Tuesday, September 3, 2013

You Can't Take it With You (thoughts upon a cross-country move after eight years)


My perspective from three weeks ago seems packed away beneath the many encounters and thoughts upon arriving, but a round-up of my last California days and the long ride here seemed a place and time to preserve.
Three weeks of gradually vacating our room, after the decision was made firm, provided a retrospective of our stay. Photos of Escondido reminded me of the replenishing optimism that once dwelt with the palm trees and rugged young mountains here within the scent of the sea beyond the skyline.

I think the sheer amount of intellectual property, and the many, many hours spent practicing drawing, writing, and music, were the most apparent artifacts, as we packed. You find ideas and processes, year by year, in layers. Honestly, so much of our pre-laptop days work was left abandoned on the floor. Many drawings of shaky uncertainty, striving to be beautiful and cool, were given one last look before hitting the recycling bin. I tried to embrace the fun we’d had making these odds and ends, how much further our skills progressed over time. At least we’d been happy making the drawings: front desk breaks Angela gave were often occupied with a new drawing of a character or person we knew, and I found so many pages of layouts, story plots, even an entire comics I drew for the Stuckwayze characters that needs re-drawing, but there it is. I’m so sorry for the lyrics and written-out songs that may not ever make it here, though I did leave a box behind in desperation for a friend to mail me later. For that matter, she has the remainder of our purses and bottles we made. Those too were once time-consuming artistic efforts, particularly for the Marc Kane. I am sorry we did not have more energy and money to promote them better, but perhaps we’ll try again. The Recession was our real enemy. People loved what we made.
Among the numerous ideas from years before: Sunstrike, a science fiction tale about a man taken from Earth to become a champion of rebels of another world, Luxitica. I wanted to tell the story of how he copes with his return home, the lives that have continued on without him, and his place now with this most dubious resume. “That gap in my work history is from my time as a super-powered champion, so I’m a very motivated worker, quick thinking on my feet…” So much there. I suppose characters have always been my interest over an in-depth look at science ideas as plot motivator. More of a Bradbury writer than an Asimov: a layman for sure. I’d envisioned the whole thing as a 107 issue comics series that began publication in 1974, a favorite device of my youth. The Luxitican/ Earth dual existence was the subject of the first fifty issues (before he acquires his partner Valkyrie Maiden). I think it’s a good basis for a novel, actually. Imagining a vivid parallel past is a recurrent past time apparently, for me.
Those two characters played into another series I wanted to actually write and draw the next year. I am lucky to have finished the one comic we published en masse (D’n’A: The Mountain, with its upcoming sequel) along with the five smaller efforts we completed in 2007-9, considering I typically was working a job and writing and practicing a LOT of songs.

The novel I was already writing by the time we came to California had been the Marc Kane’s focus this summer; she typed up thousands of hand-written words. But the cohesive power for renewing the effort evaporated. I don’t mean for it to sound sad, but after our bikes were stolen, we realized we were drained. The hotel was not even what it used to be. We missed everyone. There’s a new generation to influence. Friendships to explore and revive. Parents who need our company and siblings who need our inspiration. We were Sunstrike, yearning for home.

