I was on the move again – this time headed to live on a coast for the first time.  I knew that I would miss my great friendships that I had made in Houston, but I was looking forward to starting over in a whole new place.  That last job in Houston had taken its toll on me.

I drove to California, buying the funniest postcards I could find along the way, to send back to my friends.  I was amazed that I could take one road to get there – Interstate 10.  The most boring, uneventful part of the trip was from Houston to El Paso, so I literally bought one postcard that only showed an endless highway.  I was also shocked to be halfway, and still in Texas!

New Mexico, from the freeway, was also pretty unexciting.  I think that every State has its own beauty, but I usually have to get off the freeway to see it.  Arizona began to look more interesting; I hadn’t been there since my family had taken a driving trip to California when I was 7.

When I crossed the border into California, I stopped at the first gas station and selected the most beautiful, panoramic postcard available.  My message to my friends, on that postcard, was: “I have finally arrived in Paradise.”

My brother and his wife had a spare guest bedroom, which they graciously offered to me until I could find employment.    Walter, my oldest brother, is almost 20 years older than me – so this was really the first time we got to get to know each other.  I was 2 when he got married.

One of my fears about living in southern California, was the sheer size of Los Angeles and Orange County.  I had survived in Houston, the 4th largest city in the U.S., so why was I so worried about living near the 2nd largest city?  Because it was so spread out…

One of my nephews helped me memorize the freeway system, so that I could always figure out where I was – as long as I could find a freeway (which, of course, wasn’t very difficult.)  That pretty much solved my problem, and I was no longer afraid of getting lost.  However, it was in California that I lost all sense of direction.  I believed that the Pacific Ocean was always west, but one day I drove for an hour (thinking I was heading west), and never got to the ocean.   Many times, the ocean was south, so I could no longer rely on my gut instinct.  And I don’t think GPS (personal) had been invented yet.

Fortunately, I rarely got lost.  I wasn’t always in the right city, since many streets, for example “Euclid,” was a street that went through 5 or 6 different towns.

I absolutely loved the quaint beach towns, and I was enthralled with palm trees.  Something about those trees made me feel like I was on vacation.  Whenever I was having a bad day, all I had to do was drive a few minutes to Huntington Beach and drive along Pacific Coast Highway.  Seeing the ocean and the palm trees lifted my spirits.

I also thought it was lots of fun to drive into Los Angeles occasionally.  Some of my favorite places, to this day, are located there.  I could not got to LA without visiting the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax.  I also thought I had died and gone to floral heaven whenever I went to the international, wholesale flower market.  Thousands and thousands of square feet of gorgeous flowers – open to the public.  I could buy a dozen long-stemmed roses in any color imaginable for $5!

I had grown up watching the Rose Parade every New Year’s Day.  One of my dreams was to attend that parade in person, so my sister-in-law, Janet, offered to go with me my first year there.  Little did I know that we had to leave at 4:30 a.m. to make sure we had a good seat…   Janet had gone to this parade numerous times, so she had it down to a science.  I had purchased a new Nikon camera with several lenses (including a 200mm one for close-ups of those flowers).

As we approached Colorado Avenue in Pasadena, I saw thousands of people everywhere.  I don’t like crowds very much, so asked Janet where we could go that there would not be so many people.  She looked at me like I was from Mars, and said, “There’s no place like that to watch this parade.”

She told me where to park, which was very close, and we began our hunt for the perfect watching spot.  We had brought low beach chairs to sit in.  Janet explained to me that many people slept on the streets overnight.  We would choose a place behind someone that was asleep in a sleeping bag.  People with regular lawn chairs could sit behind us, and then there was standing room behind them.  I thought that was rather ingenious – everyone could have a good view.

I think the parade started around 8:00 a.m., so we had quite a lot of time on our hands.  Janet was extremely social, so had made friends with everyone around us in no time.  When they learned that this was my first time to the parade, everyone insisted that I sit at the very front of the group.  I could have saved $200 on that telephoto lens, because when the floats passed us, I could almost touch them!  It was one of the best experiences of my entire life.

Janet knew exactly when to leave so that we could avoid the crowds and traffic jams.   My senses were on overload from the fragrance, colors, sounds and people watching.

After that adventure, I became a parade junkie.  Janet was willing to accompany me to every parade – and southern California had lots of them.  Sometimes other family members went with us.  Of course, I soon became a veteran parade goer, so took all visitors to the Rose Parade.  It was almost as much fun to take “first-timers” to the parade as it had been my first time.  I learned that approximately 1.5 million people attend that parade each year (and half of them party all night and sleep on the street.)  I preferred the 4:30 a.m. plan.


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