Amazon.com Widgets

Posts in Category: Semester in L.A.

New Layout

Hey, since we’ve upgraded to a new version of MovableType, the layout of this blog has undergone some slight changes. Some of them I like; a lot of them I don’t. However, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so I’ll just be doing a lot of trial and error ot fix them over the next few weeks. Do not be alarmed.

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‘The Terminizor: An Erotic Thriller?’

For the last several months, my friend Laurie has been working on an adaptation for a motivational speaker named Nathaniel Henry. He preaches a philosophy that he calls N.A.T.E.: “Never anything too easy.” This is also the title of his book, which from what I understand he has self-published to sell after giving his brand of motivational speeches. It’s essentially a jumbled, nonlinear autobiography about how he gradually learned not to be a junior thug and how his life experiences shaped the philosophy he extols today. The point of his lectures, and his books, seem to be, “Look, kids, I was just like you, and I rose above it to get to where I am today.”

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New Comment System

With the upgrade to MovableType 3.15 comes a new system of comments registration, which I’ve finally enabled. Essentially, you sign up (for free) to a system called TypeKey, make your account, and then you can sign in to comment on this or any other MovableType blog, automatically. I’m not sure how the signing in/signing out stuff works (i.e., how long you’ll stay signed in without having to retype your information), but it seems relatively painless, all things considered.

It’d be nice if anybody who comments regularly (I’m looking at you, wolfie) would register to this system; otherwise, “anonymous” (i.e., unregistered comments, even if you fill in the name/email/website fields) will have to be approved in order to appear on the site, and you know how lazy I am…

Thanks.

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Souls Crushed: Hollywood Edition

This afternoon, Lucy started asking me all these questions about my impending trip to Los Angeles: when I’m leaving, when/if I’m coming back, where I’m staying,—

That last one tripped her up, when I responded, “In one of those extended-stay type of hotels.”

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I Still Exist… Don’t I?

During his mindbending chemotherapy, Harvey Pekar once wondered (and here, out of laziness, I’m paraphrasing), “Am I the creator of a comic book called American Splendor, or am I just a character in that book? If I died, would the character live on, or would he die, too?”

The nice thing about having written documentation of one’s life is that it’s always there. I forget things—I spend most of my life trying to forget everything that happened in my life before. And yet, it’s all there. I can go back to old entries (which I’ve done a bit of late as new people read the blog, pointing and laughing at my life and sending me links to the relevant entries) and essentially relive the moments of my life that I’ve kept in meticulous, anal-retentive detail over the past few years.

But there’s something weird about it all. I wrote maybe four or five entries during my trip to Seattle, and added maybe two or three with old stories from my time there, but that was an entire summer of my life. An entire summer of new people, new places, new experiences, and bad-neighborhood-related comedy. And yet, without detailed journaling of this experience, it’s starting to slip. Sure, the big stories like Krazy Kelly will probably remain forever, but the smaller moments, the quiet reflections I’d have hiking up to the Third-Cherry bus stop after a long and painful shift—these are slipping, because I was either too lazy, too tired (and therefore lazy), or too apathetic to document them.

So what happens then? If I find myself unable to remember, and I don’t have it written down, does that mean they never happened?

Much as I try to forget things, I still want to be able to look back at a time, documented for the ages, and say, “I was there. That happened to me.” The summer of 2004, for the most part, is gone. The fall semester isn’t much more there. In all my goofy ranting and raving and trying to get women to go out with me and just trying to get people to be nice to me, I hardly blogged any of it, and now it’s going away. It’s not irrelevant, because it’s my life, but when I forget about it, that means—in my crack-addled brain—that it never happened. Or my memory becomes altered, and 60 years from now I’ll be in an old folks’ home for failures, arguing with somebody about an insignifcant event that happened in the winter of 2004, and neither of us will remember what actually happened because our minds have mutated the event so much.

