Songs of Our Lives: You Are Not Me, Inlandia


I hate Dave Grohl.

This is purely professional, of course. I hate that he and his Foo Fighting pals manage to produce relevant and irresistible art prolifically. I hate that they all have embraced growing older, but are still so obviously having fun. What I really hate though is that every album has some song that burrows into my marrow and attacks some uncomfortable disease that apparently many of us share.

I have listened to “Arlandria” on their new Wasting Light album 67 times. It’s standard Foo Fighters with a typical edgy ear-worm of a riff. Grohl opens the song with an evangelist’s demand for attention morphing into his trademark vocal cord destroying roar. Then there are the lyrics. Whatever or whoever Arlandria is, it has both Grohl’s fury and his adoration. After a bit of Googling, I confirmed what I suspected. Arlandria, Virginia, is where Grohl grew up. Now I can’t stop thinking about home. I can’t get my head out of the Inland Empire of my youth; take my thoughts away from my own Arlandria, a place writers have dubbed Inlandia in Southern California.

Last night I caught a ghost scent of cloying citrus blooms coming off the Delta breeze in Sacramento, 500 miles from home. It smelled like I was 20 years old, half an age ago. I was suddenly in a Baja bug doing donuts in the orange groves. I was drinking a Bartles & Jaymes to chill my throat against a 105 degree sun. I was graduating with honors, published, going places. Except that wasn’t enough for Inlandia. It was home and I was just a piece of the landscape.

“You used to say I couldn’t save you enough…” Arlandria.

So I gave up writing for a while and became a process server during the last housing market crash. Inlandia was a bruising place for a twenty-two year-old girl to serve papers. I once ducked just a breath beneath a bullet in Casa Blanca. A giant of a man smashed his papers back into my hands, then lifted and carried me to his curb in Rialto. In Temecula I served an eviction after a foreclosure on veterinarian who killed himself with an equine-sized shot of Ketamine that same night.

“And when you said I couldn’t give you enough, I started giving you up,” Arlandria.

Those are old, polished memories of home, tame ones. It was a forgotten face that had me reaching for the knob to turn up the Foo Fighters song to 11. An image rose up of the bartender at the Bull-n-Mouth in Riverside. He was a single father, funny, good-looking and kind. I was not-so-kind and thought I was better-looking. I laughed when he asked me out even though he had been a generous listener to my woes at the bar. Three days later he was beaten to death with a pipe outside of a club called The Metro on Chicago Avenue. Now I can’t stop trying to resolve his photo in my head, the one in the newspaper before his memorial. I can’t stop asking myself who I am.

You are not me Inlandia.

I left. I went to Florida. I went to Ohio. I stayed in Texas. I lived in Australia. I left and I keep coming back. I belonged to Inlandia for 20 years and I still do. My windshield is still pitted with the desert sand. The howl of the Santa Ana winds remains a vibration in my lungs. In every bird’s wing beat, I hear the army of crows crossing the sky to roost in the riverbed at night. And there is so often a sweet stench of rotting citrus when I dream. Inlandia creeps into my words and remains the steady landscape of my imagination. I am not you Inlandia, but I am the same as I was in your arms.

I don’t want to, but I love you Inlandia.

And actually, I love you too, Dave Grohl. Keep being a relevant and wicked muse. Thank you for reminding me that a rich and complicated relationship with home is a gift and even better, how satisfying it is to scream about it at the top of your lungs.

Rebecca K. O’Connor is the author of the award-winning falconry memoir Lift published by Red Hen Press in 2009. She has published essays in South Dakota Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Los Angeles Times Magazine, West, Coachella Review, divide, and has had essays included in New California Writing 2011 and 2012. Her novel, Falcon’s Return was a Holt Medallion Finalist for best first novel and she has published numerous reference books on the natural world. More from this author →