Monday, January 28, 2008

Locking the barn door...

...after the horse has been stolen: that's what I'm doing now. The morning has flown by in a kind of daze, writing, making calls, writing, making calls.

But at least I'm doing something.

Not sure it will do any good at all, but then I'm not sure it won't.

It's no fun. Painful, in fact. I'm afraid if I survive the next couple of weeks, I'll be swigging Maalox, drinking milk and eating soft, bland foods. Stress messes up your body big-time, Jim.

What makes it worse -- at least for the rest of today -- is that the story I'm writing now is for a client who has treated me shabbily. That makes doing a good job difficult.

I really, really want to quit the desk and go for a walk. It's beautiful here today, cool, crisp and sunny.

Instead, I need to get back to work.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Between the rain showers...

...I went for my walk. Made the whole four miles today without feeling as if someone was performing an appendectomy on me without anesthesia.

There were cats in the park, looking remarkably dry all things considered. As you can see, the big cat from several entries back is really into her sharing-the-warmth stuff, this time with a different black cat...

And I could only hope this was more comfortable than it appeared...

I felt better after the walk. But all the various scenarios I spun in my mind during the stroll turned out to be based on unreliable possibilities and were therefore discarded.

Yeah, I feel like crap.

A break in the rain...

...and there's quite a bit of blue sky outside, though more rain is supposedly headed this way.

PARENTHETICAL BE-WARNED NOTE: This entry may vanish. It is incredibly painful for me to see it here. The truth hurts, especially when it's about one's own self.

I woke up depressed. It's getting progressively worse as the day goes on. I wouldn't call it so much clinical depression as facing reality. Reality is about as bad as it gets right now.

For those who think I'm permanently wallowing in some scummy pond of self-pity, I'll talk about my mistakes first.

In three words, I blew it. I have known for some time that my work is being paid for at rates lower than those I received from the magazines I was working for in, say, 2000. The check I (finally) received yesterday, one of several that should have been here some time ago, brought that home with painful clarity. It is, by my reckoning, roughly half what it should have been, given the time I took in researching, writing, re-researching (to add information the editor wanted) and word count.

At that rate, I would have to write something on the order of six or seven similar stories a week to have a comfortable income, and there simply are not 400 working hours in a week.

So why have I put up with this? Simple. I foolishly continued to work for people who promised me lots of assignments and haven't come through, and promised to pay more. They lied (or at least created false impressions), and I accepted the lies as truth. It's arrogance, or perhaps more accurately, ego on my part.

And I foolishly allowed myself to think that better clients would somehow appear. There are a few out there, but I simply don't have the means to get them interested in me. And there is an element of type-casting as well, which simply means that many editors are unwilling to make the assumption (correct as it happens to be) that because I can write well about Subject X, I can also handle Subject Y with equal skill and grace.

Finally, among the list of personal bad traits, let's add one more: I have been dealing with these issues (and many more) for a number of years. A point comes -- at least for me -- when the endless struggle becomes too much, and my mind simply shuts down. I do nothing. I cannot think of options. I'm fighting that now, and have experienced it several times in recent years.

That too, I suppose, is ego. I mean, I'm damn good at what I do -- better than almost anyone else who does it -- and cannot imagine that it hasn't been discovered and rewarded. You might say I have allowed it to go unrewarded, by choosing to work for weasels. That's right, too.

So, in this corner, a guy nearing his 58th year, who is unlikely to be able to start a new career. Only top business execs get to do that, and they all have strong financial cushions in place in case they fall.

I don't want to do that, anyway, even if I could. I have no idea what else I can do, especially in a region and time when cheap labor is plentiful and such skills as I possess have been reduced from "admired and well-paid" to "minimum-wage dead-end."

Yeah, the latter is demonstrably true. I've looked into a few "possibilities."

And it is almost certainly too late to think of major changes.

The next week or two will likely see a number of chickens coming home to roost, and the results will not be pretty. My state of mental inertia is such that they will not hurt as much as they should. I will simply accept them and be washed away by the inevitable tide.

I have not treated myself to a lavish lifestyle while the whole mass collapsed around my ears. I have pulled back, over and over, from spending. I have plenty of debt, but it is not from wild credit-card sprees or splurging on big-screen TVs or resort vacations.

The list of "what ifs" is endless. From what I can tell, had other (non-business) aspects not crumbled around me when my best shot at the old brass ring failed back in 2000-2001, I might have simply taken a local gig in whatever field was available simply to keep the rest of my life -- and those in it -- happy and intact. I might have done that at other times, too.

But being alone does not inspire you -- or at least me -- to give up the sensuous but murderous bitch-goddess of "creativity." It makes you fight for what little is left to you, makes you hang on tight, pour energy into it and believe it will not collapse around you.

Bad move.

Can I pull off one more comeback? I don't know. I seem to be wired in a way -- and this, too, appears to be major flaw in my character -- that making big moves requires inspiration, in the same way as does writing. The reason has to be more than me, stupid as that may sound to the self-assured among you.

So there you have it. Feel free to tell me what to do or be critical. I will probably agree with most of the negative assessments.

I have said before that no one who has not gone through all this, who has a stable job/career/loved one who kicks in some support to the things moving can understand, and I still believe that.

In fact, I hope you can't understand. It would bring you down as badly as it has me.

I wouldn't put a dime down on a bet that I'll be in better shape a month or six months from now. Even if I had one to spare.

I've made the effort, believe me. But it now seems clear I made the wrong effort, in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons.

And -- the self-pity goes here -- I would like to thank those who falsely encouraged, took advantage of, lied to, played on the emotions of, and in general grabbed what they could get from me over the years, in both the personal and professional arenas. You all felt the right to do this without giving back, and I didn't know how to make you keep your sides of innumerable "bargains." I thought you would be honorable and truthful simply because I was, and because it was the right thing to do.

I couldn't have made such a major, total monumental screw-up of my life without each and every one of you.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Better, wetter..., and the weather, respectively.

I finally showered and dressed late this afternoon, made myself some hot chocolate and toast, and tried to convince myself that I wasn't feeling as bad as I did this morning.

Mostly, it worked.

Went for a walk after sunset, making a whole mile before the backhoe started digging in my innards again and I had to give up. Felt better than sitting at home, though.

But now I'm exhausted, and still trying to convince myself I'm recovering from the assault of the Death Egg.

It's starting to rain again. For this area, the incoming storm promises to be a doozy. We may get up to eight inches of rain by Monday. The previous storm dropped more wet stuff than the total rainfall for last year. The radar images of the next wave of wetness are pretty impressive.

All more or less good news. Not good enough, but I'll take anything right now.


Not a good morning. Mainly because last night was not a good night.

I was not at fault, I don't think, unless it can be said that I sometimes am not the smartest shopper in the world. But how can you tell when the market sells you some past-their-prime eggs in a package with a "sell-by" date still in the future?

Regardless, I hard-boiled the evil little suckers and ate one.

I knew that was a mistake within minutes.

A neighbor suggested that a couple of shots of Cuervo would settle my stomach. And they did, for quite a while.

Not forever, though. No need for a detailed description of the events that followed when the cactus-juice buzz wore off, I don't think.

I'm still feeling like death. Not warmed over. Just death.

Tea. Is that considered a balanced diet?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Guilty as charged!

Charged, that is, by this delightful lady, who is sharper than a newly opened X-acto knife blade but -- at least as far as I know -- spills little blood with her rapier wit.

PARENTHETICAL DELAYING-THE-INEVITABLE THOUGHT: Yes, I know the last sentence contained a mixed metaphor, which makes me look like an illiterate rube. If I was being paid to do this, you can bet my grammar, words and thoughts would be slicker than a sheet of teflon, smooth as a baby's bottom.

Anyway. She asked me to do her version of one of those meme-things that are floating around journals. Since I already did the original version, I gotta give this a try. Besides, I kinda like it better!

So here's what she has tasked (damn, I hate that word, and everyone else should, too) me with, and I quote:

"Share 5 Guilty UnPleasures (ie, things you don't like but feel that you really should. Oh the guilt! ahem.)"

1. Television.

Yes, I truly dislike TV. I'm regularly bombarded with questions such as "did you see the latest episode of '2 1/2 Men?'" "I was watching 'Dr Phil,' and he said..." or "Dude, did you see 'Letterman' last night" In fact, I did not watch any of those shows. I have not watched the tube for maybe five years, except when I was checking weather reports while sitting in a motel room in Daytona Beach, Florida last year. I'm sure I should be glued to the screen -- missing out on Culture, you know -- but my set has more dust on it than my sex life, and that's saying something.

P.S. I occasionally watch videos -- not DVDs, I'm too old-fashioned for that -- but those are movies, and running 'em a TV set is a convenience issue....

2. Cooking for myself.

I've heard people rave about this, too. They will spend hours chopping, slicing, dicing, braising, browning, whisking, and whatever the hell else they think will make them a memorable meal. The joys of adding a pinch of this, a sprig of that and a tbsp of something else are lost on me. If I'm going to put any effort into culinary delights, I want to do so for at least two people. That way, if she turns green and spits it out, we can go off to Louie's #2 Chinese Takeaway or In-n-Out Burger and get something really good.

3. Beer.

Everyone around me likes beer. Some can go through a 12-pack in a single evening. They love beer! My absolute limit seems to be two bottles, and even they have to be specific beers, such as Tsingtao. No Bud Light for me! When I'm in England, I can guzzle Guinness pretty well, but that doesn't qualify as beer in my book. The few times I've tried to chug lesser-quality grain beverages, I felt as if I was bloating like an over-inflated balloon. Unless specifically requested by someone else, there is never any beer in my fridge.

I guess this makes me Not a Real Man.

4. Star Trek.

Anyone else out there who isn't totally into this stuff? Damn, I might as well include the "Star Wars" movies as well, because I still hear people raving about these shows/movies years after it should have been forgotten. I mean, these people have conventions for Pete's sake, where they dress up like characters from the shows/movies, recite lines from their favorites, study all the minutiae and generally carry on like, well, geeks.

It's okay if you like it. But this kind of thing makes me break out in hives. Really.

5. Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I actually went to see "The Phantom of the Opera" when it was new. I was not amused. This guy is supposed to be some kind of Very Big Deal, but I would rate him right with Irving Taylor as a composer. Webber is like too many composers of musicals these days: trite, and more than ready to use loud when good would be better. My girlfriend at the time loved, loved, loved the show. Everybody loved the show....

What I noticed was the astonishing similarity between Webber's compositions and a lot of old familiar tunes. One of the better takes on him is here, but I'm surprised that no one has caught on to the remarkable similarity between "Music of the Night" and "School Days." Hell you can plug the words to the latter right in....

Lest you think of me as some kind of uncultured boob, I will say I was absolutely delighted when I saw the revival of "Show Boat" on Broadway some years ago, and the list of musicals -- and composers -- I like is so much longer than the list on which Webber's name is firmly inscribed.

This was a difficult list! There aren't that many things I should like but don't!

Damn, am I dull....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A short-ish note... explain something in the last post.

Those who commented, bless 'em all, had eminently sensible suggestions to make about how I should, as Gen. Jack D Ripper so famously said in the movie Dr Strangelove, "withhold my essence" from those who treat me with less than the respect I have earned.

Each of them was, of course, 100% right. If what I'm doing resembled a normal business, that is.

In my business, circa AD 2008, their ideas would get you tossed aside like a used Kleenex.

Let's go back, for a moment, to 1986. Which I wish I could do for many reasons, not the least of which is that I hadn't met a few female persons who were to have rather destructive effects on me. But we're talking about work here.

After I had completed my very first articles -- for two major publications, I might add -- work was offered almost faster than I could deal with it. I was good, and that meant work. When checks didn't arrive, a phone call mentioning this unfortunate fact was usually enough to get same in my mailbox within a couple of days. With apologies.

And then the rot began to set in. I don't know exactly when, but it did.

Today, any form of complaint is more than likely to bring a reply mentioning that Hack Writer X doesn't bitch about payment -- why should he? He has a well-off wife/girlfriend/mother -- and even if his stuff is crap, it fits the same pages as my good work does.

Those of you who have noticed and bemoaned the appalling decline in English-language skill in other publications, online and otherwise, will understand part of this.

At some point, the "big" magazines began to realize that the nickel-and-dime operations were making nice profits, and decided they need not pay their writers any more than the word-chewers get from those cheesy books.

We writers and photographers are the people who fill the spaces between ads. And since readers are gradually losing the ability to tell quality research, writing and/or photographic talent from uneducated drivel, that's the way it seems destined to remain.

Any freelance "content provider" -- to use a phrase I loathe -- knows what I'm talking about.

My first big failing was not seeing what was going on soon enough. As in soon enough to get a gig at WallyMart. My second big failing was thinking that quality would always mean something. As soon as some enterprising sort in Mumbai opens a "Writing Center" to deliver doggerel to magazines at a drastically reduced rate, I'm totally doomed.

If you could talk to a dinosaur, you'd find him as puzzled as I am. It's the old "I used to have plenty of vegetation to nibble on, and now I have this damn tar underfoot, and it's making it difficult to walk" routine.

But the worst aspect is that when the nasty side of the biz began to make itself apparent, I had some fine, fine lovin' going on, and it was easy to turn my back on reality when naughty/nice escapades beckoned. That made me more determined to keep the whole dreary act afloat, too.

It's worse when what you're losing is all you have, Jim.

Okay, so this wasn't exactly what you'd call brief. So sue me.

And it still doesn't explain the whole thing, does it?

The domino effect.

You know what that is, and it's happening, not in politics or world governments or any of that crap I'm trying to ignore these days, but in my own damn worthless life.

Consider this: when one client is slow to pay, that's a nuisance, an irritation. When all of them get the bright idea to stiff me, it's a catastrophe. A meltdown.

I've been working regularly, but have not received a check from any client in seven weeks. As one of those who lives paycheck-to-paycheck, you can imagine what's that does to me.

Those with whom I work directly claim to have nothing to do with this. "It's the bookkeeper," they say. In two instances, the bookkeeper is a ne'er-do-well relative of the publisher, and does not talk to peons like me.

When I am late with checks, my landlord gets testy. As well he should; it's not his problem. When I am late paying AT&T, I am plunged into a mad world of computers dunning me with voice-synthesized rudeness.

The worst aspect is, of course, that I would be happier than anyone if I had enough coin in the bank to pay everyone instantly. That seems such a happy state of affairs.

Oddly enough, I am at most angry with the above-named people. The only tormentor that draws my hatred is the freekin' AT&T computer.

Then there are "friends," none of whom read this journal, thank God. Consider the one whose business is making pretty good bread now and has gotten freebie help from me in the past: he's not willing to take his time to help me get anything remunerative going for myself, even though he knows the people who could very likely get it done. And would be paid for doing so, I might add. He did call this morning asking for a favor....

Let's not forget D., the photographer. He has all kinds of work for me. But it's all for publications that pay late, and don't pay enough. And when he gives me "all the information I need," I know I might as well bin it. It'll be worthless crap that makes me go back to Square One and reinvent the wheel, story-wise, every time.

I actually like both of these people.

And, of course, there are the women who have made my life so hellish interesting. I'm not going into their various fun ways of messing me up but, believe it or not, I still like all but one of them. The exception I'm merely hugely disappointed with. And I continue to worry about another, who is going through difficult times herself. I answered the bell for each of them; they're absent now.

What brings all these unlikely people together is that they have treated me as if I'm worthless, almost as if they despise me and always have. Or maybe I over-rate them and they simply are devoid of any perception, decency or human feeling. I have to believe they get sick kicks out of toying with me as if I was a fish on a line, otherwise they'd toss me the occasional bit of concern and attention just to keep me from going under.

After all, each and every one has made it clear, at one time or another (some regularly), that they need me.

Any one of these little problems I could deal with. But they keep coming in an unrelenting stream, unrelieved by anything positive. I can't deal with all of them, all the time.

Each is a domino, and as each problem collapses into the next, I lose track of the game. And lose heart.

People are bugging me today, as you no doubt can guess.

Out of the night...

...came a strange apparition as I was walking. An elderly gentleman wearing a deerstalker hat and a quilted coat and walking a small, energetic dog came toward me. It was tugging at the leash, wandering, sniffing, acting the way dogs do when they have so many smells to smell and dark places ahead to check out and hardly have enough time for them all.

Suddenly, from out of the shadows, an orange cat appeared. He ran toward the dog, bounced around it, ran ahead, slowed down for the pooch to catch up.

The man looked across the street at me, smiled, and said "he likes to walk with us. The other cat stays home, but this one has to come along."

I stood and watched them as they went into the night. The dog was trotting along happily as the cat frolicked beside him.

For a few moments, I was happy, too.

I hope I see this unlikely threesome again some night.

The rain is past now, though we are told there will be storms passing through until Saturday. Not sure I believe it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


...and, according to the latest satellite images, about to get very, very wet here.

Earlier, when I went for a walk, it was cold -- the wind off the ocean sees to that -- but the sun was shining weakly. Down at the park, a couple of the residents were staying warm...

I could use some serious cuddling and warmth-sharing today, too. A cat would do, but that's not what I'm thinking of, naturally.

Sadly, since everything else has gone to hell in the proverbial handbasket today, I can't let myself think about anything that would actually make me happy....

Pet show!

Damn, I love the Brits!

According to this story in The Daily Mail, a young couple were banned from taking a transit bus because the guy dresses goth and leads his girlfriend around on a leash.

The music technology student had this defence of her lifestyle.

"I am a pet, I generally act animal like and I lead a really easy life," she said.

"I don't cook or clean and I don't go anywhere without Dani. It might seem strange but it makes us both happy. It's my culture and my choice. It isn't hurting anyone."

The bus driver clearly didn't agree. He has repeatedly refused to allow Mr Graves, 25, and his "pet" on to his bus in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

Last month, with Miss Maltby on a leash as usual, the couple tried to board a bus at the bus station.

The driver, who was off duty, was standing near the door.

Mr Graves alleged: "He shoved me off the bus. He called us freaks and he called Tasha a dog.

"He said, 'We don't let freaks and dogs like you on'.

Of course there is one little sting-in-the-tail within this story: The couple, who live on benefits in a council house and plan to start a family, have been friends for years.

Maybe if he had to work, Mr Graves would let his pet off her leash. And maybe she, too, could find employment so UK taxpayers don't have to support her.

In a pet store, maybe?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Even I know...

...when to shut the hell up.

The endless stream of bad stuff here probably bums some of you out in a major way, and it clearly affects me negatively.

If I was ever to write about the between-the-lines happenings, the sordid little scenes I keep mostly to myself, it would be even more of a downer. What you can't imagine happening is what I've experienced; the more absurd the scenario, the better the chance it's part of my days. And weeks, months and years.

Not to mention the usual hassles, which have attained the power to stop me dead in my tracks. So many things I should have done yesterday have been put off until tomorrow, simply because various things happen that sap my energy.

It's a damn mess, I tell you.

My life would make a wonderful cheap novel, except it wouldn't be believable. Or it might make a good comic book.

What it does not make is a very satisfying life to live.

And I am slowly coming to the conclusion I cannot fix it on my own.

Oh, well.

You might get a chuckle or two out of the details, but I'm too shy to expose the extent of my dimwittedness.

I'm telling you, it's not much fun to be me, Jim.

So I will simply sign off for now....

Monday, January 21, 2008

Don't read this...

...just look at the photo of today's sunset and move on...

Things that have happened today have made me feel mortal and -- so what else is new? -- depressed.

I am mourning the loss of a colleague who died today, and mourning the possible (likely) reaction when it's my turn to go.

Once again, I'm trying my best to spare you from the truth of my situation.

Isn't that nice of me?

Yeah, I wish **** or **** or ***** cared. But they don't. So let's just say I am feeling very cold and very alone tonight. And I am missing T., who went ahead early.

I hope he has found peace and comfort, the two things I long for.

When I say I'm uninspired...

...I'm not woofin' you in the least!

I did take six photos over the weekend, and selected the best least worthless just to show you that when the muse is away, nothing plays....

The first, believe it or not, shows part of a huge swarm of monarch butterflies. They are a Very Big Deal in Pismo Beach, California -- where all these pics were made -- and there were dozens of people standing around looking up at them, even though the sun was so low in the sky that all you could see were silhouettes. Me? I was thinking it's good these suckers don't poop like birds...

And here's a duck, notable only for the fact that you seldom look down on one this way unless you're standing on a bridge, which I was...

You get lots of trees with twisted branches by the beach...

And tide pools, too...

Did I mention I am incredibly bored? Not to mention being ***** and *****. I said I wouldn't mention them, and I won't. If either was cured -- or in the process of being cured -- I wouldn't be bored.

I'll do better next time I'm up there. Promise.

First headache of the day...

...came from the Google service that notifies you when your name appears on websites.

There were two "reputable" publishers listed -- if I mentioned their names, you'd think "publishing establishment" -- who have reprinted stolen articles of mine that were published (on paper) some years ago.

Did I get paid for these? Did anyone ask me if I minded?

That would be "no." Twice.

Someone is raking in some coin by selling archived material to these companies. And many others, I might add. I know who the "someone" is. But, alas, I learned some time ago that I have no recourse; there is no action in law that protects my rights.

A large music company with a full fleet of lawyers can rake individuals over the coals for downloading/sharing music files. They can get large judgments from the miscreants, too.

To my knowledge, the number of articles I've written that are being republished without my permission or any further payment runs into three figures now.

The anger just goes on and on.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Guilty Pleasures?

Dang, Fitzy, it's been so long since I've indulged in guilty pleasures that I've almost forgotten what they are!

But if the rest of y'all ever saw a pic of the dude who calls himself "Fitzgerald," you would definitely come up with a quintet of fun-sins when he asks, if only to avoid being skooshed like a bug by one of his size-13 brogans. (I'm guessin' on the shoe size....)

I don't know if I'll make five, but I do have some doozys....

1. Porn. Yup, I dig what some call "porn," but a very specialized sort. It's found only in the films of the late, great Russ Meyer. The man who coined the perfect word for, ummmm, well-endowed ladies ("Buxotic") was the master of cheap sex mixed with cheap laffs, and I have to revisit his oeuvre on a fairly regular basis. When Lola Langusta performs the "infamous black sock routine" or "Mr. Peterbilt," the garbage collector diddles her on a bare box-spring mattress (filmed from below, naturally) or radio evangelist Eufala Roop gets it on with "Martin Bormann" in a casket -- all from "Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens" -- I'm there, baby! I have had girlfriends try to hide under the coffee table while I was running "Mud Honeys" or "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" for them....

2. Speed. Yup, I loves me some speed, the more the merrier. Sometimes, I even get paid to drive at excessive rates of speed. There are few pleasures as intense as getting to that "am I going to make it through the next corner?" moment, though a couple of 200-plus mile-per-hour runs on German Autobahns come close. It takes a damn good car -- and fresh tires -- plus a familiar stretch of road. Or track. When you get that feeling that the ball game is about to be over as the smell of tortured Goodyear -- or sometimes Pirelli or Michelin -- tires fills the interior and you can look out the window and count the rivets on the guardrail, man, you know you and Mr Grim Reaper are standing toe-to-toe. Sadly, I can't bring myself to do this with a passenger aboard, though there was this engineer from a major car company who wanted to ride along and take videos...I sometimes wonder how he's doing these days, and whether he's recovered....

3. Spooning. Fitz and I agree on this, and I have fond memories of a lady (won't name her, but her initials were R. B.) who was the greatest "spooner" of all. Women fit perfectly in the man's front/woman's back sleeping/cuddling/loving position, let me tell you. The last lady in my life showed great promise in this regard for a brief moment, but it was not to be....

4. Playing "air keyboard". I've known people who play "air guitar," but I have 'em beat. Sometimes, when no one is around -- which is all the damn time -- I will put on CDs I've prepared of favorite tunes and mimic the performers. They have better -- and more -- keyboards to lay down sounds than I do, and more talent to boot. But I know what they're doing, even if I can't do it, and can imagine myself up there making the citizens crazy with my amazing performances.

5. Being "gay". I'm not, really, but both my work and my musical avocation have -- shall we say -- "thrust" me into close proximity to guys who, well, like guys. As long as they knew that wasn't my scene, I never felt any hesitation in hanging with them, using the terminology and telling the jokes. I had a girlfriend who would get green around the gills when she had to deal with a dear friend who was "flamboyant." And when I sent him a birthday card we found in a West Hollywood shop -- the front said "I was going to get you a gift for your birthday," and when the card was opened, there was a photo of a "husky" dude wearing a jock, and the words "But frankly, I'm strapped!" -- she was convinced I had lost what few heterosexual marbles I possessed. I enjoy listening to The Village People, too. I love women, always have, always will, but I dig all my friends, the wackier, the better.

Okay, Fitz-dude. You got me to open up and lay out my major weirdnesses.

But none of them come close to your fixation with WD-40!

I'm back...

...after a two-day jaunt of 500-plus miles. We stayed at S.'s (that would be the girlfriend of Photographer D.) house up the coast and, since she found the papers she needed almost instantly, we spent a leisurely afternoon touristing around and came back today.

