Sunday, October 31, 2010

Curtains! (Part One)

I've made reference a few times to a one man show I was putting together over the course of the last couple months. It's been a long, initially frightening and thereafter merely stressful process, but one of great fun and self-improvement. Week by week, I and the others in the one person show workshop made incremental improvements in conception and execution of our respective pieces. Some came to the idea that would become their show later than others, and most worried over memorizing lines amidst the necessity of devoting time to more immediately profitable endeavors as the time to perform drew near. Others, meaning mainly myself, found the most worry in the mundane details of being an actor: acquiring a headshot, costume and set pieces was more injurious to my mental health than the idea of getting 'off-book'.

To go back some, it seems as if it was months and months ago that I submitted my name for the free workshop. It was easy to commit myself, as the prospect of actually performing something was so far in the distance as to not be real. Even the start of the class was so remote that conceiving ideas for my show seemed like getting ready to leave for my new life on the Mars colony. Soon enough though, the first week's class was upon us, and I jotted down some ideas in the days beforehand. There was one which appealed to me more than any other, having as it did a kind of provenance for the task at hand and for me personally.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Titanic Wingding Of Epic Proportions: Part Three

For the past two days, I've been recalling a recent party of unusual proportions. As I go through it in my mind, I cannot think of any time in the evening during which I was left out in the cold, conversationally speaking. This is a real hazard for me. I managed to string together deeply engrossing exchanges all night, forming and cementing new friendships in the process. That's what it's got to be about- not neglecting friends in favor of making friends, but just having the bravery to escape the comfort zone and grow. If one isn't growing, one is dying. I don't have the gall to claim that I've reached my developmental peak as a person, and so I always feel the impulse to talk to new people. Sometimes I even act on it. In a sense, parties are the very setting in which I was built to communicate. Wherever I am, I'm loud, enthusiastic and boisterous as I speak. In a library, it gets me shushed. On stage it gets me singled out for praise, but in a party, it's the only way to be heard.

Helping me along follow through on my impulse to mingle and talk to new people was that indispensable social lubricant alcohol, about which I have not said much. I had neglected to bring some, and was properly chastised for it by one of the hosts, whose words along those lines always land with effect. Luckily, the birthday boy himself had been out procuring provisions, and I was able to put the call out to him for that. In my mind, it became a matter of critical urgency, and I just could not be parted from my phone until he arrived. It was like I was waiting for word from the hospital on the condition of a loved one. If there's anything of that evening about which I'm not proud, it's probably my panicky state during that period of time. Also on hand apart from that beer was a selection of other fine and less-fine beers, along with hard cider and hard alcohol, which I stayed away from.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Titanic Wingding Of Epic Proportions: Part Two

Yesterday saw the inauguration of another chapter of my social life. The substance of this excerpt is a recent and notable party I've attended. Where I left off, I was killing time outside a sports bar, watching an MMA fight and a playoff baseball game before heading over to the party. The baseball game was rather dramatic, but I knew that it would be on where I was headed, or at least that I could prevail upon one of the party hosts to put it on. He happens to be a rather enthusiastic adherent to one of the teams- regrettably, the one which fell short this time. As I imagined would be the case, the party hadn't actually started, and no one was there except those who lived there. The birthday boy was not even there yet, and this was no surprise party. The game was an excellent means of easing the awkwardness of my premature arrival.

I now must describe the particular theme of this party. It was a pajama party, and I liked the idea for its relative rarity compared to other costume parties almost as much as I appreciated the ease of complying. If the costume aspect were all, I don't think it would have been integral to my recounting of the thing to say anything. Not only was it a pajama party, it was also a fort party. If the meaning of that isn't immediately clear, let me elaborate. The entirely of the living room was rendered into something approximating a children's fort with sheets, which vivisected the space and effectively reduced the height by half. This necessitated that everyone sit or lie on the floor, crawling to move around. It was a concept which I would have myself thought of and then discounted as impractical and not as fun in practice as it might be as an idea. It was a real credit to the hosts of the party that people came.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Titanic Wingding Of Epic Proportions: Part One

It was another weekend night which had multiple social occasions competing for attendees from more or less the same pool of merry-makers. Both were of a kind of theme- one required attendees to come as a pirate, sailor or mermaid (with the dubious addition of lobster). It was a big event, with numerous people I know slated to attend and hordes of people yet unknown to me. As much as I imagined I'd enjoy myself, I found the prospect of attempting to assemble such a costume too daunting. The scale of the party was a bit overwhelming as well. As many parties as I've attended and subsequently found interesting enough to write about, I'm naturally a society-averse homebody, and have to suppress my natural inclinations often in order to be a full-fledged member of the community. I would seen my way clear to attending the party were it not for a competing one.

There is a particularly dear friend of mine who all would agree is in no danger of lying on his death bed as an old man with regrets of not living life to the fullest. As much as he's done for me, and as much as I enjoy his company and value his thoughts, I could hardly do less than to attend his birthday party party. Some other people made a point of attending both, perfunctorily appearing at one in favor of spending more time at the other. I don't begrudge them for doing so, as I hate the idea of having to choose myself, but I also don't care to leave everyone somewhat disappointed with my half-participation. It seems better to entirely disappoint half and entirely satisfy the other half. There will be other parties to even the balance. So it was that I chose to devote my entire evening to what developed into a singularly remarkable party even among those which I have previously deemed remarkable enough to memorialize in prose. Needless to say, it will take a few days to cover all of this one.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"That's How They Get You."

A thought came to mind recently while on the bachelor party camping trip I wrote about. As it provoked a group conversation which subsequently formed the basis of this piece, I ought to give credit to the other guys, but I won't. We hit sit-down restaurants before and after camping, and while waiting for our table at the latter one, I got to thinking about the free food doled out to each table before one orders at certain restaurants. At Mexican places, there's invariably tortilla chips and salsa. Italian places often have garlic bread, and other fine establishments may have plain French bread. One hears a common expression of so-called wisdom which holds that "that's how they get you", suggesting that the provision of free food before one orders and receives their other food is in some sense a scam.

I just don't see how free bread is a scam. You are seated, given water and a bowl of rolls. You probably place a drink order, receiving that soon after. You then place an order for your food, receiving that in somewhat more time than the drink took. You eat the food, or eat part of it and probably bring the rest home in a box. If the latter, am I to believe that it's someone in the restaurant's interest that you were too full to finish the food? They don't get to keep the balance. Even if you leave it on the table when you go, they can't recycle that- they throw it away. It could only really be to their detriment as I see it to give the bread. It just seems to me like some kind of mindless cynicism to automatically assume that something like that is in the selfish interest of the establishment.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Clown Car Club

I saw a rather interesting thing the other night. Most people would not have been there to experience it in the way that I did. I happened to be on Hollywood Boulevard very late at night, waiting for a bus. I was standing outside an upscale hotel and nightclub, and I guess it was just as everyone was being forced to leave. It was well after closing time for bars, but I don't know that I understand how it works for other types of liquor-selling establishments. I should address the weather. Being around three in the morning, it was cold, wet, and were it not that street it would be very dark.

Even as I approached, there was a crowd of people standing around in clubbing attire. The men were largely in suits of some kind or in clothing which approximated that level of class according to their own minds. The women mainly seemed to be wearing very short skirts with low-cut tops.This was an interesting contradiction. They were faced with the necessity of doing several things at once: since it was so cold, they had nothing but their arms to supplement their garments in staying warm. At the same time, walking around had the effect of making their dresses ride up, so they had to constantly tug on them to keep them down. Thirdly, the sidewalk being slick with rain did nothing to help them as they struggled around somewhat drunk on tall, spindly high heels. There were some spills. The overall effect was not terribly appealing from my point of view.

Monday, October 25, 2010

While The Getting Is Good

I don't like saying goodbye. I mean that specifically within the context of a social occasion. When there's a party, or some chatting going on after a formal situation, I invariably seem to stay until the bitter end. That way, each person comes to say goodbye to me on their way out, and I don't have to go over to each of them. Really, I would rather it were the other way around. I have this strong dislike for leaving good times on the table. I don't want to go while the evening is still good. The result is that I just keep hanging on past the sensible point. Really, I wish I possessed the discipline to leave when I realize that while there's still a little more fun left, that it's downhill from that point and not worth the inordinate trouble which begins to mount. It's comparable to a pot of rice. You easily get out most of it, then start sweating trying to get the last little bit, and why?

The tough thing is being the first one to go during a specific range of time. People who have something in the morning following a night party or very soon that same day for a day occasion fill this role, and God bless them for that. The rest are people with nothing going on (or who don't care about fulfilling their obligations) and are mere dominoes waiting to fall. I'm of that kind, mainly just going with the flow. I've heard the strategy of picking someone in the group, and deciding immediately that you'll go when they do. I wonder about how one would decide who, and whether that yields the right outcome. I guess as long as one goes before the consequences of excess begin to manifest themselves. It's sort of like how Dr. Strangelove talks about the people who will re-start American society from inside a mineshaft after a nuclear exchange. He assures everyone that their memories of the above world will be uniformly positive since they will not experience the catastrophe firsthand, so they won't be depressed or suicidal.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Awful Manifest Of The Old 181

As I've noted, I use public transportation as my primary means of getting around. Trips during the day are often relatively quick and uneventful. Interesting things do happen, and I have written about those things. In the dead of night, however, trips become protracted and considerably more colorful. Ideally, I'm at this time heading home, and not too late to take advantage of the trains. Whether I am or not, I may still need to depend on a bus- what they call a Nite Owl bus. They're so named because they run all night long, and are of considerable psychological comfort simply by being there no matter what turn my plans take. I only wish there were more of them. The one I take most currently is the 180/181, which passes through my neighborhood after originating in Hollywood.

Now, I always take stock of the people on the bus or train I'm on. I've written about this as well, and fairly recently. The best you can hope for is a good mix of people with something going for them and decent, hard-working blue-collar types. They keep to themselves, and some of the female persuasion are rather easy on the eyes. The percentage of these desirable fellow passengers tends to be highest in my experience on the Gold Line headed out to Pasadena from downtown. It remains fairly high on about any train, fluctuating some depending on where the train is. The percentage drops when one comes to most of the buses, although some are exceptions. There are no exceptions among the Nite Owl buses I have ridden. There are a few of the blue collar types, but not enough.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Old Friends Bygone

I think that there are interesting tipping points in life. I always have been fascinated by the median center of population. It's an interesting concept. The Census looks at population distribution across the country, and determines the spot east, north, south and west of which there are equal numbers of people. That point started out in Maryland during the 18th century, steadily moving west. Presently it is in eastern Missouri. The continental divide is interesting, too. It's a line that runs from Alaska southeast through Canada and the United States into Mexico. It's divides the watersheds that drain water into the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. Crossing it during family road trips from Phoenix to Gainesville, Florida always bore mentioning. There's an intangible divide that I give a lot of thought to these days. When you get to a certain age, I think you realize that you are out of contact with as many friends as you are currently in contact with. It's not unique to anyone.

Everyone drifts out of contact with some people. Sometimes it's when the way by which they know them expires. No longer being classmates spelled the end of many friendships with me, as did either they or I moving away. It's a similar case for all my friendships which may at least be described as idle. I think I may have in the past observed that in all respects, you can't go home again. You can't revisit the past with the same results. It's all changed, and old friends are mostly like that. It's like if two banks of a river somehow radically shifted their lines and contours. The old bridge just couldn't cover the gap anymore. I'm not sure if that happens or not, but it helps my line of reasoning considerably if it does. I don't know that my modest but loyal readership has a strong background in civil engineering, but if so, bear with me when I veer into territory unfamiliar.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Camp For Tramps: Part Three

For the last two days, I've been telling about my first camping trip in a long while. Where I just left off, we were through for the day after a long post-dinner conversation. At bedtime, four of us went into the big tent, with myself and one other going into the small one. I found it to be adequately spacious, but cannot speak for the large tent. I heard no complaints except to say that it could only with difficulty accept any more people. Of course, like little boys on their first campout, we talked for a while longer between the tents while in our sleeping bags, but there got to be longer pauses in between witticisms expressed by fewer and fewer people. I slept not so badly, although I found I was not any better disposed towards sleeping on hard, cold ground than I had been as a boy. Not helping matters was that I was less well equipped than in those days. I would have loved to have at my disposal half of the things I know are sitting around in my family's garage.

The following morning we had our breakfast of juice, bananas and cereal bars. There was some conflict centering on those bars, which seemed to be in shorter supply than anticipated. Some had been eaten the day before, but this did not account fully for the discrepancy. I realized after a fashion that I had pocketed a bar, forgotten about it, then pocketed another. The surprise appearance of two more bars was a welcome salve. We got in one more rather unstructured hike that morning, but the real point of interest was a comical burrowing rodent which was at the time repeatedly called a mole, but which I'm certain was in fact a gopher. We watched for a long time as he would appear through a hole, cover the hole up, then appear in another hole and repeat the process. I don't know that we saw him make a hole. They were everywhere. The whole thing was rather amusing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Camp For Tramps: Part Two

Yesterday, I started to tell of my first camping trip in years. Where I left off, we had just bought our supplies, and were headed to the campsite. From there, it was off to Malibu Creek Canyon State Park. We opted for the lovely and scenic but not terribly practical Pacific Coast Highway. It works once one gets to it through a variety of surface streets, but the homely 101 would have gotten us there faster. We would take it home at the end of the trip. We got to the park and found a reasonable if congested campground. Others voiced disappointment, expecting apparently that we would be more remote and enjoy greater privacy. I might have told them that one only gets that at the end of a long hike. Campsites one drives to are often little better than RV parks. This one was pretty good by comparison, heavily populated and trafficked though it was. I could have done without the high proportion of paved surface.

Fairly soon after we got situated, it was off for some hiking. We came up with a plan to see the site where the show 'MASH' was filmed, and got a basic idea of what trail would get us there. A stop at the visitors center and the acquisition there of a map helped. Evidently we were perhaps not entirely welcome in the eyes of the center's staff of two, who it seems were soon to close up and hoped to get a jump on the process. The arrival of our group's six members put a damper on that. They offered us little reason to stay after getting that map. We speculated various lurid reasons why they sought to keep the center free of any members of the public. Oddly, when they advised us that water bottles could be filled outside, they called the device a 'stanchion', as opposed to a faucet. I gather there must be some significance to the distinction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Camp For Tramps: Part One

It comes up from time to time that I was an Eagle Scout, and while the line of discussion usually ends on the significance of that achievement, it sometimes goes on to touch on the things I did to get it. Other Eagle Scouts usually want to know about the service project I carried out to cap off the whole thing. Others, often not Scouts themselves, joke about 'being prepared'. What seldom comes up is what I believe I spent the most time doing, which is hiking and camping. I tell plenty of stories about both on my own initiative, but have done little of either in the last six years. 2004 was the last summer I worked at a Boy Scout Camp. Several years before that, I had became basically inactive in my troop upon my eighteenth birthday. Lately I've been mostly confined to sleeping in my own bed and walking on city streets. That changed recently.

For the first time in a good long while, I went camping. The reason was that a good friend was getting married, and chose a chaste, sober camping trip for his bachelor party over the more traditional weekend of debauchery. That was just fine by me, although I would not have raised hell if a mere six pack had joined us on our trip to be shared by the group. As the weekend drew near, I gave some thought to the disruption to life that a weekend away from town would present. Of course, that was no obstacle, and points more to my difficulties in focusing on a single task than on being loathe to abandon the luxuries of home. I did regret having to make my fantasy football roster that much earlier, but that was a small matter. The whole thing looked to be really very good for me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Whimsy On The Menu

When I go to a restaurant, it remains for me a special experience wherein I can partake of all the things I can't and won't do for myself. I don't like making a lot of effort. From the preparation to the washing of dishes, every decision is predicated on doing as little work as I can. I'm not known for preparing elaborate dishes, or even often ones that are generally recognized as even being dishes. I don't have all of the accoutrement's which one needs to properly present and eat dishes. I don't have ambience in my home, exactly. I don't have variety. Far from it: as I've noted, my eating habits at home are as predictable as the sunrise. All that is why I like going out to eat.

The main thing that's on my mind is alluded to in today's title. My mind tends to gravitate towards whatever strikes my fancy. Often the name of the menu item is enough for that, but I want to stress that gag names such as one sees at a Denny's are more of a turn-off. That's not to say I won't go there and try things. One late night at Denny's, I got a Grand Slam Burger. It was worth it for sure. For me whims are made by other stuff. There's a diner of some history around here that I and my friends sometimes go to. While there recently, I just recently ordered the Welsh Rarebit something-or-other. Of course it was primarily the name of the thing that entered into the decision-making process. What it actually was fell behind name, history and price. I ordered it and was not dissatisfied. I don't know that I would order it again.

Monday, October 18, 2010


More and more, I find myself citing this very blog when various subjects come up for conversation in my day to day life. I don't have the objective of promoting myself. I have no thought of trying to shoehorn the name of it in where it's not called for. I don't believe in that kind of hustling, where some seedy guy is seizing on every flimsy reason why you might want to buy the watch he's selling. What does success look like with tactics like that? The ones that get away are turned off and spread that by word of mouth, and so do the ones you reel in. Promotion is something about which I'm apprehensive, and a fear that I'll come off like that is a major reason. Even so, I find myself bringing up the blog consistently, and purely in an organic nature. Other times, it's mentioned by someone else. In either case, I try not to push it. I talk about what I'm doing in the way and to the extent that the situation calls for.

This happened fairly recently. I don't remember what the impetus was for introducing my little pride and joy into the conversation. It might have been me or someone else in the car which was carrying myself and three others away from a friend's musical performance at a university campus event. I always support a friend when I can, and there were other reasons to come as well. I've been absent from some of these particular people due to logistical circumstances, and I hate that. I also have long wanted to take a look at the campus of this university, as I had considered it during high school and wound up elsewhere. It had looked like an outstanding school, and I recall salivating over the facilities described and pictured in brochures which the guidance center then furnished. As a rule I don't care for looking back, but I did like the idea of going to a part of town I never have occasion to visit and looking around. There was plenty to see.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?"

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I reflect on that whenever there's someone or something missing to me. I certainly see the truth in it, or more accurately feel the truth in it. I've felt it often when there was someone I wanted to have near and couldn't. I've felt it keenly with things as well as people. I remember the phantom impulses I constantly felt to do something on my computer for a long stretch when I knew full well the computer was unquestionably and completely out of action. Sometimes when possessions have been not just inaccessible but physically present, it's been difficult to think of anything else or have proper perspective. It's often been something trivial, such as a library book or something lost in the mail.

Recently there was just such a situation. That is to say that something was lost in the mail. To be truthful, I knew where it probably was. It was a dvd I had rented- the first one since I moved to my present quarters. Consequently, I had not updated my address on the website. After I realized this, I figured that the disc would find its way to me anyway thanks to the forwarding request which I did have the forethought to fill out. It seemed a sure thing that this would solve the problem, remembering as I did an incident from the past where I had made such a forwarding request to my address at college. An attempt to have my movies sent back home while I was on vacation failed when the post office caught them and sent them to my college dorm. I was very concerned until I got back to Chicago for the next semester. Anyway, I was sure that there would be no trouble this time given the trouble I had that time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Post Shift

I often tell stories that begin with the words "When I worked at a restaurant...". They all refer to a particular one which lay in a shopping center anchored by a grocery store and an adjacent pharmacy. It was nice to have those things so close. Sometimes I would be sent over to the former in order to procure ingredients on which the store was low. Often I would make my way over there after my shifts concluded. I've been thinking about that after rekindling my affection for the two things which I usually bought there as a snack on such occasions: fresh sourdough baguettes and Hershey's chocolate bars. I disdain direct references to commercial brands except when it's necessary to say, and it feels so in this case. I love those things.

