Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Goodbye and Hello Part 2

Here's a direct link that should work too, if your browser is clear. If not, clear that thing!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Goodbye and Hello


If you're reading this, you are at my old website. Maybe you are used to getting here from your browser or if you type in the first few letters of awalkingcarnival.com, this is what pops up, which means you need to clear your browser or reset it. If you don't know how to do that, go to this link: https://kb.iu.edu/data/ahic.html and it'll show you how to do it. Then try typing awalkingcarnival.com again. Hopefully that will work! Come on, there's a huge party going on and you're missing it!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reading Signs

Sometimes I try to pretend I'm a visitor in a weird place, which is odd because I already sort of am.
But I'm used to my routes and routines, and mostly I jog the treadmill without looking up. I imagine if I was in Kaslakistan or the Piazza de la Paletana that everything would be noticeable, even the toothpaste tubes and milk cartons. Obviously I can't do this for too long without feeling delusional, but it's a fun exercise to force myself to pay attention. Maybe if I think of having a quandary like being in a particular place I've never visited, it won't seem so overwhelming and difficult and defining; it'll just be a small and unusual town to pass through.

Check out this beautiful video my brother Beau made with some friends:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Semper Fi -The Brothers (opening)

 Pete runs through the woods batting away the branches and leaves with his arms.  Everything is a blur: skin, green, brown, gray; and his breath seems a separate part of him. He moves too fast to look over his shoulder so he surges forward to the clearing before letting out a scream. “Out”, he yells, laughing, panting and turning in one motion. He puts his hands on his knees and hangs his head. He almost catches his breath when he feels something hit with the force of a bullet. He screams and grabs his side. .
 “Dick! You can’t do that! I was in the clear”.

“I threw it when you were still in,” Thom’s smile is huge and crazed.

“Fucking retard!”

“I did! You were still in”.

“Idiot,” Pete lifts his shirt, exposing a red welt on his ribs. He feels something whip past his ear. “Come on! Quit it,” he looks up and sees Jimmy step out from behind another tree. Jimmy styles his next throw like a big league pitcher. It is fast and high.

The rock, about three inches in diameter, soars over his head and down the hill over the bar of the overpass. They all watch it moving through the air in slow motion, and then they hear a screeching sound: breaks ripping, metal against metal. The boys run to the bridge and look over the bar, their faces frightened and completely void of guilt. A car below has missed the old oak tree by inches but there is smoke in the air from the burning tires and the front windshield had a huge spider-web crack from one side to the other.

“Whoa,” Pete says. All three of them stand with their heads down and their mouths partly opened. They are all breathing heavily. They duck down, a quick reflex, when the driver-side door and then the passenger’s creak open. Two men hop out, “What the fuck?” “What the hell was it?” They look under and around the car, confused and jittery, adrenaline practically bubbling audibly.

“Look at the fuckin windshield”.

“Shit”. They look up in unison and spot the boys immediately.

“You little mother fuckers,” the smaller of the two launches up the hill towards them.

The boys are gone in a blink, birds at the sound of a rifle, each one in a different direction. They are-well experienced at being chased. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Semper Fi- Bradford Bridge

On the way back from the beach we used to stop at the Bradford Bridge so all the boys could jump off it. We were like clowns in a circus car getting out of the VW.  “Ow”, someone said. “Quit it”. All the boys got out: Miles and Geoffrey, Pete and Eric, while the rest of us stayed in the back seat, sunburned and sandy, our hair tangled stiff from the salt water. We shared coloring books and drew with melted crayons that we had peeled from the pack. My aunt Nancy sat sideways in the front seat smoking a joint and dancing with her shoulders and head.
What's for dinner?
Poop Sandwiches.
Poop Sandwiches with relish and corn on the cob.
When Miles yelled we all turned our heads together to look out the back. Nancy jumped out and walked towards them, her towel still wrapped around her waist. What is it?
Oh! we pointed. Someone gasped.
Pete was in between Geoff and Miles, an arm over each shoulder, hopping on one foot. Blood was pouring out in streams above his ankle. 
He hit a rock on the way in, Miles said. He seemed more upset than Pete who wanted to sit and examine it. 
We all got out of the car and circled around him. I remember Erin, the littlest of us, rubbed his back.
Do you need stitches?
Nancy pulled her towel off and set it under his foot. No I think it's ok.
Is it broken?
I don't want a cast.
Casts are cool.
But then he can't swim.
Can you move it?
Pete flexed his foot this way and that.
I think it's good.
Nancy wrapped her towel around it. Now it looks like you have a head growing out of your foot, she said.
Can I go in one more time? This from Geoff.
Ok, but hurry.
We all shuffled back to the car and piled in. Three of us squeezed in the front seat. Pete was wincing a little. It's ok, he said. Nance beeped the horn for Geoff to hurry. We all turned to watch him standing on the bridge. Lifting one knee high, he jumped, and with a slow graceful turn, he raised his hand to salute us on the way down.

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Love

Dear Batman,

Je t'aime.
I feel I have to say it that way. It feels more serious, though it sounds less certain, like maybe I don't know what I am saying. But the truth is it pains me that I love you so much, how thoughtful you are, how quiet, how kind, how much sadness you carry, even when you are battling bad guys. You don't like to be vulnerable, but you are, and you make me feel the same.

P.S. Read more about this photographer here. I must have had an intuition that he was French because I wrote this letter before finding out who took the photos.

