Books

Something Just Like This

This is something like a Superhero Origin Story.  But without Spiderman or Batman or insert any of your DC or Marvel favorites.  Like Chris Martin said, you won’t see Camden Swanson (the main character of my novel  Lost in the Fog) on that list.

The story I’m about to tell might be inspiring to some, or a cautionary tale of procrastination to others.  I guess it all depends on perspective, and I’ll let you be the judge. This is the long, strange journey of how I came to write my new novel Lost in the Fog.

Back in 2003, after six years of trying to sell my screenplays in Los Angeles, failure had gotten the best of me.  I was frayed, discouraged, and I needed a sabbatical from my life.  I had just published A Model Community, my first novel, which was both exciting (it was pure joy to hold my book in my hands) and disappointing (I wanted it to be my big break, but that never happened).

It wasn’t a fiscally responsible decision, but for my overall health I knew it had to be done.  I quit my job, took a crazy and circuitous 5,000 mile solo trip across the country (that’s a story for another time), and spent five months back in my hometown of Lynn with my family and friends.

I eventually returned to LA in November of 2003, but with a bank account several notches below barren.  I needed a job, and I was open to anything short of pornography or fast food.  But despite having a B.S. in Journalism and a Master’s in Film & Television, nobody would hire me.  Monster.com, headhunters, temp agencies, and sending applications all-around town yielded nothing.

Six weeks into the search I finally got a call back.

It was for the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.  The Gallery Attendant position paid just slightly over minimum wage, and I would be required to wear a tacky blazer and a striped tie and stand for hours and hours at a time.  I happily accepted.

20160511_140855

*****

At the Norton Simon Museum the workforce consisted mainly of retirees and art students, and I was neither.  We weren’t the official security of the place (there was an actual team of trained officers), and instead were called gallery attendants.  Our essential job function was to stand innocuously in a corner and make sure nobody touched the art or leaned on a wall.

After my first shift of standing in several corners throughout the building without talking to one person, I was ready to quit.  My back and shoulders ached, my mind was numb.  I’d been a bartender for years and had no problem being on my feet or enduring the physical requirements of the job, but it was the lack of movement and interaction with people that was daunting.

But I needed the paycheck, so I stayed.

After a few weeks I got used to being a gallery attendant, and it soon became my new normal.  I even began to enjoy my job.  After years of frantically running around behind a bar at warp speed, I saw great value in this meditative calm.

I also began my informal education of art history, and every day I made a point of learning about the various pieces in the museum.  At the end of our shifts they even let us take the audio guides when it was slow, and this was better than any class I took in college.  My stint at the Norton Simon put me on a path of dedicated fine art education that continues today.

Then there was my little black marble notebook.

Back then I used to carry around this 4 ½ by 3 ¼ inch journal, which I used to scribble down whatever crazy thought cascaded into my mind.  In 2004 there were lots of them.  At the bar or on the train or even at home when I couldn’t sleep, I would take it out and write.   I also kept the notebook in my pocket while I stood inert in the galleries at the Norton Simon, and used it whenever I found myself alone.

20170627_224908

On the first day when I wrote in the journal while on the clock, I figured (since there were cameras everywhere) I would be told to stop.  I’d only been working there a few weeks, and if confronted, I was planning to feign ignorance.  I had never been shown a rule that said you could not record your bizarre musings in a 4 ½ by 3 ¼ inch journal.  But none of the managers at the museum said anything, and with this tacit approval I wrote every shift in that small black book in empty galleries.

Sometimes it was about the Norton Simon paintings and sculptures, but often there were strange forces working inside my head that told me to scribble down nonsense poetry.  While I always believed in my ability to write journalism, fiction, and screenplays, I had never aspired to be the next Dylan Thomas, Langston Hughes, or Emily Dickinson.  But while standing there in my Buddha-like trance in an empty gallery surrounded by Botticelli’s, Reuben’s, Van Gough’s, and Matisse’s, I was compelled to write these insane poems.

