Sunday, September 20, 2009

Southbay Sucks

I’ve spent the majority of my morning making “pros” and “cons” lists for my future. I think I get this from PawPaw Haley. He makes lists for everything and puts labels on everything. I’m like that, too. I feel like a lot of times I have cotton candy for brains and I can’t sort out the clear picture. List-making helps me to gain clarity and helps me to stay productive. If I have a list, I can check things off of it, and because I gain such incredible satisfaction from checking things off of my list, I’m almost guaranteed to get something done just so I can make that triumphant little line through whatever it is I set out to accomplish.

This could make me the most pathetic person in the world… or perhaps I’m awesome because of this.

I’d like to talk about the past couple of days that I have had that have not involved list making or planning or accomplishing. They’ve been great.

I was talking to my long-time friend from back home a couple of days ago, and he asked me if I could ever just “live in the moment.” I didn’t even have to think about it. I said “No,” emphatically, as if those who live in the moment are complete imbeciles. Something about him asking me that, though, made me challenge myself to just enjoy the moment for a day or two, so I did.

On Saturday, my friend came over and we drove down to the Hermosa Festival to check out all of the crafts fair type of crap people were selling. It was sort of an interesting experience, because many of the folks down there were very “south bay.” I used to dig the south bay a lot because there were so many young people there, but after experiencing 2009, the year from hell, my perceptions have changed.

I feel like when I first moved to L.A. a year ago, I was more na├»ve. I had come here enamored with all L.A. had to offer and I was so in love with the eccentricity of it all that I did not even see the douche baggery that some areas of town reflected. After dealing with a lot of superficial a-holes out here, though, I’ve lost a lot of the dewy eyed romanticism about this city.

I am still passionately in love with L.A. Living here has been the closest thing to feeling ‘in love’ that I’ve ever experienced, but let me tell you, there are certain areas of town with a certain type of inhabitant that I can no longer deal with.

As my friend and I walked around through the little tents of wooden sculptures and sunglasses, I couldn’t help but notice this “south bay” type of person EVERYWHERE. All of the guys walking around shirtless and statuesque, wearing board shorts and Ed Hardy hats with flat bills and Rainbow flip flops and douchey Ray Bans. Women with their expensive weaved hair and bikinis and cute little dogs in strollers talking about completely empty pointless stupid crap. I thought I was going to lose my mind. All of a sudden, I realized that I was stuck in sororityville. The south bay is like one big Greek “brotherhood.” Everybody says “Brah” and all of that, and people have a chip on their shoulder like they’re sportier and cooler than everyone else. I couldn’t deal with it. We left after 20 minutes and got sushi.

After enjoying our sushi, I told my buddy that I was done with the Pi Kappy whatever whatevers and I had to get out of there before I went bat sheet postal, and we drove down to Venice. Approaching all of those crazy folk made me feel normal again.

It’s weird, because I fit that ding-dong stereotype. I have the bleached hair and the accessories and all of that nonsense… But the thing is, I enjoy being flashy because it’s fun, not because I am trying to fake everyone else out about my level of “coolness.” I feel pretty post modern most of the time, because I don’t fit in with the Greek hoes, I don’t fit in with the ultra conservatives or the ultra liberals, I’m definitely no hippie (I drive an SUV and leave the lights on), and I’m a closet shy person. I am not sure how I would categorize myself. But back to the topic at hand - I just know that I’d pick the homeless crazies in Venice over the douches in board shorts in Hermosa any day of the week.

We drove down Vista del Mar with reggae cranked up and the windows down and my hair was flying all over the place. It felt nice to feel the sun on my face. It felt even better to smell the beach. It felt great to smile.

We walked around Venice and saw all of the fantastic weirdness that Venice has to offer. People played guitars and made art and just walked around and didn’t care if others were looking at them or not. They just were. It could be the LSD or what have you, but at least they weren’t calling everybody “brah.”

We saw a crazy man promoting the “Venice Freak Show,” walking around with a two headed turtle. This is the first two-headed turtle I’ve seen. I felt sort of bad for him. He was cute in his own un-categorizable, ugly duckling-esque way. I know what it’s like to feel like I have no place. I am a two-headed turtle. Now is no time for lamenting, though. Let us proceed.

I’ve heard the Venice drum circle on countless occasions, but I’ve always been on some sort of Type A, list-making mission, and I’ve never walked out onto the sand to observe these guys beat their drums. Plus, I’ve always been a little bit scared to hang out with the drummers, because I look like I just walked out of white people Barbie ville and I didn’t want the hippies to judge me for looking plastic. I was feeling rather artsy that day, so I bought a JT/Sinatra straw hat and wore it on my head like my crown of glory. I was empowered. My friend and I made the venture close to the ocean. We sat down on the sand and listened to the drummers beat on their bongos, their snares- whatever they had that could take sound. There was even a crazy hippie wee man beating the heck out of a cowbell.

This wasn’t the cool part.

