I went to California for the first time when I was around 10 years of age, and I fell in love. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like the sunshine state was going to suddenly usurp Ireland in my estimation, but there was just something magical about it that drew me in like flies to honey.
There used to be these commercials on TV that showed California as this land of plenty where you could do anything you wished. I think it was trying to get people to move there, or to vacation there, and I think it did the job. It showed plenty of sun and sand, the beautiful sparkling water sliding in to land. It was the only commercial I would watch (besides the Image is Everything commercials by Nikon). It made me dream.
I finally made it there on a trip with some teachers from my elementary school. It was 1987, I think, and we were going Greyhound across the country. There were probably fifteen of us, ranging in age from 9 to 13, and looking back I honestly have no idea how our parents let us out of their sight for so long, but I was grateful. Oh, the sights I saw as we rode those buses across the country, stopping in Texas, and Iowa, and Colorado. We saw the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite National Park, and various other national treasures, but my favorite stop was California.
For one, it was as far from home as I could possibly imagine. When I finally saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time it felt just like those dreams I had entertained for what seemed like forever. For another, the places themselves were just spectacular. I remember San Francisco best. We spent three days there (which was an eternity to be in one place on that roller coaster ride of a cross-country trip), and it was spectacular. Just being on Fisherman’s Wharf and walking along the Golden Gate Bridge were well worth the time.
And the people! Oh, the people! They were like aliens, with their infinitesimal garments and their loud voices. Everyone in San Francisco seemed to be loud, from the musicians on the corners to the fishermen selling wares to the auction man by the docks catering to the crowds clambering for more. It was such a beautiful chaos that I was mesmerized by it all. I said to my friend Robert, “I want to live here someday.” He laughed at me, but I was as serious as a heart attack. It was my kind of place.
As far as I know, it still is. Maybe I’ll retire there.