I’ve traveled …. a lot. Close to home – Canada and Mexico close to home. Every state except Hawaii and North Dakota Most of the banana republics of Central America and the Latin States of South America. 17 island nations of the Caribe, islands of French Polynesia, Great Britain and some places that I can’t even remember the names of, just vignettes of incidents that blend in my mind to make me thankful for the colors I’ve seen and experienced.
Among my very favorite places is California – swimmin’ pools and movies stars, right? And it’s somewhat true – you can’t have that many folks in the entertainment industry in the same place without bumping into some – yesterday I rode the Air Train from rental car return into the air terminals at SFO with Eric Bana. I recognized him and we chatted casually – he was on his way back to NY and I was returning to NC. Thank goodness I didn’t try to address him by name since the only thing that popped into my mind was Liev Schrieber. For once I didn’t stick my foot in it, but my sense is that he would have thought it funny.
My California isn’t so much of the south, though I have family in and around San Diego and have spent some time around Laguna Beach, but of the northern half, with family there too. One most excellent summer, my father was free from work, (a supportive union was out on strike and he didn’t have to report for work until the ironworkers ended their walkout}. I’ve taken to calling it “The Summer of Creedence”. We rode horses in the foothills of the Sierras, played endless games of pool in the garage, snuck drinks of Jug Wine (think Boone’s Farm in fake ceramic jugs) and endlessly listened to CCR’s Green River album, “…Walkin’ along the river road at night, Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight….”, The Carpenters, and tried to grow up. That California is pretty far removed from the LA/Valley scene, even in the names of the towns – Cool (really), Dew Drop, Secret Town, Yankee Jims and the everlasting Grass Valley. During that summer, Grass Valley was the habitation and habitus of “them hippies”, according to my Dad and Uncle Buck – also affectionately known as “Uncle Blob”. Grass Valley has retained its flavor with newer influences evolving the scene.
Freeway billboard along the 101
My Coolifornia has a few palms scattered here and there, but it’s a place of dry hills, sprinkled with Cedars and other relatives of the Sequoia, Live Oaks and the various Elms – American, Chinese, Siberian and the more uniquely named, Zelkova.
Take time to visit my California – take I-80 north from San Francisco, get off this highway that wanders from two to six lanes, which does NOT improve traffic flow, at Auburn and enjoy the Old Town – think old Key West still with a gold rush flavor. Head west and south out of town on Hwy. 49. The road twists and turns, like the Blue Ridge, down canyons to the American River, with plenty of turnouts to enjoy the views – and take note of the various weeds, something far too many overlook when traveling – the Star Nettle and many others .
Drop down across the American and climb the switch backs on the other riverbank. Pass through Cool and wind your way through the opening land to Folsom. And, holy cats, don’t fail to watch for reminders of California’s more recent past…..
The Prison is still a major presence there with sprawling lands, bordered by the Johnny Cash Art trail and Folsom Lake.
Finally, for the painterly, this is a chance to visit Northern Italy without the bother of international travel – landscape, scenery and the lemony blue light. I’ll be going back, all things staying equal, to Coolifornia, to visit, paint and again feel the wonder of my youth.