A drowning pigs Moment in Time

I had a very strange dream about 9 years ago.

I’d estimate that in the past 10 years, my dreams have lost a sense of familiarity and vividness. Most of my dreams now are left behind in the fog of sleep. Very few accompany me out to daytime lucidness any longer. Because of this, those rare dreams which I do remember upon waking are memorable and I don’t forget them for a long time.

In this case, 9 years.

The dream.

I must have had it in the early morning hours just before I woke up, because the dream segued into bright sunlight as my eyes flew open in the wake of the drowning pigs.

The drowning pigs.

My dream.

I think an enticing preface would be to throw out this small anecdote about what I witnessed my father do when I was a young child.

Our house had been plagued by mice. Mice running and darting around through cracks and doorways. Some weren’t wise enough to escape the jaws of the mousetraps, but many were. One wily mouse even left his paw behind. For the longest time I wondered if he chewed his paw off or if it simply fell off in his struggle to be free.

Anyways, my dad found a whole nest of little baby mice once. I watched as he pulled them out, the whole mass of them, and flopped them into a tall pail which he proceeded to fill with water. I watched sadly as they tried to swim to safety but the rims of the pail were too high and their battle consisted of which one could tread the surface longest amount of time before succumbing to gravity and certain death. It was pretty awful and I was affected.

My dream.
Nine years ago.

Dreams are slippery. To describe them is like trying to describe the oceanic depths to someone who has been blind for life. They are elusive and the task of relaying them accurately is further hindered by the fact that even you, the dream owner, can’t really make sense of them.

My dream took place in an old church.
Old meaning there was wood, old faded wood, old motifs, the wood was not polished or glossy like in most newer churches. The church was crowded. A hoard of devoted worshippers huddled, dressed bleakly and heavily, like some biblical Nathaniel Hawthorne novel.

Here to witness a strange event. Taking place up front, for all to see, at the altar.
A malignant sort of ceremony.
A ceremony which all were here to witness. Certain to bring them an ecstatic sense of Godly oneness.

On the altar there was a large bath. Constructed of old rickety wood, just like the rest of the church.
Where was I?
Who knows. I was there. I was a witness, not part, but not apart.
A watcher.

And I watched as all the churchgoers, this gathered mass, bowed in respect for what was about to commence in the bath.
It was filled with water.

And this is the specific part I forget.
Little piglets materialized out of nowhere.
Suddenly the church was filled with little pink piglets, cute curly piglets.
And the ceremony was begun when the first piglet was thrown in the water.
By who, I don’t know or remember.
The piglet was tossed in the water and I remember watching as it swam futilely for it could not escape or surmount the tall bath walls.
Then another piglet was tossed in.
And another.

Soon the bath was filled with tiny piglets, struggling to stay afloat.
But they were doomed.
For the walls of the bath were too high and as the piglets tired, each fat little pink one gave in and sank heavily into the water.
And the crowd prayed.

When I woke up, I was not frightened, but I was very disconcerted.
Such a strange dream.

I climbed out of bed and performed my usual morning ritual at the time. I put on some shorts and a t-shirt (it was a warm time of year. September 11, to be exact).
I stuck headphones in my ears and began my 2-mile walk. It led me through the golf course where the radio talk show announcers were not rattling on with their usual nonsense. No nonsense today. They were serious. Somber even.

As I walked, chills ran down my spine as I listened to their descriptions of airplanes flying into the World Trade Center.

I dreamed of drowning pigs the morning of 9/11.

Tales of perfection


Yeah, so check it out.
Sunday night rambling anew.


Sunday night thoughts, streaming, and cooling down because they’ve been rattling around in my head all day.
Let’s see if I can rekindle the ember. Stoke the flame of an idea. Get my thoughts flowing. My brain is muddy. Sunday muddy.


I’ll relate 2 short incidents I experienced this weekend. They share a common theme, a common message.


Do you see it?


