Saturday, September 3, 2016

California, There I Come

California can--and has been said to--have a magnetic effect. Persons are drawn here by the lure of some mystical promise of satisfaction and the particular happiness of a California happiness. Other persons are so repelled by the aura and mystique of California that, even were they to come here for any time, they'd be doing so to draw upon the repellent life style and ambience.

You had no choice in the matter; you were born here. There was some thought of going to New York, not as a visitor but rather as the sort of migrant coming to California in search of a dream. That dream would be the Writing Dream which, over the years, has stepped forth to challenge the California Dream in range and intensity. You were already in California, and publishing, as you came to know it, was in New York.

Even though you were still in California, you often came to New York, and did so for reasons related to publishing. But are two events in your early years, let's call them your career years, which spoke to you through the illusions related to Writing Dreams and Publishing dreams, the first of which happened when you were with a New York publisher, representing them in California and, so the attendant sophistry said, the "entire"  Western states.

You had some publishing credibility, which is why you were hired "away" from a California publisher to "bring" a Western flavor to New York. You were also "fired," "let go," "not renewed" or such other euphemisms because of the not unnoticed irony of you having contracted too many books from California.

One afternoon, an early November heading-toward-Thanksgiving afternoon, when you were in New York, you'd stepped out of a building in mid Manhattan with a group of New York publishing cohorts into one of these New York late afternoons. The breeze was from the river.

A sense of place tinged with the smell of roasting chestnuts from street corner braziers and the garlic tang of Sabrett's hot dogs combined to produce awareness of time.  This was time for a drink or a chestnut or two or perhaps even a hot dog. This was a time when the afternoon was still too full of itself to consider being a part of late afternoon go-home.

You took a great gulp of the tangy afternoon. "Ah," you said.  In your mind, you were already heading for Columbus and Broadway in the bracing afternoon air of North Beach, San Francisco. "This is so very much like San Francisco."

Your cohorts responded to what must have been cognitive dissonance for them. "No," they explained, en masse. "San Francisco is so very much like this."

No further reflections were necessary, were they? Even though you had roots in New York, you were not of New York. You were of California. A few years later, you were given the opportunity to head a publishing venture well suited to your interests and abilities, but with the caveat, "There is a strong likelihood we will be moving the operation to New York in six months to a year. Please do not take our offer if you are unwilling to move." At the time of the offer, you'd been editor in chief of a venture whose ranks you'd managed to rise, more from curiosity than ambition, at a salary nearly half what you'd just been offered.

Your parents could well have remained in the New York area, but they were drawn by the magnetic promises of California. Since magnetism presents numerous unseen forces, perhaps some of those exerted on your parents had a small effect on you. New York, in all your earlier years, including your first-time experiences with it, was always "Back East" to you. Back. East.
When you set your foot into the Atlantic Ocean, the experience always brought otherness to you; it was not the Pacific, not your own ocean.

All these years, you've dreamed California dreams, mystical, populated with high and low deserts, sharp, notional drop-offs along the coast, places for being lost, places now lost to interrupted dreams, ghost towns.

There are uncounted miles of it you've yet to see, places which resonate within you as unfathomable and politically, culturally unknowable, but they are California and you have dreams of visiting them as well as all the places within this state of dream, reality, and terra incognita.

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