Escape from LA
“LA is like a graveyard from the future.” – Hunter S. Thompson
For the last 15 years of my life I’ve lived in the overflowing hive of humanity known as Los Angeles, California.
I moved there in 1994 as a poor comedian seduced by the chance to make money, and stayed longer than I ever would have predicted.
I had some great times in that hot, stinky, shit-hole of a city, but there was a part of me that always knew I was going to have to escape eventually. I would always give out the advice to anyone that asked, “LA is like a hot chick that’s completely crazy; it’s fun to play around with her for a while, but don’t get crazy and fucking marry her.” Well, not really heading my own advice I lived with that crazy bitch for 15 fucking years until I finally escaped to the Rocky Mountains last month.
I always knew I would eventually leave, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to go down. I had several escape scenarios I would play out in my head that varied in severity and likelihood from evacuating due to wildfires and earthquakes all the way to a suitcase nuke leveling the city and bio-terrorism triggering the zombie apocalypse of 2012. In the end, I just decided to leave because I could, because it felt like it was a good time, and because I decided that for the first time in my life I wanted to live somewhere that I could see the stars at night.
Whenever I wanted to really see the stars I had to go on vacation, because looking up at the night sky in LA or any other city all you see is darkness and a handful of really aggressive stars that insist on being seen through the thickest of pollution. When I say pollution, I don’t just mean the filthy air – and GOD DAMN LA has a lot of that – but light pollution as well. It’s something that we very rarely think about, but all those city lights drown out the the visibility of the stars. You don’t even realize what a tragedy it is until you see what you’re missing.
I was always vaguely aware of its effect on paper, but I never really appreciated how dramatic the the difference was until I took a vacation to the big island of Hawaii a few years ago. We went up to the keck observatory visitors center, and at 9,000 feet above sea level the stars were so fucking incredibly vivid that the sheer jolt of the vision felt like it jump started some dormant section of my consciousness.
You could call it beautiful, but that would be just as weak as calling the ocean wet.
Not just awe-inspiring, but kick-you-in-the-dick humbling in a way that borders on a full blown psychedelic trip. I just couldn’t believe that’s what it really looked like.
I can remember really clearly getting out of the car, looking up at this impossible vision in the sky and saying out loud, “My god, is it like this all the time?”
The milky way was so clear and vibrant that it looked like a photo from an astronomy book. There weren’t just the standard few dimly flickering constellations to try to play “connect the dots” with, instead the entire night sky was an infinite swarm of magnificent nuclear explosions.
It was impossible for me to stare up at it and accept my default perception of the Earth as this stable, static thing of permanence.
The thick, stained curtain of bullshit that covers my standard view of the world instantly evaporated before my eyes, and space stripped down naked in front of me and revealed its true self.
I wasn’t simply a guy on vacation standing in a parking lot in Hawaii looking up at the pretty sky, I was a drone caught in society’s trance – an ignorant passenger unaware that I was really on a immense, organic space ship flying through infinity.
It was both amazing and terrifying at the same time. I found this picture online, and it’s exactly what the stars looked like up there.
Just a few hours earlier I had been sitting around in a hotel room zoned out in front of the TV with my laptop open, trying to pay attention to “the world.”
I’ve spent countless hours doing the exact same thing, watching CNN or Fox news with a look on my face like the whole country just farted, absolutely convinced that everything I was paying attention to was very important stuff that demanded my focus.
I was listening intently to other drones speaking passionately about taxes, or politics, or some other mind numbing bullshit, and I was convinced that this was important stuff that I was supposed to be paying attention to.
I’ve often wondered since that night whether or not cities would function the same if we could see all the stars from them. It’s way easier to put the blinders on and pretend that it all makes sense if you don’t have to look at a cosmic masterpiece above your head every night.
I now live in a place where it’s so quiet that the silence itself has a specific sound. Without the background noise of city life you can hear the actual sound of silence – an unexpected noise that’s somewhat like a high pitched vibration that you can’t really compare to anything else. The vibration of the mother ship.
I’ve been writing like crazy since I’ve got here. That was all a part of the “plan.”
The latest and greatest chapter on my journey through the universe, and I’m going to document it all here.
Much, much more to come.
Mad love to you all.