Monday, October 24, 2011
--File under: Power of Music...I did not sleep well at all Thursday night. I woke up a dozen times and had really weird dreams. About an hour or two before my alarm went off, I senses how tired I was going to be when I had to get up and I was already in a bad mood about it. Then the alarm actually did go off and my mood was instantly flipped from foul to fantastic. The song? Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You." Say what you will about the quality of this song in the context of his expansive catalog, but I just love it. Clearly, it affects me on a gut level because I was smiling and dancing prostrate. Thank you, K-Earth. To boot, any possible cases of the Mondays was stopped in its tracks this morning by "Stayin' Alive," my alarm clicking on a half a second before the first note.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Normal Person: Traffic sure sucked coming in today, didn't it?
Abnormal Person: It totally sucked. I normally just take the 170 to the 101 to the 405, but even the 170 was completely jammed so I got off and took sidestreets to the 101 which was also a parking lot. So then I took Ventura instead but so did everyone else. Plus, there were like 2 accidents and then when I finally got to the 405...
And on and on. Anyway, forgive me for becoming that person for the length of this post because I have not the energy or will to compose this post properly (I kind of already started down this path, didn't I).
I was back in New York last weekend. Sigh. It was really nice to be back although I was reminded again how whenever I go back there is always a tinge of sadness lingering in there in the background. I went through some tumultuous times in New York. Nothing close to the proverbial shit millions of people around the world wade through every day, just to keep things in perspective. But for a privileged American male like myself, they were absolutely some emotionally mucky times. Since I left a mere days after graduation and have only been back maybe eight times since, I don't think the city and I ever got full closure on those times. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't affect my ability to enjoy the trip, not even close. If anything, the old memories enhance my experience for their added texture and context.
On Thursday we zigged and zagged through the charming West Village, my favorite neighborhood. It's an area I didn't see much of when I was in school despite it's close proximity. I think that's because there's no attraction to really draw you there, with the exception of shopping which I never had money for and Magnolia Bakery, which hadn't blown up yet then, if it even existed. To me, the West Village is for strolling, just walking and absorbing for the sake of doing so. I don't think I did such things in college. There was this one block where Commerce Street dead-ended into a curve at the end with beautiful old brownstones lining either side, a full canopy of trees overhead. Near the end of the block, was the small, but character-rich Cherry Lane Theatre. It was one of those scenes where you can't help but just stop and stare. And then right there on this whisper of a street, singer-songwriter Ben Taylor walks right in front of us and into one of the buildings. I'm not sure most people would have noticed, but I'm a loyal fan so it was that weird, random kind of cool.
Thursday night was the Indigo Girls concert at the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side. I love coincidences that feel like more and this show had the makings of such a night early on. I'd always wanted to see the Indigo Girls (go ahead, make your pithy jokes, punks!), but had never seen them come into town until a recent show at The Troubadour...which I could not go to because I had a class that night. I was really bummed about that. I was trolling the concert listings a few days before we left for NY, just looking for something remotely familiar that we could make an evening out of, when I saw the listing. The show was sold out by the time we walked in, but somehow I was able to get great seats in the 6th row. Also, come to find out, our friend Marjorie lives literally around the corner from the Beacon. We met for dinner and pre-show drinks, had a grand ol' time. I haven't even gotten to the actual concert yet. I may have already used up all my powers of description for concerts because I now find myself searching in vain for the words. It was really, really good. It occurred to me as I sang along to songs like "Get Out the Map," "Power of Two," and "Closer to Fine," that I was just discovering a lot of their music when I was there in college. I remembered the comfort and inspiration I drew from it then as I was navigating all that confusion, uncertainty, and self-doubt. It felt right that I would finally see them live for the first time in New York. New York, home of the finest concertgoers I have ever shared a standing "O" with. Nicole has been bemoaning the LA concertgoer as passionless and drab for years, and I always defended them. Not anymore. At the best shows I have ever seen in LA, there is always a slight sense of self-consciousness, a withholding. If the band says sing along, people might do so, but only at a level where they will be safe from anyone hearing their voice individually. I am guilty of this myself. I am prepared to own it, we Los Angelenos are, generally, a tame, laid back species. Even when we are truly excited to be at a show and having the time of our lives there, we keep it inside. We let it all out when we get back to the anonymity of our cars. On this Thursday night, the people of the Beacon showed me how it's supposed to be done. When we were called on to sing along, we did not slowly build momentum as we fought back nerves; we belted proud on the first cue. We were not cordially encouraged to sing one chorus, we were assigned entire verses of intelligent lyrics and we answered with gusto, loud and united, an acoustic choir raining down from the highest seat in the balcony. At the end of the show as they were taking their final bow, one of the Girls, I forget which one, said, "Thank you! We fuckin' love New York City!" I could see why. As the lights came up and we began filing out, half the theatre was dancing to the recorded exit music for crying out loud.
As we stepped out into the humidity of the intermittent rain, I was reminded of my favorite quality of New York. I will keep it brief because it's a total cliche, but it's the inherent, inescapable energy of the city. There is electricity in the air. Walking the streets, going to dinner, running out for paprika--everything you do feels like an event. It's invigorating and inspiring. I feel more alive there. I feel like my mind is more active, my neurons firing like the crack of sparks from that pole at the back of a bumper car that conducts its power. I'm sure this can't be right, but I don't recall ever finding myself with nothing on my mind there. I recall nary a dinner where any of us looked at each other blankly. It's like being on drugs, usually for better, sometimes for worse (My mental server crashed one night way back when, I melted down).
