Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Ralph’s charged particles

I was at Ralph’s yesterday. Ralph’s is a grocery store, and it turns out it’s part of the Kroger empire, but nonetheless it is a huge and fancy grocery store, and that’s saying a lot because it appears to me that southern California takes their grocery stores very seriously, and even the shitty places have a produce department the size of a Las Vegas casino. So Ralph’s puts to shame the old Astoria C-town, and I don’t even think Ralph’s is the best of the stores out here.

Anyway, I’m at Ralph’s, and over the musak, I hear a song I know I know, and after a moment or ten, it comes to me: it’s the Chick Corea song “Charged Particles” from their album Beneath the Mask. And that was suddenly weird on so many levels. I mean, I first got into that album in the summer of 1992, and listened to it end-to-end thousands of times that year. And then when I was writing Summer Rain, that was the one disc I could always put in and get back to that point in time. And not only was it completely burned in my head, but it was also an enjoyable album to play when I was trying to write. And then, 16 years later, I hear it playing over the PA system of a grocery store, while I’m trying to pick out a brand of ketchup.

I’ve had a lot of weird thoughts lately about the past, especially since I have been doing nothing but shredding old papers and packing up boxes of zines and books and finding old ticket stubs and letters and notes. Part of me has always been a completist, and I thought I needed to keep absolutely all of that shit. And sometimes that’s true – every time I try to trim down my zine collection, I wonder if any of the authors are going to end up on an FBI terror watchlist. And part of me thinks that if I kept every damn thing I touched in 1992, it would have been much easier to write a book about that year. But part of me recognizes a need to let go of that shit, and I ended up throwing out a lot more old stuff this time around. I probably won’t need a copy of every shitty death metal zine I traded with back in 1993. Yeah, “it might be valuable someday”. Price out the cost of a storage space in LA and then talk to me about value.

My first week of living in LA has been interesting. I am the master of noticing small differences, especially those that have to do with grocery stores or fast food. But so many things amaze me. The plants are incredible, almost entirely tropical. It’s closer to Hawaii here in many ways, with the palm trees and other huge, broad-leafed green foliage. There are so many collections of odd things in one place. We live near a wetlands, and when we drive through it at night, we hear all of these frogs croaking. The other day, I saw a dude out in the swamp flying an RC plane. We went and saw the canals of venice. I see all of those old, old-school cars, old VW bugs and muscle cars, with totally pristine sheet metal, no salt on the roads or rough winters at all. There are more fast food chains than you could possibly imagine – everything started here. The Indian joint a few blocks from here has a $7.95 all-you-can-eat buffet, so we checked it out today. I don’t know if Denver’s food was so bad, or if this place was incredible, but I’m going back at least once a week. And it’s in this odd little house where no two corners or windows are the same, and everything’s painted up in garish colors, and it looks like something that belongs in a college town, but it’s here. It’s all so interesting and bizarre and new, and I don’t really believe I live here, but I do.

Speaking of which, on Monday, I fly back to Denver to be there as they pack up our house. I will have a night in what’s mostly our old setup, our regular bed and stuff, and then a night in a hotel. After that. who knows how many days until the truck gets here, then a day of unloading confusion, and several days of arranging and organizing. At least I am very close to LAX. When we went last time, it was a sub-$20 cab ride there.

I went to Staples yesterday and blew $250 on a new desk and chair. I now have part of an office, and don’t need to sit on the floor and type. I also got a new keyboard that purports to be spill-resistant. I got that at Fry’s, which is a bizarre California institution itself. It’s basically like an old-school Best Buy where they sell every single possible electronics item, including parts and pieces and oscilloscopes and everything else. We went to the one in Manhattan Beach, and found out that each Fry’s has a theme, this one being Tahitian. So, it was a huge geek store with the occasional tiki torch or fake palm tree. Very interesting.

I forget what else. Still sick, but maybe it’s going away. I wanted to go for a walk, since we are allegedly right by the ocean, but I measured it the other night, and it’s two miles away. Funny, every apartment in the neighborhood says it is “just blocks from the ocean”. Yeah, 20 blocks.