Nine Hundred Foot

The year was 2001, the dawn of the new millennium. California was plunged into a vortex of blackouts and browns-outs, the frenzied dance of the power grid teetering on the brink of collapse. It was a game played by suits in glass towers, Enron, the puppeteer pulling the strings, and the state, their marionette, dancing a clumsy jig to the tune of manipulated energy markets.

I was the weirdo, the outsider, the misplaced cog in the well-oiled machinery of suburban normality. I was the firebug, the flame-seeker, a boy lost in the hills, my car a metal beast snaking through the canyons under the shroud of the night.

The power lines hummed and crackled overhead, an eerie symphony to my solitary drive. In my pocket, my Zippo felt like a piece of frozen fire, its cold metal surface warming up to the heat of my uncertainty. I was at the nexus of a power outage, the orchestrator of a momentary lapse into darkness. I was the spark in the engine of chaos, the matchstick ready to ignite the kindling of disorder.

The world was distracted. The fortress America had thrown up its walls, its gaze fixed on the East, on Al Qaeda, on phantom threats looming in the distant deserts. But here in the hills, away from the watchful eyes of the cities, I was alone. The power grid, a giant metal serpent, wound its way through the landscape, its crackling energy a tantalizing promise of chaos.

The Zippo was burning against my thigh, its persistent heat a gnawing reminder of the agency I held, the power to plunge the world below into darkness. I was a god, a creator and a destroyer, the master of light and shadow. All it took was a flip, the click of the lighter, the birth of a flame.

Why was I here? To leave a mark. To etch my existence into the annals of this chaotic world, even if it meant scorching the earth, making the lights in the homes below flicker and tremble, making the heartbeat of civilization stutter in the face of an impending blackout.

I was on the brink, teetering on the edge of decision and indecision. I could bring darkness, I could pull the switch, I could extinguish the light. But the thought was overwhelming, the responsibility too great. In the deafening silence of the hills, in the humming lullaby of the power lines, I was the lone sentinel of chaos, the lost boy wrestling with the question of existence. The switch, the switch, it called to me, a siren song of power and oblivion.

And so, under the electric buzz of the power lines, under the indifferent gaze of the distant stars, I stood, my hand on the Zippo, my heart pounding a rhythm of rebellion, a symphony of solitude. The world was at my fingertips, the power to create and destroy, to illuminate and darken.

The Zippo, the gasoline, the matchstick, they were my tools, my companions in this dance of chaos. The rain, the night, the power lines, they were my stage, my audience, my accomplices. The world, the city, the hills, they were my canvas, my playfield, my battleground.

And I, I was the artist, the player, the warrior. I was the weirdo, the firebug, the boy alone in the hills. I was the spark in the engine of chaos. I was the torchbearer of darkness. I was the wielder of the switch, the switch.

The concept of Fortress America, a citadel of security, laid its iron lashes across the land, establishing boundaries, instilling fear. It queued people into lines, like sheep to the slaughter, normalizing the intrusive searches, the invasion of privacy. The nation was being swaddled in a blanket of paranoia, each citizen seen as a potential threat, each pocket a potential arsenal. The fear of foreign terrorism was shifting the lens away from the domestic, away from the people like me, lost and adrift in the sea of discontent.

Yet, in the hills of California, far from the scrutinizing gaze of the State, I was free. I was free to revel in the night, in the darkness, in the potential of chaos. The power lines snaking through the landscape were my playthings, the tools of my rebellion. I had the power to bring the light, and in doing so, bring the darkness. I was the paradox, the contradiction, the anomaly in the system.

The urge to chaos was like a virus, infectious, insidious. It seeped into the cracks of my alienation, infusing my veins with a potent cocktail of anger and defiance. I could stop the lines, I could disrupt the flow of power, I could set my car ablaze and drive it off the cliff, a blazing comet streaking through the night.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I drove home, the freeways empty and echoing with the ghosts of better days. The glow of the dashboard was the only light in the abyss, the hum of the engine the only sound in the silence. And as I drove, my mind spun with thoughts of Enron, of Bush, of the terrorists. Their games were bleeding into mine, their actions echoing in my actions.

