Hello Everybody,

Last Thursday, I drove my friend, Karen’s car into Hollywood to spend the day with my friend, The Great Warrior. It was a beautiful day for a drive – late September had taken the sting out of the sunshine – so, with the windows down, I hopped onto Highway 101, into the fast river of traffic.

View from The Great Warrior’s throne.

View from The Great Warrior’s throne.

The Great Warrior mixed smoothies for us as I looked over his resume in his office, which was cluttered with many boxes spilling out onto the floor. Last year, The Great Warrior lost the job he’d held for ten years, managing a TV production studio in Culver City. He’d spent the last on Unemployment, sifting through the countless boxes in the bungalow. It’d been a tough year all the around for The Great Warrior. After losing the job, he had to travel to Lafayette, Indiana to put his mother in an assisted living facility. She suffered from dementia and could no longer live alone. During this time, he also handled the sale of her house. He stayed in Lafayette until the house sold, packing up years of stuff and things that had accumulated over the decades into boxes, then shipped it all back to his bungalow in Hollywood. After making sure all was well with his mother and the house, he came back to Hollywood…where all the boxes were waiting for him. By then, “Get A New Job” was only a dimly lit sign way off in the back of his mind. But now, the Unemployment was ending – just like that, just as it always does – and “Get A New Job” was suddenly a bright and flashing billboard, with sparkles shooting off it and a deafening train whistle howling atop it.

He stealthily slid in between the boxes to hand me my smoothie – a concoction of some kind of protein dust and almond milk, among other things. I’m not generally a smoothie drinker, but you’re going to drink one, sooner or later, if you’re in California long enough. I slurped down the smoothie as I perused The Great Warrior’s resume – tweaking it here and there. After fitting nearly 20 years of work history into one neatly formatted page, bullet points and all, we saved it, finished the smoothies and headed for Malibu.

The afternoon traffic on Highway 101 was sleepy but swift. We made good time to Malibu Canyon, then took our time twisting and turning toward the Pacific Coast Highway. Somewhere along that curvy road, The Great Warrior asked, “So, are you gonna stay in LA, or head to Texas?”

For the last two weeks, I’d been on the fence about the subject. Money was running low and soon I wouldn’t have enough to do either. The anguish over deciding had led to near paralysis. I’d been staying up late at night, weighing the pros and cons of each choice, as I channel surfed from one news station to the next. FoxNews, MSNBC, CNN, back and forth, over and over. I still had no clue where I’d end up, but I was certain that not only was our nation’s mainstream media one giant, “stinking pile of shit!” I was certain no one loyal to any of these stations – Left or Right – had an accurate view of America. “These stations were specifically designed to corral viewers into fearful corners,” I cried. “TV’s a powerful tool and the f#$ck heads who control it have a huge responsibility for what they air. Suppositions or op-eds or speculation is all any of it is. No facts…only, ooooooh, what may happen if this or that might…or might not!!!…happen. It’s all a joke, a dangerous joke. Left or Right is a joke. But we’re corralled into one or the other, thinking it’s the way it’s always been…that you have to be either Right or Left…when the fertile middle where America really has a chance to grow is growing barren! Our only hope is to find that Middle America. And deep down we all know the America on TV is horseshit but the TV doesn’t want us thinking it just wants us to be scared enough to keep buying so we just–”

“Still don’t know what you’re gonna do, huh?”

“NO!!!…I’m sorry…I’ve been watching too much TV.”

“It’s OK,” replied The Great Warrior, squinting through the windshield. “Once I realized that I was not part of a conversation and only a witness to a raving diatribe, it became a very interesting spectacle.”

Not so clear...

Not so clear…

It was around 2PM when we turned north onto the Pacific Coast Highway, at the giant Christian cross marking the entrance of Pepperdine University. The vast Pacific Ocean stretched out so far until it blended into the sky. Sun rays beamed straight down, spreading white-yellow streaks across the deep-blue water. To our right were harsh, cactus covered mountains with with semi-mansions nestled high on their ledges.

A few minutes later, just north of Malibu, I parked the car along the highway. We walked down the cliff to the beach and sat down just beyond the reach of the big waves crashing in front of us. A flock of seagulls milled about the beach for food. Surfers paddled out to the breakers, caught waves, rode them until they wiped out, then did it all over again. The surfers were like a pack of animals, communicating on a deeper level beyond words. They were never in each others’ way, nor were they too far apart from each other. They’d joined consciousness, I supposed.

“It’s a good time to surf,” said The Great Warrior.

“Why’s that?”

“Because the sharks feed throughout the morning, and won’t go at it again until dusk.”


“You wanna surf, don’t you?”

“I do.”

“Well, then, pay me $500 bucks a month for my spare room. Get a job, stay in LA and learn to surf. It’s that simple.”

Sunligh shone through the waves just before they would crest, illuminating them to an opaque torquis, the color of old glass telephone insulators. The salt air came in strong on mist from the crashing waves. Waves building, cresting, crashing. Seagulls feeding to stay alive. Surfers surfing until they wiped out. Everything seemed so simple, mechanical. Even The Great Warrior was a simple event – sitting next to me Indian-style, squinting out over the ocean, picking up his smart phone to snap a picture as if programmed to do so at that exact moment, then lowering his hand, and resuming the long stare. And there I was, hung up on stay or go as if it were some complex, multi-layered riddle.

Surfer’s in the wild.

Surfer’s in the wild.

On our way back to LA, we stopped to eat at a little shopping center in Point Dume. In front of a gourmet coffee joint, gray-haired men wearing faded blue jeans, flip-flops and fleece sweaters conversed with each other as a gaggle of school girls sat at another table, giggling in unison as they tickled their smartphones. Across the walkway, in front of a burger joint, two tired Latinos wearing dirty work clothes spoke quiet Spanish as if language were merely a tool to stay awake. They reminded me of Vladimir and Estrogon, the two lead characters in Samuel Becket’s play, Waiting For Godot.

“I can’t go on like this,” says Estrogon.

“That’s what you think,” says Vladimir.

A couple of tables down, sat a dirty, scruffy bum, about my age.


The bum and I were the same size and build, we even had the same hair color. I kept my eye on him, as The Great Warrior and I walked about the shopping center. He’d ask a few people for change in his aggresive manner, then disappear around a corner. After awhile, he’d come back, ask more people as they passed him by. Stay, then go, stay, then go…so simple. I looked for him after we ate, as we made our way back to the car. I didn’t see him. It’s time for him to hide, I thought. He’ll come out again. Then I thought, it’s no riddle, Todd. You’re not starving. Just make the damn decision.

View from Point Dume.

View from Point Dume.

