At Home In Forever

Hello Everybody,

Last week, I built a portable picnic table to be auctioned off at Independent Shakespeare Co’s “Vaudeville in the Park”, the company’s annual fundraiser for their summer productions in Griffith Park.


Get tickets HERE!

I built the table out of scrap wood from previous ISC productions. A few cuts with a saw, some screws, some glue, some sanding and shellac-ing and VOILA!…a little table that folds up to the size of a briefcase. Unfold it and you and a few friends can sit around it, partaking of wine, cheese, little sausages, vegetables or tofu or whatever you desire, whilst taking in the love, laughter, pain and tears of a Shakespeare play. You can enjoy simple Existence in a park on a planet rocketing through a rapidly expanding Universe as the sunset, coyotes calling from the hills and the cool evening breeze rattling the leaves of the trees will make you believe that IT’s all moving much more slowly.


Last Friday, I checked out ISC’s production of Romeo and Juliet in the company’s studio space in Atwater Village. Only 8 actors were tasked with bringing to life the soaring melodrama of Romeo and Juliet, which they do so to great effect, effortlessly changing into other characters – donning a mustache here, a hat there – in between dancing, masquerading, falling in love, joking around, duelling, getting stabbed, getting married, getting stabbed some more and getting poisoned on a set constructed from the remnants of the set I built for last summer’s Shakespeare festival. Over the last year, the set has served as Scotland for Macbeth, the English countryside for She Stoops To Conquer, the Forest of Arden in As You Like It, Paris for Cyrano de Bergerac, and now Verona for Shakespeare’s timeless tail of underage love.

20140416_103128A utility ladder served as the balcony where Juliet famously asks the stars, wherefore art my Romeo? For that moment, I believed the ladder was a balcony. Romeo answered her from across the studio on little wooden bench which serves as a convincing tree. Little cut-out starts hung between the two teenagers to serve as the cosmos. Eternity spanned between the ladder and the bench, and the two lovers had so much hope in their eyes I almost believed they’d really be able to reach across Space and hold each other forever. But the gravity of the hatred between their families proved too strong, and the star-crossed lovers ultimately fell to an Earth. Romeo ends up poisoning himself, Juliet stabbing herself over her dead starlover’s body on the bench that used to be a tree, now serving as a crypt. A few scenes before it served as the honeymoon bed, on which the two stars collided, pawed at each other with so much sweet lust. But that happy scene felt like it never happened by the time the two dead children were carried offstage and their parents were left to live with the consequences of their rivalry…or former rivalry, for the two fathers looked to be void of hatred at the end, in fact, void of anything. They walked offstage together, two black holes caught in each other’s gravity for eternity.

My friend, Erica, wonderfully portrayed Juliet. After the show the following Sunday afternoon, I went over to her studio apartment in Burbank to build a divider wall.


Get tickets HERE!

“I have family coming to visit” she said. “I wanna break the space up just enough to be able to say, here is where we eat and where I sleep and here is the living room. It’s a teeny tiny place, but it’d be nice to feel that my home isn’t just one room, you know?”

Erica’s boyfriend Kevin – also performing in Romeo and Juliet – and I built the wall in Erica’s parking spot. Troy, the apartment superintendent, was repairing the railing on the second floor balcony of complex.

“Did Erica tell you, bro,” he said, after he finished working, “Erica locked herself out the other day, so I crawled up into her window to let her in…and some f#$king tenant, I don’t know who…yet…filed a complaint.” He was rolling up an extension cord, jerking the cord down the stairs. He had black paint all over his face and hands, clothes. “F#$king making this place nicer for people to live in, bro, and somebody does that? Shit…I don’t even wanna be here. I’m really an underwater welder. $80 and hour. But I got in a car wreck and ended up with this…” he lifted up a pant leg to reveal an artificial leg. “That’s the only reason I’m here.” He finished rolling up the extension cord and walked off, but seconds later he came back. “I mean that’s bullshit, right? Treating me like I’m some f#$king creep? F#$king right it’s bullshit, bro. You know, I can dive no problem with one leg, but shit…they won’t even let me drive.” Erica came down to see how we were doing. “He Erica?” Troy asked. “Can you give me a ride to the Red Line?”

Erica took Troy to the subway. By the time she was back, Kevin and I finished the wall. We carried it up the stairs, twisted and turned it until we got it in the tiny apartment. After a few adjustments, I mounted it to the ceiling and…BAM!…Erica had a wall in her home. The three of us squeezed into corner by the front door to get the best view of the place.

20140413_214154“Now it looks like I really have a bedroom! Kinda…” She said as she hopped over by the love seat that serves as a couch. “See,” she pointed throughout the room, “Eat there, sleep there, live here!”

A few days later, I hung out with my friend, Sean – also a friend of Erica’s and Kevin’s and member of ISC. A few months ago, he and his girlfriend found out they were going to have a baby.

“Granted…” Sean raised his eyebrows, cocked his head to the side, “…I’m not giving birth, but I’ve only felt a great sense of calm and love, since we found out. Where we’re gonna have the baby…they’re big believers on skin on skin as quick as possible. Like the baby comes out, and I open my shirt, and they put it him or her right on me, blood and all. They said bring an extra shirt. I can’t wait.” He raised his eyebrows, cocked his head again. “But four people were let go at work a while back, without notice. There’s not a great feeling of security right now. There never has been, really. I’ve always felt like any moment I’ll be let go, but now,” eyebrows, head shake, “you know, I…”

“I was let go by the restaurant,” my friend, Jason, told me, the next day as we drove around Hollywood. His four-month old daughter, Vivienne, sat in a car seat in the back – crying when we stopped, quiet when we moved. “I mean, I only took it because I had to travel so much with my other job. I thought I’d be nice to be home as much as possible, at least the first year of her life. It’s the first time I’d ever been fired from a job.” He pulled out his phone and began dialing a number on his phone. “I’m just gonna have to look in other directions to make money.” He looked in the rearview mirror. “She’s asleep.” He pulled over, slowly. “I gotta call my bank before it closes. My credit card was compromised and somebody in Connecticut’s been using it.”

Jason waited on hold for several minutes. By the time the customer service agent got back on the line, Vivienne had awoken, was crying. Jason told the agent what happened and the agent placed him on hold again. He resumed driving, Vivienne fell asleep.

“Oh,” he said, “did I tell you we almost moved?”


“Yeah, to Echo Park. It was a real nice 2-bedroom. The owners liked us and everything. I was just about to call you to come help move. But they wanted way too much up front. For a week, though, we thought it was ours.” The customer came back on the line, and he pulled over. Vivienne cried. “Uh-huh…uh-huh…so, the bank is closed for the weekend, so…whoever’s got my card number can use it? Uh-huh…uh-huh…call another number?” Vivienne cried louder, Jason began to drive. “…alright, yeah, I guess. Give it to me and I’ll call them.” He quickly reached for a pen in the console, wrote the number on an envelope. “Thanks.” He hung up the phone. “Actually, it was a lot of stress and anxiety, hoping we’d get the place. I guess it worked out for the best. I don’t think we could’ve afforded it if we got it, anyway.”

20140419_135729I’d been looking for a new place to live, too (see the Jamberoo: Still Standing After The Great Shake) scouring the internet, walking around the neighborhood, calling any available apartment I saw. The rent in East Hollywood is skyrocketting, in perfect sync to the speed with which the Target Superstore on Sunset Boulevard is being constructed, which is in sync with the growing number of hipster bars, boutiques and cross-fit training gyms appearing on Hollywood Boulevard. A few months ago, I could afford quite a few places in the neighborhood. Now, most places were too expensive.

“The place was built in 1930,” said Patrick, the short, chubby superintendent of a bachelor-apartment building I inquired about. He sweated, panted as we rode up the tiny elevator together. “How many buildings you looked at with a elevator? But you’ll be using the stairs a good part of the time. Hey, it’s a elevator from 1930, it’s old, it breaks down.” We got out on the top floor and he led me into a tiny apartment. “One room, no kitchen except for the stove and fridge over there. Stand up shower, but hey, you get a great closet.”

The apartment was smaller than Erica’s. This is too small for me, I thought. And too damn small for the price they want! However, all I owned could fit in one corner of the closet. But what does it matter, if I can afford it? And I have all the room I need? And if I like the place, then…

“Listen, it’s Hollywoooooood,” Patrick said from across the tiny space. “This is a steal. You want it you can start now. But listen, I don’t want any bullshit, you know. You’re clean, you’re quiet, then we’ll get along. But you gimme bullshit…hey…I been a actor for 19 years, I’ll give you bullshit right back. So…it’s $125 to apply which, you know, I already like ya…and $900 a month plus all utilities, $500 deposit…”

…I could walk across the entire space in three good steps, my own little room in the world…

“For that you get a quaint, classy, classic place to live. This is Old Hollywood, you know. And look, the carpet’s brand new.”

…my own little place to call home, with new carpet…

“Oh, and no co-signers. I don’t deal with that bullshit.”


20140410_184025-1I decided I would not get an apartment until the end of the summer, when I’ll have more money. Where’s your proof, Todd? What have you gathered from your life that convinces you there’ll be more money at the end of the summer? Till then, I’ll live in my car, since I’ll be traveling so much over the summer. Uh, what car, Todd?

For hours, I descended into internetland, hoping to find a low-cost vehicle that would get from place to place, in which I could store my belongings and on which I could load materials for jobs. Everything was A STEAL! that the owner was selling ONLY BECAUSE I NEED THE MONEY! that they HATE TO LET GO! that RUNS GOOD! but NEEDS JUST A LITTLE TLC! My eyes hurt as I hung suspended in the Paradox of Choice.

You are fooling yourself, Todd. You can’t afford a car either. No car?! No apartment?! Whadd’ya gonna do, Todd?! I looked away from the screen, cracked my fingers, then did what I usually do when I threaten myself with that question, I googled…

…jobs fishing boats Alaska…

But as much as I think I want to drift into obscurity in Arctic waters, I can’t do it right now. I have to be in New York in May to act in a film. I have to be back here in LA in June to build ISC’s set in Griffith Park. Then I’m in North Dakota for the month of July for an artist residency through the North Dakota Museum of Art. From there, I go to Chicago to act in a play. Then I’m back in LA at the end of August to strike the set for ISC. There’s simply no time for fishing.

20140418_183104My life has gotten real big and vibrant, with all kinds of cool shit to do. Friends keep popping out of thin air. Time flies these days and every now and when I grasp how fast IT’s all going, I quit being an individual and once again transform to stardust…my natural state. And stardust is eternal. I’m eternal. So are you. The settings change over and over and over, but IT goes on forever. And there’s always a ride, always a couch, out here in Eternity.

Be well…

Still Standing After The Great Shake

Hello Everybody,

Early last Monday morning, I awoke suddenly. There was only a hint of gray coming through my window blinds and Hollywood was still and silent. I’m awake, wide awake, hmm…I thought as I stared at the ceiling…something’s about to hap-

20140324_163254First came the loud BANG!, immediately followed by an escalating rumbling. The windows shook in their frames, a million things in the room rattled, and dust and tiny bits of plaster fell on me like snow. I heard things fall and break in the neighboring bungalow. Oh, this is an earthquake. Cool, an earthquake…oh…an EARTHQUAKE!!! The f$#king world is moving underneath me!!!