For whatever reason, it strikes people as odd that someone should care to snack on such things. Even when someone of singular inclinations such as myself does it, it still somehow warrants comment. Is it really so remarkable when unusual people do unusual things? I for one find it most amazing when the common do the uncommon, and the uncommon do the mundane. Never mind that, though: I'm here to say that I remain a big fan of that pairing. Actually, I must make mention of another item, which is the plain French baguette. On days when I was unusually hungry, I would maybe get sourdough and French as well as both plain and almond Hershey's bars- I mean the big ones, not the little vending machine-sized ones.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Acting Up In Church

I've been going to church for some time now. It's a particular kind of youthful-skewing church rich in creative energy, and the services tend to reflect that. As opposed to hymns, the music is closer to pop and rock- it's an indie singer-songwriter kind of sound. There are also dance performances, occasional improv comedy of the kind I do, and sometimes there are theater pieces- sketches, I suppose it would be fair to say. That last item is what I'm getting to, if you're feeling impatient. I've in the past watched friends do those sketches, never participating myself. That recently changed as I was asked to pitch in with a part probably best described as a cameo (or it would be so called if I were a big enough deal). That happened on a Friday night, with the performances to take place at two different locations in one day. It was interesting.

I got a script the following night, reading it at the end of a social excursion which I expect to write about before long. The script proved what I had been told, which was that I had no lines but would be on stage throughout. I therefore felt comfortable about being able to do it right at such short notice. If there was any concern I had, it was getting from one end of town to about the entire other end in time. Ultimately I figured that while it might be somewhat arduous, it was entirely manageable, and so I set myself to the task of getting up in time to go to the first performance. This was to take place in Pasadena, so it was an easy enough trip of less than an hour on a single bus. The bus got me there early, so I got off at a major intersection hoping to find something to eat before my call time (finding that the coffee I drank was more disruptive than helpful on its own). I bought a sandwich and drink, eating then at one of the outside tables at some eatery which hadn't opened yet. I then walked over to the church. A fellow performer spied me walking along, and insisted that I ride with him for the minute or so it took to enter the lot and park.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Man Makes The Suit

It seems to me that when I've ever written about clothes, it's been about very basic, low-level stuff. I've written about socks, doing the laundry and other things that reveal just how minimally competent I am in matters sartorial. If putting a cotton t-shirt in the laundry and having it come out clean and un-ruined is a crapshoot at best for me, then I can hardly be expected to venture into the area of white-collar attire, let alone traditional high fashion. The latter will likely never happen except when fashion goes slumming, as it sometimes does. The former recently happened in something of an interesting way. I knew upon reflection that this was something well worth commemorating in prose, given its great rarity. I'm doing a one man show, and decided to choose as a subject historical parody. Specifically, I'm presenting a skewed version of Mark Twain's life. I believe I have mentioned this.

I'll have more to say on the show, but what's immediately germaine is that I've just begun working on the costume aspect of it. Mark Twain was not known for t-shirts and ragged jeans as I am, and so I begrudgingly considered how I might achieve the proper look. Twain is best known for white suits, with bow ties and straw hats being fairly consistent accesories. That at least is what I've found to be the case. I don't have any of those things. I hope to come by them before the show, but in the meantime am making do with what I have. I have a gray suit acquired from a friend which does not quite fit me. Upon receiving it months ago, I expressed an intention to have the suit fitted to my frame. Naturally that never happened. The pants are too long, but the jacket isn't the worst. I have three dress shirts, but only one plain one. I have a single pair of non-sneaker shoes. From all of that, I cobbled together a tolerable grown-man suit which Twain plausibly could have worn outside of the surprisingly short period of his late life when he actually wore what people remember him wearing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mealtime Of The Ancient Mariner

This place I'm living in (and leaving soon) has some oddities about it. One of them has me thinking of Coleridge's classic poem, and re-writing it to suit the situation: "The smell of food is everywhere, and oh how it smells neat. The smell of food is everywhere, but not a bite to eat". I doubt whether bored high school students will be reading that when I'm dead, but does it suffice to explain the quandary I face? I don't know whether it's just the cooking habits of my neighbors or an uncanny wind that brings the smell of someone's cooking from afar, but the result is the same. Numerous times throughout the day, the pungent smell of plainly delicious food belonging to any number of cuisines emanates from its unknown source and penetrates my home to make me pine for it instead of being content with the humble things I'm able to provide for myself.

I can enjoy the smell, but that's all. I'll never taste or even lay eyes on the food, which was undoubtedly made and shall be eaten by people I don't know and won't meet. I've never experienced this before to my recollection. This is not the most densely populated neighborhood I've lived in, and yet it is the case that I've never encountered this before. The closest thing would be a hostel where the smell of food came from a communal kitchen at the behest of people who I at least knew to some small degree. I don't know whether I like this or not. As I said, there's a great pleasure in smelling the food, but it's like the train in Johnny Cash's 'Folsom Prison'. It's more a cruel tease than anything. Maybe I'd rather it weren't there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Had A Legal Pad

It seems that references to my preferred portable writing medium have snuck into one or two posts regarding other subjects, but evidently I have never given proper attention to it. That's really too bad, for it does not reflect my attitude about it. As I indicate in the above title, it's the legal pad that I favor. This did not used to be the case, and the fact that I cling to it now sets me apart from those who use something a little more sophisticated, like a laptop. I do myself occasionally use a note-taking app on my phone, but it just doesn't cut the mustard for anything more than a few words when I fear forgetting something. No, for any real writing task away from home, only the legal pad will suffice, and I love it so. I like to say that anything you write in it becomes legal. It's our little joke, the pad and I.