Later, as we wound our way back through Malibu Canyon, the traffic picked up. It was 5PM, rush hour had commenced and the primal instinct in the motorists was beginning to kick in. At the end of the canyon, the two lanes merged into one. As I began to merge, the pick-up behind me sped up and wouldn’t let me in the lane.

“It’s all about winning,” I said. “Everybody’s gotta f#$king win.”

“Not me,” replied The Great Warrior. “I used to be that way, but now if somebody cuts me off, or if they started cursing at me or flip me off for some reason, I just smile and wave and act like I recognize them. That usually creeps them out, or at least takes care of any hostility.”

Traffic was bumper to bumper on Highway 101, through The Valley into Hollywood, in both directions. I hung out with The Great Warrior at his place for a while until the traffic died down. At about 8pm, I got back on the 101. Traffic was no longer bumper to bumper, but  it was still going strong. And fast. Red headlights – beady red monster eyes – sped by me, got in front of me. I sped up just to keep up with traffic. That’s when I started to feel it…the need to win. Soon, it was me swerving across the lanes, cutting cars off, finding that spot…that little spot of freedom where I can speed on with no red eyes in front of me. I’d come up upon a car like a cheetah to a gazelle. Then I’d zip around the metal corpse, onward, further into the Dark Valley. I was the predator. I was winning. It was all so simple.

But traffic backed up at the Ventura Freeway merger. As if programmed, all the beady red eyes slowed, found a lane and fell in line. 15 miles per hour. Nobody was winning. Nobody even tried to win. There was only obedience. The beady red monstor eyes became lifeless taillights. Across the freeway, hundreds of pairs of equally lifeless white lights obediently went the other way. There we all were, trudging along, with no choice but to keep going further in the in the same direction we were already inclined to go. I had a vision, then. I imagined a vast prairie with hellish fires lighting up the horizon in either direction. The prairie was barren, inhabited only by the occasional tumble weed rolling across it. A sharp cold wind blew hard across the prairie, creating a low, hollow whistle…

Damn clear and simple.

Damn clear and simple.

The car behind me honked. The traffic picked up so I sped up, further in the same direction with all the drivers on my side of the freeway, in the opposite direction of all the drivers on the other side, seperated not by a vast empty prairie, but just a thin piece of concrete. I felt sad, then. Nothing complicated about it, Todd. The road was designed that way.

Be well…

ECHOES FROM OTHER HOBOS, #2: Working Through Dignity by Meara Levezow

When people ask what my first job was, I take a deep breath, because my answer is usually a few sentences long.


Meara Levezow - Comedian and Career Waitress.

Meara Levezow – Comedian and not quite a Career Waitress.

“Well…ok, so have you ever seen those big plastic drinking-glass racks they use in restaurants? Yeah, I worked in a factory where I assembled those…and did a whole bunch of other factory-work stuff, but those glass racks were the main thing. Hmm…what was the place called?”


“Well…the factory was called the Rehabilitation Center of Sheboygan, or RCS, but it’s…hmm? What’s Sheboygan? Uh, it’s a city, Sheyboygan, Wisconsin, where I’m from. The factory’s considered a rehabilitation center because it’s a…different…kind of factory. It’s actually a not-for-profit organization, whose slogan is Dignity Through Work, because the majority of the workforce are DD or CMI.”


“DD/CMI stands for developmentally disabled or chronically mentally ill. Those workers are called the clients, but they also employed people they called model workers. That’s what I was. They needed to have some people who didn’t have any physical or psychological afflictions to sort of, I guess, model the jobs being done…or drive forklifts or be supervisors or whatever.”

My dad was the sales rep for the factory, so all my cousins and I spent a summer or two working there. Wisconsin is – or was – a manufacturing state, so when I was in high school, it wasn’t unusual for the local kids to do factory work at some time or another. The RCS is a small operation with two locations: The North Plant and The Main Plant.

The Main Plant looks a lot more like what someone might imagine when they hear the words “rehabilitation center”. There were quiet, brightly-lit classrooms where clients would have occupational therapy, and a big lunchroom/auditorium where the clients would gather for different events. My high school swing choir did performances there during Christmas, and the clients put on an annual Christmas pageant and spring musical. The manufacturing area was one big room where people did simple piecework on a series of long tables and benches, such as putting a certain number of screws and fasteners into little plastic bags. This was where the people with more severe disabilities worked. A lot of the staff used wheelchairs and had limited speech or motor functioning. I have a distinct memory of a guy with an enormous skull and small, pointy chin – he had something like Sotos Syndrome. But I was only assigned to work at the Main Plant once or twice. Mostly, I worked uptown at the North Plant.

The North Plant was a big gray building with high ceilings and cement floors dotted with eye-wash stations and safety signs. You entered the building right onto the factory floor and were immediately met with the sounds of machines, buzzers, chatter, the sounds of “the oldies” blasting through the PA, and the permanent smell of acetone and sweat.

I always get transported back to those summers when I smell acetone. You’re probably familiar with the smell. It’s the main ingredient in nail polish remover. The piece of machinery that used acetone – I still have no idea what it did – was run by a guy who my cousin and I called Thumbs-Up Andy. I don’t know what Andy’s particular affliction was, but he was a big, friendly guy who used to punctuate most sentences with a thumbs-up sign. He used to come over to us right after the lunchtime buzzer sounded to inquire about our plans for lunch.

“HELLO, MEARA LEVEZOW,” he would ask with a big smile and the ever-present thumbs-up. “HELLO, EMILY LEVEZOW. ARE YOU GOING TO BOB LEVEZOW’S HOUSE FOR LUNCH TODAY?” Other times it would be, ”ARE YOU GOING TO CHARCOAL INN FOR LUNCH TODAY, MEARA LEVEZOW?” He was one of the sweetest and most well liked clients, so I was surprised when my dad told me that he had once attacked someone on the floor.

In general, there really wasn’t any of the freaking out or acting crazy that I suppose might be expected from the people I worked with. Most of the clients at the North Plant were high functioning, many of them had Down Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. Many lived in the same assisted living facility and came to work on the same bus. A lot of them smoked. Everyday, I’d see my dad sharing cigarettes and offering lights to clients before and after work, in the parking lot. They would tease each other about how bad smoking was for their health.

Looking back, I realize that a lot of us without physical or mental disabilities who worked there were also social misfits, too.

Sheboygan has a large refugee population of Hmong people who came over after the Vietnam War. Many had come to work at RCS, where English was not a requirement. Their kids would work during summer break, too. A kid in my show choir, Kham, was nearly electrocuted one summer, burning serial numbers into a glass rack two stations down from me.

One guy had been in a devastating motorcycle accident and had impaired movement and speech, but always wore his leather and maintained general badassness.

