Sunday, December 4, 2011

Private Spaces in Public Places

For the past two days, I've been reading State of the Arts: California Artists Talk About Their Work by Barbara Isenberg, who interviewed such figures as Joan Didion, Clint Eastwood, Peter Sellars (opera director and one of my heroes), David Hockney, Matt Groening, Norman Lear, and others about what California means to them as artists, and formed those interviews into essays.

In his chapter, David Hockney makes an interesting point: "I've always understood that in California the private spaces are better than the public spaces."

Hockney has it right, though it depends on the private space, because some public spaces can seem private. Parks and movie theaters aren't private at all, but last night waiting for Dad and Meridith at Big Lots comes to mind. People were walking in and out of the store, and I didn't feel like I was in public. I was listening to the music coming out of the speakers in the ceiling overhead, watching the traffic across the street, looking at the hillside with house lights on it and cars driving down those roads. I was on my own in my head, noticing no one.

Then there was that day back in June when Meridith and I were home while Mom and Dad were in Las Vegas, and we went to Valencia Ice Station to watch the ice skaters and the hockey players, and to play a few games in the arcade: Galaga for me, air hockey for me and Meridith ( Meridith and I were the only two in that arcade, but while playing Galaga, that was my private space. I was completely focused on the game.

I think I'm moving far away from what Hockney meant, but certainly these instances are spaces in California. Another private space would be Hearst Castle, which has public tours, and is only accessible by small bus up a mountain. At night, with no one there, that's as private as it gets.

And on that same trip back in January 2006, Dad and I stayed at La Quinta Inn in Sacramento. On a third floor balcony, outside those sets of rooms, I looked out at downtown Sacramento and felt total silence. Sacramento is the kind of city that is busy during the day, but once the evening hits, there is nothing that requires any more attention. Whatever needs to be done can be done the next day. It feels like Sacramento relaxes and is more loose about things, though not that loose, since it is the seat of the state government after all.

In a way, despite the operation involved in running Ninja at Six Flags Magic Mountain, I could consider those moments inside my car while riding in it my private space. I don't scream like others do; I sit and think. It's a meditation space for me, crazy as it seems, though with those sharp, immensely pleasureable turns, it's easy to understand.

For completely private spaces, I get what Hockney is saying, especially in thinking back to the apartment in Valencia, when I'd read in my room on Saturday afternoons, sunlight filtering through the dusty blinds behind me as I sat on my bed, discovering the works of Charles Bukowski, and finding kind of a kindred soul in him with that raw, very funny honesty.

The private spaces are better because you can fit them to whatever you want, and make your own California out of them. That's the only way I've survived these eight years since I never much liked the public spaces of Southern California. And what I did like, such as the Valencia library, was only a means to something. It was never just being there for the place itself.

There was one instance in which I was there for the place itself. When I was a nocturnal creature to the extent of going to bed at 5 a.m. and waking up at 2 p.m. years ago, I'd walk our patio, looking out at the ripples in the community pool right behind our wall (One of the major selling points when it comes time to finally sell this place) and the darkened mountain with a few lights on, street lights, but everyone asleep or at least in bed gripping the sheets in terror at the swiftness of life and why the hell haven't they done half of what they had planned to do in their lives?

That's what I figure, anyway. I loved the silence in those hours, much as I do at 12:01 a.m. right now (I started this entry a few hours ago, before Sunday changed to Monday, but it wasn't because of writer's block that I haven't finished it yet. I've been searching for books and ordering a few at the same time. As usual). It's interesting outside because this valley settles down faster than parts of Los Angeles. It is so quiet that the whistle of a train reverberates loudly throughout the valley, which is essentially dead by 10 p.m. anyway.

My private space is right here, sitting in front of this computer while the rest of the household is asleep. The location isn't ideal, and it's pretty obvious where I'd rather be, but it's fine for now because there's only me and State of the Arts in front of me, and whatever else comes to this night before I decide that it's finally time to nod off a little before or a little after 2. It's a solid private space.

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