Tuesday, May 29, 2007


• In the tree outside my new place, there are two squirrels chasing each other around, fighting for the territory. I call ‘em “Hamas” and “Fatah”.

• I used to belong to a running group which included two women named Laura. If I mentioned one of them to another friend, they’d always ask which one: “You mean the skinny, stick-like Laura?” And I'd point out that that pretty much described both of them. Then they’d say, “The one with the fake breasts?” So soon the two were secretly referred to as “Booby Laura” and “Sticky Laura”. Until the latter Laura also got implants. I don’t belong to that running group anymore -- too confusing. And distracting.

• Two of my friends are named Dave, and because of their difference in height, I distinguish them as “Big Dave” and “Little Dave”. My other friend Adam calls ‘em “Fat Dave” and “Gay Dave”. That’s Adam for ya -- just gotta be jerky. Not to mention inappropriate: “Fat Dave” lost 40 pounds, and “Gay Dave” married some chick and had two kids. I wasn’t even sure why Adam refered to Little Dave as Gay Dave in the first place, and Adam reminded me that Dave drove a Mazda Miata. Another time I was telling Adam something about Dave and Adam got confused and said, “Fat Dave or Gay Dave”? I told him it was yet another Dave I knew; we could call him “Third Dave”. But that was too innocuous for Adam, and insisted he'd be known as “Third Input Dave”. That’s Adam for ya. I wasn’t offended by the juvenile sexual humor, just confused. Guys have a third input?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Back in the day, I was the original MapQuest.

I used to have maps all over the place. It started when I was a kid. I’d steal my dad’s old National Geographic magazines to line my walls of my bedroom with pin-ups --not of the nekkid tribal ladies -- but of the insert map supplements. I was surrounded with views of the U.S. and the Arctic and the former Soviet Republic… In no time, I knew the elevation of every Himalayan mountain, the average rainfall of the Amazon river basin, the capitols of all the African countries… (my favorite was Burkina Faso: Ouagadougou)

Over the years, my tastes changed -- maybe even matured -- which could be indicated by the decorations: The comic book collections came down and were converted to classic rock collages consisting of Clapton and The Clash, which later gave way to fine framed artwork by family members… But the maps were always there. Being a man of the world, or at least knowing what it looks like, never goes out of style.

Now that I’ve moved in with my girlfriend, though, I’ve had to make further changes. Pieces of my furniture and art won’t work with Adelphia’s decorative style. Okay. I can compromise. I managed to talk her out of keeping her shocking pink couch with the zebra striped pillows and rug. I guess I could give up some of my stuff, ‘cause it’s not – what do you call that style? “Post-modern-poke-your-eyes-out”?

But it was pretty painful to part with my wall-sized world map. Though hardly hearkening back to my prepubescent pushpin poster days -- this chart was nicely framed and with a classic artistic display -- it was simply too big to fit on any wall. Or so Adelphia said. I justified it by telling myself that I never cared for the Mercator projection, which expands the areas of the map near the poles, making Greenland look gargantuan enough to gobble up all of Africa.

But now my framed France map from the bygone Gallic era failed to win endorsement. Ditto for my tiny old gold world pic. As we bickered over beautifying, I reluctantly back-burnered my best stuff until I got tired of banging holes in the brick walls until bam! Bye-bye genteel geography. No more maps for Mikey.

Still, our place looks great. It was hard work getting it all fixed up, and now that all the decisions are done, Adelphia suggested we take a vacation. Something local, like Palm Springs or Big Bear or San Simeon. Maybe Hawaii… or hey, how ‘bout Italy?

Amid our map-free apartment, I muttered. “I don’t know where any of that is.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Three things I learned (or already knew, but should've remembered) this weekend:

1. Just because my girlfriend has an SUV doesn’t mean she knows how to drive it well.
2. I shouldn’t buy stuff I don’t want, simply to avoid shopping elsewhere.
3. IKEA sucks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I wasn’t sure what to expect on Saturday’s night at the theatre.

