There's so much happening in the City of Angels. The last time I was here everything was slow. Excepting the public transportation, people seemed laid back. Maybe it's something to do with the recent influx of east coast transfers, eagerly seeking legal pot and jobs in the tech start-up industry. Or perhaps it's something to do with increasing social media usage, a lack of connection to the natural world fueled by Netflix binges and fancily prepared factory farmed dinners. I find myself so distracted by worrying about what's happening tomorrow these days, as if today were just a path to tomorrow rather than a time to celebrate itself.
A breeze in the mountains sneaks between the cracks of the valley, sprinkled with amateur graffiti and walkers with music exploding in their eardrums. "These people are missing everything," I say, and Lauren nods. We've traveled somewhat safely to the Eaton Canyon Park, dodging flying Jeeps and maneuvering the fastrak lane on 105 South to Pasadena. I spent the drive worrying about the never ending self criticism of music industry success, a misconception brought on by the always evolving online community and the corporate structure of modern day music that's forgotten the value of traditional storytelling.
Nowadays, it's all about mainstream mashups. Songs thrown together like a music salad, changing pitches and tones and incorporating a bass that shakes the earth and frightens small animals more than your average rock concert. No that it's bad, just different. Not my thing. But everything is becoming mechanized, an homage, I suppose, to the technology we're increasingly becoming more and more lost in as a society. No one can be spared. Sometimes I find myself scrolling through Facebook until I realize I've been zoning out for an hour and have other things to accomplish. Real things. Human things. A life I should be living.
I've been finding myself in nature recently to get away from it all. Whether it's a run or a trail or a short hike beside a local park or pond, sometimes I need to get away from my phone, from the people who only know me through a screen of well-researched and developed glass and the music I was writing over a year ago. I've grown since then and it's a shame no one knows.
The cold months make it harder to escape. Guitar strings don't do so well when it's 20 degrees outside and there's snow on the ground. That could be how I find myself in warmer weather, like California, wandering around playing music and living on blow-up mattresses and couches and hoping I can book shows based on experiences of homelessness and songs I haven't recorded yet.
In any case, the mountains seem to swallow those worries. The dirt under my fingernails feels familiar, like a song I remember in pieces of lyrics and begin to hum though it's been years since I've heard it. I grip the thick branches of a tree and climb upward, feeling the cracks and holes and signs of old age.
"Does this trail loop around?" I ask a couple of hombres sitting on a wall next to a small brook.
"There's a waterfall up there."
We keep walking past old pipelines and small bunker looking shelters where travelers have no doubt found refuge during rainy days. There's a drought and the water is low in the valley. The sun is blocked by thick pine trees carved with the names of people who have likely divorced over this or that. But the trees remain scarred. "I wonder if they feel that when it happens," Lauren says.
Off the trail, a fallen tree leads to a rock sharpied with a spoiler for the recent star wars movie. Beside the rock sits a Starbucks cup and several dirt-filled candy wrappers. Leaving Lauren below, I sit in the split in half tree, and wonder if the far branch can support my weight, allowing me to overlook the valley. To my left is a thin path that leads to the top of a rock. If I can get up there I'll be able to see the whole thing, I think to myself. Before I can reach the top, I see a swarm of bees blocking the way. The rocks were slippery and there's a chance I could've fallen into the brook below. I think those bees saved my life.
The waterfall the hombres told us about sits at the end of the path. A dead end with tall canyon walls. Shaded from the sun, other hikers are eating Lunchables and sitting on rocks and taking pictures. Immediately, I strip down to my skivvies and approach the knee deep pool that's formed at the bottom of the fall. My legs go numb when my feet hit the icy water. The cold is refreshing and revitalizes my spirit. I stand beneath the falls with my head under the stream, feeling the cold water hit my long hair and drop to the pool below. Standing in tree pose, I feel for my balance, digging my foot into the smooth rocks beneath the surface and holding strong.