PPS Here is a link to my new site. It should be up and running SOON, we just have a few more details, but I wanted you to see it because my friend Jules is a computer genius and designer and it looks amazing. More soon

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Union Street

I don't know where to start: with the 100 people-long line at the DMV, the little boy on the fence in the middle of an abandoned block, or the dead body in the street. I'll start with the line, the one that wrapped around the side of the building and down past the parking lot. How do people stand in lines? How do we do this? Especially when there's nothing great at the end of it. When we were kids we were incapable of waiting. We poked and pinched each other, made faces, stomped our feet, giggled, sang, threw our heads back and moaned openly. Now we wait all the time but the restlessness is interior, or else we've given up. It's a little of both for me. I am paying for a ticket for my boss, so technically I'm getting paid to stand in line, but that doesn't mean I can tolerate it. In my mind I do all of those things I did as a child, and then the adult versions of those things, which is to think debilitating and crippling thoughts, then filthy, then just plain wrong, mouthhandsfacestomachlegsgrocerylistpeebellybuttonmedicaltestdaughterscrying

Now serving 347. Number 347.

When I got to the front of the line I was told I needed to go to another DMV. She handed me a post-it size of paper with the address so she wouldn't have to explain it to me. Next!

I'm not going to go through the whole day. You get the idea. I know I've told a version of this story before. But by the time I was sent to a 4th building, I was barely human, I could still move, still see and hear but I was in shark mode, or rather sea bass, just a blank staring mindless creature in motion. I was driving in the ghetto, under the overpass, a place pretty much abandoned except for a few little crack houses and (evidently) the California Highway Patrol office. Everything was grey, even the few homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk. But then I turned (Siri, in her gentle, maddening voice said: Turn right on Union Street) and all of a sudden it was like I was in Oz. Every house was a different color: purple, orange, light blue, yellow, pink. The street was like an abandoned  movie set. Bouganvilleas hung over fences, little stores had hand-painted signs. I sat up, I looked, I noticed. There wasn't a single person around, but up ahead I saw a tiny little face peeking over the fence. He was staring right at me! He was about 5 or 6 and had black curly hair. I stared right back and then raised my eyebrows twice. He did the same. I made a face. He did the same. We both smiled at each other, lifted shoulders, crinkled eyes, and then his head disappeared in a flash and I saw a man in a white undershirt yelling at him in a tumbletwirl of Spanish. There was a pause and the boy slowly lifted his head up again and looked right at me and waved, still smiling big. Good Bye! Adios! I love you muchacho. I wanted to grab my phone so I could take a photo, but by the time I found it, he had disappeared again. Instead I took a photo of the little bakery across the street. I had to!

This all happened in less than a minute; but my day was changed. I felt energized, I felt hungry, I felt light. I still had to go through some more rigamarole with the Highway Patrol but whatev! no big! I was almost done. I had an exchange, a connection, I felt like a person again. Once I got there, I waited in the parking lot for my boss who had to come meet me. I opened the car door so I could feel the air and sun all at once. I answered some emails. I wrote some notes to myself. I thought about the person I wanted to think about. Josh arrived about 10 minutes later.

I just drove by a dead body.
Drove right next to it in the street. Look!

He pointed up in the sky and a helicopter was hovering right above us, the tail of it wagging slowly back and forth.

Over there on Union. A guy, face down in a white undershirt.
What? Union?
The one with the colorful buildings?
Yeah, right in front of the bakery.

I re-wound the video in my hand from ten minutes ago, littlefaceplayingmonkeysillylovefunmanabandonedstreetlookoutWWHHHAA?

"So where's the fuckin cop I gotta talk to?" Josh asked.

I pointed with my thumb to the station house, "I'll be in in a second", I said.

I don't know if I told this story right. I left out a lot of little details. I left out the list of things I want and don't have. Maybe I should have started with the dead body. Or how I wonder about death. When we say things can go from this to that in a second, that's what we are usually talking about. But really, life and the opposite of life are going on at the same time, it's just our focus that shifts. I wonder if I find this photo in a couple of years, which side of the street I will remember first.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shortening Every Word In The Dic And Other Chafes

The habit of shortening words falls into the category of things that you do every day that make your head explode when other people do them. I say fam. I say nabe. I say b.t.dubs (which is doubly inflammatory because it's an acronym). I say peen; vag. Somehow these versions seem more friendly, more comfortable; the way you might speak if you're in a board meeting or giving a diagnosis and you want to put your audience/patient at ease. "You're gonna need some antibiotics for that wart on your peen; here's a perscrip." Totes.

I instantly hate someone who says amazeballs. I don't know why that is. I like the word amazing; love the word balls, but the two together set me off. The word can be halfway out of  a person's mouth and I think: done. It's harsh, I know. But probably not harsh enough. I wouldn't mind if just one person said it: the first person who made it up 4 years ago. I might have thought: Calm down, Gomer Pyle, it's not that exciting; but it wouldn't have irritated  me in the same way. There's something about it that seems disingenuous.

Oh yeah, for reals. The person who uses these terms becomes the annoying adult who tries to use teen lingo to bond with the kids, to make himself appear younger and cooler than he really ever was, is or will be.

Click here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Joyeux Anniversaire Mimi

Things genetically inherited from my mother:
olive skin
thin hair
small frame
weird eyebrows
good health

Things accidentally inherited from my mother:
loud laugh
the gasp
early riser
propensity for the dramatic
tendency to speak to a foreigner with a similar accent : (

Things inspired by my mother:
love of outdoors
love of eastern philosophies
love of food
ease in talking to strangers
ability to look at the sunny side
love of silence

Things not inherited accidentally or genetically from my mother:
small hands and feet
doing the same thing every day
liking strong coffee that tastes like diesel fuel
liking golden retrievers
the ability to meditate every day

Things that make my mother wonder if I am even her daughter:
Being rude
Ability to step over a pile of cat vomit without cleaning it up for 2 days
Ability to eat fruit and vegetables without thoroughly washing them first
Loud burping

Happy Birthday Meem!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gaze (a section of a story)

Ann Finley used to have cocktails every day at five o'clock. She was a slave that way. The clock clicked from 4:59 after the second hand curved past the 12, and she'd put down the spoon, the book, the rake, always with precision, always with intention, rub her hands across each other and walk to the cabinet. First she'd get a glass, then she'd reach into the freezer for the ice tray. Sometimes it was frosted and she had to run it under water, but hardly ever. She'd drop a few cubes into the glass, clink, clink, and then she reached for the bottle. There was nothing sad or Oh, my life, how empty, I'm an alcoholic. None of that. No. It was always: Yes, yes, let's have a party. Fantastic! She loved the sound of ice in the glass once it had bourbon in it. It sounded so festive. It was musical. She'd walk out onto the porch with her packet of Salems, and ease herself into a chair, then she'd cross her legs and have a refreshing sip.