And on Friday, we shopped. I don't have anything to say about that part really. It was just shopping. Although I did get a peanut butter and jelly donut from Dean & Deluca which turned out to be a failure in my expert opinion. It was really a jelly donut with peanut butter coating the outside. It didn't taste bad but it didn't live up to expectations. If I am going to have such an indulgence, I want it to be worth it. What they should have done is inject the peanut butter into the middle, co-mingling with the jelly and then coated the outside of the donut in sugar. I am confident that donut would have delivered. Ah well.
Our efforts at Broadway were meek and non-committal other than to confirm we would certainly see something. We ended up at TKTS taking whatever they had that we had not already seen in movie form (Sister Act, The Musical? Seriously?), i.e. "Godspell." We had no friggin' clue what "Godspell" was until hours later. We were less than enthused going in, but it actually turned out to be a very entertaining show. The storytelling was a little dense but the staging, modernization, and performances were all outstanding. So there. After the show, we went back to Brooklyn, the hipster part of which I still had never visited. I found it very welcoming on this night. We were pretty sure the bartender had a crush on me because he kept bringing us free drinks. I'm a team player (and a ham) so, what the hell, I played ball.
Saturday we met my other former roommate, whom I hadn't seen in years. We ended up eating at a restaurant right on the corner of our old dorm, a place I had always seen but never felt cool enough to visit (perhaps I had self-esteem issues). He had been studying medicine in Israel and just recently gotten married so it was one of those weird, "wow, I guess we grew up" kind of visits. It's amazing to feel mostly the same and then suddenly realize how far you've actually come, isn't it? Then again, he did also draw me detailed instructions on how to pick a padlock, something he had devoted a lot of time to recently.
Central Park on a Saturday afternoon, one of my favorite places in the world. It's the one single thing I just have to see every time I am in the city. It's where I used to escape to when I felt like I needed to figure things out. I don't think I ever did, but I at least felt a little better whenever I was there. The leaves hadn't really begun to change but plenty were still falling and had fallen, giving me the taste of Fall I had been fantasizing about since booking the trip. I haven't looked at the photos yet, but I swear I got one looking through hanging branches onto a leaf strewn field with some guys playing football (get your mind out of the gutter), the quarterback's arm raised, just about to throw. That's the other thing about New York, production value. Everywhere you look, it just feels like you are living in a movie and it usually feels like a pretty good one. Does this metaphor work...In LA, I feel like the actor, but in New York, I feel like the character? I know, I'm laying it on thick and cheesy now. I'll get some tea and take a break.
Saturday night, Chirag...Wait, I can't believe I haven't mentioned Chirag until now. We stayed with my old roommate, friend, and groomsman at my wedding, Chirag and his wonderful fiance Kristen. They are fantastic hosts and great friends. Now then...So Chirag and Kristen took us to this Italian place in Brooklyn that had to have been there for a hundred years. One of those places with waiters in tuxedos and a wise guy behind the bar. I was compelled to order a martini immediately. That kind of place. It was awesome, and the food was some of the best, freshest Italian I've ever tasted. After dinner, Chirag and I climbed (there was a ladder) to the roof of his building for a manly cigar and talk, with the Manhattan skyline as our view. You can't beat a good man-to-man talk on a rooftop, I tell ya. We used to have long, philosophical conversations back in room 6-E as I recall. Granted, one of us was probably high most of the time which probably contributed to the length and philosophical nature of them. What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall now for one of those sessions.
Sunday was our last day in town and we spent the early part of it in classic fashion, shopping for knockoff purses on Canal Street. This was a first for me, and quite the experience. It's illegal, of course, so there is a whole dance of a process you have to go through to avoid The Law. First, you tell them what you're looking for and then they show you a photo grid of everything they have that fits that description. You pick which one you like and then they lead you on a 3-block pilgrimage to some other corner where their people are or where they have deemed to be safe. You negotiate a price, they send a runner to go get the bag. In the meantime, three or four other sellers will gauge your interest in a Rolex watch or a wallet. I looked at a Rolex myself, but it just wasn't my style. Then they bring your item in a black bag so inconspicuous it's conspicuous. Money exchanges hands and you parts ways. It was really fun, almost like a scavenger hunt or a murder mystery dinner but with real players. At one point a cop car pulled up, an officer getting out on foot and suddenly thirty people scattered like rats. As it turns out, he was getting some gum at the newsstand and we avoided a ride in a police car.
We finished off the trip with a massive pastrami sandwich at Katz's Delicatessen, home of the famous Meg Ryan faux-gasm scene from my favorite movie of all-time, "When Harry Met Sally." I'm a dork and I actually do get excited to see locations from movies that mean something to me. The pastrami there is the best I've ever had too, so it works out. As I think about it now though, the sandwiches they are eating in the movie look nothing like what you actually get there. They are eating these tiny little sandwiches that you might get at some bistro somewhere, not the ginormous mounds of meat they give you now. Anyway.
Just like that, it was time to say goodbye to the city once again. Halfway through Day One, I mostly-jokingly told Nicole to think about moving there. I checked in on Day Two and was not surprised to hear she had ruled it out, but stipulated that we should visit more often. I'll take that.
See you again in May, old friend.
P.S. We flew Virgin America, my first experience with them. At first, I was skeptical. The purple lighting and spacey entertainment stations reminded me a lot of Space Mountain which is hardly the type of ride I am looking for on a commercial flight. On the ride home though, the ability to order drinks on demand won me over.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
The posts have been few (very few) and far between. At first, I was just insanely busy with class and work and squeezing normal life in between. Now I've got plenty of time, but do to a shitstorm at work, I dare not blog for how it will look in my daily productivity report. Consider this very post a quiet act of rebellion on a beautiful rainy day wherein I am feeling sentimental and carefree.
