Saturday, March 29, 2014

California Dreamworks

Before the Hotel California,
That festering White Lily,
(Its sweetness rank,
Its tenderness chilly) 
Before the claustrophobic nightmare 
Of a state satiate with its fast-gro fate: 
A siren's estate – believe it! 
So pleasing you can never leave it –

Before the Hotel California  
In 1977
There was California Dreaming  
Of a lifestyle made in heaven;
And the advent, willy nilly.
Of emancipated teens in Levi’s jeans,
Of long-haired girls in minis and Tees,
Of boys in bellbottom dungarees;
All coming to mate in the great
Western state at a
Precipitate rate.
There was California Dreaming 
Of a generation's creation:
Floating hope
With garlands entwined,
Smoking dope,
Remapping the mind;
Matchmaking in perpetuity
Body doubles to Celebrity:
Legacy of idiosyncrasy.

California Dreaming
Harrowed the misanthrope
With explosive population
And human migration,
Farmworker exploitation,
Prima facie integration;

Forced Eccentricity to cope 
With RFK shot dead in LA,
With the tragedy of assassination
In a state where every trauma
Was a microcosmic reenaction
Of the national drama.

There was California fortunetelling
From the Book of Changes:
I-Ching futures
Casting no aspersions
Forestalling dispersion:
A great dismantling
Of the nation state;
A disenchanting
Of the suburban duplex;
Disingenuous recanting
Of the military industrial complex:

Such twists of fate
As might originate
At Sun’s Western portal:
The Golden State.

There was creative destruction
And reconstruction too:
Rational dreamers
Charting hope
With peace signs and soap bubbles,
Organic fruit and vegetables,
Hip designs and cable lines
Along the ocean floor
And what is more
Catchers of dreams and fine machines,
Utopian schemes and an end to war.

There was the
Building of a future
With marquetry and carpentry,
Beading and weaving,
Rock bands and public lands,
Collective farms and the call to disarm,
Solar homes and geodesic domes.

Before California Dreaming
Mass migration of the 1960s,
Miscegenation of bikers and hippies,
Hell’s Angels and Summer of Love serendipities:

Before the dreaming and the screaming
At Altamont, at Bill Graham’s staging
Of Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin raging:
Before all that came to an end, 
With pacifism an anachronism, 
And Jerry set to win,
Wowing 'em on the Pacific Rim
With garbanzo beans and moonbeams 
And cuts to education 
While Reagan used the state 
As a template for governing the nation
With sleight of hand football passes 
Conjured for the masses;
Before all that, Hollywood starlets let it rip
In Scene I: Maid Discovers Body,
Birthing the scream supreme:
Queens of the Night
Taking fright
At the cliché, at the rote,
At Sarastro's star-studded cloak. 


 Before California Dreaming
And the magic of Bud Shank's flute
Reprising Apollo's lyre
Without the fire 
Of Marsyas' scream:
Alto melody supreme:
Before the brown leaves falling 
In coffee-colored heaps, 
Wintry days for keeps,
Ivory-laced with cream 
By a washed-out girl with her sad machine 
Where it's at; 
Before all that

Was the California Dream:
Charm of unfettered imagination,
Playground for a Puritan nation,
Hearst Castle built by Julia Morgan,
A shrine for Rosebud, non-conforming
Memorial to childhood lost:
Fantasy architecture’s high social cost;
Dynamic, impossible dreams
Driven by improbable schemes:
Magnetizing immigrants,
Drawing Japanese, Indonesians,
Chinese, Swiss and Polynesians,
Bodyguards: celebrity protectors,
Food and agricultural  inspectors,
Autograph and record collectors,
Sweatshop protesters –
And during the dust bowl
A few Mid-Westers. 

Inundation of population
From the time of the Barbary Coast
Brought deforestation to the land:
Trial by Fire's inhuman machine,
And to the cities built on sand
Trial by Water: mischance marine.

But if California dreams foretold Black Bart
And Wells Fargo too,
Were these the dreamers' dreams, indeed,
Or dreams of Viking ghosts
Pirates sans remorse,
Drifted off course,
From the wreck of the Sutton Hoo?

Who dreamed a dream of an aqueduct
Drying up the Owens Valley,
Siphoning off water for Tinsel Town's
Megalopolis awaiting a quake,
While leeching the water of Mono Lake?
California Water Wars quenched the Angelenos' thirst:
Parching farmland and habitat, and putting people first:

People washing their laundry and their hands,
People drinking from a cool glass:
Unobjectionable proclivities
Fulfilling species-specific activities.
But people watering terraced gardens and lawns,
People filling their pools

Are dreaming a dream of a plentiful time,
Are dreaming the waters of moderate clime.

Such was an artist's dream called "Chinatown,"
Water politics and hands around,
A dream of San Francisco as real as "Dirty Harry," 
One of many dreams of Chinatown
Where Chan is Missing, lost and found.

Is Hollywood the auteur's dreaming,
Or collective, tribal, California seeming?
History being made on the edge of the sea,
Where our dreams make proper fools of us

Or become reality.

No comments: