Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Los Angeles in January

This is why people live in Southern California.

Blooming in my back yard. Pear Tree. Decorative. Will not make pears. Look at those flowers.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Be Me Eyes Gloria

Last night was the wrap party for my Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner Adam's television show, Still Standing.

Being a family friendly show, the party is often held at a bowling alley in Studio City. Bad food. Decent booze.

On Still Standing, Sally Struthers plays Bill's mother. She was having a blast at the party, maybe drinking a lot. Most certainly, she was yelling at the top of her lungs like a wild woman in positive response to everything. She invited us to bowl in her lane. Being that it was pretty full, we bowled next to her. Adam made a strike. Sally was so happy for him, she hugged him, and then lifted him into the air, completely off his feet.

Sally Struthers is a strong woman.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Four Years in the Making

In 2001, I started writing a new one-man show. It sounded a lot like a book, so I stopped writing.

In the spring of 2002, I realized I had a book in me, so I went up to Lucia, near Big Sur, and spent three days in a monk retreat. I read five books of personal and comic essays and sat down and began some free form writing of my own.

Since then, I have written thirty-five short stories. They were winnowed down to twenty-five. They were winnowed down again to eighteen short stories.

During this time, I stopped to write two full length plays, The Fat of the Land and A Good Smoke, went to Nova Scotia, France and Ireland, had some health annoyances, bought a small apartment in Jackson Heights, New York, replaced my crashed Crapintosh with a Gateway PC and smoked way too much weed.

I could not have written this book without the help of my Tuesday night writing group, Moose Purse. I also relied heavily upon Adam's editing skills, Megan's well thought out opinions and Mary's positive reinforcement.

Writing a book is really pretty cool. I recommend it to anyone who thinks they can do it. It takes discipline, sort of. But if you have the impulse, that usually will set up the discipline for you. Besides, when else on this earth do you have the time to quietly think about what you are thinking about? Writing straightens out and clears the mind.

Now, the book is done. Today, it is in boxes. Tomorrow, it goes out to some well established contacts. Here comes the next stage. How enjoyable. It's so nice to see it in the box with the colorful rubber band.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Very soon, cell phone numbers are going to be fair game for telemarketers. Call from your cell phone, today: 888-382-1222 to be put on the DO NOT CALL list for five years. Or visit the website below.

Do Not Call

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sears and Tears

by Megan Karlen

So I get home, pee, pack up the radio and go back to the R train. I ride four
or five stops to 63rd "Drive" (a whole new addition to the Queens roadways)
and I ask the token booth clerk how to get to Sears. He points up the
stairs and smiles. I go up the stairs and get to the corner. I've got to
cross the street and I see that I'm actually parallel to Queens Blvd., the
famed death road. Isn't that the road where people keep getting picked off
by cars? Anyway, sure enough the lights are whacked. When you think the
light will turn red and hardly any cars are coming, you begin to walk and
before you know it the light hasn't changed and a car or two has come blasting
through the intersection, horn-a-blaring.

So, I got very careful and then walked across the street and went into Sears. Now mind you, I called Sears earlier in the day and the guy in the electronics dept said, "Come on in, we'll just exchange it and we've got the model in stock so you're good."

Great. I got there and I thought, "Hm, I wonder if I could work at Sears
for a while?" and went downstairs to electronics and asked the girl,
Ashley, at the counter about the exchange and before I knew it I was
waiting about twenty minutes because she couldn't find the order in the
computer system and she went to another department's computers and no luck and
she went to the office and no luck and she came back to me and said, "I
can't find this order number in the computer so I can't exchange it.
You'll have to do this online."-- At which point I freaked (not really
freaked, but you know).

I said, "I'm not going to do this online because I was told I could do it here and I'm here and I've got a packing slip and invoice from Sears and I just want an exchange so I guess I'll just take this new one and leave the old one?"

And she said, "No. But wait a minute."

And she left. So I thought, while I was standing there for another fifteen
minutes, that I couldn't take the new box and walk out because it hasn't
been de-alarmed. So then I thought, maybe I should open the new box and
put the new tape deck in the old box and walk out with that. And that got
weird so I just stood there. And then I thought, "I can call Sears
customer service on my cell!"

