Thursday, December 27, 2007

In the Fixx

It's a balmy afternoon in Chicago. I'm in a well-furnished coffee shops with free WiFi and depressing music (Iron and Wine, I think). Nope... just Googled the lyrics. It's Band of Horses. If it was 20 degrees colder and I was ten years younger, I might like them more.

My rental car has Sirius satellite radio. There's an all-Bruce Springsteen channel (E Street radio) and an another channel dedicated to the Jimmy Buffet lifestyle (Margaritaville). Somehow, Buffet is playing better songs today.

You should read The Thumbprint.

I had a request for my year-end lists. They're coming. For the music lists, none of the artists mentioned in this entry stands a chance. It was a tough year.

I'm enjoying my trip to the Midwest. Though I miss my apartment and those cool new framed photos on my bookcase.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jens Lekman Is Playing At My House

I have too many sofas and not enough chairs.

I have too much cereal and not enough milk.

I have too much floor and not enough table.

I found myself in a WalMart at 1:00 in the morning the other night. It was an accident.

I'm sitting by my window, for the first time ever.

Two nights ago, I dreamed of a crowded police press conference. In front of the spokespeople were bottles of water. Aquafina. In the dream, a group of kids touring the building (I believe it was City Hall) stopped to watch the police talk. One boy broke the silence: "Cops and water, water and cops." I have no idea what this means.

I won a raffle at my office holiday party. I like winning.

And you know me... I'm not too overly sentimental. I've been called "sarcastic" and "emotionally distant." I've been evaulated as "difficult to read" and "stoic." Whatever.... Anyway, I usually don't link to impossible feel-good stories but it's the holidays and I heard this on the radio last night and it's pretty amazing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

These Are The Real People In The World: 10 Reasons Boogie Nights Is My Favorite Movie

(in honor of the film's recent 10 year anniversary)

(not in any order)

1. The way Jack says "We're all familiar with your biography, Floyd" when Floyd is listing his credentials. Burt Reynolds plays a perfect disinterested interested person.

2. After Little Bill gets the gun from his car to kill his wife (and himself) at the New Years party, he LOCKS the car door. Manual.

3. "High fidelity. You know what that means... the highest quality fidelity."

4. "I love you. You love me. Going down the sugar tree." ...... "I write songs too."

5. The enthusiasm mixed with sadness in Reed's voice after he hears that Becky and Jerome are moving to Bakersfield: "We're losing these two. Big promotion."

6. The way the recording studio guy doesn't really explain what a "Catch-22" is.... because he really doesn't know.

7. "You're officially out of limes Jack."

8. Amber crying outside of the courthouse.

9. This scene:

10. "VIOLENCE is something that PLAGUES us as a SOCIETY."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Marbles, Bakersfield

Yes I haven't written much lately. The last few weeks have been a blur.

My legendary game show appearance will finally air... in 107 days (i.e., March 26, 2008). I'll provide reminders and instructions as we get closer.

Juno is a great film. The screenwriter's blog (i.e., The Pussy Ranch) is cool too.

Don't forget the fine photography and writing here.

And the New York Times Magazine's annual Ideas issue is always great.

Coming soon: leather, long drives, longer flights, holidays, Dexter finale.

Question for the world (may be discussed in the comments): Has Tom Petty ever written a bad song?

Question #2: Can anyone figure out the meaning of today's blog title?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The War Is Over

The text message told me that someone else loved that song. Yes, it's a sad song... a song about the impossible and the dismantled. But sometimes something has to give and a song is written.

That was an amazing almond croissant I had this morning. In the pointy part of Silverlake, on a chair high and backless. Coffee was good too.

The cold spell is over. The temperature had fallen to 40. Breath was visible. Car engines had to "warm up." Coats were worn. Glad that's over.

The last song on the album kills me too. "All the living are dead. The dead are all living."

Tonight will be a good night. I will sit on my lame duck couch with my dinner granola, my olive bread, and my vitamin water. I will watch my favorite basketball team play my local team. I will watch my current employer's college team play the second best team in the country. Seymour the cat will sit next to me, like a loaf of sourdough on a pillow of clouds.

Bristol Farms sells an olive sourdough. For like seven bucks. Too expensive.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Evening Out

Good things that have happened to me today:

Someone held the door open for me as I exited a coffee shop with my hands full.
For the first time since being awarded my Ph.D., I got to do a real logistic regression. The results were as expected.
I got a phone call about an opportunity.
Dinner will be good Thai food.

Not-so-good things that have happened to me today:

I arrived at my appointment and no one was there.
An email kept bouncing back.
The people up in Ventura County kept bothering me.
Lunch was a blueberry bagel.
I forgot to listen to music.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Workplace Safety

The worst public service announcement ever produced. If you're squeamish, DON'T follow this link.

(I've been quiet lately, I know. Prepare for long wordy posts in the coming days - rambling missives about the 90s, the fog over the hills, and - if you're lucky - the Sbarro Incident.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sounds like a pocketful of rain

I spent much of the weekend driving and listening to Prefab Sprout's first album Swoon. I haven't listened to it in such a long time that I forgot how many of Paddy McAloon's lines ring true as life mottoes, 25 years after he write them:
"All words are trains for moving past what really has no name" - Couldn't Bear To Be Special
Here, the simple notion of not finding the right words to say is expressed beautifully. You never reach perfection with language; you just approach it.

"I've learned today, the most eloquent way, to speak or to pray, is straight from the heart" - Green Isaac
A correct, if obvious, plea for honesty.

"Cruel is the gospel that sets us all free and takes you away from me" - Cruel
As with words and their lack of perfection, love from and for another person in a universe of individuality continues to elude.

"I long for the moon as it looks from the earth" - Green Isaac (Part II)
It's either about a man always wishing for a change is perspective or God wishing to be mortal. Or both.
"Should a love be tender, and bleed out loud? Or be tougher than tough, and prouder than proud? - Cruel
Do we give in to love (and its compromises)? Or do we stand steadfast and wait it out?

"There's a mile between the way you see me and the way I am" - Couldn't Bear To Be Special
We're all a little different from within. For some, it's a mile; others, a centimeter. For me, it's 400 meters.
Thanks to this website for the picture above.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yesterday and Today

Yesterday, I stayed home sick from work and discovered that my blog is written at the junior high reading level.

Today, I have declined an opportunity to have fun in Santa Monica because my throat feels rougher than a.... than a...
(no metaphor really works here; yeah I've thought of a few but they're really labored and sort of lame, so I'll just say my throat feels really really sore.)

Yesterday, I saw my first ever basketball game at Staples Center in Los Angeles (Thanks Jason). The Clippers beat the Knicks. Stephon Marbury made a surprise appearance (the crowd murmured; they did.) There's nothing like experiencing a live sporting event while numbed out on DayQuil.

Today, I rummaged through three rather depressing years of tax returns, to find some needed documents.

Yesterday, I ate a soft pretzel.

Today, I ate hard pretzels.

Monday, November 12, 2007

It Was A Non-Recommend Recommend

Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of my favorite shows. I appreciate its ambition. For each of their six seasons (except maybe the first), Larry David constructs a well-thought-out season-long plot to accompany each episode's 30 minute plot. The problem is that the final episodes usually left me wanting more. There was the final episode of the "restaurant" season. I loved how it ended but would have appreciated it if Larry's restaurant were ever mentioned again in the seasons that followed. It wasn't. I was more disappointed in the endings of the "Producers" and "adoption" seasons. They just should have been better.

This season, Larry has faced the end of his marriage and the introduction of a new family into his home. I was a little unsure of how it would end and a bit worried it would disappoint. It didn't. I won't give anything away except to say the last five minutes were brilliant, touching, and jaw-droppingly funny.

Please let there be a seventh season.

Yes, I watched a lot of TV this weekend, a fact that was mentioned in yesterday's apparently whiny post. Yeah, you're right. It was just a fever. But I chose to add a little symbolism.

Time for a big topic change.

When I was a kid growing up on the Pennsylvania suburban range, there was a strange ritual that my parents, sister, and I would take part in at least once every few weekends (this was from about age 11 to 15.) We would get in the family car and drive to Quakertown to go a place called the Sweetheart Steak Shoppe which specialized in Philly-style cheese steak sandwich . According to Google maps, it was 18 miles from Buckingham to Quakertown. And it was all city and country roads - no freeways. So it seemed a very long way to drive for a cheese steak sandwich.

(I tried to find an image to place right here, one
that would capture Quakertown, cheese steaks,
or my family. No such image exists)

What I didn't understand was why we just didn't drive 18 miles in the other direction and go to Philadelphia for a real Philly-style cheese steak. Sometimes, we'd combine the food with a trip to the Quakertown Mall. My family loved malls but that place was just sad. No reason to set foot in there. So, really it was just for the food (and the occasional "ha ha look at them" pointing at the Amish people on the side of the road with their wagons).

But here's the thing - and the point of this rather lame entry: to this day, I remember the oddly sweet tasting cheese on the Sweetheart's cheese steaks. It's a flavor that fills me with good thoughts and maybe that's why we made that trip. Yeah, we could have gone to that awful Nate's place in Doylestown but why not make an hour long round trip for something better? Besides, my family never really talked to each other, so it was good to be in a car and at least be forced to have some kind of conversation.

(I can't figure out why my line spacing gets messed up whenever I center something. My html looks flawless. Does anyone have any ideas?)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hollywood Nights

I've spent the weekend in a couch-bound haze, eating mochi, drinking lemon ginger echinacea juice and wondering why well-wishers in three time zones aren't calling. I've watched the sun rise and set over the Hollywood Hills, enjoying the impeccably clear skies and the impossibly moderate weather. It's been one of the most boring uneventful weekends of my life. And I feel utterly completely content. This is unlike me. I'm supposed to worry and fret about the future. But the future is just... it's just going to be there. Nothing I can do about it but make it perfect.

I should go see a movie. My immune system can handle that. Too much football. I've gone out for coffee and crossword puzzles. Yesterday, I went out for Wahoo's and randomness. I have a feeling I'm not going out tonight. The chills in my body keep me under covers. The heaviness in my head keeps my feet still.

But again... I'm completely utterly content. I don't understand. It really shouldn't be that way, given the circumstances.

I did have a thought at 3:00AM, when I was stirred awake by the thought that I should leave the couch and go to the bed. I thought... this can't go on forever. Eventually, something will give and I'll be playing basketball with my children in a leaf-strewn park. But there are no children yet. There aren't too many leaves in Lemon Grove Park. But there's a basketball court there.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Never Too Cold In November

November is my favorite month. Thursday is my favorite day of the week. In 1986 (my favorite year), I wrote a poem called November Thursdays. I'm happy today.

At this very moment, two different car alarms are going off in the not-too-far distance outside my office window. They're trading off their siren calls in a lovely musical duet portending the coming Los Angeles winter. Oh, it's stopped. The noise is over.

What happened to the mysterious commenter? What about that riddle?

I have unrestrained glee at the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The die has been cast; the cats have been fed; the sky is thirsty for a new cloud. And they haven't even won a game yet!

I'm listening to a song titled (unironically) Lazy Dreamer by Liz Phair off of her most recent album. Even her failures (the song, not the album) are fascinating and pure.

Speaking of Liz, it's been two years since the last album. I need a new one, if only to further my thesis (provable) that she's the greatest artist (in any medium) of the last 50 years. I understand that I should explain this position a little further. This explanation will come some day, I promise.

Speaking of basketball (3 paragraphs up), how come I haven't posted my NBA predictions, like I did the last two seasons. Well, here it is: In a surprise, the Los Angeles Lakers (not the Spurs, definitely not the Wolves) will beat the Toronto Raptors (fuck the Celtics) in the finals. In college, I have no idea but I like those Trojans.

Yes, I noticed the preponderance of parentheses.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Barkers and the Colored Balloons

(new stuff at the poetry blog)

(magnificent bastard on fire!)

(written in the early morning fog of yesterday, Los Angeles)

That's one way to instigate change, to go somewhere new for morning coffee.

The traffic is different here. The people look the same. The cars move faster, the feet move about the same. The photographs on the wall are of places I've been and buildings I've seen. The walls are unprotected, partially, from the elements.

I am unprotected from the future, from the delivery of bad news, from the promise of love, from long lost old friends appearing suddenly around corners. I'll get used to the traffic sounds, to the expectations in this part of town, to the different lexicon, to the alternate routes further east of where I work, rather than west.

I wonder how cold it has to get before they turn on the heating lamps. I hope they never come on. I just saw the woman who played Gina (rhymes with Carolina) in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. She's tired; she needs coffee.

They're playing Sugar Mountain by Neil Young. Though I can't forgive him for everything, I love this song. You have to make some things new to recognize the good in the old.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Yes, I Did Enjoy It

I wanted to write something long and well-constructed. Actually, I did write something like that this morning in my notebook over coffee. But... the notebook is in the car and the car is far away. Instead, I'll just make a list: 5 more random things about me:

1. I once owned a wagon but never a sled.
2. Fog is my friend.
3. The song Joy by Lucinda Williams fills me with joy, despite its joyless subject matter.
4. I used to own rechargeable lithium AA batteries. Two of them.
5. I get easily bored at work meetings. Which makes the non-boring meetings that much better.

Okay that was a lame experiment. Let's try something else. Actually, no. I should just stop writing and come back when I have something to say.

(actually - here's a 6th random thing:

I once started a completely fake blog, written from the point of view of someone that was most certainly not me (someone never identified in the fake blog). The fake blog is still out there. It hasn't been updated in a long time. Can you find it?)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Well At Least The War Is Over

Some lists for a Friday:

Places In My Apartment Where My Cats Have Vomited In The Last 24 Hours, Ranked My Difficulty in Cleaning

1. On my bed (likely culprit: Seymour)
2. On the living room rug (Lily)
3. On the arm of my couch (Lily)
4. On the living room floor (Lily)
5. On the kitchen floor (Seymour)
(Why are they throwing up? Is it something in the food? I don't know. There have been other spates like this... and then they go weeks without an incident.)

Top 5 Pizza Places in Los Angeles (+ surrounding areas)
1. Cheebo, Hollywood
2. Damiano's, Fairfax (a definite worldwide #1 in the 90s; their product has slipped somewhat)
3. Z Pizza, various locations (very good for a chain)
4. Abbot's, Santa Monica (but not the one in Venice)
5. That place Ben and Karen order from on poker nights, Altadena/Pasadena

Top 5 Landmarks I Can See From My Window or Porch
1. The Hollywood Sign
2. Griffith Observatory
3. The fast food confluence on Western Avenue (a lone intersection that includes a McDonalds, a Burger King, a Taco Bell, and the ghost of a KFC; popular with the trannies)
4. Capitol Records Building
5. The Scientology compound on Franklin; they actually painted it blue!

Seven Reasons For Liking the Timberwolves' Chances This Season
1. Al Jefferson is better than even the most optimistic fan thinks
2. Rashad McCants isn't injured any more
3. Ryan Gomes just needed more playing time
4. Mark Madsen is injured
5 through 7. That's all I can think of; they actually look pretty bad

Seven Songs I've Liked Recently, From Various Eras
1. In Our Bedroom, After the War - Stars
2. Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes
3. An Accident - LUYD
4. Teenage Liberation - The Hold Steady (the most Springsteen of their many Springsteen-ish songs)
5. Slow Show - The National
6. My Old Ways - Dr. Dog
7. Photograph - Ringo Starr (the best song by an ex-Beatle or the Beatles themselves)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

3 Links

Sarah and Laura Silverman ask a very important question. Yeah, what did happen to it?

I like this Sharon Jones song.

This is fascinating - filmmaker Errol Morris obsesses over a photograph.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What I Should Have Said

I'm known as a quiet guy. Some of you think I hold nothing back, that I'm too forthcoming. Others believe the opposite.

Looking back on my life, I realize that there are a lot of things I've wanted to say but haven't. I'm sure all of you have experienced this. So, today I give you:

Things I've Wanted To Say To People in My Life But Have Never Said

To Ashley, the girl in my creative writing study group in my junior year of college: I wasn't asking you out. I was asking you if you were going to Tony Roma's in Stadium Village to meet the rest of the group. You weren't my type anyway. You looked too much like Blair from Facts of Life.

To Dr. XXXXXXX, the professor for whom I was a T.A. back in grad school in Minnesota: If I was the "lowest performing T.A." in all your years of teaching, as you said on my answering machine, why did you hire me back for 3 subsequent semesters? Admit it, my performance was stellar.

To Noreen, my classmate in junior high: Yes, I should have reacted to your comely come-ons with at least a nod or a look or something. Instead, I just sat there in the library silently, plotting the next Hardy Boys book I'd read.

To Chris, the leprechaun-looking guy in the Saturday morning breakfast club I belonged to in the late 90s: You're an asshole. I'll order whatever the hell I want to order. And yeah that includes egg whites.

That's all for today.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Tell Myself That Every Day

Today I walked down Larchmont, stuck in the middle of the massive crowd at the annual Larchmont Family Fest. It was a sea of strollers, dogs, couples, and babies.

I don't own a stroller. I don't have a dog. I don't have a baby. I have 2 cats. I'm only part of a couple part of the time.

But I didn't exactly feel out of place there. The middle class/upper middle class middle L.A. elite are just people, like you or I or my neighbors with their unique affinity for the live recordings of the 1970s band America (speaking of which, I HAVE been in the desert on a horse with no name and I HAVE spent time on the Ventura Highway. I've lived those songs.)

Okay, it wasn't a horse. It was - and I'm being honest here - a camel.

It may not have been in the Egyptian desert. It may have been in a New Jersey petting zoo. I'll contact family for confirmation.

Fuck Ventura.

Anyway, back to the family fest and the shrill endless whir of the monied family dynamic. I just wanted to get through the crowd, to get a bagel, and find an indoor seat at Peet's. That's all I wanted.

I got what I wanted.

I finished the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, with one mistake. In 22 minutes. My record is still 19:50. My zero mistake record is somewhere around 30 minutes. And I forgot for a second that I lived alone with 2 cats, a surly cat man on the top of a special hill. Yes, I want to push a child in a stroller down the street on a Sunday. It's a cliche but an okay one.

So, I don't really have what I want. Still, I sit on my couch, Seymour clinging to my side like a 20-pound piece of purring ham. I had a really good bagel earlier. I have a good parking space. Things are good.

(And last night I heard a story, the greatest true story I've ever heard. Wow. I'd write about it here but I think I might save it for something big.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Forget Your Name

The last 15 hours of my life have been a whirlwind of horrible engine sounds, tow trucks, sitcoms, howling cats, and carbohydrates. Now, I'm safely settled in my cool clean office and I never want to leave here even if it's pretty nice outside.

The good news: that soul-crushing sound coming from the engine (a sound witnessed others, not just me) is gone, replaced by a gentle four-cylinder whir.

The bad news: it could come back at any time.

The weekend is here. My plans include: finishing the screenplay (really), seeing at least one movie (maybe alone, but that's how it goes), and emerging victorious at the monthly poker game in the 626 (you've been warned, though I don't think any of my opponents read this blog.) Halloween parties? Still no invitations but whatever - no one would understand my Paul Auster costume (black shirt, black pants, dark circles under the eyes).

This is several years old but it popped up on my iPod yesterday: William Shatner and Joe Jackson singing Pulp's Common People. It's brilliant mainly for Jackson's performance. You can probably ignore overly literal homemade video that accompanies the song.

Two basketball notes: I couldn't live without this Timberwolves blog. And I wouldn't want to live without freedarko's player-centric NBA preview. Wow. (Link is for part 1 - don't forget 2 and 3.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Man Who Saved My Life

Yesterday's post about parking lots in which I've slept reminded me that I have never told you the story of how this man saved my life:

I don't mean this in a joking, figurative way. He really saved my life.

It was the summer of 1985. I was 19. My friend Patrick and I had just driven - without stopping - from Minnesota to New Jersey. My family was staying at the beach house of my sister's then fiance (better known as the principle protagonist in the "the story no one in my family will ever acknowledge") in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, about an hour's drive from Patrick's house in River Vale. We had taken naps in the car, alternating turns behind the wheel. I dropped Patrick off around 10:00PM and drove south to the shore. I was tired. I should have found a parking lot. I should have slept.

Patrick had loaned me a cassette of Joe Piscopo's comedy album. Yeah, there was a time that the nation found him funny. I thought listening to someone do comedy bits would keep me awake better than music. I struggled to stay alert as I neared the beach house. I opened the window, hoping the breeze would keep me awake. I closed it because the breeze was numbing me.

I was a few miles away from the house when Piscopo's painfully unfunny Honeymooners Rap played on the cassette. This was a song he performed with Eddie Murphy. In it, they portray the Ed Norton and Ralph Kramden characters from the old TV show The Honeymooners. The joke was already old in 1985. Murphy and Piscopo are rapping because this was considered funny in 1985. Anyway, I fell asleep during the song. It was the only time I ever fell asleep behind the wheel. I was out for a few seconds when, in my dream mind, I heard Piscopo's exceedingly shrill voice screaming the name "Norton" over and over again (to which Murphy echoed "Ralphie Boy) in the bizarre call-and-response section of the song. If it wasn't for Piscopo's nasally over-the-top whiny voice, I wouldn't have been stirred awake in time to avoid driving over a median strip and into oncoming traffic (multiple cars, going 55+ mph). Any other singer wouldn't have woke me. Murphy's smooth deep voice kept me in a lull. It was Piscopo that shook me out of my slumber.

