Ghostly Tricks on Route 66

Route 66 evokes nebulous imagery. For some it stirs thoughts of mid-century America—a time of economic prosperity when capitalism was warmly embraced. Before its prodigal hell spawn (see BP, Enron, the Koch brothers, and Monsanto) shat the bed and ruined the sleepover for everyone. Adam Smith’s invisible hand might be able to steer a complex political economy providing everybody plays by the rules. But it takes a real, very visible pair of hands to wring chunks of nutty dump out of the woollen underlay after Christopher Skase cuts a sloppy one.

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Lou Diamond Phillips

For the shrewd, Route 66 conjures up images of the post-war boom in an ironic or knowing way—with the benefit of hindsight, one can picture these historic idylls overlaid with the present-day reality of decaying gas stations and moribund towns.

For the cynical, it is little more than a very long asphalt playground overrun by gaggles of middle-aged French tourists on Harley Davidsons.

For me, however, Route 66 has but one face: that of Lou Diamond Phillips. Specifically Lou Diamond Phillips as Jack La Roca in William Wesley’s 2001 horror/action unblockbuster Route 666. According to the film, Route 666 is a disused road that runs parallel to Route 66. It’s also haunted by the ghosts of a massacred chain gang. I don’t remember why.

route_666_poster

The point is that Route 66 has, since its inception, earned a reputation complementary to ghostly fables; Route 666 is but one masterstroke in a catalogue of supernatural thrillers inspired by the road.

I warbled on about all this to my friend Todd over a Skype session. Todd is one of those people who uses the term ‘bucket list’ with mind-numbing regularity. He digresses entire conversations to rhapsodise about how his list changes every time he reads “a really cool article on Vice”.

He explained that driving the length of Route 66 is currently #4 on his list, but it could be bumped to #5 depending on whether Lou Reed’s grave will be located in a public-access cemetery, and therefore conducive to fan pilgrimage. (Dead bodies feature prominently in the first 10 items on Todd’s list.)

Alas, much of the route has been supplanted by monotonous interstate freeways. This means you can’t actually follow Historic Route 66 (née Route 66) unbroken all the way from Adams Street, Chicago, to Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles. (Sorry, Todd.) But you can indulge your contempt for other sightseers by taking Rage Snaps of the loser tourists loitering about the signposts at either end.

Fuck these guys.

                          *    *    *

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Todd Longwood

Todd is a long-time horror fanatic. So he became seriously overexcited talking about Route 66 and Route 666 at the same time. He got so excited he vowed to write a ghost story that “could probably eventually be used as the basis for a horror movie script or something”. He said he would email me a copy.

Two days later, he did.

I have published the unedited version of that story below:

Emma and Dan were driving along an old section of Route 66. It was a bit of desert highway linking the New Mexico towns of Santa Rosa and Tucumcari.

A slice of moon hung like a pale piece of pie in a pretty dark nighttime sky. Whether the moon was going or waning was unimportant. Emma and Dan needed gas because they were almost out. Which is a very scary situation to be in on an old desert highway!

They pulled into a rundown gas station that had rats running around it in circles because of how rundown it was. Then they walked inside a bit frightenedly because of how frightening the situation was becoming. Behind the cash register—not the “till” ;P—was a creepy old lady who had a weird and frightening look about her, sort of like the gypsy witch in that movie Thinner.

Dan said, “We’re here to buy some petrol, please.”

Emma prodded Dan sharply with her elbow and gave him a bad look because he’d just said petrol instead of gas—when you’re in a frightened situation you shouldn’t reveal to potential killers or witches that you’re a foreigner because that just makes you a better target for killing or spells. This is because foreigners normally don’t know the emergency number to call police.

The creepy old lady didn’t seem to notice though. Instead, she just creepily said “Let me tell you a tale, children.”

Dan and Emma aren’t children but they knew the lady was talking to them because of no one else being around in the gas station (keen perception is vital in horror-survival situations).

The witch lady continued, “50 years ago this very night, a young woman was to be married to her beloved groom. She was getting ready for the wedding in a room next to the chapel. But the young woman had irritable bowel syndrome and accidentally shat herself. While she was in her wedding dress too! The shit covered all of her left leg and a lot of it got on her wedding dress.

“The ceremony was about to start so she couldn’t get properly cleaned up so she went out in to the chapel and hoped nobody would notice. But everybody noticed. Her friends and family laughed meanly at her and gave her the mean nickname ‘Shit Leg’. They chanted ‘Shit Leg! Shit Leg!’ at her.

“They threw flower petals and uncooked rice at her and shouted things like ‘Why don’t you shit on this rice, Shit Leg? You’ve already shat on everything else!’

“The woman was crying and fell over. Her groom walked up and she said to him, ‘Please help me, John! I love you!’

“‘Lol! Oh right, so you loooove me, Shit Leg?’ asked the groom sarcastically, ‘Well, why don’t you marry me then, you stupid bitch?! When’s the wedding!? HAHAHA!’

“The young woman was so embarrassed and shit-covered that she ran away, never to be seen again. She died a while after all that happened,” the creepy weird witch concluded.

Emma and Dan thought the story was really hectic and weird. So they decided to get out of there. They left the store and quickly pumped their gas. (In America you have to pay for your petrol before you pump it!)

Emma and Dan zoomed out of there in their car and didn’t look back.

They only stopped about 3 hours later in Tucumcari to buy some Reese’s Pieces because peanut butter cups are fucking ace! (Product placement 😉 ) The man at this gas station asked whether they needed any gas with their peanut butter cups.

They said they didn’t because they’d already bought some from a creepy lady at a gas station in between Santa Maria and Tucumcari.

The man whizzed around startled and also looking a bit angry for some reason. And if this had been a film, the camera would have done that thing where it looks like it’s zooming in on the face of the guy while the background is getting further away.

“Damned lies!” he screamed at them. “That gas station has been closed for 50 years. The woman who owned it accidentally shat herself on her wedding day,” he continued to say very loudly in a screaming voice, “and because of the embarrassment she ran away, never to be seen again.”

Emma and Dan were suddenly more frightened than they had been at any point up until this one.

“She was a ghost! That’s why she was wearing a wedding dress!” shouted Emma as she realised the truth.

“And that’s why she had shit all over her leg!” Dan added.

THE END

A half hour after emailing me this story, Todd sent me another email explaining that he forgot to paste in the paragraph in which it is revealed that the old man at the end of the story is actually the groom who jeeringly called his own bride Shit Leg. “There are two twists in the story. Make sure people know there are two twists,” he wrote.

Now you know.

Pedestrian as Todd’s story was, it did get me thinking. It got me thinking about the power of Route 66 to capture a person’s imagination. No matter how many rutting French tourists straddle their hogs atop its bitumen, the Main Street of America retains a mystical allure, while also providing substance for pragmatic social analysis. To wit, the derelict buildings along Historic Route 66 provide proof that Americans had been cultivating the lazy, slovenly Western lifestyle way before TiVo ever hit the market; I submit into evidence these photos of of an abandoned drive-in tattoo parlour in Tucumcari, New Mexico.

 

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Drive-in tattoos.

Drive-in tattoos.

Drive-in.

Drive…

In…

“All right, mate, I've finished your sclera. Now if you could splay your scrotum across the dash I’ll just touch up the eagle’s talons”

“All right, mate, I’ve finished your sclera. Now if you could splay your scrotum across the dash I’ll just touch up the eagle’s talons”

 

Dan Wood, Tour Guide.

After the Federal Government Shutdown sent thousands of employees home without pay, Dan realised a career with the US National Park Service may not offer the job security he’s looking for. So he’s turned to the private sector and set his sights on running American history tours from the unique Australian perspective. He hopes to ride off the commercial success of Outback Steakhouse and Hugh Jackman.