Where do we go from here? I feel my blogging muscles have atrophied. Do I have anything to say for myself?
--Isn't it sad when you someone you've known for years suddenly seems flimsily two-dimensional and utterly fucking annoying to you? I'm not even talking about someone I would call a friend. I can only imagine what it must be like for people to feel this way about a girlfriend or boyfriend, anyone they love. I wonder if anybody's ever felt this way about me.
--If there were ever a day to call in sick, it might have been today. A truly gloomy, rainy day in the heart of Fall? Good lord, it took everything I had not to throw the sweats on today, curl up on the couch, and try for my best sick voice. Alas, the timing for such a ploy could not be worse and inevitably, I end up wondering all day whether or not I pulled it off. I think if I got fired right now I actually would not be the slightest bit stressed about it until the morning, so happy would I be to get to go home and enjoy this afternoon. I would make beef stew and beer bread.
--Why is no one up for Oktoberfest this year? I know last year didn't go exactly according to plan with the party bus crashing and someone puking on my lederhosen, but I thought the during part was good anyway.
--Bill Brasky, if you're reading this, I miss your musk. It's been too long. Give me a call.
--Call me crazy but I love Disneyland in the rain. The lightweights stay home and it's just the pros and the tourists with the run of the park. It reminds me of the old days when all you had to do was go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Last time I went on a rainy day, we did every relevant ride at least twice, including CA Adventure, and still had plenty of time to squeeze in those special times at Disneyland where you just sit and take it all in or even try something you've never bothered with before. Wow, we even did Tarzan's Treehouse that day. What I wouldn't give for a coffee, a churro, and a haunted mansion right about now.
Well, alright, time to look busy.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Here's the thing, I saw a red leaf on the ground this week. The leaves, (one by one) they are a changin'. Not only that, but football is back. My pops goes to Starbucks every morning; I got him on Pumpkin Spice Latte Watch (still not back). Today I got an email from BB&B advertising their fall-scented Yankee Candles.
I just can't take it anymore. I'm ready already. Of course, Mother Nature has responded with the hottest weekend of the summer, but I care not. I am hardly announcing or celebrating the arrival of fall (not even my imaginary one), but merely getting my autumnal ducks in a row. I'm getting the fall boxes out of the attic and making sure all is accounted for, so to speak. But know know this, my friends...Come September 5th, I go balls to the wall for Fall. Mark it, Dude.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
--Walkability, compactness. On Saturday, we were on our feet all day at Brew Fest, walked all the way to the Timbers game on the other side, then ended up at an Irish pub back across town. We parked the car when we got into town, picked it up when we left, and didn't touch it in between. And we didn't even use the convenient streetcar or Max Lightrail system. I also love viable mass transit that's not a bus. Nothing beats the New York subways, but the spirit of the subway is alive in all train/metro systems.
--Along those same lines, I love Portland for it's small town intimacy intertwined with big city invigoration. Take the Timbers soccer game for example. The open, street-level concourse, the friendly, small scale of the forest green enclosed concourses and the field itself all lent themselves to a feeling of being at a minor league baseball game or a big high school football game. Yet the size and passion of the crowd would rival that of any NFL team in the land. Another example...On Friday, we went to an upscale brewpub where we had four fantastic local micro brews and an "artisan**" pizza (city), but the total bill was a mere twenty bucks (small town). One last example...Portland is home to Powell's City of Books, the largest independent bookstore in the country and one of my absolute musts for every visit. It's three or four stories and takes up an entire city block (big city). Just outside one of the entrances, in a column sculpted to appear as a stack of books, however, are interred the remains of two of Powell's most loyal and passionate customers (small town--albeit a slightly creepy one).
--The beer. They take great pride in their beer in P-town. Home to one of my favorite breweries, Widmer Brothers, Oregon is also the national leader by far when it comes to percentage of local craft brew consumption. Approximately 11 percent of the beer consumed in Oregon is made in Oregon, a significant number when compared to the national average of 3.4 percent (source: New York Times). As a beer lover, I know what I like, but half the fun is being surprised by the beer you'd never heard of. Portland is Beer Mecca. And their wines are pretty damn good too!
--The coffee. The best coffee I've had in America comes from Portland's Stumptown Coffee Roasters. I brought the bigger suitcase just so I could load up.
--I love that I have my Portland staples that I never get tired of, but also the feeling like there is still so much more to explore. Forest Park! The Grotto! The brewpub movies! Fine dining! The Kennedy School! Ringside Steakhouse! When are we going back?
--The weather, as I imagine it anyway. To be fair, I have only been during the summer, when it was sunny and hot and the days were long. However, who loves grey, rainy days more than me? I think I would relish the precipitation. I could stand for average October temps to be a tad lower than their 63, but by November and December, we're talking 52 and 45. Now that's just perfect sweater weather, my friends. With only 3.8 snowy days per year, it's the perfect novelty without any of the hassle. I admit my experience is completely superficial, but for now at least, mark me down as liking if not loving the weather.
--Last but not least, I love Portland because it's got my two buddies Zach and Bill Brasky!
