Monday, February 28, 2005

Last month in Antigua I did a two-tank SCUBA dive. The first one went down about 75 feet, and even that deep, the water was crystal clear all the way to the bottom. Our dive leader spotted a sting ray, half covered in the sand, and chased a flounder across the ocean floor. We saw a nurse shark -- you can actually reach in and pet them as they rest underneath the coral. But I wouldn’t try that with the moray eels gaping out of their holes. Or the giant crabs hanging on beneath the rocks.

Oui, ze lobster, she is an elusive creature... You see eet hiding zere? Non?"

By far, the scariest thing are the barracudas. They’re not terribly huge, but thanks to a slope on the top of their head and a maw filled with razor sharp teeth, the little bastards look like they’ve got a menacing scowl. And they don’t move. While the rest of the sea life sways with the ocean -- the anemones, the parrot fish, the giant groupers, and us humans lugging around our metal-tank lungs, we’re all rocking to the beat -- the barracuda remains motionless: "I don’t dance, motherfucker. But get closer and I’ll show you my flesh-ripping rhumba."

Let us look under ziss bit of coral. Les poissons, les poissons?

One of the things I love about SCUBA diving -- the relative quiet. Hearing very little except my Darth Vader inhales... and then the rumble of bubbles as I exhale. If you hold your breath, it’s nothing but the sound of the waves gently brushing everything back and forth (except that fucking barracuda). Oh, but don’t hold your breath as you ascend, or your lungs will explode, and that would ruin the silence.

Come out, you succulent crustacean. Don’t be shy, mon amie...

One of the things I hate about SCUBA diving -- being in the boat just before and after dives. Out a few knots, even in the calm Caribbean, the swells are nauseating on the surface. I have to stare out at something stationary -- the horizon -- as the other divers come up and start asking, "Hey did you see that beautiful school of tangs?" I tell ‘em unless they wanna see what I had for breakfast, please don’t talk to me ‘til the boat starts moving again.

Ahh, zere you are! Eet ees hard to see you in ze sacre bleu.

The second dive was only 35 feet, so I was able to bring my cheapo disposable underwater camera (it’s waterproof up to 50 feet). Saw some great stuff, but unfortunately, the shots just didn’t come out that well. A few of the other divers had excellent 5 megapixel digicams, with plastic encasings that allowed them to take pictures even on the first dive. I wonder if theirs looked good, or got "blued" out, too.

And what ees ziss? A leetle remora swims avec our dive leader, thinking eet ees a shark. Oh, you silly sucker fish!

Photos or not, it’s an experience you never forget.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Fueled by a large dose of caffeine, I can become very one-track-minded. That's good when I need to concentrate. The brain takes over and tells the rest of me to ignore everything else at the coffee shop. Then I manage to zero in on my laptop and what I’m writing that day.

I’m working on describing a character in my story, a guy who’s gone crazy. I need a better way to say it, though. Demented... Deranged...

I’m in the zone, not distracted by what my ears hear. The noisy mixers whirring away to make those ice-blended mochas, the banging out of the coffee grounds... No effect. Loony... Loco... My eyes see the customers: that regular at the café -- the man with the gray dreadlocks, or that woman telling her two kids not to knock over the display of designer mugs... they don’t deter me from the task at hand. Having a screw loose...

Even that radiant woman who walks past me. I glance up, see she’s flashing a smile, so I return a grin and then focus down at the laptop... irrational... Wait -- out of the corner of my eye... was she still holding that gaze? I look back, but she’s eased on to her seat now.

Okay, whatever, let’s get back to our story: This character had a traumatic experience which caused him to snap. Ever since that fated day he’s been... a whack-job... insane in the membrane...

She walks past to pick up her drink and turns to me again. This time I don’t look away. This woman isn’t just being friendly... this is an ear-to-ear smile. Wow, those bright brown eyes, that cute little nose... that face...

Gotta say something... Bonkers? Koo-koo?

Nothing comes out. She heads to her seat. Shit.

Okay, time to redirect Central Intelligence with a new assignment: Project Pretty Girl. First step: Come up with something witty.

Uh... Which do you like better? Nuts or bananas?

Will you forget the stupid story?!

A couple of minutes go by, and my eyes are checking out her nice figure, my ears are listening to her dulcet voice when she speaks briefly on her cellphone. And I’m racking my brain for an opening line. Then I spot her pull out a book and open to a chapter.

Okay. I can walk past, ask her what she’s reading. Maybe I know it. Or I heard good things about it... play it by ear. That’ll work. Okay. Go.

And then some dude walks in and sits down at her table. She knows him. They start chatting. Damn.

So I didn’t get the girl and I didn’t get much writing done. But I did come up with that description I was looking for:

Fucked up. Yeah, that’s about right.

Friday, February 25, 2005

A few more movie 'toons... (click to enlarge)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I used to send a friend little cartoons every now and then (still do, but not as often now that blogging has become my creative taskmaster) and sometimes they were gags about the latest flick I had seen. So even though these movie references are a couple of years old, I thought with it being Oscar season, might as well display 'em now. And there's plenty more where these came from...

(Click on the cartoons to enlarge them)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Speaking of the mourner’s prayer…

My father’s death was much more devastating for my sister than for me. I had sadly accepted it right there at the emergency room; it took longer for her to let the reality sink in. And for a while, I think it made her irrational and superstitious about things. She became -- for a brief period -- more religious, but that’s not exactly what I mean.

She wanted us to go to temple more than we used to. More than zero? I guess I can handle that.

Now, I’m not big on attending services, but I wouldn’t mind it terribly once in a while. I subscribe to the basic tenets of Judaism, and it’s good to feel connected to my heritage, plus I was getting rusty on reading Hebrew. It’s a phonetic language, and I read (though don’t know what most words mean) the way a child first learns to read, struggling to pro…nowwwnce… eee…ch ssss…owww…nddd…

One time she said it was really important we go to temple, so I got to the synagogue, and my sister called my cell to say she was running late. Just great. I rushed over to get here before sundown, which in the winter meant putting on a schvitzy suit at four in the afternoon -- on a Saturday for Kaballah’s sake -- and she was spinnin’ her dreidel or Adoshem-knows-what.

Half-hour into the service, I saw her rush into the back of the congregation. She whispered to me, did they already say the kaddish -- the mourner’s prayer? I told her yes, and she panicked. A look of dread washed over her face; she was starting to cry.

I dashed her out of the synagogue, clutching my yarmulke and asked her what’s wrong.

She sputtered that Dad won’t get into Heaven unless we said the kaddish a certain number of times within a year of his passing. I don’t remember the number she gave me -- nine times? Or was that how many instances Ferris Bueller was absent from school? “Niiine tiiimes…” And, it has to be said with a minyan, a group of ten people praying together. She had counted how many times we said the kaddish between his funeral, the shiva (kinda like a Jewish wake), and the other times we went to temple. She was worried that we didn’t say it enough and, since she didn’t get to say it, too… I dunno… she wasn’t making sense.

I first thought of telling her what I remember from reading St. Augustine’s City of God, a point later reiterated by Martin Luther, that the rituals don’t matter as much as the faith, that they should come only as a result of one’s beliefs, not the other way around.

Problem with that, I don’t really believe in Heaven. If you ask me, this is the main attraction, not the trailer. So enjoy your popcorn before those final credits roll.

But it might depress my sister even more, telling her I think that Dad is gone. Would it help if I say he exists in our memories and the way he’s affected us (it’s scary how I’ll unintentionally emulate the old man sometimes)? Maybe not. And that was what I believed, not her. Didn’t need to get into a theological debate. Still, I couldn’t help feel that my sister was being a bit silly about this.

