Thursday, January 14, 2010

LA Diary, Part 1 (Manifest Destiny)

Wednesday, Jan 13, 5:09PM
As I write this, it is 36 degrees outside my window in Manhattan. It's sunny (kind of) and quiet (sort of) and cold (relatively). Everything relative is relative. This time tomorrow (if Wunderground has ever been right), I'll be sitting outside in 72 degrees of glory. There won't be a cloud--or the trace of a cloud, or the memory of a cloud--in the sky. It won't be January, it'll be May; I won't be Winter Chris (wearing the parka my grandma got me for Christmas in 1993), I'll be Spring Chris (muscle shirts, people). How am I doing this? Did I realize my dream of actually, finally, making the sun revolve around me?

Nay! I'm going to California.

Los Angeles, California: that sprawling, gonzo mirage at land's end. It's the star-crossed battle line of an unreal American dream. It's the place where a billion little stars line up and plunge themselves at Manifest Destiny like Custer at Little Big Horn.

I'm going to LA tomorrow. I leave JFK at 11AM and land at LAX at 2:33PM, traveling backward to move forward. On Friday I'm playing the record release party for my new album--Up--at the Hotel Cafe. On Saturday night, I red-eye back to New York. Any--and everything--in between is up for grabs, due for negotiation, and (probably) left to fate.

But what do I know about Los Angeles?

We all know the stereotypes: LA is often maligned for its synthetic veneer, its narcissism, its bloated and masturbatory entertainment industry, its "fakeness." In New York, the line is that everyone in LA is inauthentic, an opportunist, depraved, and (probably) dumb. New York is where art is created; Los Angeles is where entertainment happens. Right or wrong, that's the prevailing perception.

I know that I spent a summer in Northridge when I was 8. I know I've been back a few times since. I've probably spent 3 months, cumulative, in the greater LA area. I know I have friends and colleagues in LA; most have been there for some time, and many love it. I know that I considered moving to LA before settling on New York. I know that Los Angeles is glossy, hazy, hallucinogenic, gorgeous trapdoor chock full of the eccentric, the superficial, the desperate, the starry-eyed, and the thin-skinned. And I know this:

I love LA. That's why I love LA.

I love LA. I love all of it: the predominant Hispanic influence, its absurd show business, its culture of fake nonchalance, the undeniable beauty, its dangerous charms. I love it so much I couldn't have moved there; I would've ended up like Ulysses, emerging from Circe's hedonist island to realize a year--or ten--had passed.

I can't wait to get back.

That's why I'm keeping a running diary of the entire weekend--from my flight tomorrow morning to the red-eye Saturday night, and everything in between. I'll post here regularly, and give you updates, pictures, and (hopefully) video from the show.

In the meantime, I need to do two very important things:
1) Pack.
2) Load up the iPod with Manifest Destiny-appropriate songs.

So here's my question: what are your favorite songs about California? They can be songs that have "California" or a city in the title, are about them, or by a Californian artist. I need to stock up!

Just glancing at my iTunes, here are the definites with "California" or something-about-LA in the title:
Phantom Planet, "California" (cliche for a reason)
Led Zeppelin, "Going to California" (perfect for a reason)
Atherton, "California" (I watched Laguna Beach for a reason...okay, like 350,000 reasons)
Wilco & Billy Bragg, "California Stars"
Lucero, "California"
Kings of Leon, "California Waiting"
R.E.M., "I Remember California"
Tupac, "California Love"
Stereophonics, "Plastic California"
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication"
Ryan Adams, "Goodnight, Hollywood Boulevard"
The Thrills, "Hollywood Kids"
Counting Crows, "Goodnight LA"

Strangely, no Beach Boys on that list. But there will be Beach Boys. Oh, yes, there will be Beach Boys.

So, let me know what I should bring with me. I'm heading to the edge of the world, and I've got a guitar, and I've got some music, and I've got nothing--and everything--else. I'm gonna join those billion tragic, surging stars and make my stand.

"We all know Custer died at the Battle of Little Big Horn," says the blowhard novelist Eli Cash in the Royal Tenenbaums, "but what this book presupposes is...maybe he didn't?"

Maybe it didn't.

Never let them tell you that they're all the same,


Hillary Brooke said...

I'll offer you one track & one track only...

Coconut Records- West Coast

Please add it to the M.D Playlist.

Safe travels & rock the left coast like you rock the right one.


Anonymous said...

West Coast is a great one.
Just off the top of my head....

Los Angeles I'm Your's - The Decemberists
Grey in L.A.- Loudon Wainwright III

Anonymous said...

Oh and obviously,

California- Tom Petty

"California's been good to me,
I hope it don't fall into the sea.
Sometimes you got to save yourself
It ain't like anywhere else."

Chris Milam said...

Awesome lists--I actually had the Coconut Records song and accidentally deleted it at some point. Thanks!

Hillary Brooke said...

You did throw Way Out West on there too, right? Please tell me you didn't forget Big Star!

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