PARENTHETICAL LEST-YE-MISUNDERSTAND THOUGHT: Her house has a guest room. I stayed in it. I don't do that steal-from-a-friend crap.

In some respects it was quite nice. We hit a BBQ place ("Alex Bar-Be-Que, since 1942" and had a dynamite dinner. After that, she led me around to some places I hadn't seen in something like 35 years.

That was a downer, man. Little coastal towns that used to be sleepy as can be are now "re-imagined" (a word Architectural Digest sprinkles around like confetti) into yuppie havens. The housing boom has turned miles of open agricultural fields into cesspools of jammed-together tract houses.

That's a way of letting you know there were no photos taken. Next time I'm up there, I'll shoot some interesting stuff, and provide a detailed commentary with the shots, but every time I pulled out the ol' digi yesterday and today, I felt tired and unenthusiastic.

It was still somewhat relaxing, at least at times.

But there were some moments along the way -- which had to do only with the severely damaged state of my mind and nothing to do with S., who worked hard to be a good host -- that left me at my doorstep this afternoon as confused and miserable as ever.

I was not looking for that, believe me. But the depth of certain frustrations, certain unfortunate turnabouts in my personal life and a simple-but-overwhelming feeling that events have spiraled so far out of control that I can't manage to grab hold of anything, continues to surprise me.

It also continues to surprise me that I can hide all this turmoil so well from people who know me.

On this whole planet, two people might have the perception and understanding of me to nut it out. I will never see either one again, alas, at least not at close enough range for them to pick up the vibes.

Need I mention the empty mailbox that greeted me this afternoon?

Faugh. If this is what "vacations" are like, spare me.

At least the trip in March seems certain be fun. No time for ghosts or demons during that one.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

On the road today... Central California, roughly a 500-mile round-trip.

Photographer D.'s girlfriend has a house up there, and needs to collect something from it. D. doesn't want to go, so they asked me to do the behind-the-wheel chores. She's not the world's best driver, for sure; I get extremely nervous, passenger-wise, in her car.


It's a nice day, I don't want to be here, and I have a fairly decent set o' wheels available. I do stuff for them, they do stuff for me. Don't ask me how I see the ratio between them/me; I'm biased in favor of me, naturally. In one sense, I'm glad D. isn't going: sometime during a drive of that length, there might be fisticuffs and resulting loss of blood. His.

There may be photos later. Or maybe not.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday ends with a...

...bigger, fatter thud.

I was going to say "with a crash," but don't want you to get the wrong idea. I went for a drive, but it was relatively short, as Photographer D. called just before I bugged out and said he had stuff for a couple of stories I stupidly agreed to do. Yeah, at this point I'll write anything, in the pathetic hope I'll see money. Someday.

PARENTHETICAL WHY-EDITORS-LIKE-ME, ASIDE-FROM-THE-FACT-THEY-SEEM-TO-THINK-I-DON'T-NEED-MONEY THOUGHT: Let it be said the "information" D. gave me was less than useless. Sometimes, I wonder if he can actually read or understand what it takes to write a good piece, research-wise....

And I was roped into going to lunch with D. and his girlfriend. That's hell, let me tell you. When it comes to her, he is the most inconsiderate bastard on the planet. He puts her down, they bicker, and she takes it. Any woman I treated that way would kick me in the nougats, speedy-speedy. Just like a few whom I treated with love and respect. There were many moments at the restaurant when I wanted to crawl under my chair and hide.

The food was awful and overpriced, too.

And when I came home there was, of course, nothing in the mail. Jesus, have I been writing articles or hallucinating that I wrote and sent them? It has been 48 days since anyone paid me. I'd love to believe this is some hideous practical joke, that tomorrow's mail will have enough money in it to straighten me out completely. Fat chance.

The bright spot was coming home to a FedEx box full of 10 CDs, made for me by a friend in Minnesota. I'm listening now, and will no doubt be listening tomorrow. My closest friends are fanatics like me about our strange taste in music, and I'm sending him a few recordings tomorrow that are equally obscure and weird. This is great, great stuff, some of which takes me back many years. Most people would turn up their noses at it; I don't care, frankly.

And R. called, as he always does (without knowing it) when things are going to shit here. It's nice to have friends who give a damn, who understand what's really important in this ugly world. We talked about the Minnesota guy -- whom we both like -- and about the Real Stuff: music and, well, shall we say interaction with the opposite sex.

I'm absolutely certain some of you think I'm making it all up, that I like to p*ss and moan about life to cover up the fact that I'm livin' large here.

Would that it were so, grizzly dudes. Would that it were so.

R. will probably call again soon after he gets off work, to find out if any of the CDs are worth listening to. They are. I've copied a few he'll like already.

I just hope I can be coherent when he calls. I'm playing "Star Trek" here: "(Jim) Beam me up, Scotty!"

Sorry if this bugs you. Life is awful here, and I can only write about what I know.

All my loves are too far away. And none of them care.

Friday starts with a...

...big, fat thud.

One of my editors takes center stage. With clever manipulation of typography and photo placement, he has manged to cut the amount he owes me for two articles in half (he pays "by the page") while still getting to use all the words I wrote.

There's a word for people like him. Several words, really.

And my so-called budget is now down the toilet. Farther into the sewer than it was before, if that's possible.

I need to get away today, so I don't have any interaction with clients -- especially that one -- or the ever-lengthening line of people who want my money. And, probably, my blood.

So: into shower, then into car and down the road.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Oh me of little faith...

...I've been in a world of confusion (apart from hurt) lately, and have successfully kept it locked away. Until, that is, a pretty darn wise dude who calls himself "nullmuse" left this as part of a comment in an earlier entry:

"I'm reminded of a quote from a guy I really admire, 'Pain is God's way of reminding you you're alive.'"

PARENTHETICAL ANYONE-MIGHT-BE-RIGHT NOTE: I am not laying a bad rap on anyone's religious beliefs in the following, whether they are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans or practice Obeah. Who knows the Right Answer? None of us. Especially me.

God, prayer and religion in general are really turning into a big stew in my mind. I've always been relatively spiritual, but after a childhood in Episcopal-land and a later change to Judaism (a long story, too long for here), I settled down into what seemed to me a fairly decent way of looking at and living my life.

I've never given up certain basics, though. When someone is in pain, or in need of more help than humans can (or anyway do) offer, I feel no hesitation in sending up prayers, and never have.

Granted, they're nothing you'd find in the Book of Common Prayer, or even among the pleas sent up at "modern" happy-clappy, God-is-my-good-buddy churches. My feeling is that Who/whatever is Up There -- be it God, the Universe, you choose the name -- is pretty busy with the request line, so I try to keep it direct and simple. Saves me time, too, when there are multiple requests.

For example, a friend of mine fell ill last Saturday. That was one prayer. I drove her to Urgent Care Sunday morning. That required another. Subsequent events led me to add a few fresh and continuing requests for her well-being in other respects along the way. I'd like to believe they helped and are helping.

But then, I see the other side of things, which leaves me more than a little troubled.

The common thread among mainstream religions is that God wants us to embrace bad things that happen. I've heard Catholic priests say "offer your suffering to God" and rabbis say "the sun shines equally on the just and unjust." Nullmuse's quote was another in an endless series of these lines, as far as I can see.

To call God "merciful" on one hand and then have to see people going through undeserved trials and unendurable pain does not add up.

And yes, I include myself. Too much of my life during the past decade-plus has been a horror story. I've spared you many details, for which you may thank me very much.

I've asked for some relief here and there, and I know some of you good people have done the same on my behalf. Perhaps you are comfortable with that old "the Lord works in mysterious ways" bit, and at one time, I was too.

Not now.

I have seen people prosper who appear to have devoted their lives to crushing others' spirits, have seen kind, loving people whose worst crime was killing insects with the windshields of their cars drink themselves to death, commit suicide, or simply give up, and end their lives as soulless husks, unloved and unlovable.

I'm not saying everything needs to be hunky-dory all the time, you know. But people need a break once in a while, and some I know just aren't getting one.

To be fair, I've also seen a lot of genuinely wonderful people live great lives, too.

But all this is tearing at me these days. If I am one of those who is for some reason meant to live a life of unhappiness, I'd like to know so I can cut the farce short. Likewise, if better things really do lie ahead, I think it's be a small kindness if I got a taste while I can still enjoy them.

I'm not really into mysteries, you know. But there are days when I come close to believing that the whole notion of a personal-type God -- and, for that matter, prayer -- is something our long-ago ancestors came up with to keep people sedate and happy, even when they shouldn't be.

