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Cumberland, MD - Sing With Me If It's Just For Today... — LiveJournal
If I should fall behind, Guyster, wait for me.
Cumberland, MD

The conversation I don’t want to have has begun. It trickled through yesterday when I was checking into a Best Western in Mason, outside of Cincinnati. For the first time on the trip, I was asked why I was visiting. There was no malice behind the question but born of curiosity, the kind I hadn’t experienced since I left LA. Through the desert, Texas, Oklahoma and the Midwest, motel operators just assumed I was passing through.

“What brings you here?” the clerk asked. He was dark haired, nerdy-handsome and husky.

“I’m moving to DC.”


“LA.” So far, I was smiling.

“I hate LA. I know some people like it but I never did. Give me San Diego or San Francisco anytime,” the authority in his voice made me wonder what LA had done to him. Was he a dejected actor or screenwriter? Had the City Of Angels been less than angelic for him?

“Really? How long did you live there?”

“Oh I only was there a few days but I couldn’t wait to get out of it!” He finished checking me in, I went to the room and saw they only offered seven channels, two of which were EPSN so I took Bob back to the car and asked to check out.

“Anything wrong with the room?” he looked more concerned about the additional paperwork than my comfort.

“No. It’s just kind of too hotelly and I wanted a place where I could pull up the car to the door.”

But the conversation that plagued both Billy and I throughout our time in NYC had begun. People hate LA. It’s too laid-back. It’s too fast. It’s shallow. The air is polluted. People are so fake there. The list is endless and the encounters are frustrating. On one particularly long ride up to our 33rd floor apartment in New York, a man was so determined to convince me NY was better than LA, he finally got me to agree that New York did, indeed, have better drinking water.

No one is more strident about this opinion than San Franciscans however; it’s a rivalry that is lop-sided. Los Angelenos enjoy San Francisco, we think it’s a terrific little city with its cute houses and joyride streets but ask an Sfer about LA and you’ll hear a lecture. For us, it's like super so whatever.

Bob has settled into a nice routine of lying in his box-surrounded apartment in the back of the Explorer for hours on end and then settling into a strange room every night. I stop every two hours to refill on Diet Coke and take him for a walk in the field of the moment. After the walk, he now puts his front paws up on the car’s landing and waits for me to boost his back legs the rest of the way. If I’m not at the ready though, he’ll turn and shoot the look Um. Hello? Legs please.

The solitude of the road plays havoc with my pet hamster brain. He’s been working overtime on his wheel in the past six days. Besides the usual “what if” and the endless loop of finding Billy, the anxiety is kicking in the closer I get to DC. I worry about the job itself. I’m concerned that once I arrive at my new apartment, they won’t accept Bob. The building, like all of DC apartment buildings, has a fifty-pound limit on dogs. Even with his new diet from the steroids, he’s a sizable seventy-seven. If I put him on Trim Spa and lowered his weight to fifty, he’d be positively Calista.

Here’s what the hamster has been running with: When the present is a stranger, the past becomes as comfortable as a warm hearth on a winter’s night. For the past eighteen months and three days, I’ve been trying to catch up to the momentum of the past: the unfinished conversations, the unanswered questions and the truths unspoken. The essential dilemma is to find a present that looks remotely ordinary and that is unlikely to happen. The hunger of the impaired past will never be satisfied. The potential of the future looks very foreign indeed. The present is what happens when I’m thinking of the past. Swing myself round-and-round.

I pulled off one of the ramps to Cumberland and rolled down the passenger window to ask the neighboring driver if I was at the right exit for the Holiday Inn.

“What brings you to Cumberland?” he asked without answering the question.

“Moving to DC.”

“From where?”


