Saturday, January 31, 2015


I went outside this morning. The foothills all the way from La Crescenta to Sierra Madre, top to bottom, were draped with a black cloth. Remarkably, this massive project had required just four men, two dogs, and one night.

I interviewed one of the men. Tall and blond, he didn't seem the least bit tired, just very hungry. I gave him half of my salmon sandwich.

Me: Did the state pay for this? Isn't it terribly expensive?
He: We're protecting the hills. A forest fire is more expensive.
Me: How were you able to cover the entire range?
He: A helicopter delivered the material. Then we used a technique called the lunar maneuver. Basically, you're prone on the ground and ironing and stretching the cloth with your body.
Me: What about the dogs? What's their technique?
He: The same. They're bred for it.

I drove into Pasadena to see the cloth-covered hills from a distance, from the vantage point of a soccer field. I turned to the nice woman standing next to me and said, "You're smiling. It's amazing, right? Not sure what it means -- maybe an art installation."

And she said, "No, I'm smiling because we're winning."

But I was busy composing my article. I'd title it Shadowland, and the first line would begin -- "While you were sleeping..."

I'm reading this book about Neuropsychology, and there's a chapter on RL Stevenson. Stevenson believed his dreams were the result of the Little People who visited him at night and put on a show. In fact, he attributed 90% of Jekyll and Hyde to the Little People. He only had to intervene twice: The first time to train the Little People to work with chapters or scenes -- continue the same show night after night. And the second time when it came to the ending because, "The Little People have no conscience."

Thursday, January 22, 2015


One of the two visiting cats died today. Or maybe late last night.

This afternoon I found her. He or she, I never knew which. Let's say she. And let's give credit where credit is due -- Albert found her. On leash, he pulled me to the camphor tree. All worried-like -- well, I mean, it's Albert. You can break his heart with a toothpick. He loved this cat.

In life, she was shy. But I was patient. I liked her, sort of. She sort of liked me. It took awhile, but eventually we connected. I'm not a cat person. Or rather, I'm a cat person who always says, "I'm not a cat person."

Supposedly, she had people down the street or a block away.

But she visited all the time, and it wasn't long before she rolled on her back and let me tickle her stomach. Yeah, just like a dog. That's kind of when I fell in love.

Probably whoever hit her with their car was nice enough to stop, check for vital signs, and finding none, lay the body in my yard under the camphor tree. Best case scenario, anyway; that's how I choose to picture it.

I never knew her name -- it didn't matter then. I guess it doesn't matter now.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

It's raining cats

and dog says, "How wet and cold it is outside.

"Please, be my guest.

"We've had our differences, yes. You scratched my nose, and I may have chased you in the past. But today,

"je suis un chat."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Weekend Matinee: Heartland (the movie, 1979)

This is the best movie no one has ever seen. I know you've heard such talk before, but trust me on this.

It's a tale of early 20th century homesteaders in the northern Wyoming prairie. A poem of taciturn people and silence -- wide open spaces, and finding sentiment and humor in hard and tough circumstance. A world where every word said, counts.

I was one of the five people who saw this film in 1980, riveted by Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrell, most particularly. You know, Rip Torn is one of my favorite character actors. Of all actors, I most admire character actors. I even like character actors who are always the same character -- Jason Robards, for example. But Rip Torn, that's a whole different animal. He jumped into other skins every film, completely unrecognizable from one to the next.

But watching the movie recently for the second time, I couldn't get enough of Lilia Skala.

I looked her up, of course. She was 80 years or better when they shot Heartland. Among her real-life accomplishments: the first female architect in Austria, and helped her Jewish husband escape the Nazis. She and her two children made it to America some time later. Skala almost reached the century mark -- died in 1994 at the age of 98.

Heartland is available on order at Netflix, also free on Youtube. The Youtube isn't all that great because it doesn't seem to work on a computer wide-screen, and you really should get the prairie scope. But it's better than nothing. For a taste and to meet Lilia, try this -- slide to 4 minutes. On second thought, watch the whole eight minutes. It's worth your time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


It's hard to peddle words when that's all you've got in the truck. If you're also selling frying pans or lingerie or rubber bands, well then, that's different, something tangible, and if needed, a definite requirement.

But when you sell words and only words -- everyone already has words. Everybody uses them every day. And though you may come up with a mighty good string of words, compelling or poetic, the customer just might squint an eye, take your measure, and figure -- "You think I was born yesterday? I've heard every one of those words before, said each one here and there, from time to time. And it's never cost me a dime. So don't fuck with me."