Friday, September 19, 2008

my birthday

Ashley dropped me off at my car, parked where we had left it the previous night, before the sun dried up the effects of the whiskey through the living room windows of her Los Feliz apartment, where I awoke on the couch.

What I looked upon as she drove off to work, which I had failed to see through the darkness and drunkeness, was row after row of Victorian houses, in various states of preservation.  I slid the burned copy of the new Kings of Leon record from my pocket into my CD player, and with the windows all down in the warmth of the morning, I slowly edged through the neighborhood, looking at the details, the shingles, the moldings, the ironwork, the colors of paint, the shape of the windows, and I let it bring me gradually down to Echo Park Lake.

I parked the car across the street, and walked towards the water, the fountain spraying off behind the boathouse, where joggers and families and men with fishing-rods and shirtless bums passed along the walkway, across the lawns, under the palm trees.  I hadn't had a chance yet, to digest Twenty-Four.  I had yet to take a deep breath and see if it felt or tasted any different, if my perspective had changed, if any meaning had altered beneath the surface overnight.

Walking around the lake, I focused on the geese, moving slowly along the edge of the water or bobbing idly on the soft current.  I found one spotted in black, only it's neck and chest pure with white feathers, and I smiled.  I liked that goose.  I could relate to that goose.  I always relate to the odd-man-out, to the underdog.  If I were a goose, I would be that black goose, not disfigured, not ugly, not standing out in a flash, but individual, and trying to own it, trying to live a happy goose's life despite the inconsistency of it's plumage, proudly displaying its flaws. 

I rounded the lake, looking off, and across, and listening, focusing on my new number, and the first moments of a fresh age.

Sitting down along the bank, a mother and son walked up and sat down beside me.  Pleasantly ignoring each other, I watched as she opened a bag of bread crumbs, and he reached in his little hand, and with all his might, scattered a fist full of stale bread into the water before us.  

Immediately there were geese, and then coots, clicking their beaks, and beside me a little deformed blackbird hopped towards us on one foot, cocking his head to one side and the other, and then the pigeons swarmed, and the little boy threw another handful out into the water, and another and then one out over the pigeons on the grass, until all of the big chunks of bread were gone.  His mother poured out the small flakes left in the bag, and the pigeons closed in while she took her son by the hand and continued down the path.

The birds dissipated, and I pulled out my phone and texted everyone.  I told them where and when, and I sat by the lake as long as it felt right, making some calls I had to make, taking care of some business, and taking a minute and taking it in.  I was in no hurry.

At some point I looked at the clock on my phone and it was 11:11, so I made a wish.

It's funny, I used to wish for grandiose or distant fantasies, things that come only to few, and make everyone itch just a little, and I made a lot of those wishes come true --  I mean, the things I have seen and done that I haven't found an inspiration to write down here, the stories and stories I have to tell, without much of anything to show for it...  -- The difference on the morning of my Twenty-Fourth birthday, was this:  When prompted to make a wish, I wished for something that is simple, is available to anyone who desires to make the effort to recognize it, and to practice it, and appreciate it, because life isn't all about the stories you have to tell, its about living it...

Eventually I got back in my car, and began driving home.  It was a long drive.  On the day I turned 23, I drove down to LA.  On the day I turned 24, I drove back.  It was a rebuilding year, a year for sorting and for inventory, to filter out the habits and conditions of the previous years, to set a good foundation for those to come.  I thought a lot on the ride and was sleepy when I arrived back in Oakland so I fell asleep for a while before heading across the bridge.

When I got over there, I walked into the bar right on time, right when I told everyone I would be there, and stepping out the back door, I looked at the mass of people drinking on long picnic tables, heard the sound of a hundred voices, and the crunch of gravel under feet.  Feeling like I shouldn't be there and not knowing if my friends were somewhere in that crowd, I turned around, hurried past the bouncer, out the front door, and down Valencia.

I stopped in front of a brand new coffee shop, lit up behind steel gates.  It was beautiful, and kept thinking about how much I would like to see it as a feature in a nice glossy interior design publication.  I looked at the shapes of the tables and the counter, at the roasting machinery in the back, tasteful art on the walls of the tall and open room, until a woman stopped beside me while her dog inspected a tree, and I felt a little too conspicuous dissecting a closed coffee shop.

I came to an alley down the way, the buildings on either side framing the near full moon which lit the murals and the graffiti pieces on the walls, and the scattered trash on the pavement, and I stopped and appreciated it.

At 16th street, I watched people pass for a few minutes, and the cars at the stoplights, and I began to get impatient, and turned back around again.

Back at the bar I found my close friends, all tied by a thread of common interest.  All of us are so different, and there must be some underlying sensation that we all share, something that pushes us all to allow music to define our lives, but I am still shocked that I find myself again and again with these same guys, and girls, that we keep showing up, keep supporting one another.  The opening track on my new album is called, "Every Time I Leave (I Leave For Good)," and I am now realizing more than ever that there is no tie that can be severed, however you try to break it, or abandon it.

We got pitchers of beer, so dark that you can't see through it - just like I like it - and we drank and more and more people showed up, and I would jump from my seat, and give them a hug, more excited to see them, seemingly, than they were to see me.  Everyone broke into their own little discussions, and I was happy to have been the reason to bring everyone together on that particular night.

At some point Aaron looked up at the sky and back at me, and said, "Hey, you wanted it to be a clear night tonight, and it looks like you got it."  And he continued by pointing out the orange and blue light on the steel beams holding up the freeway overpass beyond the concrete walls of the courtyard.