Saturday, September 14, 2013

Beverly Hills Stories



1. The Care And Feeding Of Zombies And Vampires

- Excuse me. We were making a bet. Are you a writer or an actor?
- What did you say?
- Writer. Because of the pen.
- If I have something so inefficient to write with I must be doing something more important than being useful. You win.
- What do you write? Really important things?
- Stories from my life.
- How is your life important?
- Well, you got it right from the start: because it is useless.
- Your life is useless? Nothing happens?
- No, a lot happens. For example last week I visited a law office at that high rise building over there. I'd gotten an email a month before from a L.A. video journalist saying she was writing a book on dangerous woman and wanted to make my wife its centerpiece. She proceeded to ask me if I had documents about my marriage, wedding certificate, was I still married or divorced, would I testify in court, were the stories I'd written about my wife truth or fiction? I replied she sounded more like a private detective than a journalist, and asked how she heard of me.  She knew a girl from her new age church who knew the Beverly Hills doctor who married my wife and now wanted to divorce her.
- Your wife married another man without divorcing you?
- See? Things happen in my life. I wrote the journalist a couple weeks ago that if she would like to meet I had arrived back in L.A. from Israel. The next day I received an email from the doctor, my first contact from him. And the following day his law firm wrote me, asking if I would visit them.
- What did they want?
- Help them prove my wife was not legally married to the doctor so he would not have to pay a divorce settlement.
- What did you say?
- I didn't see how I could help the doctor. I didn't like the idea of helping people who harmed me. If he was willing to do something about the disruption his arrival in my life had caused, we could talk.
- Did you mean money?
- Yes. Or something else. I like stories to continue.
- What did the lawyers say?
- They'd ask their client.
- And then?
- The doctor never answered.
- Why?
- Because I'm a useless sort of person when everyone is expected to be useful. I was writing with my inefficient pen about vampires and zombies. Want to hear?
- Everyone likes vampires and zombies.
- Of course they do. We live doing things without end, accumulating more and more things done, each for its own sake. Instead we might have been working towards finding friends, falling in love, making life beautiful and fair. Working towards being able to stop working. A vampire can't stop seducing his victims. It's his work. He doesn't want their love, their beautiful society. The union he seeks isn't mental. He physically incorporates his victims into his own body by drinking their blood, and by the death of his victims he excludes the possibility of resting even for a moment in a new society. He must go on, always go on, finding new victims, always doing without rest. That is what makes him a symbol of our times.
- But you do things too, like what you did with the lawyers.
- Useless things. Ridiculous things that don't lend themselves to infinite accumulation. Vampires and zombies both are creatures who do things without rest. Doing without rest, they might as well be dead. A life of restless activity is equivalent to death because it excludes the good of life. Zombies are flesh eating corpses animated against their will by a magician, whereas vampires are corpses animated by the blood of their deliberately sought victims.
- And what are you, vampire or zombie?
- Resisting being either. The doctor and lawyers are vampires who'd like to drink my blood.
- What about your wife?
- Vampire.
- Vampires want to make you into a vampire too.
- That was the 19th century, the new, self conscious consolidation of the murderous doers without end into a social class. Since the 20th century we have zombies. Zombies express the idea that society itself has become a machine for making masses of individuals into doers without end against their will.
- Why does society create zombies?
- Because society has come to be based on doing without end.
- Don't think me a child asking why over and over, but why is society based on doing without end?
- Once it begins, it increases. People only doing understand and cooperate better with people doing the same kind of thing. This translates into monopolies, which, disrupting society, force even more attention to doing. History draws this fatality out of human nature.
- From everyone's except yours?
- A writer wants to write beautiful stories, and when done rest in the beauty created. A mother like you wants to live in the midst of the love of her family, not accumulate children.
- If useless people, as you call us, exist the whole society is not vampires and zombies.
- No. But our flesh and blood is their food and drink.
- Will you write this down in a story?
- Sure. I don't think anyone can use it for anything.
- How do you make money?
- I don't make money.
- How do you live?
- It surprises me that I do. I'm turning into a new kind of monster, a combination zombie forced to go without sleep and vampire squeezing out stories from the lives of the useful.
"Monseigneur, you who turn everything to account, have, nevertheless, one useless plot. It would be better to grow salads there than bouquets." "Madame Magloire," retorted the Bishop, "you are mistaken. The beautiful is as useful as the useful." He added after a pause, "More so, perhaps." (Les Miserables, Victor Hugo)

2. On The Bus

- Sir! Sir! Sir!
- Yes?
- How old are you?
- 57. How old are you?
- It's 25 cents if you are 62. You have to pay 1.50.
- 57 is close enough.
- The rule is 62.
- The idea behind the rule is to get people to ride the bus who otherwise wouldn't. I am complying with the spirit of the rule.
- Either pay a dollar twenty-five more or get off the bus.
- I'll get off the bus, if you give me my quarter back.
- I can't give you your quarter, it's in the machine.
- You're not obeying the rules of exchange. If you won't provide service, my money should be refunded.
- If you call the bus company, you'll get your money back.
- When? One day? One week? One year?
- You'll get your money. You know it.
- I'm not so sure. You're holding me to strict observance of the age rule, and I'm holding you to strict observance of the rule of payment only for services rendered.
- I'm tired of arguing. Take a seat.

