Jul 14, 2005

Wolvenspirit's Summer Excursion Part V of V: The California Experience

I have never been that interested in photographing people. It isn't a stretch to conclude from viewing a single gallery of mine that I am much more nature-oriented in just about every respect, including photography. It has never been encouraging that just about every person or domestic animal I've offered to photograph seems to have a natural aversion to being photographed, either. Well, actually, my cat doesn't care, but that is somewhat beside the point, as he simply acts disinterested in most human affairs, aside from the administration of cat food. I can't say I blame him.

In the case of northern California, what I found most interesting there were the trees. It was still dark by the time I drove past the first series of really big 'uns, but even seeing the massive trunks illuminated by the headlights was impressive. Where I come from, trees don't get nearly so big. Most of the trees around these parts aren't nearly so old, either. Dawn had made some headway by the time I reached an exit for 'Avenue of the Giants,' a scenic alternative to the main freeway which was fashioned into a national park. We decided we had the time and energy to stare in awe at a few giant trees, so off the beaten path we ventured. As we proceeded slowly along the road through the dark forest, seeing no other signs of human life anywhere, one particular grove beside the road caught my interest. I just had to stop, jump out, and walk around. See, the trunks some of these trees were boasting were about as wide as the rear door on our SUV--and our SUV was rather large. To stand under these specimens and look up was, well, a very psychologically dwarfing experience. They seemed to rise up into the sky forever. If one was actually nimble enough to climb up on one of the fallen logs, they could get quite a view from the top. This was the kind of forest I would love to live in--the atmosphere was incredibly enchanting, the understory very clean and attractive, and the wildlife abundant--we saw a mule deer, a few bunnies, and a raccoon. I felt very much at peace there. These were the kinds of trees that tree huggers would hug if tree huggers could only save trees they hugged. To imagine one of them being sawed down for the benefit of mankind was, well, heart-rending.

A couple miles down the road was a side route which led past the largest tree I have ever seen. I mean, it was unfathomably huge. This picture wouldn't look nearly as impressive if I hadn't parked the SUV right next to it to provide some perspective. No photography/Photoshop tricks were used, I swear. The SUV is parked no more than a couple metres away from the base of the tree. If that tree fell in the middle of the forest, it has a good chance of making a few people care.

More of the park remained to be seen, but we decided we would better manage our time by merging back on the freeway and moving along. Once again, I turned the driving duties over to my much less road-worn father. Honestly, to attempt to drive all the way to San Francisco in my present condition would have been idiotic. I must have slept for a good couple hours, as by the time I woke up, we were only 90 or so miles from the city. He mentioned when I once again took the wheel that I had missed plenty of "awesome" scenery (yes, he uses that dreadful word excessively too, unfortunately). I was given the opportunity to see wine country, something I saw plenty of in the one-small-step-above-mediocre romantic comedy Sideways. Somehow, the scenery all seemed a little duller in person and without Paul Giamatti.

I was happy to finally arrive in San Francisco, though. It marked yet another milestone in our trip; another huge chunk of driving conquered. Interestingly, as we stopped at the Golden Gate Recreation Area and viewed the famous bridge from the lookout, I felt like I had just been there yesterday. I'll even go so far as to say that I felt like I lived there. San Francisco was, in fact, the first stop in our last mainland trip, and we had stayed there for a few days before catching a train to Portland. Our last mainland trip covered only the western section of the U.S., though, and was very relatives-oriented. Everything seemed very familiar to me, and I wasn't all too comfortable with that fact. It was the first time on the trip that I ever got that feeling. Then again, I had never been to most of the places we had previously visited, save Seattle and Portland. Golden Gate Park seemed less familiar, most likely because I had never been there before. For some reason, I didn't find San Francisco as fascinating as I thought I would... mostly due to that feeling of familiarity. I felt like I was a native, not a tourist. I felt like I should have been hurrying back to my day job in a high rise.

