A Different California Playlist

We Californians tend to be wide-eyed when we talk about our home country, clinging to the perks of living in a coastal paradise instead ...


We Californians tend to be wide-eyed when we talk about our home country, clinging to the perks of living in a coastal paradise instead of the harsher reality.

This optimism (or willful ignorance, depending on your point of view) is reflected in the california playlist we have come together over the past few years. A few of the more than 200 tracks reference mixed feelings about the Golden State, but the suite of songs mostly functions as an ode to a land of beauty and opportunity. (Think Best Coast’s happy anthem “The Only Place” or “California Dreamin'” by the Mamas & the Papas.)

So today, I’m launching a new playlist dedicated to ambivalence, if not outright contempt, for California. I was inspired by your emails, many of which contained stories big and small about how California can make you feel bad.

There are the impending tragedies – the fires we flee from and the homes we cannot afford. And the more personal ones – our losses and our loneliness – which play out here and cast a harsh glow on the backdrop of California.

The new playlist includes Dave Alvin’s “California’s Burning” and Death Cab for Cutie’s “Grapevine Fires” – self-explanatory. I also added Tori Amos’ “A Sorta Fairytale”, in which a couple takes a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway and discovers that they are not meant for each other. There is also the Marc Cohn ballad “Lost You in the Canyon” with this repeated refrain: “Do you ever stop to wonder / About that paradise you’ve found?”

You can browse the full list of California Nightmare Songs here or listen now.

This soundtrack is obviously a work in progress that we will continue to edit and build on. You can send your song recommendation and a few lines about why you think it deserves inclusion to CAToday@nytimes.com.

And now, for more of your recommendations for the new playlist:

“Walking Los Angeles” of Missing Persons (1982)

“Featuring former members of Frank Zappa’s band, the song makes a comedic statement about how everyone is in their car. If anyone is really walking, it must be an illusion or an extreme situation. — James Staubes, Culver City

Conduct” by Halsey (2015)

“I drive long hours on crowded highways full of everything from way too expensive Teslas to way too modest Toyota Corollas of the last century, all to rush to a job in Los Angeles to try and make enough money there. down to buy a house in the far suburbs where I’m driving from.

All I do is drive, often on the 405, all to make myself a home that’s pretty much unreachable here. And nothing feels better than when I’m on an open road, away from it all, a road that often leads me away from here.

For this very reason, I think Halsey’s ‘Drive’ represents the ‘Golden’ state as it is now: a state of two realities, made up of those who can appreciate how Golden it is and those who can’t afford it. ” — Harris Valle, Camarillo

“California Über Alles” from Dead Kennedys (1979)

“I remember first hearing this song when I was in college in the Bay Area, and it made me question ‘California superiority’ while being oddly inspiring, a punk appeal rock not letting the ‘suede secret police’ ‘Zen Fascists’ ruin the state. The song was released in 1984 and predicted much of California’s current ‘unsunny’ side. So prescient. — Parker Ray, New York

Too hot in LA” by Woody and Jeremy (2020)

“This song perfectly encapsulates the feeling of a summer heat wave in Los Angeles; the lyrics speak of cynicism and irritability, but the melody is so upbeat that you can’t help but have fun listening to it. For me, it brings back memories of buying an XL Slurpee and melting half of it the three blocks back to my friend’s apartment, or sitting in traffic on the 5 on the way to a concert, in a car with AC only half working.—Berkelly Gonzalez, Berkeley


Gnocchi made with cauliflower and potato.


Today’s tip comes from Bruce Cranston, who recommends a trip to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramwaypresented as the largest rotating tram car in the world:

“As a Southern California transplant who misses my mountains and my native Montana wilderness, I enjoy the extraordinary and unearthly experience of taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway from the desert floor to the top of Chino Canyon to a lookout on Mount San Jacinto at 8,000 feet in less than 10 minutes. The desert landscape quickly disappears among the craggy rocks of the canyon, and in a breathtaking, rapid climb into one of the steepest, rockiest, and most gripping canyons imaginable, you come to a comfortable stop in a fully alpine setting.

Even today, at the end of April, there are snow-capped mountain peaks above our heads, and visitors cannot help but walk in the refreshing Alpine air along a comfortably flat path through the wooded paradise just 300 feet from the visitor center at the top of the tram. Giant Jeffrey pines tower over the shaded, walkable valley where there is plenty to do and see, and it is a true hiker’s paradise with all sorts of trails available. Occasionally you may see hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail veering off their path slightly to enjoy this valley.

This cable car getaway is extraordinary in every sense of the word. From desert landscape to mountain landscape in just eight minutes. It’s literally an unimaginable world when looking at this mountain from the desert floor.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Send your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.

On your marks, get set, shoot!

One of the largest community science events in the world, the City Nature Challengereturns today for its seventh year — and invites you to start taking photos of your local flora and fauna.

If you haven’t heard of the challenge: In 2016, the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and the California Academy of Sciences envisioned the event as a competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Residents of each city took photos of the plants and animals in their area, and the museums then helped identify species to better understand the biodiversity of each area. This year alone, more than 20,000 sightings have been made and 1,600 species cataloged.

The City Nature Challenge quickly became international, and now thousands of people from six continents participate each year. And you can too.

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