3. Cohorts

- What do you two do?
- On that subject I heard an interesting story...
- He's a philosopher.
- The story was told by an internet executive. He met a man at Davos, attending the meeting of the World Economic Forum. He could see right off this man was brilliant. Well, everyone there had to be special, rich, famous, powerful, successful, but he didn't know this guy. If he had had on his person one of the new wearable internet devices, in seconds a photo would have been taken, image search conducted to match the man to the photo, identification confirmed. The internet executive found out later that this man had made an important medical discovery. What conversations they would have had had he known it! Now though with the new wearable internet technology it need never happen again.
- I also studied philosophy. But then, somehow I became interested in statistics.
- My friend the philosopher you're talking with is like you. He's always on the internet checking how many people read his stories.
- Do you write stories?
- At the moment I'm trying to tell you one. Suppose the executive had his internet glasses on. They snapped the doctor's picture, delivered his name and biography to the lenses. He's happy, but what about the doctor who'd chosen not to identify himself? Now he has to go through the same old questions about his discovery and hear the same repetitive comments he's heard a thousand times from strangers.
- A conflict of interest.
- The internet executive said he wanted the man identified so he could do his job better, that he was in a competition to the death for information. The doctor, however, for whatever reason, was off duty, conversationally speaking.
- But they have to talk about something. And more information has to be better, right?
- If they are working together on making a conversation. But maybe that is the wrong model. Maybe working is not something we should be doing with conversation.
- What should we be doing?
- Sara?
- What?
- You've heard this already: "Peanut Butter Entropy". Can I repeat it?
- If you don't mind repeating yourself.
- I don't mind. We stir in the oil that's floated to the top of the peanut butter jar, forming swirls, ridges and valleys. One kind of order, the kind we don't want - the oil on top of the peanut mass - is replaced by another. Every added increment of movement of the spoon changes the portiion of peanut butter in contact with the spoon, and transmits the movement to, revises the status of all of the past changes. When you stop stirring, the progressive growth of change ends. When you stir the other way, the new order you have created, the swirls, ridges and valleys, is destroyed. You might think you'd simply undue all the change and return the peanut butter in the jar to the state it was in when you began. That doesn't happen, because going the other way with the spoon, you are no longer connecting with the relations built on relations that created the swirls, valleys and ridges. Instead your movement interferes with the order you'd created moving the spoon in the other direction. Understand?
- Yes, I do.
- Imagine two people meet each other at Davos. They each have their separate lives, a cumulative building of effect on effect, like we see in the peanut butter jar, when moving the spoon continuously in one direction, counter clockwise or clockwise. One person, though, wants to get the most out of the conversation, and thinks there ought to be a technology to doing that, a set of rules for doing it best, and a mechanical technology to help him do that. The technology with its fixed rules, like those governing the back and forth exchange in the marketplace, forces the spoon to be moved in the other direction. Not only is life interrupted,  it's broken up.*
- It's not the technology itself as it imposes conventions you're worried about, it's the particular rules for conversation?
- Yes. Technology used to make conversation into work.
- Can't the technology be used to inspire an art of conversation, a game of conversation?
- It can, but it's isn't.
- Why not? What's the problem with technology that technology can't solve?
- The problem is not with the technology, the machines themselves, but our technique of conversation. With how we meet each other in public. We aren't doing it right.
- Our wrong rules cause the destructive back and forth? Then how do we let each other go in our own direction?
- First, we have to know that's what we want, and not accept the ritual of work as a cure-all for our individual frustrations.
- Ok.
- In Thomas Pynchon's book Against The Day a character who doesn't himself seem to have forgotten anything meets one person after another, all of them extremely angry at things he's supposed to have done. He wanders around the city and finds himself in an intersection where strange activities are taking place. He's advised that he must atone, and the people there can help him. Atone without guilt, he asks? Yes. The two, atonement and guilt, need not be related. Ridiculous, right?
- Yeah.
- I'll tell you a story I've repeated many times. I don't mind repeating it. When I quit film school I worked as a proof-reader for a woman's fashion magazine. In those days printing was still a mechanical process, and since I was in the midst of it I decided to write and oversee the printing of my own book. A little detective story was the result. Within a month the book was written, printed, and 500 copies sold by me personally at a table on the street in Westwood Village. I didn't myself have a copy of this book, and a few years ago I wondered if I could find one for sale on the internet. I was surprised to find many copies for sale, from 60 dollars to 200. It only took a minute to discover the reason for the high price: used book dealers had decided that my story was the unknown first novel published by the fairly well known writer of violent crimes stories who had taken as his pen name my real name.
- Wow.
- I knew about this writer already because several years before I had typed my name into Google and discovered an article written by someone with my name about traveling in Europe buying and selling old watches between dealers. There were only maybe a couple dozen people doing this very specialized job, myself one of them, so this was a practical joke, played by a man I learned from his biography famous for playing practical jokes.
- So as you had inadvertently taken credit for his fame, he retaliated by taking on your life!
- Yes. The Rex Miller Cohort: that's me, this Rex Miller, and all the other Rex Millers, affecting each other on the internet. The fame of all the others increases my fame, and vice versa. We have nothing meaningful in common. Only a matter of names. What do you think: am I affected by the other Rex Millers like the character in Pynchon novel is affected, has to atone for the crimes of that other person people say he is?
- I admit there is some similarity.
- I'll point out two things. First, the strange relation is created by technology. And second, there is no competent rule determining the relation.
- Competent?
- Imagine a conversation. A typical American conversation. We talk about work, we talk about money. We talk about working for money. This is what we have in common, show to each other when we meet to talk with each other. We have that in common, but I don't live for money, and you presumably don't live for money either, yet that is what we talk about, jarring each other clockwise to counter clockwise to clockwise with each exchange of words. What if we all met instead like the Rex Millers? Tied to each other, living in the same place, with the same rules, but in fact, not really? Atoning for the sins of other people. What if being of the same nationality meant that, and only that?
- And?
- Using then using our technology to help on the conversation: what would that be like?
- I have no idea.
- It would be like how we do art, make something, tell a story. We let all the things we thought we knew float around in our imagination, related to each other, but not really. There was such a person as Rex Miller, the sum of all the things he did and experienced. Putting him together was done with rules, like a sentence is put together by rules of syntax, but that way of organizing doesn't work any more, not since I have to go out in public and speak to this stranger, the collection of experience that goes by the name Rex Miller is now not rules, not syntax, but content.
- What kind of content?
- The kind where you have to atone for crimes you didn't commit, where you have to live with people who affect you, who you are forced to be responsible for, but are not you.
- Ok. The different kind of rules of conversation: what are they exactly?
- You see, what we want is to keep the spoon moving in the same direction. First Rex Miller. Then the Rex Miller who is affected by the actions of the other Rex Millers. Nothing is forgotten, the second continues the movement of the first, nothing is destroyed by the plot development. The story goes on.
- A really bizarre story.
- The bizarre characters, repeated in their cohorts but different, are appreciated for themselves, as a painter loves colors and a writer loves words. The conversation continues.
- Where does it end?
- When in the conversation each can say the same thing.
- Without deviating from their own directions. Does that happen?
- Do you agree with me this far?
- If I say I agree with you you'll say this is a technique of conversation? A technology of conversation?
- Yes. I'll concede it to be a weird technology, if that makes you happy.
- It doesn't! And internet technology could be safely applied to it?
- Do you agree?
- Won't we be multiplying the weirdness in the process?
- And maybe the agreement at the end.

