- 26 feb
I was downtown this weekend on another of my little photo safaris, getting snaps of the fauna around Olvera Street and then down around the Central Market on Broadway. I think I got some good stuff.
The whole experience made me want to live in a trendy loft, haunting the hot little back rooms of curio shops for cultural secrets by day, making Great Art by night, and then collapsing into a pile of proof sheets to sleep and dream and rest my bulging brain. I'd want good furniture, of course. And lots of friends, too. Friends who weren't needy. Do they have those downtown? Perhaps this general malaise I've been feeling is just an urge to gentrify.
So anyway, on Saturday, I'm walking along, across the street from police headquarters, watching the Los Angeles Department of Rethinking Terrorism replace the concrete barriers with small yet strategically located potted plants, and there's this lovely blonde woman on the corner and she's headed right for me.
"Hi. Would you like a free calendar and address book courtesy of Bad Boys Bail Bonds?" she says, pointing to the sign on the building beside us.
I'm hot and tired, but when the inevitable oncoming interaction is wearing tight jeans and a low-cut red top my default mode is Try To Be Clever.
"Do I look like a bad boy to you?" Smoooth.
I see in her smile that she has caught a whiff of my contention. Inside my head I hear what sounds like a pilot light igniting a large gas burner.
"All you boys are bad." she says, tilting her head slightly and giving me a new smile. It's coy, but business coy, like you see at Hef's.
"Nooooo. Not me." I say, defending truth, justice, and the American Way. But the instant the "no" leaves my lips I realize I've just destroyed a universe throbbing with possibilities.
"Well, maybe sometimes." I say. Good save.
"That's good!" she says. She hands me a nifty little magnetic address book and a brochure. I laughed, she closed. What can I say? She was a closer. When the coppers throw me into the graybar hotel, who'm I gonna call? You betcha.
I think of her still, for she showed me that:
But you knew that already.
Earlier in the week I motored up the coast to Santa Barbara to pick up some more photo equipment. While there I strolled State St. to see what there was to be seen. State is the main stem of that town, the aorta through which retail flows. Traffic was lighter because the city is working on repairing an aneurysm about halfway down toward the wharf, and as it was a weekday, the place had the feel of the Santa Barbara of my salad days.
I popped into Borders to paw through their photography books and heard an audience laughing. Further investigation revealed a guest speaker hawking her new book. From the looks of the crowd I figured it was about retirement investments or how to choose a convalescent home, but standing at the microphone was a middle-aged woman whose name I've forgotten but that doesn't matter anyway because we all know her as Gidget. The Original Gidget. Not Sally Field or Sandra Dee. The Real One. The one her father wrote the story about a few decades back. In the audience were Moondoggie and some other gray-haired guy, I've forgotten his name too but it was something like Ham Sandwich, I think. They took a bow wearing Hawaiian shirts and zories and everything was groovy, well, pre-groovy. What came before groovy, was it boss or wicked? I can never remember.
In another world completely, I've been having a hard time with Amy's homework lately. She has some learning disabilities, and her schoolwork is modified, but still there are times when the learning hurdle is set too high. What I find interesting is the degree to which I feel her performance is a reflection upon my own intelligence and ability to achieve, and I'm sometimes surprised by the extent to which I allow my own emotions about this to get the better of me. I suspect the angst of academic achievement is not uncommon among parents, and you'd think I could cut myself some slack because of the obvious disability, but still I feel a twinge of deficiency in myself. It's almost insane, isn't it?
I believe a lot of this has to do with the nature of my own education, one that had me in a high-achieving crowd where there thrived a pervasive and pernicious elitism. We all became quite competitive, a spirit that bled into our lives away from school and, in a way, stained us and put a taste in our mouths for the approbation of authority which remains to this day. Over the years, I've had the good good fortune to have encountered some folks from the old crowd in a non-academic environment and, while strictly empirical, there seems to be evidence that several of them were absent on the afternoon they taught social skills. While the school setting may not be the only place one picks up competence in this subject, intense focus on achievement has a way of sucking the juice out of what might otherwise be healthy interactions.
It's complicated. My schooling didn't happen in a vacuum, but in the most conservative county in the country during the Vietnam War. It's not hard to imagine the priorities school officials felt bound to and the numbers and results they felt accountable for.
So, hey, everybody suffers somehow, right? The trick is in letting go when you're all growed up, and getting that one sour taste off the tongue, whatever its origin. A long time ago I tried to burn mine off with alcohol, but that didn't work, especially since the taste of cheap Chardonnay is too close to the zesty bouquet of sour grapes. But I wonder how many of my classmates have tried that one.
Well, now that I've exposed this gaping maw of bloody glistening flesh, I think I'll just wrap it up here and say that although I love my daughter immensely and I love myself as well, I really really hate being in fourth grade again. So much lies ahead.
This could be a feeling not altogether different from being out on bail. That's not insane, is it?
Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you...
"You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want) -- Joe Jackson -- STEPPIN' OUT: THE VERY BEST OF JOE JACKSON
"Sanity was statistical; it was merely a question of learning to think as they thought."
- George Orwell (1984)