Storm Worlds

Hello Everybody,

A while back, I was walking up to Food-4-Less at Sunset and Western Boulevards where a bum was being ushered out of the underground parking lot by an employee. The old black, gray-haired bum didn’t give the employee any flack, and the employee appeared sorry to have to oust the old man into biting elements Wild Hollywood.


“Don’t you have anybody,” the young clerk asked, “a family member who’ll put you up?”

The old bum walked ahead of the clerk, slow, hunched shoulders, his jaundiced eyes wide and blank. “Naw’all families what’s left i’back in Texas.”

“Sorry, man, but-”

“Izz alright…I’ll be gon’ now.”

The old bum lifted on foot in front of the other slowly like he was a character in a butoh or kabuki play. The employee followed just long enough to be certain the bum wouldn’t sneak back into the parking garage. But the old bum looked to have already forgotten he’d been in the garage, already forgotten Food-4-Less on Sunset and Western, already forgotten Hollywood. One foot…then another foot…eyes forward…

Friday morning, I awoke to the steady fall of rain. The blinds on my window were shaded in a green-gray hue, much different from the usual orange-yellow that was most mornings. There was usually a soundtrack of chirping birds, too. Of course, no birds came with the sound of rain, but at about 7am, the siren’s began. For the next hour or so, one siren after another screamed down the boulevards, sounds of cars skidding and symphony of horns produced a cadence underneath the emergency vehicles. I could see the skidding cars on the wet streets in my mind. For two days, LA had been in the grips of STORMWATCH ’14 – a collective warning by the local weatherpersons about the oncoming rains which were sure to severely compromise driving conditions. It’s beyond cliche that LA motorists can’t handle driving in rain…

20140130_122817-1“Yeah, it’s ridiculous,” said my friend John, as he pulled a sharp U-turn on Hollywood Boulevard, later that day, as we sped through Hollywood. “But you gotta keep in mind, when it rains out here…mountains crumble. The world falls apart, bro. Like reality dissolves.”

After hanging out with John, I went to a cafe where I ran into “M”. M had been in and out of homelessness most of last year, but seemed to be getting back in the groove this year. He’d gotten his old job back as a scenic carpenter, got a phone, new clothes, etc. But every now and then I go several weeks without seeing him and I’d begin to worry. Friday marked the end of one of those “several of week’s.”

“I’m alright,” M told me, then she shook his head, “well, no, I’m not alright. My demons came back to me a few weeks ago. They wouldn’t leave so two nights ago I broke into a construction site, tide a rope to a scaffolding and to my neck and jumped. But the rope broke and I fell…only hung for about 3 seconds then I hit the ground. I just laid there on the ground, saying, “why am I still alive, God? Why?”

“How are you doing right now?” I asked.

“Better than I was two days ago. But I still don’t know why I’m still alive.” He was leaning on a parking meter, looking out across Vine St. It wasn’t raining, but the air was wet, cool. “Maybe there’s a reason, you know…”

The rain picked up in the evening and fell through Saturday morning. By the light of the green-blue window, I worked on my friend, Luis’ book that I’m editing…

***ELECTRIC RATS IN A NEON GUTTER: POEMS, SONGS and STORIES by Luis Galindo goes on sale MARCH 10th!!!! Support independent publishing and order a copy! (Psst…if you want, you can already purchase the ebook on AMAZON HERE or on Barnes and Noble NOOK HERE!!!***

***And…keep your eyes peeled for a compilation of El Jamberoo posts in book form! Details forthcoming so stay tuned!***

On sale March 10th! (Or get an ecopy now on or

On sale March 10th! (Or get an ecopy now on or

I thought about that old Texas bum that I saw at Food-4-Less Saturday morning. I thought of M, too, who was out there somewhere – under an awning of a coffee shop or liquor store, but maybe not. Maybe he’s just out in the rain along that long winding, painful road from Texas to Hollywood…that long winding, painful road from anywhere, where there’s no signposts of what’s ahead, where there’s drugs and alcohol and crime or nothing really too terrible at all but for some reason there’s still divorces or estrangement from family, firings from jobs, car wrecks and sickness and money never seems to comes in steadily, where the things you wanted and may have even needed are skylighted upon the horizons to the North or South as you continue to head West. You swore when you set out that you’d head in the direction of those things…swore aloud…but for some reason they’re off to the side…or worse…directly behind you, and you can’t recall for the life of you that you passed them by.

