American Diaries – 25 Aug 2003

Part 2/3. To my mind, this journal entry was written at the lowest point of our nine-month trip. We had planned a round-the-world journey since we were 15. We were now 23 and we’d made it from Vancouver to San Diego before we gave up and begged our way home. The language is confusing, I think, but I remember what I was trying to say. I can picture the imagery in my mind clearly even now, in 2016. The importance of this journal entry, and the previous one (20/08/03) which is similarly bleak, is to remember that paradise can be a trap of lethargy and discontent, just as hell can be heaven. It’s perspective, and it makes me smile, the way you smile at an old friend when they’re sad but you know they’ll be OK, even if they don’t.

Monday 25 August 2003

The Apartment, San Diego


In two days, I hear, Mars will be closer to the Earth than it has been for 60,000 years.

Where is this written from? Not from San Diego. Not from a real or even an imagined place. This written from some swirling place above the ‘real’ Earth’s surface by a tired hand on the end of a stalk-like, gangling arm, the only fragile connection to reality and history. The body and mind are floating above, uncomfortably swimming against overpowering waves of human emotions both real and imagined. The brain is numb and lazy, the body is oily, cramped and unresponsive.

The sun does shine in this place however and at the right-hand edge of my field of vision is a scene of palm trees and surf but it feels eternally unreachable. Never fulfilling its imagined image when I am there.

Somewhere to the left quivering in a haze, glowing, backlit, like a drive-in movie projected on some two-dimensional wall of ethereal smoke is some vision of London. Some paradoxical short movie which skips and repeats in which there is one tale of pleasant, ironic comfort and success and another of shameful, wretched immobility.

I am swimming South, although never moving. 18,000 miles of this elongated, shimmering spillage of watercolour which composes my great dream now lies behind a frame set on a plain wall behind a rope, lit by spotlights and accompanied by a simple uninformative plaque. The great frontier on the southern edge of this massive, sweaty white mass of a civilisation is signposted by television sets blasting police chases and laughing newsmen. Behind it is a fading image of a vast desert strip with dense trees and hanging vines on its far horizon stretching and thinning away toward a vanishing point, as if being sucked into a singularity, passing through this new artist’s frame and becoming this oily streak.

Where is the despair, pity, the need for pity? Where are the reflective what-ifs, where the anger?

Now there is just hope. Hope for the simple pleasure of distraction, for something, anything better than this nothing of stuffy heat , dirty clothes and sickening, mind destroying, apathetic emissions from the flickering black box at its centre.


Alright, so I am peacefully resigned to failure and the week to follow of begging the parents to fund a flight home, and searching for someone or some yard stupid enough to buy our van. It is worth pointing out just here that last week I performed the mind-bogglingly stupid act of trying to drive our high-top van through a low-clearance gate and atomised both of the plastic sunroofs in the process! With or without profiting from the sale of the van though, unless by some miracle we manage to get a hefty sum for it (say $3,000), this epic voyage is over, doomed, done.

Ah, fuck it though, who cares anyway? I’m neither ignorant nor nostalgic enough to get upset about stuff like this, as if we were sailors making a u-turn on some groundbreaking, royally appointed mission. We just got stuck, that’s all, and we need to do what is tactically best of us and do it tactically, quietly – with no emotion. Maybe we could be accused of screwing up but it would be an arbitrary statement – we attempted this absurd journey, we did more than most would dare. We enjoyed ourselves, we saw much and learned more – however, we blew all our funds on western society and expensive hobbies such as snowboarding and we made some bad judgements such as believing that the van might sell well down here. Maybe we will get another shot soon, and certainly we would do things differently, maybe this is it for our round-the-world dream. It doesn’t matter, that’s all future and fantasy, bullshit and it’s not worth thinking about. I will just be happy to be doing SOMETHING, somewhere.

I doubt I will miss San Diego for anything but the sun and the surfing, although I really haven’t got into surfing much here out of hatred for the crowds, the falsity and disturbance of hordes of people in those blessed waves. I will not miss this brain-sucking apartment. I will not miss the people as, bless them for the good friends that they are, I get so little in the way of decent discourse with them and we can’t really afford to do much together. There is only one thing I will miss from this chapter in SoCal and that’s Erin. She is so sweet and we have connected on so many levels, had so much fun, I wish there was more time for us to kill together.

Realistically though, Erin’s life is an hour and a half North of here, the time we do have is crippled by not only my poverty but even more so by my frustration and lethargy, even though she may look after us so. Of course I do see that the time we have had may have been all the sweeter knowing how temporary it was always going to be. Who knows? I just hope that I am in London when/if she decides to visit Europe so that I can offer my roof, my hospitality, my weed, my sanity in return.

What else? I am struggling. Okay, a list of some of the music that means California to me which I should download if I get myself back on the web at home”

Slightly Stoopid
Dave Matthews
Jack Johnson
Ben Harper
The Roots
The White Stripes
Violent Femmes (esp. American Music)
The Ramones (esp. Sheena is a Born Rocker)
Jimmy Eat World
The Transplants

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