This Is Now – I
In 2005, we lived on the quiet side of town. North of Beverly, and just slightly East of the main boulevard, and we had a few good cars: a black 2001 Jaguar S-Type, a white 1996 Dodge Caravan, and a silver 1992 Toyota Camry. Montebello, in my mind, has always been the last semblance of a suburb before the interface and the chaos of the city.
I was 16, and I use to use the Camry when I drove around smoking cigarettes looking for pockets of Los Angeles that I had imagined but never seen. Back then, I would get stoned, and then go for late night drives with Thomas to places like Pasadena or Hollywood. The glow of the bright lights would overwhelm us, and we would drive slow in order to take everything in. Occasionally we would ditch the Camry and sneak out Tom’s Dad’s 68′ Mustang. It was in the process of being restored, and I think it still is. In that car, we would zoom over to the abandoned Rancho Los Amigos in Downey, an old County Poor Farm, and with a large enough group of friends, break in and prepare to be scared by the incurable disease of time. Tom would do donuts in a dirt field near the main building and then, at the end of the night, drive us all to the nearest Jack In The Box in order to fill our empty stomachs with cheap tacos.
In those days, I was reading Sylvia Plath, Alan Lightman, Poe, the FADER, The LA Times, Harry Potter, and whatever weird counter-culture articles I could find in some obscure corner of the internet. To find the ‘different’, I would have to go through band, music reviews, and newspaper clippings from the Times ‘Arts & Books’ section which always contained reviews of artists that seemed passionate and interesting.
Some weekends I would take the bus into Downtown by way of the San Gabriel Valley, and with my camera, capture little slices of the then mostly empty city streets. One Saturday in particular, I remember stumbling upon a screening of Basquiat in California Plaza. When it was over, I made my way to the roof of the Biltmore hotel, and sat next to the skyscrapers, making friends with the bright giants of the night sky. As I was sitting on some step near the Plaza, having a smoke, a man approached me and told me that I shouldn’t be smoking, that it was bad for me, and then asked me for $1.75 to catch the bus. He was from Alabama, he said, and he had just gotten off the Greyhound. Apparently that was the always the story, I later learned, and the money was nearly always used for cheap booze or smokes.
I took the bus home later that night, content and excited by the hidden possibilities that the city had to offer.
That Fall I overdosed on a cocktail of methamphetamine and ephedra. It was a two in the morning fluke, and I should have been more careful. The “I’ll Try Anything Once” motto, ala Julian Casablancas, was what I believed in. Soon after, my confidence wavered, and I became a scared shell of my more assured former self. I turned inward, and I had a hint that there was something that I had to work out by myself. I had almost died in the vapid search for something else, and I needed presence, but Los Angeles was, and still can be, not a place tuned to the frequency of mindfulness. It lives forever in an eternal dream of stone and sun.
Slowly, I pulled myself together. It was a careful rebuilding of the interior. I stuck around throughout the mid and late 2000’s and worked crappy jobs and had girlfriends and went out at night to peculiar little corners of the city that helped heal me, in a way.
Driving the freeways at night or in the early morning hours helped me re-discover a casual darkness. A pseudo-fatalistic sensibility. Many times, however, the places that I went to didn’t hold the same kind of weight, and where dreams were once present, now even simple lovely little ideas seemed destined for the garbage bin. I can’t argue against the fact that I was a serial pessimist, I knew that, and in many ways I still am. Mostly I read, wrote, took pictures, went to shows.
And then I fell into the black hole of my mind again.
I left in 2013, and though it doesn’t seem like a long time, I feel a world apart. Different in a way that’s immeasurable.
So naturally, there has been a lot running through my head lately. I’m not scared, but I worry accordingly. What will I do once I get back to LA? Will Future Perfect ever really be the well connected story that I intend it to be? Will I make music the way that I want to make music? Will I let myself fall into the trap of casual alcoholism that’s so common of men in big cities in their twenties?
I’m not sure about any of these things, but all I can think to do is to just chip away slowly at the mass of it all. What if I break through and succeed? Will it come at a cost so great that I then don’t do anything ever again that satisfies me in the same way? Can I live knowing that that’s the best?
I, in a way, think that these are the concerns of every generation, but with a modern spin, and now there are many more questions, many with immediate but unsatisfying answers. Open ended, and opaque with Google-able solutions stacked upon each other, begging for a chance. Life is a constant problem that I have to be content doing battle with every day, and I suppose that has never changed.
This is my last night in Tucson, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.