Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I, Freedom

Around St. Patrick's Day, I misplaced a library book and never recovered it. Naturally, I exhausted every possible search area and delayed just as long as I could in hopes that it would turn up in my home or that of a friend. I even had some notion that a Good Samaritan would come upon it in the public place where I must have left it and just turn it in. After all, what would your typical thief on the street want with an old hardcover edition of "The Return Of Sherlock Holmes"? Surely they could not enjoy it for themselves or find a buyer. That hope died along with the rest. Finally I broke down and paid the outrageous cost that the library determined would cover the value of the book and the expenses that replacing it would entail.

Now, I am not so angry as I might be were it some other entity and not the library. To get angry at the library would be unfathomable, like getting angry enough at my mother for bumping into me that I would disown her. Now more than ever, I love the library so dearly that it's difficult to imagine an offense which might turn me against it. That's especially true given the present dire budgetary circumstances. In a way, I feel grateful for the opportunity to serve my library by being gouged on the value of a lost book. Like Liam Neeson's Oskar Schindler, I only wish I could do more.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Guide To The Jaywalkers Of Urban Arizona and California

I like to think that my parents raised me well. Certainly in most respects they did as well as it is possible to do, and cannot be held responsible for the lessons they imparted to me that did not take. Some of them did take, however. I may not have learned from my father how to work with my hands, but I learned from them both about the arts. I may not be the best in terms of employing "inside voice", but I know how to cross the street. Other people cannot, and I must assume that they successfully learned from their parents the lessons that I did not, or else I can't imagine how they make their way in the world.

It's really not so difficult to cross the street. You walk along on the sidewalk until you come to a crosswalk. You press the button if there is one, or else wait for the "walk" signal to come on its own. When it does, you walk across alertly and with a brisk pace. Often, there is a great distance in between two lights, so it pays to be aware and cross at the earliest opportunity instead of waiting until you get to where the place you're going to is. Now, I'm only human, so sometimes I don't do that so well. That brings us to how to jaywalk and how not to.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Truth, The Partial Truth, And Nothing But The Nice Part Of The Truth

I've offered numerous accounts of my nighttime exploits here, and it has made me think about the way truth is shaped and framed when told by one person to another. The re-telling is never completely faithful, and there are any number of reasons why one would want to diverge from total fidelity to real events, or feel compelled to. They mostly have to do with regard for the manner in which certain people will react (often, law enforcement included).

It didn't used to be so complicated to tell stories about myself and my friends. For one thing, there were fewer friends (none of whom had matured enough to have a dark side) and often there were no friends at all. When there were friends, our stories were of a very harmless nature, and there was nothing one would think to omit out of delicacy- only out of disinterest. Once I got to college age, there started to be certain things I would tell ruefully. Later the rueful things started to loom larger, and the gladly-shared details were replaced by ones I preferred to keep to myself except in the event of being subpoenaed by a grand jury. That hasn't happened yet.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fancy Free And In Charge

I have long been a fan of the Horatio Hornblower series of novels, which depict an officer of the British Navy rising through the ranks during the Napoleonic wars. A vivid picture is painted of life at sea. Back then, a captain took his ship out of port, and had no contact with his superiors for long stretches of time- sometimes many months. He would leave with orders and the discretion to complete them as he saw fit. He might periodically receive fresh order upon landing at some far-flung government outpost, but mostly was on his own. He was totally free and on his own, all kinds of authority and institution rolled into one in the eyes of his men.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


A personal failing I'm sure I've discussed before is a hopeless ineptitude in the laundry room. As a result, when I dress myself in the morning (ideally), I have a limited supply of almost everything to draw from. Consequently, I think hard and often about what I have, what I need and what it's all about. I'll omit the cursing and gnashing of teeth that usually accompany such ruminations.

The place where I'm in the best shape is no slam dunk, but probably is shirts. This is because shirts are the easiest thing to identify in my size. I don't need to do so much as try them on. I simply check the tag for an M (or an L in a pinch), and if I find what I'm looking for there, I take the shirt to the register and get out of there. I have a good selection of t-shirts in spite of the abnormal rate at which I ruin them with food stains and physical mishaps. I'm a bit light on nice, dressy shirts, but have few occasions to wear them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Validate My Parking (And Me)

No small amount of thought has already gone into trying to understand why people go into performance or writing as a profession. Each is a long, hard slog whose end is success only for a select few. Since I myself have embarked upon both, I have formed my own opinions on the matter, and have in this blog a forum to air them without any risk of being shouted down as boring or uninsightful as I might be elsewhere.

The title of this post gives the whole thing away. For those who make it in creative endeavors, there is no more effective form of validation to be had. It comes in vast numbers, and from so many objective, external sources that it simply must be the unvarnished truth. When you're succeeding, the positive feedback is instant and vociferous, washing over you like a tidal wave of happiness. It's sort of like a runner's high. Where the comedy I have a predilection for is concerned, I find it to be most potent in live performance, and I'm sure that you'll agree with that.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Acción Copa Mundial

The World Cup has been underway for sometime, and I have been into it about as much as any American. I have been reminded some of the '06 Cup, when I was also into it, but under different circumstances and (naturally, given the time passed) at a different point in my life. I was then working at a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. Apart from a handful of other Americans taking and delivering orders, there were working along side me at any given time a large number of Mexicans. I don't say Mexicans as a lazy shorthand, because they mostly were from that country. I recall one man who was from Guatemala, if memory serves. What they mostly shared, regardless of Spanish-speaking nation of origin, was a passion for El Juego Bonito.

There is, to my knowledge, still no professional soccer team in Arizona. There, one can only watch on TV the matches played elsewhere. There are a number of leagues in Europe whose matches are broadcast here on cable, and at this time I saw little of them. The MLS was on sporadically, and I did not watch those much either. What there was to watch in great abundance was Liga Mexicana. I would likely not have watched much of that on my own initiative either, but found myself watching it against my will. There would be some days at the restaurant where the Latino workers had license from the boss to relax for a little while and watch the futbol telecasts from south of the border. I found myself rooting for Pumas, America or Chivas enthusiastically, for the fervor of my co-workers was most infectious.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Don't Get The Wrong Idea

I got a phone call from the lady at the bank the other day. It showed up on my phone as just some local number from back home, but obviously one from someone I don't ordinarily hear from. The logical assumption seemed to be that it was a wrong number, which happens.Wrong numbers necessarily are from back home, given that my number hasn't changed. Anyway, leave it to the bank to wake me up at the indecent hour of 10 in the morning, questioning me about the wisdom of the reliance of my investment strategy on CDs.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

No Quarter Given

While doing laundry, I thought some about the currency with which I paid for the use of my apartment building's machines: the quarter. There have been considerable changes with it in my lifetime. There was the whole state quarters thing, for one. I think it's over, but for years and years, otherwise reasonable and intelligent people wasted time speculating about what the special design on the back of the quarter would be for each state. That's not so bad, really, but what really blew my top was to walk into stores and see a quarter- otherwise known as a 25-cent piece- for sale at prices well in excess of its face value. I'm not mollified by any argument that the little plastic case and foam liner make up the difference. They don't, and it wouldn't matter if they did. As a matter of principal, I won't ever pay more than face value for recently-minted US currency.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shooting In Glendale

Late last year, and at the behest of a friend, I acted in a comedy sketch video for the internet. I made reference a couple of times to the injury I sustained during production, but did not go into the making of the video in any depth. It ended up being pretty funny, which was a good thing considering the unintended sacrifices made in the process of production. Since then, there hadn't been any more videos, due more to logistics than to any fear of a repeat accident. That changed recently, as we went out and shot another on a recent Sunday.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Laughing And Eating And Singing And Playing And Smoking: Part Three

Today, the final part of a recent personal outing. Where I left off yesterday, I had got on the train with visions of my bed going through my mind. It's just as they say, though: if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. The train took long enough getting to the end of the line for me to reconsider my plan, and I decided to check in with my friends about the progression of their own plans for the evening: Karaoke. Since their place was within walking distance of the subway terminus, I checked to make sure they hadn't left, and walked over. We hung around a bit, then headed out to meet our destiny.