I said, if Heaven exists, did she really think Dad would be at the Pearly Gates, talking to St. Peter or St. Gabriel or Peter Gabriel or the Prophet Elijah or the Gatekeeper or Cryptkeeper or whoever’s holding the holy clipboard… And be told, “Well, let’s see… yes, a good man, always treated his family right… respectful to everyone… hmm, used the Lord’s name in vain a lot, usually while yelling at his no-good son, but we’ll overlook that… honest in his business dealings -- in the construction business, no less -- very impressive… yep, all looks in order…

“Oh, but wait. They only said the mourner’s prayer for you eight times. Seems you’re one kaddish short. Sorry. No bliss for you!”

My sister seemed to calm down and realize she was just still emotional about losing Dad. We went back in to continue the services, and y’know what? They said the kaddish again, I think even a couple of times. So we surpassed our quota… just in case.

The old man would be proud of us… if he’s really watching…

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ol’ man Marvin, bless him. 60-something years old and still goes to the gym every morning.

At least every morning I go. Which isn’t often, ‘cause I’ve been going in the evening... but not really that often lately...

Anyway, I think he missed me.

He came over to chat while I was right in the middle of whimpering in pain beneath instruments of self-torture. Marvin doesn’t do weights. He just jangles himself around the gym, jabbering away to all the other masochists.

“Hey, did you see that news program this morning? That one with the guy and the two gals?” I had no idea what he meant. “You know, it’s on Fox?”

I exhaled a yeah. Not surprising Marvin liked that LA wake-up show. Jillian Barberie is just as grating and perky in the morning as him.

“They asked the weatherman how much rain we’ve gotten so far, and he checked his stats and said, ‘I got 34 inches,’ and the gals went ‘oooh!’” Then Marvin let loose with a cackle. I grunted.

Guess that wasn’t enough of a response for him. “Hey, you’re a fellow member of the tribe, here’s a Jewish joke for ya...” I know, I shoulda just told Henny Youngman here I still had two more sets to do, but the poor schlemiel was so anxious for a laugh...

“This guy Moishe’s out of work, so he gets a job at the zoo. But when the gorilla dies, they ask him to dress up in a monkey suit until they can get a new gorilla. He’s in the cage, pretending to be a gorilla, doing monkey acrobatics... some back flips and front flips... attracts quite an audience. He gets so exuberant, he backflips... over the wall, and into the lion’s cage. Moishe’s sure he’s gonna die, right in front of that whole crowd, so he starts saying the mourner’s prayer in Hebrew.

“‘Yit-gadal v'yit-kadash...

“And then the lion says, ‘'mey raba, b'alma di v'ra hirutey...

“Moishe’s surprised to hear the lion talking... and then they both hear the panda say, ‘Hey you two schmucks, keep it down, you’re gonna get us all fired here!’”

“Bwahahaha!” I burst out, cracking up.

Which was more painful to do than that last set of curls. But it got Marvin satisfied to go out on a laugh and he moved on to his next victim -- some musclehead on the bench press.

Now, was that really funny? I was too tired to tell...

I do know one thing: I gotta go to the gym more often... in the evening.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Deirdre was possibly the prettiest girl among those in our high school advanced classes. She was also accessible and friendly. Very down-to-earth. Kind of a cross between Diane Cort from Say Anything... and There’s Something About Mary’s Mary. So of course she was quite popular among the guys I knew -- I’m sure a lot of ‘em were hair gelling themselves over her -- but she and I were just friends.

We’d talk about sex a lot. She’d explain that girls associated sex with a relationship, to intimacy, whereas with guys it was mostly physical and kind of an ego thing. I agreed, but pointed out that while girls would say they wanted the first time to be special, they’d admit they weren’t planning to marry the guy who deflowered them. In fact, after their first time, they’d be willing to be much more casual about sex, to enjoy the pleasure and gain experience. Just like the guys. I thought they got the order of things mixed up.

