...like how i came to columbus because it was the first place i could afford to be, and now it all makes sense: why i needed to be here, what i have learned. most of the things that change my life are accidental, although i'm not unique in this i suppose. still always, in the end, i'm left thinking of california...laughing to myself that it's funny how i got my state ID there, since it's the place to which i return most often. i'm almost embarassed of it, too, because california is so synonymous with running away from problems. my housemates poke fun at the midwest kids who think thier lives will instantaneously improve with a san francisco-bound bus ticket. they ought to stay in their cornbelt hamlets, they reckon, and work on making things better. and the thing is, i understand why they think this, and why leaving is always too easy, and why hoosiers and buckeyes might resent someone for fleeing to the promised land of soymilk and sucanat. i understand, but then i tell them the flipside...and the fact of the matter is this: for a girl who is thrown into deep depressions by cold weather, there aren't so many options in the contiguous states. florida and arizona aren't my cup of tea, so what does that leave, really? california. and while i'll be the first to acknowledge that it falls far short of utopia, i can also see why it's a good place to be. in many parts of california, i can ask if the bread is vegan and they'll actually know what i'm talking about. there are towns where i can hold a woman's hand with little threat of harassment or violence, and one can drive from the sea to the high desert in mere hours. there is davis' "big people's park", where the playground equipment is three times the usual size, and that radio station near visalia that plays marvin gaye's "i heard it through the grapevine" twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. people are actually familiar with the concept of commute by bicycle, and paths are even provided sometimes. of course, i wish i could dwell on the attributes of south dakota or new hampshire-it seems so much more romantic, so much less cliche. of course, california's political climate is often fucked up. despite all this, i still love it. and so it makes sense, when i think about settling down, that i think about what caleb said when i told him about all the wonderful people in the golden state: "you'll find your way back there eventually." and i think too about that mary lou lord song- "hey california, here i come-i've got my old backpack and a sunburned thumb...i hope my compass is tried and true-cause when i need a friend, it's still you."