Yeah, I'm feeling agnostic tonight. Bit of a heathen, I guess.

I'll still be sending up a few prayers, though. Just in case. I'd love to see that turn out to be a correct and effective decision.

My new theme song...

...sad as it is to admit it.

You can watch/listen here.

Not, you understand that it seems like anyone else will care to find out. And the mortician, one hopes, won't care, or spread the word if he notices....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Love's Headstone.

It's been a hellish few days, buckaroos. I doubt I'd be back so soon except that I somehow managed to complete an article for work by some sort of primal instinct for writing that manages to operate -- sometimes -- no matter what's going on around me, and I figure I can do the same here.

Besides, I'm not ready to start my next assignment tonight, so I have time that is otherwise unusable.

But something has died inside me, and needs to be given a decent burial in the hope that a replacement for it will one day appear in a different form.

Simply put, the stress level here has gone beyond critical mass, and the only solution (a temporary one, at that) is to try for a state of overall numbness. What has happened has happened, and what will happen will happen. What the hell.

There are times when my gut feelings and instincts fail me, and this has been one of them. Not because I didn't sense certain things (which I did), but because I refused to give them credence. Ignoring them would have been exactly the right thing to do if they had been wrong, as they would have hurt someone else. But as they were correct, I was raked over the coals a bit for not jumping to conclusions.

Doesn't matter. As of Monday night, I'm alone again. Naturally.

And I find that as hurtful as ever.

It's not that I pick unworthy people to care about. I didn't do that this time, let me tell you. I've been there, done that, and have learned many of the questions that need to be answered before getting close to anyone. The ones most of us might ask, regarding marital status, whether other men are hanging around waiting for their chance at a share of the, well, "action," and so on.

Now I've learned a couple more, which apply only in selected instances.

Fortunately -- and I mentioned this in the previous posting -- there was neither malice, treachery or anything even remotely dishonest involved, and I remain as respectful and fond of the lady in question -- in all respects save one -- as ever.

Nonetheless, I am again without the kind of company I so desire, even if no fault was involved, and it is not nice. I can't help missing her, despite the circumstances.

This would be bad enough, but there are other annoyances, large and small, that have come to feel like hot nails being driven into my head.

There is, of course, the continual lack of income, though the work continues to go out. I've explained that in great detail in the past, but I'm getting damned sick of it.

Now that my situation has changed, I want to get my tired butt (and the rest of me) out of here more than I can say, as Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea has more Ghetto than Sea in it for me these days. But with $97.30 in the bank, I judge escape to be impossible.

Then there is the so-called "manager" of this dump apartment building who has decided that all FedEx, UPS, DHL and other couriered packages should go to his apartment when tenants aren't home. The problem, of course, is that the delivery folk find it easiest simply to take them all to him no matter what, and this angers me. I'm waiting for a FedEx package that should have come today; it did not, I was here virtually all day, and Mr Manager isn't answering his door.

Want to know how trivial things are that can bring me close to a screaming rage? The program I use to listen to CDs on this computer has been superseded, and each time they "improve" it, the old version gets crazy. It switches itself into "shuffle" mode without any input from me, and I would rather eat boiled okra than let the program pick the order in which tunes are played.

So there you have it. I know this doesn't read as well as the story I wrote today -- which actually turned out pretty damned well -- but them's the breaks.

At least you know I am alone, unloved, unpaid, and beset by what amounts to a squadron of metaphoric mosquitoes, each sucking their tiny droplets of blood from me.

But I am still alive, even if desperately unhappy.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wake-up call.

One forgets at one's own peril how fragile moments of happiness are.

As Emperor Hirohito said to the Japanese people in August, 1945, "the...situation has developed not necessarily to [our] advantage." That was how he introduced the unthinkable -- surrender -- to his people.

Right now, I can say my personal situation has developed not necessarily to my advantage.

I have to tell you that this journal will be taking something of a leave of absence for a while. I can't predict the length of the hiatus. Days, certainly; perhaps weeks or even months. Or more.

When and if I write here again, the words will pick up as if nothing has happened, as if there has been no blank space in between. There are things about which I cannot and will not write -- or speak about to anyone, for that matter -- if I am to be true to my beliefs, and what happened not long after I completed my last entry (and has not yet been fully resolved in my mind) is one of those things.

I write this without anger toward anyone. Be very clear on that. Do not think I have been brought to this point by the misdeeds of others, or by my own failings. There is no "wrong" involved. It is much simpler, and much more complicated, than that.

Simply put, dealing with the turmoil inside and basic needs of survival are going to be as much as I can handle for a while.

I would be grateful if those of you who are so inclined would send up a prayer or two for me in the days ahead. Mine, at least those I offer on my own behalf, seem not to have any good effect, and it is clear to me that I am going to need all the help I can get.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I haven't written here today...

...because I'm in a damn good mood.

That doesn't mean today was free of things that made me want to see certain people ripped to shreds by rabid weasels, oh no.

It simply means that two good friends, whom I value more than I can (or would, at least at present) say, cheered me up immensely. Neither did anything they would consider special, I'm sure; they were simply themselves, and made me feel a bit humble (not to mention honored and delighted) that they seem to like me.

Compared to them, the continued and increasing idiocy of photographer D., the lack of interest some clients keep showing in paying me what they owe, and the receipt of my sample ballot for next month's primary elections -- said ballot full, as always, of greed, mendacity and chicanery -- couldn't do more than cause momentary irritation.

But they tried. Man, how they tried.

I know people who claim to have dozens of "friends" with whom they are as close as bodies and underwear. On the other hand, I can count maybe five people, six maximum -- including the two who unknowingly and in different ways made my day today -- for whom I would (or would have, when they were still among the living) cheerfully take a hike through molten lava.

In my experience, many people don't value their true friends highly enough.

I do, fellow babies. These people own me, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's a gift freely given.

There is nothing more important in life than having a select few people who are firmly lodged in your heart, whom you trust, care deeply for, and who care for you.

Here endeth today's lesson.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A return trip... the beach I posted pictures from two weeks ago.

Much had changed. That's especially true of the weather, which was clear with temperatures in the shirt-sleeve range (maybe 75 degrees). That, of course, brought crowds, which made it more difficult to get pictures.

It's still fascinating to watch the waves crash over the breakwater...

And I'd never noticed seagulls leaving wakes as they paddle through the surf until today...

This seagull was, shall we say, "differently abled," but seemed to do just fine nonetheless...

I never pass up a chance to grab a photo of a cat. This one enjoyed the sun...

In the beach's heyday, this bathhouse was built. Now that public bathhouses are looked upon with some disfavor, the city uses it for various kinds of events. That means the taxpayers are getting soaked without benefit of baths...

If I'm honest, I'll say that I was not feeling as inspired today, though the weather and air were just about perfect. Didn't see any neat rocks to shoot, no pelicans, no sandpipers....

Let's just say those was part of what made the experience slightly less wonderful than last time.

But I am beginning to hope that I am starting to get my tired old carcass in some kind of improved condition. The downhill/uphill slogs did not make me feel like amputating my legs at the hips this time. Progress!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Those oldies but...

...still, despite the passage of time, pictures I like.

I had a conversation with my adopted daughter today (and I wish all y'all would go over there and leave a comment telling her to start writing and posting pictures again!). The subject of my long-ago series of shoes-on-a-wire images came up, and I later started pulling them out in hopes of thinking of something to do with them. She was, after all, the inspiration for them, as her attitude toward photography is, well, pretty uninhibited, and she got me to loosen up a bit after I got my digital.

So here's the second one (the first was pretty ordinary, I have to say), dating back to late 2005. The series ended about a year later, when the second pair of shoes (also shown in later photos) was cut down, and no one replaced them...

While looking for those images, I also found the photo from which I cut my profile pic. I still like it, too. This is also from late '05...

I'm not going to make a habit of reposting old photos that appeared in my old journal, no siree.

But it's a quiet evening here, and sorting through the old stuff is somewhat relaxing.

And I do have a pair of running shoes that are nearing the end of their life, and I'm thinking maybe, just maybe, if I tie the laces together, and go out late one night and fling 'em up at the wires....

Back to happier subjects...

...which so often involve music.

During a brief conversation last night, my friend K. hipped me to a singer she likes.