I'll never forget.


This morning, driving to work on Exposition Boulevard just east of Vermont, I saw a giant stuffed animal face down on the sidewalk. Not being able to see the face, I can only assume this animal was a bear. It was definitely bear-sized. One of its legs hung over the curb and had clearly been dirtied or run over by passing cars. I will never get this image out of my head. I wish I had a camera with me. If you're in the area, look for it. It's probably still there.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Parking Lots I've Slept In

Place: Southtown Mall parking lot, Bloomington, MN
Time: June 1986
Car: 1977 AMC Hornet or 1984 Mazda GLC, not sure which one
Context: I had just spent the night in the hospital, having taken my friend John there after a fast-closing parking structure stairway door mangled his hand. After his release, we had breakfast (along with John #2 and Lynn) at Perkin's. As I was driving home from dropping Lynn off in Richfield, I felt tired. I parked my car in the Southtown lot and slept for an hour or so. I'm amazed I didn't just drive home. I only lived 10 minutes away.

Place: Hard Rock Hotel/Casino parking lot, Las Vegas
Time: October 2004
Car: 2000 Toyota Camry
Context: I was driving from Los Angeles to some godforsaken town in the middle of Arizona. On the way there, I stopped in Las Vegas with the intention of spending the night in a hotel. Instead, I gambled for a few hours and, realizing the sun was about tome up, I decided to just sleep in the car instead. As I drove out of the lot, I listened to Stay Loose by Belle & Sebastian. Over and over again.

Place: Gas station/truck stop parking lot, central Iowa, off of I-80
Time: May 2006
Car: 2006 Saturn VUE
Context: My cousin Sharif and I were driving from San Francisco to Chicago. We were tired. There were three cats in the car, so sleeping in the rented SUV was better than traumatizing the cats with a motel room. It was hot. Humid. I don't remember how long I was asleep. Maybe 15 minutes. Maybe 2 hours.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

List Saturday

5 Things From the 1970s That I Miss
1. Ubiquity of the saxophone
2. Better soft pretzels
3. Boxier cars
4. Gatefold sleeves
5. I can only think of 4

5 Things From Now That I Like
1. Vitamin Water (XXX Flavor)
2. Better TV shows
3. Basketball blogs
4. Ubiquity of basil
5. CVS gift cards (strangely, I keep getting them... for free)

4 Most Surprising Things About Californication (the Showtime series)
1. David Duchovny nails this role better than anyone has a right to.
2. Despite the story lines often being preposterous and gratuitous, I relate to the struggles of the main characters (though my nipple has never been torn off and my blog has a much better title).
3. I can see what they all see in each other.
4. I hated the first episode and then completely changed my mind.

Top Cities Where My Relationships Have Ended*
1. Santa Monica (3)
2. Los Angeles (2)
3. (tie) Los Angeles, Denver**, Milwaukee, Sherman Oaks, CA, Warrington, PA (1 each)
*This includes break-ups and "breaks"
**I was in Denver, she was somewhere else

Top 5 Chick-Fil-A Sandwich Experiences
1. Orange, CA, 2007
2. Phoenix, 1996
3. Montgomeryville, PA, 1981
4. Cerritos, CA, 1991
5. Atlanta, 1999

Worst 2 Comedies Ever
1. Dodgeball
2. Bowfinger

3 Things the World Will Say When John From Cincinnati Comes Out on DVD
1. Why did they cancel this?
2. What can we do to get them to make more?
3. Why didn't we support this when it was on the air?

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Survivors

I do a lot of self-reflection these days. Too much of it actually. I've done more of it in the last 2 years and 8 months than I did in the previous 39+ years. Sometimes, it's exhilarating. Often, it's tedious. I tell them the same stories, draw the same conclusions, and get the same reactions.

It's good to figure something new out. Or at least re-access something old. I thought about love recently - how it feels differently to me now than it did when I was a much younger man. Between the ages of 18 and 25, love felt bigger, stronger, more elusive, and less real. Today and for the last 16 years, it feels more like a product, something inevitable and deserved, the next step in a series of drawn-out processes and strange needless promises.

Is it innocence I long for? Or just plain wonder? Have I grown callous and cynical? No, no, and no. It's just the bigness of love I strive for. Even when love is a lie (or at least a misunderstanding), it's better when it's big and unwieldy - something that makes you write bad poems and hear what you've never heard before in great songs.

It was a song that got me here. Last Saturday, I was driving in my car with its 3/4 working engine and tinny stereo. I was listening to a CD that's followed me around, haphazardly, since the beginning of this decade - Your Favorite Music by Clem Snide. It's a hard batch of songs to listen to, on a bad stereo in a loud car. The songs are quiet and some words are whispered.

I usually skipped the final song on the album - a cover of Ritchie Valens' Donna - for two reasons: 1) the original is pretty perfect; and 2) it seemed a strange choice in covers - a modern band doing a relatively simple slow maudlin song from 40+ years back. I didn't see how ground could be broken. But, tired from a day of driving nowhere, I forgot to eject the CD and the last song began:

I knew a girl and Donna was her name
Since she left me, I've never been the same

Now it's not the cut-and-dried lost love sentiment that got me this time. Those songs are everywhere. It was just the name - Donna. And a thought back to 1983 and 1984 when (and I'm about to get all sappy) I fell in love for the first time. Her name was Donna. We worked together at a fast food restaurant in suburban Philadelphia. And to this day I have no idea why I loved her. She was pretty, but in a plain way. She drove a Comet, which was sort of cool. She laughed at my jokes and listened to what I had to say and said a few things of interest herself. Now that I list the reasons, they seem quite valid. Of course I was painfully shy then. And this love went unrequited and I moved to Minnesota and she went off to college in some rural western Pennsylvania town and we lost touch with each other. It was probably for the best. Her parents were staunch anti-abortionists, paying for the town's one pro-life billboard. Politically, it would have been difficult.

But it didn't matter that nothing was consummated with the girl in the light blue Comet. The memory of that which never happened is good enough, is big enough.

There would be other loves from my more youthful days, most existing in my mind and heart and nowhere else. The only other one I want to write about today is Kate. I don't need to list the reasons for loving her. I need no reminding. She was simply the coolest girl, the baddest ass, the sweetest sugar in all of mid-80s Minneapolis. She dressed in black. She once called Prince "nothing more than a little shit from north Minneapolis." She had long brown hair and sad big eyes. She ran away from home (and came back). She liked Springsteen (and punk).

For a very brief time, Kate and I worked together at the movie theater. And one night after work, we had our only date. January, 1985. Actually, it wasn't exactly a date because it wasn't only us. Another co-worker, Kevin, invited us over to his house for pizza and a movie (on the then-revolutionary VHS tape). Kevin was a strange one - lanky and jovial (unless he was drinking), he worshiped Bruce Springsteen and nothing/nobody else. We got along well, me and Kevin. I tried writing a novel about him.

We picked up a deep dish pizza from the Green Mill, itself an odd choice given that we usually went to this place. From there, Kevin drove to his house and Kate and I followed, in my blue AMC Hornet. The drive from 45th and Drew (where Kate lived; she had to get something) to 40th and Wentworth (where Kevin lived) is a short jaunt across southwest Minneapolis, ten minutes at most. But given that I felt untapped love for the girl next to me made the trip seem like forever. It was snowing, for God's sake.

The rest of the night went like this: We saw the movie - The Survivors, starring Walter Matthau and Robin Williams. We ate the pizza and I may have had some underage beer (Kate was 17, I was 19, Kevin was 27... seems almost criminal now that I think back). Kevin got drunk, and had a screaming fight with his mother, with whom he lived (alone). Kate and I were uncomfortable because of Kevin's drunkenness and anger but we stayed for the end of the movie. Someone in the movie was Russian. I drove Kate home. That drive seemed short. There was no more snow, I made no move, said no words stronger than "good night." We listened to my cassette of Born in the U.S.A.

What's my point in telling this story? Nothing other than the fact that this was my favorite night, of all the nights in my life. That something - the world, the future, music, the universe - seemed big and momentous on that night. Since then, everything has gotten smaller. And truer. But I miss the bigness.

Years later, on the night the first Gulf War started, I called Kate. I still knew her phone number from 1985, a number I had memorized and never before called (come on, Ali!). She had moved to California and back to Minnesota. So had I. She asked how I knew her number (good memory, I said.) She asked how I knew she was back in town (I told her a lie; in truth, I broke a law, or at least breached an ethic.) We talked for two hours that night. Her ex-boyfriend was in the war. She missed northern California. I missed southern California. I didn't like the war. We went on and on, telling histories and I got nowhere close to telling her a word of how I felt. Looking back, I probably didn't want to. We talked one more time after that, for a much shorter time. Then everything big faded to small.

I don't know where Kate is now. Her last name is too common to Google, although someone with her name writes really good short stories, full of lesbian love between college professors. Donna, on the other hand, had an uncommon last name, which I'm sure she's given up to marriage since then. If not, then I'm glad she found work as a Recorder of Deeds.

Back to the Clem Snide song. I felt the "big" in Eef Barzelay's tiny vocal. He was made small by losing Donna. By song's end, the words are still small but they're seeking some kind of redemption, from within the singer. This song would not be the first step in getting Donna back, just a way of making him remember, making her remember him.

So, that's my revelation: I remembered what it felt like when love was big.

(Postscript, added 3 hours later)

I realize that I've conveniently glossed over all of my relationships in the past 16 years and how they relate to what I have to say. But you didn't really want me to talk about that, did you?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Power is Knowing

I continue to be inscrutable. That's just the way it goes.

Yesterday's list disappoints me. The songs were good but the writing and pictures should have been better.

Phoenix Sun star Amare Stoudamire gets two tattoos: one says Knowledge is Power; the other reads Knowledge is Knowing. And freedarko responds with two of the best pieces you'll ever read about Heidegger, Foucault, post-colonial thought, and the slam dunk.

The 40 Worst Lyricists in Rock. They're wrong about #13. They're way too hard on #1 (he belongs at #37). #23 should be #3. #26 should be #2. #10 should be #1. But other than that, it's perfect. The lyrical snippers in #17 and #16 are hilarious.

If you asked me what 90s rock icon would be writing a staggeringly long and fantastically over-enthusiastic blog entry about the music of The Negro Problem and Stew, Adam Duritz of Counting Crows wouldn't have my top 5. But there he is.

Go see Michael Clayton. On a related note, the older I get, the more people (2 of them) tell me I look like George Clooney. According to experts, he was the sexiest man alive last year. What does that make me?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Top 11 Linkable (For Now) Songs of the First 290 Days of 2007

11. Love Song of the Buzzard - Iron and Wine
Nice song. Nice steel guitar.

10. Elephant Gun - Beirut
Listen to this song exactly three times. One time, it's annoying. Twice, it's jarring. Three times, it's amazing. Four or more? Annoying again.

9. Australia - The Shins
Catchy, cool, swiftly special.

8. Chocolate Rain - Tay Zonday
Best video on this list.

7. Peacebone - Animal Collective
If I could find a link to their best song of the year, For Reverend Green, I'd put it in the top 3. But it's not out there so you can't hear it.

6. AYO Technology - 50 Cent (featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland)
Why do I feel this song will be played often in strip clubs all over the world?

5. BlackMen Ski - Stew
Yes, Stew, they do.

4. Ex Guru - Fiery Furnaces
Who doesn't love the guitar at the beginning?

3. Love To A Monster - Okkervil River
The only link I could find is this live (I think) version from youtube. The camera's shaky and the studio version is definitely more powerful and angrier. But this is nice too. Sadly, the song is only available as an "e-music exclusive." It's not on the official release of their great new album. Best lines:

I hope you get angry and hurt and have the hardest of landings
And I hope your new man thinks of me when he sees what a number I did on you

2. I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You - Black Kids
Yes it's true. I like sing-songy anthems sung with youthful exuberance. I always have. I always will.

1. LDN - Lily Allen
Yeah this song came out last year in England but it wasn't officially released in the U.S. until January so I'm obligated to put it here, at #1, where it belongs.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bruce Springsteen IS Bill Cosby

Yesterday, while contemplating the fact that I am truly getting closer to a self-understanding that will blow away all my other self-understandings AND while confronting, for the first time in my driving life, an actual constantly flashing check engine light, I came to a realization. I was listening to Bruce Springsteen's Blinded By The Light and was struck by the resemblance between Springsteen's vocal delivery in that song to Bill Cosby's clenched-jaw-schticky cranky old man dialect. I think Bruce was actually impersonating Bill in the studio on that 1971 afternoon. Or maybe it was nighttime.

Bill wasn't a grumpy old man in '71 but his stand up routine was decidedly grumpy. And funny. He was famous for his comedy and acting, famous enough that the fledgling singer-songwriter from New Jersey would mimic the Cos in an attempt to draw fans to something familiar on his first album.

Listen to the first few verses of Bruce's original recording (unavailable online as far as I can tell) and you'll see what I mean.

Interestingly, their lives have paralleled each other in significant ways:
1. Although Bill is older than Bruce and began his career earlier, they both were beloved figures in the 1970s and continue to be to this day. Who doesn't love the Jello dude? What's not to love about the Dancing in the Dark guy? Bill and Bruce currently have respected old man and respected middle-aged man status, respectively.

2. They both reached their commercial peak in the mid-80s - Bill with his seminal show, Cosby, Bruce with Born IN the U.S.A. #1 album/flag/ass on the cover thing. I preferred The River but then I'm known as an iconoclast.

3. They could arguably be considered spokespersons for their slightly different generations.

4. They each have made one colossal mistake: With Cosby, it was Leonard Part 6. With Springsteen, it was when someone told him it was okay to whisper and half-speak his vocals on the acoustic songs when they should have been telling him to throw in some Cos-esque overenunciation.

