Saturday, November 17, 2007
The Celebration (Danish; dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
Dog Days (German; dir. Ulrich Seidl)
Purple Butterfly (Chinese; dir. Ye Lou)
Red Road (Scottish; dir. Andrea Arnold)
The Dreamers (French; dir. Bernardo Bertolucci)
Oldboy (Korean; dir. Chan Wook Park)
71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (Austian; dir. Michael Haneke)
Time of the Wolf (French; dir. Michael Haneke)
Funny Games (German; dir. Michael Haneke)
Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon (Chinese; dir. Ang Lee)
Pan's Labyrinth (Spanish; dir. Guillermo Del Toro)
Babel (Mexican; dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
City of God (Brazilian; dir. Katia Lund)
Sex & Lucia (Spanish; dir. Julio Medem)
Kung Fu Hustle (Chinese; dir. Stephen Chow)
Sleep Dealer (Mexican; dir. Alex Rivera)
Friday, November 16, 2007
Oh Brother Where Art Thou?
No Country For Old Men
The Man Who Wasn't There
The Hudsucker Proxy
Friday, November 9, 2007
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Like a lot of folks in this country, I have a job.
I work, they pay me.
I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as they see fit.
In order to get that paycheck some employers require employees to pass a random urine test, which I have no problem with.
What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don't have to pass a urine test.
Shouldn't one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check, because I have to pass one to earn it for them?
Please understand, I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet.
I do, on the other hand, have a problem with helping someone sit on their ass, and buy dope and booze with my hard earned money.
Could you imagine how much money the government would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check?
Friday, November 2, 2007
Best Posthumous Album: Elliott Smith - "New Moon"
Best Return to Alt. Country: Wilco - "Sky Blue Sky"
Best Album By Cute Lesbian Canadian Twin Sisters: Tegan & Sara - "The Con"
Best Good Job Doing Something Completely Different: Iron & Wine - "The Shepherd's Dog"
Best God How I Miss the '90s Album: Smashing Pumpkins - "Zeitgeist"
Thursday, November 1, 2007
2001: A Space Odyssey
Paths of Glory
Full Metal Jacket
Eyes Wide Shut
A Clockwork Orange
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Bomb
I'm pretty sure I'd ad AI toward the top of this list if he'd stayed alive along enough to finish it.
Friday, October 26, 2007
alien-Harry and alien-Marv show up expecting the joint to be empty....
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Here's the thing, Eli Roth makes really dumb movies. Really dumb, bad movies that are lucky to receive an R-rating*. They're really dumb, really bad and really, really not for kids. And they suck. And he admits his target audience isn't even legally old enough to watch the movies he's making and marketing to them. What the hell? Can't we bring up charges or something? Can't we throw him in jail for seducing minors into the theater to watch really bad, really dumb torture porn that sucks? I'm not sure about anyone else but let's throw him in jail so we don't have to sit through all the Hostel: Part 3 ads next summer. I say the next best thing would be let's all of us download his movies all the time until he decides he can't make enough money to continue making really bad, really dumb movies that suck which are intended to be seen by young, impressionable kids.
* On a side note I suspect the only reason Hostel: Part 2 recieved an R rather than an NC-17 is because the movie industry is desperate for a profit, so instead of making better, more interesting movies or cutting back on the price of tickets, sodas, parking, hot dogs or bottled water, they decided to lower their standards to allow this crap to reach the theaters. Not that I'm for censuring artist visions but c'mon, did you see this shit? If some dumbshit parents wanted to bring their 5 year old kid to the theater there isn't a law in place to stop them. T&A = Bad. Torture Porn? OK.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Friday, August 31, 2007
To put this heinous crime in perspective, NFL Superdouche Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears crashed his $350,000 car into a lamp post at 3:15 AM after doing god knows what, left the scene of the accident and reported the car stolen to the police. His fine? $1000.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
A Dark Cloud Over Pittsburgh
A dead man stares at me from across the lobby. The janitor goes about his chores - I forget his name. Footsteps echo too loudly as a woman hurries passed. Looking at neither of us, she makes her way toward the floor to ceiling glass doors leading to the platform. The building hums.
I tell myself there are perks to retirement, but it’s daunting, waking up every morning. It didn’t used to be like this.
The hum of a vacuum drowns out a worried reporter in a parka speaking from a dozen flat screen televisions mounted to the wall opposite me, directly above the dead man. Closed Caption explains a clean up crew is nearly finished on a train that slipped its track somewhere in the Rockies, and the woman heading for the doors is left waiting in a station on the other side of the country. I guess that’s how things work nowadays.
The Whiteport station used to be nice. Cozy. A simple two-railer where people could stop for beer and conversation while watching the trains. Passengers never stayed for longer than it took to take a leak and grab a cup of coffee. It was dim and it was quiet. In this revamped architecturally modern building, every sound is amplified. Every footstep is a marching army. The reporter on the other side of the country is trying to talk over the payphone in the hallway. It rings endlessly, loud and consistent and abrasive.
Nobody could sleep through this commotion. That’s why I’m convinced the man is dead.
A crowd gathers, eating candy from a vending machine. Wrappers crunch. Lips smack. Even with no one talking this room is so loud.
They tore the pub down and built a bagel stand. Last week they ripped out the arcade to make way for a Starbucks – a Starbuck in a train station! I suppose another problem with old age is you just don’t get it anymore.
It’s the janitor. I see his fogged breath before I see him standing there. His name badge hidden beneath a stained terry towel slung over his shoulder, he slides two bucks – two bucks! – into the pop machine. A can thunks in the retriever, dull and heavy as the bricks that used to make up these walls. Bricks mined from local soil.
He pops the top and the fizz hisses, mad and urgent. “Not a good night for train watching,” he says after a healthy gulp.
I suppose not, but nowadays it’s pretty much the same routine. He wipes his mouth with the towel and I see his badge says TIM. Why can’t I remember that? My son’s name was Tim.
I point at the televisions as a herd of folks meander in and sit beneath. “Lost one over near Steamboat Springs.”
He stares at the TV. Sips his drink. “Six dead, so far. That sucks.”
My eyes flick over to the dead man. He hasn’t moved.
Tim shrugs. “I guess that happens, huh. Well Pitt, break time’s over.” He waves, dragging his mop and bucket behind him.
My name has been Pittsburgh since I was eight years old – the only thing I took with me from the orphanage I was shipped to after my dad was shot down over Korea. My mother couldn’t cope. My baby sister was taken in by one of my dad’s sisters but they couldn’t afford us both, not with little ones of their own to tend to. At eight, they figured I’d get along okay. I haven’t seen my sister since. I’ve never met my cousins.
The other kids called me Pittsburgh on account that’s where I’m from. Been all over since then, though. Allentown, Eerie, Uniontown. I haven’t been back to Pittsburgh but the name stuck.
The train station drifts in and out of stillness. A woman sneezes. A child complains of the cold. Someone talks aggressively to a cell phone. Then, a long stretch of silence. Or as close to it as this place knows anymore. Someone clears their throat and the volume pitches once again.
I watch them move. They’re restless. Tapping fingers, reading yesterday’s paper, plucking random pages from vacant seats. A man looks at his watch. The man next to him looks at his watch. It moves on down the line like the wave at Three Rivers. Or, whatever it is now.
The crowd, I could make up stories if I didn’t already know so much about them. They’ve all been through here before, hundreds of times in one form or another, the same faces only slightly varied, over and over again. Students, soldiers, tourists. Mourners, revelers, loners. Amish, Buddhist, Christian. All walks of life. Due to the weather this time of year, the vagrants aren’t kicked out unless they cause a ruckus or they’re too plainly drunk. There’s a lot more of them now since they added a bus stop out front. No one is on a first name basis anymore. It didn’t used to be like this.
A parade of quarters clunking into the pop machine draws my attention. A young man wearing fatigues and humping a duffle bag shoots me a look I can’t decipher – is he being smug or is it camaraderie? He probably thinks we can trade war stories.
“That place any good?”
He points to a poster for some Italian restaurant chain. I shrug as he drops the duffle bag on the Saltillo tile floor and takes a seat. He slurps his pop. Eyes the room like a combat zone. He can’t be twenty yet.
“You like trains?”
My first memory was of my dad deploying from the Pittsburgh station. It was a cold day like today, with the clouds so thick I thought I could reach up and grab a handful if my dad had held me up. As a teen I would sneak out and come here. I would sit in a corner that no longer exists and watch people move about, only here as a respite between where they’re coming from and where they’re going. That was back when this place was nice. Back before Starbucks and two dollar pops.
