Homage to L.A.: a Slaughterhouse of Dreams
The smell hits you as soon as you step out of the air-conditioned airport. You feel the residue, the fallout of broken dreams hitting your palate. The charred remains of incinerated hopes mix with the omnipresent smog and invade every pore of your being.
The shuttle bus takes you to your hotel over miles and miles of pulverised aspirations paved over by concrete highways. From the bus window you can see Hollywood Boulevard, where gold stars are set into asphalt, merging imperceptibly with the Promenade of Dead Dreams where the stars are wrought of dirty, soggy cardboard and are stuck onto the pavement with scotch tape or wads of old gum. Each star marks the exact spot where a particular dream breathed its last.
Different dreams die in different ways. Some shatter into jagged shards and one gets badly cut trying to piece them together again. Some fragment into neat, symmetrical fragments and reconstruction is a relatively straightforward task, sort of like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Others just crumble away, like burnt paper, and nothing is left to do except to warm your hands over their long-cold ashes.
Around each broken dream throngs of people sit in huddles, protecting it as best they can from the elements and the vagaries of fate, and keeping a vigil just in case it stirs and shows signs of life, for no dream can be obliterated completely.
L.A., a Dream Slaughterhouse masquerading diabolically as a Dream Factory. The city takes particular delight in finding new ways to kill dreams, in finding new dreams to put to death. Special extermination squads roam its streets, ransacking every nook and cranny of the peoples' souls and minds for any treasured hopes that might be in hiding there. The perversity of L.A.'s depravity is such that it even gives birth to dreams just so it can shoot them and watch them die.
The dream incinerators keep working around the clock, day and night, producing clouds of smoke that comprise of dreams reduced to their constituent elements: deep yearnings, life-long desires, burning ambitions, great hopes, ineffable hunches rumbling just below the conscious mind, indestructible beliefs, faint, half-remembered childhood premonitions of future glory that are more potent than any Law of Man or Nature, secret aspirations that one does not dare to share with others lest they be derided, yet which are a crucial part of one's identity and which one is absolutely certain will be realized.
The city makes you come face to face with your shortcomings, makes you confront your failures. It knows all the delusions that comfort us throughout our lives; the delusions that get us out of bed in the morning and inspire us to do things with our lives; the delusions that keep us warm and secure at night; the delusions that sustain us through our daily struggles; the delusions we use to solve our existential crises and that provide us with reasons for living; the delusions that help us through our darkest times; the delusions we stubbornly hang on to, nurture and cherish and that we would defend to our very deaths.
Every delusion gets hunted down and taken care of in this town: the delusion that you are special and unique; the delusion that you have singular and extraordinary talents; the delusion that you are in possession of insights into life the rest of the world lacks; the delusion that you possess fundamental truths everyone else is blind to; the delusion that you are destined for greatness; the delusion that you are a genuine genius whom the world doesn’t appreciate or understand; the delusion that you will find a soul mate meant just for you and whose love will save you; the delusion that the convictions you tenaciously hold on to are not delusions at all but are rather veracious, valid beliefs derived from experience and insight, and are supported by evidence from both the outer and inner worlds; the delusion that you are above the laws of humanity and deserve to be treated differently; the delusion that a lucky break will come to you in the end; the delusion that somewhere some person, angel or god is looking after you, working on your behalf and trying to help you with your journey through life; the delusion that you are protected by fate and special good fortune from bad things happening to you; the delusion that there will come a day when you will begin to live happily ever after; the delusion that some day you will find meaning in your tribulations and thus your life will be retrospectively justified; the delusion that it all will turn out well in the end; the delusion that all is well that ends well; the delusion that your life is just a bad, absurd dream and that you will eventually wake up to find yourself living a happy life that makes sense; the delusion that you alone, out of the multitude in the present world and throughout the course of history, will be spared from death; the delusion that you are dead; the delusion that you are alive; the delusion that you do not have any delusions.
Over the eons, the native denizens of the city have evolved a protection mechanism— they dream only fake dreams and have only counterfeit delusions so that when their hopes are destroyed, it doesn’t hurt at all. Only the unwary outsiders possess no genetic defence system and it is their dreams the metropolis preys upon.
The mountains, mute witnesses to the adversities and sufferings down below, are always there, solid and eternal, their paradoxical presence contrasting sharply with the ethereal, evanescent dreams floating around in the valleys.
Yet there might be an explanation for this incongruity, for according to an old American Indian legend the L.A. area was once as flat as a pancake. Over time the detritus of destroyed dreams landed on the outskirts and amassed to create the mountains. Just as coral reefs are comprised of myriads of dead organisms, so the mountains around L.A. are composed of fragments of lost hopes, scraps of unfulfilled ambitions and shells of dead dreams, with each broken dream contributing about 2/7th of an inch to the mountains’ height.
The mountains, mute witnesses, say nothing, expressing themselves through that most ancient, most articulate, most authentic and most profound language of all—absolute silence.
Boris Glikman is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. The biggest influences on his writing are dreams, Kafka and Borges. His stories, poems and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs.
3/16/2017 07:56:53 am
thank you for sharing Lorette, appreciate it!
3/18/2018 02:22:39 am
Truly fine poem, Boris. Same may apply to a place like Chicago also, and funny how the latter city-name refers to a river weed (for memory anyhow).
3/21/2018 11:14:11 pm
Thank you for taking a look at it Benjamin. This piece comes from a series of impressions of America that I did after I visited it for the very first time a few years ago.
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