He realises some people may be skeptical of an Australian giving US history tours, so he’s taken to exploiting the “Aussie charm” by always starting an answer to tourists’ questions with “G’day”. He thinks it will be endearing and disarm any skeptics. I’m not so sure.

In the first scene, Dan is standing in a campground at Pokagon State Park, Indiana, it really was beautiful. If you go for a visit, just make sure you arrive “probably three weeks” earlier than Dan did and stay for “eight days”.

The second location was just outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi on old highway 61. It is the remains of what Reverend H.D. Dennis promised to make his wife and is littered with Christian scripture. It’s known as the Grocery Store.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in ‘Nawlins is indeed where parts of Interview with the Vampire were filmed. But that’s not where Jon Stewart is buried. He’s not dead, yet.

Emerald Mound is just off Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi. It is the second largest Native American ceremonial mound in the United States. It is 35 feet high.

Sagat Bridge, Bangkok, Thailand

I had a dream. A vivid waking dream. It wasn’t profound. It was stupid. It happened a few days ago. In the dream, Emma and I were back in San Francisco. Only it wasn’t San Francisco. It was Thailand. Even though all the buildings and people were those of San Francisco, I was convinced we were in Thailand. Everything had a different meaning, a different purpose, a different history…

There was a bridge:

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Sagat Bridge.

It was named for the fictional Muay Thai kickboxer from popular video game series, Street Fighter. It was originally called the Ong Bak Span, in honour of legendary Thai actor-cum-political leader, Tony Jaa. However, his eventual downfall—precipitated by a tawdry affair with a Sailor Moon-type schoolgirl—brought shame upon the entire nation, and the populace sought to quickly shake loose any association with the disgraced leader.

During the fallout from Jaa’s ruination, a small advisory council—charged with preserving Thailand’s unique architectural nomenclature—began canvassing the Bangkok population, seeking suggestions on renaming the bridge. A sizeable minority proposed Sinatra Bridge, given its uncanny resemblance to one found in San Francisco, California (the name of which I’d forgotten) and because Sinatra had been enamoured with San Francisco. His love was such that it manifested lyrically: My Way was written as an ode to road rage following an incident on the outbound lanes of that bridge. The original title was (Get the fuck out of) My Way (you twat!).

In the end Sagat Bridge won out. This was on account of the bridge’s central load-bearing pylon developing a stress fracture in the heatwave of 1967. The fracture reminded Bangkokians of Sagat’s facial scar, famously inflicted by Ryu’s Dragon Punch, or Shoryuken.

Bombastic onomastics aside, it is strange how often my daydreams conclude with a rōmaji (Japanese written in the Latin script) translation.

TSFW part 1

Mammoth Lakes Thrift Store, CA

Mammoth Lakes is a sleepy mountain town of 9,000 people with a daily weather forecast that ranges from 30°C at 1pm, hail and 8°C at 4pm and overnight lows of -1°C. Needless to say their only local thirft store reflected the practical need for layering their weather called for. Whenever show boots and snow gloves make a comeback, this is the place to raid for vintage and retro pieces.

Guaranteed finds: Thermals, maternity denim dresses and enough snow wear to build an army of professionally decked out ice queens.

Looks to scavenge for: On-trend denim on denim and trench coats for W13/14 and lots of grungy flower power dresses.

Prices: Cheap dresses, t-shirts and bottom, exxy manchester and outerwear.

Emma found:

Hat: $2 Dress: $4 Trench coat: $8

Bucket hat: $2
Denim dress: $4
Denim trench coat: $12

Dan found:

Trench coat ($20)

Trench coat: $20

Needles Thrift Store, CA

Needles had it all…once: Route 66, bustling diners and a pumping main-strip. Since the “Main Street of America” was usurped by America’s freeways, the town has gone quiet, but its loud murals will never forget it’s former glory. Their only thrift store is hugely reminiscent of that time. Discarded (and somewhat inappropriately merchandised) Route 66 shot glasses line the walls, cassette audio books outnumber CDs and everything is packed in tight on the rack, as though it’s asking you to make it relevant again.

