Coming to the End of the Line

I guess this’ll be the last post. Goin’ out with a whimper instead of a bang. Not sure what a bang would be, maybe somehow sending a virus to anyone who’s ever read this blog. Not going to do that.

I’m in Somewhere, Montana. I hate whoever invented Montana, this state is too big. I’ve been driving 7 hours a day alone to make it to Minneapolis in time to find an apartment, so my mind is kind of… dislocated, or discombobulated, or something like that. I found myself seriously thinking about the cars that they drive in the movie The Minority Report — they drive themselves, are really small, and go at insane speeds — and wondering why we haven’t done that yet. Also last night when I got into bed in Elsewhere, Montana I felt like I was still driving, my body was still humming, and when I closed my eyes and dreamt I was wrapped around a tire wheel like a cat, round and round, round and round until I was nautious. Somewhere in there my friend Ted Turner was chuckling. Not sure what any of this means.


In the last five weeks I’ve slept in some regular beds, a couch-bed, two air mattresses, a few futons, the floor, two couches and my car.

Y’know those lines and sentences that, for no discernible reason, pop out and remain in your mind for years and gather significance due to their prolonged existence, like an avalanche, until they seem like the legitimate peroration to some speech you might someday give in your dreams?  For me, one of those is “Who be ye smokers? from Moby Dick.  Most of you who might read these words are friends or second-degree friends of mine, but some poor souls come to this page by searching Google, and when that happens I get to see what they’ve searched.  Today the most exciting two were “beard insults” and “lyndon johnson long face.”

I don’t know why they even make “drinkable yogurt.” You can drink regular yogurt in a pinch if you need to, it’s just a little messy…

There’s something about being accused of pedophilia that makes you feel dirty and immoral, even if you’re innocent. Come on people, the pool at Econolodge is open to everyone. Just because I’m in my mid-20s with a beard and am stumbling does not mean that all the kids need to inch toward their parents.

I got off the highway to take a nap by a stream near the road today, and a guy pulled up next to me in a pickup, wearing pretty faded, messy overalls, maybe mid-40s, lots of stubble, and starting mumbling something I could not understand and walking towards me like Frankenstein, and only when I got in my car with the motor on did I realize that he was deaf-mute and was asking me where the town of Garrison was. I apologized and told him I didn’t know. No way I was getting back to sleep though. I wonder if he ever found Garrison.


The Song of the Day is End of the Line, by The Travelling Wilburys, the supergroup of Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. When I worked at Walgreens, it would come on like clockwork at 7:51 AM, which just happened to be the end of my shift. And now, with Minneapolis nearing, I can hear it once again…

Published in: on July 22, 2007 at 3:15 am  Comments (3)  

Movies by the Movieload

Watching 28 Up with my trip coming to a close, I’m thinking of all the films I’ve enjoyed and endured over the last 5 weeks.  So here’s a list, top to bottom, ranked by my enjoyment of each movie at the time of viewing, with completely pointless editorial comments…


1. You Me and Dupree (2nd time, Mississippi).  This film opened for us like a flower in bloom, and we took in its deep, sweet musk, and smiled.

2. Knocked Up (2nd time, Cincinnati).  I love all the beard insults.

3. *batteries not included (Berkeley).  I wrote about this a few posts ago.  Everyone should see this.

4. Junior (Berkeley).  I still can’t believe this was made, and I really can’t believe he’s the governor of the fifth largest economy in the world.  The musical montage that shows Schwarzenegger, in drag, at the maternity home, doing lamaz and picking flowers may be the greatest 1:51 ever captured on celluloid.  In a Seattle free weeky (The Stranger, I think), there’s a cover piece about male pregnancy, I couldn’t tell if it was serious or an elaborate joke.

5. Killer of Sheep (Minneapolis).  This movie is really too good and complex to say anything brief about.  It’s the kind of film I wish was made more often, advancing a political message without sacrificing artistic depth and quality.

6. The Valley of the Giants (San Francisco).  I wrote about this a few posts ago, reminded me how good silent films are and how different they are from the boring image we have of them.

7. 10.5 (Mississippi).  Disaster movies, even really cheap, poorly made ones, are always worth watching.

8. Paycheck (Berkeley).  Definitely superior in concept (thanks to Philip K. Dick) than execution, but still worth the price od admission (which, for me, was $0.00).  Affleck is surprisingly mediocre, too.

9. High School Confidential (Arizona).  I ordered this from Netflix after reading Nick Tosches literary biography of Jerry Lee Lewis.  I thought it would be a Lewis vehicle akin to an Elvis clam bake, but he just sings a half-song (“High School Confidential”) at the beginning and then disappears.  Just a bizarre film.  The late-50s hipster lingo is so thick that it’s often difficult to figure out what’s going on, but when you do it’s a little surprising: The new kid in town so determined to ingratiate himself and sell drugs is actually A NARC!  Yes, it’s a film openly lionizing an undercover police officer.  A weird cultural artifact.

10. You Me and Dupree (1st time, Chicago).  Intriguing, but puzzling when you expect a normal movie.

11. Jesus Camp (Santa Fe).  Wanted to see this for a long time, a film about evangelical summer camps for children.  Bizarre and terrifying.

12. 28 Up (Seattle).  The fourth of the series, following a dozen (more or less) British kids as they grow up and grow old.  Fascinating, especially in the emphasis on class, which might not be the same if the kids and filmmakers were American.

14. Ocean’s 13 (Cincinnati).  Eh.  Hopefully Oceans 19 will be better.

15. Maciste (San Francisco).  I wrote about this recently also.  Silent film stars could do some amazing things.

16. You Me and Dupree (3rd time, Austin).  Overkill.

Published in: on July 19, 2007 at 3:09 am  Comments (1)  

The Emerald Jewel

…and then there was one. Now it’s just me until I reach Minneapolis in a week. Benefits and drawbacks.

Yesterday and then this morning I made the long, surprisingly long, trip from Berkeley to Seattle. I’ve never really been to the Pacific Northwest before, so this is a region that exists mostly in myth for me. In no particular order: Clyde the Glide, Shawn Kemp, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion (which, I was thinking, is something like Absalom, Absalom!, and then I was wondering who would win, Sutpens vs Stampers), The Decembrists, Jimi Hendrix, and, most of all, Nirvana.

I’m here in the home of my not-quite-stepbrother Ian, and his wife, Marita. (Ian’s father has been the partner, but not husband, of my mom for the last 15 years.) It’s a pretty wonderful home that they share with Marita’s younger sister, Marita’s older sister, her husband, their three-month old baby, and two dogs. Marita’s pregnant too. Also here right now is Marita’s best friend, visiting from South Korea, and tomorrow her mom’s arriving from Hawaii. Teeming with life.

I played with Ian’s team, TAG (Tongue In Groove), in their league ultimate frisbee game. Now, I know how to throw a frisbee just, fine, okay, but I’ve never played ultimate before. I figured I’d be okay. I’m athletic. I go to the gym sometimes. I know how to throw “the disc.”

Turns out not so much. We got beat pretty solidly by Gengis Khan Wild, 15-8 I think. Those boys can play. They work together, they’re fast, they’re athletic. They play that short game to perfection. They’re going places in this here second division. TAG didn’t play to its full abilities due to the absence of some key pieces, but I fear that I bear more than my share of blame for our loss.

First of all, this game is tiring. All this running back and forth, stopping and starting. And no beer halftimes! No physical contact either. More importantly, frisbees don’t move like balls, basketballs, soccer balls, baseballs. You’re used to looking up in the air for a millisecond and seeing this thing and then you instinctually know where it’s going. Except it doesn’t.


So whenever I’d get the deep throw or try to defend it, I would expect the frisbee to come down a few seconds before it did. Which meant, twice, that not only did I jump up, come down, and then jump up again, but that I forgot to check who was in front of me. Each time I knocked over multiple people, including Ian, my own teammate. It was pretty funny. People were laughing.  After the game, when both teams were forming a snake to say “Good game,” which I haven’t done in a long time and in no way approve of — the opponent is an enemy that must be dominated, psychologically and physically, at every opportonity — I said, “Sorry for running you over,” and the enemy just smiled.  They understood that I was a neophyte.

