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…

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…