Peanut Butter Entropy

4. See You At Starbucks

- It can't be true.
- Three different people hired to write a screenplay about terrorism and Indian mysticism at the same Starbucks? Come with me, we'll see who's there. One though may not talk to me.
- Why not?
- His therapist warned him not to.
- What did you do to him?
- Talked.
- It must be nice to be paid to have a conversation.
- I'll pay you a dime to get you started.
- Thank you. What should we talk about? The screenwriters at Starbucks? Are they all crazy people with psychologists?
- Yesterday one of them waited for closing time and asked for the left over sandwiches. He drove away in his brand new luxury car.
- You saw this?
- He offered me a ride. I asked him if he didn't think there was a better use of time for someone who could afford that car than waiting around to get stale sandwiches for free.
- What did he say?
- It's always good to save money.
- That's how he got rich. What about the third screenwriter?
- I haven't met him.
- Are you sure he exists?
- The other writers say they know him.
- Weird.
- Things happen at that Starbucks.
- Maybe I should go there. I don't have any pals.
- I thought I made a friend at another cafe I go to every morning.
- It didn't work out?
- Me and the world seem to have different ideas of friendship.
- What's your idea?
- What's yours?
- Someone I can rely on, I can tell my troubles to, won't lie to me.
- That's not friendship. Aristotle said there are three kinds of friendship: for pleasure, for usefulness, for living well. You're describing family, "bonding". A completely different aspect of life.
- Says you.
- Says Aristotle.
- I think the girl at the cafe - it was a girl? - didn't think you liked her. In my experience when you like someone liking is returned.
- Could be a misunderstanding.
- Yes. Here's your dime back.
- Why?
- I don't want to cheat you. You don't seem satisfied with the service.
- I'm used to getting conversation for free. For the extra dime something really special...
- Take the money.
- Alright. See you at Starbucks?
- Don't think so.

5. Funny Books

On the bus this afternoon, on my way to see the movie Francis Ha, I was reading this book that claims language, technology, in fact, all civilization is destructive. Better get rid of it all.

When I get off I ask directions from the first guy I see, tell him about civilization, reading the book and missing my stop. We're stuck with it, he responds. I say obviously he's smarter that the writer of the book, who three to five times on every page talks about our immiseration, corruption, destruction, defeat by civilization, laying down a massive amount of gloom and doom, when according to him what civilization is keeping us from is sweetness and light, pleasure and satisfaction. Civilization is time, time is repressed desire, he says, but isn't all this complaint an explosion of repressed desire? I'm supposed to share the jungle with this guy? I prefer the ordinary man on the street, victim of civilization, to this would-be savior from it.

What did he think he was doing writing this book, producing an example of the technology of thinking with language, that repudiates the technology of thinking with language?

Is he out of his mind? How does he not know he is out of his mind? Does he think he is giving us the last word on the subject, and after him, silence reigns?

There is no reason there cannot be a technology of language used to defend us from the technology of language. But language which is repetitious, expressive of misery and oppression, is that a likely candidate to get the world to shut up?

Technology takes something defined, puts it in relation to something else defined, and sees what happens. Then sets up the relation of parts again, sees if the result repeats. If it does, and that repetition is useful, the parts are attached, so as to make convenient a deliberate repetition. That is what a machine is, a convenience for creating repetition.

Civilization, according to the book on the bus, creates a division of labor. People become limited defined parts put in fixed relation to each other and repeatedly producing a defined result. The writer of the book is a specialist in writing books about the undesirability of the division of labor. He doesn't know that what he is doing as a specialist in writing those books is funny. This is because he doesn't know what comedy is.

Comedy is a technology.  One defined human behavior is put in regular relation to another, a machine is got going for the sake of the expected result.

The parts of his book writer's comedy machine are: (1) his claim that division of labor and technology are ruining us (2) his being a civilized specialist using technology of language.

The machine set in motion, part in sync with part, produces the expected result: a writer writing against himself.

That is funny. What exactly is funny? Why was the man on the street funny, in the sense of seeing the machine and sharing his laughter with me, and I could live in the jungle with him and not the man behind the book on the bus?

Let me run my machine of civilized thinking a moment. Let's say the victim of civilization has some distance from civilization which the writer lacks.

What creates the distance? Laughter. And what is laughter? Laughter is language jamming. Ha. Ha. Ha. Response to the world. Response to the world. Response to the world. Laughter is a machine run amok.

Laughter wakes us up. Wakes us up to what? Wakes us up to technology being used against itself.

How does it do that? What does it mean to wake up?

We wake up from being a body, a part of a machine that responds constantly to the world, another part of the machine. When we remember, and desire, we are responding to images of the world not presently experienced. We are no longer responding directly to the world. We can do this before we learn language. Animals can do it also.

We civilized creatures, going by written records, have not been laughing for very long. Maybe the Greeks invented laughter 2500 years ago. It is a new technology. It is learned early and easily, and not specific to human beings, as everyone knows who's witnessed their pets laughing at them.

Comedy is a machine that, setting technology against technology, protects us from the dangers of technology, from technology making us stupid. We laugh at stupidity.

We laugh at the sight of us losing knowledge. In laughing we do something, we use technology against itself. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Comedy is a show of losing knowledge. But we respond to a sight of gaining knowledge, not like comedy by doing something, but by not doing anything. We rest, and call the sight we see while resting beautiful.

Rest in beauty returns us to our pre-civilized state where with reflection and desire we could free ourselves from being a machine, from being a body in fixed relation to the world around it. We rest and feel safe with what we have learned by the practice of civilized technologies, language among them.

Or something like this happens. Talking about these things is a developing technology. But still, facts are facts.

A fact is anything that happens. A fact is what we experience.

The fact is beauty exists, laughter exists. If the world is becoming more humorless and ugly, and technology is making the world humorless and ugly, the fact is we have the technology to do something about it.

That we aren't using the technology, another fact, what can I say?

Isn't it funny?

