California cruisin’…

California cruisin

San Diego Review, September 1, 1995, Dwayne Hunn

As a young person living in the midwest during the ‘60’s,  music, television and news left one with visions of  “woodies” cruising beaches filled with beautiful bronzed “California girls” under skies speckled with mountains and palm trees in temperatures that were always warm, but not sweaty.  The economy boomed,  and Hollywood left you with a Vance Packardized image that everyone swooned over California….

Those images weren’t easily forgotten, especially after two years working in Bombay’s slums with the Peace Corps.  So, when I was lucky enough to received a fellowship to Claremont Graduate School, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, I came to California…  Traveling east from Bombay via Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, and Hawaii, the roads, cars and buses became a barometer of lifestyles.  They grew bigger, fancier and faster right up to California,  where my gears stuck in reverse culture shock, as comfortable homes and  smooth freeways zoomed by my air conditioned bus window.

Graduate school and high school and college teaching helped  temper the culture shock, but something about perfect California kept gnawing  at me.

Near Claremont is another bucolic town called Glendora,  where I lived my southern California years.  I lived on a 2+ acre funny pharm, nestled at the base of the San Gabriel foothills, where a number of us helped build a castle.  I lived there for several months with my eyes wide open, before the fabled Santa Anna winds came through around November.  The Santa Annas blew the air overhead away, out into the Pacific Ocean for the plankton to ingest.  And lo and behold, what had been a single row of mountains riming the pharm was clearly three finely etched ranges deep. That discovery, and the scent of fresh air, prodded me to increase studying and lecturing on air pollution and the environment.

Back then most California kids  didn’t concern  themselves much with air pollution.  Under those weather caster defined “hazy skies” they were enjoying the good life hanging out, chasing girls, surfing, beaching, partying, smoking, etc.  Now and then their good times would leave them with a stunning, educational revelation,  like when some of my  high school students returned from the other side of the mountain ranges after enjoying a star-studded, desert camping trip.  “There were like a million stars up there!  God, there were so many stars I couldn’t believe it!”

Yeph, they had been raised in the Los Angeles basin.   At night they saw hundreds of stars — the others Carl Saigon counted had been smogged out.

To a midwestern guy accustomed to clear, blue skies it didn’t seem like many California students or graduates knew or cared about air pollution.  But ….  it only takes a few and a dedicated core more to turn the sky upside down.

“Below the inversion layer, it’s just brown and yucky

                                           stuff.”

As a kid growing  up in Los Angeles in the 50’s, Roger Jon Diamond loved playing football, baseball and basketball.  He hated smog.  Neither his folks, buddies or teachers cared about air pollution, but as the years moved him to manhood his distaste for it grew into a crusade to erase it. “When I took my first air plane flight, then it   really dawned on me how much the smog was — cause you could see the inversion layer.  Once the plane gets above the inversion, it’s like a whole new world — you could see blue sky above the inversion layer.  Below the inversion layer, it’s just brown and yucky stuff.”

His concern didn’t leave after becoming an attorney.  As Roger put it on one of People’s Lobby’s recent  public affairs television productions, “I had always been involved in environmental issues.  That was my dream — to clear up the air in Southern California.  Growing up as a kid in Los Angeles, I learned first hand  about smog and air pollution.  When  I graduated from UCLA Law School in December of  ‘66, I decided to do something about air pollution. I filed a class action suit.”

Come back next month, if you think daring lawyers can fix anything  from smog to plumbing to  12 point deficits with only 2:11 left ….   San Diegans know that lawyer Steve Young can do at least 2 out of three of  the above, right?  Can Roger go three for three?

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