Longest Letter continues witht the Second Act...
Most recently, Chepe commissioned Flibby to build him a redwood deck behind his house. Throughout the month of January, Flibby was often over Chepe’s house building. We rocked out many times for a few weeks during that time – we usually rehearse once a week, and have had weekly practices for 14 months now. We never played together before November 2009.
In addition to transforming the rear wall with one small window into full length glass French doors with a metal outer gate, linking the master bedroom to a large deck with an unobstructed view of the houses on hills in the distance with the IE and daily sunrise behind; Flibby single-handedly built the Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell (I documented from start to finish with my camera) – one wooden stairway leading down to the band room art studio with large canvases of paintings in progress covering every inch of wall, second stairway leading up to the roof: from where we smoked a fat joint after band practice one night in January, the night the Stairway to Heaven was completed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was January 12th and in Brooklyn it was nearing midnight. My sister the lawyer lives in Brooklyn. The 13th of January is her birthday.
So after Flibby had finished his wood work that day, we rocked out for an hour; we ran through our 29 song set, if you include Flibby’s 5 songs. Our songs are short, 2 minutes or less. We are always amazed every time we play; how long it feels since last we played, even if it’s been only 3 days. We are always amazed at how long our songs seem, how much better we sound each time we play, as if scaling a new plateau; reflexively high-fiving each other between songs; imbibing the crescendos, contrasts, resonance and simultaneous pauses, known as Rests in the music world. Flibby too writes his own songs and sings. I write my own songs and sing them, but my show is solo acoustic – the same Yamaha acoustic I’ve owned since 1983.
In November 2009, when we first started playing together, we traded off instruments. Chepe and I played guitar bass and drums; Flibby played just bass and guitar. Nobody really sang. We were all learning something new and our sole motivation was filling each others’ hearts with joy. We all believe that even if our band ended today, that time spent was some of the best spent time last year. By October 2010, I was demoted to drums only, where I belong.
I’ll always remember the Stairway was completed the night the LA Clippers beat the Miami Heat here in LA. I know this because, from Chepe’s house I drove to the Staples Center to pick up my mother from the game and take her home. My mother’s had Clippers Season Tickets since 1999. We followed the 4th quarter on line so I could time when to leave.
That night was the first time we climbed the Stairway to Heaven to the roof. Chepe had lived in that East LA house since he first bought it 7 years ago. Since getting his MFA in Art at UC Berkeley in 1993, Chepe Escondido has purchased not one, but two houses in East Los Angeles; the first he gave to his ex wife and daughters. It’s funny how teachers don’t make much money and artists make even less, but Chepe combining the two incomes, has managed to acquire so much wealth. It’s because Chepe never stops working.
If you love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life.
I’ve been back in LA, the USA for 14 months. We’d never been on the roof like that before. We were so high – 23 years since we first met; smoking pot and drinking beer since first we met, we’d never felt so high before. We started out college students, and now, Flibby is the strongest man in the world. He built the entire pine and redwood deck and stairway/highway all by his self. Flibby’s front and back yards in Rialto are incredible, low maintenance, but still fastidiously maintained, sublimely festive desert environ. All their neighbors have green lawns. That costs a lot of water! Flibby and Erica have no kids, but they’ve raised since birth nearly a dozen desert tortoises. They started out with one, then two. Chepe has three daughters.
That night on the roof, I began to feel…inadequate, for the first time since I been back, first time in my life; it hit me hard, like a bad trip, I couldn’t smoke pot for a few days. Then I could again.
The inadequacy was not in terms of home ownership or property or marriage or kids, that’s future tense for me. I’m young. I’m totally happy where I am NOW. Physically, I look better than I ever have in my life. I’m smarter than I’ve ever been. I know more than I ever have, read more books, seen more movies. I’m learning new things all the time. I taught myself to play drums in one short year. I couldn’t play drums at all a year ago, or ever. And it’s not having no job and no money that was my wake up call. It was this:
I’m a writer. I believe in myself. But even if I were popular and making money as a writer, with books in stores, I’d still be – just a writer. I’ll never be a journalist or a John Irving-esque novelist, or do anything regular or over and over again, same crud different flavor. I’m an artist. My writing is my art. I need to do something other than write and play music.
At that moment on the roof that night – I’d drunk one 20 ounce Asahi, had one shot of tequila, smoked a lot of ganja – all the lights over LA stared back at me, telling me I have to BE more. I should go back to school. I have to have some credibility or credentials or something other than life experience; some needed practical skill. I don’t really care about money or power, but credibility and usefulness is something, you know: being an adult member of society like a doctor or college professor, carpenter, chef, engineer, school teacher, trash collector. I’ve been a teacher. I know what I don’t want to do for a living. I know what I can and can not do. My cousin’s wife thinks I should go to a culinary academy, based on my holiday spreads.
I need a job where someone telling me what to do is not part of my job description and I need variety.
I’m not going to make it in music. I’m good, but I’m not that good. Coffee Pot Break is awesome. Still, trying to make it as a writer is not unlike trying to make it as an artist or musician. In any event, at that moment on the roof, I thought, I should be a lawyer, and it just made sense. For the first time in my life, I saw myself as a lawyer and I liked what I saw. It was odd, the change in thought dimension – for the first time ever, I thought: I can be really useful if I know the Law. I know it will be tough; I’ll have to give up partying for a couple of years. I’ll have to stop laughing so much, stop crying so much; give up childish things like selfish pleasures. I can do this. I’m young, I’m smart. I have a way with words. And I enjoy visual stimulation.
When we finally traversed down the Hairway to Steven (sic) and returned to the light of the studio, Chepe sensed something on my mind, cuz it was very heavy this epiphany and I’m pretty transparent. When I spoke of my revelation, I started saying, you know I’ve thought about it hypothetically, but I never EVER wanted to be a lawyer. I’m too much of an anarchist. I think people should be able to run red lights, if no other car is around. Why not! I get pissed that I can’t run a red light at night. I get pissed that lawyers are billing the State of California to research and debate whether or not gays should be allowed to marry or what their Military outage factor is; or under which circumstances marijuana should be made available when citizens can just grow it in their yards. Stuff like this makes me pissed. American pissed, not British pissed. You know I made up that line. I make up a lot of good lines. I should be writing sitcoms. That’s what I should be doing. That’s what I could be doing.
So I tell Chepe that I seriously think I should go to Law school and he gives me this big hug, which strikes me as odd cuz Chepe and I never hug. We’re really close, but we don’t hug. Flibby and I neither. Chepe responds, “I’ve been waiting so long to hear you to say that.” I think that is strange, nonetheless reassuring. Flibby tells me being a Lawyer is in my blood, on account of my Mom. Flibby’s done small repairs and additions in our condo. Flibby and my Mom and Erica and Chepe all get along well. Chepe recently commented to me that he should bring his daughters over so my Mom can meet them. Mom held a little luncheon in our home for Erica after she got her US citizenship in 2002. I was in LA for that.
My brother thinks I should become a lawyer because I’m always getting into trouble so I should be able to defend myself in a court of law. I tend to agree with that. I do get myself into trouble, whether I’m trying to or not. And then afterward, I get to write True Hollywood Stories based on my antics so…In the end, I like the way things end.
I’ve enrolled in an 18 week Web Design class at West Valley Occupational Center. The class cost only $90. The teacher gave me the first book and everything I need for the first 6 weeks on PDF. The class started Monday 2/14, Valentines Day and I love every minute of it: 4 days a week, 4.5 hours each class. I’m learning Photoshop, then Flash, then Fireworks. I haven’t been on the receiving end of a classroom in a long time, forgot how fun it can be.
I currently own the culturebookmmx.com domain. If you log onto it, you’ll see it’s just a business card, cuz I’ve had no resources to develop it, but it’s mine to do with however I see fit – make it the first of the Culturebook Network for the new millennium: short animated sitcoms, music videos, slide shows from around the world with musical accompaniment. There are no true Interweb Networks, similar to TV and Cable networks, just yet. I have all these media plans, and NOW I’m going to learn how to make my own websites, then I’ll become a lawyer so I know how to run the show proper, like the Brits say. I’ll sort it out.
