Act Three contains no pictures
One last thing that deserves explanation: I live in LA, but I have no job, no income other than book sales, which are few and far between. I am, and have been for some time now, effectively broke with no cell phone, bank account; nothing in my name, with hardly anything purchased by me since about September 2010. Yet, I don’t have any need to get a paying job.
How is this possible? My situation works like this. I have zero dependents, zero debt, no health problems or physical abnormalities other than a proclivity towards addiction. My sister the lawyer is my benefactor. I live with my mother. Before my arrival late November 2009, my mother lived alone in a fairly upscale, comfortable spacious Westside condo with two phone lines, wireless interweb, 3rd floor view, balcony with grill (my brother and I bought it for our mother Mother's Day 2010) and a spa/gym/swimming pool, with underground parking. The condo is owned and paid for by my sister and her husband named Eric. God, I love coincidence. My lawyer sister and her lawyer husband Eric enjoy financially providing for my mother. Our mother’s well being is a major concern of theirs.
My mother owns a 1999 Cadillac SRS and lives an incredibly active life. Any day any week, after a full day of work at her Law Firm, my mother has meetings: LAPA or Parliamentarian or Legal Secretaries or Italian Catholic Federation ICF, or others – she’s recording secretary or some delegate for ALL of her many groups. She may have a theatre play to attend, like the Jane Fonda 33 Variations about Beethoven or the John Lithgow one man show, both of which she saw last month. Mother’s watching the LA Philharmonic perform at the Disney Hall right NOW – Thursday night, as I write this. Mom’s got bible study knitting group on Saturday, sometimes yoga; dozens of Clipper games each season. She's a Eucharistic Minister at Good Shepherd Church and serves wine on Sundays at Mass to such dignitaries as former Governor Grey Davis. My mother received a letter of commendation from Senator Barbara Boxer for years of service to the California Legal System. She volunteers helping Latin immigrants with their Papers in Koreatown. She’s a Notary Public. She works 40 hours week at her Law firm. And she doesn’t drive. After 52 years of living and working in the City of Los Angeles, my mother still has never driven an automobile.
I drive my mother wherever she needs to go. Last summer, I drove my mother to Modesto and stayed 2 nights for a weekend conference. As a result, I learned that Modesto is exactly 91 miles from both San Francisco and Sacramento -- a bit of trivia I'm glad I know; so the trip wasn't a complete waste for me. I drove my mother and accompanied her to the ICF convention at the Airport Hilton for Labor Day 2010, and stayed the weekend.
Be that as it may, my mother doesn’t need me to get around. Without me, she’d still get everywhere she needs to get. And that list is only part of my mother’s usual week. I make my mother’s life easier by driving her around. She provides me with a car to use whenever I want, as well as gas and insurance. In return, I take care of our Cadillac Car, keep it clean and tuned, and drive her wherever she needs to go.
So me driving, I save the family, not only transportation costs, but I save food money because I shop with and without my mother. Food shopping, since mom don’t drive: she’d have to rely on my brother, and buy him stuff in the process; or do all her shopping at nearby Bristol Farms, even toilet paper and everything, and walk home with a cart, or taxi it. That’s very dear, as the Brits like to say.
I don’t mind shopping. In fact, I love spending time in supermarkets and in kitchens, and cooking and having prepared food at home like rice, soup, beans, frozen burritos which I make and wrap and freeze; sandwich fixings, fruit, nuts and snacks always available.
For this, I save my mom, and ultimately my sister and her husband money. And I keep my mother and I healthy. Mom likes to cook as well, but she doesn’t always have time. My mother is one of the busiest people I know. I’m like chauffer / houseboy.
If you look at my life – my gas, coffee, food and entertainment needs are all met. I carry a thermos of French Roast coffee in my trunk, thermal mug in my cupholder. I NEVER eat out. I never need anything. I never buy anything. We’ve got cable with many movie channels and I haven’t seen a lot of over the last decade. I always bring a lunch, or dinner, or snacks to class. The only other place I ever eat, other than my kitchen or the occasional Tres Portillos Taco Truck al pastor or carne asada burrito after practice at Chepe’s – Flibby usually foots the bill cuz he’s so cool – are St. Tommy’s house: Lucille, Saint’s wife, is an even better cook than Saint, the barbeque king. Lucille grows better ganja than Saint, too. Or I eat at Chepe’s house, often convincing him to eat his leftovers, rather than going out for tacos. My favorite food is leftovers, and Chepe’s vegetarian so you know its whole foods. Or I eat at my brother’s house. Now that my bro got his new kidney on Thankstaking Day (sic) 2010, he can eat anything! He makes mouth-watering home-cooked meals for himself and his teenage son. There’s always a plate for me. I often go by my brother’s house in the afternoons while he’s at work and eat his leftovers. I give him 3 days, then their mine. He knows. I don’t like food to go to waste.
I don’t enjoy eating out. I don’t like a plate put in front of me with more food than I could possibly eat. I don’t like the system of paying people to bring me food, in addition to the cost of the food. I’m not judging anybody; I’m just saying what I like and don’t like. I like eating at home, anybody’s home. I don’t remember the last time I entered a Starbucks' or a Wendy’s or a P.F. Chang’s, and I don’t feel as though I’m missing anything.
