Friday, February 05, 2010
The stench of broken empire rose in the West and soon bathed the new earth in its swaddling decay. The Empire's pyre was built on the broken back of the twentieth century, it's centurial conclusion lit the rickety, dry sticks propping the Empire up so that it always appeared taller somehow, psychologically dominant, a facade, sleight of hand. The Empire's dueling illegal excursions into the Fertile Crescent at the birth of the twenty-first century marked the opening note on a tired, worn, and painfully repetitious symphony. This symphony is not without its beauty; it is not without its tragedy; it is flush with suffering; it is pregnant with animosity apathy and narcissism. As the masses shifted beneath the weight of The Empire's silken, exposed belly, small parasitic insects bore down, slicing and penetrating with fragile mandibles until the beast bled out...slowly cooling and fading, its violent crimsons bleeding into pale translucence.
Globally, it seemed, in hindsight, that everyone in the civilized world had been watching the Leviathan's shining light sputter and flicker. All but the Empire's denizens were watching (patiently suffering in constant agony) and waiting. Why will no one help? shout the Empire's citizens, how could they have been silent while watching the house of cards fold? how could they abandon us after all we've done for them? The world learned its lessons from the Empire, it learned that Justice and Truth are relative to nationalism (national: intent and security). As the children of Empire watched, funded and (yes even) cheered on destruction of man woman and child in the name of Empire's interests, the rest of our world took heart. The rest of the world refused to forgive and forget and when the day had finally come, instead of working to resuscitate the Beast the World awkwardly turned their heads, averted their eyes and distracted themselves. Petulant children waiting while the corpse twists, turns, groans and painfully comes to final rest.
The time has come to burn down the plantation houses. It is time to flush the rats from their gilded basements. Purge this infestation with fire. The scaffolding must be lit at its base, allowing the flames to slowly and unerringly lick the wobbly supports of their ideology. There are no longer walls of perception erected around their crimes.
-Inter-Realist Manifesto #37
Los Angeles is a city of last minute plans and last minute cancellations; one must have a car because one can't be trusted to arrive (much less on time). A city where "you smell like drug abuse" is more oft heard than, "I'll love you til my dying day." Argue as they may, Los Angelinos cannot deny their city's saturation of apathy and willful vapidity. As with any absolute there are exceptions, at times many many exceptions, but as is the nature of frivolously thrown generalizations, it can be justified that the vast majority (perhaps even the essence of the city itself) wallow in banality and lack even a primary understanding or desire to participate in anything but the facade. The facade is not quantitative; we all bear our own persecutionary facade individually. There exists, barely a modicum of community, even in the face of overlapping and cohabitative facades.
For decades Los Angeles has lived and breathed at the resuscitative feet of facade, honing it, distributing it, perfecting it until all who lay their eyes on facade's prizes are pulled under the tractor-trailer wheels and whistle salutations and gratitude as the grinding machine pulls their form to pieces and leaves them scattered as so much flotsam on high speed motorways. From film to celluloid to personal health to domestic flaunt, Los Angeles poured its porous foundation patted itself on the proverbial back and walked away...waving ta-ta to their handiwork and caring not for its future or the futures of those it contaminates.
Foundations erode, especially foundations laid with no mind or sight for the future. The cosmetic band-aid of modern urban development plays the same tune as automobiles and electronic devices: Though this (it) must ring true perfection when it is handed to the consumer, it must invariably fail. This failure, the crux of our existence, must fall within an allowable time-frame. The allowance sought, the allowance wagered on and manufactured, must push the consumer back into the retail outlet to replace (and therefore spend $ on) their beloved possession. If this allowance falls beyond a profitable turn-over ratio (new: replace and/or upgrade) all is lost. Why wouldn't we just make a product that will last the customer until their need is fulfilled? Naïveté` is rewarded by violence and ignorance in this city fair. Those who innocently (or otherwise) ask for the facade to be explained, or for it to be rationally considered, are our modern time's lepers. Questioning the facade relegates you to a secondary existence as a citizen raped and ravished by Syphilitic plague.
The lesion-pocked backs of Los Angeles' hollowed citizenry formed the fertile soil for our Empire's final transformation. Though their city was being torn apart by civil turmoil and death the people of Los Angeles recognized their poignant moment; none turned their head in disgust at the prospect; none thought to cover their mouths to protect their lungs from this effluvious poison. It was only natural (was it not?) for our people to consider a watched-life.
Though entertainment had devolved into an orchestrated play-act of real events, the majority of the country still considered themselves well-equipped to define what is real and what is facade. It is a given that though they felt capable, it had been almost a century since our people had walked under the clear blue Chumanash skies unfettered by suggestion, unmolested by advertisement. Once entertainment had grasped the illusory powers of facade our nation suffered the largest mass-social-transformation in centuries. Soon all that was desired was available from any convenient market, created and manufactured in some distant land by a people we would never look in the eye. Our televisions told us who we were, and whom our neighbors expected us to be (and the highest expectation being that a person sow envy in those same neighbors).
Los Angeles curried the favor of New York advertising powers and willfully played their role creating and perpetuating the facade, perfecting it past the wildest dreams of National Socialists, Maoists or their brethren cultists the Mormons and Scientologists (to note a few (very few) examples). The basin became theatre and with the ability to paint celluloid with traces of light, the facade moved into the third dimension and crouched like an emaciated cat before an empty dish. Though the nervous system of facade began on the banks of Manhattan, the phalanges, muscle, tendons and flesh of facade rose from Southern California soil.
The late-century development in Hollywood of the "reality" phenomenon proved too attractive a prospect for manipulators of lives to turn away from. The opening throes of "reality" were littered with just that...reality. Soon it became obvious that the allure of "reality" was strong enough to pull the viewer in but failed miserably to hold their attention. Alas, watching boring humans turned out to be...well, boring. Proportion leapt out of the window, it seemed, from facade's standpoint, the more "real" a portrayal, the less "real" it felt on-screen. The drama of damaged inter-personal relationships became the call of the day, and as soon as it had begun, this "revolution" in entertainment fell into the same tired tapeloop as its predecessors.
We are not, and will never again be, concerned with what is real. The optimum we must hope for is a recognition of the shared reality between each human being. Our unique Inter-Reality.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Friday, December 04, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
I could fill a novel with the smells sounds and sights from these fourteen days. I scarcely put a dent in it on the plane. Too much to process. I missed my city fair but I have been very promiscuous with her eastern sibling.
I walked 1.5 miles to the Flyaway with my trusty little green suitcase and laptop bag. The howling Van Nuys wind tried its best to keep me in Los Angeles, but my bags and I would not to be hindered. From this windblown exhaustion to touchdown at John F. Kennedy, I was a madman. I occupied my time vehemently, never letting one task get too mundane. Several hours in an enormous metallic belly requires immense concentration and/or distraction.
Far below and to the east lay a city in wait. A city I had not seen the likes of in just under a decade.
Without its siren song, Los Angeles would be a pointless venture. One mistress at a time...even for me. With the static and repression smoothly showered out of my skin I boarded an allegedly virgin aircraft and was soon delighted to see that my row-mate had purchased the center seat because she "detested sitting next to anyone."
When we landed I made my way patiently off of the plane. Dr. Goldflam PhD was waiting for me at the base of the stairs. We embraced and walked outside. The Doctor asked if I would mind having a cigarette before setting off. "I never do, I'll even join you." It was warm and raining. Not Georgia warm and raining, but subtle.
"So where is this place?" asked the good Doctor.
Shit, I didn't know...
"Brooklyn. Near the Parade Grounds," I said the first bit in unhidden ignorance, and the second with the curl of a query on my tongue...
"You know we're driving through fucking Watts right?" The Dr. gracefully added.
Only a former Los Angelino would say so.
The parkway leading away from JFK led to a seething mass of urban sprawl. The Doctor pointed to the hospital of his birth, 15-20 young men and women paced the front steps and handicap ramp. We sped past enormous buildings housing hundreds of people in geometric patterns denoting government intervention and "planning". Not unlike the military facilities my family bounced around during my early life. Our destination lay parallel to the Parade Grounds (so I got that part right...), but parking was non-existent.
The Doctor received a phone call and after one last stretch of not-parking pulled to the side and kicked me out. Well, that's not exactly true, he did stop and hang out a moment, but he certainly was not planning to ascend for his prize of coffee and sweet roll four stories above. I understood completely...and knew that I would feel quite comfortable polishing off his portion...
I had Katherine on the phone and before long I saw her arm flailing in the darkness. It was that uniquely modern moment when you make eye contact and realize that the cellphone is not necessary...yet people hesitate to hang up until they are within comfortable conversation distance. You could even call the phenomenon "dated", dated in that it represents a moment of innocence. A new embarrassment to revive the cold ashen coals of Victorian morality. A flush of the cheek, a shame, a sin - our alleged unifying quality - that we all sin. Once everyone had done it, done it again and perhaps made a game of it, it became mundane, human sign-language, like holding your pinky and thumb up to your ear to say “call me.”
We both hung up, three dimensions are best in some company (there are vast exceptions to that statement), and a dark lane framed by a vast black void halting the relentless march of housing, gave way to a pristinely lit and degraded announcement, The Sovereign.
The ridiculous bomb proof elevator door was the icing on the cake, the end of the tour following an immense checked floor flanked by an antique marble staircase. We made it, and walked out onto the 4rd[sic] Floor. Someone (though I didn't notice for a long while, six days to be exact) was mourning "Leo"; apparently he did not make it. It didn't allude to why he didn't make it, but these things happen. Sleep happened, but after introductions and much adjustment to the idea that I was deep in the heart of Brooklyn waiting to live in New York for eleven days. To say I digress would be a severe understatement...
I'd been there once in 2000 and once in 2001. Both times I was awash in concentrated activity, it was a bit daunting. I tried to focus but my mind was reeling, my thoughts were coming a bit too fast for interesting conversation, I ended up just trying to take everything in.
In March 2000 I was only in town for less than forty-eight hours and an Italian restaurant near the Hotel 31, the Empire State Building, and 222 Bowery were all we could fit in. It was amazing and amazing further for a birthday. Sometimes you have to give yourself a birthday present. In September 2001 my journey was rife with variables, including walking about New Jersey in search of a train to the city at the time of the morning. It was the tail end of a road trip, a smooth road trip considering, complete with a pop-in to Athens, GA. My two block walk to my destination and the debaucherous, pleasure-laden week unfolded beneath my feet in slow-motion though my head sped from life's velocity.
This time...this time I had eleven days. Eleven fucking days...I can get into an immense amount of trouble in eleven days. To while these fine days away, I had the pleasure and privilege of the best tour guide a man could possibly ask for, complete with a home-base two blocks from the subway station.
Waking up early was a distant memory almost immediately; catching the sunset crossing over the Manhattan Bridge is a fair compromise, however, and worth rushing to the train to breathe in.
Wake. Breakfast. Smoke. Nap. Wake at 10PM, two horror movies, exhaustion.
The next morning eating and showering took place and we rushed off...sunset rapidly approaching. We rode the Q toward Coney Island. I'd never been, have you? It's a real damned boardwalk. Fishermen lined the pier and even posed as Katherine took long shots toward the shore. I brought a fragile pocket of warmth in my green suitcase. The evening I arrived and that evening on the edge of the boardwalk---and back, smoking copiously---were a balmy sixty degrees (Fahrenheit). In hindsight I am very glad we did the shore on one of the warm days...
This is precisely what a Monday should feel like. Although I'm fairly certain that coffee and cigarettes happened at some point earlier in the day, we again were incapable of leaving bed until the sun had almost dipped permanently into the West. This evening however we were on a crash course with Manhattan. I was crawling out of my skin to see the night sky obscured by glass steel stone and brick.
This would not be my first sunset while crossing the Manhattan Bridge, but the brilliance of FDR snaking electrically under the speeding train would suffice for tonight. We emerged in the City and after seven years it still took the old breath away. We walked, with eyes skyward, only periodically watching where we were going with nary a collision. Katherine feels the same awe I do in this city. In spite of her familiarity, no contempt has formed. Fifth Avenue came too soon and by committee we decided I should stay outside while she participated in xmas commerce. A murder of silken haired children huddled in mittens and oversized jackets waited in line to enter the store. It was a perverse American scene and I did my best to smoke as far away form the teeming brood as humanly possible. The young men sitting on three and four wheeled pay-conveyances filled my ears with shouts of BIKE TAXI - CARRIAGE - BIKE TAXIIIII. The bored yet passionate drivers rescued one mother and her two daughters from a bitter walk. In the streets people spilled like blood into the gutters and splashed off one another in distorted unison. Complimentary particles that resist bonding in the melee. I chain smoked a shameful six cigarettes while I participate with all five senses in this orgiastic dance. I stood completely still of course, participation can also be observation, just ask Henry Landsberger.
Katherine was very brave and was out sooner than either of us had expected. We were off again in a flash. We waked past Rockefeller Center and I saw the unimpressive display. I wanted to see it, it just wasn't worth hesitating too long. Coffee called and we answered. We pulled up ad took over a sliver of cement in front of Cosi. A NYPD Officer was parked on the curb and his partner was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. It looked like he was watching the traffic going into one of the stores, but he was carrying on a casual conversation with his partner in the car and even gave direction to a few passers-by, "Hey, which way is west?" - to his partner - "That way," - his reply - "Okay ladies, the shopping is that way." How's that for serving and protecting? I worried for a moment about crushing my cigarette out in front of two cops and as if by the power vested in me, the two hopped casually in the car and were gone in a puff of condensed exhaust.
We took our cups of coffee to the side terrace of the New York Central Library. Children and adults alike pulled themselves to the top of those immediately recognizable twin lions and snapped hundreds of photographs as we finished our coffee and smoked four more cigarettes. The icy air began to push beneath my long wool overcoat and the hobo fingers on my year-old gloves reminded me that the cold and I do not get along well at all.
We struck out again into the masses after the brief interlude and Katherine surprised me with a stopover at a pub. Connelly's to be exact, and we settled in and I ordered a pint. It had been a few days since I'd had one and the dark stout was desperately intoxicating. The intoxication subsided immediately, but I knew how to remedy that...
At some point I do believe there is photographic evidence of my tongue and a good portion of my face rammed down a pint glass and submerged in Guinness. Yes, these things happen sometimes. Airbag came on at one point and it seemed a perfect nostalgic cap in a new experience. Three pints is all I could sign up for that evening, the walk and the train ride back to Brooklyn lay ahead.
When we returned to the 4rd floor I rushed to download and process the day's photographs and force them on my loved ones. It became a staple activity every evening, a fine partial collection derived from 800 pictures taken during my visit. My camera failed early on and Katherine, with the tenacity of a Viking on shore leave in Anglo-land she snapped and snipped tiny pieces of reality that paint a picture of that late December and early January while I discovered and realized my addiction.
The next day had Katherine and me up and out of the house just barely on time. We emerged from the underground around Madison Square Garden and were suddenly awash in a sea of cadets in dress-blue uniforms. My nightmare...hordes of cops in every direction for a mile. I made my snarky comments and tried to hold my tongue as the parents and well-wishers kissed, hugged and waxed proud of their young proto-fascist offspring. Truly a dark day, truly a harbinger of doom. We made the rounds to a few small mom and pop shops and finally found an "electronics" store selling postcards at 5/1$. I had sixty names on the postcard list so this price break made the decision for me. We laughed our heads off as we meticulously chose a perfect card for every name. When we walked the cards inside we were patently ignored by the staff. Honestly it would have been quite simple to walk right back out and away with fists full of postcards, but larceny would have made us late for the train to New Jersey so we waited patiently. Once inside the immense innards of Penn Station we sipped hot coffee and waited for our Southern conveyance. We were dive bombed by a pigeon trapped in the station, hit up rudely for spare change and over-observed by families waiting to leave the city for calmer climes.
Katherine's mother picked us up in New Jersey and we sped from suburb into wild. We twisted and turned through the Lovecraft-ian landscape mirroring the banks of the Delaware River as Katherine’s mom gave me a brief historical primer on the area. Once in Lambertville we dropped our bags and promptly took a walk. Lambertville is a tiny slice of Victorian Age America. Every house is a tribute to Victoria's namesake architecture and every sidewalk feels like old Europe. Tiny shops and bookstores dot the quiet, narrow streets and the simple act of walking and observing was similar to slowly lowering your body into a warm, fragrant bath. We crossed the Delaware on a beautiful iron bridge and washed ashore in New Hope Connecticut. New Hope is a similarly tiny and archaic town, though New Hope more closely resembles mountain enclaves in California and Georgia than the Chuthulian neighborhood behind us. New Hope also boasts the most robust and openly homosexual community in the area, which was a welcome sight for yours truly. The more conservativism and bigotry clog the beautiful landscapes of backwoods bergs the more I pray to see a crack in the facade - a glimmer of something real and unashamed pressing its fingers through the heavy curtains of the status quo. New Hope was similarly peppered with tiny unique shops with a heavier influence on Wiccan capitalism, tattoo parlors, Biker clothing shops and flapping rainbow flags. We ended our tour smoking a few cigarettes on a park bench and watching the violent Delaware carry goose and flotsam alike rapidly south. We popped into an antique store on the way home and Katherine’s mother was wrapping up a feast. We ate, talked for a few hours and promptly lost consciousness...
