My name is Holly Lerski and I’m a beatnik loving songwriter, traveller and dreamer. Guitar is my oldest friend. It’s kept me company for many years; often at times I’ve been alone. I first experienced solitude aged 9, when my family and I left London and we moved to Norfolk. Starting a new school, with no friends, it was lonely. But then I discovered the comfort of music and being able to sing out my feelings, and soon, write about them too. This was my first stab at song writing.
In 2018 I found myself in a similar place. A bit of heartbreak, but this time I fixed it by going on a Jack Kerouac style rail and road trip across America writing an album. I went back a few months later to LA to record some of the songs with my friend, Bonnie Raitt bassist, James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson. I was all set to return to finish them in March 2020 when the wonderful pandemic hit. Not deterred, I carried on making music long distance with Hutch, and with my band The Tendrils. Now I’m writing a little book to go along with it all: a kind of road tripping tale of recovery and discovery. Here’s a snippet…
August 16th, 2019 – I am alone but not alone.
I’m sitting on Carmel Beach with a black coffee and a sugary pretzel the size of a dinner plate laid out before me on a paper bag. I’ve just bought it from Carmel Bakery: a little patisserie perched up the hill on Pacific Boulevard.
Carmel Bakery is one of those old fashioned bakeries where they only take cash. Real, homely, friendly kind of place that smells of sugar, spice, and all things calorific. This morning the counter is stacked high with macaroons, sweet pastry parcels, toffee dunked apples and pretzels. It’s a tough choice but it’s breakfast time so I go classic and pick a chocolate pretzel. The shop sign is a giant varnished swinging one after all, so it seems churlish not to. And I always like to try local favourites when I’m travelling. I pick the biggest mother lode and head off down the tree-lined boulevard to the beach. I need waking up. I need coffee.
Earlier that morning at 3am I’d been woken by the howling of coyotes, outside my little Air BnB caravan, ‘The Tumbleweed Hotel’. Excited, I’d pulled back the dolls house size curtain behind my head to look out but it was foggy. So I get up and open the little tin door and listen.
Yes, coyotes! I miss my dog, I think to myself.
I record them on my phone and message them to my ‘ex’ back in England. It’s 11am over there now. My love, my heartbreaker, and the reason I’ve gone off on this strange, perhaps crazy, solo odyssey in search of healing. And today I’ve come to my version of Camelot to search some more. Or rather Carmel – so delicious it drips off the tongue like Caramel. I’d always dreamed of coming here. It’s a little known secret of mine but I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Clint Eastwood. Ever since watching ‘Any Which Way You Can’ aged fifteen. Today I’m hoping, maybe just maybe, I might bump into the ex-mayor of this little fairy tale town.
It’s an enchanting place, Carmel-by-the-Sea. As you head up from the south along the Pacific Highway 1, you drive through Point Lobos National Park between trees festooned with Spanish moss. It drops off the branches like candyfloss, reminding me of the gothic trees in the old DC horror comics I devoured as a kid. Today there’s almost a haze to them, eerily blowing in the wind; it’s the most exquisite drive ever. Then, as you enter the town, up and down its hilly higgledy-piggledy streets, you realise you’ve actually arrived in The Shire because it’s full of these quaint Hobbity gingerbread houses. And inhabitants who greet you with a chirpy goood morning whistle as they walk their pretty cockapoos.
Carmel – as I later find out browsing pens in the Bittner shop – is the most dog friendly town in the US. I wish Cass was here right now. I say to myself. And my ex. They’d both love Carmel. But they’re not here: I am alone but not alone. It was true. I realised, for the first time in 13 months, I’d stopped feeling lonely. I was kind of feeling OK. How did that happen?
Written by Holly Lerski