Cousin Darold From Kansas
Cousin Darold Longhofer and his wife, Barbara, arrived from Kansas the other day. He was here on business, but also pleasure, so he brought Barb. It had been more than 20 years since he had visited California and he was not impressed.
“Too damn crowded,” he said.
Darold grew up in Marion, Kan., population 1,600 and declining with the slow death of the family farm. Marion is in southwestern Kansas, a three-hour ride from the nearest city, Topeka. Darold grew up in the same home as our grandmother. It is a three minute walk to Marion’s “downtown”, all two blocks of it, and near a stream that floods when the rains come. His family was in the equipment auction business, and he ultimately came to be employed by Caterpillar, auctioning off their repossessed equipment. This meant he traveled all over the world, so despite the “aw shucks” demeanor, he is one sophisticated cookie.
Darold speaks Spanish fluently and had a second home in Mexico, not too far from the Texas border, though he does not like it there anymore. There is too much drug violence. The gangs tend to kill only each other, but sometimes civilians are caught in the crossfire, and it was getting too close. Also, he had been living in Florida near the Alabama border, a hotbed of right-wing racism, and he came to hate it. So he moved back to Kansas City, Kan., which is more sophisticated and although miserable in the winter, better than Florida in the summer.
Most recently, he joined a new online auction company and is responsible for 50 field agents in the western U.S. That was the purpose of his visit, to assess the capabilities of the company’s agents in Southern California. He says most of them are, indeed, “worth a damn,” which in Kansas-speak is high praise.
While in Laguna, he stayed at the Holiday Inn near Cleo Street. He liked it there and he liked downtown Laguna, and he even walked to the Sawdust Festival and pronounced it fun and interesting.
Interestingly, Darold and Barb went to see my high-school son Harrison play a few basketball games in the summer program. They love basketball and were quick to tell me the sport was invented in Kansas. Darold was point guard on his high school team, as is my son, and Darold had many helpful hints for Harrison. Mostly, he thought West Coast teams play too soft; too much dilly-dallying, not enough hard driving.
On Monday we all had dinner at my brother Walkie’s home on Bay Island, where there are no cars. You get there by walking over a pedestrian bridge. Darold thought it was stupid, a gimmick. Why, you had to leave your car in a concrete parking garage a block away and drive little golf carts to get home. Dumb. But he thought Walkie’s motorboat was just dandy.
He left to go visit company personnel up the vastness of California. There is not much business here, he said; our real estate depression has killed construction equipment sales. He thinks it will be another four years before we are better. Those are my thoughts, too, sigh, so do yourself a favor and don’t hold your breath.
Laguna Beach resident Michael Ray is on the board of Laguna Beach Live.