Goodbye, old smoggy

The view from Griffith Park

Combat! blog is leaving Los Angeles. Our gracious host has gone to work and taken official vacation time with him; now I have a few hours to frantically type against deadline before I drive my rental car back to LAX and begin the vortex of nonexistence that is contemporary air travel. It is sad to be alone in your friend’s apartment before you leave for the airport. I guess I mean that I am kind of sad to be et cetera etc..

I wil see everyone again in Iowa approximately one month from now, so it’s not as if I am dreading a long separation. And it is hard to argue that I miss LA when I am still in it. Yet knowing that in three hours I will lock the door behind me without a key to get back in makes the contents of this apartment—and this morning—slightly unreal. I like it here, even though the people who make me like it here so much are gone now. I like my annual Thanksgiving trip to LA, even though it is operatively over while I am still on it. Essentially, I am in a memory of a trip right now, and it is receding even as I live it. I submit that this is the fundamental human condition.

There at the top of the post is Griffith Park, shrouded in mist/carbon emissions. I knew it was going to be a bad picture as I took it; the camera does not see as well as the eye in bright sun, and the frame is always less panoramic than the view. In a few weeks, this picture may jog my memory of the hike we took Friday, but seeing it will not adequately repeat the experience of standing up there and looking out at LA’s gross beauty. That experience is gone, which puts the metaphorical hiker in a tough position.

You can’t drag ass to the top of Griffith Park thinking the whole time about how soon this experience will be over and you’ll forget it. That is how you spoil a hike. Yet to willfully ignore that your hike is fleeting—that it is a particular experience that you will not get again on this particular trip to LA, and that one of these trips you will hike down past the observatory and never go back up—is A) dishonest and B) probably unwise. You need to remember that such experiences are limited in order to enjoy them properly.

Hiking Griffith is nice because I can’t do it at home. Home is nice because I can’t live there forever. Life is nice because one day I will be dead. You need these reasons to appreciate those things, but at the same time they are undeniably a bummer. Too much dwelling on why you enjoy something wrecks enjoyment—both present enjoyment and enjoyment anticipated in the future.

The only enjoyment immune to such wrecking is in the past. There the knowledge that any experience will eventually be over doesn’t seem so awful, because it has already happened. That’s good news, since everything anyone has ever done is in the past as of right now. It was all great, and now it’s all gone. The room you are in now is the room you are about to leave. We are all going to LAX, where we will cease to exist and, after a tedious wait, disappear.

Not yet, though. I am still in Spencer’s apartment, looking around for what I forgot to pack. LA is here, and I am in it. In the Meditations, Marcus Aurelius opines that the sole thing any man can be deprived of is the present. Here I am with it, poised between my memory of this Thanksgiving in LA and my memory of Missoula. I am trying to recall the route I took from the rental car place to my friend’s apartment, so I can reverse it. Around midnight my fantastic girlfriend will pick me up at Missoula International Airport, and I will shiver and say I missed her, even as I hold her in my arms.

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  1. Was hoping there’d be a part in there about the existential threat of air pollution, especially the invisible CO2 part. I was getting my argument against air travel ready. Oh well, maybe in December.

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