Simple Man

I was sitting at a café on Sunset Boulevard. It was an early, cold morning. I sat in the sun and drank coffee. It was a simple moment and absolutely perfect. A man rode by on his bicycle playing very loud music from some kind of music device. It was 1920s New Orleans jazz. I thought there was a certain irony to his musical choice. I knew he thought the same thing as he pulled on his suspenders, looking in his mirror a half hour ago.

People go to great lengths to put themselves on in the morning. I remember playing guitar on a goth tour of Europe. Everyone had makeup and mohawks to attend to every morning. I was often just too tired to get it together. I only wore eyeliner anyway. I stopped taking it off and would just add to it each night before the show. It turned out to be a look I could sustain. People have often said, “You’re such a simple man.” I thought they were busting my balls. But as I sit in the morning LA winter sun, I think that maybe they are right.



Shoes of the Dead

The gas tank read empty, but I thought I might make it. The car was sluggish and uncooperative. I loved my car, but I was clearly in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mood. Bloody hell, it was like driving a dinosaur. I drove a little longer before I noticed the parking brake was on.

The streets were full of billboards with the face of a dead actor selling shoes. What agreements are these corporations making with the dead? What psychic are they using to make these necromantic deals? Is that what people want? Shoes of the dead? Why is this appealing to me? It reminded me of that tour of the crypts under the St. Michael’s Church in Vienna. A coffin from years ago had been broken open and the corpse had on wedges. I had no idea that style of shoe had been around so long.

The aftershock, phase 2 of our recession was in full swing. Yet every turn I made, I saw old buildings being torn down and new buildings being built. The deck seemed stacked. Someone is getting rich as the majority take the hit. If this were another country, the people would be in the streets with pitchforks and hoes (hoes for gardening, just to be clear). There should be a big hunt that ends with a barbecue. But who would hunt the elite we admire and strive to be?

There might be a few:

Stories from the Street

The homeless are rearranging the furniture on my street today. The furniture of the more recent homeless. The corporate wolves are hungry. The locals talk of morality and myth, like modern shamans corrupted by the franchise state.

Someone called the police… I guess they thought it was their duty.

“Can’t have a couch in the middle of the street.” ” Something must be done.” Said a man with a fauxhawk in an Affliction t-shirt.

The LAPD (I once heard someone call them “the army of the rich”) came wearing blue rubber gloves. They took the homeless…”somewhere else.” That seemed to satisfy the mob. It upsets and frightens them to see the people of the streets. Like it might be contagious.

There once was a game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where we would align famous people or ourselves to Kevin Bacon’s fame. (Just for the record, I am 2 degrees from Kevin Bacon.) We may want to consider Six Degrees of the Homeless.

It’s really easy to pretend that the homeless are not connected to us in any way. Like they couldn’t possibly be our mother, brother, sister, etc.. We fear the homeless and we call them lazy or crazy (I’ve heard that about myself, by the way). But what we really fear is that we will become one of them, and everyone will shun us and call the police on us, like we do to them. Maybe if we took better care of each other, we wouldn’t be so afraid of ending up at the bottom, and maybe spend less time clawing our way to the top. Maybe, with a little compassion, the bottom could be as nice as the top.

Still not Enlightened / Further Adventures, pt. 2

I drove to Ralph’s supermarket. Normally, I would have walked, but I had been working a lot and was a bit tired. I don’t shop at Ralph’s all that much anymore. It’s so expensive. There was a time when I did all my shopping there. I was either unconscious or Ralph’s was a better store at one time. I used to live in a one-bedroom apartment just up the street and I used Ralph’s like my personal refrigerator. When you live in a one-bedroom apartment with 3 musicians you don’t leave anything in the refrigerator. So when I wanted to eat, I walked a half block down the street and walked into my personal giant refrigerator and pantry and got what I needed.

Lately, I only buy one or two things from Ralph’s. I do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s. It’s cheaper and the employees seem happier, which leads me to believe they are better treated or are not drug tested.

Anyway, I park in the Ralph’s parking lot and get out of my car. As I shut the door, I realize – too late – that my keys are still in the car. My car is not idiot-proof, obviously. Anyway, I say fuck it. I have a hide-a-key on my bumper in the event of such and incident. So I’ll use that after I do my shopping. I don’t want to get my hide-a-key out (which is then no longer hidden), get my keys out of the car and then go in. What if someone sees my hide-a-key spot and decides to steal my 17-year-old car that runs a little funky in 1st gear? I decide I’ll deal with it when I get back. I say some curse word out loud to myself and walk in the store.

