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Gary Horton: I love you, California


“I Love You, California” – Francis Beatty Silverwood

I love you, California, you’re the greatest state of all.
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall.
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore.
I love your grand old ocean and I love her rugged shore.

When the snow crowned Golden Sierras
Keep their watch o’er the valleys bloom,
It is there I would be in our land by the sea,
Every breeze bearing rich perfume.
It is here nature gives of her rarest. It is Home Sweet Home to me,
And I know when I die I shall breathe my last sigh
For my sunny California.

I love your red-wood forests – love your fields of yellow grain.
I love your summer breezes and I love your winter rain.
I love you, land of flowers; land of honey, fruit and wine.
I love you, California; you have won this heart of mine.

I love your old gray Missions – love your vineyards stretching far.
I love you, California, with your Golden Gate ajar.
I love your purple sunsets, love your skies of azure blue.
I love you, California; I just can’t help loving you.

I love you, Catalina, you are very dear to me.
I love you, Tamalpais, and I love Yosemite.
I love you, Land of Sunshine, half your beauties are untold.
I loved you in my childhood, and I’ll love you when I’m old.

Born at UCLA Hospital, educated at CSUN, business fueled by So Cal growth, I am forever in awe and indebted to our great state. I loved California in my childhood and now, getting older, I love her deeply still.

Francis Silverwood, a Los Angeles clothier, wrote the beautiful lyrics to what would become our State Song way back in 1913. Back then, Los Angeles was just really starting to get its groove on. Little then did they know then L.A. would become a world-city, known for Hollywood stars, cars, freeways, Malibu, Disneyland, aerospace, entertainment, and now, the world’s most powerful rocket ship that can even land two boosters at a time, simultaneously. Still part adobe, largely citrus orchards, and horses mixing it up with now-collectible cars – most likely never saw the world-beater that L.A. and California would become.

Francis Silverwood also likely didn’t see what became of the Los Angeles garment district where he toiled.
Thirty years ago, back when I was a clean-cut Mormon and my boys little cookie-cutters of missionaries, we’d all go as a family down to the L.A. “garment district” to buy our suits and white shirts where a lot of them were made and a whole lot of them were sold. We’d pile in the Mormon-requisite van, drive past City Hall and get out and see the Big City to go “buy wholesale.”

Growing up from tender years, Jon, Chris, and Katie knew mostly the (then) green hills of the SCV, resplendent with sheep grazing lazily and a sleepy McBean Parkway to traverse on. By comparison, Downtown was enormous, with skyscrapers, restaurants everywhere, buses, and people of color and types you never “saw around here.”

Our favorite suit store was on 6th St. A highly fashionable place, a very well dressed black salesman knew just how to make us look good, feel good, and have so much fun doing something as unpleasant to a little kid as buying a new suit.

Even thirty years back, we knew of the no-go zones right one block over. Skid row was not a place to take kiddies, and back then homelessness in L.A. was starting its explosion as a crushing problem. But the encampments were more contained than today – they ended on 5th street, we shopped on 6th and 7th, so everything worked out for us at the time. “Pity the shopkeepers on 5th street,” I thought then. Truly, what would the stores and small manufactures do with the burgeoning multitude of society’s cast-offs blocking their sidewalks and doors? It was a problem that never got solved and today plagues us more than ever before.

The store we loved isn’t there anymore on 6th street. Like the rest of all things California, Skid Row is thriving, growing, and it has taken down a wider swath of once-productive real estate. The experiences we enjoyed then are just memories now, and to visit where we once had so much big-city fun is to witness a tragedy that has touched everyone – building owners, the suffering homeless themselves, and all Angelenos who might have otherwise enjoyed the area and helped L.A. and her citizens prosper. Everyone has lost – without impactful relief.

This past week I was driving back from Ventura to Oxnard. Harbor Blvd runs right along the waterfront from the Ventura Pier straight to Channel Islands Harbor. It’s a truly beautiful stretch of what little remains of “old California” in the greater L.A. area. Enjoying the view thoroughly, I passed glistening seas, delicate wetlands, productive strawberry fields – seemingly forever.

And then, just over the bridge separating Ventura from Oxnard, a homeless man crossed the highway on a bicycle and road onto a dirt path into the wash ahead. Covered in head-height brush, this wash is known as the meanest spot in Ventura County. Home to hundreds of homeless, the wash has become a petty-crime factory, known for drugs, violence, a thriving trade in thousands of stolen bicycles. When you’re living in the bushes I suspect you eventually get to doing anything to get through a day.

I love California. I believe our people, politics, hearts are in the right place. We’re blessed as the song says, with perhaps a diverse and beautiful array of nature. And we lead our country in education, productivity, and diversity. All at once.

But we also lead in a homelessness crisis that betrays our better intentions and mars our accomplishments.
Our continuing passive acceptance of such a large-scale human tragedy is what California must urgently change – immediately – in order to continue our progress as world leader.

Quality of life, not just of the victims, but of all citizens, depends on how we respond now. We’ve voted for increased taxation, bonds, and now the public is acutely aware and expects results.

I love California. And I wish to my core for her to do the right thing. No more studies, no more pussy-footing around the hard decisions. No more forever lawsuits protecting the status-quo. It’s time to change direction and literally build solutions – with the guts to change zoning for housing, to enforce the rule of law, and with hearts sufficiently generous to provide for specific required care.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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