Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'm in the wrong business.

Christmas is coming early to some people. An Oregon attorney who was mistakenly arrested as a suspected "terrorist" and had to endure a whole two weeks of stress has hit a $2 million payday from the FBI, courtesy of our tax dollars.

Likewise, a couple of Lebanese employees of a major corporation were awarded $6 million apiece for having to endure racial slurs in the workplace. Another individual who felt she was the victim of racial harassment and was fired when she kept on about it, recently hit the seven-figure jackpot, too.

I'll grant you that L.A. fireman Tennie "Big Dog" Pierce, the guy who thought hazing was cool when done to everyone but himself, isn't getting the $2.7 million he wanted from the city because his buds got him to unknowingly take a couple bites of Alpo, but his attorney will surely take it to court, and with luck will find a misguided jury who will award him even more.

And of course the "victims" of Michael Richards' stupid racist "comedy" rant expect to take home some dough. Jesse Jackson probably wants of cut of that, too.

I don't hold with racial/ethnic religious slurs -- though I admit to an occasional inability to not laugh when they are genuinely funny (sit stone-faced through a Redd Foxx performance and you're a saint, Jim) -- and I'm all for punishing people who use words to hurt. It has happened to all of us, and it's not a good thing.

On the other hand, I fail to see that giving the "victims" a huge wad of money -- often taxpayers' money -- is any remedy, especially when opportunistic people start claiming that their life has been ruined by an epithet or two.

We have become a nation of thin-skinned whiners, aided and abetted by race-baiting extortionists (do the names Jackson and Sharption come to mind?), needlessly guilt-ridden apologists and juries who don't care about facts as much as they want to Take It To The Man.

I can't get the picture of Tennie Pierce, standing in front of the LA City Council surrounded by grim-faced "civil rights leaders," out of my mind. They all looked as if they were dealing with some hideous act of race-based terrorism, and not a tasteless prank.

So here's my solution: I, out of the goodness of my heart, will be happy to be a stand-in the next time the Oregon shyster gets mistakenly identified as one of Osama's pals. Want to call someone by demeaning names? I'm there and ready to take the hit. Want to say something politically incorrect and insensitive? Say it to me. And the next time the Big Dog wants to strut his macho stuff down at the firehouse, give me a call and I'll chow down on the Ken-L-Ration Casserole in his stead.

What's more, I'll do it for 50% of what all these whimpering "victims" are demanding. Depending on the potential award, maybe less.

Don't think for a moment I'm insensitive to any of this. I've had my share of racial invective hurled at me. Likewise, I once had the unsettling experience of being mistaken for a Swedish terrorist at Frankfurt Airport, and was forced to stare at a bunch of mean-looking dudes in green uniforms pointing nasty little machine guns at me until the mess was sorted out.

At least they apologized, which was more than a French cop did after he decided the bag in which I was carrying my camera's tripod held a weapon instead.

But hey, I'm a realist. I know mistakes are made, know that small-minded people of all races can say nasty things without even knowing who the hell you are. All they know is the color of your skin.

Is that enough to demand a big financial score from The Oppressors?

No, it isn't. It never occurred to me to try for a few D-Marks, yen, francs, pesos or dollars for my uncomfortable moments. It's about time for the whiners, apologists and enablers of victimization to grow the hell up and realize that shit happens.

It's a two-tiered system. Crap on a white male, and it's no big deal. Diss any protected minority, and it's your butt in a sling, baby.

I hate to quote Rodney King, but he did lay down one good line: "can't we all just get along?"

That means all of us.

Until that happens -- and I don't expect to see it in my lifetime, or in the next several lifetimes, not so long as there's political and financial advantage to be gained from continuing the cycle of victimization -- my service is now available.

Just give me a call, okay?

First Christams card of the year!

And for once it wasn't a corporate card, or some thinly disguised sales pitch.

No, it was a real Christmas card from a very real, very good man.

The message of peace on and in the card is far from ironic. When we finally live in peace and safety, we will owe that blessed state to Allan and others like him who have worked and sacrificed for it.

I wish you and your family the best, warmest Christmas blessings, brother. I hope you will enjoy the love and gratitude your Nation owes you, during this season and always.

You made my day.

Colds... in: I picked one up yesterday from some member of the howling mob at yesterday's Media Circus. It's not awful, just a stuffed-up nose, maybe a mild fever and a stronger-than-usual feeling of lassitude. Also: by local standards, it's getting chilly here now. Thus, colds.

The germ assault may have come at a good time, though. While drinking coffee this morning, I was seized by an almost irresistible temptation: I wanted to get in the car and drive, and drive, and drive some more until I found some place with an aura that says "stop! Stay here!"

Never mind that I don't have enough money to get from here to the county line, never mind that there are things I've committed to do. Never mind that I would never abandon the cat (who hates riding in cars), and never mind that there are several dozen other reasons, all good, for not doing such a thing.

I was ready, ready to see this city and even this state vanishing in the rear-view mirror. Ready to find some place where I might make new friends, find new things to do, maybe even feel, well, happy once in a while.

Obviously, I didn't do it. The pull of reality is too strong, and only those who have the resources to survive in a new location while resettling and reinventing themselves -- or who have so little to lose that almost anything likely to happen on the road would be an improvement -- can make this kind of mad leap.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: Most people might think I'm among the latter class, and I guess in many ways I am. But I am not yet ready to give up the few things I've accumulated over the years that still have meaning for me. I may have to in time, just not today.

But damn, have I ever been thinking about it, as in all day. The desire is still there, and I don't think it will be vanishing anytime soon.

Where would I go? Clearly, I have no idea. I can think of at least one place where I wouldn't be welcome, where the reception would be as bitter-cold as the chill winter winds now sweeping that area; another would be a substantial risk. Those are also the first places that showed up on my mental navigation-system screen. Of course.

Beyond those two destinations, I'm completely in the dark about what I'm looking for. I think I'd dig a place with real seasons, and in my mind I tend to gravitate toward the notion of a small town with friendly, open-minded, reasonably interesting and sophisticated people in it, preferably within reasonable distance of a big city. Places like the latter are pretty rare in my experience. But all I need is one.

If I had followed through with this disastrous scheme, I'd probably head for the Southwest, then keep on Eastward until I hit water again, either the Gulf or Atlantic Ocean. I know better than to drive North, and the Northeast doesn't seem a good bet either. I can say that now; I wouldn't dare to guess what I might have done twelve hours ago. I think I'm a little more rational now.

And what would I do when I get there? Writers on the ragged, ugly edge of burnout with little experience is mainstream jobs aren't really good prospects in the small-town job market. Or the big-town job markets, come to think of it.

The fantasy is clearly better than the potential reality, at least for now. I'm still clear-headed enough to know that the ultimate fantasy -- warm, welcoming arms and a glad-you're-finally-here smile meant just for me -- ranks right up there (or down, depending on your point of view) with a big lottery win on the it-could-happen list. That's what I need most (the welcome, not the money), and am least likely to find.

In any case, it didn't happen. I didn't go.

That's not to say it won't, tomorrow, or the day after, on next week....

At a certain point, one I'm approaching more rapidly with every passing hour, all that will matter is to keep moving until the fuel runs out.

Charles Bukowski and me.

No, I never met the esteemed Mr Bukowski. I think he was in fact dead when I moved into his neighborhood. But a magazine editor – a very nice lady for whom I have a great deal of respect and who wants me to write for her – mentioned him while we were talking today.

“I never liked his writing. He was too angry,” she said.

I wanted to reply somewhat this way: Hell, who wouldn’t be angry living here Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea?

Though several writers I know live nearby, only those with steady – that is, on-staff – gigs could actually afford to buy a house here, and all of them did so back in the days when this was a slightly disreputable, grubby part of town. Never mind the closeness of the ocean; at one time, this was a haven for the blue-collar folks who worked on the docks and fishing boats.

Now, those industries gone, we watch as our local city Councilperson tries to transform this into a glamorous Destination. Let the wealthy come in and sit in a shoreline Starbucks, and read the names on the memorial to all who died plying the seas in search of a living.

I may be a newcomer (having been here only for the better part of six years), but I can recognize a terminus for misfits when I see one. That’s what attracted me. But the misfits are gradually being shoved aside in favor of the Wealthy Urban Chic people.

Bukowski had some kind of low-level government job that kept him in food and booze while he poured the dark side of his soul out on paper. Whether his writing was an act designed to grab the attention of aging hippies or his reality, I don’t know. And I don’t care.

I understand the anger bit, believe me. I’m right there with it.

Nothing would please me more than to release the rage that has built up in me. If I had a poetic sensibility, I could lay down my venom for all to read, and maybe even gain some notoriety (or money) from doing so.

I don’t have that talent. Moreover, I have a terrible fear of becoming a character, someone whose talent people might claim to admire but whose personality makes them keep one step away. Sure, such individuals sometimes have a coterie of groupies and admirers, but as the sun sets they are left alone and unloved.

