In search of brains

What links Los Angeles and New Orleans? Zombies, of course, with tongues protruding through their cheeks. Enjoy your foretaste of Jim Gabour's Sunday Blog series ...

I am just back in LA, Louisiana, at 2 this Monday morning, from a long weekend's work in the other punctuated L.A., having been engaged in massive video and interactive site screenings/evaluations on the Universal Studios lot, in the heart of scenic Burbank, California.  It is a truly an odd – rich and colorful, but simultaneously dingy and characterless -- city, several neighborhoods of which try to disguise their true municipal affiliation by calling themselves “North Hollywood”.  

In my dozens of trips to the place to work I have found no edible food – a primary concern for someone from New Orleans -- and often have wondered why.  I now think I may have a possible theory.

This particular assignment, especially night meetings working among the real denizens of Burbank, seemed to me otherworldly, disconnected from reality.  After animated aesthetic discussion of editing, framing, scoring and soundtracks, I was hearing equal conversation about the economic dollar value of cars, houses, jewelry, divorces, trophy wives.  Pool boys, horses, and beach hideaways.  After a restaurant-based planning session at which no one ate or drank, cars were brought out from valet parking in descending order of their estimated worth.  First the Bentleys, then the Rolls, the Ferraris, the Jags, the Hummers and Cadillacs.  Brightly polished, each was brought out and returned to their well-heeled owners by white-gloved attendants.  Then lastly, after a 45-minute wait, my solo rental car appeared.  None of the well-dressed car-hops really wished to look at it, much less drive it, lest they be inflicted with a contagious low to middle-class income in the future.   

My forty-eight hours human exposure on this trip approximated my idea of what it would be like to do daily business among the legendary aliens of Roswell, New Mexico, or to deal with the experience of mingling with off-worlders at a radioactive lunch counter in the Southwest’s legendarily hypersecret Area 51.   

To be even more completely site-specific about my exact Location – capitalized Location is of utmost importance in Southern California in every aspect of life -- the screening room where I sat for hours on end Friday and Saturday was embedded in heart of the Alfred Hitchcock Building, which itself can be accessed from the west by the two-block-long Jimi Hendrix Drive.  I am unsure of the intent or geographic metaphor of the named proximity, but again the poetic implications were unsettling to note as I was driven to my workplace.

The gig was good, if only ephemerally connected to what I really do, and today back in New Orleans with only three hours’ disturbed sleep, I am hugely tired, though somehow still alive.  

My soul, however, feels a tad scorched and abraded from close and frequent proximity to the aesthetic excesses and value systems that inherently accompany a California driver's license.  

In conversation, the industry locals and local-wannabes give off a black-and-white 1950’s zombie movie vibe, staggering about, arms extended to the front, looking for brains of some sort.  This could be considered a coincidentally natural phenomenon, seeing that the Hollywood industry is the current source of multiple new broadcast/cablecast series, games and feature films starring such creatures.   The phenomenon of the fifties has returned en masse, and they are looking to make you join their number.  Zombiezonenews.com lists 26 zombie-themed films in production in 2011 alone, including such soon-to-be-classics of the genre as “Harvard Zombie Massacre”  and “Revenge of the Bimbo Zombie Killers”.

The concept myth recently moved exponentially from fantasy “creature feature” mode to a position much closer to reality when Dr Ali Khan, a disaster specialist at the US national Center for Disease Control actually set out sanitation guidelines for dealing with zombies on a social and physical level.  He later said the whole article, entitled “Zombie Apocalypse”, was “tongue in cheek”.  His phrasing ironically seemed to make the information all the more real, seeing as how rotting zombie faces almost always expose tongue in cheek.

In his report on the official CDC site Dr Khan went on to describe the origins of the term:  “The word zombie comes from Haitian and New Orleans voodoo origins. Although its meaning has changed slightly over the years, it refers to a human corpse mysteriously reanimated to serve the undead.”

I was immediately caught by his description.  Not only are the beasties connected to my home town, but the “human corpse mysteriously reanimated to serve the undead” reference seemed to perfectly jibe with the West Coast Industry people I had met during my stay.

I am now a believer.  My dealings with card-carrying residents of the area should be vastly easier and more transparent now that I know that the zombie factor is deeply imbedded in the local culture.  

Tongue-in-cheek, of course.

About the author

Jim Gabour is a film producer, writer and director, whose work focuses primarily on music and the diversity of cultures. His New Orleans novel Unimportant People is available via Kindle.