The Von Bondies - No Regrets
"California Calling" - part 3 of 3
I know what you’re thinking. What the hell do the Von Bondies have to do with California? I’ll get to that.
Many years passed from the time I was in my hippie phase until the time I got to California. Over 30 of them.
In the intervening years, I put down the bong, went to work for The Man and became a capitalist pig. But I still had this desire to see the promised land of Haight Ashbury for myself, just to set my 13-year old mind at ease and assure myself that I didn’t miss my calling as an aging hippie trying to keep the 60′s alive.
It wasn’t until 2007 that I finally got to California, and it was 2008 before I ventured to Haight-Ashbury. And it turned out to be a dirty smudge on what was otherwise a pristine vacation. Sure, the hippie, flower-power, peace and love aura still pervades the area, but it seems like a facade to me. While the storefronts are filled with peace signs and groovy art, the place still smelled, metaphorically, like drug abuse and regret. Teenage panhandlers, 20somethings with a permanent glaze in their eyes, baby boomers still dressed for their Electric Kool Aid Acid Test all co-mingle in a depressing display of empty lives and emptier futures.
I watched an obviously strung out kid who couldn’t have been more than 16 play a trumpet for cash and the 13 year old Haight Ashbury wannabe in me took a last, shallow breath and died.
We walked up Haight to Amoeba Music, bought this Von Bondies CD which became the soundtrack to the rest of our trip and tried to ignore the panhandlers and vagrants at McDonald’s while we grabbed some coffee for the trip back to Sacramento. I’m kind of glad the last breath of hippie in me disappeared. I don’t even know why I was holding on to it.
California became something different for me then. It wasn’t the place of my childhood. It wasn’t the place of my high school years. It was a place where I found myself yearning to be for reasons beyond what a 13 year old or 17 year old could think about.
This album will always remind me of the trip to Haight-Ashbury, but it more reminds me of this one particular moment on the drive from San Francisco to Sacramento when I realized this is the place. California had been calling me almost my entire life but it wasn’t until right then that I found the California that was right for me. It wasn’t the San Francisco of the 70s or the Los Angeles of the 80s. It was the entire Northern California of right here and now. It was one of those tiny, perfect moments that are so hard to hold on to, when everything is right and perfect and the person you’re sharing it with is right and perfect and a fleeting sense of bliss makes its way into your heart.
That’s how I came - more than 30 years after first thinking about it - to call California my home away from home.