One particular day, she could see into the Humphries yard. It was just smooth grass divided into two parts by a cement walkway. Will Humphrey sat out there with a box of cars. He was seven. His hair was shaved short, so you could see his smooth skin, and he had dark eyes with long lashes. He sat there shirtless, and Mrs. Finley watched his back, the small muscles in his shoulders, the way his fingers held onto the cars. Something in the way his mouth was set, his lips pursed, reminded her of Ben Westin.

Ben was one of the first people in Ann's town to have a car. She remembered how he'd have to run along side of it to get it going, the front door open, one hand on the steering wheel; how the weight resisted at first, how he pushed with his head down like an ox and then, as it picked up speed, he'd jog and then jump in, clicking the door and grabbing the wheel with both hands. Everyone cheered. Ben.

Will's voice was high and purposeful: "Calling all cars. Calling all cars. There's a 6-4 in the mayday at Broad and South. That's a 3-1-8 officer. Wooooo-Oooooo-Woooooo-Wooooooo. Coming through!"

Ben drove Ann and her two sisters home from a church dance one night. She sat in the back by herself, she was the youngest; everyone else sat in the front, breathless and laughing. Ben adjusted the rear view mirror and they caught each other's eyes. The whole way home, he'd look back from time to time, gently holding her gaze.

Will dropped one of the cars he had been holding and slapped the back of his upper arm; he tried to look at his back shoulder but he couldn't see, so he inspected his hand instead. He really studied it, then he wiped his hand on the grass and picked the little car back up. "I said, Step back, people, step back. I have full authority".

Earlier at the church, Ann sat in a chair against the wall watching her sisters dancing. She was 14. She wanted to dance, but no one had asked her, and she was too shy to act like she didn't care. She watched her sisters holding onto each other and laughing with their mouths open.

"Can I sit here?" Ben asked her. Ann smiled and nodded. He sat and they both watched her sisters together. She noticed he was looking down at his shoes. "Why are you wearing your uniform?"

"I'm leaving tomorrow".

"Where are you going?"

"First North Carolina. Then Italy."

"I've never been there".


"Well, either of those places, I mean," Ann felt the heat rush to her face.

"Neither have I actually".


Ben nodded.

"Are you scared?"

Ben shrugged, "Nah".

"Well, you should dance with me then". She couldn't believe she had blurted out the words.

Ben let out a laugh. It was a happy one. He stood up and took her hand.

Mrs. Finley took another sip of her drink. A breeze passed through the leaves in the tree in her neighbor's yard, and for an instant a spotlight of sun seemed to shine on Will . She noticed peach fuzz on the back of his neck, how it spread up the side of his cheek. "Oh Will," she called. He looked up at her and squinted. "That light, it's just like Tuscany. It's positively glorious".


"Tuscany. The beautiful, golden Tuscan rays".

Will shrugged and looked down at his cars again.

"It's a marvel, isn't it?"

"I'm kinda busy, Mrs. Finley".

"Of course, you are sweetheart," she said happily, half to herself, "It's fine. I'm just having a party".

Sunday, April 6, 2014

RIP Peter Mathiessen

 "I learned early that you can’t get there drunk or smoking dope or hanging about waiting for your muse. Starting each day is like priming the pump, in my experience; it’s plain hard labor, hunting the right way to express that thought that had seemed so penetrating, even beautiful, before you had to reduce it into words. I liken the donkey work of the first draft to the booster apparatus of a rocket—the terrible labor of those energies lifting this reluctant mass against the force of gravity, slowly, slowly, until marvelously—on the better days—the thing achieves its own momentum, and the dead weight of its booster falls away. Effortless, it enters into orbit—in short, “the zone”—sailing free and clear and light and sun-filled, opened wide to the flow of imagination, unobstructed."

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Opening Day and The Futility of Rage

In honor of opening game day at Dodger Stadium, which transforms my neighborhood into Calcutta on a holy day, I'm reposting an oldie:

There’s no crying in baseball. Everybody knows that. There’s no crying in baseball unless you live in the same neighborhood as the stadium, and a drive down the street that normally takes less than a minute suddenly turns into a never-ending journey filled with pain, remorse, and sorrow.
You can always toot your horn.
Trust me, everyone else does.
I am sitting in my car because I need to get milk, lactaid, if you must know, because we’re done with the dairy. I am sitting here imagining that if I sawed off my arms and both legs with a broken pencil and then crawled to Vons on my bleeding stumps, I would have been back and forth twice already.
Toot toot!
Ok, people keep it going. Keep the flow steady.
An entire family wearing Dodger blue t-shirts walks by me carrying lawn chairs, coolers and a picnic table.
Come on!
Oops, and there’s little Gran pulling up the rear with the hibachi grill in a wagon.
I text all three of my children. “Nice knowing u. Good Luck with everything”.
Dar texts back, “Don’t forget toilet paper. “We R out”.
By the time I see the guy directing traffic, I am fully ready to commit a medieval violent act. This guy. What good is he? How dare he try to be authoritative right now. He’s wearing shorts! I glare at him for so long that I get exhausted. Now I feel bad. He’s not even a cop, really. He probably teaches woodworking at a magnet school in Simi Valley. He’s doing this because he loves baseball. He probably gets a season pass in exchange for trying to maintain order in the middle of utter chaos. He is serious with his hand signals though. He is not messing around with his hand-signals and his facial expressions. Bless him. Now I feel bad.
I can’t help myself. I’m not a good person. Even though I feel for this guy, I try to sneak between the cones into a completely empty lane.
He’s got the hand up and the whistle going. He comes at me with his bull-dog face.
“HEY! You can’t wait?”
(I secretly love that he asks me this in utter disbelief rather than just slamming his hand down on the hood of my car and calling me a stupid fucking idiot, which is how we do it in Philly).
I roll down my window and lean my head out like a beautiful blond cheerleader, “Oh darn, I’m so sorry, I’m just trying to get home, I thought that lane was for turning”.
No you didn’t!
(How does he know I’m lying?) Yes I did! I’m sorry.
No you’re not.
(We have the following conversation while I slowly keep driving past the cones onto the empty lane like a tip-toeing Wile E. Coyote)
Yes I am really sorry.
No you’re not.
Yes, I am. I really truly am.
(Then, we’re yelling as I get further away) No you’re not.
Yes I am!
No you’re not.
Yes I am!
No you’re not.
I am. I really really am.
I can see him in my rear view mirror. He is smiling! He is chuckling, that devil. Look at him.  I love baseball again, I love the fam in Dodger blue, I love the granny, I love the traffic, I love everyone, I love the stadium and the green grass and the red and yellow seats, I love the cheering and the fireworks that I can see from my window, but most of all I love this guy for recognizing futility when the circumstances are asking for it. 
There’s no crying in baseball. And there's no crying in bad traffic. Amen.

