Caifornia Dreamin’

My current bathroom book is an early 1960s California guidebook Mark brought home recently, and as I was having my qaulity time this morning, I started wondering how differently things might have turned out for me if I’d followed my initial plan and moved to Southern California rather than San Francisco in 1992.

By the time I graduated from college, it was a near certainty that I’d be moving to California at some point. It was something I’d been considering for years, perhaps even before several close friends made the move. And once I visited for the first time, I was pretty sure California would be my ultimate destination.

San Francisco, though, didn’t really even register as a possibility at first; it was completely off my radar. I was visualizing Los Angeles, or maybe San Diego. Both of these places seemed much more interesting to me than San Francisco. In many ways, they still do. I enjoy the miles and miles of “dense sprawl” that typifies the region, giving it a level of urban intensity, texture, and variety unlike any other sunbelt city, but with a distinctly American low-rise openness and car-friendliness that’s absent in old-style cities like San Francisco and New York. I think I like the “feel” of Los Angeles better than any major American city with the possible exception of Chicago.

After visiting, though, I did eventually choose San Francisco, based on three factors:

  • The weather: I was really impressed with the fact that it was so cold and foggy in San Francisco in July.
  • My friends: I knew more people in San Francisco than I did in Southern California, so I had more of a social safety net, not to mention roommate possibilities.
  • Ummm, sex: There seemed to be much more of it in San Francisco, and it was one of my primary hobbies at the time. It helped that walking (rather than driving drunk) to and from bars was an option there as well.

All in all, I guess it was a more or less reasonable choice, at least for that point in my life. Living in a more traditionally “urban” setting provided a certain perspective that has been important to me over the years, and spending the 1990s in the technology capital of the US (and probably the world) was obviously a major and life-altering influence. Without the technological focus, there would have been no website starting in 1996, which would have sent my life in a considerably different direction, both personally and professionally. It’s definitely a good thing that I opted for San Francisco, despite my eventual disenchantment with the place.

But I’ve often regretted not spending more time down south while I was still on the west coast. I find the Los Angeles area much more fascinating than the Bay Area now, and, aside from my friends in San Francisco, the “Southland” is actually the part of California I really seem to miss. Of course, a major part of this is probably the fact that I never faced the everyday reality of actually living there, which allows me to romanticize the area.  I never had to cope with the depressingly sunny and warm climate, nor with commuting via the traffic-choked freeways. I spent my time there doing things I wanted to, not things I had to.

And since I never lived in Southern California, and never spent quite enough vacation time there, I never got the chance to explore the area sufficiently, nor to grow weary of it once I’d “seen it all”.

Moving back to California is not a likelihood for me (it wouldn’t be economically realistic even if I wanted to, which I don’t) but it would be nice to find an excuse to spend a few months exploring Los Angeles. Maybe I can come up with an internship or something.