Big Sur. The most elusive, and the darkest of places which now felt like a legend in my mind. The home to writers who could never truly write about it and who would always ultimately resort to telling whoever was listening that they just had to go see it for themselves. I was on my way to see this place as the car picked up speed, the car which was named after a delightful and boisterous woman who was the only one to ever tell me that ‘you gotta name your car for it is bad luck if you don’t.’
‘Well I never really had a name in mind for my car. It’s always just been there for me. And I love it, but it is still just my car, you know.’
‘No, you must name it, Quinn. What’s it gonna be?’
‘I’ll name it after you.’ Her name was Lisa.
‘Mona Lisa,’ she said. ‘It has some confident elegance to it. A wisdom that is also timeless.’
‘Well then there it is.’
Even though I felt better today driving on the coast highway, I still felt far from myself. For the past week I’d been battling a horrendous, freak case of the flu and I was in the end stages of recovery, but it had a way of bringing me down in every sense, making me feel that everything I was doing wasn’t even worth a damn. It all started on Sunday night after the Super Bowl when the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots, again. Clint Eastwood that night had told everyone watching that it was halftime in America, and that the second half was about to begin. He told the story of Detroit, that blue and true boy which will always be America’s city, of its slow rise from economic despair and the promise of it getting back some new glory. Detroit was making a comeback, and he said that we don’t give up without a fight when things get tough, we get right back up again because we are Americans.
Feeling renewed me and a girl from the Super Bowl party walked out onto Sunset and ran around the strip for drinks but when I tried to kiss her she giggled and said no. That night I said to hell with her and delved into my work, my music and my writing and my acting, and everything I had come out to do in LA. I decided to put it all before everything. That is surely what Orson Welles had to do, in order to be such a master. I would be just like him, with my face in the grind and in the dirt. I was an American. It was halftime, and the second half was about to begin. But the next morning was like waking from a crash and I was low on energy and coughing more than usual.
That next night, Monday night, was when I played at the CAP lounge on Ventura, encouraged by that great craving for proficiency, and by pride in the developing song ‘Man in Black’, about the re-awakening of a bitter and stubborn priest in New Orleans. Still by the time I showed up I was already getting really bad and no doubt some good night’s sleep would have stopped it short, but I refused to go home. Orson Welles would not go home. This was the work.
Come Tuesday morning I was deathly ill. It cost me a gig on Wednesday, when I was set to play alongside a friend of mine, a rapper for a show he was doing downtown. I was discouraged by the bust, feeling prematurely burnt out like some sad and defective fuse.
Luckily I still was in good enough physical shape to make the trip that weekend through Big Sur and up to Frisco. So here I was now heading up the coast wondering whether this trip would even be worth it, and what it was exactly that I planned to find at this point. ‘None of this shit is for you kid, you might as well head back to the east coast.’
I drove into the hills that mark the beginnings of the wine country and through the farms that stretch well into horizons of the east, with rolling hills everywhere and cows scattered lazily across the lands and where the horses ran with me as I drove by them. The sea was hidden on the otherside of the range. The northbound highway turned farther into the east, as I drove higher into an afternoon fog over a cold vineyard, which sat beside a schoolhouse. I stopped to take a picture and I realized that it was not fog at all, but that I was high enough into the hills to stare at the clouds themselves, jagged as they were and looking like smoke dragons soaring over the vineyard and toward the hills past the schoolhouse, the schoolhouse where the kids were out and in recess, ignoring the sight before them as if they had grown up so naturally in heaven.
Pismo Beach, where I reached the falling sun setting into the Pacific as it made the water look like crystal waves crashing so soft toward the pier and onto the sands, is an old surf town that lives like the ghost on the beach, long forgotten and silently majestic.
I walked out onto the pier that went on forever, stretching far from the shore and close enough to the sun that it seemed you might caress the great god, the last cry of shining silver Helios, laying his graces upon you before returning to the big sleep beneath the sea.
I approached the edge of the pier, leaned upon the rails and said a soft prayer to this violent crashing finale in the coastal afternoon and said oh God strip me of my sickness and make me more in tune once again. Protect me and touch me and allow me to see. Yea bless me fading benevolent sun before you sleep for I want just a shadow of your greatness, more than enough for me to create wonders.
I felt the rush of the waves against my face and the warmth of the sun. I looked up and in the sky it remained, as it stared down upon me and out toward its pacific kingdom that went to places I couldn’t yet imagine. And with every step I made back into town I felt that I could breathe easy once again, and that I was removed of the great fatigue that had plagued me for the past several days.
Greatness, whatever that was, and the idea of commitment to ones craft and the decision that one must do what he feels passionate about, and DAMN the consequences and DAMN the fact that it is a number of passions that might altogether makes things cumbersome and grueling, I thought of all these things leaving Pismo as the sky grew grey over the final miles of coast leading to San Simeon.
A mighty, triumphantly rugged sense of Orson Welles spectacle and wonder all inherent in the Pacfic Coast Highway not long after leaving Pismo Beach. The feeling of an awesome giant living in the moutains, who watches the ocean and guides all those seekers who know that this is where the spirit of the legend resides, this feeling lies on the golden coast beginning on the outskirts of San Simeon where the Hearst Castle stands so alone on a distant hill top, looming in the fog of the night.
Only at night can you see the castle, when its light casts but a dim beam in the dark and it looks like an ancient guardian who never looks at you, but who knows that you are there and knows everything about you.