There’s A Connection, I Swear!

Clifford over at his blog Asymptotia has a great post up about the cycling he does and enjoys in Los Angeles and wonders what the best answer might be to strangers who see him on his bike and assume incorrectly that its all about the price of gas, while at Franklin Avenue Mike blogs some love for Silver Lake’s L.A. Mill Coffee Boutique and its upcoming Free Coffee Day (June 24) to celebrate its six-month anniversary. Mike also provides details on a charity event to be hosted at L.A. Mill that day called Bikes To Rwanda whose aim is to provide bicycles to cooperative coffee farmers in that country.

Reading about that reminded me of one of the photos I took from our African honeymoon in 2005 of Rwandans on the road from Ruhengeri, two of many who were pushing bikes bearing large and heavy containers of freshwater they’d filled at lakes some distance away, and so I posted the link to its page on my Flickr photostream in my comment to Mike’s post suggesting that not just bikes are needed, but bike trailers, too. Here’s the image:

Can you imagine having to do such an epic chore? Perhaps once a week or once every couple days? Hell, I’ve been bitching to myself this week because of the extra weight of the couple additional cans of Diet Pepsi I’ve brought in my backpack from home with me on my morning commutes (because the office vending machine owner just raised the price of their beverages 15 cents to $1.40). What if it was a couple hundred pounds of water I was obligated to get to Point B and mostly uphill?

The answer is I’d do what I have to do and so let’s go back to Clifford’s post. One of the comments a reader submitted somewhat sheepishly is something I regularly hear and boils down to the impracticality of a bike. I myself don’t disagree as evidenced by the truck I own and that I most recently used to go to Granada Hills and back at the end of May for graduation events at my daughter Katie’s high school, and to Costco a week later. We drove to my mom’s last night for a belated birthday/anniversary dinner in Burbank.

But the combination of Clifford’s post yielding that comment and Mike’s post making me recall that photo of those burdened Rwandan men got me thinking — and none of it profound. It just made me realize that no matter how ultimately successful and determined we humans are as a species, we are cursed with the ability to find a rationale for not doing something.

Can those Rwandans afford the luxury of options. Of course not. They and their families need water to survive and that’s the most efficient means available to them to get it.

So conversely to all the excuses we can raise in defense of the status quo, humans are nevertheless remarkably adaptable and capable. We can do what we have to do whether we have no choice or make the choice. And just as readily as we can avoid doing anything we don’t want to do — until we have no choice but to.

I Am A 6’2″, 215-pound Manly Man And I Have Absolutely No Problem Admitting That Eva Cassidy Makes Me Weep, Do You?

Just as there are songs like Prodigy’s “Firestarter” and Wall of Voodoo’s “Ring of Fire” that I can’t listen to while biking because they make me ride punkass angry almost to the point of where I’m looking for a fight, there are also songs that calm me without fail. The late and great Eva Cassidy’s version of “Over The Rainbow” is one of them. I swear my hair could be on fire simultaneously while some fudgepot in an SUV is trying to shoot me AND run me over and if Eva’s singing into my ear, it’s nothing but all good: have a nice day, nothing Supercuts can’t clean up — and by the way Turner’s is having a special on hollow points this week. Peace.

Not only that but I can listen to it over and over and over and over and overover and I did just that this morning pushing the back button on my iPod four or five times on the way in to work because I was a little bit funked up and Eva said easy there big fella, come over here and put your head on my shoulder and let me tell you where I’ve been and what I know.

In addition to the five or six times in a row today, Eva has soothed my savage beastie on hundreds of other occasions and without fail each time I listen to the first notes sung in that fragile voice of hers I always get chills and semi choked-up. It’s so pure and so magic. Then later omes the anticipation of the crescendo’ing refrain she builds to near the end in getting to :

“…way above the chimney tops,
That’s where… you’ll… find… Meeeeee!
Somewhere over the rainbow,
skies are blue…”

It’s that elongated powerful coloratura’d Meeeee! that flows into the next line that always gets my eyes watering. It’s the happiest and saddest sound in the history of song. It’s a plaintive wail and a triumphant cheer. And for the first time in all the brazillion times I’ve cherished her hitting that note, I was on 4th Street crossing Vermont and finally heard what she’s been trying to tell me all those times. She’s saying she got there. That she found it. That she’s seen what it was like over the rainbow and it’s awesome but it’s also far away and removed and it’s next to impossible to come back to what you know and love once you get there so don’t be in such a hurry to escape that you fail to appreciate what you have.

God Bless Eva Cassidy.

King Of Spain

Wow. That was weird. I’m out $15 and a couple hours sleep because of it.