I didn’t say this to the guy. Instead, I grunted, “Yep.”
“I can’t stand them.” He continues to eye the crowd, the bundled up homeless, the single mothers, Tim buffing the hallway, the stench so strong my nose burns, the sound so loud the soldier nearly shouts at me. “I’m supposed to be flying to Newark. I’m deploying to Iraq in a couple days. Marines.” He has a knife in his hand, carving a symbol into the soft leather armrest. He holds it up for me to see clearly. “They wouldn’t let me board with this.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“They call is a weapon. I told them, every tool is a weapon. They teach you that.” The knife disappears. “Anyway, I think they got the message but I’d had enough of their disrespect so fuck them, right? I’m taking a train.” He shrugs. Sips his soda. The building goes back to humming.
“And look, now here I am, Buttfuck nowhere, late. Cold as shit. Anyway.”
He grabs his duffle bag and walks away as Rick, the night guard, gravitates to the vending machine. Drops in a handful of change.
“Heyya Pitt. Cold night, huh?” He taps my shoulder, conspiracy like. “Don’t look now but Shakes is back. Shakes the Clown.”
I look where he nods. An old man in a porkpie hat shuffles across the spotless floor.
“I call him that on account of his Parkinson’s.” He pops his soda tab. “Take it easy.”
Shakes – I’ve never known his real name – is a regular. He comes here everyday sometime after midnight to do his ancient Vaudeville act for people who couldn’t care less. Today, after making his rounds across the lobby, he zeroes in on a young woman a few seats down. I know his routine already so I stand to leave and my knees pop in revolt. I glance at the big digital clock on the wall, surprised at how quickly it’s gotten so late. The dead man hasn’t twitched.
The stench of the room is strong and bitter and my head feels cloudy. I head for the doors.
The chill air bites me. I pull my windbreaker close and stand in a corner to keep away from the wind and snow bursts. The woman from earlier sits on a bench with her luggage and stares at the tracks. The desperation in her gaze would break your heart if you let it. Above us, the old Plexiglas awning pitter-patters with sleet.
This platform is almost all that remains from the original station, though it’s scheduled to go when the snow clears. Everything else is remodeled, upgraded, and reconfigured. Everywhere else the homespun Pennsylvania steel is gone. The northeastern brick and mortar is gone. Now it’s all imported stone, smooth and flawless, completely without history or personality. Fluorescent lights everywhere, so bright and spaced just perfectly so there are no shadows anywhere. This used to be a place where you could sit alone in a corner and mind your business. Where you could burn away hours without any effort at all. But now there are no corners, and time has a slow lumbering gait. It didn’t used to be like this.
Inside, people stare at their laptops, their watches, the floor at their feet. Except the dead man, who stares at nothing. With nothing better to do, a few watch Shakes do his song and dance routine.
The doors open and an Amish kid steps out. He’s underdressed but doesn’t look cold. Without the beard I wouldn’t think he’s much older than 15. He joins me in the corner and pulls a joint from a pocket. He lights it with a match and smokes a bit before offering. I take it from his fingers. We say nothing for a while as we pass it back and forth.
“What are you two doing out here?”
The voice startles us, so sudden and unexpected. It’s Rick, the security guard.
The Amish kid smiles. “It smells like shit after Tim’s done buffing. Also, some crazy lady at the ticket counter keeps trying to sell God to me.”
He offers Rick last bit of the joint. Rick waves him off and pulls a pack of Camels from his pocket. “Sorry about that. I already warned her once.” He takes a long, grateful pull.
"Some woman found a bloody tampon jammed up in the toilet paper dispenser. Tim's in there disinfecting the entire room."
The Amish kid laughs as he sucks down the last toke. He flicks the butt across six brand new lanes of track. It used to be simple: one decision leads you to Pittsburgh. The other, Philadelphia. There’s no need for six lanes in Whiteport.
As they chat about the crash in Steamboat Springs, I peek inside. Shakes has moved along. The dead man is still dead. I’m tempted to wave my hand in front of his face, just to check.
I think, how would that be, to go waiting for a train?
Almost as soon as I settle in to my seat the noise peaks again. A monotone voice makes an announcement over the PA, waking me. A child screams, his mother threatens. A commercial for an energy drink demands attention. The mother takes her son by the hand and drags him from the room.
With that, silence again, except for the hum.
I used to bring my son here when he was that young. He loved the trains and the arcade, before it was a coffee shop. He would race up and down the platform as the trains arrived or departed, arms wide like he was about to lift off.
“Say Dottie! When I was on my way over here, I met a fella who said he hadn’t had a bite in weeks—“
Shakes is back, and he’s recruited a young girl as an accomplice.
“Did you bite him?” She asks, cutting in on cue. A few obligatory smiles from the crowd. Even the dead man seems to enjoy the show. I drop two bucks for a soda into his hat and walk away.
The only vacant spot in the room is just below the televisions. I don’t recall what was playing but I stare until my retinas burn, until my eyes are dried from the strain and the chill of the place. All the noise, everywhere. All the unnatural light. Everything drowns out – the movement of people, the dead man’s gaze, time passing. The noise peaks and drops. The hum is the only constant, a subtle vibration throughout this soulless building.
Then the room rattles – so minor a change that most everyone wouldn’t notice anything, but it’s enough to break the trance so I head for the door. A ground fog spreads over the old concrete platform as the rattle swells. A few regulars join me, tickets and luggage in hand as the building rumbles and quakes.
The platform fills with passengers stuck so long indoors. The rain is a slow and steady weeping. Snow spirals and the rails flicker. The air is crisp as it wraps around us, swirling, a harbinger bringing with it a chance for escape.
“Finally,” one of them says with a final, deliberate look at his watch.
I close my eyes as the platform convulses beneath my feet. My lungs shrivel and freeze, empty, burning, my breath stolen by the cold as the train squeals to a violent stop.
A child giggles rushing passed as I allow the push of air to rock me backwards.
The doors slush open. The crowd fights around me in a hurry to get out of the cold and on their way.
The doors close. The train lurches, screeching on the icy tracks.
Then, all is silent. Even the hum has lifted.
My face is warm. I’m allowed to catch my breath.
When I open my eyes the sunlight from the newborn day is blinding as it finds a hole in the cloud cover.
My eyes water, sensitive and unprepared.
The cold air freezes the moisture as it streams my cheeks.
Alone now, I turn toward the doors and notice the dead man is gone.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Hey all. After an excessive amount of time and energy, we're nearly finished printing our short film IRAN to DVD. Written and directed by Brett Johnson, it is the story of two US Army soldiers of the newly formed Immigrant Platoon - one Mexican, the other Iranian - who trek through the Iranian desert only to discover they're being used by their platoon leader as patsies to help him escape conviction of war crimes.
It's 25 minutes long, and has naughty language and a couple scenes of violence.
If you're not on the cast or crew and would like to get your hands on a copy, we're charging $10 per DVD (shipping included). Just click the Paypal Link on the right side bar, and post a response to this listing so I know to look for your name. I will try and have the first batch of DVDs in the mail by Monday.
If you're part of the cast and crew and you haven't received your nice, shiny new copy of the film yet, they should be in the mail in a couple of days. Sorry about the wait.
Thanks for everyone who helped on this project.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Anyone interested in doing this, let me know. I've got a place to put everything, and we can always donate it to charity or ebay it or something if we get something we don't need. And we can split all the cool shit - today, some guy was giving away a nice pool table, and last week some one gave away a 25 foot boat he no longer needed.
If you do this on your own, I want to see pictures.
Friday, March 9, 2007
As long as there's someone to make sure people pay their fares, this is guaranteed profits, my friends.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
All these miles traveled, all this time spent for nothing.
I stand alone, afloat in this sea of lonely. Empty, with nothing but this smoke and the fire everywhere, consuming everything.
Then, ghostlike, she appears—a solitary beacon dividing the gloom. More than a ghost, she is an angel in waiting.
From across the lawn and through the blown out windows my eyes find her as she’s holed up inside the room, weeping and screaming in vain. Her face is sunset-red from sweat and the effort.
She wears a once wedding-day-white but now dust-gray T adorned with tiny blue flowers, blue jeans shredded at the knees, and tennis shoes with no socks. Her hands are balled into fists at her side and her hair is wild - she is hardly the homecoming queen I remember.
