Category Archives: Freeways

Eight Years (Obama and Trump and Ex-Wives and Literary Wassails)

I remember eight years ago. Hope. Change. The Shepherd Fairey poster. I remember wondering where I’d be around this time in eight years. Or maybe I’m making that up. Maybe I was so immersed in the moment I never imagined the election following Barack’s presidency. I just remember feeling like we were on the verge of great things, and I was damn proud of us as a country. I love Obama and I still do. Dude got class.

Barack Obama is my homeboy.

Like Andre the Giant. They’re larger than life. Andre almost literally.

They say Andre could drink a case of beer and still not be drunk. If our hearts weigh a pound and a half (I’m making that up) than I wonder what his weighed. Seventeen pounds?

How could Barack Obama marry that professorial, diplomatic grace with brush-off-your-shoulders swag so well? Genius. With the most bullheaded, narrow-minded opposition ever faced he handled it even-tempered and almost always tonally on point. A fucking political machine and I love him.

Eight years ago I was an inspired idealist, floating on the fresh air that Obama blew in with. Self made. Family-oriented. Fighter for the community. And a sweet three-point shot. God, how things change…

This one-dimensional, monosyllabic overgrown child makes me cringe with my whole body every time I hear the gargling vitriol he calls a stump speech. Just spasms of anger and anathema coursing through every speck and splotch of matter in my flesh.

This potential joke dystopia is not what I pictured for us. This dust cloud of ignorance and hate disguised as an orange human in an unimaginably boring-ass suit may just break the world’s OG democracy.

This is 2016, not a grunt contest. America, freedom, the land of the free and dumb. It’s not the citizens, though, it’s the system.

Well, it’s us too. We feed at the trough. Like fucking Animal Farm. Piggy Trump!

You’re laughing and burping and slapping your back so hard you’re sucking your own dick. You big cartoon buffoon. Fuck you, Donald Trump — you aren’t my homeboy…

… You know who is my homeboy, though? Sam Malone.

That dude was quick with the one-liners. One of the best characters ever written on television. He always had a clear purpose: to be loved. And he was good at it. But he was vulnerable. His alcoholism ruined his career, leaving such a stain he had to live out his days in a den of temptation, serving some kind of penance by steering Cliff and Norm through their barely functioning love of hops. His vanity and need for attention, especially the glorious, genital kind from the females, got the best of him. His belief that he was stupid, always doubting himself and giving in to Diane’s logic, tripped him up.

Despite his extra-terrestrially-coiffed do’ he was human. Layered, yet somehow simple. We all know a Sam Malone. We have a little bit of him in us.

His polo shirt and chest hair was his armor, because his insides were that of a little boy’s. He was a lover and lovable, yet still villainous in ways.

Norm was just a lazy drunk.

You’re my homeboy.

Whomever you are, you’re my homeboy, or my homegirl. Until you give me reason to believe otherwise, I’ll accept that you’re good and true and you just want your love and your peace and some apple pie and a lazy Sunday night watching fireflies. Or Game of Thrones, or whatever it is. Maybe you’re just watching time pass by the number of Likes on your Instagram.

We were all babies once. Confused and terrified. We’ve all just learned how to put on clothes and delay the horror, or transfer it, or swallow it in drink or sex or french fries, pie-eyed survival tactics of the numb.

Eight years ago I was married to a woman whose face is so blurred by time she’s only a name, a story, whose only pictures I still have are preserved on Flickr. And in so many ways is untraceable. We lived in the valley. Lived like sensitive roommates. When Barack got elected I knew it was over because she didn’t come home, she watched the news break and the celebrations on the TV and the historic speech with her co-workers, and I left my ring on the bathroom counter when I went to work, ‘cuz I’m dramatic and lust for big statements and if I had control over how any of this was going to crumble, I at least wanted one piece to break off of it.

I flew to London first class and never looked back. I got drunk in pubs and looked at old art. I contemplated what it all meant…. I didn’t conclude a thing.

