Gingerbread Dead

If I lived in a gingerbread house, I would be overweight.

If I had a gingerbread girlfriend, I would need a new one every day. Great mobs would gather around my half-eaten gingerbread house and chase me through the streets, calling me Hannibal the Gingerbread Cannibal. But no one would understand: I just can’t help myself.

Is that icing on your face… ?

gingerbread-man-series-7147919

Rain

I could sit for hours watching the Los Angeles rain out the windows of my rented room. Sometimes even the sound is enough to transport me back five lifetimes, when I lived alone in a cave. I was a woman then, and was the first of my kind to learn how to sharpen a stone. I never said I was non-violent. The few who had tried to mess with me limped away if they were lucky. The price of solitude was the muscle of knowledge.

A fire sits only slightly back from the entrance of my cave. Smoke billows out of the opening and into the tall trees. In the downpour, I am safe to show my location to the other tribes who have all settled in for the storm.

A wolf crosses the entrance of my cave. Fur wet, he looks in on me with ears down and back. I throw the remains of my rabbit dinner to him and he jumps as if being attacked. He then smells the rabbit, puts it in his jaws and runs off. Today we are friends.

The rain stills my mind with its uneven tempo. I sleep and dream of the sun.

rainwolfst5o1_500

 

Any Given Sunday

It was Superbowl Sunday, which is like some kind of holiday and religious festival in America. People were out in the LA streets in T-shirts with 12- and 24-packs of domestic beer under their arms. To these people, the American Dream is not a dream … it’s a reality in rented rooms with 42-inch high-definition televisions on their walls.

I walked in the sun to the 99¢ store. My shadow was cast long in front of me and I thought about groundhogs, weather forecasters and sun worshippers. I could be happy as any of these.

I see a woman standing next to a shopping cart. She yells out, “Hello! Fine day!”

I see her everywhere in town. She walks the streets picking up old blankets and clothing and then redistributes them to the homeless population, which seems to be growing and growing. I can sense that she is probably near homelessness herself, but I once heard her talk about the luxury of having both a ceiling fan AND a window fan in her home, so I know she has something.

I told her I was going to the store and could pick her up something if she needed. She said that she was hungry and would like some bread. I said, “Bread? What kind?” And she said, “White bread! And can you get me a cola?”

I thought, “My God… white bread and cola. That should just about kill someone.” But I only told her I would get her the stuff. I believe there is way too much unsolicited advice in the world already. Disagree? Take a look at your Facebook news feed.

At the store, I couldn’t help myself and also got her a jar of peanut butter. White bread and cola? WTF? I’m definitely putting some peanut butter in the mix. She was super happy to get it.

On the way home, I stopped at my local pizza place. I don’t have to tell them what I want. They know me. My favorite cashier was wearing his football jersey. He was very happy since the owners allowed him to watch the game at the restaurant while he worked.

When I handed him my money for the pizza, he looked at me a little funny. Then I remembered that time I told him I didn’t watch sports. I was NTBT. Not To Be Trusted.

The pizza was good. I sat and watched a little of the game so I wouldn’t seem un-American. I got to see the Christopher Walken commercial. Another perfect Sunday.

Penn-Charter-School-Football

Musical Chairs

We sat on the curb in the parking lot outside the store drinking Mexican cola. It was raining a little but we didn’t mind. LA was suddenly very tropical and we had time to kill. We talked about girls tattooing their legs. I thought it was akin to spray painting a flower. Fashion is so strange.

My friend talked about that waitress from the restaurant we had just eaten at. There was a darkness about her from the moment we interacted, but I chalked it up to something my witch friend had told me: that evil would be in the air until the 26th of the month.

The waitress sat us in the middle of the noodle restaurant. I never like that. It’s a Malcolm X thing. But I decided not to say anything. Before we ordered, a big drop of water fell on me from the air conditioner vent above. I jumped like a man being shocked.

The waitress let us move to the corner where there was a stack of about 10 unused chairs next to our table and a group of punk rockers eating before they went to a show across the street. They were wearing the same punk clothes and band t-shirts that the punks were wearing 20 years ago. Nothing had changed except now their uniform was bought at a corporate punk rock clothing store at the mall.

