I was driving down the 10 a few months ago, admittedly a little out of it, and I was ogling. The other freeways churn above and around you as you move along its course. The 10 and the 15, the 10 and the 215, the 10 and the 71 – I have a friend who agrees with me on this, it’s like getting pumped through some great concrete heart; ventricles and chambers and arteries and overpasses, transiting us undifferentiated across this strange landscape we call home.

There is an amazing scene, which opens The Big Lebowski, which I watched the other day, where a tumbleweed cascades across a desert landscape before launching, almost with a swan-dive, into that classic LA landscape of grids and lights and nighttime. There is a poster, I think from American Airlines, on display at LACMA right now, that approximates the same.

Like that Shulman photograph – you know the one, of the Case Study House…

Yeah, who did that?

I don’t remember.

Hm.

Yeah. So, like that photograph. Except the woman doesn’t watch here: in the Coen universe you dive in.

Dive in.

There is a woman I met, from Dublin, who swims. That’s what she does, and it’s great, and it’s why she was here – well, there, in Santa Barbara

Yeah, that’s like 100 miles away.

It’s exactly 100 miles away… wait…

                                                                                – and she told me everyone here

> There

                                                                                                                                                “seems always to be floating.”

She said this as I was extremely dehydrated, and barely paying attention to what she had to say. I had a lot to do and needed to drive home soon and was also so fucking broke I honestly couldn’t pay for my salad. But I lied about that.

Dive in.

                …. Drive-in!

 

I was driving down the 10 a few months ago, admittedly a little out of it, and I was ogling. The Inland Empire whizzes past you, despite the monotony. The suburbs perch uncertainly on their shifting sands, too confused and self-absorbed to notice your passing. They are, themselves, always dying. It is the history of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties to be a little unstable, to be constantly changing: from desert to Mormon nirvana to agrarian paradise to… to… to…. McDonalds and Taco Bell and quarries and a steel plant closure and distribution centers and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles. It is always a dry ocean of something; now as ever a partial wasteland, now as ever drowning in ambition and impending financial ruin, now as ever flooded with too many people who would rather be elsewhere. Cul-du-sacs of garbage of paper and paint and cement and glue that are even themselves just passing through: a matrix assemblage of things and people, just stopping over on the way to their inevitable demise.

My sister has a theory that all people ever do is move things around.

But as I said I was driving down the 10 a few months ago, admittedly a little out of it and I was ogling. The Inland Empire whizzes past you, despite the monotony. The suburbs float – precariously! – on the rubbish heap of stupid histories. Shovel-ready “stimmy” works now entering completion widen soon-too-small overpasses, sheathing modern asphalt and cement and smog and bad landscaping with concrete impressions of an agrarian past they themselves cement as over.

I WAS IN RIALTO AND I OPENED THE SUNROOF AND THE WINDOWS AND I SCREAMED TO EVERYONE THAT WAS DRIVING BY THAT THE GRAPE VINES AND THE ORANGES AND THE TRUCKS WITH CHROME AND BIG FENDERS ARE GONE AND THEY’RE NOT COMING BACK.

The freeway is a civic monument, to a dead society. The ocean of oranges is gone.

 

We are the apocalypse. We know. They told us. We’re acting on it: we, the entitled, the emasculated, the impatient. We know. They told us.

I am a civic minded man, but that is hard. I bring the fire. I bring the pain. I know. They told us.

This is not unrelated.

I am twenty-seven years old. I was born at Tarzana Hospital at four in the morning, in 1988. I don’t entirely remember the circumstances.

My first memory is telling my uncle to vote for Clinton in 1992. I’m pretty sure he did not. He lives in Arizona.

 

I know a man who dyed his hair a shade of purple, as an act of mourning, maybe, and we were waiting for the food and for Mary Ellen, and it

 

I was in New Orleans a few months ago and we were waiting for the food, and I tried to tell him – the man, with the hair, dyed a mourning shade of purple –

The filmmaker, yes.

                                                                                                                                                and we were waiting for the food, and I was admittedly a little out of it, and I tried to tell him how hard it was to be the product of paradise, and to be pretty, and to be a boy, and a bit of a fag, and to learn to breathe in the airlessness of cul-du-sacs and SUVs and the verdant hills, everyone’s image of everywhere, from the movies, and to be pretty and to be a boy and a bit of a fag and

                                                                                                shade of purple – I tried explaining. I TRIED EXPLAINING. It’s not unrelated. Because, you see –

 

Fuck.

FUCK FUCK FUCK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK. I was fascinated by Katrina?

Water. Water, water everywhere.

In my youth I felt too often like that character in the Ray Bradbury story on Mars – Margot? – who gets locked in a closet the one time it rains, or is sunny, or something. Drawn Together…

“Drawn together?”

                The animated parody of reality shows? It was on Comedy Central? It ran for, like, three seasons, like five years ago? No?

Never heard of it.

                                                                did a parody in, like, season 1 or 2. It involved the “Wienermobile.”

                                                                                                When I was in Detroit not long ago I bought a wax mold of the vehicle, for this reason. I didn’t tell anyone, though. Because I was afraid. I am afraid of the flood.

 

 

OK OK OK.

