Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Short-cut Life or A Life Cut Short

You grew up in a city that was made for short cuts.

By the time you were in your twenties, you knew the fastest way to get westbound was on Olympic and to stay away from Santa Monica Boulevard at all costs.  If you were west and wanted east, you understood the vibe on Pico, all the way down toward about Union, where downtown LA was girding up for the night and would;t give an inch.

Wanted to get west, to UCLA or The Village?  Beverly Glen Canyon was a perfect back door.  So was east bound on Franklin to get to Silver Lake or Los Feliz, and don't you dare trust Sunset east of Doheney,  Lax?  Ah, The Street of the Scissors, La Tijera.

Thus armed with shortcut insights, you came here, to Santa Barbara, quick to learn how southbound traffic clogs 101 from about three in the afternoon.  You want to get to Carpinteria or Ventura, you go the back way, East Valley Road to 192, bringing you out on the 101 ahead of the pack.  Screw the traffic on State Street.  You want to get north, say to La Cumbre, back road again, take Mission north until it dead ends on 192, then hook a left, which will take you onto Cathedral Oaks, whereupon you're clear until Turnpike.

You think about other shortcuts, ones beyond mere driving from place to place, ways to get the meat out of a book without having to read it three or four times before you understand that you've captured a keepable sense of it, ways to lengthen the distance you're traveling between two points.  Now, thanks to the Garmin Vivofit on your wrist, taking the long way gives you Brownie points toward your ten-thousand-steps-a-day goal.

But you're looking for more than mere distance, a mere ten thousand steps, aren't you?  In fact, you're looking for essentials, the kinds you've been looking for in other ways, all your life.  You're looking for essentials and time, some amount of time, any amount of time to make some sense of them, however brief?

The younger you was in a different kind of hurry than the hurry you're in now.  That You was in the hurry of impatience.  One thing was true then:  You wanted to get stories and novels completed, you had to put in time at the red Olivetti portable or later, the IBM Selectric.  In consequence, you pulled all-nighters, two, three times a week, your eagerness running ahead of the pile of manuscript pages.

Couldn't always wait to edit or revise, used too many bottles of white-out on too many first drafts, eager to get on to the next thing, the next, the new, the promised.  If it didn't work, no matter; the next one would.  Trouble with that kind of thinking is, the next thing often did work, which still didn't make it as workable as it could be.

The younger you wished to taste everything on the menu, then scout new restaurants; wanted new joints and bars to hear the combos who couldn't get gigs in the better jazz venues; wanted to catch all the ballet troupes coming through town.  A new writer? You couldn't wait for the cheaper priced massmarket edition, you had to read her or him right now.

Couldn't always wait for friends, had to get to ghost towns and high desert now, top down on the Dodge convertible in order to get the sense of sunrise falling on your shoulders, hunched over the wheel.

In a memorable sense, youth was like being at that architectural gem, the Union Station in north central LA, the retro design and panache stirring up excitement within you each time you visited, sitting in that ornate waiting room, listening to the announcement of trains arriving and leaving, magical names of magical trains, coming to LA and departing for the places of heart's desires, each one a different, better desire.

All you could think to do next was to walk to Olverra Street, eat too many taquitos and drink too many salty, touristy margaritas, then sit, drunkenly watching tourists discover L.A. as though it were an answer to all their problems.

The dental hygienist threw you out of your dentist's office at about noon, making it a clear shot down the De la Vina/State intersection to the shortcut behind Ralph's Market and a short jog right to The Daily Grind for some coffee to dull down your shiny new cleaning job.  While you sat, drinking, dunking your cinnamon roll, three of four things came rushing over to you, like flies to a fresh bowl of potato salad at a picnic.

You took notes, which is something you do now.  You have piles of notes, notes for stories, notes for the novel in the works, notes for the book linking acting techniques with storytelling.  In the most simplistic of terms, you're looking for time to make some sense of all these notes.  You're no longer fearful of making mistakes.  You are, in fact, most fearful of still traveling too fast to allow yourself the time to make mistakes.

At one point, back then in time, you'd have said your goal was to create memorable, resonant, enduring stories.  But now, you see that was a short cut.  You want the long way around, in order to make vibrant, memorable, enduring mistakes.

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