I was the weirdo, the firebug, the boy alone in the hills. I was the spark in the engine of chaos. And in the face of their machinations, their manipulations, their madness, I was left with only one question:

In a world gone mad, who was the real terrorist?

Into what, indeed, am I being accepted? Into the cracks in the pavement, the crevices in society? Or am I a lone seed, sprouting defiantly through the concrete, a testament to resilience in a world of sameness? A recession now blanketed the nation, a fallout of the games played by the powerful. And I, a cog in the machine, was discarded, my skills in coding deemed redundant as the world took a collective gasp, a pause in the relentless march of progress.

In the quiet of the night, the Zippo in my pocket was a constant reminder of the power I held, of the potential to ignite chaos. It burned against my thigh as I pushed the pedal further, provoking the beast under the hood into a frenzied gallop. My steed of steel, powered by the burning oil, roared into the night. The irony wasn’t lost on me; my solitary sojourns fueled by the same oil that was the root of the conflict, the reason for the paranoia, the catalyst for the Fortress America.

The night welcomed me as I descended into the valley, the stars overhead a silent audience to my journey. The lights of the city below twinkled like distant galaxies, a world far removed from my reality. My world was the open road, the rumble of the engine, the flicker of the Zippo, the whisper of the night wind. I was the 900F, the flame in the darkness, the spark in the engine of chaos.

And as the city receded in my rearview mirror, the words of a long-forgotten song echoed in my mind – “Everyone has a little secret he keeps… I light the fires while the city sleeps”. In the heart of the recession, in the throes of the energy crisis, in the shadow of global unrest, I found a strange sense of acceptance, a sense of belonging. I was the misfit, the outsider, the weirdo. And in this displacement, in this alienation, I was home.

There’s a rebellion stirring within me, a resistance against the inevitable. I don’t want to grow up, to morph into the soldier they want me to be. The Zippo in my pocket feels comfortable, familiar. An AR15 in my hands? A grotesque thought. The fortress is pressing me towards that, towards a path I have no desire to tread.

I don’t want to be that person, a man-child trapped in a Green Zone of his own making, under siege not from an external enemy but from his own demons, his own expectations. The system, this cold, uncaring machine, discards those who don’t fit the mold, who don’t win the popularity contest of the privileged white male.

I can see a future where we are the ones driving the pickup trucks, the technicals, maneuvering the heavy calibers. Only this time, we turn the guns inwards, towards ourselves, driven by a perverse sense of purification, a misguided quest for redemption. It’s a future that chills me to my core, a future I want no part of.

There has to be another way. I have to find another way. The system wants to consume me, to use me as fuel for its insatiable machine. But I refuse to be a pawn in their game. I won’t let myself be molded into the soldier, the patriot, the extremist they want me to be.

I am the 900F. I am the spark in the engine of chaos. But my fire won’t be used to burn down the world. My fire will be a beacon, a signal to others like me, that there is another way. And I will find it. I will forge my own path, away from the fortress, away from the green zone, away from the expectations.

Because in the heart of the alienation, in the depths of the displacement, I am not alone. And together, we will find another way. We will light the fires that guide, not destroy. We will be the misfits, the outsiders, the weirdos. And in our difference, in our defiance, we will find our strength.

The standoff had entered its tenth day as I pulled into my usual parking spot, a ring of spotlights from the federal vehicles transforming the night into an artificial day. The unassuming building, a nondescript façade in West Hollywood, had been hiding a secret – a medical marijuana grow house. But the secret was out now, courtesy of Ashcroft and the DEA.

The local sheriffs were caught in the middle, West Hollywood’s finest siding with their community in this tussle between state and federal law. This wasn’t just about weed, it was about the struggle of the gay community, the fight for a sacred bud that had emerged as a beacon of comfort in the dark days of the AIDS epidemic.

