on You, Joan, and Los Angeles
I keep on falling down rabbit holes, the week slips by, and the only thing I have to show for it is survival, a few bruises, and several pages of nonsense notes in notebooks that I keep endlessly out of your reach. Should you read them and know how I feel I am afraid everything would turn to pumpkins at the stroke of midnight. Or worse, that I’d have no secrets left to keep. I’ve taken to reading books in bed because it helps me stay still while you sleep and let’s me relax while the world starts to breathe.
The story in bed this morning was about how beautiful Alcatraz can be, Joan Didion in all her wonderful glory. I kept on thinking we were there or that we’d been there. But I was having memories that were actually projections in the future. It was spring and it wasn’t cold and we were both surprised because it always seems to be cold in San Francisco. My friends that live in that city tell me I am both right about this and also always wrong, that a life time in Los Angeles has, and often does, skew everyones views and ideas about weather. They’re right. In my future memory I am wearing a windbreaker, though I would never wear a windbreaker, and you have taken off your hat in fear the winds may sweep it out into the ocean.
I got really involved in that collection by Didion this weekend, slipping out of my canvas backpack and hiding in the bedsheets, chapters devoured while you shower. Later in life I’ll flip through these pages and remember less about the book and more about your apartment and the early spring and how late we let ourselves sleep. I told you that I’d never read anyone who could capture Los Angeles like that, as if the city itself is some sort of unicorn, although, now saying that I realize it’s not too far off. The entire place is an enigma. And it’s constantly shifting nature and also simultaneous frozen frame of movie stills and palm trees makes it both impossible and perfectly plausible to write about it. Though, I have been afraid to try, save for a few brave mornings, but I don’t show those to anyone. Not even you. But she writes this and I think it is perfect:
“It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination… The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”
Sometimes in my imagination these projections take shape and I swear we’ve been places or done things but I know it’s never true. Sometimes when I say things you tell me possibly I dreamt it, that I wrote it, that it never happened. But I can see how this all looks on the page, or will look, and how these moments and memories will end up in some collection that begs the ideas of place, and smells of spring and reading in bed and how we breathe, in somewhere that could never be Los Angeles.