It was the same Irish pub I have written about previously. For whatever reason, it was dead that night, but we did what we could to help out. I sang "The Night Chicago Died", by Paper Lace. My energy and commitment resulted in a highly positive response from the audience, which was largely comprised of my friends. I would say that picking a song within my means and drinking less also were part of my winning strategy. We left there, and did what mature bar patrons do after being made to leave at closing time: grab matchbooks on the way out, and light the matches one by one until we were actually ready to leave.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Laughing And Eating And Singing And Playing And Smoking: Part Two

The show got going after not too long. It was a competition between a comedy team made up of my friends, and another of people I didn't know. Now, if I haven't said so before, for me there is just nothing more certain to relentlessly provoke me into endless peals of laughter and giggling than good improv. Of course, the flip side is that bad improv is just brutal to watch, like a man drowning who it's not in your power to save. Standup is about the same. There was no painfully bad comedy that night, and one has to be thankful for that. I may be biased, but that doesn't mean that I'm wrong in declaring the team from my improv program superior. Certainly, the voting bore that out, with our bunch moving on to the next level. They were really "on", with all cylinders firing without fail throughout their show.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Laughing And Eating And Singing And Playing And Smoking: Part One

Yesterday was another which, in my naivete, seemed destined to be spent alone in tranquility with a movie. I had laid down on my bed and was watching Howard Hughes' "The Outlaw, growing impatient for the first appearance of Jane Russell. It never occurs to me until it happens that someone who knows me might reach into my solitude and pluck me out for any reason. Thus it is always a very pleasant but jarring surprise, as it was on this occasion, which shall unfold in three parts.

A text from a friend came through to my phone, and seemed to have been sent to numerous people. It advised that someone I know had two extra tickets to a show, which I understood to be improv comedy from the context. I gently inquired about it, at first just curious about a show I wasn't aware of. When something like that comes along at the last minute and a ride seems unlikely, I more or less must write it off as impractical for me to manage. This one was different, as I found the show was taking place in a perfectly ideal place for me to get to at that hour.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Partying Is Hard Work: Part Three

For the last two days, I have been telling of being a background actor in a friend's short film. Yesterday, I spoke of the filming itself and the leadup thereto. Where I left off, I was formulating a plan to get home in a timely fashion without a ride.

I walked a mile and a half to get to the light rail station. I had some concern that I was too late even for that. The consequences of failing to catch that train were as unappealing as they were useless to contemplate at such a premature time. At such times, I put everything out of my mind but hustling to get there and forestall the undesirable outcome. It was tough going, as most of the road I walked did not take pedestrians into account. In the absence of a sidewalk, I trooped along where only gardeners were meant to tread. Sweating and out of breath, I reached the station, and was relieved to see a train on the platform. I rushed to get on, and it pulled away minutes later. In fact, there were more trains to come, but catching that one was essential to my overall plan.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Partying Is Hard Work: Part Two

Yesterday, I began the tale of the experience of being a background actor in the short film of a friend. Where I left off, we had just been eating and talking prior to the commencement of filming.

Before the shoot, I had been advised to dress not necessarily super-nice, but to not wear a t-shirt or logos. I followed those directions, and this evidently won me a somewhat prominent placement in most of the shots. Early on, I sat alone at the bar, watching more social characters from afar while eating candy and pretzels. Later, I move up to a place at a table across from a lady extra. Most of the time, we were directed to mime talking, but I didn't really even do that. I call it a bizarre kind of shyness.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Partying Is Hard Work: Part One

It so happens that a short time ago a call was sent out to people in my little improv community for extras to fill out a party scene for a short movie. The perpetrators of the movie weren't all known to me, but one was, and so I was ready to consider answering the call. I observed that numerous good friends would be there, and that the scripted party would more or less take the form of a real party, as there would be food and drink in an opulent setting (as my standards go). After taking all that into account, I knew I had to do it. Now, the three part story.