There’s one more 18 week course in the fall, more HTML and Interweb specific stuff, then I get Certification in Web Design. WVOC is part of LAUSD and we’re supposed to get a computer upgrade this year! LAUSD will be providing new computers? I won’t hold my breath. Nevertheless, I’ve got my own station – decent computer lab, not too many students, really cool ethnic mix. I like the teacher, an older bald guy really fat and unhealthy, reminds me of the shop teacher in South Park: “Don’t screw around!”
It’s interesting how if I’m with Chepe and an episode from the Simpsons, like Homer doing something or saying something pops into my head, which happens often. Right at that moment, Chepe will say the Homer line. Flib and I share simultaneous flashbacks all the time.
I still can’t get over how cheap West Valley Occupational Center is: 90 bucks – the entire year’s tuition less than $200. I can still take my mom to work, and I have the day off to work, if I can find work. When I get my student ID, I’ll probably get a bus pass and start bus/metro-ing it. I’ll really enjoy the reading time. I’ll have to adjust to reading on a bus; it always makes me queasy and uneasy. I learned how to play drums in just a year; and in that same year, I’ve also learned to live not wearing glasses for distance, so I think I can adjust to reading on a dang bus. I could always sleep. Bus travel tends to make me sleepy.
You know. I know. I have a problem with chemical intake – my big 3: pot booze tobacco. What’s so hard about saying No? I don’t know, but it is. It’s a small price to pay for having the amount of empathy that I do. And I should get some reward for being cursed with this memory. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I think Web Design is a really good field for me right now.
My teacher said on the first day of class, “I’m not an artist, I’m just teaching you HOW to use these programs, to show you how quickly and easily you can do all this stuff. You’ll never trust a photo ever again!” It’s really cool. I can make money designing web pages and promoting my writing and hopefully make money to pay for law school, next year.
In closing, I really enjoyed taking the LSAT last Saturday morning. It was a wholly worthwhile experience for me. I did the best I could. After the test, I chatted up this young male Asian American test taker. I quipped that I’m glad I don’t have to study any more for this. He asked, How long have you been studying? 30 days, I say / He says, 6 months I’ve been studying, 6 months! Everybody here blah blah blah!
I don’t know anything about that. All’s I know is, I studied a great deal, every day, timed tests, two fat Princeton Review preparation books I checked out from the library, then renewed online. Cover to cover I worked those books: Reading, Reasoning, Logic games. I was totally prepared, but it’s a tough test, you know. Ultimately, I don’t know how I scored. They’ll let me know via the Interweb. I think I did okay, not great not terrible, but I don’t know. I have a year till I start applying, instead of right now! I can always retake the test if I did cruddy.
It can be argued…If I didn’t smoke ganja once during those 30 days leading to the test, I would have done markedly better on the test, than had I smoked during that study month. That’s probably correct. But, I definitely would have smoked after the test in celebration, and I may have even drunk! I definitely would’ve boozed with finality, gotten smashed and woke up feeling queasy and uneasy.
These days, the start of my 2nd year back from my 13 years in Asia, I visit the house of my good friend St. Tommy and his wife and daughters weekly. Going to St. Tommy’s place is like going to the County Fair: kids running around, dogs, rabbits, dtree swing, tree house, back house. Saint likes to build stuff: train sets, RC cars, backyard additions.
We usually get high when we’re together. I had told Saint that I wouldn’t be seeing him for a few weeks cuz of the test. I actually quit pot and cigs for a few days in preparation. Long before the 30 days were up, I cracked, drove to Van Nuys. We hung out, went to a computer game store so Saint could exchange games. I don’t even play computer games! I know nothing about computer games. The visit introduced to world of computer game titles that I never before knew existed. I learned that LA Clipper star Blake Griffin went to Oklahoma U cuz he’s on the cover of the NCAA hoop game, wearing his Sooners jersey; so the day was not a complete waste.
ACTUALLY, speaking of waste – one might think that going to a friend’s house to get high the week before taking my LSAT would be a waste of something…here’s what happened:
If I’d never gone to the house of St. Tommy’s that day to hang out and smoke ganja, I never would have seen the WVOC catalog on his living room table and talked at length with Saint about studying there; flipped through the class list and saw Web Design. I never would have been introduced to the WVOC. Had I not visited Saint’s house that day, the West Valley Occupational Center, never before visited by me, would not have become an integral part of my life, as it has quickly become.
And just like me getting the idea to go to Law School preceding the deadline to sign up for the LSAT by only one day; I first saw the WVOC catalogue the day before their Registration Day. My mother had, coincidentally, deposited $100 into my newly opened Chase Bank account, the day before. “I’m not going to buy weed!” I had told myself as I drove to St. Tommy’s in Van Nuys. I visited the campus the next day for the first time in my life, paid $90. BAM! I now possess direction in my life, one that I don’t foresee foregoing any time soon. And I have a 4 day weekend to prepare for week 2, followed by 16 more weeks. Then, repeat. I love the way events play out in my life, the friends I’ve known for decades and for some reason still do, the opportunities that are behind every instance, the worlds that open up to me everyday!
Web Designer, it’s not just a job, “It’s a way of looking at that wave and saying, ‘Hey bud, let’s party!’” Thank you, Spicoli for that great line, or was it really Cameron Crowe?
To Be Continued
February 17, 2011
Dear Lawyer, Carpenter, Teacher, Artist, Friend, Family:
Here’s how things are NOW for me, EBravo.
You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve decided to apply to Law School next year instead of NOW. I still want to become a lawyer, now more than ever, but I’m not ready. I realize that. I’m going to need $110,000, which I don’t have, and I have zero plans to borrow money or take out any student loans, Thus, I need time to earn money and research Grant money opportunities – lots of money out there. In addition to the obvious financial factor, and equally as important, I’ll need to be able to NOT be high on ganja all the time, and have it NOT be a problem.
Funny coincidence – you know how much I prize coincidence…here’s a little story about how I quit drinking and decided to go to Law school on my Sister the Lawyer’s birthday.
A little character-based setting to create mood…
I play drums in a band, a trio called Coffee Pot Break with two friends whom I first met in Berkeley’s Barrington Hall in fall 1987. My artist pal, called Chepe Escondido in my writings, owns a huge house on a hill in East Los Angeles. It’s amazingly spacious with breathtaking views from the roof.
Over the last few years, Chepe single-handedly transformed what was once a slanted dirt hill of shrubs, his backyard, into a HUGE enchanted terraced garden full of dwarf fruit trees, herbs, vegetables, colorful ceramic pieces and homemade tile stepped paths. Beneath the house is a high ceiling in the lower level, two storey basement, inside which, Chepe has created an immaculately ordered painting and ceramic studio with paints, brushes, tools and a kiln; also, a music studio with drums, bass, guitar, amps, PA system, microphones; mike and music stands, mixer, monitors, speakers, and computerized recording equipment, all State of the Arts. The computer monitor plays South Park or 30 Rock, John Coltrane concerts or documentaries with the volume down low while we play. We can still hear Eric Cartman say, “Screw you guys, I’m getting home-schooled! and That’s a bad Phonics monkey!” Chepe records himself playing all 3 parts: guitar, bass and Roland V Drums; he sings songs he writes himself. Chepe’s songs are catchy and piercing, and they sound much better when Flibby plays the guitar part and I play the drums. We all agree on that. Flibby completes our trinity.
Almost every morning for the past three weeks, ending Tuesday, Chepe and I have managed to work in a practice, a run through of our entire set – 24 original songs; we don’t do any covers, except as a goof. We sometimes play reggae or jazz or superfast versions of our songs. Chepe sings and plays bass and handles all the equipment; I play drums only. Flibby has his own guitar: an all black Gibson Les Paul and old school amp stack, which he leaves in the studio. We sound very professional, super tight. Chepe’s baby mama is going to make a music video of us and we’re going to go viral, when Flibby returns from the place he’s currently working in Bridgeport California, doing construction work in the snow near the US Marine base where they train soldiers to fight on skis, like in the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me. Flibby will return in two weeks. We are Dr. Rock, Dr. Scissors and Dr. Paper. I’m the paper.