And PS, here's the link to Phoebe's Kickstarter page: Phoebe.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Happy Friday

Have a look at my sweet cousin's Kickstarter campaign and support it. Go on!

After a job trading bonds went bad, Brandon Stanton moved to NY and started taking portraits of people out in the street, as a hobby. Then he started printing their stories as well. I posted his blog a few years ago, and since then he has published a book of his photos.  Each story is just a paragraph really, but so full and heartfelt and defining. This one below stuck with me all day.


"My dad lived in Newark, so he’d pick me up on the weekends and I’d go stay with him. But since he didn’t really get along with my mom, he’d never come over to the house. Whenever his train arrived, he’d just call and I’d go to the station to meet him. But one weekend he was three hours late. I tried to call his phone but he didn’t pick up, so I assumed he wasn’t coming and left to see a movie with my friends. I guess his train showed up a few minutes later. Because my mom said he called as soon as I left. When I finally got in touch with him, we got in a big fight. He was mad that I’d gone to see the movie. He said I didn’t care about him or love him. That was on Saturday. Late Sunday night, I got up to go the bathroom, and found my stepdad and mom crying in the kitchen. They couldn’t even tell me he’d been murdered. They just said that ‘something happened to someone in Jersey.’ I asked if it was my aunt. Then my cousins. Then my grandma. And my mom just kept shaking her head. I went down the entire list of people in Jersey before getting to my dad. And with each name I said, I got more and more scared, cause I knew what had happened."

An well-written article about Florida from a new magazine.

A well-written article with a great title from an old website.

Get to work. Test on Monday.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lunch Date Part 3

EXT. Empty diner on the side of the road.
INT. Two people (FATHER and DAUGHTER) seated at table. They are the only customers. They do not have menus. The Daughter looks at the walls that are filled with portraits of dogs and photos of celebrities that no one's ever heard of, and describes them to her Father. This song is playing.

Daughter: This song reminds me of Topanga.
Father: Yeah I think it was playing last time we were in here.
Daughter: Wouldn't that be funny if it was just playing on a loop?
Father says nothing, just listens.
Daughter: Or if there was a tiny person behind a curtain in the back who just kept putting the needle on the record back to track 3.
Father sings with song "Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice" Like a very old rock star. "But to carry on"
Daughter: Oh my god.
He laughs.
Father: (still singing) Carry on ...Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaove is coming. Laaaaaaaaove is coming to us all.
Daughter: You make it sound frightening.
They laugh.

Sound of two people arguing from the kitchen.

Father and Daughter look up. Waitress with long black braid walks from the back to their table. A man with a huge purple birthmark across the lower half of his face stands in the doorway smiling. Daughter leans forward and says, Okay, here we go.

Waitress: Would you like to see a menu?



Okay, I thought if I walked into this scene from a different angle that I might be able to figure it out. I mean there's a weird thing that happens sometimes, especially when you're with a person you've known for a long time, through various stages of your life, which is that you are always three, maybe more, people at once. Then, in the remembering of the scene, and the telling of it, you are another person, embellishing or creating certain details for emphasis. I guess this happens all the time, all day, every day really, even with people you don't know very well. But I think that it gets multiplied by 1000 when you're with your parent. With them you also have unspoken conversations about heavier topics that you touch on and then move away from: perspective, relationships, getting old, dying.

None of it is mentioned usually, but it's there. If you don't have parents, or if you don't see them often, it probably comes up with those you are closest to. Or it will eventually. That's what I wanted to get at, that, and the way that nothing that's ever happened in a David Lynch movie, not the little person who speaks backwards, or the ear found on a sidewalk, or the policeman who weeps at a crime scene, is stranger or more perplexing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lunch Date Part 2: Ad Astra Per Alas Porci

                                                                      me and G

When I drive up the driveway I can see my Dad by the pool walking slowly with his hands behind his back. This is how men walk after they reach a certain age; it's also how philosophers walk, and prisoners. I'm sure there are other things those three types have in common, but I think that walk heads the list.

Toot toot, I beep the horn.  He takes a wide U like a speed boat except not like a speed boat at all because he's going really slow and looking down. When he gets to the car, he bends down to talk through the window.



He feels around for the door handle. He makes a joke out of it by also rubbing his hand on the roof and the windshield.

"Can you not see?"

"No" he pauses,  "I mean yes. I can not see".

"Do you want me to get your glasses?"

"They don't work".


He gets into the car, butt first, and then swings his legs in, first one, and then the other, "I can see when I'm close, but the rest of the time it's a blur".

