Archive for April, 2011

The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Now that it’s behind me I’ll talk about it a bit. Yesterday was both an exhilarating and terrifying day. I did the employment equivalent of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane — some might add without a parachute.

I quit my job. The one I’ve had for the last 3.5 years. Talked it over with Susan and then submitted my resignation two weeks ago actually wanting my last day to be that day, but my boss — who’s a great guy — asked if I could hang around until the end of the month finishing up the current issue of the magazine I edited, and out of respect for him and because I’m a nice enough guy I said sure.

Why’d I quit? I suppose if there were an over-arching theme it would have to be that I really felt like a puppet on a string and the puppetmasters were a succession of kids running wherever they wanted and dragging me along whether it be through broken glass or bullshit. And after the first exciting and great few months on the job, there wasn’t ever a time where I felt secure. The magazine I was in charge of was struggling and the company was sold less than a year later and from there on there were waves of layoffs and until the company was sold a second time there literally wasn’t a day I came in when I didn’t wonder if it would be my last.

The last company told me things weren’t going to be much different right out of the gate when the CEO arrived at the office for introductions last year and in the midst of a presentation given by my boss to him about the state of my magazine, the sumbitch literally sat there checking email and texting on his phone while my boss was doing his best to showcase the publications he managed.

In mental replay, I don’t sit there in mute shock at such an insult. Instead I stand up, interrupting my boss to storm out saying that I don’t work for assholes — especially those who sign my paycheck — whose first impression made is one in which they can’t afford the basic fucking decency of turning off their goddam phone and giving someone their full attention and respect.

But of course I just sat there. Because beyond the low opinion the CEO provided for himself, things actually started looking up. Editorial initiatives previously shot down by the prior regimes that I stubbornly re-presented, finally gained traction and support and approval and I thought 2011 was going to be the year things turned around. For the first time since the first few months on the job, I was excited at the prospects of revitalizing the magazine.

Then and without any discussion or advance warning in December, I was told by my boss that drastic changes were underfoot, which translated once again to my best laid plans and enthusiasm not meaning shit. Cryptically he told me to hold tight that he had a plan to keep me employed but he just couldn’t be certain at that point the execs would go for it. They did, and in January my magazine was basically gutted down to a twice-yearly shadow of its former self, and I was moved from it to edit another monthly magazine, whose editor my boss terminated.

So in absence of any form of a transition and with literally microscopic knowledge of the industry this new title covered, I put on my game face. But in addition to the initial chaos, I couldn’t get past the fact that without even the slightest  forewarning to or input from me, my corporate overlords didn’t look at the potential for 2011 to be positive for the magazine I’d worked on for more than three years, they just looked at the bottom line as they always did and saw no hope.

Then came my vacation last month. Though it had been percolating for more than a year, I had repeatedly hesitated putting in the time-off request for two reasons: 1) As previously stated there was a good chance that every day in the office might be my last so why bother, and 2) There was the possibility the vacation wouldn’t happen itself. As a result I didn’t submit the request until about six weeks before the date of departure. And that caught my boss and his boss a bit blindsided, leaving them to question who I was so new in my new job to “suddenly” want to take two weeks off. Not an invalid question for debate, but one they once again didn’t put much regard in my rebuttal.

Nevermind my defensive explanations that I hadn’t taken an extended vacation in two years, or that this was something planned for a long time, or that company guidelines dictated that vacation requests need to be submitted only as soon as two weeks prior to the first day off, word came back from my boss that his boss had been threatening a veto.

And that was pretty much the straw that stress-fractured the camel’s back. What stressed it even further were the conditions that followed. In “granting approval” for me to utilize vacation time well-earned I was ordered in the few days remaining before jetting off to the far east to have all my ducks in a row not only for the current issue, but I’d damn well have every single fucking waterfowl lined up and standing at attention for the two successive issues after that.

I tried my damnedest, but failed. While in Cambodia I got an emergency text about a minor project deadline that had slipped under my radar. I texted back my apologies and that I would deal with it first thing upon my return — and I did, despite the news that greeted me of my mother’s hospitalization with a serious illness.

But that failure was enough to send my boss’ boss into orbit and force my boss to dress me down with an Official Verbal Warning in the form of a solemn phone call that week that included plans to micro-manage me going forward.

“Are you confident in your ability to do your job?” he asked at the end of the call, and I answered without hesitation confidently in the affirmative.

I didn’t lie. I had no doubt I could do what was asked of me. But what I realized as I thought about it extensively over that weekend of the second CicLAvia in Los Angeles, was that where I lacked confidence was in the company for which I worked, one whose CEO sat texting while his magazines burned; one that didn’t care for the hard work I’d wanted to do in my previous editorial role;  and one that veritably demonized me for daring to take a well-deserved vacation — and then added insult by so heavily conditionalizing its approval of the time off.

