Tim Burton’s Vincent
  • Tim Burton’s Vincent
  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

I have always enjoyed writing about Halloween and/or Day of the Dead, but I’d like to take a slightly different approach this time. For all I know both may have passed by the time this reaches print. (I don’t think so; however, the phrase “vagaries of publishing” springs to mind.) As I say, this will be a variation.

What I’ve had in mind is the toll that some three years of this economic depression has taken on the people I see around me. I use the word depression not lightly because I sincerely believe that’s what we’re talking about here, but, of course, no politician will go near the more accurate term.

With the exception of younger people who have known nothing else, I see walking ghosts or the walking dead or near dead; even if they have a rictus of merriment drawn across their faces with either facial muscle or makeup. It strikes me that recent weather has reflected this as well, with only sporadic sunlight, a true anomaly in this part of the world.

Now, this most likely is just me, given my penchant for the darker side of things. But it strikes me that everywhere I look I see a Danse Macabre, no matter how loudly (and often too loudly) the laughter resounds with a seeming desperation — on street corners, buses, malls, and movie theaters featuring humorless and mediocre comedies.

From an encyclopedia entry: “Dance of Death is variously called Danse Macabre (French), Dansa de la Mort (Catalan), Danza Macabra (Italian and Spanish), Dança da Morte (Portuguese), Totentanz (German), and Dodendans (Dutch). It is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one’s station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life. Its origins are postulated from illustrated sermon texts; the earliest recorded visual scheme was a now-lost mural in the Saint Innocents Cemetery in Paris dating from 1424–25.”

Again, this is certain to be a conceit particular to myself and a lifelong history of grisly fascinations reminiscent of Tim Burton’s early short film Vincent, wherein a young neurotic boy considers himself too insane and tormented to go outdoors and play with other kids.

I recently received an email from Java Joe (of local coffee/music-venue fame) in response to what I had intended to be a parody of existential despairists (Sartre, in particular). And Joe posted a bit online about how San Diego was not a place for deep thinking but outdoor fun, etc. “First thing you have to do, John, is double down on the antidepressants. Nobody ever died from taking too many antidepressants, plus, it’ll get you out of the funk you are currently in.” Joe went on to say, “San Diego is not a town for heavy thinking. Everyone goes to the gym, or runs, or rides, or swims, or drinks, but I don’t recommend that for you. Focus on the nothingness that is everything here. Build your body; improve your breathing, become a vegan or go fishing. There’s a bazillion things to do here. But you do have to get off your duff and get into it.”

More than likely, Joe is correct, but I find it difficult to overcome a lifetime of the “Vincent” syndrome. And I’m not sure, but Joe might have been about as serious as I was being in the column in question.

One thing is true: my observations about my fellow San Diegans and the effects of this economic depression on both them and myself are as serious as a heart attack (and I should know). Or cancer. Had that, too. Possibly this explains my perennially un-cheery outlook, but I prefer to think of it as my despairingly poetic nature.

Today, the clouds are like hastily washed and desultorily hung laundry left out in a sunlight too feeble to dry them. I am disturbed by the quote from H.G. Wells I read recently — deadly accurate, it seems — as to how human beings are much like naked apes nodding sagely to each other in the dung pile. Still, hardly as disturbing as the looks I see (coincidentally, as Halloween and the Day of the Dead approach) on the faces of the people on the number seven bus, or at Walmart, people who look as if they had just discovered that life is hardly a polka march to the grave but a sadistic and moralless Punch and Judy show.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


mromano18 Oct. 26, 2011 @ 2 p.m.

Why do clinically depressed people always assume normal people just don't think as deeply as they do? Or as often? It's absurd. Those with the biologically correct amount of serotonin/a positive outlook/a grateful attitude think about the same things you do, but come to a different conclusion... usually one with a lot less self-pity.


Javajoe25 Oct. 27, 2011 @ 9:09 p.m.

Ah, John, You honor me by memorializing my words. Obviously, you didn't listen to a word of it. I'm that way too. Love to hear advice; love the way I ignore it.

You're in a dark place, John, or, you write like someone who is. Admittedly, there is a big dark cloud over all of our financial lives. Just ask Don Bauder. He's got the whys and wherefores. But you are also a cancer survivor; been there, done that, is a good place to be with cancer, because, obviously, you are still alive to tell the tale.

I've had a few close calls myself although not with the Big C. It was more a case of "reckless behavior." I'm an outie. No, not the navel and not someone shoved out of a closet; I like to be out and about. See things, do things, meet people and learn things. Sociable as heck, but prefer being solo most of the time. Somewhat prone to high-risk behavior because I feel the experience is more genuine. There's no pretense when you don't know if you are going to make it home alive.

So, my advice to you remains the same: Better living through chemistry; so take your meds, and watch out for the hootch, that stuff is no where near as much fun as coke but is a lot more insidious. Don't get me wrong; have a brew, have a shot. God knows I do (assuming he is), but just don't let it become the foreplay to everything. Go up to Balboa Park on Sunday and catch the organ concert or the girls from the House of India putting on their best colors. Get a buzz off the turmeric and cumin.

This town is not for heavy thinking, but it is a kaleidoscope of cultures and colors with a good dose of zippy people. In fact, I think you may be one of them.


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!