Tag Archives: America

Soviet Serj and the Wheel of Misfortune!

Serj in Action

Serj charges anywhere from $200 to $1,200 for an oil change.

It’s not random though. He has a system. So when I pull up to the shop, I expect the same treatment. It’s a two-stall garage. In one, he parks his cherry 1963 Mustang. The other stall is, as it always is, empty.

I call out, “Hey Serj, can I get an oil change?” Serj is about sixty-years-old and mostly mustache, but I still wouldn’t mess with him. As I idle in front of the garage, he polishes his fingernails on his mustache and squints at me. “An oil change,” I say again, and then after a good bit of sizing up me and my car, he recognizes me. I am, of course, his only customer.

Serj the Tank

Serj asks if I’m going to stick around while he changes my oil, but Jiffy Lube, this place ain’t. There’s no lobby, no stale coffee, no TV playing TMZ. Serj knows this and I know this, so I decide to give him his space. He’s pretty quick anyway. There’s not much to do when it comes to my car. So I bid Serj adieu, planning to kill 30 minutes attempting to walk to the next sign of civilization.

Serj goes back to his office where there are three black office chairs, a computer that he’s never turned on, sugar cookies from Ralph’s, a vase of walnuts (a symbol of good luck for former Soviet mechanics) and the Wheel of Misfortune.

Under the hood

The Wheel of Misfortune is lined with all your basics for a superstitious and fatalistic mechanic. Some of the categories are: New Timing Belt, Transmission Leak, Broken Catalytic Converter, etc. Of course on the low end, there are things like: Replace Brake Pads and even, or so I’m told, a straight up $45 oil change. But that’s like the fucking unicorn of the Wheel of Misfortune. That’s the grand prize. That’s the mythical beast. That’s Global Warming in 2006.

Today when I return, Serj is eating grapes and watching the traffic go by. Because Serj works all day with wrenches and pencils, I’m fairly certain he only eats with his hands. To ask a man who makes his living with tools to use utensils at the end of the day would be totally inhumane. It would be like asking a police officer, who has carried a gun all day, to then come home and murder his dinner. You just don’t do it. That’s why God invented Trader Joe’s and Seamless.

We stand there in silence before he asks, “How long have you had this car?” Serj always opens with this question when I return to pick up my car. I learned long ago that there’s no right answer, so today I think long and not very hard before saying, “Four years.”

He grumbles, as he always does. My answer both disappoints him and confirms exactly what he was thinking. He tells me in no uncertain terms that if I don’t do something about one of the things that’s under the hood of my car that has something to do with how it runs it’s going to cost me tens of thousands of dollars and maybe the lives of innocent women and children.

Innocent Women and Children

I exhale. I’ve gotta think about this. Serj encourages me to take my time; all the time I need. Of course, he’s closing in five minutes because, well, once your only customer has already stopped by, what’s the point of staying open?

Serj can see I’m not sure so he offers to pop my hood and show me exactly what he’s talking about. With one hand he holds up the hood and with the other he points while words sputter out from under his mustache and into the abyss that is my knowledge of cars. I nod my head very seriously. I notice there are several things under the hood that are various shapes and colors. Some appear to be metal, others rubber. I know that African warlords prefer Toyotas, but Serj isn’t interested in what I have to say.

Serj closes my hood. “How did the oil change go?” I ask. He shrugs and leads me back to his office where I can see the Wheel of Misfortune resting on: Replace Spark Plugs.

“Well,” I say, “I guess it’s gotta be done.” Serj nods and I hand him my credit card. He runs it for $784.93. I sign his copy, then he hands me a piece of paper where he’s scribbled something, in maybe Cyrillic, along with some numbers. It’s about the size of a post-it. We shake hands and I thank Serj for his time and his service both to myself and my car, but also to the community. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says, shooing me away, “see you next week.”

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America’s Future and Why I Didn’t Eat My Dog For Dinner!

