Oct 25, 2009 | Los Angeles, CA
Oct 25, 2009

Sometime this afternoon, surrounded by friends, I started to feel my center slipping away from me, and all I wanted to do was to return to the forest, back to my little log cabin, my guardian barn owl, the icy lake, and that strange smell that wafts through the high desert Oregon air (pine sap, burnt trees, and a dry white flower that smells like molasses). But instead I was climbing up and down canyons, crossing parched land under hot sun, coasting along freeways and fighting through traffic, pulling up to restaurants, buying beers, making phone calls on curbs, and drinking milk shakes before movies. By anybody's count, I was having what one might call a Very Good Time. But as the day bore on, the tug of nature grew stronger and stronger on my heart, and all I could think about was getting back up into the mountains. I guess you could call my ailment escapism, but I wonder whether that tired quasi-Buddhist maxim of needing to learn to exist happily in any setting isn't at least a little bit bullshit. Places exert a stabilizing or stultifying energy upon us, and the force of that energy seems proportional to our sensitivity. Life is short, places abound, and some of us are sensitive, so why not find places that provide the kind of energy we need?

For Max and Kyla, Los Angeles seems to provide the right energy, and today we all inspected a place that might be able to amplify that energy even more. We explored an old, derelict house from 1926, covered in vines, surrounded by trees, and located just outside the entrance to a vast canyon. The house is currently inhabited by a curious old couple named Dolly (a writer) and Flash (a film editor who worked on Toy Story), who raised two girls (at least one of whom is apparently a green alien) in the house. Dolly and Flash seem to have taken the quasi-Buddhist approach to housekeeping where when something breaks, you accept the reality of its breakage, stop using the broken thing, and make no attempt to repair it. This versatile philosophy today was found to apply to toilets, staircases, decks, gardens, kitchen counters, light switches, heaters, and electrical wiring, and, when carried out over 25 years, can lead to the kind of crumbling lair we sized up this morning — the same crumbling lair in which Max, Kyla, Ben, and Meg will soon most likely live (though their housekeeping philosophy is likely to produce a different outcome, and they will surely fill the house with music). I prefer the housekeeping philosophy of keeping only those things that provide essential utility or essential nostalgia. It can make for a sparse house, depending on your sentimentality.