East Coast, West Coast

I’ve been lucky to do some coast-to-coast trips in recent weeks, enjoying life on both sides of the country over that time – which included the July 4th weekend. It prompted these profound reflections on east v west that may be worth recording:
Patriotism – Flag-waving still survives, though it’s certainly not just Old Glory any more (almost as many rainbow flags abound in Atlanta neighborhoods as in San Francisco, and tony suburbs are awash in flags of flowers and turtles and mantras the specific meaning of which eludes me.) Over the Fourth I was in the N. GA mountains at Lake Rabun (check out the after-race photos, p 4, #67, 69 & 70 for testimony as to the concluding event of my recent, extended birthday celebration.) There were flags on boathouses, there was bunting on fences, and it felt altogether warm and fuzzy. Perhaps the display of Old Glory hasn’t totally been co-opted by the far right; patriotism was such a happy thing before it became a dirty word. Small-town parades proliferate everywhere too, and with flags and kids and wagons and decorated bikes galore, they are among the warmest and fuzziest still.
Oceans – Of course the ocean on the west coast is on the wrong side of the street, but it’s a mighty ocean indeed. Oceans and coasts are metaphors waiting to happen. The breathtaking vistas, the rugged cliffs and rocks and crags of the Pacific shores are a source of wonder; the serene expanses of beach and tidal grasses along the Atlantic (especially south of the Massachussetts and upwards cliffs and rocks and crags) offer an emotional counterpoint worth treasuring. Plus, sunsets and sunrises over oceans and lakes alike make one wonder why anybody ever gets mad at anybody.
Colors – Especially if you’ve just come from the San Francisco Bay area or the deserts of nearby elsewhere, the east is startlingly green. San Francisco and environs abound with California gold, but I still call it brown and the greenness of summer on the east coast is a marvel to behold once you’ve wandered afar from it.
Cellphones and traffic – They’re everywhere. At least California has followed NY with hands-free driving laws, but being a pedestrian is chancy at best in the urban U.S.. Plus this: giving way with a smile to some impatient driver who is hell-bent on getting there first, wherever in the world you’re both headed, is a fascinating experiment anywhere. Once in San Francisco I had a lane-changing SUV driver throw up both hands and laugh (which could’ve gotten us killed, but still…) Once in Washington D.C. a little old lady (I’m one too) figured I was being smart and flipped me the bird. Her life may have been short on views of sunset with the fog rolling in.

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