While looking for that last picture, I found this one and thought it was worth posting:


Song of the Day: The Man Who Sold the World, by Nirvana. One of my favorite Bowie songs, off of Nirvana’s Unplugged album.  This song would make a great movie, but it would be ruined by the casting of Keanu Reeves.  See sidebar.

Published in: on July 18, 2007 at 6:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Sound Unseen, Sight Unheard

Yesterday I followed up on my friend Ari’s recommendation and went to the Audium. What’s the Audium? That’s a good question. It’s a little hard to describe, so I’ll describe the Audium experience.

There are shows every Friday and Saturday at 8:30. We waited, along with two dozen others, in a small, peacefully lit lobby littered with bizarre sculptures. At 8:31 a man opened the black drapes that closed off the entrance and announced that the show would begin; there would be complete silence; no sound or real movement allowed. Then you follow small arrows on the ground around a winding hallway until you come to this room:


Not many chairs. Pretty small place. Nice picture though! But we only saw that image for a second, because during the show everything looked like this:


For the entire show, which lasts around 90 minutes, there is only darkness, no difference between eyes shut and open. From the 176 speakers around, below, above, and in front of us came a sound collage, or maybe soundscape is the term, without songs or music or, apart from a few moments, rhythm. Water running, people talking, a brass band playing, electronic blips and beeps and hums, from all over, always changing and, quite literally, moving. There was a five minute intermission during which the lights were merely dim, but even then, nobody left their seat or spoke.


When the concept of AUDIUM began taking shape in the late 1950’s, space was a largely unexplored dimension in music composition. The composer who suspected space capable of revealing a new musical vocabulary found his pursuit blocked by the inadequacy of audio technology and performance spaces.

Because of an unusual combination of art and technology — AUDIUM’s creators, composer Stan Shaff and equipment designer Doug McEachern, were both professional musicians — AUDIUM’s conception and realization were able to evolve jointly. AUDIUM is the only theatre anywhere constructed specifically for sound movement, utilizing the entire environment as a compositional tool.

After the show, a number of audience members (including myself) talked to Mr Shaff, and learned more about the Audium. Essentially, “The Audium” is a tool, a system, and what we heard was Mr Shaff playing one of his compositions — his eighth — through the Audium. As the technology has improved, Mr Shaff has created a new composition, so that none of the previous pieces could be played today (and vice versa). And, unfortunately, noone else has ever had the opportunity to compose a piece for the Audium.

Here’s hoping that someday Mr Shaff will realize the potential of his creation and will allow other artists to compose for the Audium.  What would Jon Brion or Timbaland do with this medium?  Why couldn’t there be massive Audium stadia seating thousands of people.  That would be something.

Today, in a nice juxtaposition, I was able to take in part of the 12th annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  We had planned for an entire day of piano/silence, but fate intervened, and I only saw two movies — The Valley of the Giants, released in 1927, and Maciste, released in 1915.  The first was just tremendous, portraying the battle of two logging companies for control of redwood timber.  It featured two spectacular scenes: star Milton Sills tight-roping on top of massive redwoods while a the train on which the trees sit is crossing a ravine and heading towards a cliff — Sills, in silent-film tradition, doing all of the stunts himself — and an amazing D.W. Griffith-like fight scene involving dozens of woodcutters, lots of lanterns and a machine gun.


The second film, Maciste, starring Bartolomeo Pagano, was the first in the Maciste series, which continued through the sixties with a number of Italian strongmen — sort of like Menudo.  The plot was both simple and tortured, and the movie really could have just been a ten-minute short, because Pagano could do some amazing things, such as picking up two men at once and tossing them here and there like a sack of potatoes, and picking up a table with his teeth!  Maciste is allegedly the original bodybuilder as well as a model of Mussolini’s physical style.  Still, hwhen it comes to aesthetics he’s no Eugene Sandow!


I wish I could have caught more movies, because the festival is a wonderful thing.  The battle scenes and Pagano’s feats of strength would not have been appreciated in the same way if there had been a pumping soundtrack to accompany them.

