Song Of The Day 3/11/2017: Liz Phair – “Divorce Song”

The Final 19

In-n-Out Urge

As a native Northern Californian during a certain age, I had a natural enmity for the southern portion of the state. Living in San Francisco for five years only deepened that manufactured resentment. After all, San Francisco was the capital of culture of the West. It looked like a squashed-up New York City (which I believed everybody in America fantasized about).

San Francisco had rolling hills and trains that went through subway-type underground stations (that are for some reason never referred to as “subways”). We had a broadly defined, yet still disciplined, artistic culture. Fog covered the city six months out of the year. We had City Lights, one of the greatest bookstores in the history of the business, where a good many literary movements actually began. Our football team was, at the time, superior in every way to anything that was calling itself a Los Angeles football team.

Los Angeles was perceived as the place where integrity was sent to die. It was the retirement home for the mind. The arts scene in L.A. was actually an “entertainment” scene. The business was far more important than what they put into art. Los Angeles was for people for whom gravitas was a niggling inconvenience, where cosmetics were more crucial than substance.

You have no doubt heard all these fallacious arguments about L.A. before. And I held onto those prejudices for a good long while, even after it was decided that we’d move to Los Angeles. I would always jump at the chance to live in San Francisco, and I would never in a million years want to live in Los Angeles.

These days my feelings about the two towns have almost entirely reversed.

Olympia Employment and You: Ne'er the Twain Shall Meet

After I graduated from Evergreen, Olympia was no longer a livable option, despite my making more friends over my first 18 months in Oly than any time since MCW/SST. There were, simply, no jobs. Or maybe my ambition was too broad.

I do know this: If there was a viable job anywhere in the Pacific Northwest after I graduated, it would have kept me there, or at least seriously influenced me to stay there. I had no desire to leave. And I really had little desire to move to L.A.

On the other hand, I sure felt like I looked stupid to a lot of people in Olympia who knew what my wife was doing in her social life. Then again, none of them—some of whom I still feel a great deal of fondness for—ever took the time, the effort, nor the minor inconvenience to ever say, “Paul, you’re not crazy, your suspicions are completely correct, and not a soul in this town would blame you if you left your marriage.”

If one person had said that to me in Oly—just one—a whole lot of trouble could have been avoided.

Look, guys: Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to stick your nose in other people’s business. Most of the time, probably not. But in some situations, especially physically or emotionally abusive ones, just go ahead and risk not looking cool for a brief minute and reach the fuck out, okay?

But we’ll get to that tomorrow.

The point is I never would have moved out of the Northwest if I didn’t have to. But I needed the bread, man. The choice was basically rammed down my throat: either New York or Los Angeles. I had a clear preference between those two cities and you can probably guess what it was. There was a great disparity between the two in terms of affordability, however, and in the end there probably was never a choice.

Great Moments in Southern California's Romantic Disposition: Part 90210

So we packed the house up. I think we made the move in late June. I was charged with driving the U-Haul from Olympia to the new apartment in the basin of L.A.’s Silver Lake district. My KAOS buddy Jeff drove down with me; I forget why he was going to Los Angeles. Possibly just to visit someone.

We stopped in Orangevale at the home where I grew up on Cerromar Circle (the gazebo house). My parents had installed a jacuzzi in the back, so Jeff and I jacuzzi’d. It would be the last time I’d ever set foot in the Cerromar house. It was a good house.

If you’ve ever driven on I-5 between Sacramento and Los Angeles, then you know what a bland stretch of road it is. Truck stops. Small towns with no immediate access to broader culture. Wind mills. One nice roadside restaurant, Andersen’s, that has some very good split pea soup.

When Jeff and I got out of the Grapevine it was at night. We saw dots of light that formed the L.A. basin for the first time. At that point I figured it was time to switch on the radio to sort of get the lay of the airwaves.

I turned the dial to a call-in talk show, something like Lovelines, but without the psychological assessments. It was just your standard pick-up show where people would get matched, before the Internet streamlined that kind of thing to where nobody had to make a verbal introduction first.

Some guy and girl were being introduced by the in-studio host.

“Where do you live?”

“The Valley.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Where do you live?”


“Okay. Well, you sound pretty cool.”

“Yeah, you sound all right.”

“So what do you like to do?”

“I don’t know. I like clubs. I go dancing. What do you like to do?”

“I do that sometimes too.”



“So you sound interesting, wanna meet up?”

“Yeah, okay.”



“I don’t know. Anytime I guess.”


I remember this moment very clearly, because it was at about this point that I let out a full-throated scream. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!! WHY AM I COMING HERE????”

Jeff laughed.

I’m not looking forward to tomorrow’s entry because, again, I’m ashamed I was ever in this particular situation. I’ve looked for ways to explain the following summer and fall without talking about the dissolution of my first marriage, and I can’t. I can only promise that I’ll be done with it tomorrow, and won’t discuss any other relationships until we get to Kate.

Unfortunately there’s no other way to explain how I wound up in a campsite in the San Bernardino Mountains with a bandage on my face after I’d nearly lost an eye.

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