When living in a blue state, we can only dream of freedom

What's it like, living in the saner parts of the country?  I think about it.  There's a reason everyone with a shred of motivation is leaving California.  I imagine living without the level of paranoia about COVID that is exhibited by people who mask their children outdoors and scurry away from being too close to others on the sidewalk.

I imagine being able to go to a local restaurant without entering masked and, instead, simply sitting down to dine.  I imagine planning a meal out without worrying whether I'll even be allowed in the door — I will never, ever show anyone a vaccine passport, nor will I financially contribute to any restaurant that requires them.  This means there are entire cities where I won't dine.  Neighborhood restaurants that chose to require the passport have lost my family as customers.

I imagine not being in fear in the 'hood, enough fear that I can't carry a purse and that I walk my neighborhood alertly, watching for approaching vehicles that might carry people who will jump out and attack me, as has happened to so many around here.  We've even had a neighbor get her passenger window broken and purse stolen while she was in the process of parking her car.  I try to look hyper-vigilant, so thieves don't knock me over and try to steal my phone, which is all I ever carry.  I am even more vigilant when I venture into Chinatown, given the number of shootings and the knock-down violence that has been a regular occurrence there.

I imagine not having to drive past great swaths of garbage every time I leave home, left by the roadside, masking the hovels amidst it.  The "unhoused" have become adept at inhabiting every freeway-side piece of land that can be gotten to from a parallel street and every underpass, too, not to mention the public parks, which were once places children played.

Image: Leaving California sign.  Internet meme; unknown creator.

I imagine not having to keep my car locked while I drive, for fear of the ubiquitous homeless person at the corner, by the traffic light, or sitting in the median by the left-turn lane with a sign, begging.  I remember the day I was waiting for the green arrow, in that left turn lane, and had country music on — it was last summer, and my window was down.  The guy jumped up from his perch, ran at me, screaming, "Turn that s--- off!" and spat in my face.  Now I have pepper spray right there, at arm's length, ready to employ.  I keep my doors locked, windows closed, in the hope that I won't need it.

I imagine not having to breathe through a mask every time I step indoors in a public place.  I imagine exercising at my gym without the joke of having a mask on.  We did have one month from mid-May to mid-June when the mask mandate was repealed.  Now about 90% of my gym-mates wear theirs under their noses, but we all have to play the game.

I joined a gym in a less upscale part of town, because it didn't mandate a vaccine passport, as my old one decided to do, and the mask-up rule was (at least partially) disregarded.  We can't be too blatant.  Taking it off altogether...not acceptable.  All of us, except for those who choose to keep theirs up, wear ours over only our mouths and chins.  I can at least breathe that way.

My mask is always soaking wet because, when I work out, I go hard.  I sweat.  Isn't that supposed to be a signal that the mask won't do its job?  The CDC website's mask guidance says that if the mask gets wet, you're supposed to change it.  How many would I go through in my two-hour workout?  Ten?  Twenty?  For that matter, how many would a child need to get through the school day, given that children touch them constantly and play outside in masks?

I imagine a life somewhere else, where I don't feel as if I'm in a box with no opening, and only barely enough oxygen to breathe free.  I think about other places, where I wouldn't have to guard my words around the ubiquitously leftist populace.  I imagine having a conversation with a person I didn't know well, without having to bite my tongue.  I also imagine a state government that has a primary goal of helping its citizens live well.  And all I can say in California is "ha, ha, ha, the joke's on all of us."

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