Friday, March 31, 2006

April Fool's Day in West Hollywood; What a Redundancy

All is quiet the day before April Fools... almost too quiet! I found this amusing photo on Stephen Pendred's blog (click on the header above for a link to his site).

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sunny day... sweeping the clouds away...

A thousand things to do with the time to do only 999... so it's time to stop and enjoy the view and let the natural order of things fall into place...

In this picture is my brother's house at the top of San Francisco. While you can't hike up the hill to the tower, there is a trail, visible to those who know it, on the right side of the photo in the center that leads to Twin Peaks. The wind from atop the peaks feels like it could pick you up and toss you clear into the ocean somedays. I haven't seen it since the rains, but I'll bet the hillside is covered in wildflowers now.

It's quite a hike from the Castro up a series of streets and stairs and hillside trails to get to Twin Peaks, but it is always worth it. Once, I drove directly to the lookout spot at the peaks upon arrival in San Francisco early one morning while the City was socked in fog so you could barely see the hands in front of your face. While I was standing there, the sun parted the clouds, and I suddenly found myself gazing down at the City awash in morning sunshine. It was one of those moments you can't plan; it just happens, and if you're lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time...

Of course, residents of the City know there are no shortage of places that hit you in the gut (in a good way --like a Ghirardelli Chocolate square) ...some are more fiercely guarded by the locals than others. It never ceases to amaze me how tourists who are just apeshit over being in San Francisco rarely get to see some of the most beautiful and unique sites in the City.

On last night's The Evidence, they appear to have already run out of stock aerial footage of San Francisco (or they're conserving what they have judiciously). They used several shots repeatedly (like I could ever get tired of seeing an overhead view of Columbus Avenue right up to the Transamerica Pyramid). My big laugh occurred at the end of the hour when some guy hit on Rob Estes in a gay bar. Are they trying to make sure he has a gay following, or what? It was a sort of wink-wink-nudge-nudge that let you know they'd done some homework on what makes San Francisco such a one-of-a-kind-place. And I'm sure some gay boys are going to get all giddy over Estes, enough to keep their ratings up.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Don't do as we teach, do as we say...

A P Photo / Washington Post

The Mayor's office and the LAUSD have warned protesting students to return to class or there will be consequences.

So never mind what they've taught you in civics class and American history. Ignore the writings of Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau* and Benjamin Franklin. Forget about the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

And don't remember Ruben Salazar and the Chicano Moratorium and the forced repatriation of more than a quarter million Mexicans. Or Los Ninos Heroes, or the occupation of Aztlan and Cuba and Puerto Rico; the abduction and enslavement of millions of men, women and children; the Trail of Tears; the overthrow of the sovereign kingdom of Hawai'i. The bombing of Vieques, the Zoot Suit Riots, Sleepy Lagoon...

Oh, wait-- they haven't even begun to teach you about most of that yet, have they? I guess you'll have to keep protesting a little longer --and tell the school board you're damn right there will be consequences.

When it comes to denying citizenship to the children born in the U.S. of undocumented aliens, can we make that retroactive to the Mayflower? For those with a 'get tough' approach to illegal immigration, I would remind them that in Roanoke, North Carolina, the original penalty for the first illegal immigrants was capitol punishment.

Click on the header above for a link to Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Change Your World -- One Room at a Time

2006 National Library Week is coming up, April 2 -8. While local libraries across the country are reeling from budget cuts, it would be especially important this year to remember those libraries that have been all but wiped off the face of the earth by last year's hurricanes. There is a link you can click on above at the header for more information, or go to the New Orleans Public Library site link to the left to find out how you can donate books, wherever you are.

In searching for information on how to better utilize my blog, I found a publication on the Reporters Without Borders site that is extremely helpful. I've added a link to the left to their site. I should warn you, there is information about what is really going on around the world that you aren't getting on your evening news. Some of it is not for the squeamish or for those of you in denial. All the more important you read them and keep up to date on what is going on in the rest of the world. Ignorance is not bliss. It's deadly.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Day with the Ducks

I didn't play hooky the last few days when we had such summer-like weather; but although it's a little overcast today, I feel a tug to go this afternoon to one of my favorite places in Los Angeles to stroll. I often use the Venice canals for a walking meditation; sometimes reading from my book of meditations and prayers.

So many tourists pass by without knowing the canals exist --now that the homes alongside them run in the millions, probably the most expensive per-square-foot real estate in LA, I'm sure the residents are content more visitors don't stroll there. Only a few hundred feet away, the Venice Boardwalk is cheek-and-jowl every weekend from now until winter, yet the canals offer a serene oasis in the city.

I have tons of photos
of the canals somewhere at home; during the holidays, the bridges and boats are decorated and lit, and there's even a parade of boats.

I found this stock photo that gives one a general idea of what you see as you stroll; of course, you can't see the plentiful duck poop on the sidewalks in the picture, which makes for very mindful walking even as you are emptying your mind of worries and cares and cobwebs. Click on the header at top to go to a link on the Venice canals, with lots more photos.

Still, nothing quite takes the place of actually visiting the canals. It's a treat I too rarely give myself, even though it's there year 'round and --until the locals get too exclusive about their enclave-- open to the public for fun and for free. A good part of the experience is watching and listening to first time visitors, from children chasing the ducks (there's a small playground for kids off one of the canals) to the quiet ambling of couples hand in hand. What would make it perfect is if there were seats and perhaps picnic tables so I could sit and write there, but it's a small thing to quibble over.

