California Dreaming (Felt So Real To Me)

I can’t do it. I’ve tried.

I was hoping to come up with some unifying theory of the past nine years in Los Angeles. A definitive statement, a “what it all meant” kind of thing.

But I can’t. And maybe that is the definitive statement on LA: just let it be. The sun is shining and there’s no need to overstate.

So here’s the deal: The Ebert Test is moving. Not from this website. You can still check in here for semi-regular, semi-coherent (but always spell-checked!) thoughts on movies, TV, music, etc. What I mean is that I, Patrick, the semi-anonymous weirdo behind this whole thing, am moving, along with my family–“back east,” to use a term that not so long ago made me scoff (it has taken me nine whole years to stop thinking of the east coast as the locus of existence. For a long time, hearing Californians reference it even casually–particularly casually–made me recoil, like hearing heathens discuss the holy land).

So where’s the tie-in? Usually I find some way to fold my personal experience into a discussion of a movie or, more often than not, the Beatles. Right now, I have nothing to write about except the personal side.

Umm, I watched The Batman recently? All I can say is it’s not worth the keystrokes it would take to discuss it.

So that’s it, there’s the move and the look-back.

LA. What did it all mean? Well, maybe, this: it’s okay to obsess over movies, music, books, TV.

Entertainment.

Art.

This is a place where people take silly things seriously. And occasionally get very rich doing so. The rest of us are free to be creative, dilettantish, striving or even content. Interesting, perhaps. Unconcerned with any of these labels as a best case scenario. Art for art’s sake sometimes occurs. That’s what California can do to you, and it’s why Californians invariably seem goofy to us easterners. You have to understand that these are people who believe, without irony, that utopia is possible. The sheer equanimity can be disorienting.

Maybe that’s where the tie-in is. As a creative person, your creative impulses and influences are often washing over your life in one way or another, challenging your understanding of reality–is it all just a dream? Or was it something real turned into a dream by the dream-weavers and the dream factories? This weird, groovy, sometimes megalomaniacal idealism made me. I sank into the theater seat and fell, through the dirt and the grime, through the future and the past, through the space and the time, all the way to the source, California. I am, to paraphrase Eugene O’Neill, its goddamn Frankenstein.

All my life, I have imagined existence as a three-act narrative in which catharsis is guaranteed before the credits roll. I’ve let the words of unseen screenwriters fill in the gaps in my understanding of the world. I’ve tried to understand the minds of men I’ve never met, wrung my own joy and pain from their experiences (sheepishly, I admit my coping mechanism often amounts to this: I wallow in despair over any number of life’s challenges, until my inner scold upbraids me: “Yeah, well, John Lennon got shot four times, so that was a little worse, don’t you think?!”).

I know this is silly, but somehow it seems less silly beneath the warm California sun. Here, the old Irish blessing has been realized: the sun always shines warm upon your face, the wind is always at your back, and the road always rises to meet you–but keep a supply of podcasts ready, because there’s gonna be traffic.

I love you, LA. Okay? I said it. But I won’t miss you, because I got what I needed from you.

And what was that?

Let’s call it…

Illumination.

One thought on “California Dreaming (Felt So Real To Me)

  1. As a provincial North Easterner, may I say:
    Glad you’re getting out of earthquake country, assuming you’re not relocating to SF?

    Liked by 1 person

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