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Monday, November 13, 2017

Southern California Vol. 1 - There's Just Something About This Place

Years ago, I read an interview with Flea from the band The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  In it, he was asked why he loved living in Southern California so much.  He said something that has resonated with me ever since.  He said he didn't know for sure exactly what it was that kept him here.  He'd traveled the world and tried to live in other places but he always ended up missing Los Angeles. He likened it to a virus that gets in your bloodstream and that no matter how hard you try, you just can't kick it.

That's exactly the way I feel about this place.  I grew up in Florida and I've lived in a number of places since then, including a three year period in Iwakuni, Japan.  I feel especially close to Athens, Georgia where I went to college and I do seriously miss the mountains and forests in that part of the country.  However, there's only one place I want to live and that's in Southern California.

I've tried to put some kind of logic to this feeling and I've been hard pressed to do it.  It's just something in the air (and I don't mean the weather).  It's a feeling that I get when I'm near the ocean in Laguna Beach or traveling by the old movie studio housing around Burbank or even just crossing the giant bridge over to San Pedro.  There's a history here that's not as old as those East Coast cities, but is still fascinating and weirdly vibrant.

As you've probably seen if you've looked back at prior posts, this blog is all over the place as far as subject matter goes.  Still there are some constants (almost like series installments).  Obviously movies, music and writing get posted about a lot.  I'm going to add one more: Southern California historical oddities. 

To get started, I'll just give you a taste of something light and fun down near San Diego.

Back in 1902, a German engineer named Gustav Shulz hatched a pretty cool plan.  He'd moved down to a place near San Diego called La Jolla and he'd become fascinated by the sea caves that honeycomb the cliffs there.  Being an enterprising man, he bought some land over one of the sea caves and hired workers to help him tunnel up from the cave to the surface.  It took him almost two years to get it done since the best tools they had to work with were pickaxes and shovels, but once they reached the surface, he advertised it as a tourist attraction.

To see a view of the ocean from inside the sea cave, you had to pay $0.50 per person and climb down the tunnel using a rope (yes, a rope).  Seems like you're asking a lot from your patrons, right?  Well, believe it or not, it was a hit almost immediately. Shulz was soon getting around 200 people per day who visited his shop and paid the money to climb down to the cave.  Over the next several years, he added stairs so that the rope was no longer needed and aside from some added electric lighting and a handrail it pretty much looks like it did then.  

Over the years, the cave was occasionally used for things other than just tourism.  During Prohibition, it was used as a way to smuggle alcohol into San Diego.  It was also used to smuggle illegal immigrants (mostly Chinese) into Southern California.  Despite those shady endeavors though, it's mostly just known for being an interesting San Diego oddity.  

The store and the cave are still open to the public although the price for admission has gone up to $5.00 per person.  It's a pretty cool piece of history that's worth doing if you're in the area.  Just remember that if you do decide to visit, it's a long climb back up.


For future posts about Southern California, we'll delve into failed desert resorts, ancient Chinese explorers, abandoned movie sets and a bunch of other fun stuff.

Until then, if you're looking for something else fun to read please visit my Amazon authors page and check out my book The Wash or the Anthology Murder, Mystery and Mayhem where you can find my short story The Postmortem.  Okay, shameless plug for book complete.  See you next time!


Lisanne Harrington said...

Wow! That sounds like fun, although I'd never be able to see it as I could not climb 145 stairs.

I once visited the caves at Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Utah. The thing I remember most is when the guide herded us into a rather small cave, then extinguished the light. It was pitch dark. You could not see even an inch in front of your face. I could see how people could go insane in the darkness. It was really creepy!

I'm eager to read about more fun and spooky places.

Cary said...

Yeah, the climb is definitely a deal breaker for many people. The opening is just wide enough for two people to pass each other too, so if you're claustrophobic at all you'd hate it!

- The M.A.D. Hapa said...

Damn! Wish I'd checked that out when I lived in SoCal. D'oh!