Racing The River

Hello Everybody,

Last Monday evening, I waited to cross Hollywood Boulevard, at a pedestrian crosswalk in Thai Town. It was well into rush hour, so stepping out onto the Boulevard of Broken Dreams at that time of night was like jumping into a fast river filled with logs. In theory – at these crosswalks, which are sprinkled across the boulevards of Los Angeles – all you have to do is start crossing the street, and the drivers who’ve noticed the neon yellow pedestiran crossing signs will already be on the lookout for you, and will be happy to stop – after all, it’s the law. However, that’s just a silly theory.

Hollywood and Hobart in Thai Town...where it happened.

Hollywood and Hobart in Thai Town…where it happened.

Generally, what happens is a growing anxiety develops in the pedestrian, casusing them to step out into the street with fearful hesitation. As a result, an oncoming driver can’t tell whether to drive on or stop, so they opt to coast into the intersection, finally stopping right at the feet of the shaking pedestrian. But some drivers speed up in the intersection, missing the pedestrian by inches. I hear the theme to Frogger everytime I use these crosswalks.

After a gap appeared in the traffic, I stepped onto the boulevard, flaying my hands not unlike bigfoot in that film footage from the 70s, so the oncoming drivers would have no problem seeing me. I made it through the two west bound lanes with no problem. However, in the first eastbound lane, a shiny silver BMW fastly approached. I stopped and didn’t move until I was certain it would stop. The Beamer started to slow and I walked on. But it didn’t stop until his bumper was right at my calf. The graybeard inside tapped his steering wheel, stared me down. I puffed my chest out like a gorilla, stared back, pointed to the crosswalk sign as passed him. As soon as I passed, he sped onward into the gathering darkness, toward the Important Place.

I’d made it only a few steps west along Hollywood Blvd when I heard a terrible sound. Instantly, a feeling of gritty dread fell over me. I spun around and in the glow of headlights, I saw a woman flying through the air. A black Ford Mustang screeched to a stop. The woman came to rest about 25 feet in front of the Mustang. A man across the street jumped off his bicycle and ran to woman. I ran into the street as I dialed 911. The dazed driver of the Mustang stepped out and met us where the woman lay.

“Shit, there was a truck in the other lane, man! In the other lane. I couldn’t see her…”

Another driver stopped his car, got out, directed the eastbound traffic. The cyclist had knelt down to the woman. Nervously, he’d reach out to her as she squirmed awkwardly, then he’d pull away, over and over. Finally, he nestled her head in his lap. The driver of the Mustang began directing the westbound traffic. The 911 dispatcher answered.

“A woman was hit by a car…the corner of Hollywood and Hobart…about thirty, maybe…yeah, she’s conscious…I don’t know, but she’s moving…DON’T LET HER MOVE…”

The dispatcher said for all on the scene to stay until the paramedics arrived. I hung up.

A lady ran up to the seen. “I’m a nurse. She was hit, huh?”


“They’re on their way?” She asked.


“There was a truck…right there!” shouted the driver of the Mustang to the nurse, as he waved cars by.

“Honey,” said the nurse as she knelt down to the woman. “Just lay still, the paramedics are on their way and will be here real soon, ok?”

The neon of East Hollywood.

The neon of East Hollywood.

The woman stared – her eyes wide – at the nurse. She lay at a disturbingly crooked angle, her arm was pinned behind her back. She’d been knocked out of her shoes and the contents of her purse lay about on the street. She appeared to have bitten off her lower lip, part her tongue hung out of her mouth. The right side of her face was rapidly reddening, and her teeth stuck out of her mouth at drastic angles. Every few moments she would try to look around, grimmacing as she did.

“Look at me, can you look at me?” the nurse continued. “You were hit by a car honey, but you’re ok. Can you tell me where it hurts the most?” The woman appeared to gain a quick moment of clarity, and she pointed to her waist, then to her face. Her eyes began to water and she began to start shaking. “I know, honey, it hurts, but you’re gonna be ok. Oh, here they come. Do you hear the paramedics?” The woman shook her head. “Just hang in there, dear, and don’t move around much, ok?”

Headlights shone from all directions. Horns were honking and drivers were yelling out their windows. The woman, the cyclist, the nurse, the two drivers, myself were surrounded by a force field shielding us from a storm of neon, headlights and brutal selfishness. The drivers’ disdain from being delayed by some annoying broken woman in the road bounced off this barrier like concussion blasts from artillary. After a driver would creep around the Mustang, they speed by, creating a mean flurry of engine exhaust and noise.

“Can’t you f$%king take it easy!” exclaimed the driver of the Mustang, his voice cracking. “Can’t you see the poor lady in the road?!”

But cars kept swerving by – horns, curses. As the siren of an ambulance grew louder, the woman slowly seemed to realize what had happened – oh, an accident, ooh, someone must have gotten hit, there’s the crowd, now where’s the poor…oh…OH – then she slowly descended into a soft whimper that I can still hear very clearly as I type.

“Honey,” the nurse said, she laid a hand on her arm very gently, “you’re gonna be ok? It’s all gonna be over real soon, and we’ll get you taken care of.”

The ambulance pulled right up to the scene. “A girl got hit?” said the paramedic, to no one in particular, after he got out of the ambulance. “Alright, we got it now, everyone disperse to the sidewalk, please.” He knelt down to the woman. “Hey there, had an accident, did’ya? Well don’t worry, we’re gonna take care of ya.”

The cyclist walked over to the woman who’d been holding his bicycle for him. He melted into her arms and she hugged him for several moments. The man directing the eastbound traffic got in his car and drove off, so did the nurse. The driver of the Mustang minced back and forth on the sidewalk. “There was a truck, man, right there, I couldn’t see her…”



The rest of the night, I would hear the crashing sound, over and over. Later, I lay in bed, seeing her broken face in the darkness. Her life will forever be seperated by this day. Tonight will be the fulcrum of her days. There was before, and after, that night on Hollywood Boulevard. Just before I fell asleep, a woman from Kaiser Permanante Hospital called me.

“We just need to ask you a few questions, since you made the 911 call. Did you actually see the accident happen?”

“No. When I heard the crash, I turned around and saw the girl flying through the air. Is she gonna be ok?”

“Well, she’s got a fractured pelvis and severe lacerations on her face. But she’s stable now, and knows what happened to her. It’s probably gonna several months of rehab, but she’ll recover. Her parents just arrived, so she’s not alone tonight. She’s resting now. Then it’ll begin tomorrow.”

All week, I saw the woman’s face – rapid swelling, broken teeth, the sudden realization and soft whimpering. The constant vision filled me with a very unsettling energy. I grew paranoid as traffic sped by me down the boulevards. Every car horn in Los Angeles was directed at me, every revving engine nearly gave me the DTs. I crossed intersections as if I were walking on coals. I’d stop in my tracks every time an Ambulance roared passed, it’s siren clawed it’s way into my ears, scratched at my brain. There’s another person who’s life will no longer be the same after today. Or worse, someone died. One second and nothing will ever be the same. But for everyone else around, that second’s just a fleeting moment of lunch hour, of an impatient delay at a red light, of a hurried ATM transaction. People are gettting busted and broken all over Hollywood…but they’re merely snags in the currents of the Great River Boulevards.

Later in the week, I came upon a murder of hipsters on Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. One of them – standard beard, tight shirt stretched over pot belly jiggling over skinny jeans – held out his iPhone and jerked about like he was a fish on a hook.

“Arggghh,” the hipster exclaimed, “The wifi here’s horrible! Guys, we have to go.”

“Where?” asked another hipster.

“I don’t care, but the wifi is just killing me, I swear!”

Racing the river...

