Gary Horton | Build Better Yellowed Electrical Fixtures

Gary Horton

Across the room from me is an electrical wall outlet — an original with the house, which has, with time, turned a dull yellow. Our 110-volt outlets are the old style – they look like two surprised faces with vertical eyes wide open and mouths agape. Like the ones that fascinated you when you were kids.  

Our yellowed fixtures have left aspects of our home feeling old, aged and used. As in, “Old people live here.” And indeed, we do. I just bought senior tickets at the Laemmle Theater for six bucks a throw! 

We’ve been here a long time. Nearly 33 years in this same home. The outlets turned yellow. I got wrinkles. A lot. My wife blessedly stays the same. There’s a sort of magic working inside her. She eats mostly fruit and berries and I’m an eggs and bacon and coffee kind of guy… There’s a health lesson here, I’m sure. 

Perhaps the old yellow switch plates will remind her of me when I’m gone… and she’ll regret not making me breakfasts of berries and healthy things. 

When it’s my turn to venture to that Undiscovered Country, Carrie will likely remain right here, in our 33-year-old home, which I hope will then be her 53-year-old home nestled in Santa Clarita, which itself will then be 54 years old. 

Time flies as faded switch plates attest. My yellowed outlets have seen a lot of action in their three-plus-decade lives. Massive growth all around. From sheep grazing up hills to motor graders tearing hills down. A great big giant earthquake tearing everything down and our efforts to rebuild it all back up.  

My wall sockets saw all three of our kids raised here. Fun kids, they grew up at Valencia Valley Elementary, Hart and Valencia high schools – and all off to college. There was a lot of love. Also, some intense moments as our family moved through large life changes and through the struggles young people experience moving into adulthood. There were good times, great times, and a few times I wish hadn’t happened… 

And my screwed-to-the-wall plug faces saw everything. Just like yours. 

We’ve been blessed with a good life. Hard earned for sure. We got married far too young and quickly found we had to run with what we knew. I was a gardener and learned commercial landscaping. Carrie was a child development graduate, and she became a wonderful mom and friend to every kid in the neighborhood and at Valencia Valley. I spent too much time at work and at night in college, but the hard work paid off. And with our discipline to never use our home as a cash register, Carrie enjoys hundreds of old yellowed plugs and switches with zero mortgage. She takes comfort in the security. For “liberal” people, we’re fiscally quite conservative.  

Carrie and I traded discipline and hard work for financial security, established kids, and non-mortgaged yellowed wall fixtures we have today. Santa Clarita worked for us. California worked for us. America worked for us. We’re grateful to have lived in a city, in a state, and in a country where two goofy wet-behind-the-ears kids could figure things out and create a good life together. 

For most in America and certainly for most in the Santa Clarita Valley, all this opportunity still exists. If you want it. If you have discipline to chase it. No one ever said the American Dream was a freebie. 

Success and security aren’t automatic in America. They never have been. We’re a pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of place.  

And this very one issue is our never-ending battle of the ages, a battle that persists today. It is the battle of our political parties and the root of racism and many of our other never-ending national family feuds: 

Simply put, “How level of a playing field do we want America to be?” 

How fair? How just? How equitable? How generous with our neighbors, near and far?  

From our sad early days as slave-holding nation to today, just how much opportunity will we afford our kids, neighbors and newcomers at our borders? How generous will we be, or should we be, with folks who are different than us? This simple issue remains the core of our political differences.  

Who should get what, and how much? How much will we share of “ours” to help others earn “theirs?” 

SCV is a funny place this way. For a “conservative town,” the SCV does a fine job at being a “progressive” town. With an abundance of parks and recreational activities open to everyone; with strong public schools, with an incredibly diverse College of the Canyons open to just about anyone regardless of income – and with businesses hiring all over town – we’re where opportunity grows… if you’re focused and have desire.  

We provide a lot of bootstraps in the SCV. We’re progressive. But folks still must pull those bootstraps up… 

Perhaps exemplary, most of our local politics doesn’t look like politics. We’re about the tussle of community building. Arm wrestling over how to improve our city and our services. But the goal is almost always shared: a desire to build an ever-improving SCV for all of us here. 

We’re “sharey” people in the SCV. 

We mostly share similar stories. A lot of us have shared them long enough to also share “wall socket fade.” And wrinkles. We’ve both given and gotten – over the course of full lives. 

And so, while we can still flip our own switches, let’s continue to give back, reinvesting ourselves in the SCV for our subsequent generations staring down even yellower wall fixtures.   

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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