5.Each has performed a controversial action in the last few years: Bill made some famous comments about pound cake. And Bruce discusses the horrified reactions his fans have when they see him in strip club parking lots in VH1's Storytellers, referenced here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

B(link) Or You'll Miss It

My new favorite writer. (Watch the video.)

The progression of The Office:
Season 1: Not as good as the British version
Season 2: Better than the British version
Season 3: What British version?
Season 4 (so far): Subtlly brilliant
(It's like a hot circle of garbage!)

I'm almost finished with this book. The final third is amazing.

Synergy = Bowie + Target.

Hey it's Clem Snide (the best band of the '00s) covering I'll Be Your Mirror - the best song by the Velvet Underground (the best band of the '60s). What could go wrong? Nothing.

Why haven't you read Milfwaukee?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cornrows, Widows

I could have slept until noon.

But it's Wednesday - can't park on that side of the street Wednesday - and I had to wake up. Plus, I had to come here (the office).

Here's some news that's truly unfathomable (in a good way).

Plus... new stuff (finally) at the poetry site.

Is the Coffee Bean's chocolate chip twist truly reduced fat? Seems impossible.

Could this post be any more boring? Just listen to Ex Guru by The Fiery Furnaces instead.

Friday, October 05, 2007

We're Too Busy Singing To Put Anybody Down

Today the band is playing all of their songs, medley-style. They're particularly raucous, while at the same time being tight as a Level 42 electronic drum solo.

A guy with a tuba just walked past my sliding glass door. He could barely fit between the door and the fence.

Did they just do the Rolling Stones' Bitch? Yes they did.

The band is a marching band. For a university. The one I work for.

Meanwhile, the streets of Hollywood are full of famous guys named Andy. And though the tree at the bottom of my hill is gone, affording me a delicious view, I feel for the tree itself - dead for no reason, at the hands of the men in the ugly house. It's bad enough they put signs on their trash cans, proclaiming ownership.

Now it's the theme to the Monkees. And Time Warp. What happened to Tusk? That's what I want to hear.

I woke up in my bedroom this morning to my orchestral cellphone alarm, snoozed for the fifth time. I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. Seymour concurred and didn't even ask for food, demurely waiting for me to fill his half-fill bowl.

This has been a slice of my life, on an uneventful day. I'll supplement it with words that add detail: falafel, crossword puzzle, bookcase, 12th place, Caribou.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Top 10 Blog Posts

In honor of my 400th post yesterday, today I offer my most ego-driven post ever: My Top 10 Blog Posts:

10. Billy vs. Neil, 12/9/05
One of many self-indulgent music posts, but the only one to make the list. I proved a minor point with pointless reasons and made myself laugh every time I read it. Hey hey, I didn't start the fire but I'm here to spread its glowering beauty.

9. The Streetballer, 4/28/06
A story from my youth, told in a manner that makes the events seem more monumental than they were. And they were very monumental.

8. The Greatest Thing Anyone Has Ever Said, 5/22/06
Being that this is a true story about the greatest thing ever said, it should have made the top 5. If I truly nailed it, it would have been number one. But I didn't get it quite right, so it slips to #8.

7. Fairly Dickensian, 3/16/05
One of many self-indulgent college basketball posts, but the only one to make the list. This was more than an incredibly long entry about the NCAA tournament. It was my first incredibly long entry about the NCAA tournament. And you never forget your first time. The story about the dentist is particularly good.

6. Moving On Up, Down The Road, 6/2/05
A lovingly, accurately rendered tale from "The Santa Monica Years."

5. I still owe you for the hole in the floor, 5/15/07
80% of the top 5 is from 2007. Have I become a better writer? No. Have I become a better blogger? Yes. This is a rambling, shambling piece about seven things at once. I love it.

4. Orange, 1/30/07
Sometimes the best memories are the ones that come from anticipation.

3. Kirby, 3/8/06
There are two memory posts about the 80s (#9, #4), several about the 00s, and this lone representative of that greatest of decades, the 90s. After my still laudable Oscar commentary, I give you a truly memorable night from 1991. I ruminate about death. I miss them all. I like the comments. Also, my first entry with pictures.

2. English Is My Second Language, 4/10/07
I try to communicate my communication difficulties. I want everyone to know these things. But everyone already knew.

1. The Women In My Family, 9/12/07
It's not perfect. It could have been better. But it's here because it's honest and funny and likely the basis for everything that's ever been.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Another milestone has been achieved. This is my 400th post. A lot has happened since the first post back in February of 2005. Here's a sampling of what's new in my life since then:
I prefer non-fat milk in my lattes instead of soy, thus returning to my 1998-2002 ways.

I'm beginning to rethink of position on the film Magnolia. It may not have been a great enough film for me to bother writing a letter to the editor of City Pages, protesting its critic's negative review.

Sometimes I think I'm smarter than I actually am.

I understand the contribution of Oates, vis a vis Hall.

I have a greater appreciation for the songs The Rising by Bruce Springsteen, Talk Talk by Talk Talk, and Lose Yourself by Eminem.

I no longer subscribe to magazines, though I still read them.

I like Macs.

I'm thankful for what I've got.

I have so many goddamn regrets.

I have a secret crush on XXXXXXXX XXXXXX, who plays the XXXX of XXX XXXXXX on that one show. She's hot.

I love being right and I'm hardly ever wrong.

I'm not as excited about microwave popcorn.

I moved.

Only once.

No, twice.

I used to be frustrated.

Now I try to be anything but exasperated.

I like Pasadena more than I used to, Glendale about the same.

I'll wear a white T-shirt if urged to.
(Technically, there have been more than 400 posts. I've deleted a few - either because I've changed my mind about their quality or I've been unpleasantly surprised to see how many people get to my blog by searching certain unappealing word combinations. But this is #400 for the time being, so...)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007


I couldn't leave Los Angeles, could I?

This morning, waiting to turn left from Larchmont on to 3rd Street, I saw this man, waiting to turn left from 3rd to Larchmont:

Now it's not that this great man's celebrity that impresses me. It's that he happens to be the best talk show sidekick of all time. Plus, the loss of his recent failed sitcom - Andy Barker P.I. - still makes me sad (and keeps me from deleting the short-lived show's six episodes from my DVR). As he waited for to make the left turn (after dutifully leaving room for a high-speed LAPD cruiser to pass by, westbound), he seemed content with his decision to leave Conan and pursue the elusive successful TV series. Despite the morning drizzle, his window was open.

