Friday, December 31, 2010

Another "Nuts" book... by an ELECTED OFFICIAL

Yeah, happy new year's eve, hello 2011, blah blah. Thank you.

Someone else has written a book about eccentrics et al in L.A. It's none other than city councilman Greig Smith, reflecting on his three decades in city government, with a special emphasis on the more colorful employees of and visitors to city hall.

At first, I was a bit piqued. I'd like to think that I thought of Angeleno make-funning first. But I've since realized that there's plenty of room for other books on the subject. THAT'S how many eccentrics we have here.

All of this has reminded me of "Reminiscences of a Ranger," a semi-autobiography by Horace Bell, a lawman who looked back on the do-badders he encountered during his tenure.

The book was first published in 1881.

Ah, shit.

There's really nothing new, is there. Except 2011. 

Happy new year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Very Different Kind of Author Interview

I love when I get to do shit like this and they print it:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Dec. 11: Author Sort of Reads from Book

In this case, the author is me and the book is mine. But it's so much more than a reading:

• An installment of "Suspenseful Moments in L.A. City Council"
• How to make friends in L.A.
• Clyde Langtry does improv
• An original song -- the idea of which is even funnier if you already know me

The Last Bookstore in L.A.
400 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Saturday, Dec. 11
8:00 p.m.


(Not) Bitching

Maybe it's just human nature to complain about shit, but whining seems particularly endemic to L.A. For every person who praises L.A., we have 10 or 20 who are never short of criticism. And I guess I'm one of them, but at least I've tried to make money off it and entertain people with it (prioritized in that order).

The latest prompting occurred this week. Our oh-so-wild, unpredictable weather changed. It's gotten cold -- relative to L.A., I mean. We're talking nighttime lows in the 30s. So at work, everyone within earshot seems to try to one-up each other the instant they miraculously make it through the inhuman climate to the office.

"It was 31 degrees outside when I woke up."
"I had frost on my windshield this morning."

That's pretty much the extent of the commentary. No ruined rose bushes. No frostbitten animals. Just "fuck, it's cold" and similarly imaginative observations. It's actually more pleasant than the summertime heat complaining; since it's hot all day in the summer, the bitching lasts all day too.

This little screed is actually part of a larger problem I've been dealing with the past year or so. I've decided that my lofty position in life (there is sarcasm in that clause) is a direct result of my crap-ass attitude, so I've made a conscious effort to improve it. That alone makes me feel better. However, until I end up as elevated as Deepak Chopra or the Dalai Lama, I find myself downright irritated with the confederacy of bitch artists that claim the space around me. I'm getting better at tuning them out, but it's difficult not to be affected by them.

With that in mind, I'm actually starting to notice more good in L.A. -- as well as people who feel likewise. My friend Carrie won't fuckin' shut up about how much she loves it here. My friend George has lately taken to spending his spare time on hikes, including repeated trips to Mt. Baldy. One L.A. blogger I read yesterday made a list of things he likes, including a charming-looking tavern I'd never heard of.

So here in my unfunny, uncranky way are a random handful of aspects of L.A. that I'm happy about and grateful for:

-- Most of the people I care about are here.
-- Diversity in entertainment, culture, and geography. There are some places I've never been in L.A., and I've lived here my whole life.
-- Intellectual diversity. Could you imagine living someplace where you disagree with everyone about politics and social issues? Or worse, living someplace where you AGREE with everyone?
-- Not having to worry about snow, flash floods, or any of the other murderous weather that's affecting nearly everyone else in the country.
-- A farmer's market every damn day of the week, even if I don't visit them as often as I should.
-- The Foxfire Room, my neighborhood dive bar, even if I don't visit it as often as I should.
-- Lardon, the bacon-themed catering truck, which sometimes parks outside aforementioned bar
-- Occasionally seeing a celebrity: surrealism without hallucinogenics or being subjected to a pretentious art exhibit.
-- Invites from really talented friends to see their play, band, or whatever their talented asses are doing.
-- My below-market rent, which not only affords me luxuries like cable and occasional travel, but makes me feel like I'm in on some secret, which is important in a city where alienation is an easy trap.