My carpenter friend Flibby, Dr. Scissors the Tool man, full name Flibworth Thurstein in my writings, is the strongest man in the world. Flibby never graduated from Cal, or any Institute of Higher Learning. Flibby dropped out and has smoked unbelievable amounts of ganja everyday, long as I’ve known him, going back to childhood I guess. Flibby does and has done the same job everyday that he’s done since 1990, only now legit and certified, with a house, a truck, and more tools than you’ve ever seen. Flibby was the first person I know in my age group to get married, 15 years ago, and buy a house with his own money. He still lives in the same house in Fontana with his wife, named Erica, who is very similar to me, according to Flib. It’s scary sometimes, the coincidences.
Flibworth Thurstein and I are as close as two men can be to each other without being sexual. Chepe and I have the same relationship, but different roles. In SKorea, they would both be my hyung. I’d never call them by name, only Hyung, if we were Korean. Chepe and Flibby have known each other since Barrington Hall Berkeley1987 but have only become close over the last 7 years, in my absence, since they are both avid horticulturalist homeowners who like to work in their yards, create stuff and take coffee pot breaks. Chepe is Dr. Rock, cuz he’s a pot yielding ceramicist; and cuz he’s the most foundation worthy of us, with three daughters: each named for the Earth, Tonatzin, the Moon, Luna, and the Sun, Sol: the original Trinity.
The three of us Doctors of Music lived in Fiction house together after two and a half years of Barrington Hall. After which, I moved to LA where Chepe had recently returned. Flibby moved to Genoa house in North Oakland, which, if you follow Berkeley/Oakland punk rock history, is pretty legendary. Genoa House is currently owned and operated by John Benson-hurst, Barrington Old Member/Activist. Flibby lived in Genoa’s 2nd storey backhouse, which he pimped out with raised ceiling, wood burning stove, wide wooden 2nd storey deck, and a long narrow wooden footpath hovering across the large backyard lawn in a downward slope, leading from the 2nd storey deck to the house’s main floor deck. Flibby lived at Genoa for 5 years before moving to the Inland Empire, buying a house in Fontana, marrying a woman after knowing her only 2 weeks, a 20 year old ganja smoking Mexican beauty who grew up in Germany and is fluent in English, German and Spanish. That was 1995, when I lived by myself in my Hollywood bungalow on Cahuenga up near the Bowl. The only party I ever threw was, coincidentally, the week after they got married. I was as surprised as everyone. They came over all festive, and then at the party’s end, instead of cleaning, I returned with them to their new house and spent the rest of the weekend in Fontucky.
Flibby’s mom is of Mexican descent, Chepe’s parents are both Mexican, Erica’s Mexican. What’s up with all the Mexicans?
Anywho, Flibby is the strongest man in the world. Flibby tells me that I must have the mental will to be able to enjoy a beer or two or a shot of tequila, and then stop thinking about booze. Over the last 23 years, Flibby’s gone for months, years at a time without drinking; then he’ll drink, a lot sometimes, but never excessively. “Just control it,” he tells me. Chepe’s the same way. Chepe’s got bottles of tequila, seldom seen brands de Jalisco, that remain in cabinets in his studio for weeks, months. I can’t do that. Did I do that? Chepe smokes weed almost every day, and lots of it. They both grow legally, doctor’s prescription. I was turned down for one!
Apparently, all you have to do is say you’re an LAUSD teacher and they’ll give you one. Carpenters get them for their backs. And they can have up to 4 plants. Chepe and Flibby have amazing harvests with just 4 plants or fewer; they are both skilled agriculturalists. Chepe gets more done in a day than any person I’ve ever met in my life; his yard is like a produce isle, exotic fruits ripe for the picking. Flibby’s first alarm clock goes off at 3:40 am; he enjoys praying with Manny Mota, Patron Saint of Pitch Hitters, at 4:20 before sunrise. Flib often drives to San Diego, works a full day, then drives to Chepe’s for band practice, picks up a few burritos to go at nearby Los Portrillos Taco Truck, then drives home to his wife in Fontana.
Flibby offered me a beer the day after I took my LSAT at band practice. I thought: It’s either the beer or the chip.
I wear around my neck, one of my father’s old 30 day sobriety chips from AA. I started wearing the White plastic chip on this silver chain I wear – a chain that originally came from my grandmother Marina in Lima Peru, my mom’s mom. I started wearing the pearly chip the morning I took my LSAT, which coincidentally was 30 days after my sister’s birthday, the day I quit drinking, the day I decided to go to Law School. I’m hoping to earn then wear the Green 60 day chip, then the Red 90 day chip, and so on till I run out of chips. My dad went to AA back in the 80’s. My father never really quit drinking, but he did earn himself a few chips in the process. Several chips of various colors now reside here in dad’s old jewelry box with his cufflinks and tie clips, here on his old table in his old bedroom, which is now my room. It’s the place I spend the bulk of my time not sleeping. It’s also the only place I’ve slept since November 2009. I’ve never been to AA, except for 10 times in 1994, through coercion by the California Penal system. I hope AA doesn’t mind me using their chips.
Not drinking is the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. I feel great. And it has been a lot more difficult than I let on. I have a 3rd LA friend named St. Tommy who lives in the Valley, whom I first met in Beverly Hills back in 1984.
Saint Tommy lived with his mommy in the building next to me and my family. I was in high school and Saint was 21, able to buy beer. We never drank the hard stuff. We were in competition to see who was the poorest on the block, to see who could have the most fun with the least dough. St. Tommy has been good about counseling me lately about the mental addiction that is so strong. St. Tommy was a heavy boozer who quit in 1991, the year I returned to LA from Berkeley. St. Tommy too, coincidentally, returned to LA in 1991, from Santa Cruz California, after years away. In 1995, Saint came by my Hollywood bungalow on his Honda Gold Wing with a votive candle and a sack on ganja, on his way to Griffith Park for a gathering, the night Jerry Garcia died. I stayed home, listened to the Grateful Dead's American Beauty album and smoked crack.
The truth that one day in the future I’m gonna get drunk, that’s enough for NOW. That’s what I did with crack. Right now, I don’t feel like drinking, nor do I feel like waking up hurting. I can NOT drink socially and within reasonable limits no matter how hard I try. I don’t mind that some people can while I can not.
People are made as they are for a reason. Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres.
Enough setting, here’s the story of HOW and WHY I decided to go to law school:
TO BE CONTINUED another day
I've been back in the USSA now for 13 going on 14 months, my first full year back here since 1995. I'm reminded of that Minutemen song from 1984.
As I look over this beautiful land, I can't help but realize that I am alone.
Why am I able to waste my energy? To notice life being so beautiful?
What of the people who don’t have what I ain’t got? Are they victims of my leisure?
