This is a story about Pigs
I believe in God. But we’ll get back to that.
I remember once, years ago, when I lived in SKorea, a native girl I dated for a year and a half, she told me, “I prefer pork to beef.” I’d never in my life heard someone opine that, but I had to agree: pork tastes better than beef. At the taco truck, I usually order carnitas or al pastór over carne asada. I’ve always had a thing for pigs. I put a family of pigs on rear cover of my Culturebook. I owned pigs, once upon a time; that is, my ex-wife and I bought some piglets that her grandmother raised on her farm in the Philippines.
We had a big Pig Party once, there in Baguio City back in year 2000. Many people attended. It took four men to hold the yelping sow down while they slit its throat and drained its blood into a pan to make a sausage called, Bloody Mary. They used every part of the pig, giving portions away to guests, but cooking the majority of it that day. So many varieties of eats were consumed that evening: sausages, adobo baboy, calderetta, bbq short ribs, hearty soup. That was a long time ago. These days, I eat meat no more than once or twice a week.
These days, since I don’t have a regular job, I sometimes assist my friend, Flibby the Carpenter, doing home repairs. We met at 10:30 am Friday in front of Chepe’s East LA house. We were scheduled to replace the grate in front of the house. Chepe’s house is on a hill and the house sits over a garage, so the grate is 20, 25 feet up from the driveway.
Chepe keeps a scaffolding unit assembled in the rear of his yard. First we dissembled it, then moved it and resembled it in front of the house. Next, we brought out a big ladder. Flibby is over 6 feet tall. Yet, I imagined; even if Flibby stood on the scaffolding, he would still be many feet short of the grate.
I wondered how the heck he was going to accomplish this task. Were we going to put the ladder ON the scaffolding? Was my job going to be, “Hold the ladder”?
Instead, Flibby said to me, “We need to get the grate, let’s take a ride.” For the next three hours we drove to stores that were NOT Home Depot, but were essentially Home Depot. In the truck, as we drove, Flib handed me a book called LA Bizzaro about interesting places in LA. It was very humorous and I began reading passages out loud. I came across an interesting landmark, one I knew not of, The Farmer John Factory in Vernon. Not LA city, but LA county, not far from Chepe’s house, actually. Chepe tells me on some days, he can smell the Farmer John slaughterhouse.
Vernon, CA is the headquarters of Farmer John: where they convert live pigs into its Brand sausage, sandwich meats, Dodger Dogs, and other pork products. On the outer walls of this abattoir is also where, spanning several city blocks, several murals stand: painted pictures of cartoonish pigs having fun, looking happy and enjoying life. The authors of LA Bizzaro humorously quip, “This mural practice should extend to other venues. Wouldn’t that be great if on the walls of prisons were painted murals of inmates happily reading and lifting weights; instead of being gang raped by skinheads with swastika tattoos, which is what really goes on there.” I’m paraphrasing.
In the book, LA Bizzaro, I saw pictures of the mural. How I longed to see this mural live and in person! I began to read about the mural in the book. The writers informed me, “The original artist died before the mural’s completion. He fell off the scaffolding and plunged to his death!” I’m paraphrasing again.
The point is, I can’t remember the last time, if ever in my life, I assembled a scaffolding. I surely can’t remember the last time I read about scaffoldings. Yet, in the last hour, I’d not only assembled one, but I also read about somebody, a painter of pigs, falling of a scaffolding to his death! I began to dread the job I was about to do. As we drove, amidst my worry, I fell asleep.
In the end, we couldn’t find the proper sized grate. We drove to Cerritos. We drove to Alhambra. We drove to Pomona. We never found the proper sized grate.
When we returned to Chepe’s house, it was already 2:30 pm. Chepe was there and he wanted to have a band practice. It was too late to do any work. Turns out, in visiting not Home Depots, Flibby had noticed hydraulic lift rentals for $100 a day, so Chepe and Flibby decided that, sometime next week, they would rent a lift; and in doing so, not need me. Flibby paid me $20 dollars for my time driving around with him. They would change the grate another day. All in all, Win-Win.
Right about that time, our new friend Gnat showed up at Chepe’s to jam with us. Gnat is, kind of, our second guitar player. This would actually be the FIRST time we all played together, so I can’t say whether or not Gnat is officially in our band, cuz it’s too soon to tell. We four were standing in Chepe’s yard. It was a hot, summer day, nearing the 90s. I don’t know Gnat that well. We’ve only met once before. Gnat wore a tee shirt and right on her arm I could see it. She wears a tattoo of a pig on her arm.
Not just any pig, but the Butcher pig that I used to see in every butcher section in every market in SKorea for the decade I lived there. Pork is cheap in SKorea. Beef is expensive. As a result, pork is consumed a LOT more than beef in SKorea.
You don’t see this pic too often at Ralph’s or other American supermarkets these days; but I’m sure, once up on a time, that was a standard pic in every supermarket’s butcher section, showing all the cuts on a pig. Gnat’s tattoo pig didn’t have the names of each cut, just the lines marking each cut.
Once upon a time, beginning in the colonial days of the USA, till the hamburger craze starting in the 1950’s with the diners, waitresses on roller skates, etc., pork was the number one meat consumed in America. By the 1960’s beef had replaced pork as #1. And that was largely the result of McDonalds and other new Fast Food chains selling disposable meals: mostly hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I learned this fact from the book, Fast Food Nation.
Beef remained the #1, most consumed meat in the US, until McDonald’s came out with the McNugget and big boneless breast meat first became available in supermarkets in the 1980’s. That, plus the absence of beef consumption by so many so called ‘vegetarians’ who didn’t actually stop eating meat, just Red Meat, caused Chicken to become #1. Pork has tried to make a comeback, riding on the media tag, “The other white meat.” As soon as I saw Gnat’s tattoo, I remember thinking, “Gnat’s gonna fit right into our band.”