I felt utterly helpless and waited for the file cabinet next to which I slept to fall on me. But alas, as soon as it escalated, the shaking subsided. Then came a most eerie, sustained low vibration of the Earth, lasting about as many seconds as the earthquake itself. Just after the low jittery hum ceased, the light in the hallway came on. I crawled out of my sleeping bag and joined the Great Warrior, my roomate, there as we crept down the hallway to the kitchen. He turned on the light, took a look a look around, squinted at the clock on the microwave.

“Jesus,” the Great Warrior finally spoke. “The power didn’t go off.” He took a look around the kitchen again, settling on the pots hanging from the ceiling over the stove. “And nothing fell or broke. Damn…and that’s definitely the worst one I’ve felt since in the 15 years I’ve lived in this bungalow.”

“I think I woke up right before it happened.”

The Great Warrior looked at me. “Like you knew it was going to happen? That may be true…” He turned his gaze to a tiny jangly sound over by the door. “Wow…take a look at that.”

I went over by the door. The Great Warrior’s keys were hanging from the dead bolt lock – we don’t have a real doorknob, so we keep the keys in the bold shut or open the door – swinging ever so slightly, but constantly without slowing down – back and forth like a pendulum.

“It’s still happening,” said The Great Warrior.

“I swear I think I sensed it, like a dog or a cat or bird or antelope. You know like the way it is when you wake up seconds before the alarm clock?”

“I know.” The Great Warrior was still looking at the keys swinging. “I think I heard blasts before the shaking, like before it rippled over to us. Of course,” he turned to me, rolled his eyes, “it didn’t wake me up. I was still awake.”

20130815_192518-2It wasn’t odd that the Great Warrior had stayed awake through the night. He hadn’t been sleeping too well over the past several months anyway, but the last few weeks he’d almost had no lengthy sleep at all. Most nights, I could hear him creaking about the apartment well into the wee hours. Long unemployment, a break-up with his girlfriend and the recent death of his mother were components of a force that turned the Great Warrior’s focus to a very deep part of himself – like looking down some stone waterwell where you can see nothing but blackness save for the occasional sun beam finding the ripples of the water way down below. His 45 birthday was in two days, and the unwavering hand of time held him by the neck and forced him to keep looking down the well. And based on the silent pacing night after night, the sunrays on the rippling water were rare occurences.

The keys finally stopped jangling. Then the Great Warrior turned to me and did something extraordinary. He smiled. The Earth…shook. It…shook.

I walked back to my room. I still had an hour and a half before my alarm would go off, but I was wide awake. I stared at the brightening glare through my blinds for several moments, until – from the dead quiet beyond the blinds – every single bird in LA began to chirp. Then I folded up my sleeping bag, got dressed and began the day.

Lately, I’d had trouble sleeping, too. Each night, I’d lie awake…1, 2, 3…hours approaching and passing like slow cars. I’d stare though the hole in my bedroom door where a doorknob would normally be – not many doorknobs in this Hollywood bungalow – and through the yellow light of the hallway I’d see the passing silhouette of the Great Warrior. Creak, creak…creak. He’d stop every now and then, and the pounding silence of Hollywood would rattle my brain as if I were hiding inside of the den of some great and snoring creature – more than lion, more than bear, a mysterious predator with a higher rank on the food chain than Man.

20140322_160348On one of those nights, the Great Warrior and I played a game of chess. We hadn’t played a game in some time, but we picked up right where we left off, which was with the Great Warrior leading me about 41 games to 3. Those three victories came on mistakes on he’d made, not due to any great means of strategy on my part. The key for me was to castle immediately, and set up a wall of protection around my king, and wait it out until he made the rare and coveted mistake. At times, I’d been able to be a little more cavalier, and knock out his queen in a trap of some kind, which gave me more confidence and allowed me to set up more offensive strategies, but that came only after I castling…

…but it’d been so long since we played. The Great Warrior had won the coin flip, moved a pawn out quickly, and by reflex I, just as quickly, moved a pawn. The moment I let my hand off the pawn I realized I should have moved a knight out front to clear a path between my king and rook so that I may castle as quickly as possible. The Great Warrior had begun his strategy – whatever it was – but now I was scrambling to begin mine, slipping exponentially into deeper peril with each move. I finally castled, but by then he had control of the board. There were two holes in the defenses around my king that kept me from using one of my bishops. Now I was making moves just to shut off all lanes to my king. My queen was useless. The Great Warrior had moved his queen out front and set her on the prowl, forcing me to hop my knights out of her way as his bishops waited to pounce my king. I had to use the two pawns around my king as…well…pawns – sacrifices to buy time. His queen took one of my knights, she crept closer, closer, then bam…


“I know!”

Then next night I came home and found the Great Warrior had already begun his nightly pacing. When he passed through the kitchen, I asked him, “How’s it going?”

“It’s going…OK,” He replied. I got something from the fridge, then sat down to eat. He walked back into the hallway and a few moments later he came back in the kitchen and began making grilled-cheese sandwiches. He was sliding the sandwiches across the skillet with a spatula when he said, “Actually, there have been some new developments in my life. I’m…well, I’m moving.”

“Yeah? Where?”

“Back home to Lafayette at the end of April. I’m gonna go back and get my master’s in Library Sciences. I’m gonna be a librarian.”


After he spoke, he moved about lighter, like cotton drapes in a soft breeze. He was smiling that same uncertain smile he’d had after the earthquake. The light bounced off the yellow-green walls to frame a whimsical aura around him that also shone throughout the cluttered kitchen, down the hall, off its dented and patched-up walls, reflecting against the file cabinets housing yellowed files from a decade ago, illuminating the uninished paintings in the living room and gleaming off the bindings of books books books all over the place about painting about film about politics about god –  and the soiled carpet over the broken sagging floors and the holes in the doors and cracks in the walls and the bottles of cleaning products bought in bulk at Cosco still in their wrappers and broken or missing doorknobs all made sense. 15 years. Someone once 30 years old was now 45. Time. Time. I didn’t know the Great Warrior back when he was 30, but I’m sure he came here with things he swore he was gonna do but-

“Not really,” said the Great Warrior. “I thought I was a filmaker back then, but I was just running when I came out here. Then I thought I was a painter for a while, but I haven’t finished a painting in five years.” He flipped the grilled cheese sandwiches, looked after them like children in a playground. “I hate jobs. I hate lying to bosses to make them think I’m dedicated. I just can’t bring myself to go get a job, out there, anymore. The only job I barely came close to liking was when I was a librarian’s assistant in college. So…”

“I think its great, buddy,” I said.

“You’re not upset about having to find a new place?”

“I’ll be fine.”

He paced aound a bit, glancing at different things all over the kitchen, down the hall. Then he laughed. “I gotta month to figure out what to do with all this stuff. Jesus…” One at a time, he scooped up the grilled-cheeses with the spatula and slid them onto a plate. He sat down and took a bite. “It just…” he said, his mouth full…”didn’t pan out they way I thought it would, Todd.”

“It could be panning out better than you planned,” I said, relishing my wisdom, eager to dispel more, “and who knows, you may come thundering back to LA.”

20140324_175624He shrugged his shoulders, took another bite. We finished eating in silence. After he was done, he put his plate in the sink and went over to get the dirty skillet from the stove. Before he took it to the sink, he stared up at the other pots and skillets as if they were sacred icons representing his history – proof that the last 15 years really happened, that he really was in LAv – so Holy that without them the last fifteen years didn’t exist…that without them nothing before: college, childhood, Lafayette Indiana, birth, nothing at all, existed. Then without ceremony he grabbed the dirty skillet, washed it, put on a towel to dry and resumed pacing.

I watched the skillet dry for a moment, then turned my gaze upward to the pots and skillets above the stove. The hook from which one of the pots hung had loosened a bit as a result from the quake. But Earth wasn’t quaking that evening, it was just spinning around as normal. And the pots and pans hung still, like bells that had just finished sounding some message across The Land for all of us to hear, ringing through us all and taking a piece of each of us and resonating all those pieces of us further into space all the way to our Beginning and our End and even further…

Be well…

Real Waves

Hello Everybody,

The Great Warrior slid his bishop all the way across the checkered board to take my queen. I didn’t see it coming. In fact, I thought I’d set a trap that would ultimately force The Great Warrior to give up either a rook or a knight, on the next move. I leaned back from the kitchen table, looked away as to hide my grin. But I turned back toward the board to see it all happen in slow motion. Then he disposed of my matriarch, laid her to rest with his collection of other dead pieces from kingdom. A few moves later, I knocked my king down in disgusted resignation – banged the table, cursed.

Plotting his assault on my kingdom.

Plotting his destruction of my kingdom.

“Maybe we should play a game where we explain to each other our reasons behind each move,” said The Great Warrior.


“It’s a way of learning, becoming better.”


“Well, then why’d you make such a blunder as that?”

“Too many things were happening out there,” I answered, pointing to the board as if it were Waterloo. “One or two moves ahead, I can think that far. But after that, there’s too many factors. I can’t spread my brain out that far!” Bang, curse.

My exclamation came clearly from frustration and self-pity – The Great Warrior had beaten me several times this week – but there was truth to my statement. I’d had trouble concentrating all week. Morning, noon and night – day after day – was one giant mess of speedy thought. Pictures and sounds rushed in and out of my brain like ocean waves. I was aboard a helpless ship on those waters. Writing, reading, sitting through a movie were diffucult tasks. And my guitar playing was much like the chess – starting out concise and with purpose only to dissolve into manic disarray. Thought pummeled me from every direction as the minutes of each day raced by. I could only stand there at the ship’s helm – watching the wheel spin – in a state of nervios anxiety. Finally, I cut down the sails and let my mind go wherever the thoughtstorm took it. I did only what I had to do – eat, bathe, brush my teeth, fish for jobs in the internet sea.

But frustration kept mounting as the week progressed. I got desperate, I meditated – sat every morning with my legs crossed, breathed in and out, one hand in the palm of the other, stared at the wall. The morning air coming into the bungalow was cool, livened my skin. Breathe in, breathe out. I focused on the ambient sounds East Hollywood offered – a leaf blower, the glass collector, a siren, a Harley Davidson, a gate sliding open, a domestic fight somewhere down the street. The sounds faded into one dull hum growing quieter and quieter. I felt the tension ease out of my body, joints relaxed and stomach muscles settled. Breath in, breathedamn! Every morning, as soon as I entered that formless place where meditation takes me, I’d get blindsided by frothy thoughtwaves so powerful I’d physically jerk back into this world of the labeled and named.


Full moon fever.

“I’ve been having a hard time, too,” said Luis. “There was a full moon on Monday night, that’s when it got me. But Mars isn’t in retrograde or anything like that, my girlfriend read up on it.”

The Great Warrior told me he’d been having trouble sleeping, and also had this creepy feeling that “time was running out.” I began to wonder if maybe some kind of non-astrological event was going down that made humanity drift a bit closer to the edge – perhaps a collective anxiety throughout LA. But in the many walks I took I didn’t notice anything beyond the standard edge-of-the-continent babbling madness. Besides, my fits of thought turned me inward – dunked me beneath the surface of the present where I struggled to keep my breath as the past and future circled me like sharks with dead black eyes and blood-stained fangs. I was ready to betray anyone and deny any belief for the next breath of peaceful, safe air. The thoughts would pull up to the surface just as the sharks opened there jaws wide. I thanked the thoguhts, vocally, for doing so. I dare say I may have been the crazy babbler on Sunset Blvd this week. It seems anyone can be, if they hang out on it long enough.

