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We bought a lakefront house in Bella Vista last August as a vacation home and are looking forward to spending more time there as the weather warms up. The neighbors are very nice people; they invited us to a neighborhood Christmas party in December and we got to know them a little better.

I was at the lake house recently to have some electrical work done and my next-door neighbor Gary walked by. He caught me up on the latest goings-on. I remarked that I wished I had more time to spend at the lake, but work and our main house keep us busy in Siloam. Gary did mention that the people across the lake from us, who we had met at the party, had been in California since Christmas. Apparently, they must spend six months in their Los Angeles home to qualify for some type of retirement benefit. This statement sounded strange to me and it turned our conversation towards the differences between Arkansas and California life.

I attend several conferences a year in Orange County. In fact, several events use the Costa Mesa Hilton as their venue. I have been there so often that I am on a first-name basis with many of the wait staff! I meet many of the same people at each conference and we always get together after hours for dinner or drinks. Often these friends bring along "first-timers" and introductions are always made. Inevitably, any introduction made to me will include a joke or disparaging comment about being from the Ozarks of Arkansas. I see the slight smile and condescending look on their face and I prepare for the usual line: "Oh, but you're wearing shoes!" "How do you stand it out there living with rednecks?" "Why don't you move your business out here?" As the drinking continues into the evening, the hilarity gets cruder.

After a while I retaliate. I tell them that the world's biggest company is headquartered in my home county. Amazon revenues pale in comparison to Walmart. I pay a dollar per gallon of gasoline less than Californians do. I have trees, clean air and water, four seasons and quiet serenity. The only traffic I have to put up with is the occasional farmer's tractor on the road. Our homes are actually affordable. My family owns over 200 acres of land and it borders a river. "What you got, Bro?," is how I usually conclude my argument.

I almost became a Californian in 2000. I moved myself to San Diego to take a position as vice-president of a company. My wife and child would follow once they sold our house. I was there one month when the company owners made a really bad, unethical deal. They unfairly fired the president of the company and then offered me the position. I told them to check their fax machine as my resignation would be there. I also colorfully mentioned something as to their parental lineage, which was very satisfying. It was a huge relief to get in my truck and head back to the Midwest. I never felt comfortable knowing I was going to live there in San Diego. California is just not my cup of tea. The only thing I envy about Southern California is that they can grow oranges and avocados. I vaguely remember a poem/song by Baz Luhrmann called "Everybody's Free." One of the verses contained the line: "Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft." I would apply that sentiment to the whole state.

Don't get me wrong, I don't judge those who do live there and actually love the place. I loved visiting Sonoma, Napa wine country, and even Disneyland. There is a lot to like in California. However, don't feel that living there somehow makes you superior to the rest of us.

We should never have to apologize for living in Arkansas. I would not trade my Arkansas roots for anywhere in California. Heck, a few more years of warming and we may be able to grow oranges and avocados right here in Benton County!

Like they say: California is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to devin.houston@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 02/14/2018

Print Headline: California dreaming (Not!)

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