By Tom H. Brooks 3
“The Messiah will only come when he is no longer needed.”
rubicon – a point, that when passed, allows no return…
I remember the emerald green grass and the trees and the vast, blue ocean. I recall the warm summer breezes and the songs of the crickets in the misty nights, and in the darkness, the smell of jasmine, gardenias…
It seems to me that despite this urban jungle into which I was born, all my best memories are of the natural world, the edge places, when I was alone, away from the howling chaos of the city.
I walked down empty paths, hard to find, and sometimes going nowhere at all. I dreamed empty dreams and awoke in a sunlit place, a cartoon world where nothing was what it seemed, nothing was real. I staggered down long, broken boulevards with junkyard vistas and convenience store oases. There were shopping mall churches and great towers of high finance and the clone housing of gated communities. The land was torn and abused, a landscape as surreal as the moon and every bit as desolate. I walked in a bubble, a shell, an armor, but it was never enough. This city had a way of penetrating any protection and could leave you feeling like a used-up whore on Hollywood Blvd. at 5am.
You’ve probably figured out by now this magical city that I speak of, this land of dreams and nightmares, this plastic palace;
this is Los Angeles, the town of my birth.
Southern California has been pillaged and plundered more than any territory in the U.S. Never has there been a land more ridiculously over-developed, more polluted, more swarmed upon by the virus of human greed.
They take so much and give so little. They destroy nature to make room for more and more corner mini-malls. They turn rivers into sewers. They smother the Earth with urban sprawl.
But this is not an environmental study. This is not an EPA report or a bulletin to Greenpeace or the Sierra Club. This is a series of stories- a scattered potpourri of strange tales from one man’s life, unto a point. It is a portrait of a traveler and an artist and a goddamned fool. It’s the stories of a fairly intelligent man who often went against his better instincts despite the consequences, who stormed ahead fearlessly, dead-reckoning for oblivion. It’s just some stuff that happened.
Many stories have a linear format or a plot, something that connects them in a nice and neat manner. But sometimes that is just too easy and convenient to be real. All that connects my tales is the thread of life itself. Real life often makes no sense and things just happen and we all sit around wondering why. It’s enough to make your fucking head spin but the problem with me is that I just keep blundering forward in the dark, dizzy and stupid, without a clue, a man possessed.
Looking back, I was impulsive and reckless and lazy. I don’t see that much has changed. I am fully aware of the many things I’ve done wrong, but I’m not sorry. This is us. This is humanity, ugly and beautiful in all our imperfections. Perhaps this thought process makes me all the more a fool. Not to worry, someday, we’ll all be dead.
As to what happened,
I can neither decipher the hidden meanings of the past nor predict the future. I can no more discern the purpose of these things than I could make sense of the random patterns of waves on the boundless oceans. You’d think there’d be a reason, a bond, so to speak, to tie all these things together, but if there is, I have yet to figure it out. Things in life seem to have an obscure and chaotic way of working out in the end, just not usually the way that you planned them. Therein lies the mystery…
the elusive and unpredictable element of surprise. And please, ask yourself this simple question; without surprises, would life really be worth living?
If you are expecting a nostalgic trip down memory lane, one filled with family picnics and warm fuzzy kittens and frisbees and Hallmark greeting cards, you’re in for a big fucking surprise. If you think you’re in for a Charles Dickens-like tale of orphaned, lost youth, barefoot and dirty faces, once again, you’d be disappointed. Expect philosophical rambling, pointless sentences that end suddenly, problems without solutions; there is no equation for this madness. Expect real life…no answers, just the brutal and unadorned truth. This is Los Angeles, a microcosm of the whole world, at the dawn of a new millenium…
I’m not even going to waste my time or yours telling you about my childhood. Everybody likes to blame their adult problems on things that happened in youth or on their parents. Of course, a small fraction of our psychological make-up can be linked to our younger years. But, in the end, it holds little importance in the person one becomes as an adult. It’s how you’re able to take the beatings along the way, how you face up to this hopeless shitstorm that we call life. It’s standing up to brutal odds, bravely walking your own path- these things are the most revealing.
My childhood was fine…no excessive beatings, no one kept me in the basement or fed me dogfood. My family and all my friends’ families were classic LA divorce scenarios, nothing surprising there for those in the know. In fact, my whole family clan is a classic textbook example of rotting family values, by the simple reason that this so-called “family” had disintegrated into nothingness by the time I was fourteen years old-
a non-entity. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…all of them, I don’t know if they’re alive or dead. The only redeeming factor in that equation was always dear mom. She’s a sweetheart…one of the good ones.
My friends were fun characters, although I see none of them now. I grew up at the beach- surfing, skateboarding, lurking at 7-11, and all the other thrilling and destructive activities of young beach punks. It was a golden time in a golden land. The ocean was always my best friend. Sunset was a ritual, a magical time of day.
The things I worried about then are laughable now in the face of all I’ve seen. Problems rolled off me like water off a ducks’ back. The world seemed a dirty but well-lighted place with endless possibilities. The future looked bright and exciting, and like every kid with stars in his eyes, I had many various huge and important dreams that changed every month. I always had great expectations of myself, but actually living up to these lofty standards of mine, well, THAT WAS ANOTHER STORY. But I had a hell of a lot of fun trying, in my own deliberately lazy and half-assed way. I often expected everything to come to me, but as I got older, the blunt reality of it all clubbed me in the head…if you want something in life, you have to put yourself out there and TAKE IT…….
(photo: The Los Angeles River, of course, by ME. Trespassing, as usual, my specialty…)