So Susan and I talked it over and she saw how important it was for me to terminate rather than be terminated, to take positive action rather than be acted negatively upon, and on April 11 I did so, reluctantly agreeing to stay through to the end of the month and completing my final issue.

True to my word, I did.

So now what? Now it’s on to putting an end to my adult-lifetime’s worth of being to afraid to see what I’m made of creatively. To finally devoting myself full-time to unlocking my imagination and letting the stories long dormant in there spill out into actually form. I’ve given myself four months to manifest a variety of projects fiction and nonfiction. Is that enough time? Of course not. But it’s enough time to give myself that chance of which I’ve too long been unwilling to take.

I’ve never been brave enough to do such a thing, but I’ve also never been brave enough to voluntarily jump from the safety of a job into the void.

The first step’s a doozy, but done. Onward.

It’s That Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Y’can’t Touch This: Hammock Time 2011 — Straight Outta The Basement Tour

Let the reclination projects… begin!

Book It

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Three Cats On The Bed On A Drizzly Sunday

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

I Always Knew Where I Was Going & How To Get There

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

I’ve probably written about this incident before, but I’m too tired to verify my redundancy so if the tune that follows sounds familiar, sorry about that. But even if I have repeated myself, I’m writing about it again because I draw a measure of comfort from it since in some ways presently I’m in a similar place, facing a journey (but one far longer than 2.5 miles) into the unfamiliar toward a goal whose location I believe I know or at least hope I do – but I’m not quite sure.

I was 8 years old. Second grade. I don’t remember what school holiday it was but with the day off I was given the opportunity by my mom either to accompany her shopping on the Miracle Mile at the May Company and Ohrbach’s and Standard Shoes, or spend the morning at the Beverly Hills YMCA on Little Santa Monica Boulevard, fully at the opposite from where we lived in an apartment south of Wilshire Boulevard just inside the eastern limits of that city.

It was a no-brainer. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the department stores. In May Company I played this game for as long as I could get away with it where I’d hide on the floor in the center of those big circular clothing display racks and I’d wait until a particularly lovely leg came within my  reach and I’d reach through the outfits and grab myself a handful of ankle. The ladies weren’t so keen in playing so the game lasted usually for one ankle, maybe two. Both usually accompanied by startled yelps that would bring an end to my fun either in the form of a clerk and/or my mother arriving.

But the trip was bound to also include a visit to the Home Silk Shop where my mom could stand and stare at bolts of fabric and packages of Vogue patterns for hours on end.

So it was the YMCA that beckoned me and the plan was for me to occupy myself there until my mother could retrieve me after getting her fill of stuff, however long that took. That would have been no problem given the number of kids and the variety of activities that usually can be found there… carroms, basketball, gymnastics, tumbling, crafts. But it turned out there was a problem. I found this out after giving my mom a kiss, hopping out of her 1965 Mustang, slamming its door and sprinting to the Y’s entrance as she drove off down the street to the Fairfax Avenue department stores.

I found the front doors locked. Apparently the YMCA had taken the day off, too.

In a moment I was barreling down the street in the direction of my mom’s receding car, yelling after her and waving for all I was worth. But the frantic attempt to get her to see me in the rearview mirror was in vain and I stumbled to a standstill in front of the Friar’s Club building at the corner watching the metallic blue sedan get smaller and smaller until it made a right at Wilshire and disappeared out of sight. I stood there, and for a few desperate moments I was the loneliest boy in the world.

I returned to the Y’s door and tried to open it again, but it held firm. I looked around for any signage that at that point in my young life I could barely read, but found none. I knocked politely on the door. Then I knocked impolitely. Then I pounded on it with my 8-year-old fists hoping perhaps someone might be inside, but if there was anyone there they either ignored the noise I was making or didn’t hear it.

Leaning with my back against the door I slid down to a sitting position on the sidewalk with my knees pulled up to my chin. Scared. And angry. But far more scared. And beneath it all: bored. Despite somehow knowing that it was my duty to stay put, the thought of sitting there for hours upon hours upon hours until my mom returned soon become too much to bear, and I rose to my feet looking in the direction which she had gone.

Keep in mind, I was a veteran pedestrian by that time — they called me: The Latchkey Kid (cue the western music) — having walked to school at Horace Mann Elementary and back for more than a year since my first day of first grade. But Horace Mann was a scant nine blocks away. The Beverly Hills Y was much farther beyond my known and familiar perimeter.

