"The secret police? What is this, California?"

December in San Diego is, to me, both reassuring and bizarre.

On the 11th I will be or have turned 57 years old. This is something that only happens to other people, I figured. I was never meant to be 57 years old. I was supposed to be 25 forever; it just seemed implicit. Now I’m looking close at 60, if I make it — and there’s a serious question there.

The days are cloudy lately and cool. The nights are downright cold. I suppose it’s a matter of having retarded/impaired circulation — but still, everything seems colder. I am much like a little old lady shivering against her teacup and wondering what happened to the world that such apocalyptic climate changes have taken place in these final days and looking to the book of Revelation for answers — finding only references to pale horses and several crowned heads and retribution against vague, long-obsolete nations that seem to have nothing whatever I know of to do with me — but assuming it is supposed to.

When I first came to California in 1969 it was springtime: May. Annette Funicello was clearly just around the corner with Frankie Avalon. Now, almost 40 years later, the entire state seems to be a strange parody of the ideal. It now seems much in line with Woody Allen’s zinger in Sleeper to the effect (and I must paraphrase) in response to Diane Keaton’s line, more or less: “We’ve got to get you out of here; the secret police are looking for you!” Allen’s response: “The secret police? What is this, California?”

It is now like that. Recently, I had Emergency Medical Services come to my aid for cardiac problems. They were accompanied by cops, one of whom said, “We’ve got a couple of warrants out on you.” My reaction, of course, was, “For what?” I could think of no crime or summary probation violation I had committed, but I was in too much pain and out of breath to ask. Clearly, however, I have violated the laws of this state in some way or another. A criminal dirtbag to be referred to as “Homey, Motherf...” by sheriff’s deputies in county jail or possibly doing three years in prison for God-knows-what. I will try to avoid tattoos if this is an eventuality, just in case I wish to convert to Judaism and would like to be buried in sacred Jewish ground.

My point, I suppose, is that were it for not this job I love and the fact that my son lives in San Marcos, I would be out of state so fast I would leave cartoon dust clouds in my immediate wake.

I used to love December in California. That was when it was a novelty, a warm and a funny curiosity — a lovely joke compared to winters in Chicago or New York. Now it can well be a nightmare of potential homelessness: being on the street out here in winter is absolutely humorless. And its threat looms constantly due to one law or another, one real-estate contingency or another, the San Diego economy...blah blah blah. The whim of the law here; as inscrutable as Revelation meets the carved stone tablets of Gilgamesh. It is that clear to me. Which is to say, inscrutable: far more sophisticatedly corrupt than either Chicago or areas of Mexico — both of which I have spent years in residence — I have come to hate California and San Diego in particular with the kind of muttering paranoia of the clinically insane.

I have written elegiac paragraphs about this place and will probably do so again at one point or another but at the moment...Lord; maybe it’s just the cops here that I hate. I have never had any sort of love for law enforcement anywhere — it seems the police and I are on this planet for completely different reasons, though I am not a criminal — but here...ah, here, the surfer/Nazi personality grates in a way that rivals the most painful and hemmorhoidal. In Chicago, at least, the pigs resembled swine: here they are buff, handsome movie stars with the souls of blackened and corrupt avocado leavings.

I am raving. Very well, then, I am mad. I began life half mad in the first place. Here is an example of its fruition. The Friday night after Thanksgiving, the full moon frightened me so thoroughly that I would not even venture outside to empty trash. The moon was a glaring and malevolent cataract. It kept me inside my apartment, chain-smoking and drinking ice water as if they were talismans, rituals to keep me safe from that fierce, incandescent orb ruling Heaven and Earth. Actually, I had nothing else at the time anyway — it’s not as if I had a turkey to gnaw on. I was broke and had received no paychecks in weeks. But my point may be something to do with superstition and poverty. I’m not sure here.

The older I get, the less sure I am about anything. Things I suspect, I suspect are wrong. Things I know for sure are almost always reliably false. Experience is a confabulation of trumped-up crap. I can tell you this, however: nothing. Nothing whatever. You may as well ask a stunted palm tree for information.

Still, getting back to the point — if there was one — December and January fill my heart with fear in San Diego in a way they never did back East. Age, most likely, but there’s something else. There is a meanness here that, while natural in New York or Detroit or Chicago, is contrived here in a venal, sadistic way; unnatural and inhuman, something foul and rampant that is allowed here under this sun. Nearly invisible, it is suntanned and buffed but deadly as melanoma but certainly as inviting. Oh, yes.

It is in the real estate pages, it is prevalent in this town’s city council, it is in almost every cop car and the mayor’s office, on every other street corner, and the Minutemen along the border are its representatives.

Just in a bad mood, most likely. Have fun with the above.

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