Monday, April 2, 2007

When you wish upon a star..

Starting at the end and working back. We had an incredible hunter's moon last night. Damn near daylight bright. I got home around 1 am and am exhausted. The trip from San Diego to John Wayne airport to Seattle damn near undid me. I ended up, finally on the airplane exhausted, sun-dried sitting next to a large woman that smelled expressly of Mickey D's French fries. We'll call her 'Grandma.' She was attending to what would normally be a very cute little girl who was one row forward, and across the isle. The little girl was very insistent that 'Grandma' see every little thing she colored. I was sitting on the aisle, grandma was in the middle. So the little girl hops up, shoves some colored Little Mermaid/Nemo/fishy something in my face: "Gra-muh, LOOOOOK!" Grandma says "That’s nice. Now, you sit down Madison." Then Grandma apologizes profusely. The stewardess comes tromping over well after Madison is buckled in and tells Grandma, Madison and all of rows 6 and 7 "Madison needs to stay seated." Everyone nods in appropriate bobble headed fashion. This occurs about every 10 minutes. I suggested switching seats, but Grandma insisted that I stay put, and that Madison would be “out like a light any minute now.” Madison’s switch stayed on for almost the whole flight.

This was all the more annoying because I wasn't even supposed to be on this flight in the first place. It took me just over an hour to get from John Wayne airport to San Diego on a Thursday evening around 9 pm. I (rather stupidly) assumed that the return trip (Sunday afternoon) would take around the same amount of time. I gave myself just over 3 hours to make the drive. With traffic, weaving, driving like a crazy person, and running at a full sprint through the airport; I arrived at the gate in just enough time to see the plane pull away. There was traffic, serious, incredible, arbitrary traffic the whole way. There was no accident, no construction, simply too many people driving too slowly on not enough road. It was maddening.

I don't understand how people live happily in southern California. The whole weekend I was reading Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. It's a great raunchy tale of a very smart, articulate, despicable person doing the dance of degradation in 1930s Paris. There is so much life in Miller and this book, and so much decay, it really contrasts Southern California very nicely.

Miller's book is about seeking an excess of the great things in life, and thus rendering them meaningless. Too much of a great meal, makes one fat, and sick. Too much sex makes one sore, raw, and numb (physically and emotionally). Too much spending without earning leaves one out on his ass and lousey.

In So-Cal (and most of America which started to imitate Southern California sometime in the 80s) nothing is real. And, nothing artificial can be great. You have the appearance of mass produced beauty, but it's all false, hollow and disgusting. I spent most of the weekend on the beach reading Miller, and watching tanned girls walk by sporting the silliest barely there clothing that accentuates bodies that are thin, frail, and fat all at the same time. I don't understand the girls I saw. They wore things that simply looked cheap and silly. Things that made them look at best like the female characters from a cheap 70's movie and at worst lumpy and sodden. They were flaunting skin without any desire. They aren’t sexy, because within sexy there is an implication that taking one of these women with big fake boobs and wide flat bottoms to bed would be fun. There is no fun to be had with someone so disdainful of anything enjoyable. They were about as appealing as the cheap pseudo-food being sold all around me. Empty calories with no complexity, no nutrients.

Thursday night we went to a great sushi place, the simply the best sushi I have ever had. I went with 2 of my co-workers, and we wolfed down piles of the stuff. Next to us were two of these creatures picking at 2 rolls between them. Not eating just talking and pushing food around, picking it apart. I have no respect for someone who doesn’t have passion and respect for great things. Great food is to be taken in, to be eaten in gulping mouthfuls. To be vanquished like an honorable enemy, not stabbed and picked at by carrion birds. Passion is not to be confused with gluttony. Gorging yourself with food to try and fill some void in your life is a bad thing, and a waste of good food. Food abused in that manner never really enjoyed. That sort of abuse is what the Tropic of Cancer is about. Passion turned sideways, corrupted by our weaknesses. Turned ugly and rotten. It becomes hollow and meaningless.. but what happens if you start with hollow and meaningless? I don’t know, but it seems to me that Southern California is peopled with folks trying to drink, drug, tan, dress, or simply pretend that beauty IS skin deep. Mission Beach is full of Surfers, and frat-boys who dress like them. People that think drinking is a hobby and that "Wooooo!" is an appropriate greeting for their friends.

Thursday afternoon I went to Disneyland. Where nothing is real. Where unfit people herd their soft whiney children from ride, to coke vendor, to ride, to McDonalds pausing to slather them with sunscreen every few minutes. Where the bathroom sinks have corporate sponsors. Where Mickey D's is everywhere. Where the rides are designed to hide how long the lines are, and the lines themselves are designed with changes of scenery, and contrasting flows of people, so that you feel like you're getting somewhere. All to distract you from the fact that you are waiting an hour for a 3 minute ride. It’s called ‘social engineering.’ It’s become very popular with corporations and governments these days. They dress up highways with kitschy sculptures, so that you have something to look at while you’re stuck in traffic for 3 hours (besides the beaches and people in the other cars). They pick colors that keep people happy, hungry, and moving. The area surrounding Disney is a village of corporate hotels, and chain food factories. Places that sell food by volume. It’s cheap and grotesque and brightly lit and colorful. To make matters worse, we tried to leave during the big daily parade at disneyland, and it's damn near impossible to get out. It was horrifying . Crappy music, ugly kids and big grotesque people dancing and lolling about. I about knocked Cinderella over making my escape.

In the middle of all of shiny plastic was the conference that was my main objective in Orange County. The conference that kicked off my weekend in the sun. It was filled to the gills with middle-managers wearing middling black suits, talking in a dozen languages about fiber optics. Men who looked like they’d been born in those suits. No passion, no laughter, no joy, just lasers and glass. It was cold and interesting, and boring all at the same time. I showed up in jeans, shook a lot of hands, asked some tough questions, cracked a few jokes that were never laughed at (maybe I’m just not funny) but I got the information I needed from these joyless automatons.

By the end I was so ready to leave, that it made my epic adventure to get on an airplane and get back to Seattle all the more frustrating. Not to say I didn't have fun. I made some good contacts at the conference, and got some information that will help me professionally. The new Indiana Jones ride is great, pirates of the Caribbean is ok (they messed with it a bit too much for me) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a blast (and vastly underrated). I had some fantastic sushi. My wife was a total stud the three times she raced. I spent a lot of time looking at my fellow humans, and the more I looked the more I realized that I don't understand them, but that it’s ok. I am happy.

I am trying to ride the thin line. Indulge my passions enough to have lived a full life when it’s over, but not cheapen or abuse them. Bend them out of shape, turn them into something grotesque. I think I’ve found that balance for me, for now. These things ebb and flow. I am sure there are real people living somewhere in Southern California, but I didn’t see any of them in Anaheim, or Mission Beach.

I hope you had a good weekend.


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