True stories with a twist!

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

to be outside all the time.”      

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.


  1. Ronnie, thank you very much for visiting my blog. I’m so happy to have “met” you.

    I haven’t been to La Jolla, but it sounds wonderful. Also, I enjoyed this post because, as a relatively new transplant in the DC area, I have become much more aware of and gained such a great deal more respect for our service men and women – particularly those who benefit from the great work by the Wounded Warrior Project and are such an inspiration as they overcome the challenges in their lives resulting from serving and protecting our country.

    Also, I was so happy to see comments from my blogging buddies Charles and Judy (it’s a small blogging world, after all!); and I spent 10 days in Korea a few years ago as an “ambassador” for my church, so am looking forward to visiting “Kimchi, One Day at a Time!”

    I hope you and yours are safe in NJ, and Sandy doesn’t wreak havoc for you. Stay safe!

    • Thanks for visiting; it’s great to have you aboard. Yes, isn’t it interesting how many bloggers cross match with other bloggers. I guess that means that writers enjoy reading other good writers’ work.

      Hurricane Sandy knocked down a few trees, including the one in front of our front door, ruined our deer fence in back and rearranged some live electric wires on our front lawn, but nothing undoable.

  2. Why is this event not front and center on the news then. Because the powers that be, and the contractors that lead them about, do not want wars to stop.If wars cost piles of money, who is the money going TO. They are not burning bank notes on camp fires. If people saw this event they would cry out for their armies to stay home and protect their own. Putting these boys out there in harms way in foreign climes is not right, never has been. Protecting your own borders is one thing but this carnage is quite another. oops pressed a button there .. sorry. I just cannot bear seeing these kids shipped off then brought back in bits. It makes me spit. oh dear there I go again. sorry ronnie, i will stop now.. what a strong and tough subject you brought up. Lets advertise this triathlon! c

    • beautifully said, cell. i totally agree. the whole subject turns me into a warmonger against those who perpetuate these armed conflicts. but they’ve been going on all through history, and man never learns. george bernard shaw said; THE ONLY THING WE LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE IS THAT WE NEVER LEARN ANYTHING FROM EXPERIENCE.

  3. I was starting to miss California awhile ago, since we just had our first snowfall today. What an insightful post, Ronnie. 🙂

  4. The weather, which allows for year round adaptive training, is part of the paradise of Cali. I am so glad you had only good hearted encounters while here. Your post helps remind me that amidst our “California crazy” we are still, on the whole, a decent lot. Thank you.

  5. Great post, Ronnie. It sounds like you experienced a lot more than good weather in La Jolla.

  6. Our culture glorifies war, Ronnie, and every president seems to need at least one military victory to secure a safe place in the history books. It’s nice to know not everyone thinks that way. Great post.

  7. I’d LOVE to be in La Jolla right now. Cool post!

  8. I shared with Ronnie, the abrupt change from paradise to the unbearably painful sight of young servicemen without arms or legs.At that moment I thought of Milton’s ” Paradise Lost”

  9. Jerry Warshaw said:

    Wonderful piece from tattoo’s clashing colors to George McGovern who I knew fairly well. (We sat on the same board for about 20 years- met quarterly, so we had about 80 lunches together.) I always thought if he were able to transfer the enormous charm exhibited in small groups to his public persona, he would have done much better in national elections.
    In fact, he could have used you Ronnie, as a coach.

  10. Really enjoyed this – thanks

  11. Another wonderful blog Ronnie. Makes one think twice when complaining about our aches and pains.

  12. What a fantastic post… been through a border war and the tragic results are indescribable… love this post…

  13. what an excellent post my friend!

  14. Beautiful post, Ronnie. We all need to be reminded of things like this to keep the world in proper perspective. We seem to be missing a lot of that these days.

  15. That is one amazing post, very soul-uplifting. Thank you so much, Ronnie. Many blessings and much love to you. 🙂

    Subhan Zein

  16. Total admiration for these guys – amazing. On the hand, a town full of tattoed joggers is another form of total hell:)

    • Very funny! We all know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” so perhaps we should not judge a jogger by his tattoo.

  17. George McGovern is certainly an icon from a different era.
    An amputee passed me on one of our bike rides- no holding him back. They are amazing people.

  18. Enjoyed your visit and your comments, Ronnie. Thanks to the shoutout to George McGovern. Some critics put him down for his opposition to the Vietnam War. Interesting that some of the same critics never served active duty in a war zone. If they had, they might have had a different attitude about the “glories” of war.

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