california highway 62
I always thought it was silly, the way Southern California was wrapped up in a mythology of paradise and promise, images of eternal sunshine and lazy beach days persistently lodged in the world’s imagination. To me, it was just home.
At the same time, I knew it was strange to know nothing but this place, when even my parents, my friends’ parents, everyone before us had come from elsewhere. When the world outside called our normal exceptional. I was always fascinated by outsiders’ view of California—were we really as crazy as they thought we were? Was this place really as special as they said it was?
Outside my window, the kitschy neon signs of old roadside motels, their crumbling breeze blocks, their glistening lawns in the middle of the desert reminded me that the mythology had been manifested into something real. Even if it began as a simulacrum of an idealized lifestyle, there it was, right in front of me. Had I not noticed before?
They had always been there, fragments of a past I didn’t know, nostalgia I couldn’t claim. But having been away, and returning with fresh, homesick eyes, I think I was starting to understand what it was all about. I caught a glimpse of my home through outsiders’ eyes, and I felt the pull of the dream that had brought others here decades before.
Still, it would never be totally new to me. I can’t help but wish I knew what it would be like if it was, what it would be like to experience this place for the very first time—the possibility that in a new place you could reinvent yourself, the feeling that everything was about to change...
But maybe I did know that feeling. Maybe like the neon and the cacti, it had always been there. I just had to change my perspective.