How do I love thee, legal pad? Let me count the ways. Firstly, you're so big and encompassing. Even my expansive, crude handwriting is not too much for you to accommodate. There is enough space on every page for me to feel free and never cramped or claustrophobic. I can make a sketch of some decent scale (not that I ever do that), I can write poetry and prose in any formatting that I choose, and I can tear up a sheet into any custom configuration of smaller pieces that suits me. I know that you don't mind if I get so violent- you always endure my harsh treatment. I abuse you and sometimes lose you, but always come back in contrition distraught over the pain of separation. I've trooped through the heat and worried away nights when I couldn't have you by my side.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fast Infatuation

Being out and about so much more these days than was once the case, and furthermore being easily given to distraction, I am something of an avid people watcher. Let's call it what it really is, though: gawking and ogling. I respect you too much to deliver flagrant lies to your desktop, reader. The point is that when I can't pay attention to the book I'm reading or the writing I'm trying to do on my legal pad, I'm observing the people around me. I've written of this before, but perhaps only addressed the specific aspect of this that interests me at the moment in passing. You see, I develop crushes with fairly little provocation, and so my habit of looking at the people around me is not so inconsequential as it might be were it done by someone else.

It happens most often on LA's trains- specifically the Red Line subway and occasionally the Gold Line light rail. Women who draw my gaze take the buses somewhat less often. I wonder about the ones that don't take public transportation at all- it's difficult to form an attachment with a woman driving a car that speeds by in a split second. At any rate, if it doesn't happen on a train, it happens on foot in some fashionable or at least highly-trafficked place. Wherever it happens, I always begin with the best of intentions, minding my own business. I may have my reading material, or some work to attend to on that legal pad. If it's the latter, then I am apt to stay strong longer, but I ultimately cannot resist. In the name of vigilance, I sooner or later will look around me to assess the present state of things, and then will catch sight of her- beautiful, needless to say, but possessing of other qualities that vary from case to case. She may be of such beauty that I cannot fathom a universe wherein I would have a chance. That's not a degree of beauty so much as it is a particular variety of it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Slim Margin

Depending heavily on public transportation sometimes can lead to a severe letdown, if you can believe it. I believe I've made reference to ways in which this is the case plenty of times either directly or in passing, so I realize I'm really testing my small but spirited readership's appetite for such stories here. Even so, I can't resist relating a recent commute from my temporary home in Glendale to the location of my Toastmasters meeting in Burbank. To those familiar with LA geography but unfamiliar with the peculiarities of LA's Metro, that may sound as if it must be one of the easier trips I would have to make. It certainly isn't the worst, but you ought to be aware as I tell this that it's not a trip I relish embarking upon. However I figure it, the trip takes three buses, and can't really be done in less than an hour and ten minutes.

It's less the time that's the problem and more the connections. I see each itinerary as a chain, with the trains and buses being links. A single link is fairly impervious to failure, being as it's welded upon itself- likewise, a trip of a single bus or train is pretty dependable. Each link added presents another opportunity for the chain to snap. A trip depending on two buses and/or trains is more likely to meet with difficulty, and three are worse than two. They break down, they get stuck in traffic (trains excluded), and they run both behind schedule and ahead. Behind one can cope with. Traffic one can anticipate. Running ahead of schedule is the real problem. You'd think it would be a good thing, and it can be if the thing you're expecting doesn't work out and you start praying for the miracle of a bus coming when it's not expected. I'm grateful in such cases, but don't forget that my salvation is the damnation of some other commuter I don't know. I've been that other commuter. In the incident I'm thinking of, I was that other commuter some four times in the space of little more than an hour.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


In past days, I've had reason to spend some time in downtown Los Angeles. Most people seldom do so outside of perhaps having Lakers tickets or a court date. I can't say that I entirely blame them for largely staying away, because it doesn't as yet match up to more heavily trafficked and populated city centers elsewhere. It once was more than it is now. Consider LA's Broadway. It's lined with grand old theaters where the film industry once held its premiers. Today those theaters are either shuttered or have been converted for down market jewelers and other unjust purposes. Much of downtown is like that, the area around City Hall and Bunker Hill aside. Though much of downtown is presently in circumstances reduced from that height, it is already ascendant and well past its nadir. Even were it to never amount to more, I believe I would love it even in spite of its clear faults. There are rough patches and rather affluent districts, and so long as one keeps that straight, the area is quite enjoyable.

