Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roundball Real Estate

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

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Father Of Fix-It

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

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coffee Service

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Viernes Negro

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

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hey Hound

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Los Angeles 101

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

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Get The Wed Out: Part Three

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

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

Get The Wed Out: Part Two

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Get The Wed Out: Part One

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

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Restaurant Rant

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

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Write Right

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finger-Clipping Good

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today's Mother

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Code Of The Bed

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

It Stalks These Halls

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

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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Can Of Dreams

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quote Quota

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

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'll Show You: Part Three

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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'll Show You: Part Two

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'll Show You: Part One

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

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Death Sauce

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

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

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mug Shot

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

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

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crazy Early

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

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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Do-Everything Machine

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

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

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Just Want The Sticker

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

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Any Port In A Storm

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

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Curtains! (Part Four)

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

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

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Curtains! (Part Three)

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

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Curtains! (Part Two)

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

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