Category Archives: De La Moda

GOOD FENCES

How do I know if my neighbor is a gang member?
Do felons in California have to register their address?
Concrete vs cement?

But before I can dive into my google search history, I have to dig a hole. Three holes to be precise.

The ground is hard, nearly impenetrable. Jonathan Swift said, He was a bold man who first ate an oyster. But I say, He was a self-loathing man who first dug a hole. I have a myriad of tools: a shovel, a thing that requires two hands and looks like it could be used to serve an enormous salad, and something like a jackhammer that’s not a jackhammer which weighs as much as a Shetland pony.

Unskilled Laborer.jpg

Around each new turn I realize I know nothing of hard work. Last time it was a Jurassic Park-level cactus in my neighbor’s backyard. But that freakish plant is no more. Thanks to some version of hard work, it’s been slain and laid to rest in four trash barrels, each weighing three hundred pounds. Three hundred pounds of cactus gut and spikes. Some of it is still on the ground. Some of it is harpooned in my hands, legs, nostrils. I can’t sneeze without discovering a new alien spike lodged in me.

The mutant cactus is what brought me to the holes. Over time, presumable from when crack ravaged this community until last weekend, it flourished. It ate the fence between myself and my neighbor, just swallowed it whole. And since I now live in an area where people set off fireworks around the clock and the dogs never stop barking, I have taken to believing good fences make good neighbors. Or whatever Robert Frost wrote that people interpret for whatever case they’re attempting to make. So that’s what I’ll do. Misappropriate Robert Frost.Related image

A fence is a good thing because I don’t want to see the toilet that’s been sitting in my neighbor’s backyard for a decade and I don’t want my neighbors to see the toilet that’s been sitting in my backyard since Saturday. Also, my neighbor, who I’ve yet to meet, is allegedly a bipolar schizophrenic who I’ve been warned to not talk to. And he isn’t even my crazy neighbor.

It’s all new to me. Digging holes, a backyard full of toilets and cactus innards, seeing dogs with balls. The only thing that is familiar is not talking to my neighbors. I have that down pat. Other than a guy in Hollywood who I shared a hallway with for half a decade – who I’d drink beers with and talk about how we should find some place nicer to live than section 8 adjacent but we couldn’t beat the rent – I’ve not met one. I’ve just gone about my business not giving a shit about other people except for when it comes to institutional change. There I care. Here, in real life, I’m a bit more self-involved. I have holes to dig, walls to paint and a stack of New Yorkers that aren’t going to read themselves.

But lately I’ve wondered about meeting my neighbors. There is a new version of myself where I am a stranger in a strange land. I’m curious about this other way of life that exists south of the 10 freeway in places that people know from Mack 10 songs and documentaries about the Rodney King Riots.

Last week I was on set in what was supposed to be Columbus, Ohio but was actually the city of Hawthorne. East of the airport, most famous for the abandoned mall where Chris Brown shot “Party” and where gangs shoot each other as often as they can. While the location was being lit, I saw a police officer taking advantage of an ice cream truck that the production bought for the crew. She was 5’2 and her bulletproof vest came up high enough that she could rest her chin on it. While she ate a banana split, I asked: Had development from Inglewood overflowed into Hawthorne? No. Any shifts in the population? What? Any signs of gentrification? Um, we have a brewery now, she said.

I cut to the chase: I have a neighbor with the kind of face tattoos that you can only get in Salvadoran prisons. Should I be worried?

She shrugged, He’s probably a gangster.

Should I introduce myself? How does one exist with a gangbanger as a neighbor?

Under no circumstances am I to do that. Give him a head nod to show that you acknowledge and respect his presence, but then go inside. Stay in your lane.

I keep hearing this. Apparently, that’s how one maintains here: keep your head down. But also on a swivel. The cop tells me I shouldn’t do anything that people aren’t already doing. So no running up on cholos with blueberry pies and smiles.

Then she pulled up a map and systematically relayed the areas that I’m to avoid. All of Imperial. Most of Century Boulevard. Oh and stay out of Lennox. She said, You don’t go to Lennox.

Besides the homicide rate, a quick search revealed that Lennox has an air quality problem (thanks to LAX) that’s Flint, MI water level bad. But it’s in the hood, so apparently no one cares. My own air quality isn’t great. I’ve been huffing paint fumes every weekend for as long as I can remember (read: 2 weekends).

At the end of the day, there were three holes in the ground. Then a post was set. Then concrete that was mixed in a wheelbarrow was shoveled into the ground. I used to be stunned by One Last Poem for Richard. Now a dent in the earth, filled with concrete to support a fence post blows my mind. I think, this must be how they built the pyramids. Me and the Egyptians. We get it.

Of course I didn’t build the fence, but I was there. Across the street, my gang affiliated neighbor lit fireworks then rolled them under unsuspecting cars at the stop sign. I think I might go out of town for the 4th of July.

Leave a comment

Filed under De La Moda, House Hunters/Home Improvement

Finally Famous

 

article-0-1C2979E200000578-847_634x831.jpg

If you’re expecting me to change – I am too. I suspect it will happen any day now.

It just seems there’s no way a person who has had his webseries featured on countless (2) websites, which has garnered too many views to even keep track of (97,000[1]) could continue to also be a man who frequents the Cha Cha Lounge before 9 p.m. for a shot of mediocre tequila and a 61 degree PBR at the bargain price of $5.

It’s just not feasible.

“You may have heard of my webseries,” I say to a man wearing a mask blowing leaves from one driveway to another. “Driving Arizona.” He shuts off his leaf blower and politely waits for me to go away. Little does he know people who have reached a certain level of fame have nowhere they need to be. Mario Andretti, Mario Batalli, Mario Lemieux, myself – we’re all men with absolutely nothing to do tomorrow, but to wait for it to come and cradle us with its sunlight.

It comes up at the gym. “Nice shorts,” says a man who has dyed his beard an unintentional hue of purple. “Thanks. Little trivia – they were in the luggage belonging to the character Sasha in episode 4 of Driving Arizona.” He stares blankly. “No. You’re right. It was episode 3!”dazfacebook5

There was a time when all my Lyft drivers were deeply devoted students of improv. Now they are men and women from towns that I haven’t heard of north or east of Los Angeles, lured here on weekend nights by the promise of endless riches. Or at least the app tells them if they keep driving – after gas, wear and tear, and emotional fatigue – they might break even.

“Just start driving or finishing up?” A man who is too tall for his Toyota Yaris replies but I’m wondering why I didn’t give him a third option – the middle, halfway through his shift.

Though I haven’t heard a word he’s said, when he stops talking I say, “Speaking of which, you may have heard of a little web series I co-created – Driving Arizona.”

“Sounds like a PSA for a driving school.”

“But there’s something beautiful about the innocuousness of it, isn’t there? Like a puddle that pools after the rain and when you stare down at the wet cement, you’re met with a reflection of the sky.”

He runs his fingers across his phone’s screen. “Is it alright if I drop you off here?”

So maybe it isn’t me who has changed. It’s the way people react to a person who has created something as eternal as the webseries. Bertrand Russell once said or wrote or communicated in some way that he now gets credit for these words in this particular order, “The search for something permanent is one of the deepest instincts leading men to philosophy.”

Well, Berty. It leads other men to the webseries.

[1] Which is 10x fewer views than your average video of a guy demonstrating how to find the pilot light in your oven.

Leave a comment

Filed under De La Moda, Formal Correspondence, Staring Into A Cobalt Pool

Crying on the 134

FullSizeRender.jpg

So far I’ve cried on the 134, the 5 and the 101 – twice. And that’s just in the last week. A friend texted me that he didn’t mind crying in public places when it’s in the name of celebrating someone’s life. I think I do mind, but I looked up on Yelp: “good bars to cry in.”

I don’t feel as if these tears are earned though and maybe that’s why I’m embarrassed when the person in the Prius chugging next to me sees me with tears falling from my face. I’m worried they’re thinking, “Come on, man. Do you really deserve to be crying? Did you earn those tears? Because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t your brother who died.” Or if they don’t look, and I’m just sitting there with tears falling into my lap, awestruck and disgusted, that these people have the nerve to talk happily on the phone or casually rap over Drake, or what I assume is Drake, with their windows up and their A/C blasting. What gives them the right to carry on completely unaffected?

So either they’re accusing me of not having the right to feel the way I do or I’m mad at them for not feeling the way I do.

Since my hands are on the wheel, the tears sit until they dry on my face. And for whatever reason, a dried tear doesn’t feel the way I expected it to. I didn’t think it would be any different from jumping out of the shower and not bothering to towel-off. But it’s more like when you get out of the ocean and let the sun do the work for you. The salt water cakes on your face, drying it out, leaving it feeling crunchy and somehow less agile.

I don’t have a lot of experience with tears. On my wedding day, I’m told all my groomsmen were balling, and I’m sure if I had seen my brother and my best friends tearing up, I would have been right there with them. But I was facing my wife and her stone-cold bridesmaids who knew better than to let their mascara bleed before the wedding party pictures.

There have been a handful of other times in the last fifteen years where I can remember crying. Each time someone had died. But more often, someone died and I didn’t cry. It didn’t feel earned. I was sad, but I didn’t feel right crying just because the circumstances were sad. I felt like something had to have been cut from me, specifically taken away from me, in order to justify the tears.

But on the 101, skirting passed Hollywood, I could feel myself on the verge of tears, where I have been for almost a week now, but nothing was cut from me. Something was taken from one of my closest friends, but I still question whether I was in the right to feel like I want to bury my head in the steering wheel and sob like a fucking four-year-old on the shoulder of the freeway.

So if anyone has any answers about when it’s okay to cry, I’d like to know. Really.

I think I perceive sadness as weakness and weakness as a vulnerability to getting hurt. If you’re not weak, you can’t get hurt. If you’re not sad, you can’t be labeled as weak, so in my distorted view of the world, the best way to not get hurt is to not be sad.

The only problem is that I am sad. I’ve been sad for as long as I can remember. And it’s not like something horrible happened to me. I was a sad fucking eight-year-old. This hasn’t changed, it’s not anyone’s fault, but I am aware of it and I think it makes me below average when it comes to grieving or even appropriately dealing with anything emotional.

Your average teenage apathy became my modus operandi. If I don’t care, then it won’t hurt when I fail. I don’t really care ergo I can’t get hurt if I do. So I’m afraid to get hurt, which also makes me afraid to care. This is all probably very obvious for everyone else, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around why I’m crying on the shoulder of the freeway, and why I’m ashamed that I’m crying because I don’t deserve to feel this pain to begin with.

So now not only am I ashamed that I’m crying, but I also think I’m an imposter to this grief. I don’t even deserve to feel as shitty as I do. Why can’t I listen to Drake with my windows up and my A/C blasting? Why can’t I call my brother and complain that I hate my job and I should quit because life is short, etc.?

