Posted by: GeekHiker | July 24, 2011

The Journal: October, 2010 (3) – Julian, CA

My second night writing by the campfire. It’s warmer than it was last night.  Quieter, too.  No one took the other spot and, as the two are grouped together, I have the area quite to myself.

I’ll admit to being down at various times of the day but, on balance, I’ve actually been feeling quite good.  Without others along and no one to sit around at camp waiting for, I simply went into town for an apple pie breakfast, then a hike a Cuymaca Rancho State Park.  A shower, then a lazy afternoon in camp, and a burger cooked over the campfire rounded out the day.

[There’s sort of an odd feeling typing this, because even before I look at the page in the journal, I know exactly how I’m going to phrase something.  Which makes sense, since I wrote it in the first place, but it’s still a little weird finishing your own sentences.]

The only thing that worries me is the lantern, which isn’t running right.  Flames everywhere – except in the mantles.  I’m going to release pressure in the tank in the shower later tonight (concrete walls, ready source of water).  Hopefully there’s no problems.

[Turns out I’d installed the mantles incorrectly.  Oops.  All good now, though.  And it didn’t explode so, you know. woot.]

* * *

My hike last week, the one I talked about two entries back, was up to the Hollywood Sign.

I don’t know what motivated me to that hike on that particular day.  In fact, in many was it was a mistake: traffic was horrible.  Only in L.A. does freeway traffic get clogged on a Sunday for no discernable reason.  I almost bagged the hike, in fact, but persevered to the trailhead.  There I found tour busses and tourists, clambering up the little hillock there and taking pictures.

[Okay, I know that thing about the traffic probably isn’t true.  Just go with it, okay?]

I donned my pack and strode past them, heading up the dirt road that would, eventually, lead me to Mt. Lee and a view of the sign from behind.

As I walked along, I thought about the sign, both as physical object and symbol.  Of how Hollywood and, by extension, Los Angeles draws people here.  Keeps them here.

And you know, I get it.  I really do.  I understand the appeal of Southern California.  Why so many people come, why so many stay.  I see the appeal of the beautiful weather, the breadth and diversity of its people, and the wealth of opportunities, both real and dreamed-of.

I get it.

But L.A. also does this very odd thing: it leads you to believe that those things are only here.  Well, maybe New York, or London, or Paris.  L.A. ranks itself amongst the pantheon of cities where you go to make it big and, even if you don’t want to make it big, why would you want to be anywhere else?

I wonder if that’s what led some of my friends to invest in real estate, to sink down roots and become tied to the fortunes of the city.

I often find myself wondering, though, if it isn’t all a mirage.  Just ignore the horrible traffic, the terrible air quality, the omnipresent danger of earthquake; look how pretty the weather is!

Yeah, I get it, but pretty weather will only take you so far.

In fact, over the past couple of weeks, L.A. went from record-breaking heat (113 downtown!) to cold and rainy.  A 45 degree drop in 7 days.  Frankly I loved it.  The sheer VARIETY of it.

Perfect weather, you see, gets pretty boring after a while.

Or perhaps the problem is me.  In a city that tries to be all things to all people, how can I not fit in?

[Or, put another way: what if you came to the “dream factory” and found it couldn’t fulfill your dreams?]

* * *

The fire is going strong, the stars are out.  This isn’t Hollywood, this isn’t fake.  The fire is real, not just gels on lights with a flicker box or a flame bar.  The stars aren’t digitally added.

I wish my friends were here.  No so much due to any loneliness on my part as I truly think they would have enjoyed this place.

[This gets into something about myself: I want to share.  I want to go to interesting places, see and do interesting things, sure, but I also really like sharing those sights and experiences with others.  If it’s something I’ve done before that was really fantastic, then I want to share that with my friends.  Is that a selfish or selfless desire?]

On the other hand, there’s a small part of me that wonders if this experience doesn’t untie me from Los Angeles being “home” just a little bit more.  I don’t know, though: seems a bit much to read into a single incident.

What I do know for sure is this: I don’t feel as lonely being solo here as I would have in L.A., surrounded by millions of people.

And that tells me that this is much closer to the reality I need my daily life to be.

[The hardest part right now, as I pack and prepare to depart, is leaving my friends behind.  I want to take them with me, or have them come to wherever I end up, or even move back to L.A. to stay a part of that social circle.  But I think that also gets deeper into the complex feelings I have about L.A., which I don’t think I’m in a place to fully comprehend yet…]

* * *

P.S. – The lantern is fine.  Now if I can just figure out what’s wrong with the old girl…



  1. What you say about LA thinking it’s the only place like itself is so interesting. I’d never thought of it like that – and I think you’re right. Big cities have a sort of arrogance to them. Like outsiders can’t really understand them – you have to live there to “get it.” That said, I will always love California. Maybe not everything about it, but lots of things.

    I also totally get how you feel more alone when people are around than when you’re actually alone. I’m experiencing that a little right now. When I’m at home without Mr. W I am so busy doing stuff that I don’t feel the least bit lonely. But then when I get out around other people, I miss him like crazy.

    Anyway, as far as the travels go – and wanting to share them – that’s what the blog is for. Even on my honeymoon, I so enjoyed blogging about the trip because I could interact with other people and tell them what I saw and hear what they thought. I think that can help fill in for not having a travel companion.

  2. I left LA 13 years ago. I was 23 and born and raised there. Other than a very brief return for a job for a few months, I haven’t returned for more than a few days each year. I don’t miss it. I’ve lived in big cities and small since then, and none of them have had the arrogance, traffic and self centeredness of LA…not even NYC.

    I have a lot of friends there who call everything between LA and NYC/DC “flyover country.” I encourage that mentality. I don’t want them bringing anything about LA to roost where I am. I’m in a medium city now that has it’s own quirks and frustrations. Next step is to move someplace a bit smaller and more remote. It’s definitely better in my book.

  3. I currently live in the middle of nowhere. I’m hoping to move to a smaller city when I get this job. I’ve never experienced “Big City Livin” but I can tell you after driving around cities like Pittsburgh and Atlanta, I can confidently say I’m a pretty solid suburbanite. Just show me where the mall is. 🙂

    You make camping sound like….fun…. I’m not sure what to think about that 😉

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