Today I was in such a zoned out state. Part hangover, part general mental confusion, my brain felt like a semi-permeable gel, only trapping the most arbitrary of observations. I went through all the regular motions: dropping my sister off at school, morning coffee and NY Times, going to the gym, picking sister up, IRC meeting for Global Voices, fishing for links around Latin America, and then getting ready for work. But nothing seemed to stick. I read through the same article about a supposed news bias concerning Venezuela at least five times and I still had no idea what it said.
It dawned on me that I needed to get the hell out of my house, far far from any keyboard or internet connection. So I decided to leave for work early and
walk saunter on the well-worn sandstone path perched effortlessly above the 100 foot cliffs bordering La Jolla Bay’s marine reservation.
It is, hands down, the most magnificent quarter mile coast walk north of the border and south of Big Sur. But don’t tell anyone else that because, to this day, it’s more often than not that the entire path will be yours and yours alone.
Which is how it was today. I sat on a bench facing north across the bay to Torrey Pines State Park and focused on the soothing solitude. All around me was evidence of insidious human density, spreading out like the glassy, lulling sets of the sea below. But here on my bench, 100 feet above, I was somehow removed from it all.
As I listened to the lapping ocean waves relentlessy beat on the weathered sandstone below, I also focused on how much I cared for the habitat surrounding me and how little I cared about the bustling interface of modern comforts that we’ve built atop it. It’s not our fault, I know: we build these things out of boredom and restlessness. But, I have my moments, like today on my bench, when I’m convinced I’d be much happier hunting, gathering, copulating, and merely surviving.
By the late sixties, in the wake of such books as The Population Bomb, the notion of humanity as a kind of algae bloom exhausting the earth had reached common consciousness. In these isolated meetings we could see the alternative. Like desert plants distanced by their need for nutrients, each person appeared briefly in the round, an eruption among rocks and plants, an tiny fuse – in the human case – of self-awareness. There were few enough of our kind that we found ourselves replaying them afterward, concerned for what happened to them next. Socially as well as economically, value accrued through scarcity. Beyond the logistics of the earth’s carrying capacity lay the deeper, less generous limits on caring capacity.
I began to feel relaxed. My nervers were soothed like a pot of boiling water after the spaghetti is dropped in. I realize I am only lacking the perfect soundtrack to an otherwise perfect moment and I start searching through my iPod.
When I find this song. (right click, save as)
It’s unbelievable how the entire theme is set by just two bass notes and a couple piano chords. And then Miles Davis’ masterful, piercing, and yet soothing trumpet. Davis recorded the album Kind of Blue in just two days in 1959. This track, Flamenco Sketches, was the only one which required a second take. (on the re-issue, the original is included, which I actually prefer, and is linked to above)
The first 20 seconds of the track exist in a pre-orgasmic suspension that climaxes so fulfillingly, you think it will never end. The notes carry you, pulling and pushing whatever noodle looking part of the brain we associate with the “heart.”
Normally I close my eyes when enjoying music this much, but today what was filling my eyes and my ears were in perfect harmony. The slanted sun, no longer offering its warm embrace was spreading a calm, cool terra cotta orange across the cliffs and hillsides. Below, squaking birds made their commotion in search for an evening’s meal. Seals came in from their play and awkardly waddled up Goldfish Point to enjoy the same lazy tranquility as I was. And transcending it all was Miles Davis’ trumpet.