We had Christmas dinner with extended family (not exactly, but close enough) in the French part of Laguna Niguel, which isn’t French at all but pretends to be for purposes of cultural appropriation that do not include actually learning shit from the French (which would be bescarved and socialistic and involve annoying concepts like “patrimony” and eight weeks of vacation for people who didn’t earn their vacation by inheriting trust funds). The French part of Laguna Niguel is hella up this big-ass hill, beyond the reach of OCTA and the certain classes who ride OCTA. The views are great, but that Manuel Ramos for Sheriff feeling puts on its gloves as you start up the hill and doesn’t take them off until you’re safely back down in the sort of terrain where Ramos actually puts on his gloves. See these memes? They’ll fuck you up. The point is, like hell anyone staking a claim to that high ground actually built what he has with his own sheer hard work. They skimmed that gravy off stock market tricks, government treasuries, and Mexican day laborers. Cracka I know how they roll in the Orange Bubble, and I know that they reserve the hard work for the wetbacks because otherwise they’d have to pay uppity natives like me to do it and humor our demands for civil rights and human dignity and shit. Let’s not kid ourselves too ridiculously.
So there we were, up on that hill, with a hostess who, we’d been warned, enjoys her recourse to the fruit of the vine and work of human hands and veers into snappy, uncivil, and otherwise obnoxious behavior when under its influence, or alternately when not under its influence. One look at her told me that she drinks more wine in a night than I’d drink by my own gumption in a month. One of the bottles she had opened was a blended table red with a label spiel about how it was–I can’t reconstruct this verbatim for the life of me, but I won’t be too far off–classy enough to be a business suit (Capri pants?) but also relaxed enough to be yoga pants. The wine sucked even worse than the label, but that made it a good gettin’ drunk wine, in case anyone was in the mood, because it would be a waste to savor it. We’d also been warned that our hostess was a #TCOT whiner about how everyone else was taxing her into penury and living off the avails of her own hard work. It must be hard living up there. Our hostess turned out to be in a nearly inexplicable marriage to one of the most gracious, easygoing people in the county, which made me wonder what the hell had gotten a man like him to settle for a woman like her. On second thought, though, being married to a loud wino must be easier for someone who’s absurdly unflappable than it would be for, say, another loud wino.
In fairness, we’d been given a pretty harsh pre-assessment of the hostess by her daughter and son-in-law, who made her out to be legit crazy. I might drink myself under the table in a futile attempt to cope with a marriage like that, but she calmed down from time to time during dinner, so it wasn’t as bad as we’d been bracing ourselves to survive. And our hosts fed us damn fucking well. But I never entirely shook the feeling that the abyss of South County was staring back into me, blankly. We were in a goddamned bizarre corner of an already bizarre area where the affluent settle to spend their lives justifying themselves to one another, forever seeking acquittal from a compliant, narrowly drawn jury of their peers. I lived in Palo Alto until I was ten and have lifelong contacts scattered around California, and I cannot fucking grasp Greater Santa Affluenza. I just can’t. Lake Forest and Irvine, of all places, didn’t prepare me for the French highlands of Laguna Niguel.
So, yes, Virginia, there is a pathologically sheltered population in Orange County. These are people who don’t live in your world or mine, or in Buena Park’s. You have no idea. I had an idea, and it still stunned me to lay eyes on it. It was like, my God, it isn’t just bad reality television; people actually live like this. Stumbling into this from any normal neighborhood is shocking. Or from any of the car-sleeping arrangements that–I lives here, can I come in?–some of us maintain sometimes for financial reasons, in which case it all makes even less sense. Hell, I doesn’t lives there. P. J. O’Rourke, the warrant squad, and that dimwit in Anacostia would make more sense than this forty-year hilltop apotheosis of leveraged yuppie wealth.
The yuppie project seeks, of course, to justify itself. Heartfelt humility would get in the way of fully enjoying that dolce vita shit in a county that also includes Stanton, so the cliff Christians find spiritual workarounds that they classify, unfortunately, under the auspices of Christianity. I shouldn’t get too snarky about this, I guess, since I started writing this instead of going to mass in the aftermath of another paperwork scare stemming from the car accident last month whose initial resolution made it somewhere between impossible and le hard to get to evening mass on time anyway, especially with a headache coming on for reasons I can’t entirely figure out and an unexpected trolley signaling fuckup this afternoon on the Blue Line.