On Thursday, I headed to the beach at Santa Monica, with dim hope that it would slow my brain down. It was a hot day, the city was blurred by heat waves as I walked to the bus stop at Santa Monica and Western Blvds. The odor from all the grime on the sidewalk wafted upward, into the nostrils. The bus was 45 minutes late – everyone who waited for it seemed to be frowning, confusedly, and trying not to breathe to deep. People would look at each other, then look down, pressed against each other in the scarce shade – compressed isolation.

Except one man who stood straight and tall in a very nice, houndstooth suit and straw hat, wearing dark sunglasses, looking like a jazz player who’d long since come off the hard drugs and now played lucid and fearlessly, but played it slow even if he was playing fast. He was a nobleman in the sun as we pawns cringed in the shadows. He was sweating, but he was fine with it – nothing his handkerchief couldn’t handle. A few minutes later, a car stopped at the red light. The driver rolled down his window and shouted.


“Hey there!” replied the nobleman.

“PT passed away, man. Tuesday.”

“Yeah,” replied the nobleman, “I know. Bakersfield?”


The nobleman mimicked shooting a pistol, then held up his hands, questioningly. The man in the car shook his head, affirming. The nobleman shook his head, looked down Santa Monica Blvd, then turned back to the man in the car.

“Well, alright, then. I’ll see you at the funeral.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” replied the driver. Then the light turned green and he drove off.

Howling mad streets.

Howling mad streets.

As we were boarding the bus, a lady and a man – carrying duffle bags – approached the bus stop. They appeared to be arguing. Suddenly, the lady threw her bag in the street. Then she ran out in the middle of the street and – like a matador – waited for an oncoming pick-up truck. The driver swerved to miss her, but the lady ran to the truck and punched its mirror – breaking it -as the truck passed her. “F#$k you!” she shouted, then grabbed the duffle and jumped on the bus. The man boarded the bus, too.

“I tell you,” she shouted to everybody aboard – the man eyed her from the other end of the bus, “I ain’t mad at myself, well I’m always mad at myself but he don’t need to know that! I’m tired of him! Shit…he ain’t gonna know I’m gone ’til I am.”

The man came toward her. “I’m right here, you didn’t get rid’a me.”

The lady stood, pushed through the crowded bus, toward him. “Ah, yeah, then…well we gettin’ off now and it’s goin’ down!”

“You makin’ a damn fool of yourself,” said the man.

“I don’t give a f#$k!” The bus stopped at Vine St. “We gets off right here! Come on…it’s about to blow, right now.”

“Alright then.”

As soon as they got off the bus the woman threw down the suitcase and started wailing on the man, who tried to act cool at first, then started giving a little back. Several men in the bus looked out the window, egging the couple on, careening their necks to get a last look as the bus pulled away. By the next stop it was as if the couple never existed – erased off the record. The rest of us settled in for the 90 minute ride to the end of the country. Hollywood, then West Hollywood, then Beverly Hills, then…

“Listen,” a man said into his phone, as we passed through Century City, “I don’t wanna be with someone who doesn’t wanna be with me, you know. Yeah? Well here’s the irony, I thought I things were getting better…yeah, well I tried but you know that trying is what lead to my silence…whoah, whoah, whoah…let’s not confuse the two issues, here…she can be thankful, it’s money, afterall, you know…(long pause)…ok, well me too…as long as we can both be thankful for our gestures. Yeah…well…tell her money leaves a bad taste in my mouth, too.”


Time killin’…

I made it to the beach late – after four o’clock – so it wasn’t crowded. Bums lay, sprinkled about the sand, sleeping or staring into the seventh or eighth dimension – far away from the crowds on the shoreline, where people nuzzled together in the cooling early evening, read books, or wandered in ankle deep water – smiling, laughing. I set my towel and bag down on the sand ran into the water

Clouds had begun to roll in, dropping the tempurature on the beach by at least 10°. The air brought on chills, so I wandered out to shoulder deep water to shield myself from the wind. There, I lifted my feet and let myself rise and fall with the swells. Some pelicans convened on a cluster of rocks, several yards out. Wing to wing, they managed to stay on the rock. Every now and then – as if on shifts – one pelican would fly off and another would land in its place. The pelicans would fly straight up, stall in mid-air, then open their wings wide and dive straight down and stab at the water for food with such fearless and natural precision.


Where the real frontier begins…

The swells grew higher as the evening progressed. I paddled lazily to keep my head above water – all the while, facing the ocean, letting my fast thoughts go and go and go. When I turned around and faced the beach, I was surprised to find that I’d drifted quite some distance form the shore. My towel was only a little blue dot on the beach. Human beings were tiny figures in the sand. I could make out arm and leg movements, but no facial expressions. I couldn’t hear anything coming back from the shore, either. The beach – and LA, America, Western Civilization – shrunk smaller and smaller with each rising swell. It felt as if I could keep on floating as long as I wanted. More so, it felt like floating was the right idea – the natural state. And I wasn’t floating away from anything. No, I was floating to something, the big thing, with fearless precision….like the pelicans.

The first wave broke and rolled me over several times. I reached out – frantically – for the surface or the ocean floor. I finally found the surface and took a breath just before another wave pummeled me, extending my legs over my back. All my air went out and I sucked in saltwater, sand. I regained my ground, shook my head, opened my eyes just in time to see another wave breaking over me. I ended up on my knees, gagging, thirty feet closer to the shore. I looked at the people on the beach – saw their faces. Some noticed me, but most didn’t. But all carried on with what they were doing.


Real waves.

All sound came back – the human chatter, the pelican squawks, and the evening waves roared as they broke and dissolved into brutal frothy energy. I went back out again and again. For well over an hour I let the big waves knock me around. By the end, my eyes were burning, my throat was sore from salt, my legs and arms were jello. It was exhausting, taking on the relentless force of nature. But it felt good to be pummeled by something real.

Be well…

Freedom Beyond Words

Always lettin' you know there around...

Always lettin’ you know they’re around…

Hello Everybody,

Luis and I watched the three helicopters hover in the Hollywood night – their spotlights aimed down, on a location further west on Hollywood Blvd. Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah echoed off the bungalows and apartment buildings along Carlton Way. To the right of us, Luis’ crazy drunk neighbor stood on his balcony and sang wet alcoholic syllables to the choppers, waving his hands in the air as if he was conducting a symphony.

“A group of about 40 protesters set up shop in the intersection of Hollywood and Highland,” said The Great Warrior – a friend and neighbor (who’d rather me not use his real name) – as he walked up to us. “They got ’em out of the intersection, already. But they’re not taking any chances, they’ll be flying around all night.”

The choppers had broken the thick, heavy quiet air that had draped the city for the last 28 hours, since the George Zimmerman Verdict came in from Florida. In truth, the thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah’s of the choppers eased my mind a little bit. The amoshperic thickness had sunk beneath my skin, and I’d begun to feel a bit anxious.

Flashback – 28 hours before, Saturday evening. I’d been writing all afternoon. Finishing around 7pm, I decided to hop on the old facebook to see what’s happening. As I aimlessly scrolled down my timeline – waiting for a friend to wow me with a meme or witty, ironic status – I began to notice words like “Justice!” and “Sickening!” in various statuses.

to beSlowly, my stomach sagged as if a lead bar had been placed in it. I left facebook, headed to the dreaded CNN. There it was – ZIMMERMAN NOT GUILTY. I tried to read through the whole article but I can’t read all the way through mainstream news articles anymore. But the font and size of ZIMMERMAN NOT GIULTY said it all. facebook urged me to come back to it, but I retreated to and hid out behind the box scores of Saturday’s baseball games. But baseball’s a slow game and facebook cought me. It’d taken only minutes for the hot bed of opinions to break out into full-scale Vitual Civil War. Finally, I found the strength to pull the Internet’s barbs from my brain and went outside for a walk, into the thickening quiet air.

At first, East Hollywood appeared the same. Next door, old men talked on the sidewalk. The old mumbling lady across the street sat on her stoop, held out a can of food to me – like she always does. On the corner of Sunset and Serrano, drug dealers were being discreet and wino’s writhed in the pleasure-pain of brutal enlightenment. Women carried bags of groceries out of Food 4 Less, or wheeled large laundry carts filled with clothes. All night girls hung out by Bill’s Liquor. But LA faded away as I walked further into my own head. Thoughts about the possible rammifications of the Zimmerman verdict raced around my skull like roller derby girls – clawing, banging into each other and falling to the floor as other thoughts cheered them on from behind a chainlink fence, reveling in bestial lust. Before I knew it, I was several blocks down Sunset. I didn’t even notice sun go down. The sky hung in a confused hue between black and blue. The green and red lights along Sunset were a lit a runway leading to a dark whorish place, so I turned around and went back to the bungalow.

free humanityOnce there, I robotically, obediently jumped onto facebook. Blood covered the battle field. Fearful, hate bullets shot back and forth. Even those threads where everybody was on the same side – either side – felt combative, friends bludgeoning each other with agreement. Witnessing anymore massacre would certainly lead me to drink, so I logged out of The War and played my guitar loud and hard against that thick, heavy quiet air.

But those choppers brought sound back to the city, on Sunday night. Choppers would continue to fly over the city the entire week. As soon as one flew away, another came on. Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah…

Tuesday night, I was walking back to Hollywood from Silverlake when I noticed a woman talking to a chopper in the sky. She wore a pair of huge red and white sunglasses and spoke in the usual Hollywood transient babble. However, as I walked by, she turned and looked right at me – the streetlights bouncing off the big sunglasses – and said, so clearly, “What’chu connected to, crackerman?!” I had no answer for her. She kept her gaze upon me for a quick moment longer, then turned and continued her discourse with the chopper. But her question echoed in my mind as I walked on, making for a rather existential journey back to the bungalow.

Revolution Books

Revolution Books

Wednesday, I found myself standing outside of Revolution Books, on Hollywood Blvd. On the sidewalk was an advertisement for a screening of a film called BA Speaks: Revolution, Nothing Less! I went inside for details.

“Hello,” said a baby-boomerish lady who’d approached me, immediately after entering. I told her I wanted to know more about the film. She handed me a postcard and pamphlet with the details.

“Tell me,” she said, smiling, gently, “how do you feel about what’s going on in the country since the verdict?”

“I think everybody’s scared shitless of each other,” I said.

“Mmm, hmm. Well, we think now is absolutely the right time for a Communist revolution in this country.”

Oh, I thought, it’s that kind of revolutionary bookstore. I looked around, on the shelves. Yep, there’s a picture of Mao, on the wall over there. And there’s one of Marx.

“Feel free to watch as much of the film as you wish,” said the lady. “But we’d love for you to come to the LA Central Library on Saturday. We’re going to screen the entire six hour film.”

I was able to preview the movie – which is a filmed lecture by the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, Bob Avakian. In the 10 minutes I saw, he talked passionately about the systematic oppression throughout the world of the poor and of women, the criminalizing of  Blacks and Latino’s in the USA, the eltism of the rich, America as a world empire. I was interested to see how the lecture developed. I smiled at the baby-boomer lady and told her I would be there Saturday.

Sunset Blvd can be a Spacewalk.

Sunset Blvd can be a Spacewalk.