I remember…long ago when I was married to that woman from Baguio City, PI, my ex-wife’s mother, the daughter of the woman who raised our pigs in Pangasinan – my mother-in-law said to me once. “A pig is smaller than a cow, but you can get more edible meat from a pig, then you can from a cow.” I don’t know if that is true, but one thing I’ll never forget is…
That day in 2000 in Baguio City, PI, when we had that big pig party, when we took that adult female pig – she was huge – and slaughtered her. That pig was pregnant! She was so pregnant that when we cut open her belly, the little piglets inside her were almost the size of my hand. And I have big hands. I remember thinking how wasteful and stupid that was. If we had waited a week, we would’ve had 8 or 9 more free pigs!
Late in the evening, I mentioned something about the pregnant pig to one of the men in charge of the actual slaughter. He said to me with a smile on his face, “The babies? Yeah. They were delicious."
I believe in attaching meaning where there isn’t any. Isn’t that what believing in God is all about?
Memorial DAY: A Day to Remember
Memorial Day 2011 has come and gone. The long holiday weekend is over. For me, as is customary, unforgettable adventures ensued.
I am a writer because, whether I want it or not, my life always involves much drama. Every question asked me can be answered with the same two words: Long Story.
My Holiday Weekend began after class Thursday night (there is no Friday class). I left class early. A pre-recorded tutorial video played while the Prof kicked it at his desk. I exited just before eight, quietly bidding classmates Wheelie J and Dan, Happy Holidaze! My holiday had begun and I was off to Chepe’s place to rock hard on drums!
At exactly 8:00 pm, the time I got into my car, and as is customary at 8 pm, 100.3 FM The Sound plays a selected album side in its entirety. Tonight it was 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, their second album entitled Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac’s debut album in 1968, the year I was born, was also titled, Fleetwood Mac – but the British band’s first album featuring Lindsay Buckingham AND Stevie Nicks. I heard from Monday Morning till the end of side one: two Buckingham songs, two Christine McVie songs, and two Stevie Nicks’ songs including Rhiannon. Chepe doesn’t understand why I rate Mick Fleetwood as one of my favorite drummers - after Keith Moon, of course - but I do.
The next day, Friday afternoon, I realized that I’d left my USB drive AND my cheap prescription sunglasses back at the college, in and on the computer, respectively. SO, instead of ‘staying close to home and NOT driving anywhere Friday’ as I’d planned; on account of holiday traffic, I instead ended up driving all the way out to Winnetka to the West Valley Occupational center Friday afternoon to retrieve my lost goods. At WVOC, uniformed security informed me they couldn’t let me in the classroom. “You can’t or you won’t?” It was Friday 4:30 pm and I had to wait till Tuesday, when school resumed.
On Tuesday evening, after the Holiday, when I arrived for class, the USB was still in the computer and my sunglasses were right there as well. What makes it laughable is that the previous Sunday, Chepe had taken me out for sushi and I’d left the sunglasses at the restaurant. I called the restaurant the next day. They had them. The next day, I went back to retrieve them. Two days later, I left them at school!
Days after getting my sunglasses back a second time, as I now write this, I’ve lost them again, this time at the house of St. Tommy’s. It’s Sunday and my sunglasses are nowhere to be found.
I’m always leaving things behind at friend’s houses and my brother’s house. It’s also not uncommon for me to ‘Surprise Attack’, which means, come over uninvited and without calling. I do that regularly at my brother’s and at St. Tommy’s. I used to do it at Pricko’s house, but we’re no longer friends. Pricko is now, again, my brother’s friend only.
I ‘Surprise Attacked’ Chepe the other day, but I didn’t mean to. I’d emailed Chepe telling him I was coming over, but he didn’t read the entire message. We still rocked out. My unannounced arrival did not become a tense situation, as it often is, with some people. Being able to ‘Surprise Attack’ at any time…that’s what a Friend is to me.
I rocked hard on drums with Chepe on guitar and bass in his Stone Street Studio Thursday night and again Friday night at the start of the Memorial Day weekend. We watched a documentary about the WHO called Amazing Journey, a movie that neither of us had known of, which is odd, since Chepe and I are HUGE FANS of the Who, and we stay pretty well informed. The movie played in the background as we went through our entire set, including the song, My Generation, which we’d never played before. We watched attentively with audio only when the story centered on Keith Moon.
Chepe and I are both real keen on Keith Moon’s drumming. I’ve kept the book Full Moon on my bookshelf for the last two weeks. I first read the Dougle Butler penned Moon bio back in 8th grade when I was 13 in 1981, the year the book first came out. I remember buying Full Moon in a little glass-walled bookstore near the Troubadour in West Hollwood that year, a bookstore no longer there.
For this Memorial holiDay (sic) Weekend I’d like to remember 30 years ago, 1981.
1981 was the year I went to my very first rock concert, Cheap Trick at the LA Forum with my neighborhood friend Stew, and my older sister and her then friend Lourdes. Stew was then and is now, 30 years later, more my brother’s friend than mine. In 2011, my brother still talks to Stew. I only ever see Stew if I’m with my brother. My sister still sees Lourdes, who lives in a different city now, as does Stew.
Later that same year, 1981, I would see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with my brother and our then school chums, Geddy and Pricko, also more my brother’s friends than mine. For Memorial Day Weekend, 100.3 The Sound was playing, in order, the top 100 albums of all time, not the entire album, just one side, but still, for the first time in endless, the radio was playing B SIDE hits.
