FRESH YARN presents:

California Gothic
By Taylor Negron

"…I know my cell phone is around here. I hear the battery dying."

You could hear a battery dying, a mechanical chirping falling sound -- like a gay cricket reacting to bad news. A feverish sound, for this lukewarm night off Mullholland. Jonathan is inhaling on a joint, mixing a pot of risotto and fixating on the whereabouts of his new cell phone

"I know it's here." Jonathan speaks like his father -- deep, courtly. Jonathan's father has an Academy award. Jonathan has a small Crystal Meth problem. The battery continues to pulse. A metronome to the proceedings.

"It's a very cool telephone. It has a camera and you can watch TV and get E mail on it. It must be buried under one of those damn Thai food menus."

I open a kitchen window and see the moon floating over the deserted hills. I am on the run from reality. War, Fox News, Debra Norville, Paula Zhan. In that order. I am tired of Joan Rivers. I am tired of her little child, too.

These days, I will accept any invitation from anybody to do anything just to get out of my apartment. To avoid watching television, I have recently attended a wine tasting in Arcadia, and I have played poker on the Queen Mary in Long beach. I hate television. Tivo can lick my ass. Now, don't get me wrong, I like it as furniture, I just can't stand what's on it right now. Reality TV? What's that about? I can't stand reality. Reality seems to be peopled with anorexics and men who have had gastric bypass surgery and young girls that resemble stylized warriors drawn quickly in white lines like on ancient Greek Amphora, their thighs sheaths of muscle layered in Bling Bling.

I am sipping my wine in the kitchen of an Ultra Modern Tudor Chinese house in Laurel Canyon with my two oldest friends from kindergarten -- Jonathan and Abigail. Lil Kim is playing. Or is it Lil Bow Wow? Whatever is, I have a Lil headache.

I like guitars and pools. Museums and fruit cocktails. I don't like prisoner abuse. I don't like American Idol. I can no longer bear witness to the intense dehumanization of individual spirit/souls.

Perhaps I should tell you the Rosetta stone of my personality. I suffer from A.A.D. Attention Abundance Disorder…Nothing escapes me. I perceive every detail of everything. Sounds. Echoes. The curled lips. I can hear houseflies tapping their heads against glass.

Now, this is self diagnosed, but I believe my condition is heightened being a native Los Angelino. Ah, Los Angeles. Where the dysfunctional hate the codependents and the codependents hate the abusers and everybody hates Michael Eisner. Los Angeles is the only place where a boy who acts like a girl, but talks like a stud gets paid like a man.

The other thing you should know about is my relationship to Popular Culture. I am not that into it. I have never seen the Super Bowl. I have never drunk an entire Coca Cola. I don't like the taste of fast food. I have never seen an episode of Friends -- and I was on it three times. I just recently saw my first Laverne and Shirley. Really funny! I have purposely avoided Holocaust Films -- anything involving WW2 makes me inordinately hungry. I actually gained weight during Schindler's List.

Somebody recently asked me if I had seen Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. To which I replied, no and I will not. I'm still upset about that movie where the Von Trapp Family had to walk over the mountain in the lederhosen. I'm still freaked out about the white slavery sequences in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

So, here I am tonight, with my oldest friends -- Abigail, who was, and is, very rigid and beautiful, and Jonathan, who was once pudgy and effete, and is now muscular and effete. I haven't seen them in over a year. Jonathan is wearing a short sleeved shirt that exposes a tattoo of chain link around the bicep. Does everybody have this tattoo? I ask myself. It seems like everyone has a tattoo of links around their arm. Did I miss the mailing on this one?

I stop myself from saying "70 percent of all people admitted into emergency rooms have more than one tattoo." Instead I benignly lament, "I hate cell phone conversations. I think cell phone conversations are the new secondhand smoke."

"Oh, Taylor!" Abigail says. "I love to eavesdrop on other people's cell phone conversations. There was a lady at Gelsons behind me in the checkout line the other day, who had just been fired by her boss, a real prick, and from what I gathered he gave her 10 minutes to pack up her personal belongings and had her escorted out of the building. She was freaked out! And absolutely petrified to tell her mother and she had a child. And then she hung up and left me hanging. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I wanted to say something to her but I couldn't really, these days one can't say anything about anything to anybody."

There is a curious quality to being with friends that you have known for a long time: In the midst of all the aging faces, past the enormous changes… you become still …you become middle aged. You go through the motions of putting the wine glass to your lips. Of laughing and asking yourself, "Can the drinking and lovemaking extinguish the need to understand? The need to disappear into the warm night -- the way cars do on a freeway-- fast, furious and sometimes like my friends, taking the wrong exit?"

Abigail, Jonathan and I are the children of the people you used see in the cigarette ads on the back of Life magazines. Handsome people in yellow terrycloth pants and penny loafers looking like they just heard the funniest story of there lives. Those people mated and had us; and we now look like the people you see in the magazine ads for Lipator and Viagra. Wanting -- sad -- unsatisfied.

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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