The play was Oklahoma!, performed by a local junior high school, and directed by their teacher -- my girlfriend Adelphia.

For the past few months, I had been hearing all about what went into putting on this production. The conflicts with the students’ soccer schedules, the concerns about correct music and lighting and choreography and costumes and how all this agita affected Adelphia's array of ailments. I had seen all the drama behind this musical, but I knew it wouldn’t be a tragedy.

My concern wasn't about the play -- I knew it'd be great. And as sure as I was, the show exceeded my expectations. The entire theatre was decorated like wind-swept plains of the West, with wheat and corn and overalls everywhere. The stage and costumes were great, too. And the performances even better. It's hard enough to get young teenagers to remember their lines, sing on key, dance in rhythm, and some of those numbers were pretty tricky... but they really didn't miss a beat. The audience absolutely loved it. I could tell Adelphia really brought out the best in her students. Like I knew she would.

So what was I concerned with?

Hanging out with everyone who performed and attended this play. I had to take Adelphia -- the bigshot director -- to the school early, and then just wait. As the families shuffled in to watch the show, I was expected to make some friendly chit-chat and be on my best behavior. Great. A foul-mouthed east-coast curmudgeon mixed with California conservative wealthy family-values types. Talk about a fish outta friggin' water.

I suppose I should’ve been impressed with the parents -- a director of a recent box office hit, successful TV producer, a well-known local news anchor, top executive of a major car rental company, the Mayor of Los Angeles...

But I didn't know what to think. They were all perfectly nice, but I wasn’t familiar with the school, the families, the kids, or even the play Oklahoma! itself. So I’d introduce myself to a mom and dad and they’d say, “Hi, we’re the Carlsons,” expecting recognition to wash over my face. After a moment, they’d add: “Caitlin’s parents...?” Sorry, still nothing. “Y’know, Aunt Eller.” Uh, is that the farmer or the cowman?

And afterwards, Adelphia had to attend the students' cast party. Of course I was happy to celebrate; I was really proud of her. And relieved she was relieved it was over. But this meant going to a house ten times bigger than my apartment and either trying to make conversation with Ma & Pa Mature (mortgages? Montessori? middle school matriculation? huh?) or gossiping with Generation Xbox (Abercrombie & Fitch? H + M? Emo & Wii? Wha?). Adelphia assured me we wouldn't have to stay long, just make an appearance.

But what did I see walking through the big backyard? Some students were gathered around a table dealing cards and poker chips... Waitaminute! "Are you guys playing hold 'em?" The kids looked up at me nervously -- yeah, but they weren't doing it for money, they insisted, the chips didn't count and-- "Oh, I don't care," I said. "Deal me in!"

And I'll tell ya, those whippersnappers knew their game. They wiped me out in no time. Okay, fine. Just 'cause they were kids, didn't mean I was gonna treat them with kid gloves. I modified my strategy for the next game. Since it wasn't for money, some of 'em bet big every time, no matter how awful their cards. So I just held out for a good hand. But they didn't need to perfect their unwrinkled poker faces -- if I had two pair, they'd have three of a kind. I got three aces, punks caught an inside straight.

"Dammit!" I'd say, and Adelphia would warn me -- with these kids and their parents, I had to watch my language. "I thought I did," I said. Whenever these squirts scored with a full boat, I wanted to swear like a sailor.

I think the kids were a bit intrigued with their teacher's boyfriend. One of them came over and quietly asked "Hey, are you that totally awesome dude?" and when I said yeah he said "Awright!" and high-fived me. Plus I was the only person at the party old enough to vote, drink and even gamble legally, but had no problem getting taken to the cleaners by the teenyboppers.