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
--Carmageddon!! IT IS REAL! I visualize it in one way as one of those black-border motivational posters, a satellite image of gridlocked streets with the caption reading "Clusterfuck, USA." Yesterday's mess was clearly a precursor to Carmageddon. I can only imagine what awaits for tonight's commute to North Hollywood. Since it hasn't officially begun, I can at least appreciate the unity it has brought to an ordinarily detached populace. There is something fun, a slight comraderie that comes with an entire city all talking about the same thing. I remember in hindsight that being one of the things I loved about New York, so much more often are there city issues that everyone is talking about. Anyway, I plan to board the doors and sit in the dark with my music, my whiskey, and a shotgun, watching disaster movies all weekend. Seriously though, I cannot fully express how much I am looking forward to a day or more of being at home and doing absolutely nothing. Or having nothing planned anyway. I have class in NoHo again Sunday night so, in theory, I will be braving the mean streets at some point.
--You know what I don't get? Cheesesteak. The name "cheesesteak" would imply that it's some sort of specialty meat that has been injected with cheese or is otherwise cheese-tasting. In fact, it is simply steak with cheese on top. It's a chopped steak sandwich with cheese on it. It sounds ludicrous, but it is actually possible to have a cheesesteak sandwich sans cheese. That ain't right. "Cheesesteak" is no more cheese-steak than any average cold cut sandwich is a "cheeseham" or a "cheeseturkey" sandwich.
--My state of being yesterday could best be described as emotionally volatile. Stepping out of my car at work, I was feeling on top of the world. And yet a switch was flipped in a matter of minutes as I got to my desk. My coworkers were back after being on location for two weeks. I greeted one of them with a boisterous "good morning!" Nothing. Silence. I repeated my greeting. Long pause, then a quarter-hearted "good morning." "So! What's happening?" Again, dead silence. "Really, that much going on already?" "I'm doing something!!!" I made an angry-cat noise and went to fill my water cup. I won't bore you with the rest. The point is this rudeness and negativity really pissed me off and ruined me for half the work day. I answered the negativity with my own. Finally, I realized how ridiculous it was to do so. I wrote myself a little letter, a pep talk if you will. Then I went outside, took a deep breath, felt the sun on my face, called my wife and all was fine again. I shot a short video (posted below) on my wine excursion last weekend that was intended for these exact moments. Maybe next time I will remember to use it and save myself the huffing and puffing.
--Speaking of my lovely wife, she's out of town. A man always learns things when his wife is out of town, aside from how much he needs his wife. You learn where things are kept. You learn the joyous freedom of being able to fart at will without persecution or condemnation. You learn that it can be an interesting challenge to see how long you can survive off the food on hand, without breaking down and going to the grocery store. You learn that her alarm clock has a projector (?!) built into it that creates a scary, giant, red, LED clock on the ceiling. Yeah, try seeing that for the first time out of the corner of your eye as you are knodding off. It set me back a few minutes. Anyway, that's all.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
You know what I love? I love being wrong. I love the constant evolution of taste and opinion. For instance, I didn't discover olives until I was maybe 28 years old. And now? Love em. Devour them. Praise olives, I say! I also got a shirt for Christmas that I was not altogether taken with at first. I didn't think it was a color I would feel comfortable wearing. And now that summer has arrived, my fashion sense has thusly warmed and I am having to discipline myself to wear this shirt just often enough that it is not considered a uniform. I can be a man of strong opinions and convictions, most often on topics that are massively insignificant and/or annoying to others. I get great delight from looking back at a past proclamation, a real fist-shaking moment, and realizing I was just wrong. Some other things I was wrong about:
--Owen Wilson. Not willing to celebrate his entire catalog, but I now realize he's a good actor and can be quite endearing in the right role. I don't know who might have been better in "Midnight in Paris."
--Hefeweizen beer. Still not my favorite. Still not something I will opt for often. Yet I am willing to admit that, on a hot summer's day when beer may be imbided, it has its place. I favor Widmer over Pyramid or even Paulaner.
--Bon Ivar's "For Emma, Forever Ago." I'm pretty sure I railed against this album. I remember I was put off by the fact that no one could talk about it without mentioning the cute little story about how he holed up in a winter cabin and did the album himself. I think that maybe soured me a little and then the often unintelligible lyrics and falsetto just put it over the edge. All that stuff is still true, but I've come to really enjoy the album. There are some great melodies, which is the most important thing to me in music anyway.
You want to know what the most maddening sound in the world is? Silence. Not across the board, of course. Believe me, I value silence as much as anybody and believe we need a lot of more it these days. No, the silence I speak of is very specific. My desk at work sits in a sort of bullpen area shared by my two female coworkers and an empty desk. Back in the old days, we had a grand old time. All day long, we laughed, we argued--we talked. I don't know what happened but these days I may as well be sitting here alone. That would be okay, actually. If there were no one sitting five feet away from me, I would not expect conversation or acknowledgement of existence. However, when there are two people within 49 sq ft of me but neither of them utter 6 words all day, it drives me insane. They both put their little earbuds in and are lost in their own worlds, worlds that are only connected to each other via Instant Messenger. What are they giggling about? I have no friggin' idea. Do I really want to know? Not particularly, but I do think it's rude to carry on as such. You would at least expect that if I initiate a conversation, I would get something back, right? Even if it's a brush off, you would expect that they would at bare minimum say SOMETHING. Wrong. "What are you guys doing for lunch?" Silence. "How was your lunch?" Silence. "After sitting on hold for the last 15 minutes, they just disconnected me. Can you believe that?" UTTER, FRICKIN' SILENCE! I know it's not personal. I know they are not purposely ignoring me due to a grudge of some sort. I honestly don't think they think of me enough at all to muster such feelings. It's like the old saying about how the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Well, I believe that to be true and their silence is a screaming torrent of indifference. I am starting to learn to cope, but it's a struggle.
