I love lazy West Coast mornings. Waking up after a full 8 hrs of sleep and still having 3 hrs to sip coffee and read the paper before going to work feels wonderful. I realize that this is only because I am still on Central time, but please let me live in the fantasy that all mornings in CA start this way, just like the weather is always sunny and warm.
Coming here in the dead of a Minnesota winter can be intoxicating. It would be so easy to get tricked by the dream of California. Not California as an actual place, but as a myth of America. This is the archetypal promised land. All progress and manifest destiny is supposed to end here under glittering California stars. I was thinking about this as we sat outdoors at a bar last night watching a hockey game. Sitting around a faux campfire drinking expensive microbrews I thought, "this is the land of make believe". We can pretend to be anything in a place like this, and who could argue? California is a place without a past.
Except that it isn’t.
Before I left lil Miss 20 Prospect asked me why all the cities in California start with San. So I explained the history of Spanish settlement, and how the US eventually stole it away from Mexico. Then I thought, hmmm when was the last time you heard anyone mention that when the debate over immigration or Spanish speaking comes up?
Which made me remember that California, like America is not a place without a past. It is a place without memory.
Walking home last night we passed a drunk, staggering back and forth across the sidewalk. There beneath the palm trees, and shiny modern restaurants of downtown San Jose, he stepped into the doorway of a building, and started relieving himself against the door as we passed shaking our heads and pretending not to notice. I couldn’t help but think there was a metaphor in there somewhere trying to grab our attention, as we circled around him and continued on our way to the shiny high rise hotel in the distance.
Welcome to California.