And there was the old-timer named Sandy, a slim, slight woman in her fifties with wispy blond hair who never learned to read or write. She’d been a mink farmer for most of her life, but after her husband died, some animal rights activists snuck onto her property and released the minks into the wild. After she lost her livelihood, she was able to start over at RCS. The minks were all dead a few days after their release.

But what had the greatest impact on me was the fact that there was a small contingent of openly gay folks – in Wisconsin, in the Nineties – working at the factory. Sheboygan certainly isn’t in the Bible Belt, but being gay back then was still something that needed to be kept to oneself. But at RCS, my dad’s closest buddies there were “the girls”, a group of lesbians who worked as floor supervisors. He and my mother used to go out dancing with them every couple of months and have them over to the house for Christmas parties. My parents are politically conservative in the way most of Midwestern America is, but those memories of my parents and “the girls” always made me feel a little less misfit-like, later, when as I was discovering I was a lesbian, myself.

When the motley crew of RCS employees came together on North 24th street, we were all just workers among workers. The day there started at eight and ended at three-thirty. When you arrived, you would clock in using a big, old-fashioned punch machine. On the top were three smiley faces. One was smiling for “GOOD”, one frowning for “BAD”, and one had a straight line for a mouth that was supposed to signify “OK”.  Beneath them the card read, “How was your day today?” You were supposed to circle which one fit. But I never did.

The factory was extremely hot during the summer months. Sheboygan is right along Lake Michigan, where it’s hot and humid in July and August. There was a certain temperature it had to reach in the factory for the management to be required to turn on the air conditioner, otherwise we’d just have to sweat it out. There was constant grumbling from the model workers. But the clients were, on the whole, not big complainers.

The day was divided by two fifteen-minute breaks and one half-hour lunch break. Many days, for lunch, my dad would drive me and Emily to our house a few miles away. I remember that feeling of taking off my boots and lying down on the couch in our den. The two of us would face each other on the couch with our legs stretched out and just sit there silently for about five minutes, before heating up Hot Pockets, or making peanut butter sandwiches. That was The Tired, a special type of fatigue that’s caused by a mixture of physical labor and the mental exhaustion of doing the same thing over and over. But it was a good tired. Work tired. I think people who’ve never had to work on their feet all day are missing out by never experiencing how indescribably good it feels to take off your boots – or nurse shoes or waitress clogs – and wiggle your toes. It’s really something.

I have to admit, I sort of get off on the idea of being some sort of blue-collar hero. Of course I’m not. I went to an expensive liberal arts college and have been financially supported in some form or another even up to this day. But it does feel good to feel smug about some facts of working in only get-yer-hands-dirty jobs. And things haven’t changed much. I’m currently getting closer and closer to warranting the title of Career Waitress. I still chuckle at the idea of having things like vacation time or sick days or health insurance or, even more hilarious, corporate credit cards. When I was complaining to my mother the other day about my chronic lower back pain, she just exhaled her mouthful of Marlboro smoke and said, “Well, at least you came by it honestly.”

Blue-collar work doesn’t stop for anybody. You don’t get personal days. On September 11th, 2001, my dad came over to the table where I was assembling toilet fixtures and told me that there was some sort of terrible plane crash in New York and that one of the World Trade Center Towers had been hit. Nobody really understood what was going on at that point or how severe it was, so we just went on working. A few minutes later, he came back and said it was actually some kind of attack and the second tower had been hit. I tried to remember which buildings made up the World Trade Center. I’d visited New York the previous summer but still didn’t know the city the way I do now. I remember my dad telling me that the management wouldn’t turn on the radio because they didn’t want to upset the clients, which of course very well may have been true, but I also think they really just didn’t want us to be thinking about anything that would slow us down.

226085_10152054748275507_1534970482_nAt the time, I was furious. But now that I’ve been working at similar types of jobs for so long, I’m used to not being able to get out of work for anything other than severe, SEVERE, injury or illness. I was on a shift with a waitress who had full-blown flu to the point where she couldn’t speak. She took orders by pointing, nodding, and engaging in food-specific pantomime. Which is why I now don’t think its odd that my work day was not going to be interrupted by something as insignificant as the most devastating attack ever having taken place on American soil. I can’t help but feel proud to be an American on that count. Sore legs, tired feet, and dirty fingernails, we keep pressing on. Punching in, punching out.

Meara Levezow is a comedian, writer, actress and famous waitress living in New York City. She is from Sheyboygan, Wisconsin, a fine American city.

Smoke And Mirrors

Hello Everybody,

Late Summer heat over Hollywood Boulevard.

Late Summer heat over Hollywood Boulevard.

Last Monday, I helped my friend, Jason, move his wife’s – Jennie, also an old friend of mine – Pilates equipment from her old space to another, larger space in the same building on Hollywood Boulevard.

“I only really need help with this huge wall mirror,” Jason said. “It’s too big for me to move it myself. That’s about it. We’ll move it, remount it, then I’ll buy you lunch.”

The mirror was six feet by three feet. The walls of the old office building were uneven and had been patched and painted several times over the decades. The original installers of the mirror had to build a custom mount for it – the mirror was not meant to come off the wall. By the time we got the mirror off the mount, it was past lunchtime. But we needed to keep working because Jennie needed the studio set up in the new space for the next morning. She’d sublet the space to another Pilates instructor to bring in some extra cash. Jennie was six months pregnant and would be on maternity before long.

“I just remember that it took them days to put get it on the wall the last time, guys…” Jennie said, shrugging her shoulders, holding a broom and dustpan.

Jason and I hustled the mirror out of the tiny room, through the narrow doorway, down the narrow hallway, through the other narrow doorway, and into the new space. The building smelled old. The inner doors in the office spaces were wooden and glass, with names stenciled on them like doors of offices in newsrooms or police offices in TV shows from the 1950’s.

Remounting the mirror proved to be a very difficult task. Like the previous space, the walls in the new space were uneven, covered with old patchwork. Further, it appeared that the space was once adjoined to the neighboring space. Several studs in the wall had been removed to make a passage-way in between the two rooms, and when it was closed up – sometime later – it was done so with only one stud, simply to fasten the drywall in place. The mirror weighed about 150 pounds. It needed to be mounted well, and…

“Sorry guys,” Jennie said, still holding the broom and dustpan. She was sweating, her faced was red, and she looked a bit stressed. “It has to go on that side of the room, because,” she pointed to various light fixtures and electrical outlets on the other wall, “I need this wall clear, see?”

Baby season is coming...

