January 3, 2009
Happy new year! Please enjoy this essay by the late David Foster Wallace: This is water, this is water.
I recently saw Rambo: First Blood for the first time. I’m not sure if it’s because it was an early version of a certain kind of action movie and so feels dated, or because it’s… sort of lame, but I spent a lot of the movie laughing at things like Rambo making himself a poncho, Rambo killing a pig in the woods, Rambo disguising an oil drum by dint of casually laying a single small branch over it.
But then there’s this scene at the end, where Rambo is trapped in the police station and his old commanding officer comes in to talk some sense into him, and Sylvester Stallone has this confused, agonized monologue about the impossibility of a soldier reintegrating into a peacetime society. And the living room I was in fell completely silent, because we were watching a genuinely great performance of genuinely great writing, and we were, uh, moved.
There’s this non-fiction book about West Point, and the author at one point talks about how West Point is basically an irony-free zone, and I sometimes think about that, how most of us are absolutely drenched in irony all the time, just congenitally unable to take things seriously, and how that both makes life significantly more hilarious/less lame, but also tends to kill your ability to appreciate things in a way that doesn’t involve a raised eyebrow.
So I guess the joke’s on me. Sylvester Stallone is probably going to come over to my house and go “YOU KNOW HOW YOU LAUGHED WHEN I BLEW UP THE GAS STATION? THAT PAID OFF, DIDN’T IT? WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?” and I will look embarrassed and apologize for making fun of Rambo’s pants.
I have this friend who lives in a pretty unremarkable section of Venice near Abbot Kinney, and when I go to visit I park around the corner, where the drug dealers conduct their business. The reason I know that they’re drug dealers is that once I arrived at my friend’s front door and said “Who’re the guys lurking suspiciously at the end of your street? Are they homeless dudes or like cops on a raid?” and he said “I think they’re drug dealers.”
And I said “!!! WOW.”
And he said “But they’re really mellow drug dealers! You may have noticed that they appear to ride their bikes around a lot.”
I guess how street-corner drug-dealing works is that everything pretty much happens from your car. (PS, Americans are SO LAZY. We can’t even get out of our cars to buy drugs. That’s lazy.) That is, you drive up to the corner in question, look around in a kind of “Gee, I wonder where a fellow could score some cocaine around here” way, a guy comes over and takes your order, money and drugs change hands, and BOB’S YOUR HIGH AS A KITE UNCLE.
What’s excellent is that this particular corner is a four-way stop, so you HAVE TO stop at the corner, whether you want drugs or not. And sometimes if you hesitate for a split second too long before pulling away, a guy will approach your car in the exact same way salespeople at Best Buy will approach you if you hesitate too long in front of a TV, and then you have to wave him off in an awkward way, “No, thank you, no drugs for me… Not that I’m judging you or anything like that. How’s it going?”