California

Someday they’re going to write about us, living here in the shadow of this gathering dust,
As the waves build up and drown the light, while we’re hanging from buildings on a Saturday night.
And the words she said… I could barely hear over the blare of the speakers and the smell of beer,
As she got up to speak, she lifted her dress. I remember her face but I forget the rest.
Here in California, I was
Just a name and a number, a face in a tumbler.
Here in California, we’re all stuck in the same scene,
all nightmares and daydreams
in California
She I said, “I got money, but I got no friends,” as we drove through the valley in her daddy’s Benz.
She said, “These pills wear off, but the pain don’t end. I never thought it would matter so much to pretend.”
And the thing about her that haunts me still: as her hands fell down to the steering wheel,
And a shock of light fell across her face, she said there’s only two ways out of this place.
Here in California, I was
Just a name and a number, a face on a tumblr.
Here in California, we’re all stuck in the same scene,
all nightmares and daydreams
in California
Oh I hope it’s clear: There’s no room for us anymore in the atmosphere,
But darling I always liked the desperation in your eyes,
The way you’d dance in the glow of the Hollywood Freeway lights,
Someday they’re gonna forget about us and we’ll wonder if we were ever good enough,
It hit me last night in this song I heard, I remember the feeling but forget all the words.
Here in California, I was
Just a name and a number, a face on a tumblr.
Here in California, we’re all stuck in the same scene,
all nightmares and daydreams
in California
I wrote this song with Linda Perry one afternoon in her studio in the Valley. She was super cool and very talented. We talked about Betty (my ’66 Chevelle) and Rhonda (the ’74 Honda CB 750 — she was into old bikes and muscle cars too).. Then we went inside and started working on other things in the big room: songs that had parts she would sing and I would sort of sing back and we tossed ideas around but nothing really came of it. I got dizzy so we went to the kitchen. She said, I have this little idea and she sang a piece of a melody about California and I thought, “whoa there. That is something.” So we spent the rest of the afternoon writing the song. She mostly wrote the melodies (though I had some ideas). I mostly wrote the words (though she had some ideas) and we both walked away feeling like we had captured something about the state where we live.
I grew up here. My folks were big hippies. I was born on a commune in California and raised by very idealistic people who didn’t have a penny to their names but believed strongly in their children, you might even say their country. I feel very tied to this place and very resistant to its cliches. The SNL skit on Californians is funny and I wonder sometimes if that’s what the rest of the world thinks of us: dithering, spoiled people obsessed with their appearance. I understand it because most of what California exports (besides food) is the culture of white people who moved to Hollywood to get into films and yes many of those people are dithering, spoiled and obsessed with their appearance. But outside of maybe 10 square miles in the heart of Los Angeles, you don’t find many people like that here.
People have always moved to California to find a a new life. And always they have run up against a hard reality. The idea of Utopia always always begs the question of Dystopia. Whether it was migrant workers in the 30s escaping the Dust Bowl only to find a harsh world of shanty towns and corporate farms completely disinterested in their well-being… Or Berkeley hippies (like my folks) in the 60s protesting the war and Governor Reagan (Until I was 12, I thought Reagan’s first name was “That Bastard” since that is the ONLY way he was ever referred to in my house) who found that dropping out of society only created new, sometimes harsher societies as communes became cults and high ideals failed under the weight of so many corruptible human impulses.
People still move here to find a better life. And it only takes one look into a migrant shantytown outside the polluted fields of the San Joaquin Valley to know it is still a harsh life.
I don’t have a point I’m trying to make. Of course California is also the stuff of dreams, of aspirations, an oasis for high-minded people who live in a multi-cultural soup on the borderlands of the future. In this way, it’s more like Hong Kong or London than Chicago. Everyone is from everywhere else. And there are only a few of us who are from here. And everyone thinks we’re simple.  And white. And we’re not. We’re complicated (And Mexican. Mostly.)
So I guess I could just say, as Jackson Brown once said of America: I love it here because my family is here and because it’s all I know

2 thoughts on “California

  1. cali native … born in the “omg” sfv … escaped L.A. and have lived all up and down our state … this cali native loves this song!
    please make more music … your lyrics, your music <3 … make more! go ahead … dooooo it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *