I was sitting in my car in San Jose when I saw the report: the air quality from Berkeley to San Jose had gone from “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy,” or, for all your visual learners, from red to purple. This meant that I’d have to drive an hour through that shit just to get back home, and once I was home, in my 1980s Berkeley abode that doesn’t have central air or any air filtration, I’d have to sleep in that shit. So I did the impulsive thing and booked a room in Santa Cruz and dipped my toes in the ocean and breathed fresh air before heading to the hardware store to buy out all their respirators and drive back into the shit.
Driving from the beautiful beaches of Santa Cruz into the smoke filled hell hole of the East Bay definitely put me in an apocalyptic mood. And if you know me at all, you know my apocalyptic mood is generally exuberant and hyped the fuck up. This is because modern society fills me up with all sorts of messages about the end of the world, and I spend a lot of time thinking about the end of days, but I haven’t quite reached the point where I’m a doomsday prepper. I guess after years of Black Lives Matter protests and hanging out with antifa and kicking with other various criminals, I’m ready for the end of the world. I love that feeling of low grade panic, that “anything could happen” atmosphere that I used to feel when I was 17 at raves. My favorite part about the end of the world is that I don’t have to go to work. Even though I enjoy what I do for a living, I am also very excited about the possibility of living through the fall of capitalism. My emotions are pretty complicated.
I strapped myself into the most expensive respirator that they had (which, much to my amusement, was pink) and high tailed it back to Berkeley. I did my good deed for the day and hit up my friends who I knew did not have the money or the time to get a respirator and blessed them by caring about their long term health. Then I went back home and realized, you know what? It’s the end of the world. I wanna look good for this shit. I dressed up in what can only be described as my version of a post apocalyptic prostitute, with the pink respirator, and all white silk, and a big fur coat, and Miu Miu combat boots, and then I traipsed around town looking like a maniac and trying to fuck.
Of course, the rest of the Bay Area was not with me – I still can’t believe those crazy people sitting outside of Ordinaire, no mask, just chillin, getting drunk. How wild is that! As I walked by them, we probably looked at each other with a mutual amount of shock and disgust. Some people had the audacity to ask me, “Isn’t that mask overkill?” But I’ll keep it real with y’all – I’m fucking stoked about this respirator because it makes me look as crazy as I feel inside, and I don’t get to do that very often anymore. I did appreciate it when the queers at the end of the bar said that they felt like they were in the bar from Star Wars (or was it the brothel from Total Recall?) because, you guys! It’s the end of the world! Can’t we be at least a little bit excited? Can’t we have fun with it? I mean, any excuse to dress up for me, but the rest of y’all, just walking around with those shitty hospital masks, not even bothering to coordinate your mask and your shoes…smh. What is happening to the Bay Area? All I wanted was to go to a respirator rave with all the other beautiful people so we could party until we hacked our lungs out. Alas, not all dreams come true.
Of course, when I stop making jokes about the end of the world, I realize, eh, yeah, this shit is pretty bleak. Yup, total devastation up North, and all of the Bay Area is just sitting here, freaking out because for one day we have the worst air quality in the world. One day! I mean, there’s something very first world problems about the entire situation because, well, wait a minute – there are entire cities out there that deal with this on a daily basis? What the fuck? Okay, so maybe it’s not the end of the world, it just feels kinda desperate in a very inert way in the Bay Area.
Although, I couldn’t really stop reading about those particles in the air that are now lodged in my lungs and trying to kill me. It made me wonder: what kind of long term health effects is this going to have on us? One day in Santa Cruz made me feel like a million bucks, which, of course, harkens back to the bleakness of knowing that I was willing to pay $200 for sixteen hours worth of fresh air. Capitalism is really going to do this to us, isn’t it? Also, well, climate change is real, so I wonder if the lush, beautiful Bay Area that I have lived in my whole life is going to disintegrate into some sort of hazy desert region within the next few years. What if this is it. What if this is the end of California as we know it. I mean, I’d like to think not, but on the off chance it is, I would just like all you future generations to know: this place was fucking wonderful! Ugh.
This definitely impacts my resolve to stay in the Bay Area because, god damn, as if gentrification weren’t bad enough already, know we’re looking at the impending commodification of breathable air. Do I really want to live through that? Do you? As much as I want to live here forever, do I want to live here if it becomes a wasteland in both a geological and social sense? I was prepared to withstand the social wasteland that the East Bay has become. But if this place isn’t even pretty anymore, I don’t know if I can do it. (Oh, wow, sounds like my approach to dating. Yikes.)
Whatever, I still have like five friends here, I’ll stay here for them. Because after fucking off to Santa Cruz by myself for a day, and half assed-ly trying to pick up on weird SC dick and failing (eh…it’s hard pass on UCSC boys for me), I realized: I’d rather be dying in the Bay Area with my friends than not in the Bay Area and in great health. But that’s just me. I’m sentimental.
And, speaking of sentimental, I decided that rather than cram into a museum in order to get fresh air, I should go to Hilltop Mall. If the world is ending, might as well be in my comfort zone, right? The MOMA is not my comfort zone.
Wandering around this bastion of my youth was an eerie pursuit – probably because, yo, like half those store fronts are empty now, which is kinda unsettling, especially when the world outside is on fire. (Sanrio is gone! I was pretty upset about that one.) Although, fire or no fire, what a great way to escape the gentrification of most of the East Bay. That place is fucking dismal now but in a comforting way for anyone else who spent Friday nights with their middle school friends eating Cinnabon. As I left Hilltop Mall, I realized: the world isn’t over enough for me to have to hole up at Hilltop Mall, so as I drove back to Berkeley I decided, meh, maybe all this shit will be fine in a couple of days and then we’ll forget that the world almost burned down and blocked out the sun, and we’ll go back to work. But I’ll still be wearing my respirator because I’m dramatic like that, and also I look pretty good in these respirator-coordinated outfits.