Archive for August, 2006

Sometimes epiphanies can be found in the heart of the most trivial tediums, such as this morning as I was washing the petfood dishes after their breakfast. Certainly it is a simple task involving some hot water, a touch of soap, a scrub brush, some scrubbing. It is a chore I do in the morning and the evening after the animals have been fed. It takes a minute, maybe two.

But in the midst of doing it this morning a bigger picture was revealed: I am not a fan of unfinished business. In and of itself there is nothing at all profound there. Duh: who is? Instead, the profundity lies in my extrapolating that trait to the realization that I’m now at the milestone of 10 years into some seriously unfinished business. It was around this time a full decade ago that I cracked open a new document screen on the computer and pecked out these words:

Passed all the way down through the ladybug years,
From ladybug parents to their ladybug dears,
Does ladybug custom so dictate the telling,
Of a ladybug tale told each ladybug evening,
To ladybug children in ladybug beds,
Not quite ready to rest their little ladybug heads.

And Paperboy and the Ladybugs was conceived. It gave me chills to pen those first few stanzas. I was spontaneously subsumed with a creative energy I hadn’t felt since Breakdown, that apocalyptic short fiction I wrote at 18 years old when my future had gone into the crapper at terminal velocity. Suddenly in 1996 I had a story to tell. And in that first heady initial rush I did my best to tell it:

“What tale shall I tell? asked ladybug Cypress,
His children responded, “Dad, you must decide for us!”
“I have an idea,” he said striking a pose,
With a nod and a wink to his beloved Rose,
“I’ll spin you a story, yes, I know the one,
I’ve told it before but it’s sure lots of fun!”

I am not generally predisposed to procrastination — at least obviously not on small scales. If something needs doing I do it. But while I may not be able to leave those dishes for later or any of a score other chores/errands/projects that arise in the course of a day/week/et cetera, I sure as hell can subjugate my creative calling seemingly indefinitely without much consideration.

Ten years. That amount of time hit me over the head like a hammer this morning. And this from someone who’s been in a wide variety of deadline-oriented journalistic endeavors for the last 15 years.

How embarrassing. How frustrating.

In the past I’ve excused the dearth by how much my life has changed. I blamed the killer hours I spent at the Pasadena Weekly. I blamed the disintegration of my relationship with my daughter, for whom I had dedicated the book. In short all those tactics have been camouflage for a crisis of confidence; a lack of belief in my ability. I have been successful in continually devaluing my creative currency, and as a result I’ve diminished the story as well. But not completely. No matter how determined I’ve been to power my storytelling down, I’ve never been able to discredit the story itself:

The children all snuggled and Rose took a seat,
Only ladybug Cypress did stay on his feet,
As he swept them far back to a time long ago,
In a place that was busy and dirty and low,
Where many less did smile than those that did frown,
“The story,” he said, “takes place in a town.”

“A large one, a city, as big as can be,
With buildings that dwarfed even the tallest of trees,
Where rivers of asphalt met islands of pavement,
A harsh place that clearly was not much for ladybugs meant,
But ladybugs did thrive as ladybugs will do,
In spite of the dangers that were not to few.”

“But where was it,” peeped Kate, “What was this place called?”
Said dad “I suspected you might be appalled,
This place on a ladybug map you can guess,
Is far, far away and called Los Angeles.”
“Angels?” Chuck asked, adding, “were there any?”
Sage leaned over to Charles and whispered, “not many.”

Anyway, it’s time to get this dish done. I’m through blaming. I’m finished dismissing. I’m way over whining. I’m going to get this out of my head and off my back by making this the primary focus of my days from here until the first draft of a manuscript is done.
With diligence and determination I might not be away too long, so wish me a bunch of both.

Even if I have nothing of importance to say, I really dislike letting the blog stagnate, and rare is it that I go so many days without slapping something up — a photo or a flashback entry. Anything. So howsabout some bulletpoints that fill in the blanks and myabe look forward a bit:

  • Films watched: All (surprisingly) of Poseidon, 15 minute of Hoot, Most of Hombre, All of Jonathan Demme’s Neil Young: Heart of Gold.
  • TV watched: The finales of Deadwood and Entourage followed by two-minutes of the horrid Lucky Louie. A buncha HGTV. Five minutes of Monday Night Football on ESPN.
  • Events attended: Saturday at the Sunset Junction Street Festival.
  • Errands run: Ranger to the Echo Park Animal Hospital Saturday morning for her second round of puppy shots. Bike wheels taken to Bicycle Kitchen for long overdue truiing (aka balancing).
  • Books picked up:  The Adventures of Theodore Roosevelt by Theodore Roosevelt. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. The President’s Assassin by Brian Haig.
  • Books put down:  The Adventures of Theodore Roosevelt by Theodore Roosevelt (after 97 pages) . Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (after 10 pages). It’s a lame reason but they’re both just too much work to read.
  • Jobs applied for: 2.
  • Freelance assignment accepted: 1.
  • Current percentage level of confidence that I will ever work full-time again: 54.
  • Current weight: 214.
  • Number of days (at six days per week) the painters have been on premises: 19.
  • Current percentage level of desire that they will be finished soon: 97.
  • Number of evenings Bink spent outside, refusing to come in: 2.
  • Number of Diet Pepsis consumed: 18.
  • Things being considered for the upcoming Labor Day weekend: Hike to Mugu Peak with lunch at Neptune’s Net afterward. Walk the nine-mile route from the San Gabriel Mission to Olvera Street to celebrate Los Angeles’ 225 birthday. Take Shadow to Balboa Lake in the Sepulveda Basin for 12th anniversary of us finding each other there.
  • Things I’d like to do right this minute but can’t: Take the Red Line out to North Hollywood with my bike and cycle the bike path along the Orange Line route to Woodland Hills and back.
  • Things I can’t do right this minute but would like to:  Relax.

