For the three years since my mother died at 97 (I was living with her and helping her keep her home), I have been planning on eventually buying a small place to live, hopefully not very expensive, and most probably in southern California, although I confess I have looked elsewhere around the Unites States and in Mexico.
Let me say right now, before we go any further, that my mother’s home for her last forty years was actually her second husband’s house, who after nearly thirty years of marriage (1978-2007), graduated from this mortal life where I am still writing, and gave in his will the right for his widow to live in his house for as long as she wished, and that after her decease, the property would pass to his three children from his first wife (who had deceased three or four years before he remarried). Following my mom’s death, my now ex-steps were kind enough to let me stay on in the house for another two years, before we finally knuckled down to clearing out everything so that they could begin to prepare it for sale or lease or whatever plans they may agree upon in their own time.
Goodness but it is easy to get distracted. I almost fell into the labyrinth of writing about my mother Marjorie and stepfather Herb and their many years together, but have somehow managed to hold it down to simply preparing a background to describe my search for a new place to live. Even at that, I can only introduce the search today, and continue later in succeeding episodes.
If you are familiar with astronomical prices for real estate here in California, then you will not be surprised that I can most probably only afford a mobile home in a trailer park somewhere. Either that or go back to work; and at seventy, with a small income (barely twenty thousand a year), I would prefer to remain retired. Well, except for writing, translating, and making video (https://vimeo.com/user962132), of course.
Originally – two years ago – I had thought about relocating to the desert, most probably in Borrego Springs, an area I know rather well. But then I got side-tracked by a dream of traveling around the golden state, and all of North America, in fact, and camping out at various natural wonders. I am still obsessed by this “crazy-ass dream” (as my ex-wife calls it). Yet, even as I bought camping equipment, in the back of my mind sat the realization that I am always and only getting older and that sooner or later I must find a place to settle down. As it turned out, “sooner” came much sooner than I had anticipated.
During my first camping experience last summer, after two weeks at Blue Jay campground in the Santa Ana mountains (Cleveland National Forest), I fell victim to heatstroke, spent two nights in the hospital, and then took shelter with my brother and nephew, who were kind enough, and tolerant enough, to let me “camp out” indoors, at their house in San Jacinto.
San Jacinto is a small town in a rather large valley, part of what is called the “inland empire” of Riverside, San Bernardino, Redlands, Hemet, Temecula, and dozens of other similarly named towns, valleys, and hills, making up a sprawling, widespread mix of agricultural areas and suburban zones, almost all within an hour or two drive from Los Angeles (except at rush hour). I have been living here for six months now, sheltering from the corona virus, but at the same time finding myself more and more enamored with this landscape, this geography of rocky hills and flat valleys, where there are always mountains in the distance, and the sun is usually dominant, sometimes quite brutally overpowering, other times merely mildly warm. It is not so harsh as the desert beyond the mountains, but certainly not a particularly well-watered area, either.
In fact, like San Diego where I grew up, a hundred some miles south of here, the inland empire, in fact the entire megalopolis of Calangeles, is completely dependent on imported water. Without aqueducts from the Colorado River in the east, or the Owens Valley and the Feather River in the north, we would all die of thirst within one, or at the most, two years. Yet it is my homeland, this South California, and although I still hunger to explore America, I begin to feel more and more that the time has come for me to find a permanent home of my own, no matter how humble, as the saying goes.
Besides, I can always take my van and go camping, and still have a safe little house to come home to. Unless the neighbors steal my furniture while I am gone, ho ho ho LOL.
to be continued