Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It seemed like a good idea at the time

For the longest time, destinations were little more than abstractions, places you reached after setting forth from a point of departure.  Destinations were any of several movie theaters, the Regina on Wilshire, the Del Mar, on Pico, for instance, each at the far end of walking-distance range.  These were places you had to get to in order to see a double feature before you had to walk back.  

Double features, serials, and cartoons added an incentive for you to walk beyond the limits of your horizon.  Walking or hitching rides to Hollywood, and the Hitching Post Theater, which opened at ten of a morning, and showed as many as eight different films in the course of a day, was at the time the most exquisite destination you could imagine.

What did a young boy know of abstractions?  He was aware of such destinations as junior high school, of high school, then on to college.  These were places you had to go because you'd been born into a social class and a family where such destinations were not even questioned.  

After a time, you'd begun to suspect there would be destinations out of college, their abstractions already beginning to fade into a series of potential career paths which at the same time slammed doors on other career paths some of your friends were beginning to tread.  Once, in the throes of the kinds of conversations that begin at about nine or ten in the evening, then congeal into a blur as more, yet more bottles are opened, you saw and understood how the final destination is death.

Because you were at the age where such conversations began at about nine or ten in the evening, often lasting until the sun began leaking into the eastern horizon, you challenged the Cosmos to more or less bring it on, by which you meant to acknowledge death as a final destination of which you would be aware, but it was not anything in your immediate plans.  Death would just have to wait.  Some of those with whom you roistered, argued, then impulsively roared off to some romantic destination, say a nearby ghost town, or some lake which, during the course of the earlier discussions had taken on a must-see importance, have in fact reached their destinations.

Jerry and Don, with whom you frequently sought refuge in such places as Panamint City or Bodie, or even farther up toward the fabled California Gold Rush country, were mainstays of the Midnight Brigade, but there were also Lee, Jim, Stan, and one other individual who, for reasons still not clear to you, contacted you some years back over a gap of twenty-five years, demanding you remove all mention of him from your blog memoirs.  

The mention of the names of these individuals reminds you now, with nostalgia and reverence, of the times you reached destinations pestered by reverberating hangovers, looking for hair-of-the-dog beers and greasy breakfasts in some out-of-the-way destination that, as the beer, bacon, and coffee settled in, seemed like a good idea at the time.

The more you began to focus on the need for a story to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, the more blurry the abstractions became.  A destination, at first, became the place where the journey brought you, a place you'd written, revised, and tore up pages to identify, the be all and end all of story.  Along with this definition of destination, you had notions of how you would reach them, what you'd do after arrival, and what strengths and confidences you'd have picked up along the way.  

Unlike some of your friends, you did not wish to drive around Los Angeles and environs in a flatulent Jaguar or Porsche, sans souci as you tossed the keys to a parking attendant at one of your favorite restaurants.  You wished in stead to have the low-key posture and swagger of mountain men, individuals who took care of themselves while living off the land, while piling up a cache of pelts which they would then sell for enough to afford them a hot bath, a good hotel room, and some variation on the theme of a rib eye steak and a bottle of a rascally burgundy.

You neither sought nor anticipated the destinations of being a teacher or, for that matter, an editor, but here you are, at them.  Although they do at times provide conditions much reminiscent of hangovers, coffee is often enough to help you deal with the consequences of being at such destinations.  The mention of the word "consequences" reminds you how you have in fact arrived at a destination you'd not anticipated when you set out in search of the destination of becoming a writer.

There is a price to be paid, a sort of tourist tax, for debarking at any specific destination.  The price is a series of questions that you must ask yourself if you are to have any comfort within yourself.  What are you doing here?  Is this the place you'd intended?  Do you have any intention of remaining here?  Do you have any notion of how to get along here?

More often than not, the destination you've first arrived at when composing something turns out not to have been the destination you had in mind if, in fact, you had a tangible destination rather than the return-to-abstraction state.  Once in a great while, you'll have no quarrel with the very destination you set out to reach, but these times are rare.

In your current state and stage of projecting destinations, your introspection brings you news you've suspected for a long time.  You like beginnings and middles, enjoy putting yourself, your created characters, and your thematic ideas on some kind of ceremony of conviviality, no longer with absent friends, rather with those self-same characters and ideas.

You like standing on the bring, pushing, taunting, nudging, arguing with characters and concepts, until a destination somehow emerges from the rhetoric, the booze, the braggadocio, and the most insidious forces of all, risk and curiosity.

There is a great relief to arrive at some destination, look for signs of where and what it is, then catch some sleep before stopping to consider the route taken.

For the longest time, you've attempted to live your life in a way where what seemed a good idea at the time will not be a total disaster and stands the chance, after some decent coffee, of being amenable to a brisk touch-up before the threat of another destination comes flickering into your mind.

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