Hollywood sunset – a re-construct of a recollection

During winter season, a quite large share and number of Swedes from the middle and upper classes can afford to travel to southern latitudes, particularly Thailand, but of course also other popular destinations for tourists.

Besides from actually enjoying the fun, this phenomenon appears to be largely about to showcase one’s real or expected happiness through social media channels, such as Instagram and/or Facebook. And very generally speaking, the latter is of course acceptable – rather to seem to be happy and share it with other people, than to complain about being unhappy. 

Earlier this year I have done short trips to Iceland (with friends), Vienna (with family), and Lisbon/Marrakesh (alone), and broadly speaking those were all great. No winter holidays, though, so those who are able to go: enjoy.

However, if one wants to bring some nuances into the depiction of one’s travel experiences, it should perhaps be emphasized that these do often include a lot of both pros and cons – sometimes perhaps more of the latter than one wants to admit. For instance, when I was in Malaysia and Indonesia back in 2011, I and my friend experienced a lot of practical difficulties, and I also had some kind of gastroenteritis that made me lose about seven kilograms of body weight – mostly water – in just five days (and experienced quite a torment during at least the first two of these).

Few if any trips are not just incomplete, imperfect (and expensive), but actually partially disappointing and sometimes even worse than that. These things should be mentioned too, just as both successes and setbacks – and all in between these two poles – ought to be included into the overall picture that one paints of one’s life.

But if one chooses to look at these things from the brighter side, there are still a few actual magic moments that at least appear – in our subjective minds – worth every single Swedish krona that one has exchanged into the local currency in question, and spent on airplane tickets, accommodation, food, drinks, local transportation, and enjoyments. These moments can be quite short or even instantaneous, but nevertheless absorbed as precious riches in our memorial treasure troves.

I have a number of those myself, and hence intend to share some of the less hedonistic, ego-tripping and ostentatious, and at the same time more – without being too sentimental – beautiful, or at least joyful and ‘dignified’, experiences here. Or perhaps I will share those too; at least some of them. It should also be emphasized that not of all these memories consist of purely positive elements so to speak, and these can also be remembered for some other kind of experience, which is then not really negative, but perhaps more ‘enlightening’ than joyous.

I will not do this chronologically, and hence only pick randomized things which make me momentarily motivated to write so to speak. It is not like I have an endless ocean of recollections to drink of, but I nevertheless think that individual enthusiasm is very relevant to have as a point of departure.


Hollywood Hills, October 2006
In October of 2006, I went on my first trip all by myself. I and two other friends had decided at an earlier stage that we should go to Central America together for about three months, but after they said they could not go due to their financial situations, I changed my mind and went to the west coast of the US instead, for slightly less than a month. I had been in New York City the year before, and just as many other people tend to do, I liked it as well. However, this side of the country was completely new to me.

Broadly speaking, all of the major locations that I went to – L.A., San Diego, Las Vegas and San Francisco – were all worth a visit. The stays were far from perfect, but overall I liked them, although I have to stress that what I saw of L.A. was at best only partially positive. Additionally, a day’s stay in Tijuana is probably misguiding to categorize as positive, ‘a great place’ or whatever. It is a hell-hole, the apex of human depravity. But it was interesting indeed. Almost like a movie with guys in huge hats and mustaches selling drugs in the restrooms at bars, and police patrols stealing things from tourists etcetera.

What I will particularly mention, though, is an experience that I had on Hollywood Hills – one of those magic moments. A bit earlier during the trip, I had visited Venice Beach (needless to say also Muscle Beach), Santa Monica, and some other rather interesting spots, and I even went to a film premier on Hollywood Boulevard. (If you’re about 20, look kind of cute and can behave yourself, then various people might let you into that kinds of settings for no other obvious reasons.)

These things were all worthwhile but not even close to anything ‘magical’. But if one, like me, is or has been deeply fascinated by particular popular cultural products – and especially certain elements of these – then one can make associations and create discourses of certain segments of our world which in turn make them something seemingly meaningful and important.

Psychologically conditioned discourses, which individuals produce or re-construct – often in an interplay between personal preferences, earlier experiences, and various social structures and practices – is largely about meaning-making. Meanings are not really ‘out there to be found’, but rather phenomena that one can absorb and then create or re-create, depending on various circumstances that happens throughout life. And this a typical example of that.

