California Dreamin’

One family’s arduous journey from Tinseltown
to Manchattan. By Lou Bortone

I’m certainly not the first person to relocate from the left coast to the Granite State. But more and more, I’m finding fellow California exiles who’ve given up the sun and celebrities of SoCal for the rural, rustic, slower pace of New Hampshire.

“Why on earth did you leave L.A.?” is the first question clearly puzzled people ask when I tell them I moved east. What would ever possess someone to trade Hollywood for Hampton, sunshine for snowfall, palm trees for raking leaves?

I could claim temporary insanity. But the truth is, for me it came down to good-old, all-American greed. Ka-ching went the cash register in my head when a recruiter called with a number that had lots of zeroes. Come to New Hampshire, she urged, high-tech hotbed and dot-com nirvana.

Yes, I returned for the lure of a ridiculously high-paying dot-com job on New Hampshire’s “e-coast.” (Remember that?) You know the rest of the story. The bubble burst, the dot-bombs imploded and our so-called e-coast became a flee-coast.

So here I am, like many of my new neighbors in my new development, with my new house, my two acres, my two kids and my enormous mortgage. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, I’ll admit. That first year was rough. Really rough. And not just because of the 23 snowstorms we endured.

“What do you mean there are only a couple of Starbucks in the entire state?” my wife asked in horror when we moved here. At our old digs in Woodland Hills, we had two Starbucks right on the same block, just in case you didn’t want to cross Ventura Boulevard. “It’s OK honey, we have Dunkin’ Donuts here on every corner,” I reassured her. She wasn’t buying it. (Once, just for fun, I asked the clerk at Dunkies if they had baristas, and the dude thought I was talking about Central American freedom fighters!)

It’s one thing to make the typical “Mass Exodus” and leave the Bay State in search of more affordable housing over the border. But coming here from California is a much bigger culture shock.

In California, we shopped at a nearby “Gelsons,” so pristine that we referred to it as the Museum of Food. Here we’ve got the new Super Wal-Mart. Not quite museum quality, but they do carry Funny Bones, which you won’t find in L.A.

And where’s the glorious IKEA? Now open somewhere in Massachusetts, I hear — so can an IKEA for the Granite State be far behind? While once upon a time I cruised the Sunset Strip to get to work in Beverly Hills, I now creep down South Willow Street on my way to Manchattan.

Despite the drastic differences in weather, landscape, people, attitude and politics, more and more people seem to be abandoning the Golden State for the Granite State. Some, like me, come to New Hampshire for the incredible opportunities in the entertainment business. Others, it seems, feel they need to experience first hand the adrenaline rush that comes with fishtailing out of control on an icy road during that first snowstorm. I’m sure some folks relocate with a storybook vision of renovating an antique farmhouse in the country — blissfully unaware that their scenic meadow is about to be plowed under to make way for the newest Wal-Mart.

Would I go back to the Coast? Not likely. I couldn’t afford my California house now! But that’s OK. Our two acres on solid granite is just fine. NH

Lou Bortone is a freelance writer and television producer living in Kingston. When not California Dreamin’, he also produces “Granite Planet,” a sketch comedy show playing on public access cable stations throughout New Hampshire.