California pools signal a weakened economy
California is dreaming no longer.
From the air, you can see how the glitter has rubbed off the Golden State.
The Pasadena police are on patrol in a helicopter, not on the look-out for drug smugglers or cars speeding along the highways - but signs of the American dream turning green.
There is a scattering below of deep blue rectangles, swimming pools, which get used all year long thanks to California's idyllic weather.
But the economic climate is not so hot, and some of the pools have turned the disgusting murky colour of an algae-covered mud bath.
Down on the ground, the pool isn't just unappealing for those fancying a dip - it is a real health hazard, a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
De Andre, the man in charge of cleaning them up, says this often happens because homes have been repossessed, but also because people can no longer afford the upkeep of their pools.
The personal tragedy of unemployment and repossession has combined with what some say is years of government over-spending to leave the state in a parlous condition.
If California was a country in its own right, it would be the eighth-largest economy in the world. As it is, the Golden State is bust, without a budget.
Deep cuts have already been made in education and other public services.
Outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says the state should follow Britain's example and make more cuts and promise no tax rises.
Many in California blame generous pensions for state employees for draining resources.
But in Oakland, San Francisco's rougher sister across the Bay Bridge, the leader of the local police union, Dom Arotzarena, says that the cuts will damage the local economy.
He says that the city already has one of the highest crime rates in America and cutting 80 police jobs and stopping all recruitment is bound to make Oakland a more dangerous place.
He also says that when the city wants to attract more retail business to the area, that can't help.
Other union representatives told me it was because of California's tax system that the state had gone bust.
In particular, they single out the law that flows from a 1978 referendum.
Proposition 13 means that property tax cannot be more than 1% of value.
I put this point about tax to Carly Fiorina, the former millionaire boss of Hewlett Packard who is now running as California's Republican candidate for the US Senate. Below is her response:
You can also hear my report on BBC Radio 4's Today programme or see it on tonight's BBC News at Ten, part of a BBC series on the spending review. (Update on 15/9/10: Due to technical reasons, ie too much other news, this has now been postponed)
But I left California feeling no-one really had a clear idea of where the state was heading, or what the solutions should be.
There is a legal requirement not to run up a deficit, a political determination not to raise taxes and an awareness that this is a difficult time to cut jobs, when unemployment is already high.
Perhaps California is still dreaming, rather than waking up to a new reality.