October 22, 2008

Fall Is Here (It's In My Hair)

It's fall here in Southern California. I can tell by the arrival of the Santa Ana winds, the hot dry days, the crystalline-clear air. And the smell of fall is here, which for me, during a Santa Ana event, is not the smell of apple cider or fallen leaves, but the smell of my own hair.

For years and years I've noticed that when the Santa Ana's come whipping in from the desert east, my hair gets a very specific scent -- not unlike the creosote of the desert, mixed with a flat, metallic tang that lasts for the duration of the wind. I think I've read that something funny goes on with the ozone level of the air during the windy days, and perhaps that's what I smell in my hair. (I should point out that I have extremely thick, curly hair, that easily traps strong smells anyway. I need to tie it back when flipping pancakes or bacon, or risk smelling like a Denny's all day.)

Like any good little bookish L.A. girl, raised on Joan Didion and The Doors and Dr. George Fishbeck hopping up and down with glee over the weather, I can't help but get excited during a Santa Ana. Well, excited isn't quite the word. Restless, is more like it. I'm always about 2 heartbeats away from "restless" most days anyhow, but during a Santa Ana, it's more urgent, and irritating, too.

Dig it:

Those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. (Raymond Chandler)
Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.

Thank you, Joan.

Perhaps that's why I've been feeling that bitter mix of wanderlust and trapped-out-here-in-the-godforsaken-Inland-Empire discontent so keenly this month. Growing up so close to the heart of Los Angeles, I sometimes miss it terribly. I miss feeling part of the action, part of that "scene." I'm a born and bred L.A. county native, and it's home that I miss right now.

I've leave off with Mr. Mojo Risin' himself. It always felt like he was singing this part straight to me, as I cranked up the radio and sped down the freeway in my primer-gray little Nissan, a cigarette clenched in my left hand:

I see your hair is burnin' /
Hills are filled with fire/
If they say I never loved you /
You know they are a liar.

Oh, it's all such a cliche! And yet, that doesn't make it hit any less close to home.

October 1, 2008

Ding Dong, September's Dead

October 1st. And my first blog post in well over a month. Shame on me, you say? Where was I?
I was deep in the mire of September, a month long bad spell that literally started on the first day of the month, with a fever and chills and bad things going on in the plumbing department, and literally ended yesterday, the 30th, with a doctor's follow-up visit with good blood test results and the assurance that I would likely live for at least another few months. Kidding on that very last part, but you know what? Not by all that much, when the blood work was for a CEA level test...also known as a tumor-marker test, tumor as yes, in cancer, and, well fuck.

That was September. All bloody month long of it. Now, on October 1st, I exhale: breeeaaaathe. In. Out. Slowly. Repeat.

Somewhere in September on an afternoon while trying to distract myself from dark thoughts, I tuned in to "Oprah." Oprah was featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, long lean and blonde Mrs. Chris Martin herself. In between talking about how much she just loved to eat and scarf and eat some more, Gwyneth talked about her mild post-partum depression after her second child (Pear? Kumquat?) was born and how a long, wine-soaked dinner with Madonna helped her to get better. Madonna says (and you know how I myself love to just throw that phrase around in mixed company: "Madonna says..."), anyway she believes that when this sort of psychic or emotional break occurs for whatever reason, the universe is trying to tell you something. (That Madonna! She's a wise one. And we should listen to her, because of, y'know, that cabalah stuff, and also the dedication shown in those very, very lean and sinewy upper arms.)

Which of course gots me to thinking...what the hell, universe? WTF? What do you want me to do? I've already had enough illness and hospitals and death and grief over the last couple of years to teach me the whole "every day is a gift," thing. Universe, I am SO down with that part. I get that.

But no, it turned out, over the course of several days of deep thought, that this time the universe is whispering a different message. And you know what that message is? The Universe says....

Grasshopper, it is time to write.

To which I responded, "ah, shit, Universe. Not that. Nope. Can't. Do. That."

And the universe retorted, "Can't? Or don't want to?"

And I was all like, "No, really. Can't. Just....no. How about....yoga? I think increased flexibility and stamina as I turn 40 would be very beneficial. Yes?"

The universe only crossed its arms and gave me that look.

"But, but, but..." said I, and I admit, it came out a little whiny.

This is what you are meant to do, the Universe intoned, and walked away. Discussion over.

Aw, man. I hate losing an argument. And don't think I still don't have my stockpile of excuses and protests at the ready. Still. I'm giving it some thought. I have some ideas, some thoughts, that have been kicking around up there for a long time. There is a lot of ice to break up with my ax, to steal the phrase that writing should work as "an ax to break the frozen sea within us."

But where to start, and how, and lord, most especially, when?

And the universe pops around the corner where he was probably hovering, to reply, and not a little smugly, "please, how many times have you read that book? You remember what the lady says:

Bird by bird, sister. Bird by bird.

(And a quote from the same lady, which seems particularly apropos in this dicey, freighted political climate: "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.")
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