NOW – I

essay

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.

DAYLIGHT

essay

Sometimes We Need Our Demons

I remember sitting on the front lawn of the campus reading a short book on the world that Thomas Pynchon created. I wasn’t actually reading Pynchon, however, just reading about him, which still bothers me in some way. The day was getting cold, and I think that the month was maybe April or late March. There were enough clouds in the sky to get me concerned about the weather for the night. Was it going to rain? I hoped not.

I had just walked back from Book Alley down the street. It was the coziest little place on days like this. There were stacks of books littered all over the floor, and long shelves in the back where everything was haphazardly organized by genre. I was thumbing through some old astronomy texts, and looking at the pretty diagrams of the different kinds of galactic spiral arms that formed throughout the history of the universe. When I finished, I returned the book to its place on the shelf, and wandered a little more. Science fiction, French literature (in French), auto repair manuals, and mass market paperback romance novels. There were plenty of each.

I thought about calling X, and maybe going to see a movie with her at the cheap theater. But for whatever reason or reasons that I don’t remember now, I didn’t. I left the shop, and walked down the block to buy a muffin and a hot cup of coffee at the gas station. I don’t think that I had a car during that time, my license had been suspended for racking up too many moving violations, and since I was a relatively new driver, that was the first privilege to go. So, I may have been waiting for the bus in front of the campus. But I could have just been killing time, waiting to meet with a friend. It was a busy time, a busy day, and I wish that I could remember more.

It was pleasant, sitting, reading. The cool gusts of wind breaking the calm of the day and making the clouds looming over the San Gabriels, contrasted with the golden sunset of the west, all the more dramatic and interesting. I might have also been smoking a cigarette at some point, I smoked then, but I’m not quite sure about that either. I finished the Pynchon book, and walked over to the library to return it, telling myself that I actually had to read Pynchon at some point, and not just about him. You actually have to do things at some point J, and not just read about them.

The trees rustled hard in the wind, the little leaves at the ends of each branch fighting for survival. To stay alive and close to mother, if only for this season. I wore a dark green jacket, with a black hooded sweater underneath, and was much thinner then, thinner than I am now, even though I moved around a lot less. My hair was long, and dark, and everyday seemed new, and bright, and exhausting. Pregnant with unfulfilled promise, and hope, maybe some dream of some better future somewhere, but who knew where? I actually do think that this was around the time when I got my car and my license back, so maybe I was driving, and I was indeed killing time.

I was glad to drive in Southern California again, because at a moments notice you could go to the beach and watch the sunset, and get a bite to eat at some warm little place not far from something so pretty. Sure, it was an escape, but I had always been the master of escape. Of escaping fate, of escaping stagnation, of escaping morosely being relegated to mediocrity. Escapism as a past-time, I made it into an art.

I might have put my headphones on after I turned the book in, but I don’t remember if I even had an iPod or some device with which to listen to music. I like to think that I put my headphones on, and looked through the artists, looking for chessie, and then finding them and going down to Daylight, which was a favorite then. When that song was on and you were out in the world, participating, it was almost as if the veil had been lifted, and you were given a fresh set of eyes with which to see and absorb. Life was worth more than the accumulation of parking tickets, and a suspended licence, and a 3rd rate retail job folding clothes. A second chance was somewhere, but where?

If I only could have stayed out a little longer, and maybe looked a little harder, and maybe felt a little more, then maybe I could have held back the pull of time, even if only for a moment. Would I have found it then?

Now, however, I look back at my naivete and laugh. Not a lot, and definitely not in condescension, but my memory trapped in time is only one of a billion tiny fragments that make up a much much larger whole. It’s a part of a more complete narrative that has shaped me, and though I would like to assign it some weight, I know that I really can’t. It means just as much as all the others. Maybe that day keeps on replaying itself not because it was a point in time when I realized something great, but because it was like so many other quiet days. Calm, big, real. The exploratory madness of the process still burns, and I don’t mind it so much anymore. I can take it now. I cherish the long Sunday drives on PCH, and the cloudy days, and even longer nights moving around the quiet western spaces. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I still need my demons. Isn’t that what it means to be?

http://theemptysetla.bandcamp.com/track/sometimes-we-need-our-demons

PLAY

PLAY

essay

frame of reference – n. any set of of lines, directions, planes, etc., such as the coordinate axes, relative to which the position of a point in a space can be described.

This entire blog is an attempt at being consistent about the storytelling process. Machines In The Garden is meant to tap into the heartbeat of the city and its streets. It sets the tone for the rest of the works to be fluid, self contained projects that move through the landscape and its moods.

In 2010, I put together a book of photos which I had taken over the course of five or six years, and, along with text that was cut from various short stories and poems, I created a document that began to define the vision of what I was attempting to write about and wanted to capture. I was more naive, but ground was broken, and the course of future projects had momentum.

Every connection back to the beginning has influenced the direction of where I’m going. You can download the document by clicking the link below. I hope you enjoy.

MachinesInTheGarden, 2010 – [PDF]: MITG [visualsketchbook]

Like Dust

poem

“If man were never to fade away like the dews of Adashino, never to vanish like the smoke over Toribeyama, but lingered on forever in the world, how things would lose their power to move us! The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.”— Yoshida Kenko, Essays in Idleness

 

I think,

when we first met,

the decade was moving towards something

 

You were with me at a house party in a suburb,

at the cusp of growing up,

barely scraping by

 

Making drinks under the soft glow of kitchen light,

as electric beats moved through the texture of our space

 

We moved on the dance floor,

before the cops came,

and we ran out laughing through the back door

 

You were with me

driving on the freeway in the dusk light,

on our way to the cheap theater,

to watch our nightmares became our friends.