The doorbell rings. Ranger barks. I’m awake. The clock reads 3:51 a.m. On the one previous occasion where we’ve been awakened by visitors at such an unsociable hour it’s been the cops and they did a whole lot of pounding and yelling incorrectly thinking I was the owner of a car whose alarm had been going off for hours.

I think: what now?

I pull on shorts and a shirt and approach the foyer. Susan follows me and watches from the livingroom. Through the glass in the door I see a solitary figure standing there, head bowed. The black jacket makes me first think police, but the heavy white sweater and the scarf the man wears beneath the jacket knock that down.

I open the door and immediately the guy in thickly accented English tells me his name is Juan Carlos and launches into a convulted story involving a truck with a broken transmission, something about his wife being away with the baby and his credit cards, and he only has $75 and the tow truck guy needs another $25 before he’ll do anything.

And I’m all huh?

He goes on to tell me that he’s a neighbor having just bought the “big place on the corner.”

“The red house?” I ask.

“No, the big place.”

I figure out he’s talking about the recording studio that once was a Pacific Red Car maintenance facility. Sure, it received a paint job a few months back but I hadn’t even seen so much as a For Sale shingle for that multi-million-dollar property.

Inside I’m skeptical, but outside I’m unable to just say no and slam the door. Instead I ask him why us and he says something about his next door neighbors not being home. I tell him that I don’t have $25 cash, I have $10, maybe $15. He counters that obstacle by saying that’s fine, whatever you have… anything.

I’m not stupid. Half asleep maybe but not a total idiot. Warning bells are ringing inside my head: the convenient story of woe; the “neighbor in distress” angle made more implausible by unlikely and apparently recent home purchase; the needing $25 but being willing to accept a lower amount. It’s all adding up to appear like a strange new waaaay-too-early residential version of those tweakers who’ll hit you up in supermarket parking lots needing gas money to get them and their children back to El Segundo.

Even so, color me the sucker: I still retreated to my wallet and returned with $15 that I handed over to him. Why? Maybe because it was easier way to get the guy gone than just saying no. Maybe there was a part of me that admired the balls it took to walk all the way up the stairs to wake a stranger up and ask for money. Maybe a veeeeeeeery small percentage of me believed he was telling the truth.

Whatever my reason, he was grateful and shook my hand, telling me “My home is your home” and promising to have the cash back to me under the front door mat later on in the morning.

Since I’m doubtful that’ll ever happen I should’ve told him to keep it and apply it to a AAA membership.

Survey Says! Click here to vote chump or champ?

Cue Rimshot

This is as frivolicious as it is lame (though that hasn’t stopped me before!), but ever since I discovered the east/west passage offered my bike and I by Washington Boulevard for our crosstown commutes I chuckle each time I pass this store on the corner of National and Washington, imagining the phone calls.


Never mind the 300-inspired “This! Is! Spartan!! Roofing Materials, how may I help you?” that one might conjure. Instead, I’m thinking more along the lines of how limited their actual inventory of roofing materials might be. After all they are “Spartan Supply.”

Hello, Spartan Supply.

Is. This. Spartan!?

Yep. That’s us. What can I help you with today?

I want to redo my roof with gray slate tiles.

Gray slate, eh? Right now we only have brown.

No gray?

Sorry, no.

All right, brown will do

Brown it is then. How much tile do you need?

1,500 square feet should cover it.

Oh, I’m sorry. We only have 45 square feet in stock.

Really? Why so little?

Because we’re Spartan Supply!

Random Takes On TV Truck Commercials

Being as I’ve mostly been watching football mostly on the broadcast box this past couple weeks, I’ve been abnormally subjected to the flow of repetitive crapaganda from truck makers who want me to buy their stuff. A meaningless sampling of the most offensive marketing schemes:

1) Chevy’s fauxtriotic “This is your truck” TV campaign backed by John Mellencamp squeezing his blandly genericana’d “This is our country” with all the energy of a tired old constipated man makes both the vehicle manufacturer and the musican more loathsome to me with each subsequent airing I see.

2) Ditto the loathing for Dodge’s idiotic Rock ’em-Sock ’em Robots spot. The match-winning blue robot leaving the ring can bash open a steel door, crash his head through a brick wall, scare a pair of hipsters into running off down the street, but can’t so much as pummel even a scratch onto the grill of the parked half-ton pickup he squares off on. “Ram Tough?” More like “Damn Enough!”

3) And then there’s the Nissan Titan spots that drag open with the first couple of dark and descending guitar notesfrom Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” While there’s no doubt it’s a classic headbangin’ song, the first thing it makes me do is remind myself I’ve gotta put Mercury on my list.

The Search Goes On…

I did it again. I got my hopes up high and huge that I would be The Perfect Choice for a gig in Hollywood I went after. Felt even moreso after I got to the second interview with the new marketing director.

