Tag Archives: the neapolitan mastiff

Poolside and the First Person Plural

We believed in our undergraduate degrees, our gluten-free pizza and our covered parking space at work. Some of us believed in anti-aging creams while others avoided sunlight, stress, family members and rush hour. Some of us didn’t believe in any of it, but all of us knew none of it worked.

We bleached our teeth, straightened our hair, lifted little silver weights in front of mirrors and ran for hours without going anywhere. We counted calories, went on juice fasts, tried liquid diets, and even braved the Master Cleanse for a few days before passing out in the stairwell at work. Why? It’s embarrassing to take the elevator and get off at the second floor. (Oh, why do the Master Cleanse? Living on lime juice and paprika came recommended.)

We bought dogs and said we’d saved them just hours before they were to be euthanized. We gave them names we thought were clever. English Bull Dogs named Winston, miniature Poodles named Rhonda, Pit Bulls named Justin Beiber—just kidding, nobody got a Pit Bull.

We vowed to drink less and to train for a marathon. We bought the shoes, signed-up online and sat on the couch until it was too late and it wouldn’t be safe to run. Everyone agreed it wasn’t worth getting hurt because of our pride. We applauded each other for our modesty and celebrated it with drinks. In barroom corners we shared our faith in one another and each of our pending, interwoven successes. The next day we’d whisper wearing dark glasses over coffee about how so-and-so was losing it. Then we’d switch to a Bloody Mary.

We upped our dosage and felt better until we felt worse again. Then we’d wonder if what we were doing was worth it. We contemplated the meaning of life and health insurance. We thought about desolate islands in the Indian Ocean and how we could live off of coconut juice. We went to Home Depot looking for a good machete and we ended up leaving with seedlings. This year we’d try to grow tomatoes. We didn’t know anything about agriculture, but we ate organic kumquats and hadn’t smoked a cigarette in two weeks. How hard could it be?

We knew the importance of believing in ourselves. A blind man had climbed Mount Everest. Some days our girlfriends and wives called and asked us how to get home from across town. We’d tell them to Mapquest it.

The Neapolitan Mastiff

Speaking of believing, check out this track by LA based Poolside

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When In A Singles Joint… (cue the R. Kelly)

Know your surroundings.

If you look to your left and see an Irish version of Vernon Hardapple, be advised: things could get weird.

If you look to your right and see a girl built like a pumpkin sitting on top of the piano smoking two cigarettes at once, be advised: weird has entered the building.

“It’s a singles joint,” Vern said. “Give me a cigarette.”

Singles joint: a bar is intrinsically loaded, but this one was packed to the gills. Vern took off—said something about a masseuse he used to visit when he was still getting his disability checks from Microsoft—said she owed him a drink. I was left to my own devices, which are devices that really shouldn’t be left alone.

Propped against the plush wall, swilling some shitty tepid beer, I let the words roll around my mouth. Singles joint. “There’s something in these people’s faces,” I say to Saul, the henna-headed piano man, who’s on his break and doesn’t really look like he wants to talk.
“There’s nothing in their faces. They’re drunk—they’re just faces.” He throws back the rest of his Jameson. “Want me to play anything for ya?”

The invitation was tempting. “You know that number, ‘My mind’s telling me no, but my body, my body’s telling me yes’?”

“You’re crazier than you look, you know that?”

I was staring into my tepid fucking beer, looking for a response and wondering why my beer was warm since I’d only had it for what felt like a couple minutes. I guess they sell them too quick in these singles joints—tough place to get a cold beer.

“My date never showed up. I could kill match.com.”

I looked up, half expecting Saul to be standing there, but he wasn’t. Her name was Lorrie, which didn’t surprise me, although, if she said her name was Rita that wouldn’t have surprised me either. She was going on five years of being recently divorced and it showed. A lot of things “show” at a singles joint. To me, it looked like everyone was walking around with their pants around their ankles, humiliated and waiting to be taken home.

