Saturday, July 31, 2010

I Am The Bull Of Simile

Have I ever said I was physically awkward? I am. I can cite any number of stories which, taken on their own, do no more than make me look human. Together, they paint a picture of someone with a habit of wreaking accidental havoc on a scale entirely disproportionate to his modest (at best) stature. Were I still a teenager, I would be clinging to the hope that as a more mature man I would move with grace. Years later, I know fully well that I will improve only when the time comes that I stop walking around at all. Perhaps my bodily ineptitude is endearing, though; I'll permit you to make that judgement, reader.

Often the trouble has to do with my backpack. I take it with me almost wherever I go, and pack it full of all the things I might need and then some. That's just because I never really know whether I'll make it back home before morning. Not having a car, what else am I to do? The thing is huge and unwieldy, and its weight means that the damage it does is all the more devastating when I unwittingly hit someone while backing up or spinning around like the whirling dervish that I am. Happily, this is something that will improve on its own when the day comes that all the things my backpack contains can be stored in my car's trunk.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Speaking Of My Voice

I've been listening to myself talk lately. That is to say that I've been paying attention to the apparent quality of my voice as I speak to people, and sometimes as I speak aloud while alone just to hear how something sounds. I know I must sound somewhat different on the outside of my head than I do on the inside, but regrettably people are not volunteering description of it in the numbers that I would like. One exception came some time ago, when I spoke in passing about my voice. I thought now might be the time to consider it in some kind of depth.

I would certainly be derelict in my responsibilities if I did not first address volume. This is the one area on which I do receive feedback from people. It is not praise. At best, it's constructive criticism, and at worst frustrated venting. The way I always put it is that as a performer or public speaker, I have never personally been given the note of needing to speak louder or project better. In that realm of performance, my voice is entirely ideal, and is perhaps meritorious of praise. I must sadly observe, however, that I speak with much the same voice in situations calling for more discretion. I recall a Saturday Night Live character played by Will Ferrel who volunteers that he is afflicted with a condition described as "voice immodulation". I laughed, but wonder now about that.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Turn!

I described one personal fault yesterday, and turn to another today. If I wanted to, I could stay in this vein to the exclusion of all else, but I try to spare you of my failings when I can. Anyway, recently I went to do some laundry only to find all three washing machines (which are meant to serve a complex of over thirty units, and often do) occupied by the task of cleaning someone else's clothes. It was the same story last time. Obviously I am unsympathetic to the needs of these anonymous rivals. The whole thing has me thinking about waiting one's turn or just being in line. They say that in England there's a proud tradition of "queueing up". I suppose that's not the American way, and it may not even be the English way anymore.

Waiting my turn and then taking it can be hard for me. Merging into traffic while driving was a frequent nightmare. You have to wait and wait and wait, then seize your chance before someone else does. It's a similar story when I am in a prayer circle, and the dreaded words "popcorn around" are uttered. Several people are about to offer prayers in succession, with no logical order to it. It's exactly the same as merging into traffic, and as nerve-wracking. Prayer's meant to be soothing, right? I like it a thousand times better when waiting takes the form of linear progression. I can grasp that. Waiting in conventional lines such as the grocery store checkout is easier to deal with, if no more sure of passing quickly and uneventfully. There's something about being forced to stay with the situation but also have diversions to keep you stimulated that makes it not so bad. Maybe the tradition of having waited in lines of that kind with my mother since I was a child makes it a kind of tedious walk down memory lane.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Focus! Focus!"

I have made it clear, I would imagine, that one of my many faults is an inability to stay focused on a single thing. That was at the heart of my long absence from swimming. It touches on other areas of trouble as well. Before writing this, I was watching a DVD. The idea to write this post came while I was trying to follow the plot of the movie, and that effort was partly in vain as the post proceeded to largely write itself in my mind, which wandered from the leisurely activity at hand. Over and over, I cursed the invisible hand wresting control of my mind's tiller away from me, but to no avail. It was through only a Herculean effort that I was able to keep touch with mental terra firma and enjoy the movie.

