Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles.

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So many changes so quickly.  Strange almost, the impermanence of everything.  If you imagine life being lived at high speed, almost like in fast forward, the planetary motion of a lifetime would have you being everywhere and nowhere all at once.  We are frighteningly impermanent.

My apartment is a bit caustic now as I am marveling at all my self-imposed training, sleeping on couches to fit in as much interaction and noise as is humanly possible.  I am learning once again to be uncomfortable.

I think back with eyes squinted shut.

Memories of the deep thick woods in New Jersey that lit up with lightning.  The wet brown forest floor packed with red and orange leaves that found their way into the treads of my shoes.  The empty bottles and remnants of some mysterious culture of people who spent long hours in these woods hiding.  The feeling of being watched and the short distance of my 9 year old gait.

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I think about the wind storms in Texas and the hugeness of the sky there.  So big you could almost feel the curve of the Earth and know that the world you lived in was actually a circle.  To stand under it was to know how small you really were.  The ghostly pale light of the high school football cathedrals and the quiet loudness they made in the distance.

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Plans, business, neighborhoods and recreation. A night in West Hollywood, an early morning walk in Roxbury Park.  Sitting on the floor of an empty apartment in Beverly Hills.  Climbing rooftops in Toluca Lake and stealing fruit from gardens.  Hotel lobby in Universal City.  A drug store on Olympic.  An empty office in Brentwood.  A strip mall in Agoura, a dock in Westlake.

Life slows down into a slideshow.  I know a lot is going to change so I am taking pictures with my eyes.  I cannot stop myself from looking backwards.  I have always been too nostalgic.

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The white frosted dome above the south side of Chicago.  Before my grandparents passed, before they moved to California, they still lived in the home they made after the war.  The salt on the roads and the slush on the curbs.  The endless backyards and the patches of crab grass.  Trips to the Lincoln Mall breathing in second hand smoke from Grandpa’s Portofino Macanudos.  The tobacconist handing me jars of pipe tobacco to smell.  Eating ice cream that felt warmer than the air outside.  Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen against Magic and Larry Bird and John Stockton and Robert Parish.  The oddly colored basement.

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Sabino Canyon at sunrise in Tucson just before Christmas.  It’s raining and I am cold.  Brief, wild explosions of sunlight doing battle with pouring clouds elbowing their way through Bear Canyon.  Wind whipping my face as it gathers itself on the long road leading into the canyon’s entrails.  Climbing a picnic table on the bank of the river being driven into a frenzy with rainfall.  I stand on the bank and watch in a full downpour.  The noise and the energy in my muscles.  I am alive.  I am so glad I am alive to see this.  My life, so much fuller than it once was.  Someone had left the light on in me.

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Seattle with a girl I just fell in love with.  It’s our first trip together.  We’re going to see a movie I made at a film festival.  The theater is old and they let us drink beer inside.  We are so young.  People ask me questions about why I wrote certain things.  I am not used to people caring.

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There is a bar deep underground and it is lit by candles.  The air in the Northwest is amazing.  There is a wall covered in gum and I smoke a cigarette by it.  There is a bar in Belltown with a fire escape.  We climb out to the balcony and look at the water, dark and expansive.  Kids are in the alley below.  We hold hands.  We still do.

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My Mom takes me to the city.  I have a day off school.  My father is working at 30 Rock.  I love the neon signs and the echoes of car horns off the buildings.  I cannot sit still in the Bonneville crossing the GW.  I can see the Twin Towers.  I can see lots of things a little boy can’t believe exist.  My Dad smells like Old Spice.  My Mom goes to shop at the nice stores on 5th Avenue and my Dad tells his co-workers in the hall we are going on a “business” lunch.  I am excited and take it seriously.  I want to be just like him.  We eat at a deli.  He takes me to FAO Schwartz.  I don’t even want a toy.  I just walk around for an hour wild-eyed at the possibility that places like this exist.  I ask Dad if I can work there when I am an adult.  He assures me I can.  I ask when that will be.  He tells me I am a little boy, soon I’ll be a middle boy, then I will be a dreaded teenager.  I ask if my brothers are dreaded teenagers.  They are.  We get a street pretzel and walk through the muddy snow back to his office.  The Christmas tree is already lit on the ice skating rink.

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I live downtown.  I am alone on the balcony and I have been drinking and writing in a notepad with black ink.  The city is freakishly silent.  A helicopter cuts the silence and pulls up next to an adjacent skyscraper.  It opens fire in a wild show of flashing bursts and loud noises.  Glass explodes.  It is 4am and Los Angeles is under attack.  The director yells cut.  Lights come on.  It is all for a film.  I need to walk.  I explore the hotels of downtown and finish my whiskey.  I am warm and carefree and alone.  I go to the pantry and eat toast and write.  I am just a boy in a room in a city on the planet.

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I am wandering London.  I have just had a beer confiscated by a policeman.  A man asks me if I want drugs by asking me “Bob Marley?  Diana Ross?”  A girl asks me if I am Irish.  I tell her no.  I think she just wants to talk to me.  She has studied in San Francisco.  She and her friend invite me back to their flat in Green Park and we listen to music I have never heard.  They all smoke Marlboro Reds and drink Budweiser.  It puts all the Heineken we used to drink in perspective.  They are good people.  This is my city.  It is the only place that seems to understand me.  We run about Trafalgar Square at night, wild beasts in the moonlight playing chicken with the Tube schedule and the last train on the Bakerloo line back.  There is a DJ spinning somewhere beneath a Dutch pub and we all decide to go.  Someone hands me a Yorkshire pudding with au jus in it.  I cannot believe you can simply order bread with beef juice in it.  I look very American to them, but I think they like it.  A man from Stockholm tells me America brought 9/11 on ourselves but that he was sorry about it.  I shove him into the bar and tell him sorry for spilling his beer.  I get dragged out of the bar.  Anarchy in the UK.

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We arrive in Eugene at 4am.  No idea why we are heading north for Spring Break.  Maybe a Thompsonian quest for the American Dream or to see the Bob Dylan exhibit at the EMP.  We walk around campus and stop to smoke a cigarette in a graveyard.  There is a strange light flickering.  We are talking about how we were almost arrested on the way up from San Francisco.  Long story.  The light keeps flashing.  It begins to move.  We decide to run.  In the morning after a strange night at a local motel, we return to the cemetery.  The gravekeeper has a clef palette and is smoking a cigarette.  He stares at us, ominously, coldly.  The light was his cigarette.  We were being watched.

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Why would a person look back so much.  Nostalgia always hurts.  Perhaps it’s just a need to be ready to put the next foot forward, knowing the ground will be sturdy.  Endings and beginnings, being a human.  Hellos and goodbyes.  Yes and no.  North, south, east and west.  Eight million people thinking the same things in the same city with thoughts connecting us all back through decades to every corner of this giant lonely planet.  In that infinite loneliness is bred the unfathomably similarities between even the most dissimilar people around.  It is in those similarities that we are never alone and perhaps lonely moments are best viewed as quiet personal soliloquies where you stick a pin in your personal map and know exactly where you are at.

I am sick to my stomach in a good way.  My mom once showed me a painting that said ‘most people don’t know that there are some angels who’s only job is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable and miss your life.’  These angels are my roommates right now.

It’s a new movie, new characters, new adventures.  But the coming attractions have been amazing.

1 Comment

Filed under Lost Angeles Sightings, Rants and Musings, Whiskey Drinking Stupidity

One response to “Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles.

  1. Michele Jerome

    Zack,

    I reread this blog and loved it even more than the first time. You are an amazing, thoughtful person.
    I do hope that some day you will get the opportunity to use your gift of writing as your daily work. How incredible it would be to work doing something that you love and are truly meant to do.

    Love,
    Mom

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