I remember the moment in Los Angeles when change arrived like a wave on the shore.
I was standing on the corner of Mansfield and 8th St in LA's little-known Brookside neighborhood. This was a corner I had stood on hundreds of times before. It was the corner right outside of our charming pre-war abode which stood off the curb behind me, completely emptied of its contents spare an air mattress lent to us by our beloved neighbors in Apartment 4. We were set to leave for New York in the morning.
Standing there with Jasper, my 3 year old Rottweiler mix, I began to get lost in the moment. It was sunset. The sky was pink, blue, and white; the clouds were pulled thin and long like cotton candy stretched from its spool. I remember feeling like I was somehow further away from the sky than usual, like I was looking upward through a fish-eye lens. My stature shrunk tenfold; I was small, tiny, and insignificant.
There was a warm breeze that ever so gently rustled the black and amber hairs on Jasper's brow. He took notice and strained his neck forward into the breeze, his eyes squinted, his leathery black nose twitched left to right with the subtlest of movements. I remember wondering what scents he caught riding on the wind.
My vision moved from the sky, to Jasper, and went on to trace the breeze through the streets down towards my walking route, or what was about to be my final walk in Brookside. The neighborhood faces were out per usual; they were walking their dogs as they have done routinely for god knows how long, walking to and fro with miscellaneous company, returning from the local Lassens or BevMo with the evening's provisions.
I know where I'm going, but where are they going?
I caught myself in the moment's melancholy, there was a distinct awareness that I was consciously experiencing one of "the last times". I remember thinking how lucky I was to pause and realize that - to realize that after this, nothing would ever be the same, it could be better, it could be worse, sure, but it would never be the same. When was the last time they had all stopped on the corner to soak in the sunset on their evening walk? Did they do it enough? Did I do it enough? I didn't. I always assumed there would be another time, another sunset. I was always too eager to return home to see to the evening's motions.
I was captured by the fact that while I stood there for the last time, the people around me were completely oblivious to the transcendence I was experiencing, instead they coursed around me like water to a stepping stone. I was suddenly out of place. I hardly existed collectively in that moment; I was a specter, a phantasm growing more and more transparent by the moment. To no ones notice, I stood on that corner and began my transition from a man to a memory.
I find the human brain to be fascinating when its in anticipation of change and/or chaos. The places it lingers, the possibilities it ruminates upon, they all lend themselves to a shocking sense of clarity on one's life and values. To that end, I've shared another entry from my early morning writing sessions below where I touch more upon a similar feeling.
February 2nd, 2023 - 6:32AM
The two week countdown begins. We're so close that it feels as if a blink is risky enough to provoke this abstract future to my doorstep. I guess a blink always does that to be fair, but this time, each blink ushers us closer to the grand unknown, a pandora's box filled with contents yet revealed.
Again, I suppose a blink always does that.
It's curious; when dwelling in a place of comfort it becomes easy to believe that we are in partnership with time and change. Change feels like a force you can negotiate with so long as you go through your expected motions. We entrench ourselves so deeply in this paradigm that upon considering things like a move, we delude ourselves into thinking that what we're deciding between is guaranteed order against chaos. This leads us to believe that staying put means everything will be well, the safety and comfort we're experiencing will continue ad infinitum, whereas moving will forfeit everything. We humans often see the danger before the possibility when faced with a big life change. This holds us back.
The reality is; staying can be just as dangerous as leaving. How quickly we forget that chaos is an agent that floats off the tiniest and most delicate of wings.
A butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can produce a tornado in Texas.
We forget that every day is a numbers game and up until this point, we have just happened to beat the odds. Driving is amongst LA's most dangerous activities but we hardly stop to pause before embarking on yet another menial task in our screaming metal death traps. This is probably for the best, being crippled by mortality is no solution. Still, anywhere we go, we are at the persistent mercy of forces unseen, these forces can strike us where we stand in any ordinary instant. Oversight.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
Each day, whether we notice it or not, is a trip to the casino, another pull on the proverbial slot machine. We begin to believe as we wake up day after day with out tragedy striking that we are safe, but maybe worse that we can win this thing.
As if winning is even the point. We all lose, no matter what, we expire, combust in a blaze of glory, go out like a flickering candle. No matter how romantically we present it, it all sugar coats the same brutal truth, we all die. All of our accomplishments and accumulated interest investment accounts mean very little against the flat of the blade. We can leave these things behind, sure, but the only way you truly live on is through memory, story, tangibles, and tales of inspiration. If living on is important to you, then you must be very intentional with your time here, you must live in a way that prompts invocation. You must engineer your days in a way that makes them worth revisiting... I'm officially thinking to much, my words are turning trite; existential moot.
Yesterday, Sasha (my wife's 18 year old sister) asked me: "How do you romanticize your life?"
To her, I answered that you must treat your life as a story worth re-reading. Your only job as a human is to figure out what kind of novel you want to leave behind one day. Is it a tale of romance and adventure? Or is it one of heartbreak and disaster. In your low moments, remember where your story is heading, remember that you are in just another page or chapter that, in the moment, may feel mundane and pointless, but, in the future will have revealed itself to be entirely pivotal to your arc.
What sort of hero do you want to be?
What sort of story do you want to write?
🎧 A Song to Study
This is one of those tonic for the soul type songs delivered by a voice who is the stuff of legend. Sam Cooke was with us for but a moment, but left us with a disproportionate amount of transcendent music. Smoke Rings has been a salve for me over the last few tumultuous years and on a few occasions has been the necessary vehicle to oust pent up emotions; angers, frustrations, and the sort. Every guy needs a GuyCrySong™ and this song is for some reason my Green Mile.
The song is about Smoke Rings and where they run off to when you blow them on their merry way, but for some reason it feels like so much more. Especially when delivered in the way Sam delivers them. It feels almost more like "Where they do go and can I go to? Can I be anywhere but here"? I've noticed it's resonated most deeply in my spirit when I'm feeling some of that as well. There's a distinct feeling of longing and, perhaps, dare I say despair? Maybe dejection is the proper diagnosis.
That being said, this track is not a downer, its uplifting and jubilant in a strange way given the description I've given above. I've learned this last year that things are often the richest when they can hold two conflicting feelings at the same time. That is on display here.
🏡 An Album to Live In
What can I say about Cate Le Bon's Pompeii? Buying contemporary releases on vinyl has admittedly been more of a rarity for me, so, when I ended up with this in my collection shortly following its release, I realized that this record is something special. The hype sticker on the cellophane wrapping read something along the lines of inspired by 80's Japanese cyber-pop. That was the first time the sounds on the album felt like they could contextualize in my brain. I had felt at the outset that this album sounded like nothing else I had ever listened to, the collection of instruments used in tandem felt so distinct from what is popular today. Pompeii sounds simultaneously vintage yet ahead of its time, it wouldn't be out of place in the background of a future Bladerunner sequel where the protagonist, Ryan Gosling ofc, is slinking through an underworld sex club hunting down an escaped replicant.
If I went too far into my nerd bag on that one and lost some of y'all, I'm sorry, it happens.
Expect a slow burn in with creeping bass lines and cinematic vocals.