Taking a break from my recurring thoughts of my trip in India, I drove down to Los Angeles to spend time with some of my closest friends, for a wonderful Fourth of July celebration. My American Bulldog Taylor and I left early Sunday morning and leisurely took fourteen hours for the nine hour drive up the Pacific Coast Highway listening to Bruce Springsteen on XM Satellite the entire time, stopping over ten times to walk the majestic beauty of the California coast, a great reminder that the United States is also extremely beautiful. “What is this land America, so many travel there / I’m going now while I’m still young.” (American Land)
Our journey started with one of the best opening lines of any song in the history of songs, “In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream / At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines / Sprung from cages out on Highway 9, chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and stepping out over the line…” (Born to Run) This song always reminded me of some of my closest friends from high school when we were in high school, all fans of a The Boss – Rahul, Steve, Sara and Eve. And now Eve sings it to her kids, who now call me Uncle Baldy.
And so it began; this was gonna be good. Really good. Taylor and I – “baby, we were born to run.”
For much of my life, I’ve been an owl, living and loving the night, and all the nocturnal activities that come with it. So much of me still craves that world, but since moving to California, I’ve recognized the beauty of mornings, especially the dawn just before and just as the sun rises. And so the streets of Los Angeles seemed to me on that morning. Empty and serene. Done with the night. Ready for the day. “And you’re in love with all the wonder it brings / And every muscle in your body sings as the highway ignites.” (Night) I made it past Santa Barbara in no time.
A wet fog descended upon us as we neared Camarillo. “I was driving through the misty rain / Yeah searchin’ for a mystery train / Boppin’ through the wild blue / Tryin’ to make a connection with you” (Radio Nowhere) As I do in the Bay Area, I’ve come to love the fog. I love how a heavy one creates shadows, whereas a soft one accentuates the light. If you look closely, soft or heavy, the colours vary from bright pastel blues, pinks and oranges to deep rich midnight blues and pine greens. Depending upon my mood, I enjoy both. The heavy ones give me pause for deep thoughts, allowing me to be introspective, whereas the soft ones give an opportunity to smile, portending something new to enter my life. And so Candy’s Room played on as the calm of the Camarillo fog enveloped us. “We go driving, driving deep into the night / I go driving deep into the light, in Candys eyes.”
Soon we stopped into the one street town of Harmony, population 18, which reminded me of this same trip I took over ten years ago with another close high school friend who now lives in Thailand- my buddy Chris. That trip was decided in the middle of a late night out in Los Angeles, leaving early next morning slightly hungover lacking sleep, in a Shelby Cobra convertible in the rain. With no top and no windshield wipers, we were finally forced to stop underneath a group of trees off the Harmony exit. At that time the population was 12. The town had grown in those ten years. After a brief stop to recollect my memories of the past, onward Taylor and I went.
Thirteen miles south of Cambria, we stopped off the highway, hiked down to the Pacific, walking along the shore, Tay mesmerized by the storks and the seagulls. In a few weeks we would be back here for a dear friend’s wedding. But today, it was just the two of us.
We were surrounded.
The sounds of the crashing waves against the mossy rocks, bright blue under the bright sky. The smells of fish and clean, crisp air, breathing it in deep, practicing my inner breath. Achieving my inner calm. Reaching Zen almost immediately. As my yogi would say, “it’s in the breath.”; I could hear him in my head. Absolutely loving our time here, a thirty-minute slice of heaven. I would paint this later. I already knew that then. And what would dominate the painting would be the rich “Prussian Blue” of the Pacific, my favourite colour on my palette to paint. As we made our walk back to the car, we couldn’t help but keep looking back, absorbing every single moment those moments afforded us. Those thirty minutes are among the best gifts we’ve ever given ourselves. I knew Taylor appreciated that too.
It didn’t take as long to stop once again, this time to see the elephant seals in San Simeon. Massive and blubbery, the size of two cars and heavier, they lay next to each other and on each other, annoying each other. Every five seconds, fights broke out as two seals would do their dance, butting their heads furiously at the other, neither giving quarter. The biggest one clearly took the mantle of the leader of the pack, the group’s Casanova. “I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra / I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova / I could walk like Brando right into the sun / Then dance just like a Casanova.” (It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City) We stood there for another thirty minutes, oddly attracted to these thoroughly ugly yet magnificent creatures, singing their own songs of love and hate.
I couldn’t stop stopping my car. The further north we traveled, the more scenic our drive became. Snapping mental pictures for paintings to be and taking mental notes for places to camp, each mile brought more and more joy to our Eden. All of a sudden the fireworks from the previous night from Tad’s rooftop deck entered my thoughts, and I saw them land over the Pacific in my present. “Sandy, fireworks are hailing over Little Eden tonight.” (4th of July Asbury Park)
By this point, deep into our trip, we were in a zone. “Roll down the windows and let the wind blow back your hair. The night’s busted open and these two legs will take us anywhere.” (Thunder Road) I was falling in love. If you want to fall in love, go on a road trip and reflect upon the people you love. And so that’s what I did. That’s what I’ve done for so much of my life, but it’s become even more evident since the accident. And even moreso since I moved out west. I guarantee that if you reflect upon the people you love on road trips, you will love them even more than you already do. Road trips are premier times for reflection. Taylor stared at me from the back, also deep in thought as he took in the coastal air.
The drive was not without its tense moments. Hugging the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains to my right, and along the rocky coast of the Pacific Ocean below to my left, the windy roads had my knuckle white a more than a few times, but my head swayed on a swivel most of the time with God’s beauty laid before me. Big Sur – that land north of San Simeon and south of Carmel – was simply breathtaking. Even with white knuckles, God’s beauty was undeniable. “There’s a wonderful world where all you desire / And everything you’ve longed for is at your fingertips / Where the bittersweet taste of life is at your lips / Where aisles and aisles of dreams await you / And the cool promise of ecstasy fills the air” (Queen of the Supermarket) Our journey continued.
A few hours north, we stopped on the side of the road at Julia Pfeiffer National Forest. While we didn’t (have the time to) go into the park, we did walk down the trail to see the waterfall, which powered through the sides of the cliff looking like an old man blowing his nose onto a pristine white sand beach. The sun was at its zenith, warmly and happily shining brightly over the Pacific, a stark contrast to the deep blue of the waters and briskness of the air earlier in the day near Cambria. We stared out into the sea and onto the waterfall for a long time before we made our way back.
Fourteen hours later from the moment we left Echo Park in Los Angeles, we were home in Sausalito. To channel the British, a brilliant Fourth of July weekend with brilliant friends that ended with a brilliant drive. More brilliant memories to treasure.
The screen door slams
Mary’ dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again
Don’t run back inside
Darling you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking
That maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me
You can hide ‘neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a saviour to rise from these streets
Well now I’m no hero
All the redemption I can offer girl
Is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now ?
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow
Back your hair
Well the night’s busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heaven’s waiting on down the tracks
Oh-oh come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh-oh Thunder Road oh Thunder Road
Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it’s late we can make it if we run
Oh Thunder Road sit tight take hold
Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car’s out back
If you’re ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door’s open but the ride it ain’t free
And I know you’re lonely
For words that I ain’t spoken
But tonight we’ll be free
All the promises’ll be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they’re gone
On the wind so Mary climb in
It’s town full of losers
And I’m pulling out of here to win
“Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen
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