The thing I think I notice the most is the architecture. Los Angeles does not receive the credit for this that places like Chicago or New York do, and that's a shame. There are a number of sparkling new buildings and developments in LA's downtown, the Ritz-Carlton and the LA Live complex being among them, but that's only a small part of it to me. Every time I go down there, I am awestruck by the classic, historic structures that lie on every street and in every corner of the neighborhood. There are so many buildings of a kind they don't make anymore that harken back to older days- it's the businesses they once housed in a bygone economy as well as the style in which they're designed. They're styles one finds in coffee table books, and modern construction doesn't seem to bother with that effort. Also since dispensed with is the apparently solid construction that seems to be all brick and steel, with none of the cheaper, less sturdy materials that are now the rule.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nap Time

It often seems to take very little grist to supply the mill this blog is akin to in my mind. I don't just look around me for ideas, or open the dictionary to a random page and stab my finger out at a random word, but my mind does seem to seize on the slightest thing. I wouldn't call it catharsis exactly, but I often know what to write about when I start perseverating on some matter and composing, then delivering a speech in my mind to an imaginary audience. Getting it down and ready to send out through this blog clear my mind of the often very small matter, and I'm free to think of something else. Tragically, that thing is bound to be no more consequential than the last thing. Every once in a long while, it's something big. That's not so this time.

I sometimes take a nap, although it's not a habit. I've been advised that they're not really a help, but fundamental nap theory isn't the reason why I don't often go for it. First of all, I usually feel guilty about sleeping during the hours of the day most conducive to getting things done. Night is the time for sleeping, when things are closed and people are unresponsive to phone calls. I don't say that I'm definitely being productive during what might be nap time, but I prefer to be ready for action. Second among my reasons for disdaining naps is that they must be confined to a short period of time, and I don't rest well with an anxious mind. I could sleep for an hour if I don't have to be up in an hour, but if I do, I either won't sleep or will oversleep.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

Something that has often struck me is the paradoxical difficulty of giving things away for free. Having had most of the tickets to Dodgers home games at one time, I can tell you two things: first, not even season ticket holders attend more than a fraction of the games, and second, unloading unused tickets is unimaginably tough. I can easily see why it would be a challenge to sell them. Paying for them is a hurdle surpassed only by people that are fans on at least a certain level, and there's no end of competition among sellers. Free tickets, however, are at least as hard to get rid of if not somehow more so. It's that way with a lot of things, somehow- desirable things. I don't know if I'll ever understand that.

Something I can understand somewhat is the level of apprehension we faced among some the other day when when my friends and I went downtown to dole out free bottles of water on a sweltering day during a record-breaking heatwave. It did not take long to run out of water, as virtually everyone was delighted to take some once they had been assured that there would be no charges levied against them. People already holding drinks were taking water, and some boldly requested more than one, citing a friend nearby. It was pleasant to do something nice, as much as the slowness to believe we would irked me. Most people were glad to take water, that aside.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

55 Hours Of Living Fully: Part Seven

Today concludes the seven part series detailing a recent string of remarkable events I was party to, and I'm sure everyone's tired of it by now. Where I left off yesterday, a great improv show put on by friends had ended, and we were all talking gregariously on the sidewalk when the lights went off. More often than not, we just take the fun someplace else rather than doing the sensible thing and calling it a night. Now, there's a particular post-show hangout for every venue that my improv program uses. For this theater, we usuallygo to a particular all-night diner after shows at that venue. Certain persuasive parties shifted it to a different diner, and it was a welcome change. I think that I like the idea of the usual place a little bit better than the place itself. It has things going for it. History is one, and bright lights and ambience which does not overwhelm conversation are others. The food is so-so, as is the service.

This place we did go to suffers some where a moderate ambience is concerned, but a wilder place is all right sometimes. I was struck by the thought that there must be a drunken celebrity there somewhere if I could only identify them. The conversation was raucous and fun, and I found myself situated among the same people with whom I sat as I recorded and watched the show. Sometimes it's true as they say that familiarity breeds contempt, but not so this time. The food was not too bad, and the service was unbelievably good. I got something called a Boston Egg Creme, which was a thin dessert drink which reminded me of nothing more so than a dessert version of club soda. If I had it to do over, I suppose I would have gotten something else, but I still believe in trying new things as well as indulging my whims. I had mainly picked it because of the associations in my mind evoked by the item's title.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

55 Hours Of Living Fully: Part Six

It's day six of my seemingly un-ending account of an eventful few days which took place recently. Where I left off, I had just finished my one man show class. Two of the women in the class and I remained with the teacher later than the rest. The teacher was compelled to linger in order to attend to some work, but we three were all going to the show and decided to have something to eat in advance. I wasn't hungry, having filled up on bread, but always take advantage when opportunities to socialize present themselves. This is doubly true when ladies are in the picture, and that much more true when socializing eases the difficulty of my planned transportation.

Once we finally broke off the pleasant conversation which had begun at the conclusion of class, we started to firm up our immediate plans. At first we planned on a burger place near class, but then settled on finding something else near the theater. This precipitated some difficulties in navigation and parking, but we got it done. We went and parked there, then went on foot to find an eatery. We wound up at a taco place. I got what they called a 'taco burger' It was something like a Mexican Sloppy Joe, or a Sloppy Jose. One of the ladies got a burrito or something. The third disdained all options, and resolved to get something at a cafe right by the theater. In the end, we all seemed to agree that the burger place would have been the best thing. I still felt that trying something new was worth the occasional disappointment.

