A recent Friday night in San Marcos, at the Melrose apartment complex, indicated to me a whole new level of the living comatose. Toe tags should be issued by the score for those in these parts whose idea of life may be a game of Warcraft followed by a meal at Coco's or Denny's and then perhaps a McDonald's vanilla cone. But this is mainstream America, I believe. That is, from all evidence (including all, I mean all the rectangular states) this the good life pursuing life, liberty, and the pursuit of the occasional iPod and cell phone. But what is it we are doing with what appears to be the vast majority of our wealth? The answer, like most of the country, can be found in San Marcos and Vista. Aside from building prisons to house minor drug offenders, we are eating fast food (or at least gorging at Home Town Buffet), and then, on a spree, going out for Ben & Jerry's and Starbucks.
For those who assume I am dumping on rural North County residents, perhaps I am and out of bitterness and envy. But that is not my point. I look around at the acres upon acres of unspoiled beauty and think, one day this probably will be all condos. Seriously, why on earth would the wealthy choose to live navel-to-asshole in identical houses with identical neighbors? All climbing hillsides, scattering wildlife into flights of useless panic and creating wastelands.
Meanwhile the single drivers, on their phones, in their $40,000 vehicles, choose to be unaware of what their collective, massive emissions are doing to the atmosphere. Whether you believe there is an ozone problem or not, you may well believe in oxygen and temperature and those things are becoming dangerous. You, however, can roll up the window, put on the AC, turn on the radio, and cruise like it's 1954 and the country is going through an unprecedented enjoyment of prosperity. To hell with everyone else, Jack. I got mine.
That is precisely the phenomenon we see every day. Oh, yes, and you know it, too. We walk by some schizophrenic, dysfunctional, drug-addicted, dehydrated, homeless alcoholic who asks for a dollar, and we shake our heads, careful not to meet their eyes. This (and I have done this as well) is the epitome of arrogance, and a particular kind of arrogance that is American. Not that it doesn't happen in other countries; but it is so institutionalized here, so ingrained a part of our capitalist society that it is not only overlooked but in a way silently applauded by our fellow self-made entrepreneurs. We pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, you get a job.
But what has this to do with Vista or San Marcos or any other vast area of North County real estate where businessmen are huddled together as if for warmth, tucked away in camouflage gray or red tile? It is that these men know they have done something wrong, even if by omission. Behind every great fortune, it is said, is a crime; and indeed these men have fortunes compared to most of the world. I can hear the blustering now, "I am not rich! Maybe comfortable, but..." Still, the eye of a needle and a camel, you know.
I have felt incredibly lucky in my time: a great guitar, a few hundred dollars, and I've tried to share often. Too often failing to do so. I have often taken advantage -- even stolen -- but at least I think I'm aware of what I've done. Mostly (blackouts, etc., aside -- though they count, oh, yes) I am aware of what I have not done. The men and women I refer to above are oblivious and choose to remain so. This strikes me as close to the sin of despair -- and I have done that as well. Despair is, they say, the greatest, the unforgivable sin. Arrogance, greed, and disdain must be close runners-up.
What has this to do with nightlife, the action from Melrose Village tonight? What has it to do with what those people in their bluffside porch-lit condos are up to on a Friday night? Nothing at all.