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Gratitude, Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, On Being Human

A Note from Jen and Angela: We Are Back!

July 2, 2019
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Hey everyone! We are back! It’s been a while since we’ve posted, but so much has happened! The big news is that “On Being Human” is in bookstores now! The book was named by both The Washington Post and Inc.com as must a read during the summer – can you believe it? Jen has started touring the country and will be doing both book signings and workshops. She started off July in Denver and is headed East for stops up and down the coast over the month. Details on upcoming events can be found here.

Angela’s life has been about book launch party planning, easing into summer, writing, reading, and getting used to being engaged to The Guy. Not quite as glamorous as having a best-selling book out, but just as over the moon exciting (especially the bit about The Guy).

We both so appreciate your patience during the needed hiatus and are thrilled to be back at it with new posts scheduled starting next week. The essays we are going through are amazing and we are always eager to read more, so don’t hesitate to submit a finished piece about no bullshit mother hood, perspective from a young voice, or observations on making it all work (or not!) If you haven’t received a response on your piece or are looking to know when it is scheduled, send Angela a note and she will get back to you.

In the coming days we will have a form on the site where you can give us feedback on features and themes you want to hear about, so keep an eye out. We want to hear from you and are excited about what ideas you have for the site.

Thank you so much for joining us on this crazy ride and enjoy the long holiday weekend!

xoxo-

Jen and Angela

P.S. If you don’t already, follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Jen can be found here and here. Angela can be found here and here.

P.P.S. Don’t be an asshole.

 

Awe & Wonder, Guest Posts, poetry

The Space of Rituals.

October 23, 2013

The Space of Rituals

by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

Every day, I kiss him goodbye at the back door of the farmhouse before pushing the door shut tight behind him.  I make my way across the galley kitchen, through the living room, into my office – a trip of 15 strides or less.

Then, I open the front door, stand behind the glass meant that keeps out storms but not stink bugs, and wait.

Every weekday.

It’s our ritual.

As I wait, I see how the wedding mums have started to fade – the honeymoon’s consequence.

The trees at the bottom of the farmyard illustrate, as if planned by the most creative and enthusiastic of third grade teachers, the stages of fall – just yellow, the orange-yellow of the dogwood, the bare spindle branches of the persimmon.

The chicken coop door stands empty still, waiting for us and Dad to resume now that the wedding work has faded.

I catch glimpses of Lee the tractor as he poses in the lower pasture.

All this in a few moments – a minutes, maybe two.

The gift of ritual – the space it creates to see, to breath, to wait.  The preparation of a moment. The air around time.

Like lighting a candle. Or closing his eyes before turning on the computer screen. Or standing at a storm door waiting to blow her new husband a good-bye kiss.

Click photo to buy Andi's book.

Click photo to buy Andi’s book.

 

Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and writing teacher. She blogs regularly at her writing website – andilit.com – and the website for God’s Whisper Farm.  Her book about the principles in place at their small Virginia farm is God’s Whisper Manifesto. She just got married in September, and she plans to blow her husband Philip a kiss every day for the rest of their lives.  

Guest Posts

The Search Is Over. By Sarah Ellis.

July 25, 2013

The Search Is Over. By Sarah Ellis.

Oh lookin’ out at this happiness,
I search for between the sheets.
Oh feelin’ blind and realize,
All I was searchin’ for was me.
Ooh all I was searchin’ for was me.

Ben Howard “Keep Your Head Up”

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness recently. What makes me happy? Who makes me happy? Where am I happy? Why do I let people make me unhappy?  I used to think that life was all about growing up and living happily ever after. I could blame it on the hundreds of Disney movies I’ve seen in my twenty-seven years but I’m not a big fan of the blame game.

I moved out of my parent’s house for the first time in October of last year. Ok, it’s really the second time but the first time was so brief, I don’t think it really counts. So, at twenty-six years old, I decided to see what I could do on my own. I had been plagued with thoughts of I don’t make enough money, I’ll starve, I’ll sit in an apartment with no lights and no water, I can’t do this on my own for long enough. I didn’t tell my parents anything until a few days before I was ready to move out with my deposit paid and no turning back.