You know that website that’s like, tell me everything you have in your kitchen and I’ll tell you what to make for dinner? Well, I just used it and let me tell you—it’s amazing. I mean, seriously, I feel fucking great. And it’s super simple!

First thing’s first: take an inventory of your comestibles. In my own kitchen, I had two German beers, one bottle of Irish whiskey, a tray of ice cubes, 500 milligrams of synthetic heroin that was prescribed to treat a spinal injury in 2005, an orange, and a dog. Nothing substantial. The dog, I mean. You wouldn’t be caught eating it. It weighs about nine pounds and pisses on its own leg. I don’t need Todd Akin to tell you this dog is a female…

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I didn’t get a ton of instruction from the what to make for dinner website so I just kind of winged it. And by winged it, I mean I put it in all in the blender and floated some beer on top… not the dog though. It’s not a fancy blender like they have at Jamba Juice. No, I would have to push the dog into the spinning blades for quite a while before she fit in. And who wants to drink bones? And fur?

I think this is a great and family friendly way of deciding on what to eat for dinner. It really works. It works so well that now that I’ve finished my well-balanced meal, I feel like I should quit my job and pursue my passion of telling children to get the fuck out of America and go back to the fetuses that they came from because they act like victims and don’t pay income taxes. I’m sick of paying for the 47% of kids who are totally dependent on people like myself and 14.1% of Mitt’s income in 2011 so they can learn how to read, and write in cursive and cheat on math tests. Because honestly, I’ve been around America’s youth lately and they are truly fucked. I’m talking Marlon Brandon thrusting a stick of butter up the ass of that soon-to-be lesbian chick in the Last Tango In Paris-fucked.

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The website didn’t say anything about dessert, but I assume I’ll just have another course of the whiskey or canine tartar. And a side of hatred for America’s future. Have you heard? The kids these days—well, first off they don’t pay any income taxes. They’re victims that expect us to pay for their education, to tie their shoes—I lost my train of thought. Anyway, I’d kill for a pinch of expired opiates, but I’m fresh out. I’m still hungry so I’ll probably go to the Thai place around the corner. I’ll order mango sticky rice and tell the 18-year-old hostess that I’m not ready for a serious relationship. If she’s anything like most of the youth these days, she’ll probably want a guarantee that I’ll pay off her forthcoming student loans for the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising before she’ll consider giving me a non-tax paying heir.

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What can I say? I’m an optimist.

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Jared Leto Is Renting My Bathroom

Have you ever poured boiling water over Cuban espresso beans in a second-hand French press? I’m doing it naked. Right now. In my kitchen with a north facing window that stares into my window neighbor’s living room.

It’s 6:00 a.m. Bright and early! Actually it’s overcast. I’m dipping dried mangoes from the Philippines into a small bowl of Tapatio. It’s delicious. I chew on the Tapatio-soaked mango while pressing through the hot water and grounds. I make myself a cup.

I should not be allowed to make my own coffee.

I take the cup to the window and stare into my neighbor’s living room. The TV is still on. He’s sleeping in a La-Z-Boy with his right hand buried into his jeans. This reminds me — I have guests.

Last night I left three bodies in my living room. No one was doing particularly well, after all, it was late and a weekend. Now there’s just one body, buckled over, with his head in his hands.

What’s wrong?

Jared Leto.

Oh.

I walk to my bathroom where I find a line of emaciated and severely hungover youth. Or relative youth. We’re getting older. Some of us are, at least.

Jared?

Jared.

I knock on the door, Jared?

No response.

Jared, it’s me. Can I come in?

No response.

Well, since this is my house, I think I’ll come in anyway. How about that?

In the hallway, I leave the youth to stare at their navels, to contemplate their waistline, to think about the hair that they have, to think about the hair that they wish they didn’t.