I was wallowing in sadness over this thought when the waitress came over and asked if she could have the spare chair that was sitting at our table. My friend had to remove his backpack and I had to grab my sunglasses and keys so she could give this chair to people that had just walked in. My friend and I looked at the stack of 10 unused chairs next to us and laughed until the waitress came over and said, “Is everything okay?”

When I got home, I decided to go back out and walk in the rain. I was wearing a tank top and cut-off army pants from Desert Storm. It was so still and quiet in my neighborhood. So few people were out. The rain seemed to be calming the entire world.

As usual, I ran into someone I knew. They said hello and then asked, “What’s with the flip-flops?” I said, “LA is turning tropical.” They said, “No really….” I hesitated. “Ok… they are my girlfriend’s. I didn’t expect to run into you.”
flip flops

Written by Daniel Overberger

Edited by Nancy Winebarger

A Crack In The Sidewalk

I eat at this taco stand in Atwater Village pretty often. I like the food. I also like that it is family-run and owned. Not some faceless corporation that makes their employees wear unflattering polyester uniforms. Sometimes it’s hard to find parking. I guess that goes for all of LA. When I’m king, we will build great parking structures with beautiful gardens on the roof where people will do yoga and take naps.

But I found parking and was walking to the taco stand and a guy 10 feet in front of me starts yelling, “Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” and waving his arms. While I was initially shocked by the outburst, I really admired his utter lack of restraint.

When the yelling man got to the taco stand, an overweight man (he might have been Samoan) gave him a dirty look and said something. The yelling man threw some food at the guy. It looked like a hamburger or a donut. (I didn’t even know he had food.) Then the overweight guy starts yelling, “Fuck you!” and gets up to confront the yelling guy, which agitates the yelling guy even more. He’s moving fast now down the street. The overweight guy is chasing him but really slow (like an old Frankenstein movie). He’ll never catch him.

The yelling guy passes the mailman, then U-turns. He grabs the mailman’s bag and starts throwing the mail into the street. Then he takes off his shirt and spikes it like a football. The mailman and everyone around are completely outraged. People are running away in all directions while they call the police.

I felt like I was watching some strange experiment. Real reality TV.

Five cop cars, a cop SUV and a cop helicopter show up. The yelling man stops yelling, drops to his knees and puts his hands behind his head. He looked so calm. I tried to look in his eyes but was blocked by the now growing group of spectators.

As they put the now quiet yelling man into the cop SUV, I was reminded of a plant I saw growing out of a crack in the cement.

The cops drove him away and everyone stood around talking and in disbelief about what we all just witnessed.

I ordered a papas breakfast burrito with extra hot sauce.

Tuesday June 2nd 11:35am

original

Did you hear that?

“What’s wrong? Are you drinking again?” she said.

The Indian restaurant on Sunset Boulevard had a gate with a buzzer for entry. I often wondered, would tonight be the night they don’t let me in? This used to be a bad part of town but things have changed and gentrification is just around the corner. It’s sad, but I have realized that maybe I am the earliest sign of gentrification. Within a few years, I will not be able to stand living here.

They buzzed us in and we sat at our usual table, surrounded by the faces of Indian god-men and women that adorned the walls.

The music was a low drone with an Indian woman howling over the top of it. But there was something else. I heard voices. It was an Indian woman talking through a megaphone from a million miles or years away. I thought it was odd they were playing this strange music. It was very “college radio”. The talking behind the drones and the woman wailing had me completely entranced.

“This is the perfect piece of art,” I replied.

Then there was a click to the right of me as the restaurant owner clicked off the speaker phone he had been checking his messages on. The voices went away and I laughed. I already missed that moment of perfection where I did not know the difference between art and reality.

paru

Unsolicited Advice

I had this friend that did phone sex. It was an easy way for her to pay the bills until her career as a Rock and Roll singer took off. I went to see her play one night and she had a song called “Coming on Deaf Ears”. After the show, I asked her if that song was about her phone sex job. She said, “It’s not cumming on deaf ears, it’s coming, and it’s about people not listening or caring.” Which is kind of what I thought in the first place.