What happens to the people who are, however briefly, significant in my life? I used to write about Gina on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Now, I haven’t seen her in nearly a year, I only have a fuzzy, possibly pedestal-induced memory of what she looks like, and a few vague memories of our time together. Yet, it’s all here, on the blog. From start to finish, our relationship is chronicled, including the gory aftermath and a few awkward postscripts to our friendship.

There are, or have been, other people like that in my life. Where the fuck are they? They’re there for a semester, maybe two, maybe three, and then they pass into the periphery for one reason or another. Some of them, like the Token Articulate African-American Fellow or the Super-Hot Pot-Head, have their stories on this blog. But the detail, the true, horrible depths of our friendships aren’t here. The details, the small stuff, the moments—they’re not all there. They’re just sketches. And now those people are gone, and so are the moments.

I’ve been working at this bookstore café now for over a month. I just gave my notice, and I’ve only written one story about it. Annoying, obnoxious things happen there every day. I’ve made friends, I’ve made acquaintances, I’ve made enemies—so where the fuck are they? Will they just disappear as soon as I stop working there?

I’m moving to California in a few weeks. Hopefully it’ll be temporary, but what if it’s not? The truly significant players, the ones who were never supposed to go away—what if they do? What if I never see them again? What if we talk on the phone or online, but gradually the conversations get less detailed, less interesting, less frequent, and then they just stop? And what if, since I’m a neurotic shut-in who hates most people, I can’t find new significant players in the great state of California?

I don’t have memories to fall back on. I just have this. This, for all its comical exaggeration and infrequent updating, is closer to the truth than what’s in my head, and it begs the question: Am I the creator of a blog chronicling my life, or am I just a character in that blog? If I died, would the character live on, or would he die, too?

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Folk Heroism

On Wednesday afternoon, I walked off the job. There has been six weeks of unblogged build-up to this moment. I’ve tried to write entries about how much I dislike my job—the customers, (some of) the coworkers, the job itself—but it all just comes off as petty whining to anybody who hasn’t previously worked in retail. Unfortunately, because I work at a mega-bookstore that is owned by a huge corporation, this job has managed to combine all the worst aspects of retail with the horrors of an office-style hierarchy. For a frame of reference, watch Office Space followed by Clerks. If you ignore the fires and dead Jews, this is an accurate depiction of what the last six weeks have been like: mind-numbing, soul-crushing employment hell.

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Hooray for Hollywood!

So here I am: Hollywood, USA, movie capital of the non-India world, but it wasn’t easy. On the contrary, the Almighty or some other deity-like skyward entity sent me a great many portents indicating—or so I believe—that I WILL DIE IN A WATERY GRAVE, NOT UNLIKE AXL ROSE’S WIFE IN THE “ESTRANGED” VIDEO.

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Back to Rational Thought

It’s been a week, and I’ve realized that maybe I’ll neither die nor have my soul sucked out through my asshole. At least, not for a few months. I’m settling down, mellowing out, and trying to get used to this place. There are some cultural oddities, like the millions of people roaming the street desperately wanting to be a part of something called “the biz”* and a general consensus that lazily wrapping Christmas trees around palm tree trunks isn’t the stupidest thing in history, that I haven’t really gotten used to yet. Mostly, though, it’s just like a gigantic Schaumburg, and as some of you know, I spent the better part of 23 years roaming the suburban jungle in search of Smashing Pumpkins records, discarded Playboys, and pot, so it’s much easier for me to do the electric slide into The Wood than I anticipated. Like I said, I’m not all there yet, and maybe I never will be, but it’s a little more familiar than I thought it would be.

Did anything interesting happen this week? No, but I’ll continue rambling anyway. Let’s see…I was zinged by Earl Hamner, former Twilight Zone writer and creator of The Waltons. He asked me about my writing process, and I told him I start by drinking an enormous cup of coffee, at which point he cut me off and asked, “Have you tried gin?” Being mocked by him was definitely the highlight of my week.

