Let there be light

When the apartment manager showed me the place he said the hall light switch was broken and would be replaced. It didn’t really happen. The next step would be me writing a letter and putting it in his “work order mail box” and then wait until he sent someone to fix it and then sit and watch them fix it. Seemed like a lot of wasted time so I was at “the hardware store” and I bought a new switch for 98 cents. I grew up blue collar so it’s not an issue. I went home replaced it in about 5 minutes and surprise. No light. I got out a stool, got up and unscrewed the BRAND NEW light fixture and then heard the voice of god…again. “The light bulb is burned out fool.”

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believe it or not

I really couldn’t believe it. On a tour of Europe in 2007, there had been whispers that our opening band (from Texas) were Nazis. As I watched them, it became clear that it was possible. I was confused. The band I was playing guitar for had a Jewish drummer born in Iran, a Mexican-Irish bass player and an American Indian singer who occasionally wore a dress on stage. It made me uncomfortable: like we or I was saying it was okay.

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I talked to the leader of our band, who also seemed upset, but said and felt that there was nothing he could do since the promoter put the tour together without any consent from our camp.

There is a giant anti-Nazi thing in Germany. Especially in the punk rock scene. The second or third show into the gig, someone was selling these pins. I had never seen something like this before. I mean, I grew up in a very self-segregated community, but Nazis were something I just read about in school or saw on TV. I bought the pin and wore it on my jacket for the entire tour and the next two.

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Whenever I returned to America, I would take it off and put it in a drawer thinking it had no place here. But sadly, this month I have considered breaking it back out. I still can’t believe it.

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Karma

In 1964, my father went to the World’s Fair in New York. I’m guessing it was one of his last outings as a single man. He was a smoker. He quit many, many years later and is one of the few people I know that has pulled that off. He did it cold turkey and my mother says he did not speak for three days. My father says if he gets diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, he’ll take up smoking again.

While at the World’s Fair, he bought one souvenir: an ashtray.

He eventually married my mother and had children. He put the ashtray away thinking the little kids running around the house would surely break it.

When I was 12 years old, we moved to a better part of town into a bigger house. I didn’t want to move. My sister said she was going to stay in the old house and live in the attic. My parents said that would be okay. So I said I also was going to live in the attic of our old house and they said, “Absolutely not.” That entire summer, I rode my bicycle two hours to our old neighborhood every day.

It started to get strange.

I would just be standing in the street, waiting for the neighbor kids to come out and play. They would all go in for lunch and I would hang out alone again. As it got dark, I would ride my bicycle back to our new neighborhood.

One day my father announced to the family that the children were all old enough now and he was going to put out his ashtray from the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The next day, I got up off the couch to go to the kitchen and hit my hip on the table with the ashtray. The ashtray jumped off the table and smashed into several pieces. My father came into the room. I said, “Do you think we can glue it back together?” He said he didn’t think so, picked up the pieces and tossed them in the trash. That was it.

This is going to sound dramatic and I don’t mean it to, but later in life, when I’ve thought about life and death or the couple of times I thought I was really close to the flame, I’ve thought about that ashtray. It’s like some kind of ghost. My father has long since stopped smoking and if I ever said anything about it, he and my mother would both say, “We have too much crap anyway. You’re gonna need a giant dumpster when we die.”

But that ashtray is haunting me. When I’m in surgery in a doctor’s office. When someone crashes their car into mine. And sometimes at night.

Yes, I was just a kid. Yes, my father doesn’t care and yes, it’s just a thing. But today I bought him a replacement ashtray from the 1964 World’s Fair on eBay.

Karmic debt paid.

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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

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My Mother’s Son

By the time I reached high school, it was determined that I was not going to college. Of course, I did go to college, but for music and art, which is like not going to college. But in high school, I ended up in a lot of interesting “we know you’ll do nothing good with your life”-type classes. Stuff like American Comic Genius (awesome!) where we watched old Charlie Chaplin and other B+W movies, Wood Shop where I often slept, and Basic Math.

One day in math class I finished my test first. Not because I was good at math, but because I hurried through the test with an attitude somewhere between Zen Buddhist and “I don’t give a fuck.” As I walked my test up to Mr. Lumbardo’s desk, Jeff H. (the first person I ever knew that injected drugs rather than smoking and snorting them like a normal person) reached out and punched me in the left kidney. My legs buckled and I held myself up by grabbing two desks as I said, “You motherfucker!” Mr. Lumbardo jumped up — I thought he was going to help me because I felt like throwing up and assumed I looked the same. But to my surprise, he said, “Overberger! What did you say?”

He sent us both to the principal’s office. The principal asked us what happened. Jeff said, “I punched Daniel.” He then asked why I was here and Jeff said, “He called me a motherfucker.” To my surprise, the principal said, “You are both suspended for two days.” I said, “This is shit,” and he said, “THREE days!”

They called my mother to come pick me up and take me home. It sucks because she worked for the Board of Education and was probably embarrassed to have to come and get me. They told her what had happened and that I was not to come to school for three days. On the ride home, my mother didn’t say much. I figured I was in trouble but I didn’t know how much. I had never been suspended before. My disturbing sense of justice had me thinking I might not get too much more “punishment” — maybe a week of being grounded at most. As a teenager, there was some necessary acceptance of the established rules, no matter how hard I fought it.

When we got home, my mother told me to go in the other room and wait. She called work and told them she would be on her way back soon and then went to our basement. It was a little while before she came back up. She eventually called me into the kitchen. I was ready to tell her how unfair this all was and then she said, “Look I don’t want you watching TV all day. I brought up my oil paints and a fresh canvas… paint something if you like. But don’t turn on the TV.”