The standoff was a testament to the dichotomy of the new millennium – California, ever the progressive, allowing for the cultivation of this medicinal plant, clashing head-on with the conservative Texans wielding their Christian God like a weapon. The news crews had long since packed up and the protestors had retreated to their beds, but the law on both sides remained, locked in an unending 24/7 cycle of power games in this new age of Fortress America.

Even in the solitude of the night, after the temptation of the Zippo and the exhilaration of the drive, I found no respite. Another battle was playing out, another struggle that seemed to overlay on top of mine, their lines blurring and intersecting.

It was as if we were all entangled in this tapestry of chaos, each thread pulled taut, ready to snap at the slightest provocation. The 900F wasn’t just about me anymore, it was about all of us. The outsiders, the misfits, the weirdos, we were all in this struggle together, each fighting our own battles, but bound by our shared alienation, our shared displacement.

As I sat in my car, the hum of the power lines overhead blending with the distant chatter of the law enforcement officers, I realized that my fight wasn’t just against the system, it was against the world that allowed such a system to thrive. And as the Zippo in my pocket grew cold against my thigh, I knew that this fight was far from over.

In the grand scheme of things, the clarity of purpose eludes me. The world seems to revel in the murk, the ambiguous gray areas where the stark black and white of right and wrong bleed into each other. The megaphones of power thrive on the confusion, on the alienation, on the constant pressure to pick a side.

Each battle, in its essence, feels inconsequential to my moral register, but the enforcers of the system, armed with their guns and their laws, won’t let that be. They insist on allegiances, on divisions, on the creation of a binary world where you’re either with them or against them.

All I yearn for is a few hours of solitude. A few hours where I can draw the blinds tight, shut out the glaring spotlights, and forget about the SWAT and the counter SWAT. But this is the trajectory of the times. It’s a forced eschatology, a grim prophecy of the end times.

They’re erecting a scaffolding around us, an invisible cage that is slowly but surely shaping our growth, our thoughts, our actions. The City of Angels has been transformed into the City of Spotlights, with federal agents camped out on my doorstep, an unwanted intrusion into my life.

The growers ask for solidarity, they plea for support in their struggle against the overreach of the federal government. But amidst the cacophony of their pleas and the relentless noise of the standoff, all I want is to understand my loneliness, to understand this feeling of alienation that seems to have become my constant companion.

The 900F, once a symbol of rebellion and defiance, now feels like a symbol of my solitude, a testament to my struggle to make sense of the world around me. And as I sit in my car, the hum of the power lines overhead a constant reminder of the world outside, I realize that the real battle is not out there, but within me.

I yearned to wander, to meander the paths of life like Jules at the end of Pulp Fiction, mimicking the steps of David Carradine, walking the earth. The Ronin’s path, the path of the masterless samurai, appealed to me. The idea of taking time, not to choose a side, but to find my center, my balance. That’s what I craved.

Yet here I was, trapped in the glaring spotlight of the federal agents, my old sedan idling in the parking spot that was suddenly a battlefield, a stage for a standoff between conflicting ideologies. The agents, with their stern faces hidden behind visors and their fingers twitching near their holstered weapons, were telling me I needed to get out of the car.

Their voices, amplified through their megaphones, bounced off the surrounding buildings, creating a jarring echo that added another layer to the cacophony of the standoff. “Sir, please exit the vehicle. You’re making us nervous.”

Nervous? I couldn’t help but scoff at the irony. Here they were, armed to the teeth, backed by the might of the federal government, nervous because of a jobless coder idling in his beat-up sedan. But maybe that’s what they feared, the unpredictability, the unknown, the 900F.

With a sigh, I killed the engine, my hand lingering on the ignition for a moment before I slowly opened the door. As I stepped out, the Zippo in my pocket felt heavier, its cold metal a reminder of the power I held, of the fire I could ignite. But not today. Today, I was just a man, stepping out into the spotlight, searching for his place in this theater of chaos.

I want to die in Los Angeles. I don’t want to die in Los Angeles.“The terrible thing about L.A. is that you sit down when you’re 25 and when you stand up you’re 62.” – Orson Welles.