A blog of general comment by one of L.A.'s best known commentator/essayists. Humor, drama, pathos, satire and, well, everything else.
There’s a darkness over the world, one of those periodic cycles of woe that has everyone edgy and nations unpredictable. I’m beginning to feel like a guy I used to know in Oakland who walked around under a dark cloud like the cartoon character Joe Btfsplk, living a life of grim expectations. Ask him what the trouble was and he’d say “Everything,” which caused the rest of us to fall into his gloomy state, anticipating the worst, hunched over and sad.
Well everything does seems to be the matter today. That oil spill tops it all off for the moment, spreading a gummy mess through the Gulf of Mexico, polluting the sandy shores and threatening the wildlife. But then there’s that Iceland volcano too sending up clouds of smoke so thick you can’t fly through the damned stuff. The essentials in peril.
Periodic earthquakes up and down the west coast and elsewhere in the world, tornadoes in the Midwest, a recession throughout the land, hatred in Arizona, a bunch of banjo-plucking protestors who call themselves the Tea Party following an emptiness like Sarah Palin to, by God, set things right, and layoffs in L.A. that are going to send hundreds more shell-shocked jobless people to the bread lines.
What’s going on here?
Even fun places like Greece and Italy and maybe Spain that no one takes seriously in the economic strata are causing money problems and what about that nut who pushed the wrong button on Wall Street and sent our own stock market into what they’re calling a flash crash? A chef is charged with trying to hire homeless guys to kill his wife and the mother of a dead girl visits the guy in jail who killed her daughter and says she forgives him.
Everything Is out of synch. The music’s wrong, the words don’t scan, the beat is erratic. One expects that at any minute Godzilla will rise out of the sea and we’ll all run screaming like the Japanese in Tokyo, dashing blindly through the Ginza, but in L.A. it’ll be down Sunset Boulevard or Broadway in New York, depending on whether the monster rises in the Atlantic or the Pacific. He’ll eat us all.
The feeling of doom is one I can’t shake. Forget the war, that’s penny ante horror compared to everything else that’s going wrong and could go wrong. Our troubles are in the core of the Earth and in the very atmosphere we breathe and no one seems to know what to do about them. We blame each other, we blame God or government, we blame nature, fate, kismet and the radiation we’ve loosed in the air, and the acid rain falling on our heads.
Yesterday the cat bit me. It was a big bite for no good reason and it drew blood. Great, I’ve got a bad heart, bad lungs and a convulsive stomach but I’m going to die of cat fever like some kind of small prey that wiggles into stillness in the last painful moments of life, screaming beyond our ability to hear, a wee cry into eternity.
“You’re just lumping all of the bad things together, which makes the world look terrible and life as bleak as the face of the moon,” my wife says. “It is bleak,” I say, “even my fish are dying. I had six in the tank and now I’ve just got that one scrawny thing staring out at me. He knows, the fish knows, but the fish aren’t saying.”
She used to say that bad things happened in threes. The refrigerator would stop working, the dryer would break down and the car wouldn’t start. Now it’s in far greater multiples, affecting everything around us, damaging our auras and dimming our electrolytes.
Then I look out the window. The rain has stopped. Drops of water glisten on the new green of the oak trees. The world glistens. OK, I say to myself, the oil still leaks, the volcano still rumbles and the wind blows evil circles through the cities and the farmlands, but there’s sunlight too.
Cling to the brighter things, I say with a will. Let a little light shine in.
Al Martinez is a Pulitzer Prize winning essayist, former columnist for the Los Angeles Times, author of a dozen books, an Emmy-nominated creator of prime time television shows, a travel writer, humorist and general hell-raiser. Try him. He's addictive.
Joanne Cinelli Martinez is composed of artist, poet, gourmet chef, interior decorator, photographer, volunteer, and all around intelligent person; also the life long partner and care taker of the simple but happy little man who runs the blog. She views him with suspicion and uncertainty. It is a cautionary love story.