My Saturn suffered a heart attack last week on highway 14, one so severe that no defibrillator would resuscitate it. My situation such as it is, I hardly need a new major expense. The choices are to scrap it and buy a new one, purchase a new engine from the dealer to the tune of $5k, or take my chances at a mechanic replacing the engine with a used one for about $1500. Incredibly, I didn’t get upset until I told someone what had happened. Then I cried like a baby.
Shortly after that, a phrase pinned to my bulletin board flashed through my mind: “I realize that I do have a choice in all that matters to me. I can choose how I respond to life’s situations and to those around me – in what I do or do not do.” Okay. Let’s see if I can put my money where my affirmation is. What if I don’t have a car? Is it the end of the world? What would I do if I didn’t have a car for say, a few months? Inhale. Exhale.
LA isn’t exactly known as a walking city, being ridiculously spread out, and where side streets and sidewalks are a sporadic occurrence. I know a few people who don’t have cars, and I’ve received more than a few panicked voice mails searching for a ride to a last minute audition. The subway system is in its infancy, and the bus system is basically, well, scary. Even by car, auditions and gigs are at least a 45 minute drive or longer. It’s no wonder we Angelinos are so attached to our cars, and that, here, the Extras are considered Necessities: the sun roofs and A/C, the mp3 players and satellite radios. We spend quite a lot of time in there, so it damn well better be pleasant. It’s not so much a love affair, as a co-dependence. It’s very true that, quite often, you can’t get there from here – without a car.
And I love my car. I love driving. I love road trips. My car is more than what gets me from Point A to Point B. It’s my ticket to adventure, to freedom! It takes me to the beach. It takes me to the mountains. It takes me wherever I want to go, when I want to go. It’s I Can Get The Hell Out Of Here, If I Want To.
On the flip side, I also enjoy walking. It’s how I start my day – a habit that began back in Seattle in ‘97 when my dog Emma adopted me, and the Vet told me that this wee little puppy would need to be walked 15 minutes each day, for starters. The 15 minute walk for her quietly transformed into a 30 minute walk for both of us, growing to 60 minutes, adding in sprints, and quickly becoming the required pre-production meeting of the day, no matter the schedule, no matter the hour.
That expanded even further in ’06 when I did a play in Cardiff, Wales. We walked everywhere – to the theatre, the museums, the pubs – without a second thought. So, in January of ’07, further inspired by the New Year, I decided to adjust my lifestyle and start walking even more. I began walking to the bank, to the post office, to the grocery store, to the video store – anywhere within 3-3.5 miles round trip. Skyrocketing gas prices cemented that lifestyle choice: I drove my car less than 7,000 miles last year.
But I still manage to find myself falling into a rut. I’ll navigate a new route for one reason or another, and then stick to it for months. This one has less lights, so I don’t have to stop for traffic. This one is mostly in the shade. This one has working street lights, which is important in the wee hours before an early call. I wake up, meditate, do yoga, and head out there on autopilot for My Morning Walk, no thinking required. Actually, that’s kind of the point. It’s my moving meditation.
So this time, I’m hoofing it out of necessity, and decide to incorporate an errand into my morning ritual. I ambitiously forge a trail to my favorite grocery store two miles away, not the chain store that’s a lot closer. Since it doesn’t open until 9 a.m., I’m heading outside later than I’m used to, so I feel safe cutting through the neighborhood, and veer through some side streets I haven’t been down recently.
Oh, that’s right, Halloween is this weekend. I don’t have kids, and I live in a secure building, so Halloween can come and go like a Tuesday in April if I don’t pay attention. There are ghosts hanging from trees, and headstones in almost every front yard, and a few KEEP OUT signs that make me chuckle. There are more people out later in the morning, it seems, and I pass a few human-dog pairs, some cyclists, and some other walkers, and we all greet each other with a smile, and sometimes a hello. I pass some small storefronts I hadn’t noticed before. Can places really survive just selling wedding cakes? A pub is closed. A liquor store is open. Birds are chirping loudly from an open pet store. A few folks are in their yards, adding flowers to flowerbeds, raking leaves and grooming their homes.
Are the people that live in these houses in the industry? Maybe, maybe not. Hollywood is not Los Angeles but it’s easy to forget that sometimes. The biz, my career, and financial concerns can become a gold coin held two inches from my nose: one that I can see clearly, but also blocks my view.
I love my morning meditation. I love that I can step out into nature and turn off the chatter while I move through my body, shaking out the kinks and crimps and twists of the day before, enjoying the world outside, knowing that if an inspiration comes through and I become lost in thought, my legs will keep on going home, home, home. But there is a delight, too, in a different neighborhood, where Halloween is as important as a Snow Day, and the pagan New Year Samhain is a reason for people to decorate their houses, dress in ridiculous costumes, open their doors and share treasures with passing children.
Make no mistake, my car is currently in surgery undergoing a heart transplant, and I’ve been given every reassurance that it will enjoy a full recovery, but I am choosing to respond to this latest adventure with another phrase that stamped itself in my psyche long ago, a nod to one of my favorite trios. I’m choosing to take a cue from The Three Wise Men, and sometimes, going home by a different route.