If everybody had an ocean
Across the U. S. A.
Then everybody'd be surfin'
Like Californi-a....Beach Boys
For a devoted, black wearing, walker who only got her license at 20 I have always been fascinated by the whole California lifestyle. I should clarify; I was highly attracted to the beautiful blonde, perfect weather, cool Beach Boy music southern with the intellectual beat poet northern end of California that I had seen, read about and listened to about the state. When I was looking for colleges I asked my Mom if that was an option....that guilty conversation was only topped by the one later that we had when I moved there in my twenties. So college was in the NY, and that was right for me, as was grad school but the pull was still there. I just knew Cali and I were meant to be. I was done with winters, alternate side of the street parking and having to drive an hour to get to the beach....so off on vacation I went to sunny California.
Did it deter me or change my mind that San Francisco, first leg of our trip, was umm....cold in July ??? Nope. Did it make me question my presumptions when San Francisco for all it's "love man love" lore turned out to be more segregated than New York ever was? Nope. I saw the winding streets, the beauty of the natural wonders like Muir Woods with it's massive redwoods, the super good looking Golden Gate bridge and thought oh yeah...this is better than movies! My traveling companions included 2 girlfriends and Gary (at the time s close friend) and we stayed at the coolest little boutique hotel right near the Ritz Carlton in San Fran proper. We saw really good bands in out of the way dark bars, which were very similar to the dark bars of music lovers in NY but they were in California so dubbed "cooler than anything else" by me until my first wrinkling of the nose. They took my drink at 1:45am ...yes the drink that this girl on budget had just bought. New York Queens trumped the wanna be queen waiter from San Francisco, got my drink and (take that) I was done by 2am when they closed...what's up with that closing at 2??? However, this was vacation and I was in my mecca...my calling...my - oh yeah I was smitten.
Gary went home and the girls and I continued south. Now if you have not yet ever done the coastal highway from North to South you are missing a phenomenal driving experience ...cliff with ocean views on one side, majestic mountains on the other. Yosemite was breathtaking, the drive up to it bit death defying...but we were in our twenties and laughed at the thought that we could get hurt. The ticket on the side road for being, swallow, 40 miles over what I thought the speed limit was, with a cop who brought out in us all bad made for tv movies about being locked up in small town jails...but who in retrospect was quite nice for not arresting us which is what he was supposed to do (the fine is still the heftiest I have ever paid). Then stop...dead freaking stop! Chemical spill on the highway, outside of Santa Barbara...LA within our grasp but not. Now for a state where you need a car to do anything why oh why would you not build service or side roads? When I queried this, with my most annoyed voice, of a gas station attendant all I got was "from New York right?"...so we stayed in Santa Barbara. Now that is exactly the way I pictured California...little beach town, blondes all over and lots of white teeth....my inner New York complain, roll eye, get cynical, where are the multitudes was beginning to edge out amongst this postcard stop (though still one of my fave places in CA). Off to LA we went the next day...nothing popped my California bubble like LA. The traffic, the fact that you really did have to drive everywhere because people told you directions to drive even when your destination was a block away, the beeping as I paralel parked (instead of pulling into a spot), the need to clean our car constantly (or so advised by our doorman at the hotel who said our car - a cheap rental mind you- was "us" in this town), the ocean water too cold to do much in, and most of all the non-city urban sprawl it turned out to be. We had a blast and we made cruel comments about the vacuous ridiculousness of the town and by day 2 we even found things we liked about it, after all the beach thing and the weather were hard to beat. We left LA and touched down on New York soil, got pushed at the airport, treated without any respect by employess at JFK, inhaled some serious New York summer stank and knew we were all glad to be home. California and I were not done with one another though .....
I'd be safe and warm
(I'd be safe and warm)
if I was in L.A.
(If I was in L.A.)
(California dreamin') on such a winter's day....the Mamas & the Papas