Professor Vandersloos, Prominent Silver Lake Resident, Is Outraged
JUNE 14, 2012
SILVER LAKE, CALIFORNIA — Professor Herbert Vandersloos, 42, a resident of the hipster enclave known as Silver Lake, is outraged. He sits on a deck chair on his patio, which is outfitted with a miraculous form of AstroTurf that grows and must be mowed (his own invention). He looks out onto the beautiful vista, a man-made reservoir enclosed by a barbed wire fence, and dumps his cognac onto the ground. It immediately disappears. The AstroTurf belches.
“My AstroTurf has been trained to drink cognac,” explains Prof. Vandersloos, “and if the reservoir is drained by the Department of Water and Power, it will become so drunk it will throw up. I will be furiously dumping cognacs onto the AstroTurf in protest every hour until someone notices and stops this horrible event from happening.” He pours himself another cognac and ceremoniously spills it onto the ground again. The ground absorbs the cognac and then rejects it, forming a puddle. Prof. Vandersloos’ dog, Hilda, wanders over to investigate.
“Don’t let your dog sip that,” I advise.
“She’s fine,” responds Prof. Vandersloos. The dog laps at the puddle and then coughs. The dog is an alto.
I ask Prof. Vandersloos what he fears would happen if the reservoir were to be drained and left empty for eighteen months.
“First of all,” says Vandersloos, “the herons would pack up and move to Highland Park to settle on the banks of the arroyo. I would no longer be able to take photographs of the herons to send to my grandmother as proof that I live in an incredible neighborhood, and she’d think I live in the valley or somewhere unremarkable like that. Second of all, the empty cement basin would be a real eyesore. I would have to move my heavy deck chair to face my house, and would probably strain my back doing so. I could no longer imagine myself swimming, kayaking and letting my water out into the reservoir, as I do every other Monday. I would have to imagine myself skateboarding on the cement instead, and I don’t know how to skateboard, so I would get an Impossible Visualization Migraine. This would cripple my productivity and I would be unable to finish my collection of essays. Thirdly, looking at the reservoir inclines me to drink water. If it were empty, I would only ever be inclined to drink air, and would probably die.”
I ask Prof. Vandersloos if he minds that the water is rumored to be filled with cancer, or if he has any thoughts on the fact that the proposed draining is a response to the city’s unpopular alternate plan of digging up the nearby “grassy knoll” of mature sycamore trees.
“I hate sycamore trees,” responds Prof. Vandersloos in an acid tone. He pours himself another cognac, drinks it, and then empties the rest of the carafe onto the AstroTurf. The AstroTurf bubbles, retches, and shoots the liquid upwards in a violent geyser that sends green-hued booze onto the Professor’s shoes, and mine.
A passerby catches some of the splatter. “What the hell was that?” asks the passerby.
“Ask the goddamn DWP!” responds Vandersloos. A heron floats by. “That isn’t a heron,” whispers Vandersloos. “That’s a government drone.”
The heron shits from the sky onto the AstroTurf.
“Maybe that one was a heron,” admits Vandersloos, “but at least half the time, it’s not a heron.”
“Do you ever think that the reservoir site might be better utilized as low-income housing?” I ask. “Do you ever think that the reservoir, since it’s not being used for drinking water, is a sort of uselessly beautiful esoteric thing that has to be sacrificed for the greater good? Plus it has barbed wire all around it.”
“No!” yells Prof. Vandersloos. “I earned this view! I would not have installed this AstroTurf at great expense if I thought anything about this view would change! I would have saved myself sixty thousand dollars and moved to Eagle Rock instead! What good is this stupid neighborhood without the reservoir?”
That’s a good question, I point out.
“There are a lot of fantastic people here,” acknowledges Prof. Vandersloos. “Trendy people with great minds, like Miranda July. But, as I’ve informed the members of our neighborhood council, without this man-made body of water Miranda July wouldn’t have anywhere to fish for cute ideas with the flossy strands of her beautiful imagination. You drain the reservoir, you drain Miranda July. It would be Miranda winter for a year and a half. Maybe more.”
The AstroTurf grows blurry, stumbles, and breaks the straps of its tank top. It has unprotected sex with a vagrant poking through the recycling on the corner, then returns to Vandersloos’ patio and cries.
“I’m going to sit here and get increasingly upset until somebody does something,” mumbles Professor Vandersloos. “When people hear about how upset I am, they’ll take notice. I am more upset than I have ever been in my entire life. I’m not moving until somebody stops this, or until I explode.”
The sun sets on the soggy patio, and as I leave I see Vandersloos look up at the drones in the gridlocked sky with an exaggerated frown. His eyebrows are so angry that their inner corners obscure his nose. Someone takes a photo from way up high and sends it to an intelligence base in Fresno, where it is archived in the Silver Lake objections file for further study.