Like my little Mexican Yeshiva (293 Neptune Ave, Brighton Beach) I feel like my header’s not quite kosher. In truth, both are. But honestly there’s something a bit (a lot) off kilter in my life right now. Like, A LOT. First, there’s the total disconnect between California and New York. Living on the east coast, all those woody allenisms about Los Angeles (white pants suits and red afros in Annie Hall, to start) start to make a certain sort of sense. You understand Joan Didion a little better (although I still feel like I could summerize most of the essays in Slouching Toward Bethlahem in three words or less. “Sacramento. is. Gross.” “Berkeley VCD.grows. weed.” “Hollywood. Still that way.” “MimeTroupe.is.yuppie acid flashback.” Ok that’s not three words, but you get it.
In a word, everyone here is INSANE. Why the fuck don’t they live in California? Just kidding.
The greater point here is this: Didion manages to capture a certain angst about Cali and the future tha seems to have one foot in the twenties and the depression and the other almost edging into the seventies, and we all saw that movie. Something, something menacing and grave and maybe even apocalyptic seems moments away from swallowing poor joan, this horrible california implosion that never is. Somewhere between Watergate and Regan and the Clinton years, this california noir just…popped. Maybe it was Loma Prieta. Anyway
I’m not saying things are always rosey in the world’s 7th largest economy, but something—perhaps thw successive and enormous waves of immigration, or the fact that even through Regan, Berkeley remained the top public institution in the world, or that somewhere along the way Hollywood and its outliers became so grossly “fake” as to be almost real, or at least so bloated that people other than hollywood types started to live there (see immigration), or that the bay area made a ton of money and decided it’s 60s lifestyle was “artistic” and “european” and for a high enough price you could buy the same sense of self-saticefaction and inner peace you got from mind altering drugs, or just have sex a lot, or nature, if that’s your bag.
With the way Didion is adored, it makes me wonder if anyone who reads her for the first time now and loves her the same has ever really lived in Cali. If you have, you know that Cali’s not even a ghost here anymore.