On Swimming Pools
Text by Emmy The Great
Images by Myles Pettengill
“The house is weird, like a facade,
as though our director has written ahead and said,
‘we’re making a video about how people’s lives
look on the surface and someone is going to die in it.’ ”
— Emmy The Great
Emmy The Great
Emma-Lee Moss was born in Hong Kong and moved to London, England with her family as a child. She took the name Emmy the Great in 2006 and subsequently released her debut album First Love which the New York Times ranked at #7 in a list of the best albums of 2009. In 2011 she released her second album Virtue and then This is Christmas with Tim Wheeler from Ash. She is also a writer for Vice and the UK Observer and Guardian newspapers.
If I had to make a guess on what Monterey Park is like, based on the time I’ve spent there, I’d say: cold and haunted.
The house is weird, like a facade, as though our director had written ahead and said, ‘we’re making a video about how people’s lives look on the surface and someone is going to die in it.’ Every room leads to another room. The beds, if you tap on them, are made of plywood. No one could sleep here. There are two jacuzzi bathtubs, and chandeliers everywhere, but the chandeliers are dirty, and every fabric fights to make the adjacent fabric painful to see.
We wait until sunset before I jump into the pool. It’s fall already and it’s a crisp, starry night. The water is freezing. But everyone seems mad at me because I keep following them round and ruining the shot, so I don’t complain. I think that my obvious courage will make them like me again.
Between shots, Drew and Riel, our DP and producer, carry me out of the pool to a towel, so I don’t mess up continuity with my big feet, more yeti than girl, marking the places where the story says I didn’t go. Even though they are protecting the shoot schedule, I feel like they are protecting me. I imagine them as older brothers, playing a game where my feet can’t touch the ground. Then I’m back in the pool.
“Be dead!” is the instruction, just like a brother would say.
Earlier, the entire crew were filming a short. They needed a house interior in daylight, and we needed the exterior at night, so it seemed perfect, then. Now I’m jealous of the actor, Ana, who got the interior shoot. She’s asleep inside, probably under a blanket.
Drew jumps in with his camera. He yelps. I am triumphant. Look how little I’ve complained.
“My brain is working through what the possibilities are of accidentally drowning yourself because you’re not good at acting, wondering how great my death would be for the video’s view count. ” — Emmy The Great
The whole time that I am in the water with my eyes scrunched up, the dark bubbles of my breath churning around me, people above me are shouting, changing positions and lenses. My brain is working through possibilities are of accidentally drowning yourself because you’re not good at acting, wondering how great my death would be for the video’s view count. I also compose the Air BnB review for the house: “It seems like a fake house.”
It’s actually amazing to me that you can’t see any of this when I watch this video back, even though I’m aware of how filming stuff works, and am acquainted with the concept of editing, and have seen blooper reels at the ends of DVD bonus features. I just can’t understand how six people made it happen so that you can’t see my footprints, or the misfired cannonball or the laughing, or the roast that was prepared on the stove, after finding out that the oven, like the house, was for show only. And there’s no sign of Ana’s little body, curled up on the living room sofa. Or of the fact that the pool, when we arrived, looked like someone might have actually died in it – another detail for the review.
The only record of these things are in these photos by Myles Pettengill, who I could sometimes spy through the water, peering down at me from the balcony, which looked like an add-on you can buy for your house in the Sims. In these pictures everything looks kind of peaceful, and goofy, and strange.
This day is my only experience of Monterey Park, and it happens a couple days before I leave LA indefinitely. As I drive home that night, still believing my skin to be faintly blue, I notice how quiet it is, and how beautiful the city looks in the distance.