I’ve told myself stories since I was a little girl, I would make up a story about how awesome life would be when I ______. And then I would fill in the blank with all sorts of things like move out, get married, finish college, become a published author, become a neurosurgeon, become an Olympic gymnast, join the circus, have children, don’t have children, have a boyfriend, have sex, travel the world. Yeah, you see, when I moved out I was armed with all of these amazing stories I had told myself but never experienced. Maybe I experienced some of them a little, but not on the level I wanted for my life. I wanted fireworks, theme music, and the happily ever after.

So, I went in search for happiness like it was a hidden treasure or some elusive creature that could only be found if you stood on one foot and hopped around in circles. I looked everywhere. I would catch glimpses of it in the smile of a stranger, a warm hand to hold on a first date, the laughter of my friends, the smell of my dog’s neck, and the phrases in a good book. This list could go on forever because I caught a lot of glimpses. I would try to grab happiness with both fists closed tightly around whatever I believed would make me happy at the time. And let’s just say my dating life took an intense nose dive into crazy town. Every man was the one and I fell for each one I met without checking to see if they really were the lid that fit my pot. I fell hard time and time again. I was left picking myself up and putting the pieces back together with super glue and duct tape and silently wondering what I was doing wrong.

Moving out was harder than I thought it would be. All of the sudden, I was requiring more of myself than ever before. I had to shop for all of my food, take my own trash out, and sit with just myself and my thoughts. I’ll let you guess what the hardest thing was. No, no, it wasn’t taking out the trash although that is still one of my least favorite things to do. It was learning to sit with just myself and how to pick out which were my thoughts and which were the opinions of others crowding my brain. It wasn’t easy then and some days, it’s still not easy now. I was so content to live in my head for so long that I struggle with being present. But the mornings keep rising, the nights keep falling and with every passing moment I find myself waking up a little bit more.

I feel like these past nine months have been the shortest and longest of my life. I’ve grown in ways I never thought were possible. I’ve learned that happiness isn’t external but something I’ve had the whole time. Those glimpses I saw weren’t just in the people and experiences; they were the reflections of the happiness within my soul. I’ve learned to take care of myself. I didn’t once starve or forget to pay my utilities. I’ve learned that I’m more than my thoughts. I’ve learned that I’m unique and beautiful. I’ve learned that yoga is the best therapy for me. I’ve learned that being challenged is a wonderful thing. I’ve learned that no matter how many times I fall, I have the best person waiting to put me back together. The answer to all of my questions and the person I was searching for all along. I have me.

 

Click the photo to connect with Sarah Ellis.

Click the photo to connect with Sarah Ellis.

Guest Posts

At My Worst.

July 19, 2013

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Amy Roost.

Jennifer Pastiloff’s work has inspired me to be more authentic in my own writing. Below is my bravest piece of writing yet. It will be published in a local newspaper on Thursday and they have the rights to it for 10 days afterward. I need to tell you a brief story about how it came about:

A young women (a former high school classmate of my son) was killed at 4am last Thursday morning when the car she was a passenger in was t-boned by a fire truck. An open container of alcohol was found in the car and the driver (who survived) was a 44-year old man. If you’re interested in the details, you can access it thru this link: http://www.pomeradonews.com/2013/06/20/one-killed-when-fire-truck-vehicle-collide-in-poway/

What disturbed me was not just the tragic end to a young woman’s life but the comments at the bottom of the article about the accident, essentially blaming the victim and showing great insensitivity toward the girl’s family.

This column was inspired by the reaction of some in our community to her death and it is dedicated to her memory.

 

AT MY WORST By Amy Roost.

At my worst I drove my car when I’d had too much to drink; I called my kids names; I had an affair.