I have this nagging feeling that there was something I was going to do today, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was, so this will be a suitable alternative.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spring is bustin' out all over

Last night I watched the premier of "The Evidence." Given that it was the first program, it's no surprise that they filmed location shots all over San Francisco --extra points for the shots of Red's Java on the Embarcadero. They covered a good many neighborhoods in the City, but the house Rob Estes is supposed to live in looks like something more likely to be found in while they were shooting in Vancouver than anything in San Francisco. Time will tell if they continue to film enough establishing shots around the City, or if Vancouver will be increasingly filling in for SF. The City, of course, is as much a character in any program set there as the actors. Loving and devout filmography will not, however, make up for a weak story line. I suspect it will be a one-season wonder ...if they're lucky. The number of shows the networks have yanked off the air before they even had a chance to build an audience this year is atrocious. Or maybe I'm just watching more television. It isn't like I have any stock tied up in the networks; my to-read list is pretty substantial at any rate.

Someone should mention to Eyewitness News that is not appropriate to smile while recounting the deaths of 11 tourists in South America. Beyond disrespectful, and so unprofessional. Ann Curry exhibited a more fitting gravitas on this morning's news segment of The Today Show.

And now for something completely different...

I haven't had much time to really read other people's blogs to find a style for myself. I'm still rather a neophyte in learning what to do, how to do it and the proper protocol to do it in. This blog has been up to now more of a rambling, meandering, interior monologue.

Last night and this morning, for example, I was worried about what standard I should follow in regard to the 11th Tradition and anonymity. It may already be a case of closing the barn door after the cow has gone, but I'm probably going to be a little stricter on my self-policing in that regard. Certainly, my recovery is a n important part of my life --and likely the only reason I'm even still here at all. I'll be a lot more circumspect in the future about assuring that I don't break anyone's anonymity or any particulars about any groups. If there is anyone in recovery that has any suggestions about anonymity in the blogosphere, I'd appreciate your comments.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It only takes a tiny corner of this great big world to find a place you love

The City is going all out to commemorate the centennial of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of April 18, 1906. Time was thousands of survivors would gather every year at Lotta's Fountain on the day, but as the years marched on, the number of those who actually lived through that event has dwindled to a mere handful.

If you've been through an earthquake, or even lived in San Francisco for a hot minute, for that matter, you know what I'm talking about; if not, it may be no more than of only passing interest to you. To anyone who ever felt like a piece of your soul was savagely wrenched out as you left
the City, looking back at the Ferry Building from the Bay Bridge the moment you passed the Embarcadero and were over the bay, well, you know what I mean.

I didn't get to see the exhibition at the port headquarters when we were last in the City, but an even larger exhibition related to 1906 will be held the weekend prior to the anniversary. The moment of the earthquake will be marked by a gathering of San Franciscans at Lotta's Fountain --they're expecting some 50,000 at last count (I'll be willing to bet that it could end up 10 times that many). At many a SF pride march, most of the half million visitors from the world over have passed by Lotta's Fountain without realizing they were in the heart of the 1906 ruins at the symbol of the City's rebirth.

To learn more about the Earthquake and Fire of 1906, the Museum of the City of San Francisco has an excellent site I've linked at left ("San Francisco Museum & Historical Society") along with a link to the 1906 Expo site.

What started me on all this was reading about the tragic suicide of Ken Bostock.
At the header above, click on a link to the site of Sam Spade's San Francisco metroblog to read the details (I've added a link to his excellent site to the left as well). Perhaps in part because there have been more senseless suicides of people I've known --some only in passing, one for some 14 years-- just as the strange numbness of reading more than 20-plus years of obituaries has always made me appreciate life, Ken Bostock's death hit me.

Depression is an epidemic in the gay and lesbian community. God knows, we can't afford to lose a single life; those who suffer from a treatable illness need to know that their life has meaning and worth and a purpose, moreso than the thought that their death could bring them relief from whatever internal pain they suffer from.

Then I read about Ken Bostock jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and I remember the last time I was strolling across the Golden Gate Bridge and what a beautiful day that was, and how happy I was and how good life felt. It's said that everyone who jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge does so facing the City. I don't know if that's true, but when the sky is clear and the sun is warm and the City is gleaming in front of you, it's one of the most life-affirming moments you could ever wish for. Somehow, I think, it isn't the permanence of death that people are after at that moment when they take that last look...

That's it for now. I can't type any more right now. Go out and smile at somebody and say hello, will you? Damn, it's a beautiful day outside.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

One City, One Book: E. Annie Proulx

5:45 a.m.
"Why not nominate Annie Proulx?" the interior conversation in my mind asked in committee in regards to West Hollywood's participation in the "One City, One Book" program?

If the camera man for the @#?! Awards Ceremony couldn't even find her face in the Kodak Theatre when she was being thanked by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurty, why not make her the star of an event centered around her and her contributions to literature --she's probably been invited to half of the gay pride celebrations in the country already, but it's a good guess that those doing the inviting haven't read but the one short story that has propelled her again into the public eye.

While her many stories of rural America contrast with WeHo's urbanity, she is an award-winning author of the highest caliber (the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, twice an O. Henry award winner; an NEA grant recipient, to name but a few honors) --and a senior to boot (she thus covers two of WeHo's three main constituencies).

I could imagine an award designed especially for her (mind you, this was as I was half asleep and bolting up out of bed) in the shape of the door with the shrine to Brokeback Mountain and Jack Twist that Ennis del Mar makes at the end of the movie.

