Friday, December 31, 2010

Look At Me!

It's an odd thing watching video of myself in a performance. That happens more and more, it seems. When I'm doing something live, be it scripted or otherwise, I don't have the awareness to see what I'm doing and whatever else is happening objectively. It's sort of like I'm flailing around blind or acting on deeply ingrained instinct. That isn't to say that I'm exactly doing things indiscriminately. When performing a script, I've worked very hard in advance on learning it by heart, and in improv I'm taking everything in and thinking a lot about what to do at every turn. It may even be painfully evident that this is the case. Even so, it may as well be that it's happening in a sandstorm.

Somehow I observe what I need to in order to carry out the performance. I don't miss cues in a scripted piece or terribly many opportunities in improv. I do however experience the thing in a distorted or subdued enough way that it's a very fresh experience of the piece that I have when watching it on video later. Only then do I really seem to realize what I did and what effect it had. It will be quite a step I will take when I know when I do the thing or before whether it was the right thing exactly and to the necessary degree. I work at that sometimes, making faces in the mirror and practicing gestures and what is called 'space work'.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Staying In

As I believe I've made plain in the past, I have at least the opportunity to go out and do something about every night. I take advantage of that most times, which is a major change from years ago. I still can't bear to go out on some occasions. I remain something of a homebody at heart, and can't override that instinct every time. This has something to do with the fact that I've found being social to be considerably more expensive than being the isolated, socially stunted hermit I once was. Periodically being a jerk and coldly rejecting all entreaties to hang out goes a long way towards ensuring my solvency all the way through each month.

There are more practical reasons why I hole up for the night sometimes. Not so long ago, there was a long string of rainy days, and while I was brave enough to go out and face it at first, it was the second day which had me declaring an unwillingness to leave home except by necessity. This is just the perfect situation for staying in. Ideally one has all the trappings necessary. Such items as a hot beverage, soup and traditional indoor activities like jigsaw puzzles or a movie are good, and it's best if whatever you settle on is done within sight of a window showing just how dreadful it is out there.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Comida Gratis

Free food is an interest of mine. I come by it no more or less than others, and through the same means mainly. I do get some of it on film sets sometimes, which is an avenue I concede most people don't have open to them. I also get it from ordinary social occasions. It's one of those things where human behavior seems counterintuitive. When there's good food and it's free, I would think anyone would jump at the chance for it. On that I am quite wrong if my personal experiences are to be trusted. I can conceive of some reasons for this, and yet I cannot say those reasons would sway me to the same way of thinking.

I think the main thing is transportation and storage of the food. People don't want the hassle of moving so much as a single pie from the home of a friend to their own. There's the general difficulty of moving anything, and then added to that quite often is the risk of moving potentially messy items. Imagine a warming pan of chicken. It's greasy and laden with some manner of sauce. Even if it doesn't get disrupted and spill everywhere, it's still giving off residue which shall be the car interior's ruin. You have to secure the thing like an egg in a high school engineering experiment. It's an inconvenience perhaps only partially justified by the ultimate result of free chicken. Storage is the other thing. Picture a holiday meal for which of course far too much food has been prepared. The hosts are desperate to get rid of as much as they can, and understandably so. Unfortunately, the guests are probably in little better position to accommodate the food.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I'm looking out my window, and for the first time in a while I have a view. I'm reminded of a story from a book of scary short fiction that everyone was reading when I was in grade school. Several old men are roommates, and each has a bed positioned in accord with their seniority in the apartment. The most senior of them has his bed by the window, and he describes wondrous things that he can see which stoke jealousy among the others. They kill him, only to find that his window looked out to a brick wall. Things never were so grim or grisly for me, but I did have nothing to look at for two years except the equally humble and virtually identical apartment building next door with our cramped parking lot in between.

There was never anything to see across the way and little in the lot below. I could hear mildly interesting disputes occasionally, and people coming home late after having more interesting evenings than I. Finding any fun in what I observed that way was awfully tough, and couldn't compare with the intrigue I turned up when I left the house. Where I now sit however, there's quite a bit to see. I'm up on the third floor, which is actually the fourth story when one counts the street-level parking garage. I'm not nearly as high up as I was in the two buildings I called home in Chicago, but it's not too bad.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bar None

I found myself out at a bar to celebrate a friend's birthday, which is hardly a new experience for me. I must confess that I would have been content to stay in, as I am by nature a homebody, but I suppose that it's good when I'm forced out of that. Much personal growth can habit as a bar (though at least as much if not more personal regression seems to take place there). What was remarkable about this place was not the ordinary activity of drinking. It was a somewhat different sort of tavern. I heard wild stories about it from the very friends with whom I went there- stories about the crazy things they witnessed being played on the place's TVs. I was interested in seeing it all for myself.

The provocative programming I had been told of was not being played on the TVs, but something nearly as uncommon in an ordinary bar was. It looked something like an Indian or Pakistani film that had something to do with doctors and a hospital, and it looked like a comedy. I'm not able to get any more specific on the country of origin since no sound could be detected. It will remain a mystery. A Mexican film followed, and had to do with luchadors fighting monsters. It looked like fun, and I found my mind boggled by progressively more crazy developments each time I looked.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What's A Desk?

I found myself recently contemplating once again the distinction between two different pieces of furniture. The great example of an ambiguous dividing line is that of the podium and those other things with which it is so consistently confused. There are lecterns, which are the thing people are mostly thinking of. A podium is what Olympians receive their medals on, among other things. There are also rostrums, or perhaps I should say rostri (if my Latin hasn't deserted me). It's a very muddled picture, and what authority is there to set people straight. Certainly the industry responsible for turning these things out has been derelict, and that may prove to be their undoing.

More clearly defined is something else that provoked me along these lines: the desk and the table. It's simple enough, and credit is due to someone for ensuring that the popular imagination, feeble as it is, has managed to seize upon the difference between them. A table is merely a plane affixed to four legs which bear the weight. It can be low or high, but it's a table. What makes a desk different? After a few moments' thought, of course it came to me. You're just adding some backing to three of the sides, and probably drawers to the front. It's sort of like the difference between ordinary pants and cargo pants, with the caveat that desks are for grownups and cargo pants really are not.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Ruling To Come

There was a rather good 'Twilight Zone' episode wherein a pair of astronauts crash-land on a planet. One, disgruntled after a lifetime of taking orders, finds a microscopic civilization and revels in the ability to play God. Like most people (and myself), he lacked the full measure of self-determination that he would have liked. He was perpetually told what to do and, I imagine, faced judgement from above. It's unpleasant and hard to accept that one's fate is in the hands of anyone else.

That reminded me of a story I've been reading about whose commonly-accepted name is far more famous: the Sword Of Damocles. A lowly official in a royal court switches places with the king, who hangs a sword above the throne. The official rapidly finds his envy replaced with an appreciation of the threats always facing the king. I guess that what I and others get from that story is slightly different, and is better expressed by the saying "waiting for the other shoe to drop". There being always some authority over us, we often can do little more than wait for what's coming to do so. When we're lucky, there's a time for us to affect the outcome, but that time is so fleeting, and we suddenly realize that was it.

Friday, December 24, 2010


When I was a boy, I regularly visited an allergist. The immediate benefits of this which I was able to see then mainly were the glass bottle RC Cola machine, the complimentary Red Vines and the children's periodicals. It was the best waiting room a kid could hope for, really. Less fun then were the shots. I got a lot of shots in hopes of subduing my allergies. For some time, we went to the doctor's office for the shots. Eventually, we were able to do the shots at home. The appeal of that was limited for me, as we did not have any of the things at home that they had there in the waiting room. It was interesting learning by trial and error how to give an injection to someone else as well as to oneself. If you missed the right spot, that arm hurt for a while.

I'm not sure if the multitude of shots eventually helped. I guess they must have. It seems like people have more and more allergies all the time, and always to new things. I once had terrible reactions to bee stings. I might still, although it's been a while since I got stung in spite of my cowardly retreats at the sight of any such creature. I do think I have some allergies outstanding, mostly being of a seasonal nature. Pollen has never liked me. I'm sneezing a lot these days, and what is responsible I'm not sure. It's most unpleasant, and we are going through a lot of paper products here at home as a result of it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Noose Is Good Noose

I never was very good at delayed gratification. I suppose that it's supremely unremarkable to say so, and I may as well add that I'm not very good with math or that I have difficulty sleeping very well. These are things that apply to virtually everyone, and so I'm not going to pretend that I'm special on account of any one of them. Their ubiquity doesn't make them untrue where I am concerned however, and in fact may make them of somewhat more interest than less common idiosyncrasies of mine, so I'll go on. I believe I was speaking of delayed gratification? For me it was mostly a concept which related to something I was going to receive- a gift perhaps, or something that was to come in the mail. I never could bear to wait, and yet I'd trade the kind of waiting I sometimes do now for that anytime.