Racing the river…

The hipster turned and stepped out onto Vine, but quickly stepped back just before the traffic rushed by. A don’t walk sign flashed offensively across the street. He stared across Vine and a spell fell over the hipster. His eyes glazed over as he longed for the other side of the street, as if on its banks lay some kind of eternal wifi magicland, where he could forever ditch his mustachioed, ironic pals, and sail away to a world of infinite escape, down wikiwormholes and youtube jungles, where a tattoo artists was just waiting to ink the all-time high score for Candy Crush on his neck. The hipster quivered in anticipation of the walk light. But the spell lifted and the other side of Vine Street became what it always was, an oasis for a pride of bums, lazing about and panting softly under the shadetrees along the Bank of America. The hipster held up his hands, looked at his other hipster pals, huffed and puffed, then crossed Sunset Blvd instead. The other hipsters followed.

I followed too, the young woman’s face floating up and slightly to the right of my vision as I crossed Sunset. Just a few feet from us, people in their motorcanoes waited to flow further down Sunset River Boulevard, to race to somewhere they probably didn’t even want to go…or only thought they wanted to go. But after the light turned green, they hauled ass to get there anyway, to get their faster than they ever had. In fact, it seemed a very likely possibility that they’d even go faster than the river, itself, beaching themselves on a dry sandy bank somewhere deeper into Time. There, they will get out of their cars, sweating from the fever of an anonymous disatisfaction. They will stumble about on dry hard ground, will upstream with the expectation that more water is coming, so they can get back in their cars and go fast again.



But no water will come. The drivers will grow very annoyed, they will huff and puff like gorillas. But still, no water. Their annoyance will grow into anger and they will begin to demand water from the Invisible Forces. But no dice. The hot, dry river bottom will burn their tender feet, they will hop and dance in pain. Depserate, they will begin beg the Invisible Forces for water. Some will even take up praying again. More water, please God, more water. Finally, prostrating themselves on the burning sand, they will promise anything for more water. But no more water more will come. The river has run dry.

Be well…

17 Years

Hello Everyone…

Last week, I helped set up the stage for Independent Shakespeare Company’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac, at the company’s studio space in Atwater Village.

Andre Martin, translator and title character...

Andre Martin, translator and title character…cleck HERE for details!

There wasn’t much building to be done. Cat, the set designer for Cyrano, had managed to create a design out of the remnants of the set I built for Macbeth, ISC’s flagship show in their Shakespeare Festival in Griffith Park this passed summer, which had been stacked away in a corner of the studio. One by one, Cat and I – along with Kevin and Andre, two actors performing in Cyrano who’d come to help out – pulled wall pieces off the stack and set them up according to Cat’s design.

Kevin and Andre would run lines with each other as we worked, shouting dialogue to each other across the room, over the music playing from Cat’s iPhone. Andre was tasked with performing the title role of Cyrano. He also translated the play from French to English for the production. This production was his baby – he had a lot invested in it, artistically. Even during periods where he wasn’t running lines with Kevin, he’d quietly mumble lines to himself as he wandered the stage or held a flat in place as I screwed it to the floor.

Some of the flats were stained with stage-blood from the Macbeth production. Dead leaves were stuck in spiderwebs of the many arachnids who’d made homes in the crannies of the wall flats – more than once I found one of the 8-legged creatures crawling up my arm. The wood of the flats was also hard and dry, due to outdoor exposure in the park over the summer. It would crack into pieces when I screwed into it, if I wasn’t careful. But the flats held together and just before midnight…voila!…Scotland had become Paris. When Cat unplugged her iPhone from the PA, a deep quiet fell over the studio, like when birds stop chirping just before a tornado. As the silence began to lift, I could hear Andre mumbling away, somewhere behind the set.

From Scotland to Paris...

From Scotland to Paris…

The next day, Cat and I continued working on the set. Her friends, Lexie and May, came in to paint. The three women were attending UCLA together. They were good hearted 21 year olds and fun to be around.

