Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ode To California

Have you ever had that moment when a song is speaking directly to you so completely that it makes the hair stand on your arms and brings tears to your eyes? That happened to me on December 26, 2001.

There we were, coming down over the pass and heading south on I-5, a little family on winter vacation. Four year old Sophia was in her car seat, playing with her new Leap Pad, a Christmas gift she'd received the day before. I had just been told that a job offer at Jefferson Public Radio was going to be made, but I wasn't told what position, wasn't told where. Only that I would have to wait until the State of Oregon had worked out its 2001 budget woes and lifted the moratorium on hiring within the university system (it was another 4 months before that happened). In the meantime, we decided to head down to the coast, to check out the Monterey aquarium, and head up through Humboldt before making our way back to Alaska for another wet and cold January.

A funny couple of things happened after we crossed Lake Shasta and headed down into the Sacramento Valley. The temperature went up about 15 degrees. Sophia looked out the window and read her first sign out loud all on her own after spending two hours with the Leap Pad: Supermarket, and then another: Motel 6. We were crossing the Sacramento River when a song came on the radio by Mason Jennings called "California, Part Two." He sang about throwing all his stuff into his truck and heading to Cali, north of the bay where there was cleaner air. Where he could buy an old house to work on, never mow the lawn and grow a garden.

Right then, I knew I was moving to Shasta County. Knew I'd be doing all those things Mason Jennings was singing to me about. I was going back to California for the second time around, for my "Part Two." You see, I was born in California, a bit further south. I lived in San Jose for the first three years of my life before becoming an Oregonian. I never dreamed I'd return. But when that Mason Jennings song hit me like a ton of bricks, I knew it. Knew it with every part of me. The Golden State would be my new home.

And here I am, almost a decade and a half later. Doing exactly what Mason Jennings said I would. I own that old house, I'm growing bell peppers and tomatoes in that garden, and true to the tune, I have never had to mow a lawn (but I am handy with the leaf blower, I have photographic evidence to prove it).

I've got fresh mint and basil, and beautiful flowers on my back deck. I've got mockingbirds for an alarm clock. I have hummingbirds in the backyard, a little fountain in the front. A hot tub that's hot in the winter, and cold-ish in the summer. I don't make a lot of money, but I get by. It's a pretty wonderful situation to be in. And nearby I've got the lakes and the mountains. I've got the river, the orchards and the coast isn't that far away (although it's not near enough, my only real complaint).

We're pretty lucky to live in this beautiful place.

I have been reminding myself that a lot recently, because it's been a little bit more difficult to keep the love alive for the Northstate as the impact of the nation's recession has had some pretty obvious impacts locally. Businesses failing, carjackings, high speed chases and stabbings have become every day news, and the numbers of panhandlers in grocery store parking lots seems to be greatly increasing. So it's a little tarnished, I have to admit, my love affair with Redding. But I believe you have to work hard to keep the love alive, right? That's the key to a long lasting loving and solid relationship, is it not? So I'm doing my part today with a Spotify playlist of love songs dedicated to the Golden State, to my beloved home of California, starting off with the song that told me this would be the place I call home.

  1. California, Pt. 2 - Mason Jennings
  2. Queen of California - John Mayer
  3. California Girls - The Beach Boys
  4. California Girls - Katy Perry
  5. When It Was Wrong - California Honey Drops
  6. California - Joni Mitchell
  7. California - Rufus Wainwright
  8. California Sun - Gin Blossoms
  9. California - Savage Garden
  10. Hotel California - Gipsy Kings
  11. Going to California - Led Zeppelin
  12. California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas
  13. California - Melissa Etheridge
  14. California - Josh Ritter
  15. California King Bed - Rihanna
  16. More Bounce in California - Soul Kid
  17. Take California - Propellerheads
  18. California - Electro Deluxe
  19. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  20. California Sun - The Ramonds

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