Friday, September 30, 2011

HaHa, Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown

You can never take me anywhere, least of all a civic-affairs meeting, regardless of scale. I make faces, roll my eyes way far back in my head, blow up my cheeks and then exhale audibly. I bounce up and down in one of those plastic chairs provided for the citizen’s seating enjoyment. I chew gum.

As I never sit in the front row for anything anyway, my train of thought jumps the track, from the matter at hand to the fascinating phenomenon of male pattern baldness. They’re like snowflakes, you know, no two are alike.

Attended Tuesday’s Pasadena city council – no, sub-council, pre-council, or –take-the-heat-off-us-in-the-real-council -- meeting, held to discuss the destruction of our little watershed area known as Hahamongna.

Actually, I didn’t know we were there to hear from the bad guys because I hadn’t read the party invitation. I thought we were all going to get together and say WE HATE PULLING UP TREES TO PUT IN SOCCER FIELDS, and then hug.

But it wasn’t that kind of meeting.

It was held in some place way off the beaten track, a place with a florescent lighting and furniture usually reserved for the coroner’s office or Midas Muffler.

Then, this panel or whatever it was, took roll call and approved minutes, and engaged in other activities practiced fondly by middle school student councils everywhere.
“Next on the agenda, Fruit cup or jello chocolate pudding. The chair recognizes the pimply fellow to my left.”

Not everyone on the panel was up to speed on the whole Hahamongna issue. Some hadn't even started to peddle. Setting a foot on the actual park was apparently not a requirement for appointment to this committee that was appointed by a committee that was appointed by an advisory committee of the appointed staff of the actually elected members of the city council.

So I ducked out, leaving others to fight the good fight. Which was wrong. But I had already laughed, loudly, without filling out a speaker’s card. It was really best for all concerned.

Try, try again. There’s a meeting with the actual Pasadena City Council on 10/17; another opportunity to press our concerns regarding the preservation of Hahamongna Natural Watershed Park. As Alice Roosevelt said -- if you’ve got nothing nice to say, come sit by me. I’ve got gum.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ok, it starts with this

Something’s gone wrong. Let’s say your email is down for the tenth time this month, or the morning paper failed to arrive for the seventh day in a row.

So you make a call and go through the punishing, mind-numbing, soul-zapping, head-splitting process known as the phone tree. And the phone robot says those irritatingly disingenuous words -- “ok,” and “got it,” and “hmmm, I didn’t catch that” -- in hopes you’ll vent all your frustration to a machine.

But no, you’re going to keep your own counsel. You’re going to wait until you reach a real live person, someone of flesh and blood, no matter how long it takes.

Finally, your persistence is rewarded; you’ve clawed your way up to the live-operator queue. A queue with long hold times and looping music that has no beginning and no end.

Then at last a human being comes on the line. “Hello, my name is Matt,”

And ends at Patch.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The great escape

Ice House Canyon, a friend takes a plunge.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On the list of overused and irritating words of 2011

“Actually” made the cut.

This actually made me wince.

Because I use “actually” all the time, actually. Actually, I drop “actually” as a punctuation mark. It’s the equivalent of an em dash -- oh yes, I'm about to say something witty.

No, I don't mean now. I mean when I say "actually."

Actually, “actually” is a wink, with my left eye, the cute one -- the one that can also raise an eyebrow, after years of practice.

For god sakes, if they’re going to bully any word, how about “hopefully,” as in “hopefully we will …” How about the “and” in between century dates, as in 2 thousand “and” 11. Because both of those are equally, actually wrong. Whereas “actually” has party manners -- never grammatically wrong, just waving its fan, biding its time. Ready to say in one word what usually takes two or four times as many. “In reality”, or “The way I see it,” or “From my point of view."

Strip “actually” from my arsenal, and there will be unpleasant consequences. For real. When all is said and done. At the end of the day. I kid you not.

Oh yes, the photo. It has nothing to do with any of this. I just liked it. No shit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My stable

It always puts a spring in my step. (That's not me springing, that's Marcy, the trainer.)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My stories

I envy people with obsessions; at least they’re able to focus.

I’m writing a little book, and it’s really difficult to stay on topic, or more exactly, stay on plot. Plots bother me, suspense most particularly. In books, in life, I’m entirely character-driven.

But save some experiments of the last century, no one wants to read about characters sitting around being characters. Your people have to do something, often a series of unpleasant or uncomfortable things, at least part of the time.

It doesn’t even matter if the author forgets who is doing what to whom and why, so long as folks move from place to place. A proof that honest effort has been made.

Writer friends of mine think they understand the misery of slogging through the plotting progress.

“I know,” they’ll say. “I’m stuck at 400.”

“What, words?” I ask.