I finished work on the book and ok’d it for printing and online sales. By then the rain had stopped. The orange-yellow hue and bird chirps were back, so I put on my boots and headed to the Home Depot down the street to price materials for an estimate on a rabbit cage I was to build next week.

As I was approaching the hardware store, I saw a man standing out front of the Hollywood Star Inn. As I got closer, the man looked familiar, like…

“Bob Hawk?”

The man had been squinting at me, as if trying to figure out if he knew me, too.

“Oh my God, Todd Pate!”


I knew Bob back in New York. For years, I worked at a box office in the Theatre District in Midtown Manhattan. Bob came to all the shows there. We struck up a relationship and when I started getting my own plays produced…

“You know I saw everything you ever wrote.” He said, always said, every time he saw me. “You know, Todd, some of your plays were really out there…but I always sensed you were approaching some kind of edge with them, purposely, like you were seeking something on the edge. They were very exciting , even if some were…” He made a waving sign with his hand. “…really out there. But you were always looking for something…”

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time…

I was waiting for him to tell me more about this Edge, because it sounded like only a brilliant, dynamic, powerful…etc…kind of writer could reach that kind of Edge. I’d been working on Luis’ writing all morning, I wanted…no, needed to hear about how my writing goes to this Edge, that takes people to this Edge that, and how I may be the only writer in the history of Man who can take you to this Edge…

…but one sprinkle led to another and then the rain came and Bob Hawk and I ran under the awning of the Hollywood Star Inn. By the time he shook off the drops, Bob had changed subjects.

“So I’m out here for some work,” he said, ‘but I thought, if I need to be out here in LA, I’m staying a week. And I don’t care about the rain! It’s better than the cold in New York.!” A car pulled up, Bob’s ride. “Well, I gotta go.” He walked to the car, then turned around suddenly. “Oh, I’m not sure if you know, but that old building were all the bums hung out on 42nd and 9th, next to where you used to work. It’s gone. The whole corner’s completely torn down. It’s surrounded by the wooden fence but you can peek through the holes and see that they are building something new…probably a…” He held a hand high in the air. “…one of those big steel and glass things. But you can see the theatre clearly, and I think of you every time I go down there.”

Bob got in the car, they drove off. I headed toward the Home Depot. The rain was falling hard. The hardware store blurry as I approached it, as if I was crossing through a waterfall separating two worlds…into a world where I was a builder of rabbit cages. coming from a world where I was a writer approaching that Edge, the Edge. No…Bob Hawk and New York seemed more than one world ago. Way back behind me, several storms ago.

On my way back, I had to go to the bank and get rent money. Halfway there, as I walked down Hollywood Blvd, the rain fell the hardest it had yet. The roar of water falling and flowing drowned out all other sounds. Cars silently skidded at red lights, plowed through the huge stream of water that overtook the street – flowing down, to the west, taking the city to the ocean. Bums huddled under awnings, people ran down side streets with inverted umbrellas. I walked, soaking wet, too wet to run anywhere. The damage had been done. I strolled to the bank, pulled out the money, cursing my roommate for having the gall to charge me rent every month. The heavy rain continued on my way home. Thunder echoed every now and then. Well whaddya know,” I thought, “this really is a storm.”

By Sunday afternoon, the rains were gone. The sun made more than one appearance during the day. By evening, the city was clean and pleasant, like it just stepped out of a bath tub. The view of Mount Hollywood and the Observatory was unimpeded by smog or haze. The air was cool. I walked over to my friend’s house to get the keys to his car, so I could pick up his car in the morning, and get materials for the rabbit hutch on Monday morning. It was nighttime when I began my walk back home, I came upon a bum sitting at a bus bench on Hollywood Blvd. I smelled the alcohol from several yards out, before I could see him well. Over and over he’d let out something like a sneeze that he finished with a, “f#$k you…ah, ah, ah choo f#$K you! Ah, ah, ah choo f#$k you!…”

20140301_184242When he got all those out of his system, he resorted to traditional drunken babble. A car passed by and it’s headlights gave me a clear view of the bum. His clothes were damp and soiled. He was about fifty, bearded and nearly toothless. He also had two pair of handcuffs around his neck, worn like necklaces. I walked passed him, and moment later he came down with another case of the “ah choo f#$k you’s.” I turned around and watched him, just thinking that he’s not waiting for a bus. He’s just sitting there, sneezing and cursing. How did fifty or so years get him there? I walked on and he faded from my ears. The city was quiet, except for the coming and going of cars. They’d rush up, I feel their lights on my face, and they’d rush off. Then the dark and quiet again.

