The wait that meant now

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gif and photos by Wells Baum

The flash before me,
the bird,
the plane,
a clash of serendipity,
the wait! meant now.

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Welcome to Los Angeles

All photos by Wells Baum

As someone who’s lived and worked in both New York and Los Angeles — this article sounds strangely familiar.

“Once, I walked nine miles through the streets of Los Angeles, tiptoed through the hobo village under a 101 overpass, got briefly trapped on a crosswalk-less median, and then stood on line behind waiting cars to enter the Warner Bros. lot. Because I’m not a Hollywood wuss. I’m from New York. I don’t drive. I don’t know how to drive. I don’t know how to do something that teen-agers can do, and I’m proud of it. That’s how much of a New Yorker I am.”

In LA, we wait to tell each other stories in order to impress while New Yorkers tell you how it is right then and there. There is no real outside in LA; there is only real inside a cold New York. Both cities thrive in their own eclectic touch, ridden with signals, smoke and mirrors.

Read No, I’m from New York

‘Learn to do everything lightly’

gif by Wells Baum

We can do whatever we want. The problem is that we often wait to be told what to do. The inertia of indecision makes us better doers than deciders.

It is not the thinker nor the thought that wants control. It is the novelty that comes from trial and error, the individual pursuit of constant motion to ride out the sea of change.

Do first, learn later. As Aldous Huxley wrote in Island:

As Aldous Huxley wrote in Island:

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.

Streams as anti-structure 🏞️

Photo by Wells Baum

The structure of a stream lies within its anti-structure, the unpredictable and chaotic movement of its flow; fresh water slithering over rocks, persisting downward all the way into the mouth of the river.

Streams can only perform their function if nature permits such fluidity, the human renter backs off, and it swims unimpeded; flexing a dynamic energy so essential to the information Earth collects.

Seen and heard 🔉

All photos, gifs & videos by Wells Baum

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Pedestrians at the corner

All photos by Wells Baum

At the corner,
Patiently waiting,
At least trying to,
Fidgeting instead,
Generation thumbs pecking at the phone,
A passing bus emits CO2 into the air,
We breathe in street dust,
Overtaken by wafting the delivery man’s pizza,


Staring at the other side,
Eavesdropping on each other’s chatter,
The newcomers give the placebo button another pinch,
A living signal turns white,
Twenty seconds to cross,
The clock ticks,
We all go together,
Dog trotting to safety,

One minute united at the corners,
Signalling styles,
Anonymous the next,
Walkers dignified as pedestrians,
Jealous of those who stayed behind.

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Distracted by organized chaos

Photo by Wells Baum

I’m a sucker for seeing extraordinary in the ordinary. Last Friday on my walk home from work I stumbled upon a set of loose white paper sheets scattered on the sidewalk. Except it didn’t exactly appear haphazard. The paper zigzagged in a pattern.

After taking the photo, I felt compelled to pick it up. It was some type of packing material or art supplies. About twenty steps away was a shiny shopping bag, which was perfect for storing all the unfettered scraps. It made cleaning up so much easier, perhaps a reward for taking the initiative to clean up someone else’s trash.

What first appeared to be scrap in disarray was actually organized chaos. The disorder was magnetic, beautiful in its ugliness. Most importantly, it felt damn good to get it off the green patches of planet Earth.

Journey inwards

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All photos by Wells Baum

Below is an excerpt from my new book Train of Thought: Reflections on the Coast Starlight. You can read it free right here or support my work by snagging a copy on Amazon. Either way, please let me know your feedback on the book on Twitter. Which chapter or line is your favorite? What would you have liked to read more of? Just send a tweet to @bombtune or email me at wellsbaum[at]gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you!

I’ve also submitted this post to this week’s photo challenge given the different landscapes of earth, air, and water I observed on the ride from Seattle to Los Angeles. You can find pictures that accompany each stop along the way in the book. 


Chapter 9: Journey Inwards

The train entered Santa Barbara, still about two hours outside of Los Angeles. To prepare for his final dinner, Paul changed into a clean collared shirt and khaki shorts and went off to the bathroom downstairs to brush his teeth and fix up his unkempt hair. He heard a knob turn on in the next room and rush of water filter through the shower pipes. Paul looked forward to cleaning up at his brother’s place.

The parlor car chairs were all occupied up by the time Paul got back upstairs, but he saw an opening at the end of a booth.

“Excuse me, think I can squeeze in on the end there?” Paul urged the inattentive teenager.  He raised his voice this time and gestured with his finger pointing to the open seat.

With her eyes glazed over Snapchat, so deep in voyeurism, she never even felt Paul’s presence nor saw him in the periphery. Mobile video was the new TV, and it struck the right neurological note.