To fail is to be a victim To be a victim of my choice
Maybe partying will help -- D.Boon and the Minutemen
In a country where a guy can’t see a doctor without insurance cuz it’s just too damned expensive; In a country where you can’t drive a car without insurance cuz you might hurt somebody, but you don’t need to purchase insurance to operate a shotgun or a handgun or a crossbow;
In a country where people are jailed for growing marijuana plants or selling marijuana seeds, where citizens actually voted NOT to legalize marijuana, but still condone Pharmaceutical Companies advertising drugs on Network TV, drugs that combat erectile dysfunction or other common ills: drugs with side effects which may include drowsiness, shortness of breath, difficulty in urination due to enlarged prostate, blindness, kidney or liver failure – drugs NOT available without a prescription, and due to their prohibitive cost, NOT without my health insurance; In a country where
Costly illnesses trigger about half of all personal bankruptcies, and most of those who go bankrupt because of medical problems have health insurance, according to findings from a Harvard University study to be released Wednesday.” from Medical bills Make up Half of Bankruptcies Associated Press 2/2/2005
In a country where drugs are prescribed by Medical Doctors to Youths who show excessive spirit; in a country where Supermarkets and Sundry Stores stock on shelves: mood altering chemicals to consume if you can’t sleep or don’t want to sleep, or if you are sick constipated anxious depressed, or if you want to lose weight or gain weight or whatever your ailment, there is a chemical remedy, a synthetic compound liquid capsule tablet caplet cream suppository spray or tincture, created in a laboratory – monkeys and rabbits probably first sampled the drugs to make sure they were safe – wrapped in appealing pink colorful packaging, sold retail in stores and online via large corporations Who through lobbying and financing the election and reelection of government representatives, control the US government: senators and congress people who end up on boards of Pharmaceutical and Insurance Companies, thus share the sweet profits made selling drugs and health care to the American people, while remaining totally cool with the fact that they’re cutting people off, just to make a buck;
In a country where a person can’t grow marijuana legally without a prescription and even then, he or she will be blacklisted by his or her neighbors; in a country where you can’t even enjoy a joint in a concert venue like LA’s Nokia Theater or Doug Weston's famous Troubadour, while your favorite rock band plays;
In a country where almost every native born man or woman over the age of 55 is on some kind of regular ‘medication’ or legal drug; in a country where a major percentage of the population is decadently overweight, borderline diabetic with high blood pressure and/or heart liver kidney back thyroid problems, yet still produce consume expend excessive amounts of time money energy and resources, creating and supporting Home Shopping Ginny Kraig (sic) Thighmaster Gutbuster Weightwatcher Health Club Spa Nutrisystem New You Lap Band Miracle Drug Industries, trying to lose weight and get healthy while still eating drive thru takeout and disposable Doritos;
In a country where, We’re never ever going to run out of clean water and power and stuff is the national mantra, In God we trust;
In a country where cigarette smoking had always been tolerated, unlike gays and minorities, where everywhere you looked, Cigarettes! On busses on planes, at Ball Games, in offices, in restaurants and bars and cars and often in the hand of Maxwell Smart Agent 86 of Control, all the leading men from all my favorite 20th Century films holding and smoking cigs which kill in a country under a cone of silence, talking into shoe phones, fighting chaos, serving meat-filled meals thrice daily: bacon sausage and egg breakfasts, ham turkey chicken sandwich lunch meatloaf dinner chili fries triple cheese burger hot fudge sundae fast food 8 cylinder petrol gas powered sport utility vehicles that consume, consume, consume;
Save room for dessert!
In a country like this…I don’t ever want to live…again! Or do I? It’s tough making tough decisions. I sure am grateful to God and thankful to my Mom and Dad for deciding to journey all the way from Lima, Peru and settle here in the City of Angels, thus, allowing me to grow up In a country like this…
God Bless AmERICa!
At the Ball Game
Go Team USA!
These are the jacket covers of my latest book Culturebook MMX: My Youth in Asia 1996 to 2009
The full name of the book does not appear on the cover YET. This is the First Edition, only 500 copies
are in print. The FULL TITLE will appear beginning with the next publication, which will be available
as soon as the 400 or so remaining copies of the original are sold. The current Culturebook MMX
now available is the unexpurgated, unedited version -- 275 pages with 2 pages of maps for setting.
ALL subsequent printings will be the edited version, much shorter and cleaner, or so my editor tells me.http://culturebook.livejournal.com/2010/08/13/
Here is a link to view the Table of Contents and first
few pages. There are some earlier edits of various selections to be found on my blog as well.http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=110638749773
THIS is a link to BUY the book
on EBAY. I'll put your copy(ies) in the mail, the day after (or maybe the same day as) I receive your money
in the Paypoint account. Shipping time is app. 3-4 days in the US, 5 - 7 days International.Culturebook MMX
is BOOK TWO of a Trilogy, already written. Culturebook MMX,
the original unedited version,
never more to be reprinted as is, will be available UNTIL all copies are sold. Thereafter, the
new and improved Culturebook MMX: My Youth in Asia 1996 to 2009
will be available for purchase.
BOOKS ONE and THREE should be available by Springtime. Like BOOK TWO, the others are currently
being edited and revised by someone other than me, someone who appears in the BOOK TWO, and is a
member of the infamous Bravo Fold
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"I didn't sneeze!"
The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is proud to join the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil (MACG), Mexico City, in presenting Siqueiros Paisajista / Siqueiros: Landscape Painter.
This exhibition, the first of its kind to be presented anywhere, includes approximately half of the 150 landscape paintings that Siqueiros produced during his lifetime. “This is the most significant exhibition of Siqueiros to be seen in the last ten years,” stated MACG Director and exhibition curator Itala Schmelz. “It is the result of more than three years of collaboration that included the precedent-setting gathering of artwork from more than 20 different museum and private collections in Mexico and the U.S., scholarly research by Christopher Fulton and additional research by a team of nine talented catalogue essayists.”
As a prominent painter and political activist, David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896 -1974) was an integral member of the Mexican School of Painting along with Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. He continues to be viewed as one of the most important Mexican artists of the 20th century although his artistic influence spread far beyond Mexico’s borders.
Siqueiros organized artists in both Mexico and abroad to promote the idea of creating collective works. At the beginning of the 20th century, under the protection of Mexico’s Secretary of Public Education, he created his first decorative mural. He advocated using art as a political tool and thought that mural art should be used as a public service for el pueblo (the community). As an active member of the Mexican Communist Party, Siqueiros fought as a colonel in the Mexican Revolution and again in the Spanish Civil War. He also fought for the rights of laborers and on several occasions his political activities put him in jail and even led to exile.
Featuring a selection of the most important landscape paintings and drawings, the exhibition reveals Siqueiros’ dynamic vision of futuristic cities, allegorical places and the environment. Utilizing an explosive color palette and experimental techniques, the landscape imagery is charged with the emotions of creation and destruction always present in the art of Siqueiros. “Traditionally landscape paintings offer views of idyllic vistas, but these landscapes offer scenes of a troubled world,” said MOLAA Senior Curator, Cynthia Mac Mullin. “The gathered works poignantly emphasize Siqueiros’ concern for humanity’s inability to serve its fellow men.
Moola will be showing the work of Siqueiros until Sunday, January 30, but thanks to Target Stores, this Sunday January 16th will be FREE ADMISSION. In addition, the second Thursday of each month is also FREE, so January 13th is also free from the hours of 5 to 9 in the evening.
The Museum of Latin American Art (MOOLA) is located at 628 Alamitos Avenue, in the city of Long Beach, and is open everyday except Mon and Tues. and the content of this blog was taken directly from the MOOLA website. The photos you see will probably NOT be in the exhibition since this exhibition will concentrate more on Siquieros' landscapes. BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!
MMXI began last week. 새해 복 많이 받으세요! Feliz año Nuevo! Happy New Year! That’s it for me. Three languages: Korean, Spanish and English. I can functionally communicate en tres idiomas. That’s all right for 42 years young.
St. Tommy's 3 bunnies: Blackie, Whitey, and Albondigas
The Year of the Hare begins on the Lunar New Year this year, 2011, the first new moon of the year; and that will happen on Thursday, February 3rd. We still have a full moon to look forward to before that, on January 19th two weeks hence. I know this on account of my Calendar, which was made by Chepe Escondido and features his artwork on the page opposite the dated column of month at a glance. The calendar’s cover is a print taken from a drawing/painting of the female adult love in Chepe’s life, a 1980 Monkey, who is quite lovely, and IS The Saviour; or is it, she IS from El Salvador? I can never remember. Chepe makes his calendars on an industrial printer in his home studio, and he sells them. It’s quite a racquet (sic) Chepe’s got.
As far as New Year's Resolutions go, mine is to be nicer and more personable to people. One would think that drinking or smoking cigarettes – the curtailing of these harmful habits – would be at the forefront of my future promises to myself, since I am such an avid abuser of both.
