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Sunday, July 30, 2006

MORE ONE STOP SHOPPING

Save yourself a trip. Get your medical supplies before you get drunk and be prepared for those inevitable injuries.





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Friday, July 28, 2006

ME + AN ORANGE VW BUG DRIVEN BY PEOPLE I DON'T KNOW THAT WELL = DANGER

I have a policy of not riding in orange VW bugs that are driven by people other than close personal friends because of two incidents that occurred during the 1980s.


INCIDENT 1 - ICE DONUTS

Greg was an Electrical Engineering major from a broken Colorado home. Greg partied as much as anyone I knew in college. He seemed to make great friends with everyone he met but for some reason, not so much with me. One night when everyone else went off to bed, Greg and I had the brilliant idea to go to the lake, the lake being Lake Ontario in Rochester, New York. Did I mention it was February? And did I also mention that Greg's car, an orange VW bug, had no heat?

After a twenty minute drive, we pulled up along side a chain link fence and parked the car. It was pitch black. We jumped the fence and started walking. Walking, walking walking. Pitch black. A winter's worth of snow had formed a thick crust of ice beneath our feet. It was like walking on concrete coated with Vaseline.

"Where's the lake, man?" I asked.

"I don't know, man."

Suddenly, we stopped short just in time to look a few feet ahead of us at the black, undulating mass of water. We had been walking on the frozen lake and we didn't even know it.

Despite how cold it was, and trust me, Boston has nothing on Rochester, New York when it comes to the brutality of winter, the lake had not frozen over completely. Instead, large, donut-shaped chunks of ice, 5 feet across bobbed and jostled with one another in the water. Each looked like a giant ice cube that had been formed in the shape of a ring, the kind you used to get with your beverage on commercial flights. Their motion was hypnotic. I was drawn to it. And before I knew it I was standing on top of one of those chunks, straddling the hole in the middle of the ice donut. Laughing at the insanity of the situation, at the pain shooting through my feet in my submerged Pony hightops, I rocked back and forth.

"This is awesome!"

Then I fell in and got soaked up to my neck. We hurried back to the car. Somehow I managed to coax my muscles into heaving my body over the chain link fence. Once we were in the car and on the road, the shivering really took over. Remember, Greg's orange VW bug had no heat, so within minutes I myself became a giant chunk of ice. My clothing hardened and crunched around me as I tried to move around in the tiny passenger seat. Once we got back to the dorm I took a long hot shower, climbed under every blanket I could find and went to sleep still shivering and cursing not my stupidity for stepping out onto a giant ice donut in Lake Ontario in February, but rather cursing Greg's car for not having heat. Damn that orange VW bug.


INCIDENT 2 - EAST BOSTON FREAKS

One summer I got a temp job processing financial aid applications at Boston University. I was in my early 20s and already felt too old to be working temp jobs, so when I looked at the guy next to me, Mike, a fellow temp co-worker who was 27, I figured I was looking at the future I didn't want to have. But Mike was kind of funny. I was going through a phase of my life when it bothered me that I wasn't making any new friends, so when Mike asked if I wanted to come over and hang out I figured I'd buck my instincts and go for it. After work we headed up Comm. Ave. to the spot where he had parked his car, an orange VW bug.

I'd never actually been to East Boston except once when a taxi driver took me to the airport by avoiding the Callahan Tunnel alogether and instead wound his way through the fabled Irish neighborhood. To this day I have no idea how he did it.

When Mike jumped on the Mass Pike and headed east, I immediately became aware of his driving style. In a word it was fast. In two words, fast and hyper. He drove the car like he was rushing a severed finger to the hospital. Shifting and downshifting and speeding and cutting people off and constantly twisting his head back and forth to see how much room he had to maneuver, he was one with that orange VW bug.

I was not. I was one with the fear that I was going to die. I finally resolved to just focus on my feet and trust that soon it would all be over one way or another.

When we got to Mike's apartment, the scariness continued. On the top floor of a tripledecker, Mike shared an apartment with three other women, all of whom were there when we arrived. I was not introduced. Upon our entrance, one of the women launched into an argument with Mike over money, another scuttled across the floor to her room I presume, the third just sat in her rocking chair staring at the LED lights on the Sanyo stereo. She had a glazed look about her and a slight grin. In mid-argument Mike announced that he had to go somewhere and that he'd be right back. Alone with the glazed woman I couldn't think of anything to say but that was OK since she was carrying on a whispery conversation with herself. It was like she didn't realize that her stream of consciousness was taking place outside her mind rather than within.

Frankly, it freaked me out.

I found my way to a T stop and hightailed it back to the relative sanity of my apartment in Brighton.

And I haven't been in an orange VW bug since.



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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A COOL HOUSE IN THE HOT DESERT

In 1957, Bob Alexander built a house for his doctor in the Las Palmas region of Palm Springs, California. In 2006, Cindy and I and friends Chris and Julia rented it for a weekend in July. Here are some photos I took.



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Monday, July 24, 2006

WHAT, INDEED?





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Saturday, July 22, 2006

THE TIME I FELT CLOSEST TO MY SISTER JACKIE

"Uncle Tom, can I ask you a question?" Mae's perpetual smile was speckled with potato chip crumbs. I sat across from her at the kitchen table at the beach house my family was renting in Yarmouth, Massachusetts a few weeks ago.

"Of course, you can, Mae," I replied.

Being an uncle is great for all the reasons that uncles always talk about. You get all the benefits of interacting with children – access to their clarity, creativity, and innocence, the chance to remind yourself of what it was like when you led a life uncluttered by nasty intrusions like bosses and bills and a world going to hell – yet you bear little responsibility for the children's safety or well-being. So when Mae wants to ask me a question, I relish the opportunity to tell it like it is without worrying too much about potential fallout. It's like having a get-out-of-jail-free card that never expires.

"When you were little did you and my mom fight?" she asked loudly and clearly, proud to be getting to the bottom of something that had obviously been weighing heavily on her small brain for a least the last five minutes. I deduced from her cadence that she seemed to be trying to draw some parallel between the past and the present. Or maybe she was trying to mine me for some nugget of information to be held in reserve and then used later as ammunition against her mother, my sister Jackie.

"Why, yes," I hammed it up. "Yes, we did fight. We would wrestle and because she's two years old than I am, for a while she used to be able to pin me and hold my arms down with her legs so I couldn't move. It was an awful feeling, but eventually I grew so I was bigger than she was and then I was able to pin her all the time. But then Nina said I was too big and we weren't allowed to wrestle anymore. I guess she was afraid someone would really get hurt."

I don't know if that last part is true but I've been telling myself that for several decades now so I figured I might as well throw it in. Let Mae carry on that memory whether it be real or imagined.

•    •    •    •    •    

Some kids are mean. Really mean and like to pick on littler kids. One of my earliest memories is of walking home from school in Cleveland. I must have been 5. It was snowing out and I was alone. A group of older really mean kids started calling me names and throwing snowballs at me. Out of nowhere, Jackie came flying into the situation yelling at the mean kids and telling them to leave me alone, admonishing them for targeting the weak and defenseless. Then she grabbed me by the sleeve and pulled me down the street. I flailed along next to her in sniffling awe of such a fearless and total display of loyalty.

Jackie saved my ass that day. I wish I could say that when we were teenagers, I defended her from a bunch of ogling, groping jocks as she walked to math class but that story is most certainly not in my memory. Once she reached her teens, Jackie clearly could take care of herself and needed no help from her little brother. Early on, like my other sisters, and, I must admit, very much like myself, Jackie cultivated a life deeply grounded in a sense of profound self-sufficiency, a fundamentally independent perspective on the world which made possible a great many wonderful and rewarding achievements. But I often wonder about the cost of that independence, about the alienation that comes with self-reliance. Perhaps we would have been better off had we relied on one another for help more often. Maybe now we'd all be closer and happier.

•    •    •    •    •    

One day when I was 9 I came home and found my Mom on the phone. She was talking really quietly and seriously on the phone. My sister Kim was standing next to her and held her index finger up to her lips to tell me to not say anything.

I mouthed, Who is it? to her.

Dad, Kim mouthed back. I kept quiet, listened to my mom say into the receiver "uh-huh" and "OK" about fifteen times till she took a deep breath, sighed one last "OK" and hung up the phone.

"What's the matter?" I asked my mom.

"Shh. You need to keep your voice down. Jackie fell and hurt herself. She may have broken her arms so we have to wait for the ambulance to come take her to hospital."