What can I say about the friendships we made? We were kind of far apart, in many cases. You know it can be hard enough to get everyone together. Imagine living in a single room, in a hotel where you have to let the guest in at the front so no “dropping by”----and no car, too. The line about the trolleys and the buslines’ great convenience was not one prospective gigging musicians could swallow anymore. And what’s a new friendship in Encinitas mean when the last bus out leaves at 8:18 pm? And save for one person, the snobs in North Park were too wrapped up in their own worlds to really penetrate their consciousness with anything but repetitious appearances there. Sad to say, after they sold my last place of work, bus money became scarce. And what could’ve become of us in Ocean Beach, where we used to bike in the summer and fall? Where we played Winston’s and smashed into the surf? One day, I’d like to know. I thought I might get too old to care, but that sort of depressing box has dissolved in the sea.
Clearly, new jobs would mean saving enough to move to a real neighborhood instead of downtown. But new jobs there, with that goal, would still not avail us a trip back to Georgia. It wouldn’t save money for finally going overseas. Besides, hadn’t we been prepared to live that lifelong dream, last year? Not to mention, we thought we were beloved and cared for at our destination. I don’t think we ever really recovered from that all being unfulfilled, shall we say. New friendships were popping up all the time, though, and between Meet-Ups and the drawing group we were just joining…but, no. No real energy for it anymore. Too many flake-outs, no more bikes. Sure, we could endure, we could buy new bikes, get new jobs, re-double. It was just too long. The scales tipped. There was nothing we could not have there as easily by returning one day. It’s all still there. It’s all still beautiful.

But the same argument could be made for the home we’d left in Georgia, too. Maybe it was time to re-collect some of those energies, those memories, those opportunities---those people. We had listened to our voice inside to go to Cali, and now the flow says Georgia. So many hugs, conversations, things to do and see. Besides: if we really had re-discovered a new dream for overseas to replace the lies about Croatia, wasn’t it time to see everyone in Georgia, where we grew up, again? So Georgia was on our minds. Where once I had envisioned what we might do next in San Diego, or even another California city, now all we could daydream about was what we longed to do, in a place we’d replaced as home years before. We’d learned a lot: we were better at everything we set out to do, and came back with loads of material to develop and experiences that really get covered up so fast as soon as you ask someone back here how things are going. I’ve told no more about California, it turns out, than I told about Georgia, out there.

I can honestly say, the sheer exhaustion of packing up over $420 worth of postage and giving away our things was a job!!! But many things found good homes. Some of our things may yet sell over there. Getting to the Greyhound on time became everything. I am so glad we went to the Spanish Landing one last time. I had to agree with Angela, the old bike paths were not going to be same after dreaming of Kaya joining us there, but not one regret entered my mind that I swam where once we saw the dolphins, and the three birds take to the horizon together. The sun was a joy, even I accidentally burned when we were late to the next bus out. The beach was idyllic, and we got seaweed for Mom (it’s good for breathing, she says). The park was wonderful. Worth the bus trip! I lay in those harbor waters and thought: “this is why I love California.”

Little Rock, Arkansas
Our closest friends were at hand to see us off; our goodbyes were hopeful, our optimism undimmed, and our conversations, lively. Some people were busy: I had been led on to think we’d get a recording to take home, but I don’t regret seeing that friend, either. He was full of alternative plans we may have explored. But it was too late for all of that the day we realized Kaya wasn’t coming, and that’s okay. It’s all still there. We’ll go back with cd’s, songs on ITunes, at least $3000. Thanks to Janice, I know we have a place to crash while we get situated. The days of landing with a bag each, a guitar, and $400 or so in a place we know no one were wonderful, they’ll never die in my spirit---they showed me what we are worth, to ourselves, what we would do to preserve our souls and transform! It wasn’t our fault we left for Cali with so little, and it ever more held us back, but we managed to spend not one night homeless (technically). We went after our dream All the way to Georgia, I still thought of little else. It’s just too strong to ever die now! I don’t think I’ll ever be so down as before again. Sure you never know, but we really do have the tools now.