And now for the Acting Report.....It's going well. Still having a ball, still taking classes, still working on it. I'd like to think I've made some real progress, but I couldn't say for sure. What am I saying, of course I have. But it is very frustrating because it's a series of small successes followed by failures. And I'm just talking in terms of feeling like you did what you wanted to do in the scence, etc. I thought I had some nice momentum going into this week's class, but then I totally blew it. I was nervous because we had "industry guests" so I was all fired up and over-prepared and just choked, basically. As frustrating as it is though, it is not truly disheartening because every failure really is a learning experience and I always feel the desire to keep working until I get it right. Unfortunately, I don't always get the opportunity to go again because, alas, there are other people in the class too. Anywho, I just started in the "advanced" class which is arbitrary but something, I guess. I've got another class beginning Sunday so then I will have this going four nights a week again at two different places so I should really be rockin' it, so to speak. I also just got my first headshots last weekend. It's a small thing, but it was a big deal for me because that has, for some reason, always been a mental block for me. Maybe I never allowed myself to do it because that would be a way of saying I am really doing this, I am really hanging my balls out there. I think I was afraid to do that. Well, here I am now, balls out.
My mood these last couple days has been indomitably sunny. Coworkers stone wallin' me? Let 'em keep their earbuds in; that just means I can play my music louder! I did two solid hours of Billy Joel yesterday and I was lovin' life, my friends. The skies are blue, the birds are chirping, the flowers are receiving their due smelling. Add in the music and wine and I am just happy, I tell ya.
I am planning to ride this Spartan spirit straight on through a beautiful 4th of July weekend. My playlists shall abound at parties and home time both! I can almost hear the Bruce(!), smell the BBQ, taste the beer, and feel the sun and pool as we speak. Not to mention Fireworks. I make my return to Vets Stadium this year, hosted by the good ol' Long Beach Fire Department. Their DJ can't be counted upon anymore though so I'll bring my own Lee Greenwood.
Bless you, my friends! Cheers! U-S-A!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
--Our parking lot at work is wide open. There a couple of reserved spots, but those are not relevant to this little nugget. Still, despite there being virtually no reserved or assigned spots, people tend to park in the same place everyday. That's to be expected, I think. However, one of my coworkers sometimes carpools with another woman whom apparently lives near her. I noticed this morning though that when she drives with her carpool buddy, she parks where the buddy normally parks. When she drives solo, she reverts to her normal spot. Neither spot offers any obvious advantage of shade or proximity to the door. I brought it up to her and she had no explanation or reasoning for this behavior. How does this extend or translate into other areas of her life, I wonder?
--While visiting the kitchen-ish area to wash my morning mug, I noticed the receptionist washing an orange. It occurred to me that I had never heard of a person washing an orange before. Obviously, the orange has a thick protective peel so I've considered there to be a need for washing. Am I alone on this? Has everyone else been washing their oranges outside the net of my awareness?
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Monday, May 02, 2011
Anyway, it was fun to really focus on those days, recalling specific memories I hadn't thought about in several years. I know I still had it on the brain when I was having lunch with Cruiser Friday, telling him he needed to have a BBQ/pool party. The saying says you can't go home again, and that may be true in many ways, but time is also relative and if you're truly open to it, it's really not that difficult to go back in time. Sometimes it happens without any effort at all, the smells of a certain perfume and a certain leather aligning in just the right way that I can instantly be transported back to the pale green seats of my late grandmother's Oldsmobile.
Where was I going with this...
The weekend, that's right. What a beautiful weekend. I felt like I was on vacation. I love to get out of town as much as the next person, of course, but as I've previously discussed when referencing the book "The Art of Travel," it's wonderful sometimes to realize that travel is a state of mind and that if you put your heart into it, you can have an incredible vacation without really going anywhere. The Staycation, as it's more cleverly dubbed. As I breezed into work this morning, sockless and relaxed, I realized I'd just had such a weekend. There were even moments when I could have sworn I was thirteen and carefree again, to make the hippy passage above not without at least a passing segue.
The music began Friday night. It was night number two of the LA Bluegrass Situation at Largo, a weekend festival of sorts with four nights of music benefiting music programs in local schools, and The Punch Brothers were playing. They killed as they tend to do. My favorite was a seemingly very personal new song titled "Don't Get Married Without Me." New songs mean new albums. This is a good thing.
Saturday morning we slept in. I cannot overstate the joy of this simple accomplishment. It was a nice lazy morning of reading the paper and having coffee. Only when we were absolutely rested and ready did we hop in the car and head down to Manhattan Beach where Nicole shopped briefly and I people-watched. It was an astoundingly gorgeous day of blue skies and 80 degrees. Had we stayed longer than twenty minutes, I might have treated myself to an ice cream cone from the old-fashioned creamery, but we were off to the beach.
Driving home along the beach every night, I had been telling myself I needed to make it a destination instead of a route of passage, for sanity's sake if nothing else. Finally, I was doing it, the sand in the toes, the warmth of the sun, the crisp hush of the waves, the whole bit. I had my ipod, my book, my chair, and my bride. I was lovin' life, my friends.
Alright, I don't want to belabor this or bore you any further with the blow by blow. There was a BBQ with friends and family, there were two more nights of bluegrass and comedy, there was a big fancy anniversary dinner, there was Stan Getz on the stereo all weekend long. The point is that it was relaxing and invigorating at once, as any good vacation should be.
