D2D California Dreaming Series

Matthew Howe's California Dream

Over the last several weeks, we've asked Day to Day listeners to share their vision of the California Dream. Fame, health, satisfaction, blue sky or innovation—what defines your California Dream? Is the economy forcing that dream to change?

We've been sharing listener responses both on-air and here on Daydreaming. But then we noticed a curious thing: Some of you were writing in to tell about leaving California behind. On today's show we talked to some people who have given up on the dream, and we'll be sharing some of their stories here on the blog. In this installment, Matthew Howe tells of finding his home in California-only to leave it behind.

For me, the California Dream was one word: home. Growing up in Florida people kept telling me that I was a Californian and didn't know it. Perhaps it was my aggressive optimism, my sense of human dignity and justice, my questionable (and yet keenly personal) sense of fashion - I may never know. However, when I found myself at graduate school in the Bay Area of San Francisco, the meaning sunk in - here were my people. A deeply multicultural community. Progressive values taken for granted as the rule, not the exception. Public transportation that actually works. These earthy things that rose above sea level - I think they're called "hills". Perhaps most importantly, my first Berkeley experience of a woman with a purple mohawk playing the accordion in the street. I had found home, and what a rare and special currency that was. The South had never felt like "home" to me, more like an awkward extended stay at a distant third uncle's, and to be suddenly immersed in something so different, so complementary, so, well, "me," was a breath of fresh air. I never wanted to leave.

So, four years later, I left. This may not sound sensible, but hear me out. I felt really comfortable in San Francisco. Perhaps a little TOO comfortable. As wonderful as it was to effortlessly be myself, there was no motivation to stretch outside of that comfort zone. I also wondered why all this good "California" stuff taken for granted here seemed limited to the state borders — shouldn't someone carry it to the other 49? So, off I went into the wild world. Having found my nest, I could finally outgrow it and learn to fly. Besides, some of us actually LIKE weather.

If you'd like to share your story of finding (or abandoning) the California Dream, use the contact page provided here.

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When I hosted foreign exchange students in my native Los Angeles, the first English pharase I taught them to say was, "The 405 is packed." I recently had to relocate from my beloved Los Angeles to Denver, Colorado for economic reasons. It is true of Los Angeles that the air quality sucks, the price of living is outrageous, the roads are more and more crowded, people don't say hello to you on the street, or anywhere else for that matter, and the density is beyond belief. But I miss Los Angeles to the core of my being. I miss how the sun shines in such a way as to make colors deeper and brighter than anywhere else. I miss the smell and feel of the ocean air. I miss driving on the Santa Monica Freeway toward the coast and coming out of the McClure tunnel to the view of the sparkling ocean and the mountains beyond. I miss foggy morninings. I miss the gentle breeze swaying the palm trees. I miss that I'm one of the crowd when I shop at the co-op, drive a hybrid car, recycle, and protest the war. I miss all those things. But most of all, I miss the intangible but very palpable creative and intellectual atmosphere that IS Los Angeles. When I watch movies on television that were filmed in Los Angeles I find myself reaching out to the TV screen as if I could be transported into the scene by the mere touch of my finger. If I could, I would put myself right smack dab back into the middle of the California Dream that I know and love.

Sent by Louana George | 6:15 PM | 7-7-2008

I don't understand why people in California seem so progressive, but elect so many Republicans? Not so much Arnold, but Reagan and other Republican candidates. Orange County especially = $$$$$ and they appear to be very Republican.

Please explain, anyone.

Sent by Claire | 10:19 PM | 7-7-2008