Actually, it was a lot of fun. I'm not around people this age often, and I was fascinated with their charming personalities. The excitable boy who'd shout "all in!" without even seeing his cards. The friendly girl who played for the first time and was thrilled ("Ooh, I love poker! I'm having such a good time!") winning or not (though usually raking in the chips). And the girl who showed genuine talent on stage and even more at the poker table. ("Maybe I am bluffing, but it'll cost you five blue chips to find out.")

Well after midnight Adelphia had to drag me outta there. I told the kids they did a great job in the play, and in playing poker. In fact, I said, I sit in a couple of regular weekly games and not only would these thespians kick ass-- I mean, butt-- against the serious gamblers, they were easily more entertaining. Hell-- I mean, heck-- after experiencing Oklahoma!, the weekend's second biggest highlight was the hilarity of hold 'em with the hooligans.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What music are you listening to lately?

People ask me this question and I never have a good answer. I’m not hooked up with that crazy iTunes thing all the kids are into or the Sirius satellite XM stuff. And free radio sucks.

Okay, I admit a guilty pleasure of mine is the bubblegum bullshit of Avril Lavigne’s “Hey Hey You You I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend”. But she’s not the first supposedly “alternative” rocker matching her questionable talent with a lack of integrity by selling out. In fact, it’s all been done before.

Everything today is a complete rehash. As Homer Simpson said: "What's with these new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It's a scientific fact."

A question that’s easier for me to answer is: What was the first music you ever got? (CDs, albums, 8-tracks, illegal downloads, whatever)

Here were my first three cassette tape purchases:

1. Pink Floyd, The Wall. I had first heard Echoes from some older kids and was blown away by the psychedelic sound. I also love the weird Syd Barrett years, and of course, The Dark Side of the Moon is a masterpiece, but The Wall was my introduction into trippy classic rock. Floyd ain’t just for druggies, y’know.

2. Fiddler on the Roof, Original Broadway Soundtrack. Not to take anything from Zero Mostel’s honorable mensch-ion, but I only acquired to this to get better acquainted with the play, which we performing in my school. Ironically, I missed the audition for Tevya, because I had some Hebrew school commitment. I wound up with the role of a random Russian shtetl-person, singing “Tradition” but secretly longing to solo “If I Were a Rich Man”.

3. Donna Summer, Greatest Hits. I just heard “On the Radio” which prompted this post. Dance music never dazzled me, but Donna always did. I remember a school assignment was to write a fan letter to someone we admired. My friend wrote to Ron Hodges of The New York Mets and he actually got a response with an autographed photo. Today, I wish I had done something similar, considering a Reggie Jackson reply might be worth big bucks today. And also ‘cause Donna Summer never wrote me back. But still, I could never badmouth the Queen of Disco.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The other night, my girlfriend said, “Some guy hit on me at the supermarket.”

“Cool,” I said.

I don’t remember what I was doing at the moment, but most likely it happened right after Adelphia told me she had to do some work, which meant she couldn’t hang out and chat with me, so while she was typing away crazily and fuming at some crazy co-workers’ crazy voicemail message, I was supposed to pretend I was still living alone, and since scratching private parts wasn’t part of the deal, I was proabably watching "American Dad", knowing Adelphia hates that show like I hate her beloved "America's Next Top Model" which to me is no contest 'cause Tyra Banks doesn't ever have lines like, "Everyone hates me. I feel like a Jew outside of New York or LA."

"Did you hear what I said?"

"Hunh? Oh yeah," I said. "Some guy hit on you."

"At the supermarket."

"What did you do?"

"I ignored him."

I nodded and went back to my silly animated show. But I could sense Adelphia still looking at me.

What? Did she want me to be jealous? I take it as a compliment. My girlfriend's hot. I already know this, but sometimes it's reassuring to hear it from others.

In my opinion, one of the nicest things anyone said about Adelphia came when I was about to move in with her. Excited, but a little nervous, I asked my friend Mike if I was making a good move.

"Like, she's cool, huh?" I said, "And she's funny and cute and sexy and all that, right?"

Mike nodded. "I'd do her."

