at the time / by laurel

Los Angeles is full of wanderers.

And it's no wonder, when the latent threat of the apocalypse shimmers and vibrates off the skyline, sending smoke signals of impending doom into the smoggy ether. Who would put down roots in a city whose own infrastructure can only penetrate so far as our rickety aqueducts will allow?

When I drive through the intersection where Santa Monica and Wilshire meet, it's as though I am vacillating between the great Once-Was and the Never-Again. Here, time has nearly halted and the maudlin, scotch-tinted brutality of the 60's will always be preserved. It's so soft around the edges, this mentality: at once blandly optimistic and acutely paranoid.

What exists here hovers invisibly over the manicured landscape like remnants of a nuclear fallout: Idealism about the future and its sterile, sparkling possibilities buttressed by the quiet terror that the best of times have long since detonated. What remains are the toxic permutations of change that implode and turn in on themselves with precise regularity.

We are the scattered multitudes, the Transient Generation, bumbling mawkishly through the fleeting zeitgeist of our twenties. Ours is a life spent navigating the pitfalls of a new kind of notoriety. Eyes downcast, we splay our lives onto the internet, acting as the liaison between our private self and our public self.

In the efforts to establish roots amidst a transitory world at odds with itself, weโ€™ve chosen to plant our proverbial white picket fence on the internet. Beneath the looping festoon of upspeak and shorthand, banal anecdotes mingle with personal confessions, begetting an eternal adolescence no less callow or miserably powerless than the diary entries we burned along with our youthful vulnerability way back in โ€˜95.

The online personas of our age are rendered indistinguishable by the symbiotic partnership between unsolicited honesty and shrewd guardedness. Success and failure are only relative to the amount of bandwidth we assign to them. The fickle nature of celebrity and the public persona are reminders that it all looks the same when written in HTML.

In this brave new world of profound sameness, all things are disproportionately brighter, louder, faster--until all else fades and even manic screams and shouts are merely muffled threads in the aural and visual fabric of our age. Each and every event is chronicled with the same marketing strategy, the same deafening roar, the same zing-bam! immediacy of the one preceding it. Our history has lacked depth since the Gulf War, and now our personal narratives have flatlined as well. We are free to choose from a vending machine of smartly packaged events, able to build with the spare change of the information age the precise historical meal that fits into our flimsy diet.

If the generation before us was a generation of slackers, we are a generation of snackers.

Today I find myself in Los Angeles, braided into the endless plait of taillights. There is a lull in the start-stop pattern of traffic, the pace now humming along at a yawny 50 mph. It is dusk. Cars hemorrhage into the asphalt, and buildings melt into the ground. To the west, the sunโ€™s giant bloody iris drips onto the skyline, its poisonous red glare softening a bit around the edges enough for me to see regret in its face. Here, away from the internet, where success and failure are at war with one another--and not unlikely bedfellows--I hear the sun say

This is the last sunset in the loving arms of the apocalypse and instead of an explosion, I gathered my strength and heaved a giant sigh.