And I did and the rep on the phone totally found my order and there was another sales person standing there and I asked her to talk to this guy and she said, "I can't help you because Ashley's already helping you and she's as good as me".

And she walked away saying she had another customer but really she was hiding in the other department. The phone rep heard it all and apologized. I asked him to wait for Ashley to come back and he said fine and when Ashley came back I told her
to talk to the guy on the phone and they had some sort of conversation and
she just kept putting in the same number that didn't work into the
computer and then she finally told the phone rep that it's not my order
number, it's their Rego Park store computer system that was obviously
broken and I said, while she was still on my phone with the other guy,
"Well there's got to be some solution," and she said - get this - "Okay,
well, I guess I'll have to do the exchange manually."

I turned to Ashley and I said, "That will work?"

And she said, "Yeah. But I'll have to get a manager to approve it though and I hope she's still here."

So we hung up with the Sears rep, who was very nice and probably from Iowa, and Ashley asked me for a state ID, etc. Not two minutes later she was calling for
the manager who showed up immediately and with the turn of a key approved
the exchange. Done. I apologized to Ashley for getting kind of mean but, "I
had come all the way there for an even exchange after calling first and
okaying it and besides, I didn't break the tape deck, it came broken."

And she said, "I don't blame you."

And as I was leaving I thought this place is a hole. If I ever had to work here I'd go mental. And I just kept wondering why, when Ashley realized the system was screwy, she didn't just process the exchange manually. And it made me really, really sad for America's youth and the malls across our country. And I went home and
plugged in the tape deck and it works just fine.

January 24, 1974

There was only a half a day. I went into town. George is really becoming a good friend.
Well Goodnight.

This was true. George became a very good friend. I moved to Suffern, NY on July 10, 1973. It took about six months before things started to feel okay. George, who lived down the street, was a big part of the second half of my childhood. Great guy. Now married with two kids, living in Illinois. He's a chiropractor.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Industrial-Military Complex: Jarecki's WHY WE FIGHT

Eisenhower looks like Bob Waring, my Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner-Father-in-law.

And like Bob, Eisenhower was no dummy. He warned us the military was doing the bidding of corporations and that democracy was succumbing to capitalism and empire building, that our nation would suffer greatly because of this.

"One B-52 bomber could pay for twenty brand new schools..." things like that.

Mamie's husband's warnings proved to bear out. It has happened. The quality of life in this country is terrible. The corporations will do anything for profits, will rape any land for its resources. The poor have no choice but to go into the military to fight for more oil. And it is the oil that keeps the military going. This industrial military complex has created a slave class in this country, as well as around the world.

To see the footage of the triumvirate of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld is as horrifying as watching any old footage of Nixon. Actually, worse. Because there's three of them. The lies are so blatant. But what I find even more astonishing is how the pride of these men is much larger than any worrying about being caught lying. They smile, preen and enjoy their positions of power, so much, that they come across with the attitude, "Dare to cross me. I'm so powerful, you don't stand a chance." Humility in the face of international murder? Not a chance.

The footage and the interviewees will remove any doubt about the ethics of greed that has taken over our country. The hard right has greatly compromised our democracy and has only created resentment and hatred around the globe. We all know this. But to see it laid out. To see how these wretched men have pulled it off by handing our country over to corporations, who have been allowed to take over the very fiber of the United States of America, will make you sick.

Is it the human condition, if given the chance, to endlessly acquire with no heed to the happiness of others?

Why We Fight won The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2005. This is really amazing film making. It is so intelligent. It is so clear. And it is chilling.


Friday, January 20, 2006

The Subway and More

Not that it's anyone's business, but today I took the subway.

It was inconvenient, took almost twice as long had I used my car instead. And yet, I am still so very happy that I used the public transportation system that this city is trying to cobble together.

A very serious twenty minute walk is required to get from my house to the Red Line at Hollywood and Highland. It's a low uphill grade the whole way. The train does come with regular frequency. I took it three stops to Sunset and Vermont and then walked the ten minutes to where I was going on Hollywood Boulevard (a little music rehearsal, if anyone is asking).

After the rehearsal, I walked back to my house (3.8 miles).

I got so much exercise. I enjoyed taking public transportation instead of using my car.

Now I beg the city of Los Angeles, the State of California and the federal government: Please build monorails. La Brea, Fairfax, La Cienega, Olympic, Santa Monica Boulevard, Venice, Jefferson, Sepulveda, Moorpark, Hollywood Way, Laurel Canyon, PCH, and more. Just do it. Do it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Oh, to Die in Oregon!: Death Wish with Goobers

Congratulations to our neighbors just north of us. Just think, now Lewis and Clark types can actually choose when they want to roll over in their graves.

Why not die when you want to die? Like I did tonight, while watching the movie Cache. Paying attention to the great reviews, we sallied on up there and plunked down our good American greenbacks for this French "thriller". I wish I had a bag of lethal drugs to end my misery. But all I had was my box of Goobers.

It starts off so promising. Totally French and gorgeous and simple. With great actors who really do some amazing acting throughout. And if you like static visual delights, it really is pretty cool. But man, mes amis, nothing ever really comes to fruition. It's all opaque and will not land. All I could think was, "Give me a big square state and a shot of sodium pentothal and put me out of my misery!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Focus on Rebecca

I must bring your attention to Rebecca Waring, my Recognized-by-the-State-of-California-Domestic-Partner-in-law.

She has chucked the corporate world (almost--leaving a toe in it enough to live by) and she is taking up art, full time. Rebecca lives in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of our nation's capitol. In the middle of art classes, having taken art classes and looking to take more, she is in one of those mid-life turns that can only be applauded. Look at this self-portrait!

It reminds me of a Joni Mitchell album cover. And we all know how much I love Joni. The technique is soft and strong. It is unabashedly human with no apologies. Honest. Honest. Honest. What is so striking about this self-portrait, to me, is the expression. It is both sad and oddly intrepid. The intrepid part of it makes me feel ready to take on anything. It doesn't hurt that this woman is so attractive, either. Glad I got my hands on the male version!

Rebecca is also quite a blogger. As a youth in the late 1970's, she traveled to Japan and Europe and lived in New York City and. She did this on her own steam and landed on many funky and fun magazine covers. If you have not yet read her entries, do click over to her blog and start at the first installation (Previous Posts, right column) and work your way up. It's an amazing story. And today, it came to its natural end. A must read.

Courage is Found in Unlikely Places

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Weather Report

It's frigging ferocious out there!

Los Angeles does have winter. People don't believe it. It's true. We do. I love it. In mid-January, the pink jasmine starts to bloom. Why it likes the coldest temperature in which to bloom is beyond me.

Today, while driving West on Sunset Boulevard, the wind was blowing so hard and the air was so clear and the sun was at that winter angle. It really looked and smelled wonderfully wintry. My car was pelted by palm nuts.

I walked the dog and strong winds were making monster sounds in the high palm trees. Two blocks down from my house, a load of dead palm branches, all brown and carcassy, were lying in the middle of the intersection. Cars had to drive around them.

I loved it. It felt like nature had taken back Los Angeles. The air, the air, the air! The dog's fur blows back in her face and it makes her walking more intrepid and brave.

Just one house away from home and I was hit in the face by a small stick flying off the sycamore tree. It hurt. But it was also kind of funny.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

January 13, 1974

Today was Sally's birthday. Alot of people from Daddy's work came to watch a game. I'm getting skates.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

January 12, 1974

I went sleigh riding. Tomorrow is Sally's birthday. Me and Greg got her a record album. There is going to be a big party. But not for Sally.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another by M. Karlen

Notice how this painting is more concrete. The line more deliberate. The flatness.

The malaise.

This painting kind of makes me want to stop everything and sit outside, naked. Because there just isn't much time left.

I like the rock wall (or is it logs?). Again, the pit underground. The animal, but this time standing.

This scenario is very strong, filled with a certain need for escape. Look at the window. It makes me want to drive fast. Or maybe hit someone with a moldy pumpkin.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Jackson Heights Artist: Megan Karlen

Megan Karlen is an abstract expressionist painter residing in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. Landscapes and forms from nature are the inspiration for many of Ms. Karlen's paintings in layered, often ominous portraits of the world.

