Look in Thy Journal, and Tell the Face Thou Viewest…
I think it takes relatively large balls to read one’s old journals, especially if they contain things like your poetry from High School, ruminations on old girlfriends, thoughts about what you wanted to do for a living and so on. I admire people who don’t hesitate to run their fingers over old scars, looking for insight. Of course, there are some who look through their juvenilia and see only gold (“I’m a genius!”) Thankfully, most of us are more skeptical. Or embarrassed.
I used to be too embarrassed to re-read my journals, especially my old ones. I felt anxious when I did. Panicked. But for whatever reason, whether it’s medication or age, I can do it now. Just. On certain days. When I’m feeling strong. Today I was and looked at a 1991-93 journal. Here’s an entry from 1992, when I lived in L.A.
I’m 25 and completely lost:
June 27th, 1992
A friend’s presence away from this place comforts, perhaps more than if he were here. The smog enveloping this city blocks mental vision beyond this basin. Thought of a friend—or a voice or a letter—rends the clouds, the mist; the sky is seen, if even for a moment. The guy selling oranges at the stoplight; the kids with their cars and pants on backward—these and other things mix with the smog, creating a puree too thick to think through. One feels trapped. The sunshine does not help at all: it makes things worse.
There is that honesty of the sunshine—the honesty of flesh, or action; the bearing of breasts and souls that sunshine occasions. The bearing of breasts takes place on the beach; of souls, the Hubbardite mansion, or the couches of thousands of mountebanks, phony spiritualists, failed zen-types never having tasted daikon radish; never left the state.
Santa Monica taunts with a vista of the ocean. But the fog blocks vision; the sea is banal and finite. The clouds close things off. No escape can be had here. It is no so much physical flight that is blocked; it is the flight of the mind. Thoughts of escape dissipate.
Beverly Hills is short, like the men who take their wives to Versace or Dior or Armani. Little men with big cars and money. The woman carries her bottled water in a sling on her arm. He wears Versace jeans.
The city boasts about its art: MOCA, LACMA, the “temporary contemporary,” the Getty. But how can one turn to art here? What would make one need art? Art stings the mind. Leaving the museum, the palm tree across the street is brown and withered. My car speakers have been stolen. I drive home and at the intersection am offered oranges. No, thanks.
Griffith Observatory looks out on the city. One street, right below me, travels south; it must go for ten miles. It goes into the part of town I climbed to the roof of a nearby building to watch burn.
Traveling to get a kitchen step-stool. The damage of the riot. Was it this close?
This strikes me as pretentious and ridiculous. But at 25 I was
probably almost certainly both.