Letter from Landers, CA, UFO Capital of the World, North of Joshua Tree
A highly recommended environment
Ideally, you want to be almost like everyone else. Not so different that you're offensively aberrant, exiled, thrown in jail, indecipherable, unloved. But different enough that you have something to share, some novel set of experiences that entertain your fellows. This will allow for a safe, yet modestly prestigious existence, in which you can largely lived by received wisdom, except for a few deviations, here and there. You can add slightly to the sum total of human experience, but remain congruent to the existing mass, enough to be understood.
This is easy to do in a place like LA, where we usually live, where there are many forms of market-ready eccentricity, ready to be observed and iterated upon as necessary. You can see a guy in a weird shirt, and be a different kind of weird shirt guy. They’ve invented charcoal lemonade, but they haven’t yet invented fungal lemonade, and you can be the first upon that estimable frontier. Like the most tenuous dark tendrils in a marble slab, you can advance a little further into the pale void of possibility space.
Currently, though, this process has been complicated somewhat. We left LA, and we’re living in the desert right now. It is a less suggestive environment, or, more precisely, its suggestions are more ambiguous. It is mostly sand, and weird trees. Here there are fewer points of comparison, fewer relationships upon which to build a sense of self. There is my wife, so I am, apparently, a husband. There are coyotes in the distance, so I am, apparently, warm flesh. When we drive the ten miles into town, or the five miles to the trendy brunch establishment, I can comfortably assume my place amongst other niche bourgeois consumers. But when it’s time to leave these gathering places, it’s me and the howling silence in my nondescript car. The fluorescent dome above is vast, and it offers few guidelines. In all that vastness, to determine what I am, I must turn inwards, and confront my feelings. They are not at all what I thought they might be. My love is a pale quavering. My opinions are mostly petulant gestures against those who, I imagine, would like to wrong me. I think of a puzzle in a video game and almost begin to cry.
Given the low humidity, my body is less fragrant. I only smell my own decay if I bother to. It’s easier to intuit how easy it would be to delete me, to remove me from human history. There is no one who could possibly be my substitute, but a substitute isn’t necessary; there’s no hole I’m filling. I am an abundance, a luxury item furnished by the universal will to become. The project of my existence could easily be forgotten, in favor of some other initiative. No-one would ever look upon the sand, where I was not, and think there was anything missing.