Angela had a good time sitting with the Mexican-American lunchroom lady, whose son serves in Afghanistan. She loves her little job. She prays every day for him. What a homecoming, someday.
I read a Defenders comics storyline on the ride out that had some ideas I’ve been meaning to re-visit with a very busy friend. I daydreamed alternative, modern art ideas for the Ghost Rider sequence in #96, creatively stirred by potential, pleased my ability to envision pages was reviving. I read a beloved copy of ROM #24, the comic I stole Jr. Church collection plate money to buy (I just stole four quarters for the purpose of getting SOME thing I wanted, had no ideas except to sneak off to the FINA station). Nova gives up his powers on the world he saved, Xandar. He’s willing to be Richard Ryder again, just so he can see Earth. He walks up the path to his house. His Mom, Dad, and brother and friends surely all think he’s dead. “Worse---have they rented his room?” As much as I enjoyed the whole story (forbidden fruit!), I guess the impact of that scene is one of the most powerful things I ever read in a comic book, or any book. Even if it’s just tying up loose ends for a character whose creator had left Marvel, it encapsulates so much about living out a wild dream, and giving it up to return home. But what home will you find?
I thought of our favorite songs, the ones I see us playing in front of a huge crowd. I can only hope to do so in front of a crowd as large as the Youtopia crowd in October that I gave up so we could leave. A 2,000 person festival, three stages. I met the organizer, right place, right time. Damn. And just as we were getting bookings, too, like the one Sept. 25th. What would we have found after that, I wonder?

My favorite site before the Georgia line was the amphitheater beside the river in Little Rock, as pointed out by the fellow returning from near-death in the oil fields. Just imagining playing live down South was refreshing. When all you have is daydreams, why not fill the time with good ones? Especially ones you have no reason to believe are impossible. Logistics be darned. You just know there's some way!

I can honestly say it’s daunting to start over, trying to find a way into anything that big, an opportunity that cool…it’s the best thing we left behind, career-wise. I just wish we had that crowd (and that they wouldn’t be texting through the whole show), to give that high energy to them, and that footage. Leaving that break right now hurts more than leaving her old journals and the writings from my struggling days when Dad was dying.
But daunting or no, why wouldn’t we try? Even if it takes us until Sri Lanka.

...and the bus station in Memphis!
I had such a chance to evaluate before leaving. We learned so many songs just for Valentine’s Mexican Restaurant, alone, over the summer. Some idiot bumped into Angela and knocked our bonsai out of her hand at the station, but Shang Chi made it after all and is thriving in the sun. I did a few minutes of yoga every time the bus stopped. The first morning, after being really uncomfortable sunburned and exhausted, I just wanted to escape the bus. Not one inch of the Southwest called to me to live a life there. Greyhound was exceptionally crazy but we were safe; we had 3 bus switches on our tickets but wound up with eight. Enduring the trip was mind over matter, but it’s not hard to find a more difficult story. Besides, we eventually ended up with some nice company after Arkansas. We picked nineteen year-old Kayden up in the very first town that looked like a place I could stand to live. She started a convo with Angela about the comic book t-shirt, heard about our comic book, told us about the instruments she learned on her own, talked a little geek culture with us, then told us the story of her memory loss and her struggle to come back as a person. She asked to hang with us in Memphis. She was there when I sang to the Nashville terminal, three songs that won some surprising applause. It made up for the extra hour-plus wait somewhat. Hey, I wrote two of those songs!

Ideas, hopefulness about who we can help and all the fun we could only have in Georgia, and freedom from that tiny apartment where we’d worked so hard, grown so much, and laughed so much. There’s a whole other story to tell that happened there, and the story of how the Kane and I began as Angela and Cecil years ago, and where we are going, was written there, too.
All my recollections were geared towards what I want to work on in the near future, and who I want to see. That’s the story we’re really writing now, and have been, for the past two weeks. That’s a tale for another time!


Smorg said...

Sure miss you guys here in San Diego. Hopefully Georgia is being good and that things are looking up for you over there, though! :o)

cecil disharoon said...

Every time we remember you, we smile, Smorg. In fact, I have to repair my sister's mountain bike---replace the tubes---hopefully with tools you gave us that made the trip! Georgia's been so good to us...the sheer number of smiles and laughs and placid thoughts are my present content. When I see San Diego again, I hope to be on four stronger feet! And we just got hired to make a new comic book, and more. Wishing you all the best, too, my biking sister!!