I Hate it Here

23 Oct

I’ve decided to do this as a weekly column of sorts, updated every Saturday at noon.  A weekly walk in the brambles of my mind, and whatever awful thing it has chosen to focus on this week.  This week, it’s suburbia.

I live in a real life version of Edward Scissorhands’s neighborhood.  Remember the place?  Pastel Hell.  I’ve grown up in Pastel Hell.  I lost my virginity sneaking through a pastel window.  Stole my first bottle of rum in a pastel house.  Where is this hell you ask? Los Angeles County.  It doesn’t matter which part, they’re all the same.  You’ll realize this if you drive from one suburban valley to the next–don’t stop, this is canyon country so you can’t stop here–and as you crest one ridge after the another you will begin to think you’re going in circles.  From every ridge it seems you’re looking down on the ruins of Rome.

You are.  This place is the sepulchre of American society.  The death of us all.

In Pastel Hell we work sixty hours a week in jobs we hate, to buy cars we hate, to drive on freeways we hate, to transport kids we hate to soccer games we hate, and we drown it all down in beer-soaked Sunday afternoon barbecues under the endless California sun.  It’s a gonzo facsimile of paradise.  The big SUVs with all leather interiors and sound systems capable of inflicting orgasms on anyone sitting over the subwoofer, the three thousand square foot houses with polished granite counters and nice hardwood floors, the two towheaded kids and golden retriever–I’m certain that someone, somewhere, holds this image as their fantasy of the good life.

But there’s something about this ‘good life.’  It’s precarious.  See also: Foreclosure Crisis in California.  The ‘official’ unemployment rate is over 12%.  Which means the real unemployment rate is around 20%.  That’s one in five people who are under or un-employed.  Losing those nice homes, those nice cars.  It’s not hardship in the traditional sense, but it’ll do.  The kids do drugs or steal their parents booze.  I did.  The parents are powerless to watch as their children fail to live better happier lives in spite of all the affluence around them, but it’s the affluence that is the problem.

Life is struggle.  Or, it’s supposed to be.  But in Pastel Hell there is no struggle for anything.  The result is that the enormous human potential in this place, the ambition of twenty million people, has no where to go.  So it festers.  Housewives become desperate.  With nothing left to strive for, nothing left to want, decadence is inevitable.  We become petty, because we have nothing important to worry about.  We turn to neighborhood scandal and gossip (remember the all-housewives alert from Edward Scissorhands?).  Our lives devolve and we become little more than chattering apes, screeching at each other in gridlock because our very wealth has given us the gift of nothing better to do.

This was supposed to be the American Dream, but like most dreams that run on long enough our paranoia has turned it into a nightmare–I love that word; the Night Mare, the demon that rides you.  The inversion of the normal order–the sun is down, dark banishes light, and the Mare rides us.  So the attainment of the American Dream in the Southern California sun has inverted the normal order of human life.  Now the American Dream chases us, drives us like a cruel slave master.  Single mortgages become double.  ARMs lie strewn about, shorn from the bodies of slaves who did not work hard enough; the American Dream is an unforgiving master.  It will tear you to pieces if you aren’t ready for it.

We are slaves.  Repeat after me.  It’s all you’ve been trained to do anyway.  Our parents chased their dreams, and now their dreams chase us.  Like the bogeymen of our childhoods, hiding in the dark closet, there is only one viable course of action.  We must confront the beast.  We must stop letting the American Dream chase us into the jobs we hate and shit we don’t need, before it chases us down the barrel of a twelve-gauge as if that were the only escape.  For some it is, and that’s the tragedy.  But it doesn’t have to be.  The beast, like the bogeyman, only has the power we let it have.  So tell it to fuck off.

Think about this the next time you’re stuck in traffic on your two-hours-each-way commute.  Stop living the life you’ve been told you’re supposed to want.  Live the life you actually want.  You don’t have a lot of time left.

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