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California Gothic
By Taylor Negron

Abigail has produced a child. His name is Adam and he looks like one of those children on the Abercrombie and Fitch bag, laughing at that UN-hearable joke. How long will it last? My generation missed out on that laugh.

The risotto begins to emit a dense fragrance.

"Have you seen The Swan?"
"I am not watching TV."
"You've never seen The Swan, Taylor??" They both ask simultaneously. "It's very California Gothic, Taylor."
"It's very C.G.," Abigail says.

California Gothic is the world we come from. We proudly have nicknamed it, abbreviated it, C.G. I'll tell you -- having a mother like Jonathan's, a horror movie star, is very C.G. Having a dusty cracked Oscar in your kitchen is very C.G. Watching Joan Didion cry in a green Jaguar at a stoplight on Ventura Blvd. is very California Gothic. The Brentwood and Westwood of our childhood was California Gothic for we were sun-bleached children who cast dark shadows. Who watched coyotes run across Wilshire Blvd. Who smelled skunks constantly.

Abigail and Jonathan and I have remained friends for one very C.G. reason. The three of us went to Marilyn Monroe's funeral together. On tricycles. We drove our tricycles through the cemetery every day, waved on by an old man in a brown shirt. On the day Marilyn Monroe was buried, there was a huge crowd of people there and many cameras.

On that hot August day, as we watched from a distance, we knew something important was going on. And it has bonded us forever, though we never talk about. Afterwards, we went back to Jonathan's house and went swimming while his maid prepared our lunch of chili beans and popsicles.

"I love The Swan," Jonathan proclaimed. "I'm fascinated by plastic surgery and its ability to transform even the garden variety heifer into a beauty."

"You can't be serious you guys. Just the idea of face lifts is so insane," I say. "Look, the way I see it is that when you get a facelift, you have two choices -- Siegfried or Roy."

Nobody laughed. Both Jonathan and Abigail looked at me like I was from another planet. Suddenly we were all eight again and I was the outsider. I followed them around on a tricycle. I followed them around in a Ford Pinto. Now I follow them around in a BMW.

Abigail passed me a joint. The joint smelled acrid and I welcomed the sanctuary of being high. Abigail let out a heartfelt sigh, "These days are just terrible aren't they?"

"I FOUND IT!" Jonathan yells from the back of the house. "It was under a pile of bananas."

Jonathan enters the room holding the cell phone like the precious last crab cake. The marijuana washes over me and I think to myself that if I ever lose my cell phone, it would be under a pile of ripe, warm nectarines.

"Put your two heads together I want to take a picture." Jonathan puts one arm around us and extends the other and snaps. Moments later, we are seeing the digitized image of the three of us.

"You'll never believe what I got on my e-mail, you have to watch this." Jonathan quickly punches some numbers into the cell and then the small screen is filled with the image of a man in an orange jump suit surrounded by a group of men. The man is being beheaded.

My stoned mind was distraught. Reality had found me the way fame had found Fantasia. I just watched a man have his head cut off on a cell phone.

This is beyond California Gothic. This is war!

Jonathan looked on without emotion, innocent of his own spontaneous action. Abigail seemed a wasted sister in his deed. I thought I would burst out weeping. Moments later I found myself at a table eating the risotto, as the two of them chattered. I controlled my rage with generous portions of parmesan.

I excused myself early and Jonathan, Abigail and I promised to get together soon. I drove down Laurel Canyon in perfect silence and I wondered if I would ever see them again. The same moon floated over the deserted city that seemed to be in state of animated suspension -- my mind slipped into a stream of images. I was unable to dissect them or judge them and thought to myself that we all have eyes to see what is happening. Some will only see what is shown. I thought how ephemeral and immaterial the bond we have with anybody is, and for the most part we are alone to see and witness the world. I put on a Doors CD. The Lizard king soothed my savage mind and distracted me again from this world of doom and doofuses and politicos and distance joggers that are devoured by bobcats.

The human race suddenly seemed extraordinarily foreign and cold and I ached for the UN-hearable joke. I needed the UN-hearable answer.

At the red light at Lookout Mountain Road the warm wind gives the black night a tinge of rust and I am stunned by a strand of bougainvillea and how it remains vibrantly red even in the dark night. I can see people moving in lighted windows of the houses and wonder "What did they watch tonight?"

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