Paso Robles, a town of 22,000 on California’s Central Coast where the actor Josh Brolin has a horse ranch, lives, and spent his formative years, owes its existence to an accident of plate tectonics. In ancient times, Salinan Indians stopped there, where cracks in the Earth let sulfur-charged waters bubble through the crust to form thermal springs. They called the place simply “Springs.” In 1797, the Spanish—lured by the heathens and hot water—founded a mission. Soon, the Indians were either assimilated or destroyed, and a steady flow of pioneers, gold-seekers, almond growers, ranchers, and consumptive Californians in need of a soak replaced them.
When Brolin was growing up in Paso in the early seventies—before he awakened lust in the hearts of a generation of gum-popping tweens, before he got lost in the brambles of what he calls his “lean years,” before he finally came in from the cold—the hillocks, valleys, and ridges of Paso Robles were covered in prairie grass, horse tracks, and little else. Barbed wire, perhaps, and the wide open spaces of cowboy vowels. “I don’t know why,” Brolin tells me, “but in Paso everybody sounds like they’re from Texas.”
I really love Joshua David Stein’s cover story on Josh Brolin from the upcoming issue of BlackBook, which you can read online here.