From the time I was 9 years old, I knew I’d leave my home state of Michigan and move to California. I didn’t know when or how long I’d end up staying, but I knew my path would lead me to or through the Golden State of Golden Dreams.

For me, it represented a brighter and lighter way of thinking and living.

The first thing that got me thinking along those lines was watching O.J. Simpson during his Heisman Trophy season at USC. I saw myself playing college football in the sunshine, and talking to reporters on TV.

By the time I was 12, my reasons for wanting to be in California had to do with things other than sports. A three-week stay in San Francisco introduced me to T’ai Chi and Oriental medicine, the Tao Te Ching, the teachings of Don Juan, homosexuals, beach houses, stunning ocean views, and the possibility of somehow being involved with music and the media. Where I came from, that was unconventional thinking.

I guess that’s what California most represented to me — unconventionality.

Convention had guys like me being aggressive and hard, but T’ai Chi taught me there is strength in gentleness, and that softness and quietude can be mighty forces. That kind of teaching would end up having much to do with me marching to the beat of my own drum and not feeling like I had to be forced into things.

The Oriental medicine taught me to look inside myself, rather than inside the medicine cabinet, for the treatment of what ails me. It taught me that I know a great deal about myself and my body, and to trust my intuition.

The Tao Te Ching and the Don Juan books encouraged me to pursue a path of knowledge and wisdom over one of money and happiness.

Gay people and all the other colorful sorts I saw walking around on the wharf and in the park and on the streets of San Francisco helped open my eyes to the fact that there are all kinds of people in this world, and unless you want someone telling you how you should be and think and act, it’s best not to go doing that to others. It’s called diversity, and California epitomizes diversity.

As for those beach houses, they showed me there are people living the good life, and the ocean views helped me see and appreciate California’s incredible natural beauty.

A dozen years after those first inklings, I made the move to Los

Angeles, and what I found was

decidedly not unconventional. Oh sure, people looked different, but as far as their thinking, looks and

money and possessions and popularity dominated — not exactly

what I would call unconventional. I never liked it as a place or a way to live.

Fortunately, I found out there’s more to California than L.A. and San Francisco, and more than cars and freeways and traffic jams and stress.

It’s been 30 years since my arrival in California, which I now proudly and lovingly call my home sweet home. It is unconventional, but I have found a place where community matters, and where people live in close proximity with nature.

And I have found living with music and media.

I celebrate it all — the diversity, the beauty, and the 160th birthday of the great state of California.

Here’s to the good life and to golden dreams. Here’s to California.

Ron Colone can be reached at ron.colone@gmail.com.

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