Superficial Stockholm Syndrome…I was kidnapped, raised in Lost Angeles and bought into it
by Max Barrie
One of my favorite Kanye West songs is “Can’t Tell Me Nothing.” And my favorite line is the first one— “I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven, when I awoke, I spent that on a necklace…” What I hear is— I’m sacrificing a bright future for material crap.
In LA especially, real money is regularly pissed away.
As far back as Henry Hill could remember, he always wanted to be a gangster. Well as far back as I can remember, I always wanted your approval. In grade school I longed for three things— a girlfriend, a growth spurt, and athletic prowess. Basically I just wanted to be loved… I saw those three things as ways in. Any love that did come my way was never enough or it wasn’t the right kind. Years later, a bottomless pit of need for booze, at that age it was rainbows I wanted to mainline.
The one person who loved me unconditionally was my doting obsessive compulsive grandmother, Miriam. I was the firstborn grandson and in her eyes I could do no wrong. In her company, I had the Midas touch and did whatever the hell I wanted— as long as I didn’t choke on it or drown in it. Conveniently, she also schooled me on the harmful nature of germs and dirt and instructed me on how to keep everything, including myself, spotless. To this day I have a bottle of rubbing alcohol by my nightstand. Hey, ya just never know.
My therapist often refers to the self-esteem movement of the 1980’s as being a colossal mistake. She says it was a time when many professionals instructed parents to give their children constant positive reinforcement no matter what— but this according to her, would unfortunately set up an unrealistic environment for kids that the real world would inevitably swallow.
I do not believe my parents, nor my Grandmother were briefed on this movement.
My Mom and Dad loved me, but were often busy and Miriam rarely left my side. I think she just happened to be a human version of a Care Bear and actually believed that I was going to somehow save the Jewish people in the 21st century. Up until her death in 2011 no one ever loved me as much as she did. Since the beginning I wanted my Grandmother’s love on tap, but that wasn’t possible. Like my therapist explains now, she was no match for the “real world” that eventually swallowed me whole. In the 80’s and 90’s, not only did I NOT receive this first class treatment in her absence, I often got the exact opposite.
Ok, lets fast-forward to high school… it was 1997 and I was even more lost in the sauce. Now remember where this story takes place… yep, Hollycould. And by the time I was fourteen years old I was convinced I had a few things figured out. Mastery never came to me socially, academically or athletically, but now I saw people around town and at school just like me… small people… goofy people… maybe unattractive or even mean people, and they were WINNING— like Charlie Sheen would so eloquently describe years later after a crack run.
High school for me is where things really shifted. Instead of just day-dreaming, I saw that attainable greatness was readily for sale. Shangri-La was all around me or so I thought. Good looks, brains or throwing a football didn’t necessarily get you access… we didn’t even have a football team in this private society. If you wanted to be known, fully equipped with acceptance in our viper’s nest— you needed a last name followed by a minimum of seven zeros. A BMW, drugs, and a large home were also quite helpful.
Now this isn’t new… this is textbook Scarface Machiavelli shit. Money equals power equals women equals “winner winner, Sheen dinner!” This formula has gone on everywhere, all over the place, since the beginning. So what makes tinseltown unlike an oil dynasty or the people who invented the vagina? LA is the epicenter of magic store horse shit… and everyone wants to know or wants to BELIEVE they know what’s happening on these insincere streets. If life’s looking sweet, people can dream… and if the forecast is doom and gloom— who doesn’t love dirty laundry?
"I almost drowned in SoCal’s sea of superficial diarrhea… and I’m not out of the deep doo yet. The fact that I haven’t blown my brains out— is well… not really that miraculous. I’m a big pink muffin and I’m afraid that if I make my exit too soon, I’ll just be shit out someplace worse… like Sylmar."
In my experience money in Hollywon’t is generally new, often flashy, and turns everyone into warped bloodthirsty vampires— just dying for a taste. What’s also different about LA is it brings the word “COLD” to a new level… and I don’t mean the weather. It’s like if COLD smoked crack with Charlie, hopped in a Tesla and shot down a crowded sidewalk on a Sunday afternoon. Los Angeles is THAT cold… and this lack of compassion and authenticity mostly stems from a desire to win a race that doesn’t really exist.