Thursday was a paranoid blur. Choppers swooped overhead constantly. Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah. I felt a kinetic negative energy on the sidewalk, which seemed to affect the homeless along Sunset Blvd more than anybody else, like they were Tesla coils relaying some dark knowledge across LA. A very tall, blonde dirty lady jerked up and down Sunset, screaming, “I MAY BE PARANOID BUT REMEMBER HE TOLD US SO!” over and over. It was a hot week, yet she wore three or four layers of clothing, carried three bags on her arm. She scribbled away in a yellowed notebook as she shouted and walked. Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah. I came upon a toothless, 40ish male wearing a white stained jogging suit, pulling a laundry cart that contained all his belongings. The cart only had one wheel on it, would tip over everynow and then – clothes, shoes and other things would fall onto the sidewalk. “AHH! Man, can you believe it? I got a $800 wardrobe right there, RIGHT THERE!” He came up to me, pointed at the cart while grinning at me. “Hey man, lemme tell ya, when I start thinkin I start reactin…and I’mma bad reactor, man.” Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah. A transgendered female – cuts and bruises all over her – sat on the curb of Sunset, eating peanuts from a dirty and crumpled Jamba Juice cup. “HA! I’mma what you call a San Francisco wide-ass muh-fuh. Colin Powell and the Holy Ghost done got up in t’me.” Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah. Later in the day, I ran into the tall blonde dirty lady again with all the bags. “I AIN’T PRETENDIN NOTHIN…NOTHIN…NOTHIN.” Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah…

Later, in front of the Church of the Blessed Sacrement on Sunset and Cherokee, elderly men and women waited in line to get free canned goods and clothes. I weaved through the slow, hunched bodies and tired eyes and came upon a storefront advertising, Eckankar: The Religion of the Light and Sound of God in the window. They met every Friday night at 7.

“What we will do tonight,” said the man who ran the Eckenkar service I attended on Friday, “is sing the prayer, HU, together for about 20 minutes. Now, we say prayer, but it’s just one syllable…hue. We don’t pray for things – this to happen or that to happen – because God knows what we need. And we say God, though we don’t believe in a god. But it’s as good any other term. Oh, and it says, worship the sign out there, but we don’t worship because well, there isn’t anything to worship. We just sing HU. That’s basically all we do.” He laughed. “The mind is a machine, kinda like a record player stuck in a groove. HU frees us, gets us off that one groove. It’s soul travel. HU frees our souls from our bodies, and we can travel any where in The Universe. Mars…even.” He laughed. “We sing HU to visit where we came from…to know God. Or, whatever you want to call it.”

Soul travel?

Soul travel?

Only two other people showed up. The four of us sat in a circle, closed our eyes, took deep breathes and belted out HU, over and over. Everybody’s breath was different, so our HU’s were staggered – there weren’t any gaps of silence, our collective HU was constant. Each of us also began ours HUs in different keys, but we’d quickly, naturally slip into harmony. Now, if you go online and look up Eckankar, you will find it to be called anything from a legit new age religion to a scam thought up by a crackpot. But there’s something about making noise in a cirlcle with other people. Pretty soon, HUUUUUUUUU was Everything. The back of my eyelids were far from simple black. I was staring at something vast and unamable and soothing and motherly. Then we stopped HUING, sat quietly with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes, we looked at each other for long periods of time with no urge to speek. Then it was over. The whole thing took 30 minutes. I walked onto Sunset with a loose gait, relaxed shoulders. I heard the choppers, but they sounded far away, meaningless.

On Saturday, I went to the film screening of BA Speaks: Revolution, Nothing Less! I didn’t stay for the whole six hours, only three. But it was three hours of Bob Avakian relentlessly, passionately speaking out against the abuses of power throughout history, zoning in on the capitalist-imperialist oppresive rule of the US government. But he spoke just below shouting level, and he used the same vocal inflection the whole way through. Soon, every sentence sounded the same. That monotony became this kind of dark mantra rooted in the horrors of Humankind. Over and over, era through era…the same oppression. The same hand motions, the same staccato rythm, the same loud voice…

I drifted away, deep in that third hour. All I remember about that time was the cool dark of the room. I heard clapping now and then. And I heard Bob Akavian speaking, but the words stopped defining his ideas. His voice was merely a blunt echo throughout the room, back and forth from all directions. When I snapped out of it, he’d moved on from Man’s atrocities and finally toward his Plan – arguing that a Socialist dictatorship would be needed to make sure the dictates of communism were upheld. But by this time, he looked tired, sweaty, spoke laborously – as if he was at the mercy of his words, enslaved by a language already spoken. I got up and left the library, certain that the language needed to articulate Humanity’s freedom from the fearful hatred of itself has yet to be created, and would have to be created outside of everything we know. That is a matter of evolution, not revolution.

The kind of view a public library offers.

A good view.

But I damn near made it to Mars with HU.

Be well…


Space Travel Will Save Us

Hello Everybody,

Just insert your own caption.

Just insert your own caption.

Last Monday, I was walking through Wino’s Alley on Serrano Street toward Sunset Boulevard. A couple of winos were laying on the the sidewalk ahead of me, their bodies curved to fit in whatever shade was available, on the sidewalk outside the Food 4 Less. Across the street, against the wall of Bill’s Liquor, three other winos – babbling, drinking, seeing things I couldn’t see – kept counsel on the other side.

“BLAH!” Exclaimed one.

“Blah, blah…blah,” Said the other consolingly.

“Bl…bl…bah, blah. Blah. Blah,” Conceded the first.

“Blah, blah,” said the second, shaking his head in affirmation.

“Blah?” asked the third, who’d been destracted by a sunray.

It was an unusually clear day. To the north, the beautiful Hollywood Hills could be seen in sharp detail. Mini-palaces with big shiny windows and large balconies teetered over the sharp drop-offs of the bushy green Hills. Palm trees popped up in clusters here and there. The Hills looked so close in the smogless sky – floating in the heat waves of the hot day. It was as if the visage was projected out of the brain of the sleeping wino just ahead of me – a good dream about The High Life in 3D. The wino lay there – a crumpled up pizza box for a pillow – covered in grime from his gray hair to his one dingy sock next to a spattering of unidentifyable, dry organic matter. At first, I thought he was dead. But just after I leaned in for a closer look, he twitched slightly, as if an angel nudged him, or a gnat flew in his nose.

...perchance to dream...

…perchance to dream…

Across the street, one of the babbling winos crushed his empty 24oz. beer can and threw it in the gutter. His gin-blossomed face went blank as his fine day suddenly got hotter and longer. He sat in absolute disgust, listening to a slow clock ticking somewhere, pretending not to hear the howls of the dogs of despair that would be on him by evening. His two compadres babbled on. They still had some booze left. Their day was still Just Fine.

I found myself anxious, later that afternoon. My job in Los Angeles – building the set for Independent Shakespeare Company’s summer play festival in Griffith Park – all summer long folks, go to for the schedule! – had finished up, for the most part. I’d been spent the last few days writing and trolling the internet for writing jobs, adding up to a lot of computer time. By Monday, I felt as if I’d just crawled out of one of those cryo-jelly pods like Keanu Reeves in the The Matrix, just after he took the Red Pill. Now that I was back in the carnal world, my body needed to move, so I decided to hike up to the Griffith Park Observatory – up in those Hills of that wino’s dream.

Just beyond the entrance of the park, people of all kinds lounged in the thick dark-green cool shade the park offered. Frizbees, picnics, books. A group of Buddhists meditated. A group of Muslims prayed towards Mecca. A steady flow of couples, joggers and dogs and their owners moved up and down the trail leading to the observatory. I joined the assembly line and headed up the switchback trail.

The idle time had taken it’s toll. I was sucking in air as I neared the observatory, sweating profusely. The sweat had a consistency of thin oil, and burned my eyes as I humped it up the hill. Everybody else looked fine. There were too giggly girls just ahead of me, talking about there dudes and what they ate for lunch. Behind me was a young couple, both wearing capris, skipping along, talking to each other like lovers do.

Halfway there...

Halfway there…

“Well, that’s a bit of history that they don’t tell ya’ in school, isn’t it?” said the girl.

“I know, it’s crazy, right?” replied the dude.

“You’re so smart.”

“Ah, well, you know.”

About two-thirds of the way up, there was stony water run-off that served as a shortcut for the more adventruous pilgrims heading to the observatory. I ascended the steep incline – slipping now and then, catching myself on rocks to stay upright – and crawled up to the last stretch of the switchback. Sweat stuck to my hands like hamburger grease. My shirt and jeans were soaked and covered in dirt. There was a tree by the trail and I went under it – my wet clothes cooled me in the breezy shade. A few moments later, the young couple in capri’s walked by, nuzzling against each other. They looked un-alone, un-worried, as He directed She’s attention to various parts of the city.

“Oh, that’s it, way over there?”

“Yeah, way over there, isn’t that cool?”

“That is so cool!”

The bounced up the trail like Raggedy Ann and Andy. Renewed with vigor, I followed.

20130714_170202The observatory is closed on Mondays, but many people were there, laying about on the greens in front of the entrance, peering out from the observatory’s balcony. I shouldered my way into the crowd on the balcony and looked over the city. Los Angeles sprawles so far out it finally just disappears, like there’s only the city and there’s never been anything else. I could see East Hollywood from the balcony pretty clearly. I could even see the corner of Serrano and Sunset. I couldn’t see the wino’s. But they were there.

Next to me, a girl held her smartphone to her ear, smiling to herself over what she was hearing. On the other side of me, a woman subconsiously put her arm around her husband – or whoever he was – as they stared out to the west. Behind me, a happy man carried his happy little son on his shoulders. Behind him a guy was taking pictures of his reluctant girlfriend on the concrete walkway, where there is an ebedded, brass diagram of our solar system.

Its all just stuff, spinning around.

Its all just stuff, spinning around.

In the center of the diagram, is a little brass dot, representing the sun. Then you have a brass circle representing the orbit of Mercury around the Sun. Then you have one respresenting Venus’ orbit, Earth’s, Mars’. There’s nothing after Mars for a while – you have to walk several pace before you come to Jupitor’s orbit. Then there’s Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and then there’s poor, demoted Pluto. When I was little, Pluto was a planet, I thought. Suddenly, I was rocketted back to the first grade, learning the planets in a little small town classroom with my childhood friends. But I was back in LA almost instantly, sweaty, older, and a long way from that little classroom.  When I was little, Pluto was a planet…a planet…

I walked back to Earth’s orbit, stared at it. Looking down on it, it was an incredibibly simple place, planet Earth. Spins around while circling the sun, that’s all. I thought about what that astronaut said…

If somebody’d said before the flight, “Are you going to get carried away looking at the earth from the moon?” I would have say, “No, no way.” But yet when I first looked back at the earth, standing on the moon, I cried.  Alan Shepard, Apollo 14 astronaut, second human in space.

Well, that’s nice, but that’s not what I was thinking about…

Oddly enough the overriding sensation I got looking at the earth was, my god that little thing is so fragile out there. Mike Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut; interview for the 2007 movie In the Shadow of the Moon.

Close, but nope, wasn’t him, either…

This planet is not terra firma. It is a delicate flower and it must be cared for. It’s lonely. It’s small. It’s isolated, and there is no resupply. And we are mistreating it. Clearly, the highest loyalty we should have is not to our own country or our own religion or our hometown or even to ourselves. It should be to, number two, the family of man, and number one, the planet at large. This is our home, and this is all we’ve got. Scott Carpenter, Mecury 7 astronaut; speech at Millersville University, Pennslyvania. 15 October 1992.

