At this moment, Hannah and I are flying over Iowa on our Jet Blue flight from Logan Airport in Boston to LAX in southern California. For the seventh winter running, we have come to the Golden State to take a big bite out of the Maine winter.
So, why California and not Florida or your home for ten years, Arizona? you ask. There’s something about California that has had a hold on me since my teenage years. Here’s the back story.
During the mid-1960s in suburban north Jersey, I was buried on the depth chart in the pecking order at Fair Lawn High School. Neither a Rah-rah (class leaders, athletes, the good looking, and/or cheerleaders) nor a Bopper (a hood with a black leather jacket), I did have my core of close friends. Truth be told, we were all two or three orbits out from the In-Crowd. (Somewhere beyond Uranus – that’s always funny.)
You see, my dad was the principal at FLHS when I was a student there. Of course, that’s not his fault, but I was unable to break out of the expectations of how a principal’s son should behave. I was not about to go Footloose on anyone. And to compound the challenge, as a first child, I was born with the double obedience gene.
With a transistor radio pressed to my ear, I listened to Cousin Brucie and Big Dan Ingram on WABC as I connected with the Beach Boys and the Mamas and Papas. My head filled with what life might be like on the Left Coast. You see, California seemed to be everything New Jersey was not. Sunshine, palm trees, surfing, and especially surfer girls!
John Philips of the aforementioned Mamas and Papas spoke to me. Go where you wanna go and do what you wanna do. Pretty seductive to a dreamer like me.
So the fascination with California comes from my desire to escape a teenage life of daily expectations and impossible standards, self-imposed and otherwise. Escape from being the good boy, the dutiful one who was flexible to a fault.
As a college senior, I got 85% of the way to California by transferring to Arizona State University. Upon graduation, I jumped at the chance to teach at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Anaheim, California (25 miles south of Los Angeles). Though my teaching career ended before it began four months later due to complications with the draft during the Viet Nam War, California continued to have a hold on me. Though Maine is home, my heart strings pull me to California each winter.
And today landing at LAX, I am already California Dreamin’. (You see, the Mamas and Papas were kind of life coaches for me.)