Singled Out: Chronicles of a Nobody Out and About in Los Angeles!
Entertainment publicist Mona Elyafi regales us with tales of life in LA. This week she's reflective as the California wild fires bring her back to her childhood and fleeing Beirut, Lebanon for Paris.
When I reached the last hill of the canyon today, the one that magnificently looks down upon the City of Angels, something was disturbingly different yet soothingly intense. From afar the skyscrapers, palm trees and roofs once standing tall, were nearly imperceptible, buried under a thick veil of black murkiness spilling ashy smoke into the fleecy clouds. All resting against the backdrop of an unusually bright red and orange layered sky.
The panorama that enfolded before me was as spectacular as it was devastating in all its majestic metaphorical polar extremes. As I stood there witnessing the grim tragedy of wind-driven blazes besieging my adoptive city, an overwhelming feeling of familiarity overcame me.
Suddenly I had a flashback of my brother and me, at only five and four years old respectively, sitting on a plane with our unglamorous “unaccompanied child” plastic badges around our necks, feeling slightly discombobulated and lost, yet inexplicably having the certitude that we were in for some fantastically big adventure. Little did we know that we were actually exiling our native Beirut, Lebanon for Paris, France and had at the same time left our mom behind who had to stay a little longer to handle the last crucial details usually involved before forever fleeing your home.
I still have a vivid vision of me peeking through the window of the airplane and my eyes naively catching what I thought was the coolest fireworks show I had ever seen. Of course being the first time I ever stepped foot on a plane my four year old self thought it was some kind of traditional customary farewell bonanza courtesy of the airline to wish everybody a safe flight.
Suffice to say that a few years later I was informed that I had actually been watching my own country fall into absolutely wreckage under the burning flames of the infernal siege, guns and the deafening intermittent claps of thunder of the bombardments and fusillades. I was immensely offended for having being duped all these years but was at the same time, grateful for the brutal confession as it triggered a powerful personal epiphany. I was at last given some clarity as to why I had religiously been cultivating for over three decades a passionate detestation for all Independence Day celebrations: it’s all about the fireworks!
I guess on some unconsciously repressed level the stentorian Bing Bang Bam Boom of these artificial missiles beautifully spilling a palette of colors in the sky subliminally remind me of the sound of my childhood exodus.
When I was a kid I had this natural inclination to always see good in bad. It’s not so much that I was naïve but it was just easier for my little brain to wholeheartedly believe that being an agent of the devil was a short-lived career because come Christmas time everyone would infallibly confess their sins and repent to Santa Claus to make sure their wish list would be worthy of consideration.
As an adult, although I kept the method intact, I skillfully altered the data finding it more resembling of my highly creative personality to substitute the whole seeking good in bad MO with the greater, more intricate, endeavor of extracting beauty out from pain.
No, I am not a masochist, but I will admit that I do find a certain pleasure in inviting danger. The politically correct terminology, I suggest, is passionately intense, which probably explains why my ex-girlfriend continually crucified me for being “too much.”
I am urgently pressed to decompose the word in tense and reassure myself that it does indeed mean present in a very high degree -- or simply put: alive! Forgive me for not being inflicted with the Grinch syndrome but I can’t apologize for refusing to shrink my heart and be emotionally crippled.
More on next page...
Maybe that’s why I felt a strange instant assimilation with French poet Charles Baudelaire the very minute I laid eyes on his masterpiece Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Seriously, I was so convinced I had found the echo of my soul, that for a while I had no doubt he had unscrupulously committed some copyright infringement paraphrasing the story of my life as if it were his own. Of course I was completely oblivious to the fact that he lived a couple of centuries before me and that my claim in and of itself was a de facto anachronism. Talking about misplacement in time, let’s go back to the now and the top of my mountain story.
As I remained motionless, observing the menacing sky striking LA in all of its hellish beauty, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the end of the world or simply the cyclical wheels of time reminding me that it was almost the end of mine exactly a year ago. Could it be that I am losing yet again another woman in my life?
Talk about intense. The pain I endured going through last year’s devastating breakup would have made any suicidal attempts redundant. Yet in a very uncanny Baudelairian way , while drowning in a sea of lamentations, I managed to derive an exhilaratingly euphoric energy that inexplicably made me feel even more alive in my little death. I gave it a great cry then as I did today, because in the midst of these personal internal infernos I know that I came as close as I could ever dare dreaming to touching beauty. Finally it dawned on me that what the horizon was reflecting was nothing more than a fond sentimental glimpse at all the poetic muses that have inspired me -- those iconic women who have individually sculpted the shape of my heart and come to define, in their own unique ways, the many different intensities of love.
From the innate affection for my native land (Beirut Lebanon), my passionate lust for my eternal lover (Paris), my immutable admiration for the woman who will always come first in my life (my mother), my unconditional devotion for my mighty Aphrodite (my grandmother), to my first real love, the only one I could allow to break my heart (my ex), they have all become aesthetic manifestations of beauty, the kind that is constructed within. They are my very own Flowers of Evil. And even though I have experienced the pain of detachment with each and every one of them -- whether separated by some geographical, emotional, physical or metaphysical distances -- I do not feel a sense of loss. They’ve become a part of me and I carry them in that special place in my heart -- always, intensely -- because the sum of them is the best of me.
And as the incandescent flames dissipate and the smoke thins from my Los Angeles sky, I know the only fire that will keep on burning is the one forever inside of me. Perhaps, after all, being intense is simply the inherent burning desire to always seek beauty from pain and embrace pain from beauty. Or perhaps it simply means that I am just TOO MUCH of a beautiful pain the ass!
Mona Elyafi is the author of DisCOKEnnected - a memoir, available at Amazon.com. She is also the founder & CEO of ILDK Media, a Los Angeles-based entertainment PR company – www.ILDKMedia.net.
Missed the last Singled Out? Read it here.