“The unexamined life is not worth living.
                                                                    - Socrates

My Red, Right Hand – “Take A Little Walk to The Edge of Town & Go Across The Tracks…”

 

Today is my half-birthday.  When I was younger I was excited that I was that much closer to the next exhilarating new number which hopefully included more freedoms, but these days I tend to use it more as a mile-marker of my current goals; it’s still impressive that I’ve made it this long, but in a lot of ways in my focus, stressful.  Last year at this time I had completed Chapter 15 of Dirty Thirty – right on schedule, however this year, I have found myself behind the aimed course…

I finished my book 6 months ago today.  I thought I would at least have spoken to a couple literary agents by now, but I have come to realize that only by the grace of god, finally after all (& I do mean ALL) my cold queries, I have been added to 1 literary agent’s reading list.  I took myself for a walk to chill out after sending off the email with both many hopes, & many prayers.

I decided walking to make a deposit at my bank on Wilshire was both long enough to tire me out & a good vibe to focus on – depositing money, who doesn’t dig that feeling, right?

The entire walk I focused on calming my nerves, resettling my vision from the instant gratification of external validation, to the long haul of what I’m trying to build. I spoke to myself in my head kindly like I would to a small child whose wellbeing I care deeply for. I reminded myself of all the things I had accomplished, even if nobody knew; of stories that were similar to my own in the beginning & ended in success; of the fact that the point of life is the journey, not the destination…

I’ve had my deposits down to a science for years; a stack of ATM envelopes live in my desk, I fill 1 out right before I leave, bring a pen with it (just in case) & my card; I stop in the red-zoned curve of the large driveway with my hazard lights on – in & out of the parking arms usually in less than 4 minutes. But tonight as I arrived on foot I stopped & looked in the windows of my union offices on the ground floor.

I haven’t made money off my memberships in years, so I haven’t cared much what they’re up to – the entertainment industry broke my heart & I only flirt with it silently from the sidelines of my television as I stand behind the sofa while amidst other activities & in the darkness of movie theatres… But I don’t like it to know that I’m watching; like a mostly aloof ex-girlfriend, I try not to let it know it gets any of my attention anymore. They did renovations after their convergence – maybe the buildings had been done for some time, or maybe they hadn’t, either way I didn’t notice until now, so it was all new to me.

There behind the glass was a giant Katie Hepburn – a still frame mounted as a mural on the wall behind the foyer where people fill out their admissions forms (if they have arrived without already having completed them) to pay their membership fee & join the ranks of the other 98% of the union that makes less than 10% of the money up for grabs in it. This newfound perspective washed over me like seeing the face of a long since forgotten friend. For a split second I remembered what it felt like to approach this place for the first time over a decade before… How excited I was, thinking this was some monumental step toward proof of my success in the dreams I’d envisioned for so many years.

I was enjoying the rumination as feelings of pride & excitement in the younger version of me danced about, when another wave toppled over me throwing a fast-forward white-wash of everything that had happened across the years since then. Is this where I’m supposed to be – was this always how it was supposed to happen? What am I missing here in this equation? I soaked in as much as I could stand, both grateful for the reverie & frustrated by the speed of time, before tuning to walk home, & as I passed Marie Calendar’s, Bruce Hornsby seemed to support my thoughts…

That’s just the way it is,

Some things will never change…

That’s just the way it is,

Ah, but don’t you believe them…

The lyrics floated softly from the overhead outdoor speakers & I decided to take a different route home than how I’d come. I thought maybe opening up to a new perspective would muscle these repetitive lessons of slowing down enough to “stop & smell the roses” into my subconscious, ideally giving rise to the belief that I truly was exactly where I was supposed to be, at exactly the right time.  Not only in each of the painful situations I have endured before & obviously overcome, but especially this one right now – which would mean I could also handle (better) the rough moments that lie waiting in my future…  So I crossed 6th Street into Park La Brea.

            A magnificent Post WWII construct for those who don’t know, Park La Brea is the West Coast version of Stuyvesant Town on the LES of NYC… They were built as safe, affordable, American Dream housing ideal for returning soldiers & their families, raising plenty of Baby Boomers, I’m sure – now both high-end complexes that continue to take up entire city blocks with their own markets & values & governing forces. Miniature cities inside metropolises, really: separate, safe, central communities that exist very much not just as 1 collective, but actually many neighbourhoods all their own, inside the gates.

As I made my way through the darkness on a random Tuesday night, I watched this lifestyle in many different facets, this time from an observer – a flâneur. I have been to the complex many times for dinner at friend’s houses, & rides between social events, but never so detached as tonight. By in large, there remains no air conditioning in the various high-rises & town homes that make up the complex & what I loved about this notion is that in late July in Los Angeles, it brings everyone outside to enjoy the relieving night air. Instead of everyone hunkered down in their central a/c quarters with their Netflix & DoorDash, I found neighbours sharing cocktails, each intersection park with kids playing & BBQs smoking, family dinners where the smallest members had bubbles & glow sticks as their desserts, each pool had respectful volume of mumbling conversations & laughter. There appeared more than ample parking clearly marked & segregated with coordinating stickers on expensive cars & easily legible signs… Such a wonderful slice of city life, it was like a cloaked Pleasantville smack-dab inside the otherwise bustling 90036.

Distracted by all this dawdling & goose-necking, I found myself at a dead-end where just beyond an automated gate laid the real world, with it’s crowded streets leading to home. “Goddamnit!” I thought to myself. “I’m supposed to be in bed in 20 minutes…” The idea of walking another 15 or 20 minutes back around to a proper, manned gate, where I could saunter along the pedestrian path back out of Pleasantville with nothing more than a gentle wave to the guard, seemed absurd when I could easily spit on Colgate Avenue from where I stood inside the iron walls that segregated Park La Brea, from the not Park La Brea.

Confident in my long history of tomboydom, I popped a foot up onto a hinge, clambered up the strong, black fence crouching on the skinny crest of it while I scanned for footing to pilot. It was slim pickin’s for landings & in all honesty was higher than I had first envisioned, but in reality by this point I had pretty much fucked myself anyway – it was the same distance down either side of the wrought iron barrier now & thus I (somehow) decided my best plan of action was to hang from my right hand on a wide corner post while my feet found the slender curb below; the tallest & flattest (unfortunately also minute) piece of ground to disembark on.

Well, again I mistook the situation in my brazen rush through life & before I knew it, I was in an immense amount of pain. Turns out the curb was further down that I thought & as my toes reached for it, (ahem, & missed) my entire body weight descended solely upon my palm. My grappling fingers tried desperately to keep my carcass steady while I saved myself from rolling an ankle in the gutter or knocking the wind out of myself or who knows maybe worse, as I fell… Except what happened instead of any of those fears was another, unanticipated pain – that of my skin splitting under the dismounting weight added to force + gravity. F = GMm over r2, right?

Here I was now, examining my bloody hand in the low, glowing yellow light of the street lamps trying to determine if it was worth a Lyft ride to the ER for sutures. My Marine First Aid Officer training (that is a certificate, not a government armed force, just to clarify,) lead me to determine it was an abrasion, maybe even laceration, but it didn’t matter the difference because neither could be sewn back together for quicker healing. It’s safe to say that I have set myself back much further than an extra 15 or 20 minutes…

In my nearly 2 mile walk home with my throbbing dominant hand elevated above my head, I had plenty of time to think about how I ended up here; that is, to realize that I had just learned – yet again –the hard way of ignoring my own advice.