Sure, before the taking home their would be the obligatory conversation. The impromptu introduction received with joy, but masked with skepticism. Now this is where you tell a joke. Good, there’s a laugh. The ball is now rolling and the drinks have evaporated so it’s time for another and just as you think that, you’re taking a shot and ordering another one. Now that everyone has consumed enough to have an excuse for their bravado and maybe even enough to have an excuse for what happens next—the walls come in. It’s personal, you’re no longer looking around wondering where your friends are because, “This is why you came here, right?” Lorrie said, stroking my arm.

In front of me I see the mug of a neglected puppy waiting to be adopted. This singles joint is actually a little fence that single men and women walk into, like puppies on display at farmer’s markets looking happy and sad at once, waiting to be taken home. There are two sides of the fence. Two approaches. Five years of being recently single and she’s relegated to life inside the fence. Shit, Lorrie would go home with anyone—literally anyone willing to sign the papers and give her a place to call home. No matter how neglected she’d be there, disregard the fact that the novelty of her presence would wear off and quickly become a chore before you thought possible. Pretty soon you’d have to send her back to where she came from. She knows the way back to the fenced up singles joint with warm beer and jokes. She’s been coming for five years.

Vern taps on my elbow, he’s lost his wig. “Who’s your friend?”

She’s elated because Vern, whether he knows it or not, has added a possessive adjective to the equation. She once was lost, but now she’s my friend. Lorrie is smiling ear-to-ear because she thinks I’m about to sign on the dotted line. Which is about the time I remember where I am. Black Irish Vernon Hardapple to my right, he’s already slid into my place. She’s already laughing. She swills the ice in her glass because she’s ready for another. I am still holding my tepid beer and I still know exactly where this is going although I still don’t have the slightest clue how to get a cold drink.

“We’re gonna get another one,” Vern says. She takes his hand. Cute.

I want to tell them I’ll take something cold, need to whet my senses.

“What’d you think?” Saul’s grinning, but I don’t know what about. “The song?”

You played it? I thought to myself.

“The crowd loved it. My body,” he shouts, “my body!” He carries the note a little too long and we get a few looks. “I think I’m gonna add it to the permanent setlist.”

I look to my right, dishwater blond Vernon Hardapple cuts a rug with the real Dorothy Boyd of Hollywood. To my left, Saul sips a Jameson on ice, talks about the power of his music. He thinks he struck a proverbial cord with the crowd tonight. Babies are getting made tonight and it’s all because of Brother Saul. Or so he tells me.

A singles joint: warm beer, wigs, cortisol fat that’s just going to get worse, everyone used to listen to R. Kelly, now everyone listens to Brother Saul.

“Gotta anything else you wanna hear?” Saul asks, greedily.

“My mind is telling me no, but my body, my body’s telling me yes.”

“You already said that one, pal,” Saul’s not amused, but then again, it’s his job to entertain, not mine.

“I don’t wanna hurt nobody, but there’s something that I gotta confess.” I walk towards the door. Like puppies standing on their hind legs, would-be suitresses perk up, run their hands along my arm and down my back as I make my way to the exit.

At the diner counter, my waitress slaps down my bill. “Didn’t get lucky tonight, huh?” She gives me a sardonic smile, which makes me think she doesn’t realize it’s three a.m. and she’s serving me breakfast. “You must’ve of really fucked up.”

I keep shoveling my eggs. “Got any more Cholulua?”

The Neapolitan Mastiff

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Trading For Global Warming: Cosmic Kids

There’s a pool and it could be anywhere—the middle of the desert, the top of a hotel—it could be Charlie Sheen’s pool in the middle of the desert and on top of a hotel. There’s excessive UV exposure, beads of sweat are slipping down napes and everyone is bi-winning. There’s cheap beer, some version of champagne bobbing in a bath of ice water and lots of drinks with mint floating around the bottom that taste strangely delicious and dehydrating. Overheated bodies are palpitating to a rhythm that they believe is distinctly theirs, but in fact is anything but as it effortlessly unites the solipsistic masses as a single conglomeration—crowd, party.

