Another Big Finish
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Last Friday, I was slaving cheerfully at my laptop, IM'ing a colleague about many important things — when my calendar popped up to remind me that the world was coming to an end in 15 minutes. "Hey," I thought, "nothing's more important than the end of the world." So I typed in, "sorry, gotta run" and dashed to my classic ‘99 Taurus — a car purchased just before the last time the world ended.
Sure enough, once outside, L.A. did again look to be in its final moments: happy sunlight, palm trees swaying, loud music emerging from pink convertibles, gaudy women emerging from chic bistros: you know, the way this town always appears right before the big spaceship arrives, or the volcano awakes, or the great wave makes landfall.
"Weird how we're always the first to go," I muse with secret satisfaction, "But of course, metaphorically, it's so damn appropriate, since we're the guys bringing down Western Civilization." As for the sun, well, it's always brightest just before the doom.
Now it's 12:38: only seven minutes to go. Better punch it if I want to see Wilshire Boulevard pulverized or Randy's donut rolling down La Cienega — so I turn up my own volume to help me weave unmetaphorically through traffic and cut fast down alleyways to avoid the lights.
All the while, I'm pretty proud of myself for dropping everything to witness the apocalypse — I mean, only the protagonists generally realize they should drop everything. As I park, I think, "Yes, this is just the way the end should arrive: like a sudden inspiration, with only two or three coming attractions, just to get the blood pumping."
Okay, now it's 12:45, and I'm probably missing the coming attractions; or maybe, I think, as I dash through the unknowing crowds, I am the coming attraction.
Since it's a weekday, the theater lobby is practically empty, just one tired woman selling tickets — not the kind of person who's likely to live past the first reel. And in the auditorium itself, only 20-odd people have washed up onto the stadium seating for the first showing of the movie 2012, eyes shining in the light of trailers for other disasters, yet to come. I like that about stadium seating, how you can stand at the bottom and see the faces of all the potential survivors.
Even though the reviewers have labeled this movie "disaster porn," I feel no guilt or shame sitting there in the dark. In fact, when you think about it, the best Hollywood movies are always about the end of the world...some world anyway, be it a marriage, a way of life or a human understanding. That's because all our lives are like that now: huge inevitable changes washing in unexpectedly every 3 to 5 years: careers ending, technologies disrupted, mores shifting, families collapsing. When you watch a tidal wave take out D.C. or a dust cloud bury Vegas, it just makes you feel more at home in the 21st century.
At the very least, we should all be allowed to enjoy that brief end-of-world moment when all responsibility is released, all obligations cancelled, all debts forgotten.
When the 10 freeway collapses, you just start running.
Me, I sit up high, and say aloud, "Go ahead, ravish me with catastrophic beauty." And sure enough, a canyon opens up from Santa Monica Airport straight to downtown, half the city falling in before the other half slides into the sea.
Afterwards, I drive back slowly through the city, pleased to see that someone has reconstructed the set again. Back at my office, I sit at my laptop to recall my responsibilities, obligations, and debts. Then I set an alarm for the real December, 2012 — like every good urban man, confident that I'll be ready for the world to end one more time.
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Banner image: Scene from the movie 2012
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