Guaranteed finds: Needles High School sportswear for a grungy sports luxe look, t-shirts emblazoned with studs reminiscent of American Indians and Cowboys and enormous 80s shirts and jackets with the loudest prints.

Looks to scavenge for: Glistening turquoise bomber jackets and lumberjack jackets.

Prices: Cheap. Real cheap. We got a men’s collared shirt, a Dandy Warhols’ Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia , Divinyls’ What a Life! and a Coca-Cola sweater for $3. Roughly $AUD3.18. Savers could never compete.

Dan found:

Flannel shirt: $1 Lumberjack jacket: $3

Flannel shirt: $1
Lumberjack jacket: $3

Emma found:

Patterned jacket: $1 Denim skirt with elasticated waistband: $1

Patterned jacket: $1
Denim skirt with large, elasticated waistband: $1

Goodwill, Las Vegas, Nevada

It’s Vegas, baby, where everything that glitters ain’t gold and you will always have 20 cents left over from the gaming machines (reusable within 30 days). This particular Goodwill (a non-profit that offers job training and employment placements for people with disabilities and has supermarket sized thrift stores across the country) serves as a graveyard for Las Vegas’ leather, costume-esque clothing, strappy shimmery heels and golf clubs (presumably used at one of the city’s 45 courses). Amongst the tacky were a few gems.

Guaranteed finds: Diamante embellished jeans and leather skirts.

Looks to scavenge for: Rompers and overalls still hanging around from someone’s late 90s clear out.

Prices: Mostly standard, with leathers and ‘The Collection’ ramped up.

Emma found this shoulderpadded oddity:

Tribal jumper dress: $6

‘Tribal’ jumper dress: $6

Baseball (ft. Dr Pepper)

PRO(B)LOGUE

Music is integral to any road trip. Even a thrifty, no frills, not-worth-the-bitumen-it’s-rollin-on one like ours. So it’s with a grateful nod to the role music has played in road trips throughout motorised history that I name this post. The title is reminiscent of a song and makes special recognition of the fact that road trip playlists tend toward grand songs that embody a zeitgeist. If my time in the US so far could be summarised in song, that song would be called Baseball (ft. Dr Pepper).

———————-

I knew.

Long before I even boarded flight QF93 direct to LAX, I knew.

I knew there would be small slices of Americana that would enchant and enthral me. I made no guesses as to exactly which slices they may be, but had figured three months would be long enough to develop at least a couple of acquired tastes.

I never expected these tastes—far from being incrementally acquired—would cleave to my cultural palate so abruptly and inextricably. Indeed, they hit me like a swinging bat. A swinging bat swung by a clutch hitter batting .349 with a .962 OPS, in the bottom of the ninth, the count at 0 and 2, bases loaded and two-out, looking to break A-Rod’s career Grand Slam record. For those unacquainted with the technical details of baseball, that means hard.

Can you guess one of those slices of Americana recently added to my cultural palette?

It’s baseball.

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The food! Why did no one tell me the food could be so deliciously disgusting? Burgers and garlic fries. No cold pies here.

I saw my first live, full game on September 9. Emma and I bought tickets to see the Colorado Rockies square off against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco. We arrived late to AT&T Park. By the time we climbed the stadium ramps to section VR326 (i.e. the cheap seats) the game was already in the bottom of the second inning. We sat down and—

HOLY DICKS! BUSTER POSEY HAS CLOCKED A FAT ONE OVER LEFT FIELD! A 359 FOOT HOMER!

That’s right, the very first pitch I witnessed resulted in a home run for the home team. The crowd lost its collective shit. I was hooked. That was the adrenaline kick. The one-time smack injection that points a Come Hither finger at you and whispers, “it’s you and me forever, baby”. The opioid femme fatale who consigns you to a lifetime of suckling at heroin’s barbed teat.

All right, so baseball isn’t heroin. But it’s still pretty great.