I get the understanding more and more that I'm seen as something of a walking Wikipedia with a gift for vocabulary. It all comes from media such as the movie I just watched, or the book of poetry I'm currently reading. The people with whom I have this reputation would probably think that I effortlessly churn through such things as I do the oxygen in the air. I certainly go through them fast enough that they could be excused for being mistaken on that score. In truth, it's significantly harder for me than it is for some. It's that bugaboo of focus. As I sit down to watch a movie, I'm moored to the moment like a hot air balloon, but the ties are tenuous. In one moment, I'm right there with the movie. In the next moment, I'm aware of the movie, but also of an extraneous thought which may or may not have been sparked by the film. The moment after that, the ties have been severed, and I've already been taken miles away by air currents.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Something Terrifying

When you see inevitable disaster in the making, you're transfixed. You can't move. You can't speak. You can't do anything to change or stop it. It seems to take a thousand years to transpire, but must surely be happening within the time needed to gasp in alarm. You see utter calamity coming right at you and about to draw you in, and it is absolutely immutable. There's nothing to do but witness it and learn after the fact how to live with the outcome that was always going to happen. I had what felt like this kind of experience very recently, and felt what must have been the presence of God's grace save me from it.

I was on the bus from my place down to the subway station. A stop or so after I got on, a couple got on. At first, I was somewhat amused by their conversation about how they had saved themselves from walking miles in the heat by getting on the bus. My attitude changed when I saw what they were carrying. Each of them had an average sized, uncovered plastic cup full to the brim with some manner of fruit-flavored soda. The cups had no lids, and the couple was casually, slowly drinking them through straws on a city bus hurtling down Lankershim Boulevard.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Rarest Breed

Years ago, my father told me that if one is lucky, they wind up having had just a couple really good teachers during their life. "Really good" should be understood to mean that they teach you about far more than the subject they're employed to teach, and are good enough to make a whole lot more money in other endeavors. Perhaps two or three are not unreasonable to hope for, and one might get lucky with even one or two more among the dozens of teachers each person has. Reader, I think that you will be inclined to agree with that based on your own personal experiences. Isn't it interesting how at odds that is economically with the value of a teacher's services as established by tangible financial compensation? It's well known that the good ones don't do it for the money.

I'd say that I had something like three or four really special teachers. In grade school, the administrators set up a kind of shadow school for the best students. It was what would just be called a gifted program. For part of the day, the rest of the kids would be doing regular things, and we would be singing in circles, learning metric and making hot air balloons the size of moving vans out of tissue paper and glue. Those teachers we had in that program were very much of an elite caliber. They fostered in me- and I presume in us- a feeling of actually being special, and not the mediocre kind of special that gets doled out like tic tacs.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Longest Day: Part Four

For the past three days, I have been recounting a busy, happy day of a past weekend. It began with an unreliable handyman, continued with a self-help workshop, and developed further with a birthday dinner. Where I left off, we were looking to push the good times a little further with a nocturnal visit to the beach. Today, reader, you are to be commended for sticking around all the way to the thrilling conclusion.

I had been advised that a swim might actually take place, and so I had come prepared with my trunks and a towel. I need not have. We drove a short distance, parking a just a little way from the beach itself. Some people who had not been part of the prior festivities met us there, and informed us of police who were "busting heads" after finding some underage drinkers on the beach, which was officially closed. We did the sensible thing after hearing that: going back to the perpendicular street behind us and walking a block or so further to circumvent the authorities.

We had on hand all the things that make a night on the beach magical. There were good friends, acoustic guitars, cigarettes and unidentified beverages ensconced in brown paper bags. I partook directly only of the first two, but indirectly enjoyed the second two in the form of more cheery companions. We walked out onto the sand and took over a lifeguard tower which announced that no life guard was on duty. During years past of greater prosperity I assume that it was manned, and not simply a cruel, expensive trick played on swimmers in trouble.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Longest Day: Part Three

Two days ago, I began the story of a recent, exceptional Saturday. It began with a visit by the handyman, and continued with an adventure in self-improvement at a workshop with friends. Where I left off, one of those friends and I left just a bit before the others in anticipation of a birthday party to come. As I indicated yesterday, it was necessary to pick up some supplies. A grocery store near the workshop was to suffice, or so we thought. I rounded up the paper plates and plastic ware we thought would be necessary for the cake, but the cake itself proved somewhat elusive. Blame probably rests with a poorly-motivated, unhelpful bakery department staff, although I'll be good enough to note the excellent cake that actually resulted. The inconvenience was so minor from my point of view as to be barely measurable. This was even more true in retrospect.

