Monday, December 13, 2021

Advent 2021, Dec 13, Chris Daley: Hateful Things: Los Angeles 2021

After “Hateful Things,” an essay from The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon (c. 966–1017),
which chronicles daily life in the court of Empress Consort Teishi.

One learns of a recent article about Los Angeles written in New York and prepares for the distasteful clichés that are forthcoming: traffic, hiking, astrology, athletic wear, eternal sunshine, celebrities, palm trees, smog, avocado toast. Hateful.

One is in a hurry to arrive, but the automobile’s navigation robot has failed to account for the congestion on both freeways and surface streets. One is trapped in the middle lane behind a luxury sports utility vehicle with a bumper sticker that reads “Too dumb for New York City. Too ugly for L.A.” Loathsome.

One finds that one’s new upstairs neighbor has acquired an exercise contraption seemingly comprised of a mallet that pounds incessantly against the wall for one hour. After several mornings of being woken at dawn, one is forced to confront the neighbor who claims that she assumed one would have left for work—even though one’s single previous conversation with the neighbor had consisted solely of what it’s like to work from home. Oh, how hateful!

Very hateful is a fat, bossy squirrel that blocks the sidewalk when one tries to walk to the supermarket to buy tomatoes.

One finds oneself in a global pandemic. Epically hateful.

One walks to the local coffee emporium and only upon arrival does one realize that one has not remembered material with which to cover one’s potentially viral face. Hateful indeed.

One walks to another local coffee emporium where one immediately recognizes the handsome star of a recent Oscar-nominated film. The star meets one’s eyes, and one is forced to say hello to the stranger in an awkward, stilted fashion. When one attempts to then gaze at the star, from a distance after some time has passed, the star insists on making eye contact again. Rude and hateful.

A man with whom one is having an affair has no gainful employment but travels often away from Los Angeles. On a day that he reports having worked for the first time in eighteen months, one remarks on his fortuitous upcoming vacation. He does not contact one again. 

Many years later, one still recalls a former lover’s hateful observation that one would not be considered “indie.” 

One is telling a story of woe and a certain lady must double the amount of woe she is offering in order to minimize both one’s woe and the solace of that woe.

One must stay inside one’s home for weeks on end, and all the entertainment one wants to consume requires multiple streaming service subscriptions. Intolerable.

One becomes obsessed with television that is filmed in the United Kingdom because the production decisions have made the setting appear enviable and the characters more “real” than actual people in Los Angeles. (One hates the quotes around the word real.) 

On a hot day, one’s leggings cover too much of one’s limbs but one’s shorts do not cover enough. Vile.

After weeks of relentless sun and accumulated dust, one spends an hour at the car wash, waiting for one’s hand-dried automobile to be released, and before one has even returned home, it begins to rain. Hateful.

A close neighbor’s pandemic project is to learn how to play the drums. Beastly.

News from around the world shows people in lockdown in various locations banging on kitchenware to celebrate frontline workers. People in Los Angeles attempt to replicate this commemoration and the noise carries perhaps half a block through the hateful sprawl. 

At one’s local lunch establishment, the previously attentive owner suddenly gives one the cold shoulder. One wonders what one could have done, having no recollection of any uncomfortable incident or conversation. For weeks, one is anxious about what one should do in this unusual social situation—when one is no longer proficient in usual social situations—until one day, the owner treats one as he has been accustomed, making no reference to the recent estrangement. One is hatefully perplexed.

One orders a glass of wine during one’s first time at a restaurant in months, and the bartender contemptuously measures no more than five ounces.

One is dining outdoors when one recognizes an acquaintance one cannot place. After a hateful amount of time is spent trying to identify the acquaintance, one realizes the petite woman eating a salad plays the corpulent officemate on a popular television series. So objectionable!

In a rush to pay for items with a banking card, when presented with tip options, one mistakenly chooses “No Tip.” One must then make another purchase to correct the error. 

Hateful are people who wear the face covering meant to stop contagion over their chin or mouth only, causing one to call out in the street, “Cover your nose, sir!”

People whose eyes flicker over one’s shoulder, scanning the room for someone more impressive, until a target has been located and they swiftly depart. Hateful.

People who can clearly see that a strip of curb has been carefully measured to accommodate two vehicles and park as if there were only enough space for one.

After an evening of legendary winds, one is forced to drive to an appointment slowly and carefully around fallen palm fronds littering the boulevard, as if designed to make one appear tardy and feckless.

One has never had good news that one can’t share online. Hateful indeed.

At a long-delayed gathering, a family acquaintance who has known one for a quarter century remarks with great surprise, “You’re a writer?” 

One hikes to the top of a mountain to photograph the horizon. Where the sky meets the city, a repulsive strip of yellow pollution appears in every picture, which one cannot remove with any Instagram filter except the monochrome options. 

One decides to foster a cat in order to test whether one’s allergic reaction would be prohibitively hateful. One falls in love and immediately adopts the creature. After two years, the cat develops a mysterious allergy that requires her to wear a horrid inflatable collar almost all of the time. One is again hatefully perplexed.

A certain gentleman behaves very much like a Scorpio (hateful) and upon being asked for the date of his birth, he reveals that it falls on the cusp between Libra and Scorpio. When one asks for the time of his birth, the gentleman claims ignorance. 

The avocado is not ripe for several days and within a few hours, it has become rotten. Revolting.

One has formed hateful opinions about certain acquaintances. Sometimes the judgment is justified, and sometimes one can trace the disdain of several people to one intolerant companion.

One has paid several hundred dollars a month for years and one’s student loan balance has not decreased by a single penny. Intolerable!

One searches for homes within one’s zip code that cost less than half a million dollars, and the filter returns a single abhorrent property that is one pest invasion or earthquake away from condemnation. 

A certain gentleman in the neighborhood, whom one had previously found attractive until he refused consistently to acknowledge one’s existence, travels away from his own domicile to stand in front of one’s window to smoke his cigarettes. Odious behavior.

One is told throughout one’s female life that inevitably, at a certain age, one will become a crone who is invisible to all men of all ages. One is told this circumstance is especially prevalent in Los Angeles. One inevitably reaches a certain age and learns one is only invisible to men who have reached the same age! Most distasteful.

One is shamed for being single, as if an unwelcome yoke is preferable to one’s own company. Hateful.

More hateful is seeking one’s lovers through dating applications. One finds it insufferable in the extreme to attempt conversation with men who respond to queries in monosyllables and preemptively ask “What are you looking for?” as if one has been discovered in the forest with a flashlight.

Most hateful is encountering a lover to whom your last communication was sent, acknowledged as “read,” and flouted a year before, making one feel as if a spectral presence had absconded.

A good lover will behave as elegantly online as at any other time. He does not mistakenly send a video text meant for another, or call a lady by a name not her own, like Nicole. The lady urges him on: "Come, my friend, let’s meet in the world. You don't want anyone to find you here." He responds, “Deep sigh,” as if to say that the world is cursed but also full of possibility and that it is agony to learn which shall prevail. 

Once met, the lover does not instantly offend. Instead, he comes close to the lady and whispers whatever was left unsaid in the chat. Even when he is near, he still lingers, vaguely pretending to examine her earring. 

Presently he calls for a Lyft, and the two lovers stand together on the sidewalk while he tells her how he dreads the coming day, which will keep them apart; then he greets his driver and rides away. The lady watches him go, and this moment of parting will remain among her most charming memories. Indeed, one's attachment to a man depends largely on the elegance of his leave-taking.

When he neglects to make contact the following day, fails to respond to the lady’s cleverly worded and widely vetted missive, never pursues a subsequent assignation, but insists on viewing every Instagram story the lady posts for the foreseeable future—one really begins to hate him.


Chris Daley’s work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Air/Light Magazine, The Collagist, Alta: Journal of Alta California, Los Angeles Review of Books, Unfortunately Literary Magazine, and other venues. She considers this cover essay to be a companion to her essay “How to Love Los Angeles,” previously published in Angels Flight • literary west. One can follow Chris on most platforms at @escapegrace.

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