Chepe Escondido, back in October, made it a point to take me aside and say, just for the record, that he really wished I would just quit smoking cigs once and for all. When people get a certain age, they know people who have died from lung cancer, and that changes everything. Flibby and his wife, both big time cigarette smokers when they tied the knot back in 1995; they both quit smoking cigs on Flibby’s 30th birthday back in the late 90’s and they’ve never gone back. I read Alan Carr’s book. I agree with Carr 100%; but I can’t quit, and there’s a lot more evil in the world than me having a drink or a smoke once in a while. Plus, I’ve got genetics on my side. My father smoked packs a day for 50 years, and on his deathbed, he was still 100% cancer free. So, I got that going for me; and I eat very well. THIS is my dinner tonight.
Made from raw potatoes, onion, garlic, carrots, green peas, olive oil, salt, red and black pepper, and a bay leaf, with some select spices.
It’s basically the Anderson’s Split Pea, but homemade. That’s gotta cure everything.
What do I aspire to be? I wanna be Dean Martin. I wanna be Frank Sinatra. I wanna be Sammy. I never saw them without a drink in one hand and smoke in the other.
This is my story and I'm sticking to it. I’m from Los Angeles, born here in 1968, raised here, went to college in Berkeley in 1986, met Chepe and Flibby there; moved back to LA in 1991, moved to Taegu South Korea in 1996. I spent the next 13 years and change living and working in Asia. In 2003, I lived near the city of Cheongju and first met R. R loaned me a Dean Martin CD and I lost it, the same night I lost my bass guitar. The CD was in the case.
In November 2009 I returned to LA and quickly started up a band with Chepe and Flibby. Since then, I’ve written 3 books, possibly 5 depending on the final delivery. I’ve published one, Culturebook Book Two, and it’s selling briskly, slowly, getting there. I know what I'm doing. I know where this is going.
It’s officially the Epiphany, January 6th, the Feast of the Maji.
I'm drunk. I’m smoking cigarettes. I’m at my computer. My mom is in Lima, Peru visiting her 99 year old dad, who’s really just her stepfather, but that makes no difference in her devotion to him, or his love for her.
I’m listening to John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things album in a loop. It’s on my computer. I never bought the album.
I just acquired it from a friend's computer library. It’s like back in the day, if I cassette recorded a friend’s record album -- it's really no different, except I 'recorded' it onto my computer, so it plays on my laptop speakers while I type onto my laptop. I’ve been listening to these same four songs:
My Favorite Things / Everytime We Say Goodbye / Summertime / But not for me; since May 2009 when I first uploaded them. This is my go-to album while I work. Especially the 11 minute 31 second Summertime, with the extended drum solo, which segues into drums with bass, and later piano thrown into the mix. Elvin Jones’ drum work is pretty phenomenal. Steve Jones played the upright bass, but he’d get replaced by Reggie Workman in years to come. I know that cuz Chepe owned that John Coltrane lineup on a VHS cassette back at Berkeley. My Favorite Things was not only the first of many Coltrane CDs that Chepe purchased back in Berkeley in 1989, but that album originally came out in 1960, the year R was born. Or was it 1959? I can never remember.
I’ve listened to this Coltrane album often over the last year, usually at home. I spent the better part of 2010 in my room with the TV off, working on the Culturebooks. For the last year, at night, if I drank, which I did about once a week on average, I put on The Who or Exile on Main Street or Wings Band on the Run. I listen to a lot of the same music. And I’ve recently realized that I don’t really like jazz, as much as I like John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner and others like them. Like the Rat Pack.
Tonight, driving home, I listened to one of my favorite CDs, again, one which I pirated off the net and then put onto a CD. It’s got the best of Frank, Deano and Sammy.
Tonight, driving home, I had $5.50 so I visited Frank’s Liquor on Santa Monica Blvd in West LA just West of the Mc Donald’s, near Beverly Glen, where my brother lives. It was too late to visit my brother, but it wasn’t too late to stop at Frank’s. Frank’s charges $5.50 after tax for a pint of Popov brand Vodka, which comes in a plastic bottle.
My brother never shops at Franks, but he knows OF Franks and we both laugh at it cuz we are reminded of Frank Lopez from Scarface. “So you wanna dance, Frank, or do you wanna sit here and have a heart attack?"
My brother keeps on his home mantel a series of framed photos of family members. With all of us, is Tony Montana, like he’s one of us.
On March 31, 2010, Southpark first aired their Medicinal Marijuana/KFC episode where Eric Cartman plays a Tony Montana character illegally importing KFC from Kentucky into Colorado and Scarface is parodied. The KFC Colonel plays the Alejandro Sosa character. “Don’t fuck me, Eric!” replaces “Don’t fuck me, Tony.” Jaime Oliver is the witness Eric is supposed to assassinate, but doesn't, starting the war that is the film's climax. I rewatched this episode tonight online.
I remember first watching this episode, the night it aired, at my brother’s house on Beverly Glen back during the dialysis days when I'd spend time with my nephew while my brother was at the clinic. Because my bro has Tevo, I recorded the episode as I watched it and over the next few days, rewatched it several times with my nephew and various other people. I had not seen that episode since April 2010. It’s almost April 2011. I’m almost 43 years young. And Eric Cartman is still is force to reckon with.
This was originally a letter to my bandmates. It's called evolution, people. Get used to it. Science.
Hope your last few days have been productive and wholesome. I know they have been!
ME, I'm doing my best. YOU, you've got it down to a science. You get up every morning.
Regardless. Here's an analogy that I'm going to try out for this year.
Jack London -- you may know him from Jack London Square and Oaktown history and shit. Or from his books. We saw that cat getting chased by a giant rat at Jack London Square at 4 am. That is, Chepe and I saw that crazy shit on speed one night, cruising in my 87 Mercury, smoking a bowl at the JLS.
JL started working young and by age 11 was on ships and by age 15 had his first real date and was all awkward, like it is for most 15 year olds, but for him, it was like Olmos in American Me, cuz JL had been on ships for 4 years with sailors, pulling into ports and getting drunk and he was like this man/child. Point is, by the time JL was an adult, he had a regimented schedule. Every morning, between 5 -6, whenever he got up, he made a pot of coffee and made sure to write at least 5 pages of new material.
Anyway you look at it, that's over 1500 pages of new material a year, in addition to whatever else he did that day. And he was farmer, carpenter, hunter guy; not a layabout sluggovid, to quote Monty Burns.
And then after that, we watched the Lakers play the Detroit Pistons. All games were Tevo'd so commercials were forwarded over for optimum game time. We played Scrabble as well, as fun, but no one won, on account of a disqualification (long story) and I got nothing done. Hanging with my bro would be cool on occasion, but it's been daily for endless and NOW in 2011, the year of the HARE, my bro is doing so well, I don't have to go to his house at all if I don't want. I visited St. Tommy today. I washed my car today at Saint's. And I got my tire fixed.
I'd been driving with a nail in my tire for the last 2 months, pumping it up every 4 days. Did I do that?
If you can jam it up Wednesday night, Chepe, a little bass and drums action let me know, or if Thursday is better, then it is. Friday is not good for me, and the weekend is too far away to gauge. Been trying out new shit. Been listening to a lot of old 70's funk stuff and progressive rock like Rush and Jethro Tull and the Melvin's tape Flibby left me. And Abbey Road by the Beatles.
There are TWO here comes the sun songs on that album. One is the Harrison classic, the other is the Lennon, Here Comes the Sun KING Also, That Maxwell Silver Hammer is a murderer. He first kills Joan, the quizzical, metaphysical science student girl. Next he kills the teacher; finally, he kills the judge. That's rather macabre. Still...
I want to give YOU your next bass lesson, Chepe. You are ready.
Dude, you've progressed so much in such little time on bass. Remember when you used to use
a pick EVERY TIME you played? Seems like a long time ago. And you sing and play bass, which as I've said, puts you in an elite category: with Paul Mc, Geddy Lee, Jack Bruce, John Doe and Sting.
Time to move it up to the next level. If I'm gonna be Copeland, then you gotta be Sting.