This wouldn’t be a problem in the Laguna Niguel upcountry, which doesn’t have trolleys, or the kinds of people who ride trolleys (mostly). It does, however, have postmodern evangelical Christianity (sic), as expressed in the book of graces from which our hosts picked out a goofy meal blessing that somehow incorporated gifts under the tree. Again, I shouldn’t get too snarky, since I once gave thanks that I wasn’t in federal prison like Rod Blagojevich during grace because our hosts at that meal expected each of us to give thanks for something, but I got the sneaking feeling again that Jesus isn’t really the reason for the season, and that I didn’t want to look too closely at the real reasons. Is this really worse than Catholics muttering their pro forma grace before dinner with varying but usually inadequate degrees of diction, or the more staunch sorts of evangelicals just, God, just thanking you, God, for this opportunity to, just, keep talking about how thankful we all are in this place for this food that is already getting cold? Probably not by much. Of course, some of the family irreligious started piping up with shouts of, “Grace! Grace!” before our hosts had agreed on a grace from the book of graces that seemed graceful enough to both of them (Edwin Starr: “Good God, y’all!”), and most of us had already started eating since we hadn’t been told that there was a blessing that we were encouraged to await in a spirit of something other than Christian gluttony. I think I started eating and then stopped, pending grace, in some kind of spirit of Christian something or other that, of course, didn’t manage to involve getting to mass within the two weeks on either side of Christmas Day. Or ministering to the kinds of people who badly need ministry in various municipalities other than Laguna Niguel.
We were told that, for ethnic reasons, our hostess had a Catholic personal background. This was sorta kinda true but not really relevant, nor were the caveats to her Catholicism. As an RCIA alumnus, I always snicker inside at comments like these. I spent, like, 2003-2006 watching more people than I had any interest in counting pass me on their way out of the Roman Catholic Church while I was on my own way in, figuring that maybe some of them might wander back but that it certainly wasn’t my place to pester them for having less interest in Catholicism as jaded cradle Catholics than I had as a quietly timid catachumen. Among other gifts which we might bless using an addendum to the book of graces, ethnic construals of Catholicism have given us Lutheranism, Anglicanism, an African-American population on the whole quite reasonably hesitant to engage with a medley of America’s most aggressive white ethnics, and lots of embarrassing shouting matches over parking spaces between the conclusion of the Ukrainian mass and the start of the Polish mass in certain Pennsylvania coal towns. A college lunch buddy told us that these standoffs worked out to something like the Hunkies all colonizing the nine o’clock mass and the Pollacks ten thirty, leaving a no-man’s land at around a quarter past ten for God’s Slavic children to be vulgar to one another in their common Anglo-Saxon vulgate. An African priest on assignment in the United States, fully expecting to be thrown into a confusing, alien cultural landscape on arrival, will generally be more patient with this shit than an American whose family and, yes, Community have been navigating versions of it for three or four hundred years.
Piss be with you, too. I have reasons for limiting my celebration of my own (((TRIBAL TIES))), adequately described above and elsewhere in these pages. Since I know where the parenthesis keys are located, though, I ought to mention briefly that one of the all-too-recent family Jews told her own son, I believe it was, circa 1950, (((You look like a chink, you chink!))) *SERGEI SHOIGU CROSSES HIMSELF AGAIN, JUST TO BE SURE*.
Yes, that’s bad, but to my knowledge none of these racebaiting wackjobs defecated from trees in front of neighbors. I probably should have mentioned that we’re talking about South County again, so of course that happened. In our particular case, one of the children at dinner happened to have gone on a hike with another tween from the hood who climbed up a tree, pulled down her pants, and took a dump right in front of her mates. When the others interrupted this chick with a unanimous what-the-fuck-bitch point of order, homegirl told them, excited more than chastised, “We’re making memories!”