So it didn't bother me that some stranger had the same idea. Can't blame a guy for trying.

But Adelphia wasn't trying to make me jealous. She was confused by the location. Her old Rock N' Roll Ralph's was full of late-night partiers with a case of the munchies, not dudes bringing new meaning to the term "meat market", cruising the frozen foods for chicks. "I mean, who hits on people at Albertson's? That's lame."

Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. There's a lot of hot girls at the supermarket near us. I once saw Marley Shelton there, leafing through the gossip mags. I heard she's married, but if not and maybe if it were back when I was on the prowl...

"So what'd the guy say to hit on you?" I said, "Lemme guess -- it was in the produce section and he made some double entendre about squeezing melons or the size of his zucchini."


"He said, 'Attention shoppers! Special on hot tamales in aisle six!'"


"'If your cuteness was coupons... talk about savings!' Or -- ooh, how 'bout: 'I'm ready to pay for my groceries, but I'm not done checking you out!'"

"Would you stop? He kept running into me by accident, supposedly, and then said, 'We have to stop meeting like this.'"

"Pfft. That is lame."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sometimes it’s hard for people to survive in L.A. So I’m amazed at how other animals do it. Maybe they have a better agent.

My old place had slats in the window, which I had to keep fully open or closed, otherwise a sparrow would see the sill as a safe place to build its nest. I chased one away that had been pecking at the screen -- I’m not sure if it was using the metal pieces for the nest, or if it was looking to break in and annex the whole apartment as its new crib.

Guess my old building was an inviting home for birds -- this gray dove sat on the fire extinguisher box for about a week. No one bothered her, but she never laid any eggs and eventually abandoned the nest. Either that, or the landlord gave her a cash incentive to move out, too.

And it’s tough enough to find a parking spot in this town without raccoons claiming a space. I couldn’t scare this little city critter away with my car, but after I parked across the street and went back to take a picture, it skittered down into the sewer. I always thought raccoons were vicious, vile scavengers, but this one appeared almost playful peeking out from underground. My first photo was too dark to capture its cuteness, and when I used the flash… I felt freaked out all over again.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I ain't obsessive. I only aspire to an organized existence. I contain copious chaos in my cranium. Can't I keep my collections under control?

For example, the foreign coins -- francs and farthings and pfennigs -- found far and wide. I coulda converted that currency for a crappy cash quantity. Or save 'em as souvenirs. But baggies bursting with brass is bad. Gathering, grouping, grading: good.

Ditto for my baseball cards. (Oh, enjoy an occasional interruption to annoying alliteration.) I just couldn't part with my collection to some random eBay buyer. But if I was gonna hold on to 'em, they had to get out of the shoebox and into a pristine plastic presentation.
Now I won't dog-ear the cardboard as the assortment increases in monetary value: Rose, Reggie and Ryan; Carlton (Fisk) and (Steve) Carlton; Palmer and "Pops". And in sentimental value: Dick Tidrow, the Yanks pitcher whose name cracked me up as a prepubescent punk; Kent Tekulve, a sidearm-throwing stick figure in the goofy Pirates uniform; Oscar Gamble, with that awesome afro exploding from his hat.

So you can imagine my consternation at the randomness with which my girlfriend filled up the massive bookshelf in our new apartment. Fiction mixed with the non-fiction? Classics confused with contemporaries? Paperbacks and hardcovers intermingling?

I mean, how would you know where to find my slang thesaurus, when it was next to her knitting guides, wedged within my crime pulp and her chick lit? Bradbury and blues books between Bronte and Barack Obama's autobiography? Blasphemy. The Catcher in the Rye Just Isn't That Into Jude the Obscure's Hundred Years of Solitude so Don't Let the Hound of the Baskervilles Drive the Bus to the Bridge of San Luis Rey!

An overhaul was obligatory. I argued organization; Adelphia advocated asthetics. I agreed. Okay. An immense undertaking, and after hours and hours of aggravated activity... assignment accomplished.

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