After the grocery store, we had to pick up another friend. We were actually several minutes early, showing what I suppose were the fruits of hurrying. After that, it was off to meet up with the birthday girl, the birthday boy, and the rest of the retinue. This took as much time as anything. We sat around and chatted, having a perfectly good time while waiting for the more intransigent party guests (including the birthday boy) to arrive. Once the group was assembled, we divided ourselves into the most convenient number of cars possible. It was decided to take one more car than necessary for the sake of comfort. My suggestion of taking more cars than we had people was rejected outright.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Longest Day: Part Two

Yesterday I began the story of a recent, frantically busy Saturday which seemed to warrant the kind of immortality that can only be bestowed here on my blog. It began with a profile in frustration precipitated by a morning visit by the handyman. Where I left off, we had received word that he was finished and were speeding towards our very pressing engagement. That engagement, if I was less than clear, was a special workshop designed to identify one's natural strengths and inclinations.

It was a quick trip down to Hollywood, and free of traffic, but it seemed just possible that parking might be a minor issue. We did have to meander through some side streets to find a spot, but it was not an especially onerous task. In any case, we needn't have worried. The small theater hosting the event was occupied prior by a class which ran long, and so the attendees of our workshop collected on the sidewalk out front for some minutes after the scheduled time. I guess I'm glad for that since we might in this situation have otherwise missed something, but it bothers me to no end how meaningless planned times are here. I think I may have written about that. That annoyance passed as do they all, and we got going.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Longest Day: Part One

There recently was a fairly eventful day in my life by my own standards, and so I feel compelled once again to drag you through several days of recounting the tale. There's fun, excitement, personal growth and frustration, so I would hope it would hold some interest even for the un-entangled reader. Now, I rather knew it would be a full day, but just what a confluence of events and factors it was to entail I really don't imagine I could have guessed. Naturally, this account will transpire over several days.

 The story of the day really begins the night before. The garbage disposal in my apartment and one of the toilets in same had been busted for some time, and finally my roommate was fed up and called the landlady. It's not that I didn't care- I just didn't care enough to call. The point is that I wound up scheduling the handyman's visit. Readers will know how I feel about such men. He wanted to come the following day, and I advised that it wouldn't be a good day. Any day would be good if we were to just let him come and work without our presence. I have no problem with that, but other points of view had to be taken into consideration. At any rate, it came out that if he couldn't come that next day, he couldn't come at all for another week.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Do I Say Goodbye (Mechanically Speaking)?

As I've said before, having a lot of friends is a rather new development in my life. That being the case, these days I encounter people I know in person more than I ever have by many orders of magnitude. I ought to stress that while I've had a good formal education, I did not train in the art of social graces. I know precious little about things like the arrangement of silver at a formal dinner setting or receiving lines. It seemed for a long time that learning such things would be a colossal waste of time. How much do I regret that now? I still doubt there will ever be much use for the kind of knowledge prized at box socials and cotillion balls, but there's one area where I'm desperately struggling to catch up: the personal greeting.

If there were just one kind of person I ever had to greet or say goodbye to, I'd be fine. I could focus on handshakes, and really get the hang of it. Unfortunately, a bewildering panoply of different potential physical actions accompany Hello's and Goodbye's. Let's start with the handshake. One must be able to modulate it. I still struggle with that. I know how to deliver a firm grip to convey my strength as a man. That handshake works well with other men and generally in professional circles. It works less well with lady friends, the young and the infirm.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Man From A Hot Town

I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. It's a place whose probable primary cultural tradition is coping with the heat. I don't say that as a knock on the city. I just can't think of a part of life there that doesn't at least make reference to the heat, beating the heat, or the pleasant weather of winter. Like anyone, I have been charged for life with the duty of representing the place I came from. I didn't ask for that responsibility, and these days, I don't much want it. Easier than defending the politics of my hometown is considering how I act as an ambassador in other areas. The one that has been on my mind lately is the heat to which I have just referred.

