Our appetites are our undoing. It’s not a question of drinking from the poisoned chalice, but gleefully asking for more. Returning to our happy place, during business hours, when we know better.
Some people can’t stop lying.
Some can’t stop texting all the wrong sh**.
How fitting the storied e-mails, the much sought, much denied commingling of state secrets and side-dealing passed from server to server in the halls of power like a radioactive fruitcake, should end up on this man’s laptop, placed there by his thrice-burned wife. Or “wife”, if you prefer.
A billion dollars in advertising and a lifetime of ambition unraveled by a 50-year-old man spanking his monkey in the afternoon while his wife is at work.
Come children, to Toluca Lake. Fill your bags. Starting tonight, the desire-reward pleasure cycle has been shortened to ten seconds or less. Sugar wallow! Sugar wallow! Starting tomorrow we will discipline ourselves. For now we are going to feed.
Let us pretend its an annual ritual and not an animal one, a predicate of who we’ve become.
Of all the rituals in the Valley, none, not even Christmas, commands our collective enthusiasm like Halloween. We hang more skeletons in our yards than angels. More cobwebs than reindeer. More jack o’lanterns than Santa Clauses.
We do Christmas out of duty. Halloween we do altogether differently.
All Hallows Eve, before it went fully pagan, was once a Christian harvest festival not dissimilar to the Dia Los Muertos, a remembrance of the faithful departed. Now it’s an orgy of joyful bloodletting and gluttony. Not just witches and ghosts and Disney characters, but a happy parade of decapitated heads, chainsaws, machetes, serial killers and bodily entrails.
On the other side of our fragile world, Islamic militants are un-ironically hanging human heads on fence posts and rejoicing. They’re separating the men from the women, devising elaborate public executions: by fire, by drowning, by explosive device -the more theatrical the better- then chaining up the daughters like pack animals and leading them away into un-ironic concubinage.
We don’t need Jason masks to symbolize the psychosis of evil. We have an actual army of Jasons afoot, advancing Westward by the day.
There are moments, driving down a residential street (avoiding traffic, of course) the light will illuminate the trees just so…. and the natural world moves to the foreground and the suburban bric-a-brac recedes, and the radio goes quiet and for a space in time you are no longer in Los Angeles, or even in the year 2013. This particular grace has a way of sneaking up on you on the angriest of afternoons. You are glad all over again to live here. The Valley, its cluttered tackiness and brutal commutes, it’s upside-down mortgages across the darkling plain….makes sense! Flush with patriotic sentiment, you fumble in the glove compartment for a camera to commemorate the……wait a sec, are those…dogs…hanging from that tree?Dogs? Cats? How long have they been there? Why isn’t anyone doing anything? Has the Shining Path established a fresh redoubt in some Panorama City apartment? Has a new Dictatorship of the Proletariat been declared? Are teams of insurrectionists descending into Sherman Oaks (well, POSO-ville) to proclaim the second coming of El Presidente Ezekiel?
Oh, wait. Apparently someone hasn’t taken their Halloween decorations down. After 23 days. Ah, The Valley. We’re comfortable with ourselves.
In case you had no idea what I was free-associating about, this was Peru, for 20 years in the grip of Maoist fanatics. That would be an un-ironic stick of dynamite in the dog’s mouth. Their calling card. There was a truly sublime film made about this: The Dancer Upstairs, starring Javier Bardem. Also, a great novel: Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett.