Wednesday, April 8, 2009

All Things the Same

We had rain before dawn, and it was still dark when I got up. But sunrise fired orange out of a clear violet sky soon after I sat on the couch with coffee, a comforter, and Sam the Cat. Mary has been getting up early to go walking with some friends of hers, so I had an hour or so to sit and just think.

Later on in the morning I went out on foot to do the walk up the hill. From the West heights you could see Catalina, the Spruce Goose dome in Long beach, and the giant cranes in the Long Beach harbor. Perfect morning - bright sun, white clouds, deep blue sky.

So I took the long way around, and walked down to the corner. John's shopping bag was tucked under the table just outside Starbuck's door, but John was nowhere around. The long way around adds up to about eight miles, most of it through hills. I was tired enough to just want to sit for a while. I got coffee, and took a table in the sun.

Among the features of most of the nightmare dystopia of the future type stories is that everybody- men, and women alike, wears the same uniform. Everything is colorless. There is no variety of style. It is sameness piled on sameness. Conformity of appearance, thought, and behavior.

I get on this tear every now and again- comparing the present to what I long ago thought/feared the future would be. Sometimes it just comes on me- I feel like I'm watching a movie, or something, but I start running down the check list. Like today as I sat at the patio just outside of Starbucks resting up from the hike. Stuff I couldn't help but notice- Slovenliness. Every man I saw wore shorts, or jeans, and every one walks around with their shirt hangin' out. Same for every woman I saw. They dressed no differently. And everyone was drab. olive. khaki. gray. With the exception of a couple of women who walked by wearing dresses, everyone there looked like they were ready to dig into some yardwork. And the two women who were wearing dresses wore wash 'n wear hairstyles, little make up, and went bare legged. In short, they looked like crap. Everyone did. I remember visiting New York City back in '87. One of the things that blew me away about the city was that people dressed well. Everywhere. Los Angeles is much more casual. But we've let the bottom fall out of casual, even. Now it's just- whatevar.

And yes, everyone's more comfortable. Men aren't wrestling with ties, and women aren't wrestling with pantyhose. No one needs the dry cleaner any more. But a great measure of civility, and beauty has been lost to the world. We have become comfortably drab.

And what was odd, too is that I noticed the drabness extended to the parking lot. There were three or so generic classes of vehicle- SUV type, sedan type, vans, trucks, but within those classes the vehicles were virtually indistinguishable. You couldn't tell a Ford from a Subaru, from a Toyota. Not only that, but I noticed how few cars in the lot came in any real color. Most were silver, white, or some variant of brown/beige. Some were redish, or blueish, but there was not a vehicle in sight that you could easily pin a color on. More drab. Like the music coming out of Starbucks. They don't have to turn pop tunes into Muzak any more. The musicians seem to have volunteered to provide insipid fare. And when you walk in there, the headlines in the LA Times echo the headlines in the New York Times, and they both echo the networks... More of the sameness.

I hate when this stuff starts to get to me. But sometimes it just does. After a while I got up, and left. I saw old John at the corner of Beach, and Whittier. He was standing in the island in the middle of Beach wearing bright kelly green slacks, a sea green jacket, and a yellow shirt. He had been across the street at Fresh & Easy. You can get their day old food quite cheap if you know where to look. John does. I waited for him, and then we walked back to the corner, and talked a bit. And that was the morning.


Robin Starfish said...

And everyone was drab. olive. khaki. gray.

I've noticed this for a long time. When I was young I used to think most everyone was beautiful, healthy looking, vibrant. Hardly anyone stands out like that now. I don't think it's just my perception that's changed, either.

Even the lattes are all homogenized.

Three cheers for Sir John Yellowgreen.

walt said...

I was yapping with a fellow a few years ago, along the lines of your observations in the post. Appropos something or other, I added that Socrates had stated that "the unexamined life is not worth living."

Right away, he replied, "And the examined life is unbearable!"

That yin-and-yang thingy, always.

Ricky Raccoon said...

Nice post, John. You guys are right about the drabness. Matches that stupid presidential logo O’ tried to pull off - that washed-out shades-of-gray-blue dullness.
When my wife and I watch the old movies, the Bogarts and Bacalls, we always talk about how nice they all dressed. Everybody, anybody, the extras. We ask each other, because we don’t know, “did everybody really dress like that all the time?”
Old John cheers me up too. Sir John Yellowgreen :-)
Now, you don’t get into it in this post, but maybe you don’t need to for us to know this: here is Old John “in it” too, but not “of it”. Sort of detached but more than that…like it doesn’t get to him. Would you say that’s true, John? Did you two talk about the drabness?

jwm said...

Rick. No, we did not. John showed me the shepherd's pie that he scored for three bucks over at Fresh & Easy, talked about taking the bus over to La Habra library- that sort of thing. I was actually on my way home, and just stopped long enough to chat.

John M

julie said...

John, you're right about the drabness. And I say that as one who is just as guilty as all the rest, at least during the day when I'm out and running errands (I do it consciously - not just for the comfort factor, but because I'm actually trying not to be seen, if you know what I mean). To me, it depends on context.

Classiness isn't all gone, though - I was just at the mall today, shopping for a classy black dress (to go with DH's new dinner jacket, no less), and noticed that women's clothing this spring has taken a decidedly feminine, colorful and even, dare I say, pretty turn this year. The only downside is that I'm fairly certain it has to do with hopey changeyness - suddenly, it's okay to be happy and girly again because the Age of Aquarius has returned (as evidenced by the various hopey message shirts and the "bohemian" section of the teenage girls department). Anyway, I guess that's one change I can be happy about.

Ricky Raccoon said...

I didn’t think so.

mushroom said...

I've noticed the casual thing -- and complained about it -- especially in preachers. The local "mega"-church pastor preaches every Sunday morning with his shirt tail out, no tie and sometimes jeans.