I listened to Tom Petty’s Damn the Torpedoes. I heard the songs Complex Kid and Century City, neither of which I’ve heard in decades. And I’d never heard them played on the radio before. What memories listening to those songs brought back! Like moden man, modern girl, we’re gonna live in the modern world.
In the song, Complex Kid, Tom Petty rhymes the world Kid with Bed so he says Complex Ked and I don’t know why that is so cool, but it is. And it’s not just me that thinks so. It’s millions of people, including my older brother. And the majority of us like watching the character, Lucky, on the animated sitcom King of the Hill.
Sunday came, a three day Memorial Day weekend – I found myself driving to the LA Forum to see Prince. I was driving alone. I had no ticket. It was Prince’s final show at the Forum, formerly the Fabulous Forum, then Great Western Forum. Now it’s just the plain old Forum. Prince was to play the final show of a 21 Night Stand. It was 7:00. I’d just left my brother’s house. I had $40 cash, no ticket.
My plan was to park for free on the street near the Forum and somehow, get into the show. The show was sold out. There were people trying to get tickets, but I didn’t see anybody selling tickets. There were a lot of people; sold out show; I walked around the perimeter of the Forum, inspecting all the entrances until it became clear that I was not going to buy a ticket and the only way I was going to get in was to sneak in and the best way to do that was the Smoking Area.
Since the Forum is a non-smoking building, there is an unguarded entrance/exit for patrons to come and go to smoke cigarettes. This area was fenced off, but the under area was 18 inches and I could shimmy under. I could, but would I?
I stood there. To my left AND to my right were guards admitting people, searching bags, taking tickets. Behind me were smokers, drinkers, people inside the venue. Surely one of THEM would see me shimmy under the gate. Would they rat me out?
The real question wasn’t COULD I do it. There was no question. I’ve snuck into concerts before. WOULD was the real question I’m a 43 year old man. What am I doing sneaking into rock concerts?
I’ve snuck into a lot of concerts in my life: Neil Young and Crazy Horse at Catalyst in Santa Cruz in 1996, James Brown back at the Greek in 1993. But I was kid then.
Then again, I did sneak into Jerry Seinfeld in Beverly Hills just last year. I waited till many people were in line and the guards were all busy and then I slid under the fence and ran inside up to the Colonade section and sat down in an empty seat at an empty row. My heart was beating a mile a minute, like it did when I got off that ride at Universal, total rollercoaster rush.
The stage was a giant symbol, the symbol that Prince called himself, when we went by “The Artist Formerly Known as…” I walked around a great deal before the show started. I had no weed or pipe and I had no desire to drink so I was basically sober the entire time. I would have to exit the Forum to smoke, and since that was too close to the crime scene, I didn’t smoke cigarettes the entire time either.
When the opening band started, I was in a Riser seat, the front, lower section of the Loge area, about 8 rows up. An R&B trio of Singers with a keyboard/synth/drum machine played in an upper area, away from the stage, where an announcer might be during a sports event. The stage was reserved for Prince. I was quickly on my feet and would remain on them for the duration of the show.
After a short set of nice deep bass RnB vocal numbers, Prince started. One drummer, one bass two keyboardists and Prince on guitar and vocals was the band’s core. They ran through numerous numbers old and knew and a few medleys and covers like Everyday People and MJ’s Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough. After the crowd got thick and I lost my seat, I moved up to the back wall, to the furthest distance away possible and there I stood and watch the duration of the show. Cream, get on top / 1999 / Let’s Go Crazy into Delirious back into Let’s Go Crazy. It was crazy, on hit after another.
Prince did 4 encores, leaving the stage entirely and returning. For one encore set, Prince performed solo at a grand piano that was also a synth/drum machine. It was like Prince at Karaoke. He did When Doves Cry like this, which would have been cheesy, except Prince wrote all the music so it was fitting.
At the end of the show – there was a dance floor around the stage – many hot, sharply dressed ladies were granted access to the stage and about 30 of them were dancing on stage for the final numbers. Maceo Parker from the JB’s came on to blow his sax for several of them. Numerous dancers and backup singers, mostly female and hot, shared the stage for the majority of the show, leaving to change clothes only to return looking even sluttier. All in all, two hours of non-stop rock.
At one point Prince began speaking, “I remember back in the 80’s when I was just getting started, I would come to see bands here at the Forum. This place should be designated a place for live music. I remember seeing Fleetwood Mac here back in the 80’s.” Of all the bands he could have mentioned, he said, “Fleetwood Mac.” I thought of what I’d heard recently, that because of the show Glee, that FM’s song Dreams is now back on the Billboard charts. Maybe it was a plug. Prince also mentioned seeing the Jacksons and James Brown and Prince and the Revolution! Everybody cheered at that. Perhaps Prince IS a fan of the Mac, as am I. Maybe that’s why Lindsay Buckingham is always on What Up With That?
To think that 30 years ago, in 1981, at the LA Coliseum, Prince would get booed off the stage by rock n roll fans. It was October 1981 and I remember cuz I was too young to go, but not really. The Rolling Stones played the LA Coliseum with the opening acts: J Geils Band, George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers, and Prince. I so wanted to go…
It wasn’t so much that I was too young – it was that I had no friends and no one to go with and that my brother wasn’t interested in seeing the Stones. Pricko went to the show with his older siblings, but me I couldn’t go. I remember years later, hearing that while Prince performed his hit from Controversy, Jack U Off, he was booed off the stage.
Any whosafudge, as a musician, there are certain artists that have changed my life, some forever not for better, and I have seen most of them live in concert. Not John Lennon, but I did shake hands with George Clinton before he took the stage at the Coach House in Orange County; and I have seen James Brown numerous times, and the Meters and Carlos Santana and The Who and Neil Young and so many others.
