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  • All the leaves are brown (the leaves are brown)
    And the sky is gray (and the sky is gray)
    I’ve been for a walk (been for a walk)
    On a winter’s day (On a Winter’s day)
    I’d be safe and warm (be safe and warm)
    If I was in L.A. (If I was in L.A.)
    California Dreamin’ (California Dreamin’)
    On such a winter’s day (Such a Winter’s Day)…..

    By John and Michelle Phillips, Mamas and Papas' "California Dreaming"
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    When I was his age, I had a California dream. I was, surprisingly and unexpectedly, at the end of my Naval career, working for the Chaplains at the Treasure Island Naval Base in the middle of the San Francisco Bay while I awaited my discharge papers. While I waited, I fell in love with California. It was my first time on the West Coast, and it was a whole different world than the cold and restrictive East Coast world I’d come from. There was something open and freeing and just, well, different about the people out there, and the lifestyle. Plus, the sun was always shining. I got bitten with the California dream, big time.

    The chaplains helped me work through some of my options for making my stand in California, once I knew I was getting out. They were great for that type of thing. I did a lot of research about what it would take to start my education on the G.I. Bill at a California institution, and I also looked into joining the Merchant Marines. I’d found a couple of ships that I could sign onto with the Merchants, and the pay looked good and I’d be able to keep up my love of the sea, minus all the military bullshit, working different ships for awhile to make some cash, then coming back to port and studying for awhile, living and working from a port in California.
  • It all looked so fine and good on paper, and in my head. But then my dream met the realities of a blossoming addiction, and crashed and burned, hard, to the cold, bitter earth of reality. I headed back east to clean up a few details I’d left behind in my run to freedom - wrap up a few loose ends - and then my plan was to go back out to California and start to live the dream.

    It took a couple of months, but I found my way on the trail back to my California Dream, in a Jeep with my buddy Mike from the ship, who was doing the same thing I had done, running for his freedom from the chains that had oppressed him on the ship, only he had a better “ways and means” of getting there, a great Jeep, and someone to share the journey with him (me), whereas I had made the trip on a Greyhound Bus and the heal-toe-and-thumb express (hitchhiked). So everything was in place, my return to my dream was all mapped out, but there was one, small, nagging problem underlying the whole dream and journey. I was strung out, and it was a lot worse than I’d thought. My addiction had just about run its course with me, and I had run out of the werewithal to continue on without resolving it, first.

    We, literally, came to a crossroads on a highway in Massachussetts. Mike turned his Jeep west to pursue his dream of freedom, while I got out of the Jeep and pointed my compass South, with the plan to clean up my act, straighten myself out, before I went out there to build my dream in California. I put my thumb out, and the rest is history.

    As the reality, and the enormity, of addiction revealed itself to me, and what it would take to recover from it became a 6 year journey of its own, and my priority, other dreams and pursuits took a back seat. Fortunately, that story had a good ending, that journey a fine destination, and I got a new lease on life and built a different dream, back on the East Coast.
  • J.B. has worked out here most every summer since he graduated high school, working programs at Stanford, Berkeley, and UCLA, and somewhere along the line, he got bitten with the California Dream. His has a lot of different components to it than mine did, but there are also a few similarities. He is, after all, my son. Very much his own person, very unique and individual, but as he grows older, I also see so many similarities, it’s scary at times.

    Yesterday, I got to spend the day with my son, 3 weeks into the building of his California dream. We went all over, had lunch in a sidewalk café, where he just looked so relaxed, so “where he is meant to be” I had to comment on it. After we ran down south to drop our stuff off at our hotel near the ship we’re taking today, we came back up to his “stomping grounds”, and I got to just hang out with him for a day in his new home town. He really wanted to take me down to the Santa Monica pier, and as we stood together, out at the end of the pier, I got it. “I’d come out here during breaks between sessions over the summer, and it was here that I thought to myself, ‘I think I could live out here’.”

    Just like he did when he had his epiphany at a New Years Eve dance in his junior year in high school, realizing who he was and deciding from that moment on to just be himself and let people know who he was, he followed his dream and realization about living in California, and now, here he is. He came out here with a place to stay, enough money in his pocket to sustain himself for a month or so, and a dream. Now he has a job, and another prospect on the line. But, just like when he “came out”, I can see that he is in his element, he’s where he wants to be, and he wears it well.

    I am so proud of him, to the very core of my being. Most times, I feel so honored to be this young man’s father. I can’t wait to watch him set the world on fire.

    He has a dream, and he is living it. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.
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