A State of Permanent Shock

Kyle K. Mann at Topanga Beach, in a shamelessly self-promotional selfie

by Kyle K. Mann

Gonzo Today Editor-in-Chief

We are all in perma-shock now. We are so shocked we don’t really know how shocked we are, yet. 

Black Friday 2020. I don’t want to write about this shit, but am compelled to, I suppose, because I still can, like a few others I look to for inspiration in these wretched times.

First of all, we are alive, still. That’s a basic fact. We can still think, or fool others into thinking we do. Reality is a series of nested con games. Brilliantly done, of course. But, “nevertheless,” as Katherine Hepburn says in “The African Queen.”

I could do better, arguably, to watch that movie and then go to bed, than to write this shit. I sit here laughing, looking at the words. Seriously, will it help at all to grind out another blast of verbiage? I sit laughing again, having asked Siri to define “verbiage.” Right.

I won’t make money writing this, or at least it’s unlikely. More likely, it’s useless, another entry for my file. It really doesn’t matter if I write or not. Some may be amused, I suppose. Like I am by other writers. OK. I write, therefore I am. 

So then, here we are on the day after Thanksgiving, 1AM. I rise from the table and go outside. Windy and cool, big moon and companion Mars, over Saddle Peak. An internal combustion vehicle blasts down the road in the far distance. I hope to live to see the day when that is both illegal and uncool. 

Cold on my pate, I’ve come out sans headgear. Back inside. Type on an iPad. Type, produce deep thoughts, share them. Right right. Repeat. 

*****

It keeps coming back to this deep sensation of shock at what’s happened and what is coming. Hard to be optimistic after everything 2020 has thrown at us so far. 

The music is gone. No live shows, anyway, which I loved more than I could possibly say. Even just seeing them, but also playing on stage. Well, especially playing. In the months before March, my harmonica solos were channeled from some other dimension. Something about the sensation of holding a harmonica to my mouth with a microphone with a mighty sound mixer, a great band kicking under me, and all this tone coming out from blues harp in outer space chopsville. Wailing. Coaxing. Teasing the audience, making it pay off. Hearing applause, then congratulations and kudos offstage from surprised concertgoers, and feeling released. Wow. 

That’s all over, at least for the foreseeable future. No live shows, for starters. It’s getting worse. Restaurants are now closed in L.A. County. Even for dining outside. I had lunch with my ol’ pal and ex-bandmate Bear at Gladstone’s last week, at Sunset and Pacific Coast Highway. He was in an ugly mood. I was laughing and waved at the crashing surf. “Could be worse, man” I chuckled.

It’s worse. Now we have curfew at 10PM. Yes, really. The final stage will be Total Lockdown, for all but Essential Personnel. Like me. The Film Biz, including teevee, has been deemed crucial by our glassy-eyed Governor. I should be thankful, I suppose, to be back at it after an unprecedented seven month shutdown. You want shock? Everyone is walking around on film sets now like zombies, masks in place, and even face shields now. Nothing will get in the way of the entertainment industry. 

I was on unemployment that whole seven months. At first it was 600 bucks a week on top of the 450 max that ya get in California. Wow, I paid some bills with that shit. Later it turned into 300 extra a week. Not as good, but doable. So I rode out the whole mess and am back working in Hollywood. For my lovable evil bastard bosses, and my Angel Contractor. If I make the bosses happy, mostly by accomplishing a few tasks and getting outta the way, then my AC is happy. So money isn’t my problem, at least. If it is for you, I’m sorry. For people in L.A. the threat of running out of money and sleeping in your car is real. I see a lot of them lately, sleeping in their Beamers on Topanga Canyon while I zoom past in my forever-paid for ‘99 Honda Civic on my way to some insane film industry scene. Waves of irony, layers of it. 

I sit laughing again. I’ll be 70 next year. 70! What the fuck am I doing here, is there a meaning to any of this crazy life? But here I am, alive, amazingly enough. Steve Shekel died last week, I was informed. Old classmate and neighbor from childhood. Dead as a door nail, followed afterwards by Diego Maradonna, which has drawn considerable more comment than the late Shekel has, in most quarters I frequent on the Internet. Actually I have never cared for soccer and rather despised Shekel, who had a certain weaselly look I found repugnant, from the first time I laid eyes on him at age nine. I dare say he may have felt the same towards me.

I sit laughing again, feeling purged. Yeah the dead people are lining up out there. Does it matter what you did in life, when you are dead? In the lifespan of the multiverse, perhaps not, but we will find out, won’t we? All of us together, again in that moment before the latest Big Bang.

*****

I suppose this is the moment to inform the reader that I had a goodly hit of LSD about seven hours back. That shit always makes it real for me, in an amusingly painful way. Still, it catalyzed the slumbering creative beast within, at least somewhat. Certainly cheered me up, in any event.

Another swig of “The Mountain Valley” spring water. Ahhh! So refreshing, and tastes great too. Much better than that chemical soup that comes out of the tap here in El Lay. I should get them as a sponsor, I could plug them endlessly from the heart. 

