Thursday, February 09, 2006

California Stars

Originally uploaded by Martina.
One song that always fills me with a sort of wistfulness for my younger years, is Wilco and Billy Bragg's setting of Woody Guthrie's California Stars lyrics to music. It's funny, when I first moved to California, I was convinced that I would not last there for six months. On my first night there, sleeping on the floor of my new apartment, I remember having a midnight epiphany that said "I will not linger here". In the end, I lingered for four years, and probably would have stayed a lot longer, had my father not passed away.

So, in my memory, California has come to symbolize those early days of freedom after getting out of college. The world was bursting with possibilities. The sun was shining, and I was finally an adult with an apartment, a job, two cats and my own newspaper subscription. I remember times coming off the freeway when I'd see a particular cluster of palm trees, with ocean in the distance and think, "Man, I live here! This is my home!"

Then, everything changed. My dad died, duty kicked in, and I found myself planning a move back to Oregon, because I didn't want my mom to be here all lone. Even though I enjoyed my California life, the thought of her mourning and alone filled me with such guilt that I ultimately decided it would be better to move back to my real home - Oregon. I've lived other places since then, but somehow I keep finding my way back here to where the air is clean(er).

Still, despite its abundance of smog, there is a party of me that sees my California days as a kind of idyll. If I were Al Bundy, I suppose California would be high school football. Rationally, I know that it would never be the same now. Like me, most of my old friends have moved away. Things have changed; I have changed. I like where I am now. It is in those nostalgic moments when I miss the relative simplicity of being young enough to believe that misfortunes are things that happen to other people that I find myself missing the sunshine there. In those moments reminiscing about that time becomes an escape, and I find myself harboring a wistful appreciation for Woody Guthrie's lyrics to California Stars. I suppose that is why I've always been fond of the song.

I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd love to feel your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes, I'd give my life to lay my head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to dream my troubles all away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from my starbed and make another day
Underneath my California stars
They hang like grapes on vines that shine
And warm the lovers glass like friendly wine
So, I'd give this world
just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars
- Woody Guthrie


Chris Date said...

Fab call on the music. Now, why isn't that one in my collection?


Jen said...

That is such a great song! And I hope that idyll, mark II is on its way to you.

Martina said...

C: Maybe your collection is too full of P.J. Harvey for it to fit? :-)

J: It IS a great song, though I just noticed that the site I yoinked the lyrics from botched a few words.

Leslita said...

I remember feeling that same exact way when I moved to Portland after college. I moved into the first place I ever lived on my own and I was lying in my futon with the window cracked and I could smell fresh baked yummy things coming from Rose's Deli nearby (before they closed that 23rd and Burnside location) and I could almost not sleep at night because I was so excited: "Hey, I live here! This is my home!"