Wednesday, November 01, 2006

novel, interrupted

Get in line punk. I am not giving up on this. But it's about 5th in queue right now.

The Setup

Just before it started raining Los Angeles was full of lifers and homebody types that didn’t think of a world outside California, smug pricks intent on turning L.A. into a ‘real city’, homeless people, cars, and out-of-town money who hated the city. Well, I loved the city.

When it started raining it wasn’t out of the ordinary. Sure, it was a little heavier than usual, but it wasn’t unprecedented. It was still the same purple sky at night, the same sort of misty rain that people from the tropics laugh about. It rained for a long time but that was the way some years went. If it went forty days and forty nights, it wasn’t because of the Bible or even GLOBAL WARMING. It was just an active El Nińo. Or La Nińa. Some weather pattern or another.

After the forty day mark had passed, the city started to be a little more on edge. Rich neighborhoods in Orange County started to empty out. A few houses here and there fell off a cliff or had their roof collapse. It is beyond my level of clear to explain what Scientologists believe, but this wasn’t acceptable to that belief system. Christians wanted to build giant boats, but there still wasn’t a good supply of water to make a boat move.

The Scientologists had always thought I’d make a good mark. They sent me mail. Asked me about my crimes. Asked me to watch movies with them. I was thrilled to find out we finally had the technology available to achieve spiritual freedom, but I still couldn’t afford that technology. And I like drugs. Even when I’m not using them. Still, those people were persistent. I guess it doesn’t matter if you can afford it, they’ll take your money anyway. Which is probably the argument they used to get recognition from the Feds as a proper religion. I understand that took a while.

I had spent the last several years in a hipster neighborhood going corporate. I was not a part of the original hipsterization and I fancied I wasn’t much with the corporate side, either. I was just glomming onto the haircuts to say I was one of them. I was (and am) pretty corporate. I wasn’t dirty enough, in a band enough, or around during the day enough to be one of them. I also didn’t have any money because I had made the mistake of not having rich parents who hated me by paying my rent. Assholes.

In my neighborhood there was not a lot of incentive for people to leave. They threw parties and went to shows and sold paintings that looked bad and similar. The houses were not crumbling any more than usual. There were fewer problems with skunks and coyotes. Less celebrity sightings, to be sure, but they were still out there. Starlets in white t-shirts with no bras. Men with tattoos. Men with white t-shirts and no bras. Eating expensive re-imaginings of proletariat dishes.

At the time I was seeing a girl. She had a rich father. He did not live in, nor did he approve of, Los Angeles. This was from just a little before the rain. She came from the New York area and he thought New Jersey was the right and proper place for her. But he gave her money even when she rebelled. I still don’t know what constitutes a good allowance, but I know that whatever scraps he was giving her far out-weighed any amount I had seen to that point. She decided to start a restaurant. I had met her online. I think me, meeting me online, and starting the restaurant and putting me in charge were all part of her rebellious stage. Maybe a little ridiculous of her to still act out as the rebellious daughter after graduating college and moving 4,000 some miles away. She pushed on with it, though, and it helped me immensely. It still helps me.

When I met her I had the idea it would be easy sex. She led me through everything. She talked and didn’t ask me to. She wanted to go places and do things without asking me what I thought. She even made the first few moves on me to make sex happen. When it finally did all over her shirt she was even cordial about that. Not excited, though. She must have been seeing other guys at that point. I couldn’t get her on the phone very often but I was always there for her call. Then and now my phones don’t see a lot of action. And I’ve always gotten too focused on things when I want them.

Los Angeles was for almost a century the center of the entertainment universe. People still plan on what will happen when “things get back to normal.” I liked it when someone went on television to espouse the theory that the rains were actually the rebirth and revenge of the L.A. River. Somehow Chinatown was the sacred text this knowledge drew from. Ha! That movie was stupid. I hate sheep and I hate Jack Nicholson. I don’t think the entertainers are coming back from Australia.