We didn’t get personal in these conversations, just conceptual, really. I’m not sure how many bases she had rounded; I had scored a few runs. But the occasional times I had gotten lucky were overwhelmed by numerous frustrating exhibitions of chastity. Clothes strewn across the couch, body parts entangled on the living room floor, thankful the girl’s parents were out of town... then hearing that "no, I’m not ready, I want my first time to be special" mantra. Which didn’t seem to jive with the excuse of "I dunno, you’re such a nice guy, Michael..." Never knew what to say to that. "No, I’m a jerk. But a special jerk. So let’s do it, baby..."

Of course I didn’t share these thoughts with Deirdre. There was definitely an attraction between us but we never admitted it or acted on it. I guess we silently acknowledged that hooking up would cause a maelstrom of dissent within our circles, and back in high school, this would mean the world would collapse upon itself. So we remained just friends, even though there was a lot flirting going on.

Plus we both were often seeing someone else. I had just started dating this girl who was in the school chorus, so she was in with the whole music/performing arts crowd. She told me about two guys from that group: fraternal twin brothers, Gus and Pablo.

They had already graduated, but last year they were quite the Casanovas. Being upperclassmen gave them some appeal among the juniors and sophomores. And I suppose they were tall, dark, and... Handsome? Well, Pablo was also on the wrestling team with me. I had seen him in the locker room, naked. Dude just did not have a happy body. The idea of any girl gettin’ it on with him made me shudder in disgust, but what do I know? As Eddie Murphy said in 48 HRS: The generosity of some women never ceases to amaze me.

Actually, these guys had an interesting scheme for bagging the babes. Either Gus or Pablo would get close to one of these young, inexperienced, impressionable girls and then hand them this super-sappy line: "You seem so special to me. I would love to be your first." And it worked. Then, after they hooked up, he’d blow her off. She’d get depressed, and go crying... right into the arms of the other brother. Taking advantage of her being sad, vulnerable, and on the rebound... Bam! -- he’d nail her, too.

It sounded pretty shitty, but I gotta admit, I was intrigued with the effectiveness of the plan. My girlfriend told me they tag-teamed quite a few of her friends that way.

"Really?" I looked at her. "You know... you seem so special to me..."

"Nice try," she said. "Maybe after the prom."

Yeah, the end of the school year was approaching, and we were all hanging out on campus, enjoying the warm weather, when Pablo and Gus showed up. Done with their freshman year at their respective universities, they came to say hi to their old friends, and got a warm reception from a lot of people. I was wondering how pathetic it was for college men to still be hanging around high school kids... when I noticed Pablo was checking out Deirdre’s photo in our yearbook.

"Damn, she looks hot," he said. "I’d love to get her in my dorm room at Cornell..."

What a wanker. Then he scowled and said to me, "She’s not still going out with that guy, Scott, is she?"

Now, normally I enjoyed making fun of Deirdre’s boyfriends. Scott was a big-chinned soccer player, though a totally decent dude. Still, I’d ask her how Pelé the Pelican was doing. And Deirdre would retaliate with a crack about my girlfriend’s dark brunette hair contrasting with her very fair skin. "What’s black and white and has trouble going through a revolving door? Michael’s girlfriend with an arrow in her head."

This time I raved about Scott, what a great guy he was and how he and Deirdre were getting pretty serious. But Pablo didn’t seem to care. Schmuck said he’d be hanging out at all the upcoming graduation parties. And would definitely catch up with Deirdre soon.

Yeesh. I tried not to think about it, but it bothered me to no end.

Finally, I called up Deirdre. Made some small talk, trying to be casual. Hey, did she see Pablo and Gus when they were at school today? Oh, no? But, what? You figure you’ll see them a lot this summer?

And then I launched into it. Told her everything my girlfriend had said, and then the way that lecherous Pablo was ogling Deirdre’s photo. Had to wipe the drool off my yearbook...

Deirdre seemed angry. But was she mad at the Booty Brothers, or me -- the messenger? One of the twins’ "conquests" was a good friend of hers, but Deirdre had never heard about it. I suggested maybe her friend was too embarrassed to share. Deirdre didn’t want to believe it.

