Love Letters to California – The New York Times


Surrounded by so much grim news as a reporter, I’m always in search of anything that feels hopeful, or that brings delight into my life.

I often find it in the community that has formed around this newsletter, and the stories and perspectives that you share with us about your lives. Recently, you’ve been writing about why you love California and what it means to you — charming tributes that have been nothing but a welcome addition to my inbox.

Today I’m sharing some of these testaments, which shed light on why we stay here despite the heat, the fires and the wildly high cost of living. You can email me your own California love letter at These responses have been lightly edited for clarity:

“I left Chile in 1992, after living 17 years under a military dictatorship, and flew directly to L.A. I was very young, and I knew I was different, but didn’t know what ‘gay’ meant. I moved to L.A. without speaking the language or knowing anyone. As soon as I got off the plane at LAX, I felt a sense of peace, familiarity and safety. L.A. has been my home since. I have made great, lasting friendships. I’ve had incredible love affairs and heartbreaks. I spend my summer weekends at the beach, sunbathing, swimming and relaxing. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore brings me peace and quiet. Traffic is horrible, but I’m willing to deal with it and consider it a small price to pay to live in such a wonderful place.” — Cristian Cifuentes, Los Angeles

“Fifty years ago, I was living in Chicago when I decided to open a wine and cheese store, cafe and wine bar. The plan was to open in Chicago. I came to San Francisco to research the wines of Napa and Sonoma. After one week in the city and Wine Country, I thought, never mind Chicago. I’m going to open here. I did a Rocky-type walk to the top of Nob Hill. I threw my hands in the air and said, Yes, this is my new city!” — Dave Crane, San Francisco

“I grew up in a small town in Iowa, graduated from Iowa State University, got married to my college sweetheart, moved to Houston, then Bethesda, Md. Next, Charlottesville, Va., and then Omaha, Neb. About 35 years ago, we took a family trip to the West Coast and drove down the full length of the Pacific Coast Highway. I fell in love with the amazing Pacific Ocean, as it was like nothing I had ever seen before. I swore to myself that someday I’d live close to it. A few years later, visiting my adult daughter in Los Angeles, I had a wave tattooed on my left ankle as a constant reminder of that goal. Four years ago, in my early 70s, my partner and I finally moved about a mile from the Channel Islands Harbor, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t smile as I breathe the coastal fresh air and greet the California sun/haze/puffy clouds and lush landscape. It’s a dream come true!” — Judy Kay, Oxnard

“I lived in N.Y.C. throughout my 20s, but I had a vision: driving around California in a convertible with my ponytail blowing around in the breeze. And so, I moved myself to San Francisco. Thirty-five years later, I consider myself a native. I have lived up and down the San Francisco Bay Area: City, Peninsula and now Santa Cruz for 20-plus years. Where to begin? The weather, the whales in Monterey Bay, the redwoods in Henry Cowell State Park. Year-round tennis and golf. Careers. Beautiful place to raise our kids. Beautiful place to be retired. And yes, I did wind up getting a convertible and I do drive around with my ponytail blowing in the breeze.” — Ann Sayer, Santa Cruz

“I was 30 and I knew I had to change my life. Too many teacher layoffs and wilting relationships in Milwaukee pushed me to act extremely when I never did extreme things in my life. Forty years ago, I sold my furniture and my father packed my VW Rabbit until only the driver could fit. I drove across the country for four days, headed to Newport Beach. I had seen California on a couple of summer trips and knew I was taking a big risk, but the warm, dry and sunny weather was just too attractive. I drove into Balboa as the sun was setting and I started off the new year sleeping on an acquaintance’s couch. Jogging the boardwalk a few weeks later, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.” — Carolyn Fox, Newport Beach

Today’s tip comes from Kathleen Naples, who recommends a trip to the Watts Towers in Los Angeles:

“Simon Rodia worked on the Watts Towers for decades, beginning in the 1920s. I’ve lived in L.A. for over 40 years, and never went to see them until last Mother’s Day with my son, who is a born Angeleno. I didn’t realize the tallest towers were demolished in the ’50s, which is sad and a commentary on the ’50s.

Rodia contributed to the concept of enormous urban art. I consider him a predecessor of all kinds of social landscape artists like Tyree Guyton in Detroit, Isaiah Zagar in Philadelphia, and landscape artists like Cristo and Spencer Tunick, who not only focuses frame-like attention on daily landmarks, but also creates a social community and deals with bureaucracy while questioning the ordinary and conventional.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Shane Porter, a firefighter in Riverside County, used to spend hours restoring a 1969 Jeepster Commando with his two sons. But after Porter died of bladder cancer last year, his family was unsure of what to do with the car.

Then a family friend stepped in. He commissioned a group of automotive students at Corona High School in the Inland Empire to take on the restoration, which took more than a year to complete, NBC4 reports.


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