But this is nothing new and that crowd can be found year-round. What is new is Reginald’s Groove by Cosmic Kids. It’s one of those tracks, which induces a dopamine driven inflated sense of self, shedding listeners of history—it emphasizes the moment. Girls emancipated from inhibition will flock in bathing suits that look like failed FIDM projects and everyone will love it. Guys will strip themselves of conventional wisdom and hedonistically offer thighs and comfortably pallid chests to the sun. Some will also love this, but all will indulge.

I hate to champion the pending 2012 apocalypse, but I’d gladly concede to it in return for a mid-summer’s afternoon pool party right about now. What do I care about melting ice caps? Charlie and I are in it to win it.


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A Foe Worth Fearing

I’m waiting.

I’m waiting for a man named Sam to knock on my door and ask me, “Where is my fucking money?” Sam speaks clearly. He annunciates every word as if he’s talking to a non-native English speaker, which I gather he often does.

He’ll take off his hat, but have no intention of accepting an offer to come in. I have no intention of extending that offer, but considering that we’ve both dealt with each other in a relatively cordial manner up until this point, we’ll pretend that between us still linger the rules for upright citizens. We are Americans.

Sam is not a man you want to “mess” with. I should have known better. It’s not my first time in this situation. The last time he came by looking for his money I was panicked. I knew the day would come, but still I wasn’t prepared. I had spent the morning shopping for a bison skin laptop case. The nice thing about bison skins and why I value it over say cowhide, is no skin is the same. Each pebbled hide carries the scars of that prehistoric animal’s life with on the range. I like carrying the personal history, the power, the spirit of an animal that lived so long and continues to live on with me—in cafes and dog parks…

A minor detail worth noting about bison skin is that it can cost you a pretty five hundred thousand pennies. Now it’s not everyday I go shopping for bison skin products, but the night before my horoscope said something about somebody being in the house of free spending and tomorrow was going to be the day to indulge. Well, I’m no fool! When my horoscope talks—I listen. So I indulged! I bought the bag. Two months rent, three months of car payment—all for a bag that cost more than the MacBook Pro inside of it. Did I mention the interior is lined with cashmere?

My spirits had been high that morning. I set the bag in a chair across from me in my living room. I admired it. I obsessed over it. There had been a buzzing at my door. I figured it was the UPS guy downstairs. You know how they push every button until someone buzzes them in? Well, it wasn’t the UPS guy. It was Sam and I almost shit myself when I saw him at my door. He didn’t say anything. I slammed the door and ran to my kitchen where I dug my checkbook out of a flower pot. I quickly wrote a bad check and ran back to give it to him. I knew he wouldn’t cash it until the next day or maybe even the next week so I went to see my uncle Fast Eddie who loaned me enough cash to cover the check.

“Nice bag,” Uncle Eddie said smiling, his gilded front tooth glimmering.

“Thanks, Fast Eddie. It’s a bison—“

“Pay me back in fifteen days or the bag’s mine.”

I got Fast Eddie the money. It took some work. I lost a girlfriend and a three-foot boa constrictor named Clifton in the deal, but I got the cash. This time when Sam came around would be different. The lump sum I owed him was larger. The consequences of running a hustle on Sam twice were infinitely greater. Since August I’ve hardly left my apartment. I spend most mornings staring in between blinds looking for a man with a white billy goat beard who knows damn well I owe my some serious amounts of la plata, la lana, la feria—me entiendes?

