In this new series, writers share their favorite music videos. Amelia Gray kicks us off.
WAX — “California”
I love the way it starts, with this slow pan low on the gross piss-stained LA street in a corner of Hollywood. Right away the protagonist is introduced, the stuntman soaked in accelerant that is its own mess, really like he peed himself or rolled in pee or lay down in a trough of pee.
This corner of Sunset and Gardner looks almost the same today except for the fact that Freedom Guitar is closed now—their attempt to save the business by changing its name to Freedom Guitars weirdly didn’t work—and the payphone is gone too.
The stuntman runs past that homeless guy throwing the can, obviously just done to look good in slow-motion, dynamic, but it’s one of the first elements that makes you watch the whole thing again– like did that can make it into the trash? And then you’re watching the can so hard you miss the foreground.
Then past the g-man Scientology guy using the payphone and past that other guy in the foreground hunching in on himself, everyone so far wearing sleeves to their elbows, the old guy walking his dog—how is the dog okay with this man on fire? Usually animals know what’s up, maybe the dog was trained in fire—and then the newsstand guy and the matching couple. You could write a story about each of these people and link them together and call it, I don’t know, WAX/California? Up to you, let me know.
The man leaps onto the curb, either running to catch the bus or just waving in some general Western States welcome or farewell, maybe at the guy dribbling a basketball or the one sweeping the stoop, and as the bus blocks him from view our eye turns slowly to the girl! Oh, hey! She doesn’t return our enthusiasm, her head pressed against the window. She doesn’t even look up, and the deal is that the real insanity of Los Angeles is how its insanity goes unnoticed, someone sets a stack of mattresses on fire inside a daycare almost every day, and then there, in almost at very last second, you get this quick flashing rainbow halo around that girl, just half a subtle second, the kind of brilliant little fluke that comes in one take.
—Amelia Gray is the author of 3 books. Gutshot (FSG) arrives April 2015.