It’s always been my favorite time of year when the shitbirds return to Cacastrano. As they say, the same brown line that was dropped on you was dropped on me, and now it’s made me drop in to the laundry room again. This whole situation is all fucking kinds of bizarre at once. Poo-Poo Splatter was eleven years old when she did this. She lives in a three-million-dollar house and attends a quasi-Montessori hippie day school, which was apparently the institution that taught her to think of aerial monkey-pee-monkey-doo stunts as “making memories.” As a friend of ours described this school, “It’s like, okay, here’s a class where we learn how to code, and here’s one where we learn Chinese, and here’s another class where we get to make dirtballs and eat them.” It must be great for parents who expect their children to become fluent and literate in Mandarin but don’t have the wherewithal to potty-train them normally by the time they reach puberty.
Something about the socialization process here isn’t going right. I don’t know all the details, mercifully, but we might say that a runny thing happened on the way to the Forum. Years ago I hazarded a guess that South County brats are likelier than the national baseline to shit in their neighbors’ azaleas as a fuck-you to the extreme bourgeois values of their upbringing. Then I rode on the 71 bus with that cute but creepy teen girl who was talking about slasher flicks so openly and with such a flat affect that another passenger admonished her to be quiet, and with her friend who said, as likely as not because I was listening in (like, I wanna know if you bitches are carrying knives), “You and I should create our own language.” I thought I had a sense of how bad it could get. It never occurred to me that a tree would be a more attractive shittin’ perch than a hydrangea bush or some dealership owner’s driveway. I expect these kiddos to shit under trees for no good reason just because they’re affluent, bored, and at loose ends, just as I expect them to be involved in academic cheating scandals, but I never imagined that one of them would pull down her pants and shit FROM a tree. To quote Richard Nixon, Christ, we never did that in Yorba Linda. We didn’t want to go to the loony bin and have the Jews put us in straitjackets for doing that. We were poor but we had goddamn toilets.
Poo-Poo Splatter was inevitably ridiculed by her peers for making these specific memories, as well she needed to be. Sure, maybe we’re listening to autism because it’s speaking, but we’d be remiss not to give it some timely feedback. Specifically, don’t shit out of a tree in front of other people; that’s fucked up. If it takes a village to raise a child, surely the villagers will tell the child not to shit out of a tree. But the parents don’t want their children socializing their peers so aggressively.
It isn’t because they think it’s a good idea to climb a tree and go poo. The woman whose daughter watched Poo-Poo Splatter do her thing and reported back on the incident is employed as something approximating a technical writer at an engineering firm. The engineers send her technical reports in gibberish and she translates them into English. The Engineer Whisperer doesn’t seem like someone who shits out of trees. She’s simultaneously titillated and appalled by the tree incident. She thinks it’s absolutely bizarre and is glad that her daughter agrees with her. Her concern seems to be that Poo-Poo Splatter’s parents will get upset if they learn that their precious snowflake is being ridiculed by her peers just for climbing a tree and defecating from it in front of them without warning. Chopper Mama might bitch that Poo-Poo Splatter is neuroatypical and needs special support and consideration and shit. Letting one’s own kid try to belatedly socialize the badly undersocialized neighbor girl will provoke HOA drama, basically, so it’s best not to go there.
MMR vaccines aren’t why these brats have autism; they catch it from the neighborhood. Christmas dinner was a visit to what SVU called “the undervaccinated community of Pacific Palisades.” The local parents are afraid that their kids won’t master the bewildering socioeconomic skill set and resource base necessary to become Boeing’s director of Asian operations or the Secretary of State, as one does in South Orange County, so they write them off as autists and bully anyone who makes fun of them for shitting from fifteen feet up a eucalyptus, like a fucking chimpanzee. I guess we might as well get the hikikomori thing going by menarche, just to have a head start on it, as long as we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings by telling her that that she probably won’t be the next Bill Gates. Eh, on second thought, Gates came from money, yelled at subordinates like a maniac, and often went a week straight without showering, so maybe.
The problem is that I’m forced to compete in the job market against these coddled children whose parents run interference on their behalf, the dipshits who pretend to raise them, their competent and driven peers who would execute a Chinese train station knife massacre to get into Harvard, and the illegal aliens that their entire community harbors for scab labor. It’s been a long December, and there’s reason to believe that maybe this year will be just as bad as the last, because the electorate is still pretty much Robert Sanchez T-boning another gasoline tanker every night. You may not enjoy the journey (TM), but this is one journey that will enjoy the hell out of you.