There was that minor question of transportation, of course. Initially, I wasn't the least bit concerned, as the scene was to be shot in Pasadena, which lies on the northeastern boundary of the area I can more or less easily move about in. A few days beforehand, however, the location changed to Arcadia, which is east of that demarcation. This required some consideration. I determined that a trip could be managed with two buses and two trains, and would take some two hours. This was not ideal, but as I often tell myself, unless I can conceive of a palatable alternative, I'd better learn to make the best of it. So I did, deciding that this would be as good a time as any to make progress on my stack of reading materials.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Barbeque Strikes Back

It ought to surprise no one that the last party I wrote about did not mark my retirement from the social scene. Nor, for that matter, was it the last that I would choose to write about. Barely twenty-four hours later, there was still another one of such a kind that I never imagined only a short time ago I'd be welcome at. Please, if you would, indulge me once again. It's a bit shorter altogether, but comes in one long installment since it doesn't split up easily.

Actually, I had gotten a ride from church to the party. I previously wrote about an epic public transportation journey to church, and resolved that this time it would not be so interesting, no matter the cost to this blog. I had, prior to that, always taken the subway down, walking seven tenths of a mile from the station to the service. I did so again, and it mostly proved to not sir up my passions prematurely. Any intrigue was of a very mundane nature of no interest to anyone but myself.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Subtle Dance Of Socializing: Part 3

Each of the last two days, I have been telling the story of my latest night out. Yesterday's chapter left of with me alone on a sidewalk in Echo Park at around 2:30 in the morning thinking of how to get home. The trip home was perhaps more eventful than its predecessor. Certainly it was longer. I knew I would be ok getting home on my own, as there are two all-night buses which would serve to bring me within a tolerable walking distance. I ordinarily would scrounge a ride, but doing so in this case, given that the people most predictably amenable to such a request in the past were gone, seemed not conducive to the growth of my friendship with those who remained.

I walked over to the stop served by the first bus. It took a little while, but came. That thing was just jam-packed with all kinds of fascinating people. I couldn't focus on my book, and not just because I was concerned for my safety should I let down my guard. Some prefer to give the irregular and downtrodden on the fringe a wide berth. I guess I'm not so far from that attitude, but I do find such people as you see on a bus at three in the morning on a Sunday most interesting. I often think of how much I'd like to cast a movie with them. You just can't find faces like theirs in an audition.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Subtle Dance Of Socializing: Part 2

Yesterday I began the tale of my latest night out. Where I left of, I had just gotten off the last bus of a rather interesting public transportation commute, and was walking to the party. I walked by the location a couple times, but found it in loads of time to be the first person to show. This is an irredeemable fault of mine: I show up at parties when it says I'm supposed to, which usually means that I twiddle my thumbs for about an hour and a half while the host continues to get things ready around me. The most interesting element in this case was a laptop playing strange video footage which was projected onto a retaining wall holding back the hill behind the building.

It was another themed costume party, and you know I wasn't having any of that. Sure, a robots and aliens theme is all kinds of fun until you have to start thinking about what kind of costume you can pull off. There are a lot of considerations. First, there's the cost which a costume entails. I have got no intention of spending more than a couple dollars on a costume, particularly one which is apt to get ruined, and will just be dispatched to the closet for ever more even if it survives the night.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Subtle Dance Of Socializing

There was, not so long ago, yet another birthday party in my circle of friends, well-wishers and hangers-on. I'm beginning to think that some of them are fabricated to provide an excuse for doing the kinds of things that would otherwise be frowned upon in any other context. That aside, it was another in the ever-lengthening string of nights out on my part that warrant a full accounting here. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty and spare the innocent any guilt by association. As is so often the case, this story shall stretch on for three days, so don't miss a single thrilling chapter!

Today I ought to tell of the commute, as I usually do right away. Now, I had dedicated the entire afternoon to watching dvds I had checked out of the library. I went and returned them, coming back maybe an hour or so before I needed to head out for the party. The first bus was uneventful as far as I can recall. The train started out that way. I opted to stop at a kiosk to buy my next month's pass, then went down to get on the train which others were frantically rushing towards as though a monster were menacing North Hollywood.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Wheels On The Bus

I bring you today another tale of my tangible exploits out-of-doors, leaving the cerebral for another day. I recently related in three parts a multi-birthday Saturday night. This story will not be so expansive, and so I won't have to close the book over your protestations and admonish you to sleep. Now, I was down for the count in the early going Sunday, scrapping my plans for attending a baseball game, which itself forced the cancellation of my usual plans for morning church service in Beverly Hills.

