Sunday, September 29, 2013

leaving los angeles

i'm leaving los angeles. for those of you who know me this is a pretty big deal. i held off on making an announcement partially because i haven't quite digested it, partially because i've been swamped with work, but mostly because i've been in denial about what this meant to me. of course, despite my best efforts to manage the preoccupations of packing, crating, inventory, insurance, billing, shipping and studying, researching, grading, writing and saying goodbyes, farewells, and bonnes chances, it's actually ended up becoming a very emotional experience.

in a way, it should be no surprise. i've lived in LA longer than i've lived anywhere else--pretty much half my life. my time in this city has gone along a theme of constant, chaotic change, some of it good, some of it bad, all of it unforeseen, all of it unexpected. i can say that in this city i've lived multiple lives that have taken me through multiple phases as b-boy, punk, industrial metal, goth, mod, rockabilly, swing, electronica, and unabashed shameless hipsterdom. concurrently, i can say that i lived these lives against a backdrop of a city enduring a time of some of its most profound upheaval, with seismic shifts in demography (a massive influx of latin and asian immigrants), economics (an erosion in traditional industries of aerospace and entertainment to new ones in biotechnology and technology), class (a deterioration of a middle class and a widening of the gap between the elite and the powerless), infrastructure (a return of light rail, a growth in cycling, and a surge in green energy use), and culture (a halting, fitful rise of a world-class visual and performing arts scene).  i lived with this city through all these states of change, and like the city never looked back on what had been and never thought about what might be. together, we just lived the moments as they came, even as their dynamism and eclecticism at times overwhelmed our mutual capacity to take in all the experiences that came our way.

it goes without saying that in such an eclectic environment my relationship with LA was less than placid. it was, to summarize it in a single word, crazy. c.r.a.z.y. it was like having a partner who didn't know, couldn't comprehend, and couldn't decide her own tastes, her own preferences, her own personality, or even herself. sociopathy might be an apt description. schizophrenia would be more accurate. multiple-personality disorder might be even better. it was confusing. it was agonizing. it was frustrating. it was infuriating.

and it rubs off on you. if anything, it magnifies whatever similar predilections you have in yourself. because a partner's inability to know herself keeps you from finding yourself by distracting and diverting your attention with the baser tendencies of your mutual souls, and thereby accentuates every bad quality you didn't know you had or were too afraid to acknowledge you had. it doesn't help that LA offers, invites, encourages, hosts, and allows and enables you to indulge in every vice known to humanity--and then some.  to summarize it in the most succinct terms, this city was Elizabeth Taylor to my Richard Burton; the relationship brought out the worst in both of us. in ways no one understood and in ways we couldn't explain.

but then there were those times when, incredibly, inexplicably, unbelievably, LA would reveal itself to expose the most amazing, gentle, selfless, caring, poignant, even noble, soul. and while it didn't know itself (or know you)--and didn't really seem to care to--it did know something about what was right. and better yet, it had no fear or self-consciousness about doing something about it. and that's when it redeemed itself by rising to the occasion. and at those times LA lived up to its name, sometimes to the point that it became beatific.

like the time your car died on a bridge overpass in morning traffic and a plumber on his way to work stopped to push your car to a shoulder where you could safely wait for the tow truck to arrive. or the time a stranger stopped traffic so that you and a group of passers-by could help an old lady cross a busy intersection to reach a farmer's market.  or the time a tattooed cholo gangster stopped in the middle of selling you his fresh bread to explain his decision to ignore his church's take on gay marriage, saying "yo homes, like, why is it my business what 2 dudes are doing?"

and those kinds of things also rub off on you. if anything, it's then that the city not only brings out the best in itself but also the best in you. it was become of those times that this city was like Grace Kelly to my Prince Rainier; the relationship brought out the best in both of us. in ways no one understood and in ways we couldn' t explain.

the funny thing was, for all the insanity, for all the contradictions, for all the chaos, the very things that made LA so frustrating and infuriating were the very things that made me want it more. LA pulled me in, and the deeper i went the more it revealed itself. even more complicated. even more diverse. even more varied. even more preoccupying. even more engrossing. and i found no matter how deep i went, there was still more.

which is why i, a sworn member of the bachelor brotherhood, finally realized that i had found someone with whom i could finally be faithful, because no matter where i went in the world i still wanted to come back. because no matter what i saw or what i did, i still felt there was someplace i needed to return.

because that someplace was something special. eclectic. diverse. complex. contradictory. quirky. dynamic. shifting. fascinating. no other place did so much to contradict my preconceptions and challenge my assumptions. no other place did so much to prod me to question the status--or static--quo. no other place so constantly made me encounter something new. no other place so continuously forced me to deal with the unexpected. no other place so totally kept me in flux and ready for change and flexible and open and accepting and curious and eager and seeking all there was and all there is and all there will be to the experiences that constitute the act of living human life...and no other place made me want it all so much, so long, and so deep.

