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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7 thoughts on “The Girl from the Sunset Marquis”

  1. “When I was young people had respect for tradition and honored their elders.”

    Said every cranky middle aged guy since forever.

    Personally, I like young people. They’ll eventually live long enough to look back and decide 2022 was all a Golden Age.

    1. Do you ever converse with anyone old, smart and sane enough to recall that the country has seen good and bad times over the past hundred years? Times of hopefulness and depression? When someone accurately describes the fearfulness of having Jimmy Carter as President prior to the rebirth of patriotism under Reagan tells you that we’ve left the reservation, mimicking Millennial Marxists calling everyone born before 1980 Boomers isn’t as clever a look as you might surmise.

    2. That is just a wee bit double-edged. Are we to consign the youngsters to their own perdition on the grounds we shall be economically comfortable enough to be above the fray, and/or looking down from heaven by the time everything really goes to hell?

  2. In my opinion there are essentially two layers of dishonesty in the dynamic described in this post.

    There is one layer that approximates Milos Forman’s “The Fireman’s Ball.” It is essentially the tragedy of the commons set to the social rituals within a socialist economy. People like your fare are the beauty queens or raffle prize thieves of that movie from my experience.

    They condone the behavior of the indigent thieves because it allows them to feel compassionate toward others without feeling bad about their general day to day conduct, pilfering in socially acceptable ways be it untaxed luxury gifts like skybox seats or office supplies from work, quite possibly in a government job or not for profit organization.

    The indigent are a very interesting bunch – because they basically have license to earn $700K a year ($950 per day = +/- $2000 per day pretax) without the burden of ethics, education, or oversight. So you have these people, some of which are coming close “collecting” $950/day – basically taking assets equal to what a cardiologist would make – the big difference being that the “indigent cardiologist’s” salary is surrendered to organized crime for hard drugs while facilitating said government and not for profit organizations and the regular cardiologist is buying goods, services, investing – the things the local economy/society requires to sustain our social systems.

    And the lab coat cardiologist contributing 50% of her or his income as tax is not “paying their fair share.” This is not a screed against the community chest, public domain, etc., but it is a question of if it is reasonable that the cardiologist or the Uber drivers are forced to “donate” between a third or a half their lives to facilitate these social dynamics – which are more akin to funding urban decay than world class public works and services. Never trust a “socialist” with soft hands.

    1. “Indigent cardiologist” is my new go-to phrase. The Freakonomics people need to do a follow up on this premise.
      In addition to theft, there is EBT, health care, housing vouchers, free phones, etc.
      That’s a lot of assets that get collateralized as drug money, which drains southward to Mexico, as though through a straw.
      Like a nation-on-nation slant drilling operation. Hard handed socialists vs. soft handed socialists.

      1. It is interesting to imagine the process by which the spoils are divided. Clearly the indigent are not accumulating appreciating assets. So what kind of local, state, and national receipts are there? For example, might some of these shenanigans be financing a local film or somebody’s restaurant? What percentage is finding its way across a border and if so, how are their profits being utilized? Maybe in like 30 years there will be a Fentanyl/Meth Cowboys documentary that looks at the personalities and economic interests driving the decay we are seeing on the West Coast.

        1. It is fascinating to think of the gains being put to positive purposes. Church building. Experimental theater in Guadalajara. Restaurants. Condos to rent to the gringo tourists. Odds are at least some of it has been. Now that is a movie waiting to be made. You’re giving me ideas here.

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