Karlen's use of color is what strikes me most about her paintings. It also helps that I love hoofed mammals, especially goats. Even if the goats are buried, giving rise to the repetitive trees above, trees that disguise the difficult terror beneath the ground.

I also am horrified by yet drawn to the large empty cavern with what looks like the tube of viscera on the right side. Perhaps it is an artery? Or a duodenum? Further decay. Yet somehow this decay is forceful and pleasing.

I think it best to not over think Megan Karlen's paintings...They seem to be created with a force that is not analyzed. So it seems best to experience them at a natural, first-view, gut-child level. The color gives joy. The composition ceases rational thought. The overall effect is stunning in the way a harvest moon fills us with awe, fear and happiness.

This painting and many others in the link below are for sale. When in Jackson Heights or from the privacy of your own home, consider adding a unique creative dimension to your home, business or public space.

Megan Karlen Paintings

Friday, January 06, 2006

New Years Eve in Thailand

And last but not least of all, the local restaurant in Jackson Heights, Arunee, serves up great Thai food. Adam and Megan and I had a nice little New Year's Eve dinner at this cute restaurant. I can't say it was the best Thai food I've ever had, but it was very good. (I think the Pink Pepper on La Brea in Los Angeles is lighter, easier on the palate. But Arunee does serve some crazy authentic things that the Pink Pepper does not attempt.)

Another eatery worth eating in...when in Jackson Heights.

About Arunee

Picture of Arunee

Thursday, January 05, 2006

So Nice, Had to Eat there Twice

Okay, it is no secret that Jackson Heights is an ethnically loaded area disguised as a historical garden apartment neighborhood. Basically...it feels a lot like a suburb of London.

So, it is no surprise that some of the best Indian food and markets in this country are in Jackson Heights. And the place to eat some of the most delicious Indian food ever?

Jackson Diner. The name doesn't say it all. Apparently, this is the left over name of the former business. These wry Indians kept the name and turned the place into a palace of delicious eating.

I ate there for the first time with my oldest friend, Megan, who is also our cozy neighbor. It was delicious.

Then, Adam (my recognized by the state of California Domestic Partner) and I and our friends John and Kathy (who introduced us over twelve years ago) and their two little girls, Julia and Dinah, ate there. Delicious again.

We even had lentil pancakes. Yum.

Jackson Diner 1

Jackson Diner 2

Jackson Diner 3

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Sometimes, you find something very authentic and you have to share the news.

Since there is such diverse food choices in Jackson Heights, one would think, "Italian...maybe some other time."

But my whole family came in on December 30 to see the Jackson Heights Apartment and since there is much Italian blood in the family, I figured I should make a reservation at the local famous Italian restaurant. Besides, my Irish father doesn't go so funky with food and Indian or Peruvian were out of the question.

This place turned out to be so old world and the food was so good, that even my sister-in-law, who is a big Italian cook, thought it was wonderful.

The owner was from a little town in Italy right up the road from where my grandmother's family came from. It was all very cozy and delicious.

Particularly good was my brother's saltimboca.

If ever hungry in Queens, visit Armondos. You won't be disappointed.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Strange Animal in a Box Rides the Subway

One of the highlights of this Christmas season was buying an appliance for our new apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. We decided to go into Herald Square on December 31, during a very romantic, large flaked snow fall. Looking up at the Empire State Building in the snow was so lovely. (Please, no one knock this one down.)

Using a gift card for Macy's that we received from my brother and his wife, we bought this strange machine. It microwaves. It toasts. It bakes. It grills. It's a wild animal with a goat body and a salmon head.

As the snow continued, with rain mixed in, we lugged the beast back to our apartment on the F train out to the Roosevelt Avenue stop, switched to the 7 train for one stop to 82nd Street and took turns carrying the heavy animal up to our apartment. Ah, New York. At least it wasn't a refrigerator.

When we got home and plugged it in, it actually did work. It boils water and also toasts bagels.

Sharp Warm & Toasty

NYC Subway Map