blinded stupid by the sun

(Excerpted from a group email; originally titled “dear everybody”)

16 May 2000 3:28pm
Boise, Idaho

Some of you getting this may say: “What the heck is Otto doing in Idaho?”

Others: “What the heck is Otto doing in Idaho again? He was just there two months ago!”

The first group replies: “He was just in Idaho two months ago?”

“Yes,” replies a representative of group two. “I thought this time he was scouting for apartments in Eugene, Oregon.” Which will cause members of both groups to start mumbling to themselves: Oregon? What is wrong with that boy?

This doesn’t even address the puzzled refrain common from a third group: “Otto’s still alive?”

Yes, I’m afraid I’m bad about keeping in touch. I’m bad about writing in general; I think about it far more than I actually do it, and while they say for some things it’s the thought that counts, I imagine very few of you can read my thoughts. In fact, I imagine none of you can, else I’d have heard about it from some sort of government agency, greeting me with either an arrest warrant or a straitjacket.

If Hitchcock had made a film about me, it might have been called “Horrid Correspondent” — a pun that should probably get me that straitjacket shipped over in quite a hurry. Or might get this email deleted instantly and frankly, I wouldn’t blame you. I’m sorry.

And I just see it about to get worse. (My sad timing at keeping in touch, not the puns. I’m afraid they’ve hit rock bottom.) This is what I see:

I love Los Angeles dearly, and I love all my friends there, but somehow, I’ve lost my way and a great deal of my enthusiasm for trying to find it. On my long trip in March (to be detailed later, for those unfamiliar with it but curious) I came to realize that a break was in order, a long one. Six months, perhaps, or six years, or even forever, although I can’t imagine not getting back to LA regularly for visits to various people and places that strike me as essential, because the city is not the problem.

The problem is somewhere in me, of course; there’s nowhere else for it to hide. But even after eight years in Los Angeles and more than seven in one apartment — longer than I’ve lived in one city my whole life, let alone one set of walls — the city still looks to me like a constant blur of color and noise that never stops. This is not bad; the place is always alive, with a gentle pulse from the roots of the city, its soul, deep in the occasionally shifting sand, impossible to spot if you’re looking for it but surrounding you the moment you stop searching. There are always cars on the roads; steel blood cells in the arteries, a constant movement that I can sense, at least in my apartment two blocks off the 101. It’s not like the New York City of my childhood with palm trees painted in by the scenery department. NYC races and gallops; LA strolls and wanders.

The soft murmur of the city’s heart and the strolling pace and the constant sun has lulled my mind and whispered in my ear that it’s okay to have been through some of what I’ve been through, that I don’t need to stop and think about it, to sort out how I got where I am and how to get where I’m going.

If only this was true.

Perhaps for a native it is; the natural light therapy may be enough for those born to it, just as the occasional earthquake lends an understanding of the uncontrollable randomness of things. To me, though, born in NYC and raised near the north shore of Long Island, the sun is after a while just blinding, and the earthquakes still scare the hell out of me. I need to break from the trance of the place, get away from my routines piloting another steel blood cell, and stop. And think. Sort out where I’m coming from and where I’m going.

Eugene looks small, quiet, green. It’s time to explore again.


This was published on 16 May 2000.
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