I'd like to see a campaign to nominate/draft her now, enlisting any litterati or even the West Hollywood city council on the bandwagon (they've never been known to shy away from a win-win media opportunity). Heck, I could envision her entering an auditorium to thunderous applause and a standing ovation in this town.

Especially in light of the LA Times using that commercial/trailer in movie theatres and print ad that says, "Because you prefer the movie
to the book."

...and given that most of WeHo has probably already read the original New Yorker story of Brokeback Mountain, this community is already well acquainted with her work. Most of her stories are all-ages appropriate, too.

If you have any suggestions, admonitions, comments, please tell me.

Or maybe I should just be more careful what I eat before I go to bed.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Now if only we could get Veronica Mars to take on the religious right

Jack Kenny recently wrote a piece for the Advocate asking where the community outrage was when his show was being attacked by the religious right--especially the very well organized AFA.

Some of the responses on the website were interesting. Some less than fully informed.

I did my little bit, but in the end, it was like yelling into a hurricane. If that effort had been multiplied by a hundred, or a thousand... well, then.

In case you aren't aware, groups like the AFA don't fight fair. Their people will write multiple letters, and it has been revealed in the past that their computers will generate phone calls up the gazzoo to make it appear that they have an overwhelming groundswell of people behind them. And it's no secret that anti-gay organizations have way more bucks to spend on their campaigns than all the gay organizations put together.

Don't think for a minute that it will end when they've removed every gay image from the television screen either. The Oklahoma legislature just approved a measure to ban all gay material from libraries in the state.

When they've finished steamrolling over the gay community and their allies, do you think they're going to stop there? This isn't even about their homophobia. It's about them flexing their purported influence to control every aspect of your life. Once they've succeeded in ridding the world of those homosexuals, every non-WASP image will be steamrolled and disappear. They will create a mythical world that is 99.9% English speaking of English descent, where men have all the brains and women will be portrayed as happy homemakers whose only purpose in life is to serve and obey their husbands. Title IX? Fuhgettaboudit. The only girl's sports will be in sewing curtains and casserole cooking. The only minorities in your precious books and television and school's educational material will be caricatures along the lines of Stepinfetchit and Charlie Chan. And take a good hard look at what these people are doing to the environment. You thought their "intelligent design" or "creative design" replacing evolution was a hoot? You ain't seen nuthin' yet.

NPR had a news story today on how the government of China puts dissidents in mental hospitals because they figure anybody who doesn't fall in line with them given the consequences and risks must be crazy. America used to do that, too. And they will again, given half a chance.

The people behind these campaigns are devious --and shortsighted. Let them have their Sudentland, and they'll go for all of Europe, then the world. Funny thing, though; as the U.S. lags further and further behind other countries in our national health care, investment infrastructure and in education for all, and extension of suffrage and civil rights to every part of our society, other countries will leave us way behind in the dust. In their unquenchable quest for power, these people who today use the gay community as their scapegoat du jour will one day wake up to find that India or China or perhaps even the Saudis will be running the world --perhaps as or less benevolently than America did at the beginning of the 20th century.

So go ahead, and grumble about the need for an English only movement or offensive images and language in popular culture or how "they're taking 'our' jobs." Tell those uppity people they'll get their equality if they would just sit quietly in the corner. And try not to make a sound as you hide under the bed when the stormtroopers come, because as Pat Parker put it in her poetry, they will come.

And this little planet will probably end up a lifeless, dead rock floating in orbit.

I didn't mean to get so pissed off today. But maybe I should get little more pissed off a little more often. And maybe you should try it, too.

I wish I could tell you what it felt like to stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York and see a million people, as far as you can see, all marching for justice and equality and the right to be. It's one of the most empowering images I can think of (not to mention the rush it gives you!), and I'm glad to have it. And I'm glad that I get passionate and angry for the things that I believe in.

I meant to write something about last night's episode of Veronica Mars, which doesn't as yet have a certain berth on the new network replacing the UPN. But I think I'll write them, instead. It may be too late for the Book of Daniel, though I tried to do my part, but I'm gonna do what ever it takes to let the powers that be know that I want to see this show continue. Or there'll be consequences for them and their wallets.

You want to see the programs on television that you want to see? Read the books you want to read? Live and work where you please? Go wherever you choose to go --and be able to drink the water and breath the air when you get there? Better open your %$?@! mouths today. Tomorrow may be too late.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bumpersticker of the day: MY CAT CAN BEAT UP YOUR CAT

While browsing the web for one thing, I inevitably get sidetracked by something else that grabs my attention. This is my life off-line as well. Yesterday, my sponsee happened to be parked outside a used bookstore and watched with amusement as I attempted to pass by without getting caught in its gravitational pull. Busted. lt's not like I don't have so many books to read already I can pile more on the stack. Believe me, that's one place you don't want to be standing next to when the Big One hits LA. I remember a moderate quake hit San Diego a few years ago, and an elderly bookworm was trapped inside his apartment by the falling books & tipped over bookshelves. That'll probably be how I go...

While reading Noel Alumit's blog, I found a link to PEN/USA; it was important enough for me to put a link on the header above. I read Noel's entire blog. It's a great place for anyone interested in how to write, or what goes on in the head of a writer. I also did a search that brought up the LA Black Book Expo and Crime Sistahs, a trio of African American mystery writers. Last, but not least, I found a link for Poetry Flash, the most important literary magazine and calendar of events for California and the West. Their links have all been added on the left as well.

Monday, March 13, 2006

"Flush" by Carl Hiaasen


Do not read this book in public! The men with the butterfly nets will com and take you away!