Published in: on July 14, 2007 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment  

All Up in the Bay

So, the blog’s been on a little bit of a hiatus while I am pit-stopping here in the Bay, seeing friends in Berkeley and San Francisco. I guess the only “exciting,” newsworthy thing I can think of is a historic viewing of *batteries not included, the 80s movie about flying robotic helpers who save a building from being demolished to make way for a high-rise building AND create a true community across ages and ethnicities founded in their resistance. This is a legitimately amazing movie that I see as a parable for opposition to 80s big business and Reaganism, but also critiques the lack of organic resistance, since it’s only with the mysterious, Godlike robots that the neighbors are able to hold off the wrecking ball. You needs to see this, whoever you is.


Also, right afterward, an episode of 1987’s Rodney Dangerfield Presents — I’m a big fan of Mr. Dangerfield’s work. In fact, now that I think of it, I was in a white-trash themed bar in San Francisco last Saturday that was projecting Back to School on the wall! Anyhow: Andrew Dice Clay was as funny as he was offensive. And another guy, who I believe was named Robert Schimmel, who started off with the best opening line I’ve ever heard: “It’s not good to fuck your pets… It breaks their will.”

Monday I take off for Seattle, and then I will start writing again.

Until then, I’ll post a song that’s been a Song of the Fortnight, Ridin’ in My Car by NRBQ. See sidebar.

Published in: on July 11, 2007 at 8:15 pm  Comments (1)  

All Star Sunday

This year my brother and I will be attending the All Star Game at Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park in San Francisco, thus fulfilling yet another of my lifelong baseball dreams. Today was All Star Sunday, which consists of the Futures Game, featuring the top prospects in the game in a USA vs. the World matchup. As if in revenge for our outrageous foreign policy, today the World team destroyed the US team, despite the prescence of several top prospects on the US team. This victory included a strong showing by several Venezuelans and an MVP performance by a guy from China, who, because he was representing the Dodgers was mercilessly booed by the local fans despite the fact that he didn’t seem to have any understanding of why.

The real excitement of All Star Sunday is the annual Legends & Celebrity Softball game. There were many highlights. Nearly every former major leaguer went yard, including two home runs by local favorite Rollie Fingers. There was a strong showing by Desperate Housewives’ James Denton and a game saving catch by Kenny Mayne. A Jerry Rice home run was followed by a massive “Jerry! Jerry!” chant by the crowd. Myself, my brother, Drew, and Matthew were all excited by the listing of Dennis “Big Knock Pedro Cerrano” Haysbert in the program, recalling his brilliant portrayal of the voodoo home run hitter in all three (yes, even the third) Major League films.

Dennis Haysbert as Pedro Cerrano

We even made a bet as to how many home runs he would hit during the game (my money was on 1), however, with no announcement, he did not appear. Also noticably absent was megastar John Fugelsang, whose comedic stylings could have really spiced up the between inning dialogue of Jeff Garlin and Alyssa Milano. Overall, despite the lack of Haysbert and Fugelsang, a fine event. Of particular note, the San Francisco fans continued their classy showing, as, while Alyssa Milano was interviewing reigning Miss USA Rachel Smith (both pictured below), a guy behind us in the bleachers repeatedly screamed: “KISS!!” and capped it off with “I’d still take Alyssa Milano.”

Alyssa MilanoRachel Smith

Also, a note: This voyage has been marked with viewings of You, Me and Dupree, which I caught the final moments of again this morning. While this film is by no means of any level of quality (not even in a “so bad its good way”), its absurdity demands a viewing if only for the “There’s the sugar” scene, and the, admittedly homophobic, but very versatile, “Poetry??, What a homo!” line by Matt Dillon. So, view with an eye towards the proper level of appreciation.

Cameron, Fellow Traveler

Published in: on July 9, 2007 at 7:46 am  Comments (1)  

Pacific Ocean Blue on Highway 1

It’s supposed to be the prettiest drive in the US of A, and I can confirm that it’s very special.  Celebrated Independence Day in fine style with Cameron and my friend Joanna Neborsky, who drove up from San Diego, swimming in the pool, drinking punch out of some elaborate drinking glasses Cameron’s grandma had sitting around, and making it up to the Malibu beach just in time to see the fireworks, peeking out from behind a cloud, reflected on the lapping waves.

Like I said, I’ve gone Hollywood.

