All of us were here for a little while and then we were somewhere else

All of us were here for a little while and then we were somewhere else

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I started watching the Game Show Network right around when the pandemic and middle age and suburbia all hit me concurrently none of which I have yet to and will likely never rebound from and something I still can’t get over two years later watching anew every evening eating our little coffee table dinner is how on most of the games every contestant is this kind of pure grotesquerie from California which is the most uncanny state in America the most uncanny country in creation. I haven’t gotten through the Rehearsal yet but I’m reminded of how when I used to watch Nathan For You and I’d think it’s a trick it’s all actors but no it’s just that people there are like that. Californians are a people who simply want to be able to drive two miles in under 90 minutes if they can time traffic right and who love to be insane. No one will ever figure them out. Not Steinbeck or Hammett or Chandler or Didion or West or Tarantino.

It’s all just pool balls clattering.

I don’t know what that is supposed to mean but it sounded like something.

Ahhh shit a millipede or something like that an associate of the overarching millipede enterprise just skittered past me and I made a noise that I’m not exactly proud of. It was a pretty big one too. It’s pouring rain in Massachusetts today and cold already this early in September and I’ve seen some of these types of guys in the basement before so this had better not be the harbinger of an exodus of some kind. I flailed for something to kill it with out of instinct and it was quicker than I was and ran for cover and now it’s gone to the limbo where the things you can’t see anymore wait. Where your mother goes when she hides behind her hands.

The spiders have been finding their way inside too now that it’s getting colder. I just saw a remarkable one outside this morning while taking out the trash. It had erected one of the most elaborate webs I’ve ever seen. Adjusting for scale it was like a spider mansion like when you read a story about a guy’s house probably in California that has thirteen bathrooms and an indoor basketball court and all the rest of that and it looks like fucking shit. Not this web though this web had craftsmanship behind it holding up better than even the spider itself probably would have expected in the downpour. You could imagine the other older spiders the “we used to build things around here” spiders coming over to admire it and they’d all be standing around going now that’s a proper web until whoever the biggest one was decided to eat everybody.

I was trying so hard earlier to think of the other California writer I wanted to mention above in my little list there and all I could remember was that I had posted a picture of the book that I can’t remember on Instagram ten years ago which isn’t an especially efficient mechanism for remembering books. I scrolled down and down and down into my past last night aging myself in reverse and there it was in 2012 sitting on the side table of a hotel: Ask the Dust by John Fante. Let me look up a couple of quotes from it real quick to jog my memory.

"All of us were here for a little while, and then we were somewhere else; we were not alive at all; we approached living, but we never achieved it. We are going to die. Everybody was going to die."

"I looked at the faces around me and I knew mine was like theirs. Faces with the blood drained away, tight faces, worried, lost. Faces like flowers torn from their roots and stuffed into a pretty vase, the colors draining fast. I had to get away from that town."

Yeah that definitely sounds like the type of shit that I would have liked.

While scrolling I also found this pulsing vein of my life I had decided to record in 2012 so that was nice to remember.

I have only been to California five or seven or ten times to be clear and I don’t really know what I’m talking about. About California specifically but also anything.

I thought about trying to do a whole guy who’s been to California five or seven or ten times novella here but I don’t want to anymore because although you people pay me well you don’t pay me enough for everything I have.

Real quick and half-assedly there was the time I was young and definitely going to be a rock star playing and making a record there and the time a girl took me home and the house was peculiar looking and not knowing anything about architecture I didn’t realize until much later it was by the main California architecture guy and the time I was almost going to work at Instagram lol and did all these interviews at the fake town they have there and the time I’ve talked about before bumming out Elliott Smith at the Troubadour and the time with John Legend and a hot air balloon and the time on the beach by the iconic rock formations and the times in San Francisco getting mugged every block due to woke prosecutors just kidding but one time our friend took us to a you guessed it uncanny indoor hotel pool tiki bar way up on a hill and then we spent the rest of the trip trying to drink in as many famous cocktail spots as possible and shortening our lives drink by drink.

It was the fourth of July and it was so cold. We stood on a roof watching the muted fireworks through a mile of fog thinking well this fucking sucks. No one told me to bring a winter coat to the fourth of July in California.

I mentioned a while back that people from over there were trying to tell me that the water is just as if not colder than it is here in Massachusetts and while I logically accept that they are probably right I still do not believe it. How your brain won’t let itself process things you don’t want to believe.

Here now is a photo I found as well from 2016 well not a photo but it’s M. standing there by the water and she’s posing and looking very pretty and she’s adjusting how she’s standing and trying out different looks and I’m going hold on hold on ok here we go hold on and then she smiles and goes wait is it a video and I go haha got your ass again and we had a good laugh about that classic gag even though we were pretty miserable at the time all things considered.