When my parents got home, nothing was said of it and nothing ever was. In their silence, I felt their support. If someone punches you, calling them a motherfucker is OK. Mostly.

For a moment, I thought, “Gee my parents might be alright.” But, It would take me a long time to let them know.

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Team Spirit

I played sports during my first year of junior high. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was stoned and thought it would bring me balance in a school system that was clearly divided: people who got stoned on one side and people who played sports on the other.

I joined the cross-country track team and the wrestling team. Actually I was approached by the wrestling coach about joining the team after rumors spread of me giving Steve D a bloody nose in gym class. They thought I had natural ability. What they didn’t know was I was just scared. I didn’t like being held down or wrestled. It freaked me out, so I was good at breaking free, which apparently wins you points in wrestling, and occasionally gives your opponent a bloody nose.

I didn’t understand team spirit. The older team members took much joy in torturing the younger. They would go to the locker room first and shower so when the underclassmen came in (me), they would flush all the toilets so the cold water would get used up and we would all get scalded by the hot.

One night we were rolling the giant wrestling mat out to cover the entire gym floor. Apparently, the upperclassmen decided I wasn’t moving fast enough so they ran me over with the giant mat. Team spirit.

I didn’t know how to quit the team. I was the only guy in my weight class and I was good at this stupid sport. Every time I brought it up, the coach talked me out of it. So I started acting out.

I began barking during my matches. I could see it freaked my opponents out and the referee kept telling me to settle down. I barked at him. The coach seemed very embarrassed and asked me to stop, but it was too late. My other team members — unoriginal jerk-offs that whipped each other’s bare asses with wet towels in the shower — began barking during their matches, too.

We were winning a lot, but the coach was more and more embarrassed. He had a big meeting and told the team there was to be no more barking.  After the meeting, I went to the coach’s office and told him I would have to leave the team because I was having some kind of allergic reaction to the smell of the locker room. My mother had told me I could always tell people I was allergic to marijuana if I ever felt pressured to try it. So I figured I could use that same excuse here. The coach didn’t know what to say. He seemed pissed. But he let me go.

Later, I would see the coach in the halls of school. He would yell out when he saw me, “There he is, the quitter!” He was also my science teacher, so I started to arrive early to his class and pour water around his fish tank. He would come in and say, “The fish tank is leaking again,” and have to buy a new one. His son was a grade higher than me and played on all the teams. He had great team spirit. He eventually became addicted to cocaine. His father (my science teacher and ex-wrestling coach) owned a candy store near my home. One day his son and a few of his team mates — with team spirit — on a coke binge decided to rob the candy store. His father’s candy store. They didn’t do a good job and were caught.

After the robbery went public, my ex-coach stopped yelling out my name in the hall and telling everyone I was a quitter and I stopped pouring water around the base of his fish tank. Somehow the karmic forces of our relationship seemed… balanced.IMG_0277

Sea Monkeys

I had them as a child. They got really big. Eventually they became our slaves and would clean the house and change the oil in my fathers car. But one day they revolted and killed everyone, and raised me as one of them.

We (me and the sea monkeys) eventually started a company called Shrinky Dinks. It got so successful people took notice. They said “Monkeys cannot run a company… especially Sea Monkeys.” The company was taken away from us. The Sea Monkeys tried to explain I was human and the real owner of the company. But the sea monkeys only spoke pig Latin and I hadn’t shaved in a long time.

The Sea Monkeys were very angry at this point. I couldn’t blame them. There was a small uprising in a northern section of Ohio in the early 1960’s. The Sea Monkeys were quickly destroyed. The remaining few of us were made to pick up the trash as help on the trash trucks of Cleveland and surrounding areas.

In 1967, a movie came out called Planet of the Apes based on the short-lived sea monkey rise to power. It was such a tragic disgrace to the remaining sea monkeys. We all gathered together and ate pop rocks and coca cola. The emergency room would not admit us, being sea monkeys. Eventually it was found out that I was human and they took me in to the emergency room and pumped my stomach.

I am the only survivor.


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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: https://occupywallst.org/

Schoolyard Justice

The gardeners were blow-drying the lawn in front of my apartment complex. I closed the shades and changed my clothes. As I pulled up my Levi’s, I looked up and saw the eye of the gardener with the loud tools looking through the crack in my blinds. While I was shocked, I was somehow also indifferent.

Susie was quite young when she got the reputation in that midwestern schoolyard. It’s the kind of thing you can’t live down in those  towns. She would forever be “the girl that…”. Until the day she disappeared to start a new life in Los Angeles… a leader of a rock-and-roll band, a yoga teacher, or something equally obtuse, like running for office.

The elementary schoolyards of the midwest were fierce. Jockeying for acceptance, solitude or power. Lions roamed the basketball courts without nets and broken swing sets.

The parking lot was full of children. Children of the just-below-middle-class. Joey had a new box of crayons. He ran through the crowd yelling, “I have new crayons!” and laughing. I had crayons, but they were not new. They were community crayons kept in an empty cigar box. We shared them. The black crayon was only a small stump. The children of the schoolyard/parking lot eyeballed Joey with his new crayons and his pride, running faster and yelling louder, “Haha! I have new crayons!” holding them high above his head.

Alan stuck a foot out and Joey took flight. But nothing like his new crayons, that spread out like shrapnel across the crowd of the crayonless. Joey grunted something as his knees met the asphalt. The crayons fell around his crumpled body. At once, as if there was an unspoken command, all of the children of that midwestern playground/parking lot began jumping in the air, stamping Joey’s new crayons into oblivion. Mary Sue Snarky was jumping so high I could see her white underwear as her Catholic school-girl’s dress lifted on her descent, patent leather shoes crushing Joey’s rich-boy pride into the crumbs of adult ambition.