California (and Seattle) Dreaming

October 31st, 2013

It’s now been about a week since my wife and returned from our trip to the West Coast (OK, it took me a month to hit the publish button…I”ll explain why in upcoming posts). It was a typical Schneider vacation with 50% more things to do than time provided, little of which is relaxing. It’s not for everybody, but it works for us. The trip started in San Diego, followed by a drive up the coast to Sonoma, concluding with a short flight up to Seattle before an unpleasant red-eye flight home before driving from Hoboken to Richmond, VA.

Many people that I spoke with before and after my trip have told me about how they are obsessed with San Diego and understandably so. The weather is always perfect, the beach is right there and there’s no shortage of great mexican food, bars, breweries, parks, museums and other various attractions. We even took a drive across the Coronado Bridge and drove down Silver Strand Blvd. all the way down to Imperial Beach, about two miles from the Mexican border. It was definitely worth getting the convertible, even if it had just been for that drive.

Upon conclusion of our long weekend in San Diego, we began our drive up the famous Pacific Coast Highway – Route 1. I had done the drive once before about 10 years ago, but it was my wife’s first time. The first time had been in a Coors Light colored Chevy Malibu, but this time we were doing it in a candy apple red Ford Mustang, which was way for fun. Even before we got on the PCH, we started playing California songs – my favorite being Marlena Shaw’s “California Soul” (Verve Remix) and the one that I’ve heard thousands of times, but didn’t resinate with me until listening to it in California – the Mamas and the Papas – “California Dreaming.” When you see the incredible landscapes of the ocean and beach hitting the mountains it blew me away. How someone could have grown up in Southern California experiencing that beauty everyday and being immersed in a life that revolved around the sun, beach, outdoors and everything that goes with it, then to be taken out of that and transplanted anywhere else, especially somewhere much further north, in the winter time, I could see how someone would feel like part of them was missing -like losing a limb or an organ – that all made perfect sense to me at that moment.

It’s not just the weather, but what that weather does for one’s way of thinking. In the northeast, many people start to get seasonal depression when the mercury begins to drop. It’s going to get cold and we’re going to have to be inside more, binge-watching shows on Netflix, gaining weight because we’re only watching TV and eating take-out until the merciful spring thaw which usually takes place somewhere in mid- to late-March. So roughly 3 months, or 1/4 of your life, you’re in hibernation/depression mode. That’s a scary way to think about it, 25% of your life is winter, where you’re depressed.

Not in Southern California.

There’s something to that, when you don’t have 1/4 of your year that you always dread it frees your mind to focus on the things that you truly enjoy – like surfing, skateboarding, golfing – whatever outdoor activity it may be. It sounds a bit cliche, but if you look at where a large number of elite athletes in those sports have come from over time, it’s been Southern California. Besides the weather, which plays into it, there’s the vibe that is equally as intoxicating. The laid-back, chill attitude that even penetrates the rock-salt encrusted, bitter New York/Northeast defense layer. The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” slacker/Buddhist existence is so real and prevalent you get it in your head that you to can see yourself ridding your existence of worldly possessions, save for some Credence tapes and join a bowling league and let the universe play out for you the way it is meant to.

We meandered up the PCH all the way to San Francisco and Sonoma, stopping in Big Sur for an beautiful hike where fortunately we did not encounter any mountain lions, rattlesnakes or poison oak, even though we were frequently warned that all three of these could be encountered. What we did encounter was a hike to a beautiful beach. Beaches are always great, but there were two things that made these beach particularly special, one was that at that spot, there was an estuary, where the river met the sea and the second was the large collection of rocks right by where waves broke. Each wave crashed over this collection of rocks, but as the tide went back into the ocean, the water pulled over these rocks creating a calming, peaceful harmony that I couldn’t get enough of.

After some wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa, we took a flight up to Seattle to visit friends who had recently moved out there. Seattle has a very recognizable skyline with the space needle and Mt. Rainer looming in the background (assuming it’s not foggy and you get a chance to see it), but to be there in person and to go to the top of Queen Anne and look west out over Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains, when spin around to see the city skyline, dominated by the space needle and snow-capped Mt. Rainer you wonder if you are on another planet. That type of environment certainly played a part in how and why Starbucks was founded there, why Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, etc. spawned from there…it all just made sense. I wish I had the guts (and lack of family connections in the NYC area) to just move out there, but I know I don’t. We’ll see what the future holds. Hopefully the future is bright and snowy and I’ll be able to make my way back to the Pacific Northwest this winter.