It's expected, I believe, that I'm supposed to be inoculated against the heat as a result of have been forged in summers whose daily highs exceeded 100 degrees as a rule, and loudly brag about my invulnerability. In truth, while we learned there how to make the best of it (the most affluent of us by just getting out), it never stops affecting you. You adopt a stoic attitude and claim it does. To the extent that I did have any kind of accumulating protection, I think that now it's no more. What I've found to be the case is that I, and perhaps others, adjust rather quickly to the place I spend most of my time. I recalibrate, and accept the prevailing weather as the norm. When I was living in Chicago, I was amazed at how warm twenty degrees began to feel once I had gotten used to the idea. So it is here

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sweet Relief

A few days ago we had the hottest day Los Angeles has seen so far this summer. By the late afternoon, it was 98 degrees. Happily, this town cools off a bit better at night than my hometown of Phoenix does, but it was a very hot day. Luckily, I was more prepared to cope with it than I have previously been. I haven't really gone swimming in a very long time- longer than anyone would likely believe. The reasons will undoubtedly baffle you. One problem that hindered things was my difficulty in focusing on a single activity. You can't do many things at the same time as swimming. You can't be on the computer, or read terribly easily. I certainly wouldn't take a book out on an inflatable raft, even if it weren't a library book. You can listen to music, but I'm not inclined to bring a stereo down to the pool and start imposing it on my neighbors. Maybe I could do that, but that's not me. You can see why inability to focus on swimming might be a problem.

Another issue is that of the Sun's deadly rays. I burn very, very easily and so cannot spend a great deal of time exposed to direct sunlight without sunblock. Sunblock is a real problem for me. I feel I must get the strongest SPF rating I can, and prefer it to be impervious to water. Unfortunately, I have trouble applying it properly. There are always areas I don't hit, and they burn badly. Even the areas I cover well can burn, as one must reapply, and I don't stay on top of that very well. What can I do? I have to live, and so I must brave the danger anyway.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Strategy For Winning Karaoke

A couple of times, I've written accounts of going out for karaoke, alluding to songs picked and subsequent success enjoyed. After doing it a few times, I'm beginning to think I have become experienced enough to make smart decisions that will lead to sure success. That's not to say that I make those decisions, but I will say that I can impart some of the Ben Franklin-style wisdom I've referred to in the past. There's really nothing especially surprising that goes into winning over the karaoke crowd, but that's not to say you don't have to work at it even when the audience is your friends.

The process begins well before you go. There is just no substitute for listening to music at every opportunity. I find I listen to certain songs more than the rest. These are the ones I- and you- ought to pick from. They're the ones you know by heart. You may not know the words verbatim, but you aren't surprised by any of them, and you know the song length, the placement of instrumentals, and the general manner in which to sing the song. Too many times have I settled on a song I liked and thought I knew, only to find I didn't know it so well at all. Don't pick songs you can't pull off. I regret it every time I do. It hurts to realize you have no capacity to sing your favorite song- the one which distills into a few minutes your entire understanding of life, love and everything- but don't ignore that realization.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

You Go Yogurt

I may have mentioned in the past how after improv events we often go out. Once upon a time, when I was in the beginning level class, we went to lots of different places, and it really wasn't entirely sure that we were going out at all. At that time, the burden of making it happen was taken willingly by a particular friend of mine. It really comes down to who cares the most and shouts the loudest, in a manner of speaking. That is as true now that I am in the second level as it was then. For a time, there was no tradition of going out in the level two class nearest to me. Once the makeup of the class changed, the tradition more or less migrated.

There was one change, however. It's different people who have the most influence over where we go. Unless all of several people are absent, it's a frozen yogurt place not terribly far away. Of course, there's a different frozen yogurt place  few hundred yard away from where the class is held, but the power brokers in the class don't care for that place. It must surely be a coincidence that the place we do go is right near where most of the power brokers live. It's a perfectly good place, I must say, but not without its idiosyncrasies.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Dream Of A World Without Dreams

I had the most uncommon experience recently of dreaming a dream which I still remembered hours after I woke up the next day. This is not the first time I've written about dreams, but is without question the first of any depth. I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, but if I'm really able to get to the bottom of this thing, humanity might finally learn the answer to why we dream at all.

Isn't it fascinating that we've learned so much about the deep reaches of space, no small amount about the depths of the sea, and so very little about the contents of our own minds? We understand hypothetical extraterrestrials better than each other's points of view most of the time. The human body we understand well enough to take apart, repair with a very reasonable likelihood of success, and put together again. The brain we can sometimes repair, but the mind is no more within our grasp where such things as dreams are concerned than it was three thousand years ago.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Checks And Balances

People seem to write few checks these days. It would seem to be so consistently the case that the Post Office is suffering a drop in general mail volume for lack of printed bills being sent out and printed checks being sent back. This is not about the beleaguered USPS, however. This is about checks. I know I write them seldom, with the rent check being a solitarily regular exception. I guess I nonetheless write more than ever before, since I actually have bills to pay now. I do have some thoughts on them.