I could feel the percussion in my chest. All of a sudden, I sort of felt transported to a different time in my life, where I actively made music. I remembered the music. I missed playing with the Memphis Youth Symphony in Europe and I missed singing with the candy makers in New Orleans when I was on choir tour in the 8th grade. It made me miss singing with my sisters and cousins at our great grandma’s funeral and it made me miss being one of the only white people singing at “Minorities in Motion” in high school. I missed it. I missed being a part of the music. I closed my eyes and listened to these people making music together and I thought about being in Africa when I was a kid- and that’s all I could think about- people being together, making music- and it didn’t matter if it was perfect or coordinated or cookie cutter—it mattered that they were doing it together. When I opened my eyes I saw this beautiful young woman in the middle of the drum circle. She was thin and wearing a short skirt and a thin t-shirt and she had a huge picked afro and she began dancing with her arms in the air. Something about seeing the sun in her hair and all around her made her look like she was glowing. I thought about that quote by St. Iraneus,

“The Glory of God is man fully alive.”

That’s what it’s about. Being fully alive.

I spent three days in a row like that. Not having a schedule or a list or planning ahead- just focusing on the here and now and being fully aware and fully alive.

It felt good. It felt foreign.

The next day, I went back to Hermosa with Fisty, and we bought some cool stuff. Then we got a free pint of ice cream from Baskin Robbins. We drove down to the beach and lay on the sand and ate the crap out of that Jamoca Almond Fudge. It was wonderful.

After a while, we went back to my house. We went to church downtown that night and then stopped at this Mexican restaurant by my apartment that I love.

We ate nachos and some mariachis came right near our table like bats out of hell and started playing their horns at MAXIMUM VOLUME. We started to come unglued. I haven’t laughed like that in forever. It felt great. I could feel the music again. It’s weird to think that I haven’t made any sort of music in years now. Something inside of me quit at some point. I just quit.

Anyway, at the end of our meal, our waiter came out and brought us our bill, and in big cursive characters, it said, “50% OFF!” He said to us (in thick Spanish accent), “I give you 50% off because you are the two most beautiful women in this restaurant. I would give you more- you deserve free-but this is all I can do.”

What?

WHAT?

When you’ve had the worst summer of your life and you’re about to abandon all hope for the human race, somebody makes you feel good about yourself and does something kind for no reason at all. That, my friends, is restoration.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I lied.

I’m blogging again. My hiatus only lasted about five seconds. The advice of a wise writer kept me from blogging so that I could fully divulge my inner thoughts in a journal. The problem with this is that I don’t write in my journal a whole lot because it makes my hand feel like a gimpy claw. I could solve this gimpy hand problem by typing my entries, but I’m too paranoid to journal in a Word document. I’m scared some creeper is going to come busting into my apartment in the middle of the night, molest me, steal all of my peanut butter, take my sole copy of “PeeWee’s Big Adventure,” and run out of my front door with my computer. Then he’ll go back to his crappy Inglehood abode, eat my peanut butter out of the jar while wearing his whitey tighties, pull up my Word journals, throw his head back, and laugh his head off at my agony. Please note that he is wearing a Zoro mask. He has fat fingers, is balding, and sits at his kitchen table under one single light bulb hanging from a fraying wire.

Ug. What an a-hole.

Moving right along. If I blog, I can be just revealing enough to vent, but mindful that other people may read my material, which keeps me from being too personal. Ug. My mind always does this. It never shuts off. Thank you for melatonin. Otherwise, I’d be back in my insomniac abyss of thoughts trampling around in my brain like a heard of elephants.

I have had a weird summer.

It started out with the summer school I class from hell. I don’t know what the deal is. I took summer school every summer during college because I couldn’t wait to get the CRAP out of undergrad. I never saw myself going to grad school. EVER. I despised school. It seemed like one big butt kissing contest with no real point. But alas, here I am. So. What was I talking about? Oh yes. Summer session I.

Summer school in graduate school is not at all like undergrad. It’s sort of like walking through a floor of coals barefoot, drinking fire and razor blades, juggling those medieval balls that have spikes all over them, etc. Summer session = the hemorrhoids of graduate school.

First of all, I took a special ed class. Mistake number one. I guess it’s like when those guys who grow up working in their Uncle Vinny’s garage are somehow forced to go to trade tech school to learn to be a mechanic, and these kids were dippin’ carbs when they were 4, so they feel completely frustrated because they could teach the dang class.

It isn’t my style to be critical of faculty who are only about 2 years older than me and who clearly have no effin idea what they are talking about and who have never taught in their lives, so I won’t.

However, I will be happy to share that I have been exposed to the special ed genre MY ENTIRE LIFE and do not need a counseling class to educate me on things that are already etched into my DNA. Not that I’m special ed. But I know a thing or two.

Let me recap for you one of the worst days of my life this past year. It was June 10, 2009. This already sounds like the beginning of Dragnet. Great show, bee tee dubbleyou.