Early on into last night’s weekly bike boogie my crap pre-ride eating habits (or rather lack-of-eating habits) caught up with me and my blood/sugar level nosedived only a couple miles into the 17-miler that took us throught the dankiest and stankiest parts of Vernon, Maywood, and other parts previously unexplored. Plus I was an idiot and didn’t bring anything to cram down my piehole such as jerky or a nutrition bar or even gum.

So I just had to tough it out, especially considering the unwelcomes we got coming through some of the sketchier neighborhoods. In front of one factory one of a group of assembled workers on break advised us that we were “in the wrong neighborhood” as we passed. And later from the shadows of an auto repair place we rolled by came the disconcerting bellowing of “ET Phone Home! ET Phone Home!” And I’m not even counting the high number of unintelligible yells/calls/shrieks/whistles/growls generated from various porches or parked cars along the way.

Basically these were not the places to park it and make my fellow IAAL•MAF’ers sit and wait out my spell. So I just kept rotating one foot in front of the other on the pedals and I managed not to collapse. But I certainly was experiencing everything a decent hypoglycemic wallop can lay on ya: malaise, fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, elevated heart rate, narrow vision, shaking… and let’s not forget irritability. The best I can describe the sensation that results from such a concoction is a mix of wanting to simultaneously take a nap and fight and eat.

While my tanked system can be counted on to restore itself to acceptable levels eventually (quicker when you have some protein and/or sugar to restoke the fire), indeed most of the other symptoms abated after a few miles. But the irritability is always the last to go, and by the time we rolled up to our standard Little Tokyo post-ride sushi stop after 10 p.m., not only was I starving, but I had taken a sullen grumpiness that had settled in to an almost sinister level.

Having run a red light at Central and Second because I was just in no mood to obey traffic laws anymore, I was the first of our party of 10 to arrive at the eatery and I parked The Phoenix and hastily arranged some tables in the retaurant’s outdoor area for all of us before plopping down in a chair. I did not notice the dude with the guitar who I’m guessing had been set up and spare-change serenading the courtyard prior to our arrival. As everyone else arrived and parked their bikes my first introduction to the guitar guy comes at the end of some sort of mini-dialogue that I missed until the last thing I hear him say is “Well if any of you get run over, don’t blame me.”

Having to get up to turn off lights I’d left shining on my bike I dispatched a probe to scan for any trace elements of humor or sarcasm residue in the wake of that bullshit statement but in finding none, I said something like “Don’t worry, we’ll only blame you if you’re the one driving” and when he declined to engage I selected the fuggitaboutit option, re-took my seat and commanded my hackles to stay down.

Outta sight outta mind he went. But not really. A minute, maybe two later I’m perusing the menu and I feel the presence. Someone’s standing behind me. At first I think it’s any of the revolving area homeless that linger around our perimeter and ask us for money each week. But when I look up in the reflection of the restaurant window I see its the musician. And he’s just standing there surveying us. And standing there some more. Silently. Everyone else is successfully ignoring him, but as I’m already edgy to say the least I’m beginning to get creeped out and I reference him to no one in particular and express that I’m about freak if he doesn’t leave.

Just then he pipes up with some socio-geo-political platitude about how it’s “all about oil!” He says a few other uninvited things that we shrug off but the sense I get is that he’s just not impressed with us and our two-wheeled dealings. That somehow we’re poseurs with Hummers parked around the corner, totally illegitimate. Maybe that’s part his fault and part my evil grumpiness flavoring his tone to suit my antagonistic needs. Maybe he just didn’t like us parking all around the area he was using as his stage. Either way he was a jackass and I took the safety off my mouth, turned and fired back.

I started off by cracking that we’d just pedaled through Vernon and Maywood and the Alameda Corridor and lived to tell about it so anything he had to offer would pale in comparision to the receptions we received there.

