There are so many directions to take, so I’m going to try to follow all of them. I think this is about more than avocados. It does have something to do with health, finding a way back, running and driving away from the dark side as embodied in nighttime depravity, seeking some kind of redemption. I don’t know where I’m going so I keep gathering facts, information and writing.
For whatever reason, I keep hearing the words “drive” and “driving” in my head as I write and think about this story, for their literal and metaphorical meanings. Michael brought up the film Somewhere, and that word also resonates, the sense of being in a place physical and mental, undefined and unidentified. The multiplicity of LA stories, trying to make sense of an elusive clutter that is called a beautiful place. And “edge” – without ever saying it to myself, at the time or now, for me, life in LA was life on the edge in more ways than one. Everyone, it seemed, cultivated their own edge, wanted to be edgy and admired edginess in others, or they were on edge or about to go over some edge.
Cash crops. Avocados, yerba mate, coffee beans, tea. A pile of rotted roots. Fraught history, violence in the present, drug cartels, extortion, vigilantes. Lethal for some animals.
I recognize that what we see at the beginning of writing a story so often changes, yet the struggle, the journey, is the story. I try to keep this in mind as I barrel forward to offset the maddening uncertainty of not knowing the frame. Cissi brought up the idea of redemption, which, while it may not be the central theme of this story, is interesting to consider in the context of fleeing, getting out of one place, and seeking refuge, antidote, safety in something natural and seemingly disconnected and looking at it as a means of escape. Setting off on a quest – animated by a question – why did I leave? I came to know nightlife’s ills firsthand and feared I’d lose the memory of my former self as I became more and more a prisoner of the lifestyle, the hustle.
Last Friday, June 17, I spoke with Anna about the notion of survival – the avocado as a form of survival – a means of subsistence. My life was not in great danger, not in any literal sense – working as a bartender was a choice – yet I felt, somehow, on an edge, all the time, and always on the verge of crossing it, or getting pushed over it. I mentioned a 2003 LA Times article on demise of the mother of all Hass avocado trees, and the image of its rotten roots, sitting in a pile in a nursery near Ventura.
In my notebook, I wrote:
Avocado – the symbol for everything good in your life…something you feel good about…but the roots turn rotten…a chopped down tree, a pile of wood – what to do with that pile of wood – the image conjures thoughts of your bartending past, of the memories – memories that haunt you and you don’t know what to do with them…the lore, the mythology of this fabled tree…the idea that what took so long to create could be chopped down in a day…it all came from that tree…the notion of something practical, something that can be put to use, that serves a purpose. And, the theme of survival, propagation.
“Really, the tree lives on,” the nurseryman quoted in the article said. “We are propagating many thousands of them every year.
“The wood really isn’t that significant to me. As long as we have living examples of that tree throughout the world, that’s where we will continue to feel the connection.”
I imagined this chopped down tree, a pile of wood, and connected it to LA memories, thoughts I’m struggling to make sense of – a reckless hedonism and a who-cares abandon I observed in the people around me, which I took to the extreme in my work as a bartender until it began to bleed into the rest of my life, less in practice and more in mentality, in state of mind, causing me to panic as I felt control slipping away, everything, it seemed, falling to pieces. Reaching for what I want to say feels like trying to dig a hole in concrete.