Tyler Swain and I strode arm in arm, lock step, across the pavers in the foyer of the swank, old, Figueroa Hotel. It was a rainy night in Downtown LA. I was just back from some time away with Shawn Alladio in Oregon and Northern California, and being immersed in watery adventure. Tyler was fresh off the set of Jackass 3 where he is engaged as camera. He had just survived being taken out with a twelve inch dildo fired at him down a hallway from a potato cannon. It had struck him mid chest and dropped him. Then there was the taser. My face hurt from laughing at the picture he had painted.
We walk different worlds, he and I, but fell in together gratefully this night. It seems that we never really get enough time to catch up. The cool damp air of the foyer presaged our trip out into the craziness of a Saturday night in LA, and the traffic created by whatever was going on at nearby Staples Center.
I am not a fan of LA. It is concrete claustrophobia to me, seasoned with dashed dreams and desperate hope, clung to by denizens and transients with claws of blue steeled sorrow. But this is where Tyler lives, when he is not traveling, filming or creating some wild thing or another.
Donna and Brittany trail behind the two of us. One of them says something in a sarcastic tone, to the effect of “Oh we see how it is, you two have your arms around each other and we are left behind”. Tyler and I grin, and do not say much, jerking the girls along, as we dive into the fluorescent night time, in search of a dinner together, before we go our separate ways, paths and dreams.
A scant few yards of sidewalk pass underfoot, and over the clean scent of rain, wafts the salty sweet fragrance of onion and bacon in a stark yet pleasant counterpoint. A friendly looking Hispanic woman smiles at us and chants “Bacondogs.” It is a statement, more than a query.
“Ever had one Tyler?”, I ask. “Oh many’s the time when I was wandering along, and that is what I had. It’s late, been drinking, and nothing sounds as good as grilled meat and grease. Seriously.”
We step into the middle of Ninth St., and I look up after making sure nothing is going to run us down. The Marriott Hotel stands, a black obelisk against the brighter grays of a city lit, cloud layer, which steadily flows across black eternity, giving us brief glimpses of the starry expanse beyond. Strobe beams dash to and fro like a laser light show. The scene is awe inspiring and strange. I knew that were I to set camera to tripod, we would be stopped in short order by some sort of official representative of LA’s no filming fan club. That says it all about LA for me: look, but do not touch, or share. We want it all for ourselves. What that braying really means is “pay us”. It is death to any conscious creative. It also strangles the asset value of this piece of real estate. No one owns anything. Not really. Even the heart changes.
Here is something perfectly illustrative. It underscores much regarding man’s path, and God, His. If you get your head around it, please drop me a note, as I have failed to do so. I already knew of my minuteness in intimate detail, thank you.
The four of us have a pleasant meal at a nouveau style bistro, and great conversation seasons it. The wait staff is personable and dives right in, as if they had known us far longer than thirty minutes. I appreciated them. The affect was not unlike being in a street side café in the Sumatran port town of Sibolga. I think it may be a third world tenet: hospitality to strangers. LA is peculiar in it’s similarity to things third world.
It is not that I despise the place. It is that I am uncomfortable there. Each visit reminds me that I am a stranger in a strange land. The wayfarer from abroad, on my way to a vital and loving reality. Yet each time I do manage a visit, I seem to experience what I like to call, a Matrix moment.
A Matrix moment is what was illustrated on film by the Wachowski brothers in their Matrix film series. It is when apparent time slows to a crawl and one becomes intimately aware of every detail and it’s movement through time. It causes me to understand, to comprehend something, by forcing me to slow down, and embrace the realization created by a complete shift in the tempo of my perception of time.
Those moments are inexplicably placed for me. They are cosmic signposts. But the number of things which must transpire in order for the moment to occur, are so involved and convoluted in form, that it boggles the mind. It convinces me that what is seen, is frequently not what it appears to be. Unbeknownst to me, as we rumbled down Figueroa Blvd in the sinister black, Speed 3, looking for the 110 freeway entrance, one of those moments was about to occur.
That night had begun with the intention of attending a Sidestepper concert at Cal State University. Donna had won tickets on KCRW. We had been a little late due to traffic and the tickets had been given away. No biggie, I actually felt relieved as a three hour concert was not my idea of a good time. I was just trying to be a good humored escort. So I had called Tyler from the theater. He was at the Figueroa, having rented a suite for the night for an evening in Downtown. But it all began with the intention to attend that concert.
Finding the freeway entrance, I ignored Donna’s directions to go the other way, and we hot pedaled into a slot in slug tempo traffic. In awhile we had merged into the center lane of Hwy 101 N and meandered in the flow, towards our friend Brian’s place, for a party.
Up ahead I saw a trailer loaded with PWC’s and Donna said “Hey isn’t that Shawn?” My first reaction was: “Nah, probably a race team headed for an event.” Then I saw the deep blue truck Shawn uses as a tow vehicle and her home away from home. There we were, at an intersection, in a place none of us would ever be of our own volition or planning. Then it happened. As Donna rolled down her window screaming hellos and I love yous, time slowed and we pulled alongside each other.
On my ten o clock a helo was hanging in pace with us. On my left, a champagne SUV was easing up to pass. Shawn turned and smiled somewhat amusedly. A midnight blue late model Saturn was changing lanes on the opposite side of her truck. Time crawled and I saw everything at a near standstill almost as if it were a high resolution still frame. My car phone rang. Shawn: “Hey David, I could hear Donna screaming while you guys were still back by the trailer.” “Yep. Funny seeing you here. Safe drive. Love you.”
And as everything shifted back into real time, I eased into the number one lane and softly throttled up. Shawn was on her way to a course in Morro Bay, where she was to train a select group of rescue personnel. I was on my way to hang with a bunch of creatives. I knew that both our heads would hit pillow at about the same time later that next morning. There are no accidents, only intersecting lives. This is the matrix. It is what determines our future. It is how I find subjects in my view finder, and how I come to love them.
This link is to the recent Music Video Tyler, Rob Dafoe and I made. The LA scenes are shot within a stones throw of where we stood tonight. It was a huge cosmic slow down, and is replete with Matrix moments. It is an example of why I connect to some people on a uniquely separate level. I only recently began to truly get a grip on this. But that is how life works. I appreciate shooting stars and how they can intersect. It only occurs when both position themselves by following their own paths. I have recognized this occurrence a lot in my career and life: the same characters will re appear at critical junctures.
I thought about Shawn, as I fell asleep at around 3:30 am.
I just finished writing this. The image below dropped into my e mail in box on cue. It is of Shawn, ready to embark on a training ride, in a rising swell, which I had been watching online. It is raining. If you have read this far, you are in. Welcome to the matrix.