Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year’s Eve 2014

2015 is 4-1/2 hours away and things are quiet. Very quiet. I’m perched in flat which is in a building over 100 years old. Quite old for California. Or anything West of the Mississippi. And this apartment is also filled with old stuff. None of it mine. Which makes me feel like a ghost haunting this fine space.

A young woman on the street three floors below just yelled out, “Happy Fucking New Year!” and I agree. It was a lovely burst to puncture the silence.

And oh, the silence.

There is no TV here. We have no internet yet. I played the radio on my phone during the day to find out what’s happening in town and to feel less alone, but I’ve only got 1 bar and the radio comes in and out (fuck Verizon and their “best coverage in the country”). I even tried talking to a poor friend stranded in Iowa (not for New Year’s, but for life, for the time being. Oh, our lives take such strange paths!) and when I called to wish him a happy new year, the connection was so crackly it sounded like a long distance call from the 1920s, or maybe a radio message to a ship out on stormy seas.

So I turned off the radio, and I’m letting myself sit without distraction for the first time in a long, long time. I’ve lit a candle and it’s so quiet, it doesn't feel contemporary. It's like this could be San Francisco from 1969. Hunter S. Thompson could be in an apartment just below me. (Sadly, the actual tenant couldn't be further from such a fantasy.)

So I’m trying to relax into the silence. But it’s hard. After a year living with a wonderful woman who lived with the TV on, who for her it was the calming ocean that let her concentrate and for me it was a constant distraction unconsciously driving me mad and preventing me from burrowing into anything that required concentration and imagination. So getting used to listening to the refrigerator and the wind in the trees in the park across the street and the occasional passing Vespa revving up the hill is hard at first. But I know the silence is challenging me. I have to earn it. To stay in it…. Before it rewards me. It’s challenging me to put down the phone and not hit up the Facebook like it’s a crack pipe. And I’m feeling the depths of my addiction.

I’m wishing I had an old Remington to write on, but I had to resort to opening my laptop to type this because I didn’t want to journal. I wanted to write. Because I wanted to share this with you. Whoever you is. Even though I can’t post this tonight. And that means I have to type.

Before I opened the computer, I lit a candle and had some food. Not just the stunning cheeses I’ll tell you about in a second, but in preparation for a night of drinking, I got some Popeye’s fried chicken. I know I’m terrible, but that greasy fried goodness will do wonders to cut through the haze when everything else is closed on New Year’s Day.

I’m sipping my third shot of Buffalo Trace because the Jack at the corner store was jacked up too much and then I discovered I live near a Bi-Rite - the one on Diviz - Hallelujah. I knew the one in The Mission. The separate ice cream shop by Delores Park was the first place I tried salted caramel ice cream which got me eating ice cream for the first time since I was kid. My late night binging has grown quite bad since then, though in LA, in the absence of Bi-Rite, I found myself some Valenti at most stores which did the job of fattening me up quite nicely.

I stopped in Bi-Rite looking for whiskey, and chanced on the Buffalo Trace, but as an adherent of "Old No. 7," I had to think it over whether I could betray my old sour mash for this new young thing. And as I wandered about, I hovered by a lovely display of cheeses. Out of nowhere, a chubby man in a beard approached me, introduced himself as Zach and asked if he could help me find something. I couldn’t believe I was interacting with another human. It was like I was in another country. Or another time. The anonymity of shopping in LA is complete besides brief pleasantries with Trader Joe’s checkout guys who I assume are happy because they actually get health care.

I told Zach I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but something new for the new year. He helped me narrow it down. “Hard or soft?” It’s so cold outside I said soft. And I added, “I could go with something… pungent.” The lack of a girlfriend who disdained the stinky cheeses gave me some newfound freedom there. He brought back Harbison from Jackson Hill, VT where he said it got tones that tasted like you were drinking milk in the thick of a forest in summer. I had a smudgy bit and… he nailed it. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t cheap, but I wanted more. I said, “Now how about something to pair with whiskey? Because I’m sticking to just that tonight.” He said he had just the thing and returned with L’Amuse Signature Gouda. Aged 2-1/2 years by this old lady (I’ve already forgotten her name) in Holland and imported by Essex Street Cheese.

I just now before writing this sentence paused to cut off a sliver of L’Amuse and put it on a slice of multi-grain batard I got the day before at La Boulange in Cole Valley where I was meeting with a composer I might be working with. And just typing that makes me feel like I’m in Paris. But America. But Paris. Or a city. A REAL City. Not LA. Or maybe this is like anywhere except LA. I’ve lived in LA too long to remember what it’s like almost anywhere else.

Then again, it wasn’t like this in Africa. But it feels like Africa.

In 2009 I spent 3 months abroad. My writers’ Assistant job finished, and I didn’t get a new one immediately, so I knew I’d be with one for a few months during the summer lull. So I moved out of the house that was about to be sold and put my things in storage. Then I flew off to Israel for an entertainment workshop where I met more high level execs (as in presidents of networks) than I ever have in my entire life. From there, I thought I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, and it’s RIGHT THERE. So I hopped on a flight to Jo-Berg and spent the next 5 weeks trekking from the Transkei to Capetown to Namibia and Botswana.

Botswana was the most boring. Ten hours of driving between campsites through arid desert in the back of a bus, but… BUT… I descended into the silence and I found my well of creativity. For the first time in years.  Hollywood had covered it up and thrown it into a tar pit and sudeenly, slowly, like and X-Wing from the bogs of the Degoba system, my connection to creation was magically dredged to the surface.

I was able to hear the bubbling of something from nothing. And it was in that silence and in the monotony of the endless desert road that I had more brainstorms. More inspiration. More tapping into the nether world from which ideas come, than I’d had in a decade.

All from the silence.

So here I am. Back in Africa. Or Paris. Or San Francisco.

And I’m writing.

Because… Silence.


  1. Thanks Simone! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. BTW, Is this Simone B. who I briefly worked with a few months back?