A timeless story, by Liz Armstrong.

“People can time travel cognitively because they can remember events having occurred at particular times in the past (episodic memory) and because they can anticipate new events occurring at particular times in the future. The ability to assign points in time to events arises from human development of a sense of time and its accompanying timekeeping technology. The hypothesis is advanced that animals are cognitively stuck in time; that is, they have no sense of time and thus have no episodic memory or ability to anticipate long-range future events.” - William A. Roberts, Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 128, No. 3 The calendar stopped working about two years after I moved to Los Angeles. I awoke to the diffuse grey-gold light quivering through my bedroom window, gently introducing me to another cloud-snuffed morning while I recollected the past night’s fragments of a recurrent dream – I was again eating without utensils, from dish straight to mouth. As I tried to prioritise what I needed to accomplish in the next ten hours, I realised I didn’t even know what day it was. It’s reasonable that one may confuse Tuesday with Wednesday from time to time. That morning, I couldn’t even remember what month it was. March? October? They felt so much alike. I texted my best friend Lucy, who grew up in Santa Barbara and ran away to Los Angeles when she was sixteen, and has rarely left the city since. If anyone knew about this type of disorientation, she would. “I forgot what day it is,” I typed and sent. “Once you’ve settled long enough it’s difficult to remember if it’s 2007 or 2013,” she wrote back in typical long-form poetic fashion. Her next missive came through: “I could figure it out and tell you, but it’d take about three days.” Growing up in the Midwest, I was used to things like snow, leaves on one tree exhibiting different colours throughout the year, and physical development signalled through stages of life: my friends wanting babies, my parents growing paunches and grey hair. Here in Los Angeles, solar exuberance bestows eternally verdant gifts of photosynthesis, and age is arrested by caprice and scalpel. That morning of confusion marked only the first of many others like it, sometimes stretching on in such lump-sum succession that they all became the same day, a hamster wheel of deadlines and pitches while freelance writing from home. Working in this manner, I discovered that sequential memory is an ersatz art form in Los Angeles. We have the sun and circadian oscillation to propel daily desires like hunger and sleep, and we believe that is enough to sustain our motivations and dreams of accomplishment. I tried all forms of action to keep myself on track: day-minding Moleskines big and small, a wall calendar of exotic flowers from the nursery down the street, reminders in my phone, agenda-planner computer applications, a plastic business card-sized dealie from my insurance company summarising the entire year. But then I’d forget to write or type information, synchronise pages, or even just look at any of them, and I’d find myself lost again. I realised I’d have to find different kinds of time markers rather than numerically designated dates. I know the jacarandas turn the sky’s aura violet, littering streets with paper-thin purple blossoms, in May-ish and November-ish. Gay Pride is in June. As soon as it’s felt like it’s been too long since I’ve taken a weekend trip to Palm Springs or Joshua Tree, that means three months have passed.

Clocks of Los Angeles

The day my sweetheart and I traded presents stashed under a miniature plastic Balsam Fir, it was December 25. One day later we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway up to Carmel, where it was totally beautiful and cold enough for two sweaters and we fought the whole way there and back. Which was useful activity, because I was able to roughly gauge how many weeks passed since then by honestly assessing the diminishing heartache from the subsequent break-up. Driving home from the farmers' market a couple days ago, I found Lucy crossing the street with a paper cup of coffee in her hand. I pulled over and told her to get inside. In my kitchen, we shared a basket of chemically virginal strawberries, a first-pick trophy of the season, and traded stories of halted romantic manoeuvres. Just minutes prior I’d successfully circumvented advances from the guy trying to play spiritual grab-ass in the guise of selling organic raw goat cheese by lying, telling him I didn’t believe in anything that could be remotely considered All That Is. Lucy told me how she’d visited the La Brea Tar Pits recently, a picnic date of a blanket and rosé gone to hell when a pool of asphalt unexpectedly seeped up from the earth to pave her dress. To get her mind off ruining an authentic 1930s feedsack frock, she’d taken a walk around the park’s iconic statue - a fibreglass mammoth frozen in prehistoric black goo. There, Lucy had read a placard describing the creation myth of the Tongva tribe, an indigenous people of Los Angeles who’d been on the land since some unknown date, B.C. The Tongva believed that humankind was the invention of a coyote god named Tukupar Itar, and that the entire planet’s origins happened just ten miles northeast of there, on the edge of the Los Angeles River. “I was thinking,” she told me, chewing the burst of green crowning a strawberry, “that if the whole world started just one neighborhood away, maybe time isn’t the predominant energy in this city.” “What is it, then?” I asked. “Maybe it is the energy of simply living.” How a society or a species perceives time shapes its entire philosophy and outlook on life. Time needs a witness and a scorecard to track it, and it’s a grand assumption that every universe possesses it. Without it, reality is up for grabs. Like an Angelino, a dog cannot tell the time of day, nor does it chart short intervals of passing time. A dog does not anticipate the future, and so it does not know it will die. An exemplar of trust, it waits for its master, knowing that it will be sufficiently patted, fed, walked, brushed, and washed, that it will be retrieved from a hot car or untied from a post and freed from the confines of a square of pavement. It was the trade we made when humankind domesticated its wild genes and committed it to loving us. Nothing lasts forever, not even the Gods of Creation. When the life of any cosmos comes to an end, energy exploitation ceases and a black hole devours all expended potential. Billions of years are vacuumed up, contracted into an undifferentiated mass of Whatever, and sent back to the singularity of occurrence. Los Angeles transplant Liz Armstrong lives in a temporally negotiated state of sunshine, where her fixations include time travel, light fashion and off-leash running in all forms. She writes about culture shifts and nuances of self-activation for page and screen; she recently co-wrote a web TV series, Be Here Now-ish, which is currently in production.

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