Here is one from April 2004 that I wrote during a shift:

It’s all in the medulla oblongata, she claims

If you wanted radioactive jelly you should have asked/

Don’t cost nothing

These searing head plays/

Keep licking the toads

Cause she plays checkers for breakfast

No, I was not drinking or smoking anything funny or had suffered a head trauma that day.  These were the kind of bizarre thoughts that would pinball around my brain in an empty room full of priceless art treasures.  And yes, since I’m sure you’re asking, I did wonder if I was beginning to crack-up.

And then one day a thought arrived that wasn’t a kooky poem.  It was a fragment of a premise for a mystery novel, one involving an art heist. I quickly took out my tiny little black marble notebook.

The idea for Lost in the Fog came to me while standing post in the Renaissance Room while looking at a Botticelli.  It was a painting called “Madonna and Child with Adoring Angel”, and while I’d studied the picture many times before, something that day ignited a creative spark.   The museum was about to close and it was so quiet and calm.  The opposite of that would be yelling and violence, and my mind conjured up a group of thieves busting in and trying to steal this Botticelli.

I immediately knew this could make a good story.

20170627_232257

********

I still find it hard to believe it all began back in 2004.

That year and the next (when I left LA and moved to San Francisco) I wrote about 150 pages of Lost in the Fog.  But I soon got very busy with my new career (human resources for a large hotel in Union Square), and abandoned the novel.  It was four years later in 2008 I picked it up again, and I set a goal of writing five hours every Saturday and Sunday.  I stuck to this and had a first draft completed by Labor Day.

After reading through the manuscript upon completion, I knew, like Hemingway said of first drafts, it was shit.   But I loved Camden and Veronica (the main characters), and I believed had something special with the story.  The plan, back in 2008, was to let it sit for a few months and then come back with fresh eyes and rewrite it.

In January of 2009 I started working for a new company, and next thing I knew it was September (a whole year after I finished the first draft).   I had done absolutely nothing with Lost in the Fog.  And then it was 2010, and I got a promotion and then another in a short amount of time.

Lost in the Fog never left my mind, and being a professional writer was still my dream, but with my new successful career at the hotel I abandoned it.  I just could not muster the energy after work or even on the weekends to begin the massive rewrite the novel needed.  As much as I loved my job and the people I worked with, my creativity began to fade in proportion to my success in the hospitality industry.

Flash forward to 2012 and I ask my company for a quasi-sabbatical to rewrite Lost in the Fog.  They gratefully grant this request.  I begin doing contract work for them at various hotels around the country, but in-between my assignments I’m allowed weeks of free time to work on my novel.  This makes me very happy.  That year I revised Lost in the Fog half a dozen times, and in October I had a draft to send off to agents and publishers.

Then in November 2012, my company sent me to Honolulu, Hawaii.

My temporary assignment was to spend a month to help transition our new 839 room hotel in Waikiki.  I figured I would go and do my job, enjoy the island in my free time, and return to San Francisco to devote myself to getting Lost in the Fog published.  It seemed like a great idea.

******

Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”.

The temp gig at the hotel became permanent, and while it was not part of my plans, I am extremely grateful I stayed here.  Hawaii could be the best place I’ve ever lived, and the people I work with are all amazing.  I feel so lucky to have a job that I enjoy doing, and to be at a place where I feel like I can make a positive impact on people’s lives.

But I was never been able to forgive myself for abandoning Lost in the Fog.

Whenever I thought of my novel, which was often, it caused deep feelings of regret.  While I had certainly been consumed with work, there was no excuse I had done nothing with Lost in the Fog after settling in Honolulu.  No excuse at all.

The calendar flipped to 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and I still had done zilch to sell the book I had started in 2003.   Through the years I had probably sent out a total of 10 query letters to agents, where the advice is to do hundreds if you want a chance to garner any interest from agents or publishers.  Out of the only 10 I sent, not surprisingly, I received a perfect percentage of thanks, but no thanks.

Rejection stings, whether it’s in your career ambitions, someone you want to be your significant other, or your art.   It was all I ever got with my screenplays in Los Angeles.  Any psychiatrist will tell you I didn’t put Lost in the Fog out into the world because I feared it would receive the same fate.  I self-diagnosed this phobia many years ago, but I could still do nothing to fix it.