The bathroom is long, like a bar, and hooks at the end into a toilet and a mirror. That’s where I find Jared. He wears a beard and tiny jeans, which hang loosely on his gaunt frame. Jared Leto is an old man now. He’s sinewy and his eccentricities make him look less like a heartthrob and more like a deranged cult leader.

Come here, he says.

He’s standing in front of the mirror. His face is partially covered by the lens of the camera he’s staring through.

Look at this. I mean, really, look at it.

Jared, it’s just you.

I know, but look. Isn’t it amazing?

It’s not really a question. He’s been staring at himself, his emaciated frame, for days. He’s ridged and dedicated and truly believes that this is art. This is what artists do. They starve and study the form and re-create it. Like Michelangelo. Only Jared isn’t creating anything.

Four girls who are half his age sleep at his feet. They wear oversized, button-down jean shirts. Some might be wearing underwear. They were promised a photo shoot. They were promised time with Jared Leto. Instead they’re just sleeping at his feet, dreaming of 30 Seconds To Mars and Jared Catalano, and the stories they’ll tell about the night they slept at Jared Leto’s feet in my bathroom.

It is amazing.

I thought I was on to something.

Do you want some coffee?

What kind?

The kind in my kitchen.

Oh. No thanks. I’m fasting.

I take another look at the man in the mirror. At one time this would’ve been a moment of note, but as of today, he’s been here for a week. He rented out my place for a shoot because he thought it looked “authentic.” Like people might live here. Some of us do. He pays me $300 dollars a day and keeps saying that this is the last day, that he’s just doing pick-ups. New girls cycle in every few days. They find him on Instagram, geotrack it and show up at my door. They think I’m his guru or his drug dealer or just some guy who isn’t Jared Leto, which is true.

I tap Jared on the shoulder.

The money?

Yeah, Jared. The money.

He reaches into his pocket and hands me a wad of cash—maybe five grand—I peel off six fifties and put the rest back in his pocket.

Hey Jared, a few of us might be going to the beach.

Which one?

The one by the sea.

I like that one. It’s nice.

Then Jared lets out a bit of flatulence, which is how he says no.

And you’ll be here when I get back?

He gives me smile and shakes a floozy from his shin, This work won’t finish itself, now will it?

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It Takes A Village

The idea of raising a child with my neighbors has crossed my mind. Going off of what Oprah said—that bit about a village raising a child— I recently assessed my neighbors, my village.

There are between six and seven of us that would comprise this village. The floater is named Ted or Theodore. I’m not sure if he actually lives in the building or if he just hangs out on my porch and asks for beer. Ted, who may or may not live in apartment 201, is friends with a man who does whose name I do not know. I’m not even sure if they’re friends, but they’re both black and Ted spends his days sitting in front of apartment 201 so I assume he knows the person who lives there.

I’ve never been inside apartment 201, but in the time I’ve lived above it I’ve come to hate all of its residents. First there was a harem of Romanians, aged sixteen to sixty. They were loud and they moved to Temple City. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them were in jail or dead. I never knew any of there names. We were neighbors for about a year. After the Romanians headed east a Korean-American girl from the Bay Area moved in.

She worked at Petco and had a Pomeranian. I’ve never considered myself a violent man, but I often thought of throwing that little dog off of a building to get it to shut the fuck up. The Korean-American girl with the terrible dog was gay, in a very closeted way. She had a black girlfriend from Richmond, which is the most dangerous city in California. Her black girlfriend liked to sit on the porch and sing Dave Matthews songs. She once asked if I was a musician, and when I told her I wasn’t, she scoffed and went back to singing about rain or whiskey or South Africa. Or maybe all three.

Then apartment 201 was dormant, which was great because I have hardwood floors and love to tap dance. I never practice my tap dancing when I’ve got a downstairs neighbor; I’m far too courtesy.

