L.A. - My strange, north-pointing muse




And now it's happened again.

When I came down to attend college at BIOLA University I didn't even last a full year. After all the packing and planning and new friends and classes and homework - ok maybe not enough homework let's be real - but after all it takes to settle in to four year college life I barely made it to March of the second semester before planning to start a BMX bicycle company back home in Northern California.

After a decade of real life and real life lessons I decided to finish what I started and return to college. I didn't like that my twenties had begun with quitting something so significant. So I came back down to LA, this time with a small u-haul and two vehicles, four if you count the bike and skateboard. Within just a few months I got roped into learning about websites and realized I had already begun amassing a decent number of photos - of course all showcasing you guessed it - Northern California.

In 2008 I made my third attempt at Los Angeles - painted sets and did extra work and even led a writer's group, in fact made it two whole years before my father developed cancer and I decided to care for him and make a movie about his life.

Yes back in Northern California.

Sheesh bro.

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What gives? Why keep signing up for this? Why keep driving the 400+ miles south and keep trying to make a life here in this sprawled out grey town of palm trees, concrete concubines, and sordid freeways?

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I don't willingly punish myself in other areas of life - in fact normally I am very attuned to people or situations that aren't working - sometimes too quickly in fact.

Hold on there partner - it takes two to tango

I only say this as I'm thinking out loud. If I'm not a glutton for disappointment and/or I don't shy away from a challenge, maybe it's not the place I'm heading to but the place I'm from that's the cause - in this case the source - of restlessness or uncertainty.

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Do I have a conflicted relationship with my birthplace? Hmm.. actually I'm not sure but let's assume I do. If I do I'm not the first to notice the discord many souls feel towards their hometowns. Great writers like James Joyce (Dublin), Mark Twain (Mississippi), John Steinbeck (Monterey), William Faulkner (Mississippi) all wrote about their birthplaces then left. I believe only Faulkner returned.

If I do why? Why do I constantly need to leave in order to view my native land more clearly, celebrating and chronicling life among the redwoods, the cold coast, and the dry foothills in far away lands like Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Nashville?

Do I somehow have a need to step outside, to see things from a different place spatially in order to see them clearly?

The Cave

I happen to think there are a scant few "perfect" songs. A song that has a clear, direct intro or beat, a proper lead in that builds and unveils into a beautiful and bombastic pre-chorus and then unleashes a rollicking journey through mystery and joy. Over The Hills and Far Away by Zeppelin. Voodoo Chile by Hendrix. Shut Up and Dance by Walk The Moon. Honkytonk Women by The Stones. She Talks to Angels by The Black Crowes. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by.. well you know. And The Cave by Mumford and Sons.

What was I talking about?

The other cave, by that Plato dude...

Ahh yes, the cave allegory. The allegory of Plato's cave is simple yet a bit complex, but basically goes like this: In life many of us live watching shadows on the wall of a cave, lit up by the campfire and projected onto the wall. We grow accustomed to these shadows, begin to see details, and eventually assume that this is life. These shadows on a wall. This is it.

Until it's not.

In this scenario the cave prisoners are released and view the outside world for the first time. This is where things get dicey. Seeing not the shadow of a person or an animal but the actual person or animal is, understandably, shocking. So shocking in fact that some would rather go back to the shadows, back to the familiar inside the cave.

Those who are willing to see reality for all its flaws and colors and terror and beauty are, in Plato's world, the philosophers. Some might say the educated are the ones outside the cave. The intellectuals of the enlightenment might make a similar distinction. The reformers? Possibly. Currently one might say those who choose not to be sheep are the ones willing to look at all of life and not just the comfortable shadows inside their own "cave," but as with philosophy, it's not a hard and fast science.

Maybe it's more like 'Stand By Me'

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​"It had only been three days but somehow the town seemed different, smaller."

One of my top five movies of all time, Stand By Me is based on a short story by Stephen King, about four friends on the cusp of teenager-hood who have an adventure at the end of summer and before starting Jr. High.

They go to find a dead body.

Don't be too shocked, it's Stephen King after all.

The beauty and truth of the story, told beautifully by Rob Reiner and with a never-again cast of River Phoenix, Will Wheaton, Jerry O'Connell and Cory Feldman, is that towns, houses, all these things that we think are holding us back are just illusions, we may feel trapped, but it's usually us that need to change, not the physical environment.

Leaving merely causes us to see the familiar in a new light.

What's past is prologue

I'll try to keep this part short. About four years ago I get a random email from a guy who says he may have bought one of my bicycles at a yard sale in Eastern Tennessee and could I tell him any information about the bike.

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First of all I had to be honest with this guy.

Yes I did. I once owned a BMX bicycle company.

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When I got this email I shared the bizarre nature of it - something that was such a distant part of my life, in fact a part of my life many of my friends don't even know about at all - with a few friends which caused one friend to exclaim "wouldn't that be cool if you could trace down those 30 bikes?"

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Now that you mention it yes, yes it just might.

Of cool Piedmont apartments and living on a lake in Tennessee

But life goes on whether we like it or not. I'd closed the book on the bicycle company dream and the last thing I wanted was to get sucked back in without a clear plan or team around me to help.

I took over a friends' apartment in the Oakland hills, I drove the old convertible on an awesome 10,000 mile road trip around the U.S., I took a job in Sonoma County and helped my brother get re-established after living abroad, and finally I moved to Nashville to.. aw heck who even knows why anymore.

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But of course it still didn't last.. so back to LA-LA Land I went.. with wonderful memories of the south and the great friends I still have out there.

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The one missing part of all this was Neal. A 15-year old kid I'd found racing near Auburn California, I thought he was on the rise and would represent my burgeoning bike company well, so I sponsored my first and only rider.

I met him at Auburn High School, handed him a bike and a few T-Shirts and told him he was riding for me. For the next two-three years we drove around the western U.S. going to races and having a blast.

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Every few years I've researched and tried to see where he's at but no luck. I haven't seen him or spoken to him in 25 years.

Then three months ago I get tagged in this Instagram post:

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I thought it over and realized the truth:

Maybe my failed company wasn't a failure at all, maybe it was just something I had to do, to try rather than not try, maybe it was just part of my story. A story I'm finally ready to tell.

So I placed this ad.

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I landed on a brother team of director and producer, and we're a month away from shooting a feature documentary about my tiny company, my first big life choice, following my heart and finding what it meant to anyone else; and maybe, just maybe, making a few more bikes to celebrate.

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Yep that's right, I came back to LA and in less than one month launched a major project back in...

Northern California.

I'm so out of explanations.