I guess I do have to explain the time travel though, don't I? Okay, so I had about an hour and a half to kill before we left for dinner yesterday. I knew my neighbor was out in his garage messing with his bikes so I seized the opportunity to get my tires inflated and I--get this--rode my bike(!). What a novel concept, I know. Still, it was great. On my beach cruiser, touring the neighborhood in style. The intoxicating scent of a charcoal grill, the guy out washing his VW Beattle in the driveway, the big yellow lab laying across the threshold in the open doorway, the white roses in full, wild bloom, the warm, golden 5 o'clock sunlight peeking and shimmering through the cracks in the canopy of leaves overhead, the quiet peace of a summer afternoon. Such a simple, easy thing to ride my bike around my neighborhood and yet I had never thought to do it. I could swear I was thirteen again, weightless, free, and just generally in love. I realize it's hardly a stretch to say I could have been back in Long Beach since the two 'hoods look similar and it's only 30 miles away regardless, but I could have been back in Long Beach circa 1992. If I could have just closed my eyes, I think I would have been there, but my bike riding balance did not permit it. Close enough.
Anyway, that's it. I realize this post is all over the map, but, hey, this is a blog, not a magazine. Forgive me.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I have been biting my tongue on this one because even I realize that this particular inanity is without even a hint of charm, but it's too much, I can't take it anymore. I lack the discipline to continue to turn the other cheek.
Sorry, I know that sounds petty, but I just needed to vent.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Because, frankly, I am overwhelmed. Also, I woke up this morning to "I Saw Her Standing There" so this day was decided from the start.
I'm a big concert guy. Last summer, I barely went to any shows at all. There was nothing that I felt like I absolutely had to see, nothing that justified the cost, and it just kind of felt like a down year anyway. Apparently, that was merely an offsetting precursor to this summer. We are officially looking at the Summer of Music(Love), folks. Here are the shows that have so far moved me to put my cats and car in hock:
Paul Simon @ The Music Box
Punch Brothers @ Largo
Mindy Smith @ Bootleg Theater (not yet purchased, yet a foregone conclusion)
Steep Canyon Rangers w/Steve Martin @ Largo
Brandi Carlile @ House of Blues, Anaheim
Stephen Kellogg @ Bootleg Theater
Star Wars in Concert @ Hollywood Bowl
Alison Krauss & Union Station @ The Greek Theatre
Eddie Vedder @ Long Beach Terrace Theatre
The Avett Brothers @ Pechanga Resort & Casino
And that's not even counting Prince's 21-night run that is an irresistible $25/person including fees! Couple that concert mania with the fact that I have been flooded with new(to me, at least) music in the last week. My buddy T-Bone dropped about 8 new albums on me just before about 7 other new albums from some of my favorite artists came out on the following Tuesday. Thank the lawd for the Amazon MP3 store and their great sales. One in particular that I need to talk to you about is the new album from Brett Dennen, "Loverboy." I think the best introduction to the album is provided by the man himself on the inside cover of the CD jacket:
This is an ode to the wonderful feeling of love. Whether it be romantic, friendly, or just plain caring for people. This album is about having fun and letting go, even if it hurts. Enjoy it in the car, on the dance floor, in headphones, or even on your scrawny little computer speakers. If you love it, share with a friend. If you don't love it, listen to something else that makes you happy. Don't take it too seriously. Thank you for all your love and support.
Mark me down in the "love it, share it with a friend" camp. I lurve this album. Friends, I defy you to listen to the song posted above at a volume level exceeding social acceptance and NOT find yourself dancing. I was blasting this song on my way into work this morning and I was literally moved to tears of joy. This is infectious, joyous, life-celebrating music and, although it only entered my life yesterday, I am already eating it alive. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and declare "Loverboy," officially, The Album of the Summer*. There it is! Boom! I just did that!
*Honorable mention to Guster's "Easy Wonderful." Have no doubt, you will be right up in there, but you released just a little too early to take the title**.
**Story of my life.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
--I really don't understand why my neighbors have such a hard time avoiding the snails on the sidewalk. Part of me thinks they are not trying to avoid them at all. Part of me thinks they are sadistic, serial killers of innocent, slow-moving gastropads. It's beginning to bother me, actually. As I am hunched over catching my breath after running, I've started taking a closer look at these little guys and I've taken a bit of a liking to them. They're cute. Sure, they eat the plants, but I don't exactly see the garden in dire straits. Just yesterday, I saw a little baby snail. He/she was pointed right at the crushed carcus of an adult snail. I know how ridiculous this sounds as I know snails are not emotional creatures, but, still, I felt for the poor little thing. SAVE THE SNAILS! Hey, that sounds like a great t-shirt.
----If you know me at all, you would probably guess that my alarm clock is set to wake me up with the radio. If I knew me and I were guessing, I would go so far as to venture that I probably had one of those Ipod alarm clocks, complete with its own wake-up playlist*. Well, we would all be wrong. For years, I've gone the way of the buzzer, thinking it was more likely to actually wake me up rather than provide a musical score to my dream state. Last week, I began to question this paradigm. I decided to try the radio. Friends, I will never go back. Isn't it incredible how often the timing of the alarm kicking on and the radio playing the perfect song are miraculously in sync? Friday morning, I woke up to the opening notes of "Grease," I shit you not. My other fear during my buzzer era was that my waking state could be quite volatile emotionally and the wrong song could ruin my day before it even started. Admittedly, I can't yet rule this out entirely, but I will say that the commercials I have encountered a couple of times have caused nothing worse than a snooze hit. And, of course, how could I have underestimated the sheer joy of waking up to the right song? Yes friends, I'm a radio waker now. Who says people don't change?