After the dormancy, came the man who lives there now. He burns incense and watches Law & Order all day. He’s either a veteran or disabled or just has a really nice hustle, which allows him to drink beer and smoke blunts all day. He doesn’t own a car. I’ve never seen him go farther than the porch. He has a lot of guests, like Ted, who I think might be his friend or roommate. His guests must go to the grocery store for him. They must buy his beer and his weed. They must do his laundry. I once peeked into 201 and amidst the plumes of incense I saw a McDonalds trash can and an arcade era Pac Man. This nameless man would probably have to take on the bulk of the babysitting for our village since he doesn’t have a job and he doesn’t leave his apartment.

Next to 201 is apartment 202, which has a rotating list of tenants. At the helm is John. John is from Florida. He used to be a teacher, but he cashed in his pension at fifty and moved to Hollywood to pursue the dream of becoming wildly rich and famous. That was about nine years ago. He’s currently working on a novel, which he wants to adapt into a play. He’s also writing an album.

John spends his days at the library on Ivar where he has become friends with the local transient population. One local bum is named Nancy. Nancy is his girlfriend. Sometimes she comes over to “watch movies” with John. Nancy spends her days hobbling around mind-bendingly drunk. I once saw her pee on my lawn the way a dog would. A female dog. She just squatted and peed while I was checking my mail. She wanted to know what I was looking at and I told her, I’m watching you pee on my lawn. It was difficult to ignore. I apologized for watching her pee on my lawn in the middle of the day.

She pulled up her sweatpants and hobbled down to Pla-Boy liquor for another fifth of vodka. John knows how to pick them. Or maybe Nancy does. Either way, they’re the oldest and only couple in the village so they’d be the grandparent figures to the baby. If no one else was around—which is impossible because 201 never leaves—Grandma Nancy and Grandpa John would watch the baby. They’d probably spoil the baby with things the rest of us “village parents” disapproved of like bananas dipped in mayonnaise, and moscato.

Above 202, and across the hall from me is the lady with the painted face and her son or grandson. The lady with the painted face is a very sweet old lady who sometimes wears a Carlos Gardel hat. She does not have a job, but she manages the recycling for everyone on the block. She’s not afraid to jump into a dumpster for a few of Nancy’s bottles of vodka. She’s also not afraid to tell other recycling hunters to beat it. She’s very territorial.

The lady with the painted face has a long face with meticulously drawn eyebrows. Her eyes are enormous and brown like a horse’s. Her hair is has a slight wave to it and because she’s black, I think this means that she either wears a wig or she has “that good hair” which I’ve heard so much about from black comedians and rappers. Yes, the lady with the painted face has that good hair. She also has a son or a grandson.

The lady with the painted face looks to be about one hundred so I can’t imagine anyone knocked her up recently. Besides the kid’s only about three and we’ve been neighbors for four years. At no point was she ever pregnant, but one day there was a child. Of course, there were men. Men who wore wife beaters and stared me down as I unlocked and locked my door. But these men never stuck around or introduced themselves. This was fine by me. I’d hate to include one of them in our village raising group only to find out they can’t really commit to child-rearing due to previous obligations.

I think the painted lady will be the crazy aunt. I mean, she is crazy. She’s into voodoo and has tarot cards tattooed on her forearm. She also occasionally dresses up as a geisha or in a power suit. She doesn’t have a job and she is reliable… I think. Her son or grandson will be the brother to the baby. It’s a big commitment, but he has no say in the matter because he’s three or so and he couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of printing.

I reside across the hall from the lady with the painted face. I will teach the child many things, but I will not be around often because it’s important that the most important person in any baby’s life is less of a person and more of a caricature of one. That way, the baby will not know how deeply flawed I am and will instead strive to be impossibly perfect. Every couple weeks I will swing by to take the kid skydiving or teach it how to order bull testicles in Japanese. The child will think I’m perfect.

However, I will make one mistake during my time living and raising the baby in our village. I will seek the hand of a Filipina mail-order bride name Bouri. Bouri will hate the child because my love for it will be strong and predate the credit card transaction which brought Bouri to America. Bouri will be a very jealous woman.