At my worst I let my ailing aunt’s phone call go to voicemail; I yelled at a customer service representative for a company policy she had nothing to do with.

At my worst I drove without insurance; I tattled on my brothers; I brow beat an employee.

At my worst I gossiped about friends; I stole a rabbit’s foot from 7-11; I pretended I’d read a book when I hadn’t.

At my worst I didn’t brush my kids’ teeth for a week; I played hooky from work; I yelled obscenities at my husband.

At my worst I made my children late for school so I could stop at Starbucks for a coffee; I talked during a movie.

At my worst I drove with bald tires; I didn’t send a sympathy card; I got in the “15 Items or Less” line when I had twenty items.

At my worst I failed to pick up after my dog; I had an abortion; I went on vacation instead attending a dear friend’s funeral.

At my worst, I jumped a long line at a freeway exit ramp; I stole money from my dad’s coat pockets.

At my worst, I looked the other way when I saw a mother slap her child in the grocery store; I told a white lie for having missed a friend’s birthday party.

When I meet my maker, I’m sure I’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do. Who knows, I might even be sent back for a “do over” or reincarnated as a tick? However, if she’s been paying attention, my maker will know that, at my best, I was loving, tolerant, understanding and kind.

Marilyn Monroe once told an interviewer “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” The same applies to me. My life is full. Full of mistakes. Full of love. Full of gifts. Full of catastrophe to paraphrase a term coined by the stress-reduction and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Full catastrophe living does not mean disaster–it means living in acceptance of the whole of life, saying yes to the enormity, the full range, of our life experience. There are major crises in everyone’s life. And, yes, there is death and disaster. But there are also all the good deeds and offerings that, along the way, add up.

There are fires and floods, open containers of alcohol in your child’s car and strained marriages. There are pregnancies that go horribly wrong and also children who won’t clean their room. Refrigerators that leak. Jobs that are menial and bills we can’t pay. There are lovers and there are lonely nights. There are crushed expectations. Melted eyeglasses. Traffic. Toothaches. At our best we respond well to these tests. At our worst, not so well.

Those who know me well, and who know that at my best I have contributed value, would never condemn me based solely on what I did at my worst, nor would I them. They would accept that none of us is perfect, we have all been at our worst and we have all been at our best. As such we are all human and works in progress. Hopefully, we learn from the worst growing in strength and wisdom. Hopefully, we can stop ourselves before condemning another’s worst and instead dance together through this full catastrophe–dancing each other, as Leonard Cohen would say, “to the end of love”.

 

 

 

airport skepticismHer multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

 

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 19th. Book here.

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here.

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Guest Posts

Be The Captain. By Charlie Preusser.

June 21, 2013

Be The Captain by Charlie Preusser.

Some of my friends call me ‘The Captain’.

It’s partly a term of endearment, and partly a tongue-in-cheek reference to my burning desire to get promoted at work.  I’m a pilot and have long been waiting my turn to be promoted to Captain. Being a ‘co-pilot’ is great, but even the First Officer is still Second Banana. There are perks to sitting in the big chair, too, but there’s more to it than that.

The Captain makes the calls.  They decide when and how things will go down and who will do what when an unplanned situation arises. The Captain leads.  There’s a reason for that. The Captain, more than anyone else on board, knows more about what has happened, will happen, and could happen.  No matter how much time a young First Officer has spent in the books or learning from others, the real world experience of a Captain brings an element of calm to the situation that nobody else can.

Therein lays a problem.

When the time comes for me to be promoted to Captain- how will I know I’m really ready?

It is comforting that this is the dilemma of nearly every Captain from the beginning of time. One could easily look to the dilemmas faced by Captains both fictional and real and see the triumph of their hearts, minds, and spirits over the adversity faced by them and their crews. But that also highlights an important thing that any good Captain is aware of- their crew. A Captain without a crew is no Captain at all, but more importantly, a good Captain is a better Captain when they acknowledge the contributions of their crew.

