Went to the LACMA yesterday to learn about and appreciate creative works from around the world, and I found out that I don’t get art.
I like the classical stuff; where I can look at what they used in the paintings. Where’s the light coming from? Do we see the light source? What does that mean if we do? Why is this person wearing that color, and why is that person in the back wearing that color? What do all the things in the background mean?
I’m not really knowledgeable, and I have no real background unless the stuff is from the Ancient World, but I enjoy the cerebral exercise. I like puzzling it out, and letting my brain move in a direction towards ideas and notions that it usually doesn’t move towards when I’m writing or reading.
But, man, I do not get modern art, or contemporary art, or pop art or whatever it’s supposed to be called. I can’t seem to be able to turn off that part of my brain that looks at some of those works and think “I could do that. I just need to learn how to talk up my game.”
When I read the little paragraphs or bios next to the art it seems the ways they come up with to explain the art or the style I find truly interesting, much more so than the art.
It’s like answering every argument or question all at once. Which is hard to do while still remaining civil. Maybe I need to find someone who’s really into this kind of art and have them explain everything to me.
Speaking of great works of art, I just got into HBO’s phenomenal The Wire, and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite things to watch. Not as funny as Rescue Me, but infinitely more grounded. I only bring up Rescue Me because everything else I watch is a comedy, a cartoon, both, or science fiction. Well, Burn Notice but that show, while great, is a wholly different animal, too.
I’ve got to get into stuff like this sooner so I’m not even years behind every conversation.
I’m also making sure to tune into Southland each week. It’s another cop show that bails on all the hooky ”science” crap and focuses on the cops and their personalities. Some of the plot points come really close to Will Beall’s book, LA Rex, but I don’t think the show’s based on each other.
It’s only had two episodes so far, but it seems promising. It just depends on whether or not it can deliver on that promise.
Had some friends, beloved Bubble alum all, fly into LA today. Went to pick them up at the airport, where my car died and was reborn like a glorious phoenix in defiance of the automotive gods (please don’t let this jinx it *knocks on every piece of wood nearby*), and I took them around…Koreatown.
Granted a good time was had by all, and we feasted like kings and queens in one of the many spacious food courts in Big K, but I still feel a little weird that I took them to the places I just sort of hang out, eat, and get groceries at. Ah, well, I’ll act like it’s a big deal.
Seeing them has been great, but it makes me miss the Midwest like crazy. If they had had an extra ticket, and were like, “come back with us when we leave,” I probably would have taken them up on that offer.
But then I’d just be miserable there, and even farther away from being able to do what I want, so I’ll tough it out and be miserable two thousand miles from home. It just shocked me is all. How quickly I’d have given in; the strength of that moment of weakness.
When I’m successful and have nice things, this part of my life will be funny. A low point where I nearly gave up, but persevered and will be a reference point when I’m feeling righteous, and speechy, and properly soaked in fine liquors.
Right now it’s just another hurdle to leap, a challenge to overcome.
I woke up on Saturday, checked out, and met Mrs. Bates and her husband to thank her in person. She’s warm, kind, and talkative, and it really makes me miss living in a small town. I left them to their breakfast and got on the road.
New Mexico is beautiful in a rough, coarse way. The vegetation is mostly scrub brush, which is the only contrast to the varying shades of brown and bright spots of red in the rock and dirt. It feels like an alien world, when compared to living in Indiana and Southern California. One is the endless green and light brown of crops growing and grazing animals, and the other is an urban landscape that grows together and over itself.
New Mexico was quiet and crimson, like the Earth was resting there. The blanket of snow on red rocks was different and amazing.
I got to Arizona which is less red than New Mexico, with outposts of giant evergreen trees dotting the mountains. You come out of the hills, going from green right back into the desert, and then back up into green.
I stopped in Flagstaff. It’s a gorgeous city and the people are nice. Druska mentioned having a home there someday before I left on my trip, and I totally get it. I spent the night eating cheap Chinese delivery, watching Mulan 1 and 2 on the Disney Channel, and pitching terrible ideas with Eric over AIM.