But I did all that last week. And someone just died which even further solidifies this thing about life being short and that it doesn’t need to be a grind and that Anne Dillard quote that I repeat too often, but wish I had tattooed on my forearm, “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.” Why is that so fucking massive to me? It seems so obvious yet every time I read it, it blows my fucking mind. Are you fucking kidding me? This day? This shit? These will be the pieces, which collectively make up my time on this earth? And I’m spending more than five minutes with people who I don’t love doing things I don’t enjoy?

Well, that’s wrong. I mean, if that’s what’s happening and my time is limited, why am I worried about whether a stranger thinks my grieving is earned? Fuck them. Seriously. Fuck them. But they don’t even care. They’re in their own bubbles too… and now it seems I’ve gotten off track. We’re talking about crying.

People say it’s a healthy thing to do. Why do you have to hurt before you can do it? Isn’t there a way to do it without the hurt? Probably not. I guess you do have to earn it.

A police officer is knocking on my window. I guess I need to carry on with what I was doing. Surrounding myself with people who I love, doing what makes me happy. But first, I guess I’ll let myself cry.

 

2 Comments

Filed under De La Moda, Staring Into A Cobalt Pool

The Profound Effects of Losing an Arm Wrestling Match

My Lyft driver drops me off in a part of the Arts District that has apparently yet to be reclaimed. The door to the industrial building is unlocked. Inside, the lights flicker over the empty hallways and I don’t feel especially safe. But I’ve got my eyes trained on my phone, giving my driver who got lost twice and spent the whole ride complaining about people who complain about gentrification, five stars.

When I push through the door of #4, my friend who lives in Santa Monica but never seems to be there says, “You didn’t run into those pit bulls did you? I should’ve told you about the pit bulls.” I did not. He seems relieved and pours me a drink.

roof 2.jpgBecause no one can resist a rooftop after a few drinks, we crawl through a window and onto the roof. We peer through sky lights and hope to catch people in their most intimate moments: shadow boxing with the mirror, singing Frank Ocean to their pugs, eating kimchi in front of an open fridge while Ira Glass’s voice emanates from their phone. We peer into twelve living rooms and even a couple retail spaces. A few TVs are on, half-drunk glasses are sprawled across long dining room tables, laptops are open to email accounts, but no one is home. It’s midnight.

I stand at the edge of the building and wonder why I’m not feeling that thing we’re all supposed to feel when standing on the edge – the desire to jump. I think it’s because we’re not up high enough. Only four stories or so. You’d be lucky if you belly flopped and died. I set a bottle of Modelo on the lip of the building. If I was younger or drunker I’d toss it into the middle of the empty street but I don’t have the desire to do that either.

It’s FYF weekend and a steady stream of the artists playing tomorrow are being cycled through the loft’s speakers. We talk about Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast and Joachim Trier’s editor and the Spanish repatriation of Sephardic Jews. There’s a moment where we quietly wish our ancestors had been booted from Spain five hundred years ago so we could spend our summers on Mallorca and not worry about leaving the Schengen Area after ninety days.

This might be the first time I’ve been at a party in a loft downtown where everyone isn’t doing coke. I mean, there’s coke here, but it’s all very discreet. A conversation about its source, an apology about coming up short on a few other pharmaceuticals for tomorrow’s festival, a confirmation of a Venmo payment received. I remember when people used to buy drugs with cash. Still, the party is very grown up. That is until someone mentions arm wrestling.

The last time I laid elbows and locked thumbs would have been the Carmel Middle School cafeteria. But really what we did there was play that game with quarters where we bloodied our knuckles. We did that and sat around waiting to be old enough to drive a car and tell everyone to fuck off.

I learned to drive a car, but I never got around to telling anyone, let alone everyone, to fuck off.

I lock hands with my friend – the one who has his mail sent to Santa Monica – and to be honest, I expect to win. It’s a delusion that I have. I always expect to win. I’m not talking about winning Jeopardy or checkers, I mean two men doing anything physical where only one can win. So I’m surprised when I put everything I have into it and I lose. Twice – left and right arms.

We shoot some more tequila. I talk to a guy who’s dedicated his life to working in the gardens at some monastery in the middle of Koreatown. For a moment, it seems like he might try to recruit me into the brotherhood of dudes who like to meditate and don’t mind carrying stones. I’m making up the part about stones, but the garden is real. Monks love gardens and beer, and I am perfectly fine with gardens and more than willing to drink beer. He doesn’t recruit me.

I show a girl from Dubai a picture of my family. I eat two slices of margherita pizza. I realize my shoulder is killing me, grab another Modelo and another slice of pizza and stumble out into the street.IMG_1723.JPG

Unless you’ve lost an arm wrestling match on the bar of a loft in the 30th year of your life, you don’t know my pain. And this particular pain runs deep. Or at least deep enough to send me to the gym on a Saturday. Like Rocky summiting the stairs in Philadelphia, I arrive ready for the workout of a lifetime: blood, sweat, torn calluses – but alas, I’ve forgotten my headphones – so I just trot down to the sauna instead.

It’s the usual crowd: an Asian dude in his sixties, four Armenians guys in the their twenties who may have just walked in off the basketball court and an older Armenian guy who I imagine spends his days in a track suit when he’s not nearly naked in a wooden box full of men. Pretty soon it’s just the two of us – me and the older Armenian guy – and I’m reaching the fourteenth of the fifteen minutes I had planned to be in there, when he says, “Do you like to have fun?”

