notes from a fortified compound somewhere in Los Angeles… Paul goes a little gonzo for Black Friday, wishes the Good Doctor were still with us … contemplating turning the whole blog gonzo, but did he try something like that before? and did it go terribly, terribly wrong?

I’m holed up in a coffeeshop in an undisclosed location in Southern California that used to be awesome but has gone to complete shit — it used to be the place where the good local artists displayed and the good local bands played, and young and hip people would shoot up in the bathroom — this is the coffeeshop where I met that one girl, the girl who regaled me with tales of her ex-boyfriend who thought he was a vampire and tried to drink her blood, as well as unbelievable claims about her sexual prowess that were obviously intended to get me to ask for a demonstration (I didn’t bite, hah, as it were) (though perhaps I should have… perhaps she was not lying?), the place where a bunch of my old undergrad friends descended at 2am one day to meet a friend who was playing in a hard rock band… now it is full of depressing people who all look down on their luck and they are playing some gawdawful combination of christmas music, soft rock, and, oh, is this bluegrass christmas I hear? Is it my death, in notes and clefs and ill-measured measures, measure by measure I hear, I cringe, I curl up in a fetal position in a couch on the corner trying to jam the noise out of my brain, the horrible cheery jingley noise of the utterly untalented on display, peacock-pluming but the feathers are so dull, so dull, covered with blood and matted dirt, bits dangling off, all the beautiful ones yanked away to make quills for the petit bourgeoisie.

Conversation with the Russian guy behind the counter:

PG: A Thai tea please?
RG: We don’t have any today.
PG: Oh. Um… lemme think.
RG: Are you a dermatologist?
PG: Huh?- Uh? No, why?
RG: I need one. I’ve got this thing on my eye.
PG: Huh. I see. Well, I’m a political theorist, so unless you really want to know what justice is, I’m afraid I can’t help you.
RG: What do you think about Russian politics?
PG: Uh, they’re fucked up?
RG: I’m from there. I’m thinking of going back. My mom has property there… well, she has a coffeeshop there, I guess. She wants me to come back.
PG: I can’t imagine investments are very safe. I’ll just have a mocha. Iced.

Perhaps I have a good excuse for not paying attention to the music, when there’s a mad Russian asking me to cure his skin disorders? If I’d had my wits about me, I’d have claimed to be down with the big-J-C and able to cure him by laying on of hands, perhaps I could get some nice Rasputin action going. I WILL BE THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE OF THIS NOW-SHITTY COFFEEHOUSE! Except then I’d actually have to, you know, lay on some hands. One wonders how many diseases the Mad Monk got from laying hands on people with things that needed curing? Perhaps that’s how he became mad. There’s actually a guy who kind of looks like Rasputin here — long hair, the beginnings of a beard (though not quite Rasputin’s beard), vacant mad stare out into space, a mysterious rag in his right hand, licking his lips over and over, blink rate suddenly very quick, then nonexistent, then quick, then nonexistent — perhaps that guy can heal Russian Guy’s eye condition. Is there a Romanov in the house? The closest I’ve ever met to a Romanov was the stoner who I’d given a ride to shortly before being falsely arrested in New Orleans — he used to get drunk and claim he was Russian nobility, and the rest of us (living in the youth hostel) were just peasants. “I am a noble!” he’d shout, as if this were some kind of premise in an argument with the ineluctable conclusion “and you must do as I say or it’s off with your common little heads!”

And now the random guy at the next table has walked up to me to make an announcement:
Random Guy: “I wrote a song called ‘the world could do without Lori Drew.’”
Paul: “Ok” [cracking up]
RG: “It had a line in it like ‘I’m your new executioner.’”
PG: [more laughter, starts transcribing]
RG: [exit, stage left]

I’m trying to write a paper, but it’s impossible to concentrate with this crap. I’d leave, but I’ve already bought a drink, and I can’t take it to some other coffeeshop. (I suppose the lesson here is to listen to the music before you buy the drink. You’d think that after years and years of spending most of my afternoons in coffeeshops and many evenings in jazz clubs that I’d have learned that already, but, nope.) And I’m not sure the paper has an argument anymore… I had planned an argument meant to redeem the idea that the appetitive part of the soul, for Plato, could have means-end rationality without leading to it being subdivided into still more parts… but I just read a book chapter that may have convinced me on other grounds that the appetitive part of the soul doesn’t have means-end rationality… suddenly, the whole notion seems — ah-ha — academic.

It’s in this state of mind that a) a song comes on that upsets me greatly, and b) I read about the wal-mart trampling, and catch some of the racist remarks about it (have we learned nothing from the last discussion of racial essences, world?)

I’m getting the fuck out of this place.

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3 Responses to “notes from a fortified compound somewhere in Los Angeles… Paul goes a little gonzo for Black Friday, wishes the Good Doctor were still with us … contemplating turning the whole blog gonzo, but did he try something like that before? and did it go terribly, terribly wrong?”

  1. Matt Says:

    Maybe you’ve just grown up and it no longer seems fun. That happens a lot, after all.

    At one point, at least, a coffee shop in Moscow (or Petersburg, though maybe less so there) was a good way to make a fair amount of money. I’m less sure now as competition has gone up a lot, for a while real estate was insanely expensive and while it’s gone down some lately this is largely because of the economic collapse in Russia, one that’s likely to make a lot fewer people willing to pay even more than in the US for coffee, especially since even though it got pretty popular I suspect it’s still something of a fad product there.

  2. Paul Gowder Says:

    Matt! I haven’t heard from you in commentland in forever! Glad you’re still reading.

    Owning any kind of small business in Russia seems like a wonderful way to get shaken down by mafia, corrupt cops, etc., etc. then nuked by a random currency collapse, set afire by a disgruntled ethnic minority, and so forth. Perhaps I have a distorted impression.

  3. Matt Says:

    Yes, with a small business (or a big one, even) in Russia you must have a strong “roof”. (I’m not sure if that’s the term used any more but it used to be, for the people you paid for protection. Having a strong roof was an important part of doing business. Dealing with the huge, huge, and very corrupt bureaucracy is also a major problem and a huge drain on business. I think the explicitly mafia type situation has gotten somewhat better over the last 10 years or so but the trouble with the bureaucracy has gotten worse, as far as I can tell. There’s probably more danger in being an ethnic minority and then being killed by roving gangs of skin-heads than in being hurt by the ethnic minorities themselves, though. All of this is very sad since it’s a place ripe for lots of development but held back in many ways. Now it will all likely go down the tubes.

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