He was driving a tan-and-black Mini-Cooper. How cool is that - a man of his proportions squeezing into a smallish car, merely because he likes its design and simplicity? No Range Rover or Hummer for Andy. He's got style.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Moving It Down

I was asked to put up a new post so people wouldn't have to look at that disgusting album cover. To push the offending image further down the page, I have chosen to post a series of unrelated photos that I think are funny and/or poignant. These images don't tell a story per se, unless you're talking about the story of the universe.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sleds Will Carry Us Tonight

I got Strawberry Jam, the new Animal Collective album. I've listened to it pretty much constantly since Saturday and this is what I want to say about it:

There's a lot about Animal Collective that should make me want to stay away from them: the "communal" vibe, the oftentimes Floydian prog-duction, the sometimes screaming vocals, the fact that they're from fucking Baltimore, etc. But all of this is forgiven when you make an album as good as Strawberry Jam (albeit with a pretty disgusting cover), with its XTC Oranges and Lemons-era-like jauntiness, amusing lyrics, propulsive beats, and all-around catchy-in-a-Billy-Joel-way catchiness. Plus, I've never heard anything quite like them before. I enjoyed their earlier stuff but this album is all-over good and the song For Reverend Green just might be my favorite of the year. Go here to hear the title track. Leaf House is great too.

So my unpaid advertisement is over. Now let's recap the rest of the weekend: rain, Cheebo, poker, rain, Curb, pencil sharpeners.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's a Sign

Someone cut down a tree at the end of my block. Thus, when I look outside my window now, I have a year-long unobstructed view of this iconic landmark:

Friday, September 21, 2007

Photos Show No Tears

I need a new blog picture. It's been too long. I'll work on that.

I need a haircut. It's longer than the hair in the picture. I'll work on that too.

I need to eat some peaches. I have some at home. I almost forgot about them.

I like song #4. That's a melody you can build buildings with.

Here's a great article about band logos.... and musical logos in general.

Just for old time's sake, here's a story I wrote five years ago.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My 10 Favorite Movies of All Time (with seven word justifications)

10. Miracle Mile (1988). Apocalypse. Love. Wilshire Blvd. Saxophone. World's end.

9. Citizen Kane (1941). Ambition. Cool camera angles. Bad decisions. Sled.

8. Untamed Heart (1993). Love by the river. The Mississippi River.

7. Henry Fool (1998). Three kinds of there (they're, their, there).

6. Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003). Documentary about movies. Buildings. Beauty. Pathos. Sleek.

5. She's Gotta Have It (1986). The first great indie film. Nola. Darling.

4. Vertigo (1958). Shivers down spine. Museum. Mission. Hair. Stalker.

3. The Big Lebowski (1998). This is our concern, dude. League game.

2. Pulp Fiction (1994). Never seen anything like it before. Sprite.

1. Boogie Nights (1997). Comedy and drama together, in every scene.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Today I have writer's block.

Friday, September 14, 2007

You Offer Infrared Instead Of Sun

At the Thai restaurant yesterday, my fortune cookie last night told me "You will make an important decision soon." That's the last thing I wanted to read. I've had enough with the important decisions. Can't I have some easy choices? Can't someone else resolve the countless approach-avoidance conflicts?

Not that I believe in fortune cookies.

Murray has a web presence.

This video reminds me of one of my moments of greatest disappointment. It was in the fall of 1990. My favorite band then (now my third favorite band) Prefab Sprout were finally touring in the U.S. During the 1980s, their cassettes and records were mainstays in my cars and bedrooms. But I never had that "live" connection to them because they never toured. Until 1990. And not only were they coming to America, they were coming to Minneapolis. They were playing in the tiny Fine Line Music Cafe, of all places. I could be three feet away from Paddy, two feet from Wendy. I still remember the date of the show: October 28, 1990.

My friend John and I bought tickets. The next day, for reasons still unexplained, they canceled the tour. As far as I know, they've never played in America. The bastards.

Anyway, watch the video. I love that song.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Women in My Family

It was during a well-populated social event six years ago. A few friends and I were talking about my extended family. One of my friends asked a question of my cousin and I:

"Why do the men in your family die so young?"

My cousin's response:

"Have you met the women in my family?"

Some laughed; some were offended. None of the women in my family were close enough to hear it.

Though it was one of the funniest statements ever uttered, my cousin (who is on the Egyptian side of my family - i.e., my father's side) and I both believed there was an element of truth to it. By 2001, both of our fathers were dead, as was another uncle and a cousin. Another cousin died three years later, and long ago, just prior to my birth, another uncle died. That's six male relatives, all dead before 60 and not a single female relative on that side of the family gone too young.

But were the women to blame? As a man in the family, I'll try to answer. (Women, you may respond in the comments section.)

The Egyptian side of our family is a matriarchy. My immediate (Swedish-Egyptian) family is also a matriarchy. Fathers were absent (deceased, at work, in Canada). Mothers were omnipresent - always home, always watching, always giving their opinions (which is not to say they were good communicators.) At extended family gatherings, women would congregate loudly in the kitchen and dining room, carrying the crown that making dinner earned them. Men would sit quietly in the living room, watching Cronkite on the evening news, cursing Israel (aloud) and their women (silently). In my family, on weekends with my Dad out of town or at work, we'd go to the mall. The females would shop while I'd kill time in record stores and book stores, collecting the mass of knowledge I hold today.

Then there were the smaller family outings during the Pennsylvania summers. A typical one would be: me, Mom, the sister, and my two male cousins are packed too tightly in a car with towels and a cooler. We are driving to Lake Nockamixon. A song from Bruce Springsteen's The River or Steely Dan's Gaucho is likely playing on classic rock WMMR. By the time we arrive at the swampy lake and its kid-crowded over-chlorinated accompanying pool, the five of us, through our bickering and its attendant silence, have established the hierarchy that will govern us for the rest of the humid afternoon, the hierarchy that will determine who stays by the towels when the others swim, who has to stand in line for the French fries while the others tan:

Top of hierarchy: Mother
Next: The sister
Then: The younger (male) cousin (i.e., the miracle child)
Then: Me
Bottom: The older (male) cousin

What can't be shown here is the great divide between spots two and three of the hierarchy. Between the sister and the miracle child there is an abyss of matronly ghosts (like that of the cousins' absent-for-the-summer mother) and female pop culture icons (e.g., Princess Di, the Mom from Eight is Enough, Laura from General Hospital, both Alice and Carol from the Brady Bunch... maybe even Marcia). What these absent women believed - what they would do in any given situation - held more sway with the women who were indeed present than what any man in the entire world would do, with the possible exceptions of Springsteen and the revered corpses of Sadat and Nasser.

But we were kids then. In 2001, my cousin and I were well into adulthood. Shouldn't we have gotten over our childhood/adolescent maternal angst? Well, here's a smattering of examples from the last ten years that support the thesis that perhaps the women in our family still annoy the hell out of the men:

(actually, before I list these examples, let me say that I am not bitter. What doesn't kill me, what only kills the others, makes me stronger. )

Ex. 1: A male family member (called MFM from now on) is involuntarily locked away somewhere. When it's time to send him a care package, a female family member (FFM) goes out of her way to ensure that fewer items are included in the package. She says "He only needs one book."

Ex. 2: At a Japanese steakhouse in the Inland Empire, MFM expresses an admirable interest to go to medical school. FFM, scoffing at the notion, actually encourages him not to become a doctor. She says "You should go into computers."

Ex. 3: At a wedding for one MFM, another MFM is scheduled to give a touching reading from a Dr. Seuss book. When it's his turn to take the stage - as clearly indicated in the schedule - FFM leaps from her seat and reads a fucking Rumi poem that wasn't pre-approved.

