Archive for December, 2009

A bridge to 2010

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Out with the old, in with the new.
New year, new decade, new unwatchable Rose Parade.

New Year’s Eve. It’s always been such a maudlin time. In spite of the random and capricious nature of our wild souls, we still abide by the rigid and orderly guidelines of time. The structure that the calendar demands of us. The structure we crave.

The calendar, time’s labels, like religion, providing us a playing field with rules and referees which prevent us from taking the game to inhuman and uncontrolled depths.

So, despite the fact that tonight, December 31, is no different than any other night of the year, we nevertheless paint it with our happy magic paint brush and gush (in unison) with corny sentimentality about all we have been through this year.

I do it too. I’ve always done it. It feels good to speak in grand sweeping notions about the impersonal trajectory of time’s arrow. It feels good, like a drug, to mark that moment, the very second when one year, a series of digits, finishes up and a new begins. And we mark it with fireworks and song and gunshots here in beautiful East L.A.

Digits. Numbers.
2009 becomes 2010.
Tomorrow we are one day older. That’s it.

Why not celebrate, let’s say, May 13, for the fact that we are one day older than we were on May 12.

Did anything substantive change between May 12 and May 13?
Does anything substantive change between December 31 and January 1? Other than the fact we need to begin dating everything differently now and force of habit says that we will forget about half the time for the first few weeks of the new year, necessitating destruction of valuable checks or a fair amount of reprints.

Well it’s time for bed.
I’m too sleepy to struggle to stay awake another hour.
Cost/benefit analysis tells me that watching a ball of lightbulbs sink 3 hours later than it actually did (the curse of the West Coast) just ain’t worth it.

Good night and happy new year.

Ramblings of a fat capitalist pig

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

I can’t resist, I must announce my New Year’s resolution here and now.
Sincerely do. I will devote every bit of energy towards making this resolution reach fruition.

I will take money more seriously.

I will begin to follow in the footsteps of modern man and commit my life to the blind and obsessive quest of the mighty dollar at the utter and shameless expense of my soul.

Beginning January 1, 2010.

Simple as that.

I realize I have not taken money seriously enough.

This has led me to make some questionable decisions:

-The purchase of non-designer clothing from general purpose stores that sell everything you could want in addition to clothes.
-Packing my lunch daily and foregoing the pleasure of greasy, salty fast food dining, or in other cases, the pricey displeasure of a bowl overflowing with lettuce and dotted with smelly cheese.
-Eating leftovers on a daily basis, some of which have been cultivating quietly in the back of my fridge. Out of sight, out of mind.
-Choosing to drive an 11-year-old car with floor carpeting that has slowly been stripped bare, revealing the metallic innards of the car frame.
-The gutting of my cable TV package leaving me with the bare minimum free channel package that is piped in by a cable directly to my television. A cable that is nothing but a highfalutin antenna, because once again, I refuse to spend money on a digital converter because I’ve resisted the urge to spend money on a hi-def TV which I consider an absolute waste since I don’t watch TV.

These fishy quirks of mine will slowly begin to vanish this weekend.

Money will commence to rule my life. I will seek it lustfully just like you, and him, and her, and all’s of you; all you money-crazed consumerist nuts who would gladly cough up a valuable organ (the kind that come in pairs) if it meant you could earn a few million bucks doing it.

Money will once again rule my life.
That is my New Year’s resolution.

First step in this direction: you may begin seeing (gulp) ads on this blog. Yep. Advertisements.

I didn’t start this blog with the intention of making money. Not in the least. And don’t be fooled. I still have no intention of making money. Ads! Whatever. Hey, it’s not like I’m going to rename this “Phoenixi$m” and start coordinating some big ad campaign. Ha!

Who am I fooling.

I’ll be happy to make enough every couple of months to buy a pack of gum, or if things really begin to look up, maybe a (small) cup of black coffee from Starbucks.

I do this for the pure pleasure, baby. Writing and exposing my inner life and its assorted demons to a multitude of distracted blog readers. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The simple act of clicking on that “publish” button is reward in itself.

Money?

If I can make a few cents for really doing nothing other than decorating my blog with small and tasteful (please let it be) banners, why not? I never claimed to be an anti-capitalist, did I?

