Johnny On L.A. — Book Excerpt

Johnny had gotten through a few drafts of a novel at the time of his passing.  He described it as a novel about “a young, would-be Charles Marlow* as he attempts to journey deeper into the unknown of an increasingly well mapped and modern world. The story is about travel as a means of a larger, inward journey.”close up blue shirt brown tones 

*{Marlow was a recurring character in the novels of Josef Conrad; a sailor who narrates and plays a major role in Conrad’s Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness; he was the model for Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now}

Here is an excerpt occurring toward the beginning, an observation about LA: 

Palm trees are not native to California. They were brought here like the busloads of tourists that unfurl themselves by the hour into this city. And like the tourists they seem to be everywhere.  Our special wind, the Santa Ana, stirs the palms, swooning them like drunks. 

The Santa Ana wind arrives each year on schedule, blowing up from Mexico most Octobers, a tropical breeze that dries up by the time it reaches the basin, wiping the city with a strange heat that defies the season.  You notice it in the air and you feel it on your skin. Animals act funny. Cats get jumpier and dogs more woebegone. When the right combination of cross-breezes comes your way you can taste what they must sense: a weight in the air, a strange scent, rhubarb and apocalypse. 

People act surprised each year no matter how long theyʼve lived here. People have no short term memory in Los Angeles. Weeks, months, years blur. This is common in deserts, in any place that lacks seasons. A body needs change to mark time. A calendar needs winter and spring, it needs an autumn, but here all the trees are evergreen and the skies are always blue. The upside is the beach year-round, but people usually stop going pretty quick once they move here. Too crowded.


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