I think above all else, I'm drawn to the same thing that others are drawn to: the endless sense of the possible that you can experience here. It makes me optimistic that my next book won't suck, seeing as how I've apparently turned into one of those glass-half-full pests that until recently made fun of such people.


I wrote all of the above during Thanksgiving weekend, then sat on it for a couple of weeks just so I could go back and re-read it.

Didn't change a word.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Anchor go "DUH"

Last night on Channel 9's "news," they ran a story about Bob Newhart being honored at the Paley Center for 50 years of show business success. The news item featured clips of some of his shows, including the one in the 70s that costarred Suzanne Pleshette.

At the end of the story, the two anchors, one of whom was Sharon Tay and one of whom wasn't, waded into the dangerous waters of banter. The other anchor said he'd always liked Suzanne Pleshette.

Sharon Tay: "She was beautiful. She still is."
Other anchor: "Well...."

After an inscrutable silence, the weathergirl threw it to herself, acknowledging the incredibly awkward moment that had just been magically created.

Suzanne Pleshette has been dead for nearly three years.

Where does one start?

First, I caught this moment while merely flipping channels, which makes me wonder what other kind of idiocy goes on during live news broadcasts in L.A.

Second, the competition for such jobs must be fierce, because if I think anyone can do it, no telling how many other people are thinking the same thing.

More than that, it makes me wonder what other insincere ad libs anchors make. Clearly, Tay didn't know Pleshette was deceased, but acted in full confidence that Pleshette was not only alive but looked just terrific, as if she'd bumped into her recently at the Chateau Marmont. If she or any other news reader would toss off something like that, what other bullshit do they throw at us without reservation or correction?

If anyone saw this or has any evidence that she apologized, then by all means post it as a reply. I didn't stick around long enough to wait for them to come back from commercial to see if they'd make mention of it.

Also, I wonder if Sharon Tay is easy. Actually, I've wondered that about her for years. After all, before she stuck her foot in her mouth, she was beautiful. She still is.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Liberal Outrage

As a town full of lefties, we're usually happy when our Democratic president visits, whether it's Obama or Clinton or... whatever other Democratic presidents we've had lately. But last night, we flipped our shit.

Obama blew into town to attend a fundraiser. Okay, fine. Politicians do that. And his motorcade and security detail slowed traffic here and there. Again, that's the sort of thing that accompanies presidents. But the key phrase is "here and there." Last night, for reasons no one quite knows yet, "here and there" became here and there and there and that other place and way back there and so on. In some parts, it was a nightmare of apocalyptic proportions. Bloggers on report that they couldn't get home for hours. Some abandoned their cars to walk home. Some couldn't even do that: Pedestrians weren't allowed to cross some apparently president-free streets. (If this sounds like lame-ass, secondhand reportage, it is. I live and work in the Valley, the New Jersey of the L.A. metro area, where traffic was completely unaffected by all of this.)

It would be easy to say something like, "I'm all for fundraising, Mr. President, but let's use some common sense and better planning when you visit a traffic-heavy city." But that's not how I feel. MONEY IN POLITICS IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WE HAVE RIGHT NOW. It's the source of all corporate-friendly legislation and court rulings that have allowed the BP disaster, Wall Street corruption, the real estate crash, and pretty much every other large problem we have. Cap campaign financing, and you'll not only see real grass-roots reform take hold, but you'll see the true emergence of third and fourth parties.

Then Obama will visit L.A. and tie up traffic for other, more important reasons, like attending the Oscars or going to Disneyland.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A New Sign of the Old Apocalypse?

People sometimes like to disparage L.A. by citing our palm trees in their invective. Good call, shit-slingers. As trees go, palm trees are generally ridiculous.

Most trees have unique combinations of turns and knots and bark patterns and branches pointing in random directions. Palms have none of these. It’s as if some pretender strain of tree decided to do as little work as possible to become a tree: a denuded trunk and a top featuring a heap of fronds not unlike the hairstyle of a rebellious teen. Palms provide little shade. Rats nest in them. One species in particular is simply very tall, as if craving attention. Most are transplants from other regions and most are lacking in character—just like some of the people here.

All other trees are unique in their own way. Spiritualists who tell you to observe the uniqueness of everything in the universe tacitly exclude palm trees. Within each species of palm, every example is a cheap imitator of the one next to it—just like some of the people here.