The things Ms Editor wants me to write are not the things I want to write. I think she knows that. If I am to slice my veins and bleed on the printed page, I want to be paid for it. If possible, I want to be paid well. She can’t pay well, and doesn’t want me to do the vein-cutting bit in her magazine.

She reminded me of the last article I did for her several years ago. It caused a furore, to say the least. I was uncharacteristically honest about an icon in our field, and the creators of said icon reacted badly to my criticism. Oddly enough, I did not set out to demolish said icon; I turned in a job of honest reporting, letting the chips fall where they might, and she took heat for it. Even so, she wants more from me, and I’m seriously tempted to give it to her.

By all accounts, Bukowski was an unhappy man when he finally tapped out. I’m not happy either, despite a few successes here and there. It occurs to me that if life is not going to deliver those things I feel a serious hankering for, I should at least make money – or develop a following – when I express my displeasure at being deprived.

I don’t relish the idea of becoming a Big Name after I’m gone. I live by the words of the immortal Redd Foxx: “I’m like Rev. Ike...gimme my shit here on the ground!”

But I’m at least living in the right place to achieve posthumous fame. It worked for Mr Bukowski, so why not me?

Does any of this make the slightest sense to you?

All I have to do is find an outlet for my frustration and anger. One that pays.

It certainly doesn’t exist in the field where I’m writing now.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sore feet...

...and a face that aches from hours and hours of phony smiles for people I didn't want to see.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: I intended to re-create some conversations, but they were too boring to reproduce.

It wasn't as bad a day as I feared. My distaste for such gangbangs remains strong as ever, but I did run into a few friends among the thousand of faces I didn't know. Yes, there was a lot of standing around, but at the end of the day, there was one thing that really made me happy:

I don't have to go back tomorrow.

More press conferences are scheduled, but I connected with all the important P.R. people today, and assured them it would not be a lack of interest in their products that keeps me away tomorrow.

I'll miss the food, though. Not the Media Lunch, which was poisonous, but the feeds at the various companies' stands, which tend to be pretty nice. You can munch your way right through the exhibits, chowing down on everything from pickled canaries' tongues to freshly made smoothies.

So why would I give up all the fun? Simple. I have, as expected, heard all the speeches before. I got face time with all the few people out there who really respect what I do. I collected all the press kits I'll never have occasion to use, got all the trinkets to pass along to friends.

I simply don't want to do the drive through traffic, pay the $12 parking fee (up from $5 four years ago) and sit through more presentations that won't help me do my job.

But what the hell. I now have another nifty tote bag I'll never use again. At least it's good for holding all the useless information I gathered. I have a bunch of notebooks and mouse pads, too.

It's entirely possible that I managed to get a little closer to one of my two goals today.

ANOTHER PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: Have I mentioned my two goals? Simply stated, they boil down to this: I want to get paid, and I want to get laid. That, to me, is all life is about. With those two happening, I can manage everything else that counts.

Sadly, it was the lesser of the two goals I may have accomplished today.

But I can stay home tomorrow.

I like that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The past...

...has me in its seductive grasp tonight.

I don't care that it holds me back from the future.

Everything I ever wanted is now part of what was, anyway.

Pathetic? You bet it is....


Tomorrow and Thursday, I get to join several thousand of my closest non-friends at a local Media Event. Lucky me.

This is one of the aspects of my work that I deeply despise. I hate going to press conferences where The Speech is boringly predictable, no matter who's giving it. Since I never, ever quote executives from the companies whose products I write about, I won't be taking notes or even paying much attention.

I already know what they'll be showing, and what they'll all say.

But that's not what makes me wish I was getting serial root canals or having multiple broken limbs set for the next two days. No, indeed. It's simply that I have to spend 20 hours of my life cooped up with a bunch of egotistical jerks -- some of whom are there simply because they know how to get in and aren't professionals at all -- that I cannot now be, and never have been, able to work up the slightest shred of liking or respect for.

I will have to make nice with people who owe me money, people who have cheated me, people whose attitudes depress the living bejeebers out of me and people who have horrifically inflated opinions of themselves in order to spend a few minutes assuring various company reps that I'm still out there, and still care.

The frauds in my business -- and there are many, because some of the perks are sweet -- will be congregating, hoping to impress both the people they get the freebies from and potential clients.

I've never been good at that. I'm a reasonably nice guy, and I wash regularly, but I have tended to let my work speak for itself. Glad-handing is something that makes me feel -- and look, I'm sure -- like a Grade-A, number-one phony.

And I have always believed what I once said to a self-important "publisher" who was doing his I-walk-on-water act in front of some fellow journalists: "save the act for the civilians; it doesn't impress your colleagues."

I'm hoping I'll be able to see the people I need to see on the first day, and simply forget about the second day. If nothing else, it'd save me from having to pay one day of the atrocious parking fees at the convention center where this fester will be held.

On the bright side, it'll get me away from the bad news on the radio and in the papers, bill collectors' calls and the loneliness that presses down harder on me as the calendars moves inexorably toward December 25. I won't be here to wait for the returned calls that never come, or the checks I am in greater need of with each passing day.

This sure as hell isn't the way I thought it would all turn out....

Monday, November 27, 2006

Not the best Monday in history....

...but, I suppose, no worse than others.

I'm missing two things tonight. The first is a fireplace -- I know some of you who live Northwards would probably be wearing shorts and complaining about the heat here, but it's chilly enough for me -- and the second, of course, is someone sweet and loving with whom to curl up with in front of the fire I can't build.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: Yes, I'm missing money as well, since none made it into the mailbox today, but at this point that seems less important that nos. 1 and 2. It isn't, but that's the way I see it tonight.

Today moved in slow motion. Both of the articles I completed yesterday required some repairs this morning. In one case, a few simple word changes satisfied me; in the other, I did what amounted to a total rewrite. Time was consumed.

Some early morning emails were sent, and phone messages were left. None were returned. More time was consumed.

And then, I had a few errands to run, and that, too, took far longer than it should have. People who are paid to provide services to me screwed up, and yet they seemed to direct their anger towards me.

I guess what I am now is a good shit-magnet.

Since returning home, I've distracted myself with happier chores, mainly having to do with getting my friends' music CDs burned. That involved some editing and adjustments, which took some time.

I have one more job to do tonight, which involves creating a disc for a friend who is a musician, but not really hip to the kind of music I want him to hear. That's a challenge, and will take my mind of some of the demons that are laying in wait for me.

With luck, when I finally get to bed, I won't dream. Recent nights have been filled with explicit dreams that left me feeling lost when I woke up.

Today, of all days, is a good day not to be me.

Tonight, I am haunted by my mistakes, and by the treachery -- there is no other word that fits -- of certain others. I sought a life of love, of music, of creativity, of sharing. What I have is a life where I create as best I can, and the return does not justify the effort.

Is it all downhill from here? It seems so tonight....

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Just another day...

...full of the same old stuff.

I wrote, finishing the article I spent last Wednesday "researching." It was basically finished on Friday, but when I read it again I saw that I had left out some vital information. To plug in the missing bits took more than adding a couple of paragraphs; my "style" is one of connected paragraphs, so any late additions meant doing some serious rewriting.

When I wasn't doing that, I spent some time stitching together tracks from my new pile of CDs so I can burn copies for a couple of friends tomorrow. The program I use allows a lot of tweaking of the sound, but for now I'm just copying them largely as-is until I'm confident with all the doo-dads.

It's a lot different than the audio tools I grew up with, which included a 10-band equalizer and audiotape splicing block. My reflexes aren't yet attuned to using a mouse when I once would have used a grease pencil (to mark the place where the edit went), razor blade and splicing tape.

The weather has turned cold, and there is apparently a threat of rain late tonight. Less than an hour ago, I turned on the heater for the first time this year. When I go to bed, I'll shut it off and open the windows again, because I don't like closed-up rooms. Go figure.

Somehow, I've managed to avoid feeling too much depression today. That doesn't make sense; the causes are still there. All of them. I find the ability to not look at reality a little troubling; the work hassles, shortage of money and total lack of affection will not resolve themselves.

It'd be damn nice if they would. But I don't have any faith at in the people who are responsible, so leaving it up them is not an option.

And now? I'll pop a couple of CDs in the player and listen while I try to finish another story I should send out tomorrow.

I sometimes think this may be the root of my problems: I keep working, even when the editors/publishers aren't holding up their end of the bargain. I continue to miss, have an interest in, care about the welfare of, people who no longer give a damn about me. If they ever did.

It's all inertia. Without lubrication, the machine that is me will stop working eventually.

Sure hope it rains.

A QUICK PARENTHETICAL UPDATE JUST IN CASE ANYONE GIVES A RAT'S POSTERIOR ABOUT IT: As of two minutes ago, I finished the second damn article I wanted to finish.

Good night.

Now the truth comes out...

...and we get to see that those on the other side of the Michael Richards story are just as reprehensible as he is.

