California Dreamin’


Dreams are an important part of our lives. One does not have to study Freud to understand the role dreams play, especially in terms of aspirations. Hope is a fundamental element for all humans. We dream, we hope for something better in the future. My particular dream is to win Wimbledon; every year I wait for my invitation, every year I prepare my victory speech. I even have two photos doctored of me with the Wimbledon trophy. I was teary eyed when I received them as a present. I hope, I dream.

California has been the setting for millions of dreams, such as the Donner Party’s heroic effort to go over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846. Sun and surf, oil and agriculture, something for everyone who couldn’t make it somewhere else. A new start, a new Eldorado. From the discovery of gold on the property of Swiss pioneer John Sutter to Levi Strauss’ selling tent material from Nimes as jeans (deNimes became denim) to Silicon Valley and all those who began start ups in garages to become millionaires, California has come to symbolize dreams and their realization. As the Mamas & the Papas sang in the euphoria of the 1960’s, “California dreamin’ is becoming a reality”.

A recent trip to Northern California confirmed California in all its glory. Gorgeous sunshine, not the cold, bleak haze of Geneva during the winter; eating fresh fish at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey by the docks, eyeing the luxury yachts, looking at whales and otters frolicking in the pristine water. What a life!

Until, just a brief moment with the Mayor of Salinas, a medium size city next to Monterey. Salinas is an agricultural center which produces 80% of lettuce grown in the US, the town of John Steinbeck and the cult movie East of Eden with James Dean. Amid all the sunshine and dreamin’, I couldn’t resist asking the mayor what was his major problem. He launched into a monologue about the role of gangs in the area; gangs who not only deal in drugs and human trafficking, but gangs which have become omnipresent in all aspects of the community’s life, even recruiting young members in primary schools. Many of the gangs come from Latin America and are tied into drug lords in Mexico, he explained. We talked about his efforts at prevention, but it was obvious that he was overwhelmed by the size of the problem. The California dream was not only for those who had become millionaires in Silicon Valley. Gang lords had also seen California as a land of opportunity.

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