Not quite, but we’re getting closer…

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small. Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Astronaut, first man on the moon.

THUMB!!!! THUMB!!!! Thanks for the hint, Neil Armstrong! Now, this is what I thought about…

We learned a lot about the Moon, but what we really learned was about the Earth. The fact that just from the distance of the Moon you can put your thumb up and you can hide the Earth behind your thumb. Everything that you’ve ever known, your loved ones, your business, the problems of the Earth itself—all behind your thumb. And how insignificant we really all are, but then how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy living here amongst the beauty of the Earth itself. Jim Lovell, Apollo 8 & 13 astronaut;   In the Shadow of the Moon.

So simple.


By the time I descended the hill and got back to Hollywood, it was dark. I walked along from one dark pocket of shadow to the next along Hollywood Boulevard. The sidewalk was sprinkled with panhandlers, charged from the energy of the night into a near euphoric state. They almost looked happy they rattled about, their thin frames swinging inside their baggy clothes…say man, you got a dollar…bus fare…listen, I’m outta gas…I just need a fu#$ing quarter, man…ok, how about 20 cents? Man, what’s 20 cents?!

Sorry, buddy…sorry, buddy…sorry, buddy…

“Hey what’s up, man?” asked a different kind of voice coming out of a shadow.

I looked to my left and saw an old, black ashen hand sticking out of a shadow, holding a nearly full pint of gin. The bottle glowed in the streetlight, the shiny liquid sloshed around. I peered into the shadwow. The old man sat in a wheelchair, rubbing his abdomen as if to soothe the open wound caused by the jagged, sharp scales of the craving that crawled in and out him. But the craving seemed to be pacified for the time being, for he sported a large, gaping smile under his blooshot eyes. He held the pint higher, to me. He looked so happy.

“Say, wan’chu have a drink wimme?”

His smile was infectious, so I smiled back. But I didn’t answer. He leaned closer.

“Come on, man…drink wimme.”

The gin was strong. I lingered in its bouquet long enough for it to start smelling real good and perfect and absolute and the only thing I’ve ever wanted.

“No, thanks, buddy.”

As I left him, he reached out to grab me, just missing my arm.

“Hey, come on, man! HEY! HEY!”

“I’m sorry, buddy…”

Then his smile broke and on rushed the despair.


See me?

They’re still there…

There was a wounded brutality to his voice. But after he shouted, he looked down at the ground. Tick, tock, and the howls growing nearer. But he was laughing when I made it to the corner. I turned around. He laughed, took a long drink, then laughed some more. The dogs of despair had passed him by, and his night was back to being Just Fine.

Be well…

O’er The Ramparts We Are…

Hello Everybody…

Faith in Barrio Hollywood

Faith in Barrio Hollywood

It was well into the afternoon on July 4th. Two old Russian men jibbered away in their foreign toungue as they slammed dominos on a table, just outside our window. Spanish could be heard every now and then down the street. Andre – Luis’ roommate – was finishing up his plate of tacos. Luis and I were staring blankly into our empty plates. The impending food coma had set upon us like spider venom. Soon, we would succomb, spun tight in La Siesta’s web. Andre never rushed through his meal like Luis and I. He’s half French.

The tacos were from Luis and Andre’s neighbor, Edith. Earlier in the day, Luis and I built a ramp to the back door of her family’s bungalow, so her husband – Miguel – could get in and out of the house in his wheelchair.

“Broke his back,” Luis told me. “And an arm, a leg. He got messed up bad. And he’s undocumented. His boss’ insurance wouldn’t touch him. It’s bad, man.”

Andre had one, slow taco left. I leaned back in the chair – eyes still on my empty plate – and felt something closer to real content than I’d felt in a long time. I wish I could tell you that I wake up everyday looking for ways to help people, but I don’t. However, the only other option for me on Independence Day was to sit on the couch in my pajamas with my laptop, travel the whole wide virtual world for hours and drink, drink, drink coffee until the isolation hardened and I could no longer fend off the harbingers of self-loathing who would then whisk me away to the Real Dark Space. I’ve been to that space many times. It’s totally empty – always – until a drunk, pill-addled Tennessee Williams magically POOFS!!in front of me and whispers his brilliant words over and over, Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person. I didn’t want to go to hell on The Fourth of July, so when Luis told me about Miguel’s situation, it was easy to say yes, let’s build a ramp. So Luis and I walked to Sunset Boulevard, passed the bums preparing for The Fourth outside Bill’s Liqour, through the packs of trajabaderos shooting dice and waiting for someone to point to them and say ¡andale! outside the Home Depot. Inside the Home Depot, we got some lumber. In no time we cut up the lumber and Whahlah! – ramp. When Andre got there, the three of us set it in place at Edith and Miguel’s door. It was all so very easy, and we got a free meal to boot.

Tennessee Williams, not judging, not judging me at all.

Tennessee Williams, not angry…just disappointed.

The whole day had EASY written all over it. There were some plans – the beach, watch the big fireworks over the water, a bbq – but they just didn’t happen, and we didn’t mind. Moments later, I dozed in La Siesta’s web as the intermittent pops and whizzes of illegal fireworks echoed throughout East Hollywood.

I awoke in the early evening. The sun came into the bungalow sideways and dark yellow. The pops and whizzes had multiplied by a substantial factor. Andre texted that he and his girlfriend, Charity, were going to Barnsdall Park – just down Hollywood Boulevard – for a picnic. When Luis woke up, he and I, along with Luis’ other neighbor – who would rather me not use his real name, so I will refer to him as The Great Warrior – joined them just after sunset. As we got into The Great Warrior’s pick-up, a rocket whizzed down the street.

“It’s gonna get crazy in the neighborhood tonight,” said The Great Warrior, a longtime resident of East Hollywood. “I don’t know where they get the fireworks, but they get a lot of ’em, man.”

We found Andre and Charity at the park. Our friend Karen – plus an old friend of hers – joined us to complete the party. Barnsdall Park lay atop a hill, offered a great view of the city below. Other people were there – picnic-ing, frizzby-ing, dog-ing, or just laying around drinking. It was a cool mellow vibe. After the sun disappeared beyond the Hollywood sign, the sky burst into a brilliant apricot tone. The tips of the city’s palm trees just touched the sky. The Griffith Observatory glowed on top of one of the hills, like the head of a robot who’d been buried up to the neck.

Such a sweetly deceptive beauty...

Such a sweetly deceptive beauty…

“Todd, do you want some pate?” asked Andre, as he handed me a cracker covered in brown stuff. I’d never tried pate, so I took a chance. I wasn’t crazy about it. “It’s basically pork fat, salt, pepper, some other stuff,” said Andre. “I had to smuggle it back from France. It’s illegal here.” Despite my lack of zeal for the stuff, I pondered its aftertaste in hopes to form a question in which to ask Andre, in regards to the specifics of its illegality -it seemed like harmless goo. But when the question reached the tip of my tongue, fireworks began erupting all over town, and asking the question then seemed like a slight act of treason.

First, there were little bursts all over the city – Hollywood, Culver City, mid-city, downtown, way out at Marina Del Rey. The explosions would die down, then come back with more intensity. Concussion blasts echoed as if recorded on a loop, bouncing off the mountains surrounding Los Angeles. Smoke flowed over the city as the sky went from light blue to dark blue to black. Hollywood’s underground street-level fireworks show began to escalate, too. Roman candles zipped down streets, back and forth – rockets blasted off the roofs of apartment complexes. Sirens, flashing emergency lights. And more and more, the city’s legit firework displays grew larger and more elaborate. All atop Barnsdall Park ooh-ed and aah-ed, collectively.

“I feel like we’re the Gentry watching a Civil War battle,” said The Great Warrior.

I didn’t. I felt as if I was tuned into CNN on a giant holographic TV – watching footage of a pre-emptive strike somewhere, far removed from any danger, but able to watch it all unfold during prime time. Bombs and missles rained down – curiously missing their  “targets” yet always finding the peasants who aren’t even represented by their country although they literally break their backs to build it’s infrastructure in which the more fortunate and represented classes are free do their Stuff and Things. Then the whole scene turned further into an Orwellian direction, because it was clear to see – from so far away – the bombed country was, in fact, dropping the bombs. But instead of revolting at such madness, everybody was celebrating, bombers and bombed alike.

Interrupting your Reality to bring you another Reality...

Interrupting your Reality to bring you another Reality…

“GOD BLESS AMERICA,” shouted a drunk man, bringing me back from this Dystopia. He’d stood up on his blanket to make the statement. His gangly swaying silhouette dangled like a marrionette in front of the exploding sky. “GOD BLESS THE USA AND GOD BLESS JESUS CHRIST!” Then the Almighty Puppet Master cut his strings and he fell to his blanket.

Dark clouds rolled in from the ocean. They were illuminated in eerie greens, blues, reds, yellows, pinks, purples as the fireworks exploded, like there was some kind of whacky lightening circus storm rolling in from Japan. But minutes later – around 9:30pm – the main fireworks died down and people began to leave the park. The Celebration was over, but as The Great Warrior walked back to his truck, it was easy to see The Bombing of Hollywood was really just getting started, with no end in sight. Whiz, band, pop! The neighborhood was at war. A short time later, The Great Warrior drove us slowly, carefully down Hollywood Boulevard. Hollywood seemed dark and desolate on the surface – the explosions only happening on the periphery – like the eye of a stom. But when The Great Warrior almost hit two ladies crossing Serrano Street and we screeched to a halt, I was relieved, not only because we didn’t run them over but also because they proved Life did, indeed, go on as best it could despite the chaos of war. The women merely looked at us like we were idiots and continued walking.

A huge blast went off just above us as we got out of the truck, shaking the windows of the bungalows.

“It’s great, man,” said The Great Warrior, laughing. “They just don’t give a f$%k around here. And, there’s not enough cops to do a damn thing about it.”

Orwellian Hollywood

This is not a dream.

Moments later, I lay in bed, enshrouded by a Symphony of Anarchy – explosions, echoes of exposions, sirens, car alarms, barking dogs, Spanish and laughter – until I floated away from the war ravaged land and to the Dreamscape.

I washed clothes at the laundromat the next day amidst a score of Mexican-American ladies. Each woman had an impossible mountain of clothes to wash. I dumped my one bag into a washer, turned around and saw Edith. She thanked me again, in the same slightly embarassed yet immensely grateful manner as she did the day before. I felt embarassed too, dumbly thanked her again for the tacos. The heat from the dryers wafted over us, dizzied me to the point that I left my body for a moment, and from that ephemeral position in the ether I was able to regard the scene clearly. There we were, both engaged in this weird dance of awkward bowing and hand motions and shuffling of the feet while she uttered gracias and I stuttered out thanks. I saw two people who’d done something for one another…and both felt grateful. Tacos for a ramp. Seems like a fair trade. But it wasn’t, not at all. All I did was put some wood together. Edith rescued me from Hell.

He wasn't always so serious.

He wasn’t always so serious.

Tennessee POOFED!!! again. Floating in that laundromat like a drunk moss covered Southern Buddha, he took a big drag off his cigarette, smiled, then disappeared.

Be well…

The Bad View Of Tomorrow From Behind Today

Hello Everyone…

The projectors are rolling...