********

And then three months ago my great friend Todd told me about the publishing house called Inkshares.

A middle ground between self and traditional publishing, they seemed a perfect place for me to publish Lost in the Fog.  And the fact that Inkshares has a collaboration with United Talent Agency (UTA), one of the top agencies in LA, made it even more intriguing.  All I needed was to get 250 pre-orders of my novel.

new

Thanks to all of you, I have accomplished that goal.  But as amazing as that is, I still have a bigger goal to attain.  250 pre-orders will get you published and your book is available to purchase online, but with no marketing/promotion and just basic editing by Inkshares.  But if I can get 750 pre-orders or be one of the winners of their annual Launch Pad Contest, I will receive full publishing/marketing/promotion and Lost in the Fog would be sold in bookstores.

The Top 3 in unique pre-sales are automatic winners, and I’m currently in second place in the annual Inkshares Launchpad Contest.

Contest Leaderboard 7.16.17

The contest goes until November, so there’s still a long way to go.  I would be so thrilled to be one of the winners, and for Lost in the Fog to be sold in bookstores around the country.  It has been my ultimate dream for as long as I can remember.

For those who have already pre-ordered Lost in the Fog, I have immense gratitude for you.  For those who are thinking about getting a copy, I would be so grateful if you did.  It’s only $10 for a Kindle/Nook/Apple copy, and only $20 for a printed one. You can pre-order Lost in the Fog here:

https://www.inkshares.com/books/lost-in-the-fog

While the road to publish Lost in the Fog has been a meandering thirteen year trip, it’s one I’m glad I was able to take.  You can view my story as something that compels you to accomplish your goals as soon as possible, or else a comforting one that rewards patience and perseverance.

It’s all up to you.

Books

Lost in the Fog Book Trailer

Hi All,

I’m very excited to share with you the trailer for my new novel “Lost in the Fog”.  Thus far I’ve received 226 pre-orders of my book, and I only need 24 more to fulfill my obligation with Inkshares to receive publication.

It’s impossible to describe how grateful I am for all the support I’ve received, but I will say thank you, merci, and mahalo!

I would be so appreciative if you can help push me over the top to the goal of 250 pre-orders.  “Lost in the Fog” is set in San Francisco and is funny, dramatic, and will keep you turning pages to figure out the mystery of who stole the rare Matisse sculptures and why!  The link is here and I hope you enjoy the trailer.  Thanks!

https://www.inkshares.com/books/lost-in-the-fog

movies

The Case for La La Land

20161225_224405.png

La La Land won seven Golden Globes, the most ever by a single film in history.  It also garnered fourteen Oscar nominations, tying the record for that, and won six.  It was my favorite film of 2016.

Because of all those factors, and others I’ll explain later, I had to take a second, more critical look at La La Land.  Many of my favorites have been nominated for Best Picture, but the only one I saw in the theater that ever won was The Hurt Locker.  That made me think…had I just been charmed by La La Land or was it really that good?

After my second viewing tonight, I actually loved it even more.  La La Land is really that good. The montage that ends the film is pure magic, and overall I can truly say it represents everything that is great about the movies.

After watching it on Blu-ray tonight, it also got me thinking why the film, which was originally praised by critics and audiences,  received an inordinate amount of nasty backlash just before the Oscars.  One of the biggest disses was an article that appeared in USA Today called “The Case Against La La Land”.  I will always have complete respect for everyone’s opinion (and know that dissent is not only healthy but important), but I think the person who wrote the piece just didn’t get the film.

Unfortunately that article was just the beginning…there were others that mushroomed up just before the Oscars, which led to the surprising defeat of La La Land for Best Picture.

I’m all for varying opinions, especially when everyone is fawning over a film, and it’s always a good idea to take a second, more critical look.  If it’s deserving, someone should take a few whacks at it.  We should routinely question why the public have anointed anything “great”.

One of the arguments against La La Land, which I’d seen in a few articles, was that the main characters are thinly drawn.  At their core, Sebastian and Mia have real, tangible goals that they are passionate about achieving.  In drama, if you can make an audience believe that and also get them to root for their success, you have real, three dimensional characters.