The thing with palm trees, however, is that they never fall over. Every winter when we have (use finger quotes for the next word) storms, a few trees around town get uprooted and block a street or crush an occasional car. None of them are palm trees. We have—or had—mighty oak trees that surrendered to Mother Nature during strong winds or heavy rains. Since palm trees seem to be thriving in our brown air and nutrient-free dirt, it would follow that they’re impervious to extreme weather. When the wind blows, palm trees just sort of wave back and forth. They’re either laughing or too stupid to know that they should be afraid for their lives. Actually, they’re the only tree that looks better after a good storm; they’re the only ones that hold onto old fronds unless given a compelling reason to shed them.

Finally, a few weeks ago here in back of my Valley palace, I went out to my car to see this:

Lest you think that it was some poltergeisty event, no, the chairs and table at right did not arrange themselves like that. A neighbor thoughtfully arranged them like that so residents wouldn’t accidentally hit their heads on the tree. And that's the same Orange Cone of Nearby Hazards that he puts next to his 15-foot ladder when he sets that up.

Nonetheless, it has happened. One of the countless indestructible, ridiculous palms of L.A. has had enough. The wind hadn’t even been blowing.

What does it mean when our hardiest trees start committing suicide?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Deep Thinking About the Silver Lake Walking Man

Three weeks ago, we lost an icon named Dr. Marc Abrams. He was famous in these parts for a very peculiar activity.

He walked around a lot.

Our fair city is so spread out and thus car-oriented that anyone who walked around as much as the Silver Lake Walking Man reaches near-iconic status. Abrams had been immortalized on two murals and in at least one documentary. His facebook remembrance page has about 3,500 members, and his public memorial—which included a five-mile walk—was attended by 400 people.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to pay homage to the most famous pedestrian in L.A.’s history—by making some lofty connection to the death of pedestrianism itself, for example. But his death does not mark the death of pedestrianism. I wish I could offer up some personal recollection, but I never met the guy. I wish I could say what it was like to see him walking around, but we lived in different parts of town. Finally, last Thursday night, after two weeks of wondering what to say about the Silver Lake Walking Man, I got a sign from Mother Nature.

I ran over a squirrel with my car.

It’s probably best that I don’t dwell on the Silver Lake Walking Man anymore.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Clyde Langtry Speaks... and Speaks... and Speaks

Holy mother of god shit fuck Christ Jesus you have no idea.

Of all nights for me to treat myself to a homemade martini on an empty stomach.

Back when I was acting, I developed something of a reputation for memorizing dialogue. I may have lost the touch, which is tragic because, on this night, wackjob neighbor Clyde Langtry, he who takes up 15% of L.A. Nuts, ERUPTED IN A GUSHER OF GOLD, OIL AND LIQUID PEARLS! (If you thought I meant cum, go read another blog, you fucksickfuck.)

Precious metals, but in audio form. And me full of gin and without a recording mechanism.

On my porch. Martini half-gone. Clyde stepped out of his apartment and talked.

Did my best. Here ya go.


Clyde: “I made a third of a million dollars in 2007—on just two trades.”
Me: “Why don’t you own a house?”
Clyde: “I wasn’t in my head back then.”

Question: How do two adults with no kids in a rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment blow over $300,000 in three years if they never buy stuff and never go on vacation?

Answer: Clyde is probably full of shit.


Me: “You look like you’re walking better.” Clyde had a hernia operation, which is only amazing because he actually found someone he trusted to practice medicine on him.
Clyde: “I’m fine, just gotta lose the 15 or 20 pounds.” If Clyde lost 20 pounds, strangers would offer to buy him food. He protested my contention, then added, “All I gotta get is a ruler.”
Me: “You mean like someone who runs an empire or a 12-inch piece of wood with markings on it?”
Clyde: “Well, one longer than that, but yeah.” He gestured to his dick.
Me: “Did you just point to your dick?”
Clyde: “Yeah.”
Me: “Are you telling me that your recovery from hernia surgery can be gauged by the length of your penis?”
Clyde: “Sure.”
Me: “What does one have to do with the other?”
Clyde: “Well, the hernia’s connected to the hormonal system and when that’s compromised, it affects everything about the male. Testosterone levels,... there’s an increase in estrogen...”
Me: “I don’t think the length of one’s penis has anything to do with testosterone levels.” (Read whatever you want into that statement. You know you’re gonna.)
Clyde: “Well, I think it does.”