With the help of an attack-dog shyster, the two men who were the recipients of Richards' racial abuse while he was doing a "comedy" act have decided that his admittedly feeble attempts to apologize haven't been good enough. Now, they want a face-to-face meeting so he can apologize again.

And they want money.

Yeah. Money will make it all better.

Richards has already expressed regrets on national television. He has also apologized to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, neither of whom was anywhere near the comedy club where the incident occurred.

This is simply too much. It is racial guilt run amok.

The attempts to make Richards grovel and do continuing penance reveal the depth of racial hypocrisy in this nation. But it's not all festering in the minds of white people.

If Richards has to do community service in the black community (as one "activist" demands) has to prostrate himself in front of Jackson and Sharpton and has to pay his "victims" money, why is there no call for Jackson to continually apologize -- and pay restitution out of the fortune he has made as a racial extortionist -- for his own well-documented anti-white, anti-semitic comments? Why isn't Sharpton being held accountable for the lies he has uttered?

Simple. They are masters at playing the race card. Not for the betterment of any group, but to line their own pockets. And the white "liberals," who have fallen for this act, support and encourage them.

It's a bad, bad situation. On one side, you have fools like Richards and Mel Gibson. On the other, you have the professional victimizers like Jackson and Sharpton.

Between the two extremes, others like them and those who fear being branded as "racists" themselves should they call for common sense to prevail, the racial divide in this country will never be healed.

Of course if it ever is healed -- as the majority of Americans devoutly wish it could be -- Jackson, Sharpton and the rest of their ilk would be revealed as the unprincipled opportunists they are. What a wonderful thought....

I have more to say, but I'm off to find the last black guy who called me a "honky m*****f*****." He owes me some money, I think.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I had the strangest feeling...

...that there was something alive under my keyboard...

...And I was right! And he was hungry....

A musical day.

At long last, a FedEx box containing nine pounds of audiotapes and CDs hit my doorstep today. The tapes are irreplaceable recordings I've gathered over more than 35 years and the CDs, some 20 of them, are copies which will allow me, in turn, to burn copies for a few friends who are into this stuff.

I've been skipping around the pile, just to see that everything got copied, and am now psyching myself up for the job of taking out noise, rebalancing where necessary, and making them listenable for others who aren't so used to picking out good sounds from tape and needle hiss, pops, scratches and poor equalization.

In the five months they've been away -- and, since my tape recorder and record turntable have both been in need of servicing, even longer for most of them -- I've somehow managed to forget what a bittersweet impact these recordings have on me.

It's not just that they contain beautiful music, though they certainly do. It's the absolute knowledge that I will never hear anything like these performances "live" again in this life. In every case, the musicians are gone, as are the instruments they played. Or, at the very least, said instruments have been altered beyond recognition in recent years.

I regarded it all so casually back then. I did my little technical things, and my now-departed friends played. Or, in some cases, copies of performances I hadn't been around to hear were made for me by the musicians themselves. None of us could see ahead to a time when we wouldn't be hanging around together. We never saw that the music would one day end, with only these recordings left as a reminder.

So now, I have them, and it's my wish to be certain they will not vanish with me.

Of course I also remember the sheer joy of those days as well. To have had them, to have been in some sense a participant, means a great deal to me.

Some philosopher once said something to this effect: Art endures, but life is fleeting.

I know exactly what he meant today.

There will always be music.

For now, I listen to what was, and marvel as if I'd never heard it before. To mingle with a few giants in the world of music has been a magnificent experience, and I will not mourn the loss of those wonderful times as much as I will cherish the memory of having been around when these giants were working their magic.

Friday, November 24, 2006

More woolgathering.... Yours Truly looks back, to times when he was happy and could manage some optimism for the future....

PARENTHETICAL OBSERVATION: I know there is nothing more dull than someone who looks to the past rather than the future. So be warned that this entry is composed entirely of looking back. If you can't dig that, go somewhere else now and save yourself some pain....

Tonight, I am mourning the loss of R. B. For some reason, I can't get a particular moment with her out of my mind. We first met at a place where I was "someone," and continued our getting-to-know-each-other via emails and phone calls until I manged to score a trip that brought me back to her neighborhood.

The memorable moment came when we met again in Manhattan. I was zoned out after five hours on an aircraft and another couple of hours spent getting from Newark Airport to the place where we agreed to meet. I saw her, and elevated her from Potential Love Object to a far higher status instantly. The drive from NYC to her home was full of delicious tension; I was captivated by her. And I was not disappointed.

And yet, too soon after, I let her go, through my own weaknesses and failings. If I end up in hell, that is what I should burn for.

I will say, for the record, I still trust R. B. in a way my subsequent love neither earned nor deserved. R. B. never betrayed me. Nor did she discard me (as my later love did) when some other fantasy man came along. I had chances to keep her, and I messed up.

The memories are flooding into my mind tonight. And they tell me I blew it, big-time.

I remember a day in NYC when, after a long day of wandering, we ended up in a secluded bar. We drank several martinis each, but managed somehow to catch a train for her home. We laughed all the way, and loved each other that night. As we did on so many nights.

I remember other days, too, full of love, sharing, fun, anticipation of all the things we might do together. When I add them up, I see that I missed the one truly perfect opportunity of my life.

From those wonderful days until now, it has all been downhill, I fear. Memories and regrets are my nocturnal companions, and emptiness fills my days.

I may wish for my last love to to come back -- and I do -- but I can't help thinking of the one woman who earned my respect and adoration and never, ever betrayed my trust. Given another chance (which I won't get) I would cherish her as I should have done at the time.

I wish R. B. could read this, and know how much joy she brought me. And how much I regret the dumb things I did that made her drift away.

With that, I will stop writing for the night, and hope that sweet R. B. is now enjoying the love and happiness she truly deserves.

Headline of the day!

From Reuters...

UPDATE 1-Armed cartoonist forces Miami paper to evacuate

Once into the story, it became clear that this was "update #1" to the story, and did not involve a one-armed cartoonist.

Fortunately, the cartoonist, dressed in camouflage and apparently armed (does that make him three-armed?) and upset that the Miami Herald's Spanish-language edition had "censored" him, was persuaded to leave the building. In handcuffs, certainly.

Gotta watch them cartoonists....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

For the "Interested" lady...

...the photo makes me feel even more alone when I made it black & white...

I am finding that Mr James Beam, on whom I occasionally depend when things get unbearable (like tonight), is losing his ability to insulate me from my feelings of loneliness and loss.

I almost said more, too much in fact, but have prudently deleted it.

The lonely "holiday"... almost over.

And now the lonely night begins.


No, not from booze, though that may come after tonight.

My neck and shoulders are sore from yesterday's antics, and I fear some of the crap that got blown into my face at one point may have scratched one of my eyes. The affected orb is red and itchy, and drops don't seem to be helping.

Oh well, no one said there's no price to pay for a bit of fun....

The sole Thanksgiving "observance" around here will come soon, when I give the cat some treats I picked up for him at the deli last night.

More and more, I believe those studies done that show loss of companionship and affection can kill. If not physically murderous, it's certainly true on a mental level.

I'm happy to know that a lot of people I like and/or care about are enjoying Thanksgiving with friends and family. I remember the good feelings.

This is not how I envisioned my "holiday" would be spent at the beginning of the year. I'm not entirely sure I can get through another like this. I am sure I don't want to.

Back to work....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cheated death again!

Mr O' Fly found my last entry "mysterious." This one will be more of the same, I fear.

Though I managed to snap a sunset photo on the trip home from the desert... camera was otherwise unused today. When I get the photos the Official Photographer (my friend D.) shot, I'll see if any can be posted without being too revelatory. Mainly, I used my pen and notebook, as well as some other "skills."

Thankfully, the day was relatively cool and overcast. That happens out there maybe two days a year, and we were lucky to be around on one of them.

Nonetheless, I managed to work up a pretty fair sweat. Despite my fears, I did my work without lapsing into brain fade and making myself look a fool in public. There were a couple of tense moments -- the one I can describe involved getting some grit blown into my face at an inopportune moment, which meant I wandered around looking as if I was weeping until it was gone -- but all came out rather well.

In fact, some of those who happened to be hanging around expressed some envy that I was getting to do this. What they didn't know, of course, is that the monetary reward is not commensurate with the effort.

But what the hell. It was great, great fun. I can still put on a good act for the citizens.

And I didn't come crashing back down to earth until I got home and found the mailbox empty and the answering machine message-free. I didn't think about how much I wished I could have shared the day with someone special until I got home.

I stopped at the market, stocked up on cat food.

Tomorrow, while all y'all are turkeying it up, I'll be here writing. Alone.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Early to bed... roll out at 0500 tomorrow to drive out into the middle of the damn desert for work. At the moment, any possible "fun" is obscured by a fear that I'll do something truly stupid and prove to the assembled multitude that I'm as big a horse's ass as I'm coming to feel I am.