And without more than a moment’s hesitation, I set out to walk home. Certainly I was in foreign territory and the navigational concepts of left and right or east and west and distance were still a ways out of my intellectual grasp, but I knew Wilshire was the street off of which I lived and whether it was common sense, an innate directional capability, stupidity, or dumb luck (or perhaps a bit of all four), I knew I could find my way home.

And I’m not kidding about my intellectual grasp. As an example one has only to look at the pride I had around that same time in my early development and reading comprehension in deciphering the name of a rental car agency across the street from Horace Mann, whose huge sign I passed regularly was one I had struggled to figure out. Eventually I decided triumphantly that its pronunciation involved two distinct syllables that formed words of their own.

Passing the brightly lighted sign one evening I proclaimed “Look mom: Bud Get!” from the back seat of the Mustang heading home. Preoccupied, my mother simply replied, “That’s nice,” nonetheless an affirmation that of course left me mispronouncing the word for however long it took until I absorbed the phonetic rule that a “d” and a “g” worked together in making the “juh” sound.

Boy did I feel like an idiot with that revelation.

As to how far that Bud Get sign might be from the corner of Little Santa Monica and Wilshire, I couldn’t even imagine as I stood there. Fortunately though, I turned in the correct direction and proceeded towards my destination.

I’d like to regale you with the high drama that must have certainly accompanied the oddyssey of an 8-year-old boy trekking by his lonesome across the breadth of Beverly Hills. Surely there must have been encounters with mad dogs, and grumpy old men, jaywalking, escapes from bullying teens and rescues of damsels in distress. But this is a work of nonfiction, and frankly, the only thing I remember during the heroic walk home — spent obeying all laws and signs and looking both ways before stepping off a curb — is that it took a lot longer than I expected, and I was becoming tired and disheartened enough in those last few blocks leading me to the Bud Get sign that I began to worry and doubt myself. Had I gone in the wrong direction? Is it much farther than I’d imagined or hoped? Am I… lost?

But then I got to Robertson and I saw the fence bordering Horace Mann’s playground and next I swung my head in the other direction and caught sight of the sign there across the street, and I knew I was home free. I counted down the nine subsequent blocks crossed and turned south on Tower Drive for home. letting myself triumphantly into the apartment with the key I never left home without.

The television and my toys conspired to drain away the ensuing time until my mom charged through the front door in the mid-afternoon yelling my nickname — Twig!? — even though I was right there on the couch in front of her playing with my dinosaurs. Her relief that I was safe narrowly defeated the anger and fear I saw in her eyes, and she swept me up in a big hug first before plopping me back down in the couch and demanding to know what happened.

“I walked home,” I said.

“You what!? Why?”

And I told her basically what I’ve just told you.

She was blown away. And to be honest all these years later, so a little still am I.

— • —

Mentioned Landmarks: The Beverly Hills YMCA is no longer there; the building still stands and above the large gym window one can still see the organization’s triangular logo built in to the wall, but the space is now occupied by the Beverly Hills Community Sports Center. Obviously a personal landmark than a cultural one, the Budget rental car branch on Wilshire just east of Robertson Boulevard rented cars at that same location until the past year or so when about half the block was demolished and is currently in the midst of redevelopment as some sort of office complex. And yes, even after learning the word’s proper pronunciation, in all my times passing the place up until its destruction I called it “Bud Get.” Lastly, the poor Friars Club building, a 1961 modernist masterpiece from architect Sidney Eisenshtat was razed earlier this year, in part because the city of Beverly Hills has no protections for its historic resources.

I Made A Book

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I took 120 or so of the 5,818 stills my camera captured during last Sunday’s CicLAvia and dove into Lulu.com to create a photo book that can tell the visual story of last Sunday’s CicLAvia. I’m not quite at the stage to publish it, but as soon as I get there, you’ll be the first to know.

I’m there. But please don’t get all wide-eyed at the high pricetag. Lulu’s base cost left me no choice — and for what it’s worth, I’ll be donating half the proceeds from each book sold to CicLAvia.org.

More With The CicLAvia Timelapsing?

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

So after the tip from my friend Elson (who, by the way, will be performing with his band at tomorrow’s Streetsblog fundraiser) led me to the discovery that I crossed stop-motion paths pretty much simultaneously with the creator of another CicLAvia timelapse, I quickly realized that the East to West vid I posted was of my first return trip to East Hollywood from Boyle Heights, and not the latter mid-afternoon return trip in which we intersected.

So, sorry if this is getting a wee bit too repetitive for you, but of course I went into the archives and compiled those previously ignored and unseen frames into yet another timelapse — for no other reasons than posterity and to save it at an HD-level resolution (oh, yeah and to include Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Back Home Boogie” as the soundtrack):