Later

Later

Well, as if y’all couldn’t tell that most of my attentions have been elsewhere over the past few months, something’s up. I’m moving. I spent the last few weeks up in Seattle in my Sunday Clothes, calling landlords, walking from one end of the city to the other, smiling a lot, looking at rotten, overpriced apartments. The people who build apartments up there pull some nasty tricks. They find all the lots with truly inspirational views, with full access to scenes of big boats rolling across Puget Sound, sea planes taking off and landing amidst the sailboats of Lake Union, the Space Needle and the jutting skyline that lights up at night – and attach those beautiful views to overpriced, heartless, cookie cutter abattoirs with intercom systems, beige carpeting, white walls, aqua trim, and about as much soul as a Mormon Potluck. I don’t know how many times I tried to convince myself that I could just learn to live on a deck off of one of these monstrosities. Get me a barbecue grille, a tarp over a mattress, my Fisher-Price record player balanced on a minifridge full of Blatz and steaks. Run though my awful apartment holding my breath with my eyes closed until I learned to get to the street by climbing down balconies and to shit off the edge. But in the long run I knew I’d just be adding more fuel to the fire of ubiquitous hatred in my guts, and I kept the search going.

I eventually found a nice place – hardwood floors, brick walls, a chandelier in the bedroom (very necessary and always a strong selling point), all for about half the rent I’m paying now on a two bedroom motel in Crackhead Central with scenic views of my neighbor’s oversized panties drying on a chipped handrailing. I’ll be living right downtown, within walking distance to clubs, bars, and record stores, which should make the world a bit safer now that I won’t be driving drunk anymore, although truth be told, I’ll probably take out more people as a pedestrian.

As far as why I chose Seattle, I’m not really sure. I’ve only been there once before, but I had a really good time, and that’s about the size of it. I’m sick of people telling me what it’s like, because everyone’s got differing opinions, and mostly fucked in the head to begin with, and haven’t been living in this dirty, sham of a city I’ve been living in for four years either. As far as I’m concerned, anyplace with a few decent shows a week, some good record stores, and an apartment I can afford is worth a shot to me. I’ve been in Los Angeles a long time. Four years in Los Angeles is a long time, just ask anyone who wasn’t born here. It’s more of a city to tolerate while you attempt to develop some sort of career, because the opportunities here are like nowhere else on Earth. But most everything here is like nowhere else on Earth (except possibly in it’s sister shithole on the East Coast, New Yuck). Valet parking at Subway Sandwiches. Clubs with $20 covers and $7 beers that require an invitation. 24 hour traffic reports on the radio. Possibly one of the worst public transportation systems in the world, coming somewheres in-between Somalia and Bogota on the World scale.

It’s not that I hate Los Angeles or regret moving here. Hating Los Angeles is like hating yourself, because anything you want is right here. Los Angeles is amazing place. I’ll miss the cheap Mexican food and running into random famous people all the time (how many times has Holly Hunter stood behind you at Jiffy Lube?). As embarrassing as it is to admit, seeing celebrities everywhere is entertaining. Chuck Norris clad head to toe in denim. Keanu Reeves filling up his motorcycle at AMPM, looking around for the mob of lusting, swarming fans that never seemed to appear, Jamie Lee Curtis pushing her latest kid down the sidewalk, Pierce Brosnan strutting around in a suit with no shirt, a luscious rug of chest hair bobbing and drifting in the breeze off Santa Monica Bay. I’ve been to some parties that would have had me choking on my own tongue a few years ago, but just sort of make me laugh now. Scenes like Drew Barrymore chasing Ben Lee around the living room while the guys from Pavement cheer her on.

God, I’m dropping names – a definite sign that it’s time to move on.

But, Los Angeles is a monkey paw of a city, every benefit tempered with a curse. There are long, stretching beaches, but they’re covered with pigeons and crack vials, and are closed because of pollution half the time, and even when they’re not closed you can’t swim in the Bay without getting some sort of life threatening skin rash, as my thighs and I soon learned. The highway system here is ingenious, so ingenious in fact that all 14 million people want to be on them at the same time. A staggering array of ethnic diversity yields a staggering array of street gang diversity (have you ever lived anywhere with Romanian homeboys?). A bustling music industry and club scene prompts most bands to try to make it big instead of trying to make it good, resulting in a slew of boring cookie cutter $12 dollar shows of supposedly cutting edge music. Ironically enough, plenty of good shows can be seen by driving out into the suburbs, or into places like Riverside, Corona, and Santa Ana, making one of the usual strengths of living in a city, decent music, null and void. The sun shines here every day, but, the sun shines every day, making you take it for granted, making you lose track of what month, season, or year it is. The calendar loses it�s meaning for anything but writing checks for your too-high rent. Los Angeles has just about anything you would ever want to do, buy, see, or screw, but you have to be willing drive there. It’s a metropolitan area that’s 14 million strong and stretches a trillion miles in all directions.

I’m happy to be leaving it in one piece.

Los Angeles also has a way of changing people, because for the most part, you’re allowed to be what you want to be out here. No excess is too excessive. No posture is too eccentric. There’s no one to answer to because the next jackass is as fucked up as you, or at least too busy trying to impress you with his own story to notice how lame you are. And I don�t think this is always a bad thing. Why can’t people turn themselves into whoever they want? They’re probably none too exciting to begin with. Pretending is fun; it’s stimulating. The real danger is when people start believing that they really are the person they turned themselves into. The mask becomes the reality. Everything lacking in their old lives is veneered over with a new smile, some new toys, and a new circle of influential friends. That’s when LA stops being a joke, and it starts being reality. You can virtually jump off the edge of a cliff, with all your friends smiling and cheering you on, and smash yourself on the rocks below, and every one chalks up another victory for the Glimmering City.

Which isn’t to say that I haven’t gone through my own set of changes here. How much of that is due to simply growing up a bit, I’m not sure. In the most basic sense of change, I went from crashing on the couch of a generous friend, to paying the rent on most of a two bedroom apartment with cable (no HBO yet) and almost making it to the dentist. I’ve also gotten grumpier, assume everyone is an idiot, figure everything is terminally broken, and rarely give anything the benefit of the doubt. But come to think of it, I was always like that, so never mind. I just need a change of scenery. I just heed a flange of greenery. I lust greed a mange of beanery. See, I don’t even care what I write anymore.

So, in the spirit of ruining an altogether comfortable life, I’m packing up my shit and moving. I got a new job. I got a new apartment just waiting to be moved into. Is it running away? Probably, but so was moving to Los Angeles. The grass is greener everywhere else.

As far as the future of this column goes, I think this pretty much wraps it up. Not exactly a high note, but to tell the truth, I’m bored and I want to do something else, and I know that it shows. Maybe I’ll start writing sonnets or church sermons. I’ll keep submitting my shit to random magazines, who occasionally are hard enough up for material that they print me, so make sure to buy every magazine that comes out just in case I’m in it. I’ll probably vomit some sort of web site up somewhere, and who knows, maybe Ask Satan will show up. Maybe Slap Maxwell’s troubled soul will be channeled from the nether regions of Hell. If you’re really sick, you can email me at mathomps@biggun.com and I’ll make a mailing list to let you know what I’m up to. Other than that, it’s time for me to sink from semi-obscurity to regular obscurity. If you see me out, buy me a beer. If not, I’ll understand.

Thanks,
Mark Driver