Friday, June 07, 2002


I didn't plan on being this cool today, it just happened. Neither did My Girl. This morning, laying in bed singing silly songs following a whirlwind multi-room multi-orgasmic sex romp, My Girl and I came up with an idea for a musical we wanted to write together. Instantly, we were jazzed about it and made some real progress before we even got dressed. As I was showering, she received an email from the host of this show in NPR called "Rewind." They want her to be a guest on the show, ranting and raving about the yet-to-be-determined topic of the week. This excited My Girl greatly, considering that just yesterday an editor from The New York Times Magazine called her to set an article in motion. So, she's feeling great about herself and her career and, for no particular reason, I'm feeling great about myself. We decide to go to Doughboys (delicious bakery and eatery on 3rd Street and Crescent Heights) for brunch. While we waited for our dream table, I took notes in our joint journal as we continued to work through our musical idea. Sure enough, the party of two before us didn't answer the call and we slid right into the ideal two-top, next to a buxom fivesome. Two blondes bimbos and three varied mimbos. We attempted to plow forward on our project, but the soundtrack from the table of model/actor/actress prototypes was simply too hard to ignore. Being that beautiful, naturally they were extremely self-conscious. They spoke in near-whispers and most of what we did hear didn't contain enough substance to sink our teeth into. But every now and then, the perfect sound bite would waft our way. For instance, one of the blondies, sitting mere inches away from My Girl with her leg draped over the arm of the chair, whined, "I so want to get this movie so badly." Later on, My Girl decided it wasn't going to happen for this particular blondie because movie stars are ridiculously exaggerated versions of great-looking human beings and this girl was merely an average great-looking human being. Another exchange between one of the hip-hugger clad sub-Britneys and one of the square-jawed man-tittied studs, who surely resides in the Buffwood apartment complex, transpired as follows:

Dude: "Have you seen so-and-so lately?"
Chick: "No, but I hear he's thinking of having a pajama party."
Dude: "Cool. I've never been to a pajama party."
Chick: "Neither have I. But I've always wanted to. We're gonna have to get in shape."

After the Calvin Klein Club left, My Girl and I finally got a chance to vent and order a delectable dessert. After involving the petite bleach-blonde Asian waitress in our decision-making progress, we settled on a chocolate brownie walnut cake with whipped cream. While devouring the sinfully scrumptious double delicious treat, a red-afroed waiter who gave me a sample of a Coke-lemonade mixture came over to chat us up. He listed his favorite Doughboy desserts and told us the secret is to order whatever just came out of the oven. He earned his expert status by working at the restaurant for four years, starting when he was sixteen. After high school, using the money he saved up by working there, he left the country for a couple of years to teach English in Thailand and Rome. He recently returned before his twenty-first birthday and resumed his post at Doughboys. I told him he came off wise and mature well beyond his meager twenty one years. He shot back, "Growing up a Los Angeleno forces you to do that." The contrast between the surface cool of the Calvin Klein Club and the true cool of this dynamic waiter was certainly not lost on My Girl and I. We suspect that he enjoyed talking to us so much that he put in a good word on our behalf to our waitress, because the total bill amounted to only twenty dollars. No charge for coffee, no charge for dessert, no charge for the Lemon Coke. We tipped twenty five percent and I wondered aloud if that wasn't too low.

We followed up brunch with a quick trip to Apothia in the Fred Segal shopping complex, where I acquired a canister of the supreme Kiehl’s shaving cream. My Girl was sniffing one of the flavored body lotions and accidentally squirted some in her face and on her shirt. After a moment of hesitation, I exploded into uncontrollable laughter. Luckily, she laughed too.

On our way back home, we were in the left hand turn lane, sitting in a borrowed Eclipse Spyder convertible with the top down and The Strokes blaring from the sound system. I raised my arms in the air, a la Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, and proclaimed "I love unemployment!" A working class black man in what appeared to be a company van next to us saw the whole thing and smiled. Thank God he was looking at the passenger side of the car, because that's the side with the huge dent and deep key mark. Otherwise, it would have been an obnoxiously over-the-top gesture. Plus, I didn't want him to think I'm that cool. Because I'm not. I just was today.

Thursday, June 06, 2002


I wanted to record my thoughts on "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" before time, public opinion, and The Dark Side cloud them. I did not read any reviews before I saw the movie and limited word-of-mouth to a few select individuals. Lo and behold, I enjoyed it! It could be a case of successfully managing my expectations or perhaps the fifth installment of the Star Wars saga is not half bad. In actuality, it's probably only a quarter bad.