The hits just keep on coming, Jim. I finally talked to one of the people I've been trying to reach for well over a week. He informed me that his company has cut its budgets, and won't be hiring any more freelance writers. This was bad enough, but I have spent a not inconsiderable amount of time doing prep work on some stories -- basic research, lining up contacts -- they said they wanted but now will not buy.

This is the same outfit that wanted the rush-rush story a couple of weeks ago, and hasn't gotten back to me with the information I need to bill them. So until I can reach that particular editor, I have to wonder if they'll pay for that story....

I did get one good call and was able to line up something that might make my friend lowandslow jealous as hell. Don't tell him I won't be making much money from it....

And I also got a call from a sweet friend. Her personal news was so good that it distracted me from my own miserable situation. I was, and am, delighted for her. And she soothed me with one of the best tonics of all, a bout of uncontrolled laughter. I love to listen to people laugh, even if, alas, it is over a 3000-mile-long wire.

I wish I could laugh.

Hell, I wish I could come up with some personal news that would delight people, me included.

But to do it now, I'd have to lie, and I don't lie very well. Apparently, I don't do anything any too damn well these days.

Be that as it may. O'-dark-thirty will come quickly enough, and I don't even do well with sleep. Better go see if I can get a head start on it.

I know...

...all y'all are getting tired of my complaints and furious bleatings about how people I'm supposed to be working with/for are treating me. Likewise, you're almost certainly burned out on my pathetic personal life.

I know you're getting tired of the references to (name deleted) and all the other (deleteds) who are making me angry, poor, lonely and frustrated.

I know you'd rather see happy entries full of happy photos of happy kittycats and happy talk about how darn swell everything's going.

That's why this entry ends right here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

For bitter or for worse

My eyes hurt. I mean, they really, really hurt and the lids are a bit puffed-up. Not a good omen for Wednesday, when the peepers are going to be put to considerable use.

Of course today was not a good omen for anything. Not a single phone call was returned, the mailbox was empty. And I haven't finished the current article yet, which means a late, late night.

The tighter the noose is drawn, the more my anger increases toward those who have helped me reach this point. It's almost too strong now, overwhelming my usual attempts to see (and try to understand) other people's problems and make allowances for them. I'm feeling some serious hostility toward a select group of people, even if they don't know it and don't give a damn what I think.

A long list of people should not talk to me tonight. That's okay; they won't be calling anyway.

Of course those whose calls I would welcome probably won't be picking up the phone either.

So all I can do is offer a resounding and very sarcastic "thank you" to **** and my "colleagues" *******, ***, ****, *****, ***, ****** and ****. As far as I'm concerned, you've all made it into Mr Scribblers Fuckweasel Hall of Fame. You've helped make me the unhappy, dispirited, screwed-up mess I am tonight.

I hope I can return the favor. Soon.

The other side of the sick coin... if on cue after yesterday's vile video (see below), a washed-up actor who fancies himself a "comedian" lost it and engaged in some hideous self-revelation during a so-called comedy routine.

I am so sick of people like this. What he did was inexcusable.

A lot of people showed good taste by walking out. But not enough.

Supposedly, this cretin put out some kind of lame apology today. The best thing he could do is simply shut the hell up and vanish.

So now we have both sides of the deal: a black man who wants all whites to die and a white man who clearly hates black people and has to spew his hatred in public.

Both of them, and all who are tempted to emulate them, need to crawl back under their rocks and leave everyone else alone.

So far, nothin'....

It's been another day of talking to voicemail systems without getting any responses. This was the sixth attempt in 10 days to reach one editor in particular. Strange stuff; you can't get 'em off the phone when they want something from you....

So far, the tidal wave of dung has yet to hit the beach. The fact that it has yet to appear on the horizon is not as comforting as it should be. I know it's coming and, worse, know that I have done all I can to stop it but my efforts have been insufficient.

Nothing good, nothing bad.


In the meantime, I'm working on an article. The subject didn't exactly fill me with joy when I took it, and of course is no more inspiring now, so the work goes on in small segments that I'll have to tie together later.

I'll get it done, though. I promised I would.

But I'm damned if I can see any reason to bother.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I don't dare comment on this...

...because I would be branded a "racist."

Such is the way of our world today that this man's reprehensible comments can be broadcast on taxpayer-supported television, but political correctness requires that the reply this so-called "doctor" (of what?) deserves cannot be spoken or published.

What is it about sunsets...

...that makes them bring me down with a resounding crash?

I think it has to do with focusing my attention on the new day ahead. And this one is going to be tricky to navigate through, believe me.

Hell, the entire week threatens to be a major-league mess.

Before anyone suggests I "think positive thoughts" or says something to the effect that facing the next few days with dread can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, read on.

Once again, I have made the mistake of believing in promises that were made to me. Worse, I made a couple of crucial commitments based on said promises, and it seems very likely -- based on information I received last Friday and today -- that I won't be able to deliver.

This could have some very bad consequences, which I don't feel like writing about right now. Suffice it to say if I fall off everyone's radar screens this week, you'll know that some rather nasty chickens have come home to roost.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: I've used the words "promise" and "commitment" with grim regularity in this journal, though most often they have related to a personal relationship. They are words I believe in, take very, very seriously.

I'm beginning to think I should never again believe in or trust anyone in any circumstances.

Assuming I make it through Monday and Tuesday intact -- not by any means a sure thing -- Wednesday won't be a bad day. In fact, it should be rather fun. I will, however, then be committed (there's that word again!) to spending Thursday and Friday writing up Wednesday's experiences for a client who has imposed a rather strict deadline on me.

Oh, well. I had no Thanksgiving plans beyond buying some turkey from the deli for the cat.

Perhaps the only thing I dread more than having to tell someone I couldn't do what I've promised is how that person will react.

In spite of the morose nature of much of my writing here, I have gone along doing what I should and/or could do, hoping that if I didn't give up the results will ultimately be good. Or at least not bad.

I may not be able to do that after tomorrow and Tuesday.

I don't have a lot of strength left to deal with all this garbage.

This has been a year of broken promises and commitments that turned out to be lies. Now, finally, I'm in a position where I have to break a promise or two.

Obviously, it did not bother those who did it to me. But it bothers the hell out of me to do it to others. Moreover, they escaped any scorn, censure or punishment and continue to thrive with clear consciences (assuming they even have consciences). I won't be that lucky, I assure you.

And that is where I am this night.


No sooner had I slapped the batteries back in my camera and headed downstairs to do my laundry than a brand-new Gratuitous Cat showed up a few feet from my front door!

He seems a friendly enough sort, though he has his share of battle scars....

Not GCotW

Since I may not be able to provide a Gratuitous Cat this week (my camera batteries are charging), Hobbes agreed to stand in once again for the neighborhood felines....

My horoscope for today... one I'll present without comment, except to say that it seems to apply to one of the people whose identities I concealed in last night's post....

Aries Mar 21 - Apr 19
You can measure a certain someone with laser accuracy. Others might be willing to accept this person based on appearance, but you know better. Speaking out may not help. Keep this information to yourself for now.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Just for you...

...I am going to restrain myself and not post again tonight.

I don't want to subject anyone to the crap that is upsetting me, hurting me, making me angry, making me wonder why the hell I bother waking up each day.

You've read it all before, anyway.

I know some people are much worse off than I am. I've heard the radio ads telling us Chris Farley wasn't to blame because he used the proceeds of his fame to burn himself up with drugs. If only a brand-new wonder drug (now being pimped by Farley's brother) had been around when Chris was coking up, he might have recovered.

I've heard the ads about people suffering from cancer, "erosive acid reflux disease" and, probably, beri-beri and jungle rot, who have experienced amazing cures thanks to good-hearted drug companies.

I've heard that I can donate money, cars and lots of other stuff through various "nonprofit" agencies to help unfortunate kids.

When those things, and the various crises around the world, are borne in mind, I have it pretty easy.

I'm not trying to be flippant here. I do care about other people, wish I could help them all, starting with a few I happen to know personally. I would cheerfully take their falls for them if I could.

After all, it's a damn shame when suffering is pointless. If I thought it was contributing to the health and happiness of others, I wouldn't be quite so concerned about it.

But my situation benefits no one. Well, maybe one person in my personal life, and several publishing companies. They got what they wanted from me, and then turned their backs.

That's more than I intended to say.

You'll simply have to accept that I am one unhappy puppy tonight, as I have been for too many nights. If that doesn't please you, I appreciate it.

If it does make you happy to know I'm not doing well, or leaves you unmoved, you have plenty of company. Between **** (the personal one) and *****, ******, ****, ****** and ***** (the business ones), I have plenty of people who would almost certainly applaud vigorously if I simply vanished.

Which, at least for tonight, I will now do.

My cat...

...heard that his favorite lady preferred to see pictures of him in place of my opinions!

So, he posed nicely, and I brought out the ol' camera...

This one's for you, sweet Anne!

If I Did It.