The projectors are rolling…

Last week, I spent a lot of time looking at the back of people’s heads – on the bus, behind the wheel waiting for red lights to turn green, in line at grocery, hardware and art stores. I didn’t see a lot talking – or communing in other ways – with anyone else. But I saw a lot of thinking. Or, I chose to see only their thoughts – their silence. In each little head in front of me was a miniature IMAX theater screening Le Grande Epic – but interpreting it differently. Behind the skulls of all the little heads, I saw lists of things that needed to get done that day. I saw worry over the possibility of some of those things not getting done that day. And, I saw the weary mixture of disappointment and consolation stirred by the fact that some of those things would have to wait until tomrorrow. That is, if the Great Projector didn’t break and our little IMAX went black – the only sound being Le Grande Epic spooling off the reel and falling, hollowly, to the floor.

When I am angry and tired, I tend to interpret Le Grande Epic as some kind of mockumentary-farcical-drama – comedic when I expect it to be serious and sad just when I think I’m going to laugh. Real people play puppets who the lead character can’t control. The lead character sacrifices himself over and over to spite his enemies – enemies impecably disguised as true friends, so well disguised, they treat him ill in no manner, whatsoever – those devious foes. It’s a bad film, to say the least. But when I’m angry and tired I proudly wear the lead actor’s thorny crown, and place the thoughts I want to see into all the little heads before me.

The beginning...

The beginning…

Why so angry and tired, you ask? No real reason, although I felt a little overworked, which was to be expected. The first show of Independent Shakespeare Company’s season in Griffith Park – She Stoops to Conquer – opened on Thursday, and all involved pushed through much exhaustion to get the show running. Producing a show is like herding cattled through a pencil sharpener. In the beginning, you can’t even see the pencil sharpener, and the bovine hoard moves along like a slow deep predictable river. This goes on for some time, and for a while time seems to be in abundance, even maliable. Then the pencil sharpener appears on the horizon – shakes a little from the pounding of hooves – so we work a little faster, longer, but we don’t go crazy. But suddenly – as if two or three weeks were completely cut from Time’s thread – the pencil sharpener is exponentially approaching. And – before anyone can do anything about it – the pencil sharpener is pulverized by the first hoof of the first cow, and only then do we think that maybe driving cattle through a pencil sharpener wasn’t the greatest theme to follow for a theatrical production. But we stick with the idea, for it is too late to change. We seek solutions – theatre magic – to make it appear as if cattle really are being driven into a pencil sharpener. This happens usually about a half-hour before the curtain goes up for the first show which, absolutely, must go on.

All shows are like this – to lesser or greater degrees – in my experience, and I have to say She Stoops to Conquer was a lesser degree or two than usual. But as opening night approached, the the time between searching for solutions, finding solutions and building those solutions amplified the electric currents in my head to sizzling levels and frazzled some brain wires.

But last week also offered a few moments of serenity and stillness. Tuesday night, I stumbled into one of these peaceful interludes, after the tech rehearsal started. In the calm, I was able to regain a sense of presence, to find the moment. The rehearsal started just after dusk. The hot day was gone and a cool invisible blanket covered the meadow. Not half an hour later, I was wearing a hoodie to keep warm. A few groups of people had wandered to the meadow and sat down to watch the rehearsal. Another group was having a party atop the abandoned bear cages of the old LA Zoo. Every now and then they would shout, cheer at nothing in particular while waving flashlights in all directions. When darkness had fallen, the lighting techs started to tweak the lighting. The light onstage flickered, shut off, brightened as the actors did their best to incorporate what they’d rehearsed onto a new stage. I felt far away from everything.

Watching the watchers watch.

Watching the watchers watch.

A technical rehearsal is a profoundly human portrayal of the human condition. The actors act, with no one “on-book” to feed them lines they can’t remember. They search their tired brains for the next word like grasping for life vests in blacknight water. Just as they are about to sink below the surface, another actor picks up somewhere further into the script and they continue on. They shake off the mistake and move about the semi-lit stage – getting used to costumes as they stumble further into the landscape of the writer’s mind. They a vague sense of this world, but the reincarnated souls of the characters obey the rules and do not inform the actors in which they reside. As the rehearsal continues, a few more pieces fit together. The show looks almost complete, as if one more spell by the Great Theatre Witch needs to be cast. A candelabra breaks, flowers fall out of a vase, and the sword fight looks a bit sloppy, but that’s the way it goes. Maybe things will be a little tighter tomorrow. At a certain point, the only solution is tomorrow. You don’t take groceries out of the bag, put them on the shelf, then put them all back on the counter and start checking out again if you bitched at the clerk. And the bus driver’s not going to turn around if you miss your stop. It’s just “sorry” to the clerk and a longer walk home – and you’ll be damned if you’re so cruel or absent minded tomorrow.

The cool darkness grew heavier during the second act. The actors moved about the stage like Scooby Doo and the Mystery Gang. I walked from side to side, behind everyone – checking out the stage from all directions to see if anything needed to be fixed. I noticed the back of everyone’s heads again. There was the director, Melissa’s head, Marcos’, Liam’s and Cassady’s – the interns – heads, and there was the back of Cat’s head as she viewed the show on a ladder next to a light, Laura’s – the stage manager’s – head. All were watching the same production, but their views of the world unfolding in front of them were as vastly different as they were as individuals.

The coyotes in the park began to call to each other. This excited the gang of flashlighted humans above the bear cages, and they began to shout and howl back at the coyotes. For a simple quick moment, there was absolutely no difference between humans and coyotes. Then suddenly – as if on a timer – both packs of animals stopped howling. Slowly, I began to hear crickets. Then, softly, the voices of the actors reached my ears. I became aware that it was really cold, despite the hoodie I was wearing. As I rubbed my arms to warm myself, a very old memory came back to me. I was sitting in a movie theater in Corpus Christi, Texas – I was around 7 years old. There was a clock jutting out of the wall, to the side of the screen, near the exit. It’s hands were illiminated – just before 3pm. I remember’d thinking that time didn’t matter as long as the movie was playing. Time – with it’s brutal potential to hover like God over us – could be obliterated as long as we continued to tell Our Story. That was about as Cosmic as I got last week.

Come out and see a show! Griffith Park, 7:30pm, Thursday thru Sunday until August 31st.

Come out and see a show! Griffith Park, 7:00pm, Thursday thru Sunday until August 31st.

She Stoops to Conquer opened Thursday night. I heard people really loved it. I would think so. It’s a big, busy, fun farce that has a lot of heart and it’s performed and directed really well. You actually believe you’re seeing the cattle enter the pencil sharpener. Some things came together perfectly, some didn’t, but the things that didn’t were probably not even noticed by the crowd. And any mistakes that were noticed were hardly minded at all. My friend, Claudia – a performer in the play – lost her skirt onstage. It got caught on the door. “The crowd got a good laugh when I slowly pulled offstage from behind the door,” she said. How do you start over after something like that? There’s only tomorrow.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

The Light behind Reality.

The Light behind Reality.

That’s the famous sililoquy in Macbeth, spoken by the title character. Macbeth is Idependent Shakespeare Company’s next show of the summer. It opens next week. It’s much heavier, much darker than She Stoops to Conquer, but immediately after humanity’s last recorded syllable, all our dramas and comedies will have appeared to be the same tale.

I fixed a few things on the set before the show on Friday, but left before the curtain went up. The heat of the day had gone, but the concrete at the bus stop released all the heat it had absorbed during the day. It was that dusty end-of-day summer heat that – even without a speck of dirt on your person – sinks into every wrinkle and crevace on your body and makes you feel nasty. I praised all the All-Mighties when I boarded the air-conditioned bus, then stared at all the little heads before me with all those little thoughts and all those little tomorrows. But for some reason, I slipped into Dark Yesterday. Soon, I was thinking of ways I could’ve made the set better. This, that, not that, or even that, Jesus, that would’ve been much simpler, you idiot! From there – naturally – I began to think of ways I could’ve treated ex-girlfriends better, then to things I should’ve told my father and close friends before they died. Then came the flood of a million other shoulds and shouldn’ts until I found myself reaching out in the blacknight water for life-preservers of memory – those moments when only just words were spoken and just actions were made in the moment.

A blurry fountain. No, I did not take a picture of her boob.

A blurry fountain. No, I did not take a picture of her boob.

I couldn’t find those moments, however, and when the bus stopped, all I had to save me from the stagnant waters of The Past was a young Mexican-American mother with a boob hanging out of her blouse. I let her exit the bus before me. She was holding an infant – and with one arm fastening child-to teat, and the other lugging her grocery bags, baby bag, purse and stroller, she stepped out on the curb and waited for another bus. She wasn’t even home yet, she had at least one more bus to go. Or, maybe she wasn’t going home. Maybe her tomorrow had already begun. Wherever she was going, she looked too busy juggling that baby to be stuck in The Past.

Be well…

We Always Have Been

Hello Everyone,

Really?! Me?! Well, shazam, shazam...

Really?! Me?! Well, shazam, shazam…

At the end of a long work day last Tuesday, me and my buddy, Luis – who’s been helping me build Independent Shakespeare Company’s set in Griffith Park, and will be portraying Macbeth later this summer – were cleaning up, talking about stuff we normally do.

“DMT (dimethyltriptamine),” said Luis, “is found in just about every animal. It’s generated from your pineal gland, or your Third Eye – your connection to the rest of the Universe, connection to God. If it gets calcified, it stops producing DMT and your Third Eye is disabled. Flouride’s a big reason it can calcify. And they put it in our tapwater, our toothpaste. We stop gettin’ curious, then we’re happy with shit like cable TV, jobs, cars…and were shut off from the power of the Universe. You can get online and see all you need to do to decalcify your pineal gland.”

The work on the set is winding down. The next phase in the project is to tackle many tiny and annoying problems – tweaking elusive little things that aren’t usually seen until the producer walks the stage with you and – for some reason – are shining like gold bars. You need to fix that. Oh, that needs to be rebuilt. My only answer is an Oh, of course combined with a goofy shake of the head. I’ll do that today, sure thing. However, for now, the intense labor is finished, so I decided to take Wednesday off.

“You completely decalcify your pineal gland,” continued Luis as we walked to his bungalow in Hollywood, later that evening, “then you’d be like what Terrance Mckenna talked about, visiting the Machine Elves that exist behind Reality and you’d be speaking a language language that is all powerful, in that your ideas manifest themselves as soon as they are spoken.”

Eyeballs of the approaching Machine Elves

Eyeballs of the approaching Machine Elves

The downtime on Wednesday threw my operating system out of whack. I was tired, but awoke in the early morning and couldn’t sleep. Later that morning, I was alert but could barely stay awake. I fooled around and drank much coffee until early afternoon – when I could justify taking a nap. Luis’ Hollywood bungalow is a fine locale for a siesta. It’s well lit, though no light shines directly into it. If you open the windows and doors, a cool breeze comes through, rattling the window blinds that rattle you to slumber. But it’s never complete slumber, more like a slightly narcotic stupor – or covering up under a magic blanket – you are keen to the sounds of the reality around you, but the sounds take on new shapes, with more dimension and meaning than I am capable of explaining. But you know what I’m talking about, anyway.

Luis’s neighbor has been on a Pink Floyd trip, lately – blasting the The Wall album over and over at all times, day and night. I enjoy hearing it slightly muffled by the paper thin walls of the bungalow. Roger Water’s baselines gently thud me toward slumber…his voice is my Virgil guiding me deeper into Dreamland…

Did-did-did-did-you see the frightened ones?
Did-did-did-did-you hear the falling bombs?
Did-did-did-did-you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter
When the promise of a brave new world
Unfurled beneath a clear blue sky?