The Evolution of Funk is one that I’ve followed religiously in that I have studied the scriptures and learned all words.
I remember 1981, Prince was wildly popular with Little Red Corvette, which he performed Sunday night. I never got it back in 1981, or should I say, I never gave it a chance. I was a rocker. I didn’t like Prince cuz I never listened Prince and I wouldn’t have liked it even if I had. Or would have I? Had I been at the Stones 1981 show – it was the Tattoo You tour – would I have been one of the hecklers throwing tomatoes at Prince? I wonder. The only Black musician I listened to in 1981 was Jimi Hendrix! Funny how Jimi had to go all the way to London England and play with a British rhythm section just to get known in the USA?!?!
Then came college. Then came Chepe Escondidio. Then came PE and BDP and John Coltrane and Miles Davis and James Brown and Macka B.
I did my senior thesis on Bebop Jazz.
I remember in 1989, I was at Berkeley and this African American dude a few years younger than me: he was telling me that I was born on a cusp. That people born after me, younger than me GET rap; but that people older than me DON’T GET rap, they think it’s noise, the way parents thought RocknRoll was noise. That same African American youth, then a Berkeley student like me, he also told me something else. “Rap killed funk,” he told me. He was right, except it really didn’t die; it just evolved.
My older brother by one year and Geddy and Pricko are all one year older than me. None of them like rap music much. On Memorial Day Monday 2011, I went to a barbeque at the house of my brother and Pricko and Geddy were there as well. And other than Pricko’s mother and brother and my brother’s son, no one else was there.
I wanna end with a quote by Prince. Prince, the evolution began with Lionel Hampton, then James Brown, tyhen George Clinton, then Prince, then PE. Rap killed funk. Public Enemy.
I hate to see an erection go to waste. I’m just rock hard in a funky place.
With Napalm...with Marijuana....with a clenched fist...with the history of the world. -- Mike Watt
I made this picture using Photoshop. It is a possible album cover for my rock n rollOn Monday 5/9, Chepe and I had a bass/drum practice run-through of our set in his
trio Coffee Pot Break. I am a huge fan of RnR Iconography and Album Art; that is,
the artwork on rock n roll record albums, specifically LP's, which are now a thing of
Starting with the Beatles and Stones and bands of that era like The Who and Pink
Floyd, both in the UK and USA, starting around 1964 and lasting till about 1989 when CD's had fully replaced Vinyl – for 25 years, all the music I listened to was released
in a cardboard jacket covered with interesting imagery and psychedelic lettering.
My brother and I used to go a RnR convention back in the early 80's, the first
Saturday each month at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, to buy RnR memorabelia,
records, posters, etc. YES albums like 1972's Fragile designed by Roger Dean,
double and sometimes even single albums opening up like Jefferson Airplane’s
1967 After Bathing at Baxters or the 1971 Warhol designed Sticky Fingers with the
zipper on the jeans opening to reveal bulging underwear.
It’s been a long time since new music came housed in an opening jacket,
like Queen's 1977 News of the World album jacket with the giant wreaking havoc
and the members of Queen all bloodied in the metal hands of the beast. Then again,
it’s been a long time since a double A side release like We Will Rock You and We
are the Champions.
At the same time, A sides and B sides are no longer with us. The scene from
Almost Famous, where the young Cameron Crowe is holding the Tommy record,
listening to Sparks really shows the power of Rock n Roll music.
These days, with MP3 files and digital downloading, RnR artwork is not what it once
was. Album art of the 70’s has largely been replaced by CD booklets and Website
Since I’m kind of stuck in the past, still listening to my Minutemen Joy EP cassette in
my Cadillac Car, I hope, if Coffee Pot Break ever releases an album, that it comes
with some kind of Art-ful housing. Flibby's already designed our Coffee Pot Break
logo and I've done several possible covers.
So I showed my Computer professor my portfolio, which was largely Coffee Pot
Break poster/album cover possibilities and Mr. Huberman gave me some useful
pointers. I showed the Jaguar Break Out pic to my prof and several people. In
speaking of my ‘goal’ or intention in creation I tried to mention the Dutch
artist, Hieronymus Bosch (1450 - 1516), the artist who did wild paintings with so
much going on, it takes a while to SEE everything. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of
Bosch's name. I knew Deep Purple used one of Bosch's paintings for their Debut
Album, but I couldn't think of the man's name. I could have easily looked the name up on the Interweb, but I hoped someone would come up with the man's name. I knew
everybody knew him, but nobody could name him. "He did the cover of the Deep
Purple debut albumI" I beckoned. "It's one of his paintings with them in it!" For an
entire week, Flibby, my brother, Chepe, none could come up with the name. Nor could I.
Deep Purple's Debut Album 1970 Garden of Earthly Delights 1st showing 1516 Currently at Madrid's Prado Museo
Till the day when I logged onto Mike Watts Hoot Page.
basement studio. That evening, we purchased tickets for Mike Watt and the Missing
Men online. It was the first I'd heard of Watt's new Trio. The show was Wednesday
night 5/11 and I was excited to go. I got home and checked Watt's Hootpage. After
logging on and scrolling down, I beheld the name, Hieronymus Bosch! I immediately
remembered trying to think of the name. There it was.
I even did a few gigs w/george hurley w/us as a duet doing some of the old tunes
and it was trippy for me, like I was digging on how "econo" those tiny tunes were -
no filler, right to point and distilled down to the bare nada. also, a big influence was
those little creatures in those old hieronymus bosch paintings - I read a theory
about them maybe being visualizations of proverbs or aphorisms and me, not
knowing much about sixteenth century dutch/flemish culture, made up my own
meanings! -- Mike Watt from his blog.
