Even in death, the rich control the resources.
Last Saturday, I drove in to Glendale to watch a friend of mine play in a psychedelic rock band. It was one of those absurdly hot Southern California days, where you choose to forgo a bra because the thought of sweaty cloth sticking to your chest is unbearable.
The band performed in the back of a music warehouse distribution center — facing the front of the store loomed a large, well-kept cemetery whose hills rose up high above the street. After the show, a couple band members, friends of the band, and I, trekked up Forest Lawn Cemetery. For a cemetery located in a state that’s supposed to be saving water, Forest Lawn had no qualms in keeping the wealthy well-manicured.
What struck me was:
1. Most tombstones had two to three words on them, and almost all of them used the word “beloved.”
2. Most people were remembered in relation to their productive role as a procreating family force: “beloved father,” “beloved wife,” “beloved mother,” etc.
There is an oft-repeated sentiment that we are social beings. Nowhere is this more clear than in death — we are remembered by our relations to other people. The definition of “beloved” is “dearly loved” (adj) or “a much loved person” (n). Who loved you when you were alive? How many? How deeply? Note that these tombstones didn’t read “beloved friend” or “beloved teacher,” etc. Strangers walking among the tombstones will know you only as someone who procreated, and if you didn’t have any children, then as a person who was created (“beloved child,” “beloved daughter,” etc.).
Will all of these names etched in square gray rocks continue to be loved in the generations to come? Probably not. Their great-great-grandchildren will only know them as scratchings on a family tree. But at least their resting place will be well-watered.
Your life shouldn’t just be summed up in whether or not you were able to push infants out of your body. How ought we be remembered then? By our work? Our art? Our worldly legacy? To each their own, really, but I believe thinking about how you want to leave the world is, as morbid a topic as it may be, a good exercise in shaping how you want to lead your life today.
I want to be remembered as someone who loved life, fiercely.
I want to be remembered as eccentric. I want to be remembered as crazy. I want to be remembered as someone who loved to have a good time.
I want to be remembered as an American.
I want to be remembered as someone who made you laugh.
I don’t want to suck up resources that the living could be using.
Looking at what I just wrote, I guess that translates today to: live large. Laugh a lot. Love a lot, even when it hurts. Keep dreaming.
Two days ago, I was walking down Hollywood Blvd. in West Hollywood to go watch my friend perform in an improv comedy show.
I had parked in a little lot four blocks away, and at the corner of Gower and Hollywood, I watched as something dripped down from the traffic light next to me. A row of birds was occupying the top horizontal bar of the traffic light; it wasn’t the pole that had the traffic box on the end, but the arched curve above it that instead holds a streetlight to guide your way. There must have been around 15-20 birds up there, and all of them were just sitting there … and shitting.
The whole street underneath the birds was painted over in white and black spatters. If I hadn’t known better, I would have told you that Hollywood and Gower looked, at that moment, like a Jackson Pollock piece.
I crossed the street with a gaggle of tourists, and it struck me that all these people had traveled all this way and spent thousands of dollars just to look at this shitty street. This literally shitty street.
Cities across the world differ in culture, in nightlife, in vibes. There are differences, beautiful differences, everywhere, but perhaps one universal human experience is this — all streets in every single city in the world has been shat on by birds.
It doesn’t matter where you go, birds don’t give a fuck. While you fork over your savings to travel far distances to take pictures of X landmark or Y historic locale, birds are going to be somewhere nearby, shitting.
This makes me feel a little bit closer to my fellow metropolises.
Why do people bring babies to baseball games? It’s not like they can comprehend what’s going on.
Yesterday, a few friends and I were sitting in the nosebleeds at the Angels game with our fellow peasants. To our left was an old Asian man watching the game by himself, enthusiastically banging the free drum they had handed to us at the entrance. Behind us was a single mother rocking her baby on her lap while her seven year old son loudly and repeatedly chanted “Let’s go Angels, let’s go!”
I was so happy for these people. Here they were, soaking in America and everything that it is. And they don’t need no big group of friends to do it either.
It always gets me when I see middle-aged or old folks, like the old Asian man, sitting by themselves at sporting events. They aren’t the obnoxious bros below screaming obscenities and encouragement at the players who clearly can’t hear them; they aren’t the drunk couple standing up and cheering at every hit trying to get the wave started or the crowd going; they aren’t the stats nerds reeling off data on every player on the field and how they’re predicted to do in fantasy. They are always quiet, and occasionally, when the home team does something well, they’ll holler or hoot briefly, and go back to enjoying the game in silence.
This is what true fandom looks like.
When you have mustered up the courage to go to games alone, not give a fuck what anyone thinks, and silently love your team from all the way back in the nosebleeds because that’s all you can afford … THEN you can be considered a die-hard.
Later in the game, in the bottom of the ninth as we were trailing behind the Seattle Mariners 3-0, fans started emptying out of the stadium. Our group moved down three floors and up to the very front row; the Mariners’ left fielder was a mere 15 feet away.
A haze of stadium lights covered the field. We stood as the Angels stepped up for their last few at-bats. The whole scene, given the haze, had a cinematic feel to it. It’s funny isn’t it? This picture has been so overrepresented in culture that when you sit in the nosebleeds, you think “ah yes, this is what a real baseball game looks like,” but when you get up close, you think, “this is what baseball looks like in the movies.”
It ended up not being such a movie after all, since our valiant efforts at a comeback failed.