The Romance with Mulholland Drive

I click high beams on and off around blind curves to warn other cars: I am coming, and I am coming fast.

I’m going to present you with an incomplete ride right now. There’s a good reason. Here it is is:

The Romance with Mulholland Drive

That’s winter in downtown Los Angeles, three hours ago. Truly. But that’s neither here nor there, because just now, driving in Hollywood, there was a veritable deluge. That means snow in the mountains. A lot of it. You know how I feel about snow. And that means the decision to chase what I love took no more than three minutes of deliberation. Hello wet roads, hello iffy drivers, hello red-eye road-trip. Love makes you a fucking warrior. I just didn’t know I’d kill myself over something so pretty as a snowflake. But I do it each time.

So you receive my incomplete post, the one that has seared and writhed in me for days. And this is how it begins…

It’s a couple of hours after midnight. I drive Mulholland. It’s the same haunting road snaking above Los Angeles and down to the ocean that I started driving fifteen years ago when I first moved to California. I took the spins when I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to drive for the sake of driving, blast music and shriek along to it. There is always a scream coming from me. It’s mostly soundless, a stealth scream, an incognito shriek. To you, I seem calm. Sometimes the shriek is uncontainable and joyful, because the girl it comes from has eyes glistening with life, and being alive, even now, keeps her breathless like a child at a carnival. There has never been rest inside, and this I realize, has never been bad.

I leave my friends, drive off from parties and outings, and don’t feel quite ready to go home. I take myself, now that I finally have me to myself, on a ride, and I’m giddy about it. This is how I deal with my late night angst. I take hairpin curves as fast as I can without succumbing to the slow-motion plunge I see in my fantasies, over that faraway city invaded by night and lit like jewel-encrusted fabric. All commerce and real estate is immobilized by a benevolent black. It’s a shimmering dragon hide, asleep, beguiling and incapable of harm or corporate ruthlessness.

Mulholland Night

It’s the canyons that keep me in California. I coast around turns without using the brakes, and the longer I resist braking, the more accomplished I feel. A solitary crop of high-rises reaches to the sky like glittery fingers. The view shimmers through bends and gaps, and sometimes brings tears to my eyes. I catch my breath because beauty is a feeling and not a vision. I’ve flown lower in Cessnas over the city than I am above it on Mulholland.

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t have my own car. I was new to Los Angeles and had just acquired my driver’s license. I took out rental cars on a monthly basis, not because I had to drive to a job, or even to too many auditions. But because I’d had driving dreams since I was a small child, and finally having my license meant the ability to converge reality with nighttime dreams.

I would drive Sunset beyond its rock ’n roll strip to where it turns green and curvy. Sometimes I’d find another car, a fancy one with an owner determined to be the fastest on the road, and I would race them all the way to Pacific Coast Highway. There I would head north towards Malibu. On one side of me, cliffs and untamed brush would roll by, and on the other, silvery ocean. Ahead there would be a gradation of hill, cloud and light layers. I would go as far as El Matador beach, with its craggy boulders and dolphins frolicking in the distance. Sometimes I would hike up a canyon path off Leo Carillo, trailing to ocean views from a dazzling height. At the end of the day, I’d time my drive home with the setting sun through Topanga Canyon, all the way to Mulholland for the last stretch back to Hollywood. Each time, this odyssey was – is – something out of my dreamscape.

I do Mulholland for Mulholland’s sake. If I bring someone there, it’s because they matter to me and I know instinctively that they’ll be in my life for a long time, even if I’ve just met them.

There’s much more to my romance with Mulholland. But right now, I’m swooped up by my romance with snow. And strangely, each has to do with journey and destination.

I sat with that unfinished portion of the Mulholland for ten days. I’ve had a block. This has made me irritable and scattered in thought, downright unhappy, because I take Gunmetal Geisha seriously. Each post is the equivalent of months of therapy. The words decide for themselves where they want to go. They carry me, as opposed me carrying them, to unforeseen destinations. Arriving is the equivalent of leaving a dark, stuffy room to find myself in open air where breathing is luscious.

