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True.  And were Paul 27 today I suspect he would chose a different path. These problems have been and continue to be an existential dilemma.  For 27 years while raising a family in Los Angeles I lived in the San Fernando Valley and worked in the Basin, most of the time somewhere within seven miles of the intersection of the 405 and the 10 in West LA.  My average commute was about 25 miles each way.

I read The Limits to Growth when it first came out in paperback and it seemed well presented and intuitively obvious to me.  I responded favorably to Jimmy Carter's infamous "sweater speech", a member of a decided minority.  Had I done the "smart" thing and towed the official line on wars and foreign policy I would have been able to get a job with one of the defense contractors, say Hughes, could have purchased a house on the West Side while the rents were still low, had a short commute and ridden the real estate escalator to a significant personal net worth by age 35.  

But I never even tried.  I despised the Vietnam war and everything that supported it and didn't even want to apply for a job that might require a security clearance.  I loved the technology involved in the defense industry but unfortunately was encumbered with a conscience.  In 1978 I was offered a job at Hughes in technical instruction.  It was tempting, but I would have literally been teaching mixed classes of Greek and Turkish military personnel how to use the same weapons systems!  I knew that I could excel at that task, and I was assured that they got along well in class but teaching Greeks and Turks how to kill each other I found unacceptable.

Instead I built recording studios, deferring income that never actually materialized and ended up in electronics contracting, earning less than I could have.  I loved the work and could sleep at night, but ended up with a 40-50 mile daily commute in order to have a single residence dwelling in an area with acceptable schools that I could afford: Van Nuys -> Reseda -> to Northridge over 27 years.

Where we find work and where we chose to reside are complex choices.  I have always supported policies, such as mass transit, that would reduce the impact of such choices, but was never in the position to personally benefit until we found commuter buses that my son could use to commute 35 miles to college while living at home.  Nor were such choices mine alone to make, once I was married, if I wanted to stay married and be a part of my son's life. This is something we all face--a dilemma of our existence.

For me the compromise consisted of driving Japanese cars and putting close to 200,000 miles on them before donating them to charity for the tax deduction.  From 1972 until the mid-'90s the wife's vehicle was a 1972 Honda Z-600, with a 600cc engine!  Got >40 mpg and would pull the Sepulveda grade southbound without dropping below 50mph and requiring a downshift!  We both loved that car.  I drove a '67 Toyota Corona with a 2 liter engine that was almost a hot rod, then a '78 Corolla wagon, a Volvo 140, a Mazda and an Altima, all the while doing my part to melt the polar ice caps.

What can I say?  It was the best I could do?  The greater problem is that the American Suburban Middle Class even now refuses to consider that this must and will change.  The real challenge will be managing that change while retaining any vestige of democratic governance.  Treasure all of the allies you can find, regardless of how sordid their past.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 14th, 2009 at 11:24:01 PM EST
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