Today it's more often something I'm waiting to know- something that affects my livelihood or future. I guess I'd rather not know about a thing at all until it was right on top of me. As the song goes, the waiting is the hardest part. You can deal with the grisly aftermath a thousand times more easily, can't you? The Germans found that out by chance during the Blitz in World War Two. A certain percentage of bombs they dropped on England were defective and failed to go off on impact. As it turned out, it had more impact when the Brits scrambled to prevent an explosion that might happen than it did when one just happened. The Germans then started making bombs that went off later on purpose. It was scarier that way.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


It seems like I'm not in charge of when I get up anymore. I don't just mean that responsibilities require me to get up at some hour each day, although that is more and more true. I do now have good reasons to get up early most days, and it is often in fact crucial that I do so. Necessity does not lead automatically to occurrence, however. Something else is compelling me to get up at a particular hour, and I can't say that it's my alarm. I've had plenty of alarms, and sometimes more than one at a time, but none of them seemed to get the job done, no matter how loud they were or how I arranged them in such a way that I would really have to get up to silence them.

I would say it was the alarm if I didn't keep waking up before the alarm (which is an annoyance I know I'm not the first to speak of). The thing getting me up is something intangible and inexplicable. Some would call it an internal clock or a biological one. Such a thing would be born of routine, but I don't know that I would say I've built any such routine. As I've said, any given week will have me getting up at 5am some days and noon others. That is not the stuff habits are made of. Of course the search is on for the real cause of this phenomenon. It's said that once you eliminate the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. I've ruled out what I believe to be impossible, so let's see where that leads me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Checkpoint Charity

December seems like a bad time to need groceries. A lot of charity collections take place during that time, and they are very smart in selecting the grocery store as the place to catch people. I've spoken of my begrudging charitable spirit, so it should be no surprise that I don't welcome with open arms the kettles of the Salvation Army. When I read that they are getting going or see them for the first time, I sigh and my shoulders slump. I know that for the next few weeks, I will have to employ strategy and stealth to enter and exit the grocery stores. It's quite a drain. I think that the thing to do is to shop at the places most heavily patronized by those with little money. The charities probably don't place people there.

As if it weren't enough that donations are being solicited, I find that signatures are as well. I recently went to the grocery store in search of plain white t-shirts. I freely admit that it was not a likely place to find them, but you never really know, and I usually exhaust all possibilities within walking distance before I consider going further. As I approached the store, a man with pen and clipboard inquires whether I am an actor. When I denied this (being unsure of the true answer myself), he wondered if I had friends who were. Now, I can't really say why he was asking because I blew by him as quickly as I could lest my resolve weaken, but my immediate guess was that it was some kind of labor thing. This is one of those times when I wish people weren't so interested in such things. It's yet another reason to avoid the grocery store.

Monday, December 20, 2010

When Do We Eat?

Things were simpler back when I was in school for many reasons. Success then was predicated on passing spelling tests and sitting for lessons. It was also simpler due to the arrangement of meals. I then ate breakfast at perhaps 7 or 7:30- somewhere around then. Off to school I would go, absorbing knowledge for the next several hours. Lunch was at noon and lasted an hour. That was chiseled in stone. There would be a few more hours of classes, and then I would return home in mid-afternoon. There might or might not be some nature of snack at that time. Dinner would invariably be later in the evening, with the whole family assembled at the table (and later before the TV. Even we succumbed to that). Perhaps something like 8 in the evening would be a typical dinner. I was fine with all of that, for the reason that I didn't have to expend energy deciding it myself.

Today I am an adult, if the government and my creditors are to be believed. I certainly live with a modicum of independence these days, and so now I must be the one to determine my meal times. Naturally I would just go with what I always have, except that circumstances don't allow that on a consistent basis. I don't get up at the same hour I did then. Often it's an hour or so later, and sometimes several hours earlier. That throws a wrench into things from the start. It seems to me that the meal times should be at those fixed times, but failing that, they should be spaced out by that amount of time which they are at those times. Thus lunch probably ought to be some five hours after breakfast, with dinner then coming around eight hours after that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Death On Paper

We used to joke on Boy Scout hiking trips that in spite of the mountains and canyons we traversed, we had the benefit of a 'zero net elevation gain'. This was funny to us because the pain of hiking a steep uphill grade was not helped at all by the knowledge that we'd just be hiking back down it on the way back. In a way, life is like that in reverse. You spend the first part of your life investing in people and things emotionally, and then you lose them all if the second part of your life lasts long enough. At my early age, few that I care for have died, but there have been more things I loved that are gone now. Some that may seem trivial but mean somewhat less than nothing to me are in my reading.

I love comic strips, as you may recall . Even though I don't subscribe to a newspaper anymore, I still love reading lots of the strips. They're available online, and are part of my morning routine. I read a lot of the funnies as well as the serious ones I used to dislike and skipped easily since they were at the bottom of the page. Editorial cartoons are great too (my policy with those being to read all the ones that are drawn well, trusting that I will be able to enjoy that as well as a diversity of viewpoints). Now, if I had to pick my favorite current strip, I guess that it would have to be 'Sylvia', although 'Zippy' is close.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Lot Of Vacancies

I think we all often wonder why there's such evil in the world. Those who are especially religious or believe in the basic goodness of humankind are probably most at a loss for an explanation. I don't know that I can proffer one, but I do know that to me it makes sense that evil must exist as a contrast. As I read in an otherwise forgettable novelization of a film, without darkness there can be no light. Some people of faith who are somewhat more versed in scripture would say that evil exists according to God's will, so as to give us the choice of goodness rather than a mandate. Sometimes I prefer to choose evil, as Huck Finn believed himself to be doing towards the end of his story.

There's a mundane kind of evil that exists in every community. Perhaps you'll see the above buildup as unjustified, so small is the badness I put forward. Wherever you live, you are bound to be aware of a vacant lot- a parcel of land large or small which has been entirely unimproved by its owner (whether that be a private concern or the government). This piece of land is nothing but trouble, by and large. It accrues trash more than anything. Weeds grow there nearly as high as the hideous fence around it. Both vegetation and alleged security measures make the site extremely appealing as a campground for vagrants or a disposal area for evidence from felonious crimes. Worst of all, come election season, the candidates all plant their signs on its most prominent side or corner. It's a most regrettable place.

Friday, December 17, 2010


A passing glance to my right while walking down the street brought my mind back to something in which I had outsized interest as an adolescent. There in the dirt on the opposite side from the street was some very ordinary trash. Trash of just that kind captivated me once upon a time. Here in LA, the streets commonly are lined with points of interest, and not just the most prominent ones to which tourists and others flock. As I walk along such thoroughfares, I see plenty to keep my mind occupied should it seize upon nothing else. Back home, comparatively few streets are so stimulating. It's just block after block of subdivisions which do little to differentiate themselves. There can be miles in between retail groupings of any significance.

That would leave me staring at the ground as I walk. There the only thing to stir me was trash discarded from past motorists. As you can guess, the bar was rather low as to what I would grant my attention. Scrutinized were scraps of paper, empty liquor bottles and badly damaged cds. I don't know that I can recall anything fitting those last criteria. The sun renders most things non-functional rapidly in Phoenix, and a fairly high percentage of things to be found on the sidewalk have been run over. It has always seemed sad and senseless that it should be there. Why any of it ended up where it is rather than being deposited in a proper receptacle by someone patient enough to hang on to it for a few minutes I don't know.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Quite some time ago, I posted a brief piece about an intersection in the area of South Pasadena which is notable for being a point at which three incorporated cities converge. A fourth lies maybe a mile to the north. This remains no more than an amusing 'factoid' if one does not actually have to pass through that intersection. Be it because of the competing political jurisdictions or other reasons, it's a very unpleasant intersection to pass through. Actually it's more like three intersections crammed into a tiny area with an island in the middle. The island has a pizza place. The LA area is rife with complicated and downright dangerous intersections like this.

My hometown of Phoenix really did not get built up in advance of the automobile, and perhaps because of that the streets are laid out in a sensible way (excepting where roads must go around mountains). Chicago, where I went to school, was a bustling city before the car but was basically wiped clean in the big fire, so maybe that accounts for why I don't recall it being so bad either. It might have been a hair worse. So much for those idyllic feats of city planning. In my present neighborhood, I come into regular contact with one monster of a confluence. It's a six way intersection- can you beat that? If you don't by the grace of God get the green light as you approach, you can put the car in park and finish your coffee leisurely, because you're going to be there for a few minutes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Just My Type

It's a popular thing to say that the Chinese word for crisis is made of characters which mean danger and opportunity. Condoleeza Rice once said so, but more people- Chinese people- say that's not really true. When a cascade of water from my glass poured over my keyboard, I can't say I immediately saw in crisis opportunity. After about a minute when the flood was contained and dried up, I began to test the keyboard to see if it had incurred any damage. I've always found keyboards and their predecessors rather interesting. The first thing I did was go to the word processor I was using before the accident and typed out "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs." It's a famous sentence, as it has been hammered into the heads of generations of American typing students. It's supposed to be the shortest sentence which contains each letter. Some quick research tells me that this is called a panagram.