“No, pages.”

How can you talk to writers like that? If you even try, then they’re liable to drop terms like “seminal” and “exculpatory.” Which gives me something new to google when I get back to plotting again.

So I just tell them I recently read on YahooNews! that sitting for long periods of time leads to an early grave and leave it at that.

In my young and impressionable days, I often traveled to Europe by myself. There’s nothing like the freedom of crossing an ocean when no one you know is waiting on the other side.

I have lots of notebooks from the time, and plan to poach on some real-life adventures and passages to pad my latest effort.

Arrived in Venice. Got lost, incredibly lost today. Venice is a series of circles and it seems your only choice is to walk around, forward, and back again. I either passed ten different cheese shops, or the same cheese shop ten times.

Rounding one corner, I met Claudio, who offered to take me back to my hotel. But first, he bought me a drink. Oh, he’s cute, mighty cute. Beautiful, really. I think he looks like someone in an Italian fresco, but I won’t know for sure until I see an Italian fresco. His English is good, but mostly he says, “Why not?”

Why not?

“Why not?” said Claudio, pushing me against the wall of the Campanile di San Marco. “What would make you happy?” I lied and said I’d like to visit a museum or two. We saw some tapestries and paintings. He took me to the Palazzo Ducale. He felt me up on the Bridge of Sighs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mid-Week Matinee Splat

Oh man, I’ve got it all in my head. A leaping summersault over sunny personalities, trips to Italy that were as far from churches as you can get, love in the afternoon -- as many afternoons as you can count on all fingers and toes, birth certificates, and adoption.

Could I do it? Could I vault them all and stick the landing? No I could not. Now my ankle is throbbing.

Someday I’ll find the wire that keeps me afloat long enough to finish the piece. Until then, I can’t even post a legitimate mid-week matinee, as this movie has fallen off the edge of our flat earth. Toto Le Heros is from Belgium, 1991, or thereabouts. And all that’s left for now is this

A touch creepy? The director was a clown. Really. And only made two films.

It’s about a child who may or may not have been switched at birth. A child who grew up watching someone else live his perfect life.

More to the point, the movie is about memory, what we choose to remember -- how, when we play too long and obsessively with all the moving parts, we'll construct some kind of past, but it won't be ours.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ya think?

Let's all deny global warming together, shall we? Less said, soonest mended, and what you don't know won't hurt you.

If you need a good reason to avoid Patch, then how about this: I have a new piece up on Patch.

See? A word to the wise. It never fails.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The girls hit the beach (hubba-hubba)


MG, Finnegan, and Karen cop some rays in Balboa

Katie, Bellis, Des

Petrea displays the impressive benefits of a gluten-free diet.

PA and Laurie

Kaori, Virg, Kelly, and PJ

Marjie, Christina, Carolynn

Oop, what's my photo doing here?

Monday, September 5, 2011

The quick lesson

I have no quarrel with the pit bull breed. In fact, I’m not even sure what constitutes the breed. Sure, some are type-y, but most dogs that fall under the pit umbrella come in different shapes, sizes, colors. They share, perhaps, a muscular body, broad forehead, and stretched-back eyes.

When I first got Phoebe, some people thought she was at least part pit, but her eyes are saucer-round. In her dotage, she bears a striking resemblance to Estelle Winwood.

Dogs are reactive, and mirror their owners. If treated harshly, they think the world is one pretty bad ass place to live. But they’re also flexible. Change the conditions and the quality of care, and they respond in kind. Dogs are the most forgiving creatures on earth.

Dogs don’t hold grudges because they haven’t the time. They know they’re not long for this world. So if something good comes their way, they take it. No questions asked. Unlike us, they won’t continue to brood about the past; rehash old wars and family quarrels.

In this respect, they have a leg up on us.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Public speaking, nocturnally

I had to lecture to a packed house. Oddly, given the size of the group, I wasn't nervous at all. The only problem was, I had no topic, which meant I'd have to wing it. The audience had been waiting a long time.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," I said. "But I'm ready to speak."

They laughed. Oh good, I thought, they like me.

"Today we'll discuss German Expressionism."

Now, this was a real problem, because I didn't know anything about German Expressionism; I didn't even know if there was such a thing as German Expressionism. Fortunately, the audience didn't know either.

So mainly my lecture consisted of saying GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM frequently and loudly.

"Interestingly enough..." I said, and stopped to think that whatever follows interestingly enough is never interesting at all.

"Interestingly enough," I continued, "in GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM characters are lit from within but also defined from without through the use of negative space. Now let me explain negative space."

Chairs squeaked, people started talking, getting up and leaving in droves. I knew I needed to do something, fast.

"That's all," I said. "Thank you for coming."

There was applause from the few who remained.