If I had to live a life besides my own, I think my choice would be Charles Baudelaire. Even though he suffered greatly through his life, his suffering sort of became his set-piece or art. I have read so many biographies on Baudelaire, but in truth, who will be willing to read my biography? Yes, I can hear the shattering silence even from over here! As I finish up my childhood memoir, the one Baudelaire quote that gets me started, is his “genius is childhood recalled at will.” When I turn on my computer and go to the page that I am writing on, well, that’s the first thing I see before anything else.
I have been in Paris, and walked around with Baudelaire's image in my head, as well as Guy Debord. I mix the two up as I left my hotel room, and the only decision I make is either to turn left or right. Being me of course, that decision took me 20 minutes or so, and there I was but standing outside the entrance of the hotel looking towards my left, and then slowly to my right. I made the decision due to the fact that I’m left-handed, so therefore I must turn left. It was a good decision, because I ran across a series of gorgeous girls as well as interesting architecture on Rue Saint-Michel.
But here in Los Angeles, a city that is deemed to be un-walkable, I wonder through this sleepy city like a man starved for attention. I find myself feeling like the French actor Michel Simon, in the great Jean Vigo Film “L’Atalante, ” as the sailor who was born to wander the seven seas and every land that hit the ocean. My curiosity goes overtime when I’m walking around 5th Street and Spring, because each building appears to have a mystery for me. If I stand on the corner of 5th and Spring, and stare at the Alexander Hotel long enough, I feel I can see the ghosts coming in and out of that building. It is never Rudolph Valentino or Charlie Chaplin, but just people from the early 1920s carelessly strolling in and out of the entrance. I wanted to go in, but I felt that my thoughts in my head were more correct, and I didn’t want to expose them to something “now” or even anything that will defuse my imagination. To imagine is much better for me than say a reality. That my faithful readers, is a let-down for me.
Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard’s “À bout de souffle” (Breathless) strikes me as the same type of me in how I deal with the everyday world and all its citizens that react in that specific world. Belmondo sees the world as a film, and when I wander through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, I feel more alive with that thought in my mind. Actual history and the architecture are important, but what is even more important is how we look at history and its buildings, and to alter it to serve our own creative impulses. I can understand the need to be aware of facts, but I want to know why those facts happen, and that alone is a narrative. In other words, what I see is the real to me, and therefore that will be my narrative for today and perhaps many days afterwards.
Although Hugh Hefner is not by any means a Charles Baudelaire to me, but I still admire how he changed his reality into something more desirable, for himself of course, but for his audience as well. The image is what we know of the man, and rarely do we need to know more. So when I take my walks, now mostly in downtown, I look up to the surface, and within my soul I start building downwards to make a foundation for the image that makes my heart weep.