Tag Archives: California

A Week in LA

After almost twenty years
to spend a week out in LA
and to watch through hotel windows
where the rich and famous play

(or at least some folks pretending
to be worth the time of day,
either rock stars in the making
or young vultures seeking prey)

without caring much about it,
but just wondering, through my stay,
if I could have done things different
and still been alive today;

’cause the toll of fame is heavy,
when you live out in LA;
and despite the years, it’s still more
how you look, not what you say.

It’s almost a foreign country to me,
lit up for display
where you feel excited to arrive
but glad to go away.

20 NOV 2006

Share This:

The Other Shoe Drops

My mother, who turns seventy next year,
four days from now is driving from LA,
alone across almost two thousand miles
(she plans between ten and twelve miles a day)

to visit us in New Orleans — she says,
for just a day or so; and then, she’s off
towards the north. Next stop is Tennessee.
My younger sister’s been there just two months

and barely settled in; she moved away
to close the West Coast chapter of her life.
Of course, that book includes my brothers and my mom.
I understand her motivation well,
although to mom it’s not so cut and dry.

She wonders what would cause someone to split
away from hearth and home, leaving behind
the everything your life has ever been
in search of something else – something else real.

But she and Dad did much the same thing:
they put a state, at first, between their life
and where they came from, cutting free the past.
It worked for about seven years or so.

And then they were dragged back into the fold,
or close enough to be within the web
of sibling politics and watchful eyes;
they tried to make a go of it, and failed.

Next, they tried the whole damn continent —
uprooting us from the dull, complacent life
that was in store if we stayed on the farm,
and ran three thousand miles, to Western shores.

The family back at home, in the Midwest
still wonders why they left, dissatisfied
with close-knit clan surrounding on all sides
and little opportunity for growth.

But it was dad that needed space, and change,
and his decision to break with the past.
Mom never spoke of it, but now, I think
she has regrets that they struck out alone.

And sis and I, the two like the old man,
have likewise flung ourselves out and away —
with breathing room to reconstruct our lives
in different ways, by rules that we define.

How could mom be surprised? Our exodus
was fated from the start. There was no force
of nature, blood or even divine will
that could have keep us California-bound.

Share This:

Easter by Telephone: a cyhydedd naw ban

In California after eating
they called up to offer a greeting,
their plates filled with beans and broccoli
ours with roast beef and mashed potatoes.
We passed the telephone back and forth,
discussing children and work; of course,

we spoke of weather and summer plans,
the price of groceries and minivans,
and then of mom, who now lives alone
in that big house, her children all grown.
We discussed if this year we would meet,
compared our schedules, and each month’s heat.

They want to visit, and spend a week –
catch up on all the news, so to speak.
I wonder sometimes if the link we share
is stronger because of distance there;
We meet rarely, just when someone dies,
and talks like these are a big surprise.

California, it has been so long
and I have grown up since I’ve been gone.
They just keep on talking in my ear;
although their voices are nice to hear,
I hand the warm handset to my wife,
thinking of Easter, and of new life.

11 APR 2004

Share This:

Comfortably Numb?

Last night, after consuming far too many cups of jasmine green tea following a day of bad stomach upset and then finally, after a fitful hour or two of tossing and turning to get comfortable lying in bed with a throbbing colon and still stiff back, I fell asleep. When I woke up this morning, very groggy, head pounding, I realized that I had just experienced a four and a half hour dream that may not have been a dream, but a flashback – although it was NOT particularly clear whether the events in the dream (?) had actually happened in my past or not. Roughly, and I can only remember it roughly at this juncture – I was visiting some location where at one time I had participated in/organized/attended some kind of festival that had some kind of political agenda although it was primarily a Music/entertainment festival (I know, not all that clear …). I have attended a number of festivals, performed at roughly five, and even was involved in organizing and planning a couple behind the scenes, so it COULD have been the scene of one of those – it looked kind of like downtown Boston, where I did attend an Earth Day festival (and actually did participate in organizing an Earth Day/Arts Festival). In any event, it was an urban environment but one with a number of open spaces. It seemed foreign, though, in a “Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii” sort of way. It was a place that I know I have never actually been before. But of course, I knew the way ’round the locale. On the way to the main event area, walking to visit the scene of a festival past, I and whoever I was with (a bunch of unknown people) we encountered a bunch of other people who were on their way to attend the festival (the same festival that we had attended in the past) in the present time. And they knew who I was, because for some reason I had become famous for my involvement in this festival in the past. See how Spot gets unstuck in time here?
It felt like I was dreaming about having an acid flashback related to a dream … and in the back of my mind, there echoed the words:

We mourn your passing, California…

And I woke up crying.

Share This:

Haiku for the Holidays

Long lines and cramped flights,
bland food tasting like warm crap:
holiday travel.

Meeting family,
all dwelling on past actions;
skin deep interest.

More useless gifts,
and hours wasted in small talk;
No relaxation.

So rude and hurried.
Must keep up with the Jones’:

Too many people
rushing to get nowhere fast;
not a vacation.

08 JAN 2003

Share This:


Ah, my friends, it is good to be home. After a week in southern Californika (which at times seemed like a colony on a far distant planet) in a strange granola world, New Orleans seems like a Mecca for all things normal. Now, I know that many of you out there are thinking — New Orleans? Normal? But it is true. Compared to the rudeness, overcrowding, one mall per ten citizens, ostentatious civilization that is SoCal, New Orleans, with its dirty broken streets, its slow and greasy pace, its propensity for overindulgence (i.e., Mardi Gras, Sugar Bowl, Jazzfest, etc.), its “laissez faire” and “city that care forgot, because it is a particular brand of apathy”, New Orleans is a MUCH saner place than California. Believe it, or not. There is a world that I inhabited when I lived that strange decade in California that is so far removed from the reality of my life, so different from the path that I have traveled, so alien to what I know to be a healthy, vibrant way of life.

It settled like a tempting, velvet glove –
the dry desert air that filled every space
and sucked away my energy and love,
leaving me gasping and running in place.

There was no room to freely stretch my wings,
nor space in which to find the center’s void;
For life was crammed with petty, useless things –
the lack of which will make you paranoid.

Visiting and acting well adjusted
was the hardest role I’ve ever performed;
there was no script to read or to follow.

It seemed like pure luck not to get busted
as the thought police gathered strength and swarmed;
Full-time, that life would be hard to swallow.

05 JAN 2003

Share This:

Visiting California

Even when I was living there, entrenched
in the bustle of its chaotic skirts,
finding not much hope – mostly evidence
that the entire world had gone mad, or worse –

the west coast seemed a little bit surreal;
And the dreams I held so tight as a child
never seemed to once gel or congeal
there. Like a desert, it was strange and wild.

Now, the prospect of a long visit out there
fills my soul with vexing trepidation;
I am not of that place now – I have grown.

And the things from my youth I used to care
about – old friends and past situations?
From that arid clime, my heart has long flown.

22 DEC 2002

Share This: