Having just returned from a couple weeks away, I was struck by the strength of the ties that bind me to home in the Bay Area. First day at my parents’ house in Massachusetts, and I was already missing healthy food in normal-size portions, Mr. Pollo, exercise options, diversity, tolerance, curiosity, laid-back people, gays, my friends, and my routine in general.
Do people who live elsewhere miss their homes as much when they’re traveling, even while traveling in interesting and wonderful places? Do other people feel such a rush of sweet homecoming when their return flight touches down?
As usual, the pop music of my early years is instructive. There are any number of singers celebrating San Francisco, from Tony Bennett to the Village People, Scott McKenzie to Jefferson Starship. Hey, I never said all the songs were good, but it’s pretty hard to find one that isn’t crazy about the City by the Bay. Can you think of any? I’d say New York is the only other US city to be similarly celebrated in song, though that city’s playlist might be a bit more mixed.
Not to be one of those tedious people who drag out comparisons between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but let’s compare San Francisco and Los Angeles songs. Sure, back in the 60s everyone was happy about “California Girls” (and I guess we’re supposed to be again, though now they’re “gurls”), and the Mamas and the Papas thought all their problems would be solved if they were in LA.
- Neil Diamond ain’t a man who likes to swear, but his “I Am…I Said” (1971) is a big f-you to Los Angeles. New York’s home.
- Albert Hammond famously flopped in his attempt to make it in LA in “It Never Rains in Southern California” (1972). It pours, man, it pours.
- LA proved too much for Gladys Knight’s man in “Midnight Train to Georgia” (1973), and she’s taking the next train out of town with him. I think the Pips stayed.
- Glen Campbell’s “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in LA)” (1975) is all about longing to be back in Tennessee, which for some reason people seem to think is a great place to be; in songs, anyway.
- And “she had to leave Los Angeles,” though the reasons are kind of a mixed bag, in “Los Angeles” (1980) by X. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as my mother would say.
I’m not an LA basher. I actually like Los Angeles. But I’ve never lived there, and I probably never will. Nice place to visit, as they say.