"Can't you get that fixed?"

"It's like I'm looking through a peep hole". He turns to face me for the first time and puts his hand, like a telescope, in front of one eye.

"Well, that's kind of fantastic", I say, looking at him, "Fantastic and horrifying".

"Like life".

"All right, Dad," I say turning back to put the car in gear, "Don't start with that". We head out the driveway and down towards Ventura Boulevard.

"Where are we going?" translation: Let's go somewhere other than where we said we were going.

"To the Sushi place?". translation: Where else do you want to go?

We drive about 50 yards down his street and the gentle ding that indicates someone is not wearing his seatbelt starts going off. After 50 more yards it has, in my imagination, morphed into a fog horn.

"Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

I decide to see who can hold out longer because even though he is pretending he can't hear it, I know he hates that sound. As a devout non-seatbelt wearer, he resents it.

"Do you want to go to Hugo's instead?" I say, oblivious.

"What's Hugo's?" translation: I am a master at this game and you, silly child, will never win.

"It's that place that has healthy food". I then list off most of the items on the 5 page menu, pausing, at moments here and there, for the dings to have their full effect. I look over at him from time to time feeling pretty proud of myself. He may be ready to break. But then he doesn't say anything. He is considering: Hmmm(ding...ding...ding) and then considering some more: Well, (ding...ding..ding), and again: Ah (ding...ding...ding...ding...ding...ding) and then...I have to pull over and put the car in park--

"Dad please sweet Jesus"


"Please just put it on"

"Oh," he says, feeling for the buckle at his shoulder, "Sorry about that". translation: I still got it.

We continue to drive, already past the sushi place. "Should we go to Hugo's?"

"Sure whatever you want".

"Oh look, Topanga, we should go there, but I don't have enough time".

"Yeah, Topanga".

"Should we go?"

"No, Hugo's is fine".

Topanga is a canyon you drive through to get the beach. It's an old hippie town with hillside farms and huge shady trees and the same exact cafes and corner stores that have been there since the 50s. Parts of it can seem like a tiny French village or a town from the Wild West or a David Lynch location. It's beautiful and has always been my favorite part of LA because it doesn't feel like LA. As we get just about past the Topanga Boulevard, I decide at the last minute to turn.

"Let's just go here".

"Yeah, we really should", he puts his hand on the dash board as I turn with one back wheel in the air; the overshoot and quick left might actually be my signature move, heading one way and at the last minute making a turn, symbolic of my childhood and possibly my whole life.



We drive up the long curvy hill that my Dad used to speed up in a sports car when we were kids, sometimes as many as 5 of us in the back seat. He would go fast enough that we'd slide into each other to the left and then all the way back to the right. I drive up the hill slowly, past the strawberry stand, past the little creek and just before the Flying Pig. We pull into Pat's, a diner that serves pancakes, burgers and vegan tuna fish. No one is there, but we seat ourselves at a table and wait.

"Is it weird not being able to see?"

"Not at all".

"Good one". We high-five but he goes wide like a, well, like a blind person.

We can hear people having an argument in the back; it's not heated in a dangerous way, but heated nonetheless, like they have been having this particular argument a long time. Finally a woman with a long braid walks in. Behind her a big guy lurks in the door way; he has a huge red/purple birthmark across the lower part of his face and bulging eyes, one of which looks to the right. He's wearing an apron and smiles at us.

I lean forward and mutter under my breath, "Okay, Dad, here we go".

to be continued...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lunch Date

My Dad has a cell phone but it might as well be a shoe horn or a banana. He turns it off when he's not using it and there is nothing you can say, nothing, to stop him from doing this.  He powers off. He loves powering off. He loves it so much he says it out loud to himself under his breath every time he does it.

"Dad, now the person you just left that long voice message to isn't going to get through when he calls you back".

"That's okay".

We stare at each other in silence for 7 seconds, an eternity during which we each consider unanswerable and mysterious questions of life, and then he shuffles past me to go put the phone back into the top drawer of his desk.


"Hi Dad" this is how I answer when he calls.

"What? Oh".



"Dad, can you hear me?"

"Hello?" he says it the way you do when you walk into a creepy abandoned house by yourself at night.


"Who is this?"

"Come on".


"Woodland Hills Funeral Home, can I help you?"

He's laughing now. "All right," He's chuckling. He could do this all day. "Well, nice talking to ya".

"Yeah, you too". Just for fun, just to go to the end of the joke, we both hang up.

While I wait for him to call back I imagine him looking at the tiny little thing in his hand, tilting his head back so he can see it better, pressing each number with one finger. When I answer this time he says "Come get me out of here". (for the record, he is calling from home)

"Where do you want to go?"

He thinks. I can hear him thinking, I can hear him considering this as though for the first time in his life. "Hmm"

"You want to go to the Clew?"

"What's the Clew?"

"You know, where you drink champagne, wear gold chain, make it rain".

"Nah..." he keeps thinking; he snorts as an afterthought, he knows what I'm saying, but this is serious business, this is a date, this is lunch. He keeps researching his files, "What's that Tomato place?"

"The Tomato Patch?"

"No, I don't want to go there".

"How about sushi".

After a long pause he says,"Yeah, okay". He says it like he'll have to settle for that. "Sushi. Okay. That's fine". And then, before I have a chance to figure out the time and the day, he says "See ya later. Love you".

Powering off.

to be continued...

Monday, March 24, 2014


Dear Person Who Wrote This All Over My Neighborhood,

I like your style. Did you resort to this after 100 phone-calls/letters/texts went unanswered? Or did you, right after you wronged Justine and in a moment of clarity, go straight to the spray paint store, buy a couple of cans and do what had to be done. Did you know how many of us would slow down when we saw this, maybe even circle back just to look at it again? Or say out loud, Oh, there's another one, and then think about you, and her, and what happened? Did you know that some of us would even think about all the times we should have said that but didn't? How a simple thing can be so difficult? Did you know we would wonder about your character, weigh the wrong against right, and hope that Justine, whenever she sees this, will forgive you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We All's Fine- (w.i.p.)

