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by Tumbleweed Smith

I travel to California a lot to see my son BZ and his family. My wife and I drive out there occasionally and visit some coastal areas along the way. It is a beautiful state where you can go skiing in the morning and swim outdoors that afternoon. We've traveled all over the state and find it to be a great place to visit.

My son owns a recording studio and composes music for movies and television. His hourly rate for studio time is extremely reasonable. He is lightning fast and the musicians he records really appreciate that. They would be paying for a lot more studio time somewhere else. BZ's fingers fly over his computer keyboard.

BZ lives in a 4-story house that has some unique architectural features like high ceilings and lots of glass. The view from his third floor living room is spectacular, looking down on a forest of tall redwood and eucalyptus trees. I've often said his neighborhood looks like a national park, with scenic winding roadways and steep hills.

BZ, his wife Margaret and their two sons live in a suburb of Oakland named Montclair. There is a larger city near Los Angeles with the same name, but has nothing to do with this little village of Montclair. I'm not sure it is even on the map. To me, it is the ideal community. It seems to be just the right size. Most of the stores are locally owned and the owner is there to wait on you. The village does have franchise grocery and drug stores. There is no McDonalds, but you can find food from several ethnic groups. Many boutique shops offer books, toys, jewelry, cameras, ice cream, chocolates, cheeses, wines and more. It's amazing the variety of merchandise you can find in such a small place.

One of the stores I visit every time I'm in Montclair is McCaulou's department store. It has the latest clothing and shoes for the whole family, but the service is old-fashioned friendly. The store has a comfortable atmosphere.

On Sundays some downtown streets are closed to accommodate a farmer's market that offers produce, fish, bakery items, pasta and more. Sunday afternoons, many residents sit outdoors at sidewalk cafes, have a drink and watch the passing parade.

To me the best part of Montclair is the two-mile walking path that leads from BZ's house into the village. Huge tree trunks rise from the ground at unusual angles, and the terrain has interesting canyons, perpetually green with undergrowth and groundcover. Houses are nestled into the wooded hillsides.

Flowers. Blossoms. Every shape, color and texture imaginable. Things that grow small here in Texas grow great big in California. Some yield beautiful blossoms and even grow exotic fruit.

I love living in Texas. I was born and raised here and it is my home. But if I had to live in California, I'd have to live in Montclair Village.

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