Here is what I wrote to my friend that day:

“Today was the worst day of my life. So I go to work and all day I’m thinking, "am I ready for this presentation?" I have exactly ONE HOUR to get to school and make the presentation of my lifetime and I’m the last one to leave the office at 6 and I get to my car and it is DEAD. As a DOORNAIL.

So I call my coworker because she and I left within 5 minutes of each other and she drives up to my car and I ask her if she has any jumper cables. So she hands me some flairs. And I say, "No, those are flairs. Do you have any JUMPER CABLES? You know, they look like CABLES?" and she finally finds some. So at this point this sweet little old Asian man is walking down the street, and I say to him, "HEY! Can you jump off my car?"

So he says yes. But somehow we have to maneuver our cars to where they are 69ing on this ridiculously busy street because both of their batteries were on the left or something. So I’m standing in the middle of 6th, directing traffic in business casual, like a complete idiot, and the guy gets in my car and jumps it off for like 3 seconds and then it dies again. Then the man says, "Your generator is broken." and I said, "Sir. Generators are used during hurricanes. I don't think that cars have generators." he says, "yes, your generator is broken."

Insert nervous breakdown.

So I tell my coworker to just go ahead and go home b/c she needed to be with her kid and I tell the Asian man thanks for diagnosing my "broken generator" and I call triple A.

So in the meantime I am sitting in my car, sweating profusely, uncomfortable as crap because I HATE BUSINESS CASUAL, having the blood sugar drop of a lifetime, and thinking, "I am a rock star. No dad. No boyfriend. No husband. No knowledge of auto mechanics. Broken car. Presentation in 20 minutes. Go me."

So the triple A man shows up in his tow truck. His name was Francesco. We have a nice little drive back to my neck of the woods and talk about his daughter, whose picture was proudly displayed on the dashboard, right under a sparkling, dangling rosary. His daughter was in the second grade but looked like she was about 28 and 213 lbs. with pigtails. We talk about the dodgers, we talk about traffic. Nice guy, that Francesco. He drives me to the service station, which is closed, but the gas station part is open, so I write a note to the service station people and say HELP! FIX MY CAR!!! and I left my keys with the gas station man, hoping that somehow he wouldn’t hotwire it and leave me royally screwed.

So then I ask the tow truck man to drop me off at my class, which he technically was not allowed to do. But I told him how beautiful his daughter was and he took a liking to me.

He pulls up in front of my building and I’m hauling ass to my classroom, 45 minutes late, haven't eaten, looking like un-showered, 7 a.m. busted CRAP, and I sit down in my class, with my entire body perspiring and my hair feeling like it’s on fire.

We give the presentation, and the entire time I’m shaking and sick because I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I feel like I smell like summer camp, and all of my colleagues have time management issues and take way too long presenting, so by the time I covered my section, there were only 5 minutes left, and I sped through everything like a completely incoherent, AD/HD bat out of hell, and I wrapped up with my saying, "Today was the WORST. DAY. OF. MY. LIFE."


And so introduces the beginning of my summer. I’m sure that I could go on and on about other things that happened.

For instance, I dated my first genuinely crazy person.

Now, I’ve dated some crazy folk. Those with some moderate emotional issues, those with daddy issues, those who were abused kids and grew up to be damaged, those with alcoholic parents and addictions to this and that and what have you. But never have I dated someone who should clearly be put in the loony bin.

This is the thing that’s weird about L.A. People are fantastic at faking sanity. They are charming and glamorous. They’re good looking and volunteer at nonprofit organizations. They pay their bills on time and have well manicured lawns. They have gym memberships and “go green” and recycle. They’re registered voters. And they’re crazy as hell.

They can only appear to be normal for so long. Then you find out that they are BAT SHEET CRAZEE.

I’ve dated a couple of typical L.A. duds, but I’ve dated some nice folk, too. I have tried to keep it light because I’m in school and I work and I don’t have a lot of time to commit to anything or anyone else, but I gave it a shot for a little bit this summer, and I’m telling you, I need to invest in an AK47 and I should probably buy a Rottweiler now. I’d write more about this, but I just don’t have the energy to open this can of worms, and I’d prefer to keep all of the gory details on layaway for the book I’m writing.

What else, what else.

Oh yes. I saw Kiefer Sutherland, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Diane Keaton all within a one week span recently. It was weird. This is what I love about L.A. Even thought there are tons of insane people who need serious interventions and I will probably never date anyone ever again because this last guy was such a sociopathic nut job; L.A. is cool, because there’s something very tinsely that’s still here in Tinsel Town, even though everything has been outsourced and imported and exported and the business is in the toilet. You see these “celebs” in your home on Friday night on TNT or when you’re at Kroger in the checkout and they’re on the cover of “People” or when you’re at the movie theater, but when you live in LA, you also see them parked at a red light next to you on Fairfax or you see Diane Keaton walking around the food court at the mall. They’re just plain old people who are a part of your community. I love that. I am not sure why, but it makes me feel very American, and I like that feeling.

I’m going to go to bed now. I’m glad I’m writing again. I think it’s good for my mental health. Until next time, friends.