Would you like to know the truth? This is what I was thinking when the receptionist tilted her head at me and asked: How ya'll doin today?  Instead I said, "We all's fine", not sure if that was rude, but not too concerned about it. She told me the doctor would see me in just a minute. I eased myself into a chair. I looked over at her. She smiled in my direction and went back to her business. Southerners: slavery, red necks, lynch mobs, big porches, sweet tea, plantations, strong women, weak men, slow conversation, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor... Oh, y'all, how do you do it? How do you stay polite and righteous? How do you stay strong but seem weak? Which one is the facade and which one the core? I stared at her and drummed my fingers.

She looked up, "Sir?"

I stopped and looked up.

"Oh, I thought you were trying to get my attention, " she smiled, looked back down.

"No, ma'am".

She shook her head at me. You can always count on their humor though. I liked that. I could have fallen in love with her just for that. Even with the accent. I watched her looking at her book, still shaking her head at me, still smiling.  She looked up at me, "You doing all right?"


"Just had your last treatment, right?"

"I did, yes".

I didn't want to go into it. I liked her but that didn't mean I wanted to talk to her. I looked at her sitting at the desk. I thought about sliding my hands up her skirt, one hand on the outside of each leg; my fingers over skin, under elastic. She glanced at me from the side of her eyes. I sighed. She laughed.

"I'm old".

 "You're not that old Mr. Ollery".

"In cancer years I'm 95".

"You're 52. And that's not old".

"It is if you've already picked out a plot in the cemetery".

"Are you tryin to hit on me?"

"If only I could".

She got up and walked around into the waiting area, leaned on the desk, crossed her arms, "You know I think that's just about the nicest thing anyone's said to me all day".

"I'm sure you hear things like that all the time".

 "I really don't".

I shrugged at her. What else could I do?

After a while, she said, "You know what I did this morning? I don't why I'm telling you this, it's silly really, but... I took my son's turtles to the park and let them go in the pond. My son had three turtles. They were too big to be in the tank. They needed to get out. We got them a few years ago--"

I looked at her mouth while she talked. I looked at her ankles and her legs, the curve of her hip, her breasts, her neck, the line of her jaw, and back to her mouth again. It was a shame about the talking, the question mark at the end of each sentence, the lilt-n-twang. Women: small, vulnerable, curve, ass, boobs, pussy, wet--

"And you know it was strange because when we first got 'em, they were the size of fifty cent pieces, I swear, just tiny little things. You're not supposed to touch them though because--"

-- talking. On and on. Forever on and on. Even the ones that barely speak. Even the great ones. They've still got to explain. I sometimes think they'd be a lot better off with a piece of duct tape across the mouth area.

She stopped talking, "What are you grinnin' about?"

"You do not want to know". Women: psychic, mysterious, intuitive, frightening--

"You should be more patient, Mr. Ollery".


"And not so quick to judge," she stopped to let that sink in, "There is a point to this story, believe it or not".

There was no following this girl. Even though I wanted to.

"By all means, continue" I said.

"Y'all might be surprised if you really listen".

"Surprise me then".

"Do you ever pray?"

"Well that's a sharp left".

"I know it's a strange question, but you know, because I work here, well, it's something I think about from time to time."

"Do you?"

"And I talk to my son about it, and in fact when we let the turtles go, he wanted to say a little prayer--"

"Wait. Are you religious?'

"No, I'm not actually".

"Thank Jesus".

"And anyway he said his little prayer, kind of to himself, and then he said to me 'How do we know our prayers are heard?'"

"I'd like to the know the answer to that one myself".

"And I said you'll know it because afterwards something good will happen".

"Like what?"

She laughed at me; it was a good laugh, "That's exactly what my son said. And he's seven."

"He's obviously a genius".

The phone rang and she held up a finger and swished past me. Gone: old, sick, past, finished, over, dying, dead, forgotten. It is always such a burden to love someone. I listened to her voice. There were definitely worse things to hear.

"No it's not, sir, no problem", she was talking into the phone but she was looking at me, smiling. I was in the goddam doctor's office and she was looking at me like that. I had no idea about anything. All I knew for sure was that I didn't have a clue about a single thing, and then she said, "It's not a burden at all, really". Really. I watched her hang up the phone and lift her chin to look at me; I thought: I'm done. In every possible way, I'm done.

"What are you thinkin about Mr. Ollery?'' she asked me, finally.

"Would you like to know the truth?" I said.

What's It Gonna Be?

                                      Mo did not want to have her picture taken so she put this on.

Sometimes it is an effort to look into another person's eyes while I am talking to them. Not that I don't care about communicating. Not that I don't mean what I say. But it's just physically difficult. It's like the part of my brain that controls getting the words out and the part of my brain that's in charge of me connecting with someone are in two separate rooms. Maybe that's true of everyone. I can always look at the person's eyes after I'm finished talking, I can check in and connect then; but otherwise there's just too much going on.

Sometimes, when there is a conversation going on beneath the one you're having, it is amazing and wonderful and exciting. Other times it is like an exhausting work-out. You never really know which one it's going to be until it happens.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Semper Fi (sketch)


Four of us, all under the age of 11, looked up from the monopoly game at Uncle Walt.

Henry said, "Ooo swear!"

Walt picked up the tiny metal wheelbarrow he had just stepped on, and dropped it onto the middle of the game board. Uncle Walt, who wasn't wearing a shirt or shoes, whose jeans were unbuttoned, whose hair was long and uncombed, had been back from Vietnam for a month. He was staying with us for the summer or until he, as my mom put it, got his head together.

"Goddam fucktool," he murmured on his way past us into the kitchen. It didn't seem like he would be getting his head together any time soon.

"Lemme see," said Miles, picking up the piece, "That's the one I wanted".

