Thursday, May 29, 2008

California Dreaming

Ahhhhhh...California! What can I say about California? Since childhood, it's been my favourite state in the union and one I've always dreamed of living in. Yet, the three times I had a choice, I always chose the option that wasn't California. Dumb? Not really. The first time was at my "A" School with the U.S. Navy. I had second choice from a billet sheet of 22 duty stations for my first assignment. I had wanted to move to California since I was at least 8 years old when I asked my Air Force father to put it on his dream sheet. He never did because he never desired to live there like I did. But, despite having a choice of at least 6 different duty stations in California (including a couple shore billets and the rest ships), I chose La Maddalena, Sardinia...because my desire to return to Europe was far greater.

When that duty assignment was up in 1994, I called my Navy detailer for duty stations in San Diego, but he basically told me that my choice was limited to any ship in Norfolk. Not what I wanted to hear. Norfolk was the last place I wanted to be assigned to, but it turned out for the best because that was where I met my best friend Nathan, whom I visited last weekend in San Diego.

For college, I had wanted to go to the University of California at Berkeley, but I knew I couldn't afford it. I feel like the answer to my prayer for direction was to go to BYU, so I did. I don't regret that decision either because of the great friends I made and the growing experience I had where my spiritual views were tested in ways far greater than anything else I could've imagined.

Then, in 2006, when I turned in my resignation letter at my last job in Atlanta, I wrote that I was moving to San Francisco. However, after a summer sabbatical at my parents' house, when I weighed the options, I was actually torn between Portland and San Francisco. In the end, Portland won.

The California Dream...MY California Dream remains deferred. Who knows? If I don't find my dream job by year's end in Portland, perhaps I ought to suck it up and see about Grad School in California. Perhaps once and for all, I should just see if California holds the key to my destiny instead of dreaming about it and finding myself in a very good place mentally whenever I visit there.

What is it about California, anyway? The state has held such a mythological sway over my mind since childhood. To me, it is "the promise land", paradise, Shangri-la, El Dorado, Atlantis, Zion, Heaven on earth...every mythological place of perfection you can imagine all rolled into one cool, zen vibe. That's California in my mind.

This is a view of San Diego's bay that I got off of a Google image search. All photos in today's posts are lifted from a Google image search. When I develop a roll or two from my trip, I will include them, but for now, this will have to do.

The bridge you see (the Coronado bridge, linking the peninsula that contains the town of Coronado and one of the Navy bases) was one that I went over quite a few times during my visit with the Hagmans. One of Nathan's Navy buddies is stationed on the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier, that was in town for the holiday weekend. Nathan didn't know about it until I had mentioned to him that it was in town, so he got to spend some time with another Navy buddy, and he introduced me to him as "the best man." Man, he never forgets! At his wedding eight summers ago, I remember telling him that I hated to lose the status of his best friend, to which he replied, "but you'll always be the best man!" True to form, that's how I was introduced and I was quite pleased. Serving in that capacity was a great honour. Glad to see the "title" still holds after all these years.

The visit was great, which I'll write about more in depth in Saturday or Sunday's post (when I hopefully have personal photos to post). Here's some of what I did on my trip:

Visited Old Town San Diego on Saturday, which reminded me a little bit of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was more interesting that I thought it would be and I spent more time there than I had planned. Then, I walked down the waterfront between the USS MIDWAY museum and the Convention Center, into the Gaslight District which was crowded due to some outside music festival just getting started. I rode the San Diego Trolley (yes, they actually call it by the term that other cities like San Francisco, New Orleans and Portland cringe at) all the way down to the border with Mexico so I could see the border myself and take a few pictures of Mexico without having to set foot there (I've never been to Mexico and have no intention of ever going there--at least not Tijuana). It was interesting to see the border (that there is an actual wall, and that Tijuana is on a hillside that looks down on the U.S.), especially since I crossed the U.S./Canada border on the opposite end of I-5 in January.

On Sunday, we walked around Balboa Park, which was pretty awesome, but crowded with people. Monday, we went to the LDS Temple in La Jolla (because it's one of my favourite architectural designs) and the beach in La Jolla. I realized later that I had forgotten to "mark" the starting and ending times of the Young Adult retreat that I had cancelled. I wanted to at least observe the time of the retreat to make this vacation extra special. When I thought back on it, I realized that when the retreat was supposed to have started (noon on Saturday), I was in the LDS "Mormon Brigade" Museum / Visitor's Center in Old Town San Diego and when the retreat was to have ended (noon on Monday), I was at the LDS Temple in La Jolla. Dang...I can't escape the Mormon influence in my life. But, it was a neat little "juxtaposition."