“Dude, yer missing out!”
What do I need money for? My Pall Mall cigarettes cost at most $4.25 a pack. That’s $30 a week, at most. What else do I spend money on? Nothing, except weed. Cigs and weed are the only things I ever mooch, and the only things I ever spend money on, other than the occasional 7-11 99 cent Brazilian Bold refill or pack of gum.
I never ask people for money or expect to be treated, even though I often am. Poverty is the best way to remain sober. If I had money, I would surely spend some on weed and liquor. So many nights in the last four months, if I’d had 10 bucks and it was before 2 am, I would’ve run over to 7-11. I luckily live near a 24 hour 7-11 (is that redundant?) which sells hard alcohol and is tended by cool Latinos like friendly Jaime de D.F. I’m there in under 3 minutes. 90 second return time cuz of the steep incline. I never drive to my local 7-11. I like to walk or run to the liquor store. I also like not having any ways or means to buy liquor or weed. It keeps me sober. I also prefer to run instead of walk. It makes me feel like my hero, Forest Gump.
If I didn't smoke anything at all, I'd have no need for cash at all. Everything I do weekly: read, study Korean, play music, read aloud words in Italian from La Traviatta, ride the exercise bike and workout in my downstairs gym, swim when weather permits, sauna, hot tub, watch TV, listen to Cat Stevens and cry, run through my acoustic guitar set daily, practice drums at home on my electro kit, play lots of scrabble with my older brother in the evening, go to the library to read Mad Magazine and other stuff; hang out with Flibby and Chepe making movies making songs and fighting round the world… hanging out with St. Tommy, wife Lucille, daughters Isis and Zsa Zsa Gabor, eating the tastiest food in Van Nuys; eating at all my friends’ homes, writing in notebooks, writing letters to people that I never send, blogging, cooking, cleaning, taking photographs, masturbating, Interweb diving, driving, playing basketball, listening to La Traviata or the Minutemen while cruising or just sitting parked in my beautiful Cadillac SRS with Northstar Engine, going to museums on their Free Days, or parks anytime; Theatre Plays and Symphonies with my mother, or Clipper Games when mom can’t make it – she’s got season tickets, remember? – Or when there’s a player I want to see like Kobe or Lebron or the Boston Celtics next week. I don’t pay for nothing except parking and I try to find free parking.
Lately, when I’m between destinations and I have spare time, which is always, I visit nearby places like Olvera Street or Mulhulland Overlook pass, or Venice Beach and just walk around the streets of tomorrow. None of this costs me a cent. I bring my own coffee and cigarettes.
So in effect, do I really need paid employment right now? Hell yes I do. Dating costs money.
I gotta get on that.
Quinn Martin’s Epilogue
Two days have passed since I began writing a letter to my sister the lawyer telling her HOW I’M DOING, a letter which evolved into a Three Act interweb blog; a letter I stayed up all night writing, sitting with my laptop at my desk in my room, a room my father slept in for six years. There still remain cigarette burn holes in the carpet to remind me of my father's ever presence in my life.
I was only slightly startled when the house phone rang at 5:20 am Friday morning, still dark outside, but not for much longer. It was my brother calling to alert me that he would be coming over in 20 minutes, that I was to drive him to his weekly nephrology test at UCLA’s IM Pei designed Ronald Reagan Medical Center.
I’d been doing this weekly since my brother got his new kidney -- my brother comes over around 5 a.m. I drive him in his truck to UCLA, drop him, go to his house and hang out till 7:20 -- I usually watch TeVo'd Simpsons with Manny Mota and coffee for 90 minutes or nap, then drive his son to University High School; then around 9, I pick up my brother from UCLA so he could go to work. It would the last of his tests, since he’s doing so well, he doesn’t have to see anybody for several months. Still, when the phone rang, I was surprised. I was deeply immersed in the Teapot Dome Scandal. I’d completely forgotten about my brother's weekly appointment.
Once the letter hit 5 pages, it ceased to be a letter. Once my brother phoned, night became morning, time to start the new day.
A day passes while editing. Today is Saturday the 19th.
This morning, my mother is getting ready for her bible study class at Good Shepherd Catholic Church, where I, as a boy during the 1980s, served mass in full cassock and surplice in the mornings before school, grades 6th through 8th. From there, Mom plans to do an errand, go to her office, and from there I don’t know what she’s doing, but I think she said something about a Show.
Hypothetically, if I were to accompany my mother to her Show, I would pick her up from her office, drive her to her Show, be her intermission buddy, drive her home; and a Rush ticket – unsold seats available 15 minutes before curtain – cost usually only $20.
If you factor in transportation costs, time versus money, taxi versus bus, the fact that it’s raining, I’m saving my mother, and ultimately my sister, money by going to the show. Plus, I’m making sure my mother arrives home safely. She is closer to 80 than 70. What if it’s an Opera? How do I feel about Opera?