On the way back, we had some nice three-part harmony to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds going, and today Cameron and I were able to fulfill a month long plan, listening to Dennis Wilson’s solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue, while driving up the winding Highway 1.


As you may know, Dennis Wilson was the Beach Boy who ran with Charles Manson and his “family” just before the killings.  His first solo album, released in ’77,  definitely fulfills some of the potential of the few Beach Boys tracks he orchestrated, such as the angelic “Wonderful,” but it’s also got a real dark edge to it.  Most unexpected are the fantastic horn sections that pop up for a moment, overwhelm the track, and then die down like a woozy brass band.  I’m not sur if Pacific Ocean Blue is consistent enough to merit the “lost classic” status that I’d give to something like Gene Clark’s No Other, but it has some transcendent moments.

While my favorite track is “Dreamer,” the track of the day is “Pacific Ocean Blues.” It’s just a killer song.  Whereas elsewhere Wilson’s earnest lyrics ring true, here they’re just comical — reminds me of the Beach Boys’ hilarious dissident anthem, “Student Demonstration Time.”  The chorus:

We live on the edge of a body of water
Warmed by the blood of the cold hearted
Slaughter of otter
Wonder how she feels mother seal
It’s no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue

See sidebar to listen to the most famous pro-otter song in the history of popular music.

Published in: on July 7, 2007 at 3:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Celebrity Sighting!

So, my first day in Los Angeles I did what anyone would do: Celebrity Homes Bus Tour! Two hours on a bus with a family of Ugandans and a guy from Chicago, taking a look at all the celebrities’ homes. All your favorites were there: Nicholas Cage, Demi Moore, Spencer Tracy, John Lovitz, Bruce Willis, Paul Newman (neighbors), Harrison Ford, Danny DeVito and lots of old, dead people who only existed in black and white. Magic in the air!

Apparently, allegedly, the previous tour passed by Sylvester Stallone’s house just as he was getting his morning paper, and he waved and started doing muscle poses! Also, the guide said that two days before, they saw Steve Martin at his desk in his house through the front window, and he waved at them!

Well, we got a sighting of our own. Just as we were about to get on the bus, he walked by us. His hair was dark, his gait steady, and his eyes had that go-thither look. It was John Fugelsang.

It happened!

For those of you that are pretending not to know who J-Fuge is, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about The Man:

John Fugelsang (born September 3, 1969, Long Island, New York) is an American actor and stand-up comedian best known for his show Junk Male on VH1. He was also on America’s Funniest Home Videos (usually as co-host) for three seasons from 1998 to 2000, and co-hosted John McEnroe‘s short-lived CNBC talk show in 2004.


Fugelsang was the co-host of the 2006 World Series of Blackjack and the World Blackjack Tour on GSN. Fugelsang, along with Debra Wilson, currently co-hosts TV Water Cooler on TV Guide Channel. He is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post where he writes humorous articles criticizing the War on Drugs.

And here’s a picture. Charming, ain’t he?


John Fugelsang wants YOU… to buy him a sandwich!

So there you go. Fugelsang. If it happened to me, it can happen to you.

God bless Los Angeles.  City of Angels, City of Quartz, City of Fugelsang.

Published in: on July 6, 2007 at 3:22 am  Comments (3)  


I am sitting in a coffee shop that’s at the former site of the Mesaluna restaurant, where Nicole Brown Simpson ate right before OJ murdered — I mean killed — her.

Yesterday we went to the Skywalk, over the Grand Canyon. A glass half-circle that extends over the West Grand Canyon, built by a Native American tribe. In March it was inaugurated by none other than Buzz Aldrin. We could have died, but we didn’t. This is what it looks like:


It was us and hundreds of Japanese tourists. It was a cultural experience. It was Americana. It was America.

They don’t let you take pictures on the Skywalk, other than the lame-o expensive ones they take themselves, so we tried to do it on the sly. On the down-low. Since my nice camera broke I’ve been using an awful one that we got for $10 at a Walgreens, but it worked to our advantage, since it has no metal parts and made it through the metal detector. But even so, there were security guards galor on the walk themselves. Here are our best attempts at personal photos, kinda reminds me of a Cold War spy series.