New Year's Eve Day - We were on a secret mission to Philly by mid-day. It was a bitterly cold yet glaringly bright sunny day. I had never spent any time in Philadelphia so I was eager to have a damn good look around. We entered the city and found suitable parking right away. After a quick stop at Dunkin' Donuts we were walking the streets and I looked up in awe as Philadelphia unfolded before us. Our first PA mission was a tour of the Grand Masonic Temple one block from Philly's capital building. My grandfather on my mother's side was a military, then union, then secret society man. He joined the Masons, as many men in his time did, as a result of his union membership, and lived out his life as a member of that secret boy's club. I've always had a side-fascination with the group; though I never experienced a desire to join (I'm not very good with clubs...too many rules...too many assholes you have to be brothers with). Even so, even someone as traditionally-challenged and conformity-allergic as me could feel the tension once inside the building. There is something admittedly awesome about traditions spanning a century or two that interject themselves, no matter how awkwardly, into modern society. The Masons have a claw-hold in America unlike any other country on the planet and they make no bones about it. We were herded into a museum of sorts filled with glass cases containing documents from pre-revolutionary America and from ancient European manifestations of the boy's club mentality. Not unlike their predecessors, the monks, the Masons are expert archivists. In spite of their noxious tendencies I do applaud them (the Masons and the Monks) for being one of the only long-term protectors of ancient documents. Finally we were invited into the main hall where the tour began. Our guide, though he eventually fleshed himself out as a sexist bigot, was a pleasant and very informative host. He made a point of bringing up The DaVinci Code in an effort to push some of the "mystery" away from the organization. However, much like a child who over explains and thus rats himself out, our host created more controversy with his apologist dissertation. The individual "halls" of the temple were ornately decorated to represent factions, both political and historical, of Masonry. I was impressed to see Ancient Egypt and Arabic culture proudly represented. Since 2001 it's been an unspoken rule that these cultures were necessarily inferior to Western culture. This is a gigantic mistake in ignorance (especially since the institutions bigots claim show our superiority have their origins in ancient NON-WESTERN cultures. History is the antithesis to bigotry.). By the end of the tour, I was numb; each room was finer and more ornately decorated than the last. The vast marble floors of the common-area vaults, revealed a decadence most common to religious institutions, and for me, this is sufficient enough evidence of an organization's true intentions and culture.
We stepped back into Philadelphia's downtown circle and a light snow began to fall. As Katherine snapped copious photos of Ben Franklin at his press, the snow began to intensify. In less than five minutes we were both engulfed in a serious snow squall. All around us was white, blistering winds swept through and smoking (even for me) became nearly impossible. We covered several blocks and finally gave up on the futile attempt to find a restaurant to hide in and nourish our bodies. On the way back to the vehicle the snow subsided. In less than 30 minutes Philadelphia had been covered in a soft blanket of fresh snow. Leaving Philly proved to be a logistical challenge, but we eventually made it, and were soon back in New Jersey lying down for a well-deserved nap.
I slept really hard and waking up, in spite of the festivities ahead, proved almost impossible. Once we finally got up and motivated, Sherri showed up and we began the preparation to return to Philly. Poor Katherine had developed and upset stomach and we could tell she was feeling very poorly. Sherri and I both offered to stay and skip the concert but Katherine would not hear it. She is a Life-Soldier, rank of General! We struck out into the inky night and Katherine bravely remained in painful silence. Before we reached the first major freeway, Katherine requested that Sherri stop the car. Sherri pulled into a parking lot along a fancy dining establishment built on a slight hill. Katherine evacuated rapidly and thankfully was able to rid herself of whatever was ailing her. I found it ironic that the person who hasn't had a drink in years would be the first to vomit on New Year's Eve. I was sure that I would follow next...
We got back into the car and carried on. The venue was quite large; it was an industrial building at one time and was nestled snugly in the industrial region northeast of downtown. The wind was blowing violently and the temperature had dropped still further. Gogol Bordello fans stood in punk-rock t-shirts holding their arms trying desperately to finish a last cigarette before entering the venue. We three elected to remain in the car until the last moment. Once outside we were smacked full in the face by the wisdom of our choice. Once inside we found an excellent perch on the balcony near the bar. The Gogol DJ spun a nauseating set but was soon taken over by the East Philadelphia Orchestra. This band blew me away, they played a rousing traditional set of Eastern European folk music. The members were solid musicians and indeed technically savvy (the string section played from sheets of music on stands) and the tuba player was a bouncing, spastic joy to watch! During their set Katherine began feeling ill again and nearly lost consciousness. I walked with her to the car and insisted she rest until she felt comfortable again. It did not take long, she's hardcore. Once back inside we stayed on the floor and watched the absolute chaos that is Gogol Bordello! The show was amazing and they did not disappoint!
After the dust settled, we made out way back to Jersey and hit the sack for a well-deserved and overdue sleep...
The first day of 2009. 2008 was a nightmare year, rife with personal problems, relationship disasters, and parents falling unexpectedly ill and periodically unemployed. 2008 made me consider the mortality of my family and myself more than I have in the past 34 years. I did not enjoy the experience and I looked optimistically to 2009 to make it all better. To just be a year. A good-old-fashioned, normal year. If it was boring, so be it, just please nothing like 2008. We woke lazily mid-day and walked to a nearby bookstore. Both Katherine and I found some real treasures (I found Albert Camus' collected writings from his time in the French Underground circa WWII - Resistance, Rebellion, and Death - 1960 - 1st edition, hardcover). We gathered up the Mom and headed to Cafe Galleria for a phenomenal breakfast/lunch. After lunch we took another leisurely stroll through the picturesque berg and Sherri Katherine and I hit the road for NYC.
Just outside Lambertsville a cop sped up alongside Sherri's car. She jokingly cheered, "Go get 'em!" and just as she completed the sentence he slipped behind us and flipped his lights on. The Jersey Trooper (whose breath was rank according to Katherine's up-close and personal position as passenger) stumbled over putting simple groups of sentences together. He introduced himself by name, rank and jurisdiction (weird...must be new...) and then demanded Insurance and Registration. Katherine worked the Jedi mind trick on him (a smooth combination of name-dropping Lambertsville and claiming we had been "antiquing." New York plates apparently are only acceptable in backwoods Jersey if antiquing was the reason for the visit), and before Sherri could gather her proof of insurance he had warned her to slow down and sent us on our way.
We entered Brooklyn from the south (a first for me) and Sherri dropped us off at The Sovereign. We entered an apartment full of sleeping bodies. Henry (Katherine's brother), Molly (Katherine's sister), Daniel (Molly's boyfriend), Sarah (their cousin), Christian and Tranesha were all recovering from a hell of a NYE party the night prior. Soon the kids were put in order and we began a trek into the city. Katherine and I took a little longer to arrive and met with everyone at Go Sushi on St. Mark's. While we drank sake and gulped rice, a gent named Ben from the Canada wandered drunkenly onto the patio to awkwardly try striking up conversation. He was nice enough, looked like he'd been in a fist-fight recently, and thankfully listened when his lady friend begged him to leave us be. From Go we wandered onto the streets. A serious yen for a hookah lounge was upon us and though the original choice of lounges was closed we accidentally found Revitali on 1st Ave. and St. Mark's. The place was mostly empty when we sat down. The decor was relaxing and the owner, Sam, was pleased to take care of us and very very friendly. We all goofed around with the hookahs and drank our fill. We were having such a good time that people wandering past in the frozen streets stopped, looked inside and then walked in. Sam, realizing the service our party of laughter was performing, refused to let us pay for the last two hookahs or the rest of our drinks. We poured ourselves out of the lounge around 4AM (I love that city) and made our way back to Brooklyn; some via cab and a few of us via subway.
Daniel and Molly cooked up a fearsome feast for everyone and ushered in the day perfectly. Katherine and I elected to rest our weary bones and troll around the house all day, finally capping the evening with a double feature of Henry & June and The Cell. Perfect.
Woke and escaped to the city...
Had a bastard of a time with the trains, the R local was not running and both Katherine and I were suffering from hunger-induced retardation. Once we were on point, we opted to leave the underground and wander Little Italy in search of nourishment. The air was frigid and walking around soon seemed like a massive error. Chinatown and Little Italy were teeming with weekend consumers and shoppers. We walked all over Chinatown trying to find a certain restaurant that Katherine wanted to tale me too, but in the end had to give up on it as the cold became too much. We paused on a street corner re-aligning our thoughts to search in Little Italy while Katherine told a story: when she was about fifteen, she had been standing on that very street corner and a man had propositioned her, "Hey, want to get a room?" and shown her a wad of bills. She fled inside the nearest restaurant and after telling them the story, they sat her down with a hot cappuccino until her ride arrived. I made a command decision and suggested that since we were literally on the front stoop, we should eat at Puglia, for the sake of the story! When we walked past the plastic door cover, we were awash in party-goers. A hundred people sat and stood waving white napkins over their heads and dancing drunkenly to synthesizer accordions while the birthday boy cheered them all on. It was manic and a perfectly warm welcome from the winter streets and mindless stoic pedestrians. We were shown to a joining dining room and settled in for a fine Italian meal. A college football game between Atlanta and Arizona...strangely enough...held our rapt attention until my beer and our pizza arrived. The pizza was a cheese and garlic dripping masterpiece and we both applauded our decision to come to Puglia (and quietly thank XO for being such a difficult restaurant to find!). We finished off dinner with a piece of authentic NY cheesecake. Though I paused for a moment thinking Katherine had made an error by ordering only one piece, I was soon educated on the density of NY Cheesecake. I could not have finished a piece on my own if my life depended on it! Before we had decided to walk back out into the wind and cold, we were greeted by the Mexi-Elvis commanding the synthesizer. He gave the dining room and excellent show, his sideburns, giant belt-buckle and self-embroidered dress shirt (bearing his name) left us laughing uncontrollably! I posed for a necessary snapshot with him before leaving.
I was moderately lost by this point, so I was surprised when we turned onto Bowery and Katherine poked me, "Look where we are..." 222 Bowery. She snapped a few photos of me in front of the iconic doorway. The place had cleaned up immensely since my last visit in 2000. There was a still a bum off to my right as the picture was taken, but the walkway was well lit, the lights were on inside the re-modeled foyer, Mr. John Giorno had a name placard for the 3rd floor, and the BUNKER had a placard for the fourth floor next to the call-box. We both toyed with the idea of pressing the button but reminded ourselves that every other douche who'd ever heard of Giorno had probably done the same thing. Our next stop was another icon for me, The Strand Bookstore. 18 miles of books...or so they say. The Strand was filled with people perusing, discussing, and buying books. Truth be told, it was just full enough to warrant slight discomfort. Too much human exhaling, I say. We both tripped nostalgic through the fiction section, art section, and a stop off or two in non-fiction. I picked up the latest Saul Bellow (which I greatly regretted. I loved Herzog, but Ravelstein made me write Saul off altogether. I'm sure my disdain for Bellow and his subject (Neo-Conservative philosopher Allan Bloom) will make it onto this blog at some point), as well as Tropic of Cancer. We both found far too many books to take with us and settled on buying only 50$ worth of what we wanted. The vapid poorly-tattooed girl at the counter commented to me that Tropic was a good book. I asked sincerely if she felt it held up against the Rosy Crucifixion Trilogy and she pretended to know what I was talking about but never answered. Her feigned knowledge compelled me to explain that it was odd, I had read his entire catalog, but had somehow saved the Tropic's for last. She continued to pretend to know what I was talking about and Katherine and I had a laugh about it after leaving the store.
We stopped for supplies before hitting the Q train back to B-lyn. While swilling fine French-press coffee we both confessed hunger pangs and Katherine whipped up a pesto pasta and parmesan biscuits that had me teetering on sleep by the first time I smelled the delicate aromas waft in fro the kitchen. I sat and completed my postcards back to the Left Coast while she prepared the meal and after a short glass of Hendricks’s I passed out unhindered by insomnia.
We got out of the house on time!
*PARADE NOISES --- ACCOLADES OF STRANGERS -- DRUM-CORP POUNDING THEIR APPRECIATION!*
Today we had very important plans. Today we had a date with Dr. and Dr. Goldflam, their son Luca and the lovely Sasha. The night prior a disjointed text-discussion between Dr. Goldflam and I ended with a commitment to meet at NoHo Star. Katherine had suggested it, and Dr. Goldflam had been impressed..."I was just going to say that. Okay, NoHo Star." The Star is a nice little place, gorgeous wait-staff to say the least. The food was excellent as well, but you could certainly tell that coming early was the best policy. The place filled to capacity and overflowing before we had received our coffee. After we finished out meals we elected to take a stroll around the area, The Dr.'s wanted to take Luca to one of his favorite toy stores around the corner. As we walked up Bowery, I saw a tangential friend. He's the boyfriend of a friend of my ex-girlfriend (wow, that's convoluted) and he and I had bonded in the periods between our lady-friend's photo-shoots and various responsibilities. In Tampa, during a convention he and I had run around being hoodlums while the ladies worked at their conference booths. We both welcomed the distraction. I recognized him as he walked past, failed to recall his name ('cause I suck like that) but stopped him nonetheless. It's just too random to see an acquaintance months and months later randomly walking down a street in Manhattan. After the toy store, we all decided that the day should not come to an end, so we piled in the Dr.'s motor vehicle and made tracks for Queens. The Goldflam's live in a quite little neighborhood that still had a little light snow collected in the driveways and front yards. We settled in to continue playing catch-up, played games with Luca (smart little bugger!), had some drinks and I ended up feeling a ridiculous drunken happiness pour over me. Good food, good drinks, good people, again, this is the trifecta la vida! Unfortunately, we capped the evening with a viewing of Sweeney Todd which, in spite of Sascha Cohen, was the WORST movie I've ever seen. Dreadful. Horrid. Pathetic. Ugh. Circa 1AM Dr. Goldflam dropped us off at the Long Island Train and we smoked a few cigarettes before it arrived. We were A LONG WAY from B-lyn and I was amped about a new rail-adventure. The Train was more like a traditional above-ground train (much like the one we took to New Jersey days prior) and we had the whole thing to ourselves owing to the lateness of the ride. We were back in Penn Station in no time and on foot to the Q. I became impatient waiting for the Q back to Brooklyn...buck up camper, it's only been 20mins! My LA must have been showing *blush*
Woke late, even had to take a nap (zzzzz). Tonight was dress-up night. I donned my suit, scarf and overcoat, Katherine wore a pristine lace-top dress that placed her somewhere in an upscale basement Speak-easy 1920. She would not divulge our mission so we rode the subway in style, I in grand anticipation. We made our way to Vanderbilt Hall, and slipped up a non-assuming iron-doored elevator. It looked like a service of employee elevator which serves to turn away your typical tourista. We emerged into a second floor hall and slipped through the dark entrance to Campbell's Apartment, a swank lounge on the mezzanine level at Grand Central Terminal created from the former business office of prewar businessman John W. Campbell, who transformed the space into a pre-Renaissance palace worthy of a Medici. We sit and relax, I have a Sapphire and tonic and soon we are bathed in comfort and conversation. No matter the setting, we always have words, and they never disappoint. After a second drink we make tracks in search of dinner. Katherine takes me to the Algonquin (of Dorothy Parker fame) but we are soon told that they are only serving drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Disappointed we try another place down the street, but again, we are too late and the Taste of India turns us away. As we wandered, we passed a hokey little New York diner called The Red Flame. Both of us gleefully pile into the small front doorway. The staff was bored, on the verge of going home for the night. We are seated and wait patiently for our greasy-spoon magnificence. It turns out to be the best of all choices for the evening and we eat manically and sit back, full-stomached to reflect over coffee. Passers-by look, stop, and then smile and hug their loved ones. They find it romantic to see a couple so dressed and whiling away the early morning hours in a run-down diner.
Woke late again...big surprise...seems a bit of a pattern formed, eh? Rain pelted the Parade Grounds mercilessly and for a moment I contemplated the joyous possibility that I'd be kidnapped by NYC's weather and made to stay longer! We spent the morning between coffee and cigarettes discussing the state, or rather the great unrest of the word and its untidy and psychotic leanings toward not only self destruction but utter barbarity. The inanity of reproduction and the cruelty one must be capable of in order to bring a child into this corrupt and unsalvageable gene pool. I left Tropic of Cancer with Katherine, she began reading it the night we returned from the Strand bookstore and laughed out loud repeatedly. That, my friends is a dear gift that most cannot bestow in the same perfect and yet frazzled style of Mr. Miller. She'll return it to me when she finishes, but for now it is in deserving hands and it will be an excellent first Miller book for her. On a side note, it sounds like Dr. Jones will be taking on DFWallace soon. I'm excited for him, I hope he gets as much out of his writing as I have all of these years. So, back to it... Katherine decided to be a pirate tonight *smile* So, armed with long admiral's coat, and spiked boots with no less than twenty eyeholes we struck out into the damp Brooklyn nightfall. How fitting that is should piss rain on my last day in town, NYC seemed to yearn desperately to provide me with reason to remain. New York, you need not try so hard, it costs a mere 150$ on Virgin to have me all to yourself! Please, accept my permission to indulge often!
We took the Q through to Canal and transferred to the 6 train uptown. A bit of a misnomer as we ended up on what is famously called the Lower East Side. Cornered by Houston and Orchard, we found warmth and the Snowboard Crew in the Sixth Ward. Monthly, sometimes more frequently, the Snowboard Crew gets together for happy hour at varied locations. It is part reunion, part dating circle, part meet and greet. Everyone I met was a delight and I tied few pints on quite enjoyably in spite of knowing only Katherine and Sherri. After we'd had enough, we piled (we = Katherine, Sherri, Audri, myself) into Sherri's car and headed toward Bowery. Kenka was chosen as our feeding destination. Upon entering I was struck by the place's Blade Runner ambience, not to mention the enormous Raccoon on the front porch with red shining lights for eyes under a Japanese hat of straw. The tables were solid, in that they had four walls, and there was no way to put your feet under the table. The chairs were miniature; apparently they do not permit people with large backsides to eat there, such a shame. The menu was psychotic and busy, but I was finally able to settle on the Pork Cutlet as the safest and hopefully tastiest choice. The secondary menus had illustrated pictures of extremely hardcore Japanese bondage...nice! Other highlights included a large bear doll on wall and a small porcelain chalice with what looked like a picture of OJ Simpson on it, brilliant. My meal was excellent. The strange and dense BBQ sauce (plum?) was good enough to lick from its bowl (and how!). I made my way to the restroom. At first I was a bit afraid, both door signs were in Japanese characters and I couldn't discern the difference. However as I looked at the doorknobs I realized that the men's had a small cutout of Japanese porn (medieval) showing a penis and a vagina for the ladies. Sherri was in rare form and it was a genuinely amazing night. I stepped out for a smoke in the shark bowl (as Katherine calls it) and the falling rain was illuminated by the gaudy yellow lights and came down as light daggers from a completely black sky. The smoking area was a small space between the buildings littered with Japanese signs, rice paper and bamboo shades and a myriad of heavily decorated bulb-shaped lanterns. The heavy, sodden, yellow light and the hand painted decorations created perfect environment, I could not think of anything to add or subtract from the scene. Henry joined us as we finished polishing off our fried ice cream treats. Henry elected to hit Mamoun's for his food and we made our way back outside. Kenka gives you a small cup of pink sugar before you leave to create your own cotton candy dessert. Yes...cotton candy...we walked out front to the machine, poured the crystals into the center of the machine and twirled a stick to catch the candy. I wasn't very good at it and lamented that mine was quite a bit "smaller" than the ladies. Henry rejoined us and Sherri SPED (nutcase driver) off across the Manhattan Bridge toward home. We dropped Audri off first, then Sherri. Sherri was kind enough to loan Katherine her car to take my punk ass to the airport (THANK YOU Sherri!). As we approached the Parade Grounds it became apparent that parking would be a nightmare so we let Henry off. As we were stopping he said, "If it smells like Sage when you get there, it's because...I was burning sage." He laughed and I spoke up, "Yo, save some for me." "You smoke pot?" "Like a motherfucker!" I'd seen Henrys' pipe a few nights prior but didn't know if it was something I should bring up. Katherine and I drove around for another half hour and finally lucked into a spot on Parkside. Katherine had to flip a tough u-turn but slipped perfectly into the spot. We stayed up for a bit watching Samurai Seven with Henry but inevitably we had to retire.
It rained hard through the night...relentless. Martin Luther King (aka ORION!) made his final appearance screaming at the top of his mentally-distorted lungs that he BELIEVED! Katherine beat on the ceiling with the broom, to no avail. She's going to end up having to call the cops on that piece of shit. It was a sad morning, sad to leave, sad to prepare to leave. They grey morning stretched out before us replete with traffic jams and unreadable streets signs, but in the end I made it to JKF in time. We hugged a final time at the terminal and I bade Katherine a temporary farewell. I had a final spot of worry as I could not find a check-in station for Virgin American and ended up taking two laps around the front of the terminal. I finally found it, with 15 minutes until boarding. I made it sloooooooooooowly through security, though I must admit it was smoother than LAX. I found the terminal and relaxed onto the ground leaning up against a wall. My flight home was blessed (a second time!) by an empty seat between my row-mate and I. I tried to write on the plane, but not much came through. My head and eyes were still abuzz from New York and the brain was refusing to accurately translate into words. I resigned to read instead and took notes when my mind was focused enough to do so.
When I touched down in LA she was covered in a brown haze. It felt like Spring instead of Winter, as is par for the course in Los Angeles' endless seasonal-shenanigans. Walking off the plane I was surrounded by the familiar again, house-wives in 300$ velour track suits and 60,000$ wedding rings. Children (both young and old) with angular haircuts and black jeans that may as well be ballet tights. Even Manhattan on a Saturday night contains only a fraction of the frenzy Los Angelinos whip up at LAX. Once outside I lit my first return cigarette and waited for the Flyaway. Los Angles looked the same, for that I was comforted. Yet, she looked different all the same, changed, aged, and perhaps a little less mysterious now. I've been here for four years now and it was the first time I had seen LA as an old lover, a familiar sight, but no longer as exciting. I vacillated between morbid disappointment and an unstoppable urge to write my fingers off for every moment of the rest of my life. I thank my twin cities of ecstasy for never disappointing me and, as ever, inspiring me to no end.
I was bereaved to leaving New York. Katherine had given me an immeasurable gift by making New York mine, making it a little piece (like many I have collected over the years) of the Earth I can truly call home.
I hope you have missed me Los Angeles, for even though I made sweet, dirty, sweaty, fuck with your sexy sister I long, more than ever to be nestled firmly between your succulent and polluted thighs. Amen.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
222 Bowery - New York - 2000
William S. Burroughs' residence (The Bunker) during the late Seventies and early Eighties
My love for reading was killed, stepped-upon, decimated by the time I entered the fourth grade. I took me nearly thirteen years to re-ignite the passion, and I owe it all to Old Bull Lee passing away in 1997. I was unfamiliar with Burroughs and the rest of the "Beats"; certainly I had heard of On the Road and had heard comments about dirty beatniks and the like. A poorly-placed TV commercial during the late summer of 1997 compelled me to switch channels. A picture of a man in a suit and fedora flashed across the screen with the words WILLIAM BURROUGHS 1914-1997 (Wikipedia / A piece I penned in 2000 about Burroughs and his second wife Joan). I paused, after all, I am a sucker for suits and anyone that compliments the ensemble with a fedora has my full attention (albeit briefly...). As the reporter recounted Mr. Burroughs' career, travels and gang of miscreant co-conspirators the desire to read was re-awakened.
I admit, I acted cowardly and reached for the safer bet (Jack Kerouac) first, but after reading On the Road I knew that I had only licked the tip of a very important iceberg. Next I purchased Burroughs' most famous tome Naked Lunch and it completely altered my pre-conceptions of "literature". For several years during high school, and the two years following, I was writing quite a bit. I had been exposed to, and reveled in 'zine-culture and was manufacturing my own magazines at a rate of five or six per year. Though I was writing I carried a prejudice against anything lengthier than an essay or short story. The overall overwhelming notion that a novel must be linear was my primary reason for avoiding such an endeavor altogether (even then I was poorly equipped to stay on subject for 300pages). In Burroughs I found a complete and successful deviation from the concept of a linear story, further, I found a complete rejection of all "rules" regarding writing in general.
This discovery pushed me to try my hand at more involved writing. Longer, more verbose, and ultimately more fulfilling (to me that is) projects were now my goal. Burroughs' work heavily influenced my first novella (at times, embarrassingly, influenced very heavily). When I finished Silence I felt like I had finally accomplished a feat I considered impossible until that warm and uncomfortable summer in 1997.
I've only participated in one pilgrimage in my life, on my first (as well as my latest) trip to New York I made a point of having my photograph taken in front of The Bunker, where Burroughs lived and worked after returning from exile overseas.
FULL CIRCLE: 222 Bowery - New York - 2009
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
I was affected in a great many ways by my last stint in New York. Eleven days is a long time for someone who adapts rapidly and unconsciously. I became very comfortable with the idea that I never had to drive anywhere unless I absolutely insisted. New York's mass transit system is the meat of many legends and it lives up to its mythology brilliantly, even today. I felt awash in sights and sounds that normally I would have missed altogether in the confines of a Taxi Cab or in a car. I repeatedly took what one of Saul Bellow's characters (Ravelstein) called a "Humanity Bath." As much as a social misanthrope as I am, this should not be confused with pure misanthropy. I prefer an anonymous cohabitation, yet I still gain many insights amongst the masses.
Upon my return, as a result of the aforementioned need to alter my personal patterns indiscriminately, and financial accommodations, I decided that beginning in January I would begin to take the mass transit system to and from work (and wherever else LA's limited system can take me...including the Central Library!). I have been faithfully riding the rails since then. On occasion I must rely on my car to perform the tasks of the day but I have been able to remain steadfast in my use of the Bus and Subway system.
Los Angeles is notorious (thank you Blondie) for treating Public Transportation with disdain, treating it like the vile step-child one must only suffer in reparation for some other distance and uncorrelated sin. I was explaining this to a friend from Brooklyn recently; if you take Public Trans. in LA it is assumed that someone you have fucked up in the game of life. Seeming to make my case by kismet, my lovely and talented landlord announced last week, "I am SO proud of you for taking public transportation! I mean you have a job, you have a car (that runs), you have no DUIs, I'm proud of you!"