I’m ending this blog with that. Maybe there’s a little more to write, maybe not. But I have to get out the door and start building this rabbit cage. The window is yellow-orange and there are birds, even a lawn mower. It’s not a bad world out there today. One that’s pretty to look at, maybe. Pretty enough to keep from looking at the worlds ahead or behind, anyway…maybe.

Be well…

Bad Weather, Bad Neighborhoods and Butoh

Hello Everybody…

Mermaid Avenue in Historic Coney Island

Last Tuesday, I went to Coney Island to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  I’d received an email from a volunteer group to assist in demolition and cleanup up.   But when I got to the rendezvous point on Surf Avenue, I was hijacked by another group that needed volunteers to go door to door, floor to floor, in a housing project to make sure its elderly and disabled tenants had someone to help them get food, medication, etc.  I was whisked into a small car with a lot of people and dropped off at a housing project further down Surf Ave.  This housing project had a real pretty view of the ocean.

The view may not have been on too many people’s mind, however, in the bona fide disaster zone that Coney Island has become.  Power was down in most domestic buildings.  Streetlights were blinking irregularly.  The storm waters deposited tons of sand all over the community.  Bulldozers piled the sand into huge dunes, but sand still scattered about in the wind, burning the eyes.  National Guard trucks sped along the streets, kicking up more sand.  The smell of fuel and natural gas was in the air, watering the eyes.  Trash blue in the wind – collected against fences.   At one point a fire erupted out of a manhole in the middle of the street.  Not until a fire arrived did me and the other volunteers take our eyes off that.  Long lines of Black, Hispanic, Russian and elderly people stood in long lines where the Red Cross or FEMA or churches were handing out clothes and food.  Their eyes were set in a blank stare to that place where only the cold, hungry and tired can see.  Their eyes burned too, I bet.  But I’m sure they were willing to deal with it.

People dealing with it.

The first floor of the housing project was inhabitable due to the flooding, so we only had to tackle the 2nd thru 24th floors.  Lucky us.  Yes, lucky us.  Because all we had to do was go up and down the stairs and knock on doors, unlike the Black, Hispanic, Russian and Elderly folks who lived there.  They had to carry carts of food, water and clothing up the stairs.  Many were out of breath, resting in the stairwell, mustering the strength to climb the other 10 or so floors they had left.  They would laugh and say something like…

“Dear Lord, please get that elevator a workin’!”

Their positive attitudes were inspiring, but they did look at you funny when you told them…

“Have a great day!”

They held that look on you until you were certain you were an idiot.  But they didn’t hold it against you.  Not at all.

They didn’t.  Really.  Because floor after floor, people thanked us so much for simply “caring” enough to check on them.  They thanked us in English, Spanish, and I think the Russians thanked us, too.  When it was all said and done, we only helped a few people, giving them flashlights, phone numbers to field pharmacies and nurses.  But what they needed was heat and we couldn’t give it to them.  They needed water, but if they could walk, we couldn’t get it for them.  They needed power, and we couldn’t give them that, either.  But so many tenants stepped across their doorway and held our hands firmly, and said something like…

“We’s just glad they’s somebody that care ’nuff to come over and check on us…”

That feeling of being an idiot subsided, a little bit.  People freezing in a concrete housing project that looks and feels just a little less like a prison have a way of making you feel at home when they smile and thank you.  And it’s impossible to refrain from feeling truly grateful for what you have.

On my way to my warm home, I caught this conversation between a twenty something couple.  She was a Russian immigrant, he was rough Brooklyn, born and bred.

She:  I’m sick of this America shit.  If I win the lottery, I’d go to South America – maybe back to Russia.  Live in a little house, grow my own vegetables.  My little girls can pick cotton.  You could come with me.

He:  I’m born here.  It’s all I know.  So, that’s what you’d do if you won the lottery?

She:  Yeah.  I’m mean I don’t hate it here…but there’s just SO MUCH…it’s TOO MUCH comin’ at you.  I want something easier.

He:  You know, you can grow vegetables and your girls can pick cotton right now.  That’s what poor people do.  That may be simpler.  But it ain’t easier.  It’s just as hard as it is here.

She:  The lady runnin’ my shelter spies on us.  She snuk up on me when I was going to the the bathroom.  I almost hit her with the roll of toilet paper.

He:  They don’t turn the lights off where I’m at.  It’s just like jail.

Diane Sawyer was not playing a drinking game. She was overworked.

