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.