If so, perhaps you think much like I do.


In which case you should be frightened.
Or flattered.
Jury’s out.




Friday night, after work, I had a hankering for some greasy, fattening food. So I stopped and grabbed dinner at a place in nearby Montebello at a burger joint called Arry’s. You know it. One of those places you go to comatize, to swim in puddles of fat and saturate your taste buds in heavy saltiness. Even amongst these type of burger stands there is a hierarchy. Meaning that if you’re going to accelerate the heart-clogging process you might as well enjoy the process to the fullest. That is Arry’s.


Why do I bring Arry’s up?


It’s a burger joint. Burger joints are renowned for flunky employees and mildly repugnant “customer service.” Right?


Not Arry’s. You walk in and the employees, mostly men in their late 20’s and 30’s, greet you immediately. They ask you how you are doing in a confident barking tone. They are’t smoozingly corporate phony or corny. It’s not some bullshit script the corporate office handed down to all its soulless franchises. These guys are the real deal, they take your order, they scream it out loud.


If your nerves are overwrought, this might not be the place for you to dine. There is no peace to be found here. Your order is called, they hand it to you with a genuine sense of pride, and if you ask for anything, they will bring it to you promptly and unfailingly. The dudes work and they work hard. I’m sure they don’t make a fortune and the work is not L.A. glamorous, but it is what they do, and they do it well. It’s Zen. Living strictly in the moment and devoting themselves to their task. There is no superfluous or distracted teenaged bullshit from these guys. They are here to serve you. And they do. Do they enjoy it? Who knows. The point is, they do their job, they fulfill the role, they take it seriously and they dish it out. Like adults.


Arry’s is always a pleasure.





My son, the future rock star, found out that there is a Guitar Center located in nearby Pasadena. I was surprised too. I never paid attention to guitars until he immersed himself in this…hobby. This passion. The only Guitar Center I knew was the one on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood I saw when I was younger and cruising or hitting concert spots every week. Guitar Center seemed to have a special renown for musicians and fans alike…I always thought of it as a hardcore musician hangout. The store had regular artist appearances and signature signings. I knew nothing about guitars and it wasn’t my thing, so I never stepped foot in the place.


And then came along my rock star heir. The future Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix, who knows. But stages and bright lights are firmly ensconced in the self-laid path that is his future.


So today we made our way up to Pasadena.



Special note…drivers were very aggressive today. What the hell? I was being tailgated all the way up and all the way down. I even drew a honk and a “fuck you!” from some dude in a Pathfinder. All because I slowed down for a bicyclist. Ah…it was football Sunday. Explains the reduced IQ and bloated impatience of the day.



Anyways, we arrived at Guitar Center on Colorado about noon, just an hour after opening. The place was laid back and there were guitars everywhere. EVERYWHERE.


I saw stars and glitter in my son’s eyes.


Heaven on Earth.


We received a friendly greeting. We strolled back and forth for it was basically a hands off visit on our part. This was a scouting expedition only. No toy-buying today.


Checked out the picks, the distortion pedals, listened as a couple of customers test drove a couple of guitars. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” from Guns N’ Roses. Dude was pretty good and my son felt in over his head. I told him everyone was a beginner at one point. Those who excel in a field, the “veterans,” are the most supportive and helpful to the youth who aspire to their level.


No need for shame.


We wandered into the acoustic section and —- tells me he likes this “acoustic electric” by Ibanez. First of all, I hadn’t heard of such a thing until recently. Acoustic electric? The man working that section, a middle-aged guy, maybe in my demographic, greeted us calmly, asked if we needed help. I told him, no, thank you. —– and me roamed around. So many damned acoustic guitars.


The room smelled of wood. Pleasant and musical. Music in the raw? That’s how I think of acoustic guitar. The man watched us. He walked over finally and asked —- a few questions, then presented us with a few acoustic options. Really no plans to buy anything but I could sense the excitement level rise.


