I had to get out the house. I woke early. I wasn’t expecting to. A late night, 3am… chances were I’d wake late, groggy wondering where the day had gone. 8am I bolted out of bed. LA was muggy. I’d planned on driving somewhere. Somewhere I could put my foot down as I turned a corner. Rapidly accelerate and drive.
Putting your foot down through those corners feels like control. A slight turn of the wheel as the car turns a bend. It’s not. It just feels that way. When everything else is out of control we hold onto something. But illusion or not, as the force of the curve pulls you sideways it’s only the moment that matters.
I stopped talking this week. People, animals. Sympathies wain; ethics, empathy, little less than ad-hoc rationalization in the face of instinct. We’re bodies making meaning at street level. I stopped talking because I am tired.
The last conversation I had was BS. It reeked of pre-decision. Wasted time, motions of politeness; verbal gestures as cliche as they were polite. The moderated tone, I felt nauseous.
“We’re all agreed”… We weren’t, we knew we weren’t. “So what are you basing your decision on again?” I asked. I meant to be difficult. I got what I expected. A bullshit answer, a placeholder for a lack of thought. Drink kool aid kid … ironically you’ll get to have another conversation, maybe with a little less BS, maybe.
Maybe I’m missing the point, but think about it. When you know you’re role in a conversation is circumlocution you kinda feel you’re having your balls cut off. A cog defeats the object of conversation. I was laconic. The conversation wasn’t about … what it was about … it was about control. I hate those ‘conversations’.
I got in the car and drove. Even the road felt like a game. Row upon row of people obeying the traffic laws. Isn’t that what makes a game a game, rules. The impulse to drive into oncoming traffic with “fuck this” in my mind was overwhelming. Looking at the empty lane to the left. I didn’t. I cranked the volume on my stereo. I was listening to Nirvana.
Kurt Cobain was dissatisfied. I’d seen a documentary about him some time ago called ‘About a Son’. The documentary consisted of a lot of interviews with him up until his suicide. The journalist emphasized Kurt’s desire not to be a facsimile, even of himself; to be something new, always dissatisfied, uncomfortably honest.
What a burden. The idea that he’d written a popular song was the irony of his success. You might liken it to fashion, “there is no fashion” Karl Lagerfeld once said, “once something is in fashion it is no longer fashion”. I think that might be how Kurt felt, acutely, about his own work. There is no Kurt Cobain, there never was. There was a body in motion heading to an end at street level.
At the top of the Hollywood Hills I looked over the city. At the top you can see the city’s flatness. Grey clouds lingering mirror concrete. It were as if someone had taken a slab, placed it on the ground and waited for denizens to crowd in the minutia of living. The street became something distant.
The distance made the conversation, the week and the drama feel like vapor, less like smog. In that moment I reversed, turned around and drove home. I wanted that moment. I had it. I left.
I didn’t feel anything leaving the top of that hill. Winding down yellow ochre became a sunlit cocoon shielding the possibility there may be more than the road ahead. I thought I’d felt calm, but it wasn’t calm, I was numb. Driving back to LA the hills turned from an opportunity to explore into plastic embellishment at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland. Every human trap was there. Corners with drug addicts twitching as tourists wondered what they came to see. I was back in LA. I considered taking Sunset to the beach, but it was almost 5pm. I drove home. Lay down, slept waking later a little fresher.
Staring out of the side mirror of my car I saw the car behind me. The reflection on the windshield hid the person sitting behind the wheel. I wondered, could they see me?
There’s a moment in your life when you look around you. You take in the surroundings and start to ask questions about what it is that your life is, what it will be and who, if anyone you are. If you don’t stop and wonder from time to time maybe you’re lucky, maybe on the other hand you’re a psycho.
I’ve been reading a story in the Paris Review. Man marries woman, whisks her to the middle of nowhere placating the guilt of an affair in a bid to escape. His friend, the anti-hero never grows up; trist after trist till his heart gives in. An ordinary life, an escape into an unthinking abyss is contrasted with the chaos of a romantic who never grows up.
The story is about deceit. The deceit of unthinking. The deceit of being human. The protagonist’s world is an escape as is the anti-hero. An escape from dreams, from a love he never had. Memories and ideals held close now at arm’s length while he pathetically caves into the distance of every intimacy. His wife, complicit in his deceit is left with little things, small satisfactions, the fickle foibles of her friends, the comfort of her home. Little things that ironically hold more weight than the lost dreams of her husband. Dreams who surface in stoned realization.
Ivan Ilyich’s life was the same. In ‘The Death of Ivan IIlyich’ Tolstoy tells the story of an unthinking man on his deathbed looking for the meaning of his life. In his agonizing last days he realizes how absent that meaning was. His lack of thought, humanity and empathy for those around him left him blindly alone. And didn’t Hannah Arendt beg the question; is it a lack of thought that is closer to evil than an honest reflection.
“You know the worst dreams?” I asked a friend.
“Dreams about regret” she replied without hesitation.
“Yes!” I jumped in, “you know a nightmare is a nightmare when you’re sleeping, but those dreams, you know they’re about real life.”