Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Zombie Hipster: Et In Arcadia Ego

I saw a zombie hipster at the Machos Tacos in Los Feliz on Saturday night. Her friends were out on the corner in front of the restaurant, talking somewhat anxiously about what to do about her -- in between catching up on where everyone was living now, and where they were headed for later that night.

I was eating a veggie burrito alone and reading the Onion (I had been waiting for a long time for the spoof on American Apparel). The zombie hipster had tramped in and slumped down at another table, not having ordered anything, and was fiddling with her pockets, looking like she was about to start scratching herself. From the quick looks I got of her between bites of my burrito, she appeared both emaciated and unhealthily bloated. She looked like she was probably in her early twenties, but it was hard to tell: her deathly pale face seemed to be covered in pustules or some kind of rash. Her eyes seemed cold and dead, and her movements were jerky like, um, the dancing zombies in Thriller.

She kept pulling things out of her pockets. The first thing she pulled out were very dirty Ipod headphones; their white wires were grimy and yellowed. (It struck me later that these were simply too perfect as zombie hipster props and made me wonder whether she had just come from some Comedy Central shoot.) As I went to throw out my plate, I noticed that she was wearing suede vintage Converse sneakers, thin wale corduroys, and a leather jacket. She had an ornate tattoo just below her neck; her white shirt was open wide, likely to display the tattoo.

My initial thought was that she might be homeless, but that mental categorization was thrown off as she fumbled through her pockets and pulled out a digital camera, a newish-looking cell phone, and other shiny accouterments, handling these briefly -- perhaps displaying them as a reassurance to both herself and those around her -- before jamming them back into her pockets. Her hands looked grey and withered. Her clothes and sneakers were pristine.

Perhaps she was fine. Perhaps she was just having some skin problems and/or a bad trip. Or perhaps she was the hipster zombie. Perhaps, between the shows at Spaceland, drinks at the Tiki Ti, and attending her acting workshops, something had gone horribly wrong: her health spiralling downwards, some horrible, irreversible condition spreading through her body and mind. But through it all, perhaps she still felt compelled to continue to act in some pantomime of her former self, meeting up with her offensively healthy, banally attractive (dirty blonde, pale blue eyes, jeans tucked into boots) friends in Los Feliz on a Saturday night. She still wore her perfect condition Converse, carried her digital camera for potential new My Space profile pictures, and made sure her Ipod was fully charged. Perhaps she was like the Iceman, doomed, yet staggering forward on her journey, carrying with her the tools, charms, and amulets of her time.

I feel bad writing like this about this poor woman I've been calling the zombie hipster. She did seem to be in a bad way. Perhaps I should've asked if she was all right. But this is Los Angeles, and the freaks and weirdos are legion. But that shouldn't prevent basic human empathy. I will be charged with heartlessness, and I should be. Her friends were there, and after they got done talking about their auditions and friends who work at studios, they were going to help out the zombie hipster who, as I left Machos Tacos, sat staring into the pale blue glow of some personal messaging device, as if she was hoping that the device would remind her of what it was, or perhaps who she was.

1 comment:

Kris said...

I had a very similar experience once. Maybe even the same taco place. It was near Silverlake and the woman made me too uncomforatble to enjoy my tacos.