As I said, the man was about my age and the way he handled one of the guitars he pulled down showed he was very used to the Art of Guitar. He answered a couple of questions skillfully, but he held back, didn’t swamp us with sales schmooze. He was comfortable in his passion, and though it was obvious that of course he wanted me to buy, he wasn’t dependent on it. We could walk out that very instant, empty handed, and he would still be in the place he wanted to be. With strings and frets and curved wood. The passion which brought him here and which completed his life, or at least fulfilled much of it, was probably his guiding force.


I was helpless. I’m a man of consumptive passion as well!


In the face of such sincere and unadulterated passion on the part of my son on one hand and from the salesman on the other, the coalescing of 2 ends of the spectrum, how could I just walk away?


He showed us an Ibanez that was marked down 10 bucks and my mouth said yes before my brain comphrended what had just happened.







Two stories.


Folks doing what was right and pure, for them.
Living life to the fullest. Following passion, following duty; an unblinking commitment to achieving perfection.


And driving through Montebello, later, driving by a McDonads restaurant. I was reminded of imperfection.


A McDonalds franchise, that even by vast international corporate standards, left you feeling cold and impatient. Workers reciting rote passages over drive-thru speakers, a franchise which seemed to get your order wrong about 1/2 the time. A corporate franchise where the employees, bored-looking and unfriendly kids, seemed to wish they were anywhere but there.




Worse yet, the casual indifference to perfection.



Cold showers and the culture of comfort


Almost every morning, after showering but before stepping out to dry myself, I do something which lasts for a few minutes and which leaves me breathless, groaning, and if no one is home, grunting loudly.


It’s obvious, isn’t it?


I turn the hot water off completely and aim the arctic cold spray directly at my shivering body. It’s a manic exercise in self-abuse and I’m addicted to it. In the summer months, it’s uncomfortable but not entirely unpleasant. During the winter (such as 5:25 this morning when the thermometer read):

it can be a grueling experience. Yet, like a madman, I welcome the feeling.


Oh, yeah, that’s another thing. I shut the wall heater gas pilot off about a year after I moved into this place, and even in Los Angeles, it’s not unusual for the overnight temps to fall below 55 during the winter. That’s where blankets come in handy. Lots of ’em. And sweats, and sweatshirts…and socks.


I originally planned a “cold shower” post until I read this over on Half Sigma and realized my cold fetish is not confined to the shower. And perhaps indicative of a larger social phenomena.


Half Sigma links a NY Times article which follows the frigid exploits of several people who have chosen to live in non-heated dwellings, which is decidedly uncomfortable for just about anybody reading in January, especially those living in the Northern latitudes or upper elevations.


The subjects cited by the Times each had their own reason for living without artificial heat. Primarily made up of artsy, environmental types, the practice was predictably ridiculed on Half Sigma as a sheepish march into icy oblivion. They ascribed such notions to “Gaiast” thinking. Gaiaism as they refer to it is the worship of Mother Earth, a harsh version of environmentalism and typically the antithesis to much of the grounded, statistical and utilitarian theme of Half Sigma.


In fact, Half Sigma refers to this unheated lifestyle as “really weird” and one of the commenters states, “people who would prefer to be cold possess an almost perfect convergence of personality traits that epitomize the gaian mindset…”


I’m not familiar enough with the Half Sigmian model to understand, in this case, if the source of skepticism is owing to the belief itself, or to its practitioners. I suspect it is a combination of both, and I fully sympathize and agree with their leeriness of the latter.


Every now and then an intriguing idea surfaces, a concept which deserves further critical examination. Unfortunately, the idea falls into the hands of some urban Bohemian types who run with it blindly and parade it around like an absurd affectation as only they are capable of.


