Man for No Seasons
I find myself in San Diego, a safe distance from L.A. and that surreal hollowness I find more stifling than the heat. I already miss the open-aired isolation of Alaska, a world away from Texas and yet otherworldly compared to the rest of the country in some oddly similar way—something I'd never admit to any Texan and probably not any Alaskan either.
The money will run out soon, though. I drink from any wealth I might possess like water from a tap. I never learned to handle finances and, never settling down, out of sheer habit treat every advance, paycheck and royalty as my first, or last. I'm all the more aware of it as I try to navigate through the mall and pass by all those seemingly as lost as I am, like peacocks with all the colors of their shopping bags, lurid arrays of feathers. I wonder what kind of bird I look like to them with my rough edges and wandering gazes.
I am a writer by trade, at a point in my life now at which it seems clear that writing is the only thing I can do. Newspaper columns, magazine articles, travel guides, radio plays, shorts for anthologies, critical essays, lamppost poetry—everything I can, anything I ought to, I do. Sometimes I worry—foolishly, I know—that I will string together so many meaningless words that I will find myself with nothing to write and will be forced to come up with some convoluted new genre in order to survive.
I return to the motel in an attempt to escape, futile though it may be, as it is still a boat on the open sea for one who cannot stand the water. The unfailing Californian sun finds its way through the shuttered blinds to give the room a burnt brown hue, and so it feels like a cocoon to me. Soon, as for a pupa, it becomes unbearable and I must release myself from it.
Even when I stop at a single place I must encircle it so as not to feel pinned down like an insect by a collector. I drink at a couple of bars I haven't yet visited before quickly tiring of them. Walking down the main street, I feel shuttled as if drifting on through Disneyland, from location to location surrounded by cardboard cut-outs, set pieces, images of manufactured idylls that almost seem to carry price tags. I trudge along the distressingly clean (manicured?) beach, careful with drunken steps not to fill my shoes with the flawless sand.
I should admit that I drink often, which is to say constantly. I eat only as I need to, having little interest in food. I cannot, even after having traveled for days on end, sleep more than six hours a night. I do not dream, or rather if I do, I cannot distinguish it from what I endearingly refer to as reality. The best understanding I have of that notion I take from what others have told me.
I don't frequent any kind of bar in particular; they are the gas stations and rest stops along the road to anywhere as my last drink fades. Many know better than to engage with me in conversation once they see the look inadvertently asking, Can you break this spell or are you here to perpetuate it? This drastically limits one's social life, as what is left in my net are the most curious, unusual and out-of-place characters, food for my soul.
I've met a transgender bank robber from the East Coast (whose drink of choice was a lime vodka). There was the man who'd fled to Canada to avoid the draft, only to enlist as a Mountie (tequila, straight). Most recently was a former bull rider who retired after a shattered hip, a man who insisted his grandfather was the last true cowboy (Coors and only Coors).
A fellow I once met on my way somewhere—I can't recall if it was Tulsa or Topeka—had called me a man for no seasons. True, I suppose, because seasons are given to change. I'm a stranger in a strange land, and the two negatives cancel out one another. What I'm left with is an absurd sort of oneness, the only kind I believe it is possible for me to experience in this lifetime, and so I am grateful for it, if begrudgingly so.
I once overheard a man, a psychoanalyst perhaps, explain that the human mind craves the stimulation found in new environments and experiences. For him this meant the importance of vacationing somewhere new each year or to have one's child learn to play a musical instrument.
Myself, I realized then that I had a surplus of this precious stimulation, that my life was a carousel of painted-on smiles at check-in desks, the arid departure lounges of regional airports and miserably familiar bars. It all batters my brain like artillery fire, and so I write incessantly to direct this inflow of reality back out again. Here I am, scrawling this confession of sorts on a series of napkins in an overly comfortable restaurant as I wait for soup.
To feel stuck in time while never remaining in one place is a bizarre thing I have yet to find the words to describe adequately. I am a man for no seasons. It isn't wanderlust that drags me here and there, far away and then back again, and it isn't the promise of work either. What moves me is something as invisible yet pervasive as the wind, to the point that when I feel a gust, I feel it is time to go.
Goodbye, San Diego. I'll see you when I see you.