This whole thing scared me. The calm seriousness of my Mom's voice, the highly unusual midday phone conversation with my Dad, none of this made any sense to me. It was so serious, so real that it seemed surreal. And "arms?" Did she say "arms?" How do you break both your arms?

"How did she break both her arms?" I asked.

"Shh!" Kim hissed with crooked brows.

"She fell off the jungle gym at school," my mom explained. "She fell and hurt herself and walked home and now we just have to wait for the ambulance but you have to keep your voice down. She's in a lot of pain and any commotion will make it worse for her so just keep quiet."

"OK! OK!" I whispered. Even with my mom's explanation, none of it seemed real. I needed to see Jackie.

"Where is she?"

"She's lying down in the living room," my mom said.

"Can I see her?" I asked. My mom winced at me for a moment, gauging my level of understanding of the situation.

"Yes, you can keep her company but you have to keep quiet."

"OK. I will."

I silently crept out the kitchen and into the living room where sure enough, there was Jackie lying on her back motionless on the big corduroy couch. Only her eyes moved as she looked up to see me kneeling down on the floor next to her. She was scared. I could tell. A few years later we would refer to this state as being scared shitless, but here and now she was just plain scared. Her eyes were moist but clear, not red, and her forehead was wrinkled with worry and fear. Her arms lay on either side of her hips. I was surprised that they weren't odd-looking in any way. They looked fine to me.

"Mom said I have to be quiet," I whispered. Jackie looked right at me. "What happened?"

"I fell off the jungle gym and put my arms out to break my fall," Jackie said with a slight whimper.

"Does it hurt?"

"It REALLY, REALLY hurts," she said. We were both whispering.

"Are you scared?"

"Yeah," she said, like she was conceding the point, too fragile to even act tough.

I leaned in a little and said barely audibly, "We have to be really quiet."

She didn't say anything. She just looked right at me with that worried look on her forehead and her moist eyes.

"Can I stay and keep you company? I won't say anything, I promise."

She nodded and didn't say anything. I knelt on the floor next to her till the ambulance came. I was afraid and confused and scared my mom would be angry if I said anything and wondered what it all meant and if something really bad would come out of it after it was all over. But a small part of me that went unnoticed for many years was glad that I was able to help her. It was a small thing staying with her in the living room and not saying anything but it was all I could do and it felt good to be doing it. I was helping her the way a brother should. It's the closest I've ever felt to her.



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Thursday, July 20, 2006

A MAGNETIC RIBBON THAT MEANS SOMETHING

Finally, someone's gathered the courage to stand up to those arrogant, self-righteous bastards in the Pro Soliloquy faction. It's about time those yahoos got their comeuppance.





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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

THE TIME I FELT CLOSEST TO MY SISTER KIM

My sister Kim is smart as hell. Not like, "That was a good movie. The writing was so...SMART!" No, I mean smart smart. Book smart. #1 in her class, Ivy league, straight A, list the awards alphabetically smart.

She also loves to laugh. She has the ability to laugh so uncontrollably that whatever beverage is in her mouth doesn't stand a chance. Out the mouth, out the nose, down the chin. Real live spit-takes. I've seen it happen. It's not pretty. But man, is it fun to see her laugh that hard.

Kim taught me how to score a baseball game. Thanks, Kim.

When we were growing up she patiently tutored me in all subjects. See, I wasn't what you'd call book smart. I was what you'd call lazy and not very bright. Whatever chance I had for academic success I traded long ago for a bent whiffle ball bat and a serious Starburst dependency, both of which kept me from my homework. So Kim dutifully helped me get by. As she would go over the reasoning behind the quadratic equation or the process of cell division, it all seemed so simple to her, like she really understood what she was saying. I went through school trying not to say something so stupid as to make it completely obvious that I had no clue what I was talking about. How could we be so different, Kim and I, I sometimes wondered. How could these things come so easily to her and be so confusing to me?

The difference, of course, is work. Kim worked harder than anyone I knew. She came straight home from school everyday and did her homework till dinner. Then after dinner, she went right back to her room and did more homework till 9:00. Then she went to sleep. This was the routine every day for as far back as I can remember. Sure, she's naturally smart, but she's also got something inside her that drives her to take full advantage of that smartness.

So while Kim was proving theorems at her desk which was positioned at her bedroom window so she could look out onto the street below, I was off playing home run derby at George Odin's or slowing down Van Halen solos on an old turntable or setting snakes free in the underwear aisle of Woolworth's.

