It really is just so much easier to be who you are.
It’s a quiet evening in the apartment. I didn’t turn my fan on—my white-noise maker that envelopes all the creaking and clomping of this noisy and rattling apartment building. So, it’s very quiet without its hum or roomies or music. Whoever lives on my ceiling just got home, with a step two three four up the stairs, the dull push and thud of a front door, and a thump creak across the floor above me. I don’t mind it, right now. I usually do, I suppose (hence the fan) but now I don’t mind it. It’s human background noise, soft feet and hard dishes.
I spent the day driving, and have arrived to this 10 p.m., four hours on the road later (typical Wednesday), with the conclusion that this city is ridiculous. I tried a new route to a 3:30 appointment—quicker! easier! it seemed in the haze of 60 mph on the 10—and ended up stuck on the 405 and twenty minutes late and over-stressed to be so late. I didn’t learn my lesson and two hours later, giddy for new route day, took Sunset east instead of Wilshire for a 7 p.m. appointment in Westwood. I could have walked there faster than I drove.
It’s so cliche L.A., to complain about traffic. So cliche, and so defended and ridiculed. Why do people live like this? As I was having my nervous breakdown on Sunset—around the time that a gaggle of pedestrians blew by me—the Escalade in the opposing lane nudged (or ran into) the car in front of it. It was less a rear-ending than a man easing up on the break peddle too eagerly, and then he swore and ran his fingers through his hair and was hating life. What a weird city, entrenched in this way of life, sitting in gridlock. But then we get home, or we get where we’re going, and it’s okay, it’s doable: it’s sunny and beautiful! And… it is. Yesterday, I had a two hour lunch break, so I ran from the Santa Monica pier to the Venice pier. Bright ocean, bright sand, and this is the reason for Los Angeles. It’s a different world over there, meandering and pedestrian along a boardwalk. But… that isn’t the LA most live, and when I finished my run, I found a parking ticket tucked under my window wiper.
The Spectrum Fitness in Santa Monica—my gym that I love walking four blocks to—is decked out in gauzy black cobwebs and cutouts of purple cats and glitter-adorned pumpkins. I appreciate the nod to the approaching holiday, but the brimming bowl of chocolate candy at the front desk—the front desk of an exercise facility—seems somehow counter-productive. (Snickers + elliptical = vicious cycle).
I had a good feeling about you, October, and here you are, nearly over, November biting at your ankles. It has been a lovely month, full of fall: rain and pumpkin frozen yogurt and a few fall birthdays and some sporting events and not enough sleep. It has not been a month of writing, which I don’t enjoy but that I don’t necessarily regret, as it’s been a month of more people and less quiet alone time. It’s been hard to pick out the funny little gems and weird moments that I usually like to observe: I was too busy rushing from A to B to notice all these things, and this is something I regret. I’ve scheduled myself in busy hour blocks on Monday through Friday, and then similarly fun chunks of time on weekends, and here I am, a month later without a post to speak of. Time weasels by, slippery and quick, without those written words.
I’m listening to Travels With Charley on audiobook, and Steinbeck, as always, is so right: ”So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a wearied evening world.”
Morning eyes are cranky on the 10 to a dark downtown at 6 a.m., and my job makes me tired, and evening eyes are weary and generally happy to be home and cooking in a lovely apartment, and then some tea or wine, and then a nice bed. What lies between, I suppose, is where the writing is, and I’ve got to excavate it.
My favorite blogger–the writer I should like to be—Gretchen Rubin, as always, points me in the right direction with a saying of William Morris: The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.
Mindfulness, and observation, and genuine. A few details of my daily life, mundane but mindful, I suppose. I have a golden yellow scarf that I’ve really been enjoying pairing with maroons and reds, that I am in fact wearing right now, and that feels like fall and sort of funny. There was a mail truck parked in front of my apartment building, and I rushed by it (late, pretty standard) and saw through the open door a banana and an apple resting on the passenger seat (the left seat, in the case of a mail truck), and it was so humanizing, of the absent mailman, who brought himself a banana and apple for an afternoon snack. I was awoken one Saturday morning by chainsaws and noise and ventured out to find a group of men hacking away at the semi-dead but still alive bushes and trees in our apartment courtyard. They left that day a barren expanse of dirt and we were all dismayed until the next Saturday when they returned and put down full green grass and a cute little tacky fountain in the middle. Upgrade! Unexpected and free.
And then a bowl of mini-snickers at the gym. Yes, I did have one, right before I checked facebook at one of the three computers in the lobby.
Here we are, with the immensely difficult task before us of getting to know the beautiful world we live in, and ourselves; and fallible though we are, we nevertheless find that our powers of understanding, surprisingly, are almost adequate for the task–more so than we ever dreamt in our wildest dreams. We really do learn from our mistakes, by trial and error… We can learn, we can grow in knowledge, even if we can never know–that is, know for certain. Since we can learn, there is no reason for despair of reason; and since we can never know, there are no grounds here for smugness.
I found this quote in a book I found in the LA Times book room: What’s Happening to News (The Information Explosion and the Crisis in Journalism). An ironic title to find cast aside in the book room, to be sure. As the book review in Time Out Chicago (the only newpaper that reviewed the book written by the former Chicago Tribune editor) writes: the title should instead be, What’s Happening to News??? … There are no conclusions offered in this book asking the all-pervasive question. What’s happening to news, to print, to media–to people who write, and people who read? It’s an exciting and anxious question. I have no answers here, especially not at 9 on an overcast Sunday evening, but it’s still a good quote to start a week on.
Speaking of, apparently the Westside Christian Fellowship across the street gets rowdy on Sunday evenings. Thus the cool and cloudy evening breeze wafting through my open window now carries with it indiscriminate chords of Christian rock. It’s a bit distracting, but… it’s quirky, and so neighborhood-y. Like a good neighbor, they let me park over there when our side of the street is full. It’s very Sunday breezy, and concordant, somehow, with reading Popper in a green armchair and contemplating the big issues.
It rained on Wednesday, unexpected and brief and hot. I was driving up Wilshire to Westwood after a grumpy day had begun to fade into a tired night, and I looked up and there rainbow hung between two silver buildings. So naturally I rolled down my window to take a cell phone photo, and my arm got wet, and I saw my windshield was dotted with erratic wet spots, and that the pavement was too, and suddenly the golden light of dusk turned grey and it was raining.
The first rain of the season was a big deal in Nicaragua, after months and months of scorched dry and cracked dirt, and this rain, two days before October on crowded cement streets, felt of the same monument. Though this summer didn’t feel like summer, all cool and cloudy, and this fall doesn’t feel like fall–thermometer breaking heat in downtown L.A. (front page news!)–the rain felt like an ushering of some kind of season. It’s still 80 degrees on October 1—another 1st! they hurtle in so quickly—but it rained on Wednesday, refreshing and sort of funny: all of us leaning out our windows to take photos of a rainbow with our cell phones. It was energizing, and I’ve gotta good feeling about October.