The City Of Angles: Post-Mortem

This seems a good time for a recap. After all, I only had a 14-hour travel day yesterday, what with the three-hour delay in Nashville. My head’s perfectly swimmy from jet-lag — my brain is still screaming at me that it’s 6:30 in the morning, when it is no such thing.

Coming into Philadelphia last night, the plane hovered over very-low rain clouds, and the fiery orange and sickly pallid green lights of the city swam up through those clouds, diffusing the colors, making it look like we were hovering over sunken shipwrecks — some as barnacle-encrusted galleons whose chambers still glow with old fires, and some as fallen alien spacecraft, green light leaking from crooked vents. It was jarring. Surreal. Mixed up, yet peaceful at the same time. An underwater dream while flying in the sky.

That’s pretty much my headspace, even now.

See, the whole week was surreal.

Here I am, some addlepated jackass from the hills of Pennsyltucky. Next thing I know, I’m in LA. City of boxes. City of highways. City of strip malls. City of withered palms. City of deep-dish desperation and mile-high dreams. City of oh-won’t-you-entertain-me?

Coyotes. Smoke from distant brush fires. Orange skies. Traffic.

Everybody’s got a screenplay.

Everybody knows the Big One is coming.

It’s a bee-hive perched on the cliff cusp, tilting and teetering.

At first, I didn’t like it. The town unsettled me. It felt like the apocalypse. It felt like wandering a maze with no cheese at the end. All the cars. All the traffic lights. The starting, the stopping. The endless corners that look the same. You feel locked away in a dream, one of those dreams where you keep running but get nowhere fast.

Over time, though, it gets into you. Like a bedazzled tapeworm.

It feeds on you, and you start to like it.

You adapt. The surreality of the thing becomes engaging. The mind wanders. The same corners and endless streets have a hypnotic quality; the zoetrope of strip malls and storefronts unlocks your head, unfetters it.

And now, I kind of miss it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to be home. I want to be here, not there.

Still. I never felt out of my element in LA. I don’t know what it is. I don’t really know why.

I go to New York, I can find that city intimidating. It has a size, a scope, an authenticity.

Why is it that LA, then, doesn’t intimidate me at all?

Anyway. Onto more practical discussion.

  • First, travel. Travel sucks. Getting from This Coast to That Coast is a big punch to the perineum. (Literally; my taint kind of hurts from sitting in one position for so long. I was tempted in the airport to massage it gently, fingers in roving circles, but I think that might’ve gotten me kicked out.) It doesn’t help when a little thing called Tropical Storm Danny (aka Tropical Storm Dickbag) besieges the East Coast and makes air travel difficult. But, if you’re going to travel, please, let me shill for an airline. Southwest is about as close to air travel nirvana as you’re going to get flying coach. It’s still little more than a giant sky bus. You’re still crammed in a metal tube with a bunch of other bleating water buffalos. But they at least make it as pleasant as possible. They practically throw drinks and snacks at your mouth. That’s not great for your diabetes, no, but it’s nice that they’re not trying to charge you fifteen bucks for seven-and-a-half honey-roasted peanuts. The pilots and, what do you call them now, flight attendants? Sky helpers? Cloud attaches? Those people. They’re all very friendly. They update you as to what’s going on. And they did something I haven’t heard in… ten years: “If you look out the left side of the plane, you’ll see some cool shit.” Really? You actually take a moment to engage me? Jesus. Give these people your money. Oh, also: they’re one of the only airlines with something resembling a Passenger Bill of Rights in place. So you know you won’t be on the airstrip for untold hours. (One weird thing about Southwest: you don’t have assigned seats. You take a seat wherever you find one. That takes some getting used to.)
  • My iPhone saved my life. Okay, not really. But it made this trip much more functional, much more organized, and much more amusing. I used it for directions. I used it for meeting reminders (using ToDo). It helped me receive updates to the schedule while we were “out in the field.” I used it to find restaurants. I watched episodes of Leverage on the plane (and how can that show not be an inspiration? It’s great, it’s on TNT, and it’s by a fellow game writer, John Rogers). A really, really excellent piece of tech. I’m sad I resisted it so long.
  • Speak-a-LA-restaurants, I don’t know that it’s a food town like, say, San Francisco. Or even NYC. But, for all its sprawl and lack of really incredible and obvious choices, I didn’t have one bad meal there. It ain’t a cheap town, but you can eat well for not a lot of money.
  • The business of being out there was a resounding success. We headed out there with a project that’s been growing for over two years, and only recently did we come to the conclusion that it’s a series. We went into some very high-level pitch meetings, and from most of them we got great response (and one response we always received: “We’ve never seen anything like this before”). We have a powerful team assembled behind this project, and I continue to be in awe of the creative power and energy brought to the table by these guys. (While I was flying, the team did two more meetings, and both meetings were considered a big thumbs-up. One meeting in particular was apparently a glowing spire of awesomeness — the executive responded very well to the project, and was eager to note where it would fit into their schedule. So, that’s only good news gospel right there.)
  • Even cooler, I never felt nervous going into these meetings. I should have. This is way, way above my head. But it never felt like it. I think it’s because I have the uttermost confidence in this project, and I feel like we’ve really crafted something different. We know every crazy nook-and-cranny, so no question is a curveball. We know it’s engaging. We know it connects with people. And so it feels effortless to sit down and cheerlead for it.
  • I have a lame array of images taken on the iPhone (not the phone’s strongest asset, the camera — then again, I’ve not found a camera on a phone I’ve really liked, yet), but you’ll have to wait for those.

In closing, Los Angeles is like a really crazy chick. You know she’s hot. You also know she’s deranged. She’ll cut you. She might have a gun hiding in there with her fake-ass sweater-monkeys. She’s a bad idea. But you cannot escape her gravity.

Or, maybe Los Angeles is like a David Lynch movie. (Frankly, Mulholland Dr. makes a lot more sense to me, now.)

Or, maybe it’s like that lost, rangy coyote wandering in the Hills. It’s hungry. Wide-eyed.

Just looking for that next bite.