Some suburbs

3 Jul

Happy birthday you cheap bastards! I started this column a year ago this week. It’s one year old today. And what have I got to show for it? Absolutely nothing. I’m broke! I’m currently hungry. I’m excited in a vaguely undefined fashion. Everything in the world still exists, which means that in whichever direction you chose to travel you can learn something. That’s pretty cool. On an unrelated note I think I’ve gotten mighty good at making pies. My last one was a jumbleberry – blackberry, blueberry, raspberry – and mamma mia but it was yummy. I know I’m bragging, but it even won my girlfriend over, and she knows there’s lard in there! It sounds better when you call it vegetable shortening. Actually, lard is made from pig fat, so don’t worry hon, there’s no lard in my pies. Just a shit load of butter. Delicious.

So what’s the future of America? I saw Blade Runner last week, for the first time. It takes place in 2019, but I don’t see us heading in exactly that direction. L.A.doesn’t look like that quite yet. Although I was driving through some suburbs the other day (New Jersey, natch) and I was struck by a certain kind of similarity. Call it the modern pyramid look – the impenetrable and freestanding monolith. When the windows catch the low-lying sunlight it’s like another level of defense, protection, the whole place – on fire – becomes a blade sliced up against the bare horizon. These buildings house corporations, which will eventually take over the world. That’s the general idea right? But these buildings also house real people, who believe they have free will (I think they do!). They have emotions, they can make choices. Sure, they talk about TV shows and buy things from the vending machine, but you might find them surprisingly resilient, when the shit goes down. Is the shit even going to go down? Or does the shit just keep on rising, until it drowns us all?


Who are our authors who celebrate this kind life – the humans who work inside the office? I’m admittedly not too informed when it comes to contemporary literature. DeLillo? Maybe sometimes. Although the first line of his first book is, “Then we came to the end of another dull and lurid year.” I think I’d want the first line of my first book to be more along the emotion of, “Boo!” Though still, he does say this of the office: “In the early afternoon it was always quiet, the whole place tossing slowly in tropical repose, as if the building itself swung on a miraculous hammock…And the office itself seemed a special place, even in its pale yellow desperate light, so much the color of old newspapers; there was the belief that you were secure here, in some emotional way, that you moved in known terrain. If you had a soul, and it had the need to be rubbed by roots and seasons, to be comforted by familiar things, then you could not walk among those desks for two thousand mornings, nor hear those volleying typewriters, without coming to believe that this is where you were safe….Knowing we had just returned to the mother ship.”


I felt something of that emotion just driving by these buildings, ringed in a circle around a man-made pond. What I felt in fact was the desire to get really stoned and go inside and lie face down on the carpet in a pool of sunlight. Like to really feel the unmovable power of the place. Is that the idea here? If someone didn’t know any better wouldn’t they have to assume this was a temple? I mean, doesn’t this building look like it’s trying to communicate with another spiritual plane? Picture it full of people and it becomes some kind of giant human battery, ready to rend a hole right through the earth. Everyone of those lamp posts stands poised to bow and sway around it. And the folks in there are talking about television shows! But that’s cool, that’s cool – who wants to disparage people in the abstract anyway? I’m never gonna know them all, and you tend to love the people that you do know. Really. You love them so much. It’s nice that we’ve given the word “humanize” a positive connotation, emphasizing the kinder aspects of our nature, instead of all the other shit we get into.

(Originally posted Nov. 13th, 2009 on


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