"You're the shoe now, you can't switch, " Henry said and he held out his hand. He placed it next to his neatly stacked pile of money and pushed his glasses up with one finger. I picked up my cup and stood. "You can't leave," Henry said.

"I'm just gonna get some juice".

In the kitchen Walt had his back to me. He was pouring coffee into a cup and some spilled. He put the pot down and held his hands out straight and flat; they trembled.

"Uncle Walt?"

He put his hands on the counter and hung his head. He didn't say anything.

"Uncle Walt, can you get me some juice?"

"Hold on"

"The pitcher's too heavy"

He stood there, his head still hanging. I put the cup next to him on the counter. He eyed it and stood up straight, took a sip of his coffee and turned to face me.

He stared at me. I stared back. He studied. I studied.

"What are you doing today?" I asked him, finally. He shook his head at me. He didn't want to talk. I picked up the cup and wiggled it, "Can I get some juice?"

He sniffed; considered me.


He started to smile. It was like watching a curtain being pulled up and the sun shining through. He put his hand on the side of my face and rubbed his thumb across my cheek.

"Why are you doing that?" I said, giggling a little.

He laughed and turned to the refrigerator, grabbed the pitcher and poured some juice into my cup, "Because you're soft".

Click here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014


This is not about what you think it's about. It almost never is. Sometimes you look at a person, place or thing and you think you recognize something familiar, or that you understand it, but you really don't. You listen to a person speak and you think "I know him/her" but then as you get closer to them, maybe even after years and years of fairly intimate contact, you think who the hell are you? And what are you doing in my house? On the other hand, sometimes you look at them and think you can see through them to their core, you think, "I understand why you did that stupid thing even though you don't", or  "I know you better than you know yourself". But, almost 100% of the time, you are wrong.

When I used to visit L.A. over 16 years ago, I used to see this guy, shirtless and in golf shorts, walking top-speed around Silverlake. I thought he seemed like a maniac, like a weird, possibly schizophrenic, guy who had nothing better to do with his time. It was because of the way he walked that I thought this. He plowed. It would have been hard to keep up with him if I was jogging, and he had that weird lilt that happens when you walk fast. On top of that, he read the newspaper, always folded into quarters, always held at arms length; not just glancing either, this guy was riveted. If you could only see his face you would have thought he was lounging in a chair at the library, fully absorbed in some fantastic story.

He was around every day. Sometimes you'd see him at 10 am plowing down Hyperion, and then at 2pm there he'd be plowing up Sunset. Sometimes you'd see him plowing around the reservoir and then plowing some more down Micheltorena. "Toot Toot Comin Through! Full speed ahead!" He did this every day, rain or shine, 100 degrees or 50. There he was.

When I moved here 10 years ago, I saw him again. Still going strong. Still plowing. I found out from someone that he was actually a doctor. That he still saw patients. That he was a nice guy. Not weird at all. For years after I continued to see him. At dawn. At dusk. Going to work and school. Coming home from the grocery store. I wondered when he had time to see patients; I wondered who his patients were, and whether he put a shirt on when he gave them a check up, or if he just wore a white lab coat over his shorts.

I had finally gotten used to this guy's type of strange, I may have even waved once or twice at a red light, when last year he was found dead in his hot tub. After they investigated, they determined it was a suicide. He had taken some pills, gone into the hot tub, and pulled the doors closed. It's weird how all this time that he was walking, seeing patients, having a local artist paint a mural of him on the main street in Silverlake, getting interviewed in magazines, no one knew where he was headed.

This song was inspired by him, and if you try to walk to the rhythm , you'll only be walking 1/2 as fast as he did.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Repost: Walter's Camera Shop

I don't want to say life is hard, because that doesn't really mean anything. "Shit happens", "Life is hard and then you die"doesn't really come close to describing the feeling of sitting in your car at 9pm crying with your head on the steering wheel so that no one can hear you, not to mention the whole day that led you there, with the driving 17 places and the job you just gave your notice on, and the crap health insurance you need to pay for but can't because you are already in the negative, and the conversation you had with your 13 year old where you are both standing in a hallway leaning your heads against the wall, while she cries and says she hates herself and everything, and there is no single thing you can say will magically and instantly change that (in fact everything you do say actually makes it worse).

Even saying all that doesn't really get it, in fact it only makes you think: oh shut up you big baby, waaa waa waaa, you don't have cancer,  you're not in jail or addicted to crack, you haven't watched your child get hit by a car, or taken him, every day, to a burn unit, you don't live in a tent in the mud with 60 other people, or stand in a line a mile long to get a bowl of rice.

Everyone has problems. Just shut UP.

But still.
Life is hard.
Is this thing on?

Walter's camera shop. That's what I wanted to write about. I'm not going to tell you he was some kind of magical person who told me the meaning of life. He did not. That's really a photo of him up above.  He's a big guy, like I said, gruff, with fingers like cigar stubs. He came out from behind the piles of crap holding my camera. But he didn't say anything right away. I started talking.

Should I go get cash, I don't have cash.
I haven't told you how much it is yet.
I know but--
I have to tell you what is wrong.

I took a deep breath.
He took a deep breath.