“Oh my god, The Backstreet Boys!” exclaimed Lexie, when one of the band’s tunes came up on Cat’s iPhone. “I think it was the first CD I ever got! Wow, they were such a big part of my childhood.”

The Backstreet Boys were not a big part of my childhood. In fact, I was already 21 years old when they were popular the first time around, 17 years ago. I didn’t listen to the Backstreet Boys, then. I was still mostly listening to country music, still living in the small South Texas town of Orange Grove, population 1,212. But in the fall of 1996, I felt I needed a change, so I cut off my nearly shoulder-length mullet, quit my job pumping gas at the Exxon station in Orange Grove, then nervously stumbled into the Acting For Beginners I class at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The professor of the class had taught a speech class I took, a few semesters before. I was horrible in that class – froze or stuttered everytime I had to speak – and eventually stopped showing up. But he remembered me when he saw me on that first day of acting class.

“Well,” he said, curiously, “Mr. Pate. Welcome.”

It felt real good to be remembered and welcomed, so I listened hard in the class and did whatever the professor asked of me. He ended up taking me under his wing and for the next three years I acted in most of the University’s productions. I also knew how to use all the power tools in the shop, which gained the attention of the technical theatre professor. He ended up giving me a job and I built sets for the productions, until I graduated. From there, I went on to act, write, build, produce and go broke in the theatre all over the country. A million things happened along the way and The Road took a million turns as one show led to another – all of it leading me to Cat, Lexie and May on a Sunday afternoon in a theatre in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, California …as if the only purpose of those 17 years was to lead me to them, at that location of spacetime. Those years passed by so, so fast. That Sunday, I could still feel that mullet against my neck, smell the gasoline on my fingers as those three giggly 21 year olds bounced around to the swingin’ hits of the 90s. But my aching back and throbbing knees made it clear that 17 years have, in fact, passed by…and I was no longer the young one in the group.

It’s been 17 Halloweens since that first acting class.

It’s been 17 Halloweens since that first acting class.

Later that week, I went back to ISC and continued working on the set. A number things needed to be made safe or more cosmetic. Squeaky flooring needed to be fixed. Wires needed to be run for light and sound. Furniture peices needed to be built. Cat and I goofed off here and there as we worked, but Opening Night was getting nearer, so there were long quiet stretches here and there, as the two of us focused, worked faster and moved from one task to the next. Kevin was there on both days, working hard right up until rehearsal time. And so was Andre, helping, wandering, mumbling…

Just before rehearsal on Friday, the set was nearly complete. I was getting ready to leave when my buddy, Sean – who was also in the play – came in. We caught up and made plans to start working on a short film we’ve wanted to make together. I was tired from working, but talking with Sean about the project invigorated me, and my knees and back didn’t ache so much anymore. By the time Sean and I were finished discussing the project, the other members of the company had arrived. The stage manager was setting the props. Actors were running lines or discussing parts of the play. Every now and then, one of the actors would grab Andre by the arm and run a few lines with him, then leave him to his mumbling and wandering.

Everyone came in from there own long, real day. Their few short hours of make-believe together would begin when Melissa, the director, arrived. When she did, she looked just as tired of as the rest, yet bounced around – energetic, in good cheer – also like everybody else. Everyone was ready to work on the Life that rages on in Cyrano de Bergerac.


Between the Real Long Day and the Few Short Hours of Make Believe.

If you’re not familiar with the play, it centers on Cyrano, a archetypal Frenchmen – a duellist, poet, musician, an all around Renaissance Man, possessing a profound panache. But he’s also cursed with a ridiculously long nose which puts a pretty big dent in his self-esteem – and, therefore, his panache – everytime he enters the presence of the beautiful Roxanne. Cyrano loves Roxanne, but doesn’t have the stones to tell her. Another man, Christian, loves Roxanne, too, but doesn’t have the panache to adequately express his love for her. So, Cyrano writes beautiful letters dripping with panache on Christian’s behalf. Roxanne reads the letters and falls in love with Christian, leaving Cyrano to wander alone, as the odd man out, unable to reap the benefits of his panache. Not until many years later, after Christian has died, and Cyrano is dying, does Roxanne find out that the letters that triggered her love for Christian were written by Cyrano, that it was his panache that awoke the love inside her. But by then, it’s too late. Cyrano est mort…the panache is gone…c’est la vie. The play’s filled with love, longing, fellowship, happiness, loneliness, death, deception, there’s tender moments with poetry, harsh moments filled with danger, it’s funny and sad and a there’s even sword fight.