POLICE and thieves in the street Oh yeah,
I'm talking about AARON Copeland, by the way, and by Sting, I mean the Robert Newman, Paul Redford movie of the same name. The Part II ended up in Potosi, Bolivia -- the most altitudinous city in the Western Hemisphere, almost a mile above sea level. I was there. It was high, as was I.
I still haven't seen Waiting for Superman. Was on my way to Pasadena today but
ran into problems with time. May go see White Swan, or is it Black Swan? It's really
Swan Lake, but not really. It's an Aronofsky film and I've seen all of his films: I have all of his films on my computer; I have seen each NUMEROUS times. In Manali, India, during a 7 day rainstorm, I hosted a screening on my laptop for 20 or so of us, of THE WRESTLER with that cap wearing guy from 30 Rock as an ex wrestler. It's a bit part. I've never seen ANY of Aronofsky's films in the theater or on a big screen. I really want to. I may even be misspelling the dude's name, but DAMN I love his films: Pi is brilliant, as is Requiem.
The Swam Showing costs 5 dollars; more than the Pasadena movie, but it's only in Culver City.
Funds for gas are at an all time low. I need a job.
"Get a job in a gas station!"
RU EPILEPSY? Do you remember the film you bought at Vidiots in Santa Monica called Chameleon Street? Do you remember that that film changed our lives? Have you read the Call of the Wild, Chepe? I'll be Flibby has.
Writing is fun. Chepe Escondido is a pretty prominent character in my work. As is Flibworth Thurstein, aka, Flibby, I'm currently looking for an editor. I think Culturebook should be a 5 book series. Book Two MMX is too long. Chepe is main in One and Two and YOU can expect the Behind the Music episode / installment in times to come. "He was snorting whole rocks up his nostrils!" ...when we come back, HOW CHEPE went from entrepreneur to KING of the HILL. MMM HMM And how Flibby banged his babysitter.
MMXI is now firmly upon us, the first work week of the New Year began today and I am still technically unemployed. I know where I’m going. I know what I am doing. My first concern is my health, everybody’s health! This is a blog about FOOD and HEALTH for the new decade.
Pictured here is my first meal of MMXI, on Saturday afternoon, January 1st a la casa de mi hermano mayor, who lives nearby us with his teenage son. My brother makes a mean Milanesa, a breaded pork cutlet; and bro usually serves it with black beans and rice, topped with Tapatio brand hot sauce. Now that my bro has a new working kidney, he can add beans to his repetoire, in addition to cheese and other high phosphorous or potassium rich foods that he couldn’t eat for nine years. Anecdotally, the faded wooden handle old school steak knife next to the plate IS from our childhood home on Lindenhurst.
If you look at an average week’s diet: 21 meals plus snacks in between; I can honestly say, I eat about 20% of all my meals and snacks/desserts at my brother’s house. In addition, I visit my LA friends, Saint Tommy and Chepe Escondido quite frequently, and they always cook up a storm, so I can include another 10-15% of my meals (and coffee) at their homes. Chepe has been a vegetarian for years; and both Chepe and Saint are parents, so wholesomeness comes included with each sit down meal at a table with plates, chairs, kids and napkins. Not a lot of frozen, pre-made, canned, take-out, or processed foods are involved in our meals. Most every meal is home-cooked from scratch. And the coffee is usually Pete’s or some other dark roast brew.
That leaves about 60-70% of my weekly dietary intake – I take care of all that.
I love to cook. I love to shop for food. Strange as it may seem, I sometimes ‘Window-shop’ a.k.a. ‘Eye-shop’ (for those readers who’ve lived in the ROK or the PI) for FOOD! Yes, that means I stroll down supermarket isles in my free time figuring out what I’m going to buy on my next arrival. It’s a habit I picked up in the ROK, when I had no car. I enjoy preparation.
The Slow Food Movement began in the last decade, and I still wonder WHY Americans are so foolish about weight loss and health. It’s either Ideological or just play Laziness. I mean – you wanna lose weight? Okay, so eat less and exercise more. NO, it’s more complicated than that.
Okay, so buy lots of vegetables and BEANS: white beans, navy beans, lentils, kidney, pinto, soy – beans and rice and vegetables with spices and some meat and a cookbook, and anyone can eat culinary feasts, both healthy AND cheap for cheap. But no... it’s more complicated than that. I saw a woman in Ralph’s Supermarket the other day, many women and many times, she had at least 20 boxes of Lean Cuisine premade dinners in her cart. I thought, “Is this your diet for the next few weeks?” I can only imagine what her shit looks like.
I’m not one to judge. I don’t. My New Year’s Resolution is to be nicer, friendlier; more personable with people. That means, I just smiled at the hot Asian chick in the line in front of me with her shopping cart full of Lean Cuisine pasta and thought, “You are definitely more American than you are Asian, you hot ass Asian American.” Hotty Asian American wasn’t concerned with weight loss. She was concerned with weight gain. And obviously, her time was a major factor, as it is with most professional types.
Me, I have the luxury of not having to eat fast food, or higher end fast food. I like to cook my own food. I feel that, to quote a nutritionist, whose name I’ve spaced, and which publication I read it in – he says that the #1 reason for the ill health, obesity, etc, in America is that Americans eat way too many/much processed foods. Duh?!?!
In short, eating foods made from scratch: i.e. meat, potatoes, carrots, veggies, eggs, beans, pasta, rice, fruit, spices, garlic, onions, and other from the earth or animal products is MUCH healthier than eating food out of boxes or cans or shops that sell 49 cent tacos. Or 99 cent tacos, for that matter. Yes, I’m talking about Jack n the Box tacos that’ve been delicious for over 30 years.
So I begin 2011 with pride in my health, in that I don’t eat foods not REAL. IF you are what you eat, as scientific fact puts forth in verse, then I guess I have nothing to worry about as far as Cancer or Diabetes goes. I eat only real foods made by me or my family. Real Foods.
But I also begin 2011 also with the demerited self-introspect that I am not supporting myself.
ALL my adult life, I’ve supported myself. At present, and for the last 13 months, I have my sister and her husband, my brother-in-law, my namesake, the couple that lives in Brooklyn that I THANK and depend on for my present living conditions – which are pretty fucking high-end. I mean, I have my own bedroom, a full kitchen/living room condo with TV den besides, a weight room, a sauna, Jacuzzi, pool. I’m living large, for free. It’s not really free. I live with my mom and I’m her driver/shopper/kitchen organizer/etc guy. My sis and Eric provide this place for my mother, whether I'm here or not. It's a tough call whether to as I am mooching or not. It’s a fair trade, as I get to spend my time writing and reading and playing music for the future, in addition to all my chores.
This is a painting by Chepe Escondido featuring himself on bass on the right.
Flibby Thurstein is epitomized with paint on the left, holding his guitar. That’s me, Bravo on the drums in the middle, with our COFFEE POT BREAK logo etched onto my bass drum.
It’s not finished apparently. “This is a work in Progress.” So says Chepe E.
New Years Day, since I was a youth, it has been a tradition of Twilight Zone Marathons on TV all day. This year was no different. The SCI FI Channel hosted one and while I watched only one episode after I waked and baked on January 1st, I thought of another episode where the coin lands on its side and for the rest of that day, everything is askew. And somehow, THAT is cause for celebration, or cerebration, or just a mix up of stuff like good and bad luck. After my Milanesa dinner at my brother’s house, after my brother and I broke our coffee pot in honor of ex Dodger Manny Mota, we played Scrabble. As is customary for us.
My brother and I have been playing Scrabble weekly since I arrived in LA 13 months ago. For the last year, my brother has gone to dialysis thrice weekly. Early in MMX, 2010, I tutored his son, my nephew on Mondays and Wednesdays, dialysis days. I always made sure NOT to be home on those days, cuz when my bro got home, he was always irritable and cranky. Tuesdays and Thursdays were dinner/Scrabble days usually. Tu/Th were also bro's tennis nights.
These days, any days can be Scrabble days or dinner days, or Tennis eves and dinners can now include Pepperoni Pizza or beans or cheese or tomato sauce.