I said I didn’t think my girlfriend had any reason to lie about this. But still, I didn’t want to spread rumors. So maybe it was all bullshit. Maybe these guys didn’t pull that routine on the girls. And maybe Pablo didn’t really have designs on Deirdre. And maybe Deirdre would be too smart to fall for it anyway.

But, I said, if either of those guys did anything to hurt her...

"...what?" She still sounded angry, as if I was going to finish by saying I told you so. But that’s not what I had in mind.

"...I’ll rip their fucking lungs out."

I was dead serious, too. But then I was surprised at myself, how I was feeling. Wasn’t just the disturbing thought of Deirdre being used like that. Or the subsequent violent rage I would unleash on those bastards. I realized that my attitude about casual sex had changed slightly....

Deirdre was quiet on the other end of the phone, which also made me self-conscious. Was she still pissed? Mad at me for meddling in her affairs? Uncomfortable with me revealing -- in a strange way -- how I cared about her?

She didn’t say much; it was the way she said it. Deirdre sounded all choked up and just said, "Thanks, Michael."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Usually I do this much earlier in the year, so then I figured, why bother? But since the Oscars are coming up, I thought I should still display my list of favorite flicks. I’ve listed -- in some form or another -- every movie I’ve seen this year. So if I get around to seeing something like Finding Neverland, it might amend the list at a later date. Until then, here’s...


10. Dawn of the Dead
What can I say? I like good horror movies. While this one couldn’t duplicate the poignancy of the original (consumerism = zombification), it has some brilliant sequences, like the opening credits against the Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around”, the montage against the lounge version of “Down With the Sickness”, and the excellent cast against the undead celebrity look-alikes.

9. Hotel Rwanda
Some have called it the African Schindler’s List, but I venture to say that this movie was better in terms of story-telling, because it followed closely the main character who tried to help the victims of genocide, rather than venture outside his scope -- his hotel sanctuary -- just to shock the audience with the atrocities. Fascinating, moving and educational. This movie answered a few questions of mine: Is Don Cheadle overrated? I had always thought so... until this movie. And I never understood the difference between the Hutus and Tutsis. Basically, there is none.

8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
This series keeps getting better. It could be the introduction of the Dementors, the mysterious Sirius Black, played perfectly by Gary Oldman, or the direction by the guy who did Y Tu Mama Tambien. But I especially liked the Back to the Future twist in the third act.

7. Spider-Man 2
Even better than the original. Doc Ock is a much cooler villain, and, like the CGI of Spidey zipping through NYC, the characters seemed more real in this one. Such drama, too: Aunt May telling Peter Parker that she threw out his comic book collection?! Hey, would Spider-Man be able to fight crime in a place that doesn’t have tall buildings for him to spin webs from? Like, if Peter Parker came to LA, would it be too spread out and leave him squashed like a bug on the Hollywood Freeway?

6. Supersize Me
I stopped eating fast food after seeing this guy’s transformation over a month. And I’ll never grow a Fu Manchu mustache after seeing how ridiculous he looked right from the beginning.

5. Fahrenheit 9/11
Say what you will, it makes a controversial point while entertaining you with drama, humor and heartbreak. At one point, I’m cracking up at Dubya as the Greatest American Hero, and then wiping away tears at the mother who lost her son in Iraq. And if the film did nothing else, it created a whole new industry. I don’t just mean documentary exposés, I mean anti-Michael Moore books and movies.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufman’s last couple of scripts (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) were cerebral, original and interesting… but flawed, usually with logic problems. Here he scores, ‘cause da brain don’t make much sense in da first place. And I liked the idea that if you can do it all again, you’d do it all again. I know I would. Not that I don’t have regrets, but let’s face it, I’m just stupid that way.

