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Opinion: Happy California Day

What this state needs is a holiday.

A self-congratulatory, over-the-top, we’re-number-one kind of holiday.

California Day.

A day of shameless self-promotion. A chance to pat each other on the back and laugh good-naturedly at the poor saps who live anywhere else.

There could be a California Day picnic in your local park. With a parade. Or a band. Or a California Day carnival. And, naturally, the California Day Bowl.

Maybe, over time, a food will be associated with California Day, in the same way turkey means Thanksgiving and corned beef means St. Patrick’s Day. California Roll is too obvious, but you get the idea.

However you gin it up, and however you celebrate it, the point is for 37 million people to say “yes” to themselves and the one thing they share in common – California.
On California Day, we all declare: “This is a great place, and I’m glad I’m here.”

And we’ll laugh at the idea anyone would want to “flee” California. And we’ll scoff at the complainers and the gripers, and we’ll dismiss the critics who say California is turning into a “Third-World country.” Basically, the smack-talkers should stay home. Or move to Texas.

California Day is for people who believe in tomorrow. And those who are proud of the past. California Day, like all holidays, would be pretty much whatever you want it to be.
The First Annual California Day 10K Run. The California Day Tennis Championships.

There are plenty of reasons that just about one out of every 10 Americans choose to live in California. In fact, there are millions of reasons. So, we celebrate them all.

It will be the antidote holiday. The antidote to all the hate radio and the heated rhetoric, and the cure for the panic and pessimism.

It’ll be like George Bailey’s house in the last scene from It’s a Wonderful Life,  where friends and neighbors crowd in and pay his wrongful debt to the cheating banker. They don’t pretend the problem doesn’t exist, they get together, pitch in and solve it.

Of course a holiday won’t solve all of California’s problems. But then again, it’s not meant to. The only problem it can solve is the really lousy attitude that’s taking hold thanks to the drumbeat of doom and defeat from those who want to talk us down and make us believe all kinds of drivel about California.

Do we have a money problem? Yes. Do our roads need repair? Yes. Should our schools be better? Yes.

There are 364 other days a year to worry about that.

In the meantime, we get the school kids in on the act. They can write reports about California. About Olvera Street. About our universities. About the Golden Gate Bridge, the Griffith Park Observatory, Lake Tahoe, Scotty’s Castle, Hearst Castle, the missions, the Angel’s Flight.

They can write about the famous and familiar, like the Hollywood Sign, or Ghirardelli Square. But they can also write, or draw, or paint about the obscure local treasures famous only to the people who live nearby.

In Monterey Park, my hometown, everyone knows where to find “the waterfalls,” a series of rectangular ponds that step down a hillside. At night, each pool is lit a different color, and several times a year someone dumps in a bottle of laundry soap and turns the whole thing into a foamy avalanche. It’s a treasure, and you’ve probably never heard of it. Kind of like those little copper blob people traversing the fountains of the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento.

But that’s the point. Most of the things that make California great have nothing to do with the state budget. A sunset in Big Sur is no more or less beautiful when the state has a reserve than when it has a deficit. Having access to a globe full of ethnic cuisine is just as delicious when the budget is late as when it’s on time.

So, even if we don’t end up with a holiday, we can at least get out of the habit of bad-mouthing our state. Take an honest look around and see if this isn’t, in fact, the best part of the best place in the world.

California: Celebrate it, or shut the heck up.


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