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Gary Horton: Gifts we can believe in

Posted: December 23, 2008 5:41 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2008 4:59 a.m.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful
Highway Five is not delightful
We're stopped and parked with nowhere to go
When it snows, when it snows, when it snows ...

Last week, Winter Wonderland descended on our previously warm and cozy SCV. Far and wide across the valley, all donned boots and scarves and beanies, braving the blustery weather to school, to work - or the coffee shop.

A stiff chill every now and again makes you pretty darn appreciative of our SCV weather the other 335 days a year. As Carrie and I made our morning trek down Summit Hill to Starbucks, we carefully shuffled along with great care not to slip on the dreaded "black ice" that accumulates on sidewalks adjacent to our over-watered suburban lawns.

"Gads!" we shuddered, "If we lived in North Dakota! Or Wasilla!"

North Dakota has hell-snow Fargo. Wasilla has 15-minutes-of-fame mayors and almost-in-law Oxycontin pushers and mayoral churches that inexplicably burn to the ground even though its frickin' freezing outside.

These folks can take their "real" America small towns with their "real American values" and real American snow.

Give me our warm SCV with our tidy tracts with relatively sane people and overloaded boulevards that back up forever on shopping holidays. I love this town and I love that Carrie and I slide and slip on "black ice" but six or seven days a year. "Let it snow" somewhere else.

Snow is pretty, but only for the first day. In SoCal, when snow falls fast, we can't manage it or work around it. For if "practice makes perfect" - then "no practice makes failure" - and that's what we get here whenever we get a big white wintery dump.

And so, on Dec. 17 the SCV again celebrated its time-honored Annual Interstate 5 Big-Rig Parkathon.

Backed-up rigs all over Castaic Road and The Old Road. There was no getting in or out for hundreds, if not thousands, of sorry 18-wheelers, dead-stop stymied in their trek to haul their Walmart-y loads to lands northward. Traffic frozen. Chemically tainted Chinese toys undelivered

"A stiff chill every now and again makes you pretty darn appreciative of what you've got."

My friend Andy at work also got stuck on this side of the I-5. His home is in Bakersfield, but he works both sides of the Grapevine. Andy is a model manager. Firm but fair, resolute but reasonable, he manages people with a balanced seriousness that moves them where he wants them to go. His is a resolve born of tough experience.

Andy grew up in a rough part of Philly. "Hardscrabble," as Joe Biden says. Tough parents. No money. Got beat up by Italian gangs for his Irish surname. "But," Andy chuckles now. "What they didn't know, nor bothered to ask, is that I'm three-fourths Italian!" Sometimes life seems unfair. But "hardscrabble," taken with a grain of salt, will build character and resolve if you respond correctly. Andy did, and grew up and out of his tough childhood environment.

Andy had ups and downs and challenges in business, too. The downs didn't defeat, they sharpened his skill and resolve. The successes taught him what's possible. Now he's more careful, more cautious, and yet uniquely upbeat.

Andy's got a bright side take on our current economic struggles. Many Americans are worried this
Christmas for their jobs, their savings, their security. Still, he sees a silver lining in the stormy clouds.

"Most American kids have only known plenty. So much stuff, so little sacrifice, and sometimes, so little effort. We got out of touch with reality, out of touch with appreciation." Andy thinks a hard patch might be just the stuff that puts some steel in our kid's minds and spines. Might make them stronger. Might make them humble and teach them the value of hard work. Might even make them happier and more content in the long run."

There's going to be plenty of hard work ahead. For years, America borrowed from its future like there was no tomorrow. Well, "tomorrow" hit like a blizzard and our roads are closing and we've got to dig ourselves out fast.

"A stiff chill every now and again makes you pretty darn appreciative of what you've got."

Yeah, the economy is frightful. But this time around we'll shun the nonsense and pay attention to things that matter. This time around, we'll learn financial prudence and caution. And this time around, we'll teach our children these things, too. Perhaps this Christmas brings the unexpected gift of renewed prudence, balance and appreciation.

Merry Christmas to all from Phil and Gary from Full Speed to Port.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Full Speed to Port" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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