In fact, nearly all the Times’ subjects inhabited overpriced urban lofts and involved themselves in the Arts to one degree or another. The person with perhaps the least pretentions was


…Janet Smith, an engineer and landscape designer living in nearby Ridgway, Colo…inhabits a one-room rubble-stone house built in 1894, one of three buildings she bought in 2001 for $149,000. Poetically lovely, they are also impossible to fill with heat, presenting Ms. Smith with a living choice she has embraced with gusto, throwing open windows and doors year-round, and using her own body as a solar panel when the sun shines.


“The best thing about living in a non-isothermal house” — isothermal means “constant in temperature” — “is that you’re able to walk from indoors to out of doors all the time,” she said. “What limits us is only our fear of the cold.”


Interesting point.
Our fear of the cold.
That’s exactly what it’s all about.
Fear of physical sensations.
Same as hunger. People are terrified of hunger. Hunger serves its purpose and does not require satiation each and every instance it’s experienced. Same with cold. Cold is a sign that possibly deadly environmental conditions exist, but more often than not, in the context of our modern world, it’s merely a sign that it’s…cold. A natural sensation that does not require extensive action on our part. The same goes for hunger. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s rarely deadly when you have a McDonalds on every corner.


I’m a cold freak. I love the cold. I welcome the cold, for I feel it strengthens and it toughens the body and the mind. Unfortuantely cold has become something, like hunger, that must be extinguished the instant we experience it.


Sometimes I’ll walk around on a very cold day in a short-sleeved shirt and invariably I will be asked, “Aren’t you cold?”


That’s a dumb question. Of course I am. Can’t you see the goosebumps? Hell yeah, it’s cold. The difference being I can accept the fact that I’m cold. I don’t allow myself to be troubled by the sensation or view it as a something that needs to be “fixed.” It’s 53 degrees, yeah, that sucks, but I won’t freeze to death.


Embrace the physical sensation as only that. A sensation. Discomfort is natural and it’s up to our cognitive senses to determine whether or not our life is in danger. If we determined it is, then we should proceed to deal with the discomfort if possible.


I have found that ending each shower with a few minutes freezing my ass off under a cold spray actually lifts my spirits each morning. The state lasts most of the day, it’s a wonderful jolt of endorphines. It may very well be psychological. In the time that I’ve done this I have only caught one minor cold and had no other physical problems owing to this “weird practice.”


Cold and hunger are but just a few of the many primal physical reactions we experience as a result of environmental cues. We’ve structured a scientifically marvelous world of technology which gradually succeeds in its increasing ability to insulate us from such elements. In the process we have become weakened as an Earthly species. Exposing ourselves to such stimuli, thoughtfully and carefully, in a controlled manner, can only serve to expand our physical and mental durability in this culture of comfort.


In 1000 words, how a soccer player from Cameroon comes to perish (Part 2)

Preface: see this post for an explanation

Entry date: 1/20/10

It was Monday morning and Mehann was late for work as usual. He sped down Sepulveda Boulevard in his 1987 Dodge Omni and as he neared Olympic he noticed with a touch of disgust that the light was rapidly switching modes, from green, to yellow…he floored it, but too late, for the light had turned angry red before he had even cleared the intersection. 

Entry date: 1/23/10

And in the instant between when the light turned red and his car crossed the pedestrian lane, Mehann saw it. “Fuck” he thought, but before even that word could be complete, he struck it: an adult, white Russian Wolfhound which had escaped its owner’s hands and fled into the middle of the busy street. Goddamned dog was humongous. It was the size of a horse, Meehan thought just before his small car’s grill indented itself in the dog’s large flanks.

Storm Watch 2010


I go out on a limb and stake my global reputation on my cosmetological knowledge and it turns to shit.

It happened Sunday night, in my “musings” post. I mentioned that the weather forecast called for three big winter storms to hammer L.A. during the week and I shrugged while mocking the typical SoCal storm which barely pisses enough rain to make a small puddle in your dog’s water dish. I mocked the weather report.

I mocked my fellow Angelinos who turn into liquified dorks at the first hint of drizzle.