You also don’t have to shove exposition and backstory about down the audience’s throat to make characters real.  I’m on the Hemingway side that its actually the opposite . . . if you tell the story right and true, you can leave many things out and it will make it stronger (the “Iceberg Theory”). The goal should always be (no matter how you go about it) to get a viewer to connect emotionally with a character.  If that’s accomplished then the writer, director, and actors (and everyone else who worked on the film) have done something special.  And Mr. Chazelle, Mrs. Stone, and Mr. Gosling did something special.

I also completely disagree with the argument that many of the songs are “lackluster and dull” (quoting that USA Today article).  I bought the soundtrack on iTunes the night I saw La La Land and the lyrics and music are excellent (“City of Stars” is something Cole Porter might have wrote back in the day).  I still listen to it.

Maybe the majority of today’s audiences just can’t grasp musicals.  Granted, it’s quite odd to see people just randomly break into song and dance.  Or even if you can accept musicals for what they are in theory, a lot of people don’t know how to properly critique them because they don’t have the necessary knowledge/history of the genre to do so.

For whatever reason I have always loved musicals (Singing in the RainAn American in Paris, and Guys & Dolls are three of my favorite movies).  That being said, the first time I saw La La Land, as I was watching the first two numbers (“Another Day of Sun” and “Someone in the Crowd”) I was thinking “This is a bit weird” . . . here’s  a musical and I don’t know the songs.  That gut reaction is because we’re so used to singing along with musicals that have been around for a long time.

La La Land is completely new, and has original songs.  Most people who come to thefilm have never heard any of the music.  Would critics have preferred the scenes to have been scored with songs from “Grease” or “Hairspray” or “My Fair Lady”?  I certainly wouldn’t.

I haven’t seen Moonlight yet (I really want to), and it very well may be the better film.  But . . . and this is a big question to ask . . . why does Moonlight’s story rate higher on the importance scale than La La Land?   Yes, it certainly seems more dramatic and intense, but should that matter?  To me film transcends race, color, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, and all other categories you can name.

I think Richard Linklater (through the character Jessie) said it best in Before Sunset:

“So when I look at my own life, you know, I have to admit, right, that I’ve-I’ve never been around a bunch of guns or violence, you know, not really. No political intrigue or a helicopter crashes. But my life, from my own point of view, has been full of drama. And I thought, if I could write a book that, that could capture what it’s like to, to really meet somebody, I mean, one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me is to meet somebody, to make that connection. And if I could make that valuable, you know, to capture that, that would be the attempt.”

With movies (in my opinion), the goal isn’t to judge which character had it “harder” in life . . . in the La La Land vs Moonlight comparison of course it would be the latter.  We should be examining drama, plot, characters, emotional connection, how it makes us feel . . .  the heart of filmmaking.  Yes, the stakes need to be high in order for a movie to be considered “Important”, but love and pursuing your dreams and passion and giving your all to whatever makes you feel alive, will always be some of the most important stories we can tell.

Either I was smiling at the magical dancing/singing/music/cinematography of La La Land, or I was astounded at how good the performances were, or I was hit with a dizzying nostalgia at my own days of trying to succeed in Hollywood.  The film is extremely entertaining, but more importantly the subtext is rich and it has a lot to say about dreams, ambition, and the choices we make in life.  It also isn’t spoon-feeding you a “message” . . . the film wants you to make your own opinions and thoughts about the price you pay for following your dreams.

If you haven’t seen La La Land, I highly recommend you check it out.

 

Books

Lost in the Fog, My New Novel

new

A little over fourteen years ago my first novel, A Model Community, was published.  At that time I was living in LA and had written several screenplays, but had I failed to get them noticed by anyone in Hollywood.  I was certain my novel would be my ticket to success, the thing to launch my career as a professional writer.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

While to this day I remain very proud of A Model Community, it went nowhere in terms of sales.  If you go to the Amazon page, it’s ranked 233,312 in all books.  While I still do get the occasional royalty check, it never even paid for one month of rent.  Like the fate of all the screenplays I had written, mostly everyone ignored it.