A strap from her shirt has fallen from her shoulder to reveal the curve of her breast. Her eyes are green and wide and staring; frightened, yet bright and fierce, alive. Fighter’s eyes with an until-death gaze.
I see these eyes every time I close my own, haunting all my listless moments. The sun will never set in those eyes, but midnight is upon us and in my last moments I remember why I chose to be here, now.
Her skin is the smoothest of silk reflecting the colors of the fire like a master painter’s portrait, burning red and yellow, orange and gold; every hue imaginable and so many more.
Blazing teardrops mar each cheek. She is a goddess, just as I remember, stolen from my every dream.
Another lifetime since I’ve last dreamt.
My pain, once unbearable, is moot. Nothing matters now outside this moment. This perfect, painless moment.
I cry her name as I race onward. My breath is fire in my throat as I hurdle a toppled, smoldering mess. Through a burning rosebush. Over the railing. Onto the balcony. Into the flames.
Ignorant now, my hands bloodied from thorns, wire, shrapnel, whatever. Tripped up and stumbling I steady myself as I burst through the foyer doors and into the heart of this inferno.
My breath is heavy and forced and only fans the flames faster. I scream again, the same burning breath, but my voice fails as my lungs fill with fire.
I’m burning now, both inside and out.
Tears sting my skin as they clear a passage through the soot on my cheeks. The air is filled with the stench of singed hair. My stomach shudders and does back-flips. I'm nauseated and dizzy.
My skin reddens and blisters from the heat as another of those fucking rocks crackles past my ear and imbeds itself forever into the ground. Forever into our earth. Assaulting our home.
The wooden floor beneath my feet shakes and stops, shakes and stops; an amusement park ride but worse. An earthquake, but worse.
Once vibrant, alive and breathing but now lay dying, our world.
Asthmatic and unnatural, our world.
I feel that I now know what war and hell must be like, and how thankful I am that both are forever finished.
Not hell maybe, but who can do anything but wish in a time like this?
Like there’s ever been a time like this before.
Through the smoke I can see that her face is bruised and swollen. I can see clearly the grit beneath her fingernails, the scars that adorn her arms and legs. I realize that this is the last I will ever see her, and that she is perfect.
Always, forever perfect in my eyes.
She looks up, her eyes bewildered, scared behind the tears. There is no recognition in them of me. Deep inside I hear my heart tear open—a familiar sound, for it’s not the first time she’s done this to me.
That I’ve done this to myself.
Sometimes it’s harder to hold on than to just let go.
Then, blessedly, there’s dawning. Her eyes widen and she knows—oh god, she knows! I don’t have to say another word, even if I could.
The smoke thickens and smears everything charcoal-black, making the air impossible to breathe, making everything so abstract and so far away, but we don’t care. Not anymore.
There’s this fat-frying sizzling sound coming from all around as more of those stones come roaring into the landscape to spray debris everywhere as they end their eons of journeying through the emptiness of space and time and nothing, to land here, to die here in our soil.
All those miles of travel, all that time spent for nothing.
The heat, the smell of burning everything - these plants, this ground, the house. Me. Everything is fire everywhere. All of us ending together.
The distance closes and I can almost feel her, but time has stopped. It’s that dream where you’re being chased and you try to escape but you’re running in slow motion and you can‘t wake to save your life, but you still run because there is nothing else. It’s the only thing left for you to do, so you do.
It’s been years since I‘ve last laid eyes on her. It’s been eternity. But it hasn’t been more than a heartbeat as time doubles back on itself and suddenly we‘re at the site of our graduation party, drinking and laughing and crying together as friends within the warm glow of the bonfire, ready to take on the world and we’re scared shitless, but excited. We’re going somewhere. We are real life in motion. We‘re going to live forever. We are perpetual machines. Immortality is only found only in the young and naive. We’re going to be rich. We’re going to be famous. We are going to rule the world. We will employ drivers and own private jets. We will eat caviar with mother-of-pearl and sip the finest champagne. We will witness evolution from on high. People will wear our clothing and sing our songs and dance as we keep them in fits of laughter or in tears. Whatever we want, we will have. We know this as truth because they need leaders. Because they need saviors. Because everyone has to feel saved. We will soar through the stars and heavens. We will be immortal in the hearts and minds of our fans. Heroes for all ages.
But now we’re all the sudden everyone else—another log in the fire. In a time like this it’s easier to be more frightened of the unknown than of any tangible evil.
Like there’s ever been a time like this before.
The heat all around is unbearable but it doesn’t matter, then or now. We continue on. Life continues as it always has, even when it’s crashing down around your ears.
Somewhere, someone is living for the very first time. This time, it happens to be me.
The pad of our fingers touch and my dreams solidify.
Our hands meet, then clasp. Her slender artistic fingers wrap into my larger, more calloused ones—as perfect a fit as I've always imagined.
Her breath fans the flames. Her heart next to mine as our bodies collide. Our sweat and our essence mingle and I'm in love all over again. I am fourteen years old once again, always and forever now.
Our eyes connect and hold steady as I reveal that I love her.
Crying, she says she knows.
Our lips meet as the world is consumed by light - violet and brilliant and real.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
So a few months back I got a ticket for having a busted headlight on my van. I eventually fixed the light, but within days, before I could go to the highway patrol to have them verify this, my transmission blew out. A couple weeks later, my registration was due but I decided not to reregister because I'd be trashing my vehicle come the beginning of December. So, after a while I recieved a letter telling me my license would be revoked on October 15th because of an unpaid ticket (the headlight). The only way I could fight this is by proving my headlight has been fixed, which means driving to the CHP office, which means getting my transmission fixed ($1300), and then getting my car registered (another $100 or so, probably more because it's late). So, for a fucking $10 fix-it ticket, all the sudden I'm $1500 or more in the hole.
Skip ahead to last night. I get off work, thinking all day long that it was Tuesday although I know for a fact that there's Monday Night Football going on. I've got my company's van and I'm going to be staying at a hotel. I decide to move my van across the street, where I thought I wouldn't be getting a ticket because street cleaning happened earlier "today". Remember - I'm thoroughly convinced yesterday was Tuesday. So this morning, I go to drop some shit off in my van before heading to work (unpaid, volunteering my time today, by the way) and I see my van has been booted. I'd recently paid off most my parking tickets but because my registration was up and I was parked illegally (street sweeping on Tuesdays mornings, 8 - 10), they had to throw the boot on. So, if I'd only left my van where it was yesterday, I'd be fine.
Here's the issue -- in order to get the boot off my van, now I have to register the vehicle ($100, maybe more), get the transmission fixed ($1300), pay off the rest of the parking tickets ($300 - $400 after all applicable fines), and pay the boot fee ($140).
And all this stemmed from a $10 fine for a headlamp which I'd already fixed!
I'm probably going to get all my shit out of the van, put it in storage a block away ($120 per month for a 9 foot by 6 foot closet) and figure out how I'm going to get to work from now until the end of the month, and figure out where I'm going to sleep since my van will be towed away Friday morning.
On top of all this, I've got two great career opportunities coming up within the next 48 hours, but both of them involve finishing my script, which means I need the time and the place to write, which I have neither.
Thank god I don't get stressed out, because if I did I'd be a fucking wreck right now...
My toe - the bad one* that gets all bloody and pussy and infected, the one that makes me squirmish - has been getting really bad lately. I can't slip on my socks or shoes without wincing. I can't walk without a limp. I'm spending extraordinary amounts of money on bleach to keep my socks nice and white and clean, not pussy yellow and oozy brown. And I haven't done a whole lot of exercising since I moved to LA, in large part to me being lazy but in part to my foot hurting.
And then I get a call. It's a job in Anchorage where I'm going to be on my feet for 14 hours a day, and in the cold and wet snow, and the other night, while sitting at home watching a movie and drinking a beer, I'm picking at my toe and I rip out a portion of the ingrown toenail that's about the size of an M&M, and I'm amazed, because I know that's just the tip of the iceburg, so to speak.
So I figure I'll call a few podiatrists to see how much it's going to cost, and they all say the same thing - we won't know til we see it, and it'll cost roughly $75 to see it. I say, well, you know what? I'm moving back to Palm Springs temporarily, just long enough to save up my first months rent and my deposit for my share of a house I'm looking into with some friends of mine, so I don't have to worry about rent on the first, so $75 is cool.