In other words, no Captain, however capable, does it alone.

You have to know yourself, for all the good and bad, and have to know everyone who answers to you in the same way. Once you really know your crew, you’ll be able to accomplish far more than you might otherwise.  A Captain doesn’t have to do it all alone, so finally being promoted doesn’t have to be an issue. All I need to know is that I can trust my own self, my own skills, and judgment, and the people with me as well- and they will back me up.

Self awareness and ‘Situational Awareness’ (a collective knowledge of what is actively happening with you, the crew, the ship, and everything around you) are also paramount. It’s about measuring the trend of where you were, how far you’ve come, where you’re going, but most importantly where you are right now. It is, in technical terminology, the very art of remaining Present.  Once you master these things, stepping up to being an actual Captain isn’t scary. It’s exciting.

… and so it goes with life. Each of us, in our own right, is the Captain of the ship. We face each day with the combination of requirements, hopes, and possibilities in our lives and must choose. But we also have help. We have mentors, we have friends, we have family, and we have our ‘crew’. Together, we’ll face our challenges and set our collective and individual courses. And yes, there will be challenges, not only from life, but from others around us. From our own mind, or from out of nowhere in the clear blue sky when you thought nothing was wrong and everything was easy.  And when those challenges arise, we will face them boldly and decisively because we are all Captains in our own lives.

All too often, modern society says, “you are the sum of your assets, your accolades, your achievements…”  But the real truth is while the past is linear, as they might suggest, our future explodes out in front of us in an infinite streaming, swelling wave of possibility. Each day is a choice to boldly plot a new course and go someplace you’ve never gone before. But you have to decide!

In today’s world, daily life does not prepare us to face the world boldly and independently. Those who would benefit from our abdication of authority in our lives do NOT want us to be Captains! The world around us speaks to us in a way designed to keep us submissive, dependent, needy, and weak.  Modern society would have us believe that each of us is no more than what other people tell us we are. But we cannot allow them to do that. When the decision must be made- of whom we are, of what we’ll do with our lives, of how to deal with the things- or the people- who affect us- only one voice out of all can be heard. One voice must ring out above all others.

… and yes, I know for many of us, this seems easier said than done. So I’ll tell you something about myself. For most of my life, until a few years ago, I had so little self-worth that I believed the highest achievement and greatest worth I could create of myself was to die so somebody else didn’t have to. I believed I was a Zero, a nothing, and at best, nothing more than a placeholder. I really believed that if somebody was in harm’s way, and 1 – 1 equals 0, with the subtracted value meaning death, then 1 – 0 equals 1 was the best way to make something of myself. I didn’t fear death- I welcomed it. But not until it came of its own will.  If everybody loves a hero, everybody loves a dead hero even more, right? I lived a life of barely contained rage and self-loathing and spent my days soaking in my own poisons. But a voice in me would not let that stand.

One day, a few years ago, after a lifetime of letting 10,000 voices tell me I was worthless, I realized my own voice was not one of them. I set my heels, and for the first time, let that voice that had always struggled to be heard from deep inside me take the controls. A simple thought, a line in the sand- came to be.

“NOT. YOUR. CALL.”

And of course it wasn’t anybody else’s call. Because when the Captain speaks, the matter is decided. If that was true, and that voice had always existed inside me, why had I ever listened to any other voice?

That’s the voice I listen to now. When the world is against me, when I feel like even my own thoughts are against me, I listen to that voice. And sometime that voice says, “Ask your crew.” Sometimes it says, “Go with your gut.” Sometimes it just says, “Fuck it. Go with it. You can always try again tomorrow, or not at all. It’s your call.”

So I encourage everyone reading this that’s ever felt the walls closing in, the past starting to run faster than you can, or the sky falling down on you- set your stance. Draw the line. Be the Captain of your own life, and let no doubts mutiny against you.  If I can come back from where I was, so can you.

Be the Captain.

