Identity in a state of conflict

How much of your identity is rooted in geography? I’m from California, a place with a mythology so strong that reality can’t struggle its way into mattering, and it has a profound connection my own identity, whether I will it to or not. Stella’s recent posts about the United States, and Tim’s subsequent comments about California as the sort of extremest version of that, have got me thinking about my relationship to the state–why it is that though I’ve lived here for almost all of my memorable life, I’m still susceptible to the myth of it, the “blue heaven” of fruits and sunshine and surf and cliffs. That’s partially because that all really exists—but. It exists alongside endless dreary strip malls, cinderblock-walled wide-lane roads, lumbering “off-road vehicles” that never leave the asphalt, words like “Inland Empire” and “Southland,” people with fake boobs and way too much money who have never heard the word “no”–you know all these clichés, and they too are truer than you’d ever believe. So why do I balk at the idea of living in any other state, even though I feel deep envy for the residents of Seattle and Manhattan, Portland and Brooklyn, London and Barcelona and Berlin? What is it about this here place that all these years of critical observation have still blinded me to?

Well, for starters, there was San Diego in the ‘70s in the summer in the sun, pretty idyllic when you’re looking back through a lens of distance and nostalgia. My San Diego was people riding their bikes along the boardwalk, in front of grassy parks that met the beach; it was the annual Over-the-Line tournament on Fiesta Island, weeknight beach bonfires in high school, and a half-inch of rain a year but never a single degree over 75. Terry cloth shorts and OP shirts were the universal uniform (though I doubt that was just a California thing). The boys in my classes had bright white eyelids, from surfing so much that their skin tanned dark everywhere but there (well, and under their Birdwell’s Beach Britches). I was never a suntan-on-the-beach bikini girl (shocker), but I did get a boogie board for 9th grade graduation and planned to add scags just to make it look cooler (and so I could say “scags”). Afternoons and evenings, we hung out (okay, made out) in the redwood hot tubs in people’s backyards; they were always slightly fuzzy from the algae that grew on the soft wooden seat. The Beach Boys played at the Padres’ home opener every year to signal the kickoff of summer. I’d no sooner move away than shovel snow or put a recyclable in the trash. What was I, nuts?

Eventually, though, I zoomed out a little; in the ‘80s I was at Berkeley instead, which naturally and gloriously reshaped all my ideals about what it meant to be a Californian. Suddenly I understood why we had this liberal reputation as a state, and despite (or because of) my Reaganized, sanitized background, I liked how this new identity smelled, and I never really headed back. Those grimy protesters on Sproul Plaza cowed me at first, but they had me by the time I graduated. (“U.C.! USA! Out of South Africa!” was the “Hell, no, we won’t go” of the ‘80s, and I learned the word “divestment”.) Telegraph Avenue and the campus were crawling with regulars—the Naked Guy, the Bubble Lady, the Space-age Woman who played a Casio in flashing antennae, the guy who bellowed Beatles songs along with his Walkman (only he could hear the accompaniment) and handed out meticulously crafted flyers about how Stephen King and Mark David Chapman are the same person. The scary lady whose message, “Ms. Cat will be calling you!” was scrawled on every payphone in the city and who sometimes was on the other end when you picked one up, the shirtless guy who roamed the streets roaring nothing but “RARE!”—if you were there back then, you know exactly who I’m talking about. They might have intimidated me at first—they didn’t exactly have homeless people in suburban San Diego—but in just a few years I was stealing food from the sororities to give away on the way to school.