Baby season is coming…

After some debating, Jason and I were able to safely secure the mount to the wall. Then came the task of sliding the huge mirror onto the mount. To do so, we needed to keep the mirror level with the ground, level with the wall, then twist it here and there so we didn’t bind the mirror on the mount, possibly breaking it and causing a horrific bloodletting. We tried this several times, but each effort lead to the same result – the mirror jamming on the mount, with Jason and I stuck holding the heavy, awkward piece of glass, breathing into onto the mirror as if we were staring at our doppelgängers through fog. Jennie – broom, red-faced, tired, stressed – smiled, shook her shoulders. “Sorry guys.”

We’d needed another person to help. I called up my friend, The Great Warrior, who lived just down Hollywood Blvd. “Sure,” he said over the phone, “I already ate, so they don’t have to buy me any lunch. But if it takes more than a few hours, I may look at you in a mean, threatening way.”

It took the three of us several attempts at holding, leveling, sliding – all the while adjusting for the uneven wall. Sunlight burst through the western window of the space, rendering the air-conditioner useless. Dripping sweat, our hands sore, knees shaking, we cursed and grunted until we finally managed to slide the mirror all the way onto the mount. We shouted, gave each other high-fives and did other manly gestures of dominance over the inanimate object for a few moments. Then we stepped back to admire our work. There, the three of us gave a collective, quizzical sigh, tilted our heads to the right. A lead-heavy silence ensued. The mirror was uneven. Tired Jennie and the broom appeared again. The smile, shrug of the shoulders, then “Sorry guys, but…”

Lunch was now dinner. After eating at the taco joint on the first floor of the building – The Great Warrior scowling at me from across the table – we went back and tried again. Lifting, tweaking, grunting, sliding – sweaty hands, shaky legs, weird feelings in the lower abdominal region – all three of us looking through the fog toward ourselves in the alternate universe of the mirror. Alternative Jennie and the broom were beyond the fog, too. She stood in the background, biting her lip, unconsciously stroking her baby-belly with her free hand – tired, blushed, uncertain, excited. After we hung it again, we stepped back to get a better look at the mirror, Then Jason, The Great Warrior and myself turned to Jennie in unison. She smiled, shook head up and down, then said, “Yep.” The sun was long gone and the room was dark and cool. The Great Warrior scowled at me, then smiled, said, “see you around, man,” then left.

Ventura Boulevard

Ventura Boulevard

Late Wednesday afternoon, I had to run errands in Studio City. As I walked down Ventura, a man – khaki shorts, tennis shoes, high white socks, a yellow tee-shirt with palm trees printed on it – came up to me. I’d seen him approaching from several yards ahead. He’d walked up to everyone else in front of me, extending his hand as he’d done so. Most of the people jerked away from him, or ignored him. I debated which to do as he neared me, but I simply froze in my tracks, instead. The man came face to face with me, held out his hand. His eyes were crooked under his raised, black eyebrows – his forehead crinkled under his shock of gray hair. His mouth hung open, exposing his big white teeth.

“Hello,” he said. I didn’t remember extending my hand, but there it was it was, floating between us, and he grabbed it. His handshake was energetic, exaggerated. His eyes were already looking behind me – for the next person – as he said, “Now you have a great day, sir.”

I turned around and watched him kind of hop down the street. More people veered away from him, looked at him like he’s crazy. I’m sure I looked at him that way, too.

An hour later, I’d finished my errands and was walking home when I saw the handshaker again – still at it. It was around 7pm. There were more people on the street – more people repelled from him as if they were of opposite magnetic poles. I froze again, stuck my hand out again just before he came up to me again. He said, “Hello,” as he shook my hand wildly. “Now you have a great day, sir.” I saw absolutely no recognition in his expression that we’d already shook hands. Then he was gone as quick as he came – “Hello sir’s” and “Hello ma’am’s” fading softly into the evening.

Cars began to turn on their headlights as they sped to the next red light on Ventura Boulevard. Across the street at a hot-rod repair shop, a mechanic revved an engine loudly for a long time. The sound pushed through me and rattled the windows of the storefronts. After the mechanic killed the engine, The Valley seemed quieter – a wide chasm was between sound an action. I saw a silent bus approaching and decided to hop on.

Valley Sunset

Valley Sunset

I put two $1 bills into the money-taker next to the driver. It spat one of the dollars out. I tried several times to get the machine to take the dollar – straightening it, smoothing the corners each time – but I had no luck. I held up the bill in the light, and noticed it was a $1 bill from 1957.

“Hey, look at that.” I said as I handed the bill to the bus driver.

“Wow, man. 1957!” exclaimed the driver, taking the bill. “That’s sixty years ago!”

“Well, 56 years ago.”

“Well, yeah, 56,” he said, handing the bill back to me.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t have anymore change.”

“Ah, that’s alright, man, take a seat. Man, sixty years. Tha’s a long time ago.”

I sat in a seat and examined the $1 bill, closely. 1957, I thought. That crazy handshaker was probably just a little boy back then. I wonder what he thought he’d be in 2013. Famous astronaut? A cowboy? The building where Jennie has her studio probably smelled of new lead paint, in 1957. People bustled about those narrow hallways to make deadlines or quotas. Of course, the hallways weren’t so narrow to then, probably. I always heard people were shorter in the old days. How short were Jennie’s parents in 1957, back when they had no clue there was ever be a Jennie at all? Hmm…1957…back when the future was one big happy surprise.

I watched TV late into that night…hmm, TV, only 10 years old in 1957…I haven’t had a TV since 2005, but I was raised in front of one…no one really knew the power of TV in 1957…so TV is in my DNA and I am powerless when I am in its vicinity for an extended period of time. Of course, I watched nothing in particular…so much power…just surfed. Masons ruled the world on the Discovery Channel, DB Cooper got away on National Geographic, The History Channel just couldn’t let Hitler die, AMC made heroes out of meth makers and misogynist ad-men – one re-run after the next, ESPN aired an hour-long show about fantasy football, and rednecks and hillbilly’s from all parts of America either fished, repaired cars, hunted ducks, repossessed airplanes, searched for ghosts in attics or just got drunk and stupid. FoxNews scared half the Americans off to the Right, MSNBC scared the other half to the Left. Infomercials promised me prosperity for just $19.99, or some kind of cooking tool for the same price. Evangelist asked for money…jeez, TVs were grand pieces of furniture in 1957then sometime in the wee hours something extraordinary happened. All the TV shows became the same TV show, presenting the same message…now TVs come in all sizes and prices at Wal-Marts on the edges of town…over and over, hour after hour, relentlessly, the same message. What was the message? I don’t have to tell you…moths to a flame…you know what The Message is.

It’s in our DNA...