20130622_100745“Thomas! Thomas!”

A man was shouting the name and pounding on the neighbor’s door. A baby was crying. Another neighbor’s pet birds were chirping loud in their cage in the narrow walkway just outside the door. Then, many Spanish voices talked fast over each other. I checked the time, it was nearly 4:30. I sat up on the couch just as an ambulance hit it’s siren to begin the nightly ambulance drag races that occur up and down Hollywood Boulevard. I was no longer sleepy, but signals from my brain to my appendages were running like a city bus on a nearly forgotten holiday’s schedule. I sat there – watching my slow feet dangle as if I was observing two baby apes stumbling from tree trunk to tree trunk. Pink Floyd was still playing, or had started over, or had always been playing, long before there was a Pink Floyd and the band was merely an instrument for an eternal message…

I am just a new boy,
Stranger in this town.
Where are all the good times?
Who’s gonna show this stranger around?
Ooooh, I need a dirty woman.
Ooooh, I need a dirty girl.

I didn’t know what to do with myself. Hmm, Self. Is there even a self? I asked my Self. Did you create this Self simply to make sense of the phenomena of Life – the energy of the Universe? I stood up, slid into my flip-flops and headed to Freaktown around the corner of Hollywood and Vine. There I could see existentialism instead of talk to myself about it.

Evening along the Hollywood Walk of Fame is an interesting time. Sunburnt tourists are still out – tired but starry eyed, nonetheless. They stand between orange and yellow alert at street corners – hands on their purses or children – amongst the hustle of the panhandlers, street performers, tattooed and dirty women who cry into cellphones while lugging all their belongings in an old suitcase, underfed actors posing as superheroes, winos, and junked out boygirls dancing to a tune that has only ever been played in their head. They slow-boogie on skinny legs covered in loose, torn fishnets. The tourists keep their eyes down, burning stares into Gregory Peck’s star, praying the walklight comes soon.

“I know, I know…” said a drunk man teetering on the curb – inches from the speeded cars. “Say…I gonna..gon’ get so nah! But she don’t…know (no?) Wa my sayin’? Whaa?!”

Where Disney meets Bad Gin

Where Disney meets Bad Gin

The poor freckled ponytailed tourist with the rosey cheeks. who the slurring man was rubbing against, was stiff as a statue. I could see into her mind as she mouthed text of To Kill A Mocking Bird – Atticus Finch was tucking Scout in for the night with a look of great concern – a need to protect young Scout. Lawyer Finch knows there’s real Evil out there. Not all the freaks can end up being a harmless Boo Radley. But he also knows she’s going to grow to a place where father’s can’t protect their little girls, and he will have to let her go. Damn the letting go! Atticus frowns, then smiles, kisses Scout on the forhead and turns out the light. The walklight flashed and we crossed The River Hollywood to another bank strewn with mostly dead stars.

It was dark when I got back to Luis’ place. A helicopter was circling just above – a nightly occurance. Sirens. Shouting. It makes sense that the desperados run around in circles out here. They keep bouncing off the water. They don’t run the other way because Americans don’t Head East. We rush west all the way the end of the line. The outlaws bounce, run, bounce, bounce, run…almost like they are spanked mericessly by tongs in a pinball machine played by a Great Creator until he gets tired, lets his silver balls fall into the abyss and leaves the arcade.

Later, I lay in bed, bathed in the light of my laptop – not looking at the screen, just above it, listening to a fiery Spanish argument between an senor and a senora. The senora screamed, the senor shouted. Then it was only the senora screaming, the senor silent. Then they habla’d soft and sweaty until they spoke no more.

I saw the lovers clearly in my mind – embracing each other and kissing hard against a 1999 dented Honda Accord. Beyond them I saw an ambulance cruise down Hollywood slowly. The EMTs have finished their shift – winning some, losing some like every other night. I watched them go further into Hollywood. Freaktown’s lights were still shining but the tourists had all gone to bed. On their slumbering faces I saw peace, but also a little disappointment for having realized they visited a place where they always are, have always been, for in slumber they are given glimpses of the Eternal and the Everywhere and the Everything – and they know themselves completely, if only in inarticulate fragments of dream chaos.

I turned from the sleeping tourists and saw one of the junky boygirls standing at the corner of Hollywood and Gower – just beyond the edge of the Hollywood shine. He taps his foot on Stanley Kramer’s star – the last star on the Walk of Fame – waiting for yet another walklight. I see his past, future and present. Most of his life is at the mercy of a walklight. When he does fall into a stride all his own he smiles down at his legs only to look up and see “Don’t Walk” flash again. I saw his loneliness in the black night, as he jerked and twitched – the Night Things were lurching to him, closer, closer. They began by lightly scratching his cheek, but in quick order they are carving into his flesh. He’s too consumed by despair to know that he is already loved – has always been loved – by a benevolent and non-judging force that is impossible to name. It’s so powerful, it can be scary when one realizes he or she is in contact with it – more so, part of it. So powerful most of Humankind can only call it God. But with names comes the burden to define, then doctrine, then before we know it we’ve created Pinball Wizards in our own image.

"I don't need no drugs to calm me!"

“I don’t need no drugs to calm me!”

Was I honest to everyone I came in contact with, today? I asked myself. The question came out of thin air. I proceeded to re-live the day to find out. Honest? Did I tell the truth, through kindness, to everybody, especially myself? After surveying my day I found the answer. No, I did not.

Myself gave a tsk, tsk, tsk, then transformed into a tiny pine cone. But it kept talking. Is there, indeed, a Self? Hmm, is there? Or is the Self simply your connection to the Big IS? Don’t you feel -if you search way deep down – that you can loosen from Reality, and therefore live free, in constant connection to…ME? Hmm? You might know the answer if you quit brushing your teeth.

That’s when I felt a sharp pang of unlabled fear that broke my understanding of anything whatsoever. My chest hurt. I closed my laptop. Dark Hollywood was silent…except for Pink Floyd…

Hey you! out there on your own
Sitting naked by the phone would you touch me
Hey you! with your ear against the wall
Waiting for someone to call out would you touch me…

Trust the Shaman

Trust the Shaman

The fear kept coming. I tried to fall asleep before Panic became a logical reaction. But I couldn’t sleep. Only when the Night Things were about to crawl through the window, did I do the only thing I could do in such a moment – I prayed. It worked. I slept.

Be well…

The Heartbreaking Rarity of Vacuums

Hello Everyone…

My office.

My office.

I spent most of last week in Griffith Park. After working nights at Independent Shakespeare Company’s studio the week before – building the set for their summer productions in the park – it was refreshing to work in the daytime and outdoors, assembling the set. It’s been pretty smooth, so far. I haven’t run into any of the million or so snafus that a carpenter can run into when building something somewhere other than where it will stand. So far, things have gone as planned, and I’m on schedule – it’s weird to type that.

The stage overlooks a fine meadow bordered by the cages of the old LA Zoo. The empty pens add a haunted feeling to the pretty scenery – ghosts of lions, tigers, bears are observed by ghosts of human mothers, fathers and children in the heat waves of the day and are gone by the cool evening breeze. I like a little ghostliness mixed in with my beauty, and I can think of far worse places to work. Mountains hover above the zoo cages – covered in splotches of dark green trees and blanketed in beautiful golden grass. Yes, it’s a fine place to spend a day, and not without company. Many Angelos y Angelas – for one reason or another – frequent the park on a daily basis.

Here’s a general rundown of my day in Griffith Park:

Morning. The sun is behind the trees and it is cool. Chipmunks pop in and out of freshly dug holes. Men and women – sentenced to community service for their crimes, wearing neon orange vests – rake leaves in the sleepy calm. They’re pretty efficient at it when the supervisor’s around. But when he goes, they usually lean on their rakes and talk on their phone. Of course I listen as I set up for the day.

“I mean,” says a bright-oranged female low-level danger to society, on her phone, “it’s not like I was drunk or anything. I just didn’t pass the sobriety test. Yeah, they let me go the next morning.” She laughs. “I had no idea where I was…my feet were blistered and I had to do the walk of shame in my party dress…whatever, it’s not so bad.”

Luis, soon to be Macbeth - and the set, soon to be his castle. The weird sisters predict much blood.

Luis, soon to be Macbeth – and the set, soon to be his castle. The weird sisters predict much blood.

Around noon. The criminals have paid their debt to society for one more day. Just after they leave, large Mexican-American families come out for picnics. Abuelas, madres, mijos and mijas set up camp at one of the large picnic tables. The little girls and boys run around while the women set up. I don’t know Spanish well enough to follow along with what is being said, but they laugh big and often and that says enough. Then the women yell at the kids and everybody sits down to eat. After hot dogs and sandwhiches, the kids run around a little more. The women clean up. Spanish. Laughing. The day is now officially hot. Many of the kids – and some of the women – take a siesta under a shade tree. Noticably lower Spanish, laughing, etc. By this time I’m plugging away at the work, just trying to get stuff done until the weather breaks. I breathe heavy, think slower. Soon the siesta ends and the Spanish Laughter is renwed with gusto. The little kids run around in a new world and not a damn thing is wrong with anything. The happiness I hear gives me a little push through the heat. Then – around 4pm – the families pick up and leave.

Late afternoon. The film students replace the Mexican families. They spill out onto the meadow, shoot some footage, congratulate each other after they wrap for the afternoon, then proceed to drink and smoke pot around picnic tables. Half the young people mill about in the shade, the other half in the sun. They are mostly white harmless looking kids, although some ride it out to the edge and sport lip and or nose piercings and neon pink or purple hair – some fishnets, some tattoos. But for the most part, they look like bleached zombies – half awake, half something else – with a little bit of punk attitude but no real punk, more of an acceptance under duress of inherent suburban identification. After drinking and smoking themselves to  the level of “Just Right” they waywardly roam about the meadow in two’s or three’s. Their conversation is juevenile, flirtatious – touchy-feely good time talk that may well land one or two of them across that line between heavy pursuasion and possible rape by Late Nite. But while the sun’s still up, they’re just God’s little chil’ren unwinding after living the dream. May they sing We Are Young by Fun for the millionth time.

“Say,” says one of the young filmakers who’d wandered into my work area, “you got a…ga…blah…uh…sinsellll…right? I mean…gee…seh s’one of those kindazzzzzz a for a screwdriver? Huh?”

I don’t lend the fellow a screwdriver because he looks the way a baby does when it wants to stick its finger in an electrical socket. And I don’t want to enter into drunken negotiation to get it back when he was done, and had forgotten it, and would enlist the other good little drunk undead to prowl the meadow to search for it, though it would’ve been fun to watch. So I say no. “S’alright.” He walks off with Universal Acceptance and joins the others. Soon, the whole crew leaves the park in two’s, three’s and pouty, angry one’s as the world spins them further into adulthood.

Coyote Moon

Coyote Moon

Evening. Joggers run up the hill and around the meadow. They pitter-patter around me – huffing about, arms swinging, furrowed brows. Then back down the hill. Then again and again. I hear their trainer but for some reason never see him running – like a boss who’s always on the phone. The runners sweat out their workday one lunge at a time, slowing down the clock as they do. They just make noises – there is no talk, no laughter. They all have slight looks of painful worry across their face, as if there’s just too much running left in the evening. I’ve found my third wind, and I’m working away, and start to pity the runners and start to fantasize about whipping the trainer up and down the hill to see how he likes it. But the runners hold their heads forward and down in resignation that they will run all they have to run. Because it is necessary to run. The trainer is a mere instrument of fate. They are fated to run up the hill, around the meadow, down the hill, and to do it again and again. Everyday. The runners suck it up, find the Eye of the Tiger, and take the hill again.

