Eric Puchner rejects idealized portrayals of California:

From the gold rush to the dot-com boom, the myth of an earthly paradise welling over with riches and beautiful natives has proved remarkably durable.

These days, explorers to California will encounter a very different island. Twenty-five billion dollars of estimated debt and an unemployment rate topping 12 percent. An elementary-school system ranked forty-eighth in the nation. Subdivisions turned into ghost towns, and tens of thousands of families who've lost their homes. All this, if you believe the press, is proof of California's "implosion," as if we were victims of an overnight disaster. But the truth is, there've always been two Golden States: the one we yearn for and the one that most Californians wake up to every morning. 

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