Every morning felt earlier then the next. I found that after restless nights, it was getting easier to wake up alone. I’d think to myself, she’s just in the other room, its alright. The mind likes to play devious games, if there is one thing I’ve seen in action at every turn point in my life is when your soul has had enough of these games. Its undeniable, it’s the feeling of running out of a burning house; the innate human urge to defend yourself and survive, even if it means losing something along the way.
Why I didn’t leave right away is because of something else. Something I’ve wanted to put my finger on, wrap my brain around, call it what you will. I’m sitting here writing this, because I care that you understand what it was like to be in my shoes.
We celebrated holidays by candlelight and Vegan food. I was a carnivore, so it was strange to get used to, but it was interesting to try something different out for a while. The infamous roommate, who I’ll just refer to as Forest Whitaker for creative purposes, was in the carnivore boat with me. We related in some ways, but mentally and personally, we were two completely different beasts. On the late nights drinking, Forest and I would end up in the most passive-aggressive bashing of each other. From habits to interests, we lived with each other so it was easy to nitpick one and the other. Luckily I didn’t sit around reading guys muscle-building forums, or watching “Desperate Housewives”, by myself, that’s just making yourself into a slow moving target.
It was strange because, being a musician and sound engineer for over ten years, I’ve usually been inspired to write 20-30 songs a year. In the 7 months I was in California, I only wrote and recorded 1 guitar track. I was surrounded by gear, and my ex-girlfriend’s brother was my go-to Chinese fire drill guy. But nothing we made really blew me away. I came from a Chicago indie scene, driven by the most crucial of pop-alternative culture. Where he came from, I honestly don’t know. To me he was a straight up alien, but it intrigued me nonetheless. The way he greeted me to California was by showing me “The Gingerbread Man”, by The Residents.
Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out, and I was going to be living with this guy. He showed me around Oakland, and San Francisco, I’d say he knew the California ropes better then anyone I know. He introduced me to cool people, and showed me all of the right places. From The Bottom of The Hill, to Haight Ashbury, to Berkeley, I loved it, I wanted to soak it all in but something always felt fleeting. Even in the first months, I found myself comfortable, but something just felt monetary about the whole thing. I felt that I left something behind, that even though I was moving on, something wasn’t right. As much as California called to me when I was in Chicago, Chicago was screaming back at me. There were hints here and there, maybe metaphorical, maybe not, but Home was calling, and my Home wasn’t California.
In my mind, I had left home. I pictured the things that were going on and I made a reality attuned to that perception to help myself accept my new living situation. If I thought about the things I had, or the memories I left, it was a threat to my new mind set. Like the fable of Sodom and Gomorrah, I felt if I looked back, I would turn to dust. I’m not much of a biblical person, but this fable resonated with me. I had to look forward, try to be positive and forget the past. Even though this philosophy seems simple, it is an extremely complex and difficult thing to tune your mind to a new habitat. It’s like expanding the fishbowl to the ocean, it’s awesome being thrown into a new environment, but it’s also nice when you don’t have to run on the schedule of sharks.
A couple weeks into my California stay, I was hired at Levi’s in Union Square. It was the ideal job, and I wanted to make it as good as possible. I bought their kool-aid, digested the history of Levi’s, and sold their jeans. All-in-all I got an awesome 2 or 3 drawers of discounted jeans, and more then enough selling expertise from working on 50 grand+ days. The individuals that captained this Motley crew were interesting to say the least, from a 30 year old guy that worked on women’s floor (and wasn’t homosexual, hit on anything that moved), one guy that I could swear was personalized after Hansel from Zoolander, and a Bostonian captain that constantly was patronized by both of these guys, it was constant entertainment. I did a good at Levi’s nonetheless, constantly meeting their expectations, and trying to improve my job nightly. But at the end of the day, when I didn’t sit down and make art, I wondered, what really is the purpose of folding endless stacks of jeans? What is the purpose of making a UPT when you never see the full benefit of it? It bothered me, and it should of bothered the other part-timers just as much. Making people live off the minimum and nothing else, is a crime in itself.
When I think back to California, I want to get these elements out of the way first, because where I found refuge out there, wasn’t within the people or culture. It was in the moments late at night that I would watch “The Graduate”, or blast “Stargazer” at the loudest volume possible. It was the sense of rebellion that drove me out there. Not the orderly approach to an obvious future. I felt lost and that’s why I wanted to find myself in the land of the lost, and I in many ways I did. Everyone I met and interacted with have become a part of a funny show I call “My Life”, and the way others showed me that they themselves were lost as well helped me find myself. If there ever was a, “in conclusion”, to a visit like this, I’d be blatantly lying to you. I’ll leave the rest of the storytelling to the writers themselves,