I grab what I need and walk right past the personless check-out machines. I think people should have jobs if they want them and I am going to encourage this by checking out the old-fashioned way, even if the people working at Ralph’s are not as happy – or whatever – as the Trader Joe’s employees. As I’m waiting in line, a girl walks in the door. She’s on her phone and talking really loud.

I’m a little tired and still a bit pissed about the keys locked in the car thing so I just put my head down and look at my feet. Cause I know me, and if I get a chance, in the mood I’m in, it’s going to be hard not to give her the evil eye and get all judgemental. Which is rarely productive.  Why do I care if she’s on the phone? But the voice keeps getting louder as she walks more and more in my direction. I keep saying to myself, “It’s a semi-free country. She can be on the phone if she likes.” Although I really want to scream. I just keep looking at my shoes. I can’t believe how close she is getting to me. She is standing right next to me talking on her fucking phone. I can hear every word she is saying. Then she says, “Can you hold on a second?” And she takes the phone away from her ear and she says, “Excuse me.” I look up and say, “Yeah?” And she says, “I take the yoga class you teach in the park all the time and I just wanted to say hello and thank you.”

The  first thought that comes into my head is, “Why is god always fucking with me?” I say, “You’re welcome,” to the girl. She gets back on the phone, gives me a big smile and walks away. As she walks away I realize the key chain that is attached to my keys that are locked in my car also has my Ralph’s club card on it. I hate club cards. Can’t they just give me a decent price without having me carry a stupid little piece of plastic with me everywhere I go?  So I ask the guy in front of me – who is just finishing his transaction with a human, not an instant check-out machine – “Can I use your Ralph’s card? I forgot mine in my car.” I say forgot because I felt I would look like less of an idiot if I forgot rather than locked my keys in my car. It seemed logical at the moment and I didn’t have time to come up with a better, less embarrassing lie. He says, “Sure, no problem.” The girl behind the counter, whose job I am trying to support by not using the automated check-out aisles says, “I’m sorry we don’t let people do that anymore.” I say, “Are you fucking serious?” Before she replies I say, “Why the hell does it matter?” She says, “Sir…”. I hate when people call me sir. But she says, ” Sir, it’s the rules!” I clamp my mouth shut, walk out the door, get my hide-a-key, get in my car and drive to Trader Joe’s. If this doesn’t work, I’m going on a hunger strike.

In a world full of lies, Truth is like a naked man standing in the supermarket with nowhere to put his club card.

Hitler’s Shoes

I had a terrible cough. I took some professional strength cough syrup.

I fell right to sleep that night but I had the strangest dream.

I dreamed I was a prisoner at Auschwitz. Several other prisoners and I were wandering around. While wandering around, we found a pair of Hitler’s shoes. I told everyone I was going to put the shoes on. Everyone agreed I should not.

I said, “Wait until you see Hitler’s face when he sees me wearing his shoes. It’s going to be hilarious!”

Everyone was silent.

Fear and Loathing at the Public Library

I went to the library at Detroit and Sunset to find a book. I was looking for something on the positive side. But anything that could keep my attention would be fine. I had just hit pay dirt with 50 Cent’s The 50th Law. I have no idea why I picked that book off the shelf, and why I brought it home is a complete mystery. I read that book in 3 days, which is fast for me. I was looking for that experience again but those things are rarely duplicated. I was ready to settle for “keeps my attention”.

I grabbed a book by Deepak Chopra, 10 or 20 Ways to Get or Do Something. I can’t remember the exact title now. Deepak is always a last resort for me. I’ve found some of his books to be OK. Never mind-blowing. His books always have an infomercial vibe to them and it’s always a bit of a letdown when you pick up one of his books, 7 Steps to Get or Change This, and in the first chapter he says the thing to know is that you already have the thing you are searching for, you just don’t realize you have it, or maybe you don’t really need it. Anyway, here are 10 more chapters convincing you you already have what you need or don’t really want that thing you wanted before you picked up this book telling you–supposedly–10 steps to achieve said goal.

Sometimes these books are good, sometimes just something to pass the time. I don’t know if just passing time is good. How about 10 Ways to Live Life to it’s Fullest, Not Just Passing Time. I think I’ll write that book, and in the first chapter, I’ll tell you why just passing time can be a way to live your life to it’s fullest.