I’ll be honest…I think there could be nothing more incredibly satisfying than earning a living solely off a blog. But barring that little pipe dream, I’m just happy to have access to this medium that allows me to express each thought in my own occasionally erratic and hyperactive manner.

So really, I’m taking this moment to announce that I am slightly selling out for the sake of a bi-monthly pack of Big Red, and that money as a reward is the furthest thing on my mind when it comes to this little blog project of mine.

My New Year’s resolution…not happening. Never intended it. That was an early April Fool’s joke.

But the ads…no joke.

Three-year-old computers and 45-year-old cynics

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Oh man.
May I just state clearly and for the record.
I am tapped.
Hungover. Drained and spent.
It was that damn post. Yesterday’s “by the Bay” monstrosity. Did it to me.

I intended the category to be a showcase for brief interludes detailing my drunken foibles.
“Crash and burn by the Bay” turned into a monster.
I pored over that post a thousand times.

I spent so much time on it you’d think I was preparing a Senior thesis.

Dude, that much writing took a lot out of me. I think I permanently corrupted the original goal of the category: “Some Silly Things I’ve Done While Drunk (as hell).” Yep…last night’s finished product bore no resemblance to anything I intended.

First of all, the crash and burn fiasco was beyond silly. It was diseased and painful. To live. To write. And if anyone had the patience, to read as well.

How much do bloggers need to divulge?

Privacy is a terribly private matter.

My privacy threshold is astoundingly low. As I’ve detailed in my “About me” section, it is very low for one important reason: I don’t really care what anyone thinks.

How much of a stake do you have in society? That should be your answer in case you’re wondering about your internet privacy standards. How much of your future rides on the opinions and generosity of your fellow compatriots?

If your answer is “a lot” I would suggest you simply do not blog. Don’t do it. It’s not really worth it. If you need money, get a job. You need attention? Find a LTR on e-Harmony. But give up the blog shtick. It will come back and bite your ambitious ass. Believe me.

But if you insist on buying a domain name and your vanity draws you into the cyber-community in spite of yourself, then go ahead and blog, but blog about harmless shit like scrapbooking or documenting the quirks of that little runt dog that shares a bed with you.

The ‘net loves controversy, it loves juice, and it loves Google. Don’t ever think anonymity is yours.

Besides, I’m convinced that 99.8% of bloggers are attention whores. In varying measures, certainly, but all of them, stinking attention whores. I’m one, I’ll admit. I hate being the center of attention in a group of flesh and blood people. I’m terrified of public speaking.

Shit. Get me up on this cyber podium and you can’t shut me up. Just look at yesterday’s post.
Won’t shut up.

It’s not like I plan on closing up shop and putting the router away anytime soon. In fact, I strolled through Best Buy today on a scouting mission to investigate the mysterious puzzle that is “3G.” I didn’t learn much about it, but I did learn the local Best Buy has a smoking guitar section which made it virtually impossible to tear my son away from.

3G.
The prospects of surfing the net while I’m riding the bus or perched atop a tree house somewhere is difficult to ignore.

I need a new desktop. My current one is at least 5 or 6 years old and it sputters along like a 1977 Ford Ranger with plugged fuel lines. I’ve got an awesome 15Mb DL stream and all it does when it encounters my old computer is splatter out the pipeline like a senior citizen overflowing his Depends.

I can recall the day I brought that damn computer home.

Computers are like pets, aren’t they?
You bring them home as little computer puppies. Fresh and full of zip.

Computer years are numerically worth so much more than dog years. If a dog year is 7 human years, a computer year is at least 15 human. At least.

Ha.

If I was a computer, I would be exactly 3 years old.
Which means it’s time to start upgrading.

Time to add some RAM, add some new devices…a 3-year-old computer is beginning to run short of the freshest gizmos.

That’s what I am. A 3-year-old computer.
It’s pretty hard to compete against those little boys, those computers that just came off the shelf a few months ago, 3G enabled and boasting almost a terabyte of hard drive space and all that “dual” BS.

It’s like listening to these 20-something go-getters who hoist the art of picking up chicks up to the analytical level of astrophysics.

