Tuesday, September 2, 2014

LA Stories: Mix Tape

"And now you're like, 'Devil, get thee behind me,' I'm gonna see the world," she said as she slipped my passport to me through the glass partition. I smiled at the kindness displayed by this Government Agent- she'd guessed the abridged version of the story behind walking into the Los Angeles passport agency requesting an expedited passport, and toting all the necessary legal documents to expunge my ex's last name from my travel papers.

I came home and shredded my old passport- the last existing record of a last name I'm no longer part of, and spent the rest of the day packing and having fun with my boyfriend and his wonderful family. I've discovered that the simple act of letting go often leaves one in the position to accept new gifts, and mine came on my flight's short layover between Denver and England: a text from a friend asking if I'd heard the good news. I was then forwarded a formal announcement my ex had sent out- he and his new wife are leaving Los Angeles and moving to Florida, which means the West Coast is mine. If I'd ever regretted not receiving spousal support, winning California in the settlement is even better. They leave the week of my birthday, which is pretty damn considerate for a guy who never could remember exactly when my birthday was. The city is free, purged of my ghosts. I floated at 600 miles per hour all the way to London.

Though wonderful, moments like these have not been rare. I've been Ghostbusting for a while now, in seeking out things I'd associated negative memories and creating new, positive moments. A massive catharsis surfaced at the Hollywood Bowl, when Will and I went to the One Republic concert. "Stop and Stare" had been my anthem for leaving Orlando- I'd identified so strongly with the lyrics, feeling like I was atrophying by standing, treading water. Hearing that song under the twinkling stars of the very town I'd fought so hard for meant the world to me- but the best part came even earlier, as the sun was setting all purple and gold in the Hollywood Hills...

The Script (and as a writer how can I not love a band called The Script) opened, and they were amazing- then they played the song I'd simultaneously longed for and dreaded: "Breakeven." Everyone has certain songs which chronicle points in their lives, but for this gutwrenching break-up song to come out at the same time my marriage collapsed was musical overkill. The song was hardwired to my heart, and haunted me through the airwaves. Like a mournfully insistent banshee, it followed me. I'd turn it off when it came on my radio only to hear it blasting from the car next to me. Elevators, hold music. Every time I heard it, I'd be transported right back to my hurt.

And yet...

Hearing that song that night in the magical snowglobe of the Hollywood Bowl, with Will by my side, I realized I'd finally flipped the script. (So to speak.) All the pain and uncertainty I'd felt was now completely inverted, and I was free from all that. If you know the song, sufficed to say I went from the role of the singer to the role of the subject. It felt amazing. I pride myself on having already shed my lifetime quota of tears. I'm not a crier. I am NOT a crier.
(but I cried.)
(a little.)

Later, we'd go to the Counting Crows concert at the Greek. More spells were broken as any songs I'd associated with the tattered sepia footage of the Past came blasting though in HD scintillating Present. The best part, though, was when the songs mentioned "California" and everyone in the audience went nuts. I looked around- most of us here (in LA) are transplants, so this fierce pride we feel is for a good reason. If you're proud of being from Iowa, or Texas or wherever, it's probably because that's where you're from. It's simply where your stuff is, where your family lives. But California Pride is something different- it's the roar of independence. We're all alone together out here, and we each gave up so much- we gave up everything- to come out and chase our dreams. We're all pioneers, blazing trails in the darkness trying to figure out how to do what no one we know has done. And it's hard to live out here, so far away from the comforts of the familiar- so despite all our differences, we are united in our elation at simply living in the place which inspires so many songs. When they're singing, they're singing about HERE. I had a beer and a hot dog. I sang along. (I NEVER sing along.) (but I sang along.)

All the spells have been broken. My favorite songs now have new favorite memories to go along with them.

The passport agent was right. Since I've been free, I've been to Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Greece, and Turkey, all by virtue of the wonderful friends I've made along this adventure. And now I'm on my way to London to be part of a photoshoot. The tray table was locked and my seatback was in the full upright position. The wheels left the ground and I popped my earbuds in and closed my eyes as John Mayer sang.

"Goodbye cold, goodbye rain. Goodbye sorrow, goodbye shame.
Just found out a ghost left town, the queen of California is stepping down."

That'll do nicely.