I don't believe I will ever visit L.A. and be solely in the present moment, bug-eyed as a young alien stumbling anew onto a fresh planet. Zenlike presentmindedness eludes me. As long as I am alive I will go and I will remember. My heart will breathe in and out its episodic heaviness.
Tuesday morning I jogged in the sands in Redondo Beach. Back in the days I lived there I didn't jog.; I pumped iron and pranced aerobics at the gym while chasing skinniness. My 40-minute beach run framed itself into the ahhh yes of the pungent ocean air and the pounding waves [a bit rambunctious that morning they were]. I left my shoes and socks on a ledge and jogged barefoot. I played tag with the waves. I let my feet get wet.
I love the ocean. Growing up in Venice I will never forget falling asleep listening to the sounds of the waves, their distant rhythms soothing while family life crackled. Years later the boardwalk got dirtier and I longed for escape, especially after my father died. But as a child I listened to the waves breaking.
I jogged and breathed deeply. I thought of my life then in my early twenties. Why didn't I move back to the Westside to live closer to my beloved father? I kicked myself inwardly as I ran on the sand. What was I DOING here? Why in the hell wasn't I living in Venice?
I'm not sure what I was doing living in Redondo. I was beginning a long slide downhill and didn't know it. I went from being raised mostly in Venice Beach to a mid-teens parental split casualty with me 'n not-quite-together mom winding up in Palos Verdes. This was not a good move. Neither of us fit in. After two miserable high school years I went screaming out of the house as soon as I was of legal age and moved into in an 8x10' basement room of an elderly English couple in exchange for thrice weekly housework. I earned a pittance as a part-time Church secretary. A few years later I had my own apartment on the Esplanade, had said goodbye to Jesus and the Church, and thought that Top 40 bar bands were an exciting "calling" after my originals band disintegrated. I worked restaurants, offices and those L.A. bar bands. My father always filled in the blanks financially so I never starved - except of course in another delusional left turn.
I lived in Redondo until I didn't. And on this trip, for the first time since the early 1980's, I drove north along the beach roads to Venice in my rented Chrysler convertible with the top down. The last time I drove that route I was going to see my dad. It was and is embedded in my beingness. I drove and held my breath. He wouldn't be there this time. He died in 1988.
I found a parking spot on Pacific Avenue and walked the back streets to 28th and Speedway, the alley behind Ocean Front Walk. I looked at the hyper-priced cement monstrosities that were put up in place of the apartment building my father built in 1950. I walked past them slowly. "I used to live here," I thought-said to them, "and so did others… my mother, my father, my brother David… we all lived here and others did also. You don't know that. The old building is gone." Who knows what was there long before my father bought two oceanfront lots for $5,000 in what was known as a poor beach town?
I strolled northward along the boardwalk to the vendors and then walked "home." I don't know how to walk along there without feeling that I'd soon see Dad. He'd be there. He was my anchor. I loved him and never told him until after his stroke.
He died too young, before I could ask him enough questions, before I could listen more to his Brooklyn-tinged Yiddish accent, before I could let him load another bagful of groceries for me to take away. He was 73; I was 32. He is in my heart and prayers every day but I long to hug him and hear his voice once again.
Seems as if where I've lived isn't as important as what and who continue to live inside of me.