Its 8 am and Washington D.C. is an hour behind us as we race the dawn across the United States to California. During breakfast the sun pulls ahead and by the time we are over Colorado, a vast range of red mountains is already stretching in the warm morning light. The red peaks below have the slightest dusting of snow and I’m getting hungry imagining they are made of chocolate and dusted with sweet baker’s sugar. As with many things that you have never seen before in America, you feel like you have seen it before. I am sure John Wayne is down there somewhere, pouring coffee from a turquoise enamel jug for John Denver as they both enjoy some camp-fire cakes cooked by Yul Brenner. Chief Sitting Bull is in the next Canyon, talking to his agent about his frustration with Westerns. He wants to get into independent film. “I will not be type-cast, Max” he shouts as he hangs up the phone and slurps down his morning Matcha. “Can you believe this guy?” he asks his make-up artist, indifferent as to her reply. “Whata Schmuck!”
We are off to explore the north of the state so first stop will be Monterey Bay and the Big Sur on the central coast, then north to the vineyards of Napa Valley and finally finishing in San Francisco. California always makes me smile. Perhaps it’s the sunshine on my shoulders, or the image of the state etched into my subconscious by Hollywood, but I always feel optimistic in California. Its one of a handful of states in the United States that has presence; New York and Texas being the others. Everybody knows when California walks into a room. People ditch their Cosmos and flee Todd the marketing guy, just to bask in her presence. She is America for Americans. Whereas the entire country is an Ellis Island of hope to foreigners, for the native-born American, California is the second-chance state. Mickey Mouse runs a tattoo parlor on Venice Beach. Every morning he rides his Harley down the Pacific Coast Highway with his girl Maria riding pillion. People ask him about Walt and the gang sometimes as he does tattoos, but he just replies lazily “yeah man those days . . . that was another life dude.” Then he returns to drawing a big-assed pin-up girl on some guy’s arm to cover-up the name of an old lover underneath.