----The weather is conspiring against me it would seem. All week, as I am required to slave away indoors, the skies are gorgeous powder or royal blue, the sun is shining warmly and brightly, the slight breeze only serving to transport the smell of flowers in bloom. It's agonizing to the soul to see it out there through a 10-square-foot portal of tinted glass while I sit in this dank, swampy tin can of an office. Then the weekend comes and you can imagine me with my flip flops, short shorts, and beach towel, ready to catch some rays only to open the door and have it blown back in my face by a gust of wind from an overcast sky. NO FAIR, I say! In the words of Mel Gibson's character in "Random," GIMME BACK MY SUN!!** And we're right on pace for the same thing to repeat this weekend! ARGH! I'm going to my first baseball game of the season on Sunday and I'll be damned if I am taking a sweatshirt!
*As I think about this, I realize I need one immediately for the sole purpose of waking each and every morning to "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go." I just can't imagine it gets any better than that.
**That's someone else's joke and I have been trying for years to remember where I saw it. I may never know.
Monday, January 24, 2011
It had been a long time since the glory days of high school drama. My dad and stepmom say they have never seen me as high on life as when I came off the stage from performing in "Hello, Dolly." They're probably right. Being eighteen years old, I took that feeling for granted, or perhaps I just didn't fully understand how rare and precious that feeling becomes later in life. I managed to sneak a few acting classes into my college coursework over the years, but it was really just a keep-in-touch sort of thing, as much as I still enjoyed it. I had decided that I wanted to be behind the camera, so film school was the route I chose. Thinking back now, I'm not sure why I made the choice to put acting off to the side. I think part of it was cynicism about what a theatre degree would "mean" in the real world. Maybe film seemed at least a little more practical without totally selling out my dreams. There was probably an element of intimidation and fear in there as well. Big fish finds himself in a giant pond with thousands of fish skinnier, prettier, and more brash than he, that sort of thing. To some degree, I think I chickened out. I do remember actually thinking to myself that I would pursue writing and then wiggle my way into my own projects as an actor.
The joke, of course, was on me. There is no easy way, no fast track to finding true fulfillment. I was naive and, I'll say it, weak in giving up so easily. Five years after graduating college, I found myself working in the film and TV business, but as an accountant, of all things. Turns out, writing is pretty tough to break into as well. As I would sit in my office, lost, idly wondering what I could have done differently, what I could do now to recapture that feeling of purpose, of pride and passion. I would think about acting. I thought maybe I could find a community theatre production and go for that. I didn't want to go pro, I just wanted to taste the feeling of acting again. Despite my googling for theatre groups, classes, etc., I never found the right fit. This went on for years.
Thank God for Groupon*. There it was staring at me right in the inbox. A three-hour acting class, offered as a preview of the full class, for thirty bucks. I checked my calendar, but there were no excuses to be found. I let it marinate for a few hours, which is to say I gave myself time to talk myself out of it. Luckily, that little voice inside that always tries to keep things safe and easy could muster no argument more compelling than the simple truth that I was more likely to regret not doing this than to regret giving it a try. I booked it.
The class was taught by the founder of the school, and I was instantly impressed by him. Everything he said was hitting me like a spear to the heart. Opening yourself up to your partner (and the world) and letting go of your fear of what may happen when you do...Focusing on your partner, finding all your answers in them...Keenly observing what they are communicating to you with their energy, their body language, their eyes, regardless of their words...Learning to let go of your preconceived notions of how something should sound and just live it without thinking about it...Resisting the urge to make it about you, to put on a show, to "feel" what you interpret the "correct" feeling to be...Acting or no acting, these were ways to live life. I was in. Also, the shit worked. At the start of class, we were paired up and given scenes to read on stage, in front of the class and a video camera. Then we spent the next hour and a half going through exercises designed to aid us in truly connecting with our partner. Thus the hand-holding and almost-tears. At the conclusion of class, we did our scenes again and then they played back the two versions. It was night and day. Don't get me wrong, we weren't miraculously transformed into Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Meryl Streep. The latter scenes were not "good" per se in that you would pay to see them, but without fail, across the board, they were absolutely more real. In three hours, you could see definitive progress in both the experienced actors and the people who had never taken a class in their lives. When I walked out of that class and you might have expected me to kick my heels in the air I was so overjoyed. I felt overwhelmingly like....myself, if that makes sense. More so than I had in a long time, I realized.
I may have paused again, but there was little doubt I was going to sign up for the full 4-week, 5-nights-a-week class. It was the rare risk you actually look forward to taking. I couldn't get it off my brain for the month/month and a half before it started. And now that it has...Let me tell you, I am not a great writer, but I think I have my moments. At the very least, I feel like I can clearly express my feelings. Not this time. As I write these words, I feel like a second grader explaining the theory of relativity. I have found myself, my friends. My heart leaps. My soul sings. My spirit glows with a tireless nuclear pulse that cares nothing for rest and has an insatiable appetite for work. I have been keeping a journal to track what I have learned as well as my feelings about the experience. On my second entry, I see that I wrote "How could I stop doing this?" Five nights a week, I am driving through some of the worst, most debilitating traffic known to man and I haven't groaned or shuddered once. All I can see is what's on the other side of it. I am alive! I was trying to track down my copy of "Outliers" because I wanted to quote it, but I'll rather badly paraphrase that it described a person's dance-in-the-kitchen moment, that moment where something clicks and they suddenly realize what they are going to do with themselves. I feel like I am having that moment after class every single night. It's a shame that it's so late and Nicole is asleep because there are jigs to be danced.
