The sky was the color of blueberry, raspberry, and tangerine smears all along the black hills. The deep, straight and thick colors like my grandpa’s Mexican blankets he’d bring back from Jalisco. My journey wasn’t a migration like his had been some fifty years back. My journey was only a brief visitation to Los Angeles. A city with more demons than smog clouds, an oxymoron of matured perversion and hope bundled in a ciudad. The people there are just as colorful as the Jalisco cobija. I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind.
“I have never been on this part of Earth before.”
Although I have visited Hollywood, I was seeing things for the first time during this drive and soaking it all up, taking it all in, insert whatever cliché metaphor that makes you happy. For me, my happiness comes through the occurrence of new experience. Sure a flight would have been much faster and more convenient but it also would have been more money, more time thinking about how uncomfortable the flight was, more annoying people to deal. Besides, I think 6 hours on the road from the East Bay would be good for me. Windows down, airflow, and music blaring from my speakers while I look at nature. Beautiful nature, whose personality played chromatically across the sky. Her pigment made playful blends so early in the morning. My silver 4-door Corolla combing the pavement along the highway, stirring the California Earth awake like a child caught peeking at their mother on a Saturday morning while she lay in bed, her peaceful rising sun creasing a shiny smile across the horizon.
I had begun the day with a 5a.m. alarm and a duffle bag stuffed with clothes and toothbrush. My girlfriend, Rose lay next to me, hair wisped across the bed like splashed black paint. I had to pull my arms up carefully to avoid any accidental yanks or tugs. This is typically followed by a groan or call of discomfort. Pulling on my Bacharach shorts and tank top, I shuffled around searching the dark bedroom floor with my feet hoping to find my flip flops. Oh yeah, can’t forget the Purdue baseball cap…I call it my Alumni hat while Rose smiles and says I look like an Indiana boy every time I sport it.
Anyway, I’d like to think that there was some sort of proper planning that went on with this trip but to be completely honest, I was last minute with everything. Rose had plans for a bachelorette party taking place that weekend so I was solo on this road trip. Bag in hand and keys in pocket, I hugged her and kissed her longer than I ever had in our 1 year and 7 month relationship. Once I hit the road I felt a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in a very long time, though. Last minute freedom. One tall can of Monster Coffee and a protein PowerBar later and I was zooming. So many beautiful sides of California, a beauty only a rising sun could show me. I love this lens. Tall brown hills like adults at holiday parties, obstacles my child of a car maneuvered around in hopes of getting to the fun part, the LA part, of the party. The journey being opposite of angst but with a sense of urgency and thrill.
But why did it have to smell like cows? The vaca stink of manure and slaughter settled in my nose hairs. I pushed puffs of breath every few seconds through my nostrils but gave up after a few songs finished on my Pandora station. I figured the faster I drove, the faster I get away from the smell. The colors of California so bold green in one moment, with hills seeping into one another like grass mocking waterfalls. Black spots of still beasts grazing. I’d be willing to bet upon my return they’d still be grazing…
Within moments time, chocolate like chunks of brown stone lean over me and I feel little again, childlike curiosity staring in odd upward angles. Break your neck for California. Crash and kill yourself for California. It can all happen for the love of the view. Peaks poking toward the sky, almost seemed like an opinion on direction of an afterlife. It is obvious what goes up must come down. Crumbling down chocolate at the sides of the street, seems like Willie Wonka or Milton Hershey dropped remnants of bitterness and sweetness along the streets, like an analogy of every drivers’ journey along the road. The mountainous stones looked like cracked off pieces of the Abuelita’s Chocolate, the kind I used to sneak from the pantry out of the little yellow hexagon box on hot summer days. I’d suck on the broken off piece until only the scratchy salty grit was left, brown chocolate flavor melting into a high cheeked smile on my face.
Now on this day, it’s warm like the June summers back home in Indiana but I’m nowhere close to the Midwest. It’s Veterans Day weekend and I know it’s cold in Indiana, with their gray and white fall skies. I start to remember the cold early winters that came shortly after August died out. Sometimes it completely skipped Autumn. I imagine the hills of snow with sleds and children and bloody lips from snowball fights. Laughs with cries covered up by more embarrassing laughs to show you weren’t in pain. The brown and red and orange leaves, once crunchy now wilted and smashed like soggy cornflakes protruding from under the milk-like snow. This part of California is nothing like that.
I make my way beyond the dried out hills and to my right is a lake some hundred feet downward. The heat makes me want to smash past the road barrier and sink into the cool blue-green. Boats below, people pulled from the backs of them on inner tubes, rafts with lounging leisure guests of the lake. And then there’s my silver Corolla, soaring over the edge of the hill, shadowing the on-looker’s below, as they stare wide all I can think is, “God, this PowerBar is dry. The Monster Energy Coffee feels puke warm.” Parched and twitchy, I need to drench myself real bad and as my car pulls through the air, I glide past birds, sails, surfboards, and buoys into the chilled lake.
I dreamed of drowning once. I lost control of my car and swerved past a dock, skidding into a lake. My first concern was to open the door of my sinking car and push past the water, pressuring me back. I needed to get out of the death trap. But my second concern bugged me worse than gnats swarming at a humid cookout. My subconscious concern was to save my cell phone. I didn’t want to damage it and feared having to by a new one…but at the same time of me struggling through a life and death situation. What the hell is wrong with me? So, the feel of water on my body was cold to the point where I felt my skin tightening and a shiver crept through my spine. That was the feeling I wanted as I plunged into the lake. Hopefully I didn’t kill anyone during this daydream of freedom because that wasn’t part of the plan.