Letter from Future Swells No. 62

On A Highway to Hell

On November 27, when driving the 500-miles from San Francisco to Encinitas, something extraordinary happened. I had just re-entered the freeway after a pitstop in Buttonwillow, at about the halfway mark. The sun was slowly setting, coloring the desert in pure California gold as the moon was ascending above the mountain range to the east.

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

My mind had been caught in a vicious loop for hours, re-telling, and expanding a narrative that was clearly leading me down the wrong road and diverting my attention from better, more productive, and happier things. A playlist evoked memories of regrets, failures, and loss, and ignited a negative self-perception, an exhausting story, and too much critical introspection. By the time I hit the Buttonwillow pitstop on this nonstop 14-hour roundtrip road trip I was mentally and physically exhausted.

A loop is the same record played over and over again like it’s stuck. A strange loop on the other hand is a structure that moves through new hierarchies to end where it began but on a higher level. I like strange loops, I like the idea of exploring the world, learning a lot of new stuff, and then returning to ground zero. I like to start all over from scratch a little bit better, a little bit smarter, a little bit more gentle. I do not like single loops as I can easily get caught up in their vicious repetitiveness without an elevated and mindful ending or any resolution what so ever. It’s pure self-harm.

The way I usually end any loop is to write down what happened, how it made me feel, and how I can use the insights to move forward into the future. But since I had no pen or paper, only my Apple Watch for dictation, my cathartic process was limited to spoken single-sentenced insights that proved to be more harmful than helpful. These lyrics just furthered the story in the wrong direction.

“Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to but himself.” – John Locke

But then Buttonwillow came and went and my eyes were now on the mighty 4,000 feet high Tejon Pass and I could see Bakersfield in the far distance. That’s when I told myself: “Man, you used to be such a carefree, limitless, and happy dude – what happened?” And at that moment I understood what had happened and thus what I needed to do to break free. I could feel this incredible force from within emerge and it pleasantly re-hijacked my whole being from top to toe, from mind to soul.

I switched the playlist to “Cardiff Reef”, named after one of the breaks at home, which is designed around upbeat classic rock’n’roll songs. “Touch Too Much” by AC/DC, from the present so timely named album “Highway to Hell”, entered the cockpit in ear-bending decibels and I could feel my mind expanding again. I intentionally switched from automatic to manual gears unleashing the pleasure of the race car paddle shifts.

The muscle memory from when I had an oh so much faster ride returned and I moved the car into sports mode and downshifted once with my right thumb. The music was pumping energy into the little go-cart performing Mini Cooper S, my heart was pumping blood into my ecosystem, and I could feel the sensation from the simultaneous action of lowered gear and more throttle rocking through my body like standing shirtless on a stage in front of endless screaming fans.

From being stuck in the same narrative I was now creating a new story as I was speeding up the pass, passing cars on the left and right like the best of Ayrton Senna. The twilight hour had rolled in and Los Angeles was now illuminating the sky in front of me like a sparkling beach fire. Song after song came on with the same hedonistic and unapologetic sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll spirit and I was now back in the driver’s seat, rocketing through the San Fernando Valley like a bat out of hell.

“Everyone is still healing from things they don’t talk about so be kind.” – Unknown

By the time I turned off the freeway to my new paradise the sun had set and the last rays had stopped coloring the sky tequila. It was now nighttime and the stars were sprinkling sleepiness across the palm trees and the old wooden shacks and people were asnore. I lowered the volume, rolled onto my driveway, and killed the engine. 

I was still fired up, feeling the adrenaline pumping, and let the music switch from the in-car stereo to the speaker in the shack like a seamless untouched dream. I had to lower the volume to respect the neighbor’s right to privacy but that did not change the feeling of invincibility. I fired up the stove and hammered out a dinner filled with spice, texture, and exotic adventures. Then I went outside to feast under the starlit sky, trying to separate satellites from constellations and planets, and myself from past memories to make room for new magic. 

I was back home and that was the best feeling ever.


FEWER BETTER THINGS:

Mind-wandering: According to a Harvard study, our minds wander 47% of the time, and this is a certain road to both not getting shit done and unhappiness. Being present is the art we all need to practice and master.

Strange Loops: Douglas Hofstadter, the author of the seminal book “Gödel, Escher, Bach”, continues his exploring of the self in his work “I Am a Strange Loop”.

Epigenetics: Whatever happened in your ancester’s past can still live in your genes. Like experiencing famine, taking part in a war, or having had a very traumatic experience as per this interesting article on epigenetics.

Brownie Mix: Trader Joe’s brownie mix for $2.99 in-store is the best I’ve ever tried and it even includes the chocolate chips. Just add eggs and butter or coconut oil.

Iron Butterfly: I was reminded of the excellent 17-minute long acid rock song “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by a new friend who inherited her vintage vinyl collection from her parents. Now I wish I had kept mine.


Much love,

Per Håkansson

Encinitas, California