Eight years ago I was writing stories and poems, the familiar subjects: heartbreak, disconnect, modern isolation… I was daydreaming about a different life. Not even more glamorous or easier, just different. The domestic doldrums detonating every night were so small and silent I never noticed the dynamite underneath the counter.

Eight years ago, I was stepping into the TV business like a child toeing a cold pool, none-awares I’d be dunked backwards baptized-like in a black lake of water snakes and sharks and endless legs and curves like Mullholland Blvd with those shimmering cliffs I drove off, epic movie-endings over and over. I am still standing, staggering forward, arms stretched out, a rickety beautiful tower. A burning man. A modern day hero.

And your homeboy.

Eight years Obama’s hair was less grey. So was mine.

And I was a different man, with a much lighter heart, now it probably weighs close to Andre’s, proverbially. I carry a lot of shit with me, like those shoulders in Vietnam.

Eight years ago I cared deeply about the election, about our future, about the role of politics. For many reasons deserving of an entirely different post, I’ve faded from that person. I’ve become more resigned. Happily decorating my little bubble and ignoring the massive injustice we’ve built into acceptance I treated like art. I guess I grew tired of it all and thought it didn’t matter. I just wanted to buy clothes, travel, and meet new loves. Write about it all in a self-serving prose protecting how raw my insides were.

If anything crazy happened, I trusted Obama not to make it crazier.

But holy shit, eight years ago I didn’t know Donald Trump could somehow slime his way this close to the presidency by yelling into microphones and throwing his hands up in the air. People love to be spit on, I guess…

Let’s hurry up and get this over, send him back to being the angry uncle on the sidelines.

And let’s all imagine where we’ll be in eight years. Let’s imagine a better place. And we’ll look back and laugh at what a comical farce this election has become. That is my hope, dammit.

And also that I meet the one woman who I’ve been writing about all these years. The love that is capitalized and supreme. The one whose eyes, big and brown or green or even a Khaleesi grey-blue, pull me in like a Star Wars tractor beam, closer and closer until there is no escape and I’m in the heart of the beast and a hand is reaching out for my throat.

And please, my love, don’t ever release me.

Photo on 8-7-16 at 4.29 PM

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Postcard Plains

June 21, 2009

(digging up oldies)

Our minds are electrical freeways. Crowded, cluttered cities. Neurons shoot and fire and explode and we’re left yelling obscenities and insanities in the line at Dunkin Donuts. We’re all psychological drive-by bystanders. Caught in a sticky, mental, web-like gossamer; the hazy Saturday morning blue-gray sea.

I’m listening to compressed computer files. Drinking from an old shoe. I cleaned the apartment and now I’m dirtying it. Thinking of stuff to do. I go to sleep to dream and live to sleep. Everyday is the same yet new.

I want my life to be warm and cozy, like a Russian fur hat. Live in a tin castle. Die in a Greek Epic. I want them to make a movie of how spectacular I crashed.

I wrote a list of all the questions I want answered before I’m dead and I carry it around in case I run into the people who can provide me the answers. Some are personal. Some don’t have an answer. Some only people I will never meet are able to answer. People who are dead. People who live in distant countries. Famous people. Scientists. Thor. The guy who invented sit-ups.

Did you know that ‘goodbye’ is a descendant of ‘God be with ye’?

To the East there are postcard plains. Grass leaning towards the horizon. Highways stabbing space. Lonely towns aching to disappear. A country of gas stations and hot dog stands. Long, cold walks in woods. Wilderness we share with the animals. Werewolves and such. Black bottles of whiskey.

The highways take us there. Atlases are slashed with red interstate wounds. The land is a knife victim. I travel the impersonal roads to towns I’ve never heard of. Mountains named after outlaws. I watched desert sunsets in Arizona. The sky touch both ends of the world in Montana. I drank champagne on a roof in New York on New Year’s. I drove through the swamps outside New Orleans bleary-eyed and insane and made it through to Memphis listening to The Who.