The picture of Mike Watt and the Missing Men was taken by Chepe Escondido with
his nifty cell phone. The show was incredible. Chepe and I stood up front the entire
show. The show was at LA's Bootleg Theater in between Silver Lake and
Downtown. I've already watch this show on Youtube several times. The opening act
was a female duet, guitar and drums, called Ancient Ribbons. They were awesome.
Chepe and I prayed to Manny Mota between shows. There was a large back area, a wooden terrrace for smoking, and there we partook. The Missing Band started
playing and I could tell -- it was one piece of music lasting a little over an hour. At the
conclusion, I was high and I must have said to 4 different people. "That was like
an Opera. It was like one long piece."
The show was loud and we were up in front against a large speaker. I had pulled two cotton filters out of two cigarettes and put one in each ear. After the show, I removed
the ear filters and discarded them.
When the Headlining band started, it was loud -- as loud as or louder than The
Missingmen had been. At one point I wanted to leave, but Chepe looked as if
he was enjoying himself, so I went out to the lounge. It was odd, because The
Missing Men were not the headliner, but in my mind, WHO could play after nobody?
Nobody short of The Who. It was hard to say whether or not I liked the Headlining
Band, whose name I can not remember. At that moment, they sounded like noise. I
retired to the outside deck.
There I met Tom, Watt's guitarist. "How did you get to play with Mike Watt I asked
him. "I played in punk bands who recorded on the SST label back in the 80's so
that's where I first met Mike Watt," Tom told me. I met the drummer, Raul, who told
me, "It wasn't LIKE one long piece, it WAS one long piece!" Then I met Mike Watt
and when I told him, "That piece sounded like an Opera." His reply was, "It didn't
SOUND LIKE an Opera, it was an Opera." A Rock Opera like Tommy!
I asked Mike Watt how his day was. He told me about driving all the way to
Riverside from San Pedro to help out a friend. It was cool hearing Mike Watt talk to
me. He even remembered my name! He said to me, "In military speak, Bravo
means backup plan." "I didn't know that Mike Watt. Thank you," was my reply. Watt
went to the restroom and I took the opportunity to go get Chepe.
It was lounder inside. It was so loud, I wanted to get out of there quickly. I saw
Chepe. I said to him, "Would you like to meet Mike Watt?" He said, "Hell yeah!"
We went out back. I said, "Mr. Watt, I want to introduce you my good friend, Chepe
Escondido. Chepe introduced me to YOU and the Minutemen back in 1987!" Watt's reply, "Respect. Nice to meet you, Chepe."
I stood back and watched as Chepe and Mike Watt chatted about art and music for
about 20 minutes. Mike Watt is very knowledgeable about Art. He told us that The
Garden of Earthly Delights and many Bosch paintings are at the Prada in Madrid.
"They call him El Bosco in Spain." He told us.
Meeting Mike Watt was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Watt seemed like one of us. I've met Michael Jackson and it wasn't even the same. Meeting Mike
Watt was not an Stargazing Experience (to quote the Rainbow song). It was more
like an opportunity to thank Mike Watt.
I gave Mike Watt a copy of my book, Culturebook, which I end with a quote by Mike
Watt. The Minutemen are the first people I thank in my book. I surely hope Mike watt
reads my Culturebook. I'm sure he'll like it.
Last night, driving home in my Cadillac Car from Chepe Escondido’s East LA home studio to my Condo in Westwood, listening to rock n roll radio the entire way, the final song I heard was Bob Segar doing:
Rock N Roll Never Forgets
It seemed an appropriate song to end the night, and an appropriate title for this piece.
Neither Chepe and I are huge fans of Bob Segar and the Silver Bullet Band. I know Segar’s music much more than does Chepe – my brother and I can play the entire Night Moves album on piano and guitar. We’ve been fans of that album since our older sister first bought the LP in 1976. Still, Chepe and I tend to agree with my boy Blue who said it best: “Bob Segar? He’s just a poor man’s Bob Dylan.”
In any event, over the last 18 months, since I’ve been back in LA, one of Chepe’s new catch phrases has been: “Rock n Roll Never Forgets.” I’m beginning to realize that Chepe’s use of this phrase transcends Bob Segar and the Silver Bullet Band. My usual reply, when Chepe says RNRNF is, “But Rockers often do!” A little weed humor.
For this reason, as I pulled my Cadillac Car into my designated parking space in the underground security garage of my Condo and cut the engine, I sat in my car listening till the song finished. It seemed appropriate for Three Reasons, the first being a salute to Chepe Escondido for his fine catch phrase.
The Second Reason was that the digital green light that displayed the time on my dash read 1:59. I figured the song would end at 2:00. It did. I got to watch listening as 1:59 became 2:00. “You can come back, baby, rock n roll never forgets…”
This may seem Meaningless, this passage of time from 1:59 AM to 2:00 AM, but if you are an alcoholic like me, living in California, that passage of time is sacred.
I don’t drink. In fact, tonight is the 12th of May, which means it’s been 4 whole months since I’ve drunk alcohol. So why is 1:59 becoming 2:00 so important to alcoholics?
You can buy liquor at any all night store that sells liquor in LA until 1:59 AM. The moment the clock says 2:00, you can’t buy liquor any more. Not till 6 AM.
I remember one night about 7 or 8 years ago, I was at my local 7-11, the one that sells hard alcohol, the one that I often run to from my house to buy cigarettes (I used to run there to buy booze) – well, that night in 2003 or 4, I was in line with several people. The time was 1:55 AM and the line was not moving. I wanted to buy one 40 ounce bottle of King Cobra and I knew the price to be $1.45 and I had one One and two Quarters so at 1:57 I moved to the front of the line and plopped my $1.50 down and said, “Okay?” The checker said, “Wait.” He grabbed the bottle and scanned it on a second register and said, “Okay.” I thanked him and left the store and the slow moving line. As I exited the store, two uniformed policeman driving a car had just parked and were going to enter the store. The time said 1:59 with only seconds remaining. The Police People saw my beer, looked at the clock and walked past me, entering the store.