I am twenty-seven years old and I came of age during the Bush administration and it felt like everyone had license to destroy me. I couldn’t go outside without being afraid of every man I saw. I was never alone, and I’m still not, and, sorry Dan Savage, but it really hasn’t gotten any better. Now they’re just mean and feel justified without justification. I’d rather be assaulted for being… whatever they may think I am, than passed over for a job interview because… well you never really know why. Treated as incompetent, because competency and masculine intensity got related, for some reason. It was probably worst in college. That doesn’t matter.

I was the reason things were wrong. I didn’t understand. I was making the wrong choices. I owned everyone an apology, on demand, for making them somehow uncomfortable. It was politics and it was truth and people voted on it.

Where is my apology?

 

It was my senior year in high school and I brought in a newspaper with a full-page headline about the constitutional amendment or whatever about gay marriage and my civics teacher only said “it’s what people want.” No, that’s not quite true. He also chuckled a little afterwards. Like I was the moron.

 

I was fascinated by Katrina, because I felt redlined. ­Does that make any sense, Tim? I wasn’t worth saving. I wasn’t human. This was all co-incidental.

 

I spent all of graduate school talking about queer theory in a way nobody felt obligated to respond to. I had a seat at the table – wasn’t that enough? Being gay isn’t enough of an identity to have credibility for identity politics. Everyone knows that. You’re not born that way you might be… Indian. Or Hispanic. Or African-American. There is a panel on a marble monument by an outsider artist deep in the desert of all kinds of Imperial County. Salty water irrigates shit lawns, the state pays out two dollars a foot to rip ’em out, and there is a marble panel on a monument by an outsider artist deep in the desert of all kinds of Imperial County, which proudly links resolution of history with Obama’s election, and American slavery – which is an historical claim more legitimate than anything I’ve ever had to say, despite its moderate baselessness.

Part of my family was enslaved. But I’m not allowed to talk about that, because I have a seat at the table and I’m not supposed to make people feel uncomfortable. This is all not unrelated.

I have a friend and we were walking down Hollywood Boulevard and it was crowded and it was hot and we were drunk and s/he says, well, you look white.

 

 

I’m not real and I’m not here and I’m afraid of the flood. Does that make sense, Tim?

 

Because:

male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah.

They entered the boat in pairs, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah.

two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.

there went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.

There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

two of each, male and female, entered the ark with Noah, just as God had commanded him.

two by two, male and female, they entered the ark to join Noah, just as God had commanded.

male and female, came into the ark to Noah, just as God had commanded him.

came to Noah to go into the ship in pairs (a male and female of each) as God had commanded Noah.

there went in two by two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

There went in two by two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

There went in two and two to Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, male and female, as God commanded Noah.

Two and two went in to Noe into the ark, male and female, as the Lord had commanded Noe.

there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, male and female, as God commanded Noah.

There went in two and two to Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

went by pairs to Noah into the ship, male and female, as God commanded Noah.

two by two they have come in unto Noah, unto the ark, a male and a female, as God hath commanded Noah.

 

 

There was a promise in America and they taught us all about it in our public schools that when the world was falling apart we would be here and there was room! room! room! for everybody. And they lied, because the oranges are all gone and my partner and I, we can’t buy a house. The flood came and it stayed.

 

But that’s how I got here. I was having dinner with some people on Third Street in Fairfax and I was a little out of it and we were talking, this curator and I, and she said maybe they shouldn’t have gotten what they did, our grandparents, who came and stayed and got their houses real cheap and had jobs that paid real well and big cars that made big sounds and sent dizzying blue smoke into the hazy blue sky, and the road was theirs, and I thought no, you’re wrong, because I love the image of Baudrillard in a red convertible, rocketing across the Mojave or the Great Basin or some other place with a name that I know you’d just call “the desert.”

 

I hail from the desert which is real, and has a name. And I am already dinosaur, and I am a ghost, and I am afraid of the flood. The native son of the pretty girls and the sand and the sprinklers and gas, for a-dollar-fifty-a-gallon.

                I seen the lights  go out on The Broadway.

I think it’s a Macy’s now, but nobody I know shops at the Northridge Mall anymore. You could say the demographics changed or you could call them racist but it doesn’t matter because: the flood.

 

God, do I love Billy Joel.

 

 

 

 

 

… and then Don tells her, “You don’t know what happens to people when they believe in things.” It was by the water, on a cliff. Beautiful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I AM AFRAID OF THE FLOOD, TIM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Salton Sea was created by an engineering accident in 1905 and it smells like rotting fish.

Had geologic circumstances differed slightly, Coachella would be on oceanfront property. Or maybe underwater.

 

I was driving on the 10 and I was a little out of it and I was thinking, what a disaster. I was driving on the 10 and I am the apocalypse and I drive my big black Infiniti into the desert, a moving universe in exile, powered by Premium fuel. Tiny controlled explosions move pistons, turning wheels, pushing me forward, as far as I can afford. I don’t own a boat, so it’s the best I can do.

And so I drive on, into the desert, cursing Fitzgerald for his eloquence.

 

 

CODA: Sometimes I would tell people that, taking baths in the Old Hollywood apartment, I’d stare at the green neon marquee of the better building down the street, but that was a lie. Who bathes with the blinds open?

 


 

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