Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mile high apple pie

60 miles northeast and 4,000 feet straight up from our little slice of heaven on the upper San Diego coast (also known as Porter Timeshare I or, more familarly as Wade's First Folly)is the mountain town of Julian. I had never heard of Julian until our handy man and friend Ken (currently living over our garage while recuperating from emergency hernia surgery)mentioned it to me before we left.Ken is not only an excellent painter, but is pretty well traveled and so we elected to journey up there.

Upon first blush, Julian reminded me of Bisbee, Arizona. Both are cute old mining towns which had their hey day in the late 19th century. Bisbee was a copper town, and may be again. Julian was a gold town some half century after the original California Gold rush. Both went down badly after the mines closed and have come back in the last twenty years by reinventing themselves as "cutesy". But they are different places. Bisbee thrives on its art colony image, everyone there is a sculptor or painter. It is also proud of its town slogan, "Bisbee, the town too high to care".

Julian, on the other hand, decided to stake its future on baking.This is a place known not only justly, but almost exclusivly, for its apple pie. When we told folks around the hotel we were headed to Julain they gave us a knowing smile and said; "going for some apple pie !" Not a question, an exclamation. Apparently no one has ever driven up the mountain to Julian for anything other than apple pie, and since it is a winding drive of hairpin turns and no guard rails, you spend a lot of time on the trip muttering to yourself that this better be "some fucking good apple pie".

Unbeknownst to me, there is a "Julian apple" and are many orchards in the area. I never got a real good look at a Julian apple, but based on what I saw in the apple salads I saw served, I understand it to be a green apple.The town area is about two blocks long with buildings from the 1890s on both sides. Most of the shops are loaded with the usual tourist crap and most of the eateries advertize apple dishes and paraphenalia.We saw apple pie, apple salad, apple omlets. apple dumplings, apple cobbler, apple crisp, candy apples, caramel apples, apple caramel pie, apple boysenberry pie and apple pumpkin pie. The apple piumpkin pie is just now in season. Between mid September and early November the apple town reaches kind of an apple frenzy highlighted by "Apple Days" or something like that. Based on the flyers, it looked to be bigger than "Come and Take It" days in Gonzalez, but very short of the kind of festivities seen at the "Watermelon Thump" in Luling.

The town was also considerably devoid of tourists considering that we were there in the very heart of apple season.The locals went about their business (which was mostly cutting up and serving pie) in a quiet unassuming way.There was not a lot of civic boosterism going on.The one real estate establishment was closed but had several amazing values posted in the window, all for around the one million dollar figure.No matter where you go in this amazing country of ours, you can buy yorself a nice place for right at a million dollars. You can live in Manhattan or Maui, Scottsdale or Julian, Austin or Kerrville and you can walk up to a real estate place which will have pictures in the window of some version of perfection for right at a million dollars.Sellers of real estate never lose their optimism.No matter where you live, 6% of a million dollars is still $60,000. Shoot, sell half a dozen houses like that a year and you yourself could afford to buy one (if you can get an a.r.m at under 7%, you can always refinance when the rates go down).I have often complained in this blog that the country was coming to ruinantion through cheap and unchecked credit, but real estate salespersons need to shoulder their fair share of the blame and after the coming revolution I am going to insist on show trials and execution of every agent who had his/her picture in the local paper bragging that they were now in the "Gold Circle" of whatever Corporate Criminal Real Estate outfit they worked with. I will spring the trap door myself.

Coming back down the mountain, loaded with apple pie, I had wonderful views of this golden state and wondered if in a year it will be anything like this. The beginning of the American Dream, Republican version, began right up north in Orange County, home of Nixon and Raegan. Two cars and a boat in every garage, four bedrooms and a pool in every backyard. As the appliance store salesman in Austin used to advertize, "You don't need money, just a little something down." The California way of life, which became the American way of life, has lived on borrowed money and borrowed time for many years.Was that the end in sight I saw coming down the mountain ?


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