Where Arizona meets California it’s all large stone walls looming over you and you can see the layers in them. It’s humbling driving through rocks that have been here since the Earth was made. All the trails where eons of flowing water cut through the rocks since the time of the dinosaurs are visible and my mind began to wander. I thought about what could have wiped them out, and I pictured God smiting the dinosaurs because they approved gay marriage. I laughed alone in my car.
I think the solitude was getting to me.
I drove into California and passed through the checkpoint; they didn’t even bother asking me where I was coming from; I may have a future as a drug mule.
About an hour into Cali, my check engine light came on and I freaked out. I pulled over in Needles, California, to check fluids and let the car cool down. I top off my coolant, check my oil, let the engine rest, and the light stubbornly stays on to mock me. A mechanic wandered over, and said he couldn’t see a problem, and offered to look it over, tighten everything up, and double check connections for 40 bucks. Knowing nearly nothing about cars, I agreed.
It didn’t work.
He didn’t charge me, but said, if I wanted, they could hook the computer up to the car for 98 bucks, no matter what. I said fine. They told me the light’s due to the thing that times when the cylinder fires is wonky. “It’s fine for now, but it might fuck up later.” I agreed to let them make it not fuck up later. This costs precious money.
“Lord, I’m discouraged.” You said it, lead singer of the Hold Steady, you said it. I’m at a low point. To say very few things have gone well for me in California would be an understatement, and I started to rattle. I’m not sure how much more I can take. I need something good to happen. I need something clear and real, a victory for me. I closed my hood, and knew that if that good thing is coming, it wouldn’t be that day.
I get back on the road and start to feel bad for myself. There’s about an hour of screaming in my car before I get it out of my system and calm down. After everything my parents and grandparents went through and kept moving forward, I’m letting this throw me? Matt, you suck.
I derailed the pity train in time to notice that the car was handling weird.
“Those bastards screwed me,” I told my GPS who insisted I stay in the right lane. Eventually I noticed that all the trees and bushes were shaking violently. The car was fine; it was being battered around by gusty winds that physically shoved the car around on the highway. In the distance I see a huge wall of brown forming. It’s a dust storm.
Having driven through every kind of storm dropping every kind of precipitation let me tell you, dust storms are creepy as hell. It’s really bright, since the dust is blowing left or right, not out of the sky, so the sun’s out. You can’t really see the car in front of you, just loose outline of whatever’s reflecting light from the sun, and you can hear all of the dirt racing over the car. I can’t imagine trying to drive through one at night. I cleared that dust storm, and was 112 miles from Los Angeles. The check engine light came back on, and I considered turning the car around, returning to Needles and enacting a terrible vengeance. Old Testament bad, like when God made the Hebrews perform The Ban on other tribes. Needles, you Canaan. Me, Angel of Death.
I started to look around for a garage when suddenly I couldn’t see anything. A second dust storm sprang up, because why not? Yet traffic was still going 80 miles an hour. I made it out alive (obviously), and hey, the engine light turned off! Good news! Bad news, I was on the San Bernadino, in stopped traffic on the side of a mountain. For those of you haven’t driven on those mountains; that’s a steep ass angle. I nervously watched my rearview mirror for runaway semis as we inched back to a neutral plane.
I got to the magical place where all the highways of Southern California meet, and the GPS I was using had a heart attack. I turned it off when it started directing me to drive off cliffs and into hospitals, and somehow made it to the 10. I kept seeing street names I’m familiar with, but I knew it couldn’t be right; I was still too far east. I plugged the GPS back in; it apologized for losing its shit back there and we made up running into traffic.
The check engine light turned back on.
“Fuck it, I’m getting back to Koreatown.”
I drove on, listened to the GPS, dutifully switching lanes to get off the 10 and onto different highways which only took me back to the 10. Driving is not that bad in LA. Traffic sucks, but traffic sucks everywhere, but it’s at least navigable north, south, and west of the city. On the eastern outskirts it’s a byzantine riddle, a puzzle designed to keep out interlopers and punish the brash and cocksure. Somehow I didn’t die or get lost, and was back on Western Avenue, headed for my place.
Observations, jokes, and lessons learned to follow in the coming days.
If you want to see the stream-of-conscious play-by-play of the trip, I direct you to my Twitter, but you’ll have to go back a few pages. I twitter a lot, apparently.