What the hell is going on with the world? OJ Simpson, who should be sitting on Death Row right now, wrote a book on how he might have killed his wife and her friend if he had done it. Moreover, he will make money off it -- through a complex third-party arrangement -- as will a despicable publisher and bookstores that can't be bothered to display a little common decency when there's money to be made.

Yes, I know the publisher, one Judith Regan, claims she brought the book out as an act of vengeance. Some guy popped her in the snoot years ago, so her revenge is to make a boatload of money from a killer who walked away because his attorneys were bright enough to point out (to a jury composed largely of black people) that Simpson is a black man, and therefore could only have been the target of a racist police department.

As if that isn't stupid enough, the local head of some bogus civil rights organization took to the airwaves to rant that the survivors of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were being racist by trying to get the proceeds from Simpson's book. After all, they've been awarded something like $30 million from Simpson's earnings already, so why should they want more? Never mind that they haven't seen a dime from the killer who walked away.

There are three things that bug me here: First, Simpson himself. He's walking around free, has a $400,000 annual NFL pension and a nice house and is, apparently, still looked up to by certain misguided people. Never mind the theatrics of his trial; the evidence was clear, and the only reasons he walked were racism in reverse and the antics of his lawyers.

Then there's Judith Regan. You can't fault her for knowing that stirring celebrity shit is a sure way to riches. I am less offended that she bought and is publishing the book than I am by her pathetic attempts to justify it. This is not what you'd call important literature. It is a cheesy attempt by an unprincipled man (actually, he does not deserve to be called a man considering the crimes he has committed) to make a buck off the Constitution's double-jeopardy clause.

Finally, it makes my blood boil to see the race card played again and again with no possible justification. People -- myself included -- want to see Simpson punished because he is a freekin' killer, not because he's black. The desire to see criminals pay for their crimes is not racist.

The OJ Simpson story -- at least as it began the night he murdered his wife and her friend -- illustrates the worst of humanity. Don't tell me a jury acquitted him; anyone who saw the trial and has even minimal cognitive abilities knows the trial was phony as the proverbial three-dollar bill.

Granted, Simpson is not the only celeb to get away with murder. He seems, however, to be the only one who will profit from an ex-post-facto confession.

Judith Regan is almost as disgusting, followed closely by the bookstores that will carry the book. And then there are those who will buy it....

A lot of authors would kill to get a $3.5 million advance for their books. OJ actually did it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's that kind of evening.

For some reason, I've been thinking about one of my favorite movies. It's a black-and-white epic written and directed by the brilliant and sly Russ Meyer, who has too long been dismissed as nothing more than a maker of porn films by those who have never watched any of them. There is a level of humor, insight into the complex psychology of the sexes and social commentary in all of Meyer's movies that escapes those mesmerized by the sight of heaving female flesh.

In 1965 (the same year when three other Meyer productions, Mondo Topless, Mud Honey and Motor Psycho were released), he made the classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, a film almost impossible to describe. The authoritative online film guide couldn't manage, and even Meyer's own synopsis ("The story of a new breed of superwomen emerging out of the ruthlessness of our times. We are introduced to three buxom Go-Go girls: Varla, Rosie, and Billie, wildly dancing the Watusi before the leers, jeers and lecherous come-ons of their drooling all-male audience. The violence, implicit in the girls' tease, is quickly moved out of the microcosmic bar into the outside world as they literally let go of themselves, embarking on a wild, violent, deadly journey of vengeance on all men.") doesn't tell the whole story.

And neither will I. One part of the film has always struck close to home: the relationship between the murderous, self-absorbed and (to use a classic Meyer-ism) buxotic "Varla" and pathetic loser "Kirk." While trying to find the fortune hidden away by his crippled (and demented) father in their isolated desert home, Varla first seduces and then tries to kill Kirk...

When Varla asks why Kirk insists on sticking around ever after her intentions are clear, he utters the words that might as well be etched on my gravestone:

"Because you're a beautiful animal, and I'm weak...I want you."

In the end, Varla is vanquished and Kirk survives, but it's clearly a hollow victory for him. One knows instinctively that he will spend the rest of his miserable, lonely existence mourning Varla.

This is something most women, and a few men, don't understand: whether the instrument of seduction is a stunning body or what seems to be a sweet, loving personality, there are a lot of men who will risk everything and, in essence, ignore reality, for a woman who has penetrated their hearts.

It's not all sex in many cases, though I wonder what else might have drawn Kirk to Varla's flame.

My own "Varla" is not possessed of Tura Satana's more visible assets. Nor, so far as I know, does she have a penchant for violence and dispensing weak men with karate chops. I consider it unlikely, probably impossible, for her to end up crushed under the wheels of a Jeep as Varla did, either. On the contrary, I think she will survive and thrive. Her weapons are far more subtle, if no less dangerous to the male of the species.

Regardless of what she has done since dispensing with me, I can repeat Kirk's words, and mean them:

You're a beautiful animal, and I'm weak...I want you.

Sometimes, I wish I was more like "Martin Bormann" in Meyer's Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens, satisfied with a quick romp in a casket with the even-more buxotic "Eufala Roop."

But I'm not. And I miss my "beautiful animal..."

Friday-morning smackdown

For no reason I could think of, I woke up feeling uncommonly cheerful this morning. The last two days couldn't have had much to do with it; I got no sleep to speak of in Vegas, by the time I made it back to L.A. I felt as if I'd been pummeled repeatedly by angry orangutans, and when I got home, I laid my hand open on the trunk-lid latch of my friend D's car, which led to a night of bleeding all over the damn apartment until the blood clotted (or I ran dry).

But the good cheer and optimism didn't last all that long. At 7:15 I called an editor back east. This is the one I have been trying to reach via phone and email since sending him the urgently required second version of an article that blew his assigned word count to smithereens (and took much more time, therefore, than it should have). Naturally, he called while I was away.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: For the following to make any sense, you have to understand that I stopped working for this outfit some years back over some major differences of opinion about the size and arrival time of payments. I was assured not too long ago that "new policies" were in effect.

When I got this clown on the phone, he said something to the effect of: "what do you want? I was returning your call." (insert sound of warning bell here)

I mentioned the story, to which he replied that, though he had been in a ripping hurry for it, he now wasn't planning to run it for several months. I reminded him that I need to know what numbers to put on an invoice so I can get, well, paid. He said "I'll get back to you in a couple of weeks with that."

A couple of weeks?

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON: I am about to boil down my thoughts about him into a single word some may find offensive.

He's a fuckweasel.*

What's worse, he's only the latest in a line of them I have to attempt to deal with.

The rest were, as usual, hiding behind their voicemail systems today.

I hate it when the very people for whom I'm working put me completely and irrevocably out of the mood to do any work at all.

Part of yesterday was spent in a car with an executive of the company that invited me to Vegas. At one point, he said "I've wanted to meet you for a long time. You're one of the very few in the field who has made a success and a good reputation as a freelancer."

This is success? Mother of Pearl, I'd hate to know what freekin' failure would be like....

* I never ran across this term, now one of my favorites, until I started reading Carl Hiaasen's wonderful novels. Aside from entertaining me immensely, the good Mr Hiaasen has expanded my vocabulary, too!

I just flew in from Lost Wages...

...and boy, are my arms tired!

Okay, enough of the bad gags.

I really don't much enjoy Vegas, and the changes that have come in the past few years make it less appealing. On arrival, I felt like emulating one of the city's more famous denizens by going to my room, pulling the drapes closed, stripping and wandering naked around the dark space with Kleenex boxes on my feet, crying "Insulation! Insulation!"

But I didn't.

My first sight was of a stretch limo pulling up to the hotel, out of which stepped a bulky, ponytailed dude in a gray suit and black turtleneck accompanied by four large silicone-filled hemispheres teetering on four high platform shoes. My very last sight was Elvis driving a cab at the airport.

It was a working trip, and short to boot, so I was unable to either do much wandering around or take many photos.

These first two pix were taken from the balcony of my room...

The last was grabbed while I was negotiating traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard...

It's just not the same old place. No Desert Inn, no Dunes, no Stardust, no Tropicana, no El Rancho, no Big Names performing in the showrooms...just the glitzy new shopping mall/gambling joints and Blue Man Group, David Copperfield and tired old retreads like Neil Diamond.

Mr Benjamin Siegel, credited with being the founder of "modern" Las Vegas -- until someone put a couple of rifle slugs through his head in Virginia Hill's living room -- wouldn't recognize the place.

I can do without it. Though I admit I'm tempted to go back just to hit some of the dozens of pawnshops found in the grubby areas around the casinos. Must be some fascinating stuff on the shelves....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Off... Las Vegas.

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this. Uh-huh. I'm grateful it's a short gig and I'll be back here tomorrow night.

I used to dig Vegas, but that was in the days when it was a sea of tasteless neon and over-the-top architecture, mobsters and plain old cheesiness. Can't forget the cheap drinks and cut-price prime rib dinners, either.