I was so drunk that I actually headed back in to grab another chair so he could join me for an extended visit on the porch. At that moment, his wife stuck her head out, wondering why he hadn’t left yet.
Priscilla: “The library’s gonna close.”
Clyde: “Watch what you say or I’ll go pick up some young redhead.”
Me: “No he won’t. If I walked into a bar with him, they’d throw us out.”


He told of this guy he knows, a higher life form with some funny name. The name escapes me, so let’s just call him Harpo.

Clyde: “Harpo can channel people. Some channelers take a long time to get into a frequency match, but Harpo can step in and out of it immediately.”
Me: “Umm....”
Clyde: “Harpo’s from a place that’s so amazing that no negativity is allowed. Can you imagine that?”
Me: “He lives in Pleasantville?”
Clyde: “He promised me that he’d take me to another place, someplace really special.”
Me: “Vegas?”
Clyde: “No, not on this earth.”


Me: “What is your goal with all this?”
Clyde: “To become a higher life form. Then I’d fuck with the government.”
Me: “Wait a minute. How would you do this?”
Clyde: “I’d show up at the door of The White House.”
Me: “To do what, exactly?”
Clyde: “Well, I’d be able to get past security because I could dematerialize and then rematerialize wherever I want. So I’d just show up in The White House and they would have to accept me.”
Me: “And whenever the Secret Service tried to grab you...”
Clyde: “...I’d just disappear again.”


Me: “What do you say to people who tell you that you’re...”
Clyde: “... full of shit?”
Me: “Yeah.”
Clyde: “I don't give a shit.”
That I believe.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Last Month in College Athletics

In June, our two most prominent college athletic programs each suffered devastating setbacks.

UCLA lost John Wooden, who was not only the best coach in any sport ever, but was in the eyes of many the best human ever. (If you don’t know who he was, you should. I’ll stop with the gushery while you look him up. )

And I won’t make any jokes about his life or death. Didn’t even consider trying. It’s not because I feel so strongly about the man that any kind of humor would be sacrosanct. It’s because there’s nothing funny about John Wooden. He was dignified, scandal-free, amazingly humble, overflowing with integrity, highly respectful, and highly respected.

Many people in town have a John Wooden story; all the ones I’ve ever heard are reverent. Some were on display at his recent memorial, the send-off that officially cemented his legacy as the best human ever.

And then, there was USC’s tragedy.

On June 10, the NCAA finally finished their long investigation into improprieties in USC’s athletic program. The findings gave numerous examples of USC lacking “institutional control,” namely, looking the other way while its football team’s star running back, Reggie Bush, accepted every perk thrown at him except Asian hookers.

As a result, USC’s football team is ineligible for bowl games for the next two seasons and will surrender 30 football scholarships over three seasons. In addition, it might have to vacate its wins from December 2004 through the 2005 season, a time frame that covers their national championship drubbing of Oklahoma, as well as Bush’s Heisman-winning season.

During the investigation, USC tried to soften the inevitable blow against its leviathan football program by tossing up its men’s basketball and women’s tennis programs as sops to the NCAA. After the sanctions came down last month, the school took a different tack: arrogance. Take this quotable by highest-ranking buck-stopper, athletic director Mike Garrett:
“I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans.”
Pete Carroll, the Trojans’ revered football coach during the time in question, got his integrity duty out of the way in January: He high-tailed it out of town for a job in the NFL—denying at the time, of course, that his decision was at all influenced by the sound of a giant hammer that was falling in USC’s direction. When news of the sanctions reached him in June, his denial blossomed into a full-blown Claude Rains impersonation: 
“I’m absolutely shocked and disappointed in the findings of the NCAA.”
Todd Dickey, the school’s senior vice president for administration, said USC takes full responsibility for the violations. Except for a lot of them. And he feels the sanctions are too severe. And a lot of the blame lies with unscrupulous sports agents and marketers. Other than that, USC takes full responsibility for the violations.