I was married to the girl[1] for a good long while. She had a mean streak long enough to live my life through it. I got a career, a house, a child, a car and in-laws who hated me. It was all great story fodder and made me feel important. I don’t feel important anymore but I did once. I suppose I owe a life that I lived to her. Great. If I were religious I would now start praying.

I am not a chef. I am not trained as a chef. I am not a numbers man. I never did any more mathematics than was required of me in order to graduate from college. It’s highly debatable that I have any facility to manage people or even remain friendly and/or professional with them. Well, maybe that stretches credulity to say it’s highly debatable. There is not a lot of debate on the side of the argument that says I am those things. Forgive my sportscasteristic use of language. I am a sot and at times a bully and I don’t do well to keep friends or business acquaintances. That wasn’t so hard.

I point out my traits in white shadow in order to set up what I am, or rather, what I was. I ran a rather successful restaurant where I was in charge of hiring and firing people, setting a menu, ordering stock, balancing schedules. It is nuts to think I pulled that off of my own volition. If it had been up to me when I was 29 I would have spent the last several decades doing the same thing I am doing[2] right this instant. It was all because of my wife. In spite of what you know about me to this point, fractious and self-loathing information I am putting forth, I feel it is important to note that I do not feel particularly thankful to my ex-wife for all the wonderful opportunities and travel destinations she afforded me. Affords me. I feel resentful towards her is all. Everything, every sham, every day she spent with me was motivated out of revenge. And I know, I knew, that she didn’t ever like me. Our sex life was awful and I took it because I like having bad sex more than I like only being able to masturbate. And that’s an important line of demarcation. I really prefer masturbation to intercourse, but I like to have my options open. I am a bad person. But that doesn’t make her a better person and it doesn’t mean I’m wrong to hate her. Me me me I me. There, I said it.

When it had been raining for a few months people started selling their cars and moving. It took a lot longer for a mass migration than one would imagine. People dig in and hold on. After years of hearing about property values it would be foolish not to take advantage while those values were low. Even if it was a crapshoot the foundation could withstand any more rainy days. Surprising, really, how many places outlasted their owners. In a manner of thought.

There have been technological breakthroughs that amounted to nothing. The idea of a paradigm shift is a joke. People are apes that like to kill things. That doesn’t set us apart from other apes. Neither does talking about how we feel, or even the fact that we do feel. You can’t “used-to-be” what you are now and always have been. We are apes, evolution be damned. And we still can’t stop it from raining.

Transportation in Los Angeles finally straightened out once the people left. The river came back (not long after the jackass explained the “Ethereal River”) and swamped a bunch of poor people. It isn’t prettier now because it is full and the sides aren’t made out of concrete. We still don’t have any monkeys or lilies on the river, so it is useless. There are new-age gondolas we called Aqua Taxis until they were just taxis. There are very angry and muscular looking helicopters that don’t pollute much but kill people with the same frequency as a light civil war. Almost every day, but not in droves. I am not horrified anymore. Not at the decapitations on the helicopter platforms, not at the loneliness in the world, not at starvation or drowning. Surprise is dead and so is my city.

It’s good now to see the beliefs that were prevalent among the religious and the secular are so ridiculous in hindsight and it has only been a few years. From Socrates to Constantine to David Koresh, in between from the Scopes trial and backwards, there is one universal truth that all God-fearing savages should relate to: Never trust a religious man even when he is agreeing with you. The shape of the world, the consistency of matter, the effects of global warming, the creation of the universe (twice), entertainment at home and at orgies, the infallibility of Allan Greenspan: all of these things have washed out in Los Angeles in a mere forty years. Other places, too, but I don’t go to other places enough to care what they have.

[1] See above (ppg 2-3).

[2] Playing with myself with one hand while typing with the other.

badly written story

Yeah, the headline is right. I don't like this. And I can't get my picture into my profile because my brain is wearing prophylactics. I'm not very fat. I'm not sure this story elucidates it's plotline or it's details very clearly.

The Most Boring Girl In The World

I didn’t wake up to the phone ringing. I really only heard it ring one time. I knew it had been ringing when I got out of the shower, but I didn’t touch it. I assumed it was my brother calling. He must have made it back to Los Angeles with every intention of re-casting our loving crack home from a few years earlier. I couldn’t understand the message that was left on my machine, it just said “Collect call walla walla jail.”