I go to the office today, slip off my shoes and jump onto the doctor's chair thingy. The nurse comes in, looks at my toe, makes kind of a sickly face, and informs me the doctor will be in shortly.
The doctor comes in, makes friendly banter, and looks at my toe. I'm seeing the back of his head so I'm not sure what his reaction was, but it felt to me like stunned silence. He stares for too long a time to be good, then turns to me and says, "How longs it been like this, a couple weeks?" I laugh and tell him no, about a year and a half now. I was right - it was stunned silence. Now, somewhat self-conscious, I make a joke about being a procrastinator. He asks how I was referred to him. I say google. He says he's going to have a picture taken of my toe and post it on google under the headline "procrastination."
He tells me we should go about the fixing of my toe in two stage, and immediately I feel he's trying to screw me - two paychecks rather than one. The first step, he says, is to numb the toe, cut back the thick flap of skin that has slowly grown over about one-third of the nail, and then clip out the ingrown toe nail. Then, in a couple weeks, I'll come back and he'll cauterize the root of the portion that keeps growing wrong. I say this is cool, let's get to it.
He does this.
Long story shortish, when it's all done he shows me the size of the nail that he clipped out, that he been growing down into the skin, and its roughly the size of a nickel, and thick and gnarly looking. He says it's a record, easily.
He applies some crap to my toe and gives instructions on how to I should tend to it, and now I'm back at the office watching Candid Camera's Greatest Moments, and mentally preparing for my trip to Alaska.
(*: This is actually the better of the two. My right foot has been much worse for much longer)
Update: My brother went to the house on Saturday after work and talked with the neighbor, who's an ex-cop and a would-be actor, and he tells Drew (my brother, Andrew), that he caught someone trying to shoulder their way through my front door. He says he got in his truck and chased the kid down, cornered him and held him until the cops came and arrested him. He also mentioned how his own house was burglarized a few months before - his badge and gun taken, along with computers and whatnots - and just earlier in the week, someone had made off with his trailer and a large generator.
So, since I hadn't heard this from the cops (I assumed they would've contacted me, especially after just filing a report), they said they'd get me in contact with the officer who filed the initial report. I wonder what that had anything to do with the kid shouldering his way into my house, but I went along with it. Then, after a couple days of not hearing anything, I called again, and they said if I couldn't come up with the exact date and time the would-be burgler was caught, then they couldn't do anything for me. I said I'm only hearing this information through hearsay, from my brother who learned if from a guy who's lived there only a couple months and who I've only spoken to once, for about 3 minutes (who, as of Nov. 2006 no longer lives there).
Furthermore, I told them how difficult is it to look up my address, since I'd been burgled once and near burgled again, only days later. Further furthermore, the neighbor told my brother that the kid who was arrested had outstanding warrants and I just want to find out if he's the guy who robbed me the first time and, if so, where the fuck are my things?
I was bounced back and forth between some phone numbers, spent a good hour and a half on the line and what's been concluded is that they can't do anything until I get my neighbor's name, address and the exact date and time of the crime, something I can't do until I go to that house again, which I guess will be this weekend but even then I'm not guaranteed to actually talk with me neighbor since he doesn't ever seem to be home on the weekends ever.
So basically, more to come from this stupid fucking legal system here in the sunshiny state of California.
Hell House Update: Kathleen went to the house while I'm in LA to check my mail and see if it'd been re-burgled. It hasn't. However, it is flooded. The bathtub and toilet are overflowing, and the water is underneath all the floorboards in the hallway and my bedroom. The water, she says, is a brownish yellow color, and quite smelly. Her dad, a professional something or other, is coming down to check it out in the morning and will then call me with his opinion. I'll end up calling the water company and have them shut it off, mostlikely. So now the house, in which I still need to shoot portions of my movie, has been burglarized, robbed, struck by a tornado, shot up by a large caliber gun, and is now flooded.
On a funny* note, there was a helluva storm here last weekend and my brother and I, frustrated with the house and really, the whole city, said we hope that the rains continue and flood out everything, our own mini Katrina in the desert. The rains stopped, but the house flooded. Ironies rock!!
(*: Funny suck, not funny ha ha)
I hadn't planned on returning to LA from the Coachella Valley until really early Tuesday, before all the traffic makes the commute impossibly slow and, because of my lack of air conditioning, unbearably - if I leave at 3 am and roll down the window, the air feels just fine - but my buddy Nate called asking about poker, which was intriguing, and now RKDaley's in town(ish) so I thought maybe I'll head out early and see what happens.
What happened was traffic, shuffling us fools between 85 and zero, and when I'm only about 10 miles out of LA I spot smoke puffing from the ass of the van. I go on for a few miles more until I find an exit that looks like there'd be a gas station, but I drove around for a bit anyhow, searching. Stopped, I checked under the hood to find my oil cap mssing, so I write the smoke off as an issue regarding a lack of oil, or something. I'm no mechanic, and, having no way to immediately resolve that situation, I get back on the freeway and continue heading to Hollywood, maybe 6 miles or so away at this point, and I get to the Pepboys auto place that I hate for its awful service but love for its convenient location.
On the road, my van is having a hard time shifting gears. I'm supposed to be heading to my editor's house to take a look at the footage from our latest film, but I know now that my van's not going to make it. In Pepboys I buy an oil cap. I let the van rest a few minutes to see if maybe its just overheated, but still it has trouble shifting into reverse and first gear. I buy transmition fluid and somehow manage to work my van a couple blocks down and into this parking garage off Hollywood that I sometimes find myself sleeping in. It's a great place -- a block from my friend Brett's house (he's the writer/director of said film), and three blocks away from my favorite bar (the Power House, the last real dive bar in LA). Three blocks in the other direction is this awesome coffeeshop I'm sitting at right now, with free wireless internet and hours until 3am. There's a drunk bus, the subway, great eateries and drunken whores within stumbling distance.
With a fantastic view of Hollywood and LA as the backdrop, I pop the hood and pour in some tranny fluid. I start the engine. More smoke billows out the back. The poker game is in an hour. I paid $8 for parking. I put the car into gear but its just not going to happen. I call Nate and he graciously picks me up. I lose the first game but win the second. Afterward, I go to the Baked Potato and meet up with Brett and his friends to see some bands. Many of the were excellent, but the Bud Lights were $5 and the bartender was a bitch. Also, there was nowhere to sit.
Brett and I walk back to Hollywood, from the valley, 4 or so miles up hill at 2 in the morning, drunk. My toes hurt but I feel good regardless. He goes home, and I crawl into my van and try to check my email. Sometimes I get lucky and tap into some kid's wireless, but not tonight. I consider a hotel room with the money I won earlier, but remind myself that I need to make sure I've got enough money to at least pretend to resolve this issue somehow, so I go to bed, instead.
10:00 am. It's hot already. I'm slightly hungover and my feet are killing me. I didn't have an opportunity to brush my teeth the night before so I've got that funky feeling in my mouth. I check the van to see if it works. It starts, it doesn't turn into a fiery ball of my demise when I turn the key, so that's a good sign. But it won't go into reverse. It won't even try. Beneath the van there's fluids everywhere, as though it had a wet dream, or, like one of those dogs that someone beats up and abandons so when it approaches you pitifully for a handout, when you reach down to pet it, it wets itself. That's my van, wetting itself all over the nice concrete of this nice parking garage, under a nice smog gray sky. I've got to piss like no one's business.
I grab my backpack and hoof it over to the coffee joint. I brush my teeth, wipe my ass (sweat, not poop), and I grab an iced coffee, which is something I've never really liked until recently. Coffee flavor is gross, but I'm turning that corner. My tastes are maturing, I suppose. I think I'm going to grow my first pubic hair soon. Dear god, please. Make it soon.
Today, I'm going to finish this thread and figure out how to get to Encino to pick up my paychecks and sort through my options. Then, I'm going to go see a movie(*).
1: Try to get my van out of the parking garage and over to Pepboys a mile down one of the busiest roads in the country, or I can leave it and look into purchasing a month long parking pass and use this as my base of operations while I figure out how to get to work and back, which is difficult because we typically work a week in one area and move to somewhere else entirely.
2: See how long they go without noticing my van sitting here, pissing on the rooftop with some crazy, smelling dirty guy sleeping inside.
Or 3: Call it quits, phone my friend Matt who just moved back to Palm Springs recently, and have him pick me up with my stuff in his truck and head back to Desert Hot Springs where I will be in the heat without a vehicle, in a house with sporatic plumbing - which is pretty much exactly the situation I'm in here, except my house is a little roomier than my van but I don't have wireless internet or a possible job.
