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Walking to downtown Canoga Park on Christmas Day of 1986

I've been alone a lot on Christmas, and it's been my choice. In 1986 I decided to move back to Los Angeles and try again to get a real career started. This time I decided on the San Fernando Valley, and settled into a tiny apartment in Canoga Park. It's the, uh, less fashionable part of the west valley, adjacent to Woodland Hills, which is where I got the job the following year.

I grew up in Minneapolis, got my college degree in Arizona, and had been living in Santa Barbara for the past three years so the noise and crowding of Canoga Park was very hard for me to take. I remember being curious if the traffic ever let up, and I once got up at 3 a.m. just to check. Nope, just as much traffic as in the middle of the day. The noise and commotion, never, ever stopped. Except on Christmas Day, which I remember as something of a miracle.

I woke up on Christmas Day with nothing to do, and nowhere to go, so I decided to just walk. I love to walk, and always have, because it seems to clear my mind in a way that nothing else can do. I wasn't walking anywhere, I was just walking.

I left my apartment, which was on Saticoy, and walked down Mason to Sherman Way and then headed west. I'd never seen Canoga Park like that, there was no traffic. I felt like "the last man on earth". It was so quiet! I stumbled along, stopping to look at interesting stuff on the wayside, like random buildings, cracks in the sidewalk, whatever. I wasn't looking for anything, I was just looking, and walking.

Every business was closed. No one was driving by, no one was walking. It seemed like I had the whole world to myself, and I walked all of the way downtown, which is Owensmouth. I was out for a long time, so at least a 7-11 was open, because I probably drank a bottle of Coke and ate some chips for breakfast. I don't suppose that thirty years later it would be so quiet, but it was then, and I can still hear the quiet.

Merry Christmas!

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