There are other examples that are only half-remembered by the principals (parking space debates, going to the wrong dentist, warnings about quicksand, wearing the wrong kind of shoes on the slippery rocks, selling your son's car, leaving him carless in Los Angeles, etc.) but let it be known that only the mere surface has been scratched here.

What's my underlying thesis? That the women have nagged the men to death or into an adulthood of angst? No, it's more complex than that, their influence more subtle. The track record of the adult relationships of the males in my generation has been spotty (restraining orders, divorces, celibacy). Sure, we have to take some responsibility ourselves but I think there's something from our past influencing the intimacy difficulties some of us have now. But, perhaps more than the omnipresence of our mothers' and sisters' collective hovering, there is the issue of the absence of our fathers. That's another topic for another post. I'll just say here that they - the fathers - could have done something about it.

I discuss this topic today because of the recent death of the strongest woman in the family - an aunt in Egypt who both physically and psychologically held sway over us in the New Jersey of my early youth. She's wasn't as young as the men when she died but it did come too soon, too tragically. Still, despite the odds against her (early widowhood, three children to feed, living in two nations, her role as the matriarch of the matriarchy), she lived way past the age that a comparable male in the family would.

A cynic would suggest that the fact that most of those men smoked and were overweight had something to do with their early deaths. (My cousin's likely response: Wouldn't you smoke and eat too much if you were them? And what's up with cooking everything with loads of butter and oil?) I like my theory better - it would be overreaching to call it a familial culture of methodical and metaphorical poisoning. It would be easier to call it a female revenge fantasy. Basic Instinct was once my sister's favorite movie. The Last Seduction is my (male) cousin's favorite. Watch them both and it all makes sense.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Leave behind the color blue

It occurs to me that I have never written a blog entry outdoors. Today, I rectify this. I'm sitting on the porch of my Hollywood bachelor pad. It is a perfect morning. Skinny, the neighborhood homeless cat (she really has 3 homes, on 3 porches) is circling my chair, occasionally digging her claws (lightly) into my jeans. She's happy that I'm keeping her company.

Is it wrong for a man to write so much about cats? I don't think so.

Wow, what a view I have. I see the historic Capitol Records building to the west and the Griffith Observatory to the north. Closer in my field of vision, the golden arches of McDonalds frame an actual functioning Sears store. There are many birds. There is the CNN building. I see satellite dishes on rooftops. I've never lived n elevation before. I like it.

Cats are wise and fascinating creatures. They're smarter than dogs and tougher than mice.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I no longer fear the aging that each year brings. It's all the same to me. The life just runs together, as it should.

Tonight, the new Curb Your Enthusiasm season starts. It's been too long since the last one ended. I was living in Santa Monica then. There were weekly appointments and quiches and Saturday bagels. As with many places in my life, we don't live there anymore.

I wish Laurel and Stephanie a safe and happy ride across the desert and the plains. When they reach southeastern Minnesota, let's hope there's still a little bit of the good weather left.

Speaking of the early '00s, Mark Eitzel's The Invisible Man is nearly perfect. I could listen to its Pro Tools brilliance over and over again. So many great moments and insightful lyrics: "bitterness poisons the soul" ... "I don't know if I will ever love again" ... "You were not wrong to give me all your clothes" and more here.

I think the script is almost done. For the first time, I'm seeing all the way through it. And I like what I see.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I Like To Look At The Vernacular Art

First, a picture of a streetwise little kitten living across the street from the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Photo taken on Labor Day by ______. This scruffy little creature's home's front yard is strewn with flattened cardboard boxes. He/she looks like Seymour did when he was a skinny little kitten.

Tonight, old things make a reappearance in my living room. New ways of organizing arise and uplift. Tomorrow, it is the day before the weekend before the day, the week before the show, the calm before the change in weather.

I like blueberry pancakes and the color green. I like black, orange, and blue. I'm full of frozen yogurt from the Student Union. Trumpets. Vertical blinds. Collisions between jaywalkers and speeding bicyclists. Football players signing autographs for men in the shadows with glossy posters and Sharpies. Just another manic Thursday. It's the first day. Of the rest of my/your life.

A mysterious commenter has left me elusive comments. Who is s/he?

I remember, in 1998, standing on the rooftop of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, having just seen a Hal Hartley screening with my friend John. There, I saw two students at the university who had been students in a class I was a T.A. in. We talked about the movie, the rooftop, and the beauty of a city on a summer night. I had a crush on the one student and didn't really notice the other. Later, the crush recipient was forgotten (moved away, self-important). Then I saw the other one tattooed and riding a bicycle really fast down Nicollet Avenue, listening to music on a Walkman, on her way, seemingly, to the apocalypse. Later, I tutored her in advanced statistics as I waited to get married to someone else. Last I heard, she had her second baby. I hope she's doing well.

No, she's not the commenter. She wouldn't know my first cat's name. Just a story to tell.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's A Ritual

I only have five days left (incl. today) at my current age. Then, it's another year, trudged up the memory tree.

I'm thinking about writing about the weather here but really what is there to say? It was hot, now it's not.

On my list of favorite vegetables, celery would not be found.

It's an odd little work life I have here. A woman who was a bridesmaid at my (failed) wedding works one floor above me, 2000 miles from where I knew her last. A man who had a cameo in a seminal early 90s movie about L.A. gang life works in the office next to mine. A girl with my (relatively rare) mother's name mans the front desk. A 130-piece marching band practices in the field outside my window. To stay up to date and relevant, they just added the Doobie Brothers' China Grove to their repertoire.

I heard a radio commercial today that blew my mind. It was an ad for the L.A. County fair. A decision was apparently made to wed the Fair's agricultural elements with the gritty streetwise reality of Los Angeles. To the tune of "Old McDonald had a farm, E I E I O," a hip-hop inflected vocalist sings "L.A. County has a fair, E I E I YO." It's beautiful.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Perpetual Winner

I hear the band practicing. They just keep getting better. Is that Benatar's Heartbreaker they're playing now? Of course it is.

A clarification: When I say I've owned only 2 belts since 1995, I mean that I've owned only 2 belts since 1995. The brown one (purchased in 1995 in Owings Mills, MD) and the black one (purchased in 2003 in Santa Monica, CA).

I've worn one of them nearly every day since then. I amaze myself sometimes.

Here's a cool Shins video.

Here's a brilliant (and fairly speculative) comparison of two of the best concert movies of all time, neither of which I've seen.

The Situationist continues to fascinate: why New Yorkers live longer.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Did you know

that I've owned only two belts since 1995?

Goodbye Georgia, Hello Verdana

Today is a new day. I've redesigned Blueprint Blue. New font. New colors. New quote. everywhere you look: new style.

New links.

Some old links, deleted (doesn't mean I don't like you).

Most importantly: no more serifs.

Please tell me if the gray background annoys you.

When I was 19, I liked a girl named Lynn. She told me that a test of whether a person was cool and worth knowing was how they spelled gray: gray or grey. People who spelled it "grey" she told me, they were cool and likely British or at least influenced by the Brits, an Anglophile perhaps.

I liked her so I spelled it grey for years. I got over that affectation. Today, I go with gray.