Walking along the beach of Monterrey Bay. Sea Lions barking from distant piers. The smell of Doc Ricketts lab; all of Steinbeck's Cannery Row characters sail around in the morning breeze. Crustacean music. Sea weed jabber. Monterrey show the night before - the only foul one on the tour; I'm feeling disjointed and ponderous. I see a smooth black river rock lying on the sand. Pick it up. Pocket it; thinking of Georgia O'Keefe. She became an ex-patriot within her own country. Disappeared into the New Mexican desert… I like that notion. Georgia collected shiny black rocks, and I run my fingers over the smoothness in my pocket; I feel like I'm carrying around her hardened, mummified, glorious soul. It keeps me going. Georgia became the landscape she painted: parched, serious, caustic, poisonous, eternal. She spoke in poetry; held little use for poseurs. She fled New York and reinvented herself in the wilderness; made art that floats above the changing landscape of an America illuminated by gas station signs. I'm not as big a fan of her art as her enormous, matchless spirit. And I finger the smooth black rock in my pocket and keep shuffling down the beach like Prufrock; trying to some to terms with the morning and the far off barking of the sea lions, and praying for the strength to write a few more songs that will fill up a record that will resonate and feel as wild and permanent as the shiny black rock; the relic of O'Keefe's spirit. Later, craving something to read, I find the paperback copy of Joan Didion's: "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" in my war bag. "It's easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends." There are two masterpiece essays in the book from 1966, and '67:
"Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream," and "Goodbye to That." Didion saves me that afternoon, as I read those two essays over and over and hold the black rock. "We tell ourselves stories in order to live," says Didion. Stories and songs and long walks on the sea lion beaches of memory. And now the black rock rests on Didion's book; next to my bed. And the blood dimmed Steinbeck tide is loosed, and the ceremony of innocence is drowned.