California Dreamin’

There’s no place like home…but what if you are bi-coastal?  This has been my dilemma for about 45 years since I first arrived  in California.  It’s a long story, could probably be a book, but the short version is that my boyfriend and I decided to head West at the height of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Sexual Revolution, and the 60’s Rock N’ Roll era.  We were in grad school and he was offered a temporary teaching job at the University of California at Santa Cruz.  At the time, no one cared about finishing their degree; we cared about changing the world and having adventures!

So off we went in a tiny Volkswagen with an even tinier pup tent that could barely hold two people.  We did  a month of camping across the USA,  taking the northern route which brought us through Chicago (where we stopped to see the famous zoo), through the Badlands of South Dakota, across the rolling hills of Wyoming, The Grand Tetons  and the Rocky Mountains, to the edge of the Grand Canyon, past the Great Salt Lake and Las Vegas, (which was then like a pioneer town), over the Sierras into California.  I remember seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time; it felt backward!  No longer was I looking toward Europe; I was now gazing at the vast Pacific Ocean toward Asia! I was entranced by the ice plants that grew on the cliffs that hug the ocean. There was no looking back for me.

Well…that was long ago and a lot of water has gone under the bridge.  I fell in love with California, but unsuccessful in finding meaningful employment after nearly three years of living there, I returned home to New York.  For the next two decades I really felt torn between the East and the West Coast.  My longest lasting friendships were made in grad school and in California where many of them eventually settled.

It was difficult for me to start over again in New York where everyone had already settled into jobs and relationships.  I continued to visit California frequently which only resulted in my continuing to feel displaced.  I had a large family here in New York which influenced me to stay, but I always dreamed about California and returning someday.

Fast forward to many years later.  My daughter, turning 20, needed a new start in life, so I suggested that she try living in Santa Cruz, California where I had lived.  She took me up on the idea, and settled into Santa Cruz quickly.  I knew she would; it’s her kind of place.  Relaxed, user-friendly, nature abundant, resplendently sunny 300 days a year…. It was a no-brainer.  Long story short, she enrolled in a community college for two years, transferred to UCSC, and graduated two years later. But then, sadly, she had to return home for health reasons and lack of success in finding a good job.  (Sound familiar?)

So now we are both bi-coastal!  We both still dream about California and our friends there, yet know that survival there is difficult because there are few jobs and too many overqualified people in line to take them. Housing is even more expensive than here, and the cost of living is sky-rocketing in the Bay Area.  This means we have to be content to visit whenever we can.  We are leaving in a few days to visit an old friend who, sadly, has a terminal illness.  But we intend to make good use of our time otherwise, enjoying our favorite beaches, hiking in the redwood forests, visiting wineries, book stores and thrift shops.  Not to mention eating at some of  the best Mexican restaurants in the world!  We even plan to visit our favorite “wild” destination, Big Sur, where the landscape is bigger than life.

I’ll keep you posted.  Try not to be jealous!

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12 thoughts on “California Dreamin’”

  1. I am jealous! Yet another layer of Barbara I never knew. I realized Christine lived in California but didn’t know you did too and it is still in your heart! I hope your visit allows you to enjoy all the things you love about California while seeing your friend who is sadly so ill.

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  2. I understand your feelings of displacement. I’m not really sure where I belong. I’ve been living in Idaho since 1989 and long to live closer to water and warmth, although the winters here are fairly mild compared to many other places. It’s the culture that I long for most. I like urban environments and the tropics. But I have a granddaughter I want to be near, too. This weights heavy on my mind because I’ll retire in a few years.

    I am getting to take a trip to San Diego in a couple of weeks; I’ll be attending the AP By the Sea institute at the U of San Diego. I’m looking forward to some fun in the sun after each day’s session.

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  3. You are right- this is a great book just waiting in the wings! The richness that your California experience left you is worth more than any monetary windfall! Just think, you have a chance to write a powerful ending, and that is super cool!

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  4. What a wonderful account of your youthful adventures. So free… I remember my college experience of freedom. Not like that now, right?
    I had that pull with Taos for a period and Boston as well. But NY remains my anchor.

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  5. What a life of adventure you have lived! You didn’t know to worry when you first experienced California. It was the land of opportunity. I’ve always been too practical to jump into adventure. I guess I need to spread my wings a bit more.

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  6. Spread those wings, Elsie. Now, as a recent cancer survivor, I intend to spread mine again, but they’re a bit rigid and creaky and will not a lot of patience and perseverance!

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  7. My family and I left my home town of Houston, TX six years ago to a small town in East Texas. I miss everything about the city. I don’t have quite the same struggle you do since I don’t like where I live now but I do feel your pain in wanting to be some place else. Houston will always have my heart!

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  8. While I am sorry for the circumstances that necessitate fulfilling your bi-coastal penchant, I applaud you for encouraging your child to follow her dreams – even if it is hard to let go. I have a cousin who really was BICOASTAL for many years having a place in NYC and working there part of the year AND having a place in LA and living there for the rest of the year. It fulfilled HER needs – and I suspect you two have a lot in common!

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    1. If only I could have afforded to do that! I once seriously looked into moving to CA, but it was even more expensive than living here on Long Island, so I gave up that dream. Sigh. Thanks for your response.

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  9. I traveled to California two-and-a-half years ago and like you, I fell in love with the state. Seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time was such an incredible experience that I will never forget and I dream of a day when I’ll be able to return.

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