Scenes From The DFFLA

Foreword by Stan Lerner: before I embarked on the “Road To Nowhere” I left the trusty Alec Silverman to record for all of us the last half of the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival. Upon my recent return to Los Angeles he proffered the following account.

Well, I got in on the tail-end at the periphery of the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles, when Stan told me to go see Sarah Maxwell, who was taking care of Rock N’ Fish’s commitment to the festival as a sponsor… I’m glad to say I did.  What I experienced was two screenings in The Grammy Museum theater.  For the first time in its two-year history, the DFFLA had this venue for a series of music documentaries curated by a nice lady named Carolyn Shroeder.  What would you expect to be good in the theater at The Grammy Museum? Continue reading

Feeling Lucky, Punk? Thought Tools

I misquote.  In his 1971 classic, Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood actually said,

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk’?”

How about you? When things seem to be going your way, from finding a new job to meeting a potential mate do you marvel at your luck? When you lose a job or friend, do you rail at it instead?

Let’s look at three seemingly lucky men and one unlucky one, from the Bible.

1) Abraham’s servant Eliezer is sent on a mission to find a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Entrusted with this momentous errand, Eliezer devises a strategy. He will ask for a drink of water at the well, and if the girl offers water not only to him, but also to his camels, he will know that she is Isaac’s future wife. How lucky for posterity that Rebecca fit the bill. (Genesis 24) Continue reading

ROAD TO NOWHERE — BEGINNING TO NO END

“If anybody would like to join the first downtownster road to nowhere road trip I’ll be leaving Thursday or Friday,” I said to the meeting of the Marketing Round Table. “I don’t know where we’re going or when we’ll get there, but that’s the idea. And uh, you could get on or off the trip at any time or place—providing that there is an airport of course.” NO TAKERS

Friday morning 4:30 a.m. the 1996, black, Chevy Suburban docked at the curb of my childhood home in Montebello, CA—Montebello is Italian for beautiful hills. And it is from this very spot, that I have departed for many an adventure. I am fortunate to, over an excessively well-lived lifetime, have developed a number of friends who are willing to embark on such journeys. And I should be careful to mention here that some of these individuals were mere acquaintances or even less familiar at the time of departures, but traveling and adventure make for far greater bonds than the songs of fraternity boys in their beer soaked homes.

This particular morning it was to be my old high school buddy Mike Munoz picking me up. Although he went to West Point and achieved the rank of Colonel I still refer to him as my Mexican—I find this term of endearment more special than he does.

“The 15?” he asked.

“Sure. Let’s grab breakfast in Vegas and see if Andy wants to come with…No his mom is visiting…Let’s grab breakfast in Vegas and stop by to see Andy anyway. Maybe he can meet up with us later… How many miles do you have on this thing?”

“One hundred and eighty-six thousand. Where do you want to eat in Vegas?” asked Mike, seemingly settled into our trip within minutes. Twenty-five years ago a trip in his yellow, convertible corvette took us from coast to coast…

“All these years I’ve been going to Vegas, working in Vegas, living in Vegas, and I’ve never eaten at The Egg and I. Have you?”

He shook his head. “No. Where is it?”

“On Sahara. Let’s go there.”

Forty minutes of good conversation ensued until…  “Hey that’s the 15,” I said pointing at the exit. The Suburban swung across five lanes of traffic as can only be accomplished at such an early hour on the 10 Freeway. We could have wound up in Palm Springs or Arizona for that matter, but that’s the point, it really didn’t matter.

“Hey, let’s pull off in Barstow I like the new Starbucks there—cute girl baristas.”

Mike shrugged. “Okay.”

ROAD TO NOWHERE PART II

The black Suburban rolled down the highway with the mean rumble of a venerated work vehicle. I raised the cappuccino, which I held in my hand, to my lips and took the first soothing sip. Given the distinctly not stylish clothing being warn by Mike and myself and the rugged “Road Warrior” appearance of our vehicle my choice of a cappuccino, as my early morning sustenance seemed a strange juxtaposition—black coffee would have been the appropriate beverage of such a portrait. Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: EXTRACT

What man writes a script – a comedy no less – that has a character who gets his testicles blown off?  A woman writing it, I would believe.  But a guy?  Well, leave it to Mike Judge, the brains behind “Beavis & Butthead”, “Office Space” and “Idiocracy”, to do just that.  A man who you might call obsessed with the thought of his own testicles being blown off, to hear Mike Judge tell it, seems a perfectly normal concept. “When I was in high school, for science fair I actually made an x-ray machine, x-ray generator, with an old tv tube and a Tesla coil.  I got it to work and then I read that x-rays can actually make you sterile.  So I immediately built this lead box around it and I got scared as I got older.  I was 15 at the time and thought ‘Man, did I just ruin my testicles and I won’t be able to have kids?’  Then when I was first married, I had the premonition that my testicles were going to get knocked off in a car wreck.  And then I got into a pretty bad freeway wreck and I remember thinking, ‘Ah, my testicles are still here!  My back hurts, my neck hurts, but…my testicles are here.”    And so, you have part of our story – all based in reality.  Judge makes this little tidbit one of the primary comedic prongs in this funny (albeit uneven at times), extraction of the humorous, er, or not so humorous,  events of one man’s dysfunctional life. Continue reading