3. Touching the Void
This documentary blew me away. It’s the true story of a couple of British mountain climbers who scaled an imposing face in the Andes. When they reached the top, one of them broke his leg -- demolished it, really. His friend wound up having to abandon him, cutting the rope and dropping him down the mountain, leaving him for dead. I’m not spoiling it by telling you the injured guy made it -- he tells you the story himself. But how they managed to recreate these scenes -- both breathtaking and nightmarish -- was amazing. Plus I found the story inspirational: this guy struggles through pain and dehydration to traverse such forbidding terrain. Puts things in perspective when I’m too lazy to change the channel ‘cause the remote’s on the other side of the couch.

2. Shaun of the Dead
“Get back Liz. Ring Mum. Sort out life!” So says Shaun, the British slacker, the night before zombies take over London. Next thing you know, he and his friend are tossing the album collection at the moving corpses, smashing ‘em with cricket bats and holing up with mum, mates and ex-girlfriend in their favorite tavern. Simply brilliant -- a clever script with hysterical one-liners (“Don’t forget to kill Philip!”), tons of zombie movie references (“We’re coming to get you, Barbara!”), great performances (the crew beating on the undead pub owner in rhythm to Queen playing on the jukebox), and a touching story of redemption. Didn’t expect that in a flick about zombies. (“Stop using the zed word!”)

1. The Aviator
Hughes made flicks, flew planes, had a Beverly Hills crash
Fought government corruption -- was that Hawkeye from “M*A*S*H”?
Leo as Howard and Cate as Kate
And Marty will score with his Oscar bait
The Academy’s washed their hands of him time and again
But not when Jean Harlow’s portrayed by Gwen
Yeah, she’s hot, I just wanna smooch her
See The Aviator -- it’s the way of the future.
(The way of the future. The way of the future...)

10 that didn’t quite make the list, but were very good
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Incredibles, Shrek 2, Eurotrip, I’m Not Scared, Open Water, Ray, The Manchurian Candidate, Bourne Supremacy, Million Dollar Baby

5 I liked but didn’t love -- or -- Don’t believe the hype
Saved!, Garden State, Kinsey, Napoleon Dynamite, Sideways

5 you couldn’t pay me to sit through again
The Perfect Score, Hellboy, Along Came Polly, White Chicks, The Ladykillers

Worth Netflixing but not Blockbustering
13 Going On 30, Anchorman, Cellular, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Mean Girls, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Starsky and Hutch, Team America: World Police

Might as well leave it on, if it’s on cable and you’re gonna be making out or passing out on the couch and not really watching anyway...
Ocean’s Twelve, Shark Tale, Sleepover, The Big Bounce, The Day After Tomorrow, The Stepford Wives, The Terminal, Troy

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Antigua, January 2005.

I took this with a disposable underwater camera the morning I went SCUBA diving. (The crew is loading up the boat out there.) Later I'll post my sealife pictures, but submerged several fathoms, even in the clear Caribbean Sea, the shots aren't as good. On land, I'm developing a theme with my tropical vacation photos.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I know there was a big summit in Kansas City last month, in which the Seven Deadly Sinners got face-to-cute-face time, but when it comes to individual encounters, I’m becoming the Blogland Ambassador, the L.A. Online Welcoming Committee. Let’s see, there was AJ, Leese & Stanks, Gooch, and last month... Varla Vixen.

[We both took a while to write about this, but she beat me to the post .]

One big difference between Varla and previous visitors is that she’s not married with kids and wasn’t in town for family or work. She and her friends drove down from San Francisco to see the Body Worlds exhibit -- a display of real cadavers, dehydrated and preserved in clear plastic, and placed in athletic poses. I didn’t get to go, but the way they described it, my stomach churned, as well as my morbid curiosity.

Backing up for a moment... I need to get a new cellphone. I was waiting for a call from Varla and Jerry, whom she also wanted to meet (Gooch, too, but he once again used that whole “I have a six-month-old baby” boo-hoo routine). And why hadn’t I heard from my cousin who was in town for a job interview? Or from that chick who I thought was hot for my bod? Man, I was getting dissed all over.