This weekend I read finally Hiaasen's second young adult novel, "Flush." Like its predecessor, "Hoot," while it's meant ostensibly for young people with restraint as to the language and violence, any fan of Carl Hiaasen's work will enjoy it thoroughly. I did get some worried looks from the bus driver in the rear view mirror when I started cracking up, though. We're used to people going 5150 on public transportation in LA as a matter of course. To actually have a book that instigates involuntary convulsions of laughter is practically unheard of in this town. I think I was laughing out loud by page six. If you're on the last of your psych meds and need to level out or just want to be really entertained (far better than any #@?! "reality TV show could do) pick it up and be happy.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Straight? Unhappy? Well, get ready to laugh

Anti-gay comments broadcast in Miami schools. Los Altos outlaws gay pride. And the list goes on and on...

Then I come across this news story that just made my day. Heck, it made my week. Sometimes, the best way to fight the whack jobs is not to hit 'em over the head with a hammer (as fun as that may seem) but to laugh at the sheer idiocy of their stance...

Justin Watt has done a superb job of doing just that on his website.

In Larry Buhl's article on he mentions that an actual billboard in St. Louis that read, "I questioned homosexuality" was changed by someone who added, "And my answer is yes!"

The real question is, where are we going to put all those ex-straights just waiting to become gay? San Francisco and West Hollywood have just way too few vacancies as it is.

Click on the header above for a link to see the original story and the photo of the billboards.

I had wanted originally to comment on how well the Pasadena Art Night was last night. The staff and volunteers of the various art organizations, despite a driving rain, put on a terrific event all over the city. Every year it just keeps getting bigger and better. There's a link to the left about it.

A Special thanks to Susan, the librarian at the Pasadena Public Library for giving me her "Pasadena: One City, One Story" pin honoring the late Octavia Butler. Originally, Butler was scheduled to read and discuss her work on March 17th before she passed away. The event will now be a community tribute and discussion commemorating her work, at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena at 7:30 p.m. Among those speaking will be authors Steven Barnes and Jerry Tervalon. For more information, go to the One City, One Story link to the left. Among the many tributes to Octavia Butler, you can click on the link at left to read the one Noel Alumit wrote on his blog.

Everyone involved with the Art Night Pasadena deserves a big thank you. It was a lot of fun and quite inspirational. Even the rain became a part of the event. Especially in this era when support for arts organizations is so critical, this was a great way for small and large organizations to work together to prove their worth and why they are worthy of your financial support.

Friday, March 10, 2006

This gets my gander up...

The March 3 edition of the Philadelphia Gay News had a story from the Washington Blade about the city council of Los Altos, California, passing a prohibition against proclamations honoring gay pride.

Well, screw you, Los Altos. In the story, they quote Los Altos mayor Ron Packard telling the San Jose Mercury-News that he thinks gay pride proclamations "divisive and [not] appropriate for our community."

You suppose they consider MLK Day or Rosh Hashanah not appropriate? The town is 78% WASP according to the last census. For anyone not familiar with California, Los Altos is a small bedroom community of 27,000 in an upscale suburban part of Santa Clara County, between San Jose and San Francisco.

Los Altos also happens to be about 25 miles north of the epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, as well as lying just downhill a few miles east of the San Andreas Fault. Yeah, that San Andreas fault.

Oh yeah, and because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, Los Altos is in a high risk area for a terrorist attack.

I'm not saying anything is going to happen to Los Altos, or I want anything to happen to Los Altos, but karma is a muther... and I don't claim any special control over their karma. They'll have brought what ever befalls them on themselves. Including what they teach their kids.

Now, there's a lot of towns large and small around the San Francisco Bay urban area. They obviously aren't all as forward thinking as, say, Berkeley or San Francisco. There must be thousands of political bodies across the country that haven't recognized gay pride (and probably hope this issue never even comes up). There's no rule of thumb that requires Los Altos to celebrate gay pride. For that matter, nobody is looking over their shoulder to see if they recycle, either.

There are gay businesses in the surrounding communities of Palo Alto, Cupertino, and Mountain View. And who wants to go to Los Altos, anyway?

Since the Honorable Mayor Ron Packard doesn't appear to believe that there are any gays or lesbians living in Los Altos, it would behoove members of the GLBT community and their friends and families and non-gay identified men who have sex with men to take all their hard earned dollars to other communities ...and tell the chamber of commerce at 650/948-1455 that you're doing so and why. That's almost better than calling City Hall directly.

Can I be committed to the practice of non-violence and still ask people to take a page from the Mormons and just "shun" the whole town?

Now that might not be fair, since there were actual residents of Los Altos that had gone before the City Council to ask for the recognition of gay pride. The Los Altos High School Gay-Straight Alliance, who raised money for the victims of hurricane Katrina and other worthy causes deserve some measure of support, after all.

Like they say in Sin City, what happens in Los Altos should stay in Los Altos. Only instead, it made the national news wire. Now they run the risk of becoming a beacon of hope to hate-mongers everywhere. I can just hear Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and Lou Sheldon all praising Los Altos for standing up to the evil homosexual agenda. Maybe even David Duke.

Heck, I'm too tired to make much of a fuss about it. Why even care about a little two-exit on the 280 freeway town like Los Altos, anyway?