Just like the last 17 years of my life, probably your life, too…avec ou sans the swords, big nose or not.

Be well…

D’yer Maker The Deck?

Hello Everybody,

Last Monday, I rented a truck, loaded up the old deck that I’d torn out of my friend Scott’s backyard in Pasadena, and took it to a dump in Glendale. As I pulled the old planks of wood off the truck, the dumpers next to me were unloading the guts of an entire house. Mirrors, counters, walls, sinks were stacked in little piles. The house was no longer Home to anybody, just crap to be hidden under the ground and maybe laid over with new houses, someday.

The song...

The song…

It was just after lunch and the day had become hot and dusty. The house dumpers slowly carried the remnants of the house from the trailer to the junk pile like fellows on a chain gang – head down moving in easy rhythm. The long roaring line of city dump trucks kept coming on, forever, engulfing us all in a cloud of dust. After I threw the last plank of wood on the pile, I took a long look at the deck – just trash – dead, rotting, it’s memories scavenged by the vultures of time and decay. I walked back to the truck like the other dumpers, floating so far from the beginning of the day yet still unable to see the shore of it’s end.

But the day did end, of course, and the next day the materials for the new deck arrived at Scott’s place. The delivery guy from Ganahl Lumber helped me unload it all. He didn’t have to, so I thanked him for doing so.

“Everyone at Ganahl Lumber is so nice,” I told him. I meant it, too. I’d had nothing but pleasant dealings with everyone at the store.

“It’s not a bad place to work, man,” said the delivery guy. “No one gives you a hassle. The owner’ll come in, man…doesn’t ask you about work or nothin’…just asks you about your golf game, or your kids.”

Everyone I dealt with in Pasadena was kind and neighborly. Even the fellow at the U-Haul rental outlet by the freeway.

“Everybody in Pasadena seem so nice,” I told him, as he took my New York State driver’s license from behind the counter, later that day, upon returning the truck.

“Yeah, it’s a great town,” he replied, after handing my license back to me. “But has anyone out here given you a hard time for having a New York accent?”

“No, but some people in New York gave me a hard time for my Texas accent.”

“Texas is awesome. You guys have the best gun laws, man,” he replied. By now, he was standing at the large printer in the corner of the office, waiting for my receipt to print out – tapping out a beat on the sides of the machine, tapping his foot on the ground. “Hey, you guys can buy suppressors out there, for your rifles?”

“I don’t know. Those are silencers?”

“Yeah. I think you can buy suppressors in Arizona. They got great gun laws too, but still not as cool as the Texas laws. Here, you go.” He handed me my receipt, still wearing the same smile he had when I came in. “Have great day, man.” matter how often played...

…no matter how often played…

I received many ”Have a great day’s” from the citizens of Pasadena on Monday and Tuesday, as I ran errands. But after the U-Haul guy, I didn’t talk to any other Pasadenos for three straight days. I had all I needed in Scott’s backyard, where I secluded myself and sunk into the building of the deck.

By Wednesday, I was in the zone and didn’t want to talk to anybody. I just wanted to work. However, it rained from late morning into early afternoon. I felt held back by The Universe as I stood at the window, watching the rain come down like I would back when I had to wait out rain delays from the dugout during little league games. As soon as I could, I went out and worked. I was loving the work, loving the solitude.

