The Other End of Sunset

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I know it might sound strange, but I believe you’ll be coming back before too long

And by the way
Which one’s Pink?
--Pink Floyd

I got to go see Roger Waters in concert the other night. OK, the guy’s not young, but he still rocks. Pink Floyd was one of the best rock bands in history, in my opinion, anyway. Waters did one new song, but the rest of the 2+ hour show was Pink Floyd tunes, ranging from the ENTIRE Dark Side of the Moon album (in order, for those of you playing the home game), to stuff from Wish You Were Here and The Wall.

In case you are wondering, the average age at a Roger Waters show is somewhere north of 50, as far as I can tell, and the most annoying intoxicated dancer-dude near me was at least that, if not more. White hair, bifocals, and breaking up some unidentified powder to mix it into his beer. Dude was having fun. And kept stepping on me – GET OFF ME you blissed-out annoying creep – but the guy just kept dancing and kissing his wife and generally partying. Ah, youth is, indeed, wasted on the young.

Waters’ politics are not subtle. He doesn’t hide his perspective. He had anti-war, anti-oil, and generally anti-conservative slogans all throughout his show. His new song pointed out (in somewhat different language) that our current President must have been messed up by his “Texas education”. And Floyd lyrics were… umm… somewhat anti-establishment.

Mother should I run for president
Mother should I trust the government
--Pink Floyd

He sang "Mother" fairly early in the show. The best part? There’s a pause after “should I trust the government” – and the crowd, in unison, shouted “NO”. I mean, that wouldn’t be terribly surprising in the Bay Area. But I'm in that lovely city in the Southwest. Not known for being terribly liberal. Like as in, minutemen and Barry Goldwater. But here, in a (seemingly) sold-out show, in a not-small venue, the crowd was clearly tilting left (or tilting anti-current-government anyway).

Surprised me a lot.

And the trend continued, with people making well-understood obscene gestures against pictures of W presented on the screen (in a collage, with other luminaries like Pol Pot, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and other winners – like I said, Waters is NOT subtle). Strange how things turn.

I remember when the movie Independence Day was coming out. The trailers included the scene where the aliens blow up the White House. The theatre audience where I was sitting (the first time I saw the trailer) broke out into spontaneous applause at the destruction. At the time, I was VERY surprised – what does it say that we cheer at the destruction of the symbol of our government?

I wonder if we would cheer now, at the same image, since so many of us have watched the ACTUAL destruction of a symbol of our economic structure and the real loss of life? It’s all much easier in Hollywood, where the deaths can be undone as dreams, and the debris is mostly computer generated.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
--Thomas Jefferson

Perhaps the cheering, then and now, is just our modern way of refreshing our civic tree? In this model, our culture just needs to hate our government every few years, like some massive snake sloughing off its skin?

// Side note: I'm not sure who is the snake in that analogy. Lexical binding doesn’t help here, unfortunately. The snake could be the collective us, in some unconscious fashion, or perhaps the government, in a collective fashion. However, usually people reserve reptile metaphors for politicians, themselves, as individuals, so normally the snake would be the President, representing the government. Of course, sometimes a snake is just a snake, and back to our regularly scheduled drama. //

It looks like my candidates aren’t winning this fall, although the election hasn’t happened yet. I am rendered slightly more hopeful by the fact that the soon-to-be-reelected Governor of California has rebounded in popularity due, apparently, in no small part, to becoming a born-again Democrat. So the ends are strong, although the spirit is weak.

I spent the weekend in that lovely city in the Southwest. I did a vacation-type thing – hung out by the pool, read magazines, laughed a lot, etc. Yes, I am a bit tanner than usual – which simply means I no longer have EXACTLY Lurch’s pallor – and yes, I wore sunscreen. As my friend says, the two things that show your age best are your face and your hands. My hands are already funny looking, must protect face, I guess.

Of course, to me, the thing that shows your age are the number of tattoos you have, and how much you are able to laugh at yourself. But then, I'm odd.