I was all set to point out the stark contrast between the two schools until things reached new lows. A blogger named Paragon SC on the modestly named wrote a somewhat defensive screed on the NCAA’s sanctions, which included this:
“Pete Carroll did not actively do anything wrong, but like John Wooden, he is guilty because he should have stopped it by limiting access and being more inquisitive.”
For the record, Wooden himself later admitted that he may have had tunnel vision for years while a booster orchestrated countless perks for dozens of men’s basketball players. It was the first I’d heard of any of it. The media didn’t talk about it much, and none of the UCLA boosters I’ve known over the years ever mentioned it at all. Let me be the first to remind everyone that hubris is a two-way street.

Still, it is curious how some SC fans seem to think the steady rancor directed at their team is due to jealousy. And yet, the instant one fan in particular gets a chance to deflect any blame that may be aimed at Pete Carroll, he feels the need to compare it to a John Wooden “scandal,” one that he and his readers are apparently so familiar with that they didn’t bother to explain it. Why so fixated on the Wooden issue? Couldn’t have anything to do with—and I’m just spitballing here—jealousy over his basketball team’s TEN national titles, could it? It’s also odd that the only context in which he can free Carroll of implications is in an era that ended 35 years ago. Surely there have been some more recent incidents by which he can be compared, right? Not to the hyper-jealous USC fan, I guess.

Saddest of all, however, is the blogger’s timing. Wooden had been deceased for a week when that statement was posted. Defensiveness, deflection, denials... those I can understand, even if they’re not representative of the better side of otherwise nice USC fans—and there are many in town. But to use USC’s sanctions as an opportunity to piss on the casket of the classiest act the city has ever known is, at the very least, tasteless. And I wish I could say Paragon SC was the only one who is capable of such a thing, but none of the 18 replies to his thread made mention of it.

So, to some of the USC athletic department’s higher-ups and some of USC’s fans, I say this: Take your lumps with a semblance of character—just like John Wooden would have done.

Monday, June 28, 2010

L.A. Nuts Author Prattles Away for YOU

I forgot to post this a week ago when it first appeared (i.e., the free book promo has expired).
If you'd like to read a little about the background of L.A. Nuts, my lengthy opinions on humor writing and publishing-type stuff, and how a guy ends up on a New York crosstown bus with a medal around his neck, go here:

Saturday, June 19, 2010



Really. Just what we needed.

All the Celtics had to do was make a few shots down the stretch and none of this would have happened.

Instead, we got hordes of pricks outside the Staples Center Thursday night. Certain pricks in particular decided it would be a good idea to pick fights, throw beer bottles, and similar activities that smear our otherwise spotless image. The po-po pinched a few of them, per procedure—a procedure that evidently included watching motionless from a few yards away as departing cars drove through a gauntlet of rioters. But they didn’t seem to catch up to the Olympic Boulevard Natural Selection gang, who wandered onto the Santa Monica Freeway.

In the end, the police made at least 42 arrests.

(If you think I’m picking on Laker fans, consider that this was the same day that Mexico beat France in World Cup play. How did our sizable Mexican population react? With giant, spontaneous celebrations in the streets. How many were arrested after their country all but locked up a second-round appearance in the World Cup? ZERO.)

Like most things in L.A., the Laker riot coverage was made worse by our local media. On the one hand, the helicopters gave us nice real-time video of the unrest as it got unrestful. But as much as news directors love inane improvisation by pseudo-reporters, the press conference by all their man-crushes proved too irresistible. So we were treated to a split-screen of Pau Gasol answering questions while we watched our fellow citymen discover felonious ways to relieve stress. Eventually, the violence grew too great to ignore, so channel 9 finally cut away to give a more journalistic overview of the chaos. But not channel 5. No matter how bad things got, channel 5 just couldn’t cut away from the irresistible Pau Gasol.

Then Kobe Bryant came on. Understand, no matter how professional, how macho, how cool the sports reporters are in L.A., they all want to marry Kobe Bryant. Okay, Fred Roggin probably doesn’t, and there may be other exceptions, but by and large, every time I see a reporter talking to Kobe Bryant, I half expect him to leap into his arms and French kiss the guy.