I can’t remember the name of the girl I was going to see. She had told me something in her email. I knew it then, but it’s gone. She’d posted something on craigslist about meeting up for lunch. She had never tried some local favorite that she had always meant to try and that I had never tried even though I meant to. I sent her a picture. She sent me a picture. It was all very agreeable.

I had just broken up with a long term (2+ years) girlfriend and wanted something to do. Needed to make some announcement to myself that the end had indeed been met. We’d broken up at least a dozen times and gotten back together within a week every time. Well, it had been more than a week this time. And we hadn’t spoken. Not even e-mailed. It was over.

It never seems like a good idea to me to show up too early for anything. Especially if that anything involves a girl. I’m so obviously desperate there’s no reason to play it up. Unfortunately, after I’d parked my car I still had 15 minutes to kill. I went and sat down at a bus stop and watched people go by. I saw a brown-haired girl and avoided eye contact because she looked cute. I’m a winner like that. The thought flashed in my mind that it might be the girl I was meeting, but (even though her picture didn’t have these features) I had expected a moustache or, at least, a hair lip.

After a couple of minutes I decided it was better to be early and desperate than to be on time and sweating, so I got out of the sun and trudged the block over. There was a little bit of a line but the brown-haired girl from earlier was at the counter with an empty seat. She saw me, looked me over and I realized this was, after all, my date for lunch. I introduced myself, “Is you’re name…?”

She told me her name and the universe seemed loving and giving. She had the kind of name no one could forget once they hear it. She didn’t write it down in her email to me because everyone mispronounced it and besides, she had given me her nickname, at the very least. Oh, well, of course I understood. You wouldn’t want awkward introductions.

Have you seen the menu? Do you know what you’re ordering? We had both studied the menu intensely because, well, we didn’t have anything to say to each other just yet. Neither one of us was trying very hard but I wasn’t worried.

She ordered something and I ordered something. Neither one of us was thrilled with the other’s plate. Just as well, she announced. She had just gotten over mono. I wasn’t thrilled with that either but let it go. Good story? No, she didn’t want to tell.

We ate and dawdled. Talked easily. Conversation good enough to keep going but not opening too many doors. I told her I was a writer. A fallen film student and hope-to-be novelist. This brightened her up. She told me about how she had just gone to Europe to study… something. And she had stayed somewhere old. It might even be famous. I thought this would be a door to adventure. I pursued this line.

While she was in Europe, the first two weeks it rained so she didn’t get to do much. Then, one night she went to a club with her friend! They didn’t meet anyone, nobody bought them drinks, and they left. The next day she had a cold. She felt bad but kept about her studies. That was the reason she was there. But she was tired the whole time. She slept most of four weeks. Before she came back to America she went to a doctor. The doctor told her she had mono.

This is a general outline of the story. It went on much longer than this, filled in with colorful details of not doing anything. Which was a really great conversation. By the end I had my face in my hand and wasn’t saying anything. Poor girl. She could taste the disappointment. When we got up to pay, I got the whole check and reached out warmly to shake her hand. Yeah, we should totally do something again and stuff. Great.

I walked away, got in my car, and promptly forgot her name. She’s pretty, she’ll be okay, I guess. I will never call her again but someone will. About an hour after I got home my phone rang. My ex-girlfriend calling. No apologies, no re-ups accepted! I resolved to myself to stand strong before answering.

“You are the worst person in the world!” It turned out it was her calling from jail. She’d gotten a DUI the night before and thought I’d be the one to bail her out. I guess from her side of the phone they kept telling her I was rejecting the charges. So that’s what happens when the collect call meets the voicemail. Fascinating. Ah, well, certainly no reconciliations now. She had finally broken down and called her mother. If I remember correctly she threatened to send someone over to beat my ass. The final nail in the coffin was placed by the cops and hammered home by the most boring girl in the world. I took a nap and then went to a friend’s house to watch football.