“Not especially. I mean, I will, but I don’t seek it out the way I used to. I don’t have the energy for it.”

“Funny. I like that, and because I like you, I want to let you in on something.” He reaches into the pocket of his red Ralph Lauren swim trunks and pulls out a business card. It’s black and wet with what I hope is just the condensation in this sauna and not his sweat. He hands me the limp card and winks.

It takes both of my hands to hold it up flat so I can read the words: V.I.P. Companions. There’s a 1-800 number and the promise of discretion for “gentlemen who seek the companionship of beautiful, interesting and quiet women.” I hold onto the card for longer than I mean to because I’m imagining a harem of mute women. Dozens of non-speaking models. How do they find and enlist all these beautiful mute women? I’ve never met a person who didn’t speak – are they notoriously attractive?

“Very discreet.”

“I appreciate it but I’m—” I point to a ring that isn’t on my finger because I left it in my car when I was still under the impression I was going to lift weights today.

“Married men can have fun too.”

“Right, but you may recall my stance on fun – I’m not really seeking it, generally speaking.”

“Lots of nice parties.”

I massage my shoulder, remembering the defeat of last night’s party. I can’t take any more parties. I’m retired from fun. I try to hand the card back again but at this point it should really just be thrown away. The black sheen is now stuck to my fingers. It looks more like leftover squid ink pasta than a business card. I put the crumbling remains in my pocket.

“You deserve to be happy, my friend.” With that, he stands, winks and walks out. I’m on the verge of passing out as I enter the thirtieth minute of my time in the sauna, so I’m only able to give him about a fifteen second head start.

Then we meet up again in the locker room, shower side-by-side because we have to, and he doesn’t say a word to me. But he winks again. I don’t know what’s worse: losing an arm wrestling match, having a card for an escort service in my pocket or being repeatedly winked at, but here I am, taking it all on the chin.

2 Comments

Filed under De La Moda, Red Cups

FYF 2015: I AM A GOD ( or the Year of the Kanye)

“I feel like there are only five people here, but they’ve been cloned over and over again.”

LA FEMME

Last year it was The Strokes t-shirt circa 2003 – this year it was a sea of Kanye West t-shirts. Which, at first glance, appeared to be worn ironically by blue-haired girls with pierced septums flaunting handfuls of side boob. I watched as they dislocated their thumbs to slip on and off wristbands that read: Over 21.

The Kids Are Probably Alright

Flat beers were the name of the game. They were readily available in the beer gardens, craft or otherwise. At first I was upset, but then it occurred to me that complaining about flat beer at a music festival full of kids too young to legally drink is like being perturbed that you share your dial-up internet with a fax machine. The kids aren’t drinking beers.

Still, I was on my tenth when they bumped into me. A girl who sat on a boy’s shoulders rolling so hard that she pulled on his pompadour as if she were barebacking a horse, trying to steer it through the crowd by it’s mane. Only it wasn’t a horse. It was a teenage boy. He asked her to dismount every three minutes or so, his turkey-sausage-fueled legs buckling under her eighty-six pounds of eyeliner and pink ombre hair. She swayed to Kanye as Kanye so expertly rapped over himself, floating in and out of a cloud of smoke, making proclamation after proclamation. Each greater than the last until he plateaued, having reached the greatest height of self-admiration it’s possible for a person with a microphone to hit. And everyone lost their shit. Except for me. I’m not really a fan.

So I watched as the masses passionately chanted self-flattering lyrics that were presumably written as Kanye stared deeply into… the mirror. Nothing says that you are a kind, caring and loving citizen of this earth like shouting with an effected Chicago accent, “I am a god!”Kanye Loves Kanye

So yeah, I’m headed back for day two. I’ll be the guy with the flat beer standing in a crowd of people who claim to be huge D’Angelo fans, from waaay back. But really, I’m not going to see D’Angelo or Mac Demarco or Toro Y Moi. I’m going to casually observe America’s youth testing the limits of how much acid is a reasonable amount to do while the sun is high and the days are long.

*All images were Fat-Jewished.

2 Comments

Filed under De La Moda

I am a Goddamn Spiritual Person

As the sun rises, I wake up with the chirping of birds, the hum of the freeway, the clanking of Guatemalan immigrants sorting through my trash for bottles and cans.

I breathe in pollen, moss, carbon monoxide emissions. I breathe in intention, and I breathe out ten thousand vodkas in plastic cups, weed before it was legal, and any other toxin that doubled as a party favor back when Bush was in office. I breathe out the anxiety that is not worth holding on to and I tell myself, they cannot implicate me in their ugliness.

“They” being anyone who stands between me and the times of year when I’m on a beach with a beer, with no plans of checking my email and no desire to troll instagram to see who is on a beach with a beer instead of in an air conditioned office abutted by freeways and vegan restaurants, massage parlors and gastropubs. Despite being a spiritual person, I spend my life either on or between freeways. Maybe we all do.

405 chilling

I have replaced Jameson with apple cider vinegar. I shoot it first thing in the morning and I follow it with a water-back. I wince in a way whiskey no longer makes me wince. I can feel the vinegar rotting my molars, my esophagus, but I’m told it’s good for me. Then I stuff myself with massaged kale — as much as I can stomach, and follow that with eggs with yolks as orange as tangerines. Or as orange as oranges. Either way, I eat them.