Everywhere everything and nothing.

There are countless vines of grapes that will get smashed into wine and swish around in my glass. I will stare at the water going down the drain while washing the glass and think of my heart, so gentle and easily crushed. There will be hundreds of birds waiting in the trees to sing to you. Buddha throws up his hands and laughs. What do you do? Think of your heart. Is it full of tables and chairs and beautiful things?

Worshiping in bars. Drunk at the museum. Greasy rag sky. Blinking in the luminance of beauty.

Everywhere we go we go sure that both good and bad things will happen but when either of them do we can hardly believe it. We open our souls to stowaways and buy things to throw away. There’s a building in Silverlake that is over ten stories tall and made of solid concrete. It’s sole purpose is so that the citizens of L.A. have an extra place to put their shit. Pretty soon the skyline will be nothing but public storage.

Everywhere we go we go sure that our thoughts alone  are special and unique, but they’re not, and when we find someone just like us we call it phenomenon.

The sun is finally coming out after an afternoon of writing, of rummaging my hands through my hair in deep thought, light thought, shitty-splattery thought. In Iran they’re in the streets bleeding for freedom, while over here I can’t think of a good reason to leave the house. Even with the sun claiming its throne in the sky. With the sparrows calling me their king.

I stay home flipping through a million channels. Looking for nothing, finding it in excess.

I go out to eat and the menu is bigger than a newspaper. The food comes out in wheelbarrows. Mash potatoes you can ski down.

Pretty soon nothing is going to impress me. There will be a billboard on every building and a reality show for every person. I can now listen to a radio station in Tokyo or Berlin or Moscow if I want. I can shoot deer frolicking in Vermont from my laptop. It’s true. I can pay to fly to space except I don’t have the money to pay to fly to space, so instead I’ll go to Saturdays Off The 405 at the Getty and take in the city finely splayed out in atoms and molecules.

After I’ll go to La Cabana and order chicken mole. This city is a tapestry. I take off my shoes and dance in my bare feet. It’s a stupid analogy.

Buddha throws up his hands and laughs.

What do you do?

Dispatches From Los Angeles: Buffalo Meat and Drunk Drivers

It was an interesting Friday night in the City of Angels.

It was such a day where the city almost lived up to its name.

The weather was perfectly cast for the first day of Spring. A blimp drifted lazily across a dependably blue sapphire sky. After seducing the flowers to bloom all day the sun was laying down to rest over the Pacific in a soft hum of orange light, punctuating the sway of palm trees in the foreground.

L.A is beautiful when it’s a set.

The freeways were light and fluid. I zipped towards the Westside with ease.

It was the kind of traffic that allowed your mind space to roam.

As I passed under a bridge a calcium stain caught my attention. It had an evil grin, wings, and eyes the followed me. A demon of decay. I momentarily questioned my sanity, but then — reassured that I had questioned my sanity, and therefore perfectly sane — I thought about Daniel Johnston, and how he went insane, believing the devil was after him, and suffered from a mental condition, which made his eccentric lyrics appear touched by madness, and therefore, genius; an artist, like Van Gogh, aided by the mythology of insanity. I concluded that it’s good Daniel Johnston lived in Austin and not in Los Angeles, so he wasn’t behind the wheel when he had his mental breakdown; because he probably would have really believed — as opposed to my mere quirky reveries that the stain on the bridge was a demon; and probably would have swerved into traffic and caused an accident.

Whereas, I just make a mental note to write a blog about it later. That doesn’t quite add up to a mental condition, just weird.

Then again, isn’t the very act of driving, willfully submitting yourself to a “mental condition”?