6. Married To The Business Of Buying

I kept hearing I'd got myself into an impossible marriage. No one admired me for it unless I showed them a picture of my wife. I kept hearing I was doing an impossible business and this almost everyone wondered at and approved. The wife was a wild, ambitious, story telling and story concealing Hungarian. The business was buying and selling old watches to other dealers doing the same. I tried to explain to all concerned that both impossible undertakings were both possible in the same way.

When you are married you don't have to look for someone to be with. When you buy and then sell things you don't have to look for something to buy: you are married to the business of buying. With my wife, my business was keeping up with her continual changes of mind about whether she wanted to be with me. Life with whatever new sort of person she had decided to be at that moment had to be renegotiated, re-bought, this work paid for by her with the pleasure I took in her company. But I had given up buying and selling watches, and she doubted I could be depended on in this business of marriage:

- You don't love me.
- I do.
- You don't.
- What you love about me is what makes you think I don't love you.
- What's that?
- The way I do business. The way I married you.
- How did you marry me?
- When I sold watches, though I like watches and put every watch on my wrist, I wasn't attached to any of them. I liked the business, finding them, getting rid of them as soon as I could.
- You're saying you plan to get rid of me?
- That's just it: like one watch didn't interest me, the watch business did. Because you change your mind all the time you are not one wife, but a whole wife business.
- I love you because you think of me as a business? That's a new one. Who says I love you anyway?
- You do. You love me because you see you are an occupation for me, not a possession.
- If you work for me why don't you do what I want?
- I said you were my work, not that I worked for you.
- What's the difference?
- I'm working on you, not for you.
- I'm working on you too.
- You see? 
- See what?
- As long as were both being paid we can't get tired of each other. Eternal love.
- You'll see.

7. Beverly Hills Yard Sale

A very attractive woman, showing off her well maintained form in tight running gear, she must have been about fifty years old. Sitting outside at a patio table eating pieces of grilled, marinated chicken with her fingers. She says to me sit down, hungry? Have something to eat. I sit down. I say I'm surprised to see someone like her holding a yard sale.

- Why?
- You don't look like you need the money.
- Sometimes it's good to get rid of things.
- Where did the clothes come from?
- They belonged to my French boyfriend.
- What happened to him?
- He died.
- How old was he?
- 35.
- He was living with you? Why didn't you marry him?
- I had many husbands.
- What happened to them? Died also?
- No. I divorced them.
- Why did you do that?
- I don't believe in being unhappy.
- How did they make you unhappy?
- The first got old, lost interest in everything.
- You included? And the second? How many were there?
- Four. The second was in a lot of pain. Complained a lot about his back.
- The third?
- He was alright. But he played around with other women.
- The fourth?
- He was nervous, worked all the time, didn't come home.
- So you married once every seven years?
- Yes, that is about right.
- And the boyfriend. Were you unhappy with him too? That's why you didn't marry him?
- I wasn't with him long enough.
- How did he die? You didn't kill him?
- No.
- You wear your men out.
- You could say that.
- But you take good care of yourself. You run.
- My current boyfriend is less than 30. I have to keep in shape. I'm "sexting" him now.
- Meaning sex text messaging? Your boyfriend, the dead one, must have been about my size.
- Yes.
- I'm worried about wearing clothes from one of your men.
- Why?
- You know the line, losing one husband is bad luck, losing two looks like carelessness?
- No. Who said that?
- Oscar Wilde. OK. I'll risk it. I'll take the jacket and the shirt.
- They suit you.
- That's what I'm afraid of.

8. The Conrad Complex

Now I like every member of this family and I am going to write bad things about them. It is because I like them that I am disappointed in them. I wanted my wife's mother and father and brothers to help me hold onto her, and instead it turns out they approve of her leaving me behind in search of more lucrative business.

First, the dog, by the name of Conrad. He is important to the story, because his character is easily drawn and, according to my wife, pretty much the same as my own. This fearsome beast is not affectionate and hardly notices attentions, he loves to eat, he sits drowsing on the porch before the house door, rousing himself to bark at the gypsy horse carriages when they pass by on the street. He is tricky: he loves to go out into the village streets. When you come home, he will placidly wait just inside the yard for you to swing open the gate, then leap into a run and be out on the street before you know what is happening. Deceptive, love of roaming, unaffectionate and distant except when there was a prospect of food. My wife thought all this about me, seriously and not seriously. More the list expressed her dissatisfaction with my character. But like the dog Conrad, I was part of the family, I belonged to the house. When in her rages she would throw me out, the family house would immediately seem empty, and she would want to call me back, and would do it too, if her other plans allowed.

Her love for Conrad was very strong. When the family all sat down to the table for dinner, she would ruffle my hair and shake me up. Her father would comment, "The Conrad Complex".

My wife was sensitive to betrayal of her affection by her dog, and had a similar story to tell about her father. When she was a young girl she was her father's favorite. She used to spend all her time with him, and even slept in the same bed. But when she was 12, he changed towards her. Her mother was jealous. He expelled her from his room, and it seemed from his heart too. It hurt her very much.

Despite this, they were very close. My wife told her father almost everything that happened in her life, holding back not the smallest personal detail. According to her, her father had taught her to use what power in the world she had to best advantage, and he approved of her marriage to the very much older billionaire first husband. According to her childhood friend Barna, he also seriously expected his child to take care of him in his old age with the proceeds of her liaisons with men. Also according to Barna, her internet computer expert brother Robbi's first web site offered escort services, and she was the first girl he listed.

When I recounted this to my Budapest Professor friend, he explained that I saw too much in these things. Sex was bought and sold, it was usual and ever-present. My wife's family was just more open and direct about it. He liked to have female companionship when he came to Hungary from England to do research, and he expected he would have to pay for it, in one way or another. In fact, those very words I had heard from the mouth of my wife's ex-boyfriend.

He had arrived one early evening at my wife's apartment, where she was holding a small kitchen knife and waving it about, demanding I return the dress and Ipod she said she knew I had stolen. This was really crazy, and I had been through its like before. The ex-boyfriend, whom I recognized from a dinner party at the country house not too distant in time, chased me down and cornered me, threw a punch at my chest, and demanded I give him my wallet. I reminded him I knew who he was, and handed it over. I said I would get it back soon, the police were on their way. He said he knew how to handle the police. And that if I wanted to live with his ex-girlfriend I had to pay, "just like everyone else."

