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by Tumbleweed Smith

We went to San Francisco to celebrate our grandson Aiden's first birthday. The house was decorated in a Bob the Builder theme. Colorful Bob the Builder balloons, hard hats, napkins, plates and glasses were on the table. Aiden's three-year-old brother Max had some friends of his over for the party. When it came time to serve the cake, everybody crowded around Aiden's high chair to watch him eat a cupcake and get chocolate all over his face. He did it well.

The weather was perfect. It had been cloudy and rainy the previous two days, but on Saturday, the day of the party, the sun came out and the kids were able to go outside. They banged away at a Bob the Builder pi'ata suspended from a tree limb in the back yard. Despite numerous tries from the youngsters and some adults, the pi'ata held fast. The yellow and blue crepe paper on the outside was torn and tattered, but the goodies inside were protected by some hard cardboard. It was finally opened with a mighty swing from one of the mothers who had some softball experience. Candy spilled out and kids scrambled to pick it up.

California folks are laid back, I must say. The party was to last from 10 AM to noon. Parents and their kids started arriving around 11:30 and stayed until nearly 5 o'clock. Time doesn't seem too important to folks in California.

My son BZ and his family live in a real neighborhood with lots of kids. Most of the guests at the party walked over because parking is a problem due to all the cars on the street. Hardly anybody uses garages for vehicles. That's where they keep their stuff.

Halloween decorations were still up in houses all over the neighborhood. One of the houses has been for sale for sometime and has been turned into a halfway house for people who are recovering from mental disorders. One of the women who live in the house is making all sorts of pumpkin items: pies, cakes, bread, cookies, and even pumpkin potato chips.

The house where she lives has some of the best decorations on the block. On Halloween night, kids flocked to her house for trick or treat. She ran out of goodies. Later, when the doorbell rang, she cheerfully greeted the kids, but told them how sorry she was that she had run out of treats. Kids, ages three to six, when they heard she didn't have any candy or cookies, started giving her some. It was that way a good part of the evening. You just don't hear many stories like that. But it happened in California.

When we took a walk around the neighborhood, my son took us to a hillside around the corner from his house. A brand new 4-story house is gradually sliding down the hill, threatening the houses below. It was built for speculation. When the owner realized it was a liability, he left town and hasn't been located. The house is in the process of being demolished.

California sure is an interesting place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

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