There was one place I had my sights set on visiting, though--Amoeba Records. I had heard from my friend that this store was one of the best music stores he had ever set foot into, and I wanted to see it for myself. Once again, it took about half an hour of wrong turns and screwing around before we finally found the correct address on Haight Street. Oh, but it was Love at first sight. This store was massive, selling new and used CD's of every possible genre, music posters, LP's, and even DVD's in an entirely separate section. I must have spent at least an hour and a half there poring over the huge selection of music. The electronica section alone could have taken an entire day to properly browse through. In the end, I bought a few CD's, and ended up very satisfied with my selections.

I was blessed indeed to have music to keep me company during the drive--crawl, rather, out of San Francisco. Due to some accident or another, getting back on the I-5, just a few miles away, stole at least an hour from our day. I was reminded of the opening scene from Falling Down, only I wasn't on my way home from work, we weren't yet in L.A., and the A/C was working. I could feel my temper rising, but did not let it get the best of me. The next place we stopped, I decided to again rest in the backseat while my father drove, not volunteering to take control of the wheel again until Los Angeles was just over the mountains. Truth be told, the L.A. stop was something I wanted to get over with as quickly as possible. I wasn't looking forward to spending a night in Hollyweird, and dare I say, I wasn't looking very forward to having to socialise with my brother. When it comes to the subject of my brother, I always can't help but stress how we are different as night and day. It's not because I want that to be true- it's because that is true. It often seems as if he stands for everything I don't, and vice versa. I refuse to delve too heavily into the subject at this point in time, though. Contrary to years past, we are able to treat each other with a modicum of civility, but we certainly not in a very friendly way. There is always too much tension present between us.

Darkness has already fallen by the time we finally interpreted the directions he gave us correctly and found his little dwelling in Hollyweird- an apartment building on the third story, only about a quarter mile from Sunset Boulevard. Though it was the last sort of place I would ever consider living, it seemed suitable enough for a night's stay. His apartment was at least twice the size of mine, though I can't say the atmosphere was any more cheerful. Unfortunately for my tendency to be a light sleeper in new environments, the city never slept. Throughout the night, I would be awakened by someone revving their engine or honking their horn or shouting and carrying on like a drunk. Some places... they just make you appreciate home even more.

I must say, I had been looking very forward to the next morning. This was the day I would get up before everyone else, gather a few things of mine, and take the SUV by myself out of Hollyweird and down to San Diego. I would finally meet my best online friend in person, so he would forever shed the status of "online" friend, at least in my book which has yet to be published or even written. Our initial plan was to head up to San Bernardino together and attend a music festival there until the wee hours of morning before heading back to my brother's place and sleeping for a few hours. From there, we would drive back to Ian's place, and my father would take the SUV back to Hollyweird, and allow a couple days for driving it back to Seattle and returning it and flying back to Hawaii on the 28th. I was scheduled to return to paradise on July 5th, leaving me about ten days to spend with my friend. It all seemed to work out splendidly, save for a few minor twists, most of which turned out to be positive ones.

Unsurprisingly, Ian and I were so delighted to finally meet one another that we could barely contain ourselves. Considering we had been communicating online since February of 2004, and had grown close even from a distance since then, this was a much anticipated moment. It was an utterly joyous sensation. I was given the opportunity to meet his folks and become acquainted with his bedroom, where I would be spending the night for the next week or so. His mother, out of concern for us, booked a hotel for us to sleep in after we decided to leave the festival, rather than attempt to drive all the way back to Hollyweird from San Bernardino in our potentially exhausted state. As soon as we were given clearance, we took off!

Even the drive up there was very memorable. We listened to good music, conversed a little, and generally became familiar with each other's physical presence. When we reached San Bernardino, it must have took at least an hour driving around looking for the National Orange Show (the grounds upon which the festival was held), much less the hotel we would be staying in. Finally, we had to stop at the Hilton and ask for directions to the Radisson. It turned out to be a few miles from where we thought it was. Some help your maps were, Yahoo!. The hotel room turned out to be quite luxuriant, certainly a safe haven from the rest of San Bernardino. We both agreed that it was truly a disgusting desert town, a place that neither of us would ever want to live in, much less visit unless for a very good reason. That evening presented a very good reason- the Electric Daisy Carnival. The following is a C/P of something I posted elsewhere, which is conveniently suitable for this entry:


The EDC was the first rave I have ever attended. For years, I have been desiring the opportunity to experience one. My interest in raves has greatly increased in the past two years, as well, as I have become very passionate about electronic music and its culture. I must declare that Saturday's rave was nothing short of mind-blowing. It was easily the most affecting musical performance I have ever attended. Of course, the magnificence of the experience was also due in large part to having gone with Ian, who besides being an amazing individual and friend, is also responsible for fueling my interest in such music over the past year and a half. We are both devoted electronica fans, and it seemed as if this show was tailor made for us.

The event ran from 4 in the afternoon to 2 in the morning, and was comprised of several high profile deejays performing on four different stages. The audience was allowed to wander between stages at their leisure to attend different performances, and there were plenty of free amusement rides, food stands, and music/rave merchandise for sale. It was such a terrific venue, featuring quite a few artists performing live who we were at least somewhat familiar with. Not to mention, it was incredible how friendly practically everyone seemed to be. If someone bumped into you, they would stop and apologise, and then get wrapped up in a ten minute conversation with you about how sensational the music was and the wonderful feelings that were prevailing. Everyone seemed open, approachable, and sincere. Ordinarily, I am not one to feel comfortable in large crowds of human beings, but I actually felt at home with these people. I was quite taken aback by this, but I found it very comforting. As soon as we stepped out of the car in the parking lot, someone complimented Corrupt on his wearing a Happy Tree Friends t-shirt. We knew the evening was going to be something special. I was proudly wearing my Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt, representing one of my favourite furries of all time. Like us, many were prepping themselves for the show by playing electronica in their cars. Before we even stepped in through the gate, I felt as if I actually fit in somewhere for once.

The two ultimate stand-outs of the show for us, though, were Infected Mushroom and Junkie XL. I remember the days of being obsessed with IM's earlier music but having no idea who they were, what they looked like, where they were from, or what they were about. Seven years later, I can safely say that I have come a long way. When we shuffled into Kinetic Field, feeling that familiar infectious beat pulsating through our bodies, I nearly orgasmed. I was quite convinced I was dreaming when I saw the two stellar deejays up there playing "Electro Panic." They played quite a few of our favourite songs, in fact. The lighting effects were spectacular, and the intensity of the music was overpowering. We wouldn't have been able to stop our bodies from moving to the beat if we had wanted to. After awhile, I absolutely felt one with the crowd. The building was packed, and I was surrounded by bodies in motion, all infected and infused with the same melodies as mine was. Some guy randomly put his arm around my shoulder and took our picture together, which I actually did not mind at all. Whereas I would ordinarily feel unacceptably violated by such an act, I instead gave him a high five. And when a girl dancing next to me grabbed my paw and waved it in their air with hers for a few moments, I felt quite ecstatic, to feel so connected with people of such similar passions. It's something I truly have never experienced in person before. It felt no less an appropriate place for my body and spirit than a deep forest draped in the twilight fog. It is my dream, though, to someday set up or attend a rave in such a setting, amongst many others.

When Junkie XL appeared on stage immediately after IM's stellar performance, I began to really feel the euphoria settling in. We managed to squeeze our way in to the very front so that only the railing and the speakers separated us from the stage. I could actually feel the air emitting from the speakers as they thumped with that beautiful rave beat and rattled my internal organs with their bass. Junkie XL has a way of riling up the audience, not only with his splendorous music but his behaviour on stage. He went wild himself at times, letting his music take hold of him as he gazed over a sea of ecstatic faces. He was no less absorbed in the music than the adoring crowd before him, and he wasn't afraid to show it. In fact, neither were we. My self-consciousness around other people all but slipped away as I let my body groove and move to the music. I am convinced that only a rave of this calibur could possibly have such an effect on me. It was just incredibly liberating and euphoric, even more than I ever imagined it to be.