As a spiritual person, having breathed in my positive intentions and watched my thoughts float past me — not criticizing myself for having them, nor following them to wherever they might go; essentially not giving a fuck about them — and having breathed out the toxins of my youth, those which are deeply embedded in me and those which linger on my epidermis, I have pretty much fulfilled my duty for the day. It’s 7:53 A.M.

A normal person is constantly busy: work, bills, compulsive overeating followed by shame-fueled hours on the elliptical, celebrated with margaritas until the body has slowly slumped into submission. Also known as sleep.

A spiritual person, such as myself, watches his problems wrestle each other into submission like a plastic bag blowing in the wind. Yes, my problems heave and hoe just out of reach until the wind quits or I walk away.

Life is quite relaxing now that I am spiritually satisfied, though it has not pleased everyone. My employer doesn’t seem to understand that “working” doesn’t really fulfill the prophecy that I have imagined for myself, yet I still show up at the office and drink their coffee.

Paying rent is, of course, futile since the pursuit and accumulation of money is unsatisfactory. My landlord served up an eviction notice. I wrote back, “You cannot implicate me in your ugliness. When you’re ready to leave the dark side of chasing paper and paying your mortgage I’ll teach you the ways of breathing in intention and breathing out fucks-given.” So far no word, but I am an optimist, insofar as it’s possible for me to exert energy on anything that may not serve me.

Leave a comment

Filed under De La Moda, Red Cups

The Complete History of My Front Tooth (Right Incisor)

Terry

1985-1994: A tooth breaks through my gum line. Then said tooth falls out and is replaced by another tooth, which is larger and according to my peers “buck.” I am both haunted and proud my large, offensive tooth.

December 12, 1995: I’m at hockey rink on a former military base. More specifically, I’m standing between the posts of a goal that’s adjacent to the actual rink near the referees’ locker room. Because I’m incredibly stupid, I’m not wearing a face mask. To punctuate my stupidity, I’m not wearing a helmet either. Yet I glide side-to-side warding off the attempts of my brother and his friend who are younger, and by my own estimation, unworthy opponents.

I’m not sure if the score is being kept, but I do know I’m caught hugging the wrong post when a shot gets rifled from probably seven feet away from me. In an attempt to maintain my shutout, I do my best Terry Sawchuk and dive headfirst toward the puck. The next thing I remember is my mouth is bleeding and I do the least Terry Sawchuk thing it’s possible to do – I shriek at the top of my lungs then run around the rink looking for what I didn’t know then, but do know now to be a half gallon of morphine.

When they finally calm me down, everyone wants to know what happened to the part of my tooth that my braces didn’t save. I dig around in the crease for a bit looking for it. The old guys say if I find it, I should drop it in a glass of milk, but we’re at a hockey rink so there’s no milk and I’m fairly certain I swallowed my tooth anyway. This is the first and last time I ever play goalie.

The next day I go to school with my war story. I play up the blood and also change the setting from a net next to the rink to the rink itself. In the revised version I’m playing up a level and it’s the save that breaks my tooth, which wins the game for us. We’re league champions. If I cried they were tears of joy because we were champions, my frieeend.

Spring 1999: Somehow I’m still wearing braces. And to no one’s surprise, I find myself talking shit about a kid who has a full mustache and is rumored to drive himself to school. We’re in seventh grade. Or at least I am. I’m not sure he’s technically enrolled. Whatever shit I may have been talking makes it’s way to the mustachioed man-student and I’m informed that he’s going to kick my ass after school. I get specific instructions to head to where they sell pizza at lunch, but not as far as the bus pick-up lines.

At 3:01, I show up certain that some school official is going to intervene and shut this thing down. Instead there’s a circle of guys in JNCO jeans crowded around. I have spiked bleached hair and I’m wearing a Girl skateboard shirt. My mustachioed counterpart tells me that I must be a girl because only a girl would wear a shirt that says “Girl” on it. I tell him he’s a fucking idiot, and has he “ever even heard of Eric Kost—” He throws a punch that I am able to mostly block with my forearm. But I’m certain that he’s shattered my ulna and as I reach for it, he sends another punch to my metallic blue braced-face. This time he connects.

He starts to charge me, but I dodge him momentarily. “Pussy,” he says. I run my tongue across the bottom of my mouth. “Fuck.” I spit into my hand, but my tooth is nowhere in sight. I bare my busted grill to the crowd and say, “I gotta go.” And maybe because they see I’m missing most of my front tooth, the crowd lets me pick up my Jansport and walk away.

A couple days later I make sure everyone knows that I barely felt either punch. Personally, I considered it a draw and I would’ve demanded a rematch, but by then my mustachioed foe had left middle school to join the army.

2001-2004: I’m sure I broke my front tooth once, maybe twice, but I honestly can’t remember how or where.

Spanish dentist

March 23, 2007: I’m allegedly studying, but mostly drinking, on the Mediterranean side of Spain when I snap my tooth while eating a goddamn bocadillo in the afternoon. I walk to my college counselor’s office and she tells me that it’s siesta so I won’t be able to see a dentist until later. She feeds me three glasses of red wine and I fall asleep in her office.

When I wake up it’s dark and I assume she’s Cosby’ed me and now wants me to hit the road. Instead she says her husband is outside and he’s going to take me to a dentist. It’s 9:00 p.m.