It’s in our DNA…

I turned the TV off and went to bed. Before I slipped into dreamland, I pondered over The Message, imagined what life may be like without it. I didn’t imagine anything too clear, but I did see more people extending their hand to the handshaker. None of them were scared of him, either. They were all happy to say, “Hello,” too.

Be well…

There Shall Be Victory In The Valley

Hello Everybody,


A pretty accurate symbol of joy.

Last Tuesday, I went with my friend, Marisa, to Home Depot to purchase supplies needed to repair a gate leading to her backyard. It was a bright, hot day. After walking through the parking lot and entering, I waited for my eyes to adjust to the lighting of the vast expanse of the store. My left eye settled just fine, but my right eye was filled with many bright, flashing spots of all colors. Several moments later, my right eye was still filled with these spots. I covered my left eye with my hand – looked around only with my right – but couldn’t see anything beyond the spots.

“Are you ok?” Marisa asked.

“Sure. I think.”

The spots finally went away, later, as we waited for our lunch at a taco stand, on our way back to Marisa’s place. But as soon as they went away, an intense case of nausea set in. Marisa was talking to me, but I barely heard her as I debated throwing up right there on the sidewalk. I hung in there, but as we drove to Marisa’s house in Silverlake, the nausea grew worse. Then came the brutal headache. By the time Marisa steered us into the driveway, I was pressing hard on the left side of my head where the pain occurred. I’d never felt anything like that before.

Marisa gave me some aspirin with codeine, and by the time we finished eating, the headache was gone. Everything was just fine, actually. Dandy. But an hour into the repairing of the gate, I felt weighted down at my shoulders, hips, feet and arms. My head moved about like a bobble-doll, and my fingers were twice as thick as they were that morning. I was able to finish the repairs, but there was much hesitation in my work. I could see what needed to be done, but I couldn’t articulate it to myself. I felt like I’d been reading the same page of a Dostoyevsky novel over and over, and just wasn’t getting it. Joggers jogged by the hillside street, smiled, waved. Dog walkers, too. Cars passed by. Gawky, pimpled teens wearing private-school uniforms, came home from school, did chores in the yard. The sun slowly moved across the sky, then began its descent. Life was a shallow stream and I was an old tire stuck in the middle of it – half above, half below the surface.

I went to a pizza joint that night in North Hollywood, after repairing the gate. The last few stragglers of the evening rush hour raced by, honked, screeched. I’d only eaten half of my slice of pizza but it felt like I’d been there for hours. There was music playing over the PA from musicians I was familiar with, but I couldn’t name the songs. I wandered out of the pizza joint like a foreigner at the customs station in an airport, then zombied my way over to the Orange Line bus that would take me across The Valley to – my friend – Karen’s sofa-bed that’s been Home, lately.

20130914_113551The next morning, I decided a slow, long walk would do me good. Walking south on Sepulveda Blvd, I passed a firehouse. It was September 11th, and people were setting out folding chairs in front of a stage. Other people were placing flyers with “NEVER FORGET” printed on them on the chairs. Little American flags fluttered in a line along the sidewalk. There was a fountain in front of the station, which was covered with candles and cards and photographs of firemen who were killed in the World Trade Center attacks, 12 years before.

I turned east on Ventura Blvd, away from my mind, into a total vacuum, and by the time my mind and the laws of physics caught up to me I was several miles down the street, almost to Studio City. I turned around and began my walk back, passing massage parlors that advertised massages at $45 per hour. A little further down the street, they went for $40 per hour. Even further down the street they were $35, whereupon I took the bait.

An old man with gray-blue eyes entered the massage parlor with me. He was grinning, but with one of those permanent grins like that of Private Pyle in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. One smiling, middle-aged Asian lady led him into a room, another led me into the room, adjacent. I lay there in the dark, soft, pink light, waiting for the masseuse as Chines, instrumental reworkings of tunes by the likes Kenny G and Celine Dion softly flowed out of unseen speakers. Then the masseuse came in and started working her magic. I began to relax, but only a few minutes into the massage, the grinning man began whispering loudly.

Not what you want to see in a massage parlor.

Not what you want to see in a massage parlor.

“Oh, yeah, dat feels so good. Yeah, c’mon…you know.”

“Oh no, he, he, he,” the masseuse replied.

This banter continued for about 3/4 of the massage, until the man said, “Alright, you made me feel good. Now, it’s your turn. Lie down.”

“Oh no, he, he, he…”


“Oh, no.”

“C’mon, I wanna do dis!”

“No, he…he…he…”

“Gimmie da oil and lay down!”




“A’ight, settle down.”

There was the ruffling around of clothes, then footsteps, then the bell over the front door rang. I left a few minutes later, less relaxed than when I went in to the place. The massage oil made me feel grimy in the hot evening sun. Wind would blow and dust would stick to me. Karen’s apartment moved further and further away with each step I took toward it.

The memorial was about to start when I finally made it to the firehouse on Sepulveda. Firemen milled about – some in working uniforms, others in dress-blues – chatting, cracking each other up. A group of gray-headed ladies wearing red, white and blue sequenced vests were warming up their voices on the stage in front of the folding chairs. 12 Years Ago. Wow…a snap of the fingers. I was just a clueless 26-year-old kid, then. Now, 12 years later, I’m a…I’m…


Red, white and moon.

The next morning, I did my laundry. Things were fine during the wash cycle, but sometime during the drying – as I drank my coffee,  listening to the metal on my jeans clanking around in the dryer, down at the end of the hallway of the apartment complex – the bottom dropped out of the day and I went spiraling down, down, down. Voices accompanied me on the descent, shouting or whispering phrases like it’s no use or all effort is utterly useless or there is only death or hopelessness. I sat up, looked around the apartment – found the computer, the sofa, bookshelf, anything easily definable that would keep me in the Here and Now instead of falling further down The Hole.

The dryer stopped. I tried to fold the clothes but gave up and took another walk. I turned north on Sepulveda Blvd. The mountains loomed in the distance and I began to feel compelled to walk to them, climb them with no food or water, find a ledge and wait to starve to death or – preferably – get mauled to death by a mountain lion. So, I turned south, away from the lions and hurried to Ventura Blvd. There, I headed west toward Encino.

