The end of May in LA

Smog from LA funnels east out into the Mojave through the San Gorgonio Pass along Interstate 10. You can see LA coming when the mountains start to blur, they become like dreams or backdrops out of focus. Natural things become dream-like; manicured, on display in beautiful boxes, color coordinated, used with a different deliberation than nature herself does. Nature becomes an abstraction, a concept, one of many passing through the mind on a busy freeway of thoughts and stimuli. Sometimes it is rush hour and there is only so much room, some days she doesn’t get noticed at all. You can hear LA coming in the low roar who’s volume rises imperceptibly. It is a quantitative noise, rising in intensity like a hyperbolic static, like so many refrigerators and fans, engines and radios, 60 cycle humming, brimming with electricity. Everything is programmed to catch your attention and send you a message, an informational assault on all sides.

In my six years in Seattle I grew used to the city roar, to the glow that never really went out at night, the constant flurry of people and energy, leaves swirling in an eddy of wind in an apartment doorway. The hunt for a parking spot. A mailbox key to keep track of. Fire escapes and power lines, cracked cement. I knew the potholes on my common routes, and the convenience level of the intersections. I was connected in a dense web of communities and avenues and calendars, like the buzzing pathways of a big brain. When the time to move into the van and ramble was near it all got louder and harder to decipher, the cloud ceiling got lower and greyer, my pants wetter, parking spaces smaller (as my vehicles grew bigger), the hills higher, the stairs steeper. It was time to go.

I love to pass through the urban worlds. Chicago, LA, New York, Seattle, San Francisco; all I can navigate fairly well and know where to find a welcoming couch or coffee shop or neighborhood. They are worlds of their own, yet not so different from the wide empty spaces, sometimes cluttered with trees and boulders, loud with the noise of an ecosystem and weather, wild things carrying out the only instincts they know, trying to coexist in a world they were not given the choice to live in. Both worlds find an equilibrium of sorts, even after a fire or a drought, a riot or a recession; the endless swing of the grandfather pendulum, forever seeking balance. I pass through these worlds and adjust accordingly like any other ecosystem, knowing that I will soon grab hold of the 395 and swing out to the east side of the Sierras before I head home to my river town recharging station.

I played a fun show tonight. I played before Adrianne, Garrison Starr, and Maia Sharp; three seasoned pros surviving in the LA music scene. There was a lightness in my energy, a freedom from care, boredom, and worry as the AA’s say, a recognition of the same patterns of growth and decay that cycle around again and again in every microcosm on our planet on all levels. I felt fresh and present, current in my musical choices, unburdened by the drag of the whirlpool of expectations. The Old Woman Mountains and the Imperial Dunes will be there long after my blip on the human radar has come and gone, and their blip on the universal radar, witnessed or not (by who or what), will come and go as well. The cycles of musicians in LA, the touring circuit, the songwriters of the 2000’s – it is all like Arjuna’s war. There is nothing to do but fight, join in the world that is around you, be what you are and go where you are called. Surrendering to the flow of the present moment does not require one to forefit their bird’s eye view. I hear that insight, yet I’m still working on trusting it entirely. Letting go doesn’t happen once.

I saw the biggest cockroach I have ever seen in my life in the most charming and comfortable LA apartment I have ever stayed in tonight. He came waltzing out from behind the peaches on the counter while I was abandoning myself to a pint of dark chocolate ice cream in my underwear. He twiddled his antennae at me and sent me high-stepping and giggling into the other room. He made my already lovely day that much more memorable. The hum is floating in the window next to me, along with the chatty late night city birds and faint police sirens. I am content in this honeycomb apartment in the urban jungle tonight, grateful for the ever-constant and merciful passage of time.


9 thoughts on “The end of May in LA

  1. Joe,

    I’m avidly following your blog, and I am thrilled to read that you’re doing so well. : )

    Also, I agree about the cockroaches: pretty unnerving! I came face to face with one a couple months ago, and I fled the scene as well.

    I’m sending positive thoughts and energy your way.

    : )

  2. Joe, I have really enjoyed your story and the journey. I can’t wait for you to roll back into Sonoma county.

  3. Makes me miss my home down south, as sad and dirty and dark as it were… Big city love.

    Downtown streets alive with screeching tires and the roaring hum and bustle of people with nowhere to go but down. Twisted balls of concrete and rusty rebar line patches of the freeway. You can’t even see the stars through the hazy film suffocating the seething life from the city until the only living thing left is what exists in the cracks between the pavement… snaking weeds struggling to breathe beneath the mindless clapping of dirty rubber soles.

    Stark contrast to a bit further east in Texas where a skyline of transcendent pine trees frame the lonely highways under millions of twinkling holes to heaven… a much more comforting view than construction and mayhem. Still, I can’t get enough of the chaotic beauty of the concrete jungle.

    I’m glad you are well. Give LA (and anything southern, in general) a big sweaty hug for me. I miss your furry face, sunshine.

  4. Wow! Thank you again Joe for sharing this very poetic, (sometimes scary), insightful, even cosmic travelogue. Took me right along with you on your moving canvas. You ARE keeping on.

  5. Joe, my name is Beck and I live in Kansas City MO & its a pleasure meeting you. I grew up in LA and I am still not sure whY Iam in KC other than to go thru my transition here. I follow ur blog regularly and you inspire me in ways that are indescribable. I am 30, on T almost 2 yrs, had top surgery a month and a half ago and hysto last Aug. I am a free spirit, light following, dreadhead, nomad musician that struggles what to play these days as my voice has changed so much it gets lost on its path to find the right pitch, the right note. I try to play and sing along to ur music to try to give him a voice, give me a voice! I found u online a yr and a half ago while googling, ” the trans male singing voice” and u have been a beacon of hope ever since and I want to thank you. As u know this road is not an easy one and it has its many twists and turns yet I stay strong in times of weakness when I think of your strength and courage. Congrats on the not drinkin and all the other advances you have made and I hope with all my light and might that I may b able to see u perform soon. I am taking off this summer to travel the wonders of this country alone in my 4runner to see where I end up and I truly hope I can catch a show of urs while on the road. I will be coming home, to CA, eventually, probably round Aug, so I can take that 1st walk on the beach where I grew up camping and falling in love with nature, in my board shorts for the 1st time. I’ ll be camping at Carpinteria St beach just south of Santa Barbara. You should check it out if u havent been there. Carpinteria means City of tar to the native Chumash indians that lived there and its a great place full of trails along massive cliffs that have ocean views as far as the eye and/or mind will take you. Theres beautiful tide pools below full of ocean life to explore at low tide and the town itself is a mecca of light and love I find. I hope one day u can check it out. Its right off the 101N at Casitas pass. I have a strong feeling you would love it there as much as I do. I am not sure if there is a way for you to respond on here but if you have a way to respond, can u please tell me when I can find you playing and where and hopefully I will be able to hear ur music in person and formally introduce myself but until then… May peace, love and light be with you always! Namaste, Beck in KCMO

  6. You are the most poetic writer, Joe. Another beautiful blog entry that took me to a different place and gave me cause to think about the state of the world and where each of us fits in it.

    “There is nothing to do but fight, join in the world that is around you, be what you are and go where you are called.” Nice work, my friend.

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