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(east/west, day eight: Arizona, California)

Arizona morning, last day on the road is dawning

And I’m poised to deliver the coup de grace

Now it’s down to the wire, I outrace the wildfires

Past Kingman, then down to the valley of awe

Change my place, change my fortune

Cross the Colorado, cross the Jordan

I seek some Jerusalem in the Mojave sands

At the Needles border station, I state my origin and destination

Agent waves me through, into the promised land

Arise and cross this land, the home stretch lies ahead

Its length and its breadth, I let myself be led

The rest of the way, Arizona to California

Strange things are happening, of this there’s no doubt

And odd odyssey or quest, what this was all about

East to west, all the way to California.

Whatever I believed before, I left on the valley floor

But the desert oasis has some interesting birds

Those that fly with wings, and those with other things

Guess there’s some truth to the stories I’ve heard

Across the high desert, I make it with effort

Stop in Victorville for directions and gas

Five miles, traffic’s backed, by accident and medevac

I meet my first “Cal jam” in the Cajon Pass

Hear me now, I hear myself declare

I’ll pass this way again, though Who Knows from where

‘Cause the road I’m on, it leads through California

Get up and go, but I can’t escape

These things do exist, in all states and shapes

East to west, all the way to California.

The with slack and leeway, I connect with the freeways

The 60, The 10, past the downtown skyline

At the Robertson turnoff, I shut my concern off

I made it this far, I know I’ll be fine

With the Hollywood sign levitating behind

The Na Nach sign tells me, this is gonna be good

With a few more maneuvers, I find the house and pull over

It’s been eight days on the road from the Park to the ‘chood

Oh Sabbath, holy and true

Oh blessed relief, I’ve made it through

Twelve states, from New Jersey to California

From here on, it’s a brightening day

Everything gets bigger, now that I made my way

East to west, all the way to California.

And Train’s still on the radio, calling all angels

To the city of angels, along the long ride

I still don’t know what to expect now that I’ve made it here

I still don’t know what’s waiting now that I’m on the other side

But on the day after, I head into Santa Monica

Taking the beast home after one last little ride

I drop my fistful of Jersey Shore sand off the pier into the Pacific

With guarded hopes for good things here on the other side

The desert of the heart has now been crossed

All apprehensions abandoned and lost

And new things will be found in California

The special effects all in my mind

Just barely hint of what’s to find

East to west, all the way to California.

Now I’ve told the whole story but I can’t skip

One last chorus for the end of the trip

All the way from New Jersey to California

And that is—upending my life better be worth

Navigating such a serious chunk of this earth

East to west, all the way to California.

©2023 The Hesh Inc.

Heshy at the Santa Monica Pier, June 24, 2003
The JRZguyinLA has arrived.

On the morning of June 23, 2003, I woke up in Williams, Arizona, checked out of the hotel, and had breakfast at the Denny's next door (I vowed to never eat at Denny's again after this journey, and so help me, I haven't ever since). I was the first customer in for the morning and I chatted with the hostess about the wildfires that were burning in scattered locations around the state and the likelihood of me running into them as I headed west on I-40. She didn't think I had to worry, but the news on the TV over her head seemed ominous.

I hit the road somewhere around 7:00 am and the entire time I felt like I was outrunning a cataclysm ... I was expecting flames to burst out of the pines and leap across the roadway. But nothing like that happened, thank G-d, and soon I made it to Kingman, at the lip of the Colorado River valley. From here I could go north to Vegas, and there was a part of me that was seriously considering it, but again, maneuvering the rig through city streets (as well as likely flak from my wife, who was already in LA anticipating my arrival) deterred any such daydreams and dayschemes. I made my way into the valley and wondered why it looked so familiar, and I realized that it looked just like the Jordan River valley back in Israel ... times ten.

Soon I was over the Colorado River and in California. Well, here I am, I thought, as I climbed the western slope of the valley, deeper into my destination state. I was still quite awestruck by the resemblance to Israel and half expected to see Jerusalem once I crested the top of the slope. But no such thing ... if anything, the Mojave resembled the Negev, and I imagined that Los Angeles would be more like Tel Aviv than Jerusalem.

But before I could head deeper into the Mojave, I had to pass through the agricultural inspection station at Needles. "Where're you coming from?" asked the agent.

"New Jersey," I said.

The agent was unfazed and asked what I had in the truck. The contents of a 2-bedroom apartment, I told him. Any produce? he asked. Nope, I said. Here I thought, homeland security, he'd ask a few more questions ... I could have been ferrying explosives for some heinous plot, for all he knew or cared ... but no, he waved me in without any further comment. Welcome to California.

Pulling over in the Essex Rest Area, first one in the state, for a stretch and a drink, I came across my first examples of California wildlife ... exotic birds, both those in the trees with their idiosyncratic calls and those leaning against the fence with their minds lost in a lysergic hangover from the 1960s. I believed I had left all my East Coast prejudices behind me when I crossed the valley floor, but perhaps there was some truth to the stories I heard after all, I mused.

Traversing the thick of the desert, I passed Twentynine Palms, a Marine Corps base that made the IDF base I was stationed on in the Negev some 18 years before seem like a resort. I raced neck and neck with a mile-long freight train on the tracks parallel to me on the right until I got to Barstow, the western terminus of I-40. I pointed the truck southbound on I-15 (no "the" yet), the road coming from Vegas, and I stopped in Victorville to call my wife. She put me on the phone with her cousin, a genuine Angeleno, who gave me detailed directions on how to get to the house.

Getting back on the road, I soon found myself encountering my first bout with the legendary California traffic. Some two miles ahead of me in the Cajon Pass there had been an accident, and the emergency personnel had stopped all traffic. I put the truck in park, rolled down the windows, and went through the radio dial till I found a station out of San Diego broadcasting an eclectic playlist, including some of my favorites. So much better than the formulaic radio I had left back east, although I'd find out soon enough that this station was the exception. I was parked on a downhill, and I could see two miles ahead of me where the medevac chopper was lifting off. Within moments, traffic was moving again, and I was out of the Cajon Pass and into what I came to know was called the Inland Empire.

I navigated the various westbound freeways until I saw the famous Downtown Los Angeles skyline glide by to my right, with the Hollywood sign in the background, and within minutes I got off I-10 at the Robertson turnoff. Soon I was into a very Jewish part of town ... first I saw "King David Computers" and I said, "ah, OK" ... then I saw the Na Nach sign on top of a small synagogue and I said, "now THIS is gonna be interesting!"

A few more twists and turns till I found my new home's address, where I pulled over, to the same tune that had been playing on the radio when I left New Jersey a week before. I drove the van off the tow dolly and was relieved it was working just fine. I was so happy to be with my family again, especially my four-year-old daughter, who had really missed me while I was away. The next day I drove, with my family following, to Santa Monica to return the truck and dolly, which I had affectionately called "the beast" throughout the songs I had written about this journey, and from there we went to the pier, well known to me from various movie scenes. I had to get used to the idea that the ocean was "facing the other way"; my wife said that it felt to her like she was coming home. It would still take me awhile till I'd get used to the idea. Who knew what the future would hold in this new place, but for the moment, though, it was all right.

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