Have you ever driven in this lovely town? It is, like me, a bit odd. The MOST aggressive drivers I have ever had the fortune to encounter. And, not coincidentally, the worst traffic that I spend much time in. I suspect we would all be better off if you folks would let people merge, and, in turn, maybe not change lanes so often? Of course, this city has grown so quickly that the infrastructure can’t keep up – there will be traffic regardless, but I think it need not be so bad.

I mean, really, can’t we all just get along.

// Side note, number 2: I think I have used that phrase more than a few times in this blog. Not in this posting, but over the history of the OtherEnd. I wonder why that phrase is so close to the front of my brain, as opposed to buried somewhere back there amongst other LA low-lights such as slow speed chases, earthquakes, Enzo accidents, and water-thievery. Perhaps it is the way you can taste the irony as you say the phrase. When life yields THAT comment, you know that messaging is, indeed, king. McLuhan was wrong, the medium didn’t matter. At least in that case.

I mean, consider this blog – none of my friends would actually be willing to listen to me ramble like this. Best case, I'd get an eye roll and a sotto voce comment, “oh, great, we’re about to Boll Weevil again”. In the normal case, my friends are suddenly paged away to deal with some crisis. You can imagine the worst case. So, in this respect, the medium is in fact the message – you are only dealing with this because you can read at your own pace, imagining my voice perhaps, or your guesstimate of my voice, laughing, filling in the details, being annoyed with my politics, or wondering why I am willing to talk like this to my readership. But, regardless, 2 or 3 of you actually make it through this stuff, so the medium must help. Thanks for joining me, I'm glad you read it, and perhaps enjoy it.

And a formulaic question, did I need to add additional “// Side note:” notation when I spanned paragraphs? I mean, a new paragraph indicates a new topic – or that I feel that the prose has become too dense – a “Wall of prose” if you will (as distinct from Wall of Voodoo, but I digress). In either case, shouldn’t I add more delimiters? Or can I just use spanning as a notational method? I'm not sure, feel free to weigh in if you like. //

// Side note, 3: For those of you who are wondering about the Boll Weevil reference in the previous side note, look at the OLD archives, and a reference to my favorite Irishman and my best friend. And this is so clearly a different topic that I felt constrained to increment the side note counter. //

// Side note, number 4: Wait, one more thing. The “wall of prose” thing comes from a comment we got back from the SEC during a high profile, complicated IPO I was once involved in. The SEC response letter used the phrase “wall of prose” to characterize a particular section of our S1 that was describing a bit of complexity. As you can imagine, the complexity yielded some dense prose. A lot of it. A wall of prose, if you will. Who knew that SEC staffers were funny? //

I rented a car this time, for my trip down here. I don’t usually – I ride with my pal if I need a car, or ride the motorcycle I keep here. But this time, I needed a car. So I rented one. Renting a car at this airport is a bit of a travail. First of all, the “state of the art rental car center” is a LONG way from the airport. And it’s not state of the art, unless by “state of the art” you mean “big, badly designed, and containing both escalators AND some flat screen displays”. I often wonder who designs public spaces like that one. It’s huge, with big high ceilings and lots of glass. Doesn’t that make it hard to keep cool? And what is the point of all that wasted space up there? I mean, it’s even over MY head.

The best part is getting in and out. You take buses from the terminals to the center (and back again, of course). These buses arrive (or leave from) a circle in front of the center, with noted parking spaces for drop-offs and pick-ups. The shuttles that drop you off AT the center park IN FRONT of those that take you back to the airport from the center.

Right, the ones that are coming in must cross lanes with the ones that are leaving, in some complex dance that leaves no extra space. And guarantees that a shuttle that has just dropped people off, and is thus empty, can’t just pull forward into a space to pick new people up. It has to go around the circle, and merge, again.

Yup, you got it. The designers carefully created traffic at the rental car center.