That night, I talked baseball for a few moments with my new roommate, The Great Warrior. Then I staggered to the room I’m renting from him, rolled out the mat and sleeping bag that was my bed, fell onto it, then plugged in my earbuds and listened to a Led Zeppelin album. I fell asleep a few songs in, waking up somewhere among the peaceful bars – between the canon blasts of John Bonham’s drums and artillary fire of Jimmy Paige’s guitar – of a song I’d heard many times before, but somehow sounded new. Then I killed the computer and fell asleep to the quieting Hollywood night.

I had very vivid dreams that night, but couldn’t tell you what a single one was about. One dream even shook me awake. Sitting straight up in the dark, my heart pounding, soaked in sweat, I could still see the bright surreal world of the dream as if I were looking at it from a key hole. But I couldn’t find the words to describe it, and the dream eroded into darkness. I sat there, trying to reach back just a few moments into time to find the dream again, but no dice. All I could see in my mind was the deck – and me, lifting, screwing, hammering it into place.



Thursday, as I worked, I let my mind go. Moments of my life passed between my two ears as I worked. Calm moments, crazy moments. Good times, bad times. Opinions, beliefs and speculations flowed between my ears like leaves on a stream. Chaos and order, I would say over and over, then something like, The Universe is chaos, one giant ongoing explosion in which we are hurtling at an incomprehensibly high speed toward a mysterious end. That’s scary, so we feel a need to make sense of things and create order, name everything, form cultures and create languages and make laws and governments and find safety in definition and build decks and houses down street after street and they fall apart and the people that built them pass on but they come back through other people who build more decks and houses and purchase suppressors for their guns and play golf and have babies and bosses and kill each other but help each other and starve each other out but take each other into their homes and dance with each other but ridicule each and why do we love while we also hate well because it’s ultimately impossible to make any kind of sense at all while you are spinning around real real fast inside of The Great Explosion and the only real certainty is that gravity will reduce every single deck or house we build into rubble and what kind of decks will we have built when we finally reach that mystery at the end of The Explosion

It’s the end of the day. I stop and step back from the deck to get a look at it. I’d made as much progress as I’d planned.

…Well, that’ll be for another Me to find out.

“I got this friend who paints houses,” The Great Warrior said, that night, after I told him about the wonderings of my working mind. “He loves it, says it’s like gettin’ paid to daydream.”

Baseball talk with The Great Warrior was short, just a quick inquiry to find out how the Dodger’s played that night. I was too tired to hold a real philosophical conversation about bats and balls. After I ate and showered, I rolled out the bed, lay down, put on Zeppelin…

Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share…

I closed my eyes, just saw the deck – lifting, screwing, sawing, hammering. I didn’t make it passed the first song.

We keep building decks...

…through order and through chaos…

Friday morning, the alarm rang and I staggered up from the bedroll like a gangly, newborn foal. My feet hurt, my hands were sore. I should’ve hired somebody to help me, I thought, but then I thought about the money and the thought of hiring someone went away. By the time I’d meditated and coffee’d up, I couldn’t wait to get to work on the deck. An obsession had developed. It was no longer a matter of simply finishing the deck, but of completing the deck, bringing order to the chaos of Scott’s backyard…epic stuff.

Friday came and went like the other days – slow in the morning, adrift at sea in the afternoon, the evening arriving before I knew it. I walked to the train stop that night, leisurely, stopping to take snapshots of Pasadena. You know, I thought, I could do this for a living. Build something one week, write the next, or take a drive through Nevada, or something like that, then build build something else, then write…etc. I can be my own boss. Then why don’t I just surrender and let myself do it, just say, “THIS is IT, I accept IT,” and let off the throttle a little…damn the ego and its thirst for the nectar of glory! I hobbled on with this heavy thinking a little more until I thought, Wait, I AM THIS. I have been THIS for some time. THIS IS ME…so take it and accept it. You’re not a movie star, a literary giant or a major league baseball player. You build decks and you write blogs…and you’re something else when you start doing something else. But today, tonight…

The song remains the same...