I know what you're thinking. The answer is I don't know. As giddy and exuberant as I feel, I am not naive. While I certainly can fantasize about quitting my day job and doing this full time, I realize my chances of making a living out of this are one-in-a-million. I'm not eighteen anymore. I'm thirty-two with all the responsibilities that entails (sans children). The beauty of it is, I don't care. I don't expect that I will be making this my job, but I know that I have found my work. I will continue to study. I will continue to work, in classes, student films, community theatre, or wherever they will have me. I'll act for my cats on the stage of my living room if all else fails. The joy is in the doing, not in the having. It's an incredibly liberating feeling.
We're just coming to the end of Week 3 with one more to go. It's going to be sad when it's over. It will be nice to get more sleep, see my wife, be able to watch a movie or a game during the week and ween myself off my burgeoning caffeine dependency, but I will certainly miss the invigoration of heart and the freedom from the constraints of self-consciousness I have enjoyed each night. I know I will be itching to get back at it. I'll make the most out of a short break and then start the next class in March. Assuming they'll have me, which I think is likely, but not a certainty.
I feel like Jerry Maguire at the copymat, mission statement in hand.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Sunday, January 09, 2011
I like to read as much as the next person. I've usually got a book by my bed side and another in my desk drawer at work, but I am far from what you might call "avid." As much I usually enjoy the books I read, it's not often that I encounter one that hits me in the gut, that speaks to my soul, that truly touches and enlightens me. I was lucky enough to finish one such book recently, The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
I love to travel, not simply for the destination, but for the process as well. I love the anticipation that hangs in the air at any airport, the empowering anonymity of flying alone, and the freshness and curiosity with which new places inspire to be viewed. The Art of Travel examines how and why we travel with the wit, charm, and insight to make you realize that, with the right mindset, a voyage around your own bedroom can be as fascinating as a trip around the world. Divided into five sections, "Departure," "Motives," "Landscape," "Art," and "Return," de Botton weaves and relates his own travel experiences with the experiences and writings of fellow travelers such as Vincent Van Gogh, William Wordsworth, and Edward Hopper. A big part of why I found this book so moving was de Botton's analysis of the work of Van Gogh and Hopper, two of my favorite artists.
"Hopper also took an interest in trains. He was drawn to the atmosphere inside half-empty carriages making their way across a landscape: the silence that reigns inside while the wheels beat in rhythm against the rails outside, the dreaminess fostered by the noise and the view from the windows--a dreaminess in which we seem to stand outside our normal selves and to have access to thoughts and memories that may not arise in more settled circumstances. The woman in Compartment C, Car 293 (1938) seems in such a frame of mind, reading her book and shifting her gaze between the carriage and the view."
Which gives way to de Botton expanded on the idea...
"Journeys are the midwives of though. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships or trains. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is before our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, and new thoughts, new places. Introspective reflections that might otherwise be liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it's supposed to do; the task can be as paralysing as having to tell a joke or mimic an accent on demand. Thinking improves when parts of the mind are given other tasks--charged with listening to music, for example, or following a line of trees. The music or the view distracts for a time the nervous, censorious, practical part of the mind which is inclined to shut down when it notices something difficult emerging in consciousness, and which runs scared of memories, longings, and introspective or original ideas, preferring instead the administrative and the impersonal."
Can I get an "Amen?" I was two drinks deep at thirty thousand feet and listening to jazz when I read that and my heart practically sprang out of my shirt. Those moments are so special when you truly connect to an artistic work, when you feel that it represents your own thoughts or experiences so absolutely perfectly and articulates real meaning from what may have been abstract feelings or intuitions. Aside from my wallet, my phone, and my ipod, the one thing I always make sure to have on my person when traveling is my little notebook, for the exact reason described my de Botton above. Now are these musings any more valuable to the world than "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy?" Maybe not, but isn't there great personal value in at least charming or provoking yourself?
Some other pearls pulled from the many pages I dog-eared in this book:
"If we find poetry in the service station and the motel, if we are drawn to the airport or the train carriage, it is perhaps because, despite their architectural compromises and discomforts, despite their garish colors and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world."
"I'm obsessed with inventing stories for people I come across. An overwhelming curiosity makes me ask myself what their lives might be like. I want to know what they do, where they're from, their names, what they're thinking about at that moment, what they regret, what they hope for, whom they've loved, what they dream of...and if they happen to be a woman (especially youngish ones), then the urge becomes intense."
"Decades later, the Alps would continue to live within (Wordsworth) and to strengthen his spirit whenever he evoked them. Their survival led him to argue that we may see in nature certain scenes that will stay with us throughout our lives and offer us, every time they enter our consciousness, both a contrast to and relief from present difficulties."
"There were bits of paper all over the car now. The standard of the word-painting was not far above that of my childlike drawing of an oak tree in the Langdale Valley. But quality was not the point. I had at least attempted to follow one strand of what Ruskin judged to be the twin purposes of art: to make send of pain and to fathom the sources of beauty."
I was about to quote one more when I realized it was the closing line of the entire book. There's nothing better than a great last line so, on the off chance you might read The Art of Travel for yourself, I don't want to deny you the satisfaction.
There are not many books that I read again and again over the years. This is certainly going to be one of them.