It’s not the crippling mental illness of the brutally impoverished homeless that was the draw for me, seductive though that may sound—seriously, it was what the experimentalism of their different identities seemed to signify, and the fact that as troubling as their situations revealed our government to be, they were humored and sometimes respected by most residents rather than scapegoated and ghettoized. (I imagine they might disagree, but at least I didn’t hear them derided by anyone. More like they were local heroes.) I like about Northern California what I like about Vermont: the hippie liberal supertolerant mentality, the sense that if you’re not living communally and thinking globally, you deserve the contempt of society. I know how repugnant that sounds, but try living in Southern California and you’ll crave a smidge of that holier-than-youguys, self-righteous liberalism. Vermont, though, is way too rural for me, progressive though it is. Berkeley’s washed-up ex-hippies are the perfect mix of urban and new age: the arugula is organic, the recycling is implicit, the massage therapists are also psychics, the more modern complexes are industrial in aesthetic but eco-green in design. Eco-industrial, hippie modern, new age urban, vintage modern, sustainable designer—it’s the soundtrack of a conservative’s nightmare, probably like words like “family values” or “homeland security” or “collateral damage” sound to me. Though it’s certainly not part of every Californian’s vocabulary, the language of liberalism is part of the construction of the myth, a comforting lullaby that sounds like home.

The other major chunk of my California was the San Francisco club scene in the ‘90s, the best chapter yet. Going to a rock club on any night of the week, alone, when a friend’s band was playing, was like showing up at a party; the audience was guaranteed to be made up at least half by local bands, all of whom were friends with each other. SF was late-night walks home from the Mission bars, dancing in the Haight Street clubs, going to breakfast at noon on a Thursday and still having to wait behind hundreds of hipsters who were also at that show last night at the Fillmore. The wind cut right into your suet as you walked through the Castro at night or waited forever for the streetcar. I was a local booking agent and also a grad student, so I enjoyed a pretty free-form and highly social existence. This combination of personas along with citizenship in the most aesthetically dreamy and stimulating place I’d ever lived made it, if not a blue heaven, at least a grey one, and I dug in deep and planned to never ever leave.

Thus, moving back south after an entire adult life spent in the Bay Area was a bit of a shock; I was always dimly aware of the north-south culture wars, but never really felt the difference until I took a job “behind the Orange Curtain” in 2001. When facing the reality of actually leaving San Francisco–something I thought I’d never do, but something the sheer wretchedness of the dot-com boom had finally made a tolerable idea right when I was on the job market–the contrast was jaggier than I feared. Orange County really did embody all those things that make people hate the state. Luckily, though, we moved to Long Beach, which any resident will vehemently remind you is in Los Angeles, not Orange, County (see JZ’s bio, for example). It’s got the beach bungalows and Spanish houses from the 1920s and ’30s that make the state appealing to me. My friends in SF were horrified at the idea of anyone choosing to live in LA, but I imagined it (after having spent very little time there) as being sort of ironic and noir, the dark side of the 1950s, as depicted in movies like “Mulholland Drive,” “Sunset Boulevard,” or that recent black-and-white film (starring Elaine’s boyfriend Putty) “The Woman Chaser.” And it is all that, and more. LA does have that impossible feel to it, when you drive down the freeway (yes, at 10 mph, I know) and pass the signs: Melrose. Beverly. Santa Monica. Silverlake. Sunset. Wilshire. Griffith Park. Hollywood. Even as a Californian, it’s hard not to feel something when reading these names that have been so glorified—perhaps unfairly so, but still—by so many forms of media. It’s just fun to live near them, just like it always gives me a thrill up north to drive by the big freeway sign reading “University of California.” The names carry part of the magic; again, the myth is in the language.

After I started writing this post, I thought I’d better finally read Joan Didion’s Where I Was From about the troubling contradictions embedded within the myth of California, and the “psychic investment” Californians like herself (and me) have in their sense of statehood. She quotes early-Cali hero Josiah Royce as writing, 1910ish:

[The California pioneer] sought a romantic and far-off golden land of promise, and one was in the wilderness of this world, often guided only by signs from heaven . . . the clear blue was almost perpetually overhead; the pure mountain winds were about one; and again, even in the hot and parched deserts, a mysterious power provided the few precious springs and steams of water.

Lawsy. No wonder we have such narcissistic delusions about our state—they were written into its inception, as it was imagined into being. What particularly resonated for me in the book is Didion’s exploration of Californians’ need for the land and its community to live up to its own myth: “Such calls to dwell upon the place and its meaning (and, if the meaning proved intractable, to reinvent the place) had been general in California since the first American settlement.” Reinvent indeed—it’s almost the only way to make peace with the place. Like me, she’s conflicted by the darknesses she has both read (in its crooked history) and experienced, when she can’t help loving the ideal she was raised to worship.

