Hey, everybody. I think I’ve seen a lot of you in several different cities. I usually look a little rough, and my THE END IS NEAR! sign has always made me look crazy to you and not exactly someone you might consider a dependable narrator. I would often try to add something to the observation when you were walking by, maybe I’d muster the energy to say, “The deserts will turn to ice” or “A massive population adjustment will favor the wealthy” or something like that and, hey, I get it: that didn’t exactly help my case when it came to seeming a little off my rocker.
In my defense, I will say that if you ever try being in most key cities while constantly holding a sign, you’re going to find that it takes about four days to start looking like “the crazy guy yammering on about the end of the world.” This is not business travel. I know business travel. I know the thing where they send the Mercedes with the guy in the suit, and it doesn’t matter how long he waits, and the airline sends you the email about the private entrance, and the rest of it. There was a time when I thought I could get my message out through music and movies, and I am familiar with traveling like that. It’s lovely. This is not that.
There was a transition period. I thought if I held my sign up in a music video, you would heed it. But we all know what happened to music videos. Then I thought maybe if I was the extra in the movie who’s holding a sign that says THE END IS NEAR! you’d take it seriously because it’s on a big screen. But then the screens got smaller, and soon the transition was complete: just the sign, in as many cities as possible, all the time. I thought, “Get ‘em right in the middle of real life! Make ‘em see the sign when they’re commuting! Hell, stand in front of their office buildings!” The irony of holding the sign in front of the offices you worked in is not lost on me.
Someone at some point must’ve seen the sign, maybe when I was on Sunset and Fairfax for a while there, and apparently, they thought, “Hey, that guy’s got a great sign and it caught my attention. But he seems pretty lackluster in his presentation. What if there were signs for small businesses? And we paid people to spin the signs around and dance and really use their energy to get people to see the sign and patronize the business!” That’s the best joke I have about late-stage capitalism, folks.
I hope this isn’t all coming off as sour grapes. In fairness, many of you were kind to me. Some of you even agreed with me silently by smiling and saying “God bless” — at least I inferred that you were agreeing. I mean, I’m in Union Square, or on First and Pike, or Sunset and Fairfax or Washington Square, or whatever. I’ve got a long beard, sunburn, gig butt, and I’m trying to eat half a donut from a “benefactor.” I’m half asleep after just getting in from fucking Omaha in coach or worse, I’m holding a sign that says the THE END IS NEAR! and you smile and say, “God bless.” That pretty much feels like you’re saying, “You called it, sport — see you on the other side.” Call me crazy (most of you did), but that seems like implicitly agreeing that the end is near, but doing so in a way that doesn’t prevent you from continuing with your day like the end is, in fact, nowhere near. And yet, here we are.
I’m not the kind of guy who says I told you so, so I’m just going to wrap this up with some gratitude. Thank you to the young man in Portland who told me my energy was in the right place and took me to Tasty n Alder. Thanks, too, to the guy in the rental car (please tell me that was a rental) by the Vons on Laurel and Ventura, who told me everyone has a story and stories are so important and kept annoying me by talking about narrative bullshit and journeys — you were so irritating that I went around the corner to get away from you, and ended up taking a break in that Starbucks and re-hydrating. In a weird way, you may have saved my life by bugging the shit out of me with your earnest take on life while I was simply trying to tell people the world as we know it was ending. I’m also grateful to the woman in Oakland who, over coffee, made brilliant, beautiful, and painful points about how the internet was once a refuge for lonely intellectuals and cultural misfits with insomnia and how online commerce and inflation had pushed her out of San Francisco, and how that didn’t matter so much since the end was near and the city would soon be reclaimed — I gotta say, for someone with an office job and a Tesla Model S, I did not see that coming (sorry to trade in stereotypes, but you can’t say I don’t have a point).
Apologies if I’ve rambled on here; it was positively intoxicating to have your attention for longer than a passing glance. Assuming these times have reframed me as a more dependable narrator in your eyes, I would like to close now by saying: A new beginning is coming. Also: It involves Martians.
Thank you, and good day.