Wednesday, August 09, 2006

what the world needs now

Heard a pretty beautiful and odd story from a friend today. I don't want to delve too much into the sociology of Los Angeles here (and as a result wind up sounding like "Crash" or horsehot-filled equivalent), but even those who don't live here realize a lot of what spins our world is our cars. How far we are from somewhere isn't measured in miles or blocks, it's in minutes (blocks and miles can be deceiving, after all). Public transportation is as affected by traffic as a single rider given the sad half-joke of our subway system, so most everyone drives, and most everyone drives almost a half an hour to work every day. I'm one of the lucky ones--I drive about 20 minutes.

Consequently those you see on your commute start to become your friends, almost. Just as if you were in a subway car or on a bus, you see the same car or truck every day at around the same intersection at approximately the same hour. There's the Rust Explorer with the Massachusetts plates. There's the guy with the mint julep colored vespa and matching helmet. They're your partners, your pewmates in the church of Los Angeles, struggling through anothe sermon. Maybe you even see them on the way home as well and after awhile, if they look interesting, you start to wonder.

A friend of mine had such a commute friend during her drive to mid-Wilshire every morning. An 'interesting' looking guy in a green vintage automobile. Every day, somewhere around Sixth Street or LaBrea or wherever, they'd pass, never really acknowledging eachother. But the other person was a reliable reminder of how far the commute has progressed, as much a mile-marker as a Chevron station or a Pioneer Chicken.

Then he was gone.

There's not much mourning, you figure maybe the guy got a new job, lost his old one, whatever. There are more commuters for you to share your ride with and you've still got to get to your same ol' job. But then she saw the car again a few weeks later. In her brother's neighborhood, parked just a few doors down. That's awfully strange. I've lived here seven years and rarely see any I know out on the street randomly. The city is just too big. You can date people here and if things don't work out they literally seem to disappear into vapor. There's seemingly an infinite number of Other Places people can be when you're apart, and to run into this car in her brother's neighborhood--which is only a few blocks from her neighborhood--well, that's just bizarre.

On a whim she leaves a note on the guy's car. Nothing too crazy and certainly nothing she expected to hear a response for but something capitalizing on the weird nature of the moment asking "Hey, what happened to you? I used to see you on the way to work every morning." Then she left her email address.

(My friend is single, but this wasn't really that kind of maneuver. You have to know her. No, seriously, you should, she's great)

Shockingly, the guy gets back to her. Finds her on MySpace and drops her a line. They trade a few emails and come to find out this guy actually LIVES NEXT DOOR TO HER BROTHER. Not just in the next house, literally, behind the door right next to her brother's apartment in a fourplex.


So yeah, you're pretty much supposed to get to know this guy at this point right? This is the invisible hand behind the curtain jerking your strings. This is the universe tilting on its axis and spilling all the pool balls into the corner pocket. Something, whatever you want to believe, has aligned this moment. Maybe it won't matter anyway, but it's too much of a coincidence to ignore.

So they're still in touch, basking in the weird glow of what is A Very Los Angeles moment--made even more so because neither this guy or this girl's brother had much of an idea of who eachother were...and they shared a wall in their homes.

And it's not a romantic bolt-of-lightning thing, the guy's got a girlfriend, but courtesy of the random nature of this meeting they both got an invite to a barbecue in a few weeks. The beautiful thing is the walls of urban living were, for a moment, broken down. Those trapped in the hamster wheel of commuting all know people who sit across from them, whether seperated by 36 inches of air or seven feet divided by two different colors of shaped metal and plastic. And 99.96 times out of 100 we don't know them, we never WILL know them. Even if they sit across from you on the subway and you watch them nod out at the end or beginning of a long day. Most people's friends and family only get to see people at such intimite moments. You might as well go ahead and make nice.

'Face in the Crowd,' by Kathleen Edwards

I tried hard to find a song that could score this weird little story, but this is as close as I could come, Kathleen Edwards covering Tom Petty on one of those Hear Music compilations you fondle while waiting for your 'venti' latte. It's not quite 'Up With People' or a similar song of fact it's a little dark...but it's pretty and Edwards' lazy, lovely voice is the perfect thing to fill in the space between two strangers on a train. Or a boat. Or a bus. Get to know her.

(I recommend 'Failer')


At 11:28 AM, Blogger briana said...

That's an amazing story - synchronicity is a funny thing. I've been ruminating on it A LOT lately and things that involve the lack there of.

I've been listening to quite a bit of Kathleen Edwards as well, come to think of it.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger chris said...

Thanks, glad you liked it too. It was just too crazy to not share after she told me last night...hope she doesn't mind.

Synchronicity makes you wonder. I hope she helps him save a puppy in the street or some other small subtle reason emerges for all this. Or maybe just passing along the cool, inspiring story will wind up as the reason.

Kathleen Edwards is great. I wanted to like her last album a lot more.


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