May I Repair Your Submarine?
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 6-19-2005.
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The median price of a home in the Santa Clarita Valley is $550,000 today. How do you folks afford to live there? How many jobs does each member of the household have in order to pay for a place that expensive?
And how do you afford those cars? Big SUVs and fancy Beemers, Volvos, Caddies and such do you really need something that big?
Way back when, we needed our pickups in the SCV for real work. They hauled our cows, horses, kids, hay and whatever else needed to be transported. They weren't fancy and usually didn't see a washing, but they served us well.
I don't think the pickups I saw in the SCV during my last trip west ever hauled anything that would get the bed scratched or dirty.
Moving to Virginia in 1989, I was amazed at how rural it was and still is. Sometimes it reminds me of the SCV of 1965 (without the mountains). Living in a 2,000-square-foot, all-brick ranch on almost a quarter acre has spoiled me. It is a pretty good walk to go next door. If it were in the SCV, there would be room for another house between me and my neighbor's home. Or at least, it seems like it.
What is the mystery of life in California that so many folks have to live there? Have they been watching too many old movies about "way back when"? What draws so many people there? Jobs? Weather? Escape from the city? Reduced traffic and smog? I can't figure it out.
Sure, Virginia has great weather, except for hurricanes and snowstorms. The hot, humid summers are great, too. Each Spring, I tell myself I just can't wait until the temperature and humidity are both in the 90s and I want to work in my yard. Great lawn-mowing weather on days like that.
First moving here in the summer, we awoke one August morning and, looking out the window, saw it was foggy out. Rushing downstairs and out the back door, we were hit with "hot fog" humidity so thick you could see, feel and cut it. Retreating quickly to the cool house, we sat indoors most the day and sulked. Even the fog is different here.
And why would anyone want to live in a major earthquake zone? You can't predict them. At least with a hurricane or winter storm, you've got up to a week to gather supplies, decide evacuation routes and gather important pictures and papers before they hit.
One watches little entertainment on TV when a storm approaches. The Weather Channel becomes our staple TV fare, morning, noon and night. There are long nights of worry and dread, listening to the weather reports, tracking the storm and preparing for the worst. It is a really relaxing experience. Not!
While I think of it, regular gas down at the station near the house was $2.03 per gallon this morning. Just thought you'd like to know. It was a topic for dinner conversation out there during my last trip. I'll try to keep you informed about that. It seemed important at the time.
Just what draws people to California and the SCV? Why would anyone want to live in a place where you can go skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon? And that big parade in Pasadena every year it has to be fake. All those people going to a parade without big balloons to keep you entertained? You've got to be kidding.
Someday I'll understand what draws so many folks to the SCV. I know that Hollywood, good weather, beaches, great food and wine aren't the only reasons. Maybe it's the Christmas decorations on the palm trees.
Maybe folks move there because it is about as far as you can get from Washington, D.C., without leaving the "lower 48" states. Now, that is a plausible consideration.
Really folks, I'm just homesick. No, it isn't the same valley I left long ago. It seems so crowded today and it is. But home is home, no matter where you have been. That is where the heart, my heart, still yearns as I write every one of these columns.
If only I could sell this house for twice its value and move back. I'd send résumés if requested. Surely someone there can use an expert in submarine operations and repairs someplace in the SCV.
Until then I'll wait out wonderful hot and humid Virginia weather.
Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.