One day, while I’m out planting avocado trees in Alta Dena, Bouri will steal the baby from right under John and Nancy’s boozy noses. The man who lives in 201 will see all of this happen, but he’s sort of like Rapunzel, trapped in his first floor apartment with no way out. He’ll yell to Ted for help, but Ted won’t help because there’s no beer in the deal. The lady with the painted face and her son or grandson will watch from the window as this happens.

The lady with the painted face will pull from her drawer a stolen lock of Bouri’s hair, her passport, a pillowcase and nail polish remover. The son or grandson will boil onions with mangos from Manilla and cough syrup.

Bouri will run with the baby to Studio City. She will end up across the street from Universal… so maybe she’s technically in Universal City not Studio City… there’s no way to know. But there is a bridge and it looks down on the L.A. river. Fifty feet below water will slowly trickle in an eastward motion. Just a couple of inches boxed in by graffiti and concrete. Bouri will raise the baby above her head.

And suddenly, out in the avocado fields I’ll have this weird sensation that something’s wrong. “The baby!” I’ll say. Everyone around me will look at me like I’m crazy, but I’ll take off running. I’ll run like Zola Budd or some other famous Kenyan runner. Barefoot, fast, without passion.

The lady with the painted face will fill the pillow with Bouri’s hair and passport. Her son or grandson will spoon the onion, mango, couch syrup concoction into the pillowcase.

On the bridge, Bouri will be struck by a small shower of acid rain. It will sting then burn, finally melting her skin.

The lady with the painted face will ask her son or grandson for more, Bouri will be drenched with the voodoo elixir.

The baby will fall to the ground, wrapped in whatever Moses was wrapped in when they sent his ass down the Nile. Bouri will melt into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West. This is will eliminate my need to have to pay her alimony. This will eliminate the need for the man in 201 to come forward as a witness for the prosecution in the People Vs. Bouri St. Germaine. Next to the puddle formerly known as Bouri is where I will find my son or daughter, which I will raise to be the next John Roberts or Richard Brautigan or Michael Phelps. We, as parents, don’t really have much say in this matter, do we?

In thirty years, John and Nancy, Ted and the guy who lives in 201, the lady with the painted face and her son or grandson and myself will go on talk shows telling harmless anecdotes about the time a village in Hollywood raised a child. Another All-American success story.

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Steak and Politics with Nick Clark

Nick D. Clark is an American actor and writer who was been known to, on occasion, partake in a ‘cleanse’. The range of cleanses he dabbles in as a taxing paying citizen are nearly as vast as those he dives into as an established thespian. Clark is well known for abnegating caffeine, booze[1], jalapenos, and animal products. Once while still a university student, he gave up food, drink, and general merriment for a year and eleven months[2] and subsisted solely on a daily cocktail of lemon juice, honey and a bit of cayenne pepper. Needless to say Clark, as both an abstainer and a glutton, is a force to be reckoned with.

With this in mind, I tracked down Clark at his Los Angeles office located on Grand Avenue in downtown’s Civic Center. When I arrived he was cradling his head in his hands and mumbling something about the residual effects of owning oversized martini glasses and the benefits of pickle juice.

The Neapolitan Mastiff: Why am I here today?

Nick Clark: I see you’ve decided to come out swinging.  Fair enough, Hardball.  I’m gonna call you Hardball from now on.

I smiled as a professional is obliged and took the verbal abuse. He lit a cigarette and a teenager wearing a maroon vest put what looked like a vodka and grapefruit into my hand. I didn’t decline. I tasted and it was unquestionably a greyhound. We raise our glasses because it was 11:00 a.m.

TNM: I heard you once quoted as saying that you enjoyed hanger steak. Is that an acquired taste like malt liquor?