Instead of starting my career as a professional writer, A Model Community almost ended it.  Not too long after its publication I began working in hotels and in the profession of human resources.  Unlike writing, this new accidental career was very good to me.  I am grateful that I have had so much success in the hospitality field, but even more thankful for all the wonderful people I have met.  I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.

But I still can’t let go of my dream of being a professional writer.

I have also never stopped writing.  Since the publication of A Model Community in 2003, I’ve written one script, several short stories, one play, one more novel, and am currently working on a third book of fiction.  My job as an HR Director takes up most of my time, but I’m able to find hours at night and over the weekend to write.

I finished the first draft of my second novel, Lost in the Fog, in 2008.  Over the next five years I rewrote the thing over a dozen times, and finally declared it the best it could possibly be.  And what did I do after all that hard work?

I printed it and shoved the manuscript in my desk.

It doesn’t take a $300 an hour psychiatrist to figure out why I didn’t try to do anything with Lost in the Fog.  All of my efforts in LA to find success with my scripts and my book ended in failure.  While I absolutely loved (and continue to love) the process of writing, the mass rejection of my work had taken a huge toll.  Working on a project brought me so much happiness, but trying to sell it to agents/producers/publishers was just pure misery.

So here we are in 2017, and I have decided to do something with Lost in the Fog.  A few days ago I listed it on Inkshares, a great company that helps writers reach their dream.  If you’re able to get a minimum of 250 pre-orders of your book, they’ll edit and publish it.  If your book gets 750 pre-orders, they’ll give it the full marketing and promotion treatment as well.  Important to note that writers cannot fund their own book, so I’m not able to help my own cause.

Whoever is reading this blog post now, I would sincerely appreciate your support in pre-ordering a copy of Lost in the Fog.  I’m very proud of this book, and I’m certain you’re going to think my comedic mystery set in San Francisco is a great read.  It’s for those who enjoy classic crime & mystery capers but with a modern twist. In movie terms, I like to think of it as The Big Lebowski meets The Thomas Crown Affair.

I thank everyone in advance of their support!  You can pre-order a copy of it here!  Mahalo!

Politics

Grief Management with Jimmy Kimmel

jimmy-kimmel

Five Stages of Grief

I’m slowly coming out of the anger stage . . . still three more to go to acceptance. And more importantly, in so much doom and gloom these last couple of days, I never want to lose my sense of humor. Once that is gone the bad guys truly win….Thank you, Jimmy Kimmel, for reminding me of that.

There’s a film I’ve been thinking about which has brought that advice to the front of my consciousess.  I’ve always loved “About Last Night”, based on David Mamet’s play,  and there’s a great scene where Bernie (played by Jim Belushi) implores his friend Dan (played by a very young Rob Lowe) to :”Don’t ever lose your sense of humor. Don’t EVER lose your sense of humor”.  Jim Belushi might not be a top thesbian, but he kills it in this part and the scene has always stuck with me.

Surprisingly (and disspointingly) there isn’t a You Tube link to this scene in the classic 1986 film.   And if you want to watch its only available on DVD from Netflix and for a price (rental or purchase) on Amazon (I used to own the VHS of “About Last Night”, and I still have the DVD purchased at Ameoba Records in SF many years ago).  Anyway, here’s the trailer of the film and a link to the video of the end credits song (which is basically just a montage of the film).

Thank you, 1980s and thank you, John Waite.

Getting back on point . . .  over the last couple of days I kept hearing Jim Belushi’s voice in “About Last Night” (as Bernie) when he implores his best friend Dan to”Don’t ever lose your sense of humor”.  The film was 30 years ago and that quote completely out of context to a political election, but nonetheless great advice and very relevant right now.

That’s all I got for tonight.  While I might not like what happened on November 8th, I’m keeping my sense of humor no matter what.  And in closing, here is a link to a video of French Bulldog puppies . . .

Politics

Idiocracy Epitomized

electrolytes-newthumb

I couldn’t have been any more wrong.

