When I was a kid all the cool kids went to California on vacation (or were from California.) But we were never the California vacation kind of family. When we left Utah, it was to fly to Europe, or the east coast, never north, never west.
So there was a preverse sort of childhood wish-making to take my children to San Clemente, and all points California. The piers, the ice cream, lazy pizza, the Pacific Coast Highway; it was days of 70 degrees, swimsuits, and flip flops.
One afternoon, my sisters and I left the kids and drove through the desert to Palm Springs.
Because houses like this are in Palm Springs:
A giant Marilyn Monroe towered over the city square (California.)
We drove slowly through the pristine mid-century neighborhoods, obsessing over every perfect candy-color and white trim detail, tracing the angle of every butterfly roof.
I was ready to sell my house with its mansard roof and move directly to the foothills of San Jacinto for my own low slung ranch.
That yellow door--could you die? I wish you could see the giant brass chandelier in the entryway. These people need to be my friends.
On the way out of town, and back to the children, I decided that while desert life wouldn't be so bad, it wasn't the life for me. The ocean pulls and calls us, but wouldn't living next to it be a sort of unsanctioned indulgence? California might be a beautiful place to vacation, but perhaps I am content with the high desert mountain valleys: the cool nights, dry air, and even mansard roofs.
At least I can always visit California.