NC: I would argue that neither taste is really “aquired.”  I think if you got a bunch of kids—like little, y’know, innocenty-type kids—together and fed them all hanger steak and malt liquor, and then they were all totally honest with you about it, they’d thank you .

TNM: If you were to —

NC: I’ve decided not to call you Hardball, by the way.

TNM: Haha, thanks… If you were to, say, slaughter a cow and you could only procure a single cut and a single serving at that, would you pick one of the eighty or so pounds of hanger steak that the cow’s carcass has available, or would you opt for a less available cut like filet mignon?

NC: Look, just because something is uncommon doesn’t make it delicious.  The least “available” part of a cow is probably, I dunno, the hypothalamus, or—wait the ballsack… use “ballsack,” edit out that hypothalamus stuff.  “Ballsack” is hilarious.

TNM: Having grown—

NC: I think this is going well, don’t you?

TNM: Having grown up in the Bay Area, which hometown–

NC: That ballsack stuff is good, right?

TNM: Let’s just get through this, man…  Having grown up in the Bay Area, which hometown hero had the greatest impact on you growing up: Andre Nickatina, Danny Glover, Jerry Brown or Jim Jones?

NC: Ooh, that’s hard.  I would say Danny Glover, but that’s only because a friend of mine’s sister once dated a guy who looked exactly like Danny Glover, except that he was white and English—that’s not a joke, that’s true.  But that’s not really… that doesn’t count, does it?  I guess Jerry Brown…  Y’know for years I thought Jerry Brown was black?  I got him mixed up with Willie Brown.   It honestly wasn’t until his resurgence against this Whitman dildo that I realized they were different people—and then I was bummed that he wasn’t Willie!  That woulda been sweet, I always liked Willie Brown.  Could you add Willie Brown to your list?  Because then it’d be Willie Brown.  Yes.  Willie Brown had the greatest impact on me.

TNM: What’s your stance on the carpool lane?

NC: Oooh, look who’s back, Hardball…  I like the carpool lane, but I think it should be 3 people, like it is up in the Bay Area—that might have been Willie Brown’s doing, by the way.

TNM: If you could banish one person from the U.S.A. who would it be?

NC: Banish? Where to would be important…  I would maybe banish Sarah Palin, but only to a place that still had cell service—I derive too much amusement from her Tweets.  If we’re talking banishment to, say, a cage full of bears, it’d have to be Glenn Beck.  I feel like those are really obvious and tellingly liberal answers, but those two are doing an awful lot of damage.

TNM: Did I see you on The Office?

NC: Not if you blinked.

TNM: Did you mean what you said about hanger steak? What about a nice rib eye?

NC: OF COURSE I DIDN’T MEAN THAT!  RIB EYE IS BETTER!  FILET MIGNON IS BETTER!!!  I CAN AFFORD NEITHER! GHAA!!!

TNM: Okay, settle down… What’s the name of that web series that everyone en el mundo should watch until they’ve committed it to memory?

NC: Vicariously.  It can be—sorry about that outburst, man, someone will get you a new greyhound… JARVIS!  I SPILLED HARDBALL’S GREYHOUND, GET HIM ANOTHER!—anyway, the show is called Vicariously, and it can be located on the internet at www.vicariously.tv

TNM: Meg Whitman, Serena Williams and Catherine Heigl: You’ve got to date one, gag one and pick one to replace Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff. Who will do what and why?

NC: Serena Williams is absolutely Chief of Staff.  She’ll throw out more F-bombs than Emanuel did, can you imagine?  I’d gag Heigl–not that anyone is listening anyway—and I’d date Meg Whitman so that I could shit inside of her heart.

Nick Clark is the co-creator and star of the series Vicariously. You can catch him every week slanging cuvee and talking cattle at the L.A. Music Center, but we’d prefer if you just watched him here.

The Neapolitan Mastiff


[1] This claim has not been confirmed.

[2] The exact amount of time he remained true to the cleanse is debatable.

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