The neighbor next door had his door propped open and seemed to be on his way to work. I knocked and asked if he had a quarter – he did! I jubilantly took it, thanked him, walked back to my apartment, noticed my door was slightly ajar and pulled it shut, realizing at that very moment that my pocket held my wallet, 6 quarters, and no keys.
Rain here seems to take this form; downpours are rare. It’s only this soft series of raindrops that makes you not want to open your umbrella but leaves you wet enough to regret that decision.
The car was where I’d left it the night before but there was no hole in the rear window, no shards of tinted glass scattered around. There was a bike in the car last night; there wasn’t one there this morning.
I stood on a rock and looked down. 400 feet down, with a tumble of jagged rocks in between, waves crashed against the cliff wall. The Pacific Ocean began there and went on as far as I could see, meeting the sky at a distant horizon. The cliffs, though, were the story.
It stretches from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, hugging the dramatic western coastline nearly all the way. Towards the south, it’s more gentle, featuring some of the more famous beaches and beach towns in the country: La Jolla, Santa Monica, Malibu. The dramatic cliffs of Big Sur interrupt for a mind-numbingly beautiful stretch before the white sands of Monterey and the surfers of Santa Cruz.
Thursday became an explore LA day because I’d found what looked like a nice beach house in Redondo Beach to spend the night. I wondered if that would bring a different side of LA.
People who fly into LAX get to see Los Angeles beach-first, which beats the unending suburban sprawl I faced as I drove into town from the east. Nearly sixty miles outside the city, strip malls and housing developments start showing up.
I took the long way there, driving first down into the Strip and its madness. It was 11pm on Sunday night and I wasn’t expecting a calm scene but not quite this. People milled about everywhere, tourists clamored as if it were the night before, cabs honked, music blared, lights flashed. Vegas.
Along the rim trail, with the sky a blue as rich as any I’d seen, clouds shrouding the mountains in the distance, the hoodoo-filled orange canyon falling away a foot in front of me, I knew I’d made the right call.
It was gigantic, expansive, unending, so deep, so broad, so inconsistent. I just stood there as people walked around me. I tried to take pictures but they fell flat relative to what stood before me.
They tower majestically, rising up from the valley floor gradually in numerous shapes and configurations. One, named Bell Rock, looks more like the bulbous minarets on a mosque. Courthouse Butte next door is a broad, proud block. Other formations appear throughout the canyon among which a resort town has spread.
There are mountains. Already sitting at 7,300 feet, you see them climb a few thousand feet higher, their bold blueish hue framing nearly every view, their snowcapped peaks a beacon, their alpine slopes providing texture, life. Clouds hang softly across them, boldly tower over them and softly float above them depending on what the weather wants. As I walked back to my room on Thursday evening, big fluffy snowflakes dropped softly from the sky. The next morning, the mountains were bathed in white.
It went on like this until about 50 miles outside Amarillo, just a few miles east of the New Mexico border, when after a gentle rise, the highway sloped downwards over a ridge and revealed a vast plain below and a series of plateaus to the left. Untamed grassland with some scattered shrubs stretched as far as I could see. The next number of miles were like this – long stretches of gently rolling slopes, endless vistas, few cars.
The scrubby West Texas landscape took over the horizon once I was a few miles west of Sweetwater. Wind turbines began to dwindle, although pockets of them popped up from time to time. Oil and gas drilling rigs and bobbing pumpjacks showed up more frequently, as this was the heart of the Permian Basin.
I spent Friday morning in a comfortable coffee shop owned by the sister of my host. It was roomy with mosaic tables, good coffee and friendly service. A patio extended along the rear wall overlooking a creek, trees and shrubbery. I wrote, I surfed, I uploaded pictures. I had a nice lunch. It continued to rain intermittently.
It rained that morning.
I woke up and checked my email, excited to find a reply from an independent oil company executive who I’d written to the day before. It said, “I am in Abilene. Give me a call. Sent from my iPhone.”
New York comes to life in April. The smells emerge from the blanket of snow, the neighbors mingle outside coffeeshops, the stores crack their windows and prop open their doors.
After a return to Austin before leaving to New York for a few days, I spent an evening wandering around Austin looking for scenes worth capturing. I started near Auditorium Shores where I found a picturesque shot of downtown Austin, and while setting up for it, the professional next to me mentioned how he was waiting for the full moon to rise.
It took me a while to leave Austin. I’d forgotten to drop off my Census form so I drove over to a post office off Exposition. School had just gotten out so cars plodded along at a few miles per hour as kids romped around. A shiny silver Jaguar pulled out of the school driveway. I finally got to the post office, dropped off my letter and was officially ready to go. I flipped over to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on my iPod and got ready to make this land my land.
It snowed in Austin today.
I sleepily pulled the right cord on the blinds this morning, expecting the sun to stream in as it usually does. But there it was: a temperamental mix of precipitation – sometimes a softer rain but then shifting to a crisp sleet giving way to large flakes of snow.
When I lived in the Lower Haight a few summers ago, I used to open the big bay windows in the living room and bedroom window to feel the breeze. It would wake me in the morning, the fresh smells and cool touch helping me get out from under the cocoon of my down blanket.