The layout of keys is interesting. It's known as QWERTY because those are the first letters in the top row of keys dedicated to them. I had heard or read that the keys are laid out as they are not for efficiency but rather for inefficiency (hopefully this is not discredited as was my belief that the World Series was named for a sponsoring New York newspaper). On older typewriters, to type too quickly was apt to result in the machine breaking down. They keys were thus designed to keep the typist going at a rate of speed slow enough to prevent that. Children are still taught to type according to that layout, and they still make the keyboards that way in spite of the fact that a more efficient design could be conceived. I wonder if A results in B or B in A? It's a 'chicken and the egg' thing, I guess.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rule By Fiat

There's an antiquated term for having a transgression committed against you which I kind of like. After said transgression, the victim would say, "Well, this is a fine how do you do!". If I had to guess, I would say it's at least six decades out of date. If it were six years past its peak of common usage, that would be enough to push it out of all significant awareness, but you know that I tend to reach a little further back than that. I don't know that I ever had something happen to me that I would call a 'how do you do' in that fashion until just recently. You'll recall that a repairman came in to do some work. He was merely one of several endeavoring to clear up some loose ends left by occasionally sloppy renovations. Now that I think of it, having had to live in limbo for three weeks before moving into this place, I ought to have come into something a little more polished, but this isn't about that gripe. This is a different gripe.

That repairman of whom I speak had come to get rid of the constant leak in the shower. I let him in and received his message that the work was complete. He offered to show me what he had done, and I politely looked in the area he highlighted without really seeing anything. He advised that we not use the shower for twenty four hours, and we complied. The following afternoon, I took a shower. The old-timey expression came to mind instantly as I found myself really looking at what the man had done for the first time. When we moved in, I decided I liked the knob fixture in there very much. There was the knob for temperature as well as to get the water going, but there was a secondary lever solely for water pressure. I decided I liked that very much, as it made a great deal of sense to have it so.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Never A Fab Cab

I was thinking about taxicabs recently, and did some quick thinking. I determined after a few moments that I have taken cabs on maybe six occasions in my life. I don't know if that's terribly few, but I suspect it might be. Growing up, I got the idea from TV and movies that in really big cities (if not my own), people took cabs all the time. It looked like it was convenient and cheap. If not, then how could it be so commonplace? Of course it's really neither convenient nor cheap. In the things I saw, people were always hailing cabs and getting them, except when the program needed to make a point about racism. What I've found to be the case is that with certain exceptions, cabs aren't even supposed to pick up people like that. Rather they are supposed to only pick up people they are told about by a dispatcher. That can take a long time. Also they seldom are the iconic makes and models I would always see. Often they are larger cars meant to accommodate luggage on trips to the airport, and frequently they are either not yellow, not checkered or are in fact neither.

Some of the places where cabs can pick people up are the subway and Greyhound stations. The logic of that escapes me. I wonder what makes a cab company think that I'm going to spend something like forty dollars to get from downtown to my home after spending less to reach town from over three hundred miles way away. It must work out if they do that, but I have no idea how. It made a whole lot more sense to see the cabs lined up outside the Hilton on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. That's a place where one can envision people hiring cabs without a thought for the expense. It should be no surprise when I say that expense is considerable. I have watched with mounting bewilderment as the meter coldly reported a sky-rocketing total for my trip. It make total sense when one considers that it includes a car, all the expenses of upkeep and a driver as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pocket Talk

I've long been aware of how little sense it makes for a man to keep his wallet in his back pocket. God willing, the wallet is thick with paper money and credit cards, which makes for difficulties when he sits down. Worse, the wallet is there in a place all too vulnerable to theft. How am I to protect it there? When I walk through crowds, my hand sometimes bolts downward to cover the wallet. Whether that will prevent it from being extracted I don't know, but I'm sure at least that I would detect the theft and either somehow recover the wallet or at least quickly take measures to ensure the cash is all I lose. Thankfully, I have not developed terrible spinal cord issues, nor have I been robbed by a pickpocket, but those are two very good reasons to consider another place to keep my wallet. Obviously using something other than a wallet is not within the realm of possibility.

A more mundane concern which touches on fashion is the structural integrity of the pocket itself. The golden age of grunge may be behind us in the hoary days of the early 90's, but shabby, ripped jeans remain acceptable if not reasonably popular. That being the case, I am in no rush to replace any of my jeans. They're comfortable, they fit and shopping for new ones is only a bit more palatable than seeing the dentist. Finding pairs that meet both of the aforementioned criteria is like finding a platinum mine. You're lucky if it happens once. What I'm getting at is that more than one pair of jeans in my wardrobe is suffering enough wear and tear that the back pocket where I put the wallet is breaking down. I fear more and more the possibility of the wallet slipping through and being lost.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Music

An interesting thing happens as the Christmas holiday rolls around. I'm not going to dredge up old complaints about the festivities beginning earlier every year or the other things, because I think that's just too boring to bear. No, what I still find interesting has to do with the music. Like clockwork, soft rock stations in each American radio market scrap their regular format of Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow for Christmas music. It's true enough that both men along with other practitioners of the strange art called soft rock stay in the game with their own renditions of holiday tunes, but that's besides the point. Isn't it interesting that no other format judges itself to be unworthy of staying on when something so necessary as yuletide hits must carve out some room for a month. It must be at least a little demoralizing. Jazz music, God bless it, is uncommercial enough to require the fostering care of public radio stations, and the blues are worse off than that, often relegated to a few hours a week on the same stations. Still, it's soft rock that takes the hit. Well, we must count our blessings at this time of year- at least it's off the air for a little while.

At this time of year, I always find myself embroiled in an argument over the fanciful standby 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'. My entire life I have interpreted it to be a song depicting an affair between a little boy's mother and Santa Claus. It seems like a tame affair, entailing no more than kissing as it does, but an incidence of infidelity nonetheless. I swear that if you pore over the lyrics and listen to it again and again, you will find nothing in it explicitly stating that it's merely the boy's father posing as Santa Claus, and yet the preponderance of people I speak to say this is the case. Show me the proof. No matter what comes to light, there's not adequate subtext to effectively convey it, but I'm open to having my mind changed about the songwriter's intent. Prove me wrong.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Invited Invader

A man came into my home the other day. He doesn't live here, and while he was invited, he wasn't entirely welcome. His purpose was to repair the leaky shower/tub in my bathroom, and repair it I must admit he did. Nonetheless, and through no real fault of his, I did not really care for his presence. I'm most glad for the impressive diligence of the building's management in dealing with concerns, but the fact remains that interlopers must wreak havoc with our shaky, nascent routines in order to implement the fixes. Having workers in the house is a hard thing to deal with. I don't know how anyone with a domestic staff can live their lives in what is essentially someone else's workplace. I prefer for my home to be nothing but a home to anyone, and certainly not a job site.

The water was turned off and the bathroom occupied, so while some critical areas and functions were rendered inaccessible or inoperative, much of the apartment remained free to travel in and use. Even operating within that, I could not go on as if things were entirely normal. I could almost forget and sink into  my thoughts but for the noises. The man's presence intruded on my consciousness, and I could hardly write anything except this airing of my frustration with being unable to write about what else I might want to. What if I could get him out of my mind and work? He would just finish his work and unwittingly deliver the traumatizing blow of a lifetime by gently knocking on my door and casually informing me the work was done and the water reactivated.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Walking Music

I don't know about everyone else, but I know that I often am imagining what my words and deeds look to an objective observer. That is to say that I picture what a movie of my actions at any given time would look like. As I've noted before, and at the risk of seeming vain, I frequently steal glimpses of myself in reflective surfaces. I also contrive in my mind a soundtrack which conveys my emotions and the tone of the moment. I half-remember a line heard secondhand from Dick Clark which has it that music is the soundtrack of our lives. I don't really care for it, but there is something there. There are two songs which come to my mind immediately as go-to tunes, with others which crop up little enough that they don't bear mentioning.

The first of the bigs ones is not very well know. I'd say you'd know if it you heard it, but even expanding to encompass people with that limited exposure, it remains an obscure song. It so happens that I'm a fan of 'First Blood', the first in the progressively less grounded and more cartoonish series of Rambo films. Its main theme (which plays as an instrumental version in the opening credits and with lyrics over the closing onces) perfectly suggests the melancholy and downtrodden quality which marks the protagonist. As the music plays, we see the weary, scruffy John Rambo walking along the highway with his only worldly possession in tow. When I feel anything like that while out on the streets, the song swells up in my mind, and I flatter myself into thinking that it fits.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I have mentioned conversations I have had in person regarding this very blog. I tend to receive from them positive responses or promises to check it out. From one person have I gotten an unqualified rejection, but anyone else who cared to share something that wasn't purely a compliment was good enough to make it constructive and accompany it with some mention of what I am doing well. This is something we learn to do in Toastmasters, and I'm glad to see that out in the wastelands of unstructured, un-academic communication, others know how to do it. The unfortunate thing is that when someone offers well-reasoned, helpful criticism, I'm unable to disregard it entirely. I feel I'm not too bad at taking it. It has been said that this is the case, or I would not avow it to be myself.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Come And Knock On My Door"

I'm sure you must be fed up with my continuing thoughts related to having moved recently, but it's my hope that I will be judged more kindly by history, as was the case for Truman. It doesn't matter, though. This post is happening today no matter how you feel. You might be able to affect future ones, and I will let slip that I am influenced by cash bribes. Anyway, read this:

It has sometimes been the case that I've had neighbors to visit (or conversely, neighbors to visit me), and my memory permits me to call up a few examples. In the old neighborhood when I was a boy, there was a family we mingled with regularly. Later, there was the old Italian couple next door after we moved. When I went to college in Chicago, I was invited to other people's rooms a couple of times, but it didn't get to be a habit on their part. The Koreatown hostel which holds the distinction of being my first semi-permanent home in Los Angeles was not unlike that, although really the pervasive common space rendered the concept of neighbors somewhat non-applicable (as was the case in my lodgings as a Boy Scout camp counselor). The home which succeeded that one was a split level duplex whose other unit was occupied by a couple of rather nice guys. In a way, we in our unit were more neighbors than roommates, possessing as we each did separate leases.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Keys To Success

A great concern of mine, having moved around a lot in recent months, is that of being burdened by too many possessions. One can't help but accrue material goods over time. I don't buy a lot of stuff, and yet I found I had acquired an alarming amount of it regardless. There are gifts, free items and low-cost items of all kinds which add up. It's not helped by the fact that I can't bear to throw things away for fear that they will become useful sometime later. I don't think I'm one of those hopeless hoarders who paramedics must wade through stacks of newspapers and hordes of cats to reach with live-saving medical care, but I'm at least on the very low end of that scale. This all became more apparent as a result of moving, but a particular  category of personal item multiplied in my possession directly as a result of me moving. I speak of course of house keys.

I still have keys for my parent's house back home, although I believe the lock to have been changed. I often neglected to bring them with my on visits anyway, leaving me as helpless as a common visitor unrelated by blood. I ought to get rid of them, but of course I won't. There were two of them, both for the front door. It wouldn't have occurred to me that keys would be necessary for other things around a home, even though I always saw how vulnerable the mail was. Each of the places I've lived since I left that house have provided me with a key for the mail. Some of those places I've had to give up the keys immediately. Such was the case for the hostel in Koreatown and the first apartment in North Hollywood. It was not so for the place in Highland Park, as the bank's foreclosure left a certain vacuum in hands-on management, nor was it the case for the places I have lived in the last few months of wanderings. I gave those ones up just as early as was requested, but it did take a while.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Line

It's interesting how certain trends hold true without any hint of a good reason. The ones that interest me the most concern bad things which hinder me as I do my best to get the the day productively, happily and in one piece. I won't waste your time with such frivolous complaints as the habit of smoke from a barbeque grill following me around no matter what I do to evade or anything else of the kind. I care too much about you to presume upon the commitment of time you make to my words in such a fashion. No, the thing I'm thinking about is entirely serious and important, and could not be characterized as some mild gripe. It has to do with lines, or queues, as I understand the British call them. Lines aren't pleasant, but that we have them is a mark of lingering civility. That mark is continually tested for me.

Just why is it that so often when I wait in line, the one just ahead of me has some terribly intractable problem? It's always some great crisis, and never one which is easily handled by the clerk. It truly is uncanny the consistency with which this is the case. My sympathies tend to lie with the clerk, who invariably seems to be laboring mightily to explain things to the customer, who is often only ever right on account of the old axiom which says so. That customer is likely to be drawing things out by being obstinate. I think it's likely that the customer lives a live during which they must lie down and take whatever indignity or affront fate puts to them. The one exception is probably when they feel they have the license to aggressively respond to unfavorable judgements at the library or fast food restaurant.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I have a problem. There was a time when I was not very social. I was isolated and had few outlets for conversation. That has changed in recent years, and I have been blessed with many friends who are often interested in what I have to say. This has gotten the floodgates to open where my words are concerned. I can't turn it off. I'll talk more or less non-stop when someone is around. I won't deny that this is obnoxious. Luckily, it fits within society's parameters for sanity provided there are not aggravating conditions. The story is different when no one is around. My mind goes on like a perpetual motion machine. I believe I've mentioned how this makes it hard to sleep sometimes. It's as much a problem during the day. I'm often worlds away while out and about on the street, and who knows what might happen when my attention is not on where I am and what I am doing? So far, so good on that, but not so good on something else.

It's not just that my mind is always working- it's also always sending the results out. I can hardly help thinking without saying what I'm thinking. That is to say that such is the case when I'm alone. I think clearly enough to contain the more objectionable and personal thoughts when in the presence of others, but the rest just flows out of me without end. I realize what I'm doing and strive to stop it, but these thoughts themselves I utter aloud. I dig deep for strength and make the greatest effort I can to stop it, but this achieves no more than to have me whispering my thoughts, or at best moving my lips while thinking them. It's something like Cyclops of the X-Men. He has high-tech sunglasses to restrain his laser vision, and other characters have their own means of shutting off their powers. I don't mean to say that what I have is some kind of power, merely that I'm something of a busted spigot. It may produce clean, sweet water or rusty filth, but always is it pouring out violently.

Friday, December 3, 2010


It seems as if the Roomba craze has subsided, and I don't know whether that is because it didn't really work or what. I never used one, but I was always intrigued by the alleged intelligence it displayed in the course of its work. Once activated in a new place, its first task was to map out the space which it was charged with cleaning. It would systematically test the boundaries of the place and remember them so that it might clean it efficiently and without violating Asimov's laws of robotics. Lately, I've been something like a Roomba. The reason is this place I've moved into. Each of the previous apartment buildings I've lived in here was of modest size at most. Only one contained more than a few units, and even that one was quite simple to grasp. An entrance at one end led to the street and one at the other to the parking lot. The others were humbler still, with no complexity to speak of.

This building I'm in now is not like those. I guess it's not different from the apartment-style dormitories I lived in during college, but I don't recall very well the early days in them when I was, as now, a human Roomba bouncing around in search of parameters. The difference between myself and the robot is that my meanderings are far from systematic, and I am slow to remember what I learn by dint of such aimless surveys. Also, no matter what the competence it actually displays in cleaning, it's undoubtedly my superior in that respect. Furthermore, while it earns no income, it has a steady job. Actually, the more I go into it, the less favorable the comparison grows, so you'll surely be understanding if I move on to the main point I was trying to make.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Noms Faux

I have a particular interest in the fake names people concoct for comic purposes. That I would say so might make you think that I'm a fan and practitioner of the crank call, but such is not the case. It's fun, though, to come up with fake names that are meant to convey some point about a person. Someone who is tight with a dollar might be called 'Cheapo McTightwad', or something that rolls off the tongue better. Inventive names of that kind are very amusing, sometimes being applied to adult film actors, who invariably have over-the-top stage names(?) that are meant to suggest their prowess at their chosen profession. There's a thing that these fake names seem to have in common, and I don't know that anyone but me would even give it a thought.

Isn't it funny how the great majority of fake names seem to be of Irish origin? The formula seems to be that you have 'Mc' sandwiched by two redundant terms for the thing you're trying to associate the person with. This is what I have done in the above paragraph. Somehow you have to have some element of a name suggesting some national or cultural trappings. It can't just be some plain white bread kind of name that you're aping, or else it isn't funny. I wonder why that is. In any case, Irish names fit the bill so much so that they virtually squeeze out all others. That really is a shame, for plenty of other cultures have a way of forming names that would be extraordinarily good for joke names. If I may, I'll offer up a few examples.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I remember reading an interesting item on the amount of personal space expected by people from different countries. No matter what one's expectations are, however, there come situations in every culture where you have to override that. A good example of that is when you must sit directly next to someone for one reason or another. Oddly, people feel they must sit next to a platonic friend in a movie theater even when it's not full, but other scenarios make more sense. Most of them have something to do with transportation, I think. Two or three people who may or may not know each other are hastily thrown together and expected to co-exist with little more than the ordinary rules of civilized society to govern them. These people must peacefully sit side by side maybe for hours, with no sounds or lights coming between them. Additionally, the person on the outside becomes gatekeeper to the one on the inside where trips to the bathroom are applicable. It's a tough relationship.

Riding on buses as I often do, I have obviously given all this some thought. Unfortunately, no amount of thought really helps the situation. On my trip home from Thanksgiving with my family, I took Greyhound (the trip there being detailed in a recent post). Since I had not had a seatmate on the way there, I had high hopes of not having one on the way back either. This would be nice, as sleeping becomes a more realistic proposition, and sleep is the real reason I take buses overnight anyway: it would seem to neutralize the problem of a six hour trip by making the bus no more than a bed on wheels. Sadly, my dreams of sitting alone were not to be. I begrudgingly accepted this, but was not bargaining on who I got as a seatmate. Simply put, he was a crazy person. I'm not really complaining, as an uneventful ride would have left me with little to write about, but I will say that I thought twice about succumbing to sleep knowing he was there beside me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roundball Real Estate

I like basketball. I have for a good long time, going back to the early 90s. That's a long time for me. I think it's a great game, particularly when good fundamentals are practiced and my team wins. I enjoy the pro game as well as college and that peculiar variety one only sees in international competition (which is a little less fun now that the world knows how to play and the USA is unable to field a complete team of all-time legends). I once was an obsessive devotee of video game basketball, spending an inordinate amount of time playing 'Bulls vs Blazers and the NBA Playoffs'. A game almost as fun but probably more popular was 'NBA Jam'. There was a thing that the announcers on it would say, and which real-world announcers inexplicably say when a player would launch a three point shot: "From downtown...". He would trail off expectantly as the shot would arc through the air and either clank or swish.