The song remains the same…

…a clear half-moon hung in the air. I could see its day and night seperated by a clear line. Day and night are so simple on the moon – just a matter of shading. Seeing both at the same time rendered them meaningless.

I looked down long, wide Allen Street. Pasadena was suddenly free of days and nights, and the rest of the world had no boundaries, either – no lines seperated anything anywhere in The Universe. Dreams and waking life, work and play, good times and bad times flowed seamlessly together, as they do along our path to the mystery at the end of the great long moment of Life.

Be well…

All There Is

Hello Everybody,

Early Friday morning, I woke up, creaked and cracked out off the sofa bed, stumbled into the kitchen, put on a pot of coffee. Then I sat Indian-style in the dark living room and meditated as the coffee brewed.

Behind the morning.

Behind the morning.

After the pot gurgled to stillness, I got up, poured the first of three cups, switched on the TV. LA’s weathermen and women were warning Angelenos of the dangerous Santa Anna Winds blowing down the mountains and bursting through the metropolis. One weatherwoman stood outside a warehouse, her microphone cutting in and out as she steadfastly warned, “KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THE WIND!” She squinted into the camera as she shouted, her movie star hairdo whipping across her face. After finishing the third cup, I left the apartment – bracing for the wind as I opened the door – and began my journey to Pasadena to pull up an old deck in my buddy Scott’s backyard.

But it wasn’t windy, at least in Sherman Oaks. The world barely moved at all as I walked up Sepulveda Boulevard, toward the Orange Line cross-Valley bus. The morning cool hung low as the sun rose to an inch above the horizon. There was still no wind as I waited for the Orange Line bus, and it was a smooth straight ride to North Hollywood subway station. There wasn’t any wind there, either, as I joined the mass exodus of 9-to-5ers toward the Red Line subway stop. The new warm sun of the morning pacified us as we descended into the station like a giant class of 1950s elementary school kids being led to an underground bomb shelter. I transfered at Union station to the Gold Line elevated train to Pasadena. Still no wind. I knew the weatherwomen couldn’t have been wrong, her hair was a damned bird’s nest after her segment, her eyes were watery. I figured I was just in all the wrong places that morning. Or, right places. The train came and I sat across from a young pregnant lady, lazily stroking her stretched-marked belly as she stared past me, into the sun and and city toward all those Angels. Her boyfriend sat next her, his completely tattooed arm hung around her shoulders – relaxed, but protective. He stared out at the windless Heaven, too. One of his legs was curled between hers, his LA County issue ankle monitor reflecting the sun in a single, pure white ray.

The WInd must’ve got it up there.

THE WIND must’ve got it up there.

And, alas, still no wind, as I walked up the wide, well manicured streets of Pasadena to Scott’s house, amidst a city-wide cacophony of chirping birds. The morning had grown warmer, and it was so clear, it looked like reach out and touch the San Gabriel Mountains to the north.

The deck in Scott’s backyard was very old and rotten. It was soft as cardboard in some places – permanently moist and basically becoming part of the back yard’s eco system. Plant roots grew into it, moss grew on it. However, in other places, it may as well have been petrified wood. Pulling up the deck turned out to be harder work than I imagined. The wood would come apart at the soft places, but it was tough as hell to pull out the nails in the hard places. If I tried to pull up an entire plank without loosen all the nails, the plank would crumble into many pieces, creating more trips to the wood pile. So, I had slow the process, pull up every nail. Everything with me. Is Always. About. Slowing. Down.

Pasadena, California.

Pasadena, California.

It was the first hard work I’d had in over a month. I welcomed it. Sweat, dirt, grunting, cursing, banging, pulling, lifting. The ripping growl of nails being pulled out of wood echoed through the beautiful green neighborhood, silencing the birds, momentarily. My sweaty arms, neck, and face caught the dirt. My heart rate was up, I’d found a rhythm and operated like a machine.