Yes, we led different lives, alright, Kim and I. And so they rarely intersected except when others intervened. One year, we took piano lessons together from creepy Mrs. Brewster. One of us would wait in the dark hallway of her dark house while the other sat and received a half hour lesson. When the half hour was up we would switch and the other one would get the lesson. Seated next to Mrs. Brewster, you could see the arthritis in her hands, hear the cracking in her voice, and smell the old-lady smell all over her. Kim, of course, practiced dutifully all week and so was prepared for each lesson. I, on the other hand, would blow it off all week and then frantically practice for thirty minutes right before each lesson and try to fake my way through. I guess I learned little from Goofus and Gallant. Our studies with creepy Mrs. Brewster culminated in a recital for which Kim and I played a duet in front of about fifty other students and parents. It was fun practicing with her and we performed quite well at the recital despite a nearly crippling case of pre-show nerves. I felt close to Kim during those weeks, but when my mother asked us if we wanted to sign up for another round of lessons, I passed. Kim did not. It had been enough for me. It was, well, too much work.

As Kim progressed through high school, it became obvious that she would have her pick of university. Her academic achievements were that strong. But in filling out her college applications, there was some concern that her record lacked certain extracurricular activities. She belonged to a few clubs, yes, but always ones that leaned more toward the brainy rather than the social or the athletic. I think this bothered her, so she set about to correct it.

Kim decided that despite the fact that she had never played a sport in her life, she would try out for the high school soccer team. And she asked me to help. At first I resisted for a couple of reasons. First, it meant I had less time for eating Starbursts and setting snakes free in Woolworth's. Second, I didn't play soccer. In fact, it was one of the few sports I really disliked. (No hands? C'mon!). Third, like most teenagers I lived in abject fear that someday someone somewhere would discovery the fact that I actually HAD a family – actual sisters and a mother and father. I mean, WHAT IF SOMEONE SAW US? My whole world would come crashing down. Despite these obstacles, I agreed to kick the ball around a little with her after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour over the three weeks until tryouts. After all, she never complained about having to tutor me, so what the hell.

The first Tuesday seemed like a huge waste of time since neither one of us really knew what we doing. We walked down the street from our house to the Phillips School field, stood about twenty feet apart, and started kicking the soccer ball back and forth to each other. After about the fifth kick, the ball went a little astray. I went to retrieve it and did a little turn-kick-spin move that I'm certain Pele would have loved, but my accuracy was off so the ball skipped right past Kim and rolled about ten feet behind. So now we were about forty feet apart. Not good. The widening of the gap between us grew with each errant kick until Kim was halfway to the backstop on the softball field and I was in deep left field, a good 50 yards separating us. We were gaining little knowledge as to the finer points of the game. Instead, we were just kicking the ball hard and far. After an exhausting hour of this, we headed back home. Kim was not discouraged and was already thinking about the next time.

The next time was a little better. We tried to stay closer and not kick so hard. I still didn't really want to be there (what if someone sees us?) but Kim was really trying hard. Not particularly blessed athletically, she lacked a natural sense of timing so crucial in most sports. Consequently, she would routinely over run balls or set herself for a kick too late resulting in an awkwardness of motion. I suspected at the time that she also may have been self-conscious about her breasts bouncing around so visibly.

As the three weeks drew to a close, we had definitely improved. Our kicks were more accurate and our ball handling was OK. The ball still got away from us occasionally but we recovered quickly. I couldn't say I was enjoying it, I still didn't like soccer, but I was noticing a definite deepening of the relationship between myself and Kim. Separately, we were both working through the different obligations of our lives in our own way. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we were working toward something together just like we had been when we had our duet at the piano recital. And to my surprise, it felt good to be doing something for her for once. I was helping her in one of the few ways I could. Looking back, I think I may have learned more during those three weeks than Kim. It was the closest I've ever felt to her.

She made the Junior Varsity squad the next week.



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Sunday, July 16, 2006

PALM SPRINGS SUNSET

Cindy and I and friends Julia and Chris were lucky enough to spend this weekend in the Las Palmas neighborhood in Palm Springs. This sunset is just one of countless incredible moments were shared.

Click here to get the big picture.