Sure enough, as soon as Mr. “I Sucked” stepped up to the mikes, channel 9 couldn’t resist. They went back to split-screening the love-fest with the hate-fest. Then all the 10:00 news programs gave us wall-to-wall Laker championship/violence coverage as well, cutting away only for the weather—and other sports. Even the 11:00 news shows did likewise. BP’s Tony Hayward couldn’t have asked for a better distraction to knock him off the news.

But on a night when violence hitched a ride on the tails of our champions, and before the local news could shove all that civic hubris down our open throats, the TV gave us an accidental treat. Immediately after the win, ABC’s on-court correspondents were racing around interviewing every Laker they could find, who obligingly replied how lovely the whole evening had turned out.

And then, one of them found Mr. Ron Artest.

Artest was the guy who was at the center of a brawl with Detroit Pistons’ fans, enduring, as a result, his suspension for most of the 2005 season—one of the longest suspensions in NBA history. Not five years later, we got to see the same man slaying the last demon from his violent past. He was humble and genuinely joyous over the Lakers’ win, going so far as to hug ESPN’s Doris Burke at the end of her interview with him. He also had the presence of mind to thank his psychiatrist on national television.

Irony and shrink-worshiping on live TV. Now that’s an example Angelenos can be proud of.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My First L.A. Crack House, Part 2

Not only was I happy to help a friend clean out his house, but I also figured all that manual labor was a good chance to drop a few pounds. You get that slice of thinking in L.A.: People think a lot about weight loss, even going so far as to find that as a silver lining during an illness. “Thanks for the invite, but I can’t go with you tonight. Raging case of the diarrhea. But I’ve already lost three pounds!”

Haven’t made the acquaintance of too many crack addicts, but from what I gather, they’re not neatniks. The ones who used to live at my friend’s inherited house seemed to have the disposable income to buy all sorts of things and then, well, dispose of them — everywhere except the trash can. Six of us filled a jumbo-sized dumpster on Sunday. To call most of it crap understates the case of things. It was more than most, and it was worse than crap: weather-destroyed books, magazines, unidentifiable shards of plastic pipes, wires, pieces of wood and particleboard, strips of cloth, torn tarps and other sheets of plastic, VHS movies, various electronic parts, stray bolts, and on and on and on.

Some things begged curiosity. Our friend Kyle found a portfolio filled with communist literature. Someone found a water pipe made from a 2-liter soda bottle. Then there was the double-sided phallus that most of us straight, well-adjusted males just couldn’t stop looking at. That ended up in the garage along with a stack of Polaroid nudie shots and the shoe box full of stray panties. Every once in a while, we’d hear a whooping sound from Dale’s dad’s friend Marv. That meant that Marv had found another pair of panties and was flinging them to the panty box. If you’ve never found little moments of fun like this while cleaning out a crack house, then you’ve never tried.

The place was once a decent house that had since been turned into a hovel, which made me have contempt for the scummy sorts that once occupied it. I spent the first hour just making gasping and sighing sounds at the junkyard that the backyard had been turned into. You couldn’t make a mess like this if you tried.

But I occasionally ran across items that made me suspect that shreds of humanity must have survived at times. Things like a hairbrush, a fake rose, a Frisbee. The thing I took with me, literally, was a mesh bag of emerald-colored stones. It was in good shape, so I figure someone recently had decided these would make a nice decoration somewhere, and then maybe the crack overlord decided they wouldn’t, so he tossed them out back.

Who was it who brought these home? How long was she there before she became an addict and said goodbye to her youth and all pretty things, except for the occasional decorative item that ended up getting tossed aside? Was she once a happy child? Was she once an idealistic teen with hopes of moving out here to be a model or an actor? Or was she a neighborhood girl who had a traumatic home life and ended up falling in with the wrong crowd? Where is she now? Does her family miss her? Those are the things I thought about on the drive home.

That and my weight.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

L.A. movies & books

Didn't get a lot of replies last time I posted this, but I only had, like, one reader back then. I'm up to at least six or seven now.

My first L.A. crack house, part 1

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of helping my friend Dale clean up a house that he and his dad inherited. The pleasure ended there.

