“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…”
You know the rest.
“You can check out, but you can never leave.”
Cue the dueling guitar solos of Don Felder and Joe Walsh.
Why does Don Henley sing that line?
He said in an interview: “I guess you could say it's a song about loss of innocence."
In other words, you can check out – die, lose your mind, go into alcohol, sex and/or drug addiction, but you ain’t ever getting your innocence back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Once you go into that world, there’s no return, no retrieving you, and that’s what life is about, isn’t it?
Yes, it is.
“Plenty of room at the Hotel California.” Henley said it wasn’t just about the members of the Eagles losing their innocence in Hell-A, in the rock n’ roll record business, but that it was also "more of a symbolic piece about America in general."
The song was written and recorded in 1976 when America had just lost its innocence in the wrong-headed, Imperialistic and tragic Vietnam War. On top of that was the tragic end of the 60’s decade, which Don McLean memorialized in his song, “American Pie.”
A long, long time ago
I can still remember how
The music used to make me smile
The deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper in 1959 ushered in the beginning of the end – the frantic, madness of the 60’s in America, which closed out at the Stones' concert at Altamont Speedway in December of 1969, where the Hell’s Angels, on film, stab a black man to death for seemingly nothing more than dancing to the music in a way they didn’t like. Those deaths were the bookends of the 60’s, which included the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and as mentioned, America’s permanent loss of innocence in the napalmed and carpet-bombed rice paddies of Southeast Asia.
So come on, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick Jack Flash sat on a candlestick ‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend
“You can check out, but you can never leave.” We’d find out later we had all “checked out,” and we’re living in a gassed up, plugged in pseudo-utopia of “The Matrix,” where the reality we think we’re living in is nothing more than a 3-Dimensional computer-generated 24x7 illusion, fed by a 24-hour news media cycle and 3-minute gangsta’ rap music videos, which are programmed to push our every psycho-sexual emotional button and fire the pleasure centers in our brain every five seconds like the proverbial rats pressing the button for cocaine instead of real food.
We were all MTV addicts in the 80’s, getting our reality from overproduced saccharin music videos, where fantasy has forever replaced humanity. We’ve been told to eat sugar and whole wheat bread – the most poisonous version of bread – five, yes 5 fucking times a day, and we’re all plugged into non-stop caloric consumption and 24 hour sensory overload from MTV, CNN and ESPN.
Nothing seems real. Wars erupt on the other side of the planet as George Orwell said they would. You never see them, except if you’re conned into volunteering to fight in them or you bother to watch the 10-second sanitized video clips on the news. Unless you’re part of a military family, no one you know has died, but more and more of your tax dollars are funneled into the perpetual war to end all wars. We're not in active, armed conflict with any other country, but the ready-made adversary is always there, as Orwell said they would be.
You can check the fuck out, but you can never leave.
And so, we wake up into today, where the Millennial generation has been reared on this toxic cocktail of non-stop endorphins and bullshit. It’s all they know. They know nothing of goal setting and building a future, of developing an idea or working hard. The upper middle class – white, suburban University-bound layabouts are taught to indulge their laziness, while at the same time to wallow in the guilt of their over-privilege – a toxic and tormenting schizophrenia is the only possible result, and many of them fall prey to it. And, self-loathing. It’s all there is to do – hate yourself and the country which created you.
And, the former-working classes are cast out into the street – homeless, or whatever it is you call it when your home is a make-shift contraption of discarded cardboard and discarded wood scraps or a kid’s tent in a slum of kid’s tents and wooden contraptions. You’re not homeless. You have a home, but your home is a hell-hole – no plumbing of any kind, no real shelter from the elements, no sanitary waste disposal, no running water, no electricity. The Millennial decay – a recession back into the stone age or the Feudal age sequestered in the middle of a modern, gleaming glass and steel city, which won’t embrace or include you.
Tragedy. There is no other word for it.
Henry Miller wrote this at the beginning of his first novel, Tropic of Cancer:
I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair
misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.”
Everything is in order – not a crumb of dirt, nor a chair misplaced, yet he is dead. The old him. The Brooklyn Miller is dead. He will now begin life as a writer in Paris, and he will write and become a writer or die trying. Everything else that came before is gone. The perfect beginning to a novel or to a new life in a new city like Paris in the 30s or Berlin now or Bangkok anytime. Reinvention of the self, shedding of the old lizard skin, growth, change, revolution, metamorphosis. It is what the artist, which is to say, the man or woman engaged in living creatively, does. If you’re not doing that, you’re dying or actually, already dead – living life happily in the Matrix, sucking down the blue pill and accepting your fate as a cog in the machinery as it grinds you into nothingness.
I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps but I will sing.
I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse....
Miller warns you, he is going to sing off key because he’s not yet a singer (a writer), but sing he must, and he will dance over your corpse. He doesn’t care if you get it or not. He will write his truth. Period. You will get it or you won't.
In this world of 24-hour news and constant bombardment of entertainment options and Socialist media in Twizzler and FuckBook and ScrewTube, you have no time to speak (or write or sing) your truth, an no one is interested in it if you did. Everyone’s screaming their own truth in 280 characters and no one is listening. Ears have become tails – useless appendages from a previous primordial epoch. Like the Tower of Babel – everyone is speaking at once, and no one is listening to anyone else. A bunch of raving maniacs plugged into the Matrix and crowing about their latest discomfort, with no eyes or imaginations left to imagine or begin to realize a proper world. Just plugged in to die.
Anything over 280 characters is too complex for the average brain to consume. Deep thoughts are deep-sixed, complex characters discarded. Subtle argument shifted to the dung heap of yesterday. Keep plugged into the Matrix at all costs. Don’t be left out on an ice-flow all alone. Conformity is the order of the day. Even in your alternate reality of alt-left or alt-right, conformity to the code of the local order is what is required. Original thought, discourse, understanding, listening are the signs of a weak mind, marking you as a dinosaur from an earlier age. Choose your side, whatever side, it doesn’t matter, and then die defending it. That is heroic. That is the order of the day. That is now.