I hate that phrase. Those around me when it comes up are invariable astonished at how heated I become in attacking it. It's likely to be a factor in my ultimate demise of stress and anxiety-related causes. It doesn't make any sense. The problem is that they have it entirely backwards. The half court is like a city, as the phrase suggests. A  point worth noting is where players of various stature tend to be positioned. The basket is ten feet up in the air, and as layups and dunks are the surest shots, it's entirely logical to place a team's tallest players around the basket. The shorter, quicker players are more likely to be found around the perimeter.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Father Of Fix-It

Since I was ten or so and my family bought a house, my father has been renovating and making repairs on that house. I believe I've made reference to the disorienting experience of coming back every few months unable to recognize the place due to the many changes. It used to be no surprise when something changed, because I was a lowly assistant alongside my father all the way. My main task, for which I remain well-suited to the exclusion of anything more difficult, was holding things. It was a mild accomplishment, I suppose, that I proved more worthy than a sawhorse. Then again, it may be the sawhorse came too expensively, and my employment was a way of extracting some value from the constant overhead expenses of keeping me alive.

Going back to early childhood, Dad made every effort to instill in me an appreciation for working with one's hands as well as an an aptitude for same. He succeeded in the former, but no number of times that he put me through my paces with pinewood derby cars and car repair were sufficient to render me competent at more than holding things and later, identifying and retrieving things for him. That remains hit and miss. Sometimes I do manage to get something done, although it is an achievement only for me and others for whom the bar is also very low. I recently felt like a hero for successfully handling a blown fuse in an apartment of people uncannily less handy than I. I think only my perpetual exposure to handy individual led me to play a handyman in an internet video which has been fairly well received by friends and family. I may not actually be handy, but I know what someone who is looks like, and I had a good time posing as one.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coffee Service

In my experience, it's exceptionally difficult to get people to commit on a regular basis to any sort of informal activity. I spearheaded a 'movie night' with as much energy and enthusiasm as I could muster, and after months, could do no better than struggling to scrape up three or four a week. It was rather demoralizing, and I gave it up to spare myself the needless aging. Another thing was when an effort was put forward to field a softball league team. It went on and on, with the whole thing eventually falling through for lack of enough people. No, people I know manage only to stick to the things they must do, and those are so numerous and draining that there seems to be little left for frivolities.

Perhaps this is a question of maturity. We are all relatively young in the circles I with which I associate, few of us being far beyond thirty. I have recently mingled with some of those in my father's number while visiting for the holidays. Going back for what seems like quite some time, they have gathered once a week for coffee before work on Fridays. There's no binding commitment of any kind, and yet they are are as regular as if it were mandatory. I was obviously an interloper who all knew would not be seen again for some time, if at all, but was treated with great tolerance nonetheless.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Viernes Negro

Yesterday was what they call Black Friday. It always sounds to me like one of those terrible tragedies that goes down in history, like some massacre of citizens by government soldiers or an economic collapse. I think they ought to consider renaming it, because naturally it's nothing like that. In fact, the name is meant to describe something basically as good as those things are bad: it's considered the first shopping day of Christmas, and the month or so which follows tends to make the difference for businesses between a profitable year and an unprofitable one. It's Black Friday because the business then begins operating "in the black". Supposedly accountants have traditionally used black ink to mark gains and red ink to mark losses in their books. I can't confirm or deny that, but it's mildly interesting.

More than mildly interesting is the shopping hysteria which is as baffling as it is appalling. I don't really understand it, and I feel it shows us at our worst. As the clock strikes midnight to end Thanksgiving Day, the first stores are already open for business. I for one got up at 8:30 in the morning and spent the day binging on all the gastronomical trappings of the occasion. Apart from that and a brief hike, I mostly sat in front of TVs to watch football. It was a long, full day, and I cannot imagine doing anything but turning in at an eminently reasonable hour. Who would have it in them to troop out to the stores not early in the morning but that very night? It defies all reason.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hey Hound

On a number of occasions I've made mention of my penchant for taking Greyhound as opposed to flying. I feel that current events show the wisdom of that. Again I opted for the bus to get home for Thanksgiving, and it leads me to contemplate the experience anew. Naturally a great draw is the general absence of security apparatus. As its most rigorous, Greyhound security rivals a movie theater ticket taker charged with keeping out contraband food. On this occasion, there was no security whatsoever save for a defensive and passive-aggressive driver who expressed over the PA of the bus his belief that some "lucky" riders had managed to smuggle in alcohol and/or drugs. He encouraged them to remain lucky by keeping the banned substances to themselves. This is a good indicator of how things go with Greyhound.

That driver really was rather odd. As part of his warning against removing items from the overhead compartment, he gave as an example of potential consequences the Mexican dish tamales. I think we were meant to understand that he had previously had incidents where luggage heavily packed with hot, gooey food ruptured after being jostled during transit and falling when retrieved. While I declare that to be far-fetched, I cannot entirely rule it out after considering things that do happen. It may take seven hours to go from LA to Phoenix as opposed to around 75 minutes by plane, but at least the stories are fun and not exasperating. I thrive on the former and age inordinately fast on the latter, so a savings of time at what cost?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Los Angeles 101

Moving to this town can be a challenge in a number of ways. Maybe it's not so different from any other in that respect, but I can't answer for many others very well. Some three years ago when I came to LA, I knew hardly a soul, and had to figure out a lot on my own. Coming from Phoenix, there are some things that are about the same. I was not surprised, for example, to learn that here a street may seem to run clear across town but is in fact interrupted by dead ends at countless points in spite of bearing the same name throughout. Other things were less immediately apparent, and there was no one really to tell me- at least there was no one I could trust. I try therefore to be as helpful as I can when faced by a newcomer. The common attitude in teaching people about LA is interesting.

I remember a story from Jackie Chan's autobiography about his first day in Chinese opera school (which is something like an intensive performing arts school). At first, a student there was treated like a king, but upon being fully enrolled, a rude awakening marked by a beating showed him the true nature of things. Far from feeling saddened on his behalf, fellow students relished viewing the rude awakening which had already been doled out to them. Misery loves company, as they say.  In covering things that are bad or baffling, there is a perverse kind of pleasure taken in breaking the news to a doe-eyed young lady from Cleveland. We act sometimes as if we like the horrendous driving conditions or the deplorable fact of homeless people on the streets. I guess it's what you have to do in order to cope with it when it's exposed for what it is by the observation of an outsider.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

She's Got Legs (And They're Blue)

Southern California carries a certain reputation where its women are concerned. They're said to be quite beautiful, and while that's probably not uniformly true, it's true enough that the reputation is well-earned. The women are indeed very good looking, and they are resolutely committed to showing just as much as they can. In fact, if anything, it may be so that they show too much. I certainly don't say so out any sense of puritanical devotion or propriety. It would hardly be the time now to start with that attitude. Nonetheless, I have my reasons for at least half-wishing that LA's women, breathtaking though they are, would cover up some of the time. It is something like how if one engages in unsafe stunts during an improv scene, it does not matter how funny it is when the audience fears that injury may come to one of the performers.

The thing is that one who only has visited the area during summer or perhaps spring break would not realize how cold it can get here during winter. It's especially bad far out in the desert areas, but in the city it can be rough. At the late hour during which I write this, it is in the mid 40s. I certainly can recall praying for temperatures like that during winter months in Chicago, but then I had proper clothes at the ready then too. I don't have that now, and neither do the very attractive and ordinarily beguiling women of this town. As I said, they are most committed to showing what they have to full advantage. You see even now short shorts and miniskirts that would be most appealing to me if I did not fear for the health and well-being of the wearer. Is it sexy when they shiver? I've heard that black is beautiful, but is blue? Weight loss is a popular pastime, but what about when it comes about as a result of frostbite?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Get The Wed Out: Part Three

For the last couple of days, I've taken it upon myself to report on a wedding I recently attended. Where I left off, I had arrived probably too early at the place where the wedding would take place, and we were getting all the little last-minute things done. I ought to say something about the location. Built in 1923, it originally was the home of a most distinguished poet who had in fact been the laureate of California. It was a lovely spot up high on a hill, and offered a great view. The building was loaded with history and character, offering what seemed to me an ideal place to be married.