Happily, I was able to get myself together in more than enough time to plan on evening church services downtown. Ordinarily, if I'm going to that service, I take a brief bus ride to the nearest subway station, riding that until I get downtown. From there, I walk a good distance until I reach the venue. It's an often colorful commute, but seldom an especially eventful one. On this particular occasion, I thought I'd spare myself the long walk by taking two buses, the second of which would deposit me right by my destination. I don't know that I will be doing that again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

At What Cost Recreation? Part Three

Each of the last two days, I have related my account of a night of carrousing in Hollywood to mark the occasion of a friend's birthday. In the first part, I told of the movie we saw in a cemetery. Yesterday, it was the bar we went to after. Today, we shall see the thrilling conclusion!

This second bar was more to my liking. It was quieter and less crowded. Call me crazy if you will, but on the relatively rare occasion that I go to a bar, it's for the community and not the drinks. In a place like the former, talking is about impossible and even the drinking gets tough when there's no elbow room. This place did not have those problems, and was an excellent step down as we made the gradual descent to being ready for going home.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

At What Cost Recreation? Part Two

Yesterday, I began the latest over-sized account of my social exploits. When I left off, we were just leaving the cemetery where we had seen "The Thing" for the birthday of a friend. Today, I shall tell what followed! Now, we spent an interminable period of time getting everyone in the same page as far as the bar we were going to and its location. Perhaps taking even longer was the trip over there. Saturday night traffic on Hollywood is brutal, owing to a combination of factors mundane and lurid. Worse still was the parking situation, but I promise I won't perseverate on that, as no one wants to hear it.

We got to the place just a bit after the birthday girl and her immediate coterie. There had been the sort-of promise of dancing, but this did not come to pass. The place was crowded, loud, and had its walls festooned with both celebrity mugshots and a deer whose antlers were actually machine guns. It was a colorful establishment. We were there for something more than an hour, and I had three drinks in addition to the perhaps two or three I'd had at the movie. There was a vodka company rep doling out samples, but I did not partake. Vodka tastes like rubbing alcohol.

Monday, June 7, 2010

At What Cost Recreation?

As has become my wont, today I write another multi-part account of a night on the town which so exceeded normal parameters that it must be shared. As always, it was the birthday of a friend. One begins to suspect that not all of them are entirely legitimate. I recall at summer camp one time that we requested from the dining hall kitchen staff a huge sheet cake under false pretenses, and then embarrassed a visiting guest from the state Game and Fish department by pretending it was for her. That seems like a good way of introducing this story.

The substance of the birthday celebration was a movie. This was not any movie. We were to see John Carpenter's "The Thing", and not at just any venue, but at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. To explain, this is a somewhat dilapidated facility, and they raise money for restoration by showing movies, which are projected against the wall of the mausoleum. Patrons sit on a wide, uninterrupted expanse of grass, and not on graves, as one friend feared. This enterprise is wildly popular, filling up each screening regardless of what is being shown. Getting within a half mile of the cemetery in Hollywood from North Hollywood takes about as long as traversing the final half mile and entering the place.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Drive-In Hangout

There have been, in rapid succession, a number of references recently in my circle of friends to drive-in movie theaters. I have been made aware of several within plausible driving distance of my home. Two are well out in the suburbs, and a third of an unconventional nature is on a downtown rooftop outfitted with astroturf. That one cannot be called a drive-in, strictly speaking. Nor can the venue I went to fairly recently. It's a cemetery in Hollywood, where they periodically screen movies by projecting them onto the wall of a mausoleum. All that got me thinking about my drive-in experiences.

