Driving at Night

driving at night

…a shop few people entered, not really a shop, more like a small desk in the Sorolla room, which housed gigantic, magnificent murals by the Spanish painter Joaquín Sorolla depicting scenes of everyday life, a woman dipping her foot in the ocean, an open-air market, horses, a religious festival…broke my fall with my hand and sprained my wrist, scraped my palm on the gravel, dust between slits, nothing, but any time I got hurt, fear of becoming dependent on family or strangers, to survive – destitute, high, deranged, on the wet rock in an alley.

[Two fears – of being destitute and of figuring out “who you are/what you want/finding yourself,” all that rite-of-passage/escaping from bartending hell/journey-type stuff – and the fear of being lost/down and out/having no money wins out and sends you back to the depths]

The contrast is striking – between neighborhoods, from Long Island City to Astoria, from industrial blight to public housing projects near Queensbridge Park to stately mini-mansions in Astoria, the bridge to Riker’s Island, and rows of houses, working-class, blue collar America, American flags in front yards or hanging above front doors, statues of the Virgin Mary, a red bumper sticker on the back of a pickup that says “TRUMP” in all capital letters, rapid transformations, drastic leaps from just one block to the next.

Evolution, dread of having to pick up where I left off, and of figuring out where that is, diving back in…slow change, like water wearing away the surface of a rock over time, gradually and inevitably, new patterns, shapes, forms emerge…The industry, money, scene lures you back even as you seek escape…repetition, cycle, routine, another day (or another night), a rhythm – I’m used to it by now.

…on the plane ride to LA, in the days following and all during the first weeks I obsessively repeated the plan like a mantra, head shots, resume, reel, and also asking myself, Am I covering everything? Am I missing anything? Am I getting this right? But I knew there was no right answer to these questions, as there is no right answer to, How do you become a journalist or a writer? “There are no rules, man,” which could be daunting, overwhelming, gave me a sense of freedom but also felt like staring at the ocean or at a desert and trying to figure out where I needed to go [fear – herein lies the root – uncertainty, sense of being lost] yet there was no landmark or sign to orient myself, so I tried to cover the essentials and took everything everyone told me seriously yet with a grain of salt, follow my gut and just hustle, in the same way I tried to serve everyone at a slammed bar, all at once, while knowing it was impossible and whoever I didn’t get to, they’d wait, but no longer than 30 seconds because they needed a drink and I wanted their money.

Whether this writing leads to discovery – who I’ll talk to, which questions I need answered –  clarity, shape, structure, a vision of the arc, until then, dread, anxiety, loom until I choose a direction  – today I feel lost as I look at my iCal, dive back into what in my memory is chaos, as though revisiting a recurring nightmaredesperate sense of losing something at the same time as you sank deep into LA bartending depths…Snap backs and tat-toosWatch it, watch it, a warning.

…details, flooded, drowning, as thought trying to get to every screaming face at that eternally slammed bar, inundated in orders and alcohol – or is this the writing I have to do before I get to the writing I need and want to do, finding the shape and architecture of the story, creating, reconstructing from memory and chronology…yet I can’t keep up with thoughts as they crush, flood, swallow me, but keep pounding away, head down, next drink, ‘til I find the flow and crank out ten at a time, swipe two cards, split the check, take cash, with hustle, sweat, all falls into place, ‘til I unravel, break down, get out, do it again, pattern, fate, it is written…this story has taken hold of me and I fear I’ll never find it, like bartending madness, poisoned, point of no return, driven by fear, obsession, a need to relive it and make sense of it. I didn’t choose this, it chose me. I drive at night, always at night.