So am I out of shock yet? Probably not. And on top of it… No Thanksgiving, no loving happy family and delicious food, no celebration of gratitude with others like I see paraded on Facebook. But at least I don’t have to deal with people at work for several days. Not that I mind that much, being in the Biz is like being a member of a wacky club of affable fellow-lunatics. “Fooled ‘em again,” as I’ve heard more than once at the end of a long day.

No, the shock is worse than that, worse than the oddly-anti-climactic 2020 election or people’s reactions to all that. No, it’s a sense that it’s gotten worse, and not getting better. How lucky am I, sitting here laughing amid unbelievable misery and fear in this region. Relatively care free, as well, no kids or aged parents to deal with any more… actually I have been in shock since my dad died. That still hits me hard. Never to hear his merry laugh again. Damn.

The Great Reset, as some are calling it. Things taken away and not given back. Loss, pain. Confusion. Encroaching darkness. 

There is chocolate, true. It works in a multitude of ways. Maybe I should carry wrapped chocolate to give to the homeless. Hell, if I was homeless you bet I’d appreciate some chocolate. Is that insensitive of me, to be amused by that? 

Have I benefited from the white male patriarchy? It cuts both ways, baby, is my short answer to that. Does it make being in shock easier to be an aging boomer male, a member of a dwindling tribe of rebels who arguably made it impossible to carry on killing people on the other side of the world? … for a little while. Looking at it that way, I’ve been in renewed shock since Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada. 

That’s a lotta layers of shock.

*****

At this point I celebrate my shock, and ability to navigate through it so far, by heating up some soup. That’s another way of dealing with shock, soup. Shock, soup. Has a good ring. Soup before chocolate, right? I stir the soup, sipping. Needs some lemon. 

I rub my hairy chin, considering doctoring my soup further. Hairy… time to cut this shit off, since nobody sees it hidden behind these damn masks. More shock. Nobody sees my face! Except on Facebook. More laughter from the easily self-amused Kyle. Because Facebook is really real, right? Still more laughter as I crumble up a “light rye crispbread” cracker into my soup. Wasa makes these, a fine German company. “All natural, non-GMO” the label says. Good with my soup. Is this privilege? To have hot soup and crackers, coming down from acid a bit, after a night of reasonably pleasant horrific maunderings? Should I feel guilty?

Nah. It’s OK. So I’m in shock, so we all are. Do the homeless begrudge me a few simple pleasures after a weird week at work? Some might, I suppose. Don’t over-think, eat the soup.

You wanna know what I really think? The pandemic is caused by some human agency, to get rid of useless eaters like old me, enjoying my soup. Released deliberately or accidentally, makes no difference. Designed in a lab. Pisses me off that people do this shit. Even if I’m wrong. 

More soup, with lemon. Lemons cost 50 cents each at Sprouts Market. Seems a bit high, but when you consider the cost of planting trees, maintaining, watering, picking… not to mention transporting, displaying, selling to me… I suppose it’s a miracle it can be provided to me for a couple quarters. 

Windy outside, cold tonight. Am I glad not be homeless, like the hundreds of thousands of people in California who are? The Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on more stimulus money while they merrily shut down wide swaths of the economy. That’s a goddamn shock, fer shure. What’s next? A global depression? What, me worry? 

What’s more shocking, what has already happened, or what we fear is next? Shocking just contemplating what will come next, at this rate of change. Mandatory quarantines, camps to die in, roadblocks with people in hazmat suits? 

“Nobody wants to be here and nobody wants to leave” wrote the undeniably great Cormac McCarthy in “The Road.” I put on my nice alpaca hat, a gift from a loving ally I am lucky to have, and think about that. I’m not a survivalist, and don’t want to survive a nuclear war, which has always been my ultimate horror, that the human race nukes itself. So, yeah… growing up with that hasn’t been a picnic. Only a few really old people now remember what life was like before 1945, before the monstrous evil of nuclear weapons. 

Back around again. We are all in shock, permanent shock, and in various levels of denial about it. We have to go on, face the day, do whatever to keep it together. 

Some people work hard, deep underground in mines or in hot fields, all day, every day. How many go to sleep hungry in the world of today? A billion, two? It’s unthinkable. Do we realize how lucky we are, most of us? 

“Thank you for the Luck” I say out loud, meaning it. 

5 AM now on the day after Thanksgiving, and all is quiet. The Moon and Mars have set, the wind is subsiding. I shan’t shop on Black Friday. I have nothing to do today, really, except recover from this substance ol’ Hoffmann concocted in a lab… hmm, in a lab, right?… and sleep and dream. Hopefully of a world where we don’t have to be in shock all of the time. Where people all have homes, and enough food, not to mention chocolate.

See you next time, with The Blessing, and thanks for reading.

Kyle K. Mann

Topanga

November 27, 2020

About Kyle K. Mann 67 Articles
Kyle K. Mann is the pen name of a contributor to, and sometimes editor of, Gonzo Today. He lives high atop Topanga, California, where owls hoot and coyotes howl. A radio broadcaster in multiple fields in the 80s and 90s, Kyle currently supports himself part time as a Union film crew member in Hollywood. His articles and interviews first appeared in Gonzo Today in early 2015, and some of them are fairly good.