“Boy. I bet you’re glad to get out of there!” he said as the light changed. I followed him and saw the motel sign without his help. Whatever, dude.
20 comments or Leave a comment
From: inkprincess Date: August 25th, 2003 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
As much as i would love to move out of LA, to hear crap like that is annoying. how fuckin rude.
e_ticket From: e_ticket Date: August 25th, 2003 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Greetings from LA

Funny, mtzlplck and I had a similar conversation about LA vs. SF a few weeks ago. I love visting SF and singing its praises, but often when I go there, I'm thwacked on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper by some local for admitting I live in (and love) LA.

Having grown up here, I guess I have the same reaction, which most Angelenos do: "Whatever. Don't come here then." Why debate when you can be happy where you're at?
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 25th, 2003 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Greetings from LA

It's weird how armored they are for a battle when no one wants to have one with them. The thing I absolutely love about LA is that it embraces its silly shallowness and makes it fun fun fun. Gosh I miss it already.
e_ticket From: e_ticket Date: August 25th, 2003 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

:::waving like a prom queen::::

The thing that *I* love about LA is that the "shallowness" angle (heh, I called it an "angle") is, at least in my case, a bit of a ruse -- sure, there's shallow crap. Obsess about it all you want. :::waving politely:::: Goodbye, thanks for visiting, sorry you didn't like us.

Truth is, that kind of cursory judgement keeps the masses from exploring the *real* LA, the neat stupid "history" of the place that I constantly am amazed at discovering along with my other LA denizens. There *is* a certain amount of bizarre, deranged depth here, if you have the patience and imagination and curiosity to be willing to discover it.

Most of all, I learned to love the weirdness of LA from our dear friend Bruce. Those who loved him know what I mean. May he rest in sun-drenched, palm-tree-lined peace.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 26th, 2003 08:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: :::waving like a prom queen::::

I love your sense of LA - a city where people go to act out in public. I feel in love with LA when I was a teenager, watching Adam-12 and reading Raymond Chandler. It lived up to its expectations.

And it isn't like LA tips the shallow scale. Anyone watch Sex In The City?
marm0t From: marm0t Date: August 25th, 2003 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Psh. After this year's Boston weather? I'm so ready to move to L.A. If it's good enough for Kay Hanley, it's good enough for me.
e_ticket From: e_ticket Date: August 26th, 2003 10:10 am (UTC) (Link)


I have the biggest crush on Kay Hanley and her lovely voice (listening to "Shapeshifter" from the "Josie" soundtrack at the moment)
marm0t From: marm0t Date: August 26th, 2003 10:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

too bad you didn't tell me that sooner; coulda got you an autograph. :)
explosivo From: explosivo Date: August 25th, 2003 06:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
i fucking hate LA :)

(i do, honest.)
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 26th, 2003 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know you say you hate LA....
ruralrob From: ruralrob Date: August 25th, 2003 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well I like L.A. But anyway, I'm glad you included news of Bob here, and that it sounds as if he, like you, is doing pretty good on the road. Safe journey!
From: umkinda Date: August 25th, 2003 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been on both sides of the that coin. I was raised in Northern California, where we were taught that there should be a civil war to split the states. I spent years in SF saying how much I hated sunny little LA... then I moved here and realized that everything was true... and a total lie. Now I even love the stuff I originally hated. Wow, it's like I'm like growing up and changing my opinion or some junk.

guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 26th, 2003 09:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
You so totally fit into a super LA.
mondragon From: mondragon Date: August 26th, 2003 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I was born and raised in So Cal - first 13 years in the Valley, next 10 in southern Orange County. Never ever ever fit in. As soon as I finished college I was offered and took a job in New Haven, Ct and then worked my way down to the NYC area where I am now.

I moved back to LA for two years - 1996 and 1997. Lived in Santa Monica, close enough to the beach to ride my bike there every day. But I hated it. It was difficult to make friends and impossible to date. I had gotten used to, and really loved, the direct honesty and general lack of pretense of new yorkers and to go from that to the almost instinctive up-spin that many people in LA when talking about themselves, I couldn't deal. I would poke at them to get them to tell the truth ("how long have you been writing that script? Isn't the definition of a screenwriter someone who has actually written something?" "You can be interesting even if you're not on the road to being very rich or winning an oscar") Finally I gave up.