And it’s an overwhelmingly powerful indoctrination, being from here, sort of like being a Scientologist. (A lot like that, actually, given the roots of that cult.) As a kid, I was stone cold sucked into the myth even though I was never a fan of the landscape (as opposed to the seascape), the gold and browns instead of the greens and grays and reds I saw in photos of elsewhere. At sixth grade camp on Palomar Mountain by the observatory, the cabins had names like “Chapparal” and “Sagebrush,” never “Sycamore” or “Hibiscus.” A song I heard as a child accused, “South California, your sun is too cold/ It looks like your hills have been raped of their gold,” and despite its disdain for my homeland, I agreed with it and yearned for lusher landscapes. (In my first Virginia autumn, the raw-gutted redness of the mud steamrolled me after all those dry pale dirt fields of my home state.) My partner grew up in New Jersey, ten minutes from Manhattan, and it’s taken his Northeastern eye to help me appreciate the romanticism of such a terrain, the backdrop of westerns and pioneer spirit, instead of only seeing dryness and dust.

Still, driving down the coast to my parents’ house this week with the impossible blue water right next to me–and this is the I-5, folks, not even Pacific Coast Highway–it’s hard to imagine somewhere creamier. When I visited Portugal’s Algarve beaches, they reminded me so much of the craggy California coast it was distracting. La Jolla, Mendocino, Big Sur, Point Reyes . . . I saw them all reflected in the beaches of Lagos and Faro (and if any city could ever resemble San Francisco, it’s Lisbon, with its bay and fog and hills and streetcars). Even Provence, sung for its “incomparable” climate and vegetation, is incredibly eau de Napa Valley (yes, I know those Van Goghian purple heather and ochre cliffs can’t be found on this coast, but check out the golden grasses and the mild weather). I know it sounds geocentric to compare the world’s great cities with your own home–and if everything reminds you of that, ya yokel, why spend the time and plane fare?–but despite the ache for difference, variety, adventure, exoticism, isn’t there also a tendency to view things through the lens of our own frame of reference, to find (or perhaps force) a reflection of the familiar in whatever we see?

And the light, the color of the sky! After living in Germany for a year in the 1990s, I walked out of the airport in San Francisco, overwhelmed by the huge life transition I was experiencing, and burst into tears at the color of the light–so goldy-yellow, so much warmer looking than the white-gray light I’d come to regard as normal. It’s an abstraction, but that’s what I missed.

So here in California, we’ve got the truth, the myth, and the golden vector where the two actually do overlap and glow. Any time I left the state as a teenager, I got the same question: “Wow, you’re from California? Do you surf?” (Secret shame: I still never have—I can barely bodysurf.) I always understood the state carried with it a mythology of some sort, but couldn’t quite grasp how unreal it seemed to everyone else, how made-up. When a German friend came to visit and we boarded the streetcar that went directly to my house, he marveled at the destination on the front of my train: “Ocean Beach!” he breathed. “I can’t believe you really have names like that here.” And it’s intangible what living landlocked can do. In San Francisco, the beaches are nasty, cold, and littered, especially to the eyes of a San Diegan. In 17 years of living there, I probably visited the beach only that many times; it just wasn’t part of my conscious experience of the city. Nonetheless, I always knew it was there, and when the time came to go on the job market and look at other cities as possible homes, I had a really hard time imagining moving away from any coast, let alone this cracked and glimmering one.

I’m coming to realize that I am so seduced by the mythology of the state that, despite minute-to-minute experience of its reality slapping me in the face–a slap that is sometimes pleasurable, a salty sting or a sunny squint, but more often sharp, harsh, or drearily soulless–I still can’t bear to think of ever giving it up, even for someplace else that really does live up to its hype. It’s part of my identity. Why should this be? After all, if I moved away, I’d get to be “from California!” all the time, at least for a while, whereas now I only explicitly get to be that when I travel. Could I really ever be comfortable identifying, as Faulkner might put it, not-Californian? Which do I want more, the experience itself, or the right to it shaping my identity/persona? And when you can see its faults and flaws and disappointments so clearly, when do you give up on the myth?