I can’t compete, no do I care to. But they are amusing. Most of the PUA stuff I see is re-hashed garbage that is basic human behavioral logic used to slice courting rituals into nearly invisible slivers of reality. A lot of the “group leaders” create websites and communities and “lairs.” Amusing stuff. The concept of “alpha” permeates their discussions. Just another tribute and reminder to how removed we have become from our primal origins.

But there is hope. I discovered a blog belonging to guy in Canada called Vancouver Game. On the surface it looks like any other “Guide To Being A Player / You Gotta Be An Asshole” forum. Only on the surface. The dude has a brain and maturity and he’s not afraid to show it, unlike many of his cohorts. Check it out…I will.

Crash and burn by the Bay

Monday, December 28th, 2009

I had been through San Francisco many times riding with my family on summer trips as we headed north to Oregon and Washington and even Vancouver. I usually didn’t pay much attention to this strange foggy city that sat on the tip of a cold peninsula. All I noted was that there were lots of hills. Steep hills that jutted into the fog. And the Golden Gate bridge, its span stretching out from the city into the Marin side, a symbolic bridge from South to North. This was San Francisco.

It wasn’t until my friend Dan, who had just graduated from Berkeley, had a party at his place in Richmond that I was able to rediscover San Francisco on my own grown-up terms. He threw the party sometime during my long period of unemployment between October, 1991 and July, 1992. He had just started a new job as an actuary at a large insurance company. The Thursday before the party I jumped on the California 101 highway in my 1988 CRX Si and headed north.

I stopped somewhere in the San Fernando Valley first so I could have a personalized license frame made with “Los Angeles” printed on it, white on black. So everyone would know where I hailed from. I was filled with many strange notions. Looking back I am filled with utter embarrassment to even admit such a ridiculous deed. I attached the license frame in the parking lot of the shopping center, and proudly wearing this hometown FYI on my car, I continued my drive up to Richmond. Since I was unemployed, I began the trip on Thursday, earlier than my friend Keith who also knew Dan and lived near me. Keith would fly into San Francisco on Friday night and we would meet up there.

All went well. The party turned out very nice and I drunkenly began hitting on some Berkeley girls but nevertheless managed not to come across too badly. Which for me meant that I didn’t say something irretrievably embarrassing or break someone’s precious domestic decoration. On Sunday I was in such great spirits and so starved for adventure that I decided I would stick around and check out San Francisco after I gave Keith a ride to the airport so he could catch a flight back home (poor guy had a job).

San Francisco was beautiful! Magical. Nothing like I had experienced before.

I called home and told my mom I was sticking around the city for a couple of days. There was much I needed to “investigate” I told myself.

I was mesmerized.

This was the most beautiful city I had ever set foot in. The hills and the fog and the hard urban outline hypnotically lulled me in to its urban depths. I found a Travelodge on the outskirts of Russian Hill and spent about 3 more days there.

These were my prime boozing days and the town was overrun with dark, secluded bars and restaurants that lined the streets with sidewalk windows. I drank, I ate, I discovered Twin Peaks which lets you view the world from the cloudy, windy heavens, literally. And I drank some more. And I drove up and down the city streets. Sightseeing from behind the steering wheel.

I eventually left, but yes, it’s true…I left my heart there. Right on Frankie!

Over the next few years I drove up to San Francisco often. I became familiar with the city and developed a fondness for several bars and restaurants. I discovered a Hunan Chinese restaurant where I ate each time I visited. Twin Peaks was always on my itinerary, as well. Driving to the top of that windswept rocky peak allowed me to air out my mind and meditate upon the layers of dense fog that enshrouded the region. And my favorite bar was called the Bow Bow Bar. It was located at the tip of a triangular fork intersection in Chinatown. The bartender was an Asian woman named Doris, thick accent and all. I think she was from Thailand or Singapore. She took a liking to me. Each time I walked in, regardless of how many months had passed since my last visit, she called out my name happily and chat with me like an old friend.

Soon after I began working at a bar east of Los Angeles. I must have mentioned the name in passing to Doris, for one day she sent me a postcard there from her homeland where she was vacationing. People like me are easily surprised and touched by spontaneous displays of thoughtfulness. Probably because I am anything but.

