Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mr. Garza, will you please take a, now!

Ever been hiking and been bit by an insect that looked like someone you know? How it itched and burned and you'd love nothing better than to slap the pesky splat? Well that was how I felt last night at Barnsdall Park's Charles Mingus lecture series in the stunning building built by Frank Lloyd Wright himself.

Oscar Garza, the moderator of the evening, was the insect I was referring to. On the panel was a toker and music producer named Hall Willner who talked mostly about his cds and Lou Reed. The other person was the youngest son of Charles Mingus, and the last, and I believe, the most credible of all, was Mingus' best friend and fellow collaborator since age twelve. Buddy Collette, an 87 year-old genius amongst jazz fans, was wheeled in ready to tell the audience stories about the good old days, when Garza, the cornhole, kept interrupting him to go to the other panelists.

At one point he told Collette, "Relax a minute and drink your water." Grrr! People hissed at this and shouted, "Rude!" but Garza was unstoppable. The idiot ruined the evening in my opinion. Imagine being so disrespectful to a living icon like that. It's like telling Gandhi to take a swim in the Ganges while he interviews the cast of Slumdog Millionaire.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chupacabra Craziness

An aunt visited last week. The first thing she tells me is that when I was a little kid, I was mermaid fodder. I was fey she said. Crazy craziness followed me around. Apparently (and I vaguely remember this), I was walking along a rocky shoreline at the beach when I was five with my dad when a hand shot out and pulled me into the water. My dad, of course, held on to my little foot and a tug-of-war ensued. Weird, right? I do remember the tugging bit but I'm not going to say for sure. The little story made my excited fingers itch to call George Noory on Coast to Coast and broadcast my supernatural experiences.

Then I thought about the time a blue iridescent dragonfly followed me around for almost a day - even alongside the car by my window as my dad drove twenty miles an hour.

And of course how could I leave out my bicycle accident when I was nine. I fell off a small ravine as I was rounding a curb. I have a five-inch scar on my left foot to remember the day. Anyway, my Nana said the old man that lived in the tree root where my bike took a nosedive was pissed off at the racket I was making...or that he liked me too much so he made me have an accident.

Anyway, life is tough. Little coochicoos everywhere. It's tougher to get through the phone queue of Coast to Coast, though, let me tell you...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Checked out

If all goes well this year we'll fulfill our little dream of moving from Santa Ana to downtown Los Angeles. I'm a huge fan of libraries, and EzraPounded and I agree there's no better library in California than the Los Angeles Central Library. I know I'll spend hours reading in the stacks, lounging by the outdoor fountains, and checking out (get it? get it?) their exhibits, like the Richard Neutra sketches and drawings coming in May. It's great to hear stories like the one about Ray Bradbury writing Fahrenheit 451 on a rented typewriter at the Central Library.

Just as Fahrenheit 451's Faber went up against the book-burning firemen, a bicycle shop on First Street in San Jose called Faber's Cyclery is up against developers with their eyes on knocking the historic shop down. The business owner, Alex LaRiviere, has a dream of his own...a bicycle and beer museum with graffiti walls.

LaRiviere's sky-high pile of rusty bikes used to fascinate me. One summer home from college a couple friends from SoCal flew in for a visit. Instead of taking a straight shot on the 101 Freeway to my parents' house, I remember driving Alisa and Sunny through SJ's less-than-sparkling First Street and Monterey Road. Even with out-of-towners I couldn't resist a drive past the tangled bikes and other oddities along the aging corridor. I'm pretty sure they haven't been back to San Jose...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Carmelita, hold me tighter

Great Caesar's Ghost...there are still a few Pioneer Chicken restaurants in the Los Angeles area. This one is on Sunset Boulevard near the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset, hanging on by a thread next to a shell of a former Circuit City. (The original location in Echo Park was shuttered just a few weeks ago.)

When I was in fifth grade, a car struck me as I was crossing San Pablo Dam Road in El Sobrante, California. The driver sped off and was never apprehended, and I was left in the road with two busted legs. As far as I'm concerned that road will forever be known as Damn San Pablo Road.

The worst pain I've ever experienced in my life came a week later...the first screwy doctor (straight outta Farewell to Arms) in nearby Pinole reset my legs incorrectly, so doctor number two in Mountain View had to re-reset the bones. The Judge Reinhold lookalike even fed me the "This won't hurt a bit" line before giving the tibia twister.

On the way home from the second hospital stay, my family stopped by Pioneer Chicken for some take-out. I remember still being sick and out of it back at home, stuck in plaster leg casts from toe to thigh, and I groggily turned to see my brother chicken chomping. In those days Pioneer Chicken was the pinnacle of all fast food chicken, a couple notches above Kentucky Fried Chicken, but being fresh from the hospital I wanted nothing to do with it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Utility boxed

In the photo is a painted utility box in the city I work for. Ugly box. Hidden.

I did a fair share of ducking and hiding in college. If in the mood, I'd avoid the lawn hangouts, walk the alleys instead of the streets, and ride my skateboard through campus as a social defense.

When I worked in the Sproul Hall dorm cafeteria, I was happiest in the back scrubbing pots and hosing down floor mats. I'd leave work after the dinner shift and wind down with the quiet walk home to my apartment. I even missed street mayhem after the basketball team won the NCAA championship. While the other kids were climbing traffic signal poles, rocking cars as they tried to pass, and running away from LAPD officers in riot gear, I was busy mopping up the kitchen floor.

One of my favorite 'zines in those days was Dishwasher. I enjoyed reading about the travels of Dishwasher Pete, who quietly worked as a dish dog up and down the U.S. He was even kind enough to screenprint a Dishwasher t-shirt for me. Lessons learned from Pete...simplify, persist, don't lose your sense of humor, weigh anchor when the time is right...