But that second dance was in the middle of December. And a “Happy New Year” follow-up email sent the week after Christmas went unanswered. Seeing the writing on the wall I sent another one to the firm’s HR director about a week ago telling her I was indeed still available and very much interested. That one drew a response but it told me more than I needed to know:

Thanks for the follow up. We have narrowed in on [a] specific candidate though we’re still in the negotiation phase so the decision is not yet final. I will keep you posted.

Awwwww, come on! Didja have to go there with the “yeah we left you behind but we might come back and throw the bone in your general direction if our first and oh-so-infinitely more appealing and probably better qualified not to mention spiffier dresser with flawless skin and perfect teeth and higher IQ and more experience and more pleasing personality and wicked sense of humor along with a better cell phone who’s fluent in five languages turns us down.”

Really, now. A simple blanket blow-off of “We’re still in the process of finalizing our choice” would’ve been fine. Would’ve been better. Because to be frank this entire job searching thing is one big egosuck — especially when you have to hunker down and suffer through repeated rejections no matter how good you think you are. No matter what benefit you might think you’ll be.

So in the days that have passed since being told I was second best (or perhaps third or fourth) I’ve been recovering from the blow. And by recovering I mean trying to dig deep and steel my resolve to stand up and smile and dance with whoever next comes down the CareerBuilder/Monster/JournalismJobs/DotCom pipe.

I do my best to keep the outlook positive. I do my best to know that this isn’t forever and that there is some company out there that will slap me on the back and welcome me inside.

But it gets dreary. It gets mean. It gets scary. I find myself in the car on the way to the store, or walking the dog, or taking a picture or doing something in the backyard, or reading, or sleeping, and suddenly there’s a physical pain I experience as the voice inside my head tells me I don’t have what it takes. That I’m not tough enough or employable enough so why not just give up and become a cabbie or a clerk at Radio Shack. Do something punk, the voice tells me. Anything!

Ahhh, but I can’t do that. I won’t do that. And I’m still telling that voice no. And I’m still telling that voice that as difficult as it is it could be a helluva lot worse and lonelier if I didn’t have the love of my life standing with me. And I’m still telling that voice it is just a matter of time. And as such I pick myself up and go through the motions all over again, albeit a little more wary. A little less enthusiastic.

I applied to two jobs this morning. Two jobs I could and would kick ass at. Let’s see what happens.

Want Something Done Get Someone Else To Do It

An email came in yesterday from an editor at one of the local TV station’s news outfits. It salutated with “Hello Mr. Bell,” but other than that ringing error it was a very pleasant note stating that the writer and some colleagues read and enjoyed my interview with the anonymous artist I call the “Bird Man,” and as a result were thinking his would make a great story for their station’s news program. In hopes of getting the ball rolling they were curious if I could facilitate an interview by functioning as a go-between and forwarding the editor’s contact info onward to the artist.

This immediately hoisted whatever journalistic ire is left in me (no doubt stoked by that Mr. Bell thing). Certainly there’s nothing technically wrong with reaching out for assistance across the news media ether, but here’s the deal: The way I was able to contact the artist was with the assistance of Mike at Franklin Avenue who at the beginning of this month picked up the baton I’d jogged with and dropped back in September and reported via L.A. Brain Terrain that the dude had a blog and a MySpace page. Did I ask Mike or LABT to forward my info to the artist? Hell no. I went to his MySpace page and dropped the guy a cordial note to come out and play. He did and the rest is a very very minor thread woven into the fabric of the blogiverse.

Seeing as in the intro to the Q&A I reconnected the historic dots that got me to that point, and I provided links to both his blog and his MySpace page, frankly I was markedly put off by the lack of initiative the local news outfit’s editor/colleagues to contact the artist directly, and responded suggesting politely that I ain’t your message boy that’s what they should do — and I signed my first and complete last name. The kicker came when the editor wrote back that they couldn’t do that because to send a message via MySpace one has to have a MySpace page of one’s own and they didn’t have one.

Now this induced some semi-incredulous chortling and pfffft-ing for two reasons. First, love it or hate it MySpace is so freaking prevalent that having an account there is a virtual no-brainer, even if only to exploit its system as a conduit for communication. Second, it’s not like a Gmail account where you need some sort of official e-vite to join. Anyone, including mid-level editors at local news outlets, can get one.

On a side note and even funnier, the editor saw the mistake she’d made with my name in the initial correspondence and tried to cover it up by correcting it where it appeared in the quoted text thread. The attempted fix was almost partially endearing.

Anyway, I wrestled with the choice of being a decent fellow a message boy or being even more petty and petulant than I am and in the end I forwarded the editor’s initial email to the artist — and I even refrained from any editorial input about it. In my final reply to the editor I suggested that while waiting for word back (if any) from him that a MySpace account would be a fine idea.