In the past week I’ve gone on getaways and mini road-trips, to dinner parties, wine lounges and new semester classes taught by passionate teachers. But through all of it, I haven’t really left that dark little room lacking in oxygen. The post I’ve needed to get out has been trapped along with my inner conflict:

I strip myself down to my essence in writing – my instinct carves whatever path it chooses, and what I end up saying, even if painstakingly crafted, is without exception, undiluted and uncensored. But now I find myself in a position where another person is immediately involved. So I grapple between honoring their privacy versus my desperate urge for expression, which I can’t see as anything other than a dragon – again – but an angry, awake, baby dragon thrashing inside me.

Everywhere I go, everything I do, I’ve had an overflow of sentences crowding my mind, sentences I haven’t written, because I’m paralyzed with the idea of having to measure them out since there is someone else involved.

This measuring out thing – I’m not capable of it. There is no point posting anything at all if it can’t be what it yearns, if it can’t be its authentic self. If I’m a vessel out of which these things must pour, by denying their natural path, I’m trapping in myself a sort of toxic rage.

I am a writer. I do a half-assed version of all sorts of things – languages, music, academics, snowboarding. But writing is the one thing that doesn’t make me cringe at some perceived lack of my own skill or ability. As someone who wants to make films, I’m just a beginner, a student. As an actress, I’m inconsistent. Even as someone obsessed with snowboarding, my love far exceeds my skill. But Gunmetal Geisha, born of my need for expression, gives me more peace and satisfaction than anything else has in years.

That scream? It goes away for a time when I complete a piece of writing. It becomes harnessed into a string of words, and the words wield power and in them there are solutions. When I have words, I need nothing else. I’m untouched by the outside world, unruffled by pesky human problems. I become so content while writing that it takes effort to go about normal life. Who wants to deal with traffic and checkout lines when you could sit quietly and create exactly the world you want?

This site uses up a huge amount of time, often completely taking over my life – because I am appalling when it comes to time management. I don’t have a heart-stopping number of readers, nor does the blog do anything to further my career or bring me financial gain. Yet it’s an irresistible force and I’m at its mercy.

And why wouldn’t I be?

It is one among very few things that give me temporary peace, because I am a person who needs to take turns at high speeds in the middle of the night just so I can calm the fuck down and go home.

As far as the rest of the conflict, here’s the short of it. Not long ago, I wrote a post about online dating, and very soon after, I shut down my online dating profile. But not before meeting someone. I’m not sure how we ended up in an actual relationship within days, but that’s what happened and the wild child inside me has been screaming protest ever since.

The man is perfect, as far as I can tell, and this perfection is worthy of its own future entry. I am however, freaking out to find myself in a relationship, because freaking out is what I do at the beginning of every relationship. Usually at the start, I go through my dozen attempts to break it off. I also immediately confess, display, even play up my character flaws in order to scare off guys – this time around, it was advertising that I’m unemployed, unpunctual, dangerously restless, and in fact, in constant need of asserting my “freedom,” whatever that actually means.

As everyone knows, guys scare off easily enough on their own, so my semi-subconscious I’m-a-nut-job act along with the let’s-see-how-much-you-could-take test are time-honored. Those who stick around through my acting-out phase tend to be keepers. The problem is, do I want a keeper?

See now, interesting: I had no idea that’s where the post wanted to go. Do I want a keeper? He will read this, and others who know me and the situation will read it as well. Aware of such a fact, most every other blogger would prudently backspace (backpedal?) and delete the last paragraph.

So it’s a good thing I’m not prudent. There would be no fun in that. Even though I still have to leave you hanging for now. And go pack for the mountains with the perfect man. (continued)

Cathartic Monkeyism

  • The destination is never visible at the beginning of the journey.

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  1. Please GG, scream some more

    1. Hold your ears.

      1. Bring it on, GG. You’re writing is to the heart what Michael Angelo’s painting is to the eyes, so vibrant and alive, layered brilliance in ways obvious and obscured. Bellissimo!

  2. Mike · · Reply

    Gunmetal, I found you through Bloppy’s and they said to just be myself. So, I will. I don’t have some epic, otherworldly words to splash down here. After I read your first post about a month ago I was hooked, hence I immediately subscribed. I just like what you write and share. I was going to relax and watch a show I looked forward to all week and got totally preoccupied with this post. I tried to walk away twice and kept coming back. Then I clicked that “snow” link and read that. And that long comment exchange you had with that one person. You sure can have a reader’s thoughts swirl like a dancing dervish, ya know? New man in your life. This is not me me me…but I am notorious for self-sabotaging. I will find ways to push a woman away first before they can hurt me. Totally dysfunctional but real. I can’t have them getting close to me because I could either get hurt or they will get to know me and they won’t like me. Craziness, huh? I will stop here but will definitely be checking back in over the weekend. I will say this as a new blogger friend that I wish upon you whatever is right and best for you! And to the new guy, “Hang in there…she is definitely worth pursuing and being patient with from what I’ve learned so far.” Oh, your drive reminds me the movie “Valley Girl” when he’s sitting up on that pull out off the road overlooking the city and says, “She’s out there…”

