So first there was Traffic and then there was Blind Faith, both with Stevie Winwood. Every time I hear their “I Can’t Find My Way Home” I remember the time I got lost in L.A. It had to have been in my first quarter of graduate school; that would have been the fall of ’68 and I went to visit some friends over past Pasadena, and we smoked a lot of grass, and I couldn’t find my way back to Venice, CA.
Somehow I missed the first freeway onramp. So I drove along by some freeway hoping I would find an onramp, but that freeway was hard to follow and I kept losing it and going off to places I shouldn’t have been. I went into this all night convenience store for directions. The black guy behind the counter wouldn’t even look at me. I asked could he point me to the freeway; he said he didn’t know where one was. So I left.
I was in a pretty shitty area of town. There are a lot of shitty areas in LA, but if you are a white person and know what onramps to get on and what exits to get off you never have to see any of the shitty stuff. The freeways organize LA pretty well so you don’t have to see the shitty stuff unless you get lost as I did.
I was pretty fucking lost. I drove around for hours in my trusty 1959 Plymouth Station Wagon. Once in a parking lot the Mexican American attendant came up to me and said he would give me a 100 dollars for it. I said no thinks. He said 150. I guess he didn’t get it; maybe he thought it was my “second” car or something. My parents had driven me off to college in that car. For some reason my brothers had to come along too. I sat there scared shitless and clutching Kaufman’s From Shakespeare to Sartre like it was a life buoy.
Getting lost in LA is pretty existential, I guess. Maybe I remember that night because, in my stoned state, I really got scared and thought I might drive around forever and maybe because getting lost that night was sort of a symbolic representation of the inward lostness that was beginning to eat me up.
When the sun started coming up, I was able to orient myself. I knew Venice, CA was near the Pacific, so what I had to do was drive west. The sun helped me figure that out. Eventually I hit Sunset and I took it on out to the ocean. I had been lost in LA for about five hours.
So that song has a special meaning for me.