The fact that there are millions of others who got it complexly wrong doesn’t provide any solace on this dark night.  Seeing the graphic on my TV set “Donald Trump Elected President” is like stepping into a DC Comics’ Bizarro World  … or an alternate reality like The Man in the High CastleThe joke is now truly on all of us.

It’s now time for some serious introspection.  I truly believed that the majority of this country would not vote for a candidate who spewed fear, hate, racism, and sexism.  I truly believed that we had more character and would not ignore key human values of decency and kindness and rational thought for what . . . some hypothetical Supreme Court nominee or a political agenda?

I couldn’t have been any more wrong.

This is a bad flashback to the year 2000.  I remember watching the election returns in a bar in Hollywood called the Frolic 2 (which is no longer in existence).  The six or seven of us who stayed until last call were all just dumbfounded that the race was that close, and that Gore could actually lose.  As the clock passed 2 am and the race still had not been called, the bartender let us stay and gave us beer for free (since they couldn’t legally sell it at that hour).

At some point we all came to the realization that nobody would be elected president that night/early morning, and we left the bar in a daze that had nothing to do with the booze.  I remember walking back to my apartment on June Street with my good buddy Bradleigh, and we both knew we had just witnessed an ugly point in American history.  But there was still hope for Gore to win.

As it got later in the game tonight and all signs were pointing toward a Trump victory, I was still holding out hope that Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would be close enough to warrant a recount.  But it would not be, and Clinton conceded.  And even if we got the recount like sixteen years ago, back then it still ended badly.

This is 2000 all over again, except at least back then you could say George Bush (even if you disagreed with his politics) held some core competencies to be president and was a decent human being.  Trump falls short on both counts.  What that man did during the election, even if half of what he said he didn’t really believe and it was only done to get votes, was embarrassing.

I didn’t think the good people of this country would endorse Donald Trump.

I couldn’t have been any more wrong.

“Anybody who thinks that it doesn’t matter who’s president’ has never been drafted and sent off to fight and die in a vicious, stupid war on the other side of the world — or been beaten and gassed by police for trespassing on public property — or been hounded by the IRS for purely political reasons — or locked up in the Cook County Jail with a broken nose and no phone access and twelve perverts wanting to stomp your ass in the shower. That is when it matters who is president or governor or police chief. That is when you will wish you had voted.”

-Hunter S. Thompson, from “Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness Modern History from the Sports Desk”

“Human evolution was at a turning point. Natural selection, the process by which the strongest, the smartest, the fastest, reproduced in greater numbers than the rest, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down. How did this happen? Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most, and left the intelligent to become an endangered species.”

-Narrator from “Idiocracy”, written by Mike Judge and Etan Cohen.

 

Politics

Fear & Loathing on Election Eve

download-2

It’s after five a.m. on the East coast and the polls on the mainland will be opening soon.  Here in Hawaii we’ll be the last state to cast our votes in this historic Presidential Election.  While we’ll be making history in that we’re either going to elect our first female president or our most completely unqualified one, unfortunately those narratives are engulfed by another larger one.

This presidential election will go down as the nadir of American politics, where you felt thoroughly sullied just being a spectator of it all.

I’m not very political, and I’ve voted for both democrats and republicans in my lifetime.  I am very happy to say I am the antithesis of being partisan, and I respect differences of opinion.  When it comes to important decisions, I will learn as much as I can about it and make the most informed choice.

That being said, the fact that America is “this close” to electing a person who unequivocally would go down as the worst human being to ever lead our country, depresses the shit out of me.    And I’m not talking about political party affiliation or platforms or anything associated with policy.  Donald Trump is just clearly everything any decent person should be against.  He’s a nefarious bully who preaches fear and hate and who has no interest in listening or being rational.  He’s shown no kindness, and certainly has not exhibited an ounce of Aloha, a core value of the state where I now live.

I remember laughing a few times at the beginning of the Trump campaign, thinking it was so outlandish that such a buffoon was running for the highest office in America.  This was primary season, where any nutter with enough money can get on the ballot.  I remember thinking that it was funny, and I was certain the voters would be diligent enough in the vetting process to eliminate someone so unqualified.

But as we sit here on the eve of the election and ABC says it’s 47% to 43% Hilary, I am not in any