Now, in front of me in line, but not yet at the register, were two tall Sweeds. They were young. They were on some extended working holiday. We chatted in line for a few minutes before my cut. They had two CASES of cheap canned beer. They were the Last Call crew. A party of people were anticipating their return to the party and you know what? They showed up empty handed because there was no way they got to the register in time. I couldn’t stay to watch. By 2:05 I was home, drinking my King Cobra, thinking: I could never live in this country if I were a drinker. I headed back to Asia within a few weeks of that event.
It was times like that, and they were numerous; times that told me – America really sucks!
But America doesn’t suck. Certainly LA doesn’t suck. The fact remains, however, 1:59 becoming 2:00 is as sacred to me as Cows are to Indians or Crosses are to Christians. Cultural significance takes many forms: that is, people attach meaning to many things – the number 13: to some, unlucky; to others, it means Manny Mota!
LA doesn’t suck. Tonight, Chepe Escondido, who first introduced me to Mike Watt and the Minutemen back in 1987 – The Minutemen, whose music I became an adult listening to; Mike Watt, a bass player whom I quote in many of my blogs and even in my Culturebook! The final line of my book is a quote by Mike Watt – I speak for language. I stand for truth. I shout for history. I am a cesspool for all the shit to run down it.
Tonight, not only did I get to see Mike Watt’s new trio The Missing Men at a small club in downtown with less than 200 other people – Chepe and I were right up front the entire show, but after the show, I got to meet Mike Watt and hang out with him for about an hour with Chepe and Tom, his new guitarist and Raul, his new drummer. I even gave Mike Watt a copy of my Culturebook!
To be Continued
Another Day in LA
There are things that bother people. Not simply irrational fears, called phobias, but deeply rooted scar tissue. For example, a rape victim might freak out if she were watching a movie and there was a rape scene; whereas most people would react with a more controlled shock.
For me, it’s the LAPD. All my life as a teenager living on the West Hollywood / Beverly Hills border, they put the Fear into me. They, being, the BHPD, the LAPD, the West Hollywood Sheriffs; it’s not ALL police. Korean police were very kind and approachable, as were the Bobbies in England and other Police of the world.
In LA, when I drive, if I see a police car, I feel panic in the pit of my stomach. I know I have nothing in the car illegal. I know I’m sober and driving safely. I know all my tags are legal; but still, I can not shake the presence of Authoritay. I begin to concoct scenarios in my mind: getting pulled over, being questioned about this, about that. I get kind of freaked out. I don’t like it, but I can’t control it.
When I was 16 years old, one summer afternoon, I was parked on Alpine Drive in Beverly Hills, in front of my friend’s house, a friend I still know, while many of my friends, friends I still know, were in the pool and I was in front the house – I was put in handcuffs, told to sit on the curb while the BHPD told me, while looking at my license, that an Eric J Bravo, who lives at 411 N. Palm Drive, is wanted by police for robbery, that he just robbed his parents! I kid you not. Apparently, I took my mother’s jewelry and they had called to report me. The police held me there, taking my car apart, while I sat on the curb in handcuffs, wearing a swimsuit, teeshirt, and flip flops. I told the police to knock on THAT door and my friends would answer. They told me to shut up. In the end, they released me and drove off.
Funny thing was, I had a canister of weed hidden in the car that they didn’t find. I wonder what they would have done, had they found it!
For this and many other instances like this in my life, I fear the LAPD. For this reason and in an effort to save money and conserve resources, I decided I want to start using public transportation when I can.
I go to school 4 days a week. The bus ride from my house to the school is very convenient. The bus begins one block from my house. I’m the first one on board. The commute involves one transfer and about 5 minutes of walking.
Trouble is – it costs nearly 6 dollars to get there and back by bus. That’s the same it costs in gas and I drive a Cadillac Car!
So I looked to buy a bus pass. A monthly pass costs $75. That’s pretty expensive. They also offer a Day pass, but that is $6, so that doesn’t help me. A student pass is only $36 dollars. That is the deal. I am a full time student.
I went today to apply for one. First they told me that my paperwork was insufficent. In addition to my student card, AND my receipt showing my class hours, etc, I need a letter from the school. When I get all that together and submit it, it will take approximately 20 days for them to process my application and mail me the card. THEN I can pay to activate it; so sometime in May, maybe, I can start taking the bus to school. Or maybe I’ll just pay $6 a day out of pocket.
It’s things like this that make me HATE LA. Everyday, people go to work. There are a LOT of people selling/renting/leasing automobiles. Everyday, these people hope to sell/rent/lease at least ONE car or truck or SUV.
If everybody starting taking the BUS, the economy would surely suffer. I guess I’ll have to take one for the team and live in Fear.
And people wonder WHY I lived abroad for 13 years and 5 months.
This is a work of Friction. I mean, Fiction. I don't know what I mean. All's I know is
This is an excerpt from the follow up to my Culturebook Book Two: My Youth in Asia.
The following is an unedited excerpt from a piece entitled: Book Three: Culturebook Unity.
May 15, 2009
It’d been 2 years to the day since I first began working and living on Cheju Island, located less than 50 miles south of the South Korean mainland. Before moving to Cheju Island I’d already spent a decade living and working on the South Korean mainland. Here on the island, I taught English in Public Schools, side by side with a Korean English teacher, working for EPIK: the government agency in charge of placing foreign language teachers in Public Schools. EPIK: English Program in Korea.