Friday, February 16, 2007
* "Into Thin Air", "Into the Wild" and "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer
* "Freakonomics" by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
* "Rebel Without A Crew" by Robert Rodriquez (for anyone who wants to break into filmmaking and do it on their own terms)
* "Rebels On the Backlot" by Sharon Waxman
* "A Walk Across America" by Peter Jenkins
* "Fast Food Nation" and "Reefer Madness" by Eric Schlosser
* "America: The Book" by John Stewart & the Daily Show staff
* "Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers
I've learned a couple things this week. One is it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to get sick. In fact, it took me no effort at all because I did it in my sleep. I'm not sure how many people die each year from spider bites - not many, probably - but because of the near-sadistic treatment I received from the medical staff at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, if I'd been, say, younger or 100 pounds lighter, I might've died. (Although, because it was Easter, I would've come back to life 3 days later. I think that's the way it works.)
I woke up Sunday morning to a pinching sensation in my abdomen. I thought maybe I'd rolled over onto a thorn or something. After a moment, there was a pain, almost like a metal rod slowly being pushed into my gut, toward my groin. I got up, walked around, checked my email, tried to figure out if this was my imagination or if I was really in pain. My lower back was starting to ache, and my chest was tightening. Breathing was difficult. I assumed it was a black widow, because I've been seeing more and more of them around the house lately, and they've looked hungry.
I've lived in this house on and off for nearly seven years, and yet I had to google the nearest hospital, because I've never been injured badly enough or sick enough to need to go. I don't think I've been to a hospital since I broke my wrist at a track meet my Junior year of high school.
Skipping ahead, I go to the hospital and because I'm unemployed and without health insurance, I'm treated like a junkie looking for a couple pills. The doctor tells me, before even looking at the bite, that he could tell from across the room that I wasn't bit by a black widow. He checks my vital signs, and even though I'm obviously in pain he says I'm fine. I tell him I'm having a hard time breathing. He tells me I'm breathing perfectly. I'm dismissed within two minutes, after waiting in the lobby of the emergency room for over an hour, where the only other injured persons was an 80 year old woman in a wheel chair with her son and a born again Christian who was actively recruiting. The entire time the pain is getting worse.
The doctor (who turned out to be only a physician's assistant, not even a goddamn physician), tells me that I'm probably suffering from anxiety or a panic attack. He tells me if I want, I can go home, or I can wait in the lobby to see if any other symptoms arise. I ask if I can lay down somewhere, and he says I can lay down in the lobby.
Skipping way ahead (I'm saving all the rest of the stuff for the lawyers), I did get a prescription for vicodin and valiume, and I spent the last couple days stashed away in my dirty, congested house, alternatingly sweating and shivering, full-body muscle spasming, with aches and pains in all my muscles and joints, trying to gulp down chicken broth and hold my hand steady enough to sip a glass of water. I slept a lot, but never for more than a couple hours at a time, and I never felt fully rested. The vicodin I was given would knock me out for two or three hours at a time, tops.
The vicodin also made me constipated.
I assume it was the pills, because that's listed as one of the side-effects. No where does WebMD list constipation as a side-effect of a black widow bite. So I stopped taking the pills after the end of the 1st day. I was still in an enormous amout of pain, but it was slowly making it's way towards my extremities, rather than being spread over all of me all at once. My wrist, the bad one that's broken, hurts a lot, but it's secondary to the throbbing in my ankles and feet. I felt like I know what pregnant women go through. But even with the pain, the thought of all this shit gathering inside my gut was enough to lay down the meds. I envisioned Elvis, an artist, a legend, dead on the toilet, 40 pounds of turd in his belly.
I've been drinking lots of water. I didn't have an appetite for the first couple days, but I tried to make myself eat. At the very least, I figured my liquid diet would produce some nasty diarrhea. No such luck. It took me well into Monday afternoon before I let out a single fart, and it was nothing more than expelled air--no discernable smell whatsoever. Normally, this wouldn't be considered a bad thing, but because it's so out of the norm, I thought it might be another side-effect.
Several unsuccessful attempts on the toilet left me shaken--literally and figuratively. I can't sit or stand or lay down in any position for more than a couple minutes before the muscle spasms start up again. And the knowledge that I had to shit but was unable to really was affecting my mental well-being. I was getting depressed.
Also, urinating is very hard when you're body is rockin' like San Fran in 19 aught 6. What is normally a simple thirty-second, second-nature activity would now take two to three minutes of extreme effort and concentration. And then, afterwards, was cleanup. At least Michael J. Fox has assistants.
My brother gave up his bed (which used to be my bed, but he moved back into the house first, so I've got the couch), so I've been off the couch for a couple days. Each day my health is getting a little better. I've got my very own Nurse Cratchet--big shout out to Kathleen--she brought over the chicken broth, even after I told her I wasn't the least bit hungry. Then, after seeing what all this has been doing to my toes (another blog altogether), she demanded we go to the grocery store and get some proper medication.
She made me buy prunes, but they didn't have dried prunes so I had to get jarred, with the pits still in them, and they're absolutely disgusting--they taste fine enough, not as bad as I assumed they'd be, but I absolutely hate gooey and mushy foods, and it was tough to keep them down after I swallowed.
She forced me to eat solid food again, and also brought over a thermometer even though I promised her I was feeling better. She checked my temperature anyhow. It was 101. That was last night, more than two full days since the bite.
So anyway, I'm pleased to announce that gradually there's been more of the normal aroma in my flatulance, and I'm pleased to announce that this morning, more than three whole days after my last bowel movement, I left a little somethin something in the bowl. So it's progress.
Also, I learned that spider bites don't get you super powers.
Today, the hurricane-force winds that have been battering my house for the last couple days were gone, and in their place was a gentle breeze. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. It was sunny and warm. I did laundry and hung it out on the clothesline, and I made myself a tuna fish sandwich and it was delicious. I spent more than 10 minutes on the internet (not necessarily a good thing, but definitely a return to normalcy). When my brother went to school today, I rode into town with him and laid out on campus and got some sun while watching the cute Japanese girls giggling on the front steps of the Student Council building.
And I came home and took a nice, big dump.
Today was a beautiful day.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
September 10th, 2006.
I’m limping across the Gelson’s Market parking lot in the snobby side of Hollywood with a brown paper bag sweating grease from the bottom. A few steps ahead is a guy holding hands with his girlfriend. They’re heading home, I presume, or maybe to a party. In my other hand is a Bukowski biography I picked up five hours ago while wasting away time at Borders.
People are everywhere. Inside houses are gigantic TVs. Leather couches. The occupants sip cocktails, smiling and wearing clothing without visual stains. In my bag is a six-pack of Modelo especial and eight slices of bacon, smoking hot and greasy, bought from a liquor and wine shop across the street. My van is parked a block northeast. Both my large toes are bleeding and pussy. Five paces ahead, the girl’s shirt says, “Just what the doctor ordered”. All I need is a beer and a podiatrist. The bacon was $.75 for two pieces.
My friend Brett and I just a few hours ago received an extended deadline from the Sundance selection committee for a short film we shot a few months back, which we’re scrambling to edit, so I’m feeling pretty okay, but three months from now we’ll find out it wasn’t picked up, and I’ll be bombarded (rightfully so) by actors and crew members wondering where their copy of the movie is.
Today is the first day of the football season. The Bears beat the Packers 26-0. My toes hurt but after I open a beer and kick off my shoes I’ll be fine. I average around eight miles a day walking back and forth across Hollywood, but my shoes weren’t built for distance. Accidentally, they match my wardrobe – tan and Navy blue – but I’m not prone to buying things for looks. Three weeks from now I’ll cave in and buy some basketball shoes, but not before my feet – blistered and soar – revolt against my urge to walk.
As it turns out, the beer is a pop-top, not a twist off, and I don’t have a proper popper – this will become an issue one week and a day from this moment. Right now, I’m sitting at the side of the street, van side door open, relaxed, with people shooting me strange looks as they pass. Mostly good-looking girls with nice breasts beneath trendy t-shirts. They all look familiar, like I should know them from TV or something, but I haven’t owned a television in three years. Maybe God just ran out of faces is all. Anyway, I think they think I’m cool in a mysterious way but probably they just think I’m creepy.
I tell myself creepy is part of my charm.
