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.