And could I, even, if the myth is part of me? I don’t know what makes me Californian or if anyone from outside could identify me as such—I only know that somewhere deep in me are sand between the sheets, a hybrid car (someday!), a kelp forest, an earthquake fault, the marine layer, a recycling bin, a lemon tree, a sea lion, and a nasty sunburnt patch across my lips and cheekbones. I know that most East Coasters can’t fathom what on earth is the appeal of this shallow, plastic, phony, shiny, cementy state. The Northeast is the real deal, y’all, and I acknowledge that. Still: for me, the state is forever home, as many of you must recognize about your own roots in other states even after choosing citizenship in greater cities. Sure, I’d often like to live somewhere more urban, less faux, more exotic, less constructed, more liberal, less demonized, more worldly. But I don’t think I’m ready to be from anywhere else.

25 responses to “Identity in a state of conflict”

  1. Lane says:

    Well Manhattan has become a lot more like Disneyland in the last 10 years. Brooklyn is O.K. but the whole of the Northeast isn’t the real deal. Northern Jersey? Norfolk County? New Haven?

    As for me, this July and August I hope to fulfull a lifelong dream and actually LIVE in California!

    Sitting here in February, feeling the air blow through the cracks in my windows and knowing what awaits me 20 minutes from now. . . BRRRR! I keep that image of gentle Palo Alto warmly lodged in my head.

    California has taken some hits in the last 20 years. It’s not what it once was, but it’s still a pretty damn fine place.

  2. Scott Godfrey says:

    Steph, I love how you’re not willing to give up on your version of California. There are two reasons for this: first, the toughness you show in living in your own reality, despite the one that others want to project around you, and second, the faithfulness you have for your friends and family (I include California as one of the characters in your life).

    You know I wish I could pry you from this place’s clutches, but I’m also really glad that I can’t.

  3. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Stephanie, you’re preaching to the converted but what a fine preacher you are.

    Our own Sister Aimee Semple McPherson.

    As a California native (LBC lifer actually) you nailed so many shared experiences perfectly and described places I wish I was able to be-you sold me on Berkeley, for example.

    And yes, despite being asked constantly as a teen, I don’t surf nor do I spend every day at the beach…though the rest of the 90210 opening montage rings pretty true, though in a Nathanael West kind of way.

    Part of my love for the movies is because of California’s twisted relationship with them-the most photographed and yet least remembered city in the world and all that-noir might be our own best official history in a way.

    We both love to travel and yet we’ve found ourselves in some very nice places throughout the world only to think, “I can see why people like it, it’s just like the best of California.” Seriously, I had built up the French Riviera in my mind only to be reminded of home. We talked to a woman at the bank the other day who sold us on the virtues of Sicily only to say that her grandmother’s hometown looks exactly like the beach at Laguna.

    This is beautiful writing, but I will take you to task for the backpedaling at the end…which Lane echoes. You can’t write a love letter to Cali and then close with a kiss blown cross country-right here is our corrupted Eden, yours and mine.

    Thanks, this is just great stuff.

  4. Tim Wager says:

    Oh, such deliciously purple prose, like something that would spritz and flow from a slightly-overripe plum, fruit-flesh pressing as if to burst its skin, just at the moment of first bite, white teeth laughing and flashing in the orangey-yellow glow of a California afternoon.


  5. Jeremy says:

    This was such a delight to read, from beginning to end–though it’s difficult for me to think of you as a sunshine-and-beaches, Southern California booster, Steph; in fact, I often forget that you grew up in SD. For better or worse (better, since you and Scotty moved here), I identify with Long Beach and LA, of course, despite the fact that I moved here at 17. No where else feels quite as right…

  6. Marleyfan says:

    You converted me as well. I just gave my boss two weeks notice, called to reserve a U-haul, and am planning on telling my wife and kids directly after work today. We’ll head South on I-5, and be there by Friday the 23rd. I assume it’s ok to stay with you till we get our own place?