 

You were with me that crazy morning,

at The Pantry in Downtown,

when we drove to Santa Monica to watch the sun rise

 

You were there,

disappearing with me,

through the streets of the city

 

As time passes

I wonder

if I’ll lose the light that adds depth to the pictures in the chambers of my mind

 

That one day those visions will deteriorate,

and I will forget the small exchanges that

we had on nights when we were a little more free

stories we tell

stories we tell

poem

I. X

born under one star,
we go under the same

late day colors burst
light collapses on the fray

your touch is what I miss
smile, radiant heart

bits of imagination
illuminated from the start

stay with me on this warm night in July

far from Elliot’s cruelest month
and Faulkner’s sad retreat

I will quote the lines of famous films
for you to fall asleep

II. Someday

we last met in a room
at the end of the infinite hallway

in an old Seville house
hard patterned wall to wall

a color, almost transparent
washed over your face

eyes, they stared
almost back into the ocean of forever

when the clouds passed over
in the early morning hours
and the shadows disappeared

an orange tree in the courtyard

legs crossed, one over the other
observed against an iron fence

there is no road left

A bike. Soft pedals.

A dying machine.

Stopped.

III. The Red Fortress

Unmoved,

silhouettes of palm trees
stand firm on islands in the dusk

there is an absence of sand, however

hello, she says
yes?
you’re far away, she says

through signals, creating distance,
a distance between two lives

yet, we are both,
thinking, breathing, feeling

I would break if I was by you,
dissolve into the irreparable

now we let go of the unsaid,
the one day buried

and just smile because this love is real,
but the absence eats steadily

a parody of song,
so go, and I’ll go with you

The Fourth of every Month

fiction

The vacuum barrenness eats only when the night breaks into patches of in-congruent loneliness; images of revolution cures by electric city sky in the after hour drives up canyons where sheep eyes were destroyed.

All this and more is in a box on the floor of someone’s bedroom. Equal barren patches litter the walls in between disconnected snapshots of our past selves and posters of influences we are becoming.

I’m in this room, and now it’s a little past 3am. I’ve smoked a few bowls, and I’m feeling calm. A red light is on in the corner, and when I close my eyes I see a fertile garden at midnight. A sad faced marble statue of a lady in plain dress looks over the souls of after hour sinners and I slide farther away from her until she becomes a pinprick in my vision and the surrounding garden seems grainy and compressed. I try to draw this on a piece of paper in order to cement the vision.

A full yellow moon transforms the cypress and poplar into silhouette and there’s no doubt the imagined night is humid, lush and teeming with life. There’s a strange southern romance attached to the picture, and the atmosphere is pregnant with the unspoken ambitions circling the statue.

A picture of the city hijacks my vision, and endless miles of streetlights and telephone poles come into focus.

I make my way back to the garden, where warm hues glow behind closed eyes and, take one last drink of the image. I breathe, open my eyes, and continue to draw at a million miles a minute. A satisfaction arrives with the outlines coming to life on the paper. The garden, a sacred place of peace, around which we all gravitate.

I think of the myth of forgiving and forgetting as I draw, and how myths are built into our design. Like the Phoenix, constantly being resurrected from its own ashes. I think of how all that it takes is one idealist and a spark, a catalyst for a small change in a larger structure. I think of the images of time and place framing who we once were. Not who we are now.

I remember being young and angry. We made sounds out of our rage, but now that same energy produces stifled silent screams, like white noise playing out of busted old radios in old garages where old couches that we used to crash on once were.

I think of slow motion nights spent waiting for nothing grand in the immediacy of cool intrepid youth. Maybe some obscure music and a black light and of course someone brought a camera to document the occasion and we all made believe in perfect for some future audience’s pleasure.

Of course the talk show host will one day ask about growing up and the reply will always be ready for delivery, with a serious expression, and long pauses will allude to hardships and impossibilities that send chills down spines and cause teeth to cringe. The comfort and easy truths will be played down, and epic twists will fill the plot, weaving a story that belongs to Greek Myth and makes us all out to be the glorious victors against all odds.

The spark was the idea that we might pull through or we might not, so we were sure to take picture after picture and erase the ones that didn’t fit or that caught us in the middle of a stupid grin with eyes half shut.

All events that end up in a couple of shoeboxes full of moments past alongside undeveloped film, letters written by onetime sweethearts, ticket stubs to movies and local shows, and always ornately decorated papers with lyrics to songs we found our escape in but never fully understood.

I try not to listen to those songs anymore, but unfortunately I’m still fond of the same movies.

I’m sure you didn’t forget them, I mean, how could you?

i want to tell you

i want to tell you

poem

There is a distance in your smile
A dark thin line between now and forever

There is a moon, yellow
Looking into frigid ocean
While the waves erase our paths

I want to tell you the world
And whisper it in your ear
If you would only let me do so

There is a moon, yellow
Sitting on the edge of the horizon
While the other side wakes up

You hold my arm against the cold
and we each laugh in half sleep

If we were to never leave this place and disappear,
I would stand here with you forever

Our hands held in frigid wind
Away from dust and detritus
Away from the stories that we don’t care for

distant from the star
the remains of moments we once knew by name left behind

There is a distance in your smile
A dark thin line between now and never

There is a sun, a phantom
Looming over the horizon
Here to greet the day

There is a shadow
There is a wave

There is a distance in your smile

(photo cred: Arlette Raya |Now That I Know)