Long ago while behaving like a student at the Claremont Graduate School east of Los angeles, but not yet out of the smog, I lived with four other students in a modern shack in the type of subdivision that was known then in L.A. as a Slurb: a combination of slum and suburb. The homes were new, poorly built and very much alike. I got a job from the slurblord to clean up homes that had been abandoned or foreclosed on. I was paid $75 a home, which was a happy sum in 1964.
The five of us liked our little shack because the rent was cheap split between us, and our dinner conversations were vigorous. We were all graduate students on the exercise machines of seminars and our meals together. Our home was up against a open concrete box drain that was there to carry any flood that Mt. Baldy might send out of its hills onto Claremont and Montclaire, its neighbor across the tracks and our “community.” It is fitting that the names of the two towns share the same letters but in a different order. Claremont was one of L.A.’s oldest suburbs with a grown landscape and large old homes, some of them Victorian. Montclaire was nearly new and made with no apparent or felt soul.
My room had a door to the side lawn nestled beside the canal that was guarded by a sturdy wire fence, which was hardly noticed. Lying on bed and looking west into the smog of Los angeles the sun set very much like Horace Sykes’ sun above, except that my setting sun was also seen through a screen of Eucalyptus trees on the far side of the canal. That combination was most serene and sponsored both day dreams and meditation. It was the sun of Tao during those sunsets, and the filter of smog was so effective that you could continue to look directly into the sun without harm. Depending on its layering the smog made its mark on the sun, and I sometimes squinted at it and imagined the globe resolving itself the balance of the yin and yang that was once best known as the Northern Pacific Railroad symbol.
I remember rain in that canal only once, our first week in L.A.. It rained seven inches in seven days, and set some record.