Bad Ass Drivers

Typically, the Bad Ass American Is Most Readily Found on the Road

A few days ago, I wondered why Americans were so intent on playing the role of the bad ass. Of course, the great theater of bad ass behavior is to be found on the streets and roads of your neighborhood. And you don’t have to go very far to find them.

Everybody is familiar with the over-aggressive goon who cuts you off in your lane with inches to spare. You can beep your horn at him, but that will only give him a warm glow that he not only got away with it, but succeeded in annoying you in the process. You can catch up with the louse and give him the finger or verbal abuse, but that could place you at risk. These are not nice people. Being not nice is a way of life with them and affords them some form of satisfaction.

On the other side of the spectrum is the (mostly) woman drivers who in their minds see stop signs at every residential intersection, even when there is none. Although there are hyper-aggressive women drivers as well, intent on proving their status as bad ass malefactors, most women do not fall into this category. Texting and otherwise driving distracted is not so much an instance of bad ass driving as it is an invitation to disaster.

Ultimately, the only way to deal with real bad ass drivers is to see them the way a Buddhist monk views venial sins: with complete equanimity. By reacting at all, you are in danger of allowing yourself to be distracted.

It would be nice if there were more police enforcement of moving violations, but I suspect that the highways of America will become choked with gory bodies before the men in blue could be lured from their coffee and doughnuts.

Bad-Ass Nation

Is This Really the Way We See Ourselves?

Take a look at our recent movie heroes. Instead of John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant, we have violent, muscle-bound clods like Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”), Samuel L. Jackson, Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagal, or even Arnold Schwarzenegger. There is a tendency for young men to shave their heads, cover themselves with tattoos, and even dress like big-time bad asses.

Even women are not immune to mthis effect, starting with Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 (1991). This was taken all the way to the top by Quentin Tarantino with Uma Thurman as Beatrice Kiddo in Kill Bill 1 (2003) and Kill Bill 2 (2004).

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2

I wonder why we have to look so tough. If we ask ourselves what do we gain by looking tough, I would have to answer, “Practically nothing.” You may choose to shave your head, grow a scraggly beard, get tattooed like a Maori warrior, wear a hoodie, and practice your scowls in a mirror. Will that really protect you if you get caught by someone who really is tough and sees through to your marshmallow-like interior? Will you be able to convince your fellow inmates at San Quentin that you can successfully protect your ass if you drop your soap in the shower?

No, I am not being facetious. These are existential questions. And they relate to the way that America is faring in the world today.

Let’s say you’re a Navy Seal or a Ranger. What is your record of success when military decisions are being made by a draft-dodger with a terminal case of bone spurs? Our tough guys abandoned Syria to the real bad guys when the Trumpster decided to pull out. (Were his bone spurs bothering him?)

A Real Bad Ass Car, for People with Tiny Dicks

Well, I suppose if you’re so fortunate as to avoid someone who is willing to face you down, you can drive around in your Tesla or Hummer and make yourself the envy of pouting teenagers.

 

Awarding the First MEMFOTY

Mr Mark Zuckerface of BergBook

The MEMFOTY is a new annual award given to the person I deem as the Most Evil Mo-Fo of the Year. It is with great pleasure that the first recipient will be Mark Zuckerface, the nation’s only android CEO (of BergBook). He has resolutely attempted to destroy oncoming generations of humans by replacing human interaction with synthetic digital equivalents.

It takes no major effort to see millennials and Gen Z addicts going through life slightly stooped with smart phones held in front of them. Instead of looking up and being aware of their surroundings, Addicts are involved in interacting with phantom “friends” and issuing “Likes”—but not “Dislikes”—to simulacra of interpersonal communications.

The Net Result of Addiction to Social Media Like BergBook

I fully expect that, in future years, social media will be blamed for much of the turmoil of our era. We will have to wait for the children of this generation to react against social media.

 

Second Thoughts

I Helped to Create a Monster

In 2016, I voted YES on California Proposition 64 which legalized the sale of marijuana. When I was a young man, I used marijuana perhaps a total of a dozen times.

At some point in the 1970s, I had a bunch of hash brownies in the freezer. When my mother came to visit, she decided to defrost the freezer. In the process she ate all my brownies. She called me at work telling me not to worry about her getting wet in the rain, because she wasn’t planning on going outside. This didn’t sound much like Mom, so I asked about what she was doing. She mentioned that she defrosted the fridge, found some brownies and ate them. They were, she said, delicious. When I told her what was in those brownies, she just laughed.

My experience with cannabis has been benign and intermittent over a long period, so I thought that younger generations should have a similar experience without having to worry about spending time in the clink.