First off, the quality of "Attack of the Clones" is parsecs better than "Phantom Menace," despite the unfortunate reappearance of Jar Jar Binks in the latest episode of Star Wars. The film is a visual feast, with one incredible digital shot after another. To quote a guy I saw it with who is very much a Star Wars geek and extremely critical, "Everything looked good." Lots and lots of eye candy. The cities were vibrant and humming and infinitely detailed. The spaceships and speeders were all extremely cool-looking. The production design and art direction were as imaginative as anything I've ever seem on celluloid. Even the actors were nice to look at. Although, that does lead me to one of the glaring deficiencies in the movie... Hayden Christensen, the actor playing the role of Anakin Skywalker. Sure, he's pretty, but he was sadly incapable of infusing the part with the necessary versatility and vulnerability. Because of his leaden delivery, the romance between Anakin and Senator Amidala, played by Natalie Portman, fell flat on its face. It's a shame that the movie's weakest link was the actor playing its most pivotal character. Because of his inability to garner the audience's empathy, the overall emotional impact was severly curtailed. I was still intrigued that this was the story of Darth Vader's life, but I didn't identify with the Anakin on screen. Natalie Portman's performance was uneven as well, due in part to the fact that she was acting opposite Hayden Christensen and other inanimate objects. Her power play scenes were played too stilted and cold, lacking in subtlety and feminine warmth, but in a few rare moments, she was note perfect, striking just the right balance of girl power and adolescent longing. Had the romantic chemistry been imported from "Spiderman," "Attack of the Clones" may have been elevated to the "Star Wars"/"Empire Strikes Back" stratosphere.

"Clones" also had an uneven sense of humor. By far, the funniest moments in the movie for me were delivered by Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine. The inimitable way he talked out of the corner of his mouth and the sarcastic sullen eyes simply slayed me. As far as the rest of the film is concerned, the comedic elements I enjoyed consisted mainly of "insider" jokes that I laughed at while watching, but undercut the Star Wars mystique in a way that makes me uncomfortable as I sit with the movie. For example, when Anakin and Amidala kiss for the first time and Amidala breaks it off, the music abruptly cuts off as if someone snatched the needle off the record. Some of the over-the-top art direction during their romantic scenes made me laugh too, but I'm still not sure if it was intentional or not. In another scene, Obi-Wan and Anakin wander into a bar. A barfly tries to sell Obi-Wan some death sticks and Obi-Wan uses and abuses the defenseless drug dealer. "You do not want to sell me those death sticks. You want to go home and rethink your life." Big laugh. But does it cheapen the tried-and-true concept of the Jedi mind trick? In one exchange between Obi-Wan and Anakin, Obi-Wan deadpans "Oh, Anakin, you'll be the death of me." Again, it made me smile because I was in on the joke, but it's a pretty easy joke to make. The stuff that actually bothered me comedically were the groan-inducing one-liners. Obi-Wan's "I hate when he does that" was present in trailers for the film, so I had fair warning for that stinker. What I wasn't prepared for was the flurry of duds spewing from the mouth of C3PO during the climactic battle scene. The worst one, "This is such a drag," coming as R2D2 drags C3PO's head behind him. Even so, I'll take a bad "Attack of the Clones" one-liner over the utter atrocity of Jar Jar Binks stepping in shit in "Phantom Menace."

Ewan McGregor is an actor I like very much and I thought he brought some much-needed credibility to a cast that included an utterly out-of-place in the Star Wars universe Samuel L. Jackson and the surreal sight of Jimmy Smits, who appears to have mistakenly wandered onto the set. By doing his job as an actor and garnering some sympathy from the audience, McGregor ultimately made this Obi-Wan's movie. However, the most memorable element of the movie was clearly its action sequences. Luckily, Obi-Wan was involved in all of them. Obi-Wan and Anakin's high-speed chase with a would-be assasin through the Coruscant air traffic was deftly shot and dazzlingly futuristic; Obi-Wan tailing Jengo and Boba Fett through the asteroid field was reminiscent of classic Star Wars space fun; and the gladiator fight in the arena featuring Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Amidala was the stuff matinees are made of. But, without a doubt, the coup de grace of "Attack of the Clones" was the lightsaber duel between Yoda and Count Dooku (gamely played by Christopher Lee). During that fight scene, you could feel the electricity in the audience. I was so excited I couldn't stop laughing. One of the few sound bites I heard before I went to see the movie was "the Yoda lightsaber fight alone is worth the price of admission." With four solidly entertaining action set pieces, I'd have to say the ten bucks I spent to see it projected digitally turned out to be a bargain.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002