Four hours from now I’ll be drunken slumbering, dreaming of being older, ten or so years older, sitting with my brother Andrew on a bench overlooking the ocean, reflecting on the past – currently the present. Kaiser is there and happy as he always was, although he's been dead now nearly two years (twelve in dream-years, fourteen in dog years). The sun is warm. Birds make casual, soothing bird sounds. Ten years from now I have a new set of problems. We are casual but guarded, and we don’t discuss any of the bad stuff from nowadays.
I’m not sure what my living condition is in this dream, but tomorrow I’ll be hoping it’s better than it is today, in the future.
Andrew carries a bottle top popper on his keychain. He turned 23 seven days ago but he’s wiser than me in many ways, the popper being one. Also, he’s a talented musician, and better looking – close to my height but 70 pounds lighter, slender and with dark, angular features and hair. He’s 120 miles east of here with his girlfriend – Mexican, and with large breasts. Friendly and funny, they’re a good couple but secretly sometimes I worry about their involvement – he’s too young to marry but he’s the youngest child and they’re prone to doing stupid shit.
I worry he’s one of those guys who marries because he’s afraid of being alone.
I suspect I’m one of those guys who’ll be alone because he never married.
And so it goes.
Six hours ago he was at work. Six hours from now, he’ll be working. They’ve got a condo in a gated community with air conditioning and running water, two bedrooms, a parking spot, a leather couch and a TV. A couple of Betas they keep in separate tanks. In three months the Betas will be gone but they’ll have an iguana and a roommate from Alaska. My bacon is fantastic and my van windows are steamed from my breath. I practice breathing through my nose – it doesn’t come naturally given my allergies and my drinking habits. Deep down, I’m hurt anytime anyone is called a mouth-breather. I’m also conscious of my bad posture. Otherwise, my only other fault is I’m way too humble.
The girls walking past are probably heading for the restaurant Birds, or the Bourgeois Pig, a pretentious, overpriced coffee shop where I go every morning to take a piss and to brush my teeth. The Barista is only friendly to me when I buy a drink. Usually I don’t. She makes sure to point this out to the buying patrons at the bar as I leave.
I pop my beer using the van’s open side door, scraping the paint. Probably the Egyptians first came up with the concept of leverage thousands of years ago. Maybe it was the Chinese. I remember reading how we came up with tin cans a decade before we came up with tin can openers. This was a century or more before Ford produced the Aerostar I’m living in. I’m not sure why I’m thinking this but the beer foams up and explodes and saturates my computer. I’ve only made one payment so far so I make sure to wipe it off quickly. I don’t take into account that my fingers are covered in bacon grease. Probably toe infection too, but I don’t like to think about that. They tell me the next step is gangrene but I’m confident I’ll go to the podiatrist before that happens. They tell me it’s worth paying to fix up. They tell me I’ll be better off for it.
I wonder if one can play basketball with only one big toe.
On my return trip to the podiatrist in a couple weeks, he tells me the toes are healing nicely, but I need to soak them in warm water and Epsom salt. I wonder what he’ll say during next week’s visit, three weeks as of this writing, six full months prior to its publishing, when I show up to his office with a huge chunk of one of my toes missing, then I remember I’m already planning on making an excuse to skip out on the return visit, again, just like I did back in March when I saw him for the same problem. Three months from today one toe will be fine, and the other, the nail is beginning to blacken, but the pain and the infection are gone.
My van is parked on this street because the transmission is dying and I don’t want to move it for fear of being stranded somewhere more unruly (less ruly?). It’s Sunday night – typically poker night – and the streets aren’t crowded, but I’ve been drunk or drunkish since noon, since just before the Bears game. I tend to write better when drunk. Or if not better, than at least more proliferate.
My waitress was Darleen. She wasn’t good but she was young and cute, so I couldn’t give her much grief - we all start somewhere, at some point. She brought a Bud Light when I ordered Blue Moon, and it took half an hour. Then, she brought the Blue Moon but it had an orange slice in it, which I asked she omit. By the time she got it right the game was virtually over – the Bears were up 10 – 0 and they were looking impressive. It was a promising start to the season that would end suckily at the Super Bowl ©.
Ten hours ago I was in Griffith Park duct taping aluminum foil to my windows. A dozen hours from now, I’ll be awaken by a phone call from my mother. I tell anyone who asks that the foil is to keep the sun and the heat out - which is true enough during the summer but really its so I can have some privacy while I read and type, or when I feel life masturbating. I’ve been meaning to get one of those sunshades for the front window, but in a couple months my van will be towed away, so the window shade would have been a waste of money.
With all the foil in place blotting out the light I can sleep until 10 or 11. It was tough in the summer, all sweaty and unbearable, but in autumn it’s nice. After the bars close it gets almost cold out. Right now it feels like 11 pm. The clock tells me it’s 8:14. I think it’s the crickets screwing me up – normally my internal clock is spot on.
(Warning: Mom, if you’re reading this, the next paragraph might be tough, but I love you and please don’t take it personally.)
My mom has a habit of calling early the mornings after I drink heavily. This goes way back to my freshman year of college. She calls asking for insight into the future, or at least into whatever present chaotic situation she’s created for herself. She believes in psychic premonitions and believes our family is in touch with whatever resource it is psychics tap into. In reality she’s just lonely and insecure, overworked and stressed out. My reservoir of patience I learned from dealing with her. Andrew puts up with her as well, to some extent. My other siblings aren’t as understanding, although I think they recognize that whatever’s eating at her is genetic. Or, they don’t. I can’t say for sure. My sister’s kids, they’re great, but I feel for what they’re going to have to deal with in the coming years.
With the exception of Andrew, I talk to my siblings only a handful of times a year. At least twice a month I feel like a dick for not calling them more, but I justify this by saying the phone works both ways. Stephanie used to call on occasion but it’s been several months. Chris, I get an occasional message on myspace. As far as I can tell, this set up works out well for all involved. Three months from now I’ll have just returned to the desert from Thanksgiving in Utah, a good time had by all. Definitely less bloodshed than the last trip home, anyway.
As I write, I wonder about who might read this, or where and when. I don’t feel I’ve ever finished writing anything, there’s always room for editing, for expansion or clarifying. I don’t write as much as I’d like, but probably more than the average nobody writer in LA; I’m very sporadic, impulsive rather than compulsive, and I never get around to sending anything anywhere. Five weeks from now, I’ll be editing this, trying to create some subtle through-line to help the reader along.
Three months on and it isn’t working.
This morning, before the Bears game, twenty-four hours before my mother called and interrupted my dream of the future, I awoke horny as all get out. I dreamed of intercoursing a girl I met at the bar – the Powerhouse – earlier in the week. She plays bass in a band and they’ve come to LA to record an album. I replaced sex long ago with masturbation, or by collecting music on my laptop. Instead of fantasizing about how I would ravage this girl should she return my phone call*, I maneuvered my van into Griffith Park and went to work on the windows. I fully expect to jerk off before going to bed. I’m already well into my third Modelo, so add to that the pitchers I downed during the football game and I might just pass out early instead. Also, there’s the off chance that Nate might call me about poker, so I’ll put off pulling it**.
(*: She didn’t but at least I tried.)
(**: I passed out.)
Two years and six months ago I had my quarter-life crisis – a tough three months. I rode to Pittsburgh and spent time at my friend Donnie’s place, sleeping on a couch in an apartment he shared with four of his frat buddies. Since then, he’s graduated medical school and moved to Virginia Beach, and just suffered through his first hurricane only a week ago. He said it wasn’t as exciting as he thought it might be. We don’t talk much, but we’ve got competing fantasy football teams, and we’re both obsessed with Lost. Occasionally he’ll email asking suggestions for movies to watch. Six months from now, as I give this one more pass-over before posting it to my blog, I’m days away from giving him a call on his birthday, which he shares with my mother and my favorite author.
I used to hate the feeling of rooting down, kicking up my feet, relaxing. The idea of stagnancy makes me uncomfortable. I get listless. I feel better moving in the wrong direction than not moving anywhere. But since I returned from Pittsburgh I feel what most people would probably describe as normal, as though I’m moving forward at ease, progressing at my own pace, evolving while maintaining the sensibilities that brought me to this city in the first place. But all around me, the people I know, they’re compromising their identities, mistaking loneliness for love, marrying the first person who has sex with them willingly and on a regular basis. So many people forget so quickly what they loved as a child, as a teen, what they swore they were going to become, what they envisioned themselves doing in ten, twenty, thirty years, and they give up before giving themselves a chance to accomplish anything.