Eventually, all the lights, tables, chairs, food and people were in the right place. I had done my fair share even when I feared the despoiling of my precious suit. Guests were now beginning to show up, and I was faced by the need to discharge my actual formally-codified duties as an usher. It really is against my nature to act in such capacity. I disdain confrontation and organization. I lack the kind of self-assured assertiveness and problem-solving that takes groups of different sizes and plugs them into openings in the seating arrangement in the most efficient manner possible. Believe it or not, I'm shy enough that merely advising people as to where the bride's side and groom's side were. In spite of my shortcomings, though, I managed all right.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Get The Wed Out: Part Two

Yesterday I started the tale of a recent wedding I attended, lavishing proper attention on early preparations seen from my point of view living with the groom. Perhaps a week and a half before the wedding day, I made my graceful exit from the couple's home. To have done otherwise might have made for an amusing 80s sitcom, but was impractical in real life, as the bride very reasonably was looking to move her things in and make the place her own. In the days before the wedding, I helped with that some. Finally it seemed that the time for stress and anxiety was at an end, with plans formalized and nothing left to do except enjoy carrying them out. I was certainly glad to see it.

Now, there had been a build-up of some months, but it was not until after I had moved out of what would become the happy couple's first home together that I was blindsided by the fact that yes, the wedding was in fact that very weekend to come. It was a moment of stark terror for me, as I had done nothing to get that suit ready. The evening before the wedding was reserved for a rehearsal which I had committed to attending. I cobbled together a semi-formal outfit with an eye on holding something back from my meager formal wardrobe for the big day. Rehearsing the mechanics of the ceremony had little to do with me, but I did need to learn timing for the chain of events leading up to the ceremony.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Get The Wed Out: Part One

Recently I attended a wedding. I consider it to have been quite significant for more reasons than the fact that it was my first in several years and only the second I've been involved in since I became old enough to form permanent memories. This was not the first wedding of people I've known out in LA, but it was the first I attended, and it involved a bride and groom who I count as two of my very best friends. Lastly, as both bride and groom are and have been prominent members of the improv comedy community which has been such a large part of my life, I was keenly aware of how much meaning there was in the thing for all the smart and funny people who comprise said community.  For all those reasons, of course I had to write about the thing.

I had been aware of the wedding being in the offing for months and months, and yet isn't it always the way that it sneaks up on you at the last second anyway? It was especially to be credited for its stealth in my case, as I was living with the groom in the two months preceding. There I was attempting to furnish a sympathetic ear as a thousand pernicious details had to be dealt with, none of which seemed to get ironed out with great ease. I had always been a big fan of the Steve Martin version of 'Father Of The Bride' (and lament having never seen the original), and while I'm not prepared to say that no weddings unfold like that, I can say that this one didn't really. That's not to say it wasn't wonderful and notable, or I wouldn't have written a word about it. Let me start from the beginning, or at least from my beginning.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Restaurant Rant

I am probably not the world's biggest fan of sit-down restaurants. That may reflect lingering traces of my formerly dominant antisocial tendencies. I don't like settling the bill, and I don't like placing my order or assuring my server that I'm "still working on that" and that they need not "get that out of my way". Honestly, I find it to be the case fairly seldom that the increased price over a 'fast food' restaurant ensures that I receive a meal of a distinctly greater caliber. Mark Twain is reputed to have said of a restaurant that the food was terrible and the portions too small. The contradiction he relates would be humorous to me if I didn't find it to be the case nearly everywhere I seem to go. Of course, were I the cook and the kitchen my own, I could hardly hope to surpass even the low bar established, but must I relent in my criticism on that account?

Astoundingly difficult for even professional cooks is none other than the incredible edible egg. I do not trust myself to cook it in any other style than scrambled, and I am rapidly losing faith in the ability of restaurants to do any better. I'll certainly concede that when I order hard-boiled eggs at a Denny's, that's really my own fault. I think I do not deserve a substandard breakfast when I order my eggs poached at a restaurant of much greater reputation, and this has happened. Am I to be blamed for taking it poorly when eggs over easy go awry? There's just so much a man can take. Interestingly, I've never really been disappointed by omelettes or the like. Perhaps I must grant the restauranteur the allowance of disguising the eggs which vex him so with bacon, cheese, peppers and onions.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Write Right

I've lately been reading Miss Marple murder mysteries by Agatha Christie, whose work I love. The key to Jane Marple's knack for solving mysteries is her aptitude for grasping human behavior. She commonly sees the people involved in the crime du jour and draws parallels between them and people in her small village, where she says everyone is much the same as anywhere else, but can more easily be observed. Los Angeles is no small village, but I do my best anyway. I don't expect to be put in the position of unraveling a whodunnit either, but understanding people (or at least wanting to) is good for my chosen line of work as well: the arts. To me it's all about uncovering truths about the human experience and finding ways of conveying them to people via one medium or another.

I was witness to something on the train last night that made me think about writing. Specifically, I got to thinking about dialogue. I had just rushed from some blocks away down into the station and onto the train. Two men were there already, talking quietly. This is the kind of thing I like to have transpiring when I'm on the train: something peaceful and inoffensive. It was worlds away from unwanted buskers or raucous and course sexual discussions that sometimes rule the day. What they were talking about is what arrested my attention. One man was in some apparent anguish as a result of his beloved being far away. He spoke of the difficulty posed to him by not having her right there beside him, and of how communication from a distance was inadequate to the task of maintaining closeness. His friend was sympathetic, and gamely attempted to help the man. It was quite touching, especially coming as it did from a couple of men like that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finger-Clipping Good

I've been acting in a small film recently. Since my scenes were shot on multiple days scattered over some two or so weeks, an issue of some importance has been to maintain continuity. When scenes are shot in that way, and out of order to boot, deliberate effort must be made to make sure that things shot on Tuesday match up to the way they were Thursday. If one's left arm is in a cast on the earlier day, then of course the same arm must be in a cast subsequently. That's probably more elementary than requires explanation, but it felt like I ought to say so anyway. What's been on my mind is continuity of a kind that has some impact on the rest of my life.

What's been easy has been my facial hair. The mustache is as long and full as it can be, so there's no issue there at all. A little trickier is the beard area. Since I haven't had two shooting days consecutive, it's been simple for me to shave every day except the day of the shoot, granting me a bit of stubble which helps my characterization of an ex- Confederate soldier out on the trail. Nothing was ever said that I had to do this, but it seemed like what I ought to do. If there were not days off between my days on set, I would have to figure out how to not shave all the way as I always do. I suppose an electric razor could do that, but I have never used them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today's Mother

I feel compelled to offer an unrelated preamble today. The thing is that I've never been much for running posts on the actual day their subject matter might call for, and this is no exception. It occurred to me that if I'm going to write about mothers, maybe the thing to do is to wait until May, when the holiday occurs. I could even write it now and schedule it for then. I just figured that if I wait, I'll forget the idea I have, and if I write it now, I'll have to see it sitting there on the webpage for months. That sounds even worse to me. I'll just run it now, I reasoned, and no one's really got any standing to question that. It's really nice to be answerable to no one where this blog is concerned, although if I were it might be more successful. Such was F. Scott Fitzgerald's reliance on his editor, if I recall right.

Now then, I believe I was actually going to discuss mothers. This calls for some reminiscence. I was born in the early 80s, having my early childhood during that decade, with my later childhood and adolescence falling in the 90s. Throughout all of my childhood, a certain picture formed of what a mother was and looked like. She might or might not work, and while she might not look like June Cleaver, she didn't look like Joan Jett either. I'm speaking in generalities, you understand- not specifically referring to anyone in particular. When I think of all the women I knew to be someone's mother at the time, they were more or less conservative in appearance. Casual and formal wear did not veer too far from the offerings of Sears or L.L. Bean. Jewelry was restricted to rings, bracelets and earrings. There was no- and I mean no- body art of any kind.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Code Of The Bed

On a few occasions, I've talked about a book I read which endeavors to help reduce anxiety by directing the reader to focus on the process of any activity rather than looking ahead to the ultimate outcome. I have tried to take to heart much of the book's contents. One way in which I see an application is the times and places during which positively no good can come from worrying about an ongoing concern or one which is only to come in the future. If you face a quandary, how can you possibly hope to resolve it while in the shower? The answer is that, unless the problem is of a very specific kind, you can't do so. The thing to do is during that time to focus on the task at hand, or think about something more positive, such as the lyrics of a favorite song.

I have named this little personal rule after another time and place where you can only do yourself harm by thinking intently about some problem, and that is in your bed as you attempt to go to sleep. Just as far as getting proper rest is concerned, worrying is unwise. You're keeping the mind working at full speed, which is like trying to bring a vehicle to rest and cool it down while relentlessly gunning the engine. It's beyond fruitless and well into insanity. Secondly, it's no more possible to eliminate the source of worry then and there than it is in the shower. The people your problem may involve are either asleep or disinclined to take a call. Any other entities it entails will likewise be entirely unresponsive. If what you have on your hands is a battle, it's one of the Civil War, when sunset meant cessation of hostilities, food and rest. It's not of any subsequent wars when technology began to permit fighting after dark.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It Stalks These Halls

I've mentioned the place I'm presently living in before and the circumstances under which that came to be, but there's an angle I have only mentioned in passing. Taking up a mere paragraph of that post but looming much larger is what might be described as the fourth roommate in the place, a lean and mostly black cat. When I first came into the apartment, he had no name which anyone could tell me. A trial balloon was floated in the form of the moniker 'Oliver'. The name's literary associations were deliberately chosen. I think the cat was believed to be an even more temporary denizen than I, though that remains to be seen. Each of us has a problematic exit strategy. In the mean time, he is here to roam around day and night, and I am likewise at liberty to watch that happen.