I do my gambling with life, so the slots and tables don't hold much appeal for me. My sole big, wild gaming spree there started with $40.00 and ended with $0.00. I got up to almost $150 at one point. Big whoopee, right? Mr Out-of-control Gambler, here.

This is a work trip, anyway. There'll be good meals, and a lavish free bar -- right at a time when I'm trying to eat less and drink less. And a lot of stuff I'll have to pay attention to and make notes about.

But hey, I'm being comped like a real high-roller.

I had hoped my next excursion to Vegas would entail a quick trip to the Elvis Wedding Chapel. No such luck.

PARENTHETICAL JOKE: You know the old story...boy to girl: "hey, let's go to Vegas and get married, or something." Girl to boy: "let's go to Vegas and get married or nothing."

Insert rim shot here...

Yeah, I'm brushing up on bad gags in case I get tapped to emcee a never know when Tom Jones is gonna need a front man....

In the words of an old friend: "Tom Jones? Is he still dead?"

I've always thought Vegas was the real-life proof of the adage about sh*t rolling downhill. Mainly, it panders to impulses I don't have. And the impulses I do have that could be temporarily sated there wouldn't satisfy me anyway. I pay for it with my heart, not money.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: This leads to a discussion I won't get into here. Enough said.

Never mind. I have to go, now.

Hope all y'all have fun while I'm gone. Have a little for me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I don't freekin' believe it.

Just heard a news report about a local shopping mall at which Santa Claus made his first appearance of the year.

By teleconference.

The world has gone completely nuts, Jim.

POINTLESS UPDATE: The next newscast called it a "Videoconference." Worse and worse....

Some are sheltered...

...and some are not.

For many years, I’ve walked life’s high wire without a net. It was a conscious, deliberate choice, one that for many years I did not regret at all. I went into a career that demands a certain level of self-reliance while understanding that it made me vulnerable to the actions – and inactions – of others. I chose to follow a path of reserving intense commitment to others until I really meant it. You can work for yourself, but you need others to pay you for your work. You can love yourself, but at a certain point you need others – at least one other – to love you as well.

The only safety net I have ever sought, in my business and personal lives, has been the integrity of others. It has not turned out to be a very safe net.

I know – and know of – many people whose continued existence depends on helping hands that offer things these people can’t (or won’t) provide for themselves. Most of the time, I haven’t begrudged them their safety nets. Hell, I’ve even contributed to the sheltered state some people enjoy, offering what I could to make them feel safe and appreciated. Loved, even.

As time grows shorter, however, I’m beginning to wonder if I blew it. Clearly, I’ve made some errors of both commission and omission that are coming back to haunt me. I’ve been finding that I lack certain personality traits that are vital for success and to entice other people to want to be around me.

Some I could pretend to have, if I was willing to present a dishonest front. Maybe people would see right through any attempt to do that; it seems to me that one has to have a talent for self-misrepresentation to make that work. I don’t think I have it.

Worse, I’m beginning to wish I had access to the shelter some seem to take as a right. I wish I could just hand my troubles over to someone else when things go sour.

Though I was born in the last century, I was taught a code that belongs more appropriately to the century before that. I was taught to keep my emotions to myself, was taught that hard work brings rewards, was taught that talent is recognized, was taught that a person’s word is their bond. The first is something I have grown increasingly unable to do, the second, third and fourth have been proven, over and over, to be lies.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: Don’t think for a moment that I’m saying everyone is against me. I know better than that. I have a couple of friends who would go to great lengths to offer help and comfort, as I would for them. But the kind they can offer -- or that I can offer them -- don't quite go far enough any longer.

Nor am I blaming everyone else for my obvious screw-ups. I know what part I've played in digging this hole. That doesn't necessarily excuse others who have gleefully helped to deepen the hole, though. It is not self-pity to apportion the blame where it belongs.

Many wise people believe in the words they read that exhort them to "accept what life gives you," that tell them what they imagine for themselves is what will happen, that tell them if others make you angry it is your responsibility not to be angry, that tell them if you can somehow picture happiness in your mind it will be your lot in life. If these beliefs work for them, that's a good thing and I'm all for it. My experiences have led me to believe none are true for me.

I have imagined a lot of happy scenarios, have even worked to make them real. They did not work out. When I have refused to be angry when others do things deserving of anger, it seemed to spur them to redouble their efforts to hurt. When I pictured happiness, the pictures never came out right. Probably my fault.

I’m getting a little frightened here, friends. My abilities to trust, to feel sadness and/or pity for others, to walk the high wire unprotected, are vanishing. My desires remain, my belief in their eventual fulfillment is vanishing.

Simply not feeling sad is no longer a satisfactory goal. There’s not enough time left on the game clock for that to be acceptable any longer. My list of needs has been pruned down to two, perhaps three, items. Even those seem unattainable.

So the Question of the Day is: what do you do when the game is almost over and you feel that all the years, all the work, all the emotions put out there, have led to nothing?

And what are you supposed to do with whatever days or years are left?

I wish I could be sheltered. At least enough to regain my ability to get back on the high wire again.

Anger (mis) management

Yesterday was not what you'd call a wonderful day. So far, today threatens to be even worse.

I have yet to hear back from any of the clients who owe me money. They all have better things to do, it seems, than to talk to me, respond to emails or simply send checks.

Likewise, I cannot get a couple of clients who either have ordered or supposedly have ordered articles to talk to me.

The last requires some explanation. In previous entries, I've mentioned the eager-beaver photographer I sometimes work with. He hustles stories to editors based on the promise that I will write them, and hustles me by telling me this or that magazine wants the stories. His batting average is somewhat south of .500; he doesn't always listen to what he's told.

And that brings us to today. He thinks he has sold a research-intensive story to a client that is not among my favorites when it comes to communication or getting paid a fair price for my work. But I cannot get a call back from the editors to confirm that they want the article at all or, almost as important, that they understand what the story can and cannot include.

The result? I will spend some six hours today going with the photographer to get photos and gather some preliminary information for the article. As of now, I have no idea whether this will pay or, as has happened too often with him, be a waste of time.

And even if it does pan out, the hours I'll have to spend on research will make this, almost literally, a minimum-wage job.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: I have tried to talk with him about this kind of crap, but he is a real babe-in-the-woods. He believes what everyone and anyone tells him. Unfortunately, he is also a good friend, so I can't express my displeasure with his un-businesslike ways as forcefully as, perhaps, I should.

The other catch to the lack of communication is that those few occasions when I've been forced to rewrite/add to/revise my work have been the result of dealing with editors who can't or won't be specific about their needs.

If -- there's always an "if" -- the people I'm dealing with would act in an ethical, businesslike manner I would be, if not wealthy, at least unconcerned about how I'm going to pay my bills.

Tomorrow, I head to Las Vegas for a day-and-a-half business trip. I'm not terribly thrilled about that, either.

Of course some of the discomfort would be lessened if this wasn't the sum total of what goes on in my life these days. I have neither sex nor drugs to take my mind off the pressure, and rock & roll won't do it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More on the Gravy Train "gravy train"... photos have surfaced purporting to show the Los Angeles firefighter, Tennie "Big Dog" Pierce -- who, as you will recall from an earlier entry here, was awarded $2.7 million by the cowardly City Council because he was subjected to a prank by other firefighters -- participating in a few "pranks" of his own.

He really looks as if the "racist, demeaning" culture of the Fire Department hurt his tender feelings, doesn't he?

The authenticity of the photos has been verified by other firefighters.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times, leader of the howling liberal mob, is whining that the LAFD must mend its "racist" ways. Since the editorial uses the term "boys" over and over, it can only be referring to white male firefighters.

Once again, the politically correct, it's-all-the-white-man's-fault media is ignoring facts in order to promote its agenda of victimization.

But because this is an agenda embraced by not only the Times but leftist elected officials whose very existence depends on ranting about "racism," the citizens of L.A. are on the hook for $2.7 million and a full pension for poor, persecuted Tennie.

You may also noticed that the same web page that revealed the "real Tennie" also mentions an upcoming fund-raiser for five firefighters who were killed fighting a recent wildfire. No $2.7 million giveaway of taxpayers' money for their families....

I hope Tennie enjoys his lucrative retirement. He is living proof that imaginary racism can be very profitable.

TOTALLY NON-PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: My own City Councilperson, whose major claims to fame have been pimping over $1 million to get colorful lights strung on a local bridge and being the daughter of a locally famous political figure, voted in favor of the Big Payout. She, and other council members, slipped a ballot initiative past the unsuspecting (and uneducated) public to weasel out of being affected by the term-limit laws. I will be working hard for Saddam Hussein if he wants to run against her in the next election...

It's been a sunny day..., Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea...

But the chill wind blowing off the ocean means it's time to break out jackets and sweaters, or at least huddle together to share some warmth...


...was pretty nice. I went down to hear my friend R.'s concert in the afternoon and didn't make it back home until 12:30 this morning.