Monday, October 4, 2010

55 Hours Of Living Fully: Part Five

For the last several days, I've been recounting my latest remarkable personal exploits. Where I left off, I had just gotten off a bus near my home after slumbering for well of an hour while making my way from the site of a Toastmasters meeting. Once I got home, my mind was on the one man show workshop I had to get to just after five- I had around four hours before I had to head out, and six before I would have to be ready with as many solid monologues for my show as I could write, two of which I would have to perform. I was not confident about it, even though the whole way my efforts have been praised at every turn.

I had a little time to myself, and I tried to relax a bit on the computer. My roommate came home, and we talked, then struggled through a streamed episode of a new tv show. As we did that, I grabbed a fresh legal pad, then wrote and wrote and wrote. This went on even after I left, although crowded buses and subway cares are less conducive to writing than the privacy of my home. That is to say that the mechanical process of writing becomes more difficult when the elbows cannot be extended and there are a variety of distraction, but there is some inspiration out there. I hoped that what I was crafting with my pencil wasn't trash. It remains to be seen. The remaining moments when I wasn't scribbling were dedicated to rehearsing and timing it all, paying particular attention to what I would be performing. At the end of my travel to class, I found myself with spare time

Sunday, October 3, 2010

55 Hours Of Living Fully: Part Four

Today I share the fourth part of my latest epic personal story. Where I left off yesterday, I had just lost two speaking contests in Pasadena, and was heading home. I got home from the contest around 11 that night, staying up  until about midnight. There was to be no rest for the weary, however. I  attend a second Toastmasters club which meets at 7:30 in the morning on  Fridays, and for this meeting I was scheduled to give a speech. I'd  missed a few meetings, so I overrode my tendency to cancel at the last  moment when I have a late Thursday. The vagaries of the public  transportation timetables would compel me to get up at four in the  morning. I could have slept another hour, but would then have needed to  rush to shower and get out the door. Even when getting up at an early  hour, I prefer to allow myself time to prepare at a leisurely pace. An  hour wouldn't have turned indecently early to reasonable.

I got up at the intended hour and negotiated the commute well enough. After I got underway, I realized that my legal pad was missing.  I do much of my writing in legal pads, and this one contained some  stuff I felt was important. I panicked for a few minutes as if I had lost my birth certificate. I tried to imagine where I might have left it and how I might retrieve it. I had used it at the contest, and realized I left it there in my distracted state. I calmed down, decided that neither the pad or its contents were irreplaceable. I decided to just re-write what had been in there instead of ever going back to get the pad, as there wasn't so very much written in it that I needed.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

55 Hours Of Living Fully: Part Three

A couple of days ago, I began my latest multi-part account of a personal experience. Where I left off yesterday, I had just gotten home very late after bible study, and had my Toastmasters meeting the following afternoon to think of. More important than the meeting itself was what transpired before the meeting: a practice of the humorous speech which I would be giving that evening for a Toastmasters contest. Regrettably, I was late for the practice session, thanks to a failure in the chain of buses I had to take. Naturally, I was beating myself up and cursing up a storm in my mind the whole way there, and as usual for nothing. The people I was to practice on were casually eating lunch and seemingly had given no thought to any question of my punctuality. I was terribly rusty and raw in delivery of my speech, and giving in in the middle of a bustling cafeteria helped matters none at all. I felt good about getting the gears moving anyway, and they say a bad rehearsal makes for a good performance. I always say that with the hope that it is true in such situations.

The actual club meeting went fine, and I went home. From that moment, my mind was in preparation for the aforementioned contest. I gave the speech over and over again in my head. When the time came, I headed out for the bus which would take me over to Pasadena's Old Town, where the contest was to be held. More specifically, hosting the contest would be a facility owned and operated by the Scientologists. The building itself was a remarkable historic old bicycle factory, and it is to the credit of the Scientologists that they paid tribute to the building's roots in some of the interior architecture. At the risk of repeating myself, it was quite a place. Solid brick and reminiscent of the Bradbury Building downtown on the inside. All that aside, I will admit to being somewhat uneasy in the place. I believe in tolerance, however, and so I live.

Friday, October 1, 2010

55 Hours Of Living Fully: Part Two

Yesterday I began my latest epic account of personal exploits. Where I left off, I had just been looking around my old neighborhood after showing up to a canceled actors meeting. My next agenda item was my weekly bible study, and when I left that newly-opened store, I had to walk over to the next street and catch a bus. The bus was one which I took each week some time ago before my standard travel arrangement changed. It let me off at my destination nearly an hour before the bible study convenes. Moreover, it lets me off at a point where only jaywalking permits me to cross the two streets that separate the stop from the destination. I prefer to get off earlier, walk more and cross in safety and peace of mind. It helps that the street along which I then walk is the nicest cross street in the neighborhood. If anyone cool is around, their affairs probably take then to that street. That's how it is for me.

On that walk, I strained to hear the accent of two women walking behind me- a purely academic exercise, I assure you. I ultimately determined them to be British. I then stopped at the grocery store, where they turned out to be headed as well. Once there, I ran into a dear friend and her boyfriend. As it turned out, her plans for the evening from that point on coincided with my own, and we did our shopping for refreshments together. She jokingly offered me a ride there. I characterize the gesture as a joke only because the friend whose home we were bound for lives perhaps a few hundred yards away from that grocery store.