Perhaps it is a subtle psychological ploy to get renters ready for the traffic they will face. Kind of like getting allergy shots gradually reduces your sensitivity to the allergens, or thinking about that which you fear gradually desensitizes you to the fears. But the buses merge fairly nicely, so the renters aren’t desensitized to the actual driving behaviors…

The other thing that is VERY weird about the rental car experience is the video that plays in the shuttle during the 10-minute ride to (or from) the airport terminals. It welcomes you to the city, and gives you tips on traveling. It includes such niceties as a couple of minute discussion reminding travelers that they must check their firearms in checked luggage.


Me? I'm not a gun-guy; in fact, I'm a bit of a gun-control nut. But I don’t hate guns, nor do I have issues with gun owners, in general. I have good friends who are gun-folks. OK, no problem. But I'm a little weirded out about a culture that has SO many people carrying guns that you have to worry about them forgetting and trying to carry them onto planes. Or just, in general, have so many people carrying guns that it is relevant at all on the rental car shuttle. Yikes. Tell me again why so many people are jerks on the road here? Doesn’t everyone worry about getting shot? Or perhaps it is gun envy – my gun is WAY bigger than yours buddy, don’t try to cut me off.

This is a fairly creepy line of thought…

It is interesting how local cultures differ on seemingly little things. I don’t mean the proportion of pretty people, or tans, or whatever. I mean little things. I went out for drinks this weekend with my best friend, my favorite Argentine, and a friend of his. Two of us had never met this friend, so we were in full-on small-talk land. For those of you who don’t know me well, I'm REALLY bad at small talk. Largely because I'm the most boring person on the planet, and shy to boot, but anyway, I was gamely trying.

// ++Side note: Funny how “gamely” is almost the same word as “gamey”, meaning, to smell bad… //

Small talk is one of those things that are different in different locales. My family lived in Minneapolis for a while. As far as I can tell, people at cocktail parties there talk about one thing, and one thing only – the weather. For hours it seems, people can jabber about the weather – will it snow, how much, what about the dreaded black ice, and so forth.

In LA, people talk about traffic. Makes sense, but isn’t much more interesting.

In this lovely city in the southwest, the topic of conversation is heat – how hot will it get, how had DOES it get, can you, in fact, cook eggs on sidewalks, blah blah blah. So we talked heat with this random friend. I don’t think it went over too well. Perhaps I need to find a better pre-prepared line of patter.

I think fundamentally small talk is about shared context. In Minnesota everyone is affected by snow, and so there’s lots of shared context. Ditto for traffic in LA (since nobody walks in LA). The heat in the southwest is, indeed, striking and oppressive. But judging from the lack of engagement on the friend’s part, it is either NOT the topic or friend just wasn’t jazzed to be talking to us. Hard to judge which.

I have no idea what people jabber about the Bay Area. We don’t have weather, we don’t have shared context, we don’t have anything in common, so far as I can tell. Maybe that is why I do so poorly at cocktail parties at home? Got any suggestions?

Do you think there is the equivalent of ToastMasters for cocktail parties? Surely this is a skill I could use? Or maybe the world is a better place if I spend my cocktail party time hiding near the bookshelves? You know, the REAL bookshelves, not the ones that are just for show.

I'd rather really know you, and have you really know me. I'm not so interested in the fronts, to be honest.

Speaking of which, it wouldn’t be a posting without a JR reference, would it? I mentioned that I hung out in the city over the weekend. Well, I went up to where she’s hanging out while here. The view is as nice as I remember.

It was oddly comforting to be there, with her. Maybe I am starting to understand people who have gravestones, or visit their loved ones’ graves. But I didn’t feel her presence there any more than I do everywhere else.

I miss her, a lot. It’s becoming different though. It’s somehow softer, less edgy. Less like a knife cut or a bad burn, and more like the ache of a really hard workout. You know damage has been done, but it’s softer, more rounded.

I'm only slightly teary as I write this.

She asked me not to forget her. I'm not forgetting you, don’t worry, JR, just easing.

Anger is an energy
--Johnny Rotten