950 miles / by laurel

I used to want to live in Celebration, Florida.

In Celebration, Florida the mist rises off the grass in calculated droplets. Every tree has been arranged and planted in a configuration that is not only aesthetically ideal, but also maximizes oxygen production for the residents of Celebration, Florida.

But instead of Celebration, Florida, I moved to LA. For some reason, in my mind the two were one and the same; pretty, upbeat places to work and play. This is because I knew absolutely nothing about LA before I moved here. I think the following observation sums it up:

between 2:28 and 2:38 pm, there were 13 traffic accidents on southland freeways. Six of them occurred within a few miles of each other on highway 118. Like dominos on the vein that skitters across Simi Valley, they went down quickly: 2:36, 2:37, 2:38 (two at that time). It makes me wonder if they were somehow intrinsically linked, or if each and every one was arbitrary and unrelated.

That's how LA is. A series of accidents and collisions that half the population believes is arbitrary and the other half believes is somehow related. For example, LA is constantly reassigning itself into bite-size pieces: neighborhoods that make the unbelievable diversity somehow believable, even palatable. Yesterday it was Silverlake, today it is downtown, tomorrow it will be Cahuenga. Is this transcendental shakedown the effect of the movements and moanings of a native tribe? Or is it the cause of a concerted effort toward a new identity? Again, the opinion is split half-and-half.

This city suffocates. I don't mean in terms of the smog or the pinched bar code of skyscrapers, or even in the precise squirm of traffic. I mean this city has a chokehold on my ideas, constantly spinning my perspective into a honeyed whorl resembling the mean, old sun under which we bake constantly. If I could close my eyes and squeeze out every last fleck of light, as well as any remnant of my LA-mind, when I opened my eyes again...

I'd wake up in the passenger seat, in the morning, as the car speeds on, with the sunlight capping the hills and yesterday's bag of chips serving as a pillow.

It's not advisable to drink from the wanderlust of a thousand discontented souls, but sometimes it's all we can do to survive. To be mentally engaged in the Here and Now is the smart decision, I suppose, but it's also the unavoidable one. If I could block out every last staccato beat of the helicopter's propellor against the sky, I'd emerge from the silence at the Great Divide, crossing that invisible line where the barometer begins to drop and the clouds hang low, drifting slow.

The feeling nags me even as I wander aimlessly over the mysteriously empty countryside. It follows me across, beneath and beyond those hills that look like knit green fabric stretched over a transient grid. I feel guilty because I know I've been conditioned to believe it's easier to dissect what's directly in front of me: those buildings. those thoughts. that predictable pattern.

It's easier to understand that than it is to understand the implications of the neverending ribbon of road that connects wandering patches of farmland, a stitch in time, save for nine palm trees punctuating the horizon--quarter notes and a half-rest. How do you read music like that?


But for now, the sun was judging me only on the length of my shadow and I surmised that maybe that neon perspective isn't so bad, after all. There was chatter today of a road trip to the Grand Canyon. That idea, like our most carefully laid plans, won't likely come to pass. So I'll keep to myself and affix my attention to the anchor of my desk and my computer and the binary code that serves as a reminder that living in LA is probably better than Celebration, Florida, anyway.