    I really liked how you tied your identity to the mythology with a very detailed slap in the face…

  7. Lisa Tremain says:

    I love that you draw Didion into the mix of this fabulous post. Incidentally, I would have loved it equally if it were about Kansas (or another less-familiar-to-me state), for the sheer beauty of the writing. Go, Steph. I just finished A Book of Common Prayer, only partially set in California, but was personally rocked early on by JD’s Slouching Toward Bethleham and, of course, Play It As It Lays, which my girlfriends and I passed around the summer of 1988, our bodies properly adorned with baby oil (and lemon juice in the hair), next to the pool, in the Inland Empire.

    I do wonder, however, at our attachments to place. Especially in terms of a “state.” I understand falling in love with cities or cultures, with regions, with geographic specifics, but “state” itself seems arbitrary. A socially (politically?) constructed mass opinion, really. I mean, you’re not really like the folks from Yosemite, Sacramento, or Bakersfield, are you?

    Didion is one of the only authors who I think really catches the strangled quiet (and disquiet) of the California desert without making the reader hate the desert itself, or her characters who travel it, drink gin in it, and sleep through long, air-conditioned days in single-story hotels. I, myself, am more of a desert gal, being from the “high desert” (another vague California term) but I ditched many high school school days to go to 1,000 steps in Laguna Beach. Ever been?

  8. bryan says:

    swells — you made me realize last summer that i could go in for the so-Cal scene if the job were right. well, maybe not forever, but damn, what pleasant weather you have. pardon me while i go bundle myself in several layers and ride my bike down for chinese food with the kids, wind whipping me raw all the way. then again … mmmmm. eight jewel noodle soup at new green bo. *that* would be hard to replace.

  9. MB says:

    This is one of my favorite kinds of writing–writing about place, and our relationships to it. And I agree with everyone else: you do it very well.

  10. bacon says:

    Thank god for California. The aerospace boom drew my father from the beetfarm and saved me from a childhood in rural Utah, and a life I care not contemplate. Ours was a Bill Owens dream-suburbia without race, class, or history, where packs of kids ran feral through safe, concrete covered cul de sacs. With blank slates, we invented our identity through surfing and the ocean.

    California is essential, whether we like it or not. It was the breeding ground for the most important life and demographic shift of the 20th century–the auto suburb–as well as the largest commercial shift–mass retail.

    I love the state, but I have no desire to go back.

  11. Beth W. says:

    This post is under-commented! Maybe because it is so well thought out that there is too much to respond to.

    Well, that’s enough of the compliments. As a third generation native Oregonian I grew up telling jokes with the punchline, “And then the Oregonian took out his gun and shot the Californian.” This disdain may come from the scads of “hippie liberal supertolerant mentality, the sense that if you’re not living communally and thinking globally, you deserve the contempt of society” (by the way, love that line, know those people, and can’t really stand them) that populate Oregon west of the Cascades.

    Recently I had been thinking that people could be broken into two categories: Group A blindly loves their home state/town, Group B hates it. The reason is everyone is indoctrinated to love the place they come from, Group A embraces it and Group B rebells. With your essay though we will have to add Group C that loves their home despite it’s flaws.

    Love it or hate it, it’s home and there’s something comforting about the familiar, about people and places behaving the way you understand.

  12. Beth W. says:

    Continuing my comment, when this Oregonian moved to (gasp!) Southern California, I received astonishment from Oregonians and Southern Californians. (Note, people up north are more “OK” with Northern California because afterall it doesn’t even want to be a part of California.) The shock was not surprising from the Oregonians but I was surprised to encounter people who believe that another state they may or may not have visited is so much better than their own.

    California gets a bad rap but maybe worst of all is that it’s own citizens buy into it. People in Seattle and Portland don’t go around saying “Why on earth would anyone move here?” They are more likely to say “I hope more Californians don’t realize how great it is here and move here”.

