Soul Salvation

This is real life. Slab City, CA. Photo by Richie Trimble

  Slab City, CA.    Photo by Richie Trimble

It was all too short; it was all too fast; it was all too beautiful, but the best art never lasts. 

Our pilgrimage to the slabs, past the toxic sea riddled with fish bones and sodium compounds, it gets bigger and brighter and more holy each year as we deepen our bonds with the universe and one another and discover just how universal and boundless love can be. So we sweat and bleed and burn, dancing into delirium under ten million stars, with skin that feels like pieces of the sun, speaking words that taste like rapture.

Before there was ridazz spinning and singing and shouting across the sand, blowing up the physical in the name of the eternal, there was Leonard. Leonard Knight saw a blank canvas in the desert by the sea, and he filled it with a mountain of love. Salvation Mountain is proof of what divine creatures we are, turning junk and sand and paint into a monument so bright and stunning it turns the harsh landscape into a hallowed Oz. So we go out here to be free and to live together for a few infinite days and endless nights.

For 30 years Leonard built up the mountain, adding new layers of paint and cement, greeting visitors and living beside it. He built the mountain twice, and before that he spent 14 years making a hot air balloon that never could fly. Rest in Peace Leonard, in the big, glorious sky above the desert.

The sun is just the moon getting brighter, and our hearts are as full as our eyes are wide. Outside of the city, we are free to find ourselves and find each other and discover the depths of our souls. Here we find salvation from the complexities of the city, from the running wheel of the rat race that tugs at our footing day after day.

We go and we grow, and we come back and pine, for we realize home is not a place in the city, but a place in the mind. We can build mountains too.

www.slab-city.com

Trying to let go

I almost wrote about our dearly departed Phillip Seymour Hoffman this week, but all the sympathy for addiction and human suffering made me feel like what I really should do is let out some of my own heartache…because I think one thing we can all agree on is that addicts are seeking solace.

For readers of my blog who might expect something informative or culturally insightful, please take this for what it is: an admission of my own affliction. I have anxiety; largely of the social variety but that doesn’t stop me from having private panic attacks seemingly brought on out of the blue. I had my first panic attack 15 years ago and my latest 5 minutes ago.

I drink, I smoke and I’ve spent nights with other substances, but I try to stick to the mostly straight road because I’ve seen the destruction of addiction and don’t want to get any closer to that experience than I’ve already been. I don’t take Xanax or any other medications because I’m not sure I’d really react so well and have hopes of finding a way to dispel my dis-ease organically. I don’t want to believe that the only way to deal with my discomfort is through medication. Bike riding helps, but I’m still a classic deer in headlights when the wheels stop turning.

I’m trying to let go of my fears. I realized that the kinds of things that typically scare people don’t frighten me as much, and the kinds of things that terrify me are innocuous to others.

I climbed up a rusty metal ladder on the side of a crumbling concrete tower on the rooftop of an old downtown building. I froze halfway up, surrounded by nothing but air and distance from everything but the oxidized ladder that my sweaty palms clung to. Conquering my fear of heights is small compared to being terrified of saying something stupid, of being lame. Go ahead and laugh. I get nauseous to the point of nearly throwing up on my way to parties–for no good reason, I know. I break out into sweats doing interviews with just about anyone, and I’ve been at it for years. I rehearse the things I want to say to people I yearn to connect with and then I just…freeze up. The people I really want to get close to are the ones I have the hardest time around. It takes me a long, long time to open up. People probably think I don’t care that much or that I’m just pretty boring. Sometimes I feel more comfortable telling perfect strangers personal things because they have no vested interest in what I say.

I’m trying to let go. I’m trying to just be me. Rationally I’m not so worried about what people think, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m apt to feel like an alien and even forget how to use this human mouth I have. I’ve got a lot of creativity and ideas I want to share. I’ve got great ideas, but I only believe in half of them for half a second. The only sign that they are great is how receptive people I respect often are to them. Sometimes I just want to give them all away: “Hey, here’s a great idea, it’s all yours.” I want to collaborate and inspire and be inspired–instead I usually just clam up. I envy the people around me who embrace their own weirdness and dive into the mix; I want that too…but this little voice inside tells me I’m not cool enough. I’m not sure I show my true self on any given day, but I’m trying. I’m trying to let go of the weird fear inside of me that says “this world is waiting to eat you alive” and just speak from my heart. When people are impressed with the things I do, I can hardly understand why–I’m just trying to figure out how to be comfortable in my own skin. It’s not that I don’t like who I am. It’s just…the cat’s got a hold on my tongue most days. So when I act like a loser, like a terrible friend, and you think I’m stuck up and don’t really care…I’m just trying to let go of all these weird, scary feelings that fill up the vast invisible ocean between me and the people standing two feet in front of me–people I already know at a place I’ve already been before. It doesn’t make sense, but the ocean is not so made up– you see sometimes I’m truly drowning in it and all I can utter is gurgles as the waves envelope me. It’s deep, and I can swim OK, but where for the love of love is the end of this ocean?