Squalls coming through hard: rain beating down on the mud and bouncing back towards the sky, then slumping into puddles to reflect some sunshine. Halloween has come and gone with the sugar buzz and the kids walking down the middle of the street with their buckets of candy.
This is the second blog about my California trip. I have been reading The Guns Of August about the beginning of World War I and there is something about the author's famous and beautiful first paragraph that keeps coming back to me as I think about California. Here is the opening of the Guns of August,
"So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highness's, seven queens-- four dowager and three regnants--- and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the great assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and of its kind the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace,but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again."
The paragraph captures the beginning of the end of the era of royal imperialism. The world of interconnected families which controlled the world financial holdings was about to come mired down in the trenches of Flanders, then into the ridiculous looting of the German economy and the revolutions of the east and west rolling into the greatest world wide killing events of the twentieth century.
Such a beautiful paragraph. The splendor of the age of Royalty and the hint of sentimentality over its coming to an end. So, what in the heck does this have to do with Los Angeles? Well... I told you I this was about the light of the world I saw down there, and so it is. I was lucky to see the beautiful world of Hollywood, and some of the beautiful people. And they are beautiful, and smart. My country mouse family were comped night in a beautiful Spa in Santa Barbara. Everywhere the eye fell were flowers in bloom: Bougainvillea, and Hyacinth. Lovely birds which have long since disappeared from Alaska. Even in time of drought sounds of water running though limestone run ways. This part of my family makes television shows and they are quite successful. They are some of the women in the business of creating our national dream worlds. Our national secrete companions, and I was lucky to see them at their charming ease.
My niece who is a dear, smart woman and incredibly savvy writes about sex and dread in the modern world, and quite well as far as I can see. She also writes about pop culture which is often the subtext of everything in Hollywood. On her birthday evening wore an incredible gown and had undergone some sort of skin scrub at the spa. When I hugged her her cheek was a firm and soft as an athletic baby. Her phone buzzed and her assistant hovered. She was off to the airport early in the morning after her birthday for the wrap party for only one of her TV series.
Is it just me or is Popular American Culture always at the end of an era? The conservatives always believe we are at the end of the liberal disastrous experiment begun by FDR. The liberals believe we are at the end of the disastrous, profligate lifestyle as evidence by, you name it: ... global warming, cheap oil, ocean acidification. "This is the END, my only friend... the end." The Doors sang.. and someday they will be right.
And Hollywood is ready. Hollywood writes all the dreams, produced from every ounce of anxiety created from the certainty of this. Dream makers, love the kings and they love royalty and have a secrete sentimentality in which they try to recreate it. For as Shakespeare knew, Kings and Queens were responsible in the drama of their country's plight. They fell on the sword in the final act. The story teller needed them to do that and they also need the war.
In our national literature Huck Finn went west. Nick Carraway went west, even the actual man Wavonka the creator of the Medicine Shirt Dance, sparked the uprising at Wounded Knee ended up as an actor in Hollywood silent films. Faulkner, Hammet, Fitzgerald, Chandler, all worked here. When old worlds end you come to Hollywood, to create the apocalyptic songs of warning and live the life of the lotus eaters. "If it be the one place that we, the inconstant ones are consistently homesick for it is chiefly because it dissolves in water," as Auden said of the dissolute ruins of Capri.
Not that Hollywood is a ruin. Far from it, it is vibrant and energetic where hard working people get paid with more work.
So, what am I saying? I'm saying if I were a different man, younger and more attuned to the stories of dialogue, and character development. I would do what ever it took to be a television writer right now. We are teetering on the brink of something, this is a feeling I came away with from being in LA, there is very little water and there are so many, many people and cars that it feels like some kind of change is in the wind... and all the dark clouds and lives tearing asunder on television seem to be warning us of something.
And that little box is reaching people right now and people are telling amazing stories through it: The Wire, Treme, Orange is the New Black, Girlfriends Guide to Divorce,,,, (perhaps though I haven't seen it.) Anyway... If I were a young man or woman I would try and get get into that racket. There are smart people there, who are moving hearts and minds, they capturing the fears of the era, and by doing so they give us the only warning signs to what may lay ahead, which is all The Guns Of August ever tried to do, there was the end of kings... we are living in our own end of kings and queens and these writers and story makers are recreating the dreams that will tell us something about our fears.... and in payment these makers get to live by the sea where, apparently the flowers bloom all year round, and the birds sing by your door forever.
Hollywood. A person could do worse at the end of the world.
Slick, silver clouds
spraying the hard rain to earth
like tears, like snow.... almost.