Two years of my life I spent working for EPIK on Cheju Island, sometimes spelt Jeju Island. It was the end of my second one year contract. I worked at one elementary school exclusively for the first 9 months, then, two high schools for a semester and summer; then 2 different high schools for the last 9 months. EPIK was a pretty good job, but it was finished and I had to go. EPIK was NOT going to renew my contract.
It didn’t matter much that I WASN’T being offered a contract to re-sign, that some of my higher ups were glad to see me go, that cordiality didn’t exist between myself and certain Province of Education staff named Memberia Kim. I didn’t like her either. I didn’t like any of them. I was ready to resign. Still, if they’d offered me a 3rd contract, I would have re-signed.
EPIK didn’t offer to re-sign me cuz of what happened the last time, the first time, I was in Nepal.
I’d gone trekking in Nepal for the first time in January, 4 months prior, for vacation. There, I met some Korean trekkers from the mainland, up on the lower Annapurna circuit; and one night while sharing the same mountain guesthouse, they broke out some soju in juice boxes; so we got beers and drank together and spoke a bunch in English and Korean. There were a dozen of us from all over the world, some heading up the mountain, some down, all staying at the same guesthouse the same night in the small mountain hamlet called Ghorepani. I introduced myself to the two 30ish male Koreans and I told them I live in Cheju and work at a high school there.
Apparently, not only did the two men allege that they witnessed me sharing a doobie with a Singapore man and a Dutch couple as the evening wore on, but they decided to notify the school board in Cheju and rat me out. They had taken a picture of me and emailed it to my higher ups. Upon returning from my vacation, Memberia Kim was trying desperately to track me down. Or so I heard. It was a good thing, coincidentally, I’d lost my phone at the Electric Pagoda in Kathmandu.
Just to add some trauma to the drama, I knew nothing of this ‘investigation’ until long after I’d been back in Cheju. I’d muled back a little taste from Nepal and had been high, not only everyday in Nepal, but upon returning from Nepal, I went to work and was told I had two weeks more vacation! I didn’t have to show my face around the high school for two whole weeks, so I went on line, bought a round trip plane ticket and flew to Clark Airfield, presently known as Diasdado Macapagal International Airport.
There, I did the Sagada run, not the Kessel run in 12 par secs in the Millennium Falcon, but the 6 hour bus ride from Olongapo to Baguio City, followed by another 7 hour bus ride to Sagada Mountain Province, where I procured more Jackie Brown. I made a proper vacation trip out of the drug run by taking along my good friend Mary K, who had never visited to the Philippine Cordillera. We visited Baguio, we visited Sagada, we visited Angeles City, and then we return to Subic Bay. After that, I returned to SKorea with enough to keep me happy for a short time. It was still chilly winter in the ROK. I needed my medicine.
-- One day, pot’s gonna be legal and future people are gonna look back and say, What the Deuce, Lois?
-- Pot’s never gonna be legal. It’s too anti-authority. And some ONE is always going to be in charge.
It was only then AFTER my return from the Philippines did Memberia finally track me down. Boy was she pissed! I told her it was a hand-rolled cigarette and that those Korean men in Nepal were out of their minds. They were from Seoul.
Memberia ordered me to take a piss test at the local hospital. I had no problem with that. Not only is Korea totally lax enough to scam off easily, but as luck would have it, I also have a surrogate younger brother in Cheju named Zander, whom I’d first met back in 2003 at the Korean National University of Education or KNUE – more specifically, I had someone I could trust. Zander had just moved to the island from the cty of Cheonan, one hour south of South. Just a few years ago, when Zander first moved to Cheonan, it was called Fastest Growing City in South Korea.
The morning of my test, after a couple puffs from the meagerness that still remained, I rode my 125 to Jeju city and I met my long-time, anonymous pal Zander in a coffee shop and bought him a cup of coffee. The night before, I’d bought myself a small thin plastic 200 ml bottle of soju and drank it. I then washed the bottle, dried it and saved it. This morning at the coffee shop, I gave the plastic flask to Zander and after his coffee, some water and a trip to the toilet; he returned the bottle to me wrapped snugly in a small black plastic bag. I took the bottle with me to the hospital, hiding it down my pants. At the hospital a sexy young Korean nurse handed me a cup and told me in Hangul to pee in it. I said. “OKAY!” That was it. In the bathroom I poured the pee into the cup. I politely returned the cup to the Korean nurse full of clean, still plenty warm, urine of the Zander variety. Korean nurse told me in Korean language that they would forward the results to EPIK after 5 days. I never heard from either Memberia or any of my higher ups ever again, except a final word BEFORE I took the test, telling me that IF I passed, I could finish out my contract, but I WOULDN’T be asked to stay on for another year. IF I failed, they failed to tell me WHAT would happen. But it wouldn’t be good.
I didn’t care. By May, I hadn’t had a vacation since January, I was going nuts. Life in SKorea can be hella frustrating sometimes. I’d already worked for 10 years on the MAINLAND before ever moving to the ISLAND. I’d had just about enough of SKorea.
Why, you might ask, did I live in SKorea for 12 years…if it’s so frustrating? One answer: South Korea is a great place to BEGIN AGAIN, if you’re a North American college graduate without a dime to his name and if you like Asian women, spicy food and rice and stuff.
Using Photoshop, I made this Poster to promote my Band with our Song Titles all around
I don’t get it.
What’s up with all the mediocrity that’s #1 in the US popular markets.
Case in point: Tonight on Saturday Night Live, the Foo Fighters were the musical guest.
I can’t say they suck cuz they don’t, but what’s the point? When Dave Grohl was
just the drummer for Nirvana, he was part of a ground-breaking sound.
