Tag Archives: los angeles

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.

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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.

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Me, a Would-Be Caulksmith

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Picasso painted, Pollack painted, guys who hang outside Kelly Moore in white overalls have painted. But me? I do not paint. I prime. I want to paint. I claim to be a man on the verge of painting, but it’s just not that easy.

One cannot simply paint. You can’t just waltz into Dunn Edwards, buy a gallon, a roller and merrily take on a wall. Why? Because what they don’t tell you is walls are flat as a rotten honey comb and as filty as the floor at the Cha Cha lounge on Sunday morning.

For the first time the word caulk rolls off my tongue. I don’t smile or laugh like a twelve-year-old because I’m now a serious person who has a tube full of the stuff that needs to be magnanimously doled out to each of the walls.

Before painting, I must prove myself as a caulksmith. Where there were once curtains, there are now holes and those holes must be caulked. That’s where I come in. Or I will. I can’t right now because I thought I was going to paint so I’ve got this fucking Home Depot one-and-done kit with a roller, a brush, a tray and some other shit, but all of it is useless to me because what these walls need is a good caulking. But I can’t give it to them.

I can do a half-ass job. I am in the business of that. I don’t mind skipping steps. I love it in fact. So today we shall not caulk. Along with my rookie painter’s kit, I’ve got a baking powder looking container of something called TSP. The directions say to mix it with hot water and to not rub it in your eyes, snort it, chug it or let it touch your skin. Most of that isn’t a problem for me. I can resist the urge of doing a line of what probably gets cut up in off the Las Vegas Strip cocaine. What I can’t do is wash the walls without it touching my skin because, you see, I have no fucking gloves. My plan was to paint, not to exfoliate walls with over the counter napalm.

So I skip that step too. I wash the walls with water. Cold water because there is no hot water and you’ve got to be out of your goddamn mind if you think I know where the hot water heater is or how to make it so hot water comes out. And I refuse to watch another youtube how-to video. I’ve watched 15 on painting today. There was much talk of “cutting in”, starting at the top, two thin layers being better than one sloppy thick one. But there was no talk of caulk. No mention of gloves. The walls get a quick cold water rinse.

When they dry – which takes about 15 minutes because even at 11 pm, it’s hot as fuck – I’m ready to get down to the business at hand: painting. Like the old masters used to. With brushes and by candle light because it’s dark outside and there isn’t a light bulb in this room.

But first, we prime. I crack open a plastic vat of the good stuff. Well, not really the good stuff, I think that would be the two-in-one paint and primer which for some reason I didn’t buy. So it’s not the good stuff but it’s stuff I’m slathering on walls and it’s a different color than what’s there.

The second the brush touches the paint and the paint touches the wall all attempts at technique go out the window. It’s just mad rush to catch drips as they stream down the wall toward the floor. I sideswipe them as they come. I’ve never been one for defense but this is the best man-on-paint stream coverage that I’ve ever mustered. I catch almost everything and what I don’t hits the canvas drop cloth that has gone from being perfectly flat to balled up at my feet in a matter of seconds.

The primer takes an hour to dry, but my arms are exhausted and I’m once again delirious from forgetting to put on a mask and not opening enough windows. I’ve primed one small wall. It’s the literal width of a shower. And from the time I opened the door to when I’m sloshing the brushes in a bucket calling it quits three hours have passed. At this rate, I’ll be able to prime the bathroom by the end of the month, prime the house by the end of the year and I can start painting in no more that 7 months.

But that’s a problem for the next seven months. Tonight I go home and bask in the victory of sanding less than I did the day before, of having scraped almost no paint and my crowning achievement: just one trip to Home Depot. Mainly because they were closed by the time I realized I’d forgotten many necessary items, but still, we take the small victories where we can, eh?

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In which I Do Two Days of Hard Work

I’m thinking about writing a book: My Life as a Moron. The trouble is that I’m too busy living it.

There are many things that I know nothing about and I’m all too willing to accept this and return to the stuff that I do know and enjoy. But not everyone in my life accepts my shortcomings. So this weekend I bought a sander and alternately crouched, lay, sat, squatted and bent to sand baseboards.

This was, at the very least, a stupid thing to do.

I spent the weekend punishing myself because a professional casually recommended to the person in my life who refuses to accept that I know nothing about paint or paint-stripping or paint-scraping that I sand every baseboard in the house. In retrospect I recognize that this idea came from someone who speaks English as a second-language and my information was second-hand yet I took it literally. I bought a sander and boy did I sand.

It did nothing.

For ten hours, I exhausted myself while huffing lead-based paint and accomplished absolutely nothing. As I tirelessly made no discernible progress, I thought about all the times I’ve come home exhausted from a day of sitting in a room on a studio lot talking about how to make and execute episodes of television which would be produced, financed, acted in and directed by other people. And yet I thought I knew exhaustion.

I did not. I thought I knew tedium. I knew nothing of tedium. When people talked about back-breaking work, I thought it was a metaphor, hyperbole. And sure, I’m not so soft that I’ve never had a sore back but that was all done in good fun. Hell, I’ve even gotten a few calluses from deadlifting a couple times a year to remind myself that I’m not just a person who sits in front of a computer all day amusing myself with words. I can also pick up weights and drop them in an air-conditioned space surrounded by other people who spend their days hunched over keyboards alternately drinking coffee and La Croix (and don’t want to look like it).Image result for bad before and after jesus painting

As I lay on my stomach on a skateboard with a paint scraper digging into first 9 layers of paint and then because I’m unskilled: wood, I laughed. Probably from inadvertently snorting paint chips. It was the end of a long day of making a fool of myself in an empty house while my new next-door neighbor sang Drake, Shakira, Outcast then switched to a Spanish language radio station and listened to that for so long and so loudly that I learned the words to a Cal Worthington Ford dealership ad. In Spanish.

At this stage, a smarter person might retreat. They might beg the bank to take the money back – all of it – because really, what was so bad about renting a guest house in Silver Lake where I literally didn’t change my own lightbulbs? But I’m not a smarter person, so I’ll go back. I’ll change into an old t-shirt and strap on a pair of knee pads. I’ll put in ear plugs, don some safety glasses and I’ll run a sander aimlessly while wondering: where did my life go so wrong that I thought I could operate a power tool?

Next door Rampage will bark, my neighbor will blast Cardi B and in between battles with the apron of a window sill, I’ll watch youtube videos where people with tools that I don’t have and knowledge that I certainly don’t possess confirm that what I’m doing is futile and time consuming and should probably be left up to a professional. And yet… and yet.

 

 

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Finally Famous

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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