So I went to the Sherman Oaks Fashion Square mall last night thinking I would buy a little something-something for Mrs. UpintheValley only to be the last to learn Williams-Sonoma had shut its doors at that location. Moving on, I tried to buy a different something-something at the home furnishings department at Macy’s and found myself in an empty register line for ten minutes waiting for the cashier to return from an errand. He never did and I left the mall -the mall!- empty-handed the week before Christmas. Some day, twenty years from now, an archivist of late-stage capitalism will find me there in the security tapes, a box under each arm, muttering in confusion. Perhaps I will become a meme: 2020 Man.
There were no piped-in carols, no piano player, no sugary bread dough smells wafting up from Cinnabon on the ground floor to tickle my pleasure impulse feedback loop. Fashion Square wasn’t closed entirely, that would be a bridge too far, a decision had been made, the line had been drawn…it just wasn’t very…open. The skeleton crews keeping the lights on were indifferent to my secular holiday desires. I could have walked the items out the front door without encountering an employee or fellow shopper. Jennifer Connelly could have shown up on roller skates at any moment. This was retail in a medically induced coma and I was molesting the patient.
As one not inclined to seasonal affective disorder, I’m discovering the absence of happy people in close proximity can be surreptitiously, accumulatively, depressing. It’s not a matter of seeking meaning in gift-giving or trying to re-create particular shared anticipations of years past. Tis the creepy normalization of surrender all around us.
Ten minutes away, Hollywood Boulevard without people is like a scene from Vanilla Sky, deserted in a cinematic sort of way. Disorienting. Foreboding. Yet somehow there were enough weed shop derelicts loitering under the eaves, puffing away their EDD money, to make the entire street smell of cannabis from Vine to LaBrea. I used to be pro-weed. Now it’s becoming synonymous with the failings of national character.
A depressing glimpse into the near future in which fewer of us work, more of us shall be high, most of us will be obedient to diktats from a nomenklatura which does not practice what it preaches.
How fearful, obedient, and self-jailing is America now.
Tangentially, I’ve binged The Last Czars, and find myself identifying more than I should with the Romanovs during their time in Yekaterinburg, at the House of Special Purpose, where they were taken in the final months before execution.
Nicholas the II was an incompetent head of state, presuming the throne by a divine right achieved via court inbreeding, a royal autocrat with one foot in the pre-modern world, and very likely Rasputin’s cuckold.
Like he, I am cooped up in a house for weeks on end on someone else’s orders. Beyond our gates, we sense the rules of the world, the operating presumptions, have changed. Nicholas and Alexandra were led to believe there would be a public tribunal. They were strung along by a series of notes from guards pretending to be sympathizers, promising an imminent rescue. Notes authored by Bolsheviks for the purpose of pacifying them. It will not be long, only a few more weeks…
The parents may have had an inkling of what was in store for them when they were asked to gather in the basement for a portrait photograph but didn’t think the children would be murdered in the same lot. Shooting unarmed girls, even in the direct aftermath of WW I trench warfare and revolution, was the moral beyond. Half the execution team couldn’t go through with their orders, which came directly from Moscow but had no author. Lenin himself made certain his name was on no paperwork.
Yet it got done. The deep state blooms in the shadow of accountability. It took Russia seventy years to come back from this.
In a few months, er, sometime next year…the administrative state will declare permit the public to resume its normal freedoms of assembly and commerce. Only they won’t be freedoms anymore, but privileges revocable at any time. Because we let them. It won’t be 2019, plus one year. We will be in a different “America” altogether, one in which freedom of speech is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Facebook and Alphabet, subject to deletion if determined to be misinformation by a Trust and Safety Council staffed in part by contract workers from India and China. A Los Angeles ruled by selective prosecution, with permission slips for woke mobs to loot businesses and intimidate the public, with salutary beatdowns of dissenters pulled from their cars to serve as an example. An “America” with unenforced borders, few reciprocal obligations of citizenship, and a whole lot of people as well as corporations seeking some version of free money.
I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to come back from this. We’re still on the downslope. Something we can reflect on this Christmas, each of us quartered in his own house of special purpose.
She was on the upswing of happy drunk when they entered the Uber. They had been Skyping for a week before braving a meet-up for drinks at the Venice Whaler. It was her first date since the beginning of Covid, and she had already made two decisions.
Her: We should totally disregard politics. We should do the kissing part and the sex part and the fun part first. Let’s wait a week or two to find out if we don’t like each other. Do you know what I mean? I’m just so glad you’re not 5’5”. I’m so glad you’re tall enough and I get to go to your house and meet your penis and we can have a good time together. Driver, what do you think?
I said there was wisdom in avoiding politics after 10 pm. We were rolling through downtown Santa Monica at night, a ghost town sealed in plywood.
Him: Is everything really out of business? Why are all these stores boarded up? The riots are not gonna happen, unless Trump comes back from the dead.
Her: Don’t say anything more.
Him: The media poisons everything.
Her: Yeah, but it also tells you things you didn’t know. You have to look for the silver lining. Like this is a weird analogy, but my best friend got black mold in her apartment and had to move out so now we get to live together. Or like breaking up with someone just before Covid and having to wait the rest of the year before going on a date. Then meeting you and Facetiming and praying to God you weren’t 5’5” and finding out you weren’t and you were really funny and now I get to meet your penis. We can wait a month to figure out if we hate each other. Or a couple of months. Or six months. How does six months sound?
Yes, this conversation really happened. When I left them they were standing in the street in front of his apartment building, holding hands. I choose to believe they made it up the stairs. I choose to believe they forgot all about the election. Someone should.
But this was two weeks ago when our collective pent-up need for touch was finding cautious release after eight months of Covidian restraints. The question then was: in our headlong rush to intimacy would we come to doubt our choices?
His right Lord Mayor of Thou Shall Be C*ckblocked has put an end to philosophical questions. Thou shall not have dinner with friends. Thou shall not visit family. Thou shall not go on dates. Thou shall not have moments on the stairs. A long hard winter is your lot, by proclamation. Hunker down. All is canceled. Order a vibrator from Amazon, if you must.
“All persons living within the City of Los Angeles are hereby ordered to remain in their homes.”
Cancel everything is a rather advantageous arrangement for the richest man in the world and his armada of independent contractors in sprinter vans. Pineapple Hill not so much:
What public health argument justifies this?
If someone said to you five years ago this surrender of sovereignty was not only possible in Los Angeles, but would be fully normalized in a matter of months, would you have believed them?
If someone said to you in March Jeff Bezos’ wealth would increase 56% before Christmas, while our national debt would increase by $4 trillion and we would behave as though this were the rightful order of things, would you have believed them?