Encino may as well have been a foreign country. It had the standard suburban shopping centers and restaurants, but absolutely none of it seemed familiar, or more so, made sense to me. A feeling so real came over me: that I would never, ever, be able to understand Encino. Or LA, or New York, or Texas, or Planet Earth. You’re done, a voice told me. Finito. You gave it your best shot, but it’s time to move on, pal. I had no headache, no nausea, but I felt an incredible amount of pressure around my head. I was approaching real despair, that only careless jay-walking could alleviate, until a sudden rush of serenity came upon me. Oh, I thought, this must be terminal brain cancer. Whew…for a minute there, I thought it was something really bad. So, I’m gonna die soon. Well, I’ve had a good run. Hey, 12 years and one day more of life than all those people who died in the 9/11 Bombings. More time than the thousands of soldiers killed by suicide bombers, or their own suicides, or by friendly fire. And more time than the 150,000 plus civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the bombings. You got it easy, Todd, you’re just gonna have one hell of a headache, see crazy lights and colors, pee on yourself every now and then until you go to sleep one day and never wake up again. I sat in the shade of a bus stop, thinking of who I should call to let them know of this diagnosis. My mother, of course, sisters, aunts and uncles, friends in New York, Chicago, Texas, Los Angeles…


The voice came from inside a beat up, gray sports car at the curb. I walked up to it and peeked inside. It was a guy I met at an AA meeting earlier in the week. I didn’t even know his name.

“You need a ride?”


“I’m a bookkeeper,” he said, as we cruised down Ventura. “I guess. I mean, that’s what’s made me money. But I’m really a musician. I just haven’t played in so long. I’m kinda craving to do it again, you know, sit and play with another person. And playing for people. I don’t care how small a crowd, you know. I just wanna play. Maybe you and I can play together sometime.”

“Sure, man.”

20130913_192620Friday, I felt better. But there was still much walking to be done. I started north on Sepulveda – the mountains were back to being mountains again, no longer giant rock sirens calling me to my demise. Then I headed east on Burbank Blvd, then north on Woodmen St, and finally onto Victory Boulevard.

Near a gas station on the corner of Victory and Woodmen, a young mother bounced a baby on her hip as she talked to another woman. She looked so young – around 20 – and still had a youthful, plump quality about her. The sun had just set. The sky behind her was apricot in color, slowly turning to indigo blue, further up. 3D palm trees loomed over us.



“I’m turning myself in to tha’ cops in Fresno at the end of the month,” said the young mother. “I got two warrants on me. I gotta cousin that got a year up there but he only served 9 days ‘cause the jail was so overcrowded. I dunno. Whatever happens’ll happen. I’m done runnin’ and I’m not scared of any of it anymore.”

Behind her, three chopped Harley-Davidson’s raced by in glorious, thunderous, weekend anarchy. The baby’s fat arms flopped in every direction as her mother bounced her. The little purple bow in her hair had fallen and dangled in front of her eyes that gazed passed her mother, through me and far beyond the liquor stores, check cashing stations, bail-bondsmen offices and body shops of Victory Boulevard, watching the wisdom of the entire Universe that she possessed upon birth slip further away as her billions of tiny cells relentlessly divided, divided, divided…

Be well…

The View From X

Hello Everybody,

“I like to think of it as my own secret entrance to The Bowl,” Karen said, as she steered off Cahuenga Blvd onto a side street and into the Hollywood Hills.


The Hollywood Bowl.

We were heading to the Hollywood Bowl to see the Diavolo Dance Theater perform to music by Philip Glass, which would be performed by the LA Philharmonic. After parking, we hiked up a winding, narrow residential street. It was the golden hour – sunlight light came in soft and yellow through the green trees between colorful houses. The temperature cooled noticeably as the sun continued to lower. It was a fine evening after a long, hot day.

Moments later, we fell in line with the flock of other Angelenos walking up from the venue’s parking lots. After presenting our tickets, Karen and I found our section in the nosebleed seats. Below us, tiny people filed into the mezzanine and orchestra sections of the amphitheater. Straight ahead – above and over the stage – stood the HOLLYWOOD sign, lit to a brilliant white by the dying sun. A dusk, a few bats fluttered across the sky. The sound of crickets grew louder, and more little humans filed into the venue. Karen’s friends were sitting just behind us. By the time she introduced me to everyone it was dark, the HOLLYWOOD sign had been consumed by the night. When the houselights lowered, the orchestra began to warm up. Everyone stopped talking and I drifted from the vast silence of the place…

…to earlier in the week on Monday afternoon, when the founders of Independent Shakespeare Company – David Melville and Melissa Chalsma – held a party for the cast and crew at their house. The company’s 2013 festival in Griffith Park had closed the night before. Everybody was in a good mood, drinking, laughing, eating.

“Our first show was ten years ago,” said Melissa. “14 people showed up. And a dog. The dog left at intermission. Last night, 2,600 people showed up.”

Many of the actors and crew had other gigs lined up, day jobs, husbands or wives, boy or girl friends, or children who required their focus, bringing them further out of the fading summer. As people began to leave, there was much hugging and many fare-thee-wells and see-you-soons with just a hint of but when?

Same goin' up as it is comin' down...

Same goin’ up as it is comin’ down…

Tuesday, David, myself and a handful of volunteers met up at the park to load up set pieces and props. We couldn’t take the set down, because the Symphony In The Glen would be performing on the coming Saturday. This delayed my exit from LA for a week, but that was fine. I was having a good time floating around LA. It was hot on Tuesday, however, and we all dripped sweat as the day reached infernal temperatures.

“My god,” said David, panting, wiping the sweat from his brow after we loaded a piano into the U-Haul truck. “It was uphill when we unloaded everything out here, and now it’s uphill loading everything out. How does that happen? Isn’t that a violation of the laws of the Universe, or something?”

“Theatre warps space and time,” I replied, wiping my stinging eyes with my shirt, sucking in hot air. “It’s been three long months. But now that were moving stuff out, it seems like we put it all up only yesterday.”

The large TV screens on either side of the Hollywood Bowl’s stage came on to air a taped statement by Jacques Heim, the artistic director of Diavolo Dance Theatre.

“Ze idea of ze piece,” said Jacques, “izz zat we are moving away from ze cubed, angled, sharp world and moving to ze…ah…curved, liquid and spiritual world. Zat izz Humanity’s next leap. To embrace wholly ze unknown, ze spiritual.”

Only the center of the stage was lit. It floated in the quiet blackness. The orchestra began playing the score by the repetitive minimalist Glass. The cadence had a curious effect on my brain, cutting out the rest of LA, even Karen and everybody else attending the show. Way up there in section X, it was only me.

20130905_212404One by one, the dancers crawled out of a perpendicular, clear plastic tube, located at stage-left. They then reconvened at center-stage, around an oval-shaped orb covered with many holes resembling a giant, slightly melted glob of Swiss cheese. The dancers danced around it with caution. But their curiosity was stronger, and the dancers couldn’t help but get close to the orb, touch it, crawl on it. Suddenly, a dancer was sucked into one of the holes of the orb. The other dancers danced real scared-likebut one by one – as if compelled to do so – they danced toward the holes, and one by one they were sucked in. For a moment, the droning music played to a stage devoid of Humanity…

On Wednesday, I went to a cafe I like to frequent on Vine Street. I thought it would be my last time to visit it before I left. There I ran into my buddy, M, who was homeless. I hadn’t seen M for a few weeks and had begun to fear the worst. But there he was, in a clean shirt, smiling.

“I been real good,” said M. “I gotta job. But it’s down further west so I just find a place near there when I get off, to sleep. A guy offered me a job in Hollywood, but they’re big on personal hygiene and I can’t get to a shower before the shift starts. But it’s all good. I get my first VA check next week and my food stamps, and I’m on two housing lists, so…”

“Man, I been dreaming so much,” said Usef, an old, bald, all-night Persian cab driver whose bluetooth was always wrapped around his ear as if it were permanently screwed into his skull. The three of us drank coffee at a table on the sidewalk. “I tell you, I haven’t dreamed in twenty years, man. Now, all the time when I get off work in the morning, I dream. Nothing strange, just something like I’m telling my cousin or brothers something funny and they laugh. Then I wake up.” Usef laughed. “Stupid stuff. But I hope I keep having the dreams.”

I gave Usef and M my own fare-thee-wells with a little bit of but when?

“Hey,” shouted M as I walked away, “say hello to all my ex’s in Texas for me, ha, ha!”


Homeless in The Valley.

That evening, I took the subway to North Hollywood and then the 183 bus down Magnolia Boulevard. Magnolia is a long straight road that traverses most of The Valley. I stared out the window, at the endless sprawl of apartment complexes along either side of the street. The heat came in through the window but the other side of my face was cold from the air-conditioning in the bus. Plump, pleasant ladies chatted away in Spanish, laughing heartily at something as I pressed my head to the window, daydreaming deep into the wide, flat sprawl of The Valley as it was slowly and steadily subdued by longer and longer suburban shadows. The view out the window could’ve be anywhere in the U.S. – Grand Junction, Colorado, way out by the Interstate; Sioux Falls, South Dakota somewhere out by the Indian casino; or basically anywhere in and around Orlando, Florida.

“Last stop, man,” shouted the bus driver. We were at the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards. All the plump ladies were gone, I was the only one on the bus. Space and time was dancing and bending again…

The giant ball of Swiss cheese began to open. Inside, the dancers danced to figure out where the hell they were. They writhed about, scared and fascinated with a desire to…what? I don’t know, but I didn’t need to. Whatever they desired, the dancers owned it in their bones and emotion came forth from their moves and that was good enough for me. The dancers were incredibly strong – lifting, tossing, throwing each other. One misstep could have meant serious injury. But they kept at it, gyrating inside the orb, hoping to comprehend it in some way. The music and movement escalated until suddenly, only a lone female dancer graced the stage. The music stopped, then came in low but fierce and the woman jerked from side to side, jumped, crouched, searched, searched, searched. Then she did something I’d never seen before. After arching backward and balancing on her feet and hands, she lifted her hands, balancing only on her feet, and held the position. From all the way where I was, I could see her leg muscles twitching, her face grimmacing. Then, she straightened from that position, and danced as if she’d found Something. The rest of the dancers came out with the plastic tube. The orb began to close over the dancers. The woman crawled into the tube. The dancers then thrust both tube and woman through one of the holes just as the orb closed.The woman climbed out of edge of the tube and reached as far out as she could out into space, her eyes peering into the dark, beautiful unknown. Then blackout, end of show.

Don't know what this picture symbolizes in this blog but it doesn't matter.

Don’t know what this picture symbolizes in this blog but it doesn’t matter.

As I sat in Karen’s kitchen Friday morning, drinking coffee, the dancers still danced around in my head. There they were, scurrying around that porous orb, not running away, or to, or in or out, but through…Something. But after my second cup, I swept them off my mind and got dressed. I was staying at Karen’s place in return for a little handy-man work and I needed to work finish up some things before I could go a Zen House in Central LA to meditate that evening. I’m not Buddhist. But I am curious.

Be well…


Hello Everybody,

I’m leaving LA soon, so on Wednesday I headed out to the beach at Santa Monica to jump in the ocean one more time. The beach wasn’t crowded. School had started and the vacation season was winding down. Only clusters of very pretty European women lay out on beach towels whilst solo men with thick accents pranced about in man-panties, too afraid to go all the way out to the breakers for the water was very cold. I lay down my towel next to some lovely French ladies and – fearless and American – ran at full speed into the water, dove under an oncoming wave, then swam out past the breakers.



It was a very hot day with no sea-breeze. The waves came in fat and slow. There was a strong riptide, too, so I’d get sucked out as the waves rose, then pushed back toward the shore as they crashed. For some time, I let the waves push and pull me wherever, floating on my back, barely stroking to stay above water.

A squadron of pelicans were out, flying close to the water. Some came within five feet of me. They glided so slow it appeared as if they’d simply drop into the surf if they flew any slower. They were huge, each one around the size of a year old pit bull. Their eyes twitched, feathers glistened as they patiently trucked across the sky. But after they’d pass me, they’d take a drastic upswing, twist in weightlessness, then dive bomb into the water. After they’d pop up above the surface, they’d float on their bellies with something flopping around in their gullet. It looked as if I’d floated into some feeding area of theirs. Pelicans began to splash into the water all around me, like birdrain.

I swam back to shore after my fingers turned blue. The temperatures of the air and water were so extreme. After a few minutes of shaking, panting, I lay down and instantly grew drowsy in the heat. I glanced across the beach to see visible heat waves dance, distorting the shapes of homeless people who call the beach home. I closed my eyes and listened to the French girls next to me say French things until I drifted off to sleep. The crashing waves stayed with me during my slumber – a soundtrack for little day dreams. But when a particularly large wave crashed onto shore I opened my eyes. The French girls were gone, as were many other beach goers. I was beginning to feel the sunburn, so I left, reluctantly.

I hopped on the bus back to Hollywood, but got off in Beverly Hills. I didn’t want to jerk about inside the bus as it wrestled with the rush-hour traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard. It was still very hot but my apartment was hotter, so I figured the long hot walk back to Hollywood would tire me out enough not to care about the heat, leading to a full night’s sleep, which had been rare over the last week. Six miles in flip-flops would do the trick, I was sure.

20130828_173351I waltzed through fancy Beverly Hills. Pretty people wore sunglasses as they enjoyed cocktails out on the sidewalks of cafes. But out in a park along Santa Monica Blvd were the homeless of Beverly Hills, scattered about the short green grass like casualties on a battlefield. The sun was behind the trees. Golden light lay over these wounded, clothed in many layers of dingy clothing. They’d noticed me walk to them, but all they could manage was the opening of one eye, and a turn onto their other side.

