Living in San Diego county it is easy to take our intrinsically healthy life style for granted. Until you have experienced a culture where smoking is common place and cigarette smokers far out number those who refuse to light up, it is impossible to understand how progressive Californians really are. How we treat our bodies is a reflection of how we see ourselves in the overall environment.
During my extended working vacation here in Ohio it has become quite clear how good we have it in the land of fruits and nuts. Yes, we our often the brunt of jokes, this seems to be as much about ignorance as it is jealousy. To make fun of California because it is concerned about public health is biblical in its inherent folly. Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't Noah ridiculed for building a big boat.
Prompting this observation is a perceivable death culture here in Cleveland. The exact opposite of the youth obsession pervading Southern California, everywhere you go in north east Ohio one is reminded that death is just a cigarette away. Every major thoroughfare here in Cleveland is graced by at least three funeral homes. In fact, funeral homes are as numerous as convenience stores. With names such as Jakubs and Sons, Dicicco and Sons, and Noseka and Sons, Death is not only inevitable it is also a lucrative family business.
And then there are the retail casket stores such as Caskets for less, and the mom and pop tombstone businesses which display their products in the front yard. In the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Tina Turner reminds everyone that death is watching. Here in Cleveland death may not be watching, but he certainly lives next door. On a positive note, the cemeteries are considered to be sculpture gardens. Just yesterday the public radio station dedicated an hour to a celebration of spirit. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, here they have radio tours of graveyards.
This brings me back to the healthier lifestyle pursued by those of us living in California. It took me three weeks before I found a health food market, and this one was about 1/8th the size of Whole Foods or Henry's. Rumor has it there is a vegetarian restaurant in Cleveland, yet none of the locals I have talked to have been there. To underscore the lack of healthy cuisine, beef is king and Mc Donald's are everywhere. In one restaurant, even the salads were not vegetarian and could not be ordered animal free.
Of the people I've met no one considers themselves to be an environmentalist, recycling is considered unnecessary, and composting kitchen waste is not done because it attracts the wrong element, namely wildlife. In California, the folks who doubt the reality of Global warming recycle and the misguided individuals driving Sport Utility Vehicles are concerned about over development. Even the Neanderthals that still insist on hunting and fishing work to promote open space and water quality, at a time when the species they stalk, and the habitats supporting them, are disappearing under the onslaught of progress.
For years now, the main focus of this column has been about the wrong being done in Southern California in regards to the environment, and that will not change. However, by spending sometime away I am quickly discovering that southern Californians are way ahead of the learning curve.