On Friday morning my husband and I did something crazy for two sleep-deprived thirty-year-old parents: We flew to California for the weekend, sans children. A good friend of mine from college was getting married, and when she announced that the wedding would be in Pasadena, there was no doubt in our minds that we'd attend, even though doing so meant leaving our three-year-old and three-month-old at home with my parents for two nights.
I have been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading this trip since before Peanut was born. I mean, who wouldn't want to go to California, if only for a mere fifty hours? Low humidity, incredible fast-food hamburgers, the way people's conversations revolve around the freeways: These are a few things I adore about Southern California. But jetting off to the Golden State meant stocking the freezer with enough food for Peanut and fervently praying that this mommy-loving child would eventually break down and take a bottle. My paralyzing fear that my baby might not eat in my absence almost persuaded me to cancel the trip. But then I thought about how amazing it would be to wake up just one morning in a way that does not involve someone forcefully prying my eyelids open while shouting "It's breakfast time! It's breakfast time! I want oatmeal," and, well, flight on.
To maximize our stay out west, we took a 7 a.m. flight on Friday. Most passengers were fast asleep before takeoff, but I chose to savor the six uninterrupted hours of me-time by sipping complimentary coffee, reading Traditional Home and Runners World, and jamming to my iPod. I created two playlists for the trip: One consisting solely of songs that mention California to set the mood for our visit, and another with songs about New York and home to listen to on the way back to JFK.
1. Al Jolson, "California, Here I Come" (When I was a little girl, this unofficial state song used to play on the Disney channel, with a smiling sun bouncing up and down over the lyrics. It made California seem like a happy, majestic place, and I promised myself I would visit there someday. I finally did, for the first time, just after I turned 29-years-old. "Open up that golden gate, California, here I come!")
2. Delta Spirit, "California" (This song makes me want to up and move to California every time I hear it.)
3. 2Pac, "California Love"
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication"
5. Marlena Shaw, "California Soul" ("No matter what you do it's gonna get a hold on you...")
6. The Mamas and the Papas, "California Dreamin'" ("...on such a winter's day...")
7. The Eagles, "Hotel California" (Obviously)
8. Weezer, "Beverly Hills"
9. Bob Seger, "Hollywood Nights" ("She stood as bright as the sun on that California coast")
10. Phantom Planet, "California" (Feel the angst. By the way, The O.C. first aired TEN YEARS ago. As if having two children and a mommy tummy didn't make me feel old enough already.)
11. Vampire Weekend, "California English"
12. Kings of Leon, "California Waiting"
13. Dawes, "Time Spent in Los Angeles" (Minnow's favorite song of life.)
14. The Head and the Heart, "Down in the Valley" ("I know there's California, Oklahoma, and all of the places I ain't ever been to...")
15. Sheryl Crow, "All I Wanna Do (Is Have Some Fun) ("...until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard") (Oh, and if you really want to feel old, that song came out TWENTY YEARS ago.)
16. Katy Perry, "California Gurls"
17. Dante Thomas, "Miss California" (This song reminds me so much of my friend whose wedding we just attended because she used to play it on a loop freshman year, I think to make the points that a) she was from California; and b) she was hot.)
18. The Notorious B.I.G. "Going Back to Cali"
19. Counting Crows, "Long December" ("If you think you might come to California, I think you should...")
20. Joni Mitchell, "California"
21. Billy Bragg & Wilco, "California Stars" (No song makes me miss California as much after I leave.)
1. Dan Auerbach, "Goin' Home" (From the movie Up in the Air. Personally, I like Dan Auerbach's solo stuff better than his Black Keys stuff; I also think this is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.)
2. Diddy Dirty Money, "Coming Home"
3. Vampire Weekend, "M79" (Because in New York, unlike in California, taking public transportation is not stigmatizing.)
4. Ryan Adams, "New York, New York"
5. Jay Z., "Empire State of Mind" (When I ran the ING New York City Marathon, I heard this song being played each time I crossed into a new borough. For me, it is THE New York City anthem.)
6. Billy Joel, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" (Because, sadly, I don't live in New York City anymore; I live on Long Island. This ditty about "Brender" and Eddie is THE Long Island anthem, written by the king of Long Island.)
7. Mason Jennings, "Be Here Now," ("...no other place to be...")
8. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, "Home"
9. Phosphorescent, "Mermaid Parade" (Phosphorescent is my new favorite band, although they have, apparently, been around for a good, long time. This song, from their 2010 album Here's to Taking It Easy, is perfect because it's about life between NYC and LA.)
10. U2, "New York"
11. Alexi Murdoch, "Home"
12. Cat Power, "New York, New York" (An updated version of Frank Sinatra's classic tribute.)
13. Rosie Thomas, "Much Farther to Go" ("New York is lovely in the wintertime. The sidewalks are white as snow...")
14. Phillip Phillips, "Home"
15. Simon & Garfunkle, "The Only Living Boy in New York" ("Hey, I've got nothing today but smile...")
16. Mumford & Sons, "The Boxer" (A cover of the Simon & Garfunkle original, about the boy who left home for a chance at glory in the City.)
17. The Head and the Heart, "Honey Come Home" (I do not exaggerate when I say it is impossible for me to listen to this song without bursting into tears. I do not know why; I am not going through a separation. But the lyrics are so raw, so emotionally true, and have little to do with New York but everything to do with the things we take for granted about home life.)
18. Eddie Money, "Take Me Home Tonight" (Because you'll need something to cheer you up after that previous song.)
19. Bonnie Somerville, "Winding Road" (Which, incidentally, mentions California, but is actually a song about home.)
20. Simon & Garfunkle, "Homeward Bound" (Wow, I didn't realize I was such a Simon & Garfunkle fan until just now.)
21. Ben Folds, "Landed" ("Come pick me up, I've landed...")
Our trip to California was amazing, and being away from the kids for two days was- I'll say it- good for the soul. But when I caught a glimpse of Manhattan- all lit up at night- out my airplane window on our return trip Sunday, my heart fluttered. There really is no place like home.