    But here are the things they don’t tell you (and things that actual Californians don’t believe when I tell them, where is your state pride people?). It rains all the time in Seattle. That’s why people wear Gore-Tex everyday and don’t bother with umbrellas. And there really is a Starbucks on every corner (but that’s kind of a plus sometimes). Traffic is really bad in Seattle, like sitting in your car for 3 hours not moving bad.

    Despite it’s reputation, Oregon is polluted and smoggy with a messed up tax system to boot. There are no smog emission requirements on vehicles and field burning is still the norm, meaning the skies are clouded and smelly. Plus all the intolerant hippies and the political sex scandals. One last thing that’s not really their fault but Oregonians are bad at merging on the freeway.

    No state is perfect and if Pacific Northwesterners can have blind love for their home states then it’s ok for Californians too. So, you have my blessing to start telling jokes skewering your northern neighbors and glorifying your own beloved state because we do it to you all the time.

  13. autumn says:

    I read all the comments and thought, “do I really have more to add?” a nod to Scott, Lisa, and Beth (oh my). but I had to. it is such a lovely post. excellent visual prose.

    I’m a West Coaster, born in Seattle and raised here in Southern California. sometimes I dream about a move to San Francisco or Manhattan, perhaps Stockholm or Santiago, but I’m still here. thirty two years later I love driving with the windows down, sun stripped coloured landscape and America singing Ventura Highway in my mind.

    ” Aligator Lizards in the air….”

  14. Stephanie Wells says:

    Responding a little late here, but I have to say, I am floored by your generous comments, your flattery, and most of all how beautifully you all write about all of this! I love hearing all of your own senses of place–California or no–in such vivid detail. Ruben, Jeremy, Timo, Tremain, Autumn, yer all too kind. And those of you who don’t live here, Bacon, Bryan, Lane, Marleyfan, come on out and live with us for a while! And Beth W.–where to begin? Your own post (I can’t call it just a “comment”) about Oregon was such a great and interesting response (and by the way, I love that joke about Oregon/California, though I heard it with Texas, Seattle, and California instead–but the punch line is the same.) But where’s my state pride you ask? How much clearer can I make it? So much state pride I feel guilty about it, and I guess that’s where the whole conflict lies.

    So now I’m back in San Francisco for some true glory of the best place on . . . well I think you all know how I feel about it by now. Stepped off the plane tonight, after spending the flight still immersed in Didion, to a message from Trix and Farrell calling me from the Philly Midlake show so the band could play our song “Roscoe” into my phone. What a delightful start to some further exploration of my homiest home. Thanks so much to you all for your warm words and living descriptions.

    and finally, Scott, thanks for understanding how I just can’t leave the state–it’s one of the best things you ever do for me.

  15. so here’s one for all you midlake lovers out there — i enjoy the album and all, i’ve listened to it a couple times a week, but i still can’t shake the flletwood mac soundalike thing. now i love fleetwood mac, so don’t get me wrong, but does that bug anyone else?

    that said, i hope f&t had a spanking good time. and now, while i go make my coffee, i’m going to go listen to roscoe, which is kind of like the crack of pop songs this season.

  16. Trixie Honeycups says:

    the show was actually really fun.
    farrell and i were having fun listing off band names that are either good band names or bad (X, luna, sex pistols=good, pearl jam, squirrell nut zippers, the beatles= bad) and ended up opening the conversation to three really fun guys who knew a lot about music. it was one of the best pass-the-time-before-the-headliner games that i have played. most fun is good bands with shitty names (super furry animals, shudder to think, yeah yeah yeahs) or lame bands with good names…you fill in the blank.

