3/5/08

It Did Not Surprise Me

Rode the plane home, taking pain pills and watching reality television. I saw that show about a matchmaker for millionaires for the first time. It sort of took all the dignity and glamour out of prostitution. It made me really sad to watch it, but again I was too comfortable to do anything about it, other than notice the small death it seemed to signal.

Began reading Didion's White Album, after seeing Justin Bond's brilliant hypothetical meta-piece about her, White Woman Down, at P.S.1 last week. It's pretty perfect. It was particularly reassuring to hear someone else describe (articulately, clearly, ironically, clinically, meanly-- thanks Joanie) the same paranoid anxiety that I often have. The feeling that there is some larger "meaning" to the events of one's life. Maybe everyone feels this. By "everyone" I mean clued-in 20somethings who work in some aspect of media and culture. By "everyone" I mean Californians.

The particular anxiety that's become the hallmark of Didion's style is distinct to Californians. The feeling that one is out of one's place, that one's life narrative is elusive, and fleeting. I'm really interested in the waiting for the other shoe to drop, the mindset that at any moment someone could break into your house to rob you and hurt you, kill you, no matter what kind of house you have or where you live. Rather, the belief (couched as "knowledge") that it's only a matter of time until someone does this, seems Californian. A sort of pre-apocalyptic view of the world.

We make fun of New Yorkers for being high-strung and neurotic and intellectual. But I think Californians are not so different. In New York, they make fun of Californians for being "laid-back" and fake. As if Californians were unaware of how ridiculous we are.

Here's the thing: we know.

To be Californian is to grow up with the acute and terrible knowledge that you are living in a fake world created only a few moments ago, and that this world will be ripped away from you and that it will hurt. To grow up in California is to know that the water you drink is stolen, the ground you live on is not solid, that the money you see everywhere came from somewhere. It is to know that you are living in a Fabulous Place and that this Fabulous Place is not Forever. I grew up in a pretty typical Californian landscape, but one that sounds sort of horrible when I recount it to my friends on the east coast. Of course I lived through earthquakes. Of course I remember the Rodney King riots. Yes of course the Hollywood hills caught fire. Yeah, my elementary school was evacuated because of gun violence a few times. Yes I saw movie stars (including my mom) every day. When I was a kid we couldn't play outdoors for too long because of the smog. You could see it, and you could feel it. Have you seen six year-olds cough up brown goo? California here I come.

The thing about Los Angeles is that most of the people there are not fabulous. One is constantly reminded that the narrative is not accessible, and this is a really awful feeling.



Anyways, this is to say that I'm thinking a lot about moving to Los Angeles even though I haven't been there in 14 years, don't know how to drive, and know nothing about it.

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