When I do leave, I don’t come back for hours. I scout my block. I’ll walk around my block three or four times just to make sure he’s not hanging around. When I finally make my way to my door it’s with my head down and my key in my hand. So far so good, but I’ve been waiting for months and it’s weighing heavy on me. Paranoia is rotting my mind and this is a mind that can’t afford to rot much more. Part of me wants to believe that he’s forgotten—maybe even forgiven the debt. Although I know this to be impractical because nobody forgets the second time, nobody forgives the second time. It doesn’t work like that. If anything, one is far more willing to forgive the first offense—to take it easy on you. As for the second? That’s when lessons are taught. This is how I imagine Sam teaching me a lesson.


I sit on my couch while he leads in a team of moving men. Three twenty-something Greek brothers with bushy eye brows and shaved heads. They’re nice, but they still take everything. I even see one of them walking out with my electric toothbrush, which after the bison skin laptop case is my most expensive possession. (Full disclosure: I rent a furnished apartment and everything the moving men are hauling out in fact belongs to my landlord, which makes me chuckle a bit.) After they’ve taken everything I’m left sitting on the floor with Sam standing over me. He’s wondering what’s so funny. Nothing, I say.

He grabs me by the hair on my head and tosses me through the window and over the fire escape. I fall four stories and land nose first on the sidewalk. Tragically, I’m fit as a fucking fiddle and I survive. The damage is enormous and I am relegated to a hospital bed for the rest of my life. The only music that they play is Kings of Leon. I’m like the guy from The Diving Bell and The Butterfly except I don’t have a beautiful wife, mistress and child to come visit me. My story will make no one cry. I haven’t even done enough to be sorry for anything. I’m a marginalized member of society—a low level miscreant with noteworthy taste and a negligible income.

A few weeks after the fall they move me to a hospital in Bakersfield. There I live surrounded by former gang members and people who smell like they’ve spent a lot of time in Bakersfield. It’s utterly devastating. I live the next sixty years of my life listening to the same Kings of Leon record. My olfactory glands never adjust to the smell of Bakersfield. I wish I could cry, but my tear ducts are busted from the fall so I just sniffle a lot. It’s pathetic.

Do you now see why the prospect of a confrontation with Sam so frightens me?

The moral of the story is of course this: Nothing in this world is free. Not even if it’s coming from a seemingly well-intention man with a white beard named Sam. Sam is out for blood. It’s tax season.

The Neapolitan Mastiff

*As any longtime reader will be able to tell–this is all hypothetical. The Neapolitan Mastiff fears nothing. Fear is not even in his vocabulary. Although he does get a bit squeamish around ferrets and open cans of tuna.

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Eavesdrop It Like It’s Hot!

“Did you ever feel like there was sapphic tension between Lucy and Ethel?” Au Pont Wine Bar, Playa Vista

“Do you guys have any drugs?” W Hotel, Hollywood

“Fashion students? They’re like Chihuahuas. They’re disagreeable even when they aren’t yapping.” Fred Segal Comfort Café, Santa Monica

“It seems I’ve lost the mayor’s tongue.” L.A. Library, Edendale Branch

“I just can’t figure out how to tell him—although he’s spiritual Echo’s father, biologically there’s a possibility that he’s more of an, um, uncle.” N.A. Meeting (cigarette break) Ojai

-The Neapolitan Mastiff

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Dating in L.A. is a journey often compared to Icarus’ flight–it’s not for the faint of heart.  To make things easier, I’ve come up with a couple polysexual icebreakers, verbal WD-40 if you will…

Did I see you on suicidegirls.com?

I’m casting a movie right now and I think you’d be perfect for the role of Topless Cocktail Waitress #2.

Do you know how to pronounce Kim Jong Il?

I was James Franco’s best friend growing up. What do you do?

The Neapolitan Mastiff

FULL DISCLOSURE: Some or all of these icebreakers, are in fact words that Hugo De Naranja uttered between November 14-18, 2010

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Cochlea Party

“Say the word hate.”


It was practically a bomb shelter. Low ceilings and carpet laced with polyester. The walls were some type of metal with circular holes punched throughout. The room was painted a shade of manila.

“Say the word teardrop.”