I guess I'll just make a an extra conscious effort to spend my little rolls of pennies at places that I know appreciate and respect me. And as for Los Altos, I'll take a cue from Noel Alumit and try to practice lovingkindness. Maybe I'll even blow 'em a kiss from the 280 freeway the next time I'm heading that way up to San Francisco. I'll wish 'em well and put 'em in my prayers 'cuz it sure as heck seems like they're gonna need it.

That's Amore

Okay, now what was behind last night's Without a Trace episode? That was over the top nuts a good way. There were few moments kookier or hotter than the end of the program when Enrique Murciano and Anthony LaPaglia sang "That's Amore" to a recording of Perry Como. Is this Jerry Bruckheimer showing us his softer side? Or is his secret fantasy watching two lipstick lesbians kiss (while being serenaded by Enrique Murciano).

What can I say? Enrique tilted his head, arched his eyebrow, and pursed his lips in the hottest HOTTEST HOTTEST way (like only those boys from Miami can). Oof. And woof.

Enrique Murciano is hot. well as the guy with the sweet baby face to take home to meet the family at the holidays. I can practically hear the sigh of every gay boy from his gym to his barista at his favorite cafe. Then again, I always had a thing for those Miami boys.

Ya gotta have something to dream for, right?

That's part of the charm of Sex in the City, I guess. Underneath all the funny sarcastic New York one-liners and one night stands, there's the promise of a happy ending with the guy. Or at least, the apartment. I don't know that having the perfectly appointed apartment will compensate for not having a guy, but there's something to running your fingers along a fabulous fabric. Then again, there's something to be said for the feel of running your fingers along Enrique Murciano.

Heck, I'd settle for Enrique Murciano in a trailer park. But not in Miami; you know what happens to trailers in hurricanes. But hey --who better to go through a hurricane with than Enrique Murciano?

This is why you gotta be careful what you wish for...

At least Jerry Bruckheimer put one television show on the air that GLAAD and everybody (except, perhaps for the religious right and the Gotti family) could enjoy.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

This is when I know I've been watching too much television

Now, I know that the television networks are supposed to be in competition with each other -- but for ratings, not over which one sucks the most. If ABC is going to run a bunch of Wednesday night re-runs, then I wanna see a fresh episode of Veronica Mars. I know I'm a bad, bad American consumer-- I don't have TiVo. And I'm not a very good gay, either-- I don't care at all for America's Next Top Model. Now, some of my best friends and family members do like ANTM, but that won't stop me from being exiled from the Abbey. If I'm going to vegetate in front of the television as is my right as a God-fearin' 'merican, I want at the very least some fresh, sharply written and entertaining Veronica Mars that I haven't been able to see because it now airs at the same time as Lost. At least they repeated the episode with "La Mer." And every time they repeat an episode of Lost, you have to wonder if they're jiggling some newly pertinent clue in front of you for a future plot twist, or if they're just screwing with you.

There was, at least, a fresh episode of Invasion. And what an episode! Eddie Cibrian didn't take off his shirt once and yet still I was at the edge of my seat! Hey! Network suits! This is good television! Of course, so was The Book of Daniel, and is/was Love Monkey, which appears to have fallen into the Bermuda Triangle. Does anybody remember Jay Mohr's short-lived series that had all of Hollywood obsessed and roaring with laughter at their incredibly inside jokes? I could understand if most of the humor on that show made no sense to anyone outside the industry, but it was damn good.

Is there some f-ing rule against intelligent television?

The recent death of former LA Times publisher Otis Chandler brought up his pointed criticism of the Times' faux pas regarding the Staples Center. Who does ABC think they're fooling when they keep running features on Disneyland like they were events of Earth-shattering importance on Eyewitness News?

The Cuban-Americans on Miami talk radio might declare a fatwah on me for saying so, but there's the unvarnished truth: Eyewitness News is no different than the evening news in La Habana. I've watched them both, and while there are a lot of advantages to living in a free United States, believe me, as opposed to a repressive dictatorship, a corporate controlled media with their eye on the bottom line keeps us from unfettered and independent news. Like I'm saying something you don't already know. There, now, I'll let you back to your nice, comfortable denial. After all, denial was created by nature for a purpose. We need our denial. But I do want intelligent fare on the idiot box (like that isn't the contradiction in terms that should tell me I might as well be buying lottery tickets).

Meanwhile, I managed some delayed gratification with Tom Corcoran's latest mystery, Air Dance Iguana. I timed when I came to the last page just as I finished my espresso at the King's Road Cafe. It wasn't a cortadito from Five Brothers, but it was good. I was surrounded by people talking some serious show business talk as I came to a very satisfying end of the book.

How lucky you people are who haven't yet started reading Tom Corcoran's mysteries. Now you have five books you can read in rapid succession: Gumbo Limbo, The Mango Opera, Bone Island Mambo, Octopus Alibi and Air Dance Iguana, that will drop you into the heart and the heat of the Florida Keys. Ah, to devour them one after the other without waiting a year for the next one!

If you're contemplating a trip to the Keys, or merely dreaming vicariously from your armchair, Corcoran can create mise-en-scene that doesn't just put you there, but let's you experience the change that happens on a daily basis to a place as a resident (or in this case, a virtual Conch) feels it. Like they say, it's not the heat, it's the humidity.

