From a hotel room in San jose


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.

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35 thoughts on “From a hotel room in San jose

  1. Welcome indeed. Just for kicks last week I sent off a resume for a job opening in San Francisco, or Santa Clara to be exact. Part of me couldn’t really see picking up and moving across country (no, not because I love these Minnesota winters) but might as well see what it’s about.

    After all there is a price for everything!

    SD
    http://www.TheSimpleDude.com

  2. I get to see California very soon. There was a period where relocating to there from Canada was a very real possibility, but now… not so much.

    I am curious to see what it’s all about. Maybe see Catalina Island. Maybe the Disney place that is there (you know, grown up, mature things).

    Hope the microbrew was good!

  3. As soon as you typed the words “Except that is isn’t” dark ominous music began to play and swollen rainclouds dropped a half inch of water on my head without notice.

    Don’t be down on California just because one fella decided to take a whizz in a public place! Why yesterday I saw not one but TWO people staggering around with their pants around their ankles looking for spare change.

    It takes all kinds to make a place interesting.

  4. Hey Tom,

    Ah, another long comment. They just come out that way sometimes, sorry, but, for what it’s worth…

    Having been born and raised in California and being from many generations of Californians on both sides of the family, I usually find other people’s takes on California strangely askew. I think the population has been doubling every twenty years or so. That means its a place full of people who are not from here. Hence discordant memories.

    My great, great grandfather—according to my great grandmother, who was often called a “Mexican”—would tell you that California was never a part of Mexico—it was a part of Spain, Grandfather Lucessi (he was Italian by birth), and every Spanish loyalist here (which was every Spanish speaker) went into instant revolt against Mexico when California was ceded to Mexico in a back room deal with Spain. Mexico never collected a single tax nor enforced a single law. “Part of Mexico?” On a disputed piece of paper only.

    Memories indeed.

    Also, you’re in San Jose. That’s South Bay, and the people are kinda uptight there. It changes in Berkeley and San Francisco, gets worse in LA (though they put on a big show of being laid-back), and lightens up again in the Central Valley, so think Californias—with an “s.”

    Also, the weather sucks now—gray and rainy in the central valley.

  5. I recall 20 years ago sitting on a patio outside a restaurant in Laguna Beach, ignoring a salesman as I drank his margarita and watched the sun drop over the far edge of the Pacific – thinking, god this would be great place to live if you were wealthy. I’m not, so I don’t.

    • Yeah, I turned down a promotion that would have required a move out here. Even with the raise we’d have gone backwards in terms of standard of living.

  6. Every country has those skeletons in the closet that cause nervous laughter and sudden, violent memory loss. I think we’re still so baby fresh compared to the rest of the world that our memory is conveniently short. Hell, I don’t think we even have control of our neck muscles yet!

  7. Native Californian here… I have been all over this state… and it’s really a matter of taste. The funny thing is, MOST of the people that live here, are from somewhere else as Richard stated above. The California’s should definitely be a reality. Sadly though, your experience can be found all over the California’s. Cheers!

    • I would love to see the US go back to a confederation of tiny, local, manageable states. How can a place as diverse as California even begin to agree on government? Democracy only works when it is human scaled.

  8. California is a dream, an idea? Just read another “sky is falling column” from Paul Farrell which would indicate the whole thing is a conspiracy – a dream controlled by Bernake and Wall Street. As Cali goes, so does America?

  9. It is nice to travel west for the early jetlag-induced wake ups. When in Seattle one summer, I had accomplished so much by 8 a.m., I was in awe of myself.

    Beautiful words in this post.

  10. It’s funny you called out the juxtaposition. Just read an article on the homeless people living underground in LAS. And talk about parts of United States being Spanish speaking from way back when: San Antonio and other parts of Texas.

  11. I don’t care what you say, California is my dream destination. By dream destination I mean when I go to sleep and have that fucked up dream, Mann’s Chinese Theatre is always one of the buildings in the city my mind creates, as is The Roosevelt and a strange portion of the Gaslamp District of San Diego.

  12. shhhhh, i believe in make believe. and glittering stars. and the promised land. i’m headed there someday (ready shawn?). and when that dude pisses on my head, i’ll be sure it’s only raining.

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