Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Heart of the New Rome

The glass rail that I lean against, if given enough force could launch me to my certain death. And chances are the hordes of laminated paper bag carriers would not be in any position to assist me, unless I landed on the ones scrambling about far below. Instead, if the spider cracks erupted into a cacophony of crystal explosions, I would most certainly be killed by the weight of American Consumerism. But it holds for now, as I wait outside a female clothing store on the 2nd floor of a mall in Southern California. My wife in her quest to find the "perfect" pair of khakis is perusing the sale racks and new inventory intent on her grail for this weekend. The idea of falling isn't so bad compared to the fact that this stop has lasted 40 plus minutes and the fore knowledge that her two most favorite stores in the world are within visual range of the exit of this one.

I feel somehow detached but somehow apart of the orgy of spend. They pass in front of me as I lean against an uncomfortable ledge invisible to their palm video games, or the 20% off 50% markup sign that graces the doorway of an image/illusion clothing store. In each group of strolling packs, are the same entities. There are the 7th graders with the shoes that are few notches out of their price range, holding electronics, which keep their eyes fixated in a gaze of fantastic color and HD action. Their world literally is in the grip of their hands, and the message that they have control over their world has become the gospel. Some people would call that being spoiled, but that is not what their parents would think. For father and mother are glossy eyed and relaxed, satisfied just not be at work. But not fully satisfied. They also tote the latest in digital technology on their hip in the form an electronic leash that bittersweetly ties them to the rest of the world. Sometimes the order of their lives is so intense that a wireless earpiece with a flashing blue strobe is mandatory garb to warn rescue choppers, lighthouses, and other flying airplanes that they are in fact; CONNECTED to the Wireless.

"Apparently my conversation is so important that I need to not hold anything in my hands, just in case, you tell me something that I do not feel like using my memory for, and write it down, that is if I carry a pen and paper with me....wait, that's too terrible, I'd have to use up one of my free hands and take them out of my pockets...no instead could you text that to me, or leave it on my voice mail?"

Their daughters are also there, complete with mandatory friends who share the same ethnicity, vocabulary, and lip-gloss. This is a more organic version of the handheld video game. She has created a nucleus of a comfort zone of what is "accepted." It is a sense of being able to control reaction and feel comfortable in the shell of likeminded spending. Because of this, converts to the new fads move faster in a more volatile frenzy of popular fashion. It is the reason why Eskimo looking boots can be popular in So Cal, it is the reason why white leather belts intended for females can be seen on males with studded wristbands and a Born to be Indie Rock tattoo and other important mantras of social rebellion. In a puzzling twist, this herd mentality from the young adult crowd somehow seems to drive the 7th grader and the parents. It is the reason why a surf culture logo can be rationally accepted on a 64 year old or 4 year old that has neither seen the ocean, let alone rode the face of a thirty-foot Mexican wave. Image and experience are unrelated according to fashion. An international equivalent would be a Mullah or Shake donning a Flav-o-Flav Alarm clock and dope gold teeth while he conducted evening prayer (freestyle of course) to the setting sun.

The normal everyday is loaded with humor, if you take enough steps back to see that we are really funny people. Funny strange, and funny ha-ha. Somehow the coffee that we drank that was a 40 or so cents not so long ago has eclipsed the inflationary dollar 400%. But maybe its because a gallon of water costs more than a gallon of gas. And that has led to the increased price of boiling water used to pass through the beans? There has to be an explanation. But even more curious to me of the actual fact is the willingness for us as consumers, simply accept it. But not only accept it, but to admonish and revere it.

It seems that maybe that's why we keep our hand free, so we can adorn our designer jacket, w/ designer stretch jeans, and longsleeve under t-shirt combo just right that our coffee cup complete with burn-proof-easy-sip-lid and ecologically-friendly-corrugated brown-paper-sleeve can match not only our fashion/trend current biohazard/dolphin safe leather shoes, but the image or status we want to promote.

It is this self-perceived image that drives the economy. Bulls and Bears will say, Consumer Spending is Up/Down, CNBC will say retail and big ticket items are on the rise, Forbes will say: Real Estate will continue to boom. But nobody talks about the one thing that fuels this obsession of spending. Somehow we have implanted in our minds that we are capable of anything. And that limitless boundary is certain death to satisfaction. It is never enough, and we continue to prove that to ourselves everyday, until the very reason for the thing has been turned into a rationale for the thing. We begin to reason why we need four wheel drive, 198 hp, w/xm, and plasma screen in the headrest. We know that this is a snowboarding jacket costing 299.99 dollars more than what I have already, but come on it has a pocket right here, how cool is that? This limitless imagination pre-visualizes us with the object, it allows us to fantasize life with it, and how much more fuller life would be with it.

This object is by no means limited to the triple deck of displays, hustling busybodies, free chicken samples and endless racks of stuff of this building. It could easily be the job, the living arrangement, the life set before you. We spend so much time in the future it is incapable of realizing the present let alone the past. This is evident by the way in which an obtained object goes from a status of the GREATEST THING EVER prior to ownership, to "oh and yeah I have this." Its because we no longer focus on it because it does not live in our fantasy anymore, it lives in the reality and since we spend hardly any time there, it is forgotten. It becomes a great room decoration, a more PETA friendly conquest without fur/hair.

The frustration from our complacency is anesthetized through amusement and entertainment. The word amusement alone broken down means: "A" =Latin Prefix meaning, lacking, without. "MUSE"= Latin Root meaning THOUGHT. We are without Thought, and that should scare us. We have become the New Rome, resting on the accomplishments owed to us from future generations. We seem to have lost our vision for purpose. No longer are we inventing things worthwhile. Our inventions are spaghetti boilers, dent removers, cell phone signal boosters. All of which are purchased in a rush of two weeks until word gets out that none of them work.

Mark Twain once wrote that we must "Want what you have." I think if we followed that advice, I think we would be a lot more content, and fulfilled. I think that would revolutionize our thinking and give rise to loftier goals than to save up for that new MP3 player. I think it would transform the American Society in such monumental movements that we really would live up to that idea of the shining beacon for the world to see. And I guess it could start with me.

My wife exits the store and I join her and she exclaims: "Oh! They have a LimitedGAPForever here, and my frustration and impatience escalates into a flurry of anger. but it is quickly quelled when my eyes gaze on the sign that reads, HALF OFF entire Inventory, and I do need a new sunglasses, because the other ones I have that work almost perfectly save for the scratch on the lens which is out of the field of view. "Okay, I'll be here." I'll save the world tomorrow after I get some new shades, come on 50% off, you can't pass that up.

4 Comments:

Blogger Andrew said...

Sweet. I am the first to comment on your blog. This is a historic moment.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice work. would like to read more.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous viv said...

right on. thinking back on la la land i get a sick sweet feeling...not too far off from engorgement. you took me to the Beverly Center and i could once again smell the pouporri of "fabulousness". so far away from the earth tones of cleveland. don't ever do that again.

7:41 AM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Have you ever wondered at the amazing wastefulness and the lack of necessity of the movie industry? I need new sunglasses too.

7:57 AM  

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