I can't hear myself type. I'm living in the midst of some of the worst noise polluters on the planet. Every annoying, blaring, grating, honking, sliding, pounding, barking, scraping sound imaginable is present in this little residential neighborhood of West Los Angeles. I can't quite determine if this noise pollution has escalated recently or I've just become more attuned to it. Either way, it's in my head and it's under my skin and it's beginning to drive me crazy.

As I make this entry, what may very well be the loudest motorcycle on record is pulling into its spot just across the alley from my apartment. Its owner apparently must leave the house by eight in the morning in order to get to work on time. Currently unemployed, I don't. I can tell you, in my now expert opinion, it is extremely difficult to be violently awakened by the sound of a very loud motorcycle revving its engine and face the day in anything but an aggravated mood.

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to fall back asleep. But luck doesn't last long when your unit borders the alley in this neighborhood. Every apartment building has a garbage dumpster in back. Seemingly, every dumpster is serviced by a different sanitation company. I believe an average of six garbage trucks sweep through the alley daily. The only thing that could possibly drown out the loudest motorcycle on record is the screaming of a garbage truck's machinery as it lowers its levers to grab onto a dumpster, hoist the dumpster into the air, and then bang, clang, and shake the dumpster as it empties the contents of said dumpster into the body of the truck. It physically aches to hear this ritual repeated several times a day.

There's a produce truck that cruises the neighborhood for ten hours a day announcing its presence with a rendition of "La Cucaracha" on the horn. Someone who lives next door to us has an old beat up car that won't start unless you constantly turn the ignition and pump the gas for a half an hour. Homeless people and other people who make it their habit to sift through the contents of alley dumpsters are prowling for recyclables and God knows what at all hours of the day and night. Many of them collect their booty in shopping carts. Shopping carts make an incredible amount of noise when wheeled over a pothole-filled jaggedly-paved surface. Dogs barking and yelping. Leaf blowers. Lots and lots of leaf blowers. Really loud leaf blowers.

But the single worst sound of them all, the one sound that sends me off the deep end, is the sound of the guy who honks his clown horn all day, every day. I'm not even sure what he sells. I think, but I'm not sure, that it's some sort of sweet corn. And I think people buy it. I saw the guy once. I was walking by him on the way back to my apartment one day. I stopped and told him that the horn had to go. Of course, he pretended not to habla ingles. Brilliant. I tried to use idiotic hand gestures to illustrate what I meant. "Horn. The horn. That horn is no good." He shook his head "No good?" I said "Yeah. No good." He smiled. I insisted I wasn't joking, but he remained smiling and went on his way. Nothing changed. He kept right on honking that horn and selling his sweet corn. Honking and honking and honking. I am a pacifist by nature. On the whole, I treat other human beings extremely well. But I swear, sometimes I really want to kill this guy. I know he's just trying to make an honest leaving, being that he's probably an illegal immigrant who can't get any sort of documentable job and pay some friggin taxes.

Truthfully, if I did end up "permanently silencing the horn," it would probably be a case of wrong place, wrong time. Maybe one day, I'll be sitting at the computer, trying to write, after being jolted awake by the loudest motorcycle on record at seven forty-five in the a.m., and not being able to go back to sleep because garbage trucks were practicing the shuttle run down the alley, and I'll hear one such sanitation truck smash into the Eduardito's Produce truck, causing the carhorn to get stuck belting out a sick version of "La Cucaracha" on a loop, while the guy next door tries to start his car so he can make yet another run to the 7-11 across the street to get a pack of Marlboro Reds, as a homeless person slams down the lid of a dumpster and rolls his squeaky-wheeled shopping cart down to the next trash receptacle in line hoping to get a couple more aluminum cans so he can go buy another 40, when two dogs look through the window and spot him and attempt to protect their territory by barking at the top of their doggy lungs, and their barking intensifies as a gardener cranks up his leaf blower one block over, and just at that precise moment, the sweet corn guy with the clown horn turns the corner and comes within earshot, and I'll just lose it. You'd be hard-pressed to find one jury across this great land of ours that wouldn't accept a plea of "temporary insanity." Would you?