When standing on Hollywood Hills, and then at a somewhat later time driving alongside Mulholland Drive, it made me think about David Lynch’s two movies Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001), and since I saw the sunset from up there, it was as if these popular cultural references merged with my own real-life experience. I think that I stood next to a quite sizzling German Weiblich too, a brunette as far as I can remember, which in turn can be associated to Renee in Lost Highway or Rita in Mulholland Drive, and who added to the experience as something even more phantasmal.

Actually, Lou Reed has made his own splendid version of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman’s song ‘This magic moment’, which is included in the Lost Highway original soundtrack, and the title is indeed very fitting. Nevertheless, even more appropriate in this specific context is actually Barry Adamson’s enchanting tune ‘Hollywood sunset’ from the same soundtrack.

Listen to the song, look at the photage from the film (I lost my camera in Las Vegas, so unfurtunately I do not have any pictures left to show), and then perhaps realize that you may have to go there too some day, in order to create your own unique memory of your own particular experience of the same phenomena.

Under denna tidpunkt på året är det många som åker på solsemester på södra halvklotet. Inte minst Thailand men även andra platser utgör populära resmål. Själv stannar jag hemmavid, men har tidigare i år hunnit med både Wien (med familj), Island (med vänner), Lissabon och Marrackech (ensam), och är därför ganska nöjd i det avseendet.

Det verkar som att det, apropå solskenssemestrar, för många handlar lika mycket – eller ibland kanske rentav mer – om att verkligen njuta som att ge sken av att man njuter, vilket sker genom sociala medier som Instagram och/eller Facebook. Och det är förstås inte fel i sig – hellre att lyfta fram någonting positivt, reellt eller skenbart, än att klaga på allt det negativa i ens omgivning.

Dock vill jag ändå påstå att för att kunna ge en nyanserad och mer heltäckande bild av sina resor, bör man lyfta fram både de bra och dåliga sidorna. Och när man gör det brukar man inse att det är ytterst sällan som allt är ens i närheten av att vara “perfekt”.

Jag drar mig exempelvis till minnes en resa till Malaysia och Indonesien som jag gjorde tillsammans med en vän, februari 2011, under vilken vi hade alla möjliga praktiska problem, och dessutom hade jag magsjuka i fem dagar varav åtminstone de två första innebar ett riktigt helvete. Likväl finns det en hel del höjdpunkter därifrån som gör att ingen av oss ångrar det en sekund. Resan var värd varenda krona, mycket på grund av att de bästa händelserna väger upp allt det negativa. Och det är precis dessa magiska ögonblick som man så gärna vill uppleva, för att sedan kunna absorbera dem som värdefulla minnen.

Upplevelser av olika fenomen kan förstås som psykologiska diskurser – vi som individer konstruerar eller rekonstruerar händelser utifrån hur vi uppfattar dem, eller vill uppfatta dem. Det finns inget objektivt att bara upptäcka, utan omvärlden tolkas i ett samspel med individens smak, tidigare erfarenheter, referenspunkter, det omgivande samhället, och andra faktorer.

Exempelvis upplevde jag min allra första resa som jag genomförde på egen hand, till USA:s västkust – inklusive några dagar i Las Vegas och en endagsvistelse i Tijuana – under oktober och november, 2006, på ett särskilt sätt. Överlag var det en bra om än långtifrån problemfri vistelse som varade en knapp månad, och jag uppskattade samtliga av de ställen som jag besökte. Dock kan nästan inget sägas ha varit direkt “magiskt” i någon som helst reell mening.

På Hollywood Hills – och även i samband med att jag åkte längs Mulholland Drive lite senare – inträffade dock ett sådant ögonblick, eller snarare en serie av ögonblick, i samband med att jag bevittnade solnedgången därifrån. Troligen beror det på att jag associerar detta till David Lynch två filmer Lost Highway (1997) och Mulholland Drive (2001) och framför allt vissa scener ur dem. Det var som att min upplevelse blandades samman med min individuella tolkning av dessa filmer, framför allt den förstnämnda.

Förhoppningsvis kan detta få någon att bli inspirerad till att också åka just dit, och uppleva snarlika fenomen utifrån sitt alldeles särskilda sätt att tolka omvärlden. Man kan kanske börja med att se filmerna och lyssna på filmmusiken.