People do this a lot. I'm hardly the only person on the planet who loves good sounds, but I'm obvious about it, so I get a lot of "listen to this!" from friends and even acquaintances. The problem is that I don't love all genres equally, and I was initially conflicted about this singer. She inhabited, a least in the first cut I heard, a space that doesn't really speed up my pulse.

Ah, but it got much better.

All I can say is: Go dig Amel Larrieux.

This lady has a voice of pure, warm silk. She's no Diana Krall, but then Diana is no Amel, either. Beyond having brilliant voices and major piano chops, both have carved out their own unique vocal territories.

I ordered Larrieux' latest album, Lovely Standards last night. The tunelist is imaginative and free of overdone songs. The arrangements are right on. The singing is, in a word, impeccable.

If I were an aspiring gal singer, I think I'd take up bookkeeping. Larrieux and Krall have got it covered, if you ask me.

But since I'm not, I'm anticipating some happy listening-time ahead.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Missing person.

That would be Mr Optimistic: Heavy-set* dude with glasses, gray beard and graying hair, last seen heading off to a photo session with D. the photographer.

He was seen this morning, taking a neighbor to the doctor, and returned from that jaunt in a perfectly reasonable frame of mind.

Later, he was overheard talking to D. prior to departure, asking questions ("have you picked a location?" "Do you know what kind of photos you want to take?") and getting what appeared to be unsatisfactory answers. He was last seen walking out the door after assembling a package of cleaning supplies -- D. never brings them -- and muttering about spending his afternoon making no money to help someone else make a fair chunk of change in just a few hours.

His last words: "I freekin' knew it was gonna be like this...."

PARENTHETICAL GHOST-WRITER'S NOTE: Since Mr Optimistic ain't here I, Mr Grouchy & Cynical, am posting on his behalf.

Hard to say where Mr O might be. After 21 years of acquaintance with D., he's surely not beating the living bejeebers out of the hapless photog while howling obscenities. Nor, having been adamant about Cleaning Up His Act, is he lurking down at The Spot (or June's Place) guzzling cheap beers.

Wish he'd get back here. An email came in that might bring a small smile to his no-doubt anger-contorted face.

And there are those 24 bottles of primo Mexican Coca-Cola waiting, not to mention the possibility of a post-concert call from his friend R. back in Massachusetts. I know he wants to hear all about that.

Mr Grouchy & Cynical, over and out....

* Say "lard-ass" and, while possibly accurate, you'll make him get very salty indeed....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Since people seem to find Tatas amusing...

...I pulled a book called the Katalog der Automobil Revue 2004 off my shelf, where it has rested since I brought it back from Switzerland that same year. Despite the fact that it is published in two languages I have difficulty reading (German and French), it takes no skill to hunt up car names that are, well, interesting, and I'll list a few favorites by manufacturer and then model names. Most of them, blessedly, are unfamiliar here, or got different names if they showed up here.

DAIHATSU: Move, Naked, Terios Kid

FIAT: Panda, Punto, Idea

HONDA: That's, Jazz, Stream, Inspire, Spike, Lagreat

HYUNDAI: Getz, Click, Grandeur

LADA (Russia): Dancer, Tarzan

MITSUBISHI: Townbox, SpaceStar, Delica Space Gear

NISSAN: Cube, Bluebird, Sunny, Elgrand

PEUGEOT: Partner


SSANGYONG (Korea): Chairman


TATA: Sumo

TOYOTA: Platz, Sparky, Succeed, Probox.

Those are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and don't include older wonders such as the Nissan Big Thumb truck and the long-ago Flying Feather.

I think I'd rather have a Tata Nano than a Daihatsu Naked or a Toyota Sparky, but maybe that's just me....

Nice Tatas!

Yes, Tata Motors unveiled the Nano, its new $2500 car in New Delhi yesterday. That's Mr Tata his own self introducing it..

Imagine that: a new car that sells for $2500. Of course it has neither radio (extra cost if you want one) or air conditioning, no airbags, none of the features we expect here in the sophisticated Western World. Although it is claimed that the Nano meets European safety and emissions rules -- I'm dubious -- and, of course, whatever regulations India lays on it, it is, to say the least, minimum transport for four mildly desperate people.

But hey, it's $2500.

The car I'm driving at the moment retails for a hefty $19,088, and it seems bare in the extreme. It has a radio/CD unit, air con and all required safety features, but it is, in a word, dreary.

I have no doubt, based on descriptions and photos, that the Nano will seem beyond awful to anyone who has ever been in a car before. And, having seen and sat in a few previous Tata offerings, I hold no hope that the quality is up to, say, Toyota levels. It'll be at least as good as a Maruti or Hindustan, I suppose.

But hey, it's $2500. In India, anyway.

What really bugs me is that Tata is the company favored to take over ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover. The mind boggles.

Why am I babbling about this? Because this has been a flat-line sort of day so far, and this is the most interesting thing I've dealt with.

Not a bad day. Last night's article is now done, awaiting a once-over sometime this evening before heading to the editor. I'm ready to start the next one tomorrow, and more-or-less ordered D. to be ready to take photos tomorrow afternoon. Got yet another assignment, too; I think the magazine must have lost one of its other scribes...fine with me, as I'm better than any of them, even if sometimes more of a pain in the posterior.

PARENTHETICAL BET-YOU-COULDN'T-GUESS NOTE: I can be grouchy as hell, and very argumentative when defending my work against hapless editing. Yes, I, the human pussycat, can be a jerk....

Got a call from my buddy R today. He called from Milwaukee airport, where he was waiting for a flight to Massachusetts. He's doing two concerts there this weekend. Always fun to talk to him, and remind him that my stock of Mexican Coca-Colas (his favorite cola, though unobtainable where he lives) has been increased by one case.

R. is simply a great friend.

Against all the above, I once again received no checks.

And I would be happier with company....

So, overall, it hasn't been the worst of days.

Despite that generally positive outcome, it's still not good enough, you know.

I wimped out...

...last night.

Less than an hour after putting up that last entry I turned off the computer and staggered off to bed. I need new glasses, I'm sure; the ol' peepers just wouldn't focus on the screen. Nor would my mind focus on the story I was writing.

I was, however, amazed that I could drink a fair amount of tea and fall asleep shortly thereafter. While I could drink coffee, snap off the light, and head immediately into snooze-land years ago, I assumed that "skill" was long gone. Caffeine and I still have the same old relationship, it seems, even though my taste has gone from Folger's to Cuban-roast.

Tea doesn't matter much. It's all good. Except for the cheap "Red Rose" brand I bought when I lived in Seattle, that is. It's mostly Lipton now, though I buy quite nice green tea at the 99-Cent Store. None of that herbal stuff for me.

Tea, coffee, it all has caffeine in it. Abi gezunt.

So I have been sitting here since 5:45, and have actually managed to resume progress on the current work. It should go off to the editor today.

I am carefully avoiding reading the news today. No need to get riled up so early, is there?

There is one political thing I want to say: our nation is too polarized. Based on my feelings about the upcoming presidential election, people have inferred that I won't vote for any black person, any woman, any Mormon or any evangelical Christian and am, therefore, racist, sexist, anti-Mormon or anti-Christian.

That bugs me.

I just won't vote for the black man, woman, Mormon or evangelical Christian running for president this year.

That is a major flaw in our society today. Rather than encourage and support candidates who share our beliefs, have experience, are not severely tainted by their own past actions and/or don't come across as expedient, focus-group-driven phonies, we embrace symbols. Foolish.

Besides, I have already cast a vote for a black, female president. Granted, that was many years ago and she appeared only on the primary election ballot and didn't go all the way, but I did it. And if she was alive and running today, I'd do it again.

She wasn't a Mormon, though. Or, though Christian, an evangelical. She was simply a decent person with good ideas.

We seem to have run out of people like that.

We need a Jewish president. I wish Jackie Mason wasn't too old to run.

Oh, well. Back to work. Long, long day ahead.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I've been a good boy today...

...even though it was neither fun nor 100% easy.

I owe one editor four articles by the end of next week. The first was more-or-less finished yesterday, and was shipped today after a half-hour or so of touch-up editing. The second was begun this morning and will, if my just-brewed pot of tea does its work, get done some time tonight.

This one is a real pain. It requires constant reference to the research material I've gathered, as every paragraph has some name, date, technical description or location that must be exactly right. There's very little imaginative writing in it, but much attention paid to making it interesting to the reader.

I also arranged an interview I have to do for the third article, which in any case I can't begin until Friday because I don't have everything else I need as yet. It is the shortest in word-count and has the most space for my opinions.

The fourth will be my weekend project.

