If The Mamas & the Papas oldie and the first frost sent your thoughts to sunny beaches, sapphire oceans, and picturesque seaside towns, then you have given in to California Dreamin’.
When faced with heralds of approaching winter, we Midwesterners often yearn for a warmer climate. We malign our forbearers for their less-than-insightful migration patterns. It’s all their fault.
During a recent business trip, though, I discovered Californians do not regard their 65-to70ish fall temperatures as warm. While ecstatic Midwesterners kayak in the ocean, the natives huddle around fireplaces, complaining bitterly of the cold.
Despite such hardship, everybody exercises in California. By law, they also must look good. Spandex is the buzzword. Comfy, saggy-baggy sweat suits, beet-red faces, huff-puff breathing and martyred expressions are illegal.
Nevertheless, California does fulfill fantasies. In Indiana, I cannot drink morning coffee while watching sea otters floating on their backs and dolphins competing in the high jump. No postcard ocean embraces a golden shore while picturesque boats bob with the waves. On these mornings, I might move to the West Coast in a Monterey minute.
Except that the ocean smells fishy.
For centuries, poets and storytellers have lauded the briny, bracing scent of the sea. I find it akin to the perfume of unrinsed tuna cans left overnight in the recycling bin.
Sure, “fresh country air” surrounding an average Indiana hog operation does not caress the sinuses. However, unlike Californian hotel owners, Hoosiers do not throw open windows and doors so guests can savor the aroma.
I do love falling asleep to the rhythm of waves breaking on the shore. But one night, my slumbering mind translated the unfamiliar sound to all-night trouble. Did somebody let a bathtub run over?
God made some of us permanent landlubbers; we are designed to view the ocean, not sail on it. The flip of a gigantic tail beside a California whale-watching boat cannot compare to the flips my stomach makes with each wave. I never see awesome whale tails in Indiana. But I never have been seasick there, either. Not even once.
I miss my guy. I miss the brilliant glow of russet, gold, and flame-colored trees. After meetings end, I board a bus that plows a clogged interstate to San Francisco. In record slow time, we travel through vast fields of artichokes to the airport.
“I’ve driven behind combines that went faster than this,” I tell the driver, who appreciates my Midwestern insights.
When the last leaf falls from the trees, California Dreamin’ will overtake me. But right now, I can’t wait to be Back Home Again in Indiana.
Are you a California dreamer? Or does a different paradise fill your autumn dreams?