In 1992, while I lived with my parents in Santa Monica, for some occasion, I bought my mother a CD of Verdi’s La Traviatta. I’d never heard it before. I’d never been a fan of Opera. I don’t remember WHY I chose it; perhaps it was Mother’s Day. Me mum loves the Opera.
I’m a rocker. I grew up with Classic Rock. When I returned to the USA after living in Asia for so many years, I loved driving and listening to 95.5 KLOS, The SOUND 100.3, KeaRTH 101. What struck me as interesting – no matter what the station, if a pop song from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s played, I knew the all the words, at least the first verse and the chorus. I used to drive the streets of LA, starting November 2009 till just last month, singing along with every song like karaoke. I’d play music from my CDs and sing along, cry, just lose myself in the moment; till one day, I just got sick of hearing Misty Mountain Hop and all the songs on the radio. They just play in a loop, the same few thousand hits from the past.
That plus the commercials, plus my lack of fresh music on CD, plus my 1999 Cadillac Car’s lack of USB input, caused me to start listening exclusively to KUSC FM, the classical station. My mother, whenever she’s home, always has KUSC playing in our condo, always in the kitchen and always in her bedroom, playing simultaneously. I started listening to the Classical sounds, enjoying how they made me feel, relieving my Road Rage like nothing else could.
KUSC FM is a listener supported station. They have zero commercials, sometimes a pledge drive, sometimes famous actors with sultry vocals like Alec Baldwin or Jeremy’s Iron, saluting Lisa Simpson’s attempt to anagram Jeremy Irons’ name, in response to her rival’s anagram of Alec Guinness: Genuine Class. I once heard Jeremy Irons tell a story about the composers Hayden and Mozart: Why couldn’t Mozart find his music teacher? Because he was Hayden!
Jeremy Irons’ voice could woo the pants off of me, and I’m not even Homer-sexual.
The other night, driving home from night jam at Chepe’s place: bass and drums and Manny Mota; for the entire 26 minutes/17 mile drive from Chepe’s place to mine, the Eastside to the Westside, I listened to Acts 2 and 3 of La Traviatta with no interruption on KUSC FM. I never in my life listened to that much Opera by choice. I had no idea what I was hearing. Upon arrival at the condo, I sat in the parking lot, enthralled till Act 3 concluded, till I could hear the DJ tell me what I had been hearing. I knew it was Opera; that was all I knew, till the smooth DJ ID’d the Opera. I had to hear La Traviatta again and again.
I rode the elevator up to 310, our unit, and went straight to our living room shelf. Lo and behold, there it was, on a small shelf of CDs, designed specifically for CDs, very 90s in its fake woodiness, the La Traviatta 2 CD set I had purchased for my mother long ago. It quickly became my go to music: one CD in the Caddie and one for the house. I’ve heard nothing but La Traviatta for over a week now. I’m looking forward to knowing all the arias individually. I prefer the overtures, the non-singing sequences, but the vocals are incredible feats of human endurance and beauty that chill me to my core. I’ve read the CD booklet from cover to cover, Italian – English translation of the entire score, and the history of Verdi and his contemporaries like Rossini, the only name I remember from the lot.
One might ask, “What’s it like driving your mother around all the time?” It’s a fair question. I suppose I could be driving Miss Daisy or worse, driving Hoke. I've never seen the film Driving Miss Daisy, I only know it from Jack Black Be Kind Rewind and Public Enemy.
I got Black Caesar at the crib. That's an idea we could've rolled with from the beginning. Yo, F$&% Hollywood!
If I had to choose something unpleasant -- the one thing that ‘annoys me’ and not really, but if I had to choose one source of peeve, it’s that my mother never stops talking, ever. My mother will talk from here to San Diego without taking a pause.
Today, as I drove my mother to Good Shepherd Church – I have nothing to say usually, which makes my mother’s loquacity that much more irksome, but now with this Web Design class, which really came out of nowhere, I’m all high on life with a renewed vigor. We were listening to La Traviatta in our Cadillac Car, making the turn onto Santa Monica Blvd. and I’ve got something I want to say. I begin, “You know…” and my mother shushes me.
The entire drive we speak not a word. We listen to this aria: Parigi, O Cara, Noi Lasceremo which my mother knows well. As well as I know Misty Mountain Hop, but Mom hasn’t yet tired of listening to Alfredo’s father wail his harmonious duets with Violetta, beseeching her to leave his son alone, which triggers tears in my eyes, while fueling my mother with immense joy. I drive slow and easy like a Cadillac Car should be driven. Mom puts on her makeup and visibly enjoys the mellifluous melodies as we cruise elegantly. Upon arrival I ask my mother, what are you doing after this?
My mother answers me pleasantly,after thanking me for my music selection. She says, I don’t need a ride, but…I’m going to the office and from there going to see Il Turko en Italia by Rossini. Wanna come? If you come, you can drive me and I can buy you a cheeseburger at Tommy’s afterward.
As if I need a cheeseburger to help me decide…she had me at shush.
I’m going to the Opera tonight! I’m wholeheartedly excited. I didn’t see that coming. I didn't see Web Design, Graphic Designer coming. I never see anything coming. But, Whoop, there it is!
In the end, I like the way things end. I really love music. This has been a Preface.