The fragility of the ego exposed, driving turns everything into a ‘you vs. them’ dynamic. More than just a battle for lanes, it’s a battle for personal space, for respect. Road Rage is impossible in a supermarket. The metal frame of the car and the anonymity it provides allows us to act in an aggressive manner we never would in public, on the street, or at work. You wouldn’t see your co-worker approaching the copy machine, happily singing along to Umbrella, and run to cut her off, sliding your document onto the glass tray a second before her.

I got to my friend’s without any more demonic stains on bridges. He was having a burger and beer chillfest on his balcony in Culver City. Holiday lights adorned the scene, illuminating little pockets of air and lending their charm to the festivities. The beer was kept on ice in a big red tub and the breeze had “seaness” to it, salty and cool.

We chowed down beef burgers with hearty chunks of 100 year-old cheddar; buffalo burgers with garlic and onion and liquid smoke all mixed in, served on a kaiser roll with sauteed mushrooms and muenster cheese.

A giant jug of punch the color of bat blood sat on the wooden table. We freely ladled it into our cups as the moon, inflated and white, rose over the city like a giant spotlight.

We talked about silly things, things I don’t really remember, just the fact that they were silly.

It was around ten o’clock. The party was winding down when the sound of a loud engine caught our attention. We leaned over the edge of the balcony just in time to catch a quick glimpse of a screaming, yellow sports car tearing down Washington Boulevard, a couple of cop cars following behind.
From out vantage we couldn’t see what happened, assumed the chase had passed, but we could see people emerging onto the sidewalk and heading towards the direction the car was flying. The sirens weren’t fading away either.

We decided to investigate, joining the crowds headed east on Washington. Two blocks down we came upon a yellow sports coupe crumpled into the back of a parked truck. A trail of smashed cars lined the road in front of the accident. The cops were still in the process of stringing yellow tape when we arrived. I don’t know how we didn’t hear it because the aftermath, at least, looked violent and loud.

I had my video camera in my car and I brought it along and started filming right away. I zoomed in on the shirtless chollo, in a daze, sitting on the curb, clearly intoxicated, while policemen spoke in his ear. There was an empty beer can on the roof of the car. Other policemen went around asking onlookers if anyone had seen the accident.

“This guy is fucked,” we jabbered to each other.

Within ten minutes there was a news crew on the ground. I filmed the cameraman’s viewfinder, filming the drunk driver, as he was being fitted with a neckbrace. An image within an image. There were maybe 80 – 100 people on the sidewalk, checking things out, chatting. Neighbors were buzzing around, asking each other if they saw what happened. There was a festive feel to the scene, a weird electiricity permeated the ocean fog. We could even smell our barbeque two blocks away. Buffalo meat grilling away. Little ripples of information swept through the crowd. “I heard he was going 100 mph.” “It started at Jack N’ The Box.” “It was a stolen car.”

There was a strobe effect from the red sirens on top of the fire engines, causing our shadows to appear and disappear phantasmagorically against nearby apartment walls.

Plato came to mind.

Meanwhile, the moon continued to rise, and cars, after making a quick detour, continued into the night. The rest of the city was oblivious to the little bit of excitement on Washington Boulevard.

I got some great footage of it all.

At least, I thought I did.

Later, when I checked out the scenes I shot, it turned out that I was pausing it instead of recording it, and recording when I thought I was pausing. So all I had were quick scenes of me holding the camera down at the ground. The cement going by. Glimpses of shattered glass.

By the time I realized this, the perp was already rolled away on a stretcher and fire engines blocked a view of the car. All the good stuff (for lack of a better word) had already happened.

In other words, I failed. Some citizen journalist I am.

Oh well, it’s a new camera, and I learned my lesson.

RECORD/PAUSE

You get one chance at life.

Action!

The Ghosts of Road Trips Past

I wrote about it last week.

In another blog.

I analyzed road trips, past and present. Got a little carried away.

I was excited about a pending trip to San Francisco. I rambled carelessly on the subject, breathing in the road, the smell of rain on asphalt, the long periods of day dreams that road trips allowed, and how they always cheer me up. I mused about the open highways. Big rigs. Windmill farms. Themed restaurants… the like.