    AWESOME post Gunmetal…btw it’s snowing here in Reno at the moment and I love watching it 🙂

    1. That’s wonderful praise, Mike, thank you. The support I receive from you and other readers fills me with genuine warmth.

      “Otherwordly words to splash” and “reader’s thoughts swirl like dancing dervishes” are great phrases and made me smile.

      Haha: “Hang in there…“ Have some mercy on the guy, he needs no encouragement to be patient…

      Finally, thanks for sharing your experiences — and stop self-sabotaging!

      1. Mike · ·

        I only mean this in a friendship way. I wish you, Phoenix and I could go for a cruise on Mulholland in a convertible. Lots of pics. That would just be really awesome, Gunmetal. He gets to ride shotgun 🙂

  3. Helena Hann-Basquiat · · Reply

    Loved this drive down Mulholland – I used to love driving the PCH myself, though my love of California tended to drift further north. My experience with LA was like something out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel (though thankfully not American Psycho in particular) and I got out as soon as I could, though I do have fond memories of lazily drifting though side street shops of Venice Beach.

    I don’t know enough about you to offer you advice, but I do know enough about love to know that it is like lightening. Here’s hoping this is the lightening of discovery, and not the lightening that fries your wires.

    1. There is definitely a Brent Easton Ellis aesthetic about LA…

      I wholly agree: love is like lightening — certainly ought to be.

      I’m glad to see you here.

  4. Paul · · Reply

    Ahhh, GG you’re the best! Love it when I get up in the morning, make my coffee, open my e-mail, and there is a post from Gunmetal Geisha – sets the stage for a great day! Missed ya for a bit there – hope everything’s goin’ fine. As usual your writing inspires me, draws me in with rapt attention – let’s me look at the world through your eyes. Very special.

    I think I have an idea what you’re feeling driving Mulholland – it has come to me from time to time when driving commercially. There used to be a section of Rte#1 in Maine called the camel’s back that I looked forward to each trip. It consisted of a series of sharp little hills each about 30 feet high and could be entered at a high rate of speed. Nothing has quite the thrill of topping a hill at 80 mph and feeling a loaded tractor trailer leaving the ground as the road dropped away underneath. Chills just thinking about it. Mulholland sounds amazing. Thank you for taking us for a ride with you – I am honored (after all no one gets to ride unless they are special). Oh, one small tip to enhance your experience – accelerating in a curve stabilizes the vehicle and allows even higher speeds; so if you want to add a few more mph, glide up to the turn and fuel through it (better steering control too). Enjoy!

    I pondered your dilemma re blogging with a significant other. Once the third entity (the “us”) develops you will be able to write from those eyes and it will include him without actually needing to mention him. Remember – paradox and umbrella concept? Right now there are only two of you, soon there will be three (ummm, metaphysically speaking, of course, unless you choose to actualize it – GGlets, what an awesome concept, Ha!).

    Have fun in the snow!

    1. Paul, thank you! You’re so clever to catch that about taking special people on the ride, and I’m happy that I could bring it to life for you. I will definitely do as you suggest the next time I’m on Mulholland, and I’ll be sure to report the results to you!

      There will be NO GGlets, ever, unless they’re willing to adopt to very old ladies, because I’d want to be a completely devoted mama and there are far too many things that would keep me from that in the foreseeable future.

      1. Paul · ·

        Ummm, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the wordsmith, I think you got some punctuation wrong. “There will be NO GGlets, ever” should be followed by a ” ! ” not a ” , ” . Ha! You just added the rest of the sentence to cover for the missing exclamaion mark. (You had actually made that clear before, I was just seeing if I could tease you and I like the new word “GGlets” – it looks neat.)

  5. Good luck, GG. All a matter of handling those curves in the road.

    1. I guess I get a lot of practice.

  6. I like the idea of letting the writing take you where it wants to go. Forcing it to go somewhere else can be grueling.