I got in trouble for making fun of directors. It was mild trouble, not you’re-banned-from-the-studio trouble. It’s apparently pilot season, and they’re filming tons of stuff on the lot. Yesterday, the roadway to the commissary was blocked off for shooting. It’s lined with bungalows that can be transformed, with minimal redressing, into quaint suburban homes. On our way to lunch, we saw a director and cinematographer muttering on top of a 30-foot scaffolding. When we came out, they were still muttering, and I said, “They’re filming a pilot here, right? I’ll bet that’s the crane shot.”

It’s a pretty well-known fact that many pilot episodes feature a dazzling crane shot, wherein the camera—affixed to a crane, hence the name—pulls back and away from the action to give an exciting, sweeping panorama. It’s the most cliché shot in the history of television, and they do them in almost every pilot produced in the last 20 years because, simply, cranes don’t usually factor into the budget for episodic television. Sure, they do it once in awhile, but it’s not an every-episode kind of thing. However, since they generally have more money and time to play with while shooting a pilot, why not break out the crane?

And how about this for comic timing? As soon as I said that, and my classmates chuckled, and then a crane turned the corner down the blocked-off suburban street, which led to guffaws, which prompted me to continue my mockery of the crane shot, which got the attention of the director, who shed a lone tear I’m sure. My professor apparently witnessed this and whispered the suggestion that now that I’m in the thick of things, I should maybe keep the mockery to myself, because you never know who’s listening. It’s not an easy thing to get used to, coming from a background that revolves primarily around mocking people to their faces, but these sensitive Hollywood types need their egos stroked, so a-stroking I will go. I’ve had a great deal of practice.

Finally, I got lost for the first time since I got here. Whoever designed and named the roads in this area was smoking some fine crack. At any rate, it took me 45 minutes to find a Target (and when you think of that bullseye imagery, it just becomes funnier, doesn’t it?) because in spite of what the map may say, the road I was looking for (Empire Avenue) does not intersect with the road I was on (Hollywood Way) in any way I could idenitfy.

Here’s the best part, though: after I finally found Empire Avenue, and then I found the Target, and then I did my shopping, and then I went home, I decided I’d take Empire back the way I came. Since clearly it didn’t intersect with Hollywood the first time around, I naturally assumed it would when I was going back. I am dumb as a goddamn rock, so yes, I got lost a second time. To add insult to injury, as I attempted to navigate myself back to my apartment, I passed—you guessed it—another Target, which is apparently closer to where I live. “Store locator,” my ass.

I’m on page 83 of my first draft, and it’s going reasonably well so far. The last 20 pages are kind of assy, but it should be reasonable enough to fix.

*I’m one of these people, and I hope everybody else feels as pathetic about it as I do…

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Things I Learn While Shopping at the Grocery Store: An Ongoing Struggle

Lo, these past 23 years, I’ve not had much use for the grocery store, mainly because my mom would go shopping for me. On rare occasions when I would go, I would attempt to grab every delicious, sugar-filled snack in the store. In fact, I still do, which is why I have a jumbo-pack of Pringles, York Peppermint Patty cookies, Oreos, and some bricks of sharp cheddar. Sigh, I will be a fatty fat fat fat yet again…

At any rate, this morning I went to the grocery store to stock up on things I never thought I’d need, like napkins. Unlike last week, when I forgot half a dozen items I wanted, this time I made a list, and as I searched for the items I made some interesting discoveries.

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Feast Forty-Five: Stan

Appetizer

Which keys do you have on your key chain?

Car ignition, car locks, bike lock, apartment key, house key. I’m not sure if it counts, but I have one of those auto-dealies for my car that, at the push of a button (several times in a row because it works like shit), will lock and unlock the doors or pop the trunk. Technology!

Soup

What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?

