Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Jell-O Still Giggles

I just saw something on about the 5 greatest Lakers or something and their pick for #1 was our old friend, the late great Chick Hearn. Man oh man, do I miss Chick. Sometimes I do forget that I miss him until while watching a Lakers game they will use some old footage in a promotional clip and I'll hear the golden voice back in action. No offense to Joel Myers, but I sigh when the game comes back on and Chick's not calling it. Just wanted to post a little "dribble drive" down memory lane.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Only in LA

Okay, not exactly. But more likely in LA? Absolutely.

Last weekend, we didn't do that much. Kind of laid low around the homestead. I used the opportunity to polish off the last five episodes of what I believe was one of the more underrated, under appreciated series on television, "The Shield." A couple episodes on Friday night, some less than peaceful sleep as a result Friday night (this show was intense!), and two more episodes Saturday evening. By then, I needed to get out of the house. The wife was entrenched on the computer so I went out to see "Invictus" by myself. As I stepped away from the concession counter with my Red Vines and Diet Coke, who should I see standing against the far wall, but actor Jay Karnes, a.k.a. Detective "Dutch" Wagenbach on a little called, you guessed it, "The Shield."

You know my cowardice. I don't approach celebrities, I just can't. Even when it was one of my artistic heroes, Jackson Browne, standing 3 feet away in a casual chatting environment, I couldn't do it. But in this case, the coincidence was so funny to me, I didn't even hesitate. I walked right up to Mr. Karnes and quivered a wimpish "Excuse me, sir..." Luckily, he was really, really nice. I told him I had one episode left and he said I was in for quite an ending (paraphrasing). We talked about the incredible performance of Walton Goggins in the last few episodes. I asked him about the point in the series when they had him so fascinated by a serial killer that he strangled a cat to test the waters in which the killer lived. I had thought they would continue his character down that path and so I asked him about that. He said he had feared they would take that course as well, but was relieved when they did not. I agreed that, while it may have made for a more salacious storyline, in the end, it was best to keep the Dutch Boy real. He told me about the call he got from the show's creator, Shawn Ryan, about that episode. Ryan told him the good news was that David Mamet was going to be directing a very Dutch-heavy episode, but the bad news was they had him strangling a cat. We chatted for probably two minutes, but to me it was a very cool experience to be so engrossed in a show then step outside my door and chew the fat with one of the actors. Given my shyness, I was grateful Mr. Karnes had been so personable and gracious. We shook hands, he went his way, and I went mine. Of course, I had to call Nicole immediately and tell her about the whole thing because how weird was that?**

I watched the final episode the next morning and I wished I had the chance to talk to Karnes again. When Shane commits suicide, wasn't it an odd choice to have the perspective be primarily on the cops coming through the door instead of with Shane as he was about to pull the trigger? They had devoted so much time to Shane's plight and breakdown in the previous episodes, I didn't get why the focus was not more on him in his final moments. What really happened with Lloyd, the budding serial killer? We all agreed that he probably killed his mom, but once again, the little shit had left no evidence and was playing it cool under interrogation. I think we were supposed to believe that he was going to be arrested and charged, but that outcome had no teeth as they hadn't found any new angle other than Claudette lecturing him. What's the deal there? One other thing...During Vic's confession and also when he sees the crime scene photo of the dead Shane, it definitely appeared that he was breaking down, feeling truly contrite perhaps for the first time. And yet, he doesn't say it. You see it in his face, underneath, but the world never gets to hear Vic Mackey apologize. I get why that works, but in the interest of really completing the arc, couldn't there maybe have been a little more of that? If not the words, maybe shed a tear? Maybe end on him slumped in his new personal hell, the desk job, instead of defiantly walking out of it with his gun? I am nitpicking. The ending was fine. It was good. I guess whenever a series ends, its fans are always going to have mixed feelings about it and want to imagine other endings. Pathetic as it sounds, at least it's a way of draining a few more minutes of life out of the series.

**What's even weirder is that I saw him at a movie once before, but it was a much bigger theatre and there wasn't a real opportunity to say something.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nancy and Madeline

Don't you just love it when you "discover" an artist that everyone else has known about for some time and you feel remiss for all the time you spent without their music? I don't know how I didn't find Madeline Peyroux sooner. Actually, I did find her, but I was looking for something else at the time so I naively let her slip through my fingers. Luckily for me, I got a second chance.