    1. Grueling is exactly it.

  7. So much terrific imagery in this post, GG. Wonderful combinations of observation and whimsy crafted by a caring wordsmith. I have to say, the description of the LA basin as “a shimmering dragon’s hide” has stuck with me. It was perfect.

    Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

    1. Thanks for joining me on the ride, Ned.

      1. My pleasure 😉

  8. […] – The Romance with Mulholland Drive by Gunmetal Geisha. It’s a lovely love letter to the Southern California canyons, a magical […]

  9. I have Tom Petty in my head now, and your words in my heart. I hope the mountains inspire whatever you need to find.

    1. Thanks Jennie. It remains to be seen.

  10. maurnas · · Reply

    This is lovely. Your writing gives me chills. I cant shake them off. I’ve been there, speeding through the night, music blaring, windows down. For me; I was screaming to the music because it was the only time I was allowed to raise my voice. It was really the only time I was allowed to have a voice. Thank you for writing this. You deserve a heart stopping amount of followers.

    1. How you describe the effect of this writing means the world to me, thank you.

      The first time I discovered many people are incapable of simply yelling, was years ago in acting class. We did exercises designed to rile you up. I personally had no trouble going to that place of rage and expressing it. But it turned out people had been taught to suppress that part of themselves since they were babies. What turned out to be difficult for me was crying. But those non-yellers, they could cry on cue. Emotions have a mind of their own.

    2. Well said, and touching.

  11. Happy · · Reply

    Finally, a blog I love reading.

    1. That might be one of the nicest compliments, thank you.

  12. Reading this post makes me feel so guilty for how I’ve neglected my blog, and how many pieces I’ve published on there that I know aren’t perfect or even good. I’ve lost a lot of satisfaction from it and I’m not sure how to get back to that place where the sentences form themselves. Hopefully it will happen with time.

    1. I think once you get the first sentence down, you’ll automatically get back to that place. I’m still struggling with my next post, I know all I have to do is start, and yet I don’t.

  13. Gorgeous, gorgeous entry. I am enthralled with that drive up Mulholland. I have been in love with everything LA since I first read Ask the Dust. Congratulations on so eloquently capturing the romance of the drive and more importantly, what it means to actually be in the moment.

    “Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town!”
    ― John Fante

    1. Thank you!

      I have such a fondness for people who appreciate Los Angeles; there aren’t enough of us.

      What a perfect quote. “…sad flower in the sand…”

      1. You are very welcome. I love LA. Do yourself a favor and check out that book.

  14. This took me so many places. First, I was remembering how I used to drive for hours and hours… particularly when I was at the least happy points in my life. I’ve taken so many late night drives… they eventually led to a downfall so I’ve abandoned the whole pursuit.

    Also, this: “I catch my breath because beauty is a feeling and not a vision” is just perfect– sometimes I find myself in a moment so inexplicably and overwhelmingly beautiful that I can’t breathe.

    I’m amazed that you let the perfect man in on the fact you have a blog. You’re a brave one, that’s for damn sure. I’m so glad to hear that things continue to go well. Everything you said about putting up defenses, advertising your oddities, and railing against the idea of a relationship = my same exact tactics. But those that stick tend to stick well. Good luck– and enjoy those mountains.

    1. Aussa, it took me this long to answer because once again, I’ve been struggling with how to handle the conflict of what I need to write, versus someone else’s privacy. But now I’m two more posts in, and even though I haven’t gotten to the crux of the story yet, it’s getting closer.

      I tell everyone about the blog, and I take it for granted that they wouldn’t expect me to change my style or content. I tend to be direct both in person and in writing, so my assumption is people wouldn’t be too surprised by anything they find here! Let’s hope I’m not wrong…

      1. Well then I need to catch up! Not on my work computer though haha– I don’t think it knows the difference between “sex sells” being about blogging or other things 😉

  15. lrconsiderer · · Reply

    I’m so glad you have this space – this peace about this writing thing of yours, and it’s so good, even though the creation is sometimes like trying to pin smoke to the walls, you still manage to enrapture to the end, and take us along with you as you go.

    Watching, with bated breath, to see the continuance after the whiteout.

    1. Love that, thank you!

  16. Don’t worry. All bloggers face this block in their carreer. And I find that your blog is really worth reading.

    1. That’s nice of to you say, thank you.

  17. “beauty is a feeling and not a vision”. Excellent:)

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