Messengers of Chaos

Instagram: Street People of Los Angeles

The universe keeps sending messengers. Runners. Heralds.

I picked up a young man from a house party Saturday night.  He had two brand new MacBooks tucked under his shirt. He spent the entire ride bragging to a friend on the phone how he had just stolen them from his unsuspecting hosts.

He was from Chicago, on a weekend furlough from the Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms.  He got himself a motel room in Hollywood, hit the bars, met some girls, accepted an invitation to a house party, saw two laptops in an empty room and couldn’t think of any good reason to just leave them there and now couldn’t wait to tell people, and didn’t mind my overhearing every word.  A Marine, no less.

How much of this do we attribute to a particular morality he carried with him from Chicago and how much to a cultural understanding Los Angeles has become a City Without Handcuffs? There’s no way to know.

We are coasting on the assumptions of a high-trust society when the basis for that trust has eroded and may no longer be present.  We are behaving as though America 2019 was still operative.

Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, “On The Town” 1949

On Friday a group of West Point cadets on spring break in Florida decided to do some blow. And why not? I would have. In fact, I did, many times, in an era of safety before the Russian roulette of drug consumption brought about by Fentanyl. Four cadets overdosed on the spot. Two more overdosed through secondary transmission while administering CPR. Six dead in the yard of the rental house, a seventh now on a ventilator.

America has lost nearly 200,00o people to drugs since the passing of George Floyd. The majority of those deaths were Fentanyl-related.  Unlike opium, which is produced around the world, the precursor chemicals are solely from China.  The distribution networks run through Mexico.

It’s almost like…a military invasion.  But no one is allowed to call it that.

If you want to sap the will of your opponents, send in a pestilence.  Like Lenin to St. Petersburg on a sealed train in April 1917, courtesy of the German Army.  By October Russia abandoned the front, and he was in the Winter Palace establishing his “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

Vladimir arrives at the Finland Station

America will take more than five months to collapse. But it won’t take twenty years either.  She is undergoing a Great Unwinding from a constitutional republic to an oligarchy run out of San Francisco and New York.  She has no enforced borders and no guaranteed rights not subject to revision by corporate managers. She has “elections” nullified by the administrative state.  Her citizens no longer possess local control of schools or zoning or bodily autonomy. The only monopoly on violence is held in trust by the media who licenses its use to preferred groups.

She is transitioning…into something of which Buffalo Bill and Davos might approve.

Counterintintuitively, Van Nuys may fare better than the rest of the country.   Most of the shitty things have happened here already. It’s baked into the cake.

The Girl from the Sunset Marquis

Joan Jett, Sunset Marquis 1976                                                Credit: Bob Gruen

It works like this. The door opens and people slip into the backseat and offer up a sliver of their life for ten minutes. A glimpse of truth.  Or just confessor bullshit to entertain themselves, depending on the evening. Sometimes they want to know all about me, how I came to the priesthood of Uber, what lessons I have obtained on my journey.

Late Saturday night I arrived at the storied Sunset Marquis, and a young woman entered in a talkative frame of mind.  Wanting to know things. Like:

What do I think of L.A.? No, really. Do you like it?

Me: I love Los Angeles. I am uxorious in my feeling for the city.
Gen Z Beauty: What does uxorious mean?
Unrestrained affection, as one would have for a spouse.
I like that.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how much longer the city can withstand the degeneration of the past two years.
What do you mean, degeneration?
What do you mean by that?
Stealing. Unlimited shoplifting from stores.
This is a thing?
Yes. You can steal a thousand dollars of merchandise at a shot, with impunity. Tribes of people do this every day in LA.
I don’t understand. Of all the things about LA, shoplifting bothers you? 
Well, yes. Stealing is lawlessness. Lawlessness bothers me.
But there are all these studies showing crime hasn’t gone up, because of Covid, and the police are making up statistics to get more funding. At the end of the day it’s just capitalism, right?

I took the last sentence to mean capitalism as a form of systemic inequality. Shoplifting being the inevitable antidote to said unfairness.

She wasn’t as batty as she sounds, this girl with money to Uber off to the Sunset Marquis by herself for $20 cocktails. I would characterize her as genuinely mystified by my value system and curious why I thought the way I did. She wanted to continue the conversation once we reached her house, but I had other ride requests. She tipped well.

Maybe she was relying for her information on this woman, who also expresses cheerful mystification.

We are living in a great epistemic schism. ‘Alternative universes’ to use Jen Psaki’s formulation.

The Strip is long past the mayhem of the metal years. It exists now as a luxury theme park atop the burial grounds of rock and roll history.  What would Motley Crue fans make of our conversation? Or two people sharing a smoke outside the Whiskey after a Doors set? Would they agree with her?

For all the self-destructive exuberance of the 1970s and 1980s we had higher social trust. We had mosh pits, and groupies debasing themselves for musicians who wore more makeup than they, and yes, there was plenty of theft. But few among us were pretending crime didn’t matter. There was a foundation of order we all stood upon and took for for granted, like Mediterranean weather. And ass-cleaving denim.

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