The house was in Sylmar, not exactly a haven of middle-class suburbia. Furthermore, this house was a crack house. Neither a gardener nor a maid had visited since the Reagan administration, the place was filled inside and out with junk, and the carpet had to have been dirtier than the street. (Of course, as soon as I got to a computer, I looked it up on $277,000. Four years after the real estate peak and a 3-bedroom crack house in ghetto-adjacent is still over a quarter million. Welcome to Los Angeles, seriously.)

Dale and his dad had spent some time waiting out the addicts who insisted they were entitled to live there rent-free. Even after the sheriff had forcibly escorted them to the sidewalk a few weeks ago, they returned not less than two hours later. To steal a maxim from Socrates, there’s just no reasoning with crack addicts.

In order to discourage these people from further re-squats, Dale and his dad boarded up the windows Saturday after a day of filling a long-ass dumpster with crap. It didn’t work. They arrived Sunday morning to find evidence that someone had broken in again, no doubt lured by the promise of stench, clutter, and broken glass. Everybody shrugged it off and began the Sunday hauling session.

You have to understand, this place was so filled with crap that even carpet companies refused to provide estimates because they couldn’t see the floor. Dale was adamant about his utter disinterest in everything inside and out. Just heave it.

That is, until he found a pair of backpacks tied together. They contained, among other things, a crack pipe, an unopened bottle of mojito mix, a hammer and a few other tools, a few cans of paint, several long zip ties, and a bike chain. We were amazed to find that there were things that might actually be worth keeping, so we left the tools, the mojito mix, and the zip ties in a pile near the dumpster, and tossed the rest.

Then the guy who’d broken in the night before showed up, asking if we’d seen two backpacks tied together. He’d left them there the night before, he explained, but they were too heavy for him to carry “home” on his bike with one flat tire. When we told him we tossed (most of) his things, he got a tad upset, lecturing us on being the kind of thoughtless people who threw away other people’s belongings.

He impressed the hell out of us by citing that he ran his own business and had a lawyer. Then Dale impressed the hell out of him by suggesting we call the police. Cracky did an about-face, suddenly choosing to cut his losses. Dale’s dad offered to help him sort through the trash to find his crack pipe, but Cracky politely declined. I guess he realized at that moment that the cops might be interested in talking to a guy who’d just confessed to a B&E and that his lawyer didn’t work weekends.

He then proceeded to spend the next several minutes figuring out how to use his T-shirt and some zip ties to bundle together his paint cans, then got “on” his seatless bicycle and rode off.

And, of course, he showed up a couple hours later asking if we’d seen any more of his stuff. Not only is everyone in L.A. an actor, but we all think the masses want encores.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Big Sister is watching us

If you think our city's financial problems are of little interest outside city borders, consider the recent question posed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She happened to be in town last week, meeting with civic leaders to talk about... civic leader stuff. (If you come to this blog for journalism, sorry to disappoint you.)

To me, the most noteworthy thing came during a roundtable discussion with our city's First Deputy Mayor, Austin Beutner. Beutner had just been appointed interim head of our beleaguered Department of Water and Power, because the last interim leader couldn't stop the beleaguering. At one point in the discussion, without any apparent prompting, Merkel asked Beutner what the deal was with the DWP's financial problems, and their effect on the city's deficit.

The Chancellor of Germany is asking about our DWP?? Then I remembered: Berlin is L.A.'s sister city.

So is this a matter of family just looking out for us? Or are our problems so enormous that they're drawing international attention?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

And guess where the dude was going?

This afternoon, I pulled into the parking lot of the nearby post office. I drove there instead of walking because I was on my way somewhere else. Otherwise, I would have walked.

I wish I had walked. The lot was jammed. On a TUESDAY afternoon! All I could find were two economy spots next to each other. Now, the douchebag in me would have just straddled the line and taken up two spots, ensuring a nice, wide parking spot. But we see people do that in L.A. all the time and we judge them as douchebags. Some other variations of douchebags have been known to walk up to such cars and deliberately key the paint.

I decided I wanted no part of such douchebaggery. So, being the complete idiot that I am, instead of leaving the lot and parking down the block, I squeezed my nice, undamaged car into one economy space, thoughtfully leaving enough room for some other complete idiot to squeeze his nice, undamaged car into the economy space next to me. Sure enough, a complete idiot came by as I was getting out. He was having a bit of trouble getting his car in. I even volunteered to re-park my car over a few inches just so he could fit better. Keep in mind this is all so I can run into the post office for something that should only take seconds.