Sky writing drifts illegibly across blue horizon.

Sunset Boulevard is busy today. Several men are working the traffic stops with cardboard signs. One guy seems to have an entire paragraph written on his sign. When he finishes his strut up and down the cars waiting for green lights, I decide to talk to him. I say, “Hey, bud, what does your sign say?” He tells me a long story about how it explains he is not a criminal and just needs a little help. I suggest to him that it might be too much information to expect anyone to grasp in his limited interaction with the public. I say, ” You know the MTV generation has turned into the Twitter generation. You need to be concise these days. Could you get to the point faster with your sign?” He looks at me blankly and I say, ” Something like ‘Please Help,’ ‘God Bless’ or the simple ‘Out-of-work Yoga Teacher'”.

He says it’s important to tell a story. I guess it’s his line of work… I’m not going to argue. A man approaches us and says something I can’t understand. I say, “What?” and he talks louder and food falls out of his mouth. But I still don’t understand him. He then turns to my guy with the sign and I finally understand him. “Spare a quarter for the homeless?” My guy with the sign waves his sign at the guy who is hard to understand because he is talking with his mouth full and is also wearing no shoes, socks only, and one of the socks is almost falling all the way off his foot so it jumps around like a fish out of water as he walks. The guy with the sign continues waving his sign wildly and says, “Can’t you read, mother fucker?!?”

Nine times out of ten, unsolicited advice is unwanted. I would even venture to say 5 times out of ten, advice that is asked for is unwanted.  I’m learning “slowly” to be quiet.  People just want someone to listen to them, not to have to listen to me. It’s no wonder therapists get paid so much.

Want to do something to help the homeless in Los Angeles?  You can Start here: Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition

About  Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition

Every night between 6:15 and 7:30 a community comes together at the barren street corner of Sycamore and Romaine, along the border of Hollywood and West Hollywood. On the one hand – on one side of the table – are the volunteers of The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, a broad-based grass-roots organization which for the past 22 years has served a hot, fresh, and nutritious meal every night to the homeless and hungry. On the other hand are between 100 and 150 men and women who have somehow or other fallen through the cracks, and for whom the meal they are about to eat, sumptuous as it is, might well be the only meal they have all day.

The Food Coalition is comprised of actors, producers, writers, artists, teachers, journalists, lawyers, housewives, and a corps of former “clients” who help us pick up donated food all over town and prepare it in a kitchen just a mile from Sycamore and Romaine. Serving a meal to the “homeless and hungry” is the smallest part of what we do. We meet them on their own turf and talk to them – and listen. We get to know them as individuals, and, little by little, in all kinds of ways, we then help them to think better of themselves and to not be shy about asking for specific, practical help – which the Food Coalition, entirely unsystematically, then tries to provide. All together, volunteers and homeless, form a kind of microcosm of what the larger community ought to be, but now, in the big city, is no longer. The motto of The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition is simply this (with no religious strings attached): I Am My Brother’s Keeper.

Oscar Spoiler

It was unusually cold this February in Los Angeles.

My car had been sitting in the sun. When I got in, I noticed immediately how warm it was. It was like sitting next to the heating vent eating your cereal before the long walk to school in the snow, in long ago days growing up in the Midwest.

The warm car was so comfortable, I just sat for a while experiencing the simple pleasure of the sun and a windshield.

In truth, I was reluctant to leave my apartment parking lot. The Oscars were scheduled for tomorrow just up the street. Traffic was already getting heavy and aggressive on the street I lived on. I didn’t really want to face it.

I don’t care much about the Oscars. I like movies and all. But, when I watched anything like that, it used to be the Grammys. Every year I would watch and say, “Next year I’ll be there.” It got a little depressing, so I stopped.

When I pulled out, there was a lot of horn blowing as cars trolled the street for parking. In the chaos, I made a mistake and turned right towards Orange Drive. Orange spills right onto Sunset Boulevard but it cuts at a strange angle. So it is normally an intersection that is congested and hard to navigate. I would like to talk to the city planner who made these decisions. I doubt he is alive, and from the design of this intersection, I’m sure was a man not interested in my or anyone’s unsolicited advice or opinion.

