DIARY of a 99%-er: The Struggle Between Survival and Creative Expression

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April 30

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” - Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau knew a lot about nature. In fact, he wrote the book on it. If he had ever left his beloved Walden Pond and visited Orange County way back when, I think even he would have been transfixed by its natural beauty, especially when it actually lived up to its name, with acres and acres of orange groves.

Coastal Orange County is one of the most gorgeous places in the world. In the summertime, it is truly magical. The beaches are fairly accessible, there are a lot of them, and some of them are intimate coves that are mainly frequented by locals. Laguna Beach, in particular, sparkles with myriad outdoor art festivals, including the uber-unique Pageant of the Masters. Cute little trolleys roam up and down Pacific Coast Highway, ferrying tourists, bikini-clad locals and surfers, free of charge.

I have lived in other places around the country, but the allure of Laguna Beach is irresistible. Same for Dana Point, especially driving down Golden Lantern. When you come to the top of the hill, the Pacific Ocean is splayed out in front of you like a sparkling jewel. Since living in OC, I’ve had no desire to travel to Italy because we have our own slice of the Mediterranean coastline right here in our backyard. It takes my breath away every time I see it, no matter what the time of day or season.

The Dana Point harbor also possesses stunning views for walkers and I try to walk there as much as possible. At the far end of the harbor, near the Ocean Institute, are some benches on a small bluff overlooking the ocean. Simon and I have dubbed this area “Chi Corner” because of the fabulous fresh and ionic air there. Pelicans abound, and tourists and locals come to sit and gaze upon the ocean.

But there is also a sacred, sensual underbelly here in Orange County that you may only be aware of if you live here. When there’s a full moon, a gigantic drumming circle coalesces around the fire pits at a beach in Laguna, while a few feet away fire dancers perform their electrifying art. Hundreds of people come out with their drums and tambourines and revel in the lunar energy. And, there is a goddess temple tucked away in one of the most mundane, industrial office parks you can find, deliciously close to John Wayne Airport and the macho energy embodied in his spirit. Airplanes thunder overhead, but inside is a sacred stillness, with shrines dedicated to goddesses representing the different seasons. It is a luscious vortex of divine, feminine energy – a miracle in a county that for so long was dominated by conservative white men, who wouldn’t recognize their own Shakti if it rose up their spine and hit them in the head. It’s like the county suddenly had its own Kundalini awakening and sprouted these magnificent rituals and places to honor nature and the seasons and remind us that we are all part of the constant flux of divine energy.

And, although OC has gotten a bad rap for decades because of its conservatism -- and deservedly so -- in the past decade it has become remarkably more diverse. There are two Hispanic Congresswomen representing the area, who happen to be sisters; there are large Asian enclaves in Garden Grove and Westminster; and more people than ever voted Democratic in the last two presidential elections.

And, it hasn’t always been wine and roses here in OC. Infamously, it was the biggest county at the time (1994) to go bankrupt, to the tune of $1.64 billion, based on a dicey investment strategy by the treasurer/tax collector at the time.

Despite the bankruptcy and the recent recession, OC is still a huge tourist destination and an incredibly expensive place to live. The residents are primarily the wealthy 1% and the service industry that makes minimum wage serving the tourists. The middle class, which used to be more vibrant, is disappearing like quicksand – either moving to other states or the Inland Empire. For the 99%, making ends meet here in OC is a supreme challenge.

All that being said, the aesthetic beauty of Orange County has made an indelible imprint on my heart, so I want to stay and make it work with Simon. More importantly, I want to do so from a place of financial abundance.

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