Stuttgart, Germany, May 01-07, 2006
on my way back to the hotel, wandering the empty nomadic world that lives between lonliness and freedom, i walked through the saturday night parties, where hundreds of sexy germans all stood in the warm spring air, dressed in cool cottons and hot leathers. they were all smoking cigarettes, listening to trance music, flirting, laughing, and being part of something big. its friendly and its homey.
eventually, i stepped into a club and danced with some strangers for a while, then went to my room, had another glass of wine, and flopped into bed.
the next morning i asked a guy what he thought of our group. we were there with a group of academics and artists. his reply was, "There is no fucker."
There Is No Fucker.
this is the kind of phrase that fate puts in in the road for one to stumble over. this is the kind of thing that one travels great distance to find. it was said by a portuguese guy. his english is better than it reads and as he grunts this out, i can do nothing but smile and nod with a certain wonderful confirmation of reality's goodness. its lovely; he likes our group. he thinks there is no fucker in the group.
but he's wrong.
most of the time here in stuttgart i spent cooped up with the FMX film festival, which is this thing where game developers and film makers all get together to strut feathertails and crow. i stayed up stairs, perched above the pecking orders being established below, doing my best to not besmirch anyone's good name. let alone my own when i gave my talk and a lot of people showed up, which was nice and always a little unnerving, and it reminded me that, more than anything, its important to give all you can. its important to give away everything you have. especially if you get it for free.
but i've forgotten this lately. in los angeles i've become someone else.
the inconvenient fact of the matter is that i've become, in the last year, something of a fucker. this is mostly because i'm not staying alert. for example, before leaving my home in LA for this lecture where i was so graciously welcomed i actually complained to a neighbor about having to go. i stood there and complained about getting paid to go to a foreign country and talk about my artsy-like work, and get put up in a nice hotel with nice people (with no fuckers), and then flown home. complaining about that, well, that's fucker behavior right there, that's what that is. i mean, it took me a good hour to realise that i was being a fucker, but in that hour i lacked all penance and perspective, persisting in pernicious pissiness. travel can be a bother, there's no question. jetlag is a drag. but when most of my poor fellow americans can't even leave their fattening pens for more than two weeks in AN ENTIRE YEAR... i really need not complain. i won't complain about this again. the other fucker move i made this spring was to break my own hand. but that's another story.
i think i've had the hardest two years of my life. being in los angeles makes me a bit snippy. i stopped respecting people and i stopped listening to them as much as i used to, let alone as much as i would like. i dont have as much to give. i've got a shorter fuse, a faster spark, and a fuller gut of gunpowder. the dry los angeles sun makes me a tinder box.
but the wet german sausage-swiller volk makes me realise that being a fucker is not a very fun way to spend my limited time on the planet. i'm not too sure what has happened to me. after over two years it might be that los angeles has somehow infected me. in los angeles people don't laugh much. in los angeles people don't even talk much. in los angeles the food is hollow like petroleum.
(and most of all, in los angeles i had my heart broken, and i broke my lovers' heart in the process.)
but in germany everyone seems to be cracking jokes and swapping stories. chicken tastes like real chicken, people say hello to each other when sitting down at adjacent restaurant tables. everyone is smoking cigarettes and wearing puffy jackets. women in their 40s dye their hair radical colors of auburn or green or purple. the men all have pregnant-like bellies. there are moustaches with beer foam on them. they like clean leather. the transportation systems work so well i feel like they are all there for me. no one is ever, ever, ever late. even on sunday.
i met no fucker.
now please let me be clear on something; i know they're around. i've always considered myself a misanthrope when it comes to groups, but a philanthrope when it comes to individuals. as long as they have a little honest in them i usually like people that are standing in front of me. i'm aware of the fact that there are fuckers in both stuttgart and los angeles. i'm aware of the fact that there is probably even about the same proportion of fuckers in both cities. but maybe not. maybe there's something about living in large cities that fuckerizes you. maybe there's a formula; the number of trees are inversely proportional to both the frequency and severity of fuckerhood. maybe when you live in a really big city where everyone sits in their car you forget that the person sitting down at the table next to yours, or in the car lane next to your own, is someone worth saying hello to (and maybe, if you're a fucker, they aren't).
so why do i feel like such a fucker in los angeles, but when i'm in germany i get along fine with people and want to party with them? why would i be interested in going dancing in germany, but not in california?
first, los angeles is toxic and cracking with all the bravado of a hollywood entertainment executive. whenever i go back to it i'm reminded of this fact. the days go by and i feel the radiator coolants of that city seeping into my veins, making my heart a little cold, my mind a little numb, and my combustibility a little quicker. i'm not the only person that feels this way. after two years there i'd guess that at least half of the people i know do not really like living in LA. choose your home carefully, for it becomes a part of you.
second, travel reboots your brain. you get into Travel Time, that alert, on-the-road feel. you're awake. objects crackle with soul. things are good and ungood. and for me it causes me to appreciate, again, the important things like family, good food, friends, dancing with strangers. old things. not the new shiny crap that LA mass-exports via mass-media. i'm talking about the stuff that people have been doing for thousands of years. antiquity is what gives the present value, and vice versa. get rid of one and you have no time. get rid of time and there is no value. all value is based on time and time is referential. so los angeles is cracking and germany is singing because of this.
on saturday i woke up to birds singing the name of a beautiful woman i know. she speaks french and has a long flowerstem of a neck and she trembles and is lovely. anyway the little jerks made so much racket over her that i was unable to go back to sleep. with their voices high, and others low, some across the courtyard, and others close enough that one, a particularly bellows-chested fellow, must have been on the windowsill, on tip-toe, his nose to the glass, shouting her name. they kept this noise up for hours and hours and finally i was forced to take drastic action and listen closely to their raucous advice. all i could do was send her a note. the body is a trap of liberation.
the next morning, this morning, on sunday, it was church bells. the bells spoke the name of los angeles. they boomed like doom their melodic groan, a strange and holy melody that rolled across the valley. i woke up thinking about going home, and turned my thoughts to the huge beast called LA.
the birds made me happy and want to find something; the woman. the bells made me sad and made me want to avoid something; the city. bells and birds, woman and city. these symbols stack. these simple measurements are all just truths, and they are all good.
well, that was this morning. and it made sense then. but now, as i sit here writing, in the waiting room in the frankfurt airport, waiting to get on the plane that will thrust me into Los Angeles, i see americans gathering around me, talking. one of them just shouted, "Home sweet home, here we come," and it makes me angry again. i begin to chill, and feel sinister, and i feel my head smoking.
i don't know why. maybe its because we all, if we prefer our homes, or if we prefer being away, are fuckers. maybe the essence of being a fucker is having preference. maybe preference creates disdain. and disdain is a poison for the soul. maybe the door out of fuckerdom is something like buddhist non-discrimination.
this, then, is the new formula: birds = bells = woman = city = home = sweet = home. they are all the same and they are all good.
the messages stack. they stack as i write. so this is when i stop taking important things for granted. home is sweet. and it is home. and now is a good time to notice important things again, like neighbors, and the people that sit next to me in the restaurant, or the other car, and birds, and what the church bells have to say. if i can find the church bells, that is. i can listen to the waves instead. and if i cant listen to the waves i can listen to the people that are near me. and the cars, even, will have something to say. if i stop being a fucker long enough to listen.
so now is a good time to stop being a fucker. i shoulda started this last week. just thinking it feels better.
my plane leaves in 45 minutes. time to go through the gate and remember, when i get back to LA, to walk into the world with a new set of eyes and know that, ultimately, there is no fucker.
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