This is the walk to the Skywalk:


This is the floor of the Skywalk. It’s glass! They make you wear shower caps on your feet to protect the glass:


Cameron taking a picture of me “tying my shoe” on the skywalk floor. Very stealthy:


The best shot we got. Not very good. You can see Cameron’s reflection:


As you can tell, tourist traps like the Grand Canyon are all about capturing that Kodak moment — or creating an image so that in ten years someone else (or you yourself) will imagine that there was a Kodak moment. In this spirit, the Song of the Day is one that we didn’t actually listen to: People Take Pictures of Each Other, by The Kinks.  See sidebar.

Published in: on July 3, 2007 at 8:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Mexico: The Best Mexico

Wow. I’m tired. So instead of something intelligible, I’m going to list, in roughly chronological, and hopefully coherent order, all of the good things that happened in the last few days. All of it in my favorite state: New Mexico.

1. Meeting the mayor of Santa Fe. We spent the day and night with Carol Oppenheimer and Morty Simon, two of my favorite people who were recently referred to (negatively) as a “power couple” in Santa Fe politics — they are labor educators and living wage advocates. With them we ran into the mayor, who is a longtime friend of theirs, since he came from the labor movement, and got to exchange a few words with the mayor of New Mexico’s capital city. He was looking dapper and relaxed, in a button-down green shirt and crisp khaki pants. But time is money, and he had to run. “I’m going to cruise the South Side,” he said. “But first I need an iced coffee.”


2. Coming upstairs this afternoon and finding Carol playing John Prine songs on guitar, with Cameron and Morty singing along. Love John Prine. I’m sorry I missed the rendition of Angel from Montgomery, but I’m glad my request for Blue Umbrella was granted.

3. Tinkertown. Wow. I could say a million words about Tinkertown, but they wouldn’t come close. Near Albaquerque, a man named Ross Ward, then employed as a carnival painter, began to create the world of Tinkertown. Hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of figurines and props were whittled from wood, painted, and arranged. Many of them are animatronic, and they move when you press a button. The scenes are from the Old West, and there is, I believe, an internal coherence to the “world” of Tinkertown, from the graveyard to the circus to the town square. The picture below is just one “scene” out of more than a score.


Ward began his career painting signs, and then moved on to painting sets for carnivals, before turning all of his energies to Tinkertown. And I’m so glad he did. It’s makes your heart throb to see someone put everything he has into a dream, and to do it so uniquely, so creatively. There were dozens of handwritten (or -sculpted) signs around the Town, with the sort of half-cliched inspirational phrases that one might normally forget immediately, but to know that they had come not from a Hallmark author but someone who had lived them… it gave them a real meaning. One that really moved me: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Let it marinate.

In addition, there’s all kinds of other bizarre things. There was a fortune telling machine, like the kind from the movie Big, along with dozens of other ancient machines. The Fortune teller said to me: “The happiness I can foresee for you is beyond words. And why not. You are a very witty person [ahem ahem], gay [not really in either sense] and attractive [finally some recognition]. You are very popular [more than “very”] and are well liked by the opposite sex [see, I told you I’m not gay] . Your charm and your sense of humor is always a source of joy to those who surround you. You believe in the adage of live and let live, and fair play is your watch word.”

Tinkertown. When I die I’d like to be “reborn” as one of Ross Ward’s characters. Sort of like Beetlejuice, but much less sleazy.

4. Finally getting out of that hour.5 traffic jam in Nowhere, New Mexico.

5. Eating that last piece of deer jerky. It’s just good food, can’t believe I ever regretted buying almost a pound of it. Next time you watch Bambi or see a family of deer prancing around and stop and pull over and watch them and feel like a real naturalist, think of me and take a bite.

6. Listening to the recording of the Olivia Tremor Control concert we drove 1,500 miles to see in Athens, Georgia two years ago, the first show they’d played in over 5 years. Still shocked they haven’t released any new material.

Songs of the day: Pling!, by Shuggie Otis, was just about perfect with the sun slowly setting. (See sidebar.) And later on, late at night near Flagstaff Arizona, Racing in the Streets by Bruce Springsteen was epic in every sense of the word.

Published in: on July 2, 2007 at 8:51 am  Comments (1)