I've never thought of myself as a Dave Barry, Jack Smith or Chris Erskine ... and if you don't know who those guys are, then that's a good start for me. But I got a call from a former colleague who wanted to know if I'd write a light, maybe entertaining, possibly even amusing column for this website. He says he has always admired my writing, storytelling and "odd sense of perspective." And, OK, he might have mentioned the word "funny."
Here's a little background so you know where I'm coming from:
I spent more than 40 years—hey, I started at 18—working at the Los Angeles Times, mostly as a reporter covering the Angels and Rams. You remember newspapers, right? No? How about the Rams?
Pro athletes with monumental salaries and infinitesimal IQs can make you a little cynical. Then there was my most recent gig at The Times as a part-time copy editor for the features, business, national and foreign sections.
I've been retired for about six months and, to be honest, was enjoying it: as much time as possible with AngelFace (my 2-year-old granddaughter), lots of tennis, a little golf and plenty of special projects. (All the people who tell you that you won't know what to do with yourself after you retire aren't married to a woman who could keep the 101st Airborne busy around the house for an 18-month deployment).
Goggy (my new name for her since AngelFace began calling her that a year ago) and I have two daughters, both born in South Orange County and raised in Mission Viejo, often to their chagrin. You'd think that rating in the top 10 of the safest cities in America would be a plus, but I imagine you've probably dealt with a teenager at some point and won't be surprised to hear a contrary opinion.
In fact, the eldest daughter, AngelFace's stay-at-home mom with a master's degree in sociology, used to regularly tell us how horribly we failed as parents by bringing up our kids in such a vanilla suburb with "no culture or diversity."
Apparently, she thought a little gunfire now and again would liven things up.
The youngest daughter, a sous chef at an upscale restaurant in South Coast Plaza, had received her bachelor of science degree and was intending to get a master's degree in nursing when she decided to go to culinary school, where it cost, like, $50,000 to learn how to cut up food in really tiny shapes. "Knife skills" are very important in this job. I guess maybe if we had raised them in a place of "culture and diversity" she might have had a head start in that department.
The Sous Chef works 90 hours a week. I've been known to exaggerate, as Goggy is quick to point out, but this is absolutely true. She's on salary now, so, surprise, surprise, no overtime! (Did you know nurses make about 100 times more money than cooks?) She's back living at home because it doesn't make a lot of sense to pay O.C. rent when all you do at "home" is collapse in exhaustion for six hours.
The other day, the restaurant hosted a special dinner, and the executive chef and the sous chefs did all the cooking. She said it was "like Christmas." Yeah, I know exactly how she feels when we have 25 do-nothing relatives over for the holidays and I'm sweating like a pig in the kitchen. (It's a joke. ... Everybody's still coming this year, right? Everybody? Anybody?)
And those family meals are always more complicated because the Stay-at-Home Mom and family are vegetarians, which means two kinds of stuffing, extra vegetable dishes and organic this-and-that in everything. It's actually the fault of Goggy and I, who took her to a luau in Hawaii when she was 14. She got a glance at, not to forget a whiff of, the dinner, a pig that looked as if it had been eating an apple when it encountered the wrong end of a flame-thrower. And that was that for burnt, flesh-flavored food.
I love animals, too, and I guess it's a healthy approach to nutrition, but I've spent too many years clawing my way up the food chain to be a vegetarian. I just pretend burger patties grow on trees.
I moved to Huntington Beach from West L.A. when I was 14. We lived half a mile from the beach in a tiny tract off Brookhurst Street surrounded by miles of bean fields. I used to surf at the pier before school, and there would be maybe a dozen guys out, even when the waves were good. These days, on a nice swell, you can walk a mile on the water without getting wet, just by stepping from board to board. Dodging the Camp Pendleton Marines at Trestles in the '70s was less nerve-racking than trying to catch a wave there now in the middle of that hornet swarm of aggro shredders jockeying for position.
Goggy and I were married in 1978 and have lived in South O.C. ever since.
It's changed, some might say for the worse and what's funny about that? But you can still sit on your surfboard with the sun warming your face and marvel at a view of snow-covered peaks in the distance. So I'll curse the traffic and then count my blessings... I'm not going anywhere.
Next Week: The O.C. with Trade Winds
About this column: John Weyler has lived in Orange County for almost 50 years. His weekly regional columns will offer his unique, and often irreverent, take on life in the O.C.