It's been almost three months since I uprooted a lifetime in Bergen County and headed to Malibu, California or as my GPS calls it, "Maleeboo" with an accent on the second syllable.
It took me practically 69 years to heed the advice of Horace Greeley, who urged all, "Go west young man, go west," but it wasn't the lure of gold that brought me to the west coast but rather my two children, Kate and Isaac, both of whom live in L.A. Family has always trumped everything else. I can see my kids any time I want now, and that sure beats a six-hour plane ride.
Moving is never easy and a cross-country move is especially trying emotionally. Going from being a relatively well-known person to a life of anonymity and to a world of the unfamiliar makes me appreciate more what millions of immigrants go through.
My friends back home think my living in Malibu is about the funniest thing they have ever heard. "Burt Ross in Malibu," they laugh hysterically overcome by the humor of it all. They are actually taking bets on how long I can last here. Some friends don't even give me six months. I hope they're wrong.
My friends who really know me understand I am about as deep Jersey as anybody can be. Bruce Springsteen and Tony Soprano have nothing on me. Bergen County was home my entire life with the exception of my school years. I lived in three adjacent towns-Teaneck, Fort Lee, and Englewood, and I know them like the back of my hand. My folks are buried in Paramus.
I had my barmitzvah at the Teaneck Jewish Community Center. Jersey will always be my home and in California I might as well be a foreigner.
When the folks out here meet me they figure out my roots in a second. My accent is a dead give-away, but it's far more than that. I am a fish out of water in Malibu.
For one thing, people are far too friendly out here. Just the other day I was shopping at the supermarket and trying to find where the turkey sausages were hiding. Three store personnel rushed to my aid as if I were suffering a stroke and practically fought with one another for the honor of escorting me to the right location. This kind of unfamiliar behavior causes me to break out in a rash.
Everything is different here, even the language. Back home people might wish you a "nice day," but Californians from this neck of the woods insist on wishing me "an awesome day." Actually everything is "awesome."
I tell a neighbor I am going to the dentist and the response is (you guessed it) "awesome." I haven't a clue what is awesome about having my teeth cleaned.
The food and restaurants are different here also. First of all, there are almost no overweight people in Malibu and no morbidly obese people are allowed on the streets. I believe the town has the equivalent of a dog pound and if a citizen has too much tummy or butt they are whisked off to an unknown location until the pounds are shed.
There are no diners here. I'm not talking about some faux eating establishment with the word "diner" attached, but the real thing with a Greek standing by the cash register. I had breakfast the other day at what they call a diner, and there were no salt and pepper shakers on any of the tables. To make matters worse, the eggs came without toast. You've got to be kidding. Everything is served with fruit or vegetables and you can't get away from avocados if your life depended on it. They serve it on eggs, meat, and they'll plop it on a salmon if you allow them.
I hit my low point when I tried to find a barber. No such thing. First, we don't have barbers here. We have hair stylists. I don't have enough hair to be styled anymore. A friend recommended a hair stylist named Barry but when I called to make an appointment, I was shocked to find that Barry was a woman named Bari. She was considerably taller and more muscular than I am and, although perfectly competent, scared the living avocado out of me. Where is my Italian barber Salvatore Bagica when I need him?
I have to go right now. I will report back next week. In the meantime, I need to watch the avocados grow in my back yard, and that is awesome!