We were sitting at a place called Bar Mut in Barcelona, not far from the apartment, having a very nice lunch of tapas, wine, and beer. I guess it was a place that had been there forever but recently been refurbished. What remained was the perfect blend of old charm and upscale modern elegance. It was the type of place you feel good just sitting in...and then the wine and food comes and you feel even better. Anyway, this was also the type of place that had a great jazz mix playing in the background. Using my best broken Spanish, I asked our waiter what it was I was hearing and he came back with Madeline Peyroux. I had looked at it online casually since returning home, but hadn't pulled the trigger yet. Then I made my second great find of the weekend.

This second discovery counts as even less as such as it was a hit Hollywood movie, still in theaters everywhere. Hardly a hidden gem. However, I think anytime you find something you really love, whether it was hidden under a rock or plastered on posters all over town, you feel like it's a discovery for you personally. The movie was "It's Complicated." What a wonderful return to form for Nancy Meyers after that waxed figure of a movie, "The Holiday." This was back into "Something's Gotta Give" territory and as much as I loved that one, I think "It's Complicated" has a shot at dethroning it on my personal queue. Only after repeated viewings will I know for sure, but the performances of Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin and the smooth, rhythmic writing made this movie play like a song nonetheless.

In the Nancy Meyers movies I don't like, the worlds she creates are too over the top. Like a towering piece of chocolate cake that's just too rich for more than two bites, the sets/settings of movies like "The Holiday" are too rich to be taken seriously as real dwellings and the characters that inhabit them become nothing more than paper dolls, shallow, one-dimensional caricatures that are secondary to the clothes they're wearing. BUT! When Nancy Meyers gets it right, she takes you right to the edge between realism and fantasy, to a place where everything is tasteful and entertaining, but does not feel completely out of reach either. In movies like these, and for me "It's Complicated" was one of these, she creates that chocolate cake that is just sweet enough to be seductive, each bite begetting the next, ultimately, pleasurably intoxicating. Ironically, these Nancy Meyers movies remind me how rich life can be even if I'm not spending the weekend at my beach house in the Hamptons, Christmas in a quaint English cottage, or fretting with my architect about the new addition to my Santa Barbara ranch house. They remind me that life can be as romantic as you wish it to be. Even a modest apartment can be a Nancy Meyers movie when the smell of fresh bread fills the air, when the soft light of candles pool, when a glass of wine opens up with a swirl, when the steady pluck of a jazz bass makes you tap your toes, and, most importantly, when you have someone to dance with.

To me, Madeline Peyroux is the soundtrack to life lived like a Nancy Meyers movie and I snatched it up as soon as we got home from "It's Complicated." I have been listening to her album, "Careless Love," ever since. It's been raining all week and as much as I would love to be at home with a pair of sweatpants and a movie fest, but listening to this album with a cup of coffee and writing this entry, make being at work a little more tolerable.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now?

For all those following this riveting story, I am back online. Got out of the jam at the reasonable cost of a new $30 Nokia that should last me until Apple's big unveiling.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


So I'm out kayaking on a beautiful Southern California morning, my ass soggy in the seat, when I realize, "I think my cell phone is still in my pocket. I wonder if it's getting wet." I brace my oar across my mostly seaworthy vessel and reach in to check. Hey whatdya know, it sure is wet. It's practically underwater. Greeeeeeat....But it's an older phone and the beauty of these old beasts is that they are resilient, tough as nails. I turn it on and it seems to be okay as it starts up. Then what should appear but the two words no phone owner ever wants to read, "Insert Smartchip." Uh oh. I turn it off, thinking it just needs to sleep for a minute and it will awaken stronger than ever. It then starts making musical, chirping noises despite being turned off. That can't be good. So I take it apart and place in a sunny section of my craft to dry out. It has never powered up again. I've charged it, I have tinkered with it, I have seduced it. Nothing. My hope is that the battery is just fried and I can get out of this on the cheap. My worst fear is that the phone and the smartchip are totally shot and not only do I need a new phone, but will starting totally from scratch. Thanks to the generosity of the fellas and their birthday and Christmas gifts, I will be getting a new iphone. But I had already decided to wait for the new version to come out in June. I remain steadfast in that decision. So now I am at the mercy of AT&T, hardly the most compassionate of cell phone carriers. They have been less than understanding of my previous issues with neglect. Maybe they can fix it. If they can't, maybe they will give me some crappy phone they have laying around that will tide me over. Maybe I will have to pay 30 or 40 bucks for it. I must also allow for the possibility, however, that maybe I will be phoneless. Can a modern man live in the world of today and tomorrow survive six months without a cell phone? I hope I don't have to find out, but if there were ever a man to take on such an endeavor, I think I might be such a man. Stay tuned, my friends.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hello, 2010!

