Navigating the LA River
I had to move out of Grandma Elsa's apartment in Burbank today. Elsa has been moved to a convalenscent care housing and I can no longer crash on her living room taking refuge with her air-conditioned retreat. I rolled up my matts and organized my van for the next stage in my urban survival. It's like I am having to leave the womb again, stepping out into the world without a comfortable residence to rest, rinse, have a cup of coffee and start a new day at. This apartment complex was making me feel old anyway, so it is a good time to move on. Instead of thinking of ways to challenge myself I was starting to think about aquatic aerobics and knitting as my main agenda items. Giving up Bingo night and movie night are going to be tough, but I will let someone else finish that 10,000 piece puzzle of a Castle in Litchenstein.
I'm now environmentally challenged and staying in the big city, Los Angeles, home of everything you need and a land of nothing at the same time. Los has always sort of meant Lost to me, although my taco truck spanglish is almost comprehendable these days. Lost Angles is my way of thinking about LA. When you come to LA to live you may have an angle, a purpose, a calling, but those angles are lost over time. Each day the purpose you may have come here with drifts further away, like a plastic bottle in the River.
Now that I am back on my own I feel a renewed desire to find my angle again, my purpose or at least something to do that entertains my brain. I work everyday in East Hollywood, pushing cotton in order to pay off debts that I've accumulated by trying to be a part of the economy. I feel like a carpet bagger at times, because LA is the only place I have been able to survive economically and I am not sure why. I have to assume it's the sheer quantity of people that provide enough traffic to my little store that patronize my goods and services. Or it is the culture itself that is a mix of people from young to old, that are willing to be entertained and I can provide a laugh and a giggle while they go between a cafe to the movies. This is why I am here, to survive, and because LA is so anti-nature I often feel imprisoned by this existence.
At night it cools down and the cool night air overtakes the stuffy African heat filled store and I relax again. I wonder if being on the West Side would change everything, it's cooler over there. I hear it's like ten degrees cooler, which is exponentially more comfortable that how it feels over here on the Eastside. It's the water, the ocean, that big ass puddle called the Pacific that I often forget even exist. I may only be ten or twenty miles from the largest ocean in the world, but I may as well be in Kansas, because I forget that it even exist when just getting through the day. It's there and I could drive over there, or even try to live there, but I have habits and patterns and things that keep me where I am. The secret is to be by the water and that is what I miss.
Boating and fishing are a theme that plays in my head whenever I think about what I would do if I wasn't working. It's a movie that plays every week, Ulysses, The Old Man and the Sea, Das Boat, Fitzgeraldo, all of them throughout the day. I am envious K-town stores that having Sportsfishing stores on every block as a reminder that people over there have not forgotten that they live near a great sea. I look out my window and all I have is the LA River, a cement creek that runs alongside Highway 5 and turns with sharp angles to that great sea. I sit now and wonder, could I get to that great sea by going down down the LA River or would I just get further lost in this giant concrete trough?
What's my angle? It's hard to remember because my angle has changed doesn't resemble my original plan when I came to California. My angle is an abstraction or a set of angles that I don't understand anymore and can't visualize as a whole, but as glimpses in passing as I go through the routine of each day. In the back of my head I sometimes feel that I am moving towards something that resembles a dream times past, but just a plan to find a better place to sleep when I was laying awake uncomfortable somewhere.
I do make money selling t-shirts, so if an angle is how you get paid, that's mine. It's not what I started out to do, but it's what I do because people seem to want and need fresh shirts like they need fresh towels poolside in Las Vegas. T-shirt printing is not a real career listed in the pull-down menu at the University counseling office, but it's what I do and have done that it's my best way to pay the bills. I may sell a few t-shirts more as a result of my expedition down the LA River, and I just need to have that known so there is no hidden goal that I am going to make this profitable accidentally. The t-shirt's I've sold and will sell, will pay for my supplies, boat and comfort foods that I plan to enjoy along the way.
I once had an angle that was a grander sort of illusion when I came to Los Angeles with a 35mm camera and a darkroom in a scuba bag. I'm not trying to put a bigger picture all-encompassing theory together with my plan to navigate the Los Angeles River, but the back story needs to be there so that I have a context for this voyage. Great expeditions have to have a purpose and I am sure that mine does, just like Christopher Columbus was after the riches of a new world and Huckleberry Finn was in search of freedom for Jim, there has to be a context or the journey may as well be a drive to Orange County in rush hour.
Today when I left Grandmas thinking how I must now go out on my own, I found myself drawn to Frogtown looking for a way to gain access to this infamous urban creek. Streets ended just before getting to the banks and fences rose up before I could even get a view of water. Businesses and buildings block access to the river and I scurried around in my van thinking I would be able to drive along the banks like it was the Mississippi River, but I couldn't even get a decent view from my car.