Am I even making sense at this point? Probably not. Starting out I was a nice kid who eventually became a product of his environment. The guys who drove Ferraris were dating supermodels with names like Elsaleena. And the poor bastard in the Camry was jerking-off a lot or hit the jackpot with some fatty ginger he met at Coffee Bean. I saw this bubblegum bullshit day after day after FUCKING day… and soon I started to resent my father for not owning more homes.
I’m not even sure I liked Ferraris at first, but I sure as hell started to. When I was fourteen, if I wasn’t watching “The Way We Were” with my Grandmother, I often felt lonely and out of place— especially in a crowd of my contemporaries. And all the dicks and cunts in the vicinity claimed that my salvation was at Nobu. “Maxie, honey baby— heaven awaits at that back table right next to David Duchovny." And these weren’t just my peers, these were their parents… pretty much everyone I knew.
I escaped or snapped out of “Superficial Stockholm syndrome” at around 30 years old… after sixteen long years in. As I’m typing this I feel like one of those former Scientology members from that HBO documentary. “Yes, LRH was my homie and I worshipped Xenu and 75 million years ago I battled aliens with John Travolta. Yes.” Sounds crazy, right? Rodeo Drive ain’t that different… it’s just tangible bullshit instead of fairytales. “No, Max you’re wrong! It’s Bvlgari, look at how it sparkles, this is the answer I’ve been waiting for.” We cling to exquisite nonsense because thats where we see a crowd and a fuss forming. And I am absolutely being judgmental, but I’m also empathetic because I ran with the affected herd for 16 fiscal years!
Five years ago I was walking around the Malibu Colony thinking God had officially made my dick look bigger. I was actually so stoned, I probably whipped it out and showed the natives. It was an afternoon on the 4th of July and I was drinking and smoking joints that I had meticulously laced with Xanax… next thing ya know it’s pitch dark and I’m being forcibly removed from this snooty settlement. And not one of my “friends” was anywhere in sight. I’m not blaming anyone, I made my bed… but when I phoned a buddy in a holidaze near PCH, I find out everyone’s partying at a nightclub fifteen miles away. With friends like these, who needs enemas?!
The next seventy-two hours were a nightmare. I had been humiliated, I was now isolated and melting into a Tempur-Pedic mattress at Mommy’s house. I could literally see toxic odors seeping out of my pores. This was not a unique tale in my travels, nor am I pointing the finger at this bizarre beach village. What I’m saying is this— wherever I went, there I was. The only place my cock ever grew was in my fucked delusional mind.
I don’t claim to be a teacher or a professor, and I fear that I come off like a self-proclaimed know-it-all in my prattling. I don’t believe I KNOW anything, I just pitch my version. I’m all for everybody doing whatever they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But my unsolicited advice would be make sure it’s YOU that really wants something and not just the general consensus.
I almost drowned in SoCal’s sea of superficial diarrhea… and I’m not out of the deep doo yet. The fact that I haven’t blown my brains out— is well… not really that miraculous. I’m a big pink muffin and I’m afraid that if I make my exit too soon, I’ll just be shit out someplace worse… like Sylmar. So it’s a combo of FEAR and some GOOD FORTUNE that’s kept me alive. The good fortune being a series of random events and chance encounters that we’ll discuss some other time. I don’t take credit for ninety percent of my pulse… but that doesn’t mean I’m thanking Xenu either. The truth is that I don’t know. All I can do is maintain my ten percent through continued self-examination, while remaining cautious, yet open.
What I’ve come to understand after being a Stepford Jew for 16 years is… we’re all struggling on this cruise ship together and we’re all headed to the same marina. Lets have a nice ride, shall we? If you’re on a WINNING streak after a crack binge with Charlie, MAYBE USE YOUR MONEY WISELY? Perhaps symbiotically improve your life while improving the lives of others? Don’t worry, if you do end up buying your way into heaven, I’m sure there’s a Westfield mall up there where you can purchase chinchilla bell bottoms.
Max Barrie is a writer and artist currently based in Los Angeles. The son of screenwriters, Michael Barrie and Sally Robinson, Max was born and raised in Beverly Hills, California. With acerbic wit and self deprecating humor, Max documents his life growing up in the shallow, superficial depths of Beverly Hills and the Hollywood machine. In his multiple part autobiographical series, entitled A Trendy Tragedy, Max will explore his bouts with addiction, prostitution and his search for identity in a landscape that is rife with temptation and false ideals.