Memory is a funny thing. Maybe that's why California (and especially Southern California)appears in so many songs - from the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas to Weezer and the Red Hot Chili Peppers - the Golden State has inspired myriad writers of prose and verse.
My own memories of California literally began at birth at Anaheim General Hospital - in the not-so-fabled part of Orange County. Those memories began a new chapter this past weekend with my first trip back to my original home state since I moved to the East Coast in 2002.
As soon as I exited Los Angeles International Airport, I was struck by an early memory of this very futuristic restaurant located at the main terminal. When I was a kid, it made me think of a flying saucer and I used that point of reference to distinguish LAX from other regional airports.
After getting my Prius (gotta have a hybrid in LA!), I slowly crept up the 405 (see, I remembered to say "the" again!) to a friend's house in the Valley. This triggered an entire series of memories for me that continued for my entire vacation. By some strange miracle of near-photographic memory and an uncanny grasp of one of the world's most extensive freeway and surface street systems, I managed to drive for 5 days without the use of a map or GPS. How was it possible? I remembered landmarks, sign posts and the rough locations of friends' homes long since deleted from any address book. It felt oddly natural to coast along Wilshire, Pico, Ventura, I-10 and my favorite street - Sepulveda Boulevard.
Another set of entirely different memories were made as I explored the LA Farmers Market on Saturday morning. If sunshine could have a scent NOT created by the people at Snuggle Fabric Softener, then I smelled it there at the Market. On top of just an overall fresh feeling, there were fruits and vegetables, freshly-brewed coffee, flowers, baked goods and various high-fat breakfast foods.
Finally are all the new memories made with the friends and family I saw. Like I said, it's been 6 years since I made an appearance on the West Coast and this was my first chance to see old buddies from college and my cousins. The scary realization that the conversation between four friends had imperceptably shifted from frat parties and finals to jobs, significant others and home-ownership certainly solidified my sense of my own adulthood and that of my peers.
Even though I missed wiggling my toes in the sand along Venice Beach, touring the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (foiled again!) and grabbing some tasty Hungarian pastries at Schwartz's - I hope that it won't take another 6 years until I get back to California.