Thirty years from now, I’m going to be doing what I said I would do forty years before.
After concluding my mid-twenties breakdown and flying back to California the last twenty-six or so months have been a breeze – working on films, in television. Working towards doing what I came here to do. I’ve made a few friends, done some writing. My screenplays are progressively improving and I’m anxious to meet an agent who’ll recognize my talent and respect my ambitions. But in the last few weeks a seed has been growing, gnawing inside, telling me it might be time for a change of scenery. I’ve never been to Virginia Beach, so maybe I might strike out that way and experience a hurricane of my own. Chicago might be good, too – not only is it the home of the Bears but there’s at least a dozen people I know who’ll let me shower and crash on their couch without it compromising our friendship. More than I can say about LA.
Turns out three months from now I’ll be back down in Palm Springs, working on my house during the day and pretending to write at night. Sometimes sleeping on my bed, sometimes sleeping on my brother’s living room floor. It’s cold there, but at least he has working indoor plumbing.
(Warning: Dad, see the above warning.)
Boredom hits often, and it hits hard. I remember being twelve, about to leave for Montana for a couple weeks in August with my dad’s dad, to return days before school starts. My dad was a drunk but not prone to violence. Selfish, but not unkind. Apathetic is the word that fits the man he was back then. A lover of music and the social lives of the bar and golf course. At this point I’d been living with him for a handful of years, but readying to leave on this trip was the first time I remember sharing a hug. I think we both felt awkward – I was struggling to become a teenager; he was struggling to be a father.
We stood in front of his office, he probably inebriated or within a hour of becoming such, me ready to strike out on my first adventure as an adolescent. In an hour my grandfather would be picking me up. With a few minutes to kill, my dad asked what I wanted to do with my life. In second grade I told everyone I wanted to be an ornithologist – mostly, I think, because it was an impressive word for a second grader. But that day, in front of his office, I told my father – a civilian telecommunication specialist working and living on a military proving ground – that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew I couldn’t handle a nine-to-five job. I was maybe 12 or 13 at the time, but that’s pretty close to verbatim.
I can’t handle a nine-to-five job.
I can’t handle a nine-to-five job.
I can’t handle a nine-to-five job.
A dozen years from now and I’ve probably hugged my dad half that many times since. He loves golf and I despise all it represents – elitism, class snobbery, destruction of open land, goofy wardrobe and so forth. We both love the Bears and music, and building things with power tools. We lay on the couch with a book or magazine resting on our laps in the identical way. He’s sober going on four years, since just about the time I really started hitting the bottle. I’m not sure what’s stopping me from calling and telling him I’m proud of his accomplishments - maybe it’s the same thing that stopped him from coming to my track meets or from congratulating me for any job well done. I’m not sure about ESP, but apathy definitely is a family trait. I might still be bitter, but I think he’s done a fine enough job at raising my sister Madison, twelve years my junior.
So: Dad, I’m proud of your work in AA.
At any rate it’s been over a decade since declaring I couldn’t handle a regular job and I’ve gone out of my way to prove that statement. Mostly I think I just hate mornings – one reason why the military was never an option. Waking up to an alarm blaring always puts me in a funk. Also, working in the entertainment industry allows me the opportunity of micro-relationships – six to eight week romances with co-workers that begin when the job begins and ends when the job ends. I’ve never been good at one-night stands – too much effort for such little payoff. (See also: buffalo wings; lobster.)
I’m drawn to this business because of the schedule – an inconsistent schedule equals insomnia, which I suffered through for my first two decades (although now I’m prone to oversleeping), and insomnia sparks my creative side. I long for nights of unrest. An inconsistent schedule keeps me from rusting. These days, I’m able to wake up when I feel like it and sleep when I please. It might not sound like much, but it goes a long way toward keeping boredom at bay, and my writing improves, even if it means I’m not the most pleasant person to be around. I didn’t come here to make friends, I came here to make movies.
Looking at old photos I realize I wasn’t as ugly as I thought. That doesn’t stop me from realizing how not ugly I am right now. I think half the reason I want to get in fights is so I have something to blame my face on.
I don’t get stressed out. I came to this realization as my van went up in a smoking disaster during rush hour, 85 miles an hour on the freeway, heading to LA, mistaken about what days I’m working this week. I’ve been living on and off inside my vehicle for the last two years (from November ’04 through January ’05, and from May through October ‘06). 56 hours ago I looked in my rearview mirror and saw smoke billowing out the back, and the first thing that popped into my head was, I’m not going to make it to poker tonight. It was a Monday game – pretty rare, but it was a holiday so everyone had the night off.
I’m sure for most people, having their transmission go out is a shitty experience. It was for me, for sure. Also, I don’t have insurance so that was doubly shitty. And since my van doubles as my home, I’ve got a shitload of shitiness going on all around me. But I managed to get it to a semi-safe area – that is to say, not burdened by gangs or high crime, and within close enough proximity to a subway station so as to not feel ill at ease by lack of transportation.
Tuesday, the day after my van blew its load on the freeway, I walked from the Getty Museum to the Nu-Art Theater in Culver City. This wasn’t my intent, to cause the blisters that make me limp today, that will barely begin healing when I chunk off my toe in a skeezy hotel room a week from now, but the bus system in the LA doesn’t have its shit together.
In two days I’m at a bar, feet blistered and numb from surgery, playing shuffleboard and listening to a 90-year-old woman singing beautifully to an enthusiastic crowd of two-dozen. I’m not aware that all the beer I’m drinking will do nothing to drown out the pain of the toes as they come back to life with large portions of the nail dug out, the soft tissue beneath exposed and stuffed with gauze.
It’s later. This last Sunday the Bears beat the Lions 34-0 and I’m sure they’ll be playing either Pittsburgh or Indianapolis in the Super Bow if Rex Grossman doesn’t get hurt. I’m staying the night at the cheap hotel off Hollywood & Cujenga, across the street from my favorite coffee shop. The hotel has HBO, ESPN and a porn channel. I’ve jerked off twice already – the first time in more than a week – and tomorrow I’ve got a flight to Kentucky where I’ll hang out with my anxiety-ridden mother and incontinent step-dad for a few days. Today is my first day off in a while and all I want to do is get drunk, but I’ve got to wake at 5:30 to get to the airport. So instead of hitting the Powerhouse I’ve finished off my bottle of vodka (Gran Legacy, the bottle says) and I’ve just now cracked the first beer – another 6 pack of especials. I also have a Fat Tire, which I intend to use to put me over the top. In three and a half hours I will wake with a hangover but I can sleep on the train to the airport and on the plane to Nashville. I will ride in the back of a rental car and drink coffee black. Three and a half hours from now, I’ll be getting my first coffee of the day, on my walk to the bus station. 7-11 coffee has always been my favorite. The same guy who sold me bandages a few hours ago will see me again, a little worried, and will ask if I went to the hospital yet. I have not.
In the early summer of a few years ago, either 2000 or 2001, I decided I was going to walk from Salt Lake City to New Orleans. There’s a laundry list of reasons why, but I’ll spare. In the end I drove rather than hiked. Regardless, I managed to get to my destination but I still think of myself as a weak-willed pussy.
My goal was to take however long it took to get there, walking alone across the country and writing my stories, me and Kaiser on the road, dependent on nothing but ourselves, distracted by nothing but nature – working for no one but a slave to nothing.
We drove in a mid-90s Mitsubishi pickup, in July, with no air conditioning. We left the night of the 3rd of July, and some of my fondest memories were acquired during that brief trip – driving through the Rockies, all alone on the freeway as Fourth of July fireworks blew up all around us, Kaiser staring out the window in awe; the sun rising out of the flat black nothingness of the Kansas flats; hanging out with my high school friend Chanda for a week with her college buddies; sleeping in my truck in Metairie, LA for a week, with my dog, broke and wondering what the hell we were going to do; an attempted mugging at butter knife point almost literally the moment we arrived in New Orleans, broke up because Kaiser was an 80 pound pit bull/boxer mix and intimidating as fuck; meeting my brother’s wife and children; and so forth.
I returned home a few months later with my tail between my legs. I hadn’t written a goddamn thing, but I had come up with new stories and a renewed anger toward many of the people who occupied this state, this country and this world. This would and remains to be the source of much of my writing. I always have been and probably always will be somewhat of a misanthrope, although I’ve been accused of being soft and sentimental from time to time.
