What a long strange trip it's been.
Vaccine #2. 4/23/21. CVS, Arleta.
How to celebrate pandemic birthday #2: Last year, when pandemic was new, I took the day off work and walked around Burbank. This felt scary and daring, and after six weeks at home, I relished the sight of every squirrel, every food truck.
A year later, that wasn’t gonna do it, so I rented a car and drove up to Ojai (pronounced O.J. by Siri), at the foot of the Las Padres National Forest.
I woke up in a cute hotel, of course I had to work a while, then picked up lunch and hiked up an old fire road.
I looked at my Fitbit. How do 4,000 steps feel longer on a hike than it would just going about my day? Fuzzy math.
I work all week, 9-7, 9-8, even 9-9. I wake early in the morning, glance at my phone, delete things I don’t need, tell myself I'm getting ahead of the work day, which is about helping other people tell stories.
Then today I rented a little car. I got a Mazda this time. I went out to the desert, out past the wind farms, out past the FM band, to look up at red cliffs. I walked a state park trail, then drove through the campground loop, where people set up tents and campers in the shadows of buttes. I envy them their relaxation in nature.
I plugged in my phone, listened to Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, whoever. Singer-songwriters who tell stories.
I work and work, but sometimes I go out into the desert and spot myself in the shadow of a red butte. I remember what my life intended itself to be. I think about people with their pandemic hobbies, their breadmaking and their skating and their projects.
All that time I should have been finishing a book. No. Starting a book.
Sometimes I think everyone is writing but me.
I just read a friend's post about what specific songs evoke in us as individuals, moments that are so meaningful to us, to me, just to one person. And like others, I have so many moments, but here's one that feels so real to me.
1988. We were careening into the Holland Tunnel on an early summer evening. I don't remember who all was in the car, but it's a safe bet that I was driving my second old Volvo. The car windows were all down. The Volvo probably didn't have a/c anyway.
Peak pandemic moment. Yesterday, I took a rental car to a storage complex in an industrial part of North Hollywood, where a guy texted me an entry code.
I pulled up to a unit that faced the driveway, where a masked guy named Junior let me try different used Aeron chairs.
"They are mostly set chairs, not really used in offices," Junior explained.
Now I have a used Aeron chair in Burbank as well as a used one in Jersey City. The NoHo ones to me looked clearly re-sprayed, which checks out for set pieces. And I am giving away my old IKEA chair on Buy Nothing, so I don't have to worry about hauling it to Goodwill.
It's hard for me to look at photos from ten years ago. My plan, made before the pandemic and work promotion, would have put me on the eastern coast of South America today, preparing to board a ship to West Africa. My idea for Marie's World Tour 2021 had been to head by land to Panama, sail around the Darien Gap to Cartagena, then go overland (Venezuela was an X factor) until I got to Brazil. From there, there are ships to West Africa.
But instead, I'm going to Riverside Drive to sit outside with a friend near the Toluca Lake Farmers Market. Same idea, right?
Here's a photo album from April 4, 2011.
Even more nostalgia--on the first Marie's World Tour, 2001, April 4 was spent on a train from Nanning to Yangshuo. I'd boarded in Hanoi, and headed into my first-ever trip to mainland China. I remember being a bit anxious, but of course that wasn't necessary. I don't remember being anxious on the buses and shared taxes that got me from Sevare, Mali, to Djenne. I remember being tired and irritable, getting off the bus at the crossroads and waiting hours for the share taxi to fill up.
Marie's World Tour 2021 looks more like some little trips to places within a three-hour time zone radius of Burbank.
I rented a car for vaccine week for maximum flexibility, which it turned out I didn’t need.
But I’ve still got the car and am making the most of it. I drove to see my visiting hair stylist yesterday (masked, outside) and my Patti Smith look is now more kempt, and today I am at Lake Arrowhead.
Bitch of a drive out the hideously dull I-210 but the mountain road is lovely.
Here's a closing parentheses to go alongside the opening parentheses of the routine colonoscopy I enjoyed on March 16, 2020.
And so it ends, or begins to end, much as that was merely a moment in a long, overwrought beginning phase.