I used to just have this stack of them unaccompanied by a register. When I finally ran out (after years), the time came to order new checks. I did not especially enjoy it. They have a lot of fanciful designs meant to afford customers the chance to express themselves when they pay people. I find other avenues for self-expression. Checks are not the place for that. I recall vividly the 'Seinfeld' episode wherein a character is humiliated by a a business displaying his bounced check, which features a design of clowns. Why risk that? I prefer a very plain check. It, like vanity plates on a car, has the additional practical benefit of being cheaper.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Ultimate Test

I often write about things that surely hold no intrigue for anyone but me. Perhaps the reader is able to get interested through my eyes if I compose the thing skillfully enough, but they're subjects that wouldn't occur to the conventional, well-balanced person. I'm certainly neither of those things, and so it is that I have a significant fascination with that inevitable activity which caps off an otherwise lovely dinner at any sit-down restaurant catering to decent people. I've written about how interesting it is that such establishments trust you to pay after benefiting from their service, but I don't believe that I've written about the nuts and bolts of splitting the bill.

Let's set aside a small group of two or three and jump straight into the large restaurant group. Often such a group triggers an automatic gratuity, leaving unsatisfied diners no legitimate recourse. In such situations, there is no need to form a consensus on a tip. When there is, the groups I'm a part of usually settle on fair or generous regardless of service. I assume this is because most of us ourselves currently work in or previously have worked in food service. Figuring out a percentage can be tough for some, and out the calculator-equipped phones come. I usually move the decimal point over to get ten percent, and then multiply it by the appropriate figure. Some make an effort to make a nice, round number of the tip. I don't get hung up on aesthetics.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Economy Of Toiletry Time

Getting ready in the morning (or whatever time thereafter) is not exactly a challenge for me, but could be said to be a kind of work in progress. It's something like my grocery shopping was for a while. With that, I eventually nailed down exactly what I should buy for every meal of the day that would properly balance cost, nutrition and my willingness to eat it. The first and third of those requirements won out at the expense of the second, but I eventually came up with a grouping of foods that I could buy and eat week after week without deviation in order to stay alive. There's a kind of pleasure in the trial and error that brings incremental improvements week after week. That's where I am when it comes to the whole morning procedure.

The first thing I do after waking up depends a bit on my activities of the night prior. Often, getting up at all is touch and go for a couple of minutes. Some mornings, the first thing I do is reach for a glass of water to extinguish the raging fire consuming my throat. Most mornings, I reach for my phone to see what communications have piled up during my slumber. Important to get on top of current information. In this way, I find out whether I'm up too early or too late, and whether there are any pressing matters to address of which I was not previously aware. When that's done, I exit the bed. From there, the first objective is to get the coffee going and make sure my favorite mug is clean. With that done, I dash into the shower secure in the knowledge that the coffee will be brewed and my mug dried on the rack as soon as I am ready for it.

Monday, July 12, 2010


There are certain things of a very simple and basic nature which have effect on us of such disproportionate degree that it's really hard to believe that only I think much about them. Others I know at least a few have considered them, if not the general populace. I'm reminded of a classic comic drawn by Bill Mauldin, who was known for the battle-weary soldier characters he created during World War Two.  To paraphrase and capture the gist of it: One tells the other, "You saved my life yesterday, so I'm giving you my last clean, dry pair of socks".

Socks are of immeasurable value, and I got to thinking about them a bit when I acquired a new package of them for the first time in quite a long time. I'm loathe to buy new socks. There's no excitement in that. On the plus side, fitting them is no issue whatsoever, and you know how I feel about that if you've read anything here before. There's no excitement, though. That's a problem. The pairs of socks in my wardrobe go down one by one, done in by holes and an inability to quickly match them with their mate.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again (Or Can You?): Part Three

For the last two days, it's been my trip back home over the Independence Day weekend. Where I had left off yesterday, the trip was about over, and it was the morning of the day I was to leave. My father had to leave rather early, and so he woke me to say goodbye at an indecent hour. After that, I went back to bed, only to get up at a reasonable time hours later. A World Cup match was on, and I watched that as long as I could along with some breakfast. I had meant to toast a bagel, but the toaster was inexplicably missing. I set my 'everything' bagel aside, and waited to inquire about the appliance's whereabouts when I could. A couple of the men who had worked on the back yard (one of whom had been at the party the day before) came around for a visit, which was pleasant.

