Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Hermit's Pilgrimage

My book, "The Huckleberry Days of the '50s" is on sale for $10.00.  It's a great "stocking stuffer" for Christmas. Check it out at ralphhiggins.com.

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A Hermit's Pilgrimage

            I'm not sure our current journey to my old stomping grounds in Los Gatos, California, can be literally defined as a "pilgrimage," but it is a kind of homage to the old house I was raised in and the small country town we pillaged and plundered as kids back in the '50s.  I'm blogging from a strange computer at a friend's house in Los Gatos. Gayle and I are visiting our kids, grandkids and a ton of life-long friends and having a great time. But things have changed here.

            Sadly, that old country town of Los Gatos no longer exists. The ancient school house I once attended is now modernized with boutiques, shops of all sorts and yuppies coming out of the woodwork.  There is no dirt left anywhere in Los Gatos. Everything is covered in concrete, asphalt, astro turf, stores, and far too many cars. If the "dirt police" spot a grassy area, it's soon filled with a specialty shop or concrete.

            The streets in Los Gatos are plugged with cars and nothing is cheap. Only BMW's, Mercedes, and new shiny cars are allowed on the street, and only as long as they cost $50,000.00 or more.  I had to outrun a Mercedes tow truck once when my "high-mileage" Lincoln was spotted by a government camera mounted on a stop sign.  Too many bug spots on my windshield, evidently.

            And SUV's... If the Germans had used young women in SUV's instead of tanks, they would have won the war.  These woman have an intensity in their eyes that would have terrified General MacArthur.  They can literally eat bean sprout sandwiches on whole wheat bread, while holding a bottle of French water in one hand and a cell phone in the other, as they charge an intersection like Frank Gore crashing through the line of scrimmage on Monday night football. And they're everywhere. Like Britons queue-up for a movie, women in SUV's line up on all roads leading to any elementary school. Many of these women don't even have children, but need to be around other SUV's, which are usually hanging around schools.

            The traffic in the bay area is maddening. Literally. Traffic travels just under the speed of sound. Packed highways move at such a hectic pace that my GPS system developed a speech impediment and I had to kill it. If you are lucky enough to avoid incontinence during your freeway trip, you will find it more difficult to avoid developing  irritable bowel syndrome and a facial tic.   

            There seems to be an abundance of "headless" drivers in the San Jose area.  I think these cars on guided remotely.  These are usually smaller cars.  You can see the drivers seat, but there doesn't seem to be anyone driving. It's best to allow a lot of space around headless drivers.

            After 2 or 3 pm, you can't drive on the roads around Los Gatos.  I'm sure the rest of the valley is the same. Cars are literally lined up, bumper to bumper.  You have the option of sitting in a line of cars, or sneaking onto a freeway for a white knuckle ride. If you actually make it home, get in the house, lock the door, drop to your knees and thank the Lord that you lived to fight traffic another day.  A shot of whiskey can help with the shakes and twitches.

            And then there are the mutants. Living in Silicon Valley with all the electronics, many of the natives have developed a strange growth on one side of their heads. You may be in a grocery store when someone begins to speak. At first you may think they are talking to God, but then you realize that this growth is really a telephone device. To be out of touch with the world for any period of time would be catastrophic for these folks. Hells bells...the president may need to reach them by phone. So the natives have learned to glue phones to their heads.

            If that's not enough, everyone on the street seems intent on a hand held device that they poke at with their fingers. It's a strange affliction. Perhaps a form of sexual sublimation.  Or maybe just displaced anxiety. They stare and poke.  Stare and poke. Grin and poke. What's that all about?

            The entire Silicon Valley is covered in stores and large parking lots.  There are actually trees here and there, but most have been domesticated, bred to look uniform, and grown in a mini forest somewhere under government supervision. This time of the year the trees are forced to wear colorful lights, which is humiliating to a tree.

            Everyone in Los Gatos dresses up. Kids wear Levis that are purposely designed to look well worn. In Quincy, all of our Levis look well worn. We wear the real thing and wear them out authentically. I think I've found a market for my old pants.         

            I guess it's "culture shock." You must remember that Gayle and I have spent the past couple of years living high in the Sierra mountains, where there is no cell service and no one cares whether you drive a Lamborghini or a horse. The point is to get from here to there.  And there's no rush. The road leading to our small town is almost vacant. Oh, we might pass a car or a pickup with a gun rack and a large dog in the back, so we usually wave.  Chances are it's a neighbor. Or maybe a couple of horses will pass our house, but normally the noise we hear is just the wind blowing through the pine trees.            

            Yep, life is slow in the mountains. Even boring.  But it's "sane." I guess I'm too old for the speed, excitement and the 21st century "buzz" of my old stomping grounds. Unlike the lyric from the song, "The Green, Green Grass of Home,"  the "old hometown" doesn't look the same.   But it's worth the price to see our kids, grandkids and old friends.

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            If you are interested in learning more about the reasons some of us "older" Americans suffer from cultural shock, read my book, "The Huckleberry Days of the '50s.  Growing up in Los Gatos."  Go to ralphhiggins.com to order.  They are currently selling at a discount.  You'll see how Los Gatos has changed over the past half-century. 

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  1. But, Ralph, we have Starbucks and you can get a small cup of coffee for only $3.60 nor so! Add in a muffin and you need a bank loan!

    If you are looking for some green grass in Los Gatos the Los Gatos Cemetary still has some left. If you go there please say hi to Hack for me.

    But at least here in our neck of the woods we don't have "hell raisers" on motocycles with a gun in their holster and a 30-06 slung over whichever shoulder still works!Welcome to "Hometown, USA"!

    By the way, The Cats is set to re-open this month.

    What a great gift, Ralph, for those of us who love your writing. Today's post will hold me for about 3 1/2 days!

  2. Thanks, Ed. If it weren't for you, Malcolm, Chuck, and a few others, I would have quit writing and gone back to sleep. Actually, I put a counter on my blog and was amazed at the number of readers I have. Unfortunately, few make comments. I always appreciate yours.

  3. Hi Ed, glad to hear The Cats will soon reopen. Seems I remember a few nights where my ID got me a drink in 1957. I'll let you work out the kind of ID.
    Since I lived there until 2001 I still love the area and used to ride my bike every weekend up from Westgate area to and thru downtown.
    Ralph on a bike you still see green altho you're right it is in small doses.

  4. Ralph.........
    I check in every Sat or Sun, looking for your latest blog. I enjoy your comments very much.

  5. Malcolm - Gayle and I are having a great time with family, grandkids and friends here in Los Gatos, so it is still a place close to our hearts. It's just disappointing to see how the town has changed. What's the deal with a phony ID as a high school kid?? Pretty clever.

  6. Rosy - Thanks for checking in. I'm glad you added a comment. And a compliment.

  7. Ralph, fake I.D.s and teenagers is a "recent" thrill that was surely not available so many years ago when you and I were teenagers!

    If you will send me $50 I will get one made for you that will allow you into any gentleman's establishment that serves libations and will contain a photo of you that will make you look much older than any teenager you may know!

    Anyway to help a fellow "old geezer"!

  8. Ed - I need a lot of "help," but looking older isn't my problem. "Being" older is the problem.

  9. Ed, I understand that the ID's you can now get on the internet are so good that they can't be detected. And they're not 'Made in America' either.

  10. I wasn't real interested in making the I.D. Card. I was more interested in getting $50 out of Ralph!!!!