Some years ago, I was on the phone with a woman from Minnesota. It was a January day in Southern California — a very crisp, cold 58 degrees or so. I remember how cold it was because it was one of the few days I had the impulse to wear a t-shirt under my starched white cotton business shirt. It was just an inventory call. We were in the notions/distribution trade and I was trying to confirm a shipment of scissors.
“What’s it like out there?” the woman asked.
“What’s it like?” I asked — startled a bit by the familiarity.
“Yes,” she said. “The weather.”
“Oh, clear this morning. Pretty cold. Under 60 degrees.”
“Brother,” she said. “It’s 10 below here. No sun. Dark as the inside of a battle ship.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“I always wondered,” the woman said, “what it would be like to live in California. I’ve never been there. To be able to reach out your window and pick an orange off a tree…”
That was her image of California. You could open the window and reach out your arm and just pick an orange off a tree.
Now, if you’ve never been to California, I’ll let you in on a little secret: this is absolutely true. There are oranges all over the place this time of year.
Just this morning, there was a gentle breeze blowing outside, and I opened the window, only to have several big fat oranges catapulted right onto our bedspread.
“Make sure to put those away,” my wife said.
So I took them downstairs, and the kids had already filled several laundry baskets full of Valencia Oranges, where they stacked them carelessly, five or six baskets high, in the hallway. I got a late start this morning, and I could see the neighbor kids out on their lawn, building an orange man, and a few other kids, raking up oranges, just so they could run up and stomp on them. In the distance, I saw my son Samuel catching a big wave, and as the sun caught the iridescent sea glass of the water, you could see it all polka-dotted with little Mandarin oranges, one of the hazards of surfing this time of year. I made a mental note of all the things I had to do this morning, and — opa! there they go again — I noticed three or four beautiful blonde girls, in bikinis, just lounging out in our front yard for the third time this week.
“Don’t you ladies have something to do?” I yelled.
“Dad,” my daughter, Lizzy said, “Mr. Hanks dropped by. He wants to know if you’re going to the barbecue.”
“Tom? ” I asked. “Oh, right. Tom Hanks. I’ll have to ask your mother. That’s one thing about all these celebrities in the neighborhood — always having parties and asking you over. It’s hard to keep up with them all.”
So I took a meeting later in the morning, over some beach volleyball, and picked up my Hawaiian shirts from the cleaners, and auditioned for a television show in the afternoon, and then, on my way home there was a massive orange spill from one of the harvesting trucks and I spent an hour or two shoveling a path to my front door, so that there was literally a wall of oranges on either side, (structurally, not too sound by the way), and, when I finally got into the living room, there was Tom Hanks again, just hanging out, not lifting a finger to help with the oranges. It was okay though. He juiced some oranges and handed me a screwdriver. Down the hallway, I could hear the Beach Boys working out a new tune. My wife was out in the back yard, chasing at least a dozen bikini babes over the backyard fence.
That’s California, I guess. California dreaming.
It sure beats the real thing.