The whole Jack Kerouac experience.

I practically salivated over the keyboard as I imagined the good time that lay ahead.

It’s a true American pleasure.

Driving along a long, flat interstate through open country is one of the few times we’re apart from the constant barrage of people and their media and thoughts and stores. Your mind is finally able to rest and a calm focused world appears. Especially when driving alone. I imagine there’s a certain Zen that truck drivers tap into.

The way your mind opens up, how the road lulls you into a focused meditation; road trips have a certain divinity to them that I worship with a good mix tape and a bag of beef jerky.

I’ve made the drive up north so many times, visiting friends or girlfriends, or work, or camping, they’ve all blended together. Memories wander around, like loose sheep, on the hills of my mind, mingling with other memories, drifting places they don’t belong.

The time I visited an ex-girlfriend in Santa Cruz and we got lost in the woods; somehow got mixed in with New Year’s 1997, walking through Golden Gate Park and getting lost in the fog and watching the fireworks explode over the Pyramid Building; intruding on the memory of touring Alcatraz at the knee of my dad, looking into a cell and seeing the empty Carlos Rossi jug from Bay to Breakers, 2007.

It’s comforting, in a confused sort of way, that all these memories get along.

But, after all that anticipation, I didn’t go.

Guilt hung heavy in the cobwebs of my head. Something that wouldn’t have stopped me three years ago prevented me from going — my eco-conscious voice, nagging me to stay put. How could I justify using up 40 gallons of gas for one night of frivolity in the Bay? As enticing as it is?I had the money, that wasn’t the problem. It was the scarcity of old dinosaurs.

We don’t come close to the dinosaurs on size, but one day there may be so many of us that when the earth consumes us and we decompose, we might make the best fuel yet.

It’s selfishness — I think to myself every time I see one — that makes some asshole drive a Hummer.

If I took the trip to San Francisco — all by myself, just for one night — I lose all my moral standing when it comes to my driving habits: the way I coast to red lights instead of braking hard and them speed up gradually; and on steep hills I don’t floor it, like the 405 at the Sepulveda Pass.

It’s called hypermiling, and it would kill me to be robbed of that smug self-satisfaction.

From Wikipedia.

Generally fuel economy is maximized when acceleration and braking are minimized. So an effective strategy is to anticipate what is happening ahead, and drive in such a way so as to minimize acceleration and braking, and maximize coasting.

So, you see, I drive slower these days.Not because my reaction time is decreasing, but because it’s the simplest thing you can do to have a quick environmental, and economic, impact.

Speeding up from red lights is a giant waste of gas. It’s like gulping beer so fast you spill half of it down your shirt. Picture Ted Striker from Airplane. You’d look like a fool doing that, but people still think it’s cool to take off speeding down the street like drag racers in an “edgy” 50’s flick.

I saw a Prius hitting 50 mph on Ventura Blvd. the other day, on a string of red lights, pouring out the gas like Jeff Gordon at the Indy 500 just to slam on the brakes a few blocks later. The thinking of the driver left me irritated, fuming to myself in a 35 mph rage. I look at that style of driving as a relic from another time: like stoning a criminal or washing your clothes in a stream.

Barbaric.

In the words of Kayne West, drive slow, homie.

The world(s) are changing. Both the one at large, the cities and towns and people navigating around them.

And my personal, little intimate one.

The one going on in my head… how I behave. The emotions I feel and fling and hide from… and sometimes address. I just can’t swing up to San Francisco on a whim anymore. Whether or not my sacrifice changes anything — about where we’re headed when the oil runs out — at least I know, when I look back, that I tried to change my ways.

I’m adapting in my own little auto-way.

If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem, right?

