Yesterday I was walking Biggie across the street at the plaza from where the Belmont Pier extends out into the ocean. It was a nice warm day, but it wasn’t completely clear. A light foggy haze/smog was slightly diminishing the view to distant Catalina Island, but I thought to myself, “I’ve been able to see this island almost every day for nearly twenty years.”
After moving to SoCal in 1975, I lived at the foot of Mt. San Antonio (Old Baldy) for five months before I was able to see it. The smog was thick virtually every day, and when the smog was light, the wind was blowing dirt in thick clouds. Finally, one day I was driving somewhere with some new friends, and I saw the mountains for the first time.
“Where did those come from?” The question blurted from my mouth before I could stop it, and my friends looked at me as though I had just lost my mind.
It was somewhat the same thing the first time I walked across the sand at Huntington Beach. I could hear the ocean, but I was about twenty-five feet away from it before I could see it.
For seven years I lived in SoCal, and for about two of those years, I was an independent sales rep for a number of companies. I traveled the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Barbara to San Diego regularly and almost never saw the ocean through the smog. And the only times I was aware of the nearby mountains was when I was in them.
Smog was, and still is, a problem, but it is nothing like nearly forty years ago. When Rachael and I returned in the early nineties from a ten-year stay in Arizona, the effect of emission controls on vehicles and industries was beginning to make a positive impact. By the time we moved to our present home in Long Beach, Catalina Island (more than twenty miles away) was almost always visible, and I have rarely failed to start my day by looking at it.
Today, Biggie and I walked back to the plaza, and the island was perfectly clear. We sat down on the edge of one of the big planters on the plaza and just watched as visitors from distant places came by and pointed out across the water and commented about how large the island is. Of course, they also took time to pet Biggie.
I’ve been told I spend too much time reminiscing about the ‘good old days.’ Yes, I have some great (and not so great) memories of times gone by, but every day is another ‘good old day’ to add to my growing list. Sitting on the planter with Biggie, long drives with my wife, friends at the Casting Club, the Wild Game Feed, working as an actor, writing, volunteering for projects as a master food preserver, leatherwork, fishing, cooking, reading—the list keeps on going, and it’s all good. Catalina Island is just a bonus. Maybe some day Rachael and I will take the ferry over there. We’ve had tickets for almost fifteen years, and yes, they’re still usable.