I take a ride with a strange Spanish man then enter an elevator that opens to a small suite. A man in street clothes flips on the lights, invites me in and tells me to take a seat in the corner room while he changes. I flip on the lights in the next room to reveal the sort of dentist office you might see in a low budget movie that only had the money for a massage chair and a couple mirrors. My dentist enters, still in his street clothes, but now wearing one of those masks. He tells me that he used to live in Connecticut and “should we switch to speaking English?” I agree and he goes on to speak a language that’s completely incomprehensible to me. When he pauses I tell him he’s very good; in particular his accent. He says in Spanish that while he’s impressed with how white my teeth are, he couldn’t match the color. He went a few shades darker and suggests that I get it fixed when I return to America. As I’m leaving, he tells me I owe him 30 euros. Sure my tooth is a little brown, but my good that’s a fucking deal. I leave happy, but also make a note to limit my medical care in Spain to the cosmetic.

October 2008: I’m in the park of the Greystone Mansion just up the street from my office, which will soon go out of business. I’m working for an agent who insists that I read on my lunch break, but instead forcing me to read scripts, he piles up James Salter, Hemingway, and Nabokov. I’m in the middle of thinking I need a drink, since these guys seem to always be drinking, when I reach for my sandwich made on a beautiful baguette from La Brea Bakery. I take one bite and instantly feel my tooth crumble off. On my way back to the office I think I have to make up a story about how I broke it – mugging? Changing a tire? (Is it obvious I’ve never changed a tire?) Elbow to the face in the elevator? Instead I keep my mouth closed and decide to go home sick. No questions asked.

2009- July 6, 2015: I have a good run. A really good run. I wear a facemask while playing beer league hockey. I eat pizza with a goddamn fork and knife. Things are good. It’s a time of peace. I go to the dentist for normal things like cavities and cleanings. They tell me all of my previous dentists were horrible and I need to get everything redone. Everything accept the front tooth. Instead they just try to sell me Invisalign over and over again. I decline, and they agree that I will be fine without it.

July 7, 2015: I get out of work early and pump iron with the Armenians that frequent my gym. I feel a sense of camaraderie among them, which lasts until I’m piled into the sauna, surrounded by tattoos that are the Armenian Genocide equivalent of “Never Forget.”

Aix-baguettes

Riding high, I find myself in a market, face-to-face with a wall of baguettes. I grab one. I think of being in Paris and how everyone seems to start in on the end of their baguette as soon as they stroll home from their corner patisserie. I eye the baguette, grab it and step outside. The sun is shining, there’s a nice breeze, I practically skip to my piece of shit car. And I can’t help myself, the baguette has tempted me for too long. I give in to its allure in a parking lot in Silver Lake.

One bite. The first bite. That’s it. When you’ve broken your front tooth as many times as I have, well, you know the feeling. It’s not like a hockey puck, or a punch. There’s a distinct collapse, like a foot smashing a sand castle.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

This is the way your tooth breaks.

Not with a bang but a whimper.

July 8, 2015: Now I’m in a high rise in Hollywood where the dentist tells me she’s surprised it lasted as long as it did. She remembers me from 2009. She asks why I stopped seeing her 2012. I assure her that it was nothing personal, just her outrages prices nearly bankrupted me. She tells me the woes of owning a small practice and then offers to set me up with a veneer instead of slapping on another bonding. It’s true that I’m out of network and it’ll cost me $1,600 out of pocket, but I need to think about my future.

“What if I give up baguettes?” I ask.

“That might work too.”

“Fuck it. I’ll go with the veneer. Do you guys take maxed out credit cards?”

“Sure! We’ll put you on a plan!”

Leave a comment

Filed under De La Moda

Yes And: Hollywood House Party

scenic view

On the porch of a house in Hollywood a girl in harem pants plays a mandolin and sings, “No new friends, no new friends, no new friends…” We walk along the side, entering the way pool guys and gardeners do, to arrive in a backyard full of mostly bespectacled men with beards. They’re all 29 years old. Well, that’s not true. Some are 28, others are 30. And not all of them have beards, some have mustaches.

Other than the bearded men, who all introduce themselves as writers, there are also actors and improvisers, and actors who hate improv and improvisers who insist they have no interest in acting.

I drink two or three or four beers with the American flag plastered on the side before I notice my friends have disappeared. And of course, the beer isn’t working. I’m talking to a black guy with a Mohawk who tells me he speaks French fluently and thinks I’d be very handsome if I didn’t have a beard. When I don’t respond quickly enough, he tells me he’s a very talented graphic designer and has a background in the theatre and once spent three weeks in Paris when he was fifteen. Then he asks me who I am dressed up as. He says he can’t tell. I look down to confirm that I’m dressed as I’m pretty much always dressed. He tells me that this is a 90s costume party. I excuse myself, citing an empty Dixie cup.

Around midnight, a busload of girls who are too pretty, too pale and have snorted too much coke, show up. They swing from one end of the party to the other, like marionettes chasing each other. They look like they’ve just stepped out of Nylon Magazine. As it happens, and as they are quick to tell you, they are those girls. “Google me,” one of them says. “I’m legit.”

I tell her I believe her. She tells me she doesn’t care if I believe her or not, because there are a lot of people talking a big game here, but she’s actually very legit. She asks if I recognize her from an HBO show that she was on. I do, I tell her so. She says she doesn’t care if I recognize her or not because she’s legit. But then, in almost a whisper, she does ask one favor of me, “Don’t tell my sister what I’ve been doing.” I agree and she floats across the party, plucking a joint from a stranger’s fingers, she disappears in a haze of smoke, leather, and the obligatory floppy black velvet hat.

