I wanted some time alone with Los Angeles.
Twenty minutes after touching down, I’m in a black Passat going native. Accelerating down the ramp, merging in to car culture, touching the radio on….
They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said a no no no. Coked up Amy Winehouse flashes on the windshield in front of the churning metal in this northbound artery, and I punch it. Time to backslide? I decide: yes.
“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city.” That’s Brett Easton Ellis, and just now I disagree. But parts of Less than Zero are still in my head, memorized in high school. At the time I was trying overwrite Bible verses tattooed on my brain (my father’s term) with Shakespeare and other smut.
As if awareness were a palimpsest. But it is not. It’s a chameleon.
GOD. DRIVING IN LOS ANGELES. Carbon-loading’s a shit ton of sense pleasure. In sattvic Ann Arbor, all walk commutes and farm shares, I forget the apocalypse. I’m delighted to be back in the grit, on an edge, looking into dark sides I’ve forgotten in myself.
So much for fear of merging. I remember the first time I merged with my car like some sort of hypersensate cyborg driving down out of the Hollywood Hills after a week of silence with Shinzen. Imagining artificially intelligent nanotech mites crawling off the steering wheel and gas pedal, up my limbs, making the wheels and headlights and sleek hot engine an extension of self. (Yeah, I should just go watch Transformers. or something.) In the car today, my mulabandha thrums and my heart drops down and back into the corner of the pericardium, glowing in sideways gravity. Happy.
By then, a minute in to traffic, I’ve hit bottom with the gas pedal. The 405 north, to the ten west, to the 101 north at 82PMH. We drop down below the underpass that brings the old Route 66 to the ocean, finally, and I scream at the sight of the Hollwood Hills, blue tatters, zigzagging into the sea to the north. I see Peter on a new BMW motorcycle, running off the road, hitting a tree, dying when his neck snaps. Four years, and three months ago. I’m nothing the same now, except for the fact that that my system still knows this program.
This is the one big intimate relationship I’ve ended as an adult—the relationship with the city. But the thing is, Los Angeles doesn’t care. She’ll take me back. I could pretend I’ve grown since leaving, but that’d only be tempting if some part of me still wanted to be with Los Angeles and wanted to push those feelings down. But there’s no strong push or pull anymore. The creature that is of this place is just a collection of habits of mind, and ways of moving the body, a program that comes alive again in the time it takes to go from 0 to 80.
Anyway. This morning I woke up in a vintage air stream trailer blocks from the beach and thought: I will not stay in a hotel again. You used to have to buy the airstream to think that; now AirBNB’s enough.
My body’s wake-up time translates to just after midnight in LA. So in the day this morning, I lay next to the beach and re-noticed the way the sandy ground trembles here. When the sun came up, I bought branded healthy breakfast items at the Whole Foods. Two $20 kale salads in as many days: it’s the the west side, all right. Now I’m next to UCLA Café Profeta, the last place I wrote a real academic article. Back in an old grad school haunt, logging grades for yoga students at a University on the other side of the country. Funny how that worked out.