The guy noticed another spot open up and he parked there instead. I ran in, did my seconds-long errand, then came out just in time to see complete idiot #3 show up, squeezing his not-so-nice, dinged-up old piece of crap into the empty spot next to mine. He pulled all the way in, then decided he needed to straighten out, so he put 'er in reverse and pulled out -- smashing his side-view mirror into mine.

My mirror, as it turned out, ended up only scratched. His, on the other hand, was shattered. I got in my car, but had a spot of trouble getting out, as half of The San Fernando Valley had just entered the parking lot at once, trapping idiot #3 among a murder of cars. He decided to get out of everyone's way by re-parking his car next to mine, allowing everyone else to pass. I reversed out of the spot at about one inch per hour and pulled over to a "no parking" area, then walked up to him.

"Look, my mirror only has a scratch, so I'm gonna let it go."

"Okay." He was slow getting out of his car. He bore the shamed demeanor of a guy who'd just gotten into a car accident by way of his own poor judgment and knew it.

"You okay?" I asked.

"Yeah. Are you?"

He'd been going about one mile per hour and I was fifty feet away when it happened. Yes, I think I could forgo the ER visit on this one.

(Later, I discovered the power mirror that was hit now makes a funny noise when I move it. Lesson learned: park down the street and walk.)

As I left, I watched the guy walk from his car just to see where he was going. In fact, why don't you see if you can guess. Based on the above story, idiot #3 walked into:

(a) the post office
(b) the dry cleaners
(c) the pizza joint
(d) the banquet hall
(e) the marijuana dispensary

I hate to be judgmental -- and I TOTALLY think it should be legalized -- but if you guessed (e)....

Formula for predicting rain in L.A.

Today, there is a 60% chance of rain in Los Angeles, which is wrong. I haven't backtested a full statistical analysis of this, but the correct way to predict rain in L.A. is as follows:

% predicted by weather reporters - 30 = true % chance of rainfall.

The elegant thing about this formula is that it transcends all human media factors. No matter which local TV personality you watch or which radio station you listen to, they all predict the same thing. So you don't have to amend the formula if you watch, say, Fritz Coleman over Jackie Johnson. (I feel it is important to note here that Jackie Johnson is hotter than Fritz Coleman.)

Therefore, to take today as an example, there is actually only a 30% chance of rain (60% predicted - 30 = 30% chance). So if you want to make money off some local news junkie friend of yours by placing an even-up bet on the rain, today is your chance. No guarantees, but the odds are in your favor.

Applying the formula elsewhere, we know that most summer days in L.A. feature a 0% chance of rain. This, of course, means that there is actually a negative-30% chance of rain.

Looking at things the other way, when forecasters tell you that there is a 100% chance of rain, they are risking their reputations. Even on such days, there is actually only a 70% chance of rain. The ONLY time there is ever a 100% chance of rain in Los Angeles is when weatherpeeps predict a 130% chance of rain.

I have yet to work out a complementary formula for snowfall predictions in L.A., but I imagine it involves a lot of zeroes.

L.A.-themed movies & books?

Lately on L.A. Times Jacket Copy, they've been interviewing authors for the upcoming festival of books at UCLA.

I am not one of those authors.

However, a recurring question posed to the authors is this: Do you have a favorite book or movie about Los Angeles?

Book: "The Day of the Locust" is the first thing that comes to mind. Also D.J. Waldie's "Holy Land."

Movie: "Short Cuts." And the L.A. sequence in "Annie Hall" rivals any L.A. movie.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's as if I Never Left

I stopped writing this blog nearly five years ago shortly after I began. The keen editors at proposed that it would make a good column. They were right. The column begat a book, which has inspired me to go back to writing a blog. Now I know how Mel Brooks must have felt with The Producers (which, incidentally, is going to be a manga comic book later this year).

I somehow dug up my old username and password to find this blog and much to my surprise, got it working again, just like future generations will be able to restart old Priuses just by finding their granddad's start-button-adjacent keys to them.

I have high hopes for this blog, too. I've already activated transliteration into Hindi.