Was teardrop one word? Was there a hyphen? Are a tear and a drop really that different? Doesn’t a tear have to be a drop or a stream of drops? Before the words reversed and Walker stumbled into a philosophical discussion rooted in semantics he quit. He glanced over his blind shoulder, but thought better than to ask the opinion of the audiologist seated behind him. He couldn’t see her. Was she mentally dissecting him or just doing her job? Was she wondering what he was doing later? And if they were going to run into each other at a bar and then find themselves in the back of her car fogging up the windows of her ’93 Camry? Or was she just checking her text messages?


With orthopedic headphones wrapped over his ears, Walker sat in a little blue chair facing a sign that read: “Please turn off all cell phones and pagers.”

“Say the word umbrella.”


The part about pagers didn’t even bother him. His peers always pointed out that sort of thing. Dated technology or in this case archaic. He would have been willing to bet at the time the sign was printed on the neon 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper, pagers were already obsolete. It was probably the work of an apathetic employee re-printing a saved template or an intern who thought he was being really funny by not saying anything. But pagers weren’t going to hold his attention. He closed his eyes and focused while the words became less discernible and the static was turned up.

“Say the word gym.”


The audiologist’s pencil scribbled something in his portfolio. He knew it couldn’t be good. Gin didn’t seem like a word they would use, but that’s what he had heard and all the other words were so melancholic: death, heart,  nightmare–foreboding diction, he thought.

“Say the word sunrise.”


How did they pick these words? Were these words simply the best for testing one’s hearing? More likely, the ear specialist who wrote this test, was in some isolated facility in Stockholm or Stockton and was totally suicidal, selecting words at random from a diary while mock-slicing her wrist with a ballpoint pen. While the audiologist noted his error, Walker concluded with his face to the wall, she was cute. Her name was Sophie or Sophia–he couldn’t say for sure. Although he couldn’t hear and he didn’t know her name, he couldn’t help, but think that things were looking up.

The Neapolitan Mastiff

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Walk of Fame

The decline of another human being is a peculiar thing to watch. This end of paradise is constantly in a downward spiral with defiled youth, wilted splendor and human shrapnel scattered about. Shrapnel of an era that believed so deeply in something that when it disappeared everyone left behind had nothing to do, but keep on living as if it hadn’t.

The most starcrossed of lovers I’ve ever come across is a dipsomaniacal couple in their forties. When you see what they’ve become, it’s nearly impossible to imagine them as the human beings that must have once been. A year ago, she stumbled around, clinging to men up and down the boulevard, peddling for her next bottle of vodka. This morning she was in a wheelchair, pushing herself backwards with the one leg she didn’t lose to diabetes.

Usually, I don’t notice this couple unless they’re screaming at each other, but lately she’s almost always screaming at him, so I guess I notice them quite often. He’s a slight man, no more than 5’8 and one hundred and forty pounds or so. He wears a baseball hat and four or five days of scruff on his weather beaten skin. There are plenty of men his age that look worse, but still, there’s not much life in him. He drinks and pushes her up and down the street. He spends a lot of time sitting and asking if “You got any change? Help the homeless get a meal?” to which everyone that lives in this neighborhood quips back, “There’s a shelter two blocks away, and they serve meals three times daily.” Those who don’t live in the neighborhood: tourists looking for a misguided adventure, westsiders slumming it for a night, club rats and then the human waste that floats up from South L.A. to make a buck or find one, those people say “Uh, sorry man. Not tonight.”

Not tonight? If he wonders at all, surely he must wonder when a better time would be. Tomorrow? Same place, same time? He’s got nothing, but time and if you can’t find a dollar in your pocket, he’s happy to wait it out. He sleeps nearby, on the side of the 101 and Cahuenga overpass with all the trash, ivy and his wheel-chair bond lover. It’s just up the hill and it’s really no trouble at all to come back. Before he can say that, they’re gone. Twelve dollar well drinks, looking to see if some drunk girl is going to make eye contact with him long enough so that he can ask to buy her a drink. A drink she might not want and definitely doesn’t need, but one he would be happy to get for her.