We had two in the Phoenix metro area, and to my knowledge, both are still there. The one I went to most was the Scottsdale 6, and it was a quintessential example. Like most, it had seen its best days before I got there. All their radios were busted, so one used their own car stereo. As a boy, I went there without a car more often than I went in one. We would have our portable radio, and lawn chairs, and just go about the grounds on foot. This made it easy to break free of the ordinarily-prescribed double features.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Schrodinger's Doorknob

The act of assumption is most thought-provoking. Maybe that's not so for the average person, but I find it almost endlessly stimulating to think about. When confronted with a situation, people will size up all the moving parts of it. They'll try to see how it all fits together, and then they'll draw an eminently reasonable and rational conclusion that is totally wrong precisely because it makes so much sense. To his last day in power, Saddam Hussein acted as though he possessed the weapons of mass destruction that never were found. He apparently did this to appear so strong as to forestall invasion, and in so doing, invited invasion.

I was some time ago struck by the fact that people generally make certain assumptions about closed doors. If they want to go inside (or outside, as the case may be) and they think that it should be unlocked, then they will of course try to open it. If, on the other hand, they think the closed door must be locked, the chances are that they won't even put their hand on the knob. People sometimes come to our apartment building and see the formidable gate out front whose operation appears to depend on the call box mounted on it. When they can't get it to work, they helplessly stand there, or try to reach us on the phone for help. If they tried the gate, they would find it to not even be locked.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Beast Within

There's a beast that lies in wait all the while that I'm out, active and with people. I strive to bury it deep inside so that they don't see, but I know it's there. It watches, listens and takes impeccable notes. It bides its time until I'm finally alone and on the down beat, and then it strikes. I do battle with it again and again, never unharmed, but always emerging with enough left to go at it another day. The beast is called introspection, and he beleaguers me relentlessly.

The better part of what comes when I encounter the beast is unsparing, brutal, desperate self-criticism. That leads not to depression, because it's not depression unless it's diagnosed by a mental health professional. I'm not seeing any of those presently. The most I would feel qualified to say is that I enter periods of brooding and melancholia at such times. Needless to say, it's not productive. Nor are my thoughts during such times terribly accurate, but the insidious beast clouds my mind and poisons my objectivity.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


We humans are social creatures, and probably our greatest God-given ability is that of vocalized communication. Other animals can say a lot with barks and whines, but we have the physical makeup both in the brain and the throat area (as I call it, having studied film and not anatomy) to be more eloquent and efficacious in our vocalized communication than any of them. Clearly, though, ability does not necessarily come with wisdom as a package deal.

Talking makes for a lot of problems. I'd say that the vast majority are the product of saying either too much or just the wrong thing. A slender minority of bad situations created by talking are the result of not saying anything. I'd suggest that people could help themselves out immensely in all situations by saying as little as they can. This is why I have opted out of political conversation.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Road To Jericho

I was resigned one night a couple of weeks ago to an evening at home alone watching my backlog of DVDs, and had just settled in for the long hall when I got word of a developing pub crawl being perpetrated by friends. I always figure that going out is better than staying in. Naturally, you can't go out every night, but I try to do so at every opportunity, resting and recharging on the nights when nothing is offered. I wanted to do this bar thing very much, but the call had come just too late for me to have any hope of catching a bus. Naturally no ride was possible, and the bar was some three miles away. A lesser social drinker would slump his shoulders and admit defeat. I have more fortitude than that.

My means of transportation was, of course, my feet. One drives if he can. If he can't drive, he bicycles. If he can't bicycle, he walks. It's really very reasonable, and anyway I've walked a lot further for less. I got my things, stepped out the door, and sallied forth. I advised my friends that I expected I could be there in an hour. I kind of figured I could do a bit better than that, but thought it would be best to build in a little grace period. This would leave a solid hour plus of drinking before closing time, which is the only end to an evening of drinking that my friends recognize.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Have Fun, Will Travel

I recently had another of those evenings notable enough to be shared. There seem to be more and more of those cropping up, don't there? I suppose that's a positive development. This night in particular sprung from friends of a friend who were in town and being shown a good time by my friend. I had met them on the Monday preceding this account, when they were observing the improv class that our mutual friend and I attend. It hadn't bothered me that they were there watching. After all, the class is for the betterment of performing, and the audience is an essential component thereof. It was nonetheless something I noted, and so I remembered them well in spite of their having hung back and said little.