Skip ahead a couple of years. George Bush steals the presidency. September 11th happens. We’re at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I turn 24 on December 31st, 2003 and fall immediately into that quarter-life crisis. By February I was on a Greyhound aimed for Pittsburgh. Donnie meets me at the terminal and gives me a lift to his place. We acknowledge how I smelled like a homeless person. Four days on a bus will do that to you.
On the bus, unable to sleep for days, sitting between some new-age hippie and a soldier returning from Afghanistan, I read Catcher in the Rye and I wondered why no one gave me that book five years—fuck.
I just returned, limping and bloody, from 7-11. The guy I met a few hours from now is still there. He’s freaking out because I’m bleeding everywhere. I paused while typing to go open my last Modelo (reminder: a pop-top). It slipped, shattering on the bathroom floor, going through my bare foot on its way down. I knew it was bad, but couldn’t help but laugh – if only a camera had been there to see this blooper. I need stitches, or some duct tape and a shot of whiskey.
Six weeks from now and I’m happy to add the scar to my collection.
The hotel only accommodates two towels and I already used one as a cum-rag 10 minutes after I arrived, so I use the other to apply pressure to my toe and now I have none left to dry off after my morning hangover shower – these are the things I worry about as the towel fills with more blood than seems necessary.
As I sit outside the 7-11 applying gauze and band-aids, a guy walks up to me, presumably to sell me drugs. He asks if I need anything. I say, probably some stitches, showing off the damage, laughing with the knowledge that this is really going to hurt in the morning but is right now completely without feeling. This guy, this probable drug dealer, he looks like he’s been around the block a time or twice, a scar above his left eye running a few inches back into his shaved skull, he walks away, wordless, freaked out.
Blood covers my fingers and is beneath my nails. Blood is on the sidewalk, and seeps through my shoe. I would thank god that I’m drunk and can’t feel shit, but it was getting drunk that got me here in the first place. Also, I don’t believe in god.
In the hotel, the carpet is polka-dotted with blood. I’m not sure if they’re going to make me pay to clean it or not, but certainly they’re out one towel – I assume they’re use to cleaning jism – a bi-product of having the EXTSY channel on your TV, but blood is a different matter, so I toss it in the trash with my bottles and the broken glass.
Personally, I can’t wait to see the expression on the poor security guard who asks me to take my shoes off at the airport tomorrow. I wish I’d grabbed the Vicodins from my van when I packed my bag four hours ago. The Valium I’m going to give to my mother. Happy fiftieth birthday, seven months and three days late. I got both these prescriptions when I was bit by a black widow on Easter morning. More on this later.
So after shattering the last one I’m down to one beer– the Fat Tire, one of my favorites, which my wise younger brother wisely recommended to me – and I make damn sure to make sure I don’t shatter it when opening. It’s now well after midnight. On TV, some guy with an average size dick is fucking some blonde with fake tits in the ass. I was working on organizing my music and writing when I fucked up my toe. I’m almost ready for bed, but I’m warm to the idea of writing some more.
It’s 2:21 and I just can’t stop. This is all happening. Time doubles back on itself as I critique my writing, moments after typing it. I’m uninterested in the porn – bad lighting and audio, mostly, and the chick isn’t very hot. I wonder how much blood one can lose before it becomes dangerous, and I’m feeling more drunk now than a half hour ago. It’s almost time for bed.
My brother has to be to work in 7 hours. My mom is sleeping soundly, or not. Drugged, probably. The sun is rising over Virginia Beach. In 13 hours I’ll be in Nashville. The sun will be setting. I’ll be in need a drink and as I scope for the nearest dive bar my mother will worry about my safety, alone in the Big Big World. I’ll ignore her, telling her I only want a beer and some solitude but nothing I say will convince her I know what I’m doing. I’ll placate her and as soon as she and her husband fall asleep in the room next to mine I’ll try to hook up with a Kentuckian but fail.
I was wrong – my hangover never came. However, I fell out of bed hard enough to piss off the neighbors when my cell phone alarm went off. I wish I had the guts to check out my toe, to scope the damage. If only I had a goddamn popper none of this would’ve happened. Four hours after the smash, five minutes after a long, warm shower that will make me late for the bus to the airport which leaves in twenty-two minutes, I tried removing the gauze and band-aid but couldn’t muster up the balls to do it – the pain was excruciating, but also the toe itself felt like it was ready to fall off. It needs stitches both on the inside to keep together whatever meat the toe has, as well as on the outside to pin the gap shut. I wonder if tendon damage is possible. I’m pretty sure a broken bottle – even thrust violently at the floor – isn’t capable of slicing through bone, but twenty-four years and ten months ago an aluminum door sliced through my pinky finger like rice paper, so who knows. I’ll ask my mom when I see her in Nashville, after my flight is delayed two hours in a stop over at Atlanta. She’s a nurse, and would know more about my toe than I would, I think.
Ready for bed, I’m going to go ahead and try to wrap things up, and I'm kind of sad I'm not going to get around to including the black widow story.
I’ve always been hyper-aware of time. I’m convinced this is the cause of much of my insomnia as a kid. That, and the bad dreams and the overanalyzing of everything, and my parent’s drunken parties Thursdays through Saturday nights. Actually, in retrospect, it’s pretty amazing I got any sleep at all. I was prone to passing out in class. My track coach would throw things at me for falling asleep during his fire and brimstone meetings.
My dreams have always been vivid. Four days ago, I was told this is because I rarely fall into the deepest area of sleep, but instead remain in the R.E.M. cycle too long – a side effect of insomnia, I was told. The girl who told me this, she’s normally an idiot and quite irritating, but sometimes she says things that just make sense. This is one of those times.
Most nights I would stare at the clock, bright red and glowing, well past two or three in the morning. Sometimes four, sometimes five. The sun rises. I roll out of bed. Cross the hall to the bathroom for a shower. My vivid dreams, they’re usually about being chased by people I know and like, or know and dislike. Sometimes I’m falling, sometimes it’s all blackness, and me wandering frightened, sometimes I’m trying to run – to save someone, or myself – and I can’t move. Sometimes, I’m in a skyscraper under construction, standing on an exposed I-beam, too afraid to look down, but not able to continue moving forward because there’s someone in my way.
Nowadays, I sometimes dream of basketball and Kaiser and I certainly sleep more than I did 10 years ago, but my dreams haven’t changed all that much.
One year, eleven months and ten days ago my dog died trying to get out of the rain – a product of my neglect, something which I’ll never forgive myself and only recently – maybe six months ago – learned to deal with, although I still dream that he’s at home, waiting to greet me when I arrive. Every time I see the neighbor’s dog, I feel like a failure.
I’m sorry, Kaiser.
Twelve or so years ago I kicked Chad in the stomach during a tiff in seventh period PE. The sound of his breath forced from his lungs makes me shiver. I hear it when I sleep.
I’m sorry Chad.
Seven years and two months ago I packed up and moved to California, eyes wide with ambition. I left Ellen at home to deal with her family, to languish and feel unloved and unwanted, abused. She wanted to be a lawyer; I wanted to scrape the rust from my joints. I’m not sure where she’s at now or what she’s done with her life, but I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry and thought things through.
I’m sorry Ellen.
I’m finishing this up exactly where it started – sitting in my van, eating shitty bacon from the liquor store (which coincidentally I’ve only visited twice in my life), drinking warm beer, thinking about my toe, and about time, and about the short film IRAN I produced, which was submitted to Sundance today, on the final day of our extended deadline. My clothing is soaked and smells like rain, but I love that feeling, and that smell. It looks midnight outside, but it’s 6:47 in the afternoon. I’m out of clean clothes but the laundry mat is too far away to walk, so I have to drive, which means I’ve got to leave when there’s no one else on the road. I’m sick and tired of not being able to move this van.
As I’m leaving the coffee shop twenty-two minutes ago, the clouds burst and dump on the city. A million people disappear instantly. The homeless find somewhere else to be. Cars with windshield wipers wiping madly splash past. People behind glass watch the rainfall, but otherwise I’m alone. I’m cold. Eight hours from now in the laundry mat, I’m waiting for my shit to dry. I listen to an HDTV infomercial on constant loop on the radio, and I’m still cold.
The rain is stopped. People are out and about. A cute British woman just asked where she can find the leau. The people, they’re happy the rains are gone. Me, I can’t wait for them to return, to wash away the piss, the smog, to take away the stench of this place, to leave me alone, if only for a couple hours.