It's a surprisingly diverting exercise, although it's not entirely a pleasant one. The cat has an off-putting reserve of energy and few if any constructive outlets for it. An early morning would not be complete without me feeling inadequate as a result of the respective degrees of pep displayed by it and myself. I cannot honestly say that I have observed him sleeping. It's my believe that any time during which it has been immobile was merely an opportunity seized to 'case' someone or something upon which it had self-serving designs. Sometimes I come upon the cat after entering the apartment during the day or exiting my bedroom in the morning and he is there to watch me. He hasn't bounded out at the sound of my approach or the hinges of the door. He's just there, evidently reaping the benefits of a maddening gift for patience. I don't have that, and I have the benefit of having attended formal educational institutions for twenty years.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Can Of Dreams

Life is often hard and unfair. The cruelties visited upon us have a cumulative effect, beating down on our a little at a time. Very quickly we are disabused of any illusions about goodness being the rule and not the exception. We get very cynical about people, even displaying an unwelcoming attitude towards those who remain positive. Rather than finding out how we can harness what makes them so happy, we assure ourselves that they just haven't been mugged by reality yet, and we find comfort in the knowledge that soon enough they will be as hard-hearted as we are. What could forestall that and soften our own hearts as well? We hear a lot of promises, and our refrain becomes, "I'll believe it when I see it". We never do see it come to pass. Perhaps the mistake is in looking for something big to restore our faith in humanity. I've found something else that has done it- something small in stature, but large in impact.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quote Quota

I get serious when it comes to writing. There are just certain minimal standards that I force myself to abide by. I try to make sure that I employ proper grammar and a decent variety of vocabulary. I can't bear to have the same noun or verb appear more than once in close proximity, and I just have to obey the rules of the English language as I understand them. Sometimes I may slip up. Beyond those basics, there are other things I feel are important. One is how I handle the integration of someone else's work. I don't do it much. A top priority has been keeping this blog as a pure repository of my own efforts, and so while I might make reference to something external, there are few occasions where I might quote someone's words verbatim. It sometimes happens, it seems to me. Mainly it happens in the title of my posts, although not this time, as wordplay won the day again.

When I do that, there's just one rule that comes into play. I have to really know the material from which the quote is drawn. I could probably override that and allow people to assume based on my reputation for being knowledgeable that I am familiar with the source of a quote when I'm not, but I don't do that. I do my best to stick to lines which come from something with which I'm intimately familiar. That way, if the impossible ever happens and someone engages me on the subject of something I've quoted, I don't wind up looking like a fool when I am entirely unaware of any contextual information surrounding something which I've intimated that I know well. That feels like a lie to me, so I try not to do it. I don't, therefore, consult Bartlett's Book of Familiar Quotations. I used to enjoy reading it, and now I better enjoy reading the things that are cited in it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'll Show You: Part Three

The last couple of days, I've been covering my last improv show. Where I left off, my own class had just finished a successful performance. I neglected to mention yesterday that we did not end the show. That was reserved for the level three class known as "The Barrel". That's what most of us in level two are gunning for, and so what they do we watch intently for that reason in addition to the primary reason that they are hilarious. As always, they did a fine job on this particular night. I especially enjoy watching people who have made it from classes I was attending. I see them too little sometimes as a result, but I am always glad for them.

That ended the show, but it's never the end of the night. We stayed there and stood around talking for a good long time. There was a lot of praise for our show, but I never would let that go unanswered by equally earnest and emphatic congratulations for the others who performed. I mean it when I speak kindly of my fellow performers, but it's also kind of deflecting the acclaim which makes me feel awkward and embarrassed sometimes. It's funny how a person can be affected by the very thing they strive for so vigorously. Perhaps it's a little something like a dog finally catching a car. That would be an awful calamity and not at all what the dog was thinking of when he galloped out the front door into the street.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'll Show You: Part Two

Yesterday I began the story of my latest improv show. Where I left off, a friend and I had just driven to the location in order to get there early after helping another friend move. The show was to be held at the same place as the beginning students showcase which preceded it by a month. It was a great space, and we were sorry to hear that this would be the last thing to take place there. It was in essence a cafe connected to a church. It felt like a very legitimate place to perform. As it was rather smaller than past locations but very much in line with big time improv shows, it was most conducive to what we were there to do. As always, our 'too cool for school' class from Sherman Oaks trickled in fashionably late, and I daresay that we were perhaps  intimidated by the passionate and energetic preparations already well underway on the part of the class from South Pasadena. They looked like the Cobra Kai dojo about to deliver a beatdown in the big karate tournament. After a fashion, we warmed up and got loose. I know that finally I'm beginning to really relax before a show. It felt pretty natural this time, nearly as though it were just another class. Keeping the same bearing is something I have had trouble with, so that was good.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'll Show You: Part One

I was reading an old post from this blog today. That post was about an early improv show in which I performed. It holds up better than much of what I wrote then. I don't often go back and look at such things, particularly from as far back as that. Sometimes I find myself reading a post after it turns up in a search I conduct to see whether or not I've written about something I have an idea for. I hate the idea of repeating myself, so I do my best to avoid it. In this case, I stumbled on something that was interesting to look at in light of more recent developments. I've just recently done my latest show, and while I haven't written about those so much since the early days of this blog, it seemed worth doing this time around.

There ought to be a record of this kind of thing, and regrettably a technical glitch prevented our segment of the showcase from being videotaped. I won't be able to objectively and thoroughly convey it as that would have, but I'll do my best. The day did not start as well as it might have. The day before, I had been on set acting in a film, and I believe I left the case for my cell phone in the car which drove me home. I don't care for complainers who harp on that sort of thing, but you have to know that to appreciate my frantic, obsessed journey out of the house the morning and afternoon the day of the show.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Death Sauce

I recently had an experience as horrifying and repellent as any I can think of. It was an encounter so odious and repulsive that I scarcely think it worth spreading any knowledge of the thing purely for the selfish goal of practicing my craft of writing. It may be nonetheless a necessary thing in order to educate the unawares that they might avoid it where I had not the forewarning to, and I pray that will be the case. I really don't know how I escaped free of harm from this thing any more than do the millions who allegedly enjoy the thing and even derive some kind of sick physical benefit. If it were up to me, the law would intervene, but since they do not deign to do so, I can only hope that my words are sufficient to sway some who would undoubtedly otherwise perish at first exposure to the deadly vile matter of which I speak.

It's horseradish. I understand that it's a widely popular condiment for such things as sandwiches. "How can that be," you reasonably ask? I regret that I can offer no plausible answer. In my every encounter, it has nearly brought me to my knees, making me wish for some foe to appear with an ultimatum to which I might instantly capitulate. I would do so gladly if only it would make the foul taste into no more than a horrible, possibly imagined memory. I curse myself for forgetting the trauma so well that I step once more into the gooey, acrid trap sometimes emblazoned with the label "Horsey Sauce". It's simply unconscionable that authorities would permit such a noxious substance to be marketed with such cutesy, child-friendly terminology. Would this be allowed with cigarettes and alcohol? I can't imagine so.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mug Shot

It's no secret that I drink coffee. I don't think I'm at risk of challenging for the world championship of coffee consumption, but I drink it fairly consistently. I have addressed this in the past, but something has escaped notice in the process: the mug. For some people, it may not matter much. To them, the paper cup is as good as anything else. Some heathens may even have some misguided devotion to the paper cup that comes from coffee shops. I wonder how that can be. The paper cup is ephemeral. You receive it with coffee in it already, and it exits your life once that coffee is gone. You share one moment with it, and no more. It knows you only as you are at that moment, in that emotional and mental state. If you are unwell, it will never see you get better. Who could be attached to it, since it's just one cup in a long, endless string of identical ones?

It's not so with a good, real mug. People usually have several, and I do as well, but there's really only one among them for me. I bought it at a thrift store in North Hollywood. It's not easy to say what drew me to it. There are so many there, and a lot of them bring me to the brink of making a purchase, but don't compel me to pull the trigger. This one did. Its design is an interesting variation on the American flag. The chief difference is that it bears the colors red, blue and gray. It doesn't to me look like a professionally designed and manufactured mug. It could well be the product of a gifted shop class student's labors. Washing it is a slight challenge, as its interior has difficult areas to reach. Clearly all of this feeds into a theme. The mug is unique and discarded. In some ways, I identify with it. It's the coffee receptacle for me, and I am the coffee drinker for it. I always use it except when it is utterly unavailable. I wash it no matter how I feel instead of using another, already clean mug.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crazy Early

As I write this, I am engaged in doing some acting in a small film. That is to say that I have completed my first day on the shoot, and am facing the second day to come. As is usually the case, actors and crew are called to the set at a very early hour so as to make the most of the day. Being in this case an actor and not crew, I am needed slightly later- half an hour later, in this case. Thus it makes little difference for anyone and none at all for me, as I must hitch a ride with a member of the crew anyway. It's really for the best that I must get up so early. I've commented on early mornings once or twice, primarily from a romantic perspective, but that's obviously not all there is to it. When I remove the influence from that side of myself, the early morning looks different.

