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Facing the Perils in Paradise

There is a place beyond imagination and beyond the rattle of the inner city, beyond the housing tracts of suburbia and even beyond the relatively distant semi-wilderness in areas around Los Angeles known informally as exurbia. We call that settlement of heavenly dreams Nowherebia.

It is an area that the soul yearns for on those days that freeway traffic is jammed bumper to bumper from the ocean to the desert where crime is on the rise, where tract houses of the same architecture are lined up wall to wall with the gray consistency of prison cells, and where the cost of everything from butter to beer keeps edging upward.

Nowherebia is regarded both as a paradise and as a primitive relic of the Old West, where pioneers lived in log cabins, chopped wood for the fireplace and suffered unspoken indignities when their septic tanks broke down. Even so, it is becoming the land that retirees dream of.

The paradise part of it includes the starry nights without streetlights or the glare of a million homes blurring the celestial view of the stargazers; a peace unknown in the yelling, siren-screaming, horn-honking calamity of that urban stew called the City; and the ability to walk a dog through the woods without being mugged for your shoes, your watch or the $3 in your wallet.

I live in Topanga, a canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains north of L.A. that is both Nowherebia and maybe Extrurbia, with many of the elements that create a Garden of Eden, but also a lot of the dangers and nuisances of which prospective homeowners must be informed.

Informing them is my job.

For instance, my wife is at this very moment in the hospital due to some nasty little creature that bit and infected her. I did not bite her, but the doctors who hovered about don't know what did. Just "something." If there is an antibiotic for unlisted biters, that is what she is getting. I think it was either a black widow or a brown recluse spider or, well, something else. 

Mountain lion

That isn't all. We also have rattlesnakes in abundance, one of which bit our dog on the nose recently; mountain lions, two of which were photographed killing deer; coyotes and owls that carry off and eat your dog or cat; black bears that bask in your hot tub or trash your kitchen (not in Topanga but nearby);  and a whole army of bobcats, raccoons, possums, killer bees, ticks and rats. The areas of Nowherebia are also prone to brush fires and flash floods, which represent a whole new danger.

But hey, retiree, if you're up to all that, welcome to the wilderness. Let me know if you still like it when the septic tank backs up and a spider bites you on the ass.

Photo: Carlos Bustamante Restrepo/Flickr


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