And also, I know, it’s partly an excuse.The truth is, I don’t have the same will to be trapped in my car for six hours; and eat Fosters Freeze while slack jawed teenagers fawn over Lincoln Park, behind the counter popping bubbles with their bubble gum; and to sleep on the cold floor of my friend’s apartment, when I have a nice warm bed that is 10 seconds from my computer.

I’m * gulp * getting older.

I can tell by the amount of new fast food places on the road. When I first started driving this treck there were more gaps in the road, fast food dead zones where your hunger gnawed away at your stomach and you clung to the steering wheel watching for signs of arches or giant cowboy hats.

In 2008, you’re never more than 30 miles from one, like the missions on El Camino Real.

Two flags forever joined.One flag, secretly telling the otherhow to flap

And the world at large is changing because that’s what it always does.

It’s just that our perception and awareness of its changing is pixelated, causing it to feel more intense. It’s like we’re ants underneath a magnifying glass, but instead of a child viewing the ant, we’re viewing ourselves, and it’s starting to get real hot.

A man in the 1800’s, in Missouri, say (picture Micheal Landon but probably a lot less strapping) plowing his field and waiting for the trains to bring him a small bag of mail a month hadn’t a clue of the spasms and jitters and perpetual change and chaos of New York City. But New York City at that time was full of scared little people just like now. Not to mention the middle east. Europe. Asia. In fact, most of the world is doing a whole lot better than 100 years ago. But it’s hard to tell we’re better off, it’s just not the way it feels.

Because nowadays, wherever you are, technology delivers a daily IV drip of sight and sound, making us hyper-aware of each blemish and flaw of our world, like a teenager going through puberty.

And I’m not comparing Iraq to a zit.

Or saying we don’t face serious, end-of-the-world threats.

We do.

But we also have choices we can make, slight alterations of behavior.

We can’t let sensationalism and fear prevent us from adapting, surviving.

Truth is, we should never have hit the road as fiendishly as we did. When Henry Ford rolled out his cars the country was forever changed in their image, Americans took to the highways like a junkie on payday, abandoning all other modes of transportation in favor of the privacy and freedom and Big Macs that the car offered.It’s no longer possible to do the things we once did so freely.

That’s just a fact.

There’s a price on everything, a burden. If not at the pump, then in your consciousness.It shouldn’t take the last drops of oil purged from Babylon to wake us up to the fact that we live in a Stock Car Syndrome.

Slowing down a little and taking an extra minute or two on your commute should be the least of your worries.

Drive slow, homie.

Life is Special In California

Lately I haven’t been feeling myself. I’ve been more short-tempered, ponderous.

Existential and angry.

Like life is nothing but a glancing thought and the Nihilist have got it right. Thinking to myself, why pay a man to kill the already-dead?

In a flashing, synthetic, chemically-addicted culture, what’s it mean to breathe all that carbon, the newsprint, the radio waves; what’s it do to us to drink down the plastic?

I’m not sure what all the Rimbaud morbidity is about?

Life is pretty good. I’m well-fed, maybe too well, and I’m married to the love of my life. We’re saving for a house even, everything should be fricken’ peachy.

Perhaps it’s the stress of the campaign, the uncertainty of our times, the voices at work, trying to save up for a house, but I feel like my brain has been under a gentle assault that’s picking up steam, and it’s all weighing on me something heavy.

Like the gravity is twice as strong as normal.

I look in the mirror and my eyes look tired, older, somehow, in the last week.

The open road is calling, and I’m answering it, tomorrow. Setting north on the 5. Through the Central Valley and Steinbeck Country.


Road trips let me think:
behind the wheel, a good mix tape playing on the stereo, watching the landscape blur, the trucks moving the world around. I get my best thoughts out on the road. I lose myself in them. Lose myself in the world I’ve created in my head. I am not the writer but the character. A bottled-up philosopher. Wondering what it means to exist… after all, reality is nothing but layers you peel away, like a blooming onion at Outback Steakhouse. Our lives spool like twine, and time pools in our eyes… what’s it all for? Is there a God? Is Suffering the Noble Truth?