Before I came out to LA, I rifled through my father’s toolbox – at my mother’s house in Jourdanton, Texas – for anything I might need while I was working out here. One of the tools was an old crescent wrench. Once the color of shining silver, it was now permanently browned by decades of oxidation. But it still worked fine. Friday afternoon, I used it to loosen old bolts that the builders used to secure to secure the deck to the concrete foundation of the house. The bolts were frozen with rust. I turned, bent, cursed, of course – crouched over, my head nearly upside down, until I was light-headed. I stood upright to catch my breath. After I did, I became very aware of the crescent wrench – how it felt in my hand – it’s weight, it’s warmth. I looked down at it. It was really old – probably around 45 years old, older than me.

Old rotten deck.

Old rotten deck.

Suddenly, I wasn’t looking at the wrench in my hand. I was looking at the wrench in my fathers’s hand, 30 years earlier. I’m a child. There’s his hand and the wrench – just his hand, no other part of him – turning and turning. The sweet smell of WD40 is in the air, and though I can’t see anything else, I know we’re in the garage next to the home I grew up in, in Orange Grove, Texas. Beads of sweat pop up on his hand as he tightens a mystery. I hear him mumbling to himself, in the darkness around the hand. I look on, not being of any use, just there. Then…whoosh!…I’m back in Scott’s backyard…

…and I’m looking down at the wrench in my own hand again. I’m at least as old as my dad is in that memory, I thought. Gee, how my hand looks so much like his hand when he was my age. I looked around. There was distant Spanish in between the roar of leaf blowers and lawnmowers. The backyard was now covered in shadow, the air smelled of freshly cut grass and clean earth. How the hell did I end up in Pasadena? I’m from Orange Grove, Texas, for Chrissake.

No deck. Stay tuned...

No deck. Next week, new deck? Stay tuned…

Just before he died – nearly three years ago – my father told me he never would’ve guessed he’d end up living in Jourdanton, Texas. I’m guessing, at my age, he’d never have guessed he’d be buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, either. I don’t know what he was thinking back then, but I’m pretty sure, if he saw me last Friday afternoon, he’d tell me I was using the wrong tool for the job. But so what? He was more of a mechanic than a carpenter, and I’m more of a carpenter than a mechanic. I wouldn’t call myself much of a mechanic at all, actually. But I’ve called myself a writer, an actor, and guitar player, among many other things that he couldn’t have called himself. Honestly, I don’t know what he thought of himself as being. Most of the time he just called himself Jerry. But whatever he thought he was, I used to think he and I were very different. However, I’m finding out I’m much more like him, as our hands continue to look more and more the same.

Gold Line to the Red Line to the Orange Line. No wind. But as I stepped off the bus in Sherman Oaks I was greeted with – not a neck-breaking gust – but a soft warm breeze presenting the wavy, sinking effect of a palm-full of painkillers yet without the dark hollowness, self-loathing and howling banshees that quantity of pills may bring on, later. I was naturally high as I walked slow on the way home, like I could walk forever. Life was really, really good. Everybody on the street looked pleasantly tired and smiled as I approached them. More so, everyone on the street seemed genuinely compassionate toward me. Maybe it was just because it was Friday. Maybe it’s just the way I wanted to see the world. Maybe it was just The Truth.

It’s good to be back...

It’s good to be back…

I’m sitting in an East Hollywood cafe on Sunday afternoon, as I type this post. I’ve decided to take my friend, The Great Warrior, up on his offer to rent out a room in his bungalow. After I build a new deck, Scott has some other things for me to build, repair. Then there’s also a few more bits of work here and there that will keep me in LA at least until the end of October. This post also marks the first anniversary of El Jamberoo! I didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep up these weekly posts, when I started. Back then, I was in Brooklyn. I had no clue I’d end up in Hollywood, a year down the road. Hell, two weeks ago, I didn’t know I’d end up back in Hollywood. And I don’t know where I’ll be after October. All I know is that I’m here, now. That’s alright. Here, now is all there is.

Be well…