My visits to San Francisco were spectacles of inebration and gluttony. I wasn’t making much money at the bar but I managed to squeeze out a good time from every cent I had.

I discovered a place called “Ruth Chris Steak House” on Van Ness, not far from my motel. Eventually the restaurant made its way to the Los Angeles region and lost its allure, but I was still thrilled at the prospect of spending a small fortune on…meat.

In the ensuing years I would take a girlfriend and a wife-to-be on trips to San Francisco. Minus the pathological alcohol abuse, of course.

The visits made during my single days were utter debacles. This would have been the period of 1992 to 1994.

Which makes me wonder: why was the city such a draw to me?

What was the root of the subconscious poke which prodded me to continue visiting the city by the bay over and over?

Lacking perspective at the time, all I could tell you is that I loved the city because of the weather and the natural geography, and if I was in a more open and candid mood, I would have told you that of course, the bars were great, as were the restaurants, the infinite number of dark and invisible nooks and crannies I could hide in.

Blending into anonymity in San Francisco reminded me of a game I used to play as a child in which I would create a steep and convoluted little village made of blankets and sheets and pillows, and the sense of satisfaction I would derive from crawling beneath layers of sheets while coexisting invisibly here amongst the mounds of cloth. Extrapolating that peculiar childhood mind game I played, it’s quite easy to see why San Francisco appealed to me. The city offered safe havens of anonymity while still allowing me to remain tucked into the deep confines of the urban landscape.

Having turned 26 at the time I began visiting the city, I began to indulge in a little faux urban sophistication. i could try on that hip urban allure for size. Pretentious, flashy…it was an exciting new life. Buying the most expensive Scotch, eating strange foreign menu items…I was living large.

In my own mind.

San Francisco offered all the big city urban skyscrapered flare that television and movies had taught me of the New York style of big city living. By comparison, L.A. was bland and flat, a cultural wasteland whose claim to fame was its distinctly suburban freeway sprawl.

Despite my countless visits, I didn’t stray far from the little motel I favored in the Russian Hill neighborhood. Displaying unusual amounts of good sense, I didn’t trust myself driving the frightening streets of San Francisco while in various states of inebriation. So anything I could reach on foot (comfortably and in a reasonable amount of time) or by taxi (while trying to keep the fare within reason) was fair game. From Russian Hill, this meant all my good times were limited to Chinatown, North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf.

I believe it was 1992. I’d begun working as a bartender in June or July (shortly after the L.A. riots). I decided to celebrate my new job by laying waste to San Francisco once again. This was the greatest irony: I, of all people, should land a bartending job right in the middle of this period I call the Drunken Scourge of San Francisco.

The trip began as planned. I rented a car, drove up the coast, checked into my favorite Sleep and Crash joint on Van Ness.

It was Saturday night, usually the wildest of the 3 or 4 nights my trips typically spanned. As I said, I normally showed a modicum of good sense when it came to getting around on my drinking nights, but for whatever reason I threw out all good sense that Saturday night as I hopped in the rental car and headed off to a strange and exotic San Francisco location for me. Japan Town. I had never been here, even at my most lucid daytime tourist moments. Not so much as stepped foot there. Common Sense rule #1 should be that you don’t barhop in a neighborhood you know nothing about in a city hundreds of miles from home. But common sense wasn’t exactly my strong suit, and soon I found myself parking the rental car on one of the streets checkering Japan Town.

And the memory turns hazy.

After I parked, evidently I found a multi-story mall of some sort with Japanese businesses. One of the businesses unfortunately happened to be a bar.

Everything I recount now is foggy as the nighttime San Francisco sky. Memories are sporadic, a broken stream of events which sit in my mind like random pieces of an upset jigsaw puzzle. Any narrative I attempt to describe that night is like trying to put together the puzzle with only the weakest flickering candle light to guide me…

The bar was on the 2nd or 3rd floor. It was Japanese as can be. I recall that Japanese writing was everywhere.