Near the end of his performance, we decided to depart, the noise and the commotion finally beginning to overwhelm us. It was nice to step out into the cool night air once again, our ears ringing and buzzing. In fact, neither of us could hear much, even the lady shouting at us to let us know we couldn't get back in if we exited. We finally heard her, though, and let her know as she moved the barrier out of our way that we had our fill for the night. We were both still infused with euphoria, the music still pounding in our heads, the dreamlike atmosphere of it all leaving us in a state of awe. On our way back to the hotel, we received a nice little sample of just what a pathetic scumhole the town really was. Outside a convenience store, a bum was trying to get us to listen to his life story so we would eventually spare him a few quarters, but inside, it got even worse. The clerk was behind bullet-proof glass, and we actually had to scan our own merchandise and slide her the money underneath it. Any more telling evidence that this was a high crime area would have been downright terrifying. We scooted out of there as quickly as we could, in a rather shocked state as we completely ignored the bum by the dumpster. This simple stop was enough to make both of us happy to live where we did, and feel thankful that we were heading back to a decent hotel.

It wasn't long before we both fell asleep, only to have to rise at the ungodly hour of 5:30 in the morning. The goal was to arrive back at Hollyweird by 6:45 so my father could drive us back to San Diego and be at his coin convention on time. Getting up wasn't easy; we would have much rather enjoyed the nice room for a greater duration of time, but we managed. The drive west wasn't painful, with minimal traffic and, as usual, good music. Good music, after all, seems essential at times. When we arrived at my brother's apartment, well... my father was asleep, and my brother and his friend were on the couch, wide awake as if they had been waiting up all night for us to come in. Unsurprisingly, Ian on a dime decided that he didn't like my brother. I certainly wasn't expecting someone so much like myself to, especially with the sorts of comments he made. "You should've went to the after-party, that's when hot chicks start making out and stuff." "Hey, want a hit of my bong?" Really, it was his general machoistic attitude, his "holier-than-thou" aura about him which made us both of us wanted to leave as quickly as possible. At the very least, he was kind enough to wake up my father, who complained about getting only a couple hours' sleep because my brother and his friend had kept him up all night. I begrudgingly gathered up all my possessions and packed them in the truck, assuring Ian that it would be much better if he just waited outside. We finally took off, and it was... a somewhat tense trip back to San Diego, with my father's crankiness and everyone's tiredness. Fortunately, he kept quiet most of the way. When we reached Ian's house, I extracted all my baggage from the SUV, and it seemed like it took an eternity for my father to finally leave. We were both positively delighted when he finally drove off, leaving us to our own devices.

Every day I spent there in Ocean Beach, we did something special, even if it was as simple as a stroll down along the west coast's longest pier at twilight. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, his company alone being more than enough to do so. I knew we would connect so well in person. He showed me a variety of great restaurants, from Ortega's to the Olive Garden, and was in general an excellent host, like Wayne Campbell. Ian and I can relate in so many ways, it's frightening. It's easy to consider the possibility that he is my true long-lost brother, and that my other so-called brother is just a poser. In fact, our relationship can best be defined as "brotherly." We don't mind sharing the same straw, or talking about anything, or spending all day in each other's presence. I honestly feel that we were meant to be meet, and we finally did. I also got the chance to meet a couple friends of his, both of whom turned out to be very nice people. One of them I actually knew online since the year 2000, so finally meeting him was quite a fascinating experience. It all still feels like a dream. On the 20th, he is coming to Hawaii, and isn't to leave until the 19th of August. We shall have an exceptional amount of fun together, yes. I may very well find a few opportunities to write about our experiences here during this duration of time.

When his mother dropped me off at the airport on the 5th, I told her I loved her, and I did mean it. I did find her to be an amazing person, a jewel in the rough, just like the person she created who I had, by some odd twist of fate, met online and hope to be friends with for the rest of my days. It was a perfect conclusion to a splendid adventure, one I shall never soon forget. The ride back to Hawaii seemed to last an eternity, as I was seated next to a couple and their detestable toddler who insisted on crying and screaming on a regular basis, but my iPod, particularly Wolfsheim and Hybrid, helped me through it. When we finally landed in Kona, I was quite happy to be home. There was nowhere else I felt more at home.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Buy my album, please.

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