We are One with the Sky and the Rock and the Ground… and then again, we’re not.

I’m eating at Outback Steakhouse, a typical American Restaurant, Australian themed, boomerangs fixed to the walls, surfboards hanging from the ceiling — but also, at the same time, I’m driving in the middle of California, the middle of nowhere — and the waitress comes over and takes the plate with the discards of the blooming onion on it, after I devoured every layer until what was left was nothing but the fried batter crumbled on the plate, and she asks if there’s anything more?

I tell her, “Cogito ergo sum.”

I’m heading to San Francisco for the night. The city by the bay.

Golden Gate Bridge, trolleys, surly homeless people, mysterious misty nights, all that stuff. The plan is to visit some friends, drink some micro-brews and quote George Saunders.

Maybe I can change my mood around, you know?

I’ve already got a story going and I haven’t even started driving. A story about a man eating a Blooming Onion. What should he do next? Mope some more? Any suggestions?

I’ll pick it up later, when I’m on the road.

Right now I’m just settling in from work, starting to type, deciding what to put on the I-tunes playlist. The one titled Stunted Wonderment©. I try to relax by detaching myself from the media onslaught, the technological blitz, but at same time I’m feeding it. I write diatribes designed for deaf ears. In many ways I’m the worst offender, a bottom feeder. Blogs and Reality Shows, Links and Videos and Flickr flicks.

Turtle shit all the way down.

A series of disappointments, one after the other.

Did you know Yertle the turtle is based on Hitler?

Isn’t that a twisted thing to do to a child?

See what I mean?

Just plain crankiness; really unbecoming of me.

I’m beside myself like a Siamese twin.

I look out the window at the hills, but it’s so foggy it’s hard to see the expensive glow of the million-dollar homes perched perilously on top the craggy ridges of the Santa Monica Mountains. The only West/East mountain range in California. Proof that the Los Angeles Basin has been spinning around in circles forever, and it’s nothing new. There’s no heaven above, just the thick, soupy fog reflecting the amber city lights down on us, so everything stands sepia-drenched and blurry, like fossilized saplings, in a dripping, waxy smear. It’s like looking through scorpion eyes, I’d imagine.

This is the view on a clearer night.

And that’s when it comes to me… what I need.

What my soul is craving at this precise moment.

There’s one song that always makes these February Blues go away… this philosophical bummer-kick… this traveling solipsistic cliche’.

  • California Stars, by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

I’d like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of california stars
I’d like to lay my weary bones tonight
On a bed of california stars

I’d love to feel your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes, I’d give my life to lay my head tonight
On a bed of california stars

I’d like to dream my troubles all away
On a bed of california stars
Jump up from my starbed and make another day
Underneath my california stars

They hang like grapes on vines that shine
And warm the lovers glass lke friendly wine
So, I’d give this world
Just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of california stars

It’s not the best video, but the sound is good and it’s at the Greek Theater, here in L.A, underneath the stars… so you gotta love it. Every time I hear California Stars, I picture Woodie Guthrie, who penned it, riding the rails, camping out with migrant workers, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, playing his ‘This Machine Kills Fascist’ guitar, and scribbling the lyrics in a weathered, dusty journal.

The image makes me smile.

Don’t worry, I tell myself.

Everything mellows out eventually.

Remember, life is special here in California. That’s honey in the sky, kids.

ENJOY

The 101

My apartment is less than a mile from the 101.

With the windows open I can hear its low roar like the constant murmur of an ocean. Hundreds of thousands of commuters travel on that strip of cement every day. Stray vegetation grows in the cracks.

The 101 is known as the Hollywood Freeway, but where it passes my house it’s called the Ventura Freeway. You could take it all the way to San Francisco, passing Hearst Castle and the elephant seals that hang out on the beach near there. It’s a beautiful drive.

