I love the way you wiggle. I love the 200 ways you smile.
I have enjoyed not writing for a couple of days, after a long streak of writing every day through the holidays, finishing a book proposal, writing these silly blog posts and penning love notes that I leave on random bus benches for strangers to find and think, “Wow, I had no idea anyone felt this way. Yes, my eyes do twinkle like a Versace gown. I’ve kinda noticed that myself!”
Some guys build much-needed houses for Habit for Humanity. I leave love notes on bus benches. Same thing.
That’s my new revenue stream, by the way, leaving random love notes on bus benches. Pays about the same as journalism, and the perks are substantial: You’re out in the sunshine, amid the sooty buses, etc.
In many ways, it’s better than journalism. It represents the new, new journalism — free yet meaningful. And straight from the gut.
When not writing, I have painted the new bedroom doors, installed by a carpenter who told me he was leaving for Montana the moment he was done.
This great exodus out of LA — to Texas, Colorado, Toledo — is in full swing, and people say it joyously, as if announcing they’re having twins. “I’m leaving LA today! So long, California!”
So long, California Dream.
Look, I just want to warn you: No one is leaving love notes on bus benches in Texas. It’s just not a Texas thing to do. You might find an NRA pamphlet on a bus bench in Abilene. Or a broken Bible in Ft. Worth. Either of which might be more useful than an anonymous love note, that’s true.
There are places with magic, and there are places without. I would venture that California still has more than most places, and it also has more junkies, more grifters, more traffic at 5 in the morning. It adds up, that stuff.
The trouble with great locations – Machu Picchu, Rome – is that they draw a crowd, and though crowds can be fun at ballgames and such, they also trample the tulips and clog the best bistros and signal left when they are actually turning right.
In short, they’re too fond of the place. As I always say, love ruins everything it touches.
So, is this really the closing act of the California Dream? Were the Mamas & the Papas wrong all along? Can a place thrive based primarily on idyllic weather and perfect boobies?
Look, California has always been the land of last resort, and almost too forgiving for its own good. Like a Camelot where no one ever locked their doors.
The tech sector is leaving but the actors are all staying. I don’t see that as leading to any kind of future, do you?
There is no one as worthless as an actor, till he or she finds the right story to tell, and then – like California – they inspire all of us to be better than we were the day before.
I see hope in that. Yep, I actually see hope in every ditsy out-of-work actor who slings a plate of food at me like she’s mad. I see hope in all the dreamers – in food trucks and street rappers. In the public murals popping up everywhere.
I still see in California a tanned, sassy version of the American Dream. In its tolerance and creative spirit, I see much of what the rest of the nation is losing.
So here’s my love note to California, which I just left on a bus bench at the corner of Pico and La Cienega, under a gentleman named Flo:
“Dear California. I have known you a long time. I hope to know you forever. You’re the rum in my punch. Sometimes, you are also the wasp in my ice cream.
“No one blends pines and palms like you do. No one is equal parts sand and snow, happiness and hurt. You have the best sunsets ever, and when the wind blows, I can hear you giggle a little. You’re a painting that never really dries.
“California, I don’t think I can ever truly know you, which probably explains why we’ve been together 30 years. You might be crazy – no, wait, you’re definitely crazy. And I might be crazy to love you. Yet, you are where we made a life, where my kids grew up, where most of my friends reside. You are either America’s greatest gift, or its biggest, blackest sheep.
“Why not both?
If all you had was Burbank, that would be enough. But there is also Torrance, and Encino, Cerritos and Irvine. People lead real lives in places like that. They raise Cub Scouts and go to mass. They fall in love, just as you and I have. They have great and creative kids. On Saturday nights, with nothing better to do, they walk the dog.
Like nowhere else, there is an eros and an ethos, an air of mystery … a genuine shot at the impossible.
“Sure, California, maybe you’re not for everyone anymore. Maybe that’s good. Maybe it weeds out the carpet baggers and the evil genius tech moguls, who never really got you anyway. Leaves more room for those of us who do. For those of us who appreciate the wiggle in your beaches…the shimmy in your chimichangas. And the 200 lovely ways you smile.”
— Forever yours, me.