Fear and Loathing in Orange County
We were somewhere on the edge of Barstow when futility began to take hold.
Last night a buddy of mine decided to take my brother to Las Vegas for his twenty-first birthday. But my brother had no intention of going. The problem, moreover, was that my buddy had already told the rest of our friends that we were Vegas-bound, that we would be over the border before midnight, that our wildest dreams were about to come true. He was greeted with derision, the kind of nay-saying reserved for quixotic fools who think they can fly near the sun when they know very well they are nobody’s Icarus. My friend (and let’s call him Icarus) was told he was a man of words, not actions.
Hours later I’m on the phone explaining this twisted tale to my girlfriend. “Icarus needs to go. I promised I’d go with him.”
“I don’t really want you to go to Vegas tonight,” she said.
“Neither do I,” I said.
“Then why are you going?”
Cazart! I am a man bound to my word! Even as my brother explained to Icarus his intention to drink his pitcher of beer and be escorted home by his loved ones, Icarus was febrile, loaded with fear and loathing and the insatiable hunger for setting will to power.
So at some time before midnight I was on the freeway, 40 oz in my hand in the backseat of Icarus’ cruiser, the man himself and another compatriot riding in the front. My brother stayed in California to revel the way he wanted to while Icarus burned the hours down looking for the promise of the American dream – or perhaps the spiritual vindication of our peers, or just himself.
My brother knew himself and chose his freedom. Icarus chose the road, but there was no freedom anywhere, neither at our destination’s 3 AM jamboree nor in our return this morning. Yet he was bound to that road for reasons even now, the jagged ether of dehydration clouding my skull, remain ambiguous, but surely dark. I chose to honor my word and be the man’s passenger, along for the crazed trip percolating in the night. Each of us was tied down to the principles we had used to define ourselves, and yet for Icarus there was a sense of eager desperation, an intense gluttony for the punishment of 8 hours on the highway, all for a few drinks, a quick game of craps, and the harassment of hookers on the prowl.
But as William S. Burroughs said, “Wouldn’t you?”
Meanwhile the three of us are back in California, each alone to contemplate if it was worth all the bloody trouble when we know very well it was not. But that’s not really the point.
If we are still young enough to screw around in the desert, or escape (even when there is nothing real to escape to), then, as I’m sure Icarus knows, it is not too late to live again. Otherwise we’re just sharing the life we’ve lived before, with no exit. And there will never be enough Alka-Seltzer to fix that.