route 66, we emerge from the dust, wind, and extreme heat of the desert. We cut through a town called Wasco where there appears to be a small building boom happening. We see cranes adorned with American flags flying high and pass through clusters of mobile homes that have seen better days. A car wash is being held at one of the ramshackle buildings lining the street and a man presides over a grill next to a sign that reads “Tri-Tip Cooking for Funeral Expenses.” To the right I see brand-new houses being built. On the left, a deserted shopping plaza juxtaposed with a Walmart.

A couple of hours later we spot comforts most people take for granted. Bustling restaurants and cafes, grocery stores and malls. Buildings are sparkling and clean. Trees, big glorious leafy trees and lush green grass greet our eyes. My kids’ eyes sparkle with excitement at the new and alien environment.

The people are professional and educated. This is the suburbia I remember from my youth, but see less and less in today’s world.

I usually write about the dismal conditions that I find in the state of California. I stumble upon a story almost every day—there is just so much material here! But, California does have a lot of beauty to offer. There are some gorgeous areas, with great schools—areas where laws are upheld and rules are followed. In these places you do not find human feces on the sidewalk. The power stays on most of the time, although now PG&E has permission to shut the electricity off if they decide that certain weather conditions exist. There are no hordes of homeless wandering the streets or opioid-addicted people passed out in front of the ATMs. No crazed women standing on the corner throwing rocks at passing vehicles.

Visiting family in Danville, California, we are surrounded by highly rated public schools, great hospitals and beautifully kept parks. Plenty of fun, clean, educational activities designed specifically for children. Biking and hiking trails run through the town. The people appear to be healthy and fit.

Sounds like a great place to raise your kids, right?

Taking a quick glance at the housing market I find not one single-family home for under one million dollars. I find these same circumstances when I research other nice, safe areas in California. On the way out of town we pass through Carmel—average price for a single-family home is over one million dollars.

I am always curious what professions are held by the majority of the people who can afford to live in these places. I’m guessing that not too many working-class families are able to live there. Some research states that the majority of the residents are retired, while others claim the majority of residents work in the technology sector. I suspect the truth is a combination of both.

As we drove away sipping our ridiculously sweet coffee drinks with our forbidden plastic straws we wondered: Where do the teachers, nurses and the police officers live in these areas?

I am always struck by the disparity between rich and poor in California. It is more extreme than I have seen in other states. It seems to be a state where only the “big” guy can succeed—the large corporation, the elite Hollywood wealthy and the superstar athlete. There is no middle ground. We speak often of the working class but where did the middle class go?

There is no doubt, California has a lot of beauty to offer…if you can afford it.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Shelly Mateer

Shelly Mateer is a former CIA officer and author of "Single in the CIA, Mission: Stand Down" and the "Mingling in the CIA" series, as well as a children’s picture book, “Mommy Thinks She's a Monster.” She's also the creator of the Cooking in the CIA app and the BurpMitt® product line. Her books are inspired and influenced by her experiences working undercover for the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

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