“Sorry, yes,” she apologized for her dilatory response while pinching the screen to zoom in. Bored, a second later, she swiped right to check out the next video in the queue.

Generation Z lived in their phones absent from the brain platform which they relegated to flesh. They enjoyed being in public but sharing their lives in private, augmenting their personalities in their own virtual world. Paul got text-neck just looking at the girl stare down into her phablet, resisting the original window of life, also known as reality.

“Sorry, I’m in my own world,” she said as if her behavior needed further explanation. She was restless, transfixed on creating and consuming bite-sized rewards. The Instagram heart, the Twitter retweet, the Facebook like, the incoming Snap–she tasted content pellets with her eyes. The only thing that could save her hijacked attention was that of another hunger–food.

“All six o’clock reservations are welcome to come to the diner car,” the conductor announced over the loudspeaker. The primordial food foraging survival instincts still held hegemony over people’s attention.

The only way to get to the diner car was to gallop and prevent yourself from falling by using the walls to stabilize your balance. Paul peeked outside and saw empty warehouses with broken windows, a seemingly artist’s haven, and junkyards full of old cars. The train snaked through the industrial part of Southern California, an hour away from downtown LA.

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The steward sat Paul down in a booth across from Bob and Susy, an older couple from Seattle. They smiled at each other before making introductions.

“So close, yet so far. Enjoying the ride?” asked Bob.

“Definitely. It’s very scenic. I’m looking forward to stretching my legs though. That, and a shower,” explained Paul. They all laughed. Paul spotted a sticker on Susy’s sweater. “Attending an event?” Paul asked.

“There’s a fundraiser at the LA Convention Center,” said Susy. She never mentioned who for, quiet about her partisanship.

The American election season was in full swing, with the country so divided no one talked about it face to face for fear of instant judgment. Instead, voters lived in their social media echo chambers, validating their cognitive bias and openly resharing fake stories.

Susy refrained from stoking the conversation into a political one. She nervously pushed her dark bangs to the side and switched topics.

“We usually fly down for this event, but we saw a friend on Facebook post pictures from of a recent train trip, so we wanted to give it a try.”

Facebook presented the fantasy of the perfect life, and people took the bait. The fact was that Facebook made you miserable while Google search retained the truth.

Well aware of the curated life, Paul switched topics: “Have you spent any time in the parlor car?”

“We passed through it, briefly. Fantastic view.” Bob looked back down at his phone to answer email or continue a crossword puzzle; it was all the same. Everyone checked their phone more than a hundred time a day.

The waiter took their orders. Paul asked for another basket of bread, working his kindness for the entire table. Susy asked for water. Sharing relieved some of the tension.

But Susy still appeared anxious, lost in the pressure of being too present with time. Paul and Tom sat idle. The upcoming presidential election season made everyone uptight.

“So where are you from?” asked Tom.

“Connecticut, by the Long Island Sound. But I’m thinking about moving back to Boston. I went to school there and would love to go back.”

“I worked there for a bit after college. Exciting town but smug: I still prefer the West Coast,” replied Bob, before looking down at his phone again. “I’m just tagging along for the ride. I’m visiting some clients in Hollywood. Susy’s the political junkie.”

Never judge a book by its cover, Paul reminded himself. Genetics, education, experience, income — all these characteristics do is prejudge possibilities. People are complex beings; deep down they know it’s more complicated than the side they end up choosing. But at the end of the day, we are what we say, do, or even tweet. There’s no fence-sitting.

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Paul took the train to comprehend himself, for even he admits there is no first-person point of view. We’re as clueless of ourselves as we are in reading other people.

As much as Paul tried to interpret the mind of others, he admitted his faulty self-awareness. He tried to stay open-minded and give people a chance, fighting the urge to mentally swiping right or left.

“We will be arriving into Los Angeles within the hour,” announced the conductor. “Please make arrangements to clean up any trash. Start organizing your personal belongings for arrival.”

The thought of his unfinished book itched Paul again. To save some time, he wanted to go back to the parlor car and write as much as he could before getting off.

“Well, I need to head back and pack up,” said Paul who brought a little backpack as his suitcase.

“You’re not going to eat?” asked Susy.

“I’ll eat dinner when we get there. I’ll text my brother to grab me In and Out.” Paul winked and waved goodbye. “It was nice meeting you all. Enjoy LA.”

Paul walked back to the parlor car. There were a few open seats this time, but he preferred to keep pace with the running conversation in his head. Instead of sitting down, the aspiring writer strolled up and down the parlor car, his thoughts a form of locomotion. Unable to stand still, he typed a new chapter while pacing up and down the car. Each step prompted another word.

