Friday, December 31, 2010

Look At Me!

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

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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Staying In

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

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Comida Gratis

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

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


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

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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bar None

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

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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What's A Desk?

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

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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Ruling To Come

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

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

Friday, December 24, 2010


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

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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Noose Is Good Noose

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

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


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

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Checkpoint Charity

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

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

When Do We Eat?

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

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Death On Paper

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

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Lot Of Vacancies

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

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

Friday, December 17, 2010


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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010


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

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Just My Type

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rule By Fiat

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

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Never A Fab Cab

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

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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pocket Talk

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

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Music

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

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Invited Invader

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

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Walking Music

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

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Come And Knock On My Door"

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

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

Keys To Success

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

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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Line

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

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

Saturday, December 4, 2010


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

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

Friday, December 3, 2010


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

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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Noms Faux

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

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


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

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