So with my Deepak book in hand, I was walking to the library check-out area. A lady was arguing with one of the librarians about the size of the suitcase she had with her. The librarian was telling her the suitcase was too big to bring in the library. It’s a shame that the Los Angeles Public Libraries have turned into shelters for the homeless and insane. But where are they supposed to go? We have very few programs left in this town to help these people. If they want to be indoors, the library is the only place left. You can see it on the librarians’ tired and toughened faces. It’s really sad. Who knew they were going to have to become bouncers to the downtrodden masses? That’s a seriously fucked up job.

Anyway, the homeless lady is insisting she must keep her bag with her or someone will steal it. I don’t know who is stealing the dirty laundry of the homeless, but that is just plain horrible. The librarian–who is about 65 years old and 110 lbs.– is getting tough with the homeless woman as I walk by with my 10 Ways to Do Something book. I pull the book close to me as I cross their path and I notice a sick perfume smell. I figure its the homeless woman’s perfume. I check out the book and go home.

Sitting on my bed, I open the book and that smell is back, that terrible perfume smell. I pull the book close to my face to make sure it’s the book and not some horrible memory of that scent. As I pull the book closer to my face, I notice there is hair in the pages. I move the book quickly away from my face. Under the plastic cover and in the pages of the perfume-covered book is cat hair. I can’t read this book. I’m not even comfortable touching it. All I can think of is some dirty cat lady wearing to much perfume holding this book. It was as if she had marked her territory. The vibe was to much. I got up and put the book in a plastic bag and immediately washed my hands. I became a little obsessed with the stink, vibe and karma of this book. I truly believe objects carry the vibrations and energy of their previous owners. That is why I have never bought a brand new guitar. If I get it used, I’m getting something extra. The energy–preferably good–the emotions, and the songs of the previous owner, all in the molecules of that guitar. This is also why I rarely sell a guitar. But anyway. The energy of this book and its stink were more than I wanted in my small apartment. So I took it back to the library, carrying it in that plastic bag so I didn’t have to touch it with my bare hand.

With that book returned, I got on one of the library computers to surf the internet. Yeah, I’m sure the keyboard was filthy, but that book was something else. I’m not insane. Even though I know claiming to be sane is a sure sign you’re not, I’M NOT INSANE.

So I’m checking e-mail and a homeless guy 3 computers down is singing. He has purple socks on his hands with finger holes cut out and his clothes are mostly black (dirty), with a tiger print vest fashioned from a woman’s nightgown and furry (matted) purple leg warmers. Most of his teeth are missing and he is wearing gold rings and chains that look more like painted gold than actual gold. I am momentarily impressed by his sense of style. Especially being a guy who clearly has no home. He is singing loud. I can’t understand the words. He has old headphones on that look like they’re from someone’s trash in 1985. His articulation and pitch are bad. People begin to yell at him to “shut the fuck up.” A librarian is walking towards him and it dawns on me: he’s singing Like a Virgin.

Feel like helping out the homeless in Los Angeles? You can start here:

Feel like helping a Librarian?

Three Monkeys and a Secret

Joe went to the bank. When he got there, he couldn’t help but notice there were three monkeys with a screwdriver trying to break into the bank manager’s desk. The bank manager had just been given a large loaf of banana bread and the monkeys had smelled it as they swung by the bank. The monkeys had been watching a second-hand copy of the DVD The Secret and were spending a lot of their time trying to manifest things… like banana bread. An older woman named Charlotte, an ex-B-movie star who was long past her prime, had baked the banana bread for the middle-aged bank manager. She was trying to send him a message and she thought the banana part of the banana bread might have Freudian overtones.

The bank manager caught the monkeys trying to break into his desk. He had grown interested in the idea the banana bread implied, but not really the bread itself. He called security and an overweight man with a gun approached the monkeys that now brandished the screwdriver more as a weapon. You see, all the watching of the second-hand copy of The Secret had given these three monkeys a sense of entitlement. The monkey on the left who was not holding a screwdriver said to the guard, now holding his gun, “Isn’t there enough for everyone in this world?” The guard looked mostly confused because he himself did not speak English well, and the monkeys’ English was more like pig-Latin.

All three of the monkeys were growing upset and this made them even more upset, because they knew that if they had negative thoughts and emotions, this would make manifesting anything good nearly impossible and then all they would be left with would be their desire… which all three knew was the root of all suffering.