I got a bit fuzzy about exactly when I needed to be at the bus station, which is what happens when you forget and start guessing instead of making the minor effort to check the ticket. Thus I started saying the bus was scheduled for "2-something" instead of 2:50. A ride had been arranged on the above erroneous time, and so it was that I would be very startled. Having finally tracked down the toaster, I had employed it to heat my bagel, which I then heavily buttered. This delectable treat was still too hot when my ride came to the door. It's fortunate that she was inclined to come in and linger a bit to talk. For that reason, I had time to scramble around eating my bagel and assembling my possessions in a whirlwind. So it is with me leaving the house about all the time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again (Or Can You?): Part Two

Yesterday I began the tale of my weekend trip to visit my family back in Arizona. Where I left off, I had just arrived in town and been picked up. From there, it was a drive from downtown out to the old homestead by Scottsdale. It's said to be in Scottsdale, but I believe it's technically inside Phoenix. The neighborhood straddles the line. I don't mean to quibble or appear to desire to be in one city or the other- I just like to be exact. Anyway, it's basically Scottsdale and is definitely a suburban-type neighborhood.

The first thing that tends to happen when I go back is a tour of recent renovations that further eradicate the house of my memories. I'm not against that. The house was a work in project from the first day, and I do have the memories. It's just a bit unsettling. My room disappeared a long time ago, becoming Mom's study and studio. Were I to come home in an inebriated state, I might well wonder why my key opened the door of a stranger's house. Latest on the hit list is the back yard, which has been entirely worked over to include a variety of new amenities and features.

Friday, July 9, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again (Or Can You?): Part One

Each holiday is of such a magnitude that it immediately suggests whether or not one ought to go home to be with family. Perhaps the only one really like that is Christmas. Other holidays are seized upon as excuses which form the cornerstone of a cobbled-together collection of reasons to go home, because by and large we do seem to want to go. I had not made it home in some time, missing opportunities to go for Easter and for Father's Day. The latter is much better known for provoking a spike in collect calls than for driving any rise in travel. Perhaps slightly more likely to make people head out on the road is Independence Day, although they're evidently more likely to go buy a mattress.

I didn't buy a mattress over the weekend. I went home, and as is my wont, I went Greyhound. It's cheap, and entertaining (although I gather that most don't seek entertainment in such areas). Heading out to Arizona, I took a night bus. I have taken to doing this as a rule, but am rethinking it. I always say I'll sleep on the bus, but I tend to sleep very little. I read a great deal, employing the overhead light after checking with my seatmate. I worried nonetheless that it bothered her, but decided that it couldn't be that much a problem considering how she was going through coffee.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Into The Parking Lot Of Death Walked The Hungry

The post I wrote about a fantasy-inspiring neighborhood street led me to thinking about another thing of asphalt which provokes strong thoughts and feelings. This one is not as positive, but it's very close geographically to the other. When I'm at home, want something to eat and there's nothing good in the kitchen, there are a few realistic options. I like the deli sandwiches they have at the grocery store, which is half a mile away. That closes at midnight. The food at the fast food restaurant out on the corner is passable at best, and that closes even a bit earlier. Often my preference, day or night, is the third possibility: the convenience store, which has tasty and cheap hot dogs.

There are some hurdles involved. The staff is often uncommunicative, unhelpful and surly. I generally don't go unless I have cash since an incident with their card machine. Cash has its own pitfalls, as evidenced by an incident with a twenty dollar bill that I thought was a one. The most consistent obstacle is the parking lot  there. The convenience store is just a few hundred yards away, most of it through an expansive parking lot that serves the aforementioned store, a restaurant that is now out of business, and residents of an adjacent apartment building (that last perhaps not legally). I sure wouldn't leave a car there, but others do. It serves others, does that lot.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Country Road

I was walking down a side street here in North Hollywood, and marveling at the state of it around the hour of two in the morning. It so happens that while it intersects with numerous major arteries, there's a long stretch of it that is uninterrupted by any intersections or lights. As I plodded along to my home down the road a bit, I was reminded very much of some rural road down which one might find Tom Sawyer, Ichabod Crane or Scout and Jem walking. I had to use my imagination a bit given the high concentration of buildings, but the feel of the street in the middle of the night made it very easy to do.