There is no one in your own life with more authority to promote you than you.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Captain speaking…”

Namaste.

image by Simplereminders.com as usual.

image by Simplereminders.com as usual.

 

Charlie Preusser is an aviation professional with a long history of associating with people who live life with their heads in the clouds while at the same time being extremely serious.  He is an Iraq War veteran who enjoys philosophy, dancing, scuba diving, and sharing his own hard-won life lessons in hopes of ‘paying it forward’.  Charlie also hopes to inspire others to keep going when they think they can’t, help others when others think they can’t, and generally to help create a world where self-awareness and love replace small-mindedness and fear. Post your comments to Charlie below and he will reply.  

Guest Posts

Freeways. Why Is Connecting So Hard? Guest Post by Brendan Bonner.

May 29, 2013

Freeways by Brendan Bonner.

 

Why is it so difficult to connect with Los Angeles? Every time I call, Los Angeles is on the other line, busy or in a meeting. I’ve left so many messages and texts. I once sent a Western Union telegram to Los Angeles reading: Dear Los Angeles. Stop. Called, written, cried. Stop. Let’s talk, I’m open for anything. Stop. Will consider selling out and/or subjugating myself. Stop. Yours, if you’ll have me. Stop. Signed, Me. I never heard back.

Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve tried to make connections, get past that which is within me that says I am separate. This has translated into many relationships with women that began with all the promise of a newborn baby but too many times that I care to mention, ended with the disappointment and heartbreak of a 40 year old drug addicted son calling, once again, for 20 bucks. Sometimes I think I have had far too much sex for my own good. Its taken many years to figure out that sex has never been an adequate substitute for wanting to be held, seen. But amidst this longing, this attachment, this feverish grabbing for attention, I have noticed that my appreciation for the minutiae has grown exponentially. The tiniest things seem to hold more weight; a casual door held open, the smallest of smirks. Thank yous become roses blossoming in garbage heaps. Nothing goes unacknowledged because in Los Angeles even the smallest of gestures, the tiniest of contributions to me seem like the grandest of parades, because in Los Angeles if its not big enough to be filmed it doesn’t exist, because if I don’t honor it all, I seem not to exist.

There have definitely been dark times. I have experienced moments where the fear of sliding off the side of the planet without leaving behind so much as a fingerprint has paralyzed me. I have had my nose crushed against the possibility of dying alone, my arms pinned behind my back by the thought of watching my loved ones die. The worst was after being broken up in an email. We met on a photo shoot and there was something I was so sure about with her. As soon as we met, I knew that I was done looking for that special partner. The one I wouldn’t mind getting old with, the one I could picture nursing through sickness, the one whom with I would withstand the ugliness and the shit. I had brought her with me to New York for Christmas to meet my family. Needing to be at work the day after Christmas, I dropped her off at the Newark Airport on Christmas morning. She was upset, again, and her parting words were, “I don’t know that I can do this.” I left her at curb side check-in with her luggage, a kiss on the cheek and a promise to call her the moment I touched down in Los Angeles. By the time I reached my sisters house on Long Island, I had received an email, filled with who-do-you-think-you-ares and how-dare-yous and her claiming me as the quintessential king douschebag of boyfriends. A Christmas morning, egg nog, mistletoe and an electronic “fuck you” make for a black Christmas, no matter how much snow on the ground.  Of the nine months we were together, just long enough to birth something, she tried to abort the relationship five times. I was the lamaze to her pennyroyal. Three times I talked her down from jumping, once I flat out refused and the last I acquiesced. You don’t have to break up with me six times for me to get the message, I thought. I let her go, gave her up to the universe, trusting the adage, “ If you love some one…” I’m guessing she got lost on her way back.