After my bro returned from the hospital, until New Years Day, we’d played maybe 4 games of Scrabble. My brother won every game. That is not usual. On New Year’s Day, after I ate the Milanesa dinner he'd prepared for me, we played Scrabble. My brother shook out some pieces and all of them fell to the table, most ending up facing down on, but one piece LANDED ON ITS SIDE. “Dude, check it out,” my brother said, “It’s like that Twilight Zone episode with the coin landing on its side.” One piece landed on its corner side and that was wierd. Just like that Twilight Zone episode. Perhaps things will change.
I scored 400 points that night. Today, days later, I won again. You are in the Twilight Zone.
That’s the greatest compliment ever!
The day is Friday December 17th 2010, the day before Flibworth Thurstein’s 43rd birthday. Flibworth Thurstein, whom I’ve known since 1987, is my band’s guitar player. Flibby made the Coffee Pot Break stencil.
The time is 10:48 PM. I’m driving alone, East on the 10 Freeway, driving home to Westwood from East Los Angeles, near the Soto street onramp. I just left the East LA house & music/art studio of Chepe Escondido, the bass player of my band, whom I also first met in 1987, the year Public Enemy debuted with Yo! Bum Rush the Show, and the same year BDP released Criminal Minded.
My destination is my mom’s condo on the Westside, near Westwood Blvd, where I now reside. We three: Chepe, Flibby, and I, not only did we first meet in 1987; not only did we all live together for the next 3 years, but we just finished rehearsal. We play in trio of drums, bass, and guitar. Flibby writes his own songs and sings them, as does Chepe. Flibby’s songs sound nothing like Chepe’s songs. It’s like we’re two different bands: Coffee Break and Coffee Pot. Officially, we are called Coffee Pot Break, a play in two acts. Flibby is the Break and Chepe is the Pot; which I guess makes me the Cough E.
This neighborhood where I live now in Westwood near UCLA is known as Tehrangeles, on account of all the Iranians who prefer to be called Persians. My downstairs AND next door neighbors both hail from IRAN. Persians began arriving in Los Angeles, mainly to Beverly Hills and the Westside, in the early 1980’s around the time of the hostage crises and Weird Al singing about the Ayatollah to the music of My Sharona. After the Persians, I’d say the largest demographic after white people, in my Westwood Condo/Apt neighborhood, is Asian UCLA students, most of whom seem to be female and fit and college age. I still don’t know what I’m doing on a Friday night NOT chasing poon in my hood. I’ll tell you why, it’s cuz I’m 42 and these females are all 24 or younger, and while that may be cool with some; that may be creepy to others. Like Chepe Escondido, father of 3 daughters, and my older sister, mother of twin girls. My other next door neighbors in the condo I live are an old Chinese couple. They are super nice.
Driving home on the 10 Freeway, the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway, 10:48 at night in the pouring rain with HUGE puddles of rainwater collected on the ground, spraying every which way and slowing cars down, nobody driving over 55 miles per hour…I couldn’t help but think about Double Nickels on the Dime, the quintessential double album by the Minutemen.
Released in 1984, the same year Alex Cox’s Repo Man hit theaters; just one month after Husker Du released their double album, Zen Arcade. Both albums were put out by the SST label founded by Greg Ginn, guitarist of Black Flag, who’s song TV Party appeared in the film Repo Man. At that time, the mid 80’s, a double album by a no name band was unheard of. THEY KNEW, that is, Greg Ginn knew: those albums changed punk rock. Those albums changed music forever. I’ve never really heard Zen Arcade or anything by Husker Du to this day. I’ve tried, but it all sounds very abrasive to me. In any event, the Minutemen changed me and they changed Chepe and Flibby, too. We often channel the Minutemen’s late singer/guitarist D. Boon during our coffee pot breaks. Peet’s coffee usually. By change, I mean, affected us enough to promote change in ourselves and our outlook, and our musicianship. click to watch the Minutemen do Jesus and Tequila
I thought of Double Nickels on the Dime (a pun on driving 55 on the 10 Freeway) because, while I was driving home in the rain Friday night on the 10 Freeway, I was listening to the Minutemen’s EP JOY on cassette. I drive a 1999 Cadillac Seville SRS.
Unlike New Millennium cars, my decade old Cadillac Car came equipped with a cassette player! Earlier today, I’d been helping my mother get the Christmas stuff out of boxes from our storage area in the garage area of our West LA Condo. I spotted a box of MY old stuff that was not taped shut. I rifled through the box and pulled out a few gems: two ticket stubs for the collection – one of the Chicago White Sox playing the Baltimore Orioles at the newly created Camden Yards field from Sept. 1, 1998,
while on a trip home from SKorea, visiting the Pentagon in DC and the Smithsonian and my only older sister Dom and her forever husband E, who had a house in DC and who shares my name AND who has a twin, older brother with the same name as my older brother. I also found a ticket stub from Napalm Death’s concert at the Hollywood Palladium in 1992.
I also found a black and white, passport sized photo of my overachieving ex, Tony (the nickname of my Peruvian born resident, former miss,
who now speaks 6 languages, AND is now a doctor living in Amsterdam, married to a German engineer). I guess I dropped the ball on that one.
I left the storage area with two cassettes: One, still in the case, was BPD’s 1992 Sex and Violence; the other, sans case, was a Minutemen EP called JOY. The JOY EP cassette has only 3 songs on each side, the same 3 songs! Joy / Black Sheep / More Joy, and the total time of all 3 songs is just over 3 minutes! At the end of each side, my 1992 Cadillac’s auto-reverse mechanism kicks in. It’s cool. I hear one side, 3 minutes later, the final song ends; then wait for it, click-click, then the side starts up again: the same three songs on a continuous loop; and every time I hear each song, it’s like I’m hearing it for the first time. I still haven’t figured out exactly what D. Boon is saying! Thank you God! And thank you Chepe E. for introducing us to D. Boon, Mike Watt, George Hurley, BDP, Chuck D, and Flava Flav!
In 1987, in Berkeley California, I first met Flibby and I first met Chepe. We 3 lived together in 87-88-89, not in the same room, but in the same house with 180 other people at UC Berkeley’s legendary Barrington Hall. Primus played Barrington Hall’s Wine Dinner Fall 1987, and we frizzle fried our way through that party. Les Claypool wrote their song Frizzle Fry about that now infamous Wine Dinner. Les drank the same punch that we drank. After Barrington Hall was closed down forever at the end of 1989, each of us moved to Fiction House for 1989/1990 and we lived together there too. But we NEVER played music together until November 2009 – 20 years later. 2009, the year both Chepe and I, independent of each other, first discovered South Park! Les Claypool wrote/sings South Park’s theme song.
Chepe always played drums with a band back in college, and all through the early 90’s. The first band was called BEEF CHURCH and the latter was called MAGGOT BRAIN. They played shows, they played parties. Chepe kept the beat for both. Flibby and I, we messed around with various guitars and basses, we wrote songs and sung to the heavens and to our girlfriends and to anyone who would listen; but it wasn’t until Flibby fully hooked up with Chepe, who’d been my best friend since 1987 – Flib had also been my best friend since 1987, so it seemed fitting that in my absence, me being in Asia for a decade, that in that time, Chepe and Flibby, both married homeowners in the East LA and Inland Empire areas respectively, both avid horticulturalists and artists/ craftsmen, MY BEST LA FRIENDS, both part of the Bravo-fold West and the Spleef Posse, my people – it was only fitting that the two of them would come together without me before my arrival, so that upon my arrived, not just a visit, but for the long haul, that WE could begin our coffee pot break extraordinary rendition. I’ve been in LA 13 months now.
The three of us, Chepe, Flibby and I, Bravo, began playing music together in November 2009, just for kicks, meeting weekly to salute Manny Mota and eat fruit from Jose’s newly created yard and garden, mostly doing improvisation, rotating instruments. And, with the exception of the 5 weeks Flibby spent working construction (that’s what Flibby do) in Washington State back in March, we’ve met every week since Nov 09 at least once. Chepe and I have met two/three times a week for the past few months. Our meeting place is always East Los Angeles.
