Party Politics I, Part One: Party Til You’re Homeless

Party Politics I, Part One: Party Til You’re Homeless

They don’t even make the messages secret anymore.

A week or two ago, I was getting out of the train at the Hollywood and Vine stop…For those of you that don’t know the area, most townies generally consider it the New Times Square of L.A., and although I don’t ever think the sleaze will ever be expunged in the same way Giuliani managed to do out East, the “clean up” mission is still in full swing, in the guise of “development,” which in the words of Dorothy L. Sayers is “another name for the devil.”  Since I’ve lived here—a period which more or less coincides with the recession/crisis/meltdown/pre-apocalypse—for every unfurled velvet rope or snipped red ribbon, five head shops or stripper emporia ooze in between the cracks, or just as often, simply take over.

As with Times Square, the usual suspects ambling, power-walking, or disintegrating on “the Dirty Boulevard,” as my people call this stretch, are gutter punks, actual homeless people muttering like Lollards, Snookie-types in hot lime tube-dresses, but most of all, tourists.  (I’ve always wondered why most of these last are drawn here:  this is the very last place you’d see a movie star, and unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Old Hollywood junkie, none of this must mean much—why fly across the world to sprawl down upon Popeye’s grease and blackened gum next to the name of Meg Ryan or Jamie Foxx, who live nowhere near and have in all likelihood left only the miniscule orgone trace a dedication ceremony might seduce into the concrete?  Maybe you don’t need to know the names of the ghosts who keep me company to feel their aching Deco power…)

There is a desperate energy here, but an energy nonetheless.  Almost everyone I know avoids this corridor like Sleepy Hollow Bridge, but since my first weeks here I inevitably come down once a week from stately DeMille Manor to join the ranks, lose myself, and sometimes get lost in my own quasi-religious pop trance of the mumbled chain-puns and free associations that tumble from the  names of silent stars and behemoth billboards.  And the T-shirts.  This is where you see the people actually wearing slogans like “Long Story Short:  I Fucked Her” or “→ I Wouldn’t Even Fuck You with HIS Dick.”  I wonder what’s going on in these people’s heads (and in set-ups like the latter, of those playing their part in the gag).

Which brings us back to the start.  It’s just about sundown when I come out of ground, a time when the light catches the pagan angels friezed abobe your head just so, and when the eager comers begin to crowd the walkway and make Hollywood feel like a city.  I see a kid (by which I mean 20; 25) swagging along with his cadre.  And there on his chest was the blunt reality of everything around us:  “Party Till You’re Homeless.”

I don’t know what added the greater horror to my laugh.  There’s the fact that not just here in Hollywood, but across the nation, or anywhere the America, Hollywood-style game of myopic economics has taken hold, this is a redundant command.  We indeed are partying ourselves homeless.  Perhaps your average meat and potatoes American is governed by the famed trickled down Protestant work ethic, but the true North of our macro-economy is headed south. I’m not one to condemn the frat dude on the street corner who decides to max out his credit card at six A.M.with a cash advance for more coke, knowing dad will bail him out the next day.  But this is a horrible paradigm with which to run a nation’s finances, yet it’s the model we are operating on. The hedge fund people and private equity managers (what does that even mean?) and more or less any motherfucker who has “capital” anything on their resume ultimately depend on the fact that people will spend money they don’t have to feel good about themselves for at least a little while.  Sad but true.

But the message here was so site-specific: a neo-Marxist academic’s wet dream; a mathematically precise message in Semiotic Square.  This isn’t just the oft-cited Beverly Hills or Manhattan, where the moneyed class live blocks away from Skid Row.   The people with the real money wouldn’t come here to throw up.  But those rabid to look rich are locked in a symbiotic S&M death-grip with the vultures who swoop from high and low to huff what might be the last fumes of ultimately phony money.  My guess is that perhaps at the level of these new money-pit “Live! Work! Shop!” high-rises, the putative two sides are more or less the same people.  True, every time I smell, then see, a stock-character stumble-bum holding a cardboard “My wife had a better lawyer” sign, I think sure, eat the rich before they eat us.  But the drowning new rich are eating each other already.

Okay, now that I set it down, this is more horrifying than anything on offer, mainly because I deeply fear that too many among us believe that this is all that is on offer, that this kind of enjoy-or-die, lust-for-someone-else’s-vision of life is the only fun in town.  But also now that I set it down, the immediate, indelible feeling this kid kicked up in me was not really a separate issue, though it may sound like thinly veiled elitism.  Well, it’s in fact unbridled elitism, but in the sense of Swoon’s own bumper-sticker slogans:  “Elitism for the masses!” “Compassionate hedonism!”  It wasn’t just the shirt; the whole vibe this weekend warrior diffused stoked as much diva-emeritus indignation as it did sympathetic ache.  I was less upset that in my hand-scan, knee-jerk political read on this guy, the very real homeless around him were not registered as a very real readership in very real time.  It was that odd admixture of the anxiously darting-eye frenzy and checked-out dissatisfaction I see on more and more faces in the street, and more tellingly, in places whose sole function is to serve Fun.

In other words, he looked like he had no clue idea how to party…

(To be continued…)