Much of my experience in Los Angeles has been learning to navigate “no.” As an actor, you hear that more than any other word. There are no’s to work, no’s to relationships, no’s to my no’s; seemingly, there are no’s to my being, my existence. A few years back, I auditioned and  made it to the final callbacks for the Blue Man Group. Trained in theater, I felt I had met my creative partner. The Blue Men were true theater, I thought. They made a difference with their quirky and odd style of theater, I thought. This is what I want to do with my life, I thought. At the callback, I rehearsed two of their routines, got bald and blue and gave it my all. I wanted this badly enough to lose any sense of the literal. Everything was cloaked in nebulous meaning as I began to see everything blue. Kind Of Blue seemed to play more than usual. A blue sky toyed with my heart strings. I went so far as to pull meaning from being hit in the chest with a blueberry that came out of a passing Big Blue Bus on Wilshire Boulevard. I felt the something hit me, reached down, and looked quizzically at the blueberry. I mean, A BLUEBERRY CAME FROM A BIG BLUE BUS!! I took this as a wink from God herself. A sort of head nod that said, I got you. When they called to tell me I wasn’t Blue Man material, I was devastated, crushed. No had broken my heart.

I grab onto whatever will give me weight, keep me from blowing away with the Santa Anas. Gin worked for a time. It filled out part of my heart, found sound in my voice but it  quickly stopped. Hangovers got old and I could only have my heart invested in screaming at myself for so long. Drugs don’t work. Sluggishness is not weight. Dullness has life be a distant memory, something that I forgot and try like hell to remember. Untethered, I master nonexistence within existence, I achieve a shallowness to the weight. I check the couch cushions to see if I’ve left an impression. I look for my shadow like a lost child and expect to find it on the back of milk cartons. Yet, something else is there; a relic from a distant me, undiscovered and un-excavated. It is a single blade of grass burgeoning through the cement, fragile and weak, dumb enough to try to live amongst the bleakness. So, I circle the wagons. I retreat to where it is safe to watch, where I can truly see people through the ego and the smog. I go to the laugh lines of L.A, the crows feet of the city. I go to the freeways.

The 101 to the 110 to the 10 to the 405, back to the 101. Most of life in Los Angeles happens in cars and sometimes we spend more time en route than at our actual destinations. The time spent enclosed in our vehicles, our little fish bowls, our very own biospheres complete with A/C and soundtracks, with either extremely lax or very stringent smoking policies, is time well spent. From our mini mobile offices, we conduct our lives, applying make up, making up and making things up. I like to spend my spare time on the freeways. I have heard it said that it takes a half hour to get anywhere in Los Angeles, but those people that say that either are drunk or live in Seattle. Driving across town, which is the Los Angeles pastime, I think that I get to truly see Los Angeles, the actual one, not the one Los Angeles would like you to see, but the early morning-no make-up-before the first cup of coffee and cigarette Los Angeles. Los Angeles unplugged. I think of this as I sweat it out on the LA freeways, stuck behind the throngs of people, in their cars, alone, unfiltered and by themselves.

A magical thing takes place when we get in our cars, when we get on the freeways; we become invisible. We think we cannot be seen by anyone else as we stop and go, stop and go and I love this illusion because it allows me to watch those that think they cannot be seen. I cheer those that, using a pen or a brush as a microphone, belt out about Rolling in the Deep, pound out on the dash their best impression of Neil Peart on Limelight or shred the solo of Sweet Child o’ Mine over the steering wheel. I applaud when I see people exploring their God given right to take their index finger and insert it directly into their nostril. I once saw a man in the car next to me on Wilshire Blvd. crying and punching himself in the face. It was barely noon and this man was in a deep ceded fight with himself and in broad daylight his pyrrhic victory was willingly and wildly exposed. The free ways are full of self expression and this is Los Angeles at it’s finest, at it’s most intimate. The HOV lanes are empty because it is a city of one, a city of singularity. In our cars we become people on display for others to gape at in wondrous amazement. Our consciousness refuses to separate from the television as the fourth wall of our lives is always revered and never breached.