He seemed slightly impressed by Maywood but before he could rebut I asked him to tell me if he got a bigger kick out of playing the guitar and being rude or playing the guitar and being nice. He considered that sincerely for a moment before answering the latter and I informed him that he and I must have gone to different schools of thought because if he thought he was anything less than insulting to us he was sadly mistaken. Then I turned my back to him, raised my fist and shouted “Maywood!” repeatedly until he saw I was a bigger jerk than him and retreated.

But not quite. As he shuffled away with his guitar I watched him go and in one last moment of torment he turned and faced us and looking right at me I made out the word “motherfucker” he mumbled under his breath. When he saw me smiling and shaking my head he asked me what my problem was and I pointed out that since I’d just seen him call me a motherfucker my problem was him. There was a couple beats of silence and then the guitar guy was miraculously visited with more wisdom than he almost knew what to do with

“Well then I’m just going to leave,” he said. And the heavens opened and the angels sang and the nine cyclists and one raging post-hypoglycemic complimented and congratulated him on a truly capital idea.

And leave he did.

And in his wake my man Mack Reed opened wise from across the table with “Making friends everywhere you go Campbell,” and I almost took offense to that, but the waitress showed up and took our orders.

EPILOGUE: If there’s a moral to this story it’s that by nature I do not suffer fools silently, but perhaps I can suffer them better if not on an empty stomach.

Could Susan and I have been painted with a more precise brush? In a sidebar to David Zanhiser’s reportedly exhaustive and outstanding piece on gentrification in this week’s L.A. Weekly (I’ve yet to read it) we get pegged on of all things… subtrim:

Subtrim.When a newly purchased house gets painted, some exacting buyers go the extra mile by adding subtrim — or, in other words, a third color. Here’s how it works: While the house gets a base color, the window and door frames receive a second trim color. Then the windows and doors themselves receive a third color, or subtrim. Subtrim is a surefire way to Pimp My Bungalow, giving it a bold shade like brick red or blood orange. Unfortunately, the most common color in a gentrifying neighborhood is the ubiquitous hipster green — a shade of olive slapped onto nearly anything – Spanish-style courtyards, Art Deco apartments, even medical buildings.

Well, the house ain’t newly purchased so ha! But he’s nailed our brick red trim and the siding is an olive-y green… though I wouldn’t call it “hipster.”

I got my hair cut today. Other than come home and rinse it out, I had no idea how severely short it now is until I saw an older webcam snap from earlier today. So I promptly assumed as similar a post and did a before-and after:



Feels about five pounds lighter.

This past Monday I started taking Ranger out for short walks — end of the block and back jobs — just to begin getting her acclimated to both the neighborhood and life on the leash. She dealt with both pretty well, but I noticed practically right away that she’s very skitish when it comes to unfamiliar noise or movement.

Yesterday I opted to broaden her horizons with a full walk around the block. She was mostly comfortable with the walk down to the end of the block, but once we headed east up Marathon any confidence she’d built up over the first two days immediately poofed. She was still dealing with the leash well enough, but there was just too much stuff going on for her to be anywhere near at ease.

Still we kept on going with me being very vocally positive and stopping to pet her often. But was we were coming down the hill of LaFayette Park Place where it empties into Benton Way at Sunset, something got her good and she jerked at a time when I didn’t have a good grip on the handle and she was at near full extension of the retractable lead behind me. So the big plastic casing that the cord rolls up into fell out of my hand and clattered up the sidewalk toward her reeling itself in and of course this freaked Ranger out even doubly so and off she went back up the hill with this noisy red plastic beastie gaining on her.

I set off in pursuit yelling her name and trying to tell her everything’s OK, already well aware and thankful that this didn’t happen around the bend on busy Sunset Boulevard where Ranger in her panic could have bolted out into the mass of traffic. I was gaining on her, but each time she’d look back and see both me and the beastie on her heels, she’d put it into overdrive and charge farther ahead.

Chugging up the hill I caught a break. Having yanked a left into the empty street, she yanked a right back up onto the sidewalk, hanging up the leash handle on a curbside plant in the process. Unfortunately she ran out the 15 feet of cord in time to yank the handle out from just under my foot as it was coming down upon it and we were both off again. After about 100 more feet with the leash nipping at her back feet, I finally stopped hoping that when she looked behind her again she’d see I’d called off the chase and stop. She did. I sat down on the curb sucking some serious wind and she waddled back up to me dragging the leash behind her.

End of adventure. And we opted not to continue down to Sunset but instead just went back home the way we’d come.

We left Sunset for today and it went off incident free. Bonus: she even went poop. She’s still a bit jumpy and whimpery but I kept a firm grip upon the handle at all times and she handled the busy street very well and now she’s crashed out under my feet.

Here’s a couple pix from today:



Despite my efforts I could uncover neither the original column nor the photograph assignment referenced in the previous post.

But I did find this long-lost relic of me and Sparkletts Water making friends in Atwater Village on my route back in 1990, taken by a customer of mine on Brunswick just south of Los Feliz Boulevard:

[large version here]

I thought this was lost forever.