I know two Eagles songs in a row is a little beyond the pale, but this pretty much describes how I feel right now.
Southern California is currently hell. We’ve been in the 90s for nearly a week now. The heat is supposed to break tomorrow, but the humidity will be back because of the remains of hurricane Odile. I know my electric bill is going to be sky-high because we’ve been running the AC something like 12 hours a day. The biggest problem is that it isn’t cooling down that much at night. Although last night, for the first time in a while, there was a bit of a breeze. That’s a good sign in my book.
California became a state today in 1850. Just a year after the Gold Rush. It’s amazing what money can accomplish, isn’t it?
California has a little bit of everything. Mountains, beaches, deserts, and cropland. The weather here is mostly terrific. There’s a lot of earthquakes, but hey, fracking is making those more common everywhere. If this state were a nation, its GDP would rank it in the top ten, economically speaking. We have one of the finest public university systems (in spite of a long line of Republican governors who keep trying to dismantle Pat Brown’s legacy). We’re the official home of most of the entertainment industry, although it’s more of a diaspora lately. We even have Disneyland, still the happiest place on Earth. All in all, it’s not the worst place to call home.
So here’s our official state song to celebrate the state’s 164th birthday.
I was a little surprised when I googled this. I always thought “California Here I Come” was the state song. Goes to show you what I know. Of course, our official state animal, the California grizzly bear, is extinct. But we do have a pretty state flower. (Check out this for more official California state symbols. Who knew we had an official fossil?)
A federal judge here in California has declared the death penalty unconstitutional. Homing in on the delays in carrying out death sentences, he referred to the system in California as broken. I could’ve told him that. Of course, any system that allows executions to take place is broken.
I get that there’s some crimes so heinous, there’s no coming back from them. There are some criminals so vile that there is no chance of rehabilitation, ever. But in spite of that, I will never be able to accept the death penalty. I do not, cannot, believe that there is any justice served by killing another human being. It might satisfy some bone deep urge for revenge, but it will not make up for the wrong that was done. Ever.
I’m not going to pretend that this ruling in California will lead to a national repeal of the death penalty, not with the current misguided reactionary SCOTUS in place anyway. But it’s a step in the right direction.
Today is one of those gorgeous days in SoCal that makes you understand why people from everywhere else wanted to come here–bright, sunny, not too warm, not too cool. My dad says they used to have signs in Iowa saying there was no such place as California. (Long Beach was known for a long time as Iowa By the Sea because of all the transplants from that state living here.) There was a time when California really was the Golden State, full of promise and opportunity for anyone willing to work for it.
It’s not such a gold mine these days, literally and figuratively. And maybe it never was. For all the riches some people managed to find here, there was always a dark side. For every success, there were a thousand like the man in this classic tune by Dave Alvin. Trying so hard just to scrape by, working themselves to the bone just to get ahead, only to watch every dream they ever had go down in flames. Or bullets, as is the case in the song.
The spare instrumentation highlights the bleakness of the story here. I don’t really know what the moral of this story is. Don’t dream too big? Watch out for thieves? Or maybe know that everything has its price. In California today, the price for wonderful weather and celebrity culture is pretty steep. Look perfect and young. Have lots of money, a big house, and a flashy car. Or be one of the invisible hoard who caters to those who have the looks, money, etc. The price of living in paradise might be to give up your soul.
But every time I think of going somewhere else, I know I’d always miss this weird, narcissistic little place. Not just because all my family and friends are here, but because it is such a weird, narcissistic place.
But that’s a different song.