When I got home, Super Tuesday was in full swing, all across cyberspace.  The Conservative news outlets were confident Mitt Romney would win, and the Liberal news outlets were certain President Obama would be re-elected.  The hideous news anchors were explaining what President Obama could do for Americans, what Romney would do for Americans.  It all hinged on which way those silly undecided states – Ohio and Florida – would swing.  Oh, the tension, the excitement.  Facebook posts and tweets on the Twitter were a lightin’ up over the suspense!  People were so funny, so happy, the day was finally here.  But they were so nervous, too.  OMG is their guy gonna win?  Stay tuned, America!  It was the grandest of reality shows, grander than plastic infused mafia wives, trashy Jersy girls, or drunk housewives, drag queens, ‘gator hunters, Klondike miners, hillbilly hoarders, and even Donald Trump, who was jealous and angry.  But he’ll probably cool down, because NBC is still giving him millions of dollars for one hour each week to shit out his false reality.

“Did you hear they used to have elections before electricity?”

I tried to keep up as the networks called states in favor of the President or Romney.  And I tried to be American and approach the election like a football game, like an episode of Dancing with the Stars, or Glee, but I just kept hearing that conversation I heard on the subway…and I kept seeing all the faces of the people out on Coney Island.  They seemed a million miles from the election.  So I powered down and went to bed.

When I awoke, democracy had prevailed.  President Obama would remain our president.  I believe it was a victory for America, not because I think Obama is a savior and will lead us to the promised land, but because he is responsible for the rise in the percentage of voters, over 60% for two elections.  I would love to see how America is represented if we can get to 85%…hell, we the people may actually have representation then, and the efforts for coporate/military totality may finally be conquored.  Obama’s legacy is that he got people to the polls, and that’s enough to go down in history as an American hero, in this Age of Lethargy, anyway.  He’s got the Black, Hispanic and Elderly vote…becuase they feel he is on their side.  And I believe he is.  He even got more of the evangelical right to come out and vote against him.  They gave it the good fight and lost.  But everybody wins when more people vote.


But all the American Woopdie-Do was little help to the Black, Hispanic, Russian and Elderly out at Coney Island on Less Than Super Wednesday, because of a massive snow storm that blew through later that evening.  The biblical snowstorm hindered the relief efforts in response to the biblical hurricane and I’m sure more than a few of the people I met out there were severely disappointed with The Almighty.  And, I’m sure more than a few could give a shit who won the Presidency.  It’s hard to really care about such spectacle when you’re digging through a cardboard box of coats and the only thing you can find to fit has flowers on it, is pink, and you’re a black man who has to wear it to his freezing apartment that is not a home so much as the government’s “project.”

Coney Island is ALIVE.

But hope has been abundant in New York this week.  Inspiration has been abundant.  Democracy has been abundant, too, though I’m not talking about Super Tuesday and all the drinking games it spawned from the policy wonks and quatroano politicos.  The people have been well represented here in the Big Apple because they’ve been representing themselves.  The unfortunate have let groups of goofy white merrymakers into their homes in so called bad neighborhoods to say hello and attempt to offer them relief.  The fortunate have come out in droves to attempt that relief.  They weren’t waiting for a politician to make the country better, THEY were making it better.  Out on the American street, the White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, elderly, disabled and poor, poor, poor have ventured forth from the rubble and looked each other in the eye, and acknowledged themselves as human beings.  If a group of humans can do that, they can easily be Americans together.  A disaster can wipe away all those “things” that that Russian on the subway was talking about.  That Brooklyn boy was right, picking cotton ain’t easy, and nobody’s lives are easy.  But a disaster can lift humanity to such a level higher than individual toil, so high it’s easy to see that we are in this big shebang together, that we are one.

Butoh under the train.

Saturday night, my friend Osha took me to a warehouse space in Long Island City to see some Butoh performers.  The place was located under the elevated train.  As the train roared intermittently, women performed Butoh, a Japenese performance art where the artist moves excruciatingly slowly, yet seamlessly.  Their actions are broad, sometimes absurd. They do not speak, but convey tremendous emotion through the expressions of their faces.  I love Butoh, though sometimes I paw out in the air for a fast forward button.  However, I’m always glad I stuck with it, and followed the emotional arc of the performers.  Good Butoh is like watching a moving painting.  And, you don’t realize it’s changed you until it’s over.  It’s a simple craft, but it ain’t easy.  You – the audience – have to put in the time, and in many ways, the performance is about what’s happening within you.  Some things are worth commitment, even if they are moving at a painfully slow pace.

Be well…