It’s Friday night and drivers are headed to Hollywood and the clubs, coming down from Santa Clarita or Calabasas or Oxnard. It’s a proverbial stream of libation and celebration, and, after 2 am, a literal torrent of drunks.

Freeways define the Los Angeles landscape and you can’t live here very long without eventually getting stuck on one, with no hope of going anywhere. When that happens freeways elicit all the emotions of a bee trapped in a glass jar.

When it rains at night the landscape changes to a pointillist painting of red brake lights and squiggly lines in the road. Cars crawl along like snails, everyone hiding inside their shells.

One day I drove next to a couple in their car fighting. The woman was really yelling at her man, letting him have it. She glanced over suddenly and caught me staring, then flipped me the bird.

There’s a morale there somewhere but there’s no time to think about it when the exits are flying by and the traffic is weaving in and out and you have to get to work or wherever. And really, I’m not looking for morale, this is more the literary equivalent of a dog sticking his head out the window for air.

It’s the freeways that get you places in L.A.

They criss-cross the urban sprawl, delivering people to their destinations. We travel in metal boxes at fatal speeds, singing along and picking our nose. We live and die by them in the City of Angels. Soon after the freeways came fast food joints, smog, and strip malls — all the joys of modern America.

I heard somewhere that 95% of dust is human cells, and the rest is tire particle.

The average commute in Los Angeles is 30 minutes.

You see, as much as we despise them, freeways shape us, they’re a big part of our lives.

I have memories of good times on freeways too.

Driving on the Santa Monica Freeway the night it reopened after being damaged in the Northridge Earthquake. There was still dust on the road and bright construction lights and all the cars slowed down driving through it. I just happened to hear the announcement on the radio, and, being young with nothing else to do, thought it would be an interesting experience.

And the same for the O.J verdict.

I caught wind of it on the radio, grabbed a friend, and headed downtown. There was a guy walking around in an Uncle Fester costume for some reason, and the phrase ‘circus-like’ would be an understatement to describe the surreal scene. Reporters outnumbered onlookers two to one. There was a nervous tension in the air that was as real as the bright noon sun shinning down until shouts of ‘not guilty’ rippled through the crowd. People began cheering. Looking back, I can’t remember if I was one of them.

How many people can say they found out O.J was acquitted firsthand, right outside the courthouse doors? Like driving on the repaired 10, it’s something I’m strangely proud of.

Next time you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway, take a look around, you have a lot of interesting company out there.

Here’s my exit.

The 405

Freeway traffic and these great gray clouds rolling overhead.
Brake lights repeating for miles like an endless stream of blood droplets.
Where do they end? Where does it end?

I feel trapped in this deadly cage.

Passing by a neon cross,
and an SUV with the Stars and Stripes on its bumper.
Driving down low next to it in my Civic
through the dry hills and under the alabaster Getty Center
I experience a truly American epiphany:
the confusing feeling of being
both the bottom and top of the food chain
at the same time.

A helicopter flies over Wilshire.
A ghetto bird.
I’d open the sunroof if I had one.
My cell phone buzzes in my pocket. I fear the future.
I don’t answer it.

An opening.
I take it.
Signal to change lanes, find the current,
fall into the stream.
I start passing sports cars.
I’m starting to feel good about the world again.

Then a tow truck speeds by on my right going 85 or more.
The driver has a mouth full of chew and a Budweiser hat.
Godspeed I wave. You asshole.
Where does it get you? What good does it do you?

Anger trickles up my sleve.

Or me?

I’d make a lousy specimen.
I’m no corpse or cadaver.
Shoot me from a cannon like Hunter S. Thompson.

Send me to the moon.

When I’m outta here; I’m outta here.
So long and thanks for all the fish.

The 10 freeway approaches.
Or rather,
I approach it.
Cars start to back up and I slow down,
come to a halt.
I’m almost thankful.
I scratch my head and realize that it’s still there.

And realize…

the speed of life
is ill suited for
the 405.