Last Word: Is There Life Outside the South Bay?

Beyond the bubble.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Scott Sanford Tobis
  • Illustrated by
    Yuiko Sugino

In the film The Truman Show, the title character is stuck in a nightmarish scenario that he cannot escape. The entire world has been created as an idyllic environment geared for Jim Carrey’s title character, but also a prison in which he is trapped. His surroundings, in reality, are nothing more than an enormous television studio that allows viewers to monitor every aspect of his life 24 hours a day. 

I recently had a scenario that oddly mirrored Truman’s ordeal, as I tried to flee from The Bubble—a similarly idyllic setting. With my only son off to college last autumn, a three-bedroom house felt like too much for a single person. I was in classic downsizing mode. It was time to figure out where to move. 

I tried to leave The Bubble. Believe me. Santa Monica beckoned, as did Pacific Palisades. But the citified nature of the former detracted from the beach view, and the lack of the ability to walk to the Pacific left me cold on the latter.

In the end, I stayed in the South Bay. After much searching, I found a great condo a few miles south in Hermosa. Swapping the sand dunes for prime Greenbelt real estate seemed like a fair trade.  

Now all that was left to do was reduce my belongings to what would fit into a two-bedroom condo. Decimating my belongings is more accurate, as I purged much of what my son and I collected in our almost decade of living in Manhattan Beach. 

More than two dozen large boxes of toys, stuffed animals and other miscellaneous items went to Goodwill and Long Beach Rescue Mission. Troves of books were dropped off at Dave’s Olde Book Shop—which only left me with outdoor furniture, a washer and dryer, and a garage full of boys stuff. The boys stuff was age-appropriate for my son and age-inappropriate for me. Items I should have outgrown—turntables, laser discs, vinyl, toys, video game systems and too many other items to mention mainly because I’d be embarrassed to admit it. Yes. Even more embarrassing than still having laser discs and the occasional Betamax tape collecting dust.

Trying to leave The Bubble reminded me a bit of Truman’s experience, except under slightly less nightmarish conditions. Instead of a demonic director/dictator (in the guise of the great Ed Harris) using his Machiavellian skills to keep Truman inside his bubble—psychologically and physically—I found myself contending with overeager garage sale buyers (a few with sticky fingers), the emotional trauma of giving away my collection of 45s and a poorly timed black widow spider bite. To be fair, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a well-timed version of the latter. 

In the real world, The Bubble is a utopian arena in which I tried to escape—only to find that no matter what I did, its power impelled me to stay within its boundaries. Like Truman, who almost died navigating his escape from his manufactured environment, I had a frighteningly close call recovering from the venom of the black widow’s bite. In the end, we both survived our individual traumas.

I guess the biggest difference between Truman and me is that his prison was a dystopian one, while I have been voluntarily (and happily) living and continue to live in a utopian one. I’m proud to call The Bubble my home. In the past, present and future.