Friday, September 19, 2008

Earlier this week, one of my neighbors committed suicide.

I find it interesting how the first question that usually comes to mind is "How did he do it?" Thankfully, I don't have all the details. All I know is that it involved a sealed room, a BBQ, and that he had been there long enough for the gruesomeness of the scene to overwhelm the responding fire fighters.

I didn't know this man, but it saddens me to think that he was in such utter despair. He lived in the building, but the two buildings have their backs to each other so it's not really fair to say that he lived next door. The buildings on this street are designed in clusters of two with a courtyard area in between. I wonder how this has affected the neighbors in his cluster.

I heard about the ordeal from my upstairs neighbor. I know I have commented before on the unique community of my two-building cluster, but I was reminded again by it when I found out. In most other apartments in LA, I'll bet I never would have had such a conversation about something that occurred outside my four walls. This poor soul would have grossly taken his own life less than one hundred feet from where I sleep and I never would have known the difference. He must have thought so or at least that no one would care. It makes me think about two levels of loneliness, physical and emotional, specifically, how physical affects emotional. Does a person stranded alone in a desert hurt more than a person living in a big city surrounded by millions of people but without any meaningful connections of his own? My personal feeling is that it hurts more, or in a sharper, more damaging way to feel alone in the company of others. If such a state had a capitol, it would have to be Los Angeles.

Yet, if you're open to it, there always seems to be a surprising, hopeful yin to the solemn yang, a friendly face whose looks at you are absorbed rather than caromed off to a safer landing. Last night as I was getting the mail, I saw a flier posted above the boxes. It was an invitation to a community cookout on Sunday. It said, "It's time for another community gathering! Bring something to drink and a cold dish if you like. Live music starts at six. Free, free, free..." I checked the name and address, some guy I've never met from a building across the narrow but busy street. Wow, I thought. I did not see that one coming. There is hope for us yet after all. I only wonder if my unnamed neighbor had held on a little longer. I wonder if I could have met him at this Sunday community barbecue. What are the chances we might have toasted a couple of beers together? Would we have liked each other?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Annual Whining-About-Fall Post!

If there is a good thing about working in the middle of an office building without an easily viewed window, it's that you can imagine the outside world to be whatever you want and you might actually start to believe it. According to me, we sit firmly in the Fall.

When I'm not in my bubble at work and my imagination is tested by the sunny skies and 78 degree days, I must work a little harder. Luckily, Starbucks has armed me with the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, a seasonal delight. I've got the Fall Playlist fresh on the Ipod, ready to go. There is a tree-lined stretch of street in my neighborhood where the leaves actually change colors and, get this, fall to the ground. Right now, all roads pass through, if not lead to, this street. I've got football. I've got the "Peanuts" gang. I've got the Land's End and LL Bean catalogs. I've got soup.
I can get through this.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You know why I'm the coolest kid in school?

'Cause today I brought my lunch in this:

Boo ya!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Feelin' the flow, doin' the Buffalo Dance...

I feel like I am entering a good time in my life.

I had my first improv class last Thursday. It went terribly in the sense that I was overwhelmingly nervous to the point of uncontrollably smiling throughout. I couldn't stop doing the nice, nervous, neurotic guy sch tick. Not sch tick in the sense that it was an act. It wasn't an act, but it was a front, a defensive stance. Still, it went well in the sense that I was inspired to do better the next week. It felt great just to be there doing it, even if I wasn't doing my best right out of the shoot. It was a jolt of energy to be doing something, for a change, that felt like it had some sort of purpose for me. And yet, it was completely and utterly exhausting. I went to bed at eight o'clock the night following that first class. Not to sound like the loser constantly trying to match his peak back in high school, but I really need to find my way back to where I was in high school. What I mean is that I need to find the courage to not be nervous or the ability, at least, to not let that nervousness affect my behavior or performance. I need to get back to that place where I can just effortlessly be myself and enjoy the moment, however it turns out. Now that the first class is out of the way and the ice has been mostly broken, I am hoping I can talk myself into it.

Last Sunday, I ran in the Nike Human Race 10K in downtown LA. I never would have considered it if The Doug hadn't pitched the idea, selling it with the free shoes he could get me by running under the umbrella of his team. I needed some new shoes and I've been running pretty well so I figured, what the hell. It's funny how sometimes you stumble upon the great things before you ever knew you really needed them. I was a little nervous about the distance. Even in my best shape, I've never been much of a distance runner. I'd been running about 3 miles, four times a week around the neighborhood so I figured I could probably stretch it into 6.2, especially if it was going to be flat. The first third or so, I was stuck in the pack, without the option of going much faster than a mild jog. I had Obama's speech from the DNC inspiring me on the ol' ipod. Then it got to be a bit frustrating. I was a third of the way through and it wasn't the least bit challenging. I know this will sound terrible, but, screw it, I'm not perfect. I looked around and I felt like I should be doing better than the pack I was running in. No offense to my man Barack, but I skipped out of his speech, got to the music, and got moving. It was night. The music kicked in and I felt like a character in a movie, entering his third act and chasing full steam that which he had only just then realized he wanted more than anything in life. As I passed the kilometer and mile markers, a smile spread across my face as I realized I was really doing this thing that I was not sure I could do and it felt like I was doing it well. Water stations appeared a few times on my right, but all I thought about was moving to the outside to avoid the pack slowing down to drink. I was in the zone. My legs felt great, my heart and lungs felt strong. I was working shit out. Bystanders began to appear along the railings along the sidelines of the course. I figured they were out there to cheer someone they knew, not because this was entertaining, but I pretended they were cheering for me. As I made the final turn and started the home stretch, I tapped into an attitude that a passive-aggressive guy like me rarely sees. I was going for it and loving every second. Finally, the start/finish gate came back into sight. The crowd had swollen now and there were bright lights shining on us. I felt a certain rush from this but I don't think I understood until later that it was a feeling of pride about being on one side of the railing versus the other. I never played youth sports. This was me doing it for once rather than watching someone else do it, wishing it were me. I crossed that finish and I felt like King Kong. To put it in perspective, my time was not impressive when compared to actual runners. Hell, my time didn't even sniff what Matthew McConaughey had put up in Austin earlier that day. But that was not the point for me. Mine was not a race against anyone but myself and my own expectations for what I could achieve. It felt good to surprise myself.

I haven't run again since that Sunday night. I've been far too sore. I'm not planning to suddenly devote my life to the sport or even think about running something like a marathon. But I do have the clear memory of the place I was at mentally that night and I can now use my daily morning runs to try to feel that again rather than to simply try to get some exercise.

And I might do the Westside 10K coming up in October for shits and giggles.

Aside from that, I'll be getting my video camera back from my uncle soon and I'm gonna use it to do a short film. I went to film school, damn it. Why the fuck have I been talking myself out of it for so long? I'm also feeling like I'm ready to start writing again. Or at least start seriously thinking about the things you have to do before actually writing, which is often the most difficult part.

Yessir, I'm feeling good. I'm in a place where I can relish in the process without the constraint of worrying about the result. If only I didn't have that 40-hour-a-week nuisance known as "work" slowing me down. Cheers!