People are not good to each other. This was whispered to me many years ago and I can see it in the faces of those with whom I share this city. I can see it in the lines of my face as I get older. If I have ever gone untouched, unspoken to, then how many of us have laid in bed, dreaming of that one person who left. Perhaps if they were, our deaths would not be so sad. How many of us cannot hold even our own gaze? I have found sweetness in my sympathy for others pain. I search to see myself in the people of this city and no correlate is too far fetched, no relation is too absurd. I am that Latino man who has “Trust No One” tattooed across his chest. I am drunk on Santa Monica Boulevard being subdued by an inappropriate amount of police officers. I am homeless on the beach throwing punches at the waves.

I was but three weeks in Los Angeles, still getting acclimated, still finding my way, still breathing in this wonderfully noxious air as if it was my first time breathing. I was excited to be in this city, of all cities, having dreamed of it at 16, the first time I read Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero. I had romanticized every aspect of living here so that most of my visualizations looked like scenes from an 80’s movie; the golden light streaming over the hills and through the big window that overlooked the blue of the Pacific. My visions knew no geographical bounds. However, I was soon to learn, as I still am learning, that most of what I thought Los Angeles to be was nowhere near to what Los Angeles is.

I sat watching TV; I hadn’t yet gotten cable in the new apartment, so I was subject to the local stations replete with their fascination of Golden Girls reruns and sensationalistic blood lust-like news casts. As I flipped through the seven stations for the eleventh time that hour, I began to hear a noise I wasn’t use to just yet. Guessing new sounds was a new game I played. Oooh!, I thought! A new sound to get accustomed to! It crackled and popped, like fire but no smell accompanied it. I turned off the TV, sat in the dark listening and looked to the front windows noticing how the light moved; far from a feature of the staid street lamps, this one danced and played off the walls of my small one bedroom. Both the sound and light increased in volume as I got to my feet and moved towards the window. I drew the blinds and discovered, down on the street below my apartment window, a Toyota Celica engulfed in flames. I instinctively jumped back from the window and hit the ground. I had seen this very thing in countless TV shows and movies. It was only a matter of moments before the fire reached the gas line and the car exploded, showering everything around it with shattered glass and metal. I’d be knocked down by the force of the blast and somewhere down the street, I imagined, was the culprit, walking in slow motion away from the scene, as the flames burned and grew in the background. I laid there on the floor, waiting for the big bang, thinking of how easy or difficult would it be to sweep broken glass off of carpet, as I had not yet gotten a vacuum. I laid there for a few moments more before I heard the sirens. I got to my feet, walked outside and the car was there burning, in no danger of exploding. A fittingly foreshadowing image; a promise of something great, exciting that never quite makes the grade. I kept staring at the fire, at its flames eating away at the interior, at the people gathering to ogle and in my head Neil Young sang how it was better to burn out than to fade away. I sat on my steps thinking this is much less exciting than in the movies. I sat there underwhelmed and watched it burn.

There are days when I want to burn it all down, to incite without, the revolution playing itself out within. I imagine the feel of the Molotov in my hand, the smell of burning gasoline. I imagine the bottle leaving my hand, its arc and subsequent breaking of the store front glass and the whole frame of the picture being gorged with flames. I imagine gathering round to loot the remains and pick the meat from the bones. Then I make eye contact with someone and that nightmare recedes and I am lost in the life of another. It is through them that my life is lived. It is found exactly at the point where my life ends and theirs begins. So, I sit in my car and observe the life that takes place on the freeways. I patiently wait for that perfect moment to break that fourth wall, to spoil and blemish all the proper rules of engagement and connect. I see this need out in Los Angeles, wanting to not just be filmed but truly seen. I will look into the eyes of Los Angeles, time will stop, history will end and we will fall in love. I know this in my bones.

In Los Angeles, amidst the no, I have found yes.

 

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Brendan is a dear dear friend of mine an I encourage you to connect with him here. Please leave comments to this beautiful essay below so he can see them and respond accordingly. This is his second guest post on The Manifest-Station. Click here to read his first. Thanks, tribe, xo jen

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