Sure, there was traffic and smog and, uh, a perpetual oil slick in the ocean that is not caused by the massive offshore drilling operations visible from the coast though you might think that, so let them reassure you: The ocean has always been this greasy. But, as we were cruising in harmony alongside a billion other cars down a six-lane highway over a mountain in the desert right beside the ocean, Phantom Planet’s California came up on our California Road Trip playlist and my heart swelled and I thought: Why the fuck does anyone live anywhere that isn’t California?
Seriously. CALIFORNIA! Every time we got in an Uber, the conversation with the driver inevitably turned to “Oh wow, Boston winters,” and explaining winter to a person who has never lived it is like hitting your hand with a hammer and describing how much it hurts. I should not have to hit my hand with a hammer anymore! There is no point when a place like this exists.
I also came of age in what I think was primo time for California-as-Eden mythology, if you don’t count stuff like “Manifest Destiny” and “the actual Gold Rush.” I mean during the California pop culture explosion of the early aughts: The O.C., Laguna Beach, The Hills—fuck, even A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I was extremely susceptible; my frozen East Coast heart melted a little as I sat in front of my T.V., inhaling so I’d have enough air to belt out that last, long CALI-FORNIA, HERE WE COOOOOOOO-OOOME. It was a place people longed for, and so I longed for it, too—and then I was there! Singing the same verses in the car, between the ocean and the mountain beside the desert. And it was beautiful.
Also, I got to feed a giraffe, which was pretty fucking cool.