Good bye, USA. South California thoughts

After I left Visalia I had two more weeks to spend in the states and to cover the distance that I could make in one day. I planned that on purpose from two reasons – visit some friends that lived in the area and prepare my bike for Mexico.

Working on the bike was tough, especially the part of changing the tires, which I did for the first time and took a lot of time and sweat out of me. But that taught me how important is to have correct tools and skills, which I lacked so I needed to make a few trips to different stores and to read a lot about how to break the rim. Eventually it was the biggest problem and I tried everything that I read – jumping on it, driving with a car on the tire, pressure with sticks and blocks but eventually what helped was using a C-clamp that I just bought. No doubt that I feel more prepared for future problems after this experience.

As opposite to mechanical problems, visiting friends in the area turned out to be super fun and brought me a lot of pleasant experiences even in South California, the area that I don’t really like for the reasons I’ll explain later. I visited friends from work Meital, Neri, Ido, Lital and Eran in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Irvine. After a long time of not having any interaction with Israelis it felt very nice to speak Hebrew all the time, eat Israeli food and drink Turkish coffee, but most of all having conversation about different topics that bother us.  We went to many different bars and restaurants, watched movies and even spent one day sailing. That was amazing, especially the feeling of controlling the boat, and made me think again that I want to live on a boat someday in the future.

I had a few moments that I almost needed to remind myself where I am. It’s so easy to put yourself in a bubble that you’re comfortable with and not getting out of it. Driving everywhere and not interacting with people that you don’t need or want even increased the feeling of isolation. One day Neri and I decided to visit Compton, Watts and other poor neighborhoods of South-East LA, just to see the other face of the city. Those neighborhoods are very neglected and we could learn about the situation at “Watts towers” and the place symbolized for me the situation. These towers are nothing else than a concrete with trash that one old man collected around for more than 30 years, but nobody cared. But when the place turned to be a youth center it got some meaning and it became an historic landmark.  If government cared about the children here, there would be no need for places like that. But it doesn’t care, that’s why everyplace that does draws attention and even the bizarre and ridiculous sculpture becomes important.

After that I went to a different bubble where my couchsurfing friend Dennis was watching after his father’s huge and beautiful house with an ocean view in Manhattan Beach. There we had more time on the beach and biking around to see other neighborhoods like Hermosa and Redondo, so it felt like a different place but it wasn’t. It had one thing in common – being in a comfortable environment and not even thinking how close completely different world is. The feeling of isolation was so bad that we needed constantly to talk about how ridiculous it is and make jokes how fun it could be to turn his house into a big commune, like one that Dennis lived in Madison, instead of wasting so much space.

I can see why so many people love living is South California – the weather is always nice, houses are big and almost everybody has a car, it’s the place where “American dream” came true. But at the same time this dream turned to be a nightmare, overwhelming economic differences, terrible traffic, air and water pollution, never-ending suburbia that killing any urban life and many other reasons that push so many people to look after other places to live. Small wonder that I met so many people that moved away from here to Oregon, Washington and even Montana to build another, better dream. I only wish that one day more people would realize how unsustainable this lifestyle is and that different self-indulgent actions like driving a hybrid or recycling some stuff don’t really help. There is a need for stronger communities instead of this celebration of individualism and selfishness that exist everywhere in US but here it got an extreme form. With these feelings I realized that I had enough and it’s a good time to go to Mexico.

On my way I made few more stops before leaving the country. The first one was in Irvine with my friend Eran, where we had a lovely dinner with more Israeli friends. Some of us were about to leave the country, others just arrived here and decided to stay here for a while. It was interesting to share our feelings about this place. The second and the last stop was in San Diego. I had Shabbat dinner at the local Moishe House and met great people there. Beside the dinner they also organized snorkeling near La Jolla coves and that Sunday was a great day to do that, because many sea lions decided to swim and play just near us.

It was a wonderful ending of my 2-month US trip. I don’t know when is the next time I’ll come to visit if at all and I already miss this country. And by country I don’t mean consumerist culture, fast-food lifestyle and fake nationalism, I mean goodhearted people that care about something and the beautiful nature that hopefully will be saved.

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