- the sex
the drugs the rock the roll -
In my previous entry, when I was writing about loneliness and journaling and missing the selves we used to be, I was reminded of a phone conversation I'd had the day before.
I got a call on Tuesday from a woman I've known for about twenty years. I first knew her as a roommate of a couple of fellas who used to be good friends of mine, two guys from my childhood who, in need of a third party to split the rent on their westside apartment, put an ad in the paper. The candidate they settled on was Celeste, a woman who'd moved to L.A. from Philadelphia to make it as a singer in the Big Time. My pals were amateur musicians themselves and were pleased to be able to enhance their living situation with an excellent female vocalist.
My friends were not only connoisseurs of music, but of psychoactive chemistry as well, and Celeste, o happy day, was able to synchronize her own passion for such things with theirs and, by association, with my similar passions as well. The result, over the next couple of years, was the establishment of a headquarters, a throbbing nerve center of showbiz dreams mixed with drugs and music and liquor and parties which offered a unifying theory of friendship.
Now, a long long time later, what remains from those days, besides the whew factor of having dodged a few bullets, is the memory of how rich they were, how, despite burning our candles at both ends and sometimes from the middles too, we managed to connect into each other to a degree that in many ways I have not seen since.
I've written before about how it's not unusual to romanticize that period of our lives when youth and independence and striving all intersect, and I'm aware that sitting around a kitchen table and drinking and smoking and listening to records and laughing a lot has a way of making the brain say yes, let's keep doing this, me happy. But beyond that, what happened in that apartment was a rare meeting of intellects, talent, sensitivities, abilities to articulate, and humor. Rare in my life, at least.
The commitment of parenthood and the weight of a mortgage can squeeze the deep yearnings in a boy like me right out of the subconscious and onto the new coffee table, so when I first moved into these suburbs I began to nurse the idea of finding a way to re-enact those old happy days, this time with a different and more sober cast -- new neighbors and friends.
This undertaking has been largely successful and required less effort than I suspected it would. Barbecues in suburbia are interesting creatures and no more or no less susceptible to cliché than a kitchen packed with "happy" twenty-somethings. What I knew deep down but hadn't clearly thought about was that this desire to connect wasn't just a matter of finding a new cast. It was a different play entirely, with a different setting and certainly a different score. What brought us all to the table this time had less to do with youthful urges or newfound independence, but with rather a calmer want and need to find solace in friendship and comfort in reliability.
As you know, and as I demonstrated in that last paragraph, I am no stranger to overt and excessive use of metaphor, and my major goal in life, aside from being productive while in REM sleep, is to eventually communicate with others solely via metaphor, so succinctly does it transfer my chock-a-block ideas from one brain to another. And the metaphor that applies here is the aviation metaphor.
Young adulthood for me was an airshow, and we were all involved in our freestyle aerobatic routines. Some folks did theirs in close formation with others, some had elaborate narrations, some put out lots of smoke, and there were some spectacular crashes. But it's not an airshow anymore.
I have definitely entered my freight transport period. I'm on a long-haul flight at the moment, having taken off a few years ago with passengers, furniture, and pets, and pages and pages of manifest. I am at altitude, trimmed for cruise. I am, from time to time, tempted to execute a flawless outside snap roll, but that would involve disengaging the autopilot, advancing the throttles, and making sure everyone was seated and strapped in. Very tightly. Besides, it would increase our time to destination where, I hear, there is a luau going on.
In chatting with Celeste on the phone the other day it was pretty clear that she's got a luau circled on her charts too. The changes of age aren't really that surprising, and there's no shame to be had in the recognition that compromise has its rewards. And, after all, metamorphosis is in the nature of dreams.
It was good to hear that she and I now have the same thoughts about those wide open yesterdays. It was a unique time that both of us remember with fondness, and while we may miss the party life, it pales against the late summer sky we fly in now.
"L.A. Nights" -- Heavy Shift -- THE LAST PICTURE SHOW
"When I see my friend after a long time, my first question is, Has anything become clear to you?"
- Ralph Waldo Emerson