Chapter 3 — New England

The beat tinkered and echoed around the venue. The lights bounced to the rhythm. They were getting brighter with each step the sun went down. The crowd morphed into a quiet rave, head nodding and whipping their heads back and forth. James closed his eyes and followed along, adhering to the patterns of the drum and bass.

“Hey James!” He turned around. It was Anna from camp. The one he liked. Was she here all by herself?

“Excuse me,” a passenger nudged Paul to get by. Paul stopped writing and stepped aside to let a family through. He never flinched, keeping his eyes on the phone, writing and walking at the same time. He zipped inside and outside like food digesting in the esophagus until he felt stagnant in multitasking. Continuous partial attention never led to remarkable discoveries.

Breakthroughs required focusing on one single task at a time. Professional writers did one thing: they matched the fluidity of their prose to the outpouring of their ink, in rhythm and solitude.

Outside turned pitch dark. The only thing Paul could see now was his reflection in the window. Yes, he acknowledged, “I’m still here.” The train conversation grew louder with the anticipation of arrival. The passengers became excited.

Paul felt restless. The images in his head appeared clearer than they did on screen. He’d purge a book out of him before he had to go back to the cubicle to prove that he could defeat the resistance!

But writing didn’t feel natural. Paul forced it. He had imprisoned himself at the expense of enjoying the work and would soon again relinquish the freedom for his day job back in New York.

Perhaps he had already written a book, in his head and his mobile notes but not synthesized on paper. All he would need to do is scan his mental notes and go back through his online archive, connect the dots, and clean it up. It would take a lot of disconnecting, letting go, and being bored.

Then again, he might as well be living the story, progressing with each turning wheel of the train. Although he felt too drained to complete a rough draft, he refused to give up. He’d scratch the itch eventually.

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This is my daily collection of interesting reads and new music. I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing them here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

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Elements that remove the glare

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Photo by Wells Baum

The emerging reality that the ones glaring inside are too noisy to ignore, making space for the meek to inherit the earth.

The powers of nature can too be political. But the elemental energies lend their powers to the working citizens.

There is no expiration date on the freedom of the communal tact. The amalgamation of hope carries with it the elements of uncertainty. But it also slides confidently with a gust of wind.

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gif by Wells Baum

To be close to the texture of things

All photos by Wells Baum (@bombtune)

I walked through woods, botanical gardens, and autumnal light-filled streets spotting the hybridity of green and colored plants, swamps, leaves, and vines trying to grasp a sense of texture that brings a sense of play to the air.

The peaceful taste of daily experience relaxes the texture of the human mind.

To see more pictures, follow Wells Baum on Instagram.


This is my daily collection of interesting reads and new music. I spend a lot of time digging the web for cool stuff and remixing them here. If you dig the blog, please consider making a donation or buying a book. A cup of coffee to helping out with hosting goes a long way.

Donate with PayPal

ORGANIC

A studio state of mind 

Photo by Wells Baum

The studio satisfies the residue of attention.

It is a room with a view, one that faces up to the resistance, and compels us to push on with god-willing persistence.

But the studio can be anywhere. It is mobile, a canvass in hand, the imagination at play, anything that cultivates attention for periods at a time.

Deep work requires periods of focus and habitual disconnection.

We develop ideas by doing something — taking deliberate breaks — to discover new ideas by doing nothing.

Discovery begs to be lived out, beyond the studio and into the open space.

Satisfaction in black and white

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Photo by Wells Baum

Black and white satisfy the color of consciousness. The yin and yang create space in between the simulation of chaos.

Excessive stimulation dulls the senses and taints the routine.

“The best way to get to know a place is to be bored there, because the curious mind will begin to probe the surrounding space.”

— Václav Cílek

We compel ourselves to see the subtleties, to bring extra light to the obvious.

The simpler the palette, the more conspicuous the texture.

All Photos by Wells Baum

‘Forgetting makes us happy’

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Image by Wells Baum

“Forgetting makes us happy’ proclaimed Nietzsche. But it is in the pursuit of something better that we fail to realize the good we already have.

Look no further than at today’s barbarism. History is a gif loop; it dares to be repeated as we grow frustrated with the kindness of our cultured past.

The future thrives on the protection of ideals and ideas, even if they defy the laws of nature. Humans are inherently coercive and imperfect. But books exist to keep us honest. They remind us of the valor of doing the right thing.

Is it worth defying history and throwing in the towel to start all over again? ‘Destroy and rebuild it;’ it is the stain of bad tendencies that linger.

Never forget.

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Image by Wells Baum