To further get you drawn into the mood of the Keys, which as you might have guessed is one of the most unique and atmospheric places in these United States, here's a few of the books Corcoran himself has mentioned in his books:

The Young Wrecker and the Florida Reef --Richard Meade Bache (first published in 1869 and republished in 1999)
A Key West Companion --Christopher Cox
The Florida Keys and The Coral Reef --Oliver Griswold
Ninety-Two in the Shade --Thomas McGuane
The Sibley Guide to Birds
Reap the Wild Wind --Thelma Stradel

Other authors he's mentioned include Ian Rankin's Black and Blue, the great John D. MacDonald's Cinnamon Skin (although my personal favorite MacDonald novel that explains Florida in one nice easy package--as well as gives you an appreciation for his style-- is Condominium), Alan Furst, S.J. Rozan and Tim Gautreaux.

Some titles that I would add to the ultimate Key West booklist (if you want to truly immerse yourself in the place) include:

Conch Cooking --A.J. Artman, Jr.
Houses of Key West --Alex Caemmeker
Memories of Key West --Lee Dodez
Key West Tales ---John Hersey
Key West Writers and Their Houses --Lynn Mitsouko Kaufelt
Cruising Guide to the Florida Keys --Capt. Frank Papy
Key West Collection --Dorothy Raymer
Mile Zero --Thomas Sanchez
The Walking and Biking Guide to Historic Key West --Sharon White
The Florida Keys: A History and Guide
--Joy Williams

...and of course, when I sit down to read about the Keys, I always have a Dolph's map of the Florida Keys beside me along with Capt. Papy's Cruising Guide.

If you are so fortunate as to win the lottery so that you can afford a house in the Keys*, these are required reading. If you want to have any chance in Hell of being accepted as a freshwater Conch, you better study them (but you'll never truly become a native). If you're even going to write about the Keys, you'd best devour them. If you're going down there on a visit, this is merely the short list, mind you. There are some great bookstores there to fill out your knowledge.

Some haunts that Corcoran mentions (of which I've been to most, but not all, since I'm not a bar drinker) include Captain Tony's, the Hog's Breath Saloon, Fast Buck Freddies, Rick's Bar, Mangrove Mama's, The No Name Bar (on No Name Key, of course, with no address), Pepe's, Louie's Back Yard, Cafe Med, Ambrosia, the Turtle Kraals, and of course, the Five Brothers Market for a cortadito and pan cubano or a cuban sandwich. And if you're really lucky and pure of heart, you'll get a chance to see the Key Deer as you make your way down the Overseas Highway. This is a journey words only partly do justice; you do it and you'll know what I mean.

But if you don't have time for all this, just do yourself a favor and read Tom Corcoran's mysteries.

*Don't furnish it with your family heirlooms. The humidity will warp the wood and if you have to evacuate in a hurry ahead of a hurricane, and you will, it'll all end up in the ocean.

Has Oprah Lost It?

Wednesday evening: "Tomorrow: One straight man lives gay for thirty days."

What the Hell was she thinking? Did she get bopped on the head and think this was 25 years ago?

How about, "Millions of gay people live as straight for years on end, in fear of losing their jobs, being evicted from their homes, ostracized from their families, physically attacked or brutally murdered?"

I'm inclined to think that Oprah's heart was in the right place, and she wanted to build bridges of understanding, blah blah blah...

But I'm sorry. This was just so 80s Jerry Springer, no matter how sincerely it was orchestrated. Doesn't she have anybody in her humonguous media empire that can say, "Um, your Imperial Highness, we might want to revisit this idea."

I guess not.

It's not the most totally degrading or thoughtless idea of late that's been on the air lately; not like, for example, the Today show having a white family live as African-Americans and an African-American family live as whites. Where in the world was Matt Lauer's mind then?

That wasn't even 80s ---more like the 1960s.

But hey, what do I know? I'm not a big-shot producer earning six figures. Maybe their focus groups or staff meetings or random pollings came to the conclusion, after much wrangling, that this was all necessary and would do good. Maybe all those millions of Oprah and Today show viewers will be enlightened and educated.

After all, I seem to be the only person in this damn town that doesn't give a hoot about 'reality' television, at the risk of being run out town on a rail, cash cow for the industry that it is.

"Coming up on Oprah: Black women who date white men." Is she trying to tell Stedman something?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fallen Fruit

There is a great article by Lance Webster in the March issue of BLADE magazine about Fallen Fruit, a trio in Silver Lake that search for and harvest "public" fruit from around LA. They share the fruit with each other and organizations feeding the hungry, as well as educate the public about the fruits they find.

I can remember how excited Mom was when she discovered that our first home in Los Angeles actually had an avocado tree in the yard! She was beside herself with glee, city girl (and avocado lover) that she was. Our last house in Los Angeles had an olive tree in the front yard that we never harvested, to our regret. Now I'm an olive oil fiend, and to think we once had our own tree!

I understand the new owners took the tree out. I don't even want to go past the house to see... To pull up a healthy, fruit bearing tree with a life span of some 300-800 years has to be one of the true crimes against nature.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I took a drive down to El Toro with my first lover and my best friend. The three of us happened on an old orange grove no longer commercially viable (there are, in fact, no longer any orange groves in Orange County) where the farmer let us pick all the oranges we could carry. In no time, we filled the car with bushels of oranges that we later distributed to everyone in our neighborhood. It was a lot of fun --I remember us laughing and climbing and gathering with glee; we hadn't known even five minutes earlier how we would be spending our afternoon. Later we sat on a bluff looking out to the Pacific Ocean and talking about the future and dreams and stuff.

The last time I went up that same road, the orange groves had all been replaced by suburban sprawl and a city of a quarter million people. I couldn't tell if where we'd picked our oranges was now the mall or the Marie Callender's or the Jiffy Lube.

