Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I've always loved my windows facing east. I've had a few of those, growing up. And West windows, which are great for afternoons. And an unlucky dark North one. That was shit. It makes you feel like you're always removed from life, you can see the bright sunlight and how it is there for others, but somehow not you.
But East is definitely a winner. That way you catch the sun rising in the morning, and you wake to a bright burst of sunshine through your window. Which happens on about three days a year here in England. The quality of morning light, between 9 and 10 am, is my favourite - it is at its most full-blown but still purest and unblemished... afternoon sun is yellower, heavier, dustier, making you feel more sluggish.
There was this painter – Monet, I think - who spent days painting the same scene over and over again, because the quality of light would change the quality of the scene so radically it seemed wholly new.
Take the Grand Canyon at sunset. Every five minutes it's practically a new planet.

I hate the word "Sun worshipper", but there is something to it - I can see why people worshipped a sun god. Sitting up in my bed in the mornings, that sun hits my face right on, a pink glow through my closed eyelids, and it feels like a drug coursing through my system. It is more immediate than any drug I can imagine, and purer, without the bad effects. Alcohol calms me and makes me feel carefree, but it always feels a little like grimy sludge in my system as well, it is never pure, perfect happiness.
Now I sit here, with my morning coffee, the caffeine mimicking the heartbeat of an excited child about to go on a seaside holiday, and fooling my consciousness into true but fleeting happiness, and my eyes are closed, blocking out the world, and I am getting, as they say at gas stations, a full tank.

It brings back my memories of Texas, of Arizona, of California, of how full of light these places were (I'm deliberately ignoring the dark underbelly that every American who lived there for some time will probably howl at me, while laughing at my cliche-ridden tourist view.) But fact of the matter is, I have spent some of my most perfect, complete days there, as short as they were... something which I probably, admittedly, would never achieve if I lived there for an extended period. Places are only fleetingly beautiful, they all show their true face eventually, and it is best to move on and not stay in a place long enough so you won't get violated by the badness of it.

I remember when I first walked down the street in Santa Monica, CA, and the road opened up and there was the Pier, bathed in Californian sun, that I had only seen on TV so far, that was a prop to years of daydreams, a focal point, something I clang to in my hope to get away. It had been a setting in a story I had dreamt up and written for years, a story that filled me completely over these years, like a counterpressure from inside me to stop the pressure of the world I hated around me from squashing me. And finally it was there, for real, just a few steps ahead of me instead of unreachable thousands of miles away, and I didn’t care whether it was just a tourist trap, it was beautiful and perfect to me. And the day remained perfect, from the people I met, to the music that blared from beach radios, to the scent, to everything that happened, and I wanted to bottle that day and take it with me like the vial of a drug that could put me into that happiness any day I needed it.

I remember when Pat and Patrick and I headed back from the Texan Gulf Coast to Dallas, and how Pat drove back via country roads, so we would see the beauty of Texas instead of the dull freeways, and how the heat beat down on us like a damp hammer made of cotton wool. We stopped in a place called Virginia, which had beautiful old trees and Southern mansions with giant American flags hanging limp and sleepy in the summer heat, long before patriotism had developed the nasty fundamentalist flavour it has now. I had a banana split blizzard from a Dairy Queen, which did little to quench the heat in my body but tasted so good, and it was a perfect moment of contentment and sublime happiness that I didn’t want to end.

Amazing how cheesy it sounds when I reread this. Maybe it feels sentimental now because I have lost the ability to feel that way, because it was based on innocence and naivety, two things I equally scorn and miss. If I had the choice to go back and be that naive again, I wouldn’t know what to do. It was bliss living in that ignorance, in that stupid mindless worship of something that didn’t really exist, but the joy of that worship was the main goal, not the object I worshipped. It just hurts like hell to have that innocence torn away from you, that ability to enjoy without being wary; I don’t want to go through that again. I would have it back, though, if I had a guarantee that I’d never lose it again. What have I gained from the knowledge I have now, from the cynicism realism. It's like Scout says in "Generation X":

"the price we paid for our golden life was an inability to fully believe in love; instead, we gained an irony that scorched everything it touched. And I wonder if this irony is the price we paid for the loss of God"

I have, since then, tried to re-create that happiness. It never works, of course, one only gets a snippet reminder, a weak version of the original burst, like that drug that will never be the same again after that first hit. I've kept memorabilia, I have a Mountain Dew bottle full of Death Valley sand that feels to me like I bottled some of that joy and I dare not open it lest that spirit of that day escapes or at least gets tainted by Today. I tried to grow my own Joshua Tree out of seeds I bought in a mid-desert store, and even though they promised me a mini tree after about 10 years, it has never grown past the size of a fleshy blade of grass, which makes me think this is exactly what they sold me: a fleshy blade of grass. I'm afraid to say I'm a gullible tourist.

Anything, anything that works.

And I am terrified, should I one day go back there, that it will never be the same carefree perfect beauty before, where the world unfolded in front of me like a perfect daydream, either because I am no longer capable of feeling that joy or because something will happen that will sully that dream. What else will I have if even that dream fails?

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