THE LAST HOPEFUL FOOL AT THE BEDSIDE OF LOS ANGELES
Seven o’clock on a Friday night. I sit in my dark car, staring out at the monotonous open and shut of the Lassen’s market doors. I imagine that to an onlooker I must appear something like a voyeur, watching customers fondle voluptuous produce in selection of the perfect piece. I don’t know how much time has passed since I finished my shopping. Waiting patiently beside me in the passenger seat sits one solemn golden potato and a loose garlic bulb, while the filet mignon I spent too long carefully selecting has already begun to sweat.
I cannot bring myself to put the key in the ignition and drive away. The knowledge that in all likelihood, the night holds nothing of fortune or value keeps me transfixed like a moth to the welcoming lights and brightly colored shelves. There was once a time when Los Angeles was alive with promise each and every night—but I hardly remember it like that now.
In this city, finding one’s place proves difficult when you’re twenty seven—an unwilling occupant of that liminal space betwixt life stages. Too old for the rooms in which you once shook your nineteen-year-old ass like your life depended on it, too young to be completely satiated by the same tired conversations, shouted over a $26 thimble of tahini-drizzled Japanese sweet potato at some small plates restaurant you let willing rob you every weekend.
Those who are trust-funded, or conversely it seems, extremely broke, seem to find an answer in escape—trading our fentanyl flooded streets, thick with human despair and steampunk trash villages for the hopeful, rat infested miracle of New York City. Here in Los Angeles, we’re often told it’s like the gold rush out there, that the chaos and decay has birthed an abundance of art and creation that’s ripe for the taking. We’re fed on the fable of it. None of those would-be prospectors have ever bothered to bring any piece of the treasure back with them, but we still announce once a week, to all who will listen, that we’re thinking of moving out there to try our own luck at panhandling.
In fact, many have all but abandoned Los Angeles, tipping the scales from a majority population of once lively, hedonistic lotus-eaters to dull-eyed, non-player characters who seem to have made a sport of endurance queueing for a seat at the latest happening brunch spot. Indeed, it seems the city is comprised of two parties now: the horribly bored and the horribly boring—and all we do is drink, or abstain from drinking, and both seem to preoccupy us well enough.
The city is dying, poisoned by a collective apathy—by the mocking, scoffing symphony of incredulity when someone dares to ask if there’s anything going on tonight. The party once promised flirtation and intrigue, the prospect of a sexy stranger in the darkness urging you to leave your jacket at home despite the cold. Now, as you cross the threshold, those lucky enough to have found a mate, clutch fearfully at their counterparts, while the rest rush forward like Jehovah’s witnesses, prepared to share the gospel of ethical non-monogamy for all who will listen. It’s easy enough to order the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen straight to your door in thirty minutes or less with a money-back guarantee, but no one ever will, because someone even better may appear with the next swipe, (or the next one, or the next one, or the next one) and the only sin lies in being wasted on anything less than absolute perfection.
At the risk of martyring myself, I must tell you how valiantly I have tried to keep hope for this place alive, performing chest compressions and exorcisms alike in an attempt to revive its former glory. I’ve sung its praises before hoards of naysayers, I’ve danced in empty bar rooms, cleaned the last, dusty vintage treasures from the thrift store shelves and sold the fantasy of all it holds secret with the fervor of a timeshare salesman. It seems that for some time now, I have been the last hopeful fool at the bedside of Los Angeles, but I must finally admit, before God and all gathered here, that it is a city without hope of revolution or renaissance.
The Dead City - Nicholas Roerich (1918)
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