Later the truth came out. The missing articles had been taken by the ex-husband who had been visiting her. They were his gifts to her, payments if you will, he was taking back because she was undeserving. He had confessed. The professor too had been caught in a crisis of payment. A lover had had an abortion, and had gotten permission to take the fetus home from the hospital. It became, between the two of them, a symbol of his murderous selfish ungrateful unwillingness to marry his lover. She buried it in his front lawn. He dug it up, and reburied it in the nearby forest. Then dug it up again, when he worried it would be stumbled upon...

9. Mystical Experience And Spiritual Experience

- Is there any difference between mysticism and spiritualism?
- I would use mysticism and spiritualism to refer to different things, mysticism more about short lived "mystical experience" and spiritualism to a whole continuous ethical way of life.
- Give me some examples.
- A mystical experience can be as sudden and simple as working on your computer all evening and stepping outside, looking up at the moon, and you're out. You feel a relation to the moon, but neither the moon nor yourself is an object of your attention. Your own altered state has caught you.
- An epiphany.
- Yes. Now compare spiritual experience. I told you this story...
- We love your stories.
- I was living in Budapest and my wife, urged by her ex-boyfriend, had decided to rob me with him. He showed up at the apartment, gave me a few demonstration pushes and jabs, and demanded I hand over my wallet. I did, saying I'd see him at the police station in a few hours. That's what happened.
- You knew him.
- Yes.
- He wasn't afraid?
- This is Budapest, corruption is omnipresent. He told me he could handle the police.
- What happened then?
- My wife and her friend the robber left, I called the police, who arrived, asked questions, decided they'd drive me to the station. I was told to take a seat on a bench, and as I predicted, robber, with wife, soon were escorted through the door into the station lobby. They went into a room off to the side, the door closed, and I waited. Now for the spiritual experience.
- In the police station?.
- Yes. Unlike the experience of me and the moon, I wasn't particularly aware of my relation to the world. I was aware that I was certain nothing had changed in my relation to my wife. That what was happening here was entirely without significance.
- You didn't feel betrayed by her?
- No. I was used to being betrayed by her. It wasn't interesting.
- What was interesting then?
- Holding onto love.
- You were astonished you could do it, and that was the spiritual experience?
- Yes. The experience of no change, no matter how much appearances changed.
- You weren't ashamed of being duped?
- No. If anything I was somewhat grateful.
- Grateful for being robbed by your wife?
- Grateful I could find amusement sitting on that bench, watching the closed door behind which my wife and robber friend were negotiating with the Budapest Police.
- But didn't you want anything? Why did you call the police in the first place?
- I had to report my passport stolen to apply for a replacement. And I wanted to see what would happen.
- What happened?
- The police came out, handed me my passport, asked if I was satisfied.
- Were you?
- My wife marched out of the room and without turning her head left the station. I knew I'd see her again.

10. Kabbalah Center

- What is in it for me?
- The Kabbalah will enable you to get the maximum of joy and happiness in life.
- I have all the joy and happiness I need. Will it get me money?
- It will teach you to want only enough money for what you need.
- I don't need the teaching, will it get me the money?
- Why are you so concerned with money?
- I'll be out of money in a few weeks. Can the Kabbalah teach me how to live without money?
- If you need money, it will enable you to get it.
- I believe it has enabled you to get money, but it is different for you.
- Why?
- You are speculators in advice giving. Your center's little book says the secret is "sharing", and you make a living sharing the secret with unhappy people, a good number of whom will share their money with you out of gratitude.
- What is wrong with that?
- What happens when you share with happy people? They take what you offer and go on to the next sharer. Isn't that the destiny of Kabbalah sharers not in the business of Kabbalah selling?
- You can take the high road and not care. It is the inner self that matters.
- Well I'm concerned about that too. Am I not the instrument of your determination to share? You don't really love me, right? Your inner self love my inner self? I don't see love in your eyes. It seems to me you don't offer me either love or money.
- Again money. Stop thinking about money and love will come.
- And how am I to enjoy love if I am dead?
- Are you serious?
- Sure.
- Read the book, and let me know what happens.
- You mean if I am still alive.
- Jokers like you don't die so easy.

11. Jews In Beverly Hills

At the market yesterday afternoon I got into a conversation. The bearded, warmly dressed, self composed man obviously was not from around here, and was looking over the selection of left over breads he says because where he is living he has no way to store or cook food and ends up throwing out expensive breads if he buys them. He has come back from Europe, to receive hospital treatment. When he asks me from out of nowhere if I am Jewish, I ask him if he is staying at the house and temple a Jewish group operates in the neighborhood. He is. I ask him if he knows the family I met at the cafe, mother and two sons, one an actor, the other an aspiring genius. Yes, he is there, yes they are there too. Something must have drawn me to him: he has been greatly disturbed by this family, he just got finished writing to his friend in Finland about them, she can hardly believe such people exist. They're common here in L.A., I say. What do I think of them? I don't know, but they seem to be playing some game. When I heard some lower tones escape from the younger son I asked him, the genius with the high fluting voice why he talked so funny. He answered that old men and children like it. So then why not talk to them that way, I said, and, if you can, talk to the rest of us like we do? He said he wasn't sure if he liked the way I was talking to him. He might have to reconsider talking with me, in general he only liked the people who like his mother. And I don't, I ask? The last time I talked with his mother, we had this conversation:

- Do you know where in Los Angeles I can get a good hamburger?
- I don't eat out.
- But you are from here.
- If I ate out I wouldn't want a fast food hamburger.
- Do you know where the best hospital here is to get an operation?
- The most famous ones?
- Yes
- Sure, I can give you names.
- Yes, give me them. I need an operation. That's why I came here.
- You came to Los Angeles to get an operation without any idea of particular doctors, treatments, hospitals?
- Yes.

Hearing this the man at the market produces a groan of disgust. The rabbi where he lives is taken in by these people. The temple gets taken in by people like them, when they should help people like you, he says.