Of the trio behind Fallen Fruit, I recognized the name of Matias Viegener. I haven't seen him in ages. He teaches at CalArts; in another galaxy, a long, long, time ago, he read as part of the Gay Men's Writers Series at A Different Light in Silver Lake. It was one of the most magical and incredibly entertaining nights at a reading that I've ever been to. We're both in the same anthology, Sundays at Seven, of literature from the series edited by the late James Carroll Pickett and Rondo Mieczkowski.

There's a link in the header above to Fallen Fruit.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Well, since I'm not I member of AMPAS I could give a rat's ass

Mar 4th, 2 pm: Well, the Los Angeles-Italia festival at Hollywood & Highland turned out to be a bust -- and the Havana Hut which only recently opened (great Cuban food!) was shuttered along with all the other eateries around the Kodak Theatre due to Hollywood's Big! Night! so I decided to head over to the Grove to eat at Pampas, my favorite Brazilian buffet (as opposed to Bossa Nova, my favorite sit-down Brazilian restaurant).

There's a character on the bus loudly giving out misinformation to tourists --more than half of what he's saying is so off base that it's more amusing than annoying.

Yesterday's rain and today's sun makes for a pleasant day to be outside at the Grove. There are times when it is kind of nice to look at one's town through the eyes of tourists and gain --or regain-- a sense of appreciation for what we take for granted. Because of Hollywood's! Big! Night! we have throngs of visitors from all over the world everywhere you go. It's particle's midsummer.

Tomorrow I'll go to South Pasadena for the Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles meeting after my morning meeting in WeHo. Mystery author Gary Phillips will be their guest speaker.

Traffic will be a little nuts around here then. The street closures and construction for all the big post-Oscar parties makes for a lot of detours. The clubs are filled with revelers.

March 5th, 1:45 p.m.: Not only did I enjoy a leisurely train ride on the Gold Line to South Pasadena, but I entertained myself thoroughly going in and out of shops on Mission Street and arriving a good 20 minutes early for the SinC event.

So, I went across the street to the Kaldi Coffee and Tea at 1019 El Centro for an espresso to wait. Most of the patrons were lookers (something about those art students and engineering students is hot) ...even the bespectacled nerdy beauty behind the counter. Oh, that blase attitude of liberal arts grad students! Yum! Maybe part of it is cuz I use to help my dad grade his students work back when I was in the eighth grade (if they only knew!). Sometimes, when the foreign students were left alone over the holidays with no place to go we would have them over for dinner. They would kill me at our pool table, but I didn't mind.

More patrons came in and out of the cafe as I sat, listening to "Sing, Sing, Sing" and other big band hits. This cafe is art student central, a little touch of Cambridge in the San Gabriel Valley (the breeders are all in the cafes on Mission street).

It wouldn't be LA is there wasn't a CREW PARKING sign across the street, and one of the patrons had a jacket with "The Contender/Crew Season II" across the back.

Twelve stained glass art pieces hang in the windows, including a homage to Route 66 (Mission Street was part of the fabled highway) and my favorite piece in the place of honor over the door, a rendering of the facade of the Pan Pacific Auditorium. I picked up some Art Night Pasadena guides while I was there.

The triangular-shaped Buster's Cafe next to the train tracks on Mission had the chocolate croissant I'd craved; a block away at Zinnia's, at 1040 Mission St. there was a t-shirt lettering kit that I want. ...not need, but want.

Had I not come on a whim to South Pasadena today, I might not have heard that next Friday was Art Night, when a number of galleries, art organizations and the venerable Norton Simon Museum throw open their doors, with shuttle buses carrying throngs from venue to venue. The quite provincial Pasadena at times doesn't let the rest of LA in on when they're doing these sorts of things. They like to thumb their noses up at the rest of Southern California quite a bit.

Well, I see people heading into the library now, so I better make my way back across the street.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Twas the night before Oscar....

All the tents are up, there's not a cloud in the sky, swept clean by yesterday's showers. All Hollywood is getting ready for their big day.

I'm not feeling it.

Oh, I'll get into the mood, soon enough. There's an Italian-American Festival with lots of (hopefully) good food at Hollywood & Highland, next to the Kodak Theatre. If you wanted to pick up a tourist this weekend, that's where you'd hang out.
Myself, I'd like to find a nice grilled veggie pannini. Some people get their kicks out of dating out-of-towners, but I've not found it conducive to LTR. Even the spontaneity of it seems a little forced. Of course, it's a different story when I'm out of town... Then it's picking up some Gilmore Girls-style snacks for the Big Show...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Le Roi es Mort, Vive le Roi.. Oscar!

I just saw a limo that refused to yield the right of way to a fire engine with sirens blazing. This town sure has it's priorities in order.

For you information, the latest update provided by the City of West Hollywood:

Oscar Night Street Closures

Sunday, March 5th, brings with it the prestige of the Academy Awards. Of course, the ceremony sometimes pale in comparison to the glitz and glamour of the subsequent celebration events. West Hollywood is home to several large events that evening.

To accommodate the various Oscar Parties in West Hollywood, the following streets will be closed from 3:00 p.m., Sunday, March 5th to 3:00 a.m., Monday, March 6th.

  • San Vicente between Santa Monica and Melrose
  • Melrose between Almont and Norwich
  • La Peer between Santa Monica and Melrose
  • Southbound Almont between Santa Monica and Melrose
For more information, contact Bonnie Smith-Ruiz at (323) 848-6456.


Oh, the joys of living in a company town.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What a difference a day makes...