Well shit.

It really has rained. A lot. Definitely more than two inches. A tornado or two have touched down in the greater L.A. area and there is a danger of “mud flows” which confuses me. Is that a modern term for “mudslide?”

So it’s been cold and windy and there was a little lightning earlier, but I’m thankful for one thing: no power outages (yet). Power outages are undoubtedly my version of Celestial Wrath. Without power, I shrivel and die. No radio, no computer, no internet, no refrigerator. Dude, power outages are like fate telling me to get a life and walk out the friggin’ house.

Coincidentally, even though I experienced no major power outages during the first 5 years I lived in this apartment (marked in July of last year), a local power station went down in flames within days of Phoenixism’s debut back in August and I lost complete power for 3 days. Actually, maybe it was 2 1/2 days…whatever, it was a long time and I was miserable. The weather was typical August hot and my A/C was nothing but a symbolic piece of overweight metal balanced precariously out the window.

What I missed most about that Dark Age period? This damn blog. I was starting anew. I was exploring fresh territory, I was bursting with ideas and creativity (unlike the state of my blog 4 months later). And with no power, there was nowhere to put them. I resorted to typing some of this bullshit out in my Open Office Writer (a poor man’s MS Word) in dim candlelight. It was kinda cool.

Very Abe Lincoln of me.

Thinking back, I can’t begin to imagine how good it would feel right now if the temps were in the 80s, even at this time of night.

The human mind. Reactive, craving that which is not likely nor possible at the moment.

It’s really cold in my apartment, below 60, and I would love a bit of heat to defrost the icicles which are my fingers. The way it works here, and I’m sure everywhere else, is that as long as there is a cloud layer the temps are reasonable. Nothing too crazy. BUT. Once the storm moves on and the clouds leave the sky bare to absorb all the heat that the earth may have absorbed hungrily during the day, the real chill sets in. In addition, the mountains north of L.A. are packed and covered in snow. Southerly winds rake down those mountain passes and carry with them frigid-ass conditions. It’s raining now as I type, but if the storm passes through, I guarantee you Los Angeles will experience one of those subfreezing spells. There is nothing quite so humbling as scraping ice off your winshield even though you live in Los Angeles.

Speaking of humbling. There is nothing quite as humbling as taking the bus around in Los Angeles either. Whatever. I rather enjoy sitting in the back of the bus on days and nights like this. The bus engine is located way in the back and during the summer it is a source of dastardly heat which suffocates your ass and spreads through your body like a heating coil turning red gradually; but in the winter, it is like sitting on a nice, comfy, bosom-y furnace that keeps you warm.

Tonight I sat there and it was oh so nice.

Then this familiar couple boards. I see them occasionally. Mexican, maybe in their late 20’s. They don’t talk much but the guy is always engulfing the girl like he’s afraid she’ll get away (or that someone else will get to her). He’s not a typical-looking macho guy. He is rather short and slight but with a subtle muscular tone to his body…he reminds me of myself actually. He always wears a cap and carries a courier bag. He’s clean-shaven and not bad-looking (OK, that’s where the resemblance ends, I suppose) but he is so damned insecure and reactive and oozing of overcompensation.

He handles his girl like a frightened high schooler. He’s always leaning over and macking heavily all over her. This is unnatural for a couple that has been around each other at least as long as I’ve seen them.

However, they also seem a bit defensive as a couple. That is their couple vibe.

You know it…couples give a vibe, the combined essence they exude as a pair. Well this guy and his girl give off the defensive and guilty vibe. I wonder if they are quite boyfriend and girlfriend? Boss/subordinate, married/single, married/married, cousin/cousin? Who the hell knows what their deal is. All I know is the guy walks around with a romantic chip on his shoulder.

After spending the entire bus trip bathing her in his spittlel, their stop beeped, during one of the most rainy portions of the trip. A pounding downpour.

Fate, you are a spectacular creature.