(Also, I don’t know if “clocked a fat one” is appropriate sporting jargon, but come on, I’m a novice at sports writing.)

Buster Posey: clocker of fat ones.

Buster Posey: clocker of fat ones.

Detractors criticise baseball for being too slow. It’s partially true. There are steady stretches in the game when little seems to happen. But inevitably these stretches are crescendos, marked by tactical plays and strategic reorganising. Like a spring, meticulously wound so tight it’s impossible to distinguish any space between its outer curves, the game subtly intensifies. And then that spring is released. The game turns in an instant: a blinding pitch, a blurred bat, infielders dive and outfielders scramble, the crowd roars. In a whirlwind of sand, your patience is rewarded tenfold.

To people who know me well this sudden infatuation with a sport (especially one that requires running) could seem suspicious. They may suspect that America has turned me populist, and that I’m writing about sport to generate clicks on this blog. What I would say to those people is, firstly, fuck off.

Secondly, I would forgive them and explain that although America has a way of changing people, it doesn’t necessarily change them for the worse.

Thirdly, I would remind them that about six months ago (i.e. pre-road trip) I resolved to shed certain affectations I developed as an angsty teen in the throes of an identity crisis. For ’twas as a moody—it’s important here to distinguish between moody and broody. I was the former and definitely not the latter, despite the skewed orientation of my hormone-addled self-perception. Occasionally words rhyme, but that doesn’t mean their meanings are interchangeable. Remember that, guys—teen that I decided to shun the wide world of sport. Shun it…forever! :O

As an adolescent I pictured myself (that is, the ultimate adult me) as a brooding, scholarly auteur. The corollary of this aim (or so I thought) was that I would have to eschew sport in all its forms. When it wasn’t possible to avoid it completely—my high school enforced a compulsory sporting program for all students up until year 11—I endeavoured to participate as ironically as possible. And with as little physical exertion as I could muster…or not muster, depending on how you look at it.

Enter lawn bowls.

Image

Dotty Adams: brooding scholarly, auteur. Described by her mates as “Darebin’s Orson Welles”.

Sport and art? They’re mutually exclusive, so my rationale went. And the tone of my emotional growth was set: I would be an artist. I would not, indeed could not, be an athlete. The trouble was I repeatedly forgot to actually pursue my artistic development, instead focusing on letting everybody around me know just how much contempt I had for sport—often with a touch too much spleen for someone who was supposed to be a disconnected and nonchalant Morrissey type.

I spent inordinate amounts of time defining who I was by loudly describing to people the things I did not do. This behaviour seems counter-intuitive with the benefit of 10 years hindsight. But it made sense at the time, as it does for so many churlish boys; those who masturbate frequently yet condescend to pretty girls at parties by denouncing sport as a pastime for self-obsessed wankers. It was folly. If only someone had told me that sport and music could blend so harmoniously…

Thankfully, that churlish boy is gone.

Now I am a man.

A man who kind of likes sport.

So perhaps baseball is just lucky that it came into my life at the right moment; once I’d finally vanquished the sport-hating demons of my past. It’s possible any number of sports would be capable of capturing my imagination; I simply haven’t viewed them with an open mind before. This is an exciting prospect given that Emma and I plan on seeing each of America’s favourite major sporting codes: football, ice hockey, NASCAR and basketball. Perhaps baseball is just lucky…for now.

————————–

EPI(B)LOGUE

I included the Dr Pepper bit of this blog’s title because I’ve also come to love Dr Pepper. I once drank Dr Pepper as a child, around 12 years old, but found it horrid—the familiar “shit tastes like fuckin’ cough medicine anally decanted!” complaint. That’s an exact quote BTW. I had quite the potty mouth as a tween. It’s odd too that at 12 I would know the verb “decant”. But you get what you pay for in a private school education. Anyway, I swore off the stuff for years.