Chepe turned Flibby and I onto the Minutemen and BDP and Public Enemy back in Berkeley back in Barrington, back in 1987. I think Chepe turned many people onto the Minutemen. The Minutemen are not that well known, but of the people who know them, THEY ARE VERY WELL RESPECTED.
I was in Nepal in early November 2009, just a few weeks before I returned to the US and started my band, Coffee Pot Break with Chepe and Flibby. It was there in Kathmandu with my Arizona pal JR that I first met Olivier, a 50 year old French punk rocker with a Mohawk, living in Kathmandu. Oliver played drums in a drum/bass combo with his Nepalese wife on vocals and bass called Rai Ko Ris. Olivier and his wife have a second band called Tank Girl, which includes a third member, a guitarist, a girl, the wife’s childhood chum.
Tank Girl had that odd mix of musicianship that only occurs when the band members are close friends. THAT is the ultimate display of the physical property that: THE TOTAL EXCEEDS THE SUM OF THE PARTS. Both JR and I agreed that Tank Girl sounded a lot like the Minutemen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGHNcQ4zv6Y
The Minutemen began in 1971 – at the age of 13, two high school nerds playing music together and smoking lots of pot and playing just to gratify the other, as if to say, they only played to make the other player say, “Wow, that was hot!” Mike Watt, legendary bass player and founding member of the Minutemen tells that D. Boon (the other singer and guitar player)’s mom bought them equipment to play in Boon’s bedroom, so she can know where they are at night. “Yeah it’s loud and they smoke weed, but at least I know where they are; and they are not getting into trouble.” D. Boon’s mom called it Econo Child Care. The Minutemen began recording in 1980 and lasted till 1985 when D. Boon died at the age of 27. Twenty-seven years dead, just like Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. “We jam econo,” The Minutemen sang. “Makes a stench!” We Jam Econo is not only a line from the Minutemen song, the Politics of Time, it is also the title of the film: The Story of the Minutemen.
After Tank Girl’s set, both JR and I had the same reaction – “They sound like the Minutemen!” After the show, we met Olivier in person. Olivier, who’s lived in Nepal for 20 years and who has a Nepalese wife and a 5 year old son, said, “You think we sound like the Minutemen?!? That’s the greatest compliment ever! My wife and I, we were just listening to the Minutemen the other night. (to his wife) Honey, they think we sound like the Minutemen!” The wife smiled knowingly and Olivier looked around and showed us his son who was 5 years old, and playing under the table. “Even my son likes the Minutemen!”
It’s very cool listening to a 3 song EP cassette. I listen to JOY in a loop over and over again. Only, each listen, each song is the longest 47 seconds of my life, each an expression of life, over and over again with adequate pauses for affirmation! The Minutemen are an INCREDIBLE trio from San Pedro, California. They are called the Minutemen cuz, in the beginning; all their songs lasted no longer than one minute.
So the next day, Saturday night, Flibby’s birthday, December 18th, I had a pseudo band practice with just Chepe Escondido. Tonight, Chepe’s daughter, who is 16, born almost the exact day as my nephew (also 16, my older brother’s son, a handsome straight A student with long hair, who wears Pink Floyd tee shirts and rocks Metallica and Zep note for note on guitar) – Chepe’s daughter studies violin at a Conservatory in Silverlake started by Flea from the Chili Peppers. Chepe’s daughter is performing tonight at the Nokia Theater, playing in a small orchestra behind Flea and Stevie Wonder. That’s quite an achievement for a 16 year old! Chepe did not have a ticket, but he got to meet Flea and give him a calendar he’s made.
Tonight, Chepe and I jammed out our entire set on bass and drums, 12 original songs, many repeated, Chepe on bass and vocals, me on drums and backing vocals. Chepe writes all the songs we play.
Chepe is wild cuz as long as I’ve known him, which is going on 24 years; he has achieved so much. And it is primarily because Chepe makes such good use of his time. I come from a family of achievers. My mother does more in a month than most people do in a decade; and she is SO old, I’m not allowed to say her age! My sister, the ACLU attorney turned AFTRA union delegate turned organizer, producer, mother of 3 brilliant children; my sister lived in Nicaragua during the Oliver North 80’s and has done so much for so many, my sister makes John Cheever look like a misbeliever. y brother, a 5th grade teacher beloved by his students, hasn’t missed a day of work in the entire 8 years he’s taught at Ralph Emerson Elementary.
My brother in 1984 and his son in 2010, about the same age
My brother waited 9 nine years for a kidney, not pissing once since 2001, dialysis thrice weekly for the past decade, raising a brilliant teenager all on his own. My bro just got a new kidney on Thankstaking Day.
Chepe has worked on various projects everyday of his life, as long as I’ve known him, whether it is painting canvases, doing ceramics, playing music, raising children, making calendars, landscaping, creating an exquisite garden of fruit trees in his barren yard; so that at the end of each day, of each week, of each month, each year, he has accomplished much.
I enjoy knowing achievers. They really raise the bar for me. Here’s to you Chepe! Chepe USED TO be a drummer. Still is, but he’s graduated to front man, like Phil Collins did! Chepe graduated. Me, I’m still in school. I keep the beat now. Chepe turned 43 five months ago. I turn 43 in 5 months and Flibby, well…Flibby is the first person in my age group that I know, to get married and buy his own house with his own money. And he did it without a university degree. Furthermore, Flibby has been married longer than any of my peers, and is one of the only people I know in my age group STILL married to the same woman! That’s some achievement. Christmas Eve Day, Flibby begins the groundbreaking on Chepe’s addition, the stairway to heaven and rooftop deck. Happy 43rd, Flibby! And Murry Xmas to all achievers. For Christmas, my older brother got me a South Park calendar. Sweet!
On Christ Mass, what’s the purpose of Santa Claus? -- BDP from The Real Holy Place. Fresh for 2010, you suckas!
TROUT MASK REPLICA -- Where's the Beef?
Trout Mask Replica is a 1969 album, the 3rd & probably most famous album by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and HIS MAGIC BAND. Produced by his high school chum, Frank Zappa (both grew up in Lancaster, California), Trout Mask Replica was voted #58 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of Top 500 albums of all time.
Captain Beefheart, aka Don Van Vliet, born Don Vliet (1941-2010) died yesterday. If he'd lived till January 15th, he would've have turned 70! Instead Don Vliet is turning in his grave. Lots of important figures in modern American cultural history died this year, 2010, MMX: Art Clookey, Howard Zinn, Jack Herrer, Ronnie James Dio, Leslie Neilson, John Wooden, the original Dano from Hawaii 50...I'm leaving many people out -- May you all come back soon!
An Asian man died on Thanksgiving Day and his kidney is now inside of my older brother and both the kidney and my brother are doing fine!
Don Vliet gave up making music in the early 80's and turned his attention to painting. Apparantly, he has sold A LOT more paintings than he has albums. "Part of why I stopped doing music was because it was too hard to control the other people I needed to play the stuff, and I'd had enough animal training," he told the Times in 1990. "...which is not to say I'm finished with music. The only thing that stops a composer from thinking about music is rigor mortis, and I still compose all the time. I work on my paintings, and while the paint is drying I'll write a song. But I have no interest in making records anymore -- I'm finished with that for good."
Captain Beefheart was one of the most influencial musicians and composers of all time, influencing not only Tom Waits, but forging a friendship between the two troubadors that lasted till his death yesterday.
In Memorium, I'd like to close with some words by Tom Waits, spoken about his dear friend Don Vliet:
"He drew in the air with a burnt stick. He described the indescribable. He's an underground stream and big yellow blimp.
"He was like the scout on a wagon train. He was the one who goes ahead and shows the way. He was a demanding bandleader, a transcendental composer up there with Ornette and Miles and Sun Ra."
"I will miss talking to him on the phone. We would describe what we saw out of our windows."
"He was a rememberer. He was the only one who thought to bring matches. He's the alpha and the omega. The high water mark. He's gone and he won't be back." --
Tom WaitsAs a believer in reincarnation, I have only to add that, I hope he'll be back in my lifetime.