Back to Cool

Photo by Kristine Ellison


hy are we waiting until 6:49 a.m. on September 22 to declare summer over?

Let’s get on with it, I say. The Cowboys have broken camp and left Oxnard for the start of the football season. The strawberries have been harvested. Days are shortening, the apricot trees outside my office window are bare, and I dropped my kids off at school this morning: kicky and carefree. Me, not them—they were shy and anxious, humming with first-day jitters while I whistled the parental victory hymn through the parking lot.

So let’s forget all this scientific hullabaloo about the autumnal equinox. A flaming poplar tells me it’s fall. The acorns rolling down my roof agree. And even if it isn’t, technically, it’s close enough for me. Because autumn in Southern California is more than “watching the birds change color and fall from the trees,” as David Letterman snarked; it is a return to normalcy—and normal is pretty good around here.

When I was a school kid, I always suspected the grownups had a secret. That while we ate peanut butter and skinned our knees they crossed into some sort of parallel universe, a black hole of uncool and bad music that roared open every September.

Turns out their secretive grins were smiles of relief.

I’m on the other side now. Smiling. Our drive to school takes us past ranches and peacocks and a country store where old fellas in overalls sip black coffee and chew the fat each morning. We watch crops shift on local farms, pastures turn from golden to green to “rainbow,” as my daughter calls anything colorful.

There are parts of Ventura County where it feels like time stood still, as if 1974 had stopped mid-stride. And I happen to like that. It makes me feel five years old again, this time without Toughskins and a bowl-cut. Mostly, though, I appreciate the opportunity to raise children in a rural yet cultured area, a place where cowboy hats and trucker caps are worn by cowboys and truckers, not hipsters.

We tend to focus pretty heavily on homes in these Home + Garden issues, but the Ventura County Master Gardener Program (page 20) was ripe for an article. Consider the mission: to enhance the wellbeing of people, plants, and the environment through science-based gardening education and community outreach. To me that says Ventura County.

Let’s face it, this is no dazzling metropolis. Sure we have some culture. But moreso, we have agriculture. Lately I’ve been writing a lot on the subject of agritourism: farm-stays, ranch tours, pick-your-own orchards—that sort of thing. It’s a rapidly growing industry in California, and if ever there were a draw to Ventura County, this is it.

Living in this fantasy of agriculture, I’m always happy to learn about programs like VC Master Gardeners, or the local branch of CREEC (, the California Regional Environmental Education Community, which teaches children about the connection between local farms and their dining room table.

My wife and I are keen on the concept and try to expose our children to agriculture in a number of ways. Like all parents, we want the best for them; of course our version of “best” doesn’t always align with that of other parents.

Amongst the clutter in my mailbox today was a catalog peddling Halloween costumes. And there, in one of the photos, a girl about my daughter’s age. She’s dressed as a can-can dancer, glossy-lipped with a corset-style top and fishnet stockings. Come-hither boots sold separately.

I have to read the copy twice.

On one hand, I’m happy to see the catalog: yet another indication of summer’s imminent demise. But what do I say to my daughter when she asks me to drop 60 bucks on a ludicrous getup like this?

That, I suppose, is the easy part; the response comes naturally in this parental parallel universe, this black hole of embarrassing dadisms and tyrannical decision-making. One day she’ll understand. Sometimes it’s cool to be uncool.


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