All that should earn me a gold star slapped on my forehead, right? I mean, 7500-plus high-class words ought to keep the magazine happy....

But I'm paying the price for my recent determination to be more optimistic about the future and the need for me to work my tuchus off to get there.

I still get body-slammed when people do things to take the wind out of my sails. Had three of those come up today, and it took an exhausting amount of self-cheerleading to get back on track. A note from the same editor telling me to give photographer D. the photo assignment for the next story -- a task I planned to take on myself, primarily for the money (which I need) and because I am as good a shooter as he is (if not better), not to mention the fact that bringing him in makes me a hostage to his schedule -- was not exactly thrilling. I like D., he's a friend, but I've spent more than a little time rehabilitating his image with a couple of editors -- he tends to get sloppy too often -- and sometimes I would rather take the direct approach and shoot what I want to see on the magazine pages. It was an order, though, and I must abide by it.

The empty-mailbox syndrome continued. By now, it takes virtually all of my vocabulary of foul language to get me from the box back up to my pad. Just to make it more biting, one of my most unpleasant former clients has taken to sending me mailing-list subscription offers, three of which showed up today. The nicest thing I can say is that I never read magazines in my field unless they are (a) old enough to have research value or (b) have my articles in them, and I do not subscribe; I expect free copies.

Finally, I got no good distractions today. There are only one or two that matter; apparently the Distraction Department is closed for a while.

I've put in roughly 15 hours at this desk today, and have three or four more to go. My back aches. My eyes are tired. My brain is turning into something remarkably like Wheatena.

A couple of lines from the great old song "Spring is Here" keep rattling through my head:

No desire, no ambition leads me
Maybe it's because nobody needs me

Except, that is, for editors and creditors, who both need to extract as much from me as they can.

Sometimes, this "positive attitude" stuff can be a real hassle, buckaroos.

But I ain't quitting. As long as I have hope of eventual rewards and the favored kind of distractions....

Move along, nothing to see here... photos today, certainly, and most likely not much else.

This is a work day, and the addition of a last-minute story to prepare and complete makes the pressure that much stronger.

Hell, I probably won't even have time to get outdoors today. Unless I take out the trash or check the mailbox, that is.

My only real gripe about the sudden uptick in work is, of course, that the returns will be slow to arrive. Sometimes I can repress that feeling and get it done. I'll be putting some effort into getting my mind right about that.

Oh, there is another gripe, which I've mentioned -- too often? -- before: After 22 years of working on the same verbal assembly line, I sometimes feel as if I'm bolting together the same tried old parts.

I need distraction, I think. It is a proven fact that I work far more efficiently and produce better results when distracted. This is something I remember, even though it has been a considerable time since I've experienced that.

Not all kinds of distractions produce the desired effect, you understand. I'm very particular about that.

Anyway. Time to pick up the wrench and start bolting those old parts together. Again.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

It's all downhill...

...from where I live to the beach where I shot the photos posted last Sunday.

Longtime lookers-in here may recognize this view, which is less than a block from my pad. As you can see, the surf is still high today, even though the storm is past...

There is one very steep hill between my place and the beach. Going down -- beachward -- is not bad, but my legs protested the return trip, which seemed more akin to climbing a wall than a hill.

If you're curious, look at Sunday's photo of the father and son. Today's picture was taken from a spot on the bluff in the background of that image.

While I'm on the subject, I found that someone else shoots in this area (among other locations), and I strongly suggest that you click here to dig the results.

If I was too full of myself, I'd say it was a better camera that makes the difference between my snapshots and what I consider truly excellent photography.

Nuh-uh. It's talent, plain and simple.

Time for another walk....

My laugh for the morning...

...arrived courtesy of Bill Handel, a local morning radio host who is a master -- if such a thing can be called "mastery" -- of malapropisms.

So twisted do his syntax and verbiage become on occasion that they have spawned their own word: Handelisms.

This morning's was a doozy, and is certain to make the list soon.

He was discussing the news with other members of his show's cast, and the topic of gays in the military came up. Apparently (I didn't see it) the TV show 60 Minutes profiled a soldier who remains in the Army though openly gay.

Handel said the soldier was serving despite the military's "no ask, no tail" policy.

The studio was filled with laughter, and it took a moment or two for "normal" programming to resume.

I'm glad I had already finished my coffee. Cleaning keyboards and monitors can be a real drag.

PARENTHETICAL SHARE-THE-LAFFS NOTE: There is no doubt this will make the stations list of podcasts fairly soon. It'll be in today's "Handel on the News -- Late Edition" podcast and highlights list.

PARENTHETICAL JOURNALISTIC-ACCURACY NOTE: What Handel actually said was that it's a "no ass, no tail" policy. That's more like him....

Monday, January 07, 2008

Just because you're paranoid...

...oooh, wait, I think I've used that title before.

Besides, everyone knows the rest of that old gag-line.

It's been a strange day. I've picked up some new work, but as usual the payments will come in their own sweet time, which will inevitably be after I need them. But hey, it's work....

I had a nice couple of hours while out for a walk mid-day, but things deteriorated from there. Talking to the editor who requested the new stories was a bit of a pain; his magazine pays when the stories are actually in print, which means I could be freekin' dead when they appear.

PARENTHETICAL POSTHUMOUS THOUGHT: Perhaps there will be a memorial compilation of my best work....two or three pages, anyway.

When I had to go out to run some errands this afternoon, I felt certain that someone was going to die. There are crazy people around here. The first was some clown on a crotch-rocket who had his broad-beamed girl on the pillion; he chose to ride in my blind spot (on a residential street) expecting me to pull over and let his stupid ass go by. If I hadn't been paying some attention -- less than usual, I will admit, since I was not in the mood for it -- he and his bike (and girl) would have been grease spots on the road.

Not much later, some shitweasel in a pickup truck also tried me on while we were going down yet another residential street. He ultimately whipped around me -- in the parking lane -- and chopped me off decisively, narrowly avoiding taking the right front fender of my vehicle with him.

PARENTHETICAL DALE-EARNHARDT THOUGHT: It was my reflexes that saved him, as I stabbed the brakes to let him through. The late and very great Mr Earnhardt taught me (by example) to lean hard into anyone (what used to be called "using the chrome horn") who tried to pull that stuff; I ignored his teachings this time....

Be that as it may, I was beginning to feel that everyone on this "sweet, swingin' sphere" -- as Lord Buckley so aptly termed it -- was out to mess me up.

I came home, and wanted nothing more than to have someone reach out and tell me everything would be okay.

Of course, there was no one here to do that.

Real Men are not supposed to admit that they sometimes need the comfort that only warm, sweet women can provide.

But I admit it. And I'm not getting it right now.

What does that make me?

Lonely, that's what.

Some days are like that....


While I was walking this morning, the word "outside" flashed into my mind. Not because I just happened to be outside -- it's somewhat difficult to walk three miles indoors -- but in a long-ago context that now seems valid again, albeit in a different way.

At the very end of my first "career," I worked at a place that was run by traditional methods that much of the rest of the world had passed by for better, more efficient ways. With some 14 years of experience under my belt, I spent my first months there trying to employ what I had learned in my previous work that was more efficient, improved quality and, in truth, was easier.

But whenever such improvements (or at least changes) came up for discussion, the conversation-ending answer from long-timers there was: "That may be how they do it outside, but we don't do things that way here."

I found this very humorous back in the day, I can tell you.

Now, some 24 years later, I have my ways of doing things, and see that many do not apply "outside." Some have to do with work, of course, how one does one's work and how one is treated for it, but even more have to do with my personal conduct.

I am open-minded enough to think the ways of those "outside" may be better than mine, at least to those practicing them. At least they seem to be content with their lots in life, and show signs of enjoying what some call "success." That can't always be said about my methodologies and actions.

My ways, the ways things are done "here" and not "outside," may be total garbage. But they are mine, and I believe in them. Those who understand and accept them will be, in one way or another, rewarded. If, by nothing else, my friendship, affection and loyalty on a personal level, or by damned good work in business.

Go ahead: say "yeah...that and $6.00 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks." I've heard various versions of that theme before.

So now I feel as if I am sitting here in my little world looking at those "outside," not knowing for sure whether they are right and I'm simply a has-been clinging to the past. I don't feel that way; I am still thinking about (and working toward) tomorrow, not completely fixated on yesterday.

But there is a big internal struggle going on over this issue. I see what I think should be; it is hard to accept the notion that I am clinging to notions that have no place in real life.