What I didn’t take into account was that some people were going to be smoking weed at all hours, such as the millennial who lives in the apartment below mine. (And this in a city which outlaws any smoking in public places.) Many a time, the smell of weed wafts up through the ceiling and invests us with second-hand smoke. Today, as I walked around Pershing Square downtown I smelled grass for several hundred feet coming from a group of bums lying on the lawn.

I seem to have forgotten that Americans are not very good about rationing their vices. It’s like driving: If you see someone crash a red light or cut off a motorist in one block, you will see similar transgressions from the same motorist a few hundred feet ahead.

 

 

Serendipity: “Nonparticipation in Humanity”

An Incident at a Coffee Shop

San Francisco writer/publisher/bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti puts the whole Millennial/Generation Z digital revolution in its place:

AND a young stud at the next table typing on his laptop, both ears stopped with earphones…. I’m just five feet from the guy. Finally I say in a friendly voice, “You from around here? Haven’t seen you before in the neighborhood.” No answer. He continues typing, staring at the laptop. He heard nothing? Is this body alive? I’m alarmed. I call 911. After some time a cop car arrives and he’s arrested for “nonparticipation in humanity.’ They haul the corpse away.

 

On the Bus

The MTA Santa Monica Blvd, #704 Express

Since I am now on a fixed income, I avoid expensive parking lot charges. For some of the places I hang out, I take the bus: It only costs 35¢ a ride rather than, say, the $25.00 or more it would cost to park downtown or $10.00 it would cost at the Fairfax Farmers Market. Today, I had to endure the abusive chatter of a Tourette’s Syndrome bum who was serially abusing all the passengers on the bus. Fortunately, he disembarked in Beverly Hills, where—no doubt—he started abusing the tourists who congregate there.

The Many Aspects of Tourette’s Syndrome, On the Surface and Below

I have found that Los Angeles has a fair number of angry African-American homeless persons who are angry and verbally abusive. Several months ago, on the same bus line, a bum started shouting at me. Angrily, in Hungarian, I told him I hoped he would be f*cked in the ass by a horse. Not hearing me right, he thought I was using the N-word at him, which is something I would never do. That ended with the police being called by the driver and the bum being evicted from the bus.

This time, I saw this bum approaching from a hundred feet away, enraged at the world and various unspecified rednecks. I knew he was going to be trouble. Fortunately, this particular bozo did not pick on me in particular; so I was able to maintain a neutral pose.

When I read the papers about the growing number of homeless in Los Angeles, I rarely see anything about mental illness and drug abuse. And yet those are the dominant characteristics of most homeless. It is not shelters they want (that would impinge on their freedom, such as it is), but either mental healthcare or drug treatment—that is, if they would submit to treatment at all.

 

Serendipity: Dépaysement

Lebanese Restaurant in Paris

The term dépaysement is a French concept which refers to that feeling of disorientation that specifically arises when you are not in your home country nor identify exclusively with it. It’s the way that I, a Hungarian-American who loves to travel in places like Latin America and Iceland, feel as the United States slides down the drain of Trumpism. Juan Goytisolo (1931-2017), a Catalan writer of Basque extraction who lived most of his life in Marrakech, felt that way about Spain, particularly after the Franco régime’s depredations. The following is from his essay “Why I Have Chosen to Live in Paris” from his essay collection Space in Motion:

Q: If I understand you rightly, French cosmopolitanism ….

A: There is no such thing as French cosmopolitanism; there is interculturalism, plurality, osmosis: a universe in miniature. If a person so desires, he can eat in a Cambodian restaurant, drink mint tea in a Moorish café, see a Hindu or Turkish movie in the afternoon—Yilmaz Güney’s The Sheepflock in my opinion is one of the best films of the year—and in the evening, with a bit of luck, attend a concert of the Noss el Ghiwán or Izanzaren. Society is linked to the idea of space, but culture—like the individual—is mobile, drifting like the wind. Culture today cannot be French or Spanish, or even European, but rather mestizo, bastard, fecundated by civilizations that have been victims of our self-castrating, aberrant ethnocentrism. For up until now we have exported the Occidental model with all its props—from its ideology to its drugs and gadgets—we are at present witnessing an inverse process that personally fascinates and delights me: the gradual dissolution of “white” culture by all the peoples who, having been forcibly subjected to it, have assimilated the tricks, the techniques necessary to contaminate it.

Q: So then, Paris for you …

A: Insofar as it abandons its pretensions of being a beacon and accepts its status as a motley, bastard, heterogeneous metropolis that belongs to no country, I will always feel better in it than in any other exclusively “national” city that is uniform, chaste, compact, rid of its angels.