My drink is gone. Or rather, I drank it all, but the crowd is too thick to fight my way back to the bar. I haven’t seen my friends in an hour, maybe longer, so I elect to take a lap around the party. One stride into my lap, three guys ask me if I want to go in on a gram. I tell them I’m not actually looking to hole-up in the bathroom with three strangers and a gram from somebody’s friend’s neighbor’s roommate’s connect. They look at me like I’m fucking insane and we part ways.

The girl in the leather jacket and the floppy hat swings back in front of me. Her skin is almost translucent. Her eyes are blue, her scleras are a shade of porcelain, and her jaw, grinding down her perfect teeth, seems to have a mind of its own. She asks for my number and I ask why. She tells me to fuck off and that she’s making a movie and the budget is 3.5 million. Then she asks again for my number. I guess we both assume that she’s answered my question so I give it to her. She puts my name into her phone and then under company she writes: Financier*. I tell her that she’s confused me with someone else. She assures me that she hasn’t because she doesn’t make mistakes and that she doesn’t care what I think because she’s legit. I can google her. Then a tall blonde girl wearing six shades of black, whisks her away so they can pose for a photo shoot. Not an impromptu photo shoot. There are lights, C-stands, a prop couch. And now there are models dropping their chins, pursing their lips, flicking off the camera.

I’m ready to fight my way over to the bar when a girl in a crop top comes over and asks me to guess who she’s dressed up as. I say, “Sheryl Crow,” for reasons that are still unclear to me. She says she’s Courtney Love. Then she proceeds to tell me that Courtney Love is not just a singer, but she also used to be married to Kurt Cobain who was the lead singer of Nirvana, which was a band in the nineties, before he died of an overdose. She tells me she learned all of this in a documentary she watched on HBOGO using her parents’ login info. She asks if I have any coke. I say no and she tells me that she was born in the year of the Ox. I say, “I think I was too – 1985, right?” She buckles over laughing then says, “No. Gross. 1997.”

I guess I’m getting old. Maybe that’s why the booze isn’t working. The girl in the leather jacket and the floppy hat texts me her name and the words: director/writer/actress/model/singer. I look around, but I don’t see her anywhere. I also don’t see my friends or the girl who was born in 1997. I find my way upstairs and into a conversation where a girl where a Wu-Tang shirt volunteers that she doesn’t actually know a single Wu-Tang song. Then a blond guy doing his best James Dean takes her to a nearby couch where they proceed to aggressively make-out while ten guys watch, sipping their beers.

I wander back outside with a cup half-full of vodka, which is not how I approach life by any means, but rather this cup was empty and then I filled it up. Thus, well, you get it. On the perimeter of the party, I sip my lukewarm vodka while actors improvise conversations and girls who look like models, because they are models, pose in front of a lime tree, a staircase, a parked car. A man wearing a baja hoodie comes up to me and demands to know where we’ve met. “I don’t think we have,” I say. He tells me his name and that he’s on mushrooms and that surely he’s met me before because he’s a musician and I’m a musician. I tell him I’m not a musician, but he doesn’t believe me.

He puts his hand on my shoulder and continues to talk about knowing people on a deeper level. The more he talks, the less he sounds like someone on mushrooms and the more he sounds like someone trying to act as if they’re on mushrooms. He continues his monologue while tightening his grip on my shoulder. I can’t fathom why someone would decide that this party would be a good place to do mushrooms. I tell him that I need to go home, he tells me that I don’t. I tell him, “I need to take my dog out for a walk.” It’s three in the morning.

“You’re a good pet owner,” he says. “A dedicated pet owner.” I ask him to please let go of my arm. He tells me that he used to have a blushing disorder but he had endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy surgery and now he never blushes, but a side effect is he sweats in weird places like his chest, his groin, his feet. He holds up his hand and says, “My palms don’t sweat anymore, neither does my head. That’s another side effect.”

Maybe he actually is on mushrooms. I’m also starting to think I should leave now. I slowly back away from the man on mushrooms so as to not alarm him. He watches with wide eyes and pleads for me to not go. I get into an Uber with a driver who tells me he’s studying at a famous barbershop in Inglewood. “It’s where Ice Cube trained for his role in the movie Barbershop,” he says. I applaud him for pursuing his education.

By the time we reach my place, my driver has pitched me his mobile barbershop business and targeted me as a potential investor. He tells me the sky is the limit when it comes the mobile barbershop industry. I’m not convinced that’s true, but what the fuck do I know about haircuts on wheels? I tell him to count me in. He gives me a card and we agree to talk in the morning. I’ve had enough of Hollywood, I’m going to get into the mobile hair game.

Leave a comment

Filed under De La Moda, unemployment

Blood & Olive Oil

I’m at the top of my stairs with a pair of scissors in one hand and a dozen roses in the other. My fingers are bleeding, but it’s dark out so it’s not the puddle of blood that’s off-putting so much as the fact that my dog is at my ankle sniffing it.

I turn on the patio light to examine a rose’s stem. I’ve lost track of which ones I’ve trimmed. My dog laps up some blood, coughs, then trots inside to watch TV.

Having spent the weekend in the country, (under the too hot February sun, drinking too much red wine) it now seems that I should pack up the house behind me and drive 85 miles north to make a life for myself as an olive farmer. I’ll be tan, wear Carharrt overalls and reek of small batch extra virgin olive oil.

olive-trees-with-yellow-sky-and-sun-1889

I’ll string together a narrative for the back of the bottle for my Sunday farmers’ market pitch.

