<< part of my continuing series recording memories to assure myself I've actually been to the places I think I've been to>>

Whew, California. I lived there for most of my 30's, so I could fill a book. But instead, this much shorter entry:

When I was a child I recall my father once musing about having met some people that "smiled a LOT". Like so much so you noticed and wondered if they were selling something. When asked, it turned out it was just that they were from California, and smiling a lot was normal for them. So for many years, my concept of California was that it was a place of Hollywood, hippies, and people who smiled a lot. And that it was far away - I could never quite remember the difference between Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego... all were interchangeable in my head.

When I was looking at grad schools, I did apply & get accepted to Stanford and USC. But again, California was far away so I opted for CMU in Pittsburgh instead. Slight regrets on that front. Kinda wish I would have made it to California in the early 90s. I wonder how my life would have been different.

In the mid/late 90s I first visited California and the city identities solidified. SF is the hippies up north, somewhat seasoned by Silicon valley tech. LA is  Hollywood and beaches. San Diego is smaller and warmer and the border town. I had an all expenses paid vacation in the San Diego area (some perk that came with my first husband's job) and got to experience the gas light district, Coronado island, and had an excellent massage from a woman who was the masseuse on staff for the Icelandic olympic team. Around 1995 I started working remotely for a San Francisco Bay Area software company. Though I continued to live in New Orleans, this meant occasional trips to SF. I distinctly recall walking around SF one early visit thinking to myself "I could live here" - which was a rare thought for me: living in New Orleans set my bar pretty high for other places I was willing to live.  I liked how SF was walkable, with good transit, nice climate, and flower vendors on the street.

In 2005, after Katrina devastated New Orleans, I took a job just north of SF in San Rafael. I moved to SF and lived there until 2011. In my years there I was a city girl - goth clubs and sidewalk happy hours, wine tastings and harbor cruises. I had yet to experience the joys of the great wild outdoors - no hiking or camping for me then - unless you count Burning Man. In 2006 I was talked into my first Burning Man by my then roommate. And while I wouldn't call Burning Man "life changing" for me, it certainly has influenced much of my activities in the years since.

SF has this ambient level of zaniness that I love. It was always nice to get home from a trip and to see something like a grown man in a tutu and viking helmet nonchalantly taking his chihuahua out for a walk. No one would even raise an eyebrow. Wish more places vibed like that. 

When I make it back to California these years, I typically go to Los Angeles. I have a good friend there who throws lovely events in his house. Plus a few times I've been to "The Labyrinth of Jareth" masquarade ball held in downtown LA. Two of my favorite things to do in LA is Kura conveyor belt sushi and the Wii Korean day-spa. 

I might add some more detailed memories in the future but for now I'm closing this entry. Yes, I've been to California. I lived California. And I sometime still miss California most desperately.

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I enjoyed this. I miss California too and I've never even lived there.
So Say We All.

I first visited the Bay Area in 1993, after hearing about it from my brother who lived in the Haight in the 80s. Lived in the BA 1999-2010, went to Burning Man in 98 and 2000. Agree with your assessment of the parts of CA, noting with amusement that you didn't bother mentioning the far north; no one does (unless it's literally on fire).

In 2010 we moved to VT because the climate writing was on the wall (it also helped that CA as a state was 37 billion-with-a-b dollars in debt and their infrastructure was noticeably crumbling). I have never stopped longing for those years there, and I cry for what's happening now even though I knew it would.
For Northern flavor, I could have added a bit about that Christmas Eve I spent at my roommate's father's house in Mendocino (complete with commercial scale grow room in the basement). I was going through some lonely times and it was good to have that visit as a distraction. My roommate got his father's dog a dog-shirt that said "Bitches Love Me'. And he also got his father a shirt saying the same thing. Dad's girlfriend was not amused. ...We drove home on Christmas and found a bar still open in the Haight, and joined the other sad sacks drinking cosmos and pretending it was just another day... Life is better now.