California Dreaming

Whenever I hear California Dreaming I am immediately transported back to the streets of Columbus, Georgia in late March, 1967. It’s the home of Ft. Benning, an Army training center for the infantry. People are trained as rangers, infantrymen and officers, among other things. I learned to repair radios, a choice I made to avoid being cannon fodder in Vietnam after being drafted the previous summer. For that opportunity, I took a third year in the Army via enlistment. I might not have wound up in the infantry anyway, but one couldn’t be too careful about that. Ah, but I digress. The point is the memory unbidden that a song calls forth. I have no recollection of how I got to town or why I walked down a street past a music store sending a current hit out the door.

I had no car, so perhaps I rode a bus from post to town. Undoubtedly, there were such buses. People in advanced individual training could go off post on weekends if they had no duty assignment. Evidently I must have made my escape from Benning’s boring barracks, aging and a little decrepit. Quite different from the modern Officer Candidate School barracks or the School of Americas. The latter being the facility where the U.S. trained soldiers from any number of Latin America countries with whom we were allied. Many of them wound up embarrassing America for human rights abuses, but that’s another story.

California Dreaming is OK, but it’s never been a favorite song. I don’t even own an album, CD or an ancient cassette of the Mama’s and Papas. So why does this song unfailingly carry me to Columbus? It’s somewhat annoying, having to recall walking down that sidewalk, with music coming from some long forgotten music store. It’s not as if I have any wonderful memories of Ft. Benning. I can listen to any of hundreds of songs on the radio, the computer–anywhere. Some I have happy memories of, some I like, some I can’t stand and change the station. But none consistently activates a place memory. Why California Dreaming? I had no dreams of the state. I had never been to California. The mind can be a strange thing. It could be worse I suppose. It might have been some music I really hated. Then I might think it some karmic retribution for mocking a musician. This is just a puzzle.

2 thoughts on “California Dreaming

  1. Interesting how the song triggers you, but you don’t know why. It must have been playing there somewhere. It doesn’t take much – just the perfect moment. I have that with Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Ha ha. I don’t really care for the song, but wow does it take me back to my teens!

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