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Friday, July 14, 2006

THE TIME I FELT CLOSEST TO MY SISTER LESLIE

In the mid eighties I was going to college in Rochester, New York, a frigid, blustery place that provided a relatively safe four-year sanctuary from reality and all of my impending adulthood's incumbent responsibilities. Each September, I would arrive from my hometown outside of Boston and remain long enough for the leaves to wilt, desaturate, and fall to the ground before making the trip back home for Thanksgiving. Chronically lacking means, I haggled with fate over the least expensive possible conveyance.

As a freshman, I flew home on one of those ridiculously cheap airlines, USAir or People's Express perhaps, for something like $49 each way. The flight attendants collected the fare during the flight the way conductors do on the Commuter Rail in Boston.

As a sophomore, I took a Trailways bus from the station right next to the Midtown Plaza Mall in downtown Rochester. I think it was snowing that year and waiting to get on the bus in the slushy mess was depressing. It was an eight hour ride.

As a junior, I took an early morning Amtrak train straight into South Station in Boston. I fell asleep once we crossed the New York state line into Massachusetts and awoke to find a stranger with epaulets, striped cuffs and a kepi jostling my shoulder.

"We're here. Time to get off," he told me, clearly disappointed. Earlier, he must have formed some unrealistic expectation of me. I spastically jerked upright and popped my head over the seats to look around like a nervous prairie dog sticking up out of his hole. All the passengers had debarked and the engine had been shut down. But for the footsteps of the now exiting stranger who had awakened me, the train car was perfectly silent. I fluffed the hair on the back of my head to eliminate any flattening and squinted at the warm, white sunlight that poured through the giant panes of glass.

These modes of transportation held at least some charm. On the bus, I could romanticize about great bus-takers of pop culture, Ratso Rizzo and Harry O, for example. On the train, I could imagine myself a New York businessman commuting to Boston to deliver some vital paperwork to a partner's office. The plane, well, there was nothing charming about the plane which is somewhat ironic since air travel used to be so glamorous and sophisticated.

But it was as a senior that I nailed it. I took a bus to Ithaca, New York and met my big sister Leslie who was attending Cornell Law School. We were to drive home together in her 1978 Chevrolet Malibu Classic.



Calling it "her" Malibu still rubs me the wrong way. I pined for that car's ownership, or at least its guardianship. Denied it for years, ever since my father had limply decided to lease some unlikable foreign car and forgo the power, the presence, the unashamed American beauty that the Malibu held within its frame, engine, and design, I interpreted the notion of anyone but me behind its wheel as nothing short of a crime against the natural order of the world.

Oh, yes. You could say I liked this car.

A little history. The first car I remember my father owning was a 1960 AMC Rambler. Family lore holds that one afternoon, left in his charge, we four children accompanied Dad to Sears to purchase two rolls of pink fiberglass insulation. Seeming at first as soft as cotton candy and therefore the perfect material in which to roll around, the insulation became our big pink friend during the ride home. We bounced around the spacious back of the Rambler, wrapping ourselves in the stuff, hugging the stuff, pushing each other into the stuff while up front, Dad concerned himself only with the gentle blue swirls coming off the tip of the day's eighth, ninth, and tenth Kents. A few miles from home we started to itch uncontrollably and were horrified by the sight of tiny chards of fiberglass sparkling from within the skin of our bare arms, legs and faces.

Mom cleaned us up real good when we got home.

Ever upwardly mobile, Dad soon replaced the Rambler with a Ford Mustang, not one of the tasteful ones of the mid 60s but rather the larger, more macho one from the early 70s. I used to sneak into the garage, climb behind the wheel and pretend to drive even though my eyes were level with the speedometer. I also used to push the lighter in, patiently wait for it to pop out, remove it from the dash and watch the hot metal coils within fade from bright orange to flat gray. Once, I stupidly held the hot lighter against the steering wheel melting a tiny groove between two of the molded finger grips, a mistake for which I was reprimanded but oddly not punished.

Then in 1978, my father traded in the Mustang for the Malibu, one of the last American muscle cars: a V-8 engine, 305, four door sedan with power steering and power brakes. Luxurious yet powerful. This was a NICE CAR! And when I got my driver's license two years later, the first drive I took by myself with no one else in the car wasn't in my Mom's white VW Rabbit. Oh, no. It was in the Malibu. My after dinner mantra became "Dad, can I take the car tonight?"

