Having pretty much exhausted the possibilities in writing about the examining of and disappearance into my own navel (put less delicately by one reader and with an alternate but equally unaccommodating orifice suggested), I have agreed once again to poke my head out of my own little cage this Friday and report back to you. Recently released from "observation," and having been stripped of sharp objects and armed with little more than a tape recorder, Rolling Writer, and pad, I begin with baby steps. 6:39 p.m.: Adams Avenue is quiet, hushed as if awaiting big doin's this summer evening. The bus stop at Arizona Street is held down, as usual at this time of day, by the-lady-with-the nice-figure-from-behind-with-the orange-wig-who,-face-on,-looks-like-the-Crypt-Keeper. It is my pet name for her -- having never asked her name -- since, irrationally, she frightens me. From here I can (A) catch the #11 bus east down Adams Avenue, always a promising idea since a good two-mile stretch of that street is bookstores, coffee houses, interesting musical establishments, and movie-buff heaven; (B) catch the bus the other way to, say, Hillcrest and Thai food, more bookstores and coffee. B is tempting because I might get in a conversation in that neighborhood with some interesting kids. Lately I've had some luck in conversation with people in their 20s, usually wild looking and usually in Hillcrest. It has made me feel less like blowing my brains out after watching the news and contemplating the next 10 to 20 years in this culture. (C) I can walk aimlessly in any direction except north, which would lead me down a few residential streets to overlook Mission Valley. I do this.
The view at sunset from what is roughly the end of Arizona or Hamilton Street out onto route 8, the fevered development of this urban bottom land, the stripped quarry directly across the valley in a vast purple scar, is remarkable. Starlight to the east and slow-moving aircraft, themselves looking like sluggishly animate stellar lights, remind me of an image I had of myself as a boy wondering what the 21st Century would be. The image was of a middle-thick, graying man standing on some promontory not unlike this in the year 2001 watching starships return from Altair or Proxima, their airspace intersecting that of the thousands of flying cars I had seen promised in the children's school magazine, Our Weekly Messenger, in 1957. I was close; maybe there was some kind of clairvoyance at work after all.
Walking back south, I examine the shadowed aloe plants, Spanish Sword, bird-of-paradise, and remember my first arrival in Southern California (a Coronado night much like this one) and wondered, as I smelled night-blooming jasmine, if there were any correlation between the organic proliferation here and the seeming inordinate numbers of science fiction writers who live in this part of the world. Later I would realize it probably had more to do with the proximity of Jet Propulsion Laboratories employing engineers and technical writers during the last balloon and gasp of the space program in the 1970s.
Walking west to Park Boulevard, I ruminate bitterly about my truncated, no, aborted career as a science fiction writer. There are so many of us here in Southern Cal too, most of us talking to ourselves much as I am doing this Friday night, reciting a list of enemies in the publishing business who thwarted our genius -- sometimes from the corners of a recreation room at some locked facility or other.
On Park I pause in front of Cheers and then Lancer's, both bars, by the way, listening to the too-loud, hail-fellow-well-met cacophony of conversation, and I experience a moment of -- rather than outsiderness, nostalgia, or even regret -- gratitude that a too-long period of wasted time in my life has been at an end for a good stretch now.
Within a few yards along Park, I acknowledge the ostriches atop the University Heights arch over the street, the number of food smells and choices coming from Middle East, Mexican, and Italian restaurants.
I make a mental note to get a possibly free or certainly cheap massage at what is a kind of a physical therapy college. I haven't had a real massage in years, although I don't know if you can even count that last one. It was about ten years ago, and I was in the home of a woman I was interviewing because of her unusual occupation. She was a dominatrix who dealt in neither whips nor chains but subtle psychological humiliation of wealthy clients. She administered to me a hearty "rock salt rubdown" that left my body red and raw, singularly unaroused, and just as stiff and achy as when I had walked in. Still, I thanked her. Some time not long after that, she committed suicide by shotgun, a terrible thing that had nothing to do with my massage or interview; it just happened and for some reason I feel I should include it here.
Here is Twigg's where we won't be hearing any more live music, apparently for, I believe, cabaret license reasons, though I could be wrong about that. I once saw Rick Gazlay soundlessly perform onstage with his guitar and a Kabuki mask with only prerecorded tapes along a bizarre line and a grand piano he did not play but instead hid beneath while sucking his thumb.
The coffee shop Cream, like the rock group, formerly Korova (as in Korova milk bar from A Clockwork Orange), is just down the block. Local art decorates the walls overseeing the caffeinated and laptop-absorbed SDSU students who reside along the #11 bus line. Last Christmas I had a conversation with my schizophrenic son here about a "blind spot between the retina and cornea of the human eye which, if properly accessed, reveals a layer of reality normally available to only poets and mathematicians." It was a beautiful idea with some real elegance to it, I thought.
Ah, and the Buddhist and Deepak Chopra Center along here. I've never entered but I always get a sense of reassurance knowing it is nearby. I am put in mind of a recent television interview I saw with Chopra in which he was asked, clearly for the umpteenth time, "What happens when we die?" and his answer was with a smile, a kind of good-natured exasperation and surrender after a kind of stuttering pause, "Nothing!"
A block west is a seafood restaurant where I probably had my last martini with a good friend who remains close. Across the street is the library, the first library where I ever saw my first book, that is, one I had written, shelved. In front of me is the restaurant where a long friendship recently came to a seemingly irreparable end. Lord, that is a shame, and, I suppose, my fault. I don't know.
On the walk back, I began counting white picket fences. Eleven all told, in a few blocks. Each fence represents some version of what has been loosely called the American Dream and each a reminder of Tolstoy's observation about families each being unhappy in their own inventive ways.
On returning home, putting my key in the door, I remembered not that I had left the stove on or the air conditioner going or forgotten to return a call or that I should have sought out something more interesting and dynamic to write about for this Friday night, and why I might want to thank God about something as absurd as the day of the week. I remembered, oh yeah, that I am rich.