The guy is major-league talented, let me tell you. This was my first opportunity to hear him perform live, and he did not disappoint. Not only does he have the solid musical foundations of theory and technique (especially technique, damn him; I can't do what he does in my dreams, never mind real life) but he has an innate ability to come up with solid arrangements in his own style. He's big-time good at working the room, too.

In my book, he had two strikes against him from the start: he was playing for a bunch of elderly goyim, as unhip a crowd of citizens as you'll ever see. And the instrument was pretty unsatisfactory; I heard and briefly played it a hell of a long time ago, thought it had potential but didn't cut it. After years of work by people who brought more enthusiasm than skill to the party, it still has potential, still doesn't cut it.

Even so, R. pushed beyond the limits of crowd and instrument and was, in a word, sensational.

I mentioned that I had not heard him play in person before. I hadn't even met him until yesterday. We made contact through shared acquaintances and shared interests, and have stayed in touch for quite a while. But he lives in the Midwest, is a responsible guy with a family and a steady gig, and seldom makes it out here.

PARENTHETICAL THOUGHT: I admire this. He loves music, loves performing, but is not a slave to it. I suspect if it had a negative effect on wife and children, he'd bag it, get a square job and still be happy. I doubt that'll ever be necessary in his case, though.


After the concert, and after dinner with the people who put the show on, we went off to continue our long-running discussions in a more relaxed atmosphere. If there is anything I dig almost as much as music, it's having a good conversation about it. It wasn't all about our own arcane corner of the music world; we got pretty far afield and only the thought of that hour-long drive (and his early-morning flight out of here) made us wrap it up.

All that was missing to recreate some of my happiest memories from earlier days was a room with a B3 and well-stocked bar, and the company of a few other musicians -- all, sadly, now departed -- to jam and share ideas, gossip about other performers and tell bad jokes. I wouldn't have gotten home yet....

Oh, and the borrowed car did its thing. I made it back home without it puking its little Italian guts on the pavement. But barely; the headlights were distinctly dim, and I was tempted to stop and buy a couple of flashlights to tape on the hood so I could see more than 10 feet ahead.

Being me, I had to go into a bit of a bad mood at some point, and it happened during the drive home. I suddenly became acutely aware of the other, more important missing element in all this fun.

But she has removed herself from my world. In a sense, too bad for her; she would have dug it, would have fit right in.

In a bigger sense, too bad for me.

Anyway, I'm determined to make my way back to R.'s town, hear him play, meet his family, and continue the fun. It reminded me of several reasons I got involved in this whole scene in the first place.

How much is that...

...kitty in the window?

Priceless, if you ask me...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

From the New York Times...

...this deathless line from a story about the possible interaction between traditional and "new" media:

Now, before we take a shot at the aforementioned burning question — Is Google a friend of foe?

Not only is the NYT a scurrilous leftist rag that can't keep its slimy opinions out of "news," but its proofreaders and editors are out to lunch, too....


One of my favorite park cats was ready and willing to be photographed -- and petted, of course -- this morning...


This afternoon, I'm going to head down to Orange County to attend a concert. A friend is performing, and I'm anxious to hear what he's going to do.

But first, a trip to the coin-op car wash. Since the ride I was supposed to have is languishing in a car hospital somewhere -- reportedly with a missing headlight and severely wrinkled fender -- I borrowed a car from another friend, and it has not, to my knowledge, been washed once in this century.

This guy's a bit strange, Jim. He owns cars (nine, or maybe ten) that many of us would love to own, yet each one of them is in one way or another a junker. One is totally immobile, and has been for years; another is in pieces in his garage, and will probably stay that way for all eternity.

I vividly recall taking one of them to a classic-car event for him. I was stopped on a hillside waiting for the light to change when I felt the brake pedal begin to move toward the floor and we began to roll least the handbrake still worked. Sort of. I'm amazed that I noticed, as I was half in the bag from breathing gas fumes (a small but significant leak in the tank) anyway.

He spends thousands of dollars annually with a specialist mechanic to keep his menagerie running. I know; I help him shuttle cars up to the shop on average twice a month. For all that money and time, most are still barely roadworthy.

Take this one (please!), which is one of his "daily driver" cars. Not only is it dustier than Tut's Tomb, but it needs, at minimum, new shock absorbers, some major suspension repairs, a new exhaust system (I drive it with the windows down) and hours spent with an oil can and various screwdrivers and wrenches de-squeaking and tightening loose bits that rattle like crazy.

It's too bad, really. I like the car, and wouldn't mind owning it if I had the time and money to basically rip it apart and reassemble it correctly. It wouldn't even take that much money. But for a guy like him, who loves cars and yet is mechanically insensitive and clueless, it's just fine.

I don't understand people like him. He hangs out, as I do, with people who lavish more-than-average care on their wheels, belongs to a club devoted to his particular favorite brand, regularly sees vehicles just like his that actually start, run, stop and ride like Real Cars. The lessons never sink in.

But I know I'll get to the concert and back. I can drive anything. And I'm proving it today.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Seen on the street today...

...well, seen on the street in Beverly Hills, where people can afford such things....

It's a very nice 1954 Corvette...

'54 was the second year of production for the 'Vette. It was still powered by the "Blue Flame Six" engine, still available only in Polo White with a red interior...

And had a two-speed automatic transmission, controlled by that tiny lever at the lower right of the picture...

Racy, no? I always loved the "rock screens" over the headlights, which happened to be illegal in many states...

The jet-exhaust tail lights were a neat touch, too...

Wish I could afford one. They are neither the fastest, most comfortable or even fun-to-drive cars in the world -- a Jaguar or Austin-Healey of the same period was a much better deal -- but there's something about a classic 'Vette that pushes my buttons.

Saturday morning...

...and I'm in one of those strange, dislocated moods. I can thank Lauren for part of that, as her moving and beautifully expressed thoughts on moving back to New York City have made me think about my city.

Los Angeles is really no city at all, even if it meets all the legal requirements. There's no sense of city-ness, much to the dismay of people who are spending vast sums of money -- usually taxpayers' money -- to create a "sense of city." What those misguided civic boosters never learn is that real cities are born, not made.

My own neighborhood has only two distinctions that I can think of: it was home to Charles Bukowski and is one of the few places outside the ultra-radical enclaves farther North where a monument to rabble-rousing communist labor leader Harry Bridges would be tolerated.

It's a dead neighborhood, but doesn't know it. Two of the institutions that created and supported it -- fishing and the U.S. Navy -- are gone; the only remaining viable industry is ocean shipping, and that is slowly being shifted to new ports in Mexico.

So of course yuppification is the order of the day. Dead commercial buildings are being turned into trendy, expensive "loft" housing. As of yesterday, the nearest Starbuck's was on the Western edge of the district, but I fully expect to see one popping up in the "revitalized" "downtown" within minutes.

What was once a productive seaside town is now on its way to becoming a tourist "destination," if our publicity-loving, self-centered and generally worthless City Councilperson has her way.

PARENTHETICAL NOTE: Yes, I'm using a lot of quotation marks to express sarcasm. It's an inelegant way to write, but an easy way to be scornful....

If Bukowski was still alive, he'd probably be set up in a city-owned storefront where tourists could walk by and see a "poet at work." They'd let him talk to people between noon and 3:00 pm, and bring him to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for each new civic project.

The polyglot underbelly of the neighborhood is sure to be eroded in the course of turning this into a cut-price Disneyland. We have Italian, Serb, Croatian, Dalmatian, Portuguese and Mexican communities -- in addition to a fair number of us Average White People -- but I have no doubt many of these people will be pushed away as upscaling continues. Certainly, the unshaven and toothless, the retired Merchant Marine sailors, dockworkers and fishermen and the wretched refuse of a once-teeming shore have no place in the jolly future envisioned by those who can make a buck off it.

If you've read this far, you probably wonder what the hell this is all about. I do, too.

I think it all comes down to remembering the many times I've been in New York City and contrasting the palpable energy of that city with the fake boosterism of those who are trying to sanitize a fascinating, dirty-around-the-edges little burg that once had its own unique rhythm.

I never felt I could live comfortably in NYC. Now, I'm not sure I can live comfortably here much longer.

I posted another version of this photo not long ago...

Why repeat it? Because I finally found an image of the painting I was thinking of when I saw the diner lit up and empty that night...

Please don't write in to tell me I'm no Edward Hopper.

Nor, clearly, am I Charles Bukowski. Or even Harry Bridges.

I knew that already.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Night light...

...a picture with no significance at all, no deep inner meaning or even a shallow superficial meaning.

I simply liked what I saw, so I pushed the button...

A really bad day... a mostly unhappy week that is part of a bad month, which in turn is part of eight unbearable months.

At least it's over...

I will now admit the truth, which may enshrine me in the Hall of Wimps but is, nonetheless, a painfully honest admission:

Despite the grief work often causes me, despite the frustrations of living in a place where sanity is the exception and not the rule, despite my inability to make certain creative and constructive things happen, the vital element is missing.

