Last night, I dreamed of California ...

So, settle back and indulge me in a bit of rambling … a few nights ago, I was enjoying reading Eric’s many Facebook postings about his adventures in California. I got a bit nostalgic, being reminded of when I did much the same thing over 30 years ago. I arrived in the Bay Area, a green kid from Kentucky, all of 18 years old and just out of high school. I hadn’t been any farther west than ... well ... western Kentucky, and California in 1975 was like another planet. Friends told me, much later, I often had this look of perpetual wonder on my face.

I had adventures ... oh yes, and plenty of them. I couldn’t get enough of everything California had to offer. When I look back now, all that seems as if it happened to another person, or I read about it somewhere. I have to remind myself that I did live that life.

Fast forward to 2005, and I’m on one of my semi-regular visits back to the old home grounds. Along with the other things I had planned, I went about one day visiting some of my old haunts: bookstores, pipe shops, the coffee house in Campbell where I spent a lot of time. The malls where I used to go shopping, some of them now changed beyond recognition. My last apartment building, which, oddly enough, looked just as it did in 1998 when I left. San Jose State University, where I went to school. Drove down so many of the streets and freeways I used to drive all the time.

It was an odd, strange, mildly uncomfortable feeling driving around those places – now, not as a resident, but as a sort of tourist, a visitor. The discomfort gradually began to be replaced by a sadness, or was it homesickness? I didn’t know then and I don’t know still. Had I left the golden land, the western paradise, and now the doors were closed to me forever? I started to count, in my mind, the reasons why I left. There was Tom, of course, the biggest and best reason, but coming in a close second was the fact that there seemed to be a memory on every street corner. Then I remembered fully why it had been time to leave, back then.

See, so much of my family and friends had either passed on, or moved away, or returned from whence they came ... and I was left mostly alone out west. After all those years, I thought I’d laid down deep, permanent roots in the California soil – indeed, I expected to live out my life and die there someday – but I began to realize that what I thought were roots were instead grappling hooks, and the shaky sand wasn’t enough to hold them (or me) fast. I remembered that as the time to pack up and move drew near, I was impatient and excited at the idea of starting a new life, in a different state and with someone I’d given my heart to.

And today, I do like what I still think of as my 'new life'. It’s been better than anything I knew out west. But I still catch myself wishing (as I suspect many people do) that I had some sort of magic viewer which would let me see how life and circumstances would’ve been if I’d chosen one of the other paths ...