from here, to articulate the internal east coast and west coast battles dueling around in my mind, we shall call the states i love by new names.
from here on out, california shall be called "Comfort."
from here on out, new york shall be called "Keen."
com·fort (kmfrt) aka California:
tr.v. com·fort·ed, com·fort·ing, com·forts
1. To soothe in time of affliction or distress.
2. To ease physically; relieve.
1. A condition or feeling of pleasurable ease, well-being, and contentment.
2. Solace in time of grief or fear.
3. Help; assistance: gave comfort to the enemy.
4. One that brings or provides comfort.
5. The capacity to give physical ease and well-being: enjoying the comfort of my favorite chair.
6. Chiefly Southern & Lower Northern U.S. A quilted bedcover; a comforter.
keen 1 (kn) aka New York:
adj. keen·er, keen·est
1. Having a fine, sharp cutting edge or point.
2. Having or marked by intellectual quickness and acuity. See Synonyms at sharp.
3. Acutely sensitive: a keen ear.
4. Sharp; vivid; strong: "His entire body hungered for keen sensation, something exciting" Richard Wright.
5. Intense; piercing: a keen wind.
6. Pungent; acrid: A keen smell of skunk was left behind.
a. Ardent; enthusiastic: a keen chess player.
b. Eagerly desirous: keen on going to Europe in the spring.
8. Slang Great; splendid; fine: What a keen day!
Keen and Comfort have drawn their swords. each wears a significant amount of armor, and each has tricks up his sleeve that could slice the other through the middle.
Comfort's big trick is to intice and deceive. he will becon you with his sweetness, lure you with his beauty, and make you beleive he is a harmless and sexy beacon of light. you are drawn to him, you will want to be near him.
then he will throw his Cloak of Comfort over you, and you must surrender. you will be rendered helpless and you will be rendered blind.
Keen employs very different tactics. although very inticing, like Comfort, Keen does not use his physical charisma to charm you. instead he exists just as he is, raw and real, and uses sheer force to capture you. he is cunning and evil; he will morph you to beleive you are part of this. he will turn you into one of his army and you will feel frightened by and devoted to him at the same time. once you have served him, you will in a strange sense be addicted to this service. nothing else seems quite as important as Keen.
in a battle, Keen and Comfort are a strange match up. the fight is never ending, because at different times one or the other will have the upper hand. in the winter, comfort pins Keen against the brick wall of his fortress whereas in another season Keen's sword will be at Comfort's fleshy throat.
today, there is a stalemate. in my mind, neither Keen nor Comfort can win.
i wish to be free from their fighting.
it is a simpe discussion of physical space.
California is so much space. it seems these wood floors go on forever, and the freeways never stop. even the edges of the state seem limitless; the Pacific is only an extension of a Californian's oceanfront property. this space tricks Californians into beleiving they are entitled to it, that they deserve this beauty that surrounds them. for this, Californians feel both lucky and isolated.
it seems that the confines of space in New York force New Yorkers to expand in different ways. they build upwards and underground. they push themselves onto the streets, into the world, and they expand their minds. when there is no more room to spread out, they collide into each other and interact. it is a place of collisions, all around. collisions that hurt and create hardness and strength. for this, New Yorkers feel both lucky and isolated.
Joan Didion once described leaving California for New York as a self exile, as a "perversity of heart" that makes one feel that they are not worthy of California's perfection/beauty/comfort. i have felt similarly, and when i read this i wished i had thought of it first.
on a train back into los angeles yesterday morning i found myself unable to look out the window at the low fields and factories that sprawl through the space between southern california's cities, simply for the depressed state it put me in. only when we slowed and inched into the rusty station, graffitied and decaying and brick buildings, did i feel comfort again. a strange, keen, comfort, i think, like i learned to find in New York.