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From over here

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Editor's note: Al Fonzi recently relocated to Tennessee, and New Times is looking for a new SLO County-based Rhetoric and Reason contributor who sees things from a moderate to conservative political perspective. Interested? Reach out to the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

This year is a bit different for us. We recently left California permanently for the most eastern part of Tennessee. Driving 2,400 miles in two cars with two labrador retrievers and three cats was interesting, but I'd rather not repeat the experience anytime soon. The weather was good until the last day when we hit a storm that wreaked havoc on tractor-trailer rigs on both sides of Interstate 40. It was also the day our tomcat decided he'd had enough and proceeded to systematically empty his litter box all over the back of the car.

While we've moved many times in the military, including multiple cross-country road trips, it's been 28 years since we made such a major move. Families tend to accumulate a lot of stuff over time, and being infected with the pack-rat gene made it all the worse. Everything arrived reasonably intact, but a lot of it remains in a large mound inside the garage. The cars are temporarily exiled to the driveway, so of course the weather has turned cold (in the low to mid-20s). Nevertheless, we are gradually transitioning to a new life, although my wife still retains her illegal alien status as a California resident. Tennessee has adopted the real-ID program, and hospital birth certificates are worthless, as are expired U.S. passports, to prove citizenship. For 49 years I was certain Roberta was an American citizen, but Tennessee isn't convinced. Until she provides an official government document that isn't expired proof of her citizenship, they won't grant her a state driver's license.

On the bright side, we went into the county clerk's office and registered three cars with our choice of customized plates in under 30 minutes and at less expense than it would have cost me to register my 24-year-old pickup truck in California. Everything seems to cost less here: I filled up my gas tank for less than $3 a gallon, and overall the cost of living is about 40 percent less than California. That was the primary driving factor for leaving, especially when factoring in that it isn't likely to get better in California as one ages. There's also much less government regulation: They still burn their leaves in backyards, much the same as when I was a kid, which was too long ago to remember.

There are cultural adjustments to make—Trump hats are a popular fashion item, and I've acquired a new nickname of "buddy." I'm not too fond of the latter moniker as I once wrote an editorial titled, "Don't call me dude," referring to teenage waiters who are convinced that I'm really just another skateboard peer, gray hair and a ballcap recalling veteran status from a war 50 years past notwithstanding. On the other hand, even young people here are very respectful and patriotic as after referring to me as "buddy," they never fail to thank me for my military service and mean it. It's a big change from that West Coast indifference to most things related to military service.

The area I've moved to in Tennessee played a major role in the Revolutionary War, its local militia providing the bulk of the military force that defeated the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain, turning the course of the Revolutionary War in favor of the Americans. The British commander threatened to lay waste to their community and hang all the colonials. They met the British at Kings Mountain and virtually annihilated the British force, turning the course of the war in the South against the British. The people here know their history and are justifiably proud of their heritage, with many family linages traceable to the Revolution. Patriotism is a way of life here, and they live up to their state motto of being the "Volunteer State." They received this honor from fellow Americans during the Mexican War. When asked to provide 2,800 volunteers, Tennessee provided 30,000.

Making the move east again was hard. It's hard to leave familiar places and faces, but it was a move we had to make. We won't miss the politics and name-calling of the "woke" West Coast. People celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas here, wish each other "Merry Christmas" without hesitation or fear of offending someone. Thanksgiving isn't controversial as a holiday, and history isn't distorted in the schools into an anti-American diatribe. The hardships faced by the Pilgrims were real, driven by their zeal to seek out a land where they could live by their conscious and practice their faith without fear of persecution. Half of them died within three months of their arrival, and by the first Thanksgiving a year later, only four married women remained alive.

Many of the people here descend from colonial pioneers and are proud of their heritage. We consider ourselves privileged to join them. As for writing for the New Times, we still have deep connections to SLO County and many fond memories, so I will continue to write, with a distant perspective, as long I'm permitted. Merry Christmas! Δ

Al Fonzi had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Respond with a letter to the editor emailed to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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