ROAD TO NOWHERE—BIG MOUNTAIN

The email from Tilly on facebook said something to the effect, “I think you may know Paula Greenstein. And if you’re in Montana, anywhere near Whitefish, I think she owns a restaurant there called Wasabi—it’s supposed to be really good.” I read the email again, amazed at the Lord’s hand in all affairs. I had just found a former Camp JCA counselor named Gary Rappaport on facebook and while I inquired as to the whereabouts of Eric “Rico” Abrams, I could not for the life of me think of Paula (Plunger) Greenstein’s name—so I just asked about Eric and made a mental note to think of the name of that vivacious girl, who always wore green.

“Paul “Plunger” Greenstein, that’s her,” I thought to myself as I examined her picture on facebook. “It’s been thirty-five years old-friend, I wonder what you’ve been doing. And how did you come to live in Montana?” I decided that I would do some writing in the morning at City Brew in Kalispell and then continue up 93 to Whitefish.

Perhaps a reader of this arranged assortment of letters is wondering why I could so easily make a plan to find Paula Greenstein? And this very question is a testament to inspired human thought. Because the human mind intrinsically knows that all of life is a story. Even creation is a story in which God used the power of letters, to make words, which in someway beyond human comprehension caused matter to continuously congeal into the world as we know it.

Three Days Earlier

Subsequent to taking in the beauty of Flathead Lake from my balcony vantage point I ventured down the staircase. The sound of rustling dogs reminded me of my valiant protectors, who apparently feeling profoundly guilty about the mountain lion incident, would not budge from my side unless locked up—in this case in the laundry room. So I freed Thing One and Thing Two, as I call them, since I did not and still do not know their given names. Happy, as only a dog can be at the sight of a master, we strolled across the lawn to the lake and sat. And this, after eight hours of sleep, would be the end of my seclusion. Leaving the dogs to guard the cabin I fired up the Black Beast (Suburban) and made a right onto 93 for Lakeside and then Kalispell.

Kalispell, a nice little town at its center, is the home of several well-run establishments. Norm’s News is a must first stop for all travelers through this town—my father’s name was Norm (a sign). The hundred-year-old building features a soda fountain counter manned by two adorable teenagers who are the kind of kids I hope my daughters might be one day, if I ever have children. And, although the residents of Kalispell are not aware of it, the ancient “Los Angeles style” bar behind their soda fountain counter holds mystical powers. Continue reading

Life Happens—Not

In malls from San Antonio to Santa Monica expensive retailers like Neiman Marcus, Tiffany, and Bloomingdale’s are opening new stores.  That suggests many customers with money to spend, yet we all know legions of debt-strapped people struggling to keep their noses above water.

Looking at the economy, it is easy to see that some people are better off than others.  However, inequality can be found in other areas too.  Studying health, for instance, would reveal that some people enjoy healthier lives than others.

Now if we analyzed marriage and family trends, we would discover that some people have more successful marriages and better functioning families than others.

Some people even win what I call ‘the ovarian lottery’ with genes from their parents that bequeath them good looks.

Life would seem extremely unfair if all rich people were good looking, enjoyed great health and had fantastic families. Continue reading

ROAD TO NOWHERE PART VI

Although I’d become accustomed to the forward motion of a life lived on wheels, a few days in Missoula were an extraordinary detour into the Land of Normal. True, this was not my idea; indeed it was Mike who thought it best to give my old-body a few days of healing time before moving on. (refer to the Road To Nowhere Part V, the mountain lion fight, if you are a new reader) And since I was finding it difficult to move without a variety of pains formerly unknown to me—I acquiesced.

Interestingly, as I settled into life in Missoula and watched all of the normal people go about their normal lives the pain of my spectacularly failed life began to hurt more than my body, cut and bruised from head to toe. Husbands, wives, and kids everywhere seemingly happy and content. Not a single one bothered by Osama bin Laden’s still being alive and well, his hands dripping with the blood of our fellow Americans. The national debt? It doesn’t exist for these people with bright eyes and warm smiles.

And I gasped for air, suffocated by this reality—that for a plan beyond my understanding is not my own. My escape, the written word, only because of this life source does my heart beat. And I sat at Break Espresso for as long as my body would allow the pen and I to do our dance. There are several stories, which spawned from these days, Heather the most interesting, but her story, quite involved it is, shall remain for another occasion. 

Nightfall came on the fourth day, the black beast was saddled, and the comforting lines, which I fever for, passed at seventy-miles-per-hour. Continue reading