famous youth

california is such a rich tapestry of unsettling moods. the california weirdness is the feeling of something being too new, of something quickly erected and quickly abandoned and quickly replaced. a pile of emergency dams against each fresh wave of the sad and disturbing flood of human grotesquerie. the barrier holds, but in that way where you can still see the zombie arms grasping through the gaps. it is the feeling of a satire of civilization, population 40 million.

the la version of the california vibe is famous: the glamorous, youthful, beach-and-palm-trees paradise that hides a cheap and desperate underbelly. the la vibe is wrinkles caulked with make-up, fading high-budget marketing for something no one saw, no one bought, black suvs gliding away from a distant sound of gunshots, the cookout smell of roasting corn, a sixteen year old vomiting on gleaming travertine.

if la promises an existential kind of salvation (a salvation from ignominy), the bay area promises something more spiritual. it promises peace and self-knowledge (and lest you think the tech boom has changed this, consider the utopian rhetoric of your average startup). the bay area underbelly is myopia and boringness. atomized middle-class mediocrity that hasn’t figured out that it’s uncool. that doesn’t see itself as two steps removed from the destitute insane. that doesn’t mind that things don’t quite work. if it does, it leaves.

california has two frontiers: the cult and the corporate. the corporate vibe is the office park in the middle of nowhere. it is purple skies and desert hills and antiseptic neon logos, and the suspicion that behind the walls of reflective windows, some sort of deformed creature is moaning from the side effects of a hundred experimental drugs. fringes enable a multitude of inventions and a multitude of ills.

the cultishness is in the water. it is the gruesomeness of triteness and self-interest and fear disguised as anything rarified. it is mistaking a sweaty jaundice for a healthy glow and a lunatic brutality for confidence. the cult is always weirdly kitsch. gauzy dresses and plaster palaces and earnest slogans and childlike murals.

of course noir loves la. of course buffy summers lives in sunnydale. if dawn of the dead had been set here, it would have been too on the nose.