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?