- They aren't interested in people like me.
- Why not?
- When I first returned to live in Los Angeles, just about two years ago now, after seventeen years living in Europe, thrown out by my wife in Hungary and back in the city with not a friend or relative, staying in the hostel in Santa Monica, I thought to go by a temple and ask them if they could introduce me to people, so I could see what I could do here. One rabbi from a temple on La Brea told me flat out that since I wasn't a member he had no time or resources to involve himself with me. Another rabbi, whom I had met briefly at an opening celebration the year before with my wife when she was interested in Judaism, said he remembered me but since I was not a member he had no time or resources.... At another temple on Beverly, I was invited into the kitchen, offered food, told by an affable man with burning dark eyes that it wasn't my fault, but I was going to hell. Who's fault was it? I ask. Your family's. They didn't educate you to be a Jew, he explains. At a Santa Monica branch of the organization that operates the house you and the family stay at I go in to ask the same questions, and am invited to the rabbi's house for a Sabbath dinner. Various people who fail to identify themselves ask my story, and wander off without a comment. We eat outside in the garden of the rabbi's house. I go inside to wash my hands, stop at the book shelves in the living room to look over the books. A few papers are sitting on one shelf and I take them up, a print from an internet site on the subject of public perceptions of Israel. A man approaches me and shouts, what are you doing?

- Reading.
- Who said you could?
- Who said I couldn't?
- Those papers are private. Do you always look at other people's books in their houses?
- Yes, in fact, I do always, when I am invited over.
- You weren't invited to invade the privacy of the rabbi.
- Why was I invited?
- What did they tell you? Who invited you?
- The rabbi.
- He doesn't want you to do what you are doing. Who are you?
- Who are you?
- Get out of this house!

Incredible, says the man in the market. Love your neighbor, says the commandment. These rabbis should be ashamed of themselves, they are supposed to be religious people. Where is their kindness, sympathy, where is their love? I say they are not people of religion, they are politicians, who normally have no shame and would have difficulty telling you what shame is. What a world we live in, he says.

12. Bad Girls And Broken Machines

Everything important will come. Just sit here and watch and wait.

The writer of the best seller "Bad Girls" is in the arm-chair beside mine, her publicist from England in the chair angled towards us. I can hear everything they say. It's not a problem for them.

They are talking about means of getting the book to stay on the best seller lists as long as possible. The anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death is approaching. They will be participating in the celebration at an exhibit of lesser known photos at a gallery across the street.

The book according to the author is meant to teach ordinary women the secret tricks Bad Girls like Marilyn Monroe play to get men to do things for them. Such as give them gifts, marry them, fall in love with them. The web site dedicated to the book illustrates this with the trick used by the ordinary good girl who recently caught the prince of England by wearing a transparent dress showing her undergarments.

The author is a psychologist who goes on talk shows, and gives private therapy to those with love problems. Her audience and patients are broken machines, and she knows how to fix them.

The Good Girls aren't supposed to become bad, only compete better with the Bad Girls by using their tricks. Fair and open competition. Men are machines, women are machines, the more you know of their functioning the better you will do.

Competition evidently is for the natural resources necessary to keep the machines working. Love is one of these resources. It is produced by certain machines movements in contact with other machines in movement.

The Bad Girl is a damaged machine that works specially well in getting things that as a machine as a whole it can't use. The Good Girl adjusts her mechanism to the efficiency of the bad girl, but keeps in mind other requirements.

The psychologist author says that poor Marilyn Monroe was traumatized in her past by not having a father. Bad girls usually have father problems. The famous "Sex-Siren" used allure which is a good thing for something bad, uselessly attracting one man after another.

All this is familiar to cafe patrons like myself. You are bad because of something that happened to you in the past. Repair yourself by understanding what people did to you.

In the other corner of the cafe is someone not presently living telling a different story: no bad man can hurt a good man, no bad woman can hurt a good woman, no bad woman can hurt a good man, and no bad man can hurt a good woman. (That covers it.)

Something in the expression I see in the faces of strangers says they remember a time they were not machines. Tells me I am not bad now, only have forgotten myself. I interrupt the two women in their conversation.

- I know something about Bad Girls.
- Really?
- Yes, I was married to one. I think you are wrong.
- Why?
- Men are not tricked by them. Not exactly. What you don't understand is that the men you call "Sitting Duck" victims of Bad Girls are just like them willing to pay with the poor functioning of their mechanism as a whole for a thrilling technical efficiency in the matter of love. They are a couple of machine breakers. They love breaking machines. They love breaking the machine of love.
- You're a writer?
- As well as a broken machine can write.

The women get back to the business of book promotion.

13. The Guru Of Beverly Hills

- Have you seen Freddy?
- Last night at Ralphs.
- His mother sent me to look for him. She's worried.
- That he'll give away all his money?
- He's not answering his phone.
- Probably avoiding calls of his friends asking to be paid back. I wrote him a message this morning.
- He borrows money from you?
- Yes. You too?
- Yes. He never pays back.
- And because you're camped out in a corner of his living room you can't insist.
- I'm trying to move out. How much does he owe you?
- Only a little. I've written stories arguing debts don't have to be repaid.
- Then why do you ask?
- Debts don't have to be paid between friends. I doubt he's a friend.
- Why? He wants to help you.
- There's something vicious in the way he handles money.
- He's not vicious. Every day his mother gives him money, and every day he gives it away.
- What is his relation to the people he gives money to? The day I met him a couple months ago I asked him to sum up the wisdom he claimed to have achieved studying Jewish texts, and do you know what he said?
- What?
- He'd learned that the only people he should care about were his family.
- Then why does he continue to give away fifty or a hundred dollars everyday to strangers?
- Yes, Why? What is he up to? He goes from one desperate wanderer of the streets to another, gives a dollar, two dollars, five, and moves on. He is careful not to know them, not to establish obligation. There is no past and no future to the multitude of transactions he repeats all through the night. It is a perfect market economy, exchanges that are nothing but a succession of relations between enemies.
- But he's giving away money! What is he getting in exchange?
- A sense of power, of importance. He's getting people to listen to him lay down the rules of religion, only god is real, lust is an illusion, everything is lust. He gets distraction in his own battle against the illusion of lust, gets delay of his inevitable going to strip clubs with you and your other friends.
- But he really tries to help people.
- Paying a dollar or two each before he goes back to his million dollar Beverly Hills apartment to sleep through the day, rest for his next hard night's work giving away money and going to strip clubs.
- You'll never change him.
- I don't want to. I'm near having contempt for him. His money comes from the family business, a Hollywood tour bus operator driving thousands of tourists around L.A. Imagine an extension of the business where the buses take the new class of American super rich around to the haunts of the dispossessed and desperate, deboarding briefly at select corners so they can hand out dollar and five dollar bills, along with their few well chosen words of advice and encouragement, then reboarding the bus and on to the next corner. The future of our country.
- The people won't allow it.
- You won't allow it? Living in the corner of this guy's living room?
- It won't be long.
- Meanwhile, in Hollywood, where they used to sell movie star maps they've updated to selling maps marked with corner stops of the charity tours so the great American people can wait there to receive their hand-outs. You know, you can stop me making a fool of myself talking like this.
- You like Freddy.
- Sure.
- You know how to talk, to write. He knows money. He uses what he knows.
- He can't save the world through money when money is what's destroying it.