It's probably best that I not recount here much of what transpired in and around the car over the course of the two years that followed other than to say that the fates of multiple individuals, some known to me, some not, were profoundly affected by that particular Chevrolet. But I will say this. The car was my constant companion, one that stood by me through all my personal obstacles, emotional and physical - friendships, romances, encounters with law enforcement, snow drifts, days at the beach, black ice, concerts, parties, a prom, and more concerts. I can't exactly call it unconditional love – the Malibu did NOT appreciate neglect or mistreatment – but it was always there for me to make me feel better when things went awry, to carry me away from the pain of being a teenager and to carry me toward the seeming unlimited freedoms that early adulthood promised.

So once my Dad had outgrown the Malibu, he looked among his children for a worthy steward. On a muggy August evening during dinner on the back porch he rather matter-of-factly agreed with Leslie that it made the most sense for her to take it to Cornell. She could use it to get around and to drive and from school. I lobbied meekly for the car to come with me to Rochester, a situation I had literally been dreaming of for years, but knew in the end that age, as it always has in our family, would trump whatever reasoning I could muster. The oldest child always gets first choice of everything and this was just another reinforcement of that time tested rule.

"Someday I'll get that car," I promised myself, a promise I eventually fulfilled after college, but not until every other member of the family passed on it.

When I was a senior, however, in need of transport back home for Thanksgiving, Leslie owned the Malibu. The car sat at the bottom of her short, sloped driveway on a layer of slushy ice. An early snow had blanketed Ithaca the day before. The weather had warmed but now a steady drizzle and a shroud of gray gave everything a dull shine. Poor Malibu. My status had been reduced to that of occasional passenger. Maybe Leslie would let me drive. Probably not. But I held on to something, some hope that something good would come from this trip. Six hours with my sister. Was it possible?

Six years older than I, Leslie was by circumstance distant from me. In teen years, six years is a lifetime. Even though she had attended the some of the same schools as I, had many of the same teachers as I, and had experienced many of the same adolescent highs and lows as I, the particulars of our respective time periods differed enough to keep us from sharing much as we grew up. 1974 was a world away from 1980. Though in retrospect I see that as a confused teenager I could have benefited from her experience, thereby forming a much richer bond with her, I also know that at the time I was positive that she was too old to understand me. How could I be so certain and so wrong at the same time?

During the ride home that November, however, we were somehow no longer separated by those six years. In a way, I had slightly caught up to her. We were just old enough to have developed some perspective on some things our worlds held in common: our family, high school, university, our hometown, politics, and life in general. We were both getting used to the idea that we were no longer children and that adulthood consisted mostly of relentless, difficult decision-making. She had already made one of her biggest choices: what career to pursue. I knew no more about what I wanted to do with the next five, ten, twenty years of my life then than I did when I was 12 – perhaps less. (When I was six I told my mother I wanted to be a garbage man so I could ride on the back of the truck all day. Weeeeeee!)

In the Malibu, heading east, we talked about it. I told her I was scared. She said she was scared, too. We talked about being scared. Her fear was a tremendous source of comfort for me. I like to think that mine comforted her as well. I told her that I didn't like going home for the holidays because I felt like a disappointment to our parents. She told me that not only was I wrong, but that I shouldn't worry about disappointing them, that in the end none of us can be happy with our relationships with others until we're happy with our relationship with ourselves. It's psycho-babble, for sure, but it was just what I needed to hear at the time. I was angry, confused, absurdly conflicted. How is it possible to feel like an under-appreciated piece of crap? It was the first time I had opened up to anyone in my family about my fears and my shitty feelings of shitty self-worth. It would be ten years before I would be that honest again.

Leslie listened and took me seriously. She treated me like an adult. Nothing could have possibly helped me more at that point in my life. It's the closest I've ever felt to her.

As the gray sky darkened and the names of the towns on the green highway signs grew more familiar, and the Broncos and Explorers and Suburbans drove by with dead deer after dead deer strapped to the hood, a thick fog rose a foot from the surface of the road. Not used to seeing deer that close up, we were freaked out when the angle made it look like they were looking right at us, blankly, from beyond the dead. We were freaked out but Leslie remained steady, a source of reliability amidst the chaos of the world outside the Malibu. Despite the weather, we made good time. As we drove into our town, onto our street, up our driveway, I still felt scared. I still felt uncertain. But I also felt somehow older and wiser.