I had my first taste as an adult about 2 weeks ago outside the front of a Foods Co (FYI it’s cheaper than Aldi) in San Francisco. Upon exiting the store, Emma and I were confronted by a young man missing the lower third of his two front teeth. He asked us to sign a petition regarding a Californian ballot Proposition.    

We told him we were from Australia and didn’t have any kind of voting rights in the US. He said, “that’s round where Tasmania is, urlright?”. Emma said, “Yes”. He said, “D’y’all know about the Tasmanian Tigers?”. I said, “You mean the Tasmanian Devils? It’s pretty sad. They’re all dying from some rare form of cancer”. He said, “Naw, I mean the big ones, those Tasmanian Tigers”. Emma said, “Well yeah, but they all died out a while ago”. He said, “Ohhh, but people still see them, right? I been reading about them in magazines and stuff”. 

Realising that by “magazines and stuff” he was probably referring to the Fortean Times, Emma and I sought to exit the conversation forthwith. We stumbled around a quick response that explained the sightings as misreports by senile farmers confusing large foxes with the extinct “tiger”.     

He looked crushed. I offered a conciliatory smile. Then we walked away.

I needed something (anything!) to wash away the ugly taste of that experience. It so happened that Emma had bought a 20 ounce bottle of diet Dr Pepper in the Foods Co. I ripped off the cap, took a swig and let out one of those “just listen to how refreshed I am” sighs. Delicious.

Dan’s US Park Ranger audition video

Dan has become enamoured with the National Parks we’ve visited in America. So much so that he asked me to pose as a tourist and video his on-the-spot answers to some touristy FAQs about the Borax Works in Death Valley. Consider this his unsolicited audition to become an American Park Ranger (or tour guide, but he prefers being a man in uniform).*

*I didn’t have the heart to tell Dan that standing just five yards to his left was a pretty comprehensive sign detailing the people who built, owned and worked in the (now decrepit) building. While Dan’s description was technically correct, I’m sure historians would agree he missed some of the finer details.

“Bread is life [except no, it isn’t]”

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I think the radiant heat from his oven has slowly cooked this baker’s brain. At least the part of it responsible for deductive reasoning.

We’ve heard it said that a person’s livelihood is their bread and butter; that the material provider for a household is the breadwinner; that something is innovative and revolutionary when it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But neither Emma nor I have ever heard a phrase that claims “bread is life”, as per the quote from a cartoon baker on this packet (see right) of Trader Joe’s multigrain.

Graciously allowing for phrases that involve, but don’t specifically mention, bread still finds us wanting. Half-baked doesn’t come close. A baker’s dozen simply means 13 (and alludes to the generosity/dyscalculia of bakers). What about as warm as toast? Nope. No matter how you slice it, bread ≠ life.*  

But we’re fair people. So, for argument’s sake, let’s say we accept that there is, in some remote enclave, a popularised saying that asserts “bread is life”. Exactly what population of humans, in what remote enclave, could possibly think 6 grams of sugar per slice promotes bread as being synonymous with life? Life shouldn’t be so sweet. If Emily Creasy is on the money, 6 grams is way above average. This is especially damning given the continued and widespread reporting on the insidious health effects of our high-sugar diets.

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But, again, we’re fair and open-minded people so…

Perhaps the enigmatic group, to whom the “They” in “They say bread is life” refers, is the same They as represented in the film They Live. That is to say:

Alien-Guy

Is it even possible that “bread is life” is a phrase coined by extraterrestrials? Yes, is the short answer.

That the idiom of an alien race has been translated into English and erroneously thrust unto a human public seems the only plausible answer. Specifically an alien race whose biology has evolved an Übermensch pancreas (though they didn’t cover this bit in They Live). For it would take a truly herculean pancreas to generate insulin in quantities sufficient to regulate that amount of sugar. Maybe not even aliens with huge pancreata, but who just are huge pancreata; huge wobbly organ beings, wobbling around, foisting their will and incompatible life lessons on us. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Certainly could’ve been for Bill Hicks (I’m not being a shithead. Bill would’ve liked that joke).

