Saturday, November 24, 2007

you can't swim in a town this shallow

After seeing for myself what was already in our "J" drive at work, the music drive that "doesn't exist," (Hootie and the Blowfish, Hoobastank, Incubus, Lifehouse, Audioslave, and Tool, for example), I felt it quite necessary to bring one of my CD binders to work with me to dump some more music in it. So of course, this offered a nice chance to get reacquainted with music I hadn't listened to in some time. One of these cds was The Photo Album by Death Cab for Cutie, which I bought in 2001 or so. I always liked the fifth track, Why You'd Want to Live Here, but suddenly it had, as they say, a whole new meaning.

When I was living in Los Angeles, I have never missed or appreciated Dallas/Fort Worth so much. And I found it interesting that the same basic conversation repeated itself over and over with various people while I was there:

me: So do you like living in LA/Silverlake/Studio City/Burbank/Culver City/Pasadena/Hollywood/West Hollywood?

to which the person would reply with any various combination of the following:

- Well, the traffic is a nightmare/the pollution is awful/
my car just got towed/I'm constantly getting parking tickets/my rent is astronomical/the people here are always name dropping and fake/everyone is "in the business"/I'm barely scraping by/I miss my family/my job is crap...
but would always end with:
...but the ocean is close by and the weather is great..."

me: so when was the last time you went to the beach?

them:oh, months ago, it takes like, and hour to get out there with traffic. And it's so cold you can't really get in the water anyway. But I am going to San Diego/Las Vegas/San Francisco/Lake Tahoe/Palm Springs next week ; I just can't wait to get out of the city.

So when I came upon this song that I hadn't heard in years, I listened to it about 5 times in a row. They hit the nail on the head, really. I was always so stressed in LA about something...if I was driving I was worried about where I was going to park my car or how many left turns I was going to have to make without a left turn arrow (all of them usually) or if I was going to get lost... and then when my car finally was parked I was worried about getting a ticket or getting towed, and if friends were coming over I was worried about where they were going to park, I was worried about making money and paying bills, I was constantly scared my car would break down in the midst of rush hour, I was worried I'd get sick because I didn't have insurance, and on and on.

And yes, some of these are things I would worry about in any city. But in LA it was all somehow heightened to a frenzy. I was so tense and worried and stressed that I turned into another person. And the few times I left LA and went to, say, San Diego or Joshua Tree, I could feel my shoulders relax and my stomach stop churning as I left the city and saw the skyline in my rear view mirror. And I have to say that I spent three months in NYC when I was twenty and have been back many times to visit, and I never ever felt this way when I was there. I would move there in a heartbeat if the right situation presented itself. But I will never ever move back to Los Angeles. And I rarely use the word never.

Now, I don't want to leave this entry on a completely negative note. Yeah, there were moments in LA, driving down Sunset Blvd with the sun shining and my windows down, with rows of palm trees standing tall like wiry soldiers, when I thought "yeah, this is nice." And winding my way through Laurel Canyon to soak up a day of chilling by the pool in a beautiful house in the hills I could never afford with some cool, nice people I had met...that was fun. But these were the exceptions. And yeah, I think if perhaps I had been there under different circumstances, and if I hadn't been forced to play a losing game of dodge ball with the stresses that life hurled unrelentingly at me during that time, maybe I would have a more positive impression of Los Angeles. But, it was what it was, for me, at that time. And thank God Dallas welcomed me back with open arms. I may not be in Texas forever...there are other cities I want to explore and states I want to visit...but I will call it home for now.

(Unfortunately, I have no idea how to post a song on my blog. I really wish I did.)
So in lieu of the actual song, here are the lyrics:

Why You'd Want To Live Here

I'm in Los Angeles today: it smells like an airport runway,
jet fuel stenches in the cabin and lights flickering at random.
I'm in Los Angeles today: garbage cans comprise the medians
of freeways always creeping,
even when the population's sleeping.

And I can't see why you'd want to live here.

I'm in Los Angles today: asked a gas station employee
if he ever had trouble breathing
he said It varies from season to season, kid.

It's where our best are on display:
motion picture actor's houses maps are never ever current,
so save your film and fifteen dollars.

And I can't see why you'd want to live here.

Billboards reach past the tallest buildings
We are not perfect, but we sure try
As UV rays degrade our youth with time.

The vessel keeps pumping us through this entropic place
In the belly of the beast that is Californ-i-a
I drank from a faucet and I kept my receipt
for when they weigh me on the way out (here nothing is free)

The Greyhounds keep coming dumping locusts into the streets
until the gutters overflow,
and Los Angeles thinks
I might explode
someday soon.

It's a lovely summer's day and I can almost see the skyline
through a thickening shroud of egos
(is this the city of angels or demons?)
Here the names are what remain:
stars encapsulate the gold lane
and they need constant cleaning for when the tourists begin salivating,

you can't swim in a town this shallow
You will most assuredly drown tomorrow.

No comments: