The Rules of the Game by Stewart Edward White
But if Bob imagined for one moment that he had acquired even a notion of California in his experiences and observations down the San Joaquin and in Los Angeles, the next few stages of his Sentimental Journey very soon undeceived him. Baker's business interests soon took him away. Bob, armed with letters of introduction from his friend, visited in turn such places as Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Diego, Redlands and Pasadena. He could not but be struck by the absolute differences that existed, not only in the physical aspects but in the spirit and aims of the peoples. If these communities had been separated by thousands of miles of distance they could not have been more unlike.
At one place he found the semi-tropical luxuriance of flowers and trees and fruits, the soft, warm sunshine, the tepid, langourous, musical nights, the mellow haze of romance over mountain and velvet hill and soft sea, the low-shaded cottages, the leisurely attractive people one associates with the story-book conception of California. The place was charming in its surroundings and in its graces of life, but it was a cheerful, happy, out-at-the-heels, raggedy little town, whose bright gardens adorned its abyssmal streets, whose beautiful mountains palliated the naivete of its natural and atrocious roads. Bob mingled with its people with the pardonable amusement of a man fresh from the doing of big things. There seemed to be such long, grave and futile discussions over the undertaking of that which a more energetic community would do as a matter of course in the day's work. The liveryman from whom Bob hired his saddle horse proved to be a person of a leisurely and sardonic humour.
"Their chief asset here is tourists," said he. "That's the leading industry. They can't see it, and they don't want to. They have just one road through the county. It's a bum one. You'd think it was a dozen, to hear them talk about the immense undertaking of making it halfway decent. Any other place would do these things they've been talking about for ten years just on the side, as part of the get-ready. Lucky they didn't have to do anything in the way of getting those mountains set proper, or there'd be a hole there yet."
"Why don't you go East?" asked Bob.
"I did once. Didn't like it."
"What's the matter?"
"Well, I'll tell you. Back East when you don't do nothing, you feel kind of guilty. Out here when you don't do nothing, you don't give a damn!"
Nevertheless, Bob was very sorry when he had to leave this quiet and beautiful little town, with its happy, careless, charming people.
Thence he went directly to a town built in a half-circle of the mountains. The sunshine here was warm and grateful, but when its rays were withdrawn a stinging chill crept down from the snow. No sitting out on the verandah after dinner, but often a most grateful fire in the Club's fireplace. The mornings were crisp and enlivening. And again by the middle of the day the soft California warmth laid the land under its spell.
This was a place of orange-growers, young fellows from the East. Its University Club was large and prosperous. Its streets were wide. Flowers lined the curbs. There were few fences. The houses were in good taste. Even the telephone poles were painted green so as to be unobtrusive. Bob thought it one of the most attractive places he had ever seen, as indeed it should be, for it was built practically to order by people of intelligence.
Thence he drove through miles and miles of orange groves, so large that the numerous workmen go about their work on bicycles. Even here in the country, the roadsides were planted with palms and other ornamental trees, and gay with flowers. Abruptly he came upon a squalid village of the old regime, with ugly frame houses, littered streets, sagging sidewalks foul with puddles, old tin cans, rubbish; populous with children and women in back-yard dressing sacks--a distressing reminder of the worst from the older-established countries. And again, at the end of the week, he most unexpectedly found himself seated on a country-club verandah, having a very good time, indeed, with some charming specimens of the idle rich. He talked polo, golf, tennis and horses; he dined at several most elaborate "cottages"; he rode forth on glossy, bang-tailed horses, perfectly appointed; he drove in marvellously conceived traps in company with most engaging damsels. When, finally, he reached Los Angeles again he carried with him, as standing for California, not even the heterogeneous but fairly coherent idea one usually gains of a single commonwealth, but an impression of many climes and many peoples.
"Yes," said Baker, "and if you'd gone North to where I live, you'd have struck a different layout entirely."