There are many misconceptions about the state of California. Most of them spouted by individuals who have either never been here or who have only visited limited parts of the state; namely the beach towns in the southern portion.
I was lucky enough to be born and raised in the Golden State. I have also been lucky enough to live in many parts of its diverse environs. Everywhere from the temperate southern Cali climate to the cold and snowy Sierra’s; even the wet, rainy north and the hot, dry Central Valley.
No, California is not filled with uber-liberal, tanned, blonde, blue-eyed surfers who live off of unemployment and smoke ganja in the sand all day long. Really…
In fact, California is just as diverse as the rest of the country pooled together.
We have brown hair, red hair, blonde and black hair; green eyes, brown eyes and a percentage of us have blue. Some of us have fair skin, dark skin, olive skin and every color in between.
Though some of us are liberal in our choice of politics and religion, we really do have a population of right-wing conservatives and fundamentalists who live amongst us, including people who exist between the extremes.
And I bet each of us bleeds the exact same color as the rest.
I was born in Southern California, lived there until the age of five and have continued to visit relatives and friends who remained over the years.
One of my fondest memories of childhood was riding in my neighbor’s Woody with a surfboard strapped to the roof. The radio was cranked up with the tunes of the Beach Boys and the back of the car was filled with towels and ice chests as we drove down the 405 towards the Santa Monica Pier or Venice Beach.
I know, I know… the quintessential vision that most have of California living.
But only one of us was blonde. In fact, the majority of the occupants in that car were Native American and we had to drive an hour from our smoggy inland city to reach the coastal beaches.
What I remember most about those days at the beach was the warm, soothing sand that sifted between my toes. Then there were the handsome lifeguards my neighbor Donna would flirt with all day, the carnival rides, the happy screams of children at play and the candy necklaces that would color our skin like a sticky rainbow.
Those beach trips were few and far between since neither of our families had much money, but when we were able to go it was as if we had made it to our own little piece of Heaven on earth.
Last weekend I was able to revisit my past with a trip to the LA Mobile Arts Festival in Santa Monica. We took time to walk along Santa Monica pier and stroll Venice Beach.
My childhood memories are not normally worth a revisit due to their ugly nature. But there certainly were a few good moments mixed in between that are worth the flashback. Going to the beaches was one of them.
There were so many amazing photo opportunities and interesting people, especially in Venice Beach. I found myself clicking away tirelessly and if I didn’t have to turn around and pack up to fly to Boston, we would have spent more time there exploring and breathing in the diversity.
A trip back to this part of Cali is definitely on my bucket list for the near future. I want to spend more time to wander and document. To digest and remember. To breathe deeply and sift the warm sand between my toes again…
And maybe even wear another sticky rainbow-colored candy necklace around my neck.