How To Be Interactive
Art by Mike LeeSOMEONE WAS BORN IN ENGLAND AND 30 years later attended a party in Los Angeles. How do you like it here?, I asked this someone at this party, for I lived across the hall from the partygiver and had been invited to provide ethno-occupational balance. And there was food. "It's great," someone replied. "I love it here. All you have to do to enjoy L.A. is live in a good area and not drive too far to work." I looked around at someone's pale friends and/or spouses -- three more Brits who filled out our conversation circle. All smiled pleasantly but no one laughed. In fact, no one reacted as if anything had been said at all.
I had to leave. I excused myself, crossed the landing back to my apartment, wrote down what someone had said and read it aloud:
All you have to do To enjoy L.A. Is live In a good area And not drive Too far to work. I read it aloud again.
It was perfect.
Here I was, two decades deep in somber city walks and drive-by broodings, pursuing some lazy green carefree meadow (just up the hill or around the corner), the waxy buildup of my anhedonia growing ever more opaque, trying to figure out the equation, and someone fresh off the 747 nails it in a matter of days.
Silly fucking me.
I tend to avoid parties because I don't get invited. Even when I'm invited, I hesitate to get involved in anything that might become a generic conversation, because I'm vulnerably arrogant enough to take things too literally. "How are you doing?" for example, takes me about 10 minutes.
Here's what someone said:
All you have to do . . . (Don't complicate your life. Open your Preferences dialogue and select "Accept All Cookies.") . . . to enjoy L.A. . . . (Your Browser is the one true and only Browser.) . . . is live in a good area . . . (Do not live among those who do not Browse as you Browse.) . . . and not drive too far to work . . . (Keep your head in its original, upright position. Your drive -- that inner force, that metaphysical inertia that guides us -- will create your function; not vice versa.) Altogether, then, someone said that to enjoy L.A. one must not push oneself harder than one needs to in order to remain in a Good Area; one must become one's true self only while behind the wheel of one's automobile; one must be cheerful and multiply; one must tread water at the shallow end of the gene pool and trust that the Market will properly finance our evolution.
Anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure, hasn't gained much public support in Southern California. In San Francisco, however, designer Patrick Broderick's interpretation of Anhedonia is "a condensed serif font that has been distressed, mangled and put back together in digital format for your typesetting pleasure." Find Anhedonia a good area on your hard drive, don't use it very often, and it'll be the happiest li'l punctuation-free typeface ever. Available for Macs and Windows free of charge at www.chank.com/roto design/fonts/anhedonia/anhedonia.html.
"We cannot indeed," Immanuel Kant wrote in 1783 (according to Paul Carus' 1902 translation), "beyond all possible experience, form a definite notion of what things in themselves may be. Yet we are not at liberty to abstain entirely from inquiring into them; for experience never satisfies reason fully, but in answering questions, refers us further and further back, and leaves us dissatisfied with regard to their complete solution." In other words, if you think you live in a good area and don't drive too far to work, you're probably not thinking about it. Which is exactly what you're supposed to be not doing. Result: comfort. Why not celebrate with that classic comfort-food combo, cheeseburgers and fries? With a few cans of condensed soup, frozen potatoes, fixin's and a cow, you can enjoy Rosemary Thomas of Elkader, Iowa's Cheeseburger-and-Fries Casserole (http://midwestliving.teamnet.net/maindish/burger.html) every bit as much as the next fellow. Write and let me know how it turns out, neighbor.
Say, Elizabeth! Isn't that Fred Rogers, there? The one in the cardigan sweater, smoking . . . a cigar, holding a . . .? "Hi, neighbor. Even though I am a grown-up, there are still times when I worry. I sometimes get scared when I'm in bed and hear noises outside, or when I'm alone in my house. Have you had times like that? I wonder what helps you then? We all have to find our own ways to manage when we are afraid . . . That's why I keep a Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 Magnum holstered under my cardigans . . ." Recommended reading at Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood Watch (http://cgi1.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Alley/7028/mrnw.htm): Mr. McFeeley's heartwarming, illustrated essay, "Conspiracy of Error: Mr. Rogers and the Truth Behind the Kennedy Assassination."
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