My post from yesterday had to be completely redone... probably all for the better. I had deviated from what I had planned to originally post, so I tried to keep some of the mood that I was in yesterday as when I recomposed it... but yesterday is no more. Today is an entirely different day. No need to worry about scaring any skittish people today (what's up with that? Are some people afraid of their own shadows, or are there some who just have the ability to project their fears onto others?).

Maybe my higher power wanted me to type out La Vida Es Un Carnaval twice 'cuz I needed to be hit over the head with the message in the song.

At any rate, today the sun is shining, there is still the faint sound of children playing in the park nearby. The big tent for one of the fabulous after parties this Sunday has been erected right out the window from where I sit.

The snow that graced the mountain peaks in the distance has all melted --the mountains with the ski resorts where there is still snow aplenty are hidden behind them from where I sit at this moment. I've got things to do, and it's somebody else's turn to be morose. I might just take an afternoon stroll up to 'Daddy Starbucks' later, if for no other reason than to feel the warm sun wash over my face. As Mom used to say to us when we were watching television, 'Go out and play! It's a beautiful day outside!'

Who knows, I might even see Joan and Melissa's tour bus go by again (they seem to be on an endless search for a parking space or using their RV as a moving billboard).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


So last night sucked for the most part. I frightened the pink off of some poor white boy's skin. I saw that look of terror in his face one would expect to have if staring at a mad bull that was staring back at ya. You'd have thought I was the first Negro he'd ever seen. Either that, or in a past life he lived on a plantation, in constant fear of a slave uprising, and there was a hatchet missing.

Anyone who knows me would get how ludicrous it is to be frightened of me. It isn't the first time that it has happened; and as for most people of color, we get accustomed to this happening from time to time, that is, to say, if one ever gets accustomed to it. Normally --after years of being around WeHo, especially-- it isn't a problem insulating myself from the dysfunction of others, and despite the number of well-adjusted people in WeHo (Yes, Virginia, they do exist!)t it does tend to live up to it's rep as a magnet for those who may appear okay from a distance but up close one discovers they're just plain... --how can I put this delicately?-- nuts. They give crazy people a bad name.

It was not how I wanted to spend my Mardi Gras. There was no way to excise the feeling that it put me in. I guess for the anniversary of the night before i began my sobriety, I should expect to fell a little out of sorts.

Twenty-five years ago today, I woke up at sunrise at the end of the bus line by the Korean Friendship Bell in San Pedro.
That was one long walk home, believe you me. A number of times since then I've gone back to the site, especially on my anniversary, high on a bluff overlooking the LA & Long Beach harbors with a million dollar view of Santa Catalina Island. There are usually kids flying kites near the old WW II artillery sites. That section of Fort MacArthur has been made into a park dedicated to peace, with a small museum and even a little-used youth hostel. It's easily one of the most beautiful (and surprisingly unknown) picnic spots in all of Los Angeles. A great place to quietly meditate and reflect on my sobriety birthday.

I don't get down there as often as I'd like to; but when I do I never forget that the circumstances of my visit are a far cry from that stormy morning 25 years ago.

Everybody probably has --or ought to, at any rate-- their own special place to go to, even if you can only usually visit it in a day dream. As the town all around me gets ready for Hollywood's! Big! Night! this Sunday, l can't help but think about what has transpired over these last 25 years. So I wasn't able to keep from internalizing the effect of that poor kid staring at me in fear... that ebbs in time. The good news is, thanks to my recovery, I'm not a person who should be feared and avoided like that.

La Vida Es Un Carnaval...

This song is one of my all-time favorites by Celia Cruz. Not only is it a popular, upbeat danceable numer, but the very lyrics seem to lend themselves to a philosophy for my recovery. Considering that Celia Cruz already knew that she was dying of cancer when she wrote it makes it all the more poignant. You don't even need to know Spanish to enjoy it, but I've enclosed a translation of the lyrics I found on the web for anyone who may want it. Sorry that this font doesn't have the necessary accents.

La Vida Es Un Carnaval --Celia Cruz

Todo aquel que piense que la vida es desigual,
Tiene que saber que no es asi,
que la vida es una hermosura,
hay que vivirla.
Todo aquel que piense que esta solo y esta mal,
tiene que saber que no es asi,
que en la vida no hay nadie solo,
siempre hay alguien.

Ay, no ha que llorar,
que la vida es un carnaval,
es mas bello vivir cantando.
Oh, oh, oh, Ay, no hay que llorar,
que la vida es un carnaval
y las penas se van cantando.

Todo aquel que piense la vida siempre es cruel,
tiene que sabe que no es asi,
que tan solo hay momentos malos,
y todo pasa.
Todo aquel que piense que esto nunca va a cambiar,
tiene que saber que no es asi,
que al mal tiempo buena cara,
y todo pasa.

Ay, no ha que llorar,
que la vida es un carnaval,
es mas bello vivir cantando.
Oh, oh, oh, Ay, no hay que llorar,
que la vida es un carnaval,
y las penas se van cantando.

Para aquellos que se quejan tanto.
Para aquellos que solo critican.
Para aquellos que usan las armas.
Para aquellos que nos contamin.
Para aquellos que hacen la guerra.
Para aquellos que viven pecando.
Para aquellos que nos maltratan.
Para aquellos que no contagian.


Everyone out there that thinks that life is unfair,
Needs to know that's not the case,
because life is beautiful,
you just have to live it.
Everyone out there that thinks they are alone and that's bad,
Needs to know that's not the case,
Because in life no one is alone,
there is always someone.

Ay, there's no need to cry,