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By Jack McCall

My speaking travels have taken me to many interesting places. A few years back I found myself in California.

I was speaking for the National Christmas Tree Association.  The title of my keynote address was “The Challenge of Change.” The California Christmas Tree Association hosted the national conference, and its members put on a first-class event. The Christmas tree industry is facing significant challenges in these days, but I will address that subject in another column later in the year.

In this column, I choose to address the state of the State of California as seen through the eyes of a Southern, white, male baby boomer. I’ll get right to the point.

Across the Miles
Jack McCall

I’m always a little apprehensive when I travel to California. In the first place, it is a long way from Tennessee. You can expect to spend a half-day traveling by air. And there are a lot of strange people in California. I know.  I know. There are more and more strange people in Tennessee, and the Southern United States, but there is a higher percentage in California.

Before I arrived in Sacramento, I had made arrangements to take the Super Shuttle to the hotel. As I approached the van that would take me to the Hyatt Regency, I met the driver. He had a full beard, as full and white as Santa Claus himself, but his skin was dark and he wore a red turban on his head.

“How are you?” I asked.

“I’m steel here’d!” he said in a heavy Arabic accent, with a broad smile. That was the last English he spoke for the remainder of our trip. He was constantly on his cell phone talking with his dispatcher in Arabic.

The Hyatt Regency is across the street from the California State House. The legislature was in session. The “suits” were coming and going everywhere. Now that’s a bunch of strange people.

Jerry Brown is the governor of California – again. I think he is governor because no one else wants the job.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was once governor of California. He was a Democrat in Republican clothing. He was married to Maria Shriver (her mother was a Kennedy.) until it came to light he had fathered a child with his housekeeper – his housekeeper, mind you.

I’m sure when he left the governor’s office; the citizens of California were relieved he didn’t utter his famous words, “I’ll be back!”

Nancy Pelosi is from California. No further comment.

In the minds of many, California is far ahead of the rest of the country. California is viewed as being more progressive. (Be on alert whenever you hear the word “progressive” being thrown around.) How can you be “ahead” when you are billions behind?

The Gideon Bible was conspicuously missing from my room at the Hyatt Hotel. I had the same experience at the Hyatt in Jacksonville, Fla. It must be a Hyatt thing.

Speaking of Gideon Bibles, there was a wildly popular, national best-selling book entitled Fifty Shades of Grey being circulated when I was in California. Scores of married woman claimed it had rejuvenated their sex lives. Some experts classified the book as “mommy porn.” Because of the book’s success, one Atlantic City hotel owner considered replacing the Gideon Bibles in his hotel with Fifty Shades of Grey.

God help us.

It is a one-mile walk around the California State House. There are more joggers and bike riders than you can imagine. You can dress any way you want in California. And people do.

As I was taking a two-mile walk, I noticed a unusual banners on some of the street light poles. It was the kind of banner you see in small towns across America. These were much more provocative. The banner on the left had a picture of a beautiful, young, slender woman (in the buff) sitting in a giant martini glass. The banner on the right read: “Fifty years of superheroes, nudes, and pop art” – See the Crockett Museum of Art. I suspected the museum wasn’t named after Davy Crockett.

Please don’t get me wrong. There are still some things I like about California, but I think it is the “old” California. Like when Roy Rogers was in Hollywood, back before there were so many divorces.

Gene Autry was from California. And I like California raisins. The Beach Boys are from California, and I like them. And I like a number of songs that have “California” in the titles, like “California Dreamin’, ” “California Girls” and “It Never Rains in California.”

But for me, I’ll stick with the greenest state in the land of the free – Tennessee.