PARENTHETICAL TIME-MARCHES-ON THOUGHT: In closing, I should note that the company referred to above changed management a year or so after I left. Out went the old ways, in went the new, efficient cost-effective. Sadly, what also vanished was the unique quality of what was done there. Today, they turn out swill that is indistinguishable from everyone else's.

Unfortunately, a management change here is impossible. The same guy is going to be running this show until the lights go out.

I think I'll shut up now, before I lose my cryptic cloak and say something I shouldn't, even though I believe with all my heart in what I would say.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

One last photo...

...yeah, they're rocks.

More beach-type scenes...

...because there was more to see than crashing waves and a photographer stalking a bird.

There was, for example, this sign, warning fisherfolk to avoid eating a sea critter I've never even heard of, and wouldn't eat if I had...

I usually don't bother with rocks on the beach, but hey, you learn something new every day. The patterns around them left by the waves interested me...

Sadly, those feathery enhancements in the sand are the result of all the Chinese container ships passing not far away. It is their recklessly spilled oil that stains the beach...

This beach is also home to a feral cat colony. I saw two, but only one would pose. They wouldn't let me close enough to find out I'm a soft touch for the felines...

This father and son had a great time, it seemed. The young'un was delighted to run in and out of the surf. Wet feet -- cold wet feet, that is -- didn't bother him at all...

It was a rare and blessed day. I kept my feet dry and felt energized by the experience. Beauty -- of all varieties -- does that to me. As the Navajos say, there was beauty all around me....

A stormy day... a local beach. It wasn't terribly cold, but the air was definitely refreshing.

Though only a few spatters of rain reached here, the storm generated some fairly spectacular waves...

Made even more dramatic by the breakwater they were crashing into...

Though this gull has apparently seen it all and didn't show much interest...

On the beach itself, a sandpiper(?) was running up and down as the tide came in and went out, almost as if playing to an audience...

Which, in fact, it was! I hope that photog's images turned out better than mine...

It was a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

And there will be a few more photos later on.

A cure... least for what ails me.

I started the morning feeling, as the great Ed Anger, columnist for the late, lamented Weekly World News used to say, pig-biting mad.

But I was angry about faraway things: politicians, and the horse-crap they spew out in hopes of getting into the presidency and, to be blunt, settling scores with opponents and yammering incessantly about what they want to "give" us.

Notice that they all bleat about "change?" Hell, yes, they want change: what they don't say is that they want what little change you and I have managed to hold on to after they have taxed us into abject poverty.

"Gifts" cost money, you know. You just haven't received the total bill for them yet.

But instead of working myself into a lather about a group of people who should, in my view, be pushing brooms or folding burritos instead of jockeying for power -- I may rant about this later, or maybe not -- I have gratefully accepted an invitation to go out for a nice walk.

Might even bring back a picture or two.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


...I can't help but notice a couple of you (hereinafter referred to as "the usual suspects") left comments letting me know you're eagerly awaiting a so-called full report on last night's happenings. Particularly, I'm sure, about the role of the "very nice company" with whom I spent several pleasant hours.

Ain't happening, peeps.

I know I have something of a rep as someone who -- within strict limits -- lets the proverbial "it" all hang out here.

But for now, let it be sufficient to say that I had a fine time in an environment as far removed from what you would expect of me as, say, a night spent with 25 of my favorite convicted felons.

Which, by the way, had nothing to do with it. Heck, I doubt if any of those in the room has so much as pulled off a carjacking lately.

To many people, I come off as something of a crank. Curmudgeonly, dubious and cynical. And I suppose, in many ways, I am. But there is another side of me which perhaps two or three people know, and maybe one or two others may suspect.

I like keeping that part of me private. At least until I find out where it (he?) fits in the general scheme of things.

Someone who knows me well personally and reads here said to me (and I'm paraphrasing) that the writer of this journal and the me she knows seem two different people. That rocked me a little. I mean, I pride myself on saying what I mean, and being straightforward about what's brewing in my head. Always.

And believe it or not, I do care what people -- especially certain carefully selected people -- think of me, damnit. More than that, I care about what I think of me.

So let's just say there's a certain amount of confusion in the alleged mind of tired ol' MrScribbler tonight, and that I don't see that as a bad thing.

All you have to know for now is that I'm being a good boy, as much as possible, and the confusion doesn't hurt. I'm looking for the real me, trying to decide who and what he is, trying to decide how he can manage to do some difficult things for his own good. I'm trying to figure out if he's been writing all this swill here, too.

Has all this been obscure enough for you?

So I was wrong...

...and what's new about that? I'm an expert at being wrong, amigos.

It rained. It is raining, not exactly raining cats and dogs, but one whole heckuva lot of raindrops. In sheets.

And, here at the edge of the continent, it's windy as hell, too.

Windy enough to turn my umbrella inside out when I walked the half-block from where I parked to my pad. And wet enough to leave me with soggy shoes and damp duds by the time I made it through the door.

Nice evening, though.

Nice company. Very nice.

Friday, January 04, 2008

It don't rain much...

...Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea.

Tonight, however, after two days of predictions -- the news was bleating "people bracing for big storm!" just a few hours ago -- the rain is trickling down. It's heavier in other (most) parts of L.A., but that doesn't affect me much. I'm not there, you see.

In less than an hour, I'll be off to a social occasion. I have an umbrella (graft from a press trip, naturally), and it's big enough to shelter two people.

I will, however, have three people in the car. The numbers don't add up. My Harris Tweed faster-motoring cap dries quickly, though.

The really weird thing about this, however, has nothing to do with the rain.


This will be the first time in recent memory that I have gone to any kind of large-ish gathering where I don't already know damn near everyone. In the ordinary way of my life, I meet the same people over and over, and can depend on most of the newcomers already knowing something about me.

But this time, I will know 1.5 people there and the prospect makes me jittery as a bee on heat. Laugh if you wish, but there are some jangly nerves jangling here right now. Am I about to be unmasked for the dismal lump of chazerai I so often think I am?

Oh, never mind that. It should be fun.

I know it will be fun.

Yes, I do.

All y'all don't need to tell me I need to get out more. I know that.

Strange days, these, with all kinds of pressures and interesting thoughts circulating in my head.

Gotta go take a shower now. Though I suspect I'll be wet again soon after.

The cure for optimism... to wake up feeling pessimistic. That's what I should have done today.

Instead, I was obscenely cheerful when I got out of bed. Three dead bulbs in the kitchen's florescent fixture? No problemmo. I decided to whip up to Home Dee-pot for new ones on my way to the barbershop

They had been relocated, of course. And one of the "associates" cheerfully pointed me toward the "lighting" section. Only they weren't there. They were, in fact in another aisle altogether. No biggie. I found what I was looking for. Finally.

But checking out...ahhh, that was a different kettle of mariscos, baby. There were several self-serve lanes all lit up, but I'm not about to put $10 worth of bulbs on my Visa card. I know people do that, but it seems just plain dumb to me.

Finally, I spot the two checkout lanes for contractors. Of the 30 or so customers in the store, if any were contractors they were hiding deep in the bowels of "lumber" or "plumbing," not looking to pay up and get out.

So I go over there. Monkey-in-Orange-Vest #1 is standing by the cash register, picking his teeth. I lay the bulbs on the counter. He says "you a contractor?" When I say no, he points to the sign and resumes his teeth-picking.

I proceed to the other "contractor" lane, where a couple, also definitely not contractors, is checking out a miscellaneous bunch of stuff. They get done, and then the woman says she needs something else and trots off toward one of the faraway aisles. Hubby stands there waiting, and in five minutes she's back. Has to do a second credit-card transaction for a couple rolls of shelf paper.

Finally, I get out of there, but now have eight minutes to get to the barber shop for my appointment. By driving like a raging loon*, I make it.

He is cutting someone else's hair. On my time. Okay, so he's never made me wait before, but did the first time have to be today...?

Ten minutes pass. Fifteen. Twenty. Since I left my glasses in the car -- have to take 'em off for the cutting, anyway -- I can't even read the magazines scattered around the shop.

Finally, 27 minutes late, I'm in the chair.

When he's through, and hands me a mirror so I can check the cut, he gives it to me with the mirror side facing away from me.

I understand this. I feel the same way about what I see in other mirrors. I am in fact mildly surprised that I show up in mirrors, considering the number of people who act as if I'm not there.

All that's left of today is some work and a social occasion this evening.

At least the social occasion doesn't get underway for six more hours.

I have time to calm down.

Must. Be. Calm.

* Come to think of it, I felt like a raging loon at that moment....