Everyone I told “We’re taking a trip to La Jolla, California,” had the same response.
“I love La Jolla. The weather is ideal, the scenery is beautiful, and the restaurants are top notch. It’s paradise.” A friend said, years ago, after returning from a business trip to La Jolla, “If I lived there I would never get anything done. It’s always so beautiful that I’d want
When we arrived my first impression was everyone seems so healthy and physically fit. Wherever I went I had to jump out of the way of bikers, dash aside for joggers, and scoot off from power-walkers. People are slim, trim, energetic.
Styles are distinct. Never have I seen so many tattoos on all manner and ages of people. Not just subtle little rosebuds on shoulders, but body engulfing colorful designs on whole arms and legs. “Do body colors clash when friends go out together?” I wondered.
Dogs are very much in vogue: most people have a couple of them lying around the house. They provide dog parks, dog beaches, and dog novelty shops for their pets. I overheard someone ask her friend, “What’s your dog wearing for Halloween?”
On cross streets, drivers politely wait while pedestrians walk in front of them, crossing streets free from traffic lights or signs. The city must save tons of money in electricity bills that traffic lights would cost. After a few days of walking along ocean beaches and through hilly streets of town I was beginning to feel fit too, not to mention relaxed and mellow. Maybe this really was paradise.
And then things changed.
We were walking back from “Cody’s,” a small cafe where we stopped for breakfast. The sidewalk was quite steep. As I looked up ahead I saw a figure walking fitfully, having trouble with his balance. He occasionally tipped toward the figure walking next to him. The hill was not slippery, but he was having difficulty maneuvering his way down. A sudden glint of metal appeared as we approached, and we were startled to recognize that he was wearing two prosthetic legs. As we came closer we saw a boyish face that had not yet known the experience of shaving cream and a razor.Then came the next shock; Behind him was another young man wearing the same prosthetic legs as the first one. He was walking quite well without anyone’s help. When we saw the third amputee we knew this scene meant something unusual. I heard someone say:
“Good luck in the Triathlon on Sunday.”
Back at the hotel I learned that we were witnessing the arrival of United States’ Service wounded athletes, there to compete in the annual Challenged Athletes Triathlon of La Jolla. It consists of a one mile swim, .44 bike race and a 10 mile run.
The courage I witnessed that day went straight to my heart. The brave, struggling young servicemen allowed me to see first hand the tragedies that war leaves behind.
What a coincidence that the passionate anti-war governor from South Dakota, George McGovern died the same day we returned home. He flew bomber fighter planes during WWII, and said “No hell could be as painful as war.” He was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and a critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knew firsthand the kinds of tragedies war leaves behind.
Even Paradise has its limits.