The Diaries: LA, an end to a USA Road Trip
There’s something scary about what comes last, or is it something scary about all things that must end: a perhaps unpleasant facet of reality we must all learn to accept, sooner or later.
I’ve previously alluded to this in stories of loss and renewal, but an end is not a loss. It is, to the contrary, the culmination of a series of steps, bumps – whether failures or accomplishments; an end is the natural resolution of an a-moral arc.
Perhaps then it is not so much the end negative result that we fear and distrust (nor its opposite, a positive outcome, that we seek) but rather the end of the arc itself.
First taste of Los Angeles traffic as we shuttle Daphne to Hollywood: it takes us nearly 2 hours to make it back to Santa Monica.
Redrik and I have some Italian pasta on the pedestrian street. It’s time for celebration, for relaxation. Go rest on the beach.
There’s a lot more work up ahead, a movie to make. But not now. Now’s the time to relinquish the sweet savor of the moment.
Later, meet with one of Redrik’s friends, C, who’s celebrating his birthday. Social, extraverted guy who has joined the ranks of actors trying to make it here in LA. His previously white T-shirt is covered with happy birthday messages and wishes.
Meet quite a few people and get to talk about the road-trip, for the first time, in the past tense.
Have brunch, some supposedly bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Maries at a fancy place, along with C and his girlfriend. Later, accompany C to the beach so he can meet another girl.
Dip into the Pacific, throw the football.
Stumble into one of C’s older friends, walks with us:
“It’s a city where you feel like people are always talking to you for something. Everything here revolves around the (film) industry.”
Later that evening, all go to El Rey to see a concert of Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah. The concert hall is populated, but not excessively.
Something within our resilient nature, our nature as beings of life (light), which wills to prolong an arc past its inexorable end. A para(hyper)bolic desire, inherently pervasive from the frothy creases of microcosms to the bubbly plains of stellar immensity…
But though we may fear ends, I think the biggest mystery and challenge oft remains within beginnings: it is most ‘work’ for the prime mover, if any, to give initial impetus, to feed the first grains of inertia which will create movement, which will send things adrift.
What comes after is a series of adjustments, of minute corrections, shifts from a trajectory which has existed and remains.
Walk from Santa Monica to UCLA in order to meet an old friend, A. He’s got tickets for a silent film screening in the glamorous Royce Hall, to the live cadence of the LA Chamber Orchestra.
Students and onlookers are gathered on the esplanade to witness the solar eclipse.
The screening features 1930’s silent movie star Harold Lloyd (overshadowed by the sprawled fame of contemporary Charlie Chaplin). Get some good ideas from it.
Join A. and his girlfriend to spend the night at their place. Chew fat, he makes an ‘old-fashioned’. Then another one.
It is possible that the changes that ensue, however drastic they may seem from the other end of the funnel, had been inscribed from the start, that they are mere corrections, deflections, of what had, if anything, instilled the initial inertia.
It is also possible that with each adjustment, each shift, an infinite world of new possibilities is created, molting the last with a snake’s ease.
But this is not a discussion about fate, or its multiplicity, or its lack thereof.
An ending, too, is only a shift.
Walk towards downtown, north, to the Victorian-housed neighborhood where one of my cousins has luckily found a place to rent.
Walk through some unknown neighborhoods; for the first time, and this being my third visit to LA, I get inklings of a ‘feel’ for the multi-layered, sprawling city, for the organic interweaving of its different towns.
The mansion overlooks downtown LA’s skyline. There’s a yard with fruit trees. My cousin misses the pool from his previous place (another, apparently even grander mansion!) but was happy enough to find this steal.
He’s about to open a vintage record store with his girlfriend, an exciting, and also stressful, venture.
Their cat’s name is Edison. Nearby, historic houses of cultural importance, including the house featured in the video clip of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’
Later, walk downtown and meet up with an aunty, M, who evokes the idea of cross-sectioned layers of life, rather than an absolute truth (is that itself a truth, or is the idea of truth inherently absolute?)
Join another cousin, B, at Wurstkuchen. Family day. Have a rattlesnake hotdog, beers. Good times.
It’s past 11 when I connect with Redrik and C back in Santa Monica. Learn that R hooked-up with a cougar the previous night. He does not seem too pleased at the recollection. But not displeased either.
Something’s wrong. It feels flat. Or is it? Oh, yes.
I’m leaving tomorrow.
The adventure is coming to an end.
We’re now, as I write this, in July.
It has taken time to catch up – longer than I expected. I’m happy to get this part of the voyage over with. As a part of me was looking forward to the end of the road, I’m also relieved to cut the last notches into this travel log.
It’s been a thrilling adventure, full of excitement, threats, amusement, sorrow, challenges, a not unhealthy dose of failure, beef and whiskey and, fortunately, a measure of success.
It’s been a lesson no greater, but no lesser, than life: when one lets it unravel and wrap around again, when one wades through blazing flames of new, perhaps in search of shedding or melding the old, painfully, stalkingly at times. Only to later look around and find that the new and old have fused into the indistinct folds of the golden horizon.
There’s a small bottle of green label Jack Daniels, which we pass around. C leaves, he’s been getting drunk and having sex for too many nights and days in a row.
Redrik and I are left to swig the rest of the Jackie D. Pre-goodbyes are bitter-sweet.
Redrik has some good news: he got into a school, the first of several positive responses that would ensue. Things are looking up.
Splice a cigar and light it up outside the motel. It’s too strong for both of us, but the measure is symbolic. This cigar has travelled over 25,000 miles and 44 states. It’s the last of a number of random items I hoarded along on the first trip, and which I ‘recycled’ or gave away to various people met along the way.
This is the last cigar.
I got on this road over a year ago, in March 2011. Since then, some time has cycled, and much space has unraveled.
There comes a time for things to end, and though there’s a share of fear, a resilient and somewhat instinctive distrust of the unknown that may or may not exist beyond, we must all learn to live with, and perhaps through, the end of things as we once knew them.
I do not know the deep nature of time, or of our perception of it: whether it flows like water, grates like grains of sand, or staggers in slivers.
But most of us lead lives predicated by its continuity, and its unidirectional causality, which results from our intuitive perception of it. It is not only so.
As we pass each sliver, we continue to believe there is a choice that can be made. That within our own reach, we may think or act in a way that will affect the course of this instant, and perhaps even trickle into the deep recesses of time, irrespective of its nature.
Whether this choice is an illusion seems irrelevant: we accept, or refuse, the new world which we now perceive, different – if even slightly – from the one we had once, the moment before, dreamed. To move on, and to let go.
The time has come.
Awake heavy-headed from last night’s debauchery. The last steps to my departure are hazy. Redrik drives me to the airport.
“Take care of yourself.”
“You do too.”
“See you around.”
“You know it.”
It feels like home here. Why?
Ever wished you left it all behind and hit the road? Who hasn’t? I certainly did. I have.
But some things, I guess, are never entirely left behind. They stick with one’s gut, buried under the skin, into the deepest tissues of the heart. They are pumped at each stroke, suckled by each breath, till they grow from within, till they taint, however faintly, caressingly, the light of one’s entire universe.
Those are the good things.
They remain loved, and to be cherished.
Is this it? Wait, no. It can’t. Not quite yet. I have a few more things to say. But the end of the road is near.