He explained it to me. The whole problem. He showed me the part, the size of an eyelash, that was damaged; explained how he tried working it with a different lens; told me how Nikon was going under, like Kodak did. He told me why. We talked about different photographers and the ones he liked and the ones who were just so-so. There was nothing he didn't know about cameras or photography.
Where are you from? I asked him.
Um. ( I was afraid. I was thinking Middle East but worried that if I guessed wrong, that I might offend him and he'd choke me out in 3 seconds) Israel?
He shook his head.
Give me a hint.
It is old place.
I laughed, Well that sure narrows it down.
Come on, you're smart.
(Now I was really intimidated) I give up.
I was just about to say that!
He told me about Egypt. He said he knew everything about his country including the exact day that Anwar Sadat would be assassinated. He said he went to Las Vegas the day before to place a bet on it but no one would let him. "They thought I was crazy."
Makes sense, I said.
"So I bet my friend a bottle of whiskey (he pronounced it whisk) and the next morning he calls me on the phone and says, I have your whisk."
We talked about Egypt, about the food, the people, the architecture and then worked our way back to my camera.
How much?
You know, I think I may still be covered by the warranty.
He shrugged, that's good. What you need to do is write a letter. You can't be nice. You have to demand that they fix it. He told me the exact wording and went over it twice. We shook hands and I told him my name. He said I'm glad I met you. This made my week!
Mine too! I'll come back to tell you how it turned out.
I turned to walk out the door which he had to buzz to let me out. He looked at me and said: Write that letter. Demand! And don't be sweet like you are.
I smiled and walked out, wondering if someone, 50 years ago standing in front of the Pyramids, had ever said that to him.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Angel -sketch

If you're going to get gold caps on your teeth, you have to first get them filed into V shapes so the cap can slide on and fit properly. I know this because of Angel who lives across the street. He used to have caps on his top four front teeth, but had to sell them. I don't know when things started going down hill for him, but last year around this time he was taken away in the back of a police van because he was being belligerent, knocking on people's doors, telling them they were being watched and that they'd better be careful. He screamed when they took him. He yelled, "I'm just trying to help" and "They're going to get them" and "It's on the roof". When he came back, he had gained about a hundred pounds and a thousand yard stare. Now he just sits outside drinking beer all day and watches the neighborhood, his head tilted to the side, his shirt barely covering his stomach.

I think about him because he is always there in front of his house or walking up the street from Bob's corner store swinging his black plastic bag with two 40s clinking. I think about him because he knows my name, even though we were never introduced, and occasionally calls out to me from across the street. I used to think it was creepy and weird and I wouldn't turn or wave.  I'd just walk into my house with my head down, feigning distraction. But then I started thinking about his name and how he's always there, and how, like me, he's a champion time-waster and people-watcher; and I thought, if I do, in fact, have a guardian, then, at least while I'm living in east LA, of course this is what he would look like.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Aligning Myself (Sections of A Longer Essay)

At the last minute I decided to go with my friend Rachel to a yoga meditation workshop. It seemed like the right thing to do. She was telling me about it on the phone, explaining why she wouldn't be able to get together and I heard my voice say, I think I need to go to that. I think I need to do something to help me feel better about everything, to help me relax and breathe and feel enlightened. She told me there would be chanting and singing. I said that's perfect because I chant and sing all the motherfucking time. She said to wear white and bring a scarf. She said I might cry. I said, Fantastic! I might even end up on the floor weeping in a fetal position. She said that's good, that's great, that's a beautiful thing. It was set.

Breathe....and Release.


There's a weird thing that happens after a traumatic event, say a car accident or the end of a relationship or a death. You keep going. You don't really feel the full impact until a little time has passed. It's like Wile E. Coyote in the roadrunner cartoon. You know where the roadrunner hands him a ticking time bomb that explodes in his face, causing the rock on the mountain where he is standing to dislodge and fall 500 feet into the middle of an empty highway, where a 16 wheeler going 80 mph appears out of no where and hits him head-on. The coyote gets up, walks about 10 paces and shatters into dust.

That's what I felt like.


Rachel met me outside and brought me into a huge room with about 100 people spread out on the floor on their mats. She said I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to; she said I could sit on my mat and eat a sandwich if I felt like it; she said it was okay if I didn't know all the poses; I could just follow everyone else. If I wanted to just lay down, I could lay down.

In the front of the room there was a stage with a few instruments and audio gear, and a woman dressed all in white sitting on a mat. She wore a Janet Jackson style head-gear-microphone and sat looking out at all of us. "Okay everyone find your place", her voice was so peaceful and melodic and beautiful that it gave her words a deeper meaning. (I'm going to find my place!... Thank you!... I love you!) I looked at her and waited for guidance. I wanted to hear her voice again. I wanted her to tell me what to do. She stood up and looked out at every one and said,  "Shut" then she took a pause where she scanned the entire audience with just her eyes, "UP".

It's important to note that she didn't say shut-up like one word, like in a blurt of exasperation, but rather shut (long pause) up, like she wanted to make sure you heard the unspoken words in your head. The fuck. "Shut the fuck up." I heard it! I looked around at the others, some of them smiling, some of them quickly getting to their mats. "Just shut (pause) up, and let's get this thing started". I couldn't believe it. Shut THE FUCK up! These were my PEOPLE! This was my PLACE! Right here in Santa Monica, California where everyone was wearing white and trying to align their chakras. What? I looked at Rachel who smiled and raised her eyebrows twice. I almost started crying.


I was just about to say that sometimes I'll find myself in a place I wouldn't have ever imagined, a teacher-training yoga workshop, a buddhist gathering, a stage in Las Vegas giving a lap dance in front of 300 people, Los Angeles, and think this is either bizarrely uncomfortable or completely fantastic; but then I realize I can say that about every day of my life. There are always both of those things together: awkward and graceful, traumatic and uplifting, good and bad. Always. I know this by heart. If something awful has happened, I always know it means something great is coming.


The woman on the stage with the headset (Miss Jackson if you're nasty) told stories about things she had learned from her guru, and then someone would sing, and then we'd chant, and then do some breathing/stretching pose, and while I made a good effort to pay attention, and could even recall some of the things she talked about, I ended up doing what I always do when I'm supposed to be learning and improving myself, I think about sex. I think about kissing this guy I have a crush on. About how it feels like that's all it would to make everything amazing and perfect. About how it could be that simple. I think of us talking; I think of us laughing. I think of us doing all kinds of things together.  Then I have to stop pretending to listen to the teacher, or trying to do yoga poses, or singing along to the gentle music, and I just lie down and carry on in my own world, grateful for all the good I have in my life, aligning my chakras, manifesting powerful energy.