October 22, 2005

Going To California

"Going to California. It is only three thousand miles nearer to hell...". -- Thoreau, in one of his crankier moods.

Going to California never meant living the California Dream, or self-reinvention, or any of those other cliches for me when I came here the first time. In fact back then I couldn't have told you what the "Californian Dream" was, I couldn't have cared less about self-reinvention, and I really didn't know much about California at all. It was just another part of America, one which supposedly had beaches, smog, cars, Disneyland, and a big city called Los Angeles somewhere. I knew from high school that its state capital was Sacramento, but I had no idea where Sacramento actually was, and had absolutely no idea about things like the state's geography or culture, etc. And why should I?

Rather, coming here meant feeling the sun on the back of my neck for the first time after all those grey years in London; it meant an unexpected landscape of desert, mountain, and coastline that's always made me feel deeply at home (I still remember flying into L.A. for the first time mid-winter and seeing the snow-capped San Gabriels towering up in the blue skies behind the city and the palm trees and thinking "I had no idea..."); it meant a place where possibility was taken for granted in ways that felt good after being ground down by London's "just say no" culture; and it meant a racial and cultural diversity that was both real and reassuring. It felt like coming home.

And it meant a personal relationship that bloomed (and then ended abruptly) that brought me here more permanently, and that started me on the track to becoming some sort of Californian, a good three thousand miles further from hell...


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