The monkey on the right (also not the one holding the screwdriver) jumped up on the bank manager’s desk as Joe looked on. The security guard jumped back and made the sign of the cross (it’s a Catholic thing). The monkey who jumped up on the desk pulled down his board shorts and began peeing on the bank manager’s desk while he sang “Me So Horny” by 2 Live Crew. All three monkeys began laughing and ran out the door and down the street. One was still holding the screwdriver as he ran.

Joe was very angry by the time he got back to his apartment and his anger, which he was unable to control, was upsetting him even more because he, too, had watched The Secret and knew that his bad mood was probably manifesting more of the same and he felt trapped. If only that stupid cop hadn’t kept asking him, “Are you sure the monkeys said they had been watching The Secret?” Joe had finally said, “I told you three times already, yes, those fucking criminal monkeys said they had been watching The Secret.” The cop got pissed when Joe raised his voice and started getting passive-aggressive with Joe. Joe shut down a little inside as a defense mechanism.

Joe immediately took his copy of The Secret off his shelf and took it to the biggest, non-corporate music and book store in his town. This non-corporate music and book store was so big, it put all of the other non-corporate music and book stores out of business a few years ago. Anyway, Joe walked in with his copy of The Secret and the girl behind the counter rolled her eyes, which embarrassed Joe a little. He felt judged. Maybe he wasn’t hip enough to sell his copy of The Secret here.

The girl behind the counter said, “You’re too late. We have had people bringing that DVD in for the last year in truck-fulls and I just got the last copy of The Secret we will ever need. I gave a monkey in board shorts a copy of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra in exchange for the DVD.” Then she said, in a whisper, “I would not have made the trade, but the monkey looked a little upset and he had a screwdriver in his hand.”

Live from Mysore (the path to enlightenment)

Before you go most anywhere that you can’t walk or drive to, you have to pass through an airport. There is no 2-headed dog guarding the gate… it’s much worse.
The young man at gate 1033’s ticket counter has a grown-out fauxhawk… like the fauxhawk itself wasn’t bad enough. Somehow it fits his grey JC Penney’s suit and tie. This portal /gateway / airport is full of the unreal and obtuse.

A young girl is wearing a hoodie with “JUICY” written across the front in silver lettering. To fill out her ensemble, she has on a pair of rain boots, green/grey. You know the kind of boots you put on before you clean out a barn or ask your boss for a raise? She is standing next to a refrigerator that has a sign that says “Organic to GO” on it. It is full of Pepsi, pre-packaged Starbucks iced mocha coffees, Gatorade and Aquafina (Pepsi’s version of tap water).

I never considered myself a traveler but I have proven myself wrong. I seem to have acquired the ability to go inside myself where it’s real quiet and just watch as airport life unfolds around me. Even when a big guy falls into the seat next to me and I feel like I’m on the other end of a teeter-totter joke, it doesn’t faze me. Even the music in his iPod that is so loud I can tell it’s Limp Bizkit doesn’t faze me. Not because I am some Zen/Yoga master. But because I am a survivor. My silence is a survival reflex. Just as fauxhawks and limp bizkit are other people’s survival techniques. We do the best we can. A baby screaning in the next aisle is not saying anything more than “I too am surviving.” But, (baby talking) “why the fuck would you bring me here? I’m not even 1 year old. Do I really need to fly to Germany (our layover)? Couldn’t you have left me with someone? Grandma or the dog? Anything but the airport.” As babies, we are born geniuses. It takes a while—and a lot of school—to become stupid enough to willingly go to an airport.

There is an unavoidable panic that sets in when you strap yourself into a seat of a plane knowing you have 22 hours to go. There is an impossible amount of acceptance necessary. It’s like the slamming of a metal door in the West Hollywood jail. It’s a test of your ability to let go of the control freak inside. That’s when the delusion sets in and the petty complaining begins. “Oh my god I forgot to bring a book to read on this flight!” “I though Lufthansa had individual movie screans at each seat.” Just “Schimmweste unter therm sitz.” At least there are screens in the aisle. The last time I flew this airline I had been on a tour of Europe with a rock and roll band I was in at the time. I should have remembered they had no screens in the seats. That must have been a memory from another flight and airline, mabye Virgin. The movie Lufthansa played on that other flight was “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – 2”. How could someone pick that as a movie that could have the mass appeal an 11 hour flight needs? Only a German could come up with a torture that diabolical. The movie on this fight has not started yet. I am praying for a miracle. They just announced they are serving FREE drinks. I know to some this could be viewed as a miracle, but I don’t drink. I hear god laughing. It’s at me, not with me.

The movie turns out to be “500 Days of Summer”. I say yes to a miracle.