  17. Marleyfan says:

    I agree with Beth, about the three groups, and figure that I very much am a C. I live in a small town in the middle of Washington state, and find it a constant wonder to the eye. Snow filled hills surround my hometown which then turn to green in the spring. We live 12 minutes from a ski resort, and have a Lake Chelan (also surrounded by mountains) just 30 minutes away. The Columbia river flows right through the middle of town, with not only the scene aesthetic it provides, but the recreation as well. I drove over Steven’s Pass last weekend, which winds right though the Cascade mountain range. Each time I take that route, I am amazed at the river cascading over the huge boulders within the canyon, the frozen waterfalls on the side hills, and the vast expanse of evergreen trees. The Seattle area, is so green and lush (year ’round no less), is it any wonder why it’s called the Emerald City? Then, 30 minutes South of my home town is the desert, and although it is so very different, it has it’s very own beauty with rich textures and shades within the shadows of the sage. We have four distinct seasons, which I very much look forward to. Autumn is by far my favorite, with the trees and plants turning different colors, and the impending change in the air. Flaws? Except for the Seattle/coastal area, the rest of the state is too Republican and the winter can get a little long (I am ready for Spring). But if that’s all I have to complain about, maybe I won’t move to California after all…

  18. Beth W. says:

    Did I come off as kind of crazy opinionated? I spend my work days writing things like “How to send an email”. My subconcious writer was obviously crying out to try a new authorial voice.

    Stephanie, my question of “where’s your state pride, people” was intended rhetorically and not at all directed at you. I wanted to say you shouldn’t feel guilty for loving California, that you should embrace that love. It’s the California haters, my former self included, that should feel guilty.

    Marleyfan, you made me homesick for college days in Seattle and Walla Walla and of drives down the Columbia River Gorge.

  19. Stephanie Wells says:

    Bryan, re. Midlake and Fleetwood Mac–so that’s a bad thing? Myself, I keep hearing “Don’t Fear the Reaper” inside of “Roscoe,” which is perhaps what makes it so compelling.

  20. LBOasis says:

    Great post Steph. I really enjoyed it and found myself reminiscing about many of the times places you mentioned. I must admit you are too young to have acquired some of those memories but you may have been one of those prodigies that finished grad school at 14 and hung around with the older crowd, but I digress. Not sure where I fit in. I do like it here and having been born and raised here I have some type of real attachment. My parents were not from here and after raising us and their retirements, sold our home, packed up and moved back to Okla. I have this deep feeling that it’s time for me to get away. But will I inevitably be like my parents and return to where I was raised?

  21. J-Man says:

    Stephanie – excellent post! I feel pretty lucky to live here and know the real Hollywood, the beach, etc. Your description of growing up in San Diego brought back vivid memories of my own childhood/teenagehood in Santa Monica (except when you were making out in hot tubs, I was holed up in my room listening to Fleetwood Mac over and over and over…but that’s another story). I totally understand your California pride – I used to lay myself on the line almost daily when I was going to school in upstate NY (“you’re from L.A? So sorry”) defending this green desert. Sadly, I’ve only lived two other places in my life, for very short periods of time (the other was Northern California, when I briefly attended Humboldt). This state is many places in one – it almost seems unfair that we get the entire state to ourselves. I would love to live other places – Spain, France, San Francisco – but I’m sure that I would always return to L.A. It always seems to me that any other city seems microscopic compared to the vastness of this city, and I think I would feel hemmed in after just a short time anywhere else.

  22. Trixie Honeycups says:

    Hey Steph,

    Better late than never. I’ve been avoiding sending a response to this very beautifully written post. First off there’s my well-established self-conscious avoidance of getting into conversations on this blog, And second, it’s not worth repeating the praises about this post as many others already have done so. but maybe the biggest reason i avoided responding is because it made me so badly want to move back to that fabulous california. a hard feeling to carry when there are still many years before that could ever happen. so anyway, i’m back in repression mode and can function fine living where we do. thanks for such a great post.

    ps. someone at the midlake show said the first association they hear betwen midlake and older bands is to jethro tull. ouch. i’m fine with references to fleetwood mac, neil young, and blue oyster cult. but please not tull.

  23. Trixie Honeycups says:

    oops. those were supposed to be fawcett’s comments.

  24. Trixie Honeycups says:

    but our computer’s fucking up. peace, farrell

  25. Stella says:

    It’s a very real 19 degrees in here in dc…the lure of CA just grows and grows.