Kage Baker, though a faithful daughter of Los Angeles, grew weary of her hometown in her 30’s. I was thinking of that as I drove from Griffith Park to the Westside this morning, through the panoply of Los Angeles in early summer. It was a lovely morning, and I really enjoyed the drive – it was quite weird, remembering how frantic Kage was to leave this city when we did, in a hot May 20 years ago …
But things were getting bad and strange in Los Angeles back then. The 90’s were a pretty ugly time everywhere, and especially so in LA – the artistic industries of our city were trying out a new business model (producing crap); jobs were vanishing in the first early seasons of employment drought; civic unrest was evolving from letters to the editor to firebombs in the mini-malls. Architecture was going through a sucky phase.
Rodney King got beaten by the cops and taped by his neighbor. When the cops were declared innocent in an absurd trial, Los Angeles erupted in riots. We holed up in our house in the Hollywood Hills for three days, watching our city burn on television – You Are There! But you’d never be There again, as Kage observed, because it burned to the ground. Our office was in Koreatown – the best sandwich shop, our favourite doughnut store, our freaking bank: all ended up as smoking rubble.
Mamma was in the hospital with some undiagnosed pain in her tummy, and she ordered us not to drive out to see her. By the time we could visit her again, the diagnosis was in – pancreatic cancer. She died before two months were out.
The insurance company for which we worked was put up for sale – and our new corporate masters chose to visit the day the riots broke out. They didn’t enjoy having to be evacuated, and promptly closed the Los Angeles office and moved anyone willing to relocate to South Carolina. Kage and I couldn’t face that idea – but as the days went by, we couldn’t bear to stay in L.A. either.
So we ran away with the circus. Well, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire, to be precise: we joined the staff, and began a wonderful period of following the show up and down the state for the seasonal performances. Those years of wandering healed a lot of wounds, and when the Faire was eventually bought by yet more corporate masters – we quit, we middle-aged bacchantes, a pair of matronly gypsies … We ended up in Pismo Beach, and Kage’s head was full of new worlds finally coming ripe and ready to be born. And the rest, as they say, is history.
But all of it is history, really; and it’s all twined together in enormous shining Moebius strips and Gordian Knots of miracles and coincidence and outright lunacy. Here I am back in Los Angeles, just about in that season where Kage and I originally fled the place. And it’s beautiful! The weather has turned hot and the Basin smells of orange blossoms, barbecues, wet pavement, hot tar and roses. The hills are green-going-gold. Jacaranda trees are painting entire streets an hallucinatory purple with their sticky little blossoms; magnolia petals drift down like ghosts of broken china, and lie pale and exhausted on the sidewalks, smelling of lemons.
Perfume of heat, Kage called this weather and season. She loved it, until the damned city got too close up and personal with its ghosts, forcing her to flee. But ghosts don’t bother me as much – I don’t see as many as Kage did – and I’m glad to be back. As long as I can remember how to see it through her eyes.
Oh, P.S. … saw the doctor today, and passed another 3-month check point with no signs of cancer. It is suspected my kidney has begun producing kidney stones. I have a nice prescription for Percodan, and a battery of tests planned for the amusement and edification of my doctors. Life staggers on.