US4 – It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here [in Paris France] …

… Oh, but California/ California, I’m coming home (Joni Mitchell, California, 1971)

What’s California like? I’ll try and resist the temptation, drawing on a week spent in two places less than 10 km apart (Aptos and Santa Cruz), of inaccurate précis.

The suburbs here above Santa Cruz feel new.


In the city, though, there are old buildings – though their windows seem too new for them. The concrete boat at Aptos feels old, too.

It’s cold in the mornings.

The chef Julia Child, who grew up in southern California, found her father and his business friends in Pasadena settled in their ways. In Paris, where she went in the late 40s, “I felt a lift of pure happiness every time I looked out the window. I had come to the conclusion that I must really beFrench, only no one had ever informed me of this fact. I loved the people, the food, the lay of the land, the civilized atmosphere, and the generous pace of life.” (Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, My life in France, 2006)

According to the historian Kenneth Starr, “[i]n just about every way possible – its internationalism, its psychology of expectation, its artistic and literary cult, its racism, its heedless damage to the environment, its rapid creation of a political, economic, and technological infrastructure – the [1849] Gold Rush established, for better or for worse, the founding patterns, the DNA code, of American California.” (California: a history, 2005)

So Joni Mitchell’s adjectives – un-old, un-cold, un-settled in its ways – don’t really seem the right ones. I don’t know what California is like.

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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