A Trip to Spain Pt.1: A Strange Road

July 16, 2011

empty highway

empty highway

I leave a strange road behind me.

Bleary from a sleep-attempt which finally failed at 4:45am, I’m now in the oatmeal lumps of air turbulence between LA and NY.

We left Los Angeles for Spain on Saturday the 16th, the historic beginning of “Carmageddon,” the freeway closure, which has gripped the Los Angelino imagination both in terror and orgiastic, anarchical, anticipation.  I was with the latter.

I was actually hoping to participate in a flash mob on the 405 last Friday night, but it never materialized. Still, being an Eastern-minded West-sider, I can’t help but hear it in my mind as “Karmageddon” – as if the shut-down of the Greater Los Angeles aortic pathway is the result of a city with a corroded heart. We abuse our ventricles with so much commuter pomp – stretch Hummers, and Suburban Utility Vehicles for which we have no utility, that our system had to shut down from the core. Maybe it’s Karma, maybe it’s the necessity of functional infrastructure, but a lot of locals are saying we should shut down the 405 as a yearly event, to celebrate the place where we are instead of the places we supposedly need to be. To drop the “valley vs. city,” the 818 vs. 310 of it all, and consider how much we need each other. To stand up on top of Sepulveda pass, and line up along Venture blvd. and wave at each other with stupid grins.

full bridge

full bridge

I used to cross the Mulholland Bridge (the explosion and retrofit of which is the cause of “Carmageddon”) twice a day, to and from school, for 8 years of my childhood. Every time I drive beneath it into “The Valley” haze, I enjoy a psychic lull in my sensibilities – a time lag. Like Dylan Thomas said, “The memories of childhood have no order, and no end.”

briken bridge

briken bridge

But back to the present, I’m leaving behind an even stranger road today, an artistic road. I’m on my way to Spain for the Ubeda Film Music Festival, where Bear is receiving an award and conducting. This is a cool thing no doubt, but it falls in an odd gap for me. After a marathon of writing and arranging for my show on Sunday 7/10 at the Baked  Potato, I’m suddenly “between gigs” again.

This show had been my sole focus for 3 months. For 3 months I’ve been retrofitting songs of mine, trashing metric tons of black dots to skim out the few gems at the core. Moving major sections, sometimes word by word, desperate to beat the entropy of self doubt which spreads – dark energy around precious, glowing nurseries of little thoughts. I’ve been conjuring the pinpoints of clarity to coddle into supernova… and hopefully give it all a good beat.

Two weeks before the Baked Potato show, all this music, all my psychological dirty laundry and occasional lucid detours, moved from inspired potential, to kinetic undeniability. I brought in back-up singers. I wrote a dance tune. We had a knock down, drag out rehearsal in North Hollywood, and I got a badass black frock.

Me at BP 1

Me at BP 1

And it was good! Actually one of the best, I felt. I was worried that after my recent show with the string section, that this one would seem like a let down, but actually it proved to me that the new tunes could stand without the extra gloss of violins.

So the band killed, the house was full, and the recording came out gangbusters. (Yes, I’ll be posting  show pix etc. when back from Spain).

But then came the weird part, the kink in the road. The part performers never get over: “After the show.”

Directly after the show you’re great, you’re high, you’re relieved, you’re beautiful, you’re at ease and conversational, you’ve proved you still got it, you’ve amused the muse. Then everyone leaves, and you go home.

This is when you run into the existential shit.

What do I do now? Who am I off stage? Unanswerable. The answer changes too fast. Too often.

I thought to myself, “Here’s my guitar, my piano, my tape recorder, all still radiating from the rush of inspiration of recent days…so c’mon write…sing…”

And sometimes you do, but mostly you float. You pick up pen caps and paper balls of discarded lyrics.  You answer emails. You take up odd pursuits on Google searches. You remember to take your vitamins. You talk to cats. You organize things.

And that’s the road which brought me here today, to this airplane – between a German man, asleep in his ankle-footy socks, and a man marking an orchestral score with a Spider-Man pen set.

I’m not performing on this trip, so my identity feels odd. After so much scraping at the splinters of my own framework to create a portrait these last few months, I’m in Spain, and my greatest concern is what to wear.

So I’m back to the word. The notes will follow. This is the beginning again. The elements of creation will re-configure like nebulae in this vacant space. They come when they come.

Until then, I will drink very small, very black coffee, eat dinner very late at night, and accustom my feet to cobblestones.

Raya Yarbrough

Singer, Composer, writer of absurd stories about LA, chanteuse on Outlander, BSG, DaVinci's Demons, & I used to date Dick Grayson.