Everything I try to remember about being in California feels like it happened on some show I watch to fall asleep to. Not because most of them are filmed there but more so that I don’t remember the plot or the dialogue of my own experiences and it’s all operating there in my subconscious in the background fucking me up from the past even when I’m not paying attention.

Don’t misunderstand me I love it there I want to be there right now although I just saw it’s 110 degrees today so maybe scrap this whole idea.

Also there are the fires and the droughts to consider.

Nonetheless I am pulled there in a type of longing specific to me but also with the same cliche longing we all have in common for the west the way that has pulled people there forever with all the songs and movies and all that. How if the continent were a table and you turned it on its side and gravity came into play and we all tumbled westward. I’m pulled both by the idea of freedom and the expanse the land itself represents in the American mythology but also the lie of the myth. I want to experience the lie. The make believe of it that people know is make believe but let themselves operate inside of anyway.

Being lied to isn’t so bad sometimes compared to being aware of how things actually are. You wouldn’t want to go around like that for very long.

By the way I’m not stupid I know it sucks to live in California in the same way it sucks to live anywhere in America and in a lot of ways more so than anywhere else but the heart wants what it wants. And yes I’ve got some nerve being a guy from Massachusetts talking about state caricatures.

M. and I talk about taking a trip somewhere a lot lately but the thing is I don’t want to take a trip anywhere I want to actually be somewhere else if that makes sense. I don’t think we’ve ever taken a trip anywhere for more than a few days at a time in our lives. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a fair few countries in my life but that was only an accident of having worked for magazines and newspapers I would never have been able to afford anything that I ever did on my own and in any case that sort of traveling doesn’t appeal to me anymore I want to live somewhere else somewhere besides Massachusetts and guess what I never will it’s just this for the rest of my run.

Maybe when we’re old we say sometimes. Maybe we’ll go somewhere when we’re old.

I wonder about this impulse I have to drink and to smoke all the time two things that undeniably will make me die sooner than I would have otherwise and you would think there is some death drive thing going on there some desire for oblivion but it’s the exact opposite of that for me. I am terrified of dying almost every hour of the day I am awake and a few of them when I am asleep.

Something changed about the way I dream in the past few months. My dreams used to be disjointed and abstract and absurd jumbles of unconnected vignettes that dissolved if you tried to grasp them upon waking but now they’re consistent scenes with a coherent plot and identifiable people familiar to me who behave like normal people behave albeit with the tension heightened significantly. And when I wake up I can remember them and they follow me around for a lot longer than they used to. Maybe it’s something metaphysical or maybe it’s just that I take more supplements now before going to bed and they fuck with your brain water weird.

I’m not sure if either of those types of dreaming are more common for most people or not. I have no idea what other people’s dreams are like and I guess that’s exactly the problem for all of us. I guess we all dream about going to California and “going to California” but despite all of the books and movies made about the literal act of that and the metaphorical act of that none of us have ever been able to agree about what going to California even means.

The game shows though. There’s this one called America Says hosted by John Michael Higgins who is an absolute pro and a delight (and from Boston by the way). You will know him from the Christopher Guest movies and more recently from everyone being mad that his character in Licorice Pizza was racist. I don’t particularly have a take on that movie besides that it was some real California shit.

America Says is kind of like Family Feud in which teams like THE DOG PEOPLE or CHURCH PALS or THE UNEMPLOYED LA ACTORS TRYING TO GET ON TAPE have to answer questions based on surveys. Family Feud has more money so they can fly contestants in from around the country to showcase how uncanny America is on the macro level but these other shows just have to recruit people at the Glendale Galleria or whatever so it’s mostly the Californians.

In the final round the teams often get caught up on one of the clues like they were so close to winning the fifteen grand but they just could not “clean the board” and there’s this moment when the mean sounding buzzer goes off and they all stand there frowning and feeling dumb doing the aw shucks jack off motions like you’d expect someone who just lost to do but more than that more than anything else they’re waiting for our man to turn over the answer so they can understand specifically how it was that they lost.

So they’re standing there dejected on TV thinking that if they knew the types of mistakes they had made it would make it easier to accept the losing after the fact. Needing to comprehend what went wrong despite not being able to go back and change anything either way.

It’s like when you hear about someone dying that you only kind of know or used to know and you want to be able grasp specifically how their passing transpired which has happened to me more times than I care to reflect on right now in the past couple years like to my friend in California a couple months ago for example. People you know enough to mourn but not enough to be officially looped in on the specifics. HOW DID HE DIE WHAT WAS IT? you want to ask everyone but you can’t always ask that. You can’t walk into the room they died inside of like a doctor and look at the chart and frown.

The impulse is to want to understand whether or not you have to worry about losing on the game show in the same way as these poor sons of bitches did or if you would have known the correct answer to counteract the riddle. If you would have survived long enough to show up on the next episode.