Books for Everyone!

October 2018

What’s on Your Plate?

I was “oot and aboot” very early this morning, at about 7 (and I can tell you that getting up at the crack of dawn is highly over-rated). I saw so many sights of California capitalism at work on the by-ways, highways and freeways!

One of the more lucrative ideas in action is the California Black-and-Gold License Plate.

A contractor truck, a staple on any California road of more than 2-lanes, bore the proud license plate, MANTILE. Since so many personalized license plates, especially in this repressed state of free speech, are STATEMENTS, I took this example to mean that only the most manly of tiles are sold and/or installed by this contractor.

In my opinion, the most manly aspect of the plate was the color scheme: gold letters on a black background. I wondered if the license plate was that old, circa 1960. Dear Husband, as usual, came to my informational rescue with a tale of California Kapitalism. It reinforced my belief that few California politicians of the Left travel without an App of Das Kapital !

The story of this unplanned and completely unintended success is another hum-dinger from a state that never wakes, at least to the alarm bell of crushing debt, bankruptcy, economic reality or the fiscal cliff of Big Sur. Small businesses are big profiles in courage here in the Golden State!

Just a few years ago, one of the Boys under the Dome, a politician who restores vintage cars, authored a mandate (always a mandate) to that wonder of bureaucratic efficiency, The DMV. This agency was “tasked” with offering to the motoring public Retro-Version License Plates from the Golden Era of the Golden State when its unabashed love affair with the automobile was new and all hearts (not heads) were high.

The things are called Legacy Plates. That lawmaker sure was in search of a legacy!

The geniuses at the California DMV were highly skeptical of this financial scheme. Needless to say, and thus I must say it, the dubious scheme was wildly successful! The Retro Plate hit the big-time. #1 on the Made-to-Order List. There are waiting lists, even longer than the wait lines in the DMV office!

Not coincidentally, the blue-and-gold California license plate of the 1970s and early 1980s, of the CHiPS era — that one is a loser, in sales terms.

For me, the truly redeeming value of these plates is the work to create them. The license plates are made by the inmates at Folsom State Prison (by the dam), with use of the original stamp mold. In a quiet, almost silent way, the men in the pen are also making a legacy.

The California Personalized License Plate has experienced many phases and looks. There was the Moby Dick launch, with the whale tale that spouts up the middle of the license plate. Save Lake Tahoe had a go. Last time I checked, Lake Tahoe is still there.

The Helping Hands got involved: Help The Arts, Children, Diseases. It was a name-your-cause and pay-to-get-a-plate. The paying public really bit on the plate. The Blank Plates sold like hot-cakes.

Many of these “issues” and problems were budget “items” that most Californians believed were being addressed by their tax dollars. WRONG. The addressing changed from public to personal, without much of a change-of-address notice. (I think the Post Office is responsible for that form, not the DMV.)

Yes, sirree, California truly does lead the nation! The 2000s ushered into this state, and the other 49, a time of rampant speculation in the spending of your money for things you’d never heard of, and infrastructure went the way of crowd-funding.

Witness, if you will, the spillway at the Oroville Dam during the wettest months on record ever in California, February 2017.

The drama was horrific! The story even made national and international news. That Retro Spillway, of the same era as the Black-and-Gold License Plate, is the harbinger of horrors to come among the aging infrastructure of the Golden State. What’s on the plate is news the politicians do not want to hear!

Several years ago, a dear friend in Provence told me her impression of California:

Go there, even if you’re crazy and your dreams will come true.

I won’t disagree with the statement. In fact, I might be living proof of it! Nowadays, I would say, “Go to California only if you’re crazy.” But I’m biased. I live here.

Among my errands of this early day was a trip to the corporate grocery store to buy plums for a tart, courtesy of a recipe by Anne Willan, the chef and cook extraordinaire of French regional cooking. She calls for plums so juicy that the juice runs freely during baking.

Her exact words are:

“So much depends on the plums for a tart, they should be almost bursting at the seams with juice. Their season is short, but when the moment strikes, a rare treat awaits with this simple tart . . .”

Judging by the thick skin of the plums I bought from a grower here in Fresno, California, those seams will not be bursting with juice. I may have to improvise. The plum juice will not run freely. It’s been too taxed!