Or maybe it has nothing to do with aliens. Maybe the answer to the riddle lies in the ignorance of a backward cartoon people, contentedly preoccupied with the bread-centric “drama” of their own lives.

Inane. This woman has no idea whatsoever about what's going on in Syria.

Inane. This woman has no idea whatsoever about what’s going on in Syria.

*We’re going to start typing, in bold, phrases that we think you should have tattooed on yourselves. We recommend styling these phrases in Old English, Gothique or Kanji.

Or whatever this font is, if you want…

Born-Bad

Artist: Anonymous
Font: Unknown
Image: Bent crack spoon

 

Like a cactus in WeHo

On a sweltering September afternoon, on a shady stretch of a sprawling West Hollywood (WeHo) boulevard, Emma and I stumbled across something rather peculiar…

It was a big cactus.

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Emma stands in front of the cactus to give perspective of the cactus’ height and green-ness.

The cactus grew adjacent a Vivienne Westwood and opposite a Vera Wang. The setting was ripe with symbolism. The contrast between succulent and concrete, nature and non-nature, was stark. Embracing my inner Amateur, I’ll now use my rudimentary grasp of abstract undergrad social and economic theory to blog a contrived “analysis” of this scene:

The juxtaposition of plant (as nature) and the retail chain stores (as capitalism) engenders a striking metaphorical tableau, which forms a representation of commercialism’s now passively maintained siege campaign against the environment. To wit, this siege has endured so long that capitalism’s Perpetual Motion—a term describing capitalism’s final phase of development and a systematic “point of no return” that commenced in the early 21st Century—acts upon, and is itself acted upon, by the system’s ignorant footsoldiers, consumers. Pausing this cynical interpretation for just a moment: it is encouraging to see that even such an established bastion of urban capitalism, such as West Hollywood, is not immune to the creeping resurgence of the righteous natural order. Furtherm—

Ugh. Nope, fuck it. Writing that shit is simply too much effort. I’m going to write a poem instead. To save more time I’m not even going to make it rhyme. Besides, only day-tripper poets still bother to build rhyming schemes.

Beautiful cactus

No one cares about your perfect thorns

They just want Vera Wang dresses

Because they are greedy capitalists

CAPITALISM versus cactus?

It’s no contest;

Capitalism wins every time

Because it has lawyers that can

sue anyone for anything…and vice versa, buddy

They can sue the thorns off a cactus and

make it a bald cactus

But at least the cactus knows

its inner beauty is greater

than 1 billion lawyers

When will you see?

Consumerism!

Labelled a primordial “weed” by the establishment, the cactus is seen by many as a pest to be eradicated; a throwback to a time before the Industrial Revolution when nature still seemed relevant to people’s lives; an aberrant, alien antiquity! The irony is the cactus actually has the purest, most historically natural mandate to exist and assert its influence. More so than Vivienne Westwood.

Contemplating the recent Australian election, one finds the cactus’ analogous counterpart: Adam Bandt.

Bandt is thriving and surviving in a morally vacuous landscape.

Adam Bandt is like a cactus in WeHo…

BOOM

Well there is it, guys! I’ve turned a dumb observation into topical political commentary. And that’s how you write an op-ed.

EDIT: The author would like to make an unreserved apology to both Vivienne Westwood and capitalism. In hindsight, he realises his indignation was misdirected. It’s not consumerism he loathes, but the retail clerk in the Vivienne Westwood store; the one with the asymmetrical rat’s tail which sat like a tuft of trendy pubic hair at the back of his spindly neck. (It was permed for fuck’s sake!) After asking Emma about what she was doing in the US, he condescendingly opined that it would be a shame if Emma and Dan were to become sick of each other during the road trip. Dan knew what the clerk was up to. He was hoping that they would become sick of each other and, when that happened, that Emma would rush back to WeHo to be with the man who knew, all along, that’s what would happen (what’s sexier than a rat-tailed sage?). Clearly, he has underestimated Emma and Dan’s lovea love of two brains.