At present, Grohl is very much like Phil Collins, who graduated from being the
drummer of the ground-breaking Genesis project with PG Sledgehammer at the
helm, making classics like Supper's Ready, to making some of the most enduring
If Grohl is going to be the lead guitar player singer, why does he need two other
in addition to the bass and drums just to make him sound like he’s a rocking guitar
front man? And if he’s
the lead singer, what the hell is he doing chewing gum while he is singing?
supposed to make him seem cool? If I were the parent of teenagers, I'd worry if
they were fans of Foo Fighters. These ordinary white guys getting paid to sound
ordinary, growing their hair and wearing tattooes to seem connected. Connected
to what? Commerce? Law and Order?
Tonight, my mom and I went to see the highly recommended LINCOLN LAWYER
movie. The first theater we went to, it was SOLD OUT. We had to go to another
theater. As far as I could tell, it was the only movie sold out at the mall!
We were both excited to see it, based on positive recommendations. As soon
as the hip hop music started and the Lincoln Continental appeared constant in the
opening, both of us knew it was NOT going to be what we expected. We were
both expecting something to do with ex President Lincoln. In any event, we
I can’t remember wanting to walk out of a movie in recent memory. I really hated
watching that movie. I don’t know which was worse, seeing quality actors
like Marisa Tomeii, William Macy and Brian Cranston (Malcom’s dad and the
original Watley on Seinfeld) play such pathetic one dimensional characters; or
knowing the outcome of the movie half-way through, yet reading about twists
online. How transparent must a story be? I told my mom, half-way through the
film. “He’s gonna get off, and then they are going to arrest him as soon as he gets
out of the courtroom.” Bam! As if that mattered! Who cares about a spoiled rich
kid who may or not have beaten a prostitute? He has a history of killing girls and
pinning it on somebody else. How is that even possible! He's so rich and smart
and his family so connected that no one even suspects him? Enter a lawyer who
makes boatloads of cash getting rich criminals off. He's our hero cuz he's got a kid
and his daughter is cute and his black limo driver always has something witty to
According to the Interweb, he's called the Lincoln Lawyer cuz he practices law out
of his Lincoln. He lives in his Lincoln. But, he's got a driver! Where does the driver
live, in the front seat?
Maybe in the book, he lives in his car. In the movie, we have no proof of this. He's
always being chauffered around!
Matthew McConaughey was the most unlikeable character you could ever imagine,
trying to be all slick like some untouchable rich guy, and the Westwood crowd ate it up.
I’ll bet there will be sequel after sequel. It's scary, when I think about it.
Americans ARE scary people. It's like Terry Gilliam said, after the release of
1985's Brazil. "Monsters and villans like Darth Vader aren't truly frightening. What
is truly frightening is your run of the mill next-door neighbor torturing you because
it's his job."
Ryan Philippe usually plays a really good ‘bad guy’ like the sociopath in Cruel
Intentions, but here he was just some whiney rich kid. We know he is guilty.
Maybe he isn’t! Maybe the prostitute is a liar as well as him. As if we are
supposed to care! Maybe she's just trying to take him for his money. Then his
mother kills to protect him! Was that the twist netizens are clammorning about --
"Best legal thriller since Presumed Innocent." The crazy mother actually kills
somebody just to protect her son. Wasn't that Friday the XIIIth?
The only thing less realistic than the drama was the courtroom scenes, which were
so out of touch with reality. Could the prosecutor have been any feebler or more
inept? Or the cops any more cliché? Answer: NO! And how can anybody care
about characters like these? What's the moral of the story?
If this movie is accepted as entertainment, and the Foo Fighters are what
Americans think of as GOOD ROCK N ROLL, then I guess I’m out of touch with
America in 2011 and that is okay by me. For my birthday today, I got 2 Puccinis:
La Boheme e Madama Butterfly and one Verdi: Rigoletto. I'm set for weeks. It's
all new to me!
Today is Saturday April 9th and I turn 43 today. I like movies and music a lot.
I think I know what is good and what is not good and I can tell you why I think what
I do. I like every genre of music in the world, but not every act in every genre. I
don’t really like jazz, as I much as I like John Coltrane, and the music of everyone
he’s ever played with, like McCoy Tyner, Count Basie, Miles Davis, and the king of
all Sir Duke.
This is the cover of our first EP. If EP's still existed. Stay Tuned for Viral Release
Three weeks ago I began learning Photoshop. Since people don't read straight text much these days, it is important for me as a writer, to hone my electronic media skills. This is the first of many Coffee Pot Break posters.
Coffee Pot Break is the name of the Musical Trio in which I play, with bandmates bass player/singer Chepe Escondido and guitarista/cantante Flibworth Thurstein.
I made this poster on Wednesday night, Ash Wednesday. A bit about the poster:
The Foreground is from an acrylic painting Chepe Escondido painted of our band.
The Background is from a photo I took on my pilgrimage to Yangnotri, Himalaya India in August 2009.
The Coffee Pot logo is a design stenciled by Flibworth Thurstein.
The Pic in each of the four corners is a 1947 painting called The Liberator by Flemish Surrealist, Rene Magritte. The Pipes are from Magritte's infamously ironic, Ceci n'est pas une pipe.
I photographed both paintings at LACMA in January 2011. LACMA has both Magritte originals in their Permanent Collection. Chepe and I have been fans of Magritte's painting since the 1980's when we first met.
Nice to Magritte You is a nice pun on the phrase nice to meet you and includes the phoneme greet. George Costanza would probably add that it also includes the phoneme Ma.
Other than the fact that it sounds cool and pays homage to one of my favorite painters, the phrase: Nice to Magritte You means nothing at all.
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.