I was born of olive mongers. It’s in my blood. My grandfather came to this country with nothing, but an olive pit, a cold press machine and a recipe in the language of the old country tattooed on his forearm. His eldest son, my father, would get the same tattoo. As would I,” I say, rolling up my sleeve to display the family recipe.

And why wouldn’t they believe me?

I’ll point to a black and white photo of nine presumably Mediterranean men with dark, curly hair and eyes varying from green to hazel. “My great uncles. My forebears,” I’ll say, choking up a bit. “That’s the family farm. It’s still there, but the harvest was never the same after the war.”

They’ll nod knowingly, maybe even put a hand on my shoulder, but have no idea what war I’m referring to. I don’t know which war I’m referring to.

“Yo, you order a pizza, man?”

My dream of farmer’s-markets-to-come is interrupted by a ruddy man wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt.

“Yes,” I say. “Can you hold these for a second?” I thrust a dozen roses into his hand. He’s not pleased, but fuck him. Those roses are delicate and should be treated as such.

I take the pizza and I cross into my living room where I pass my dog. She’s watching an episode of “30 for 30” on Jimmy Connors. It’s a good one.

I hand the ruddy man the requisite cash and take back my roses. “Long stems. Beautiful, but they’re a real pain the ass.” He lingers, presumably admiring the roses. “They’re eighty centimeter stems if you’re wondering.”

“Dude, your hands…”

I pick up the scissors again and do a bit of dethorning. “You’re lucky you’re in the pizza delivery business. Good racket. Personally, I’m thinking about getting into olive oil.”

He starts to back away so I take another step toward him, all the while whittling away thorns. “Maybe you can tell by looking at me, but I actually come from a long line of olive oil purveyors.

A drop of my blood falls at his feet. He turns and starts running across my front yard.

“My grandfather came to this country,” I call out, “with nothing but an olive pit–” But he’s out of earshot. I turn around and head back up the stairs, following the trail of blood to the door. I can’t remember if I ordered cheese or pepperoni.

Leave a comment

Filed under De La Moda

The Increasingly Burdensome Road to Not Being a Shitty Person

Hear, hear!

I applaud myself for  quitting coffee while drinking an antioxidant-rich green tea in a converted warehouse. I read on the chalkboard that this particular green tea is grown in the shade under straw mats for twenty days prior to harvest. The warehouse, in its current state, prides itself on fresh pressed juices and onsite colonoscopies. I went to a party here once about six years ago. Back then, the space prided itself on throwing parties that went so late McDonald’s would no longer be serving breakfast by the time you got out.

Downtown has changed.

So have I.

Instead of my thrice-daily coffees, I’m drinking about twelve green teas a day. I feel no guilt about this. I imagine this is how Buddhist monks pass their days. It strikes me as evolved. After all, these are a people who have protested by setting themselves on fire; sitting cross legged until their skin falls from their cheeks and chins, their bones crumble into each other and their ashes land on the ground, at the mercy of the wind. People watched. People took pictures. Everyone admires a man who can set himself on fire.

I’ve tried other forms of moderation.

No whiskey.

All that happened was I started skating through bottles of Malbec like they were Capri Suns.

There’s always cold turkey.

“I’m trying to start smoking more weed,” my friend said earnestly as we sipped mescal.

We’ve talked for years about smoking more, about getting into the habit of it; the way others resolve to go to the gym. Or to read more. But we are creatures of habit.

Guy comes here all the time.

While I’m at it, I’m thinking of other things I might give up. I gave up haircuts and sunscreen some years ago, but that wasn’t really a conscious decision. I’ve also quit seeing the dentist and the doctor with any regularity, but that wasn’t intentional either. They just kind of fell away. They stopped calling and I lost interest. Maybe it was the other way around. I’ve heard of people losing girlfriends this way. I guess I’m lucky to have only lost a general practitioner.

I’d like to go on, to build this list, but a militant homeopath with hair down to her waist and without an ounce of body fat to spare, tells me I must follow her. Between the neon lights, under the wind chimes that no wind ever reaches, just central air, if it blows hard enough. The woman is either thirty or a hundred. It’s impossible to say for sure. It must be all the chia seeds, all the nutmeg.

Anyway, I’ve sat on the wrong couch and now I have no choice but to let them thread a hose up my ass. It’s their specialty. That and the juice. It’s the fountain of youth, they say. In reverse.

I object once again, but she tells me it’s too late. That I consented when I signed the iPad for my cancer-curing green tea. I’ve brought all of this upon myself, she says. She hands me a burlap sack that once held coffee beans from Kenya. She instructs me to wear it like a smock. There’s a hole for my head. “Please,” I say. “Anything but the–” I gesture toward the hose.

“It’s the Gravity Colon Hydrotherapy or…” she dangles a lighter then points to a red five-gallon gas can. “The can is vintage. The gas is 4.59 a gallon.”

“That’s absurd!” I say. “Gas is three dollars a gallon down the street from my house.”

“Well, we’re not down the street from your house. We’re at Juicetopia Co-Op Exchange, est. 2014.”

She has a point. “You have a point,” I say.

“So?” she says. In one hand, the coffee bean smock, in the other, five gallons of gasoline. “What’ll it be?”

“Sorry to be vulgar,” I say.  “But what’s the price difference?”

Leave a comment

Filed under De La Moda