Goodbye, California

From the golden dream to a broken pyrite promise

Given that I recently saw Steven Seagal playing electric guitar with Toots and the Maytals, this may not be entirely a bad idea. (That was mean of me; Seagal is a far better player than he was five years ago, when he had that acting career thing going.) On the other hand, the late junkie novelist William Burroughs had a chilling take on all this: that because our brains are electro-chemical devices, the electromagnetic pulse of such an explosion would literally obliterate our souls. (If you'd like to hear Burroughs' craggy recitation of this—with a backbeat—check out "Soul Killer" on the 1989 Material album Seven Souls.) And on the third hand, 50 years ago, magazines like Popular Mechanics were predicting we'd all have flying cars by 1970, so who can say what's to be?

On the fourth hand—hello, atomic mutants!—there are some good people who are trying to help shape what is to be. There's Huntington Beach environmentalist Joey Racano, for instance, who protests daily outside the Orange County Sanitation District headquarters because, like most of us, he thinks dumping 243 million gallons of crap into our ocean every day is bad. Unlike most of us, he thinks he can make a difference. Joey actually attends all their plodding gray meetings, yet he has more hope than you probably do that we can change things for the better. He doesn't have a web page, but he e-mails surprisingly cogent and poetic missives to interested parties who e-mail him at

Eighty years ago, when ads in national magazines touted the wonders of California, no one could have imagined that our ocean would one day be a big toilet and our land given over to endless Spanish-tiled crap houses. How did we go from the golden California dream to a broken pyrite promise in such a short time? Why is the future so grim that even Disneyland has given up on trying to tout the appeal of a Tomorrowland? Oh, flying saucer, come take us away.

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