We wove a web in childhood,
A web of sunny air;
We dug a spring in infancy
Of water pure and fair;
We sowed in youth a mustard seed,
We cut an almond rod;
We are now grown up to riper age-
Are they withered in the sod?
For most of seven years I lived in a house made of glass.
Strangers live there now, but for a decade it was a house you
could show up to almost any night without warning (as droves of
delinquent youngsters often did) and find us there, trying to
make the night longer just by wishing it so. Even after I left that
house, I continued to drive up Catalina often, this time as a
visitor. I still feel a dull pang that tells me to turn up every time I
pass that street. To this day, I haven’t been to a party that felt
quite like the ones we used to throw. Not just for the people
who actually lived there (and the many honorary residents), but
to everyone, for a time, it felt like home.
I’ll never know quite as much as I did at sixteen. As
I’ve grown older I feel less and less sure of everything, but at
sixteen I was sure in all my situationist-tinged conviction that we
were all doing it wrong: monogamy, society, capitalism,
boredom, education, love, fun, work, life. To be fair, I’m still
sure of that. But I used to think I had answers. Now I only have
more questions. The glass house was a large petri dish in
which we could test out our theories. How could we make our
own little world within a world, make our own rules, break our
own rules, and pretend that this was how things were
everywhere? When the sun went down, the glass turned into
black walls, moving slightly with the sway of trees and and the
sparkle of distant lights. One could almost believe this world
was the only one. But the sun always comes up, and the walls
are once again transparent, and that sea of red solo cups and
party carnage is no longer beautiful as it was in the dark. “The
ruined table” can be quite soul crushing in the morning sunlight.
Combine that with the deep darkness that can cloud your mind
in the haze of a hangover and the gloom feels lethal. And after
a decade of going to or throwing this same party every night, a
Dorian Gray-level of boredom creeps up from this Groundhog
Day-style repetition of excess. You feel much too young to feel
so old. And that real hangover turns into an existential
hangover. Trying so hard for so long to be so free, you build a
different kind of prison. And when you’re looking at the rays of
light fighting through the dirty dust in the air, the cigarette
sludge inside those deep red solo cups, the unidentified sticky
substance clinging to the wood floors, or the impossibly half-
open eyes of a stranger sleeping on the couch; it’s easy to
forget the songs written in that house and at those parties, the
life changing meetings-of-the-minds, the truly weird and
subversive reality you created for a time, and the people you
loved and lived with and danced with and had hula hoop
competitions with that no one ever won because we all got so
damn good. It’s dangerous to throw parties in a glass house.
You may wake up and feel like you all got old in the blink of an
eye. That harsh daylight and serotonin slip can wipe away a
lifetime of memories in an instant.
That morning is what “Time Flies” is about. I wanted
the video to bring to life that awful spiritual hangover we’ve all
had when the sun comes up or the lights come on. The
moment when that other life, the one you can’t control, wakes
back up to remind you it is always there, lurking in the shadows,
even when the glass is black and the city sparkles in everyone’s
eyes. The house in the video isn’t THE house, but it is right
down the street, and it was its own magic clubhouse for a time.
Most of the people in the video are, in fact, the people in the
song. Not all of them are present and accounted for, but we
managed to wrangle an amazing amount of my oldest and
truest comrades. The people who were there. I thank them for
letting me abuse them again and again.
A glass house is also beautiful in daytime. It’s difficult
to distinguish inside from outside. I live in a house with regular
walls now, but here I am still trying to blur those boundaries.
The boundaries between inside and outside, fact and fiction,
night and day…
When I sat ‘neath a strange roof-tree
With nought I knew or loved round me
Oh how my heart shrank back to thee,
Then I felt how fast thy ties had bound me.
-Charlotte Bronte, From Retrospection
05/16 Los Angeles, CA – Highland Park Ebell Center – Z Berg and Friends Prom! (tickets)