Saturday, December 29, 2007

Those Californians

California has a certain reputation. I noticed as soon as I got here.
Whenever we go back to Europe, or to the East Coast for that matter, people invariably ask "So... what do you do, apart from goofing off at the beach?'' with a mix of envy and condescension.

In its holiday issue, the Economist has an excellent article on the birth, influence and demise of the alternative Esalen Institute in Big Sur, an expensive retreat that lured some of our Euro-friends in search of meaning in their life. The article concludes with the inevitable cliché: "Whether at Esalen or not, Californians are still willing to try anything new -- to do it until it hurts and to become caricatures in the process -- in order to explore how far we can go as human beings. The consequences may sometimes be laughable, but somebody has to do it."

Perhaps it's no wonder that a dear contact from my student days in Britain responded to our season greetings with this amusing note: "Great to hear from you. It appears you're still living the life of a West Coast hippie, lounging around on the beach smoking strange cigarettes and staring at the moon. No doubt every now and again you get dressed up in your best business outfit, head into town and make a couple of million bucks in one smart transaction and then retire to the beach for another few months. I'm jealous!"

So are we. But try to get sympathy when you leave on the beach...
photo LA Frog