About an hour later I was smack dab in the middle of fabulous West Hollywood. It was passed the cocktail hour and the pretty happy people were now being served dinner at tables on the sidewalk. The waiters,dressed in white long-sleeve shirts and black pants, hustled tray after tray out to the tables. Their faces glistened with sweat as they explained the specials for the evening or listened to an order from a patron. They’d smile, say something like, “no problem, it’ll be right out,” but when they turned their faces dropped into exhausted frowns. In the kitchen, out the kitchen. Smile. Frown. Smile…

A few tweakers and drunks were out in West Hollywood but not until I got into Hollywood Proper did I see any serious winos and junkies. By then the sun had set, and I’d walked up  onto Sunset Boulevard. There, dark skeletal faces peeked out from door archways – not to plead, but more like to see if Earth was still out there. Satisfied they were still on terra firma, their hollow eyes would fade back into the darkness.



It grew darker and darker, two snakes of headlights hissed down Sunset. The tattooed and scabbed of Hollywood danced across intersections to music only they could hear. Outside the Palladium, a long line of sexy, short skirted, fish-netted, heavily eye-lined jail bait waited for a concert to start. Some smoked by the curb, jumping onto the street every now and then, oblivious to the speeding traffic or the Surgeon General’s warning. I weaved through them. I was almost to the bungalow. It’d been three hours since I got off the bus.

Tired as I was, I still couldn’t sleep that night. The bungalow was sweltering. I was also sleeping on the floor – Luis and Andre were almost completely moved out. So I lay on my back and tried not to sweat, in a state of semi-consciousness, where I wandered in and out of the visions of gloomy futures, deep into the quiet hours.

The next day, I helped my friend, Danny, fix up an apartment that he managed – new tenants were moving in. Danny was performing the role of The Porter in Independent Shakespeare Company’s production of Macbeth, this summer in Griffith Park. I met Danny while I was building the set for the production. Danny’s a great fellow and a hell of an actor. The Porter is a small role but one that requires a the balancing of comedy with foreboding, for the play only gets darker and bloody after The Porter exits. Danny definitely delivers. He begins the role passed out drunk in the audience, finally coming out of his stupor to answer a knock on the doors of Macbeth’s castle. As he makes his way to the doors, he improvises, plays with the audience – to hearty applause and cheers – then delivers this monologue:

Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were 
porter of Hell Gate, he should have old turning the 
key. Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, 
i’ the name of Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer, that hang’d 
himself on th’ expectation of plenty. Come in time! 
Have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t. 
Knock, knock! Who’s there, in the other 
devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could 
swear in both the scales against either scale, who com- 
mitted treason enough for God’s sake, yet could 
not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator. 
Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, 
here’s an English tailor come hither, for stealing 
out of a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may 
roast your goose. Knock, knock! Never 
at quiet! What are you? But this place is too 
cold for hell. I’ll devil-porter it no further: I had 
thought to have let in some of all professions that go 
the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire.
Anon, anon! I pray you, remember 
the porter.

Danny and his son after the closing performance of MacBeth.

Danny and his son, Malcolm, after the closing performance of MacBeth.

Danny improvises a bit more after the monologue, asking random audience members what they do for a living, always insinuating to that hell is an option for all of us, because equivocating is so easy to do for us humans. And no one is immune to resorting to equivocation. Really. Think about it. And, if you’re not sure what equivocation means, look it up here, like I did, then think about it.

“What are you gonna do, Todd?” Danny asked me as we worked in the hot afternoon. “What’s your plan after LA?”

I equivocated, of course, mumbling something about Texas but also about staying in LA. Danny processed my response, his equivocation radar – along with his bullshit detector – easily picking up on my uncertainty. He squinted his eyes as he peered close to the window trim he was painting with a very little brush as he told me, “You can go somewhere and work for a coupla’ years – Alaska or on ships – then come back, buy ya a motorcycle and just ride around. If nothing happens by the time the money runs out, worst case scenario is your right back to where you are now, right? You got nothing to lose. Me, I gotta wife and kids, I can’t do nothin’ like that.”

On Friday morning at 9am it was already 90˚. Luis, myself, The Great Warrior and our friend, Kelly, hung out in the driveway outside the bungalows.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” said The Great Warrior. “My computer told me it was supposed to cool off today.”

The Gloom...

The Gloom…

Later on I sat dumbly by the window, though no breeze came through at all. I had things to do but couldn’t wrest the willpower from my laziness to do anything. So I sat there, unsure of absolutely everything. Those gloomy visions came rushing in again.

Jason, the tenant in the neighboring bungalow was working on his motorcycle, just outside my window. He’d been working on the bike all summer – taking it apart completely, putting it back together, tuning the engine all day, then taking it apart piece by piece again. Sometimes I think Jason will never ride the motorcycle, that his work on the bike is the sole purpose of his having a bike. He was meant only to put that bike together, take it apart, I thought, a steady practice on his off days to bring together his physical being with his spiritual. Like Gandhi and his spinning wheel, or something like that.

“How’s the bike, Jason?” said John, another tenant in the compound of bungalows. John was from Georgia, and spoke in a high-pitched, slow, hung over and stoned southern accent.

“I’s good, man,” answered Jason – from Alabama – equally as slow.

“Gettin’ her runnin’?”

“Prolly pretty soon.”

“Man, it’s hot, ain’t it?”


“I gotta work in this shit.”

“Yeah,” said Jason, laying on his back, turning a bold with a wrench, “me too.”

“Hey, man,” continued John, “I checked out this video the other night. It was a bunch a videos all put together. Global warming and shit and floodin’ and stuff we all know’s happenin’ but when it’s all right there in front a ya it’s like ‘oh, shit, man’…you know?”


“I mean the temperature’s risin’ all over the place with pollution and all, overpopulation and no more food left. And there’s no bees and entire flocks of birds are fallin’ out of the sky, man.”

“Uh, huh.”

“Well, were livin’ in some f#$ked up times, I tell ya.”

The stage is clear for another Run...

The stage is clear for another Run…

John wandered back into his bungalow. Jason continued working on the motorcycle. I got a text from my mother, letting me know my sister just had a baby girl. They named her Arabella Rose Cirio, after her great-grandmother who came here all the way from Italy in the old-timey days. It was exciting news. Another baby, another run at Humanity, another chance of another one of us to live a life beyond the scope of her imagination, as long as she keeps cool in the heat.

Jason was still working on his bike at 1:54pm, when the wind picked up and cooled things down a little.

Be well…