City of the Fallen Angels

JoniMitchell-CourtAndSpark BW
LA, city of the fallen angels. I’ve lived here all my life.  My dad visited LA during World War II. They wouldn’t let him join the army, but that’s another story for another time. He worked for the post office and travelled around; Salt Lake City, Utah; Atlanta, Georgia; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California, and the main PO in Van Nuys CA.  He was born and raised in Minnesota, so I believe he was quite shocked to find out that it never snows in LA. Well, it does once in a decade or so, but it certainly doesn’t stick. I can only imagine what would happen to the freeways if they became blanketed in snow. It would be the end of the world for LA traffic.

Anyway, I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, a child of an expatriated couple from the mid west. LA is a LONG way from Minneapolis. We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto. It gets hotter in the valley than it does in Minneapolis, but there is no humidity. I’d rather endure 110° in Northridge than 85° in Minneapolis or Chicago. Yeah man, but it’s a dry heat!

So at 20 years old I listened to a lot of rock and roll; LA and Hollywood were the capital of Rock, Rhythm and Blues. LA still is. But I cut my teeth on the music of a Canadian woman, also an expatriate; Joni Mitchell. In 1974 she released an album that would become the basis of my mythology. Court and Spark. It became my mantra and often, when I think of women, maybe whenever I think of women, I am reminded of Joni. I become very nostalgic and it’s very peaceful. But I’m also filled with fear. Help me she said, and I was right there with her:

Help me
I think I’m falling
In love again
When I get that crazy feeling, I know
I’m in trouble again
I’m in trouble

Help me
I think I’m falling
In love too fast
It’s got me hoping for the future
And worrying about the past
‘Cause I’ve seen some hot hot blazes
Come down to smoke and ash
We love our lovin’

There are only a few songs that bring me to that place; some Supertramp, Don Henley, some Creedence Clearwater, certainly Steely Dan and of course the Beatles. But Joni makes my heart sing along with her words.

I can sing along with every song on that album, I know every word. I can only say that about Joni Mitchell’s poetry and a few Beatles albums. Of course I still have a vinyl copy, and it’s the second one I bought after I wore out the first one. Later I bought it on CD, but it wasn’t quite the same; something was missing.

Joni brought me many things.  I fell in love with a woman, her name was Mardie. Students at CSUN, we would sit and listen to Joni late at night, in each other’s arms, tears streaming down our faces. Her music filled me with emotions that had long been dormant.  My parents were stoic remnants of the depression era. They were happy and sad, but didn’t know it. I learned how not to feel from them, and I learned a little about how to feel from Joni.

Later I would regret not learning to feel more, and when I did feel I wanted to drown the feelings out. Alcohol does that. The great anesthetic. My goal became to make everyone happy. ‘Don’t worry; be happy’. It is not possible for me to do that, so I got a little more than depressed and found all my answers in a bottle of Jack Daniels. Peace and quiet and blackness. Stop the madness? It only takes a quart of whiskey. How fucked up is that? I don’t like these feeling things, I know just what to do! You’ll see this mantra all over this blog: I’ll get me a Costco size bottle of Jack. Go big or go home. Yep, that’s LA; larger than life.

So now I’ve started to examine my life, better late than never, and I’ve found some clarity. AA, CODA, therapy, self examination. It almost makes me want a Whiskey, but in lieu of a whiskey I’ll have some coffee and a cigarette. I watch the smoke curl from the end of a Djarum and listen to Joni on You Tube. It’s easier than trying to set up a turntable.  All my family has left, but I still can’t let go of LA; City of the fallen angels…

His eyes were the color of the sand
And the sea
And the more he talked to me, you know
The more he reached me
But I couldn’t let go of L.A.
City of the fallen angels…