The smell hits you as soon as you step out of the air-conditioned airport. You feel the residue, the fallout of broken dreams hitting your palate. The charred remains of incinerated hopes mix with the omnipresent smog and invade every pore of your being.
The shuttle bus takes you to your hotel over miles and miles of pulverized aspirations paved over by concrete highways. From the bus window you can see the Hollywood Boulevard, where gold stars are set into asphalt, merging imperceptibly with the Promenade of Dead Dreams where the stars are wrought of dirty and soggy cardboard and are stuck onto the pavement with scotch tape or wads of old gum. Each cardboard star marks the exact spot where a particular dream breathed its last.
Different dreams die in different ways. Some shatter into jagged shards and one gets badly cut trying to piece them together again. Some fragment into neat, symmetrical fragments and re-construction is a relatively straightforward task, sort of like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Others just crumble away, like burnt paper, and nothing is left to do except to warm your hands over their long-cold ashes.
Around each broken dream a mass of people sit in huddles, protecting it, as best they can, from the elements and the vagaries of fate and keeping a vigil, just in case it stirs and shows signs of life, for no dream can be obliterated completely.
LA, a Dream Slaughterhouse masquerading diabolically as a Dream Factory. The dream incinerators keep working day and night, around the clock, producing clouds of smoke that comprise of dreams reduced to their base elements: deep yearnings, life-long desires, burning ambitions, great aspirations, ineffable hunches rumbling just below the conscious mind, indestructible beliefs, half-remembered childhood premonitions.
The city takes delight in finding new ways to kill dreams, in finding new dreams to put to death. Special extermination squads roam its streets, ransacking every nook and cranny of the people’s souls and minds for any treasured hopes that might be in hiding there. The perversity of its depravity is such that it even gives birth to dreams just so that it can shoot them and watch them die. It makes you come face to face with your shortcomings, makes you face your failures. It knows all the delusions that comfort us throughout our lives, the delusions that keep us warm and secure at night, the delusions that sustain us through our daily struggles, the delusions that we use to solve our existential crises, the delusions that help us through our darkest times, the delusions that we stubbornly hang on to, nurture and cherish; the delusions that we would defend to our very deaths.
Every delusion gets hunted down and taken care of in this town: the delusion that one is special and unique; the delusion that one has singular and extraordinary talents; the delusion that one is in possession of insights into life that the rest of the world lacks and that one is privy to truths that no one else can access; the delusion that one is destined for greatness; the delusion that one is a genius whom the world doesn’t appreciate; the delusion that one will find a soul mate meant just for them and whose love will save them; the delusion that the convictions that one tenaciously holds on to are not delusions at all but are rather veracious, valid beliefs derived from experience and insight and supported by evidence from both the outer and inner worlds; the delusion that one is above the laws of humanity and deserves to be treated differently; the delusion that a lucky break will come to you in the end; the delusion that somewhere some person, angel or god is working on your behalf, trying to help you with your journey through life and is looking after you; the delusion that one is protected by fate and special luck from bad things happening to them; the delusion that there will come a day when one will begin to live happily ever after; the delusion that one will find meaning in one’s tribulations and that one’s struggles will be justified in retrospect; the delusion that it all will turn out well in the future; the delusion that one’s life is just a bad, absurd dream and that one will eventually wake up to find oneself living a happy life that makes sense; the delusion that you alone, out of the multitude in the present world and throughout the course of history, will be spared from death; the delusion that one does not have any delusions.
Over the eons, the native denizens of the city have evolved a protection mechanism – they dream only fake dreams and have only counterfeit delusions so that when their hopes are destroyed, it doesn’t hurt at all. Only the unwary outsiders possess no genetic defense system and it is their dreams that the metropolis preys upon.
The mountains, mute witnesses to the tribulations and sufferings down below, are always there, solid and eternal, their paradoxical presence contrasting sharply with the ethereal and evanescent dreams floating around in the valleys.
Yet there might be an explanation to this incongruity for according to an old American Indian legend, the LA area was once flat as a pancake. Over time the detritus of destroyed dreams landed on the outskirts and amassed to create the mountains. Just as coral reefs are comprised of myriad dead organisms, so the mountains around LA are composed of fragments of lost hopes, scraps of unfulfilled ambitions, and shells of dead dreams, with each broken dream contributing about 2/7th of an inch to the mountains’ height.
The mountains say nothing, expressing themselves through that most ancient, most articulate, most authentic and most profound language of all — absolute silence.