I’m not the most spontaneous person in the world, so this is kind of slim pickin’s, but I guess this qualifies:

In August of 2002, I had two tickets to see Juliana Hatfield at the Double Door, and I was thrilled beyond belief. Me and The Ex would go see the show, have a good time, and naughtiness would ensue. When I told The Ex about it, she said, “There’s no way we’ll get in. They card like maniacs, and I can’t even flirt my way in.” You have to bear in mind here that The Ex was not the most outgoing person in the world (ironically, she turned to me to be the outgoing one—ha!), but she was very good-looking, which is all that really matters in a bar-bouncer scenario.

Neither of us were 21 (I was only a few months away…), but I insisted that we go down there anyway. I speak the bouncers’ language, which is to say, I had several fresh $20 bills from the ATM. So we wandered down there on the train, and we got off and waltzed up toward the Double Door. A large, African-American fellow who I always will believe was nicknamed “Tiny” glared at us and muttered, “ID?” I flashed my ID, with its red “UNDER 21” tag. He looked up at me like I just fell off the short bus and said without irony, “You ain’t come in here.”

“Let’s go,” The Ex groaned. She thought she could make it as a music manager and didn’t want the humiliation of being thrown out of the same venue multiple times.

I suavely slid a $20 into the bouncer’s paw. He stood there, all stoic and terrifying, brow furrowing down at us, not saying a word.

“Uhh…” I began, in an effort to retrieve my lost $20.

“You gonna git now,” he mumbled. He should’ve known that wouldn’t stop me—until The Ex grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the entrance, back toward the train station, berating me with a wide variety of derogatory statements about my ethnic heritage.

On the way home, I talked idly about going out to see her in Iowa City, where Juliana was playing the following evening. We could stay with Lucy, with whom I wasn’t really speaking at the time, and maybe visit The Ex’s parents in Bettendorf on the way home. This was roundly rejected as the stupidest idea I had ever conceived. We’re going to travel 250 miles to the doorstep of a girl I hadn’t spoken to in three months, take advantage of whatever kindness she’d force herself to muster so we could have a free place to crash, and then make a bleary-eyed, grungy stop to meet The Ex’s parents for my very first time?

So I said, “Fuck it, you’re right.” That was my mantra during the bulk of our relationship. A note to the female readers of this blog: if you let me have my way with you, I’ll do your bidding for eternity.

The next day, Lucy IM-ed me about 90 times in a row. She didn’t really get the whole “silent treatment” thing, so she’d just send barrages of instant messages, hoping I’d eventually answer. Finally, that day, I did.

“Are you trying to ignore me?” she asked.

“Do you know where the Green Room is?” I asked.

“It’s right down the street from my house,” she said.

“Do you want to go to a concert with me tonight?” I asked.

This is the impulsive part, where I—slightly, in the back of my mind, upset with The Ex—drive 250 miles to go to a concert and reunite with my best friend on a whim. Yeah, it might not sound like much, but for me…it’s pretty bold.

So yeah, I drove out there, was disappointed by the squalorific conditions in which she lived (to such a degree I ended up driving straight home through the blackness of Iowa and Illinois at 3AM because I couldn’t stay a whole night there) and was disappointed by the various horrible life choices she had been making (these horrible life choices were why I stopped talking to her to begin with). The only good thing to come of it was when I saw Kathryn Musilek for the first time, and she changed my life forever. So all’s well that ends well.

Salad

Who is the best cook in your family?

My mom would kill me, but I have to grudgingly admit that my sister is a pretty fantastic cook.

Main Course

If you were to write a “how-to” book, what would the title be?

How to Be a Hollywood Hack

Dessert

Name a recent fad you’ve tried.

Back when I thought I was morbidly obese, I was very close to trying the Atkins diet. I did the research, read the book, shit my pants in horror at what you have to go through to accomplish your weight-loss goals, and actually did something Dr. Atkins explicitly states in the book that nobody seems to actually do: I went and talked to my doctor about it. My doctor, when he stopped laughing, noted that I’m only about 20 pounds overweight, and maybe I should try eating less junk food and exercising once in awhile.

And what do you know? That archaic system works just as well.

from friday’s feast

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