Riding the train from Oxnard to Los Angeles Central Station through Simi Valley and Glendale, I saw flashes of the backyards of my childhood. Places we lived with little houses on the railroad tracks, dry, lonely backyards with no toys or swings and the sounds of the trains going by through my window at night. When my parents moved to California in 1953 I was four years old, and this was the golden state of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, jobs everywhere and houses going up like the weeds that now cover so many lots. This was the land of "moving on up", and everyone came here with a dream. As I rode on the train, I listened to Joni's song, "California", and remembered when I felt that way about this place. This was a home before Maui stole my heart, it was the place I dreamed to ride the world. Now this golden state seems broken and sad, like an old whore sitting in a tiny hotel room staring out at grey skys and empty spaces. She still gets painted up, tries on new makeup, has a facelift or two; but underneath she is old and wrinkled and dry. The air around her is stale, and her eyes are filled with shards of memory.
On the train people chatter business on phones and type worlds on computers, as if there is life here to live, but there is a shuffle of people wondering why the hell they came here, and what the hell they hoped to find. I'm sure there are places where it is vibrant and alive, just like there are places in all of us, no matter how old and rundown we may feel, that stay alive and hopeful; but there is not that mad sparkle of new exploration that was here when I was young. California is no longer a gold rush, a beauty rush, a body rush, a wonder rush; there are no new ideas here. Just a state full of people trying to hang on to the old dreams they had, and wondering where it all went. I wonder if there is anywhere on this globe like California was in the 50's. A place where magic is alive, where ideas are blooming, where there is hope for a future that from most reports, seems grim. Is it only America that has given up? Even though I've seen the truth of our short lives in Kent and Helen and my mom and so many these past few years, I refuse to let go of a desire to find neverneverland; a place where dreams are alive, and life is blooming with hope. That place may only be in my mind, but it needs a space to bloom. A garden somewhere to grow. That's a small part of what this trip is about, finding a new gold rush. The ore I'm mining is hope for the future; somewhere "the future's so bright, I have to wear shades".