i became LA. LA became me. because as much as we were different, all along deep down inside we were, we are, really just the same.
the only other time i've felt something close to this was in Hawaii. but there, the feeling was one of deja vu, like i'd been there before, as if i'd been a Polynesian navigator in a prior life, standing on the shore gazing at the sea that lay beyond Diamond Head, for various reasons unable to complete his destiny to find the land that lay beyond the edge of the morning sun's horizon. here, i felt like i had finally come to belong. that for whatever reason here, in ways that i could only begin to understand and could only partially articulate, was right. LA became, in a word, home.

a place is ultimately just a place. a geographical marker that sometimes coincides with our lives and occasionally, infrequently, briefly hosts our activities while we are upon it. in the end, what makes a place a home is not the geography, but the lives of the creatures that inhabit it and infuse its substance with the actions and intentions of souls expressing their nature and fulfilling their design to imbue the universe with the stories of their lives. and the creatures that have inhabited this city--all of them, good or bad--have imbued this place with stories in a supply whose sum has exceeded the respective parts to become a song of the human spirit.

and you, my friends, are among them. sing loud. sing long. sing well. sing of the human spirit that we all share.

for that spirit has given me life. it has awakened me to things i never imagined, and led me to see the world in ways i never thought possible. and in so doing, it has given me the freedom to think and see and hear and taste and touch and feel this life in ways that go beyond the possibilities of dreams.

life and freedom...those 2 things are all this man could ever have any right to claim. for they are what empower me to realize the secrets that lie far, far out in the vast reaches of creation--a creation that finds itself in the mysteries placed deep in the core of the human heart.

i do not know what the future will bring. but LA has made me understand that i do know i need to see what is out there, because it will lead me to discover what is within here.

deep in the core of the human heart:

LA, i love you.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

on diana nyad

note: Diana Nyad trains at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center (RBAC) in Pasadena, California, which is the same place i swim. it's only 2 miles from where i currently live. i've seen her swimming there, and as you might suspect, it is rather awe-inspiring. she swims. a lot.

this past Monday, September 2, Diana Nyad completed a swim from Cuba to Florida. she covered a distance of approximately 110 miles in 52:54:00 (that's 52 hours and 54 minutes). this was her 5th attempt, with the 1st being in 1978 when she was 29. she is now 64.

just think about that for a moment.

i should note that the Cuba-to-Florida swim was done before by Australian Susie Maroney in 1997, who was 22 at the time. but Diana Nyad's achievement is unique because she is 1) the 1st person to swim without a shark cage, through waters notorious for sharks, and 2) she is 64 years old.

at an age when the vast majority of people have resigned themselves to the lives they're living and are looking to retirement, she accomplished a feat that most people--never mind young and active athletes in the prime of their lives--would never even think of trying. for many, i suspect that this distance is absolutely inconceivable.

which i think offers quite a few life lessons for the rest of us. i won't go into too much commentary, since i think Diana was more than eloquent enough in her post-swim interviews to render anybody else's prose irrelevant. in particular, the short speech she gave at the end of the swim sums things up nicely:

you can also reference her own website and the news features on her:
PBS interview:
CNN interview:
CBS interview::
New York Times:
LA Times:,0,3322544.story

i'll repeat what she stressed throughout her statements and interviews to emphasize her points:
1)  never give up
2)  we're never too old to chase a dream
3)  we're part of a team
4)  find a way
5)  stay engaged in life

these are all fundamental truths that many in the endurance community know so well, and which carry over into daily living.  we can never quit, no matter what, because the central theme of life is to just keep going on. we can never accept age, or for that matter anything else, if we want to realize our dreams. we may think we act alone, but we are always a product and a reflection of a larger team seeking the our same goals. we have to be resourceful and pragmatic in order to move forward. and above all, we have to know that the reason we do all these things, and the reason we do anything, is to engage our lives to the fullest extent of our being.

i would also like to add the qualities of diligence and dedication. we need diligence in terms of taking the care and sacrifice necessary to lay the foundations in ability and skill that enable us to achieve our goals, and we need dedication to carry out such diligence with the time and energy necessary to help us become what we need to be to reach our dream--in short, we can dream big, but we have to be worthy of our dreams.

i'll finish w what i think is the most significant and most poignant quote from Diana, and the one that i think calls for us to listen, learn, and take action in our own lives:

"we blink and another decade passes. i don't want to reach the end of my life and regret not having given my days everything in me to make them worthwhile."