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My Neapolitan tan & a few words about California sang by Al Jolson

California, why do I love thee?

It’s because of the truths that others speak.

Let me take you back to June 1989.

I was visiting the Kankakee News in Illinois, the flagship newspaper of the Small family that owned The Press-Tribune where I worked at the time in Roseville.

I was on a tour of the newspaper and was walking through the production department.

One typesetter, looked up an exclaimed “wow, what a great tan!”

I looked around to see who she was talking about.

Then she looked straight at me.

“I’m talking about you.”

I laughed.

You’ve got to understand at the time that my sister would rib me non-stop about having an anemic tan.

Worse yet, I had what I called a “Neapolitan” tan.

Think farmers’ tan but on the legs.

At the time I was bicycling 10,000 miles a year, wearing OP walking shorts, and donning gym shorts in Jazzercise class.

Yes, I said Jazzercise.

That’s another story for another time.

Back to the tan.

Because I spent so much time bicycling I had a “chocolate” tan to just above my knee caps where the cycling shorts ended.

After cycling I spent the most time outdoors in OP shorts.

The style of the day was to a mid-point on the upper leg.

So, for about two inches I had a “strawberry”  tan band line.

Then when I was wearing gym shorts there was an inch of skin that never was virtually never touched.

That was my “vanilla” tan band.

Combine them altogether and I had — voila! — a Neapolitan tan.

At any rate, my chocolate tan band was more of a light coffee while my sister — who was in her final year at Chico State — had more of a true chocolate tan that was more universal.

So, there I was trying to tell a stranger that thought I was channeling actor George Hamilton that I did not have a tan by California standards.

By the way I was wearing long pants and a short sleeve shirt at the time so she did not see my Neapolitan tan.

At one point in the conversation, she said how fortunate it was that I could get outdoors so often.

Like an idiot, I told her it was June so why didn’t she take advantage of it.

Her reply: It’s too humid.

She went on to tell me there was too  much snow in the winter, the spring was too rainy and the fall too blustery. To top it ff, she again stressed how she longed to be outdoors as much as possible.

It was then when I said something stupid: “Then why do you live here?”

I got her point about the humidity.

My first morning in Illinois, I went for a jog at 6 a.m.

I was fine for the first four minutes. Then my lungs started burning.

Eighty percent humidity just after dawn can do that to you.

Three days later standing on the bottom deck on a pseudo steamboat on the Mississippi River after departing from Hannibal, Missouri I had my second epiphany about California.

I had taken a shower just half an hour earlier.

But there I was in the shade wearing OP shorts and a polo shirt at 10 a.m. sweating bullets.

I made a comment to Jack and Gail — friends I was visiting — that I don’t see how people can ever get used to the humidity.

Then, as if on cue, a gentleman siting nearby with his wife piped up.

“You never get used to it. We moved to New Orleans eight years ago from Los Angeles and we still sweat like crazy.”

I looked at him and again the words poured out of my mouth without even thinking, “Then why do you live here?”

I get that every place has its pluses and minuses.

I also get people will — and should — stand up for where they live.

And that of course includes California.

Let’s see what California has to offer.

A pleasant Mediterranean climate in much of the state.

The snow is where it belongs in the mountains.

And you can drive for six hours and see the ocean, mountains, fertile valleys, dessert, rivers, and lakes galore.

Drive six hours in Illinois and its flatter than a pancake in comparison.

Plays and stories are written about leaving Kansas and other states to see the world.

You can see and experience much of the world geologically, culturally, and ethically without leaving California.

I’m sure that I lived elsewhere I’d have an affinity for where I was at.

But I can’t believe it would come as close to winning Mother Nature’s lottery and trifecta all rolled up into one.

We have glaciers, the highest peak in the continental United States, active volcanoes, the lowest point in Northern America, the only delta on the Pacific Flyway, the world’s largest fertile agricultural valley, vast deserts, massive mountain ranges, world class bays, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches.

We have the tallest, oldest and largest living organisms — redwoods, bristlecone pines, and sequoia.

This is one of the handful of places on earth the earth where the largest possible variety of nuts, fruits, and vegetables can be raised in a robust manner.

For better or worst this is home to the greatest water storage and conveyance system ever built by man.

We have world renown high-tech hubs and are flush with cutting edge tech companies such as Apple, Facebook, Alphabet (aka Google), YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Intel, Tesla and on and on.

We still have the magic of Hollywood, space ports, and more.

Yes we have wildfires, earthquakes, floods, drought and the California Legislature.

But the last time I checked other places have tornadoes, hurricanes, occasional droughts, blinding snow storms, deep freezes, an occasional earthquake, the Texas Legislature, the Illinois Legislature, the Florida Legislature and the New York Legislature  to name a few.

Life can be fast paced and expensive in California.

It can also be mellow, inspiring and — if most of us live within our means — a rewarding place to live.

And to be honest, you get what you pay for.

The problem with most Californians that have the jitters about the place we call home is it takes someone who doesn’t focus on the drawbacks but sees the many positives.

The grass is greener elsewhere if that is what you decide it is.

Sell California short if you must.

But if you want to experience a section of the planet that is a virtual smorgasbord of geological and natural winderss and be able to do so with a pleasant Mediterranean-stye climate you’ll get why Al Jolson wrote and sang the words he did.

“California, here I come, right back where I started from . . . “


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at