I just figure, different people fit different places. I just didn't fit there. I do fit here.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 26th, 2003 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Really? There's no direct honesty in LA? I should alert my friends, maybe even take a good look in the mirror at myself. LA is a company town, granted, but I managed to surround myself with those who had little or nothing to do with the business. And New York is filled with what? People who have no ambition or desire to be wealthy? I must have lived in a different NYC.

You've been on my "friends of" list for a while and off all the things I've written, this is the first time you've ever commented. Your statement could not have better exemplified my frustration at "the conversation." You paint LA with a very broad brush then claim the different strokes theory, all the while judging. It must be that lack of New York pretense.

mondragon From: mondragon Date: August 27th, 2003 03:45 am (UTC) (Link)
The other thing about people who like living in LA: they are SO defensive about it.

What can I say? You're not responding to what I wrote, and when someone does that - reads for insult instead of content, twists words and projects things that aren't there - then it's best to just move on.

Good luck with your move. DC's a beautiful city; I know some really great people who live there.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 27th, 2003 10:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh gawd, I am so not defensive about LA. I know all of its warts and willfully overlook them.

I just found it odd that the first time you decided to engage in my journal after reading it for a while was to have the very conversation I wanted to avoid.

Thank you for your good luck and I believe DC is a great city too. I definitely believe NY is a great city. I like cities.
fabulist From: fabulist Date: August 26th, 2003 06:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, bear in mind that Cumberland's a special case--it's so isolated from the rest of our lovely state that there's a sort of provincialism that goes on that's extreme even for Marylanders outside of the central Maryland core (Mind you, it's a lovely town, locked into several past eras by a collapsing rail/canal economy). On your way in, you'll have passed quite close to my palatial mountain estate in West Virginia, too, about ten miles south of Hancock.

It's funny, the reactions to LA you get around here, and it reminds me of an ongoing argument I've had with people about the phrase "Bay Area." I was chatting with someone online and he mentioned he was in the Bay Area, and I asked "which one?" which brought on a withering "well duh, San Francisco," as if SF is somehow the default "Bay Area" for the country in spite of the fact that the Chesapeake Bay estuary is the largest one in the country and the dominant feature of our wee state. I think we tend to be overly defensive because we live in the region where the American experiment was conceived, and yet, Californians often seem to us to have an inflated sense that they hold a rightful cultural hegemony over the land, so we turn into mean evangelists.

Star-bellied sneetches, or those without stars upon thars, I suspect.

At any rate, welcome! I'm looking forward to showing you the best aspects of the area--just e-mail me when you get in and settled. Where'd they put you up, BTW? Dupont, Kalorama, thereabouts?
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: August 26th, 2003 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't see much of Cumberland other than it felt familiar and weathered. A belching locomotive sat outside the motel all night long with a sleeping engineer behind its inactive wheel.
mickster From: mickster Date: August 27th, 2003 08:41 am (UTC) (Link)

L.A. Rules and you all wish you were here so SHUT UP!!

Okay, if L.A. (The City of ANGELS) was so bad then why does everyone AND their stinkin' mother want to be here?

The weather here is perfect year round. I've heard those "Oh, but what about the seasons?" and "Don't you want to watch the leaves turn?" Shut up...just shut up with all that.

The entertainment industry rules this city and because of that there are more incredibly talented humans in this city than anywhere else in the world.

It's 'anything goes' here, except drinking after 2 am...okay THAT SUCKS!! That is definitely lame about L.A.

Ah, people who don't like L.A. are just weak and can't handle the pace. They probably hate NY too. Go back to the farm and leave to the glitz to the strong of heart.

Man, you're right...People from L.A. are defensive. Oh well, I can't be bothered...must go take a lunch with my people.
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