I remember balloons. Balloons, those Asian balloons that are textured and decorated. Similar to these:

The ones in the bar were blue and red…I think. I remember a blue balloon, it had those lines and strange rippled texture. That’s all I remember. That, and vague images of Japanese faces, older wrinkled Japanese men and cigarettes and liquor bottles (this was before the modern era of smoking ordinances). I remember Scotch. Scotch was my new alcoholic affectation. Undoubtedly I drank Glenlivet or Glenfiddich all night long. Seems expensive Scotch and Japanese bars go hand in hand.

The next morning was Sunday and it was San Francisco sunny…crisp and painfully clear.

And when I awoke, I was laying on my back. I was laying on a big concrete bench shaped like an oversized square.

The familiar sensations of panic and confusion and sickness all bloated with a hungover twinge of borderline alcohol poisoning slapped me in the face. After you wake up and realize ever so gradually that you’ve probably fucked up and drank way too much, the secondary feelings of the physical hangover set in. They fall into place slowly, like an intensifying series of hammer blows to the head. Your stomach swims, your mouth is dry and tastes of death. You may become aware of pain if you took a spill or got in a fight…basically, what happens when you rouse from a passed out state is that your body slowly reassembles as a sensory whole and your dehydrated brain slowly and gingerly gathers the disparate elements which have been strewn about by your toxic indulgences and attempts to patch them back together so you can experience your being in a normal sober way again. You are Frankenstein’s creation after he flicks the switch on for the first time. And it doesn’t feel good. Not. At. All.

I must have propped myself up on the hard concrete bench while the world danced and my stomach lurched. I had no idea where I was. I was in a mall, on the first floor. Memories began to re-emerge. The bar. The Scotch. The Japanese fellows.

That goddamned blue balloon.

That balloon sat in my memory and I could almost touch it, feel it, so vivid was that memory. Whereas the sheer volume of booze had washed away all memories of the previous evening’s shenanigans, the blue textured Asian balloon stood strong and would not be lifted away. The image of the pesky balloon stuck in my mind as I paraded crookedly up and down the entire first floor of the mall as I searched for an escape hatch. The doors were locked. Eventually I found a stairwell that led down to the parking garage and from there I found a ramp that led up to the street. And as I spent another eternity blinded by the sunlight while I searched for my car, that damn Asian blue balloon continued to haunt me, swaying lazily in my mind.

Hovering in my drunken memory, taunting me with its lonesome recollection.

And throughout the remainder of that miserable Sunday.

Yes, the balloon.

And never mind the bruises I found on each arm where someone had been forced to grip me with all their stength in order to drag my dead drunken weight down to the 1st floor concrete bench. If they would have tied the blue balloon to my wrist everything would have been so much better.

Holiday weekend blog dump

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

There is a longstanding and unspoken practice on the part of the White House and other governmental bodies to sneak out less than savory news items on Friday afternoons. Called the news dump, these stories usually get lost in the pre-weekend shuffle. It’s a great way for news items to be released with minimal press exposure, just below the radar.

I’ve noticed that the Christmas holidays seem to put the brakes on any sizable bloggery as well. A lot of bloggers simply blog less frequently or about fluffy stuff.

And I get it.

Why blow your wad when readership is at skeleton crew levels?

I think it’s a great testament to my own personal social dysfunction that I can’t relate to this. I seem to spend more time online during the holidays than during the work week. I don’t do a lot of family time during Christmas and I’m not one to parade around malls and stores in search of deals amidst smelly and noisy Christmas hordes.

So here I am.
This is my morning.

I have the next installment of “silly things I’ve done while drunk” almost ready but I’ll hold it until Monday.
No use blowing my wad while people are visiting, eating, drinking, shopping.

So I’ll post this little blog dump instead, just so I can say I posted something and maybe feed the creepy web crawlers something delusionally tasting
.

It’s early, it’s cold in my apartment, I’m fighting off a bug. I just ate a really large breakfast and I’m finishing up my coffee while I read about muscles and the men who build them on Testosterone Nation. I’d rather be in bed under the warm sheets. I refuse to have the gas pilot lit so I have no heater and it’s easily below 60 degrees in here. I have a cold and I need to do my 5×5 Day 1 workout right now.

It’s either devotion or mental illness.