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John Milton was an amateur.

The 17th century British intellect that penned the epic 10,000 line poem “Paradise Lost” chronicling man’s fall from grace was a lightweight compared to the California Chorus that makes the Greek Chorus of lore come across as mere mimes.

California, depending upon who is manning death watch duties, has been in deep decline now supposedly for close to six decades.

If we decline anymore real estate agents that drive Lexuses are going to be forced to trade them in for Lamborghinis.

That is not a Pollyanna utterance.

There are tons of problems in the Golden State. At times it seems the doomsdayers have won the lottery — high taxes, urban congestion, homeless issues, drought, flooding, mudslides, wildfires and, to mix things up from time-to-time, major earthquakes. Linger around long enough and one of the state’s eight active volcanoes will erupt.

Media types doing doomsday dances on cable TV talk shows swoop down like vultures whenever anything is found that can make California look like roadkill.

California has the highest number of homeless people. Queue up the funeral dirge. California is burning down, treading water, bone dry, or shaking apart. Better call an undertaker. More Californians numerically have died from COVID. The judgment day is upon us.

Not to dismiss serious issues, but given we are the most populated state by far with 39.6 million people or some 10.7 million more than the closest also ran state, it would stand to reason it numbers of “bad things” are at the top or near their when compared to the other 49 states that don’t even come close to our diversity of people and landscape.

But if you look closer, a lot of those bad counts aren’t propositional to our size. If they were we’d have 25 percent more of bad things that can be enumerated based on the fact the next closest state in population is Texas with 29 million people.

Yes, this is the first time in the California history our population has declined. And, horror of horrors, we’re going to lose a seat in Congress.

Some, of course, interpret this as California being a step away from life support.

One could safely wager that there was likely an undercount everywhere in this country due to COVID-19. There also were probably undocumented individuals that were not counted that have resided in border states like California for years.

The odds are we didn’t lose population given the officials count is California lost 182,000 residents in 2020. That said our growth is clearly slowing compared to other segments of the country.

Keep in mind California went from less than 15,000 people some 172 years ago to 12.4 million people today. During that time Los Angeles grew from a burg about the size of Linden in eastern San Joaquin County to one of the greatest cities in the world with a metro area of 12.7 million residents. And let’s not forget about San Francisco and San Diego and other cities.

I get it. It takes more than just having a lot of people to make a state great.

However, asks yourself this question: If this is hell and whatever state you want to use as your depiction of heaven, what is the lure of California?

People, they say, vote with their feet or their pocketbooks. Yes, it is expensive to live here but there are reasons people pay the price. 

And it arguably is just as expensive to live here as it is in the one state everyone may agree is a tropical paradise — Hawaii.

So why hasn’t an exodus of tectonic proportions started?

Perhaps it is the climate. Maybe it’s the unparalleled diversity of people, culture, geography, and nature. 

If you judge paradise in terms of an agrarian culture, California is indeed the land of nuts, honey, and fruit. What flows to tables from our orchards, dairies, and other farmland makes states like Nebraska that identify themselves as a farming Mecca come across as wishful thinkers.

Texas might claim things are bigger there but their tallest tree looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree compared to redwoods, the highest mountain is a mole hill compared to Mt. Whitney and their tech hubs aren’t producing “Texas” sized initial public offerings. San Jose by itself can beat Texas in that category.

This is not a knock on Texas or any other state for that matter.

It’s just after 60 years or so of California being on the death watch list of pundits and wishful politicians not plying their trade in the Pacific Time Zone, reports of California’s death have been greatly exaggerated. By the way, how many literary giants like Mark Twain has Texas inspired?

Once you look around and take in what nature and man has created within the boundaries of California, the high price we pay to live here starts making a bit of sense.

Do not misconstrue the point. Housing prices are insane and always seem to be heading out of control.

Housing costs, however, are a function of how prime the real estate is as well as the location.

It is a problem, of course, if the financial squeeze is too much. But even if you can make it work it is a waste of money if you fail to savor California.

The weather is great most of the time. The call of the wild can be satisfied with mountains, beaches, deserts, a vast ocean, a delta, lakes, and rivers. 

And if you’re more cosmopolitan, San Francisco and Los Angeles await although to be honest cities in California significantly smaller than either SF or LA are more diverse than the largest cities in many other states.

Yes, all good things must come to an end. But the final curtain for California is not around the corner given our tendency to re-invent ourselves as we become a smoothie as opposed to a stew passed off as a melting pot.

As declines go, California on its worst day is a heck of a lot more vibrant than other political divisions at their zenith.

Paradise may be lost as far as Milton was concerned.

But the epic story that is California — state of mind and otherwise — is still being written.