I thought how badly the illusion would be degraded if I were to walk the same street during the day, with all the people who use it in a condition of wakefulness. It would be so hot, noisy and urban, instead of what it was so late at night. It was so still.  There was not a thing moving, and the distant sound of traffic on the freeway might have been a rushing river. Apart from that, there was no noise save for birds chirping. There was little light as well. The stars might well have provided some of the illumination I walked by. It truly felt as if I might have been not just in another, lightly populated place, but another time as I suggested above.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Apartment Complex Ninja

I would rather prefer it if I could live alone in a house with a decent amount of vacant land around it. That way, there would be no distractions or social hazards around. I could come and go without any fear of encountering and getting entangled in conversations with people I don't want to talk to. Apart from that, there would be no possibility of stepping on toes, as I easily could here in a metaphorical sense around the laundry machines, the mail boxes or in the parking lot. Lastly, there would be no non-human obstacles as I return and head out.

Enough wishing, however. Here's how I deal with what is. It requires some humble, mundane stealth. Mostly, I can evade undesirables by not walking around much on the ground floor. The complex is a two level rectangle with a courtyard in the middle. A staircase at either end takes you up to most of the second level, which is broken up into a few parts. I live in the large main part. My natural inclination would be to take the first staircase whether coming home or leaving. That would have me walking on the ground floor every time I leave, and that leaves me open to unwanted encounters. It also helps some to enter from the little adjacent parking lot when possible, but that only happens when I am coming from the west and someone has activated the gate.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vivian of Biven's Arm

Some time ago, I wrote about my grandfather Hollis, a painter and academic of some note. As he died while I was only months old, I knew him mainly from documentary sources and the accounts of those who knew him. His wife and my grandmother Vivian, however, lived until the Major League Baseball players' strike, when I was eleven. That being the case, I have many vivid memories and a better first-hand understanding of who she was as a person, and yet I realize that I don't know so well about her the things I know about Hollis.

We would go to visit her in Gainesville some summers, arriving in a rental car from the Orlando airport late at night to find her waiting up for us. When I knew her, she remained quite independent, with the exception of the things she would call on her daughter-in-law's sister's husband (my uncle) to do. It seemed that these things often were the recovery of her cat Monkey from some tough spot on the property. Monkey had been my father's cat, and eventually became hers. He (or she?) was a mainstay of my childhood, looming large in my imagination even when I wasn't there. Monkey was easily one of the most miserable creatures I ever got to know, and seemed to live to a ripe old age purely out of spite. He seemed to be Vivian's most consistent companion.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


The last of this round of poetry. More is apt to come before too long, to break up the philosophical posts and party posts if for no other reason.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Aren't We Friends?

Today, another morose and angst-ridden poem of the kind that used to go no further than a middle school student's notebook. It's a Roundel, as each of the other sad poems I've written were. The composition of it aroused some attention among my comrades. It occurred in my head during church and on paper immediately afterward in a diner. Obviously, the former session would not have drawn any notice if not for the fact that I repeatedly and animatedly counted syllables on my fingers as the sermon took place in front of us. I tried to allay any resentment by suggesting that it was God's will to move me to pen the poem, but that seemed not to cut any ice. In any case, here's the poem:

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Patron Scorned

It's back to the Shakespearean Sonnet. I don't know that the event which inspired this one is necessarily as grand and epic as those which must have moved the Bard, but be assured that the churning emotions I felt were every bit as large as those expressed in any of the master's works. It's the trivial and the passing which arouse my most percussive outbursts, as those who know me will attest.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


It's going to be poems for the next four days, as my first rejection has come in, and they no longer need to be saved for that periodical. Hopefully my own readers will be more receptive. There has been little feedback to speak of thus far from them for my poetry except that there has been no vehement rejection of it. That would seem to be good news, considering that such was the end of my movie reviews.

Let it never be said that I don't take criticism into account, but I think I have adequate reason to write some more poetry. No matter what, though, I don't expect to ever devote myself to it fully. As I write this,'s top-selling book of poetry ranks 1,652nd overall. That speaks for itself. I have no intention of my ultimate reward being the posthumous recognition of having my work placed on a mandatory reading list by English department faculty.

The writing of poetry is growing on me somewhat. I have my sights set on composing something gripping and action-packed like "Gunga Din" or "Charge Of The Light Brigade". At any rate, I think I'm getting more comfortable writing in rhyme as well as in a form. I have always maintained that restrictions can force creativity rather than stifling it, and I think my efforts bear that out to some extent.