In a way it’s a physical regression, or step away from previous alpha male days. The ability to flaunt one’s genetically endowed ability to survive has been replaced by another endowment. Inheritance. Today’s man, the one that doesn’t have a dollar for an alcoholic with a warped mind and rapidly approaching end, has to gloat like a peacock in the bar. It’s the clothes, the watch, the car, the dinner reservation, the drink of choice, the zip code and where he spends Monday through Friday lying about his weekend conquests.

This morning, I saw the couple from across the street. He’s an under-appreciated, but traditional alpha male of sorts. He helps her survive, nursing her with Moscoff Vodka, pushing her to and from their bed of third-class mail and freeway compost. She screamed something from her wheelchair throne and spit on the man, who sat beneath her on the sidewalk.

“Fuck you, money bags!” He yelled and wiped the spit from his face. “Pumpkin head!”

Using her one good leg she scooted away in retreat. He wiped his face over and over again. A cholo, no older then fourteen, came out of the liquor store they spend daylight hours, strategically camped in front of. He didn’t even try to hide his disgust. He looked at her, with her bloated and brown face, her one good leg, and bad bowl hair cut. She pulled on her hair.

She tried to get a sentence out, but the alcohol weighed her tongue down, and nothing came out, but mumbled syllables and a groan. The cholo skipped by, with a bag in his hand, swishers and Cheetos. Life’s good when your fourteen and everything is new.

At the light, I crossed the street towards them on my way home. She tried to spit again at the man who was still wiping his face from the first offense. She seemed to lack the saliva. Her mouth, her body, dehydrated by too many years of cheap vodka and nights sleeping under and sometimes on top of, the stars of Hollywood.

They know me. I nod and they grow self-conscious. I’ve watched them torpedo to the nadir of the their existence these last three years. Unlike the ninth grade cholo, I’m old enough to know that these drunks on the corner used to be people. They don’t see themselves the way that kid does. They’ve tried not to see themselves for a long time, who knows when the last time the saw anything at all. Although they act like animals and live worse, it’s probably for the best to keep giving them a buck and walking home. Getting clean, seeing themselves the way that cholito does, might be worse then a slow death on pilfered booze and overpass nights among Hollywood’s stars.

The Neapolitan Mastiff

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November: According To The Neapolitan Mastiff

Shhyeah!!!                        Nah Bruh!!!

The Mayor’s Tongue                                              Dyscalculiac Cab Drivers

Paz de la Huerta                                                         “Only God Can Judge Me”

Indian Summer                                                           Sparrow Tattoos

Movember                                                                    Meg Whitman (2x recipient)

Jonathan Ames (writer)                                         Jonathan Ames (scatologist)

“Heads Up!”                                                                 Iced Coffee

Sacrificial Bunts                                                          Faux Fur Anything

Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith                   Having An Epiphany

Playoff Beards                                                            Patriotic Tunes

Tryptophan Induced Naps                                    Weather Delays

-The Neapolitan Mastiff

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Recent Praise for Exchanging Pleasantries

“Like a canary sucking up methane in a coal mine, Exchanging Pleasantries keeps humming away while the rest of the world waits at a safe distance… when Exchanging Pleasantries stops humming, the end for all of us is near.”  R.Z. Poalek, Time

“After reading (Exchanging Pleasantries) my first thought was these guys are raging alcoholics. I’m still working on my second thought.” Sonia Chisolm, Seattle Times

“It’s the tres best! It’s totally tres!” Carla Bruni

“I thought only drug-addled, transient accordionists could come up with the kind of macabre thoughts they seem to think up over cereal.” Eugenio Bretani, Huffington Post

“Exchanging Pleasantries is backed by oil giants. TOLDJA!” Nikki Finke, Deadline Hollywood

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