I need someone to love me, and be loved by me. I need to hear those three magic words spoken by someone with the courage and character to mean them and act accordingly. I need to feel the touch of soft hands, the touch of soft lips, need to feel the soft breath of love on my face.

I could become totally self-dependent, bitter and insulated. But that way lies death, if not of the body, at least of the soul. Some people find success in that direction, turning their defeats into literary victories. Others manage to delude themselves into living without the essentials, convincing the world (if not themselves) that they can survive and thrive alone.

I cannot do that.

Believe me, I've tried. Not by choice, but out of sheer resignation, out of acceptance of the inevitable. It didn't work.

Some people, kind, well-intentioned and sweet, tell me I will "someday" have what I need. I know they mean well, but from here the supply of "somedays" seems to be dwindling with frightening rapidity.

Tonight, I am alone.

Tomorrow, I will be alone.

I did not commit myself to a special someone out of any desire to be a martyr. Yes, my intention was to love and support, to encourage her to be the person she wanted to be. That would have taken a lot out of me, but I freely admit I expected a return for my love and commitment.

I didn't get it. The one thing I know about her now is that she is not thinking about me tonight.

If you have love in your life, or even a reasonable facsimile, hang on to it as tightly as you can. There is no substitute for being loved. It is as vital as breathing. And give love, every chance you have.

Heed my warning. I know what it means to live a loveless life. It is the same as having no life at all.

Gravy Train!

I'm talking about dog food and money here.

Dig these excerpts from a story in the Los Angeles Slimes (excuse me...Times):"

A black firefighter who was served dog food in his spaghetti by fellow firefighters will be paid more than $2.7 million to settle a lawsuit alleging racial harassment within the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The award, approved on an 11-1 vote Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council, is the latest in a recent string of settlements of lawsuits by firefighters claiming discrimination and harassment and retaliation against those who complain.

It is believed to be the largest payout for misconduct in the department's history, which was long considered among the nation's finest, but has often been the target of complaints about hostility toward African American and female firefighters.

Firefighter Tennie Pierce, 51, alleged in his lawsuit that Firefighter Jorge Arevalo mixed canned dog food into Pierce's dinner at their Westchester station two years ago; that Capt. John Tohill purchased the dog food; and that Capt. Chris Burton knew about the prank but didn't warn Pierce. All three men were present when Pierce ate the dog food.

Pierce "took a large bite, at which time he noticed the other firefighters were laughing and making noises," the lawsuit says. He took a second bite, then demanded to know what was in his food, "but no one would tell him." Pierce then left the kitchen "with his co-workers laughing at him."

...A UC Santa Cruz professor who was hired by Pierce's attorney to review department records of discrimination complaints said the prank was clearly intended to "humiliate and dehumanize" Pierce.

"The association of a black man and dog food resonates with the deep historical roots of slavery and the corresponding dehumanization," said sociologist David Wellman, co-author of "Whitewashing Race: Colorblind Policies in a Color Conscious America."

"It's not just silly stuff. It's racially motivated…. The organization labels it as macho, 'boys will be boys' behavior. I think it's more about keeping blacks out by making their lives so miserable that they don't want to stay."

In his lawsuit, Pierce said that for more than a year after the October 2004 incident he was subjected to "verbal slurs, insults [and] derogatory remarks" — including taunting by firefighters "barking like dogs [and] asking him how dog food tasted" — in the presence of supervisors.

(What the Times story omits -- as I'd expect from this paper -- is testimony that Pierce called himself "Big Dog" when playing ball, and would allegedly yell "Feed the Big Dog!" over and over during games.)

In addition to the payout, the settlement provides for Pierce to remain on fully-paid administrative leave until April, when he reaches his 20-year service anniversary. Then he can retire with an annual pension amounting to half of his salary for life.

Damn. I'd eat two bites of dog food and let people call me anything they want for a whole lot less than Pierce is getting!

Call me racially insensitive all you want, people. But this is not about someone who was targeted because of his skin color. This is about someone who was pranked and who used his skin color to get himself a nice, fat payday.

If we are ever to get beyond racism in this country, it behooves those who play the phony race card and cry "victim!" at every turn, who can't learn the difference between pranks and racism, to get real. They perpetuate the stereotypes that divide us.

If the day ever comes...

...when I go completely bonkers and drive a Hummer through the crowds in a shopping mall or tell the pilot of a flight I'm on to take me to Cuba, it'll be a day like today.

I got no work done although I really, really wanted to.

Instead, I spent the day not talking to people who owe me money and talking to people to whom I owe money.

Aside from the normal the-check's-a-few-days-late situation I've faced with every client I've ever worked with, I hit a slow period recently. Part of that was me not wanting to write, but more was due to editors having enough stories in stock to fill their magazines and not being interested in discussing more.

And some clients simply pay when they feel like it, which could (should) have been yesterday or might be in January. So completed work has not brought me money.

The result is that the coffers emptied out too fast, and nothing has come in to refill them.

There are few things more stressful for me than telling people I can't pay them on time. Beyond the worry that they will take action against me (which they might be justified in doing), it's just not something I seem able to do with any grace. I feel as if I'm begging, and that guts me.

After all, I'm essentially promising them that people who aren't paying me will do so by a certain date, and I don't always have the world's highest level of confidence in claiming that.

What I do, and how I do it, my financial up- and down-cycles, should not be of any concern to these people, and yet I had to explain to them that not every business -- publishing being the one I'm concerned with -- is run in businesslike ways. I also had to explain the odd concepts of payment-on-publication and payment-by-the-word or -by-the-page, which barely make sense to me, let alone to people outside the publishing field.

It was torture. Embarrassing, too.

And it has killed the rest of the day for me. I can't work now, don't want to work.

So I'll sit here, in hopes either the mail or telephone will bring some nice surprises (hah!) and start the whole sorry routine over again on Monday.

This is what I get for not having gotten a real job back in the days when they were offered....

More election views...

...presented with absolutely no comments (except for a couple of key points highlighted in boldface) from me!

The first comes to you via the Associated Press:

[In an audiotape, not yet authenticated but believed to be genuine] Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also urged the U.S. to stay in Iraq so his group would have more opportunities to kill American troops.

"The al-Qaida army has 12,000 fighters in Iraq, and they have vowed to die for God's sake," a man introduced as al-Muhajir said in an audio tape made available on militant Web sites.

Al-Muhajir became the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June...

...[T]he speaker praised the outcome of Tuesday's elections in which Democrats swept to power in the House and the Senate, in large part due to U.S. voter dissatisfaction over the handling of the war in Iraq.

"The American people have put their feet on the right path by ... realizing their president's betrayal in supporting Israel," the terror leader said. "So they voted for something reasonable in the last elections."

Describing President Bush as "the most stupid president" in U.S. history, al-Masri reached out to the Muslim world and said his group was winning the war in Iraq faster than expected due to U.S. policies...

...[T]he speaker also referred to Rumsfeld's resignation and called on "the lame duck (Bush) not to hurry up in escaping the same way the defense minister did."

"They are getting ready to leave, because they are no longer capable of staying," the al-Qaida leader said, referring to U.S. forces.

And this just in from Iran via Reuters...

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday called U.S. President George W. Bush's defeat in congressional elections a victory for Iran.

Bush has accused Iran of trying to make a nuclear bomb, being a state sponsor of terrorism and stoking sectarian conflict in Iraq, all charges Tehran denies.

"This issue (the elections) is not a purely domestic issue for America, but it is the defeat of Bush's hawkish policies in the world," Khamenei said in remarks reported by Iran's student news agency ISNA on Friday.

"Since Washington's hostile and hawkish policies have always been against the Iranian nation, this defeat is actually an obvious victory for the Iranian nation...."

...Khamenei, a senior cleric in power since 1989, has the last word on matters of state in Iran's complex system of Islamic rule, while the government, under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in charge of day-to-day decision making.

"The result of this election indicates that the majority of American people are dissatisfied and are fed up with the policies of the American administration," the IRNA state news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Khamenei said military maneuvers in the Gulf this week in which Iranian forces tested new missile systems showed Iran was ready to face any threat.

But, he said: "With the scandalous defeat of America's policies in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan, America's threats are empty threats on an international scale."

And, finally, this, also from AP:

George McGovern, the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate, said Thursday that he will meet with more than 60 members of Congress next week to recommend a strategy to remove U.S. troops from Iraq by June.

If Democrats don't take steps to end the war in Iraq soon, they won't be in power very long, McGovern told reporters before a speech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"I think the Democratic leadership is wise enough to know that if they're going to follow the message that election sent, they're going to have to take steps to bring the war to a conclusion," he said.

McGovern will present his recommendations before the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a 62-member group led by Reps. Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee.

"The best way to reduce this insurgency is to get the American forces out of there," McGovern said. "That's what's driving this insurgency."

McGovern told the audience Thursday that the Iraq and Vietnam wars were equally "foolish enterprises" and that the current threat of terrorism developed because -- not before -- the United States went into Iraq.