The day always begins with a start, so to speak. The moment I hear my alarm and gain consciousness, I bolt upright and check the time frantically. Once the immediate feeling of stark terror passes with the knowledge that I've woken up at the appropriate time, it gives way to a feeling that might be called grim resignation for lack of better descriptors. The pleasure that comes from arising with the sun is not applicable for the earlier hour and for the fact that there is no time to tarry. The shower is a quick and practical one. The breakfast is likewise, although there is the hope of a better and more leisurely breakfast to come when I arrive on set. One can't place undue confidence in that, however. Many is the day that no real breakfast is to be had, and by that time it is all too late to go back out for anything. With a small breakfast in my stomach, I head out into the chill air with my way lit by street lamps.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Do-Everything Machine

I guess that I've never been entirely comfortable with ovens. Perhaps it goes back to the experience of pretending to bake concoctions made of legos, only to have them baked for real by an unwitting mother. Freud would like that diagnosis, I imagine. Really, I suppose my reasons aren't different from those of other people. A mild cooking effort becomes involved when the oven gets introduced into things, and I can hardly bear long, intricate cooking. For me, there are meals at the easy end which involve no cooking whatsoever and meals at the difficult end which may involve the microwave or the stove top range. Beyond that starts to feel like I should leave things to a qualified professional. You can then imagine how pleasantly surprised I have been in this most temporary of residences to find myself with an appliance entirely aimed at my speed of cooking: the toaster-oven.

I think that while I've long been aware of it, I was troubled by its imprecise mission statement. It confuses the line between the toaster I've always felt fine with and the oven which struck at my psyche in boyhood. It offers all the functionality of the former and some of the latter. It's the essential component of a break room kitchenette, but so easily overlooked in a home with a real kitchen. The thing is really that it's largely insufficient for the task of oven, and overqualified for the job of toaster. It's so spacious that the toast could knock around in there wreaking all kinds of havoc. I try to put myself in the toast's position and find myself thinking it would be like living in a great big, drafty house rather than a nice cozy one. Worst, there's no dramatic release for the toast in the toaster oven. There's no loud, frightening POP to jar you from your torpor as you get ready to face the day. Can that be overcome? How could one have oven, toaster and toaster oven in one kitchen? Must it be the first two only, or can the third join in and even replace the others?

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Just Want The Sticker

Election Day came around a few days ago, and perhaps it remains a subject of some interest today. I was thinking about my personal history of voting, which goes back to 2002. As of the historic and controversial election of November 2000, I was some three months too young to vote. In truth, I had yet at that point to develop any severe interested in politics or self-determination. The dramatic events which unfolded in that season were exciting, but had no more bearing on the future in my mind than did a hit TV show. I soon learned to be sorry I had been unable to have my say, and anticipated most eagerly my first opportunity to do so, which was to come two years later. At long last the day came, and I marched off to the polling place with the Arizona Republic's list of endorsements in hand. I followed them more closely than I now wish I had.

In the years since, I have managed to vote in every single election I was aware of except one. It may make me sound spacey to say that I haven't been aware of every single election, but you'd be surprised how many little ones of a single issue slip under the radar with no promotion or analysis whatsoever. Today I use a mail ballot exclusively, as I never am sure whether I will find myself engaged in some activity that doesn't permit me to reach my polling place during its operating hours, but find that I often must go to the polling place anyway after having procrastinated on mailing in my ballot. I missed one major election owing to being away from home and having neglected to take care of my mail ballot. It remains a sore subject with me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Any Port In A Storm

Some two months ago, my roommate and I parted ways, he moving into an apartment closer to work by himself, and me then moving in with another friend elsewhere. I gather my former roommate has been quite content with his lot, and I can't complain too badly myself, but stability has not been my bag of late. The place I moved into then was temporary, and I am now easing out of there not into the permanent place as I hoped but into an even more temporary situation. That permanent place is for sure and I will have something to say about that, but today I contemplate the here and now. I've been going from one pop culture reference to another in an effort to adequately describe the nature of my recent living situation. I thought of Bruce Banner in 'The Incredible Hulk', Caine in 'Kung Fu', and Richard Kimble in 'The Fugitive'. All men on the move, constantly helping others in each new place, but never able to end their travails and settle down to find some peace.

I suppose it's not really so dramatic. Since I've come to LA, I was in a hostel for a month before living in my first real place for a year. I left there to live in the next place for two years, and now have moved for the second time in the last two months. I hadn't enough time to fully figure out the place I was just in, so there's little hope I'll be able to do that here in some ten days, but it's interesting anyway to make even a cursory examination of this place and neighborhood I'm in now. I haven't since college in Chicago lived in or near a city center, and while one could argue that downtown Burbank isn't exactly Downtown in the context of the greater metropolitan Los Angeles, it's a downtown. Just blocks south, there's a tremendous amount going on. Downtown Glendale could be a modestly-sized city center anywhere in the country, but Burbank's is slightly more reflective of the region. There are plenty of nice retail operations and restaurants. It seems to me the grocery stores are a bit distant for my liking, but one is an upscale one, so that's a reasonable trade-off. The library is pretty close, so that balances things out fairly nicely.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Curtains! (Part Four)

Ah, you thought that it was all over yesterday when I was done talking about myself! No, I in fact also sometimes serve the interests of others, and when doing so serves me by providing interesting material for my blog, it's all the easier. So it is that today the story goes on to encompass the closing-night performance our the instructor who helped each of us along with our performances over eight weeks. I had known her as a performer before, and yet there was a feel to the experience mildly like seeing one's teacher at the grocery store or something like that. I had agreed to help out on the support side as she had for ours, and so was there a bit early (though not nearly as early as I had been for my show days).

It so happens that the day to that point had been fully consumed by activity, the Gators-Bulldogs football game most of all. After stopping by the library and handling some domestic matters, I was rushed over to the theater. My first duty was to usher people around should they get lost on the large and sometimes confusing college campus which was playing host to us. I had the jacket from my own Twain costume on along with a garish t-shirt and ripped jeans, and was carrying a very large flashlight. All that with my hair probably had me looking a lot more like a prowler than someone there to help the disoriented theater-goer. I just made circuits around the building in hopes of spotting someone to give me purpose out there. It felt a lot like I was a night watchman.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Curtains! (Part Three)

The last couple of days, I've been 'putting to bed' my one man show, on which I've been working the last couple of months. Where I left off yesterday, I was just on the verge of the first performance. With a variety of stresses on my mind, I had to focus my energy on the last things I had to get done for the show. There was that headshot to think of. I had procrastinated, and it became too late to come up with something terribly good. Eventually the best I could do was to find the highest-resolution picture prominently featuring my face that I had on hand. Then I made a desperate last-minute run to the mall, hoping against hope that I could find ink cartridges to fit MY printer, which you'll be aware is not easy (I suspect I'll be writing about that at length in future). Luck was with me, and I was able to find them and print out that picture, in addition to certain visual aids that 'Twain' would require for his lecture. The show then beckoned...

The day of the first performance, I had little to do before hand, which was fine by me. At the appointed time, I headed out to catch the bus. An interesting monkey wrench here was thrown into the works. I had always wondered why there were both the 180 and the 181 buses, both seemingly running the same route. Well, on this occasion I found out just where they diverge, and without any warning. The upshot of this was that with half an hour before my call time, I found myself some two miles away from the show location with no means to traverse the distance except my feet. I had to get there on time, as we had yet to fully hammer out the technical cues pertaining to the music I had selected (banjo covers of The Beatles' "Get Back" and Lynard Skynard's "Freebird, along with a conventional version of "Bonnie Blue Flag"). You can imagine that I really hustled in order to not be late. I hope I'm not sharing too much in saying that my shirt was soaked through with sweat by my exertions. It paid off.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Curtains! (Part Two)

Yesterday, without any respite provided by some one-off posts, I got right back into another prolonged discourse- this one centering on the realization of my one man show efforts. Where I left off, I had just finished writing my show. When the writing was done, it was time to begin performing before the class. I was not exactly 'show-ready' from the first, with blocking and all manner of other things in an extremely raw state. What I did make my best effort to do was get my lines down as soon as I possibly could. I happen to have the time to do so. While I am not yet fully at ease with a script as opposed to material I improvise fully on the spot, I did a reasonable job. I never did exactly do any of my monologues in precisely the same words twice, so taking on Shakespeare is not in my immediate future, but evidently I was somewhat impressive in my ability to get away from scripts and notes as early as I did. It seemed important to do that in order to facilitate the rest of what I had to do.

The physical aspect was more difficult for me. Imagining and carrying out the 'business' and blocking that suited my character of Twain- rather than falling into my own habits as a person- was a challenge. I think I managed with reasonable success. This part was more improvised than the words, as I hoped embodying my character as fully as possible would allow me to instinctively move as him and not myself. What helped ease expectations in some of these areas was my conceit of Twain giving a lecture. Having that established, I didn't exactly have to deliver a Busby Berkeley show. I just had to do what a lecturer does, albeit in my case with greater energy and animation most of the time.