14. Spies On Spies

- What are you writing?
- About that woman you saw me with at Starbucks. Who you said looked at you like she hated you.
- Did she?
- Yes. She told me she hated men like you. Had a boyfriend once... I'm writing about you too.
- What about me?
- I'm writing again about the Internet.
- It's an obsession.
- The Internet is a model of craziness. I'd asked the girl on my left what she was reading. A book about a psychopath. What kind? Multiple personalities. Did she know, I asked, that some psychologists think that a real case of multiple personalities hasn't been proven to exist, that patients, knowing that psychologists look for multiple personalities, put on a show of having them?
- What did she say?
- Nothing. She was the sort who didn't want to encourage people of my sort talking to her.
- What sort are you, is she?
- She's a seller of beauty, I'm not a buyer, not qualified with money to be seriously in the market.
- You should treat women just like men.
- I don't?
- No. You are rude to men, but nice to women. I treat everyone the same.
- Rudely?
- Yes. If they don't like it, too bad.
- You're not qualified to talk to her either. The other woman you're disqualified with, the one you saw me with yesterday, I ended up talking to for four hours. She sat down next to me outside here, asked me if I was a doctor. She told me she was afraid of dying, had a fatal disease. No one would go to the hospital with her for the operation. If she didn't get it, she could die any time. Her mother wouldn't come. Her father died insane, without a will, there was this lawyer who says her father wrote a letter assigning her mother 40 percent ownership in the apartment she lives in, she didn't know what to do about it, didn't know what happened to all her father's money, tens of millions of dollars, a private detective wants two thousand dollars advance to look for the money, her mother won't pay, offers him half of anything he can find...
- Are you going to see her again?
- You like that type, I know. You want to give her advice, tell her what god says she should do. Deliver messages from god to you to the girl. If I pass her on to you I should get a commission. Unfortunately she hates you.
- Is she coming here?
- She'll probably sleep all day after talking all night.
- What about her disease?
- This is the interesting part. After about the second hour of talking with her...
- What did you say?
- Tried to get the details. It turned out that the mother who didn't care about her was calling her every night, it would be ungrateful of her she said not to appreciate it, that the doctors were telling her that she did not have the fatal disease, that only an operation could prove that she did not, that her mother had promised to leave in her will the 40 percent ownership in the apartment, which turned out to be worth 1.2 million dollars. Rich, not dying, loving mother, living alone in a million dollar apartment.
- I want to meet her.
- You wish. And what about your rude talk? And anyway, weren't you telling me yesterday the opposite? I told you how I picked a fight with the guard at the Hammer Museum.
- I don't remember.
- Closing time, I had to leave the courtyard where I like to go read sometimes when I'm in Westwood. I didn't like the way he talked to me.
- He talked to you like a man.
- I replied to him like a monster. One monster to another. I felt like fighting. Gave him a piece of my mind, which was on the corporate ownership of UCLA which controlled the museum and hired psychopaths like the him, the guard.
- You called him a psychopath?
- Sure, wasn't he? Aren't you, isn't the girl with the million dollar apartment?
- What about you?
- I told you before, I'm the only one in the world who's not crazy.
- Your problem is you want to fight the world. The Torah says you have to be devious, clever. You make peace by deceiving your enemies, placating them, calming them.
- Yeah. And you just told me I shouldn't be nice to girls. Which is it? Should I fight them or make peace with them?
- It all fits together on a higher level you can't see in your way of thinking.
- Only disclosed to the select. Ok. That brings me back to networks. I'd read this piece by a Toronto sociologist who claimed that it was a myth that the internet was isolating individuals. In fact, he wrote, people were still leaving their computers to meet in real life, but with not a mere handful of connections, now with thousands, they could choose the best person to go to for a particular purpose. The internet was deepening social connections, not weakening them. What do you think?
- I use the internet to meet girls.
- To be rude to them. You go through them quick. You're a psychopath. Actually, that's my idea: the internet is turning the whole world into psychopaths. Deliberately put on multiple personalities. Think about it. What's the difference between what we're doing here, real conversation, and sending messages back and forth on the internet?
- It's faster.
- Chat can be fast. No. The difference is that before you respond you can think: should I respond to someone else first? You can think, will anyone else see this message, if it is a public post? You can think what kind of image of yourself you would like to promote. We're like spies, gathering information from secret redoubt, who if we respond at all first put on a disguise before the in-person meeting to making a message drop.
- I don't understand.
- I mean what you just told me: people want to do the work of god, be devious, clever, make peace with the world by applying to it highly thought-through, the most placatory response.
- What's wrong with that?
- I like your first idea better, being equally rude to everyone. That's more like conversation. You keep talking to the same person looking for something you can agree on, don't stop until you come up with a single statement that applies to all you both have said since the conversation began. In systems theory, according to the guys I watch on the internet, conversation builds a model. The model is a statement, "if this then that", which when you run the experiment of putting in everything both of you have said, works without exception.
- Then what's the model here?
- Psychopaths. Multiple personalities. The rich girl who takes attitudes to the world to placate it, one after another, which don't make any sense when added up. You with your advice from god to be a politician with the world but be rude to every individual in it. Every individual who goes out to meet one of thousands of contacts and have a deeper, more devious, clever and psychopathic experience.
- You're negative. You'll never get anywhere.
- How can I when every time I meet someone I meet with this deep-connection deviousness, calculation of peace making, everyone doing maintenance on their personal network. I like to fight.
- Do you every ask yourself why?
- Of course! I like to have conversations, to reach agreement, to make a model of life.
- What good are models?
- That's like asking what good is knowledge, what good is art, what good is truth.
- What good are they? All we need do is love.
- Love all the multiple personality psychopaths in the world. That's why you wander around Beverly Hills all night giving the desperate a dollar or two.
- Yes.
- And go back home to your mother, to your own million dollar apartment, to the control center of your network of psychopaths.
- We're all psychopath.
- To end this conversation I propose a model, a definition of "psychopath".
- What is it?
- A psychopath is someone who doesn't know that not everyone has a multiple personality. A psychopath is someone who doesn't know everyone is not a psychopath.