When I met Jerry at Versailles (the excellent Cuban restaurant that Varla and her friends had chosen) he told me he just left me a message. I glanced at my handheld piece of shit. It looked normal. Power was on. Plenty of bars indicating reception. But where was the love, baby? Why no ring-a-ding?

Turned it off and back on. Boop-be-doop! Four new messages. Ahhh...

Varla was running late -- damn, thanks for tellin’ me, Samsung. So Jerry and I caught up over garlic chicken and black beans and plantains. He didn’t want to stay out late, so after dinner I met up with the Bay City Rollers at some of my local watering holes in Santa Monica.

Yeah, I was quite the stud, hanging out with three hot mamas. Varla’s adorable --gorgeous red hair and those cats-eyes glasses accentuating her cute little Irish nose. At the first bar, all the guys were checking her out, and at the second one, was she feeling up some other woman?. Varla’s friend Spaz was tall and slender -- beautiful hands -- and fuckin’ hysterical. Easily the least bashful of the three, and I imagine her frenetic style earned her that nickname.

I love the way Varla refers to all the characters on her blog with descriptive pseudonyms. Instead of using initials (“HL talked to D about CZ”) -- confusing us with alphabet soup, or doing bland replacements like I do (Tom becomes Tim, Stacy becomes Stephanie, and a lot of dudes are just “the schmuck”), her stories are populated with names like Lemur, Muscles, and Jesus Chris.

Her third friend hadn’t been mentioned yet, so I wasn’t sure what to call her. Varla was still deciding. Maybe Culito Bonito, which may translate to “pretty little tush”. Honestly, it was so cold and damp in LA, everyone was too overdressed in heavy coats for me to check out any asses, but I’ll take her word for it. Culito was definitely a captivating little cutie. She didn’t say much, but when she did, you were transfixed on her squeaky voice with the New York Jewish Latina accent.

We had a great time. Talked about bloggers, life in Northern and Southern California, and dominatrixeses. Y’know, the usual stuff.

Sorry, I can’t give you the juicy details. Not that I’m sworn to secrecy... I just had too many scotches to remember.

I do recall stumbling from the second bar back past the first one, near my place. I was still enjoying the recent memory of a lengthy goodbye to Varla, Spaz and Culito Bonito (if I call her CB, will that be confusing?) when I spotted a fight breaking out on the boulevard.

From what I could discern, it seemed like this drunk was stumbling across the road, and got in the path of another guy’s yellow SUV. The driver honked and cursed, so the drunk spit on his car... and of course that's a harbinger of the apocalypse. The two schmucks (see how handy that term is?) started duking it out right there in the street. A couple of barflies were trying to break it up and a few more were enjoying their ringside seats. And the SUV driver’s girlfriend was running over and kicking and flailing at the drunk.

I felt like I should do something, so I whipped out my cellphone and called the cops. One glimpse of a black and white flashing blue and red would put and end to the black and blues. But the call didn’t go through. I tried again. 9. 1. 1. Send.


Piece of shit cellphone.

I sighed and ran into the street. I know, I coulda just walked away, but I figured if I can't save the world, I could at least bring peace to my little corner of it. In a minute, I was another poor would-be referee, sayin’ things like, “C’mon guys. It’s not worth it. Let him go and forget about it.” and trying to separate these two grappling 250-pound apes.

I felt bad for the drunk. He was bleeding, drooling, glazed-over... drunk.

What was the other jerk’s excuse? His precious vehicle had saliva on it. And while his tiny girlfriend wasn’t really hurting anyone with her bony arms thrashing at us, I really wished someone would put a leash on that shrew.

Our scrum finally ended with us dividing up the quarter-ton of idiocy. I kept thinking that one of these slugging sumos was gonna miss his target and break my nose, or worse. Then in a nasally voice I’d be calling up Samsung -- not from my crappy cell, of course -- to sue those bastards.

Fortunately, I lived to tell the tale. It’s a dangerous job, but someone’s gotta do it. You’d think after all my experience, another installment of “Bloggers I’ve Met” would be so easy I could just phone it in.

Monday, February 07, 2005

My sister’s birthday was last month, but her planned get-together with a bunch of friends wasn’t ‘til this weekend, which was good ‘cause it gave me extra time to procrastinate on getting her a gift.

Among other things, I bought her the Lemony Snicket books 7 through 9. It was kinda self-motivated. While she likes to collect these hardcover kids’ books, she lends them to me after she powers through ‘em right away. We had both enjoyed the Series of Unfortunate Events #1-6... Plus I gave her the present in Barney the Dinosaur wrapping paper, just to make her feel extra young. Turned out, she just bought these books, so I told her to exchange it and pre-order a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It’ll probably be over a thousand pages, and she’ll finish it in four hours.

We went to see the Groundlings, which is a famous LA comedy improv group. Their esteemed alumni include Jon Lovitz, Lisa Kudrow and Phil Hartman. I used to love the cast they had years ago: Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Phil Lamarr, Chris Kattan, Michael McDonald. Trust me, they were infinitely funnier live than on Saturday Night Live or other TV shows... In recent years, you can sense the latest Groundlings trying to create franchise characters for when they hopefully hit it big. And the writer in me can’t help but notice that each skit is basically a cousin of one they’ve done before. I’m sitting there thinking, “Yeah, that’s the same premise, different location. Aha, the annoying salesman at the department store is now a customer at Blockbuster...” I admire that it takes talent and hard work and guts to perform like that, so I don’t say anything. And I don’t want to ruin it for others, but even this time, everyone agreed it wasn’t quite as funny...

But the highlight of the evening was when my sister went into the theatre, then turned around, looking freaked out. “Omigod... He’s here!” Her face was all contorted. Normally she gets along with everyone, so if there was someone she recognized and disliked, it must be pretty serious to get that reaction. I asked who? And then I realized she wasn’t upset, she was excited. She beamed and said, “Topher Grace!”

One of her friends didn’t know who that was. My sister explained he was the guy on “That ‘70s Show”, and the recent film, In Good Company with Dennis Quaid was his first starring role. Entertainment Weekly said they think Topher will follow in Tom Hanks’ footsteps as the nice-guy comedy TV actor who goes on to a longtime successful movie career. Aw, my money was on “Fes”.

It’s not that the celebrity sighting was the big deal. In LA, you see famous people all the time. Last week my sister scored great seats to the Lakers game, sat behind Michael Keaton, across the court from Jack Nicholson. Batman and the Joker didn’t thrill her, but “Eric Foreman” from that silly sitcom did?

Topher Grace was around six feet, but looked taller because he’s so skinny. The kid couldn’t have weighed more than 130 lbs. My sister’s past infatuations were on men who weren’t so freakishly out of proportion. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Cusack, those guys I understand. Why was she so agog over this whippersnapper beanpole? She kept wanting to go talk to him, but he was surrounded by people, and what was she gonna say? I told her to tell him what a crush she had on him.

“I don’t,” she said, blushing. “I just like him, that’s all!”

Heh-heh. She didn’t need the Lemony books wrapped in Barney paper to make her feel young. Just bring out some sitcom pretty-boy and my big sister’ll easily turn back into a frantic little preteen girl.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I’m floored by all the kind words during my absence and upon my undoubtedly inevitable return. Not just the comments & e-mails, some of you actually wrote heartfelt and hysterical posts about yours truly... man, talk about hard up for material...

Seriously, thanks, y’all.

And yeah, I was peeking in from time to time. But don’t think of it as a guy faking his death to see who comes to his funeral. It was more like the alcoholic who visits the taverns just to smell the booze and soak up the atmosphere. But he knows if he takes one drink he won’t be able to stop.

Gonna try to practice moderation, ‘cause when it comes to trying to get other stuff done, I’m still pretty, uh, “entrenched”.


(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

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