I'm back, baby! Back in the New World and back on line! Wow, what a friggin' holiday. I tell ya what....I still don't feel like everything is back to normal, which is kind of good. Everything feels kind of new, slightly different. Kind of like the first day of school.

Barcelona was awesome. A truly great trip that I'll never forget. It's all still a little overwhelming to think about so rather than give a blow-by-blow with all of the 1,400 pictures I took, I thought I would just post one little nugget for now. I think I'll have to use one of those online picture gallery sites for the photos anyway (suggestions for ease of use are welcomed). Not to mention, Conrad is the most regular reader and he was on the trip so I figured I'd post a couple things from the day after he left.

If you didn't know, Conrad and The Doug arrived in Barcelona a day earlier than me and left a day earlier. I had to book it that way because of the Denver trip and it was also vastly cheaper using those dates. Anyway, so there I am in Barcelona all alone on my last day. Early in the evening, I was making my way home after a long day of walking but I wasn't quite ready to be inside yet so I decided to go have a beer (when in doubt, have a beer, I say). I was sitting at the bar at the Cerveceria Catalunya, which came highly recommended by the good people at Fodor's, sipping on an Estrella and finishing up my last few postcards when I overhear the guy sitting one stool away from me talking to the bartender. He was clearly American (or Canadian). After a few minutes, I began to look his way, trying to catch his glance so that I could strike up a conversation. He was sitting 3 feet away and yet it really seemed to me like he was purposely avoiding eye contact with me. Of course, this gets me thinking which is never a good thing. He was a young man, my age or close to it, with a scruffy beard and a Rastafarian headband. I began moving toward the conclusion that despite us being two fellow Americans happened upon each other in a foreign land 6,000 miles from home that he was discriminating against me because I was wearing a button-down shirt and a coordinating sweater. I was in high school again where skaters and band geeks are as awkward as black panthers and skinheads due to their differing clothing labels. It was a near tragedy that I was so close to letting this idiotic, immature insecurity and madly neurotic idea rule the moment. I was resigned to sit there and say nothing. Then, I kid you not, I thought to myself, "What would Cruiser do?" At that point, I quickly got over myself and offered a friendly "Hola." What do you know, he replied. His name was Tim.

As it turns out, he was not only American, but from California. Southern. San Clemente. He went to Wilson freakin' High School in Long Beach, a few miles from my alma mater for crying out loud. Small world, huh? The guy wasn't shunning me, he was just shy. Did we become the best of friends? Of course not. Did we sit there for another three hours drinking and regaling ourselves with stories from the homeland? Unfortunately, not. We talked intermittently for ten minutes before he got his check and headed home (see I scared him off). But who knows, maybe I'll take him up on his offer and stop into his restaurant some time. I was really just taken by the small worldedness of it all and the risk of it almost never happening because of my own head. Lesson learned.

Of course, I did then wonder if he had still been avoiding me, not because of my clothes, but because he actually recognized me from the high school days. I'm trying, folks. Baby steps.


Why is it that when you're riding in a car, the people in the front seats are overly considerate of the comfort of those seated behind them (Do you have enough room? You sure? Because I don't mind, I will put my knees right into the dashboard), but on an airplane they don't give two shits if they put their chair back in your lap? Without fail, I always get the people who recline their seat to the fullest for the entire flight, even pushing it so far as to wait for the flight attendants to ask them to raise it back for landing. Not only that but they slam themselves into it trying to get every last millimeter out of it, like it's not an economy class airline seat ramming into someone else's knees, but a 5-star hotel bed that's just not quite soft enough.