She, as ever, put it more succinctly than I could (she's a Ninja like that...).
My routes have varied slightly as I have become more accustomed to the timetable. Initially I was walking the full mile and a half to the Orange line in Sherman Oaks and taking that to the North Hollywood train station. However, hangovers and late nights make such a trek at 7AM painful to say the least. I began taking the Sepulveda on the corner near my house, but I found that although there are two busses that run an identical route (as far as my venture is concerned) that one is unerringly more frequent than the other. Luckily, both share a stop on Van Owen so I am able to get in a sturdy (substantially shorter) constitutional on the morning and still catch a bus down to the Orange Line.
Re-visiting my surroundings via a lively morning stroll has been priceless. There are so many things one cannot possibly observe from a car, I have missed these things and now I feel I must glut myself until it all becomes mundane and pedestrian. I also feel like the sinking paranoia I usually experience in crowds has slowly been evaporating in favor of a more utilitarian outlook of participation rather than separation. The crown achievements have been a great financial savings (I have doubled the amount of miles a tank of gas will allot me), and the precious and so evasive ability to read for one solid hour in the morning and in the evening.
Last Friday I participated in my first drunk on public transportation experiment. I attended a work-party for a dear friend's wife, open bar, music industry, carnival games (including ring-toss, the water-gun game where one blows up a balloon, and a Hot Dog on a Stick vendor), and a wee puff on the side had me seeing double and just on the cusp of spins. I pulled myself together and realized I had to split or I'd miss my only opportunities to ride home. I made my way from the party, traversed the mile to the station and summarily dropped into a drunken nap on the subway benches. Propped sloppily against my valise I assured myself that surely a large train whooshing into the tunnel would awaken me. I was correct...this time. Though I remained skeptical that things would actually work out in my favor, the last red line train emerged from the darkness, and I was off again to North Hollywood.
Upon arriving, I further convinced myself that my luck was not strong enough to actually catch the last orange line bus. Wrong again...As I emerged from the station, I spied the last bus idling at the station. Though I should have broken into a sprint, my alcohol addled perception convinced me that it was a poor idea. I walked steadily and the bus, waiting to complete its final run, sat idling until a few minutes after I'd located a seat and slumped back down on my assorted notes, letters and paperback book. I shared the bus with a few chaps, most looked as if they were taking advantage of not having to drive, just like I was.
It was a pleasant silent ride. Though I may have been able to catch a final Sepulveda bus, a friend, waiting for me at the homestead, insisted on picking my drunken ass up.
NOTE: My apologies to all who have been waiting for an assessment of my last trip to NYC. I feel like I have entire novels worth of notes, but I do intend to condense and post a synopsis here. Preferably before I return to New York! My last article has been turned into the editor, I am without company for a week and in spite of several letters I NEED to complete, perhaps I will get that synopsis done this week. Perhaps...
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Friday, December 05, 2008
I was at a bit of a loss when I really thought about it, "I've lived in Los Angeles for three years now and I've never crossed the threshold of the LA Central Library."
It boggles mind, non?
So on the occasion of on Ms. Kane's birthday I put a plan into action to rectify my strange bibliophile virginity (*ahem*). November had dipped back into summer time temperatures for several weeks. Blazing heat and sunlight all day and then warm t-shirt weather through the night. As Katherine's birthday neared the temperature began to relinquish and then dropped, in toto, to winter conditions in the sparked light between dusk and twilight. With the cool weather came Los Angeles' casual flirtation with rain. Though we have been much deprived this year, I still held out, hope against hope, that soon the sky would crack and the floodwaters would rush in and clean our fair city, ceiling to gutter.
The sky remained an intense grey as I slipped out to Van Nuys to pick up Ms. Kane. I retrieved her in a rush and we flew back into the city. While I pretended to finish my work day Ms. Kane busied herself with fantasies of tentacles and the lines only a woman possesses.
When the clock struck four, we rushed from the Taft Building and onto Hollywood Blvd. Since I was deemed concierge for a Brooklynite I considered it apropos to introduce her to the (mostly worthless, but still enticing) Los Angeles Subway. We breached the Earth's surface and followed the clicking stone stairs down into the bowels of the city. She marveled at the cleanliness, but reminded herself that in comparison, LA's underground had a century to catch up to New York's historical filth.
We were soon climbing toward the Nimbus ceiling again and emerged into a frigid but crowded Pershing Square. Though I keep an excellent sense of direction at hand, (possibly sub-consciously) I neglected to take a close look at our travel route from subway to Library. No bother, both of us quite like the idea of wandering around downtown LA on foot. Clearly, we are not natives...
Night had fallen in dark heavy sheets and as we turned the dead-end corner of Hope St. Ms. Kane buried her head in my shoulder and giggled. She knew exactly where I was taking her now.
The Central Library bursts majestically skyward from the dull asphalt of Hope St.'s end. We ascended the South staircases and resigned to have cigarette before losing ourselves in the stacks of human thought. Most people are unaware that a great deal of filming for movies, TV, et cetera, based in "New York" actually takes place in downtown Los Angeles. The cool air, glass and steel facades, and sparse vegetation screaming between the cracks of enormous and archaic stone, make the City of Angels New York's bastard sibling, left for dead, on the trail toward the 49'er rush. The stone work on the sides and eaves of the building are mesmerizing, spanning mythologies of ancient cultures and minor historical references to the 1920s.
We quietly slipped into the monolithic building and located a map. We both had several floors to visit and decided to divide and conquer. The enormous ceilings, glass walls on every level and the breathtaking main foyer containing the bulk of modern escalators were nearly unbearable visual stimuli. I found it difficult to concentrate on searching for books in the midst of this enthralling structure. I spent the majority of my time there looking up and around and missing the stacks of books altogether.
After three hours we called it quits and headed back into the night air. We swiftly arrived at, and dipped underneath Pershing Square to wait for a ride back to Hollywood. Owing to color confusion we ended up riding the wrong train to South Downtown. For the first time I witnessed MTA cops asking for tickets as people slowly walked up the stone stairs to the street. We got back on the train, headed in the right direction this time...and finally arrived back at Hollywood & Vine. Katherine felt dripping water as we walked up the stairs, but dismissed it as urban perspiration. When we hit street level we were both awash in a freak Los Angeles downpour. The whites, yellows, blues and reds of Hollywood traffic jams and storefronts danced on an endless glass surface. The pitch black of sidewalk and asphalt glowed with wet reflection and the famous intersection was alive with dancing color and rushing rainwater. Owing to my special brand of boyscout paranoia, I had an umbrella under my arm and we stepped out into the fray like professionals...dry professionals.
Los Angeles Central Library...
downpour in Hollywood...
somehow, I think it must have been my birthday as well.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Right to Marry rally Nov 15 - audio montage
by no2h8 Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008 at 4:05 PM
Five minute audio montage - sounds from the Nov 15 rally in Los Angeles against prop 8 and for the rights of all to marry (4.7 MB)
Demonstrations continue across the country and around the world for the right of gays, lesbians and all Americans to marry. Here's an audio montage from the rally on November 15.
I talked to a lot of wonderful people at the rally. Listen to what they had to say.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
By kismet I ventured into a grocery store on 17th St. in Costa Mesa, Ca that had been converted into an enormous discount book store (complete with church-style folding tables and crumbling stacks of unordered and mostly unwanted literature). The first table I came to had Infinite Jest placed prominently at the top of a stack. With over 1000pp it was a brick, tantamount to the large cinderblock "security device" placed on gas station bathroom keys from coast to coast. I proudly planned my days and nights devouring this foreign and intriguing novel, I would blow through it of course(!), taking notes, ear-marking each occurence of brilliance for digestion again and again. I made it through one hundred pages. It is a dense tome, and I couldn't be bothered to sit still long enough (at that point in my life) to properly wade through the hundreds of subplots and subtle innuendo.
Five years later I pulled Infinite Jest from it's dusty hiding place and that time I couldn't stop...I kept going and going until I had masticated every sentence thoroughly. The book truly was an infinite entertainment, it can be read in pieces, as a whole, appendix first, without the appendix, et cetera ad infinitum. It was also particularly poignant because at the time I was finishing the final edits on my first novella and preparing to send the whole mess out into the world to hunt down a publisher. The quality of Wallace's writing and the unfathomable depth of his mind's eye made me work harder on my own writing.
The disappointing part of the story is that I have not read anything else by Wallace that I have enjoyed (I still have several more books/essays to read), certainly no where close to as much as I enjoyed Infinite Jest (hell I even tried to read his epic love story about the concept of Infinity (Everything and More...non-fiction)). I further wondered why this talented and exceptional writer had ended up as a teacher in Riverside (but I'm predjudiced against Riverside, I've lived in Southern California for too long...), seeming to hide away from such bright points as lunches and drinks in Manhattan with fellow scribes and MBA wankers. I didn't follow his career much after Infinite Jest but part of me wishes I had.
Wallace represents the first living author I've felt inspired by. Earlier in the year that Infinite Jest was released, William S. Burroughs died. Had I read his work prior, he certainly would have been my first. Thankfully, Wallace took my top slot and still drew breathe, it was the first time I could complete a book and look forward to MORE MORE MORE! It doesn't matter that he never put anything out that came anywhere close to Infinite Jest, it is still a crude and sudden pity that he decided to slip off stage for good.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
"That perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it."
"TE OCCIDERE POSSUNT SED TE EDERE NON POSSUNT NEFAS EST"(32)
(32. Roughly, 'They Can Kill You, But the Legalities of Eating You Are Quite a Bit Dicier.'
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
WARNING: if you are allergic to honesty move on.
Indeed, but maps contain points of interest, direction, and markers that represent progress. (or lack thereof) As most reading this know, I am an Atheist across the board, but as such I do not consider the philosophies of the human mind as wholly dismissible for their power to coordinate and make abstract concepts visual. I do not infer that these philosophies hold the power that they claim to, rather they are like a good story that reveals some truth to the reader that they are either refusing to recognize or not yet ready to admit. It is within the context of visualization that I relate the following:
THURSDAY - The Lovers / The Tower / Queen of Wands
The Lovers (doomed as it is) has, for years, been my trump card, and the main harbinger of my reoccurring reason for the change in life I am experiencing. The choice: engage in, or dissolve the potential for permanent "relationship/unity". Though I had made the decision, I was not facing it and had not faced it properly. I was still afraid of my decision, still in doubt that what I knew to be true would suffice, or if it was indeed necessary that I continue the facade and relinquish control to fear.
Sudden Change - Release - Redemption - the Tower brought to the fore the answer I was denying myself...let the bricks and mortar crumble to the ground, dig up the foundation and destroy, the space is needed for rebirth. I spent the day in a calamity of self-induced pain, I was refusing to recognize that I was moving into change, the familiar was holding on with it's powerful tentacles.
I attended a dear friend's reading, in the midst of which she experienced her own romantic let-down...on the very night in question...her pain further confused my process and slipped me into reminiscence and doubt. For her, prince charming is her desire, this eternal union, and I let her desires and disappointment influence my alcohol riddled mind. She represented the Queen for me, her reading empowered me as much as hindered me, i was OUT in a bar talking, flirting, feeling myself again, I walked between the pain of the Tower and the redemption of the Queen. Once alone at home the Tower took over again but the Queen never went away and she eventually won as the early morning hours arrived.
FRIDAY - MAGUS
I received a flirtatious, "where the fuck have you been" email. CONCENTRATION and POWER...I immediately asked her to have drinks with me that night. She accepted. It was brilliant and though I didn't lay a hand on her, I didn't have to, we were mind-fucking all night and it was magnificent. You know that tension, sometimes in life we are disappointed by our three dimensions, but that tension never fails to entice. As I drove home at 4AM I felt solidified in course and empowered to carry on with the metamorphosis.
SATURDAY - 10 DISCS WEALTH
I woke and traveled into the City to have breakfast with my Dad. I felt, again, that free-spirit that potentiality of freedom. Nothing on my plate could hinder what was happening. It all became the flotsam and jetson, rather than speed-bumps and razor-wire fences. I made my way over to the new house with the last of my belongings and instead of just dropping things off, I spent two hours setting up my desk and unpacking (very odd, it typically takes me MONTHS to a YEAR before I unpack completely...this time I felt no need to wait, I wanted it and I wanted it NOW! I wanted to take control over my new environment, I have been waiting so long for that feeling that I could wait no longer).
SUNDAY - JUDGEMENT
And we arrive at today, Rebirth, Inner Calling, Absolution, and I put it all here in print so that I may remember that I am not a creature of habit, that I am not a creature of routine, and that if I am not aflame in destruction, that I must be rising from the ashes renewed.
Otherwise I am not myself, I am not ME, I am wandering and incomplete.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I tell you all of this because I believe he was right but lacked the courage to act until his dying day.
Being uninformed is perilous. It is the hallmark of our time and it is our albatross. The things you do not know can indeed hurt you and many find them useful for that very purpose. To lean blindly on stilted plains, treading just above the friction point and just below the self-righteous grip of gravity, is to balance and shift and stride, to participate, to indulge and finally to contribute. It is our way. A way that we have lost.
To struggle is anathema and to suffer is a mythology to our clan. Without the potency of progress and the trappings of advancement a large swath of our people would cease to exist. We would find our culture buried by its own necessary entropy point of apathy and sloth. What about the two hours I spend in the gym? What about the mile I run morning? Are you kidding -- I am on my feet all fucking day!
We wallow in our own perpetual vanity, none of us are immune to it, but it is not universally charming. Liam decided against riding his objective wave and decided to do something about his state.
This is the part Liam writes ... I have a credit card with 2000$ on it. If, at any time, you need to take a little...shall we say...vacation...you say the word.
His Reply: I'm going to take you up on that 2000$ trip, how about Atlantic City? I can win back travel expenses. One catch though...I have to be home in time for the wedding.
Gaelin was marrying Erlyst and now Liam could feel that he had done everything a friend is supposed to do. He offered Scott an out --if-- his heart was not in the proper place.
Liam had flown out of town to attend the wedding, it was singular moment in time, a unique gathering of minds and emotion. Liam was inspired to say the least and as he checked his pockets for his lighter, he thought of his own redemptive right to be happy. It was never a question of when for Liam it was a question of why? In his mind everyone was asking the wrong question. They were presupposing a very questionable inherent truth. The co-mingling of humanity did not strike him as a given, nor did he consider it inevitable. As time passed he became less assured that it was even desirable, but that is no longer a unique phenomenon.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008
PICTURES OF THE WEDDING
PICTURES OF ATHENS, GA
Day started well, relaxed, no rushing really although I had much to do and to prepare. All chores complete, all packing complete I was able to enjoy some coffee and a bagel over google/news. I bade au revoir to the kitties and the extra kitties (the three boa constrictors) and locked the house behind me. They will be attended to by Mr. Smith but aside from that they are on their own for five whole days...good luck lads.
I made my way over to Corrie's place in Santa Monica. Traffic was ridiculous on 101 so I slipped off and cut an awkward path through surface streets. Once I crested the hill on Sepulveda I realized that the 405 was completely clear...moron...I continued on surface streets and was deep in Santa Monica in no time. I parked and carried my suitcase up to Corrie's. She got herself ready while I thumbed through her book collection for the millionth time. I picked out all of the books I need to read...let me fine-tune that statement...I picked all of the books I would need to take a year off of work to read. Work has always been my reading regiment's worst nightmare. I was looking forward to taking these 5 days off, finishing Ulysses, and possibly starting something else. I doubted that I’d get any writing done but I was sure to be swimming in inspiration. After all Athens has always been an inspiration to me. It even compelled me to write my first full-length novel.
LAX was the same as ever, b-r-u-t-a-l. I sat and read in the presence of thousands of frustrated and anxious humans, all clustered into tribes, waiting for our aluminum chariots and the destinations they promised to efficiently (albeit expensively) deliver. My flight left on time and sailed through the night toward Dallas, TX.
When I landed in Dallas, I had 8 text messages and 5 voice mails. Corrie’s flight, as well as mine had been delayed. I was staring down the barrel of a 3-hour layover...Corrie ended up waiting for SIX HOURS before leaving LA.
FUCK AMERICAN AIRLINES.
I made my way to the doors and choked down the first of five cigarettes. The humidity was absolutely oppressive and I balked at the thought of going any further South. Couldn’t I just go back to LA? But LA had been uncharacteristically muggy all the past week as well...damned if you leave, damned if you stay.
I located a terminal security entrance that for some reason was completely empty. A bit of kismet, no doubt. I treated myself to an icy and smooth (expertly poured) pint of Guinness and a large bacon cheeseburger. I felt like a king, in disguise, in order to gather an honest assessment of the kingdom. Falling in love with the simple pleasures and denouncing the pre-suppositions that often accompany burgeoning splendor (not that I would know...)
Day one: woke up to a call from mike, I passed him some bad info...nice start. More accurately, old info. DFW delayed all flights the day prior by an hour, in order to avoid making people miss their connector flights. It looked good on paper but in the end people like Corrie ended up having to spend the night in the Dallas Fort Worth airport spooning with stranger from Culver City that happened to sport a handle bar mustache and beard.
As a result I thought Corrie was coming in at 10AM or later. I told them that they should go on to Athens and Scott would come get us. Not true, unbeknownst to me they spoke at 6AM and Scott had arranged for them to pick us up because Corrie was coming in earlier at 930. I showered changed and we collected out front of the hotel. It was fucking great to see mike and Hillary. We loaded up into the car and then slipped onto the freeway and headed deep into the emerald Georgia canopy. It took forever to tell the truth, I was anxious. I kept busy on the text messaging. I finally began to recognize the area. We slipped down the beltway instead of gong down broad...c'est la vie, I’d have to wait for nostalgia until later. We dropped in on Milledge and after passing five points, we slipped between twin mansions of fraternity and providence and passed Scott and Corinne sitting on their porch waving..."where you dumb assholes going?" we turned around and pulled into the driveway.
It was really good to see Scott again and a pleasure to see Corrine again. I felt immediately at home, they have that effect on me.
After a bit of catching up we all walked to a Mexican place down the street and started what would end up being 72 hours of constant drinking. Soon after we made beer run #1 and returned to the house. The idea of a bar-b-que floated in the dense air and the next thing I knew we were traipsing to Lowe’s then another store until we found a grill that was 1) EXTREMELY CHEAP and 2) would last through the weekend. With our mission accomplished we made yet another beer run and settled in to dine on pork and chicken as the sun dipped behind the trees. Conversation was plentiful, a warm and challenging evening and the beer flowed my lovelies (11 for me), flowed like the waters of the Nile and delivered us to a peaceful rest.
wedding day 080621
I woke up to the sound of thunder smashing the ground in northern Georgia - giant men walking heavily through the tiny town.
I woke again to coffee and cigarettes with Scott and Corinne. A beautiful morning. It looked like rain was imminent. We all hoped it would blow over in typical southern style. We were guaranteed intermittent showers, but we feared that the humidity would be uncontrollable once sun came out.
Scott began cooking up breakfast for the hungry soldiers and Corrine’s father and brother arrived with the tents table and chairs. After a nice breakfast we all set out putting together the matrimonial landscape. Corrie was in charge and she really showed her chops. In a few hours the backyard was transformed and was perfect for the occasion.
Eventually people started showing up slowly, a little too slowly. If we were to pull off the whole enterprise before sunset people would need to get a move on. Everyone filtered into the backyard as the sun began setting. In an hours time we had herded the guests into their seats and away we went..."I Do." "I do." excellent, let's get back to drinking...
Corrine’s family was absolutely lovely. Every single one of them is friendly, interesting and very kind. I loved 'em, they reminded me so much of my family I even asked if they were in the market to adopt a 33 year old man.
Corinne’s good friend Dave put on the spread and goddamn, that boy can cook! I’m a picky son of a bitch and I ate until I was stuffed. (good thing too, I clocked in just over 20 beers for the day OI!).
I was finally able to spend individual time with some of the people I had met. Megan and her husband john were down from Adam’s Morgan in the DC area, which is only a few miles from where I had lived in Maryland. She’s a photojournalist and he works in tech-tenant improvements from Microsoft. A lovely couple, vastly interesting. I was also pleased to see Mr. Keith Kortemeir, I didn't really know it, but I missed that fucker while I was gone. It was great to catch up with him. He sold the Jittery Joe's name and business and was in the unique position of being in-between investments. We tossed ideas back and forth and (I'm embarrassed to say) I even got drunk enough to pitch my next book to him. FOR SHAME! Somewhere around 4am I called it quits and took possession of my couch back zzzzzz
Get up, coffee and bagels run with Mike and Hillary to Jittery Joes. Nostalgia was beginning; I spent many an afternoon in that coffee shop, wondering where I’d go next. DC had already come and gone and California was calling me home. Athens, the second time around, was a way station for me. I drew almost no pleasure from it; I simply existed until it was time to move on.
ATHFEST was in full-effect downtown and a posse was rounded up to do a walk-through. Once downtown we all parked at the new Game Day hotel where all of the parents and relatives were staying. I broke off from the group once we wandered down near the 40-watt. I had a photographic mission to complete. It had been 10 years since I’d last damaged my liver in Athens and I wanted photographic evidence of the changes...more importantly I wanted photographic evidence of what would NEVER change. Rocky's was gone, the engine room was gone, Jackson St. books remained (although, like an idiot, I waiting too long to walk in...they closed right before I made it back). Topper’s was still there in all of its shameless glory. The Lunch Paper had melted into history and (sorry kids) good riddance.
We met back up at smoker's den and had lunch in place that used to be bookstore. Incidentally the very bookstore where Scott and sis and I first spent a blistering summer day back in 1999. The service is horrendous, but the grilled cheese and tater tots were splendid.
Scott went back to visit his parents to visit parents, I tried to go to Jackson St. Bookstore but the bastards closed. I resigned to wait Scott out at Taco Stand, a bar I spent many an evening in. it was my favorite place to hide and drink during my work shifts. Good prices, nice staff, Guinness on tap...
The bartender is an ex all-nite diner employee (The Pantry) that looked just like JIMBO from the Simpsons, beanie and everything. I watched a show on Nat King Cole's brother.
I got my call from Scott and we headed over to the old neighborhood so I could snap a shot of 238 Cleveland Ave. as I mentioned, some things NEVER change.
Around 1130PM we heard thunder closing in again so we sit on the porch and watch the sky light up. The lightning was within a mile and lit the sky periodically. I called sis to let her hear the rain and Scott reminded me "bad idea to use a cell phone in an electrical storm." everyone moved off the porch in a hurry, Scott called them pussies. It rained REALLY HARD for an hour and then stops dead.
Woke up and helped Scott put tables and chairs into truck and take them over to the rental place. Scott and I putted around Athens a little reminiscing, but surprisingly talking much less about the past than we did about the present. A good thing, a sea change for us, and certainly a harbinger of happiness.
When we return, everyone is awake and showering, milling around. Coffee, cigarettes, conversation were in large supply.
Mike Corrie and Hillary left for ATL.
We made a trip to Dave's to drop off Annie (Scott and Corrine’s dog) and his cooking utensils. Dave is a crazy inspiring musician/showman/producer that I want the derv to work with. He is planning to create an all-analog reel-to-reel studio in Athens. Super cool guy, has a theory of "the Gibsonian Method" (Mel Gibson) wherein so much patriotism and anger and hatred (justified it is inferred) are rammed down your throat that you walk out of the theatre an angrier more ignorant human being.
The assorted parents showed up and hung out for a bit while everyone finished their packing and readied themselves to drive out to Atlanta. Scott Corinne and I headed to Borders for some reading material and then Chick-Fil-A for grubbin'. I picked up another copy of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. I lost my copy and since I never technically read the entire novel I wanted very badly to get started on it again.
And we were off to the ATL with scattered sprinkles and a grey warm sky.
We drove by Jeremy and Tova's apartment (Jeremy is Corinne’s younger brother and Tova is his lady) and then take I took the kids to the MARTA station to say goodbye. I feel a bit sad saying goodbye, and more than a little jealous of both their honeymoon plans (three weeks in Nicaragua) and also the uncommon symbiosis between those two people. Scott and Corinne are very lucky. They seem to have definitely found soul mates in one another.
Jeremy and Tova had been kind enough to let me stay at their place for the night. My flight didn't leave until the next day, so instead of taking a cab/shuttle from Athens to the airport, I could have a more relaxing (and cheaper) day just walking to the MARTA station and taking the train to the airport.
Jeremy came home first; poor guy had some work bullshit he needed to get off his chest. He thanked me for letting him vent and I assured him that it was my pleasure. Tova arrived and we all decided on Mexican food. Dinner was fun but the REAL festivities began at home...Tova busted out SCATTERGORIES! I hadn't played Scattergories since the early nineties. I had a blast, it was the perfect last evening to the adventure.
Morning came and after a quick shower and smoke Jeremy and I drove over to the MARTA station. I thanked him profusely and made my way to the top of the platform. The trip across Atlanta was excellent eye candy. We sped through suburb to arts district to college campus to industrial wasteland and finally came to rest high in the air just outside of ATL. We waited for the tracks to clear and descended into the airport. The train let off right at baggage claim and after a quick session with security and TSA I was settled back into the waiting game...
Back to LA, back to reality, back to plebian existence.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
so it's been almost eight years since i've walked the streets i wrote about in 'A Selfish Man'. the aforementioned visit took place almost three years before i finished 'A Selfish Man' and it was published. master Sil is tying the knot and i'll be flying out to witness and imbibe in celebration. i have been warned that much has changed and that i will either be pleasantly surprised or horrified.
in years past, i made a special point of re-visiting old haunts because i am addicted to the nostalgia of "difference" that naturally arises with the passage of time (which reminds me i need to do some traveling deep into texas and utah since it's been a decade give or take since i've seen either). as i became tethered to los angeles through music and emotion i have been landlocked so to speak and have felt the pinch of familiarity and all it's caustic side effects. i admit being borderline ecstatic about returning and walking the streets, a 'finnegan's wake' re-enactment, american-style. 'Marciano's' is now gone, i believe the 'engine room' is now gone and i imagine most of the cast and characters of 'A Selfish Man' have faded into history (miss 'ya Cedric!) but i know that the essence of athens will remain intact...at least for yours truly.