California Dreaming

By: Zuha Jaffar

Roads are lined with palm trees, as they soak in the harsh, relentless sunlight. Buildings tower, puncturing the fragile baby blue sky with their sharp sides. As you’re walking to the beach, the strong scent of ocean drifts through the air, following you no matter how far you seem to be from it. It’s as if you have put on a pair of sunglasses with golden lenses, and you are unable to remember the supposedly sick nature of the cold. You have forgotten that leaves can change color and the feeling of the first snowfall. As you savor the warmth brought to you from both the sunlight and the people, you come to the realization that you’re in a “laid back fairytale.” You’re stuck in the halcyon days that you’ve dreamt of your whole life, but back then, they only seemed like false realities. It felt like you were nostalgic for a time that didn’t exist. But here you are, finally living out your made-up memories.

In Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, she recollects her experiences in California. This novel was published around the late 1960s, and describes Didion’s lasting impressions of the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. However, she provides a more realistic and grim portrayal of the present as opposed to the utopian image that was believed to be true, including encounters with a five-year-old named Susan who takes LSD and says she is in “High Kindergarten.”