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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

REALLY, IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

It's just a knitting shop in North Hollywood.





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Monday, July 10, 2006

DOUGHNUT HUT

Peole LOOOOVE their donuts out here. Places like the one below are everywhere, though few have signs that try so hard to be clever and unique.



Also see Faster Donut.



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Saturday, July 08, 2006

GETTING NAILED

I yearn for a simpler life, one where the clock ticks just a little bit slower, where getting a manicure or a pedicure is considered an "event" as they apparently are in North Hollywood.





Also see Hair People.



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Thursday, July 06, 2006

SCRIBBLES AT WORK

I recently attended a high-level meeting of great import and consequence. Here are my notes.





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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

FAKE LETTER*

Service Manager
John Elway Dodge on Arapahoe
10743 E. Arapahoe Rd.
Centennial, CO 80112

Mr. John Elway
Elway Enterprises
1 Elway Way
Denver, CO 80204

Dear Mr. Elway:

Mission accomplished. Rest assured I have personally taken care of everything. You need not further concern yourself with the resolution of the situation we discussed earlier this month. My team and I have seen to it. Furthermore, I see no reason that your involvement in recent events at the dealership on Arapahoe need ever be mentioned again, excepting of course in this correspondence. As in the past when similarly unfortunate events have taken place, I am happy to be at your service (pun intended).

Nevertheless, while I understand that you enjoy a special arrangement with the current owner of John Elway Dodge on Arapahoe, and that that arrangement affords you certain privileges that go beyond simple business courtesy, I feel I must point out the following:

  • When you arrived at the dealership loudly demanding the “bitchinest van on the lot,” you were clearly not yourself. I fear the taint of alcohol was clouding your judgment, a concern the sheriff later confirmed. As you may recall, drinking has often played a role in similar incidents involving yourself and our particular dealership on Arapahoe.
  • While your privileges may include the occasional loan of a vehicle from our lot, the random appropriation of any vehicle within sight, regardless of how blurred that sight may be, is frankly unacceptable. When you stiff-armed two of my mechanics and jumped behind the wheel of the green turtle-top Ram screaming “Bitchin’ van! Bitchin’ van!” you showed little regard for the fact that the vehicle belonged not to us, but to a nice, travel-weary family from Illinois who were merely trying to get back on the road and head home.

    Incidentally, the mechanic upon whom you vomited was wondering if you could pay for a new jumpsuit and also if you could call his girlfriend on Thursday. It’s her birthday and she’s a big fan.
  • If course, the biggest problem remains your seeming inability to remember that although you currently own several fine fast food establishments in the greater Denver area, John Elway Dodge on Arapahoe is not one of them. As I’ve explained to you before, our car wash is NOT a Wendy’s drive-thru. I guarantee you sir, you will never be served a Triple with cheese by hurtling someone else’s van into our car wash at 40 miles per hour. You will only do damage to yourself, our equipment and whoever’s vehicle you decide to commandeer. We were lucky this time. We got by with just a couple of rolls of duct tape. Next time could be much worse. My hope is that this letter will keep there from being a next time.
Mr. Elway, I’m a fan. I always have been. You were a hero to me. It’s an honor to come to work everyday at John Elway Dodge on Arapahoe and see your name above the door as I walk in. But incidents such as this most recent one have dulled the shine on your name, at least in my eyes. Here’s hoping we can restore that shine as well as your reputation by working together to keep you from jamming other people’s cars into our car wash.

Your humble servant and fan forever,

Jared



* This is a completely fake letter. None of it is true. Don't believe any part of it. Don't take it seriously. It's just a joke. For the complete backstory, I refer you to the June 2006 Vacation episodes at Croncast.com. It may take three hours to listen to the entire story and when you're done you'll probably never leave your home again, but I guarantee it will make you laugh.



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Sunday, July 02, 2006

CAPITAL ONE JUNK MAIL

Last year, I received a ridiculous amount of junk mail from Capital One. Not only is it a waste of paper, it's a pain because I can't just throw it away. I have to rip it up or shred it first. It seems like a small task but day after day, I got really sick of it.



This year I'm keeping all the junk mail Capital One sends me and Cindy. So far we have received 29 separate pieces of junk mail from them. And the year's only half over!

JUNE

JANFEBMARAPRMAYJUN
1031465

Total pieces of junk mail received from Capital One so far this year: 29



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