There is a cool and consistent breeze at this time. I’m usually putting the tools away when the coyotes start to howl. These coyotes are not afraid of man. They wander to the edge of the meadow, lazilly trotting in a jerky manner, head swaying left and right. I love coyotes, they are majestic creatures. Sure they’re scavengers, and will also kill your rabbits and chickens and whatever you choose to keep in captivity, but they do that because they have to. Coyotes have to be coyotes. They kill because they need to eat. They run because they need to catch something, or run from larger predators. They don’t choose to run. They don’t choose to kill. They don’t hire cross trainers. I see a loan coyote on the path around the meadow. He stops and is completely still for a brief moment. Then whisps away like smoke back into the hills shortly before the clanking joggers lumber by for the last time.

I-5 and the speen of lies.

I-5 and the speed of lies.

Sometimes – after I finish working for the day – I have a ride. Sometimes I don’t, and on these nights, I walk the thirty or so minutes down to the entrance of Griffith Park. It’s an easy downhill walk. As I herk and jerk wearilly down, I hear a roar – faint at first but growing louder. It is the eternal traffic of Interstate 5 that runs by the park, reminding me that I am indeed, in a metropolis, that the nature and slow time I have experienced in the day are oddities, here. I-5 tells me I am far from real wilderness.

But I think I-5 is a liar. Because a few minutes later I get off a bus at the corner of Hollywood and Western smack dab in the middle of Jungle Hollyweird.

“THAT IRAQI BLACK MOTHER%#CKER,” shouts a black man to a black Iraqi man I can’t see anywhere, I think no one can, “BEEN FOLLOWING ME AROUND ALL MOTHER%#CKIN’ DAY. THAT’S RIGHT…I KNOW YOU, MOTHER&#$KER. Everybody hears the black man, and walks a step quicker across the street. WHAT THE F#$CK DO YOU WANT, MOTHER$%CKER?” It takes a second for me to realize he’s directing the question to me – just after I realize I am staring at him. Before I answer, however, he sees the invisible black Iraqi again, and resumes his verbal assault upon him and I make my getaway. “Happy birthday,” says a dirty white bearded man spooning some chili into his mouth but most on his chest. His beard looks like a housing tree for beans. His eyes point in two different directions and he monkey chirps “Happy birthday” over and over to anything that moves.

A prophet sleeping before his shift.

A prophet sleeping before his shift.

All the voices in the Hollyweird night usually come from a place of general fear and self-hatred that I’ve been very aquainted with a time or two in my life. Generally they are misguided energy emitted off of the deep longing to know love – distorted echoes off the cave walls where the Safety is after our Long Search – funny how our voice makes us run in every other direction than where we want to go. If we were more like coyotes, our voices would only be the half of it  – life would be as much about the calls of the other coyotes coming back to us. Then we’d follow the voices through the dark across the mountain, or wait out the darkness until our fellows came to us. “Scavenger” is a horrible ranking for the coyote.

The bums have made camp around the bus stop –  hunkering down for their night shift of staring through the fabric of Spacetime. Regular people wait for the next bus, too, staring out into the night with less depth than the Wine and Urine Soaked Mute Prophets – but still only staring.

The other night, I pulled my key chain out of my pocket to open the door to Luis’ place (my friend with whom I am staying). I couldn’t find the right key in the dark. I held the keys up in the light. As they glistened in my hand, I thought, Gee, I have keys again – keys to Luis’ place, keys to Independent Shakespeare Company’s studio and office, keys to gates at Griffith Park, keys to a power station in the park. I had no keys when I left for California, save for the rental car’s key. Now, a week later, so many keys were ready to fill the vacuum of a free and empty pocket. I continued to hold the keys up into the night. They gleamed, as a mysterious voice in the night told me, These keys were destined to for you, Todd. These keys have had they’re eye out for your pocket since you arrived in LA – no, since the time the keys were made.

Urban Wilderness

Urban Wilderness

No, it’s deeper than that, the voice continued, correcting itself. In fact, it was you, Todd, who was fashioned out of Stardust for the specific purpose to lock and unlock with these keys. I know you’re glad for the work, but it is the keys that use you and they won’t be done with you until you lock and unlock a number of times that was etched in stone so long ago in a timeframe you can’t even hope to grasp.

Locking and unlocking – way out here at the End of Man’s Western Trip.

Be well… 

In The Middle Of A Crap Game

Hello Everybody,

20130607_131229Greetings from Hollywood, just a few blocks away from the last Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, just east of Highway 101. This part of Hollywood is the location to both Thai Town and Little Armenia – an interesting mix. The Thais control all the restaurants and massage parlours and the Armenians have a stronghold on the clothing boutiques, specifically the male jogging suit, a popular garment in the neighborhood that – seems go great with chain smoking, gold chains and shaved heads.

But I don’t think either group has control of the motel industry here on Hollywood Blvd. The motels possess a character that can only be linked to Pure-Blooded Faded Americana. Real classy joints like the Premier Motel (“Direct Dial In” & “King Sized Water Beds”), the Harvard Motel (“Adult Movies”) and the Hollywood Star Inn (“Clean Rooms”) are abound in the neighborhood. All harken from another time when Farm Boy or Farm Girl got off the bus in Tinseltown, checked into a modest room at one these fine establishments ran by a mothering motel clerk who would keep an eye out for starry-eyed kid as they made their way in pictures. Today, the motels are more like watering holes in the Land of Nod. Red-eyed wanderers meander outside the motels displaying the mark of Cain. Just like Cain, the land is not friendly to them – their crops never yeild. So they hover, underneath the neon Vacancy sign – bad Houdinis trying to disappear until they pass out somewhere.

Wasting in the Land of Nod.

Wasting in the Land of Nod.

The other day, I wandered through a group of Mexican day laborers outside the Home Depot on Sunset Boulevard. The weather – of course – was beautiful and one is never without view of a palm tree. I guess I was looking at one of these palm trees when I heard one of the trajaboderos yelling something at me in Spanish. He was walking toward me – the movement of his mouth seemed out of synch with his words – waving a fistfull of dollars, money bursting from his clenched hand. The money and his voice combined with the cool breeze in the warm sun made me feel – for a moment – as if I’d entered some sort of inverted universe where Working People controlled their lives instead being controlled by all-mighty Currency. Here in this new cosmos, a person could literally start with nothing and – through their own capabilities – build a fulfilling life that is its own reward and security and freedom and money is merely a thing to be waved in the air as if it were a party favor, to be thrown aside after it is used. What a world, I thought, but stopped thinking that when I noticed all the guys were frowning at me. One shook his head, looked down at my feet. I looked down to see spinning dice. I’d walked right into their crap game – rudely, according to the apparent disappointment of the fellows. I smiled and shook my head in a typical white aloof manner, then disappeared into the Home Depot.

Rollin' the bones...

Rollin’ the bones…

After picking up a few things that I needed for the carpentry job I’ve been hired to do – I was hired by Independent Shakespeare Company to built the set for their summer productions in Griffith Park – I continued to walk along Sunset. Moments later, I passed the Bronson/Sunset Studios, then the Gower/Sunset Studios, and a few other studios. None of these were the giganto blockbuster studios, but they still carried a bit of that magical appeal the movies always give me, and they were surrounded by high walls, interspersed with wrought-iron gates and checkpoints like the bigger studios. Above the walls I could just see the tips of buildings – beyond the gates I could glimpse a little of the backlot. Walking next to the walls on the sidewalk, they seemed to actually lean over me. The tips of the iron gates were like speares. Then everything went Kafka – the walls started to talk to me. We show you, said the walls, just enough to know the magic is there. But we will not show you the magic. Go forth, back into Nod, and pay for the magic when we offer it to you.

“Man,”said Luis, my buddy who I’m saying with, who teaches an acting workshop in Burbank. “Where I teach, we have these giant windows that overlook two big studios. You can see right down into them and see what’s going on. Like it’s just a matter of getting on the other side of the glass.”

Luis is a company member of Independent Shakespeare – he’ll be protraying McBeth this summer. He’s a profoundly talented artist who like most others of the breed has to do a million different other things to pay the bills or almost pay them, then maybe eat afterwards. Something cheap. We walked passed some winos, then Luis jumped on the subway to go to teach in front of those windows and I walked further into Nod.

20130607_131216-1I spent the last 3 days building the set. I rode to and fro on the bus with various and sundry Mexican-American workers wearing polo shirts sporting the logos of grocery stores, bus boy or cook uniforms, or a name tag. Coming or going, they looked tired. I worked 12 hours each day – starting in the evening and working into the early morning. I was tired too, but I didn’t mind. I was fortunate, I suppose. My job wouldn’t last forever and I could look forward to whatever came around the bend next.

“Nice shoes, man,” said a man to the man sitting beside me.

“Thanks,” said the other man. His shoes looked to be nothing more than fancy tennis shoes.

“Say, you a lawyer, or somethin?”

“No man.”

“Well, you gotta be somethin’ to get some shoes like that, right. Say, I’m gonna be 57 on June 23rd. 57, can you believe that? My earliest memory is of my mamma buying me some shoes. Funny how that’s my first memory, right. Man, all growing up, we wore shoes until they fell off. Hey, you know if the Dodgers won last night?”

Weirdly, transcendence can often be indistinguishible monotony.

Weirdly, transcendence can often be indistinguishible monotony.

I sink into carpentry. I feel light on my feet and sweat buckets doing it. I kind of transcend into a meditative state, too. I used to hate carpentry – and hate being good at it – because back then I was an artist of the highest caliber and if you didn’t know that then I would be more than happy to tell you, then tell you that people like me have to toil the hours away because I don’t have it as easy as you. Carpentry nursed my victimhood, for I could walk around in my dirty sweat-stained clothes and artistic zeal and shout that, I will, nonetheless, continue the toil because that’s what strong artistic people do…and so forth.

I made my peace with carpentry some time ago. Since, then putting wood together has become some sort of cosmic transference, maybe even a type of madness that makes everything else disappear, even myself, especially myself. Caked in sawdust, bent over with my nose nearly touching the wood…saw, glue, staple, screw…whatever gets the job done…another piece down, another, another, then it’s 3am…stretch my neck…I’m a little dizzy…I smell the lumber in the air and I dare say I’m happy.

The night before I started the job, I took a walk into the Hollywood Hills. I walked up Beachwood which offers a clear view of the Hollywood sign, looming high just beyond a few small hills.The evening was cool after the sun had fallen. In the gloaming, pleasant people walked their dogs. They stopped to talk to each other as their dogs sniffed each other’s asses – the curious little creatures seemed content, never barked.

Go ahead, roll 'em...

Go ahead, roll ’em…

Lights in the houses on the hills started coming on, one by one. As more lights clicked on, these houses seemed to be suspended in an  milky ether with a little static electricity mixed in. I looked up at the Hollywood sign but couldn’t see it anymore, though I was much closer to it. All of the hills below the sign Hollywood that seemed so insignificant and small when I began my walk to the Hollywood sign, now surrounded me, towered over me – they even seemed downright impossible to climb, but for fortune, I suppose. Or something like it.

Be well…