A Los Angeles story of madness and awakening, in twelve parts
Part II: The Arrival
I had not slept well, nor for very long, the night before. A heady mix of anticipation and trepidation, I suppose. There was a list of about a dozen people I meant to connect or reconnect with in the two weeks I would be there — and a good deal of anxiety over one in particular. He was a friend, not terribly close; more of an acquaintence really, who I planned to stay with in what he referred to as a “one room house” in Echo Park. The east side of Los Angeles. Mecca. My imagined shangri-la where that low-level constant of dread would magically disappear and where impossibly good bands worked, played and called home.
I had visited twice before, with a mutual friend, and we stayed at his old place in Silver Lake. But this time was different. I was traveling alone save for my personal demons, who nearly strangled me to death back in Boston. I hoped to set them free in that expansive Western sky. The acquaintance-friend had just been in Boston for the summer, and while there, I could see the edges of his sanity already frayed. I reasoned that I would offer a small amount of emotional support in return for a centrally-located and free place to stay. Nothing is ever truly free, but you learn in time that everything is worth experiencing. Certain events, however painful, are like those people movers at airports that race uneasily along but let you cover a lot of ground in a short span of time.
The first of several miscalculations on this trip, I struggled to complete a work assignment between mistimed connecting flights and poor internet service. Robbed of my work-obsessed escapism and given no other options, I was left with no choice but to surrender to the emotions and experience.
Flying now over the alien landscape of Colorado and Utah, I fantasize about an unfamiliar planet where one can rediscover oneself amidst startling new surroundings. That wide open space, the endless possibility, and I could see it so clearly. In the nearly cloudless sky, the mind becomes free of distracting thoughts.
Landed in L.A. and feeling like a stranger in a familiar land, it takes a little while to remember and I mistakenly ask a homeless man for directions. He asks for spare change, but doesn’t provide any direction (“If I give you some money, will you tell me where I am?”). Later on, I sleepwalk through a warm summer’s evening humming with people, swaying palms and city lights. I no longer feel lost.
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