15. The Presidents

- When does the bookstore close?
- Ten.
- Sit down here, next to me. Help me with my essay.
- You mean rewrite your essay.
- Whatever. Are you going to sit down?
- I'll sit over there.
- Why? You don't like me anymore?
- You oppress me.
- Then why are you with me?
- You're nice to look at. You're amusing.
- Go to hell.
- Send me your draft by email.
- Why should I send an email across the room?
- I'll work on it on my computer. Take it or leave it.
- You better do a good job.
- Or what? You'll fire me? What's the essay about?
- Comparing the speeches of Kennedy and Obama.
- What do you argue?
- You can read it. I'm sending it now.

- Now you sit down next to me?
- It's only temporary. I've fixed your homework.
- Send it to me.
- Did already.
- What did you think?
- Just a lot of talk. But similar, as you say.
- What did you think of my writing? And what's wrong with the speeches? They're good.
- Your writing is fine, in your usual poetically incoherent way. The Presidents' speeches are something like lies.
- Why lies? And watch out, if you keep insulting me.
- You watch out, if you don't want me to go back to my nice safe chair.
- Go ahead. What good are you?
- Good for editing your essays.
- Why are the Presidents' speeches lies?
- Because, unlike you, they don't show any spirit.
- Do I show spirit?
- Too much, and the wrong kind.
- What is the wrong kind?
- You keep telling me I don't love you, so you believe in love, right? It's real, it exists? It's something good?
- Yes?
- And you believe in self-discipline, work, study, ambition, right? Otherwise how could you always be insulting me for lacking it?
- You're a lazy bum.
- Let's say you are President. Not a lazy bum. You want to do the right thing about the economy, about the country's wars. You want to work toward a world where people love each other. You've made speeches about it. But what do you know from your own experience about overcoming pressure to do something else? How strong are you at defying the demands of other people?
- And that, according to you, is spirit? Defying the demands of other people?
- And defying your own urge to compromise.
- How is that not in the speeches?
- A leader needs authority, needs to speak from strength gathered from his own experience resisting demands to compromise. The Presidents' speeches are eloquent appeals to group members to be a better group members, to push each other to be better within the group.
- But that's fine.
- It's not. Because when the time comes the President is threatened, intimidated by enemies and political opponents, unless he has spirit he will not have the strength to resist demands to compromise.
- Find me a speech with spirit.
- Look up Vaclav Havel. Or get up and find his books on the shelves over there.
- Don't have time. Why do I have the wrong kind of spirit?
- Your spirit is mere defiance. It doesn't get you to do the right thing.
- Says you.
- Who you defy.
- Why not? You're not the President. You're just jealous. Those speeches are good.
- I'm going back to my chair. Read Havel.
- Send something to me.
- When I get back to safety.
- It's not that easy to get away from me.

16. Possibilities

- I've got a question for you.
- Alright.
- First I'll tell you another story. Not the one I want to tell.
- Why tell it then?
- You'll see. Last night, when the cafe closed, that's one o'clock now, I was crossing the street right there, and a beautiful woman leans out the window of her shiny new car and asks,
- What's wrong?
- You don't want to know.
- I do. Where are you going?
- Not far.
- Can I give you a ride?
- Really?
- Yes.
- Then yes.
 I slip into the front seat and look over at this smiling strikingly good looking woman.
- Look at you.
- Where do you want to go?
- The market, three blocks down Beverly. Aren't you afraid I'm a mass murderer?
- You?
- I guess not.
- What's wrong?
- Nothing interesting. I'm a happy guy with practical problems.
- Everything will work out. Here we are.
- That's the story, the first story.
- I like it.
- I don't like it. Nothing happened.
- Something will.
- Two days before, I was sitting where you're sitting now, and this guy comes over, he's about 27, 28, says,
- The battery on my phone is dead. Can you look up an address for me on your computer?
- Sure. What's the address?
- 417 Holt.
- 417 Holt?
- Yeah.
- That's strange.
- Why? Is it far?
- No. I used to live there. Are you going to visit someone?
- Yeah. A girl.
- I gave him directions, he thanked me and went off. Now today, before coming here, I was at this little cake shop in Silverlake, that's ten miles from here, I go to just about every morning for coffee. And who walks in?
- The guy.
- The guy. I look up and he's walking right up, putting his hand out to shake mine, says,
- Remember me, 417 Holt?
- What are you doing here?
- Visiting a friend.
- Another friend.
- Yes.
- What do you do?
- What do you mean?
- What's your job, how do you make money, if you make money?
- I manage escorts. Do you know what an escort is?
- I was married to one. 
- You were?
- I might be still married. She's disappeared.
- And then what happened?
- That's the story. The story so far. The end of the story is this question I want to ask you. I see three possibilities. First, the guy was a detective, showing himself to me to see what I'd do.
- Why would a detective do that?
- Maybe to scare me into doing whatever he'll ask me to do later.
- Like what?
- I don't know. A Beverly Hills doctor my wife married without divorcing me is being divorced by her now and he doesn't want to pay. I'm not being cooperative.
- You think this guy following you is working for the doctor?
- That's one possibility. I don't favor it. Another possibility is that it's simply a coincidence. My old address. The second meeting. Escort business.
- What do you think?
- I don't favor that explanation either. There's another possibility.
- That harmonies have been created in your life, are revealing themselves. Telling you something is going to happen.
- Formal repetitions, suggesting more to follow. My life is taking on a style. A style not created by me but by the world. But this I don't get, this business of the world making itself into art. That's my job.
- Maybe you should take a vacation. Sit back and see what happens.
- But that's my complaint! Nothing happens.
- You say nothing happens after telling me these stories?
- Like I said to the woman in the car, I'm happy with my self, my stories, couldn't be happier, it's the practical things...
- Everything will work out. You'll see.
- I'm used to being the artist. What am I supposed to do while I wait for the world to work its style for me?
- Something will happen.