Two men looked out from prison bars: One saw mud, one saw stars.
This has been a long week. What started out as a short trip to visit family and then a run up to Napa for a three day seminar at the CIA, on the Terroir of California, well, that all changed. I would have to find my own terroir. I did, along with any number of moments that harkened back to childhood. I was going back to a place where you can never return. I just didn't know that’s why "they" were sending for me.
That place would be the California of my youth. That California no longer exists. Sitting at a wine bar in Hollywood talking among folks, who a few moments before were strangers, they asked me why wouldn’t I come back? I’d had these conversations many times before in Hollywood, in the days when I worked there. Nights in October when the jasmine filled the air with their blossoms and Southern California truly was a magical, intoxicating place. That place now is now valet-parked in the corner of my mind and it probably will never be retrieved. And even if it is discovered, who am I to lay any claim on it now? It didn’t work for Balboa; it surely won’t work for me.
Look, the California of my parent's youth seems as if it was even more treasured. If I were to reinvent California it would be in those days; quieter, less polluted, less crowded and you could get away with a lot more than now.
But that night in Hollywood, we sipped on dry-farmed, native-yeast, full-of-life wines from France, Italy and Austria. So, in effect, I had found my place once again. It wasn’t the murky, muddy backwaters of Southwestern Louisiana, no, that will come later this month, if all goes well. It wasn’t the star spewed and endless horizon place like Marfa. But for one brief moment, on a bar stool in Hollywood, I had found my sisters and brother and we were enjoying some really great wine.
Odd, here I was in what are my tribal-home grounds, LA. And I was the only native Angelino in the bunch. They came from Connecticut, Ohio, New York, and Illinois. And they were asking me why I wasn’t still living here. “I got in on the ground floor. I’m done with it now, except for these brief reunions. It’s all yours, folks.”
Sure the blue fin Toro was like nothing else I've ever had. And the back streets of the hills behind UCLA are a magical place. But I’ve been steering this craft back home all my life. I don’t reckon I’ll make it all the way to Italy. Hell, the Italy I once knew is gone too. Not a problem, the river pathway will be just fine. Somewhere down the Guadalupe’.
I do love the desert, though. Maybe it was all those years sitting on that little rock out in the vacant lot out in front of my house flying kites and staring at the mountain. I see my spirit friends, the hawks, the prairie dogs, the snakes, the lizards; they flash to me from the mountains and hills and tell me they are OK. They’re watching over things. Muchas Gracias hermanos.
Dammit, open the Pod Bay doors, Al!
Funny thing about the way it is vs. the way we want it to be. On the plane coming home yesterday I was trudging a couple of carry-ons and my hands were full. Nothing I couldn’t handle, but on the way to the seat, an older couple was struggling with getting their last carry-on up in the bin. They asked me if I could help them. Normally I am very accommodating to people and I was in this case as well. But not before I told the couple that they shouldn’t try to carry things on that they weren’t prepared to handle, that’s what checking luggage is for. The lady, perturbed that I had the audacity to challenge her good judgment in her old age, quipped back, “Just you wait till, you don’t know what it’s like. Someday you’ll be old.”
“Yes, ma’am, and when that day comes, hopefully more mature than the behavior you are exhibiting.”
As I propped their misshapen luggage into the bin, without as much as a thank you, she simply called out, “You’re an idiot!”
To which the only reply I could muster up was an effortless, “You’re welcome.”
It’s good to be home.