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.