This is a scene from Amtrak's Coast Starlight run. It goes from Los Angeles to Seattle and let me tell you, the scenes of the beaches on the coast from Santa Barbara northward were absolutely gorgeous! I stopped reading my book to just stare out the window at the scenes. I was that way during most of the trip. I left San Diego at 6:10 a.m. on Tuesday and the scenes between San Diego and Santa Ana were fantastic. I was especially pleased to see a little bit of Oceanside, because in a high school memory book that I put together, I had written that in ten years (that would've been 2000), I saw myself married with two children, living in Oceanside CA, with a successful writing career. Okay, so that didn't come true, but then again, I didn't run off to California like I thought I would when I graduated from high school.

I wasn't impressed with the whole Los Angeles area or the San Fernando Valley. I used to want to live there at one point as well. Santa Barbara, on the other hand, I've never been to, but after seeing it from the train, I think I'm going to have to make a special vacation where I fly into L.A. and drive north through Malibu, Santa Barbara, Solvang, San Luis Obispo, up to Salinas, Monterey, and San Francisco. That would be a dream driving vacation. But watching the scenery from the train was awesome as well. One scene I especially liked was when a bird flew on the ridge of a wave, like it was surfing. It would keep doing that and I thought how much fun it was having. I also saw human surfers out there and it was like watching a commercial about California. The California lifestyle is true!

More scenes of Amtrak's Coast Starlight run (this train is obviously heading southbound).

Another photo I lifted from a Google image search. This one is to show you how much leg room you get on a train (versus a plane). People keep asking me why I take the train when it's so long (the L.A. to Portland portion is about 29 hours). I did fly down to San Diego on Friday (with a change of planes in Las Vegas) and while I love the speed of airlines, part of my vacation was the relaxing train ride. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed visiting my best friend Nathan and his family. It truly is a relaxing way to travel and meet people. The service attendant for my entire journey was an awesome African American lady with blonde curly hair who was very talkative and funny. When a bunch of teenagers (120 of them with only a few adult chaperones among them) got on board at Santa Barbara for the journey to Klamath Falls, Oregon, they were crazy wild. The service attendant also told some of us that these kids were spoiled in how they trashed the car they were riding in and wanted her to clean up after them. She was funny when she said, "let me tell you 'bout spoiled rich kids!" She kept her sense of humour and is exactly the kind of person you enjoy meeting on a rail journey through some of America's most beautiful scenery.

I'm such a fan of Amtrak and this is my third year in a row where I did a long journey on Amtrak (and in 2004, I also rode the Coast Starlight from San Francisco to Portland and back). I hope to continue with this, as I'd like to ride all of the journeys they offer (San Francisco to Chicago; Los Angeles to Chicago; Los Angeles to Jacksonville; Chicago to San Antonio; Chicago to New Orleans; Chicago to Boston; New York to Miami). If you've never ridden on Amtrak, what are you waiting ingraved invitation?!? Make plans! See America by train. You'll love it.

Anyhow, the trip was awesome. Simply one of my better vacations I've been on. It's great to visit a good, longtime, best friend who knows me probably better than anyone else. I appreciate the laughs, the advice, the friendship, and the new scenes to fill my mind with nothing but beauty and gratitude. With that, all I can do is sigh a big "ah" with Californiahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!


d/b/c/m said...

so glad you had an awesome trip. i love train and bus rides, too. i love seeing everything between where you go and came from. plus, i love meeting all the characters that you only meet that way.

so, if you ever do decide to pack up and move to zion, you've got a permanent invitation to stay here.

d/b/c/m said...

i'm laughing...that didn't come out right...not move in permanently, but stay, like vacation, or while you find an apartment or whatever...but hey, if you want to be a full time nanny for very little money, we'll consider that, too! hah hah!

Sansego said...

We'll see. My main goal is helping Charles Lewis get elected as City Commissioner first, then if I don't find a government or university job in Portland, I'll probably see about working in Afghanistan for a year so I can get my debts paid off, save up some money, and have a foreign adventure that I'm really craving these days. After that, then I probably won't be moving back to Portland. If I can't find a livable wage job in this city by year's end, I'm through. Time for grad school and Cali is where I might need to be.