To make matters worse, someone -who is probably still alive- gave someone a permit to put an In-and-Out Burger on this corner. So now, everyday near lunch and dinner, cars full of carnivores turn the already congested Sunset and Orange into a parking lot that smells like grease, death and religious fundamentalists.

I finally break through and am speeding down the familiar streets of Hollywood. I drive past a Bank of America. People are out front with signs protesting. It seems Bank Of America has all of their money in off-shore accounts and investments so they can claim they are not keeping their heads above water. Our government then gives them your tax dollars – $2.3 billion for 2009 – in tax benefits.

It makes me happy to see people standing up and saying “NO MORE!” But there are not enough of them. Most of us are picking out what we are going to wear next year at the Oscars.

As I drive past the BoA, I look back over my shoulder and see a man holding his protest sign. It says ” MORE LUBE, PLEASE”. I smile and drive on. It’s a good day to be alive in Los Angeles.

Best Picture 2011

  • “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
  • “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
  • “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
  • “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
  • “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
  • “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
  • “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
  • “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
  • “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Prague 2am

It could have been anywhere for all I cared. But it was Prague. Might as well have been Mars. I hadn’t slept more than a few hours in the last week or month, it’s difficult to say. I finally arrived at the destination I set for myself 20 years ago and that old phrase “be careful what you wish for” was ringing in my ears. Mostly the left ear, which rings constantly from all the years of playing stage right. The drummer’s crash cymbal is always in that ear.

We arrived after dark, which is how we enter most towns we have a gig in. You learn to sleep a little while sitting in the van. 5 minutes maybe, 15 when you’re lucky. But you never really get rested. In Prague, they brought us to the promoter’s flat (apartment). She had a small dog with one eye. I don’t remember his name. They had a nice spread of food waiting for us. She had chips and salsa. Being a rock and roll band from LA, chips and salsa in Eastern Europe is as rare as precious stones.

We were playing some kind of festival that night. It was 10 pm and we were not scheduled to go on for  for another 2 or 3 hours. You might think that would be a great moment to catch up on a little sleep, but the longer you go without sleep the harder it gets to find any. Like the wanting and desire for sleep push it away. I try anyway.

It’s a one-bedroom flat so I wander into the bedroom – which was supposed to be completely off limits to the guys in the bands. I open the door and my drummer and bass player are in bed. Asleep! How the drummer sleeps is a mystery because the bass player snores so loud it’s like trying to sleep in the same room as a car crash. Complete with screaming victims. I go back out into the main room to sit with the one eyed dog and watch the rest of the rock and rollers party. Alcoholics have athletic endurance.

When it’s our time to go on, two handlers from the club come and get us. We walk to the club which is a couple of blocks away. It’s 2 am and cold. My achy body tightens in the cold air. My feet slip a little on the cobblestone street. I look down and think about the people who have walked on this same cobblestone street for hundreds of years. I look up along the tall buildings and see the winter sky. I can see my breath. I hug myself tight holding my jacket closed. Over my shoulder I see the singer of the Death Rock band I am playing with. He is wearing a black cape with a hood. His face is painted like a Día de los Muertos skull. I laugh a little at the ridiculousness of it all as it freezes as a moment in time.

The club is jam packed. They walk us all directly to the stage. I grab my guitar and turn on the amp. The club is warm, dark and full of moist cigarette smoke. My hands are shaking as I play a little on my guitar. It’s the lack of sleep. The shaking has been with me the entire tour. You learn to play by muscle memory and hope for the best. The drummer counts in the first song and we are on a moving train. It’s like being pulled by your belly into a storm, your head whips back.

I look out into the audience and people are looking at us. I look back and it seems connected and completely disconnected in the same moment. I notice they are all singing the words to our songs. It’s strange. What language do they speak here? We’re playing a song we wrote on the floor of my one-room apartment in LA and a room full of people in some other part of the world are singing along. I smile for a moment which is a no-no in a death rock band, but I’m a rebel. I’m not tired. The songs are nearly playing themselves. My feet hold the stage hard and I feel the rotation of the earth. The earth seems small and large in the same moment.

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.

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