Sunday, August 25, 2013

Time Passages

While the temperature's still hitting 100 degrees here in Austin, there has always been something about the end of August and its impending new school and football seasons that makes this time of year mentally stimulating for me. (Plus there's the knowledge that I've survived another season of stagnant, lethargy-inducing heat and that within a month, I can start leaving my windows open again, at least at night. I crave some fresh air after 4 months of AC!)

And so with fall kinda-sorta in the air, I then pushed season-change annoyingly further -- to thinking about which calendar to buy for 2014. (I have a lot of free time at my current temp gig.) I immediately starting browsing for various New York City calendars, which I've had for the past I-don't-know-how-many years. And was surprised, after looking at them, to find myself thinking, "Eh." I'll always like/admire the town and think it a gorgeous, exciting place. But I've pretty much gotten over MISSING it (as I had for the past 3 years) or DREAMING about it (as I did in the years before I got to live there). What initially caught my fancy this time while browsing on Amazon:

I'd only vaguely heard of a "Grumpy Cat" Internet sensation. Turns out there's a 2014 Grumpy Cat calendar, too, which cracked me up until I was crying. But...NO. I can't have a calendar with funny animals on it. That would just mean that I'd given up on life completely. So I will probably get this one instead:

Los Angeles/Hollywood has always scared me. The utter vapidity and apparent soullessness. (The view of the town in movies like "Annie Hall" and "Day of the Locust" always struck me as being horrifyingly psychologically true.) But now that I'm older, I think I can take a step back from that fear for my personal soul-safety (ha! among other things, being 48 means no longer being so malleable and attractive to soul-leeches) and simply appreciate some of the history of the place, and of the stories/haunts of some of the people who have lived/died there -- American Dream stories like Joan Crawford's, as well as flip-side Nightmare stories like Barbara Payton's or Charles Manson's. Love it or hate it, it IS obviously a fascinating place, a crux that attracts some pretty powerful (and extreme) energy. I'm curious, and want to feel for myself, what it is about the place that inspires such.


Speaking of Hollywood, I haven't yet received my Barbara Payton bio, but I did get/read today John Gilmore's "Laid Bare: A Memoir of Wrecked Lives and the Hollywood Death Trip." Despite the lurid subtitle and subject matter, Gilmore's actually a subtle, insightful writer. A plug at the frontispiece by Gary Indiana:

"Gilmore deals with mythically familiar subjects, but not to turn them inside out. Instead, he boils off the myth and shows you how things really were, and what things felt like to the people living what later became a myth. Most books that try to do this take the later myth as something almost ordained by fate -- which is only true ex post facto -- so that the other parts of a celebrated person's life are simply rendered as obstacles and setbacks to the ultimate goal; the people they knew 'on the way up' become extraneous minor characters, etc. That approach only reinforces the unfortunately widespread belief that celebrities are the only people who have real lives. Gilmore shows what a pile of shit that ultimate goal really is, and that the people who get there are completely warped by the process of getting there and that they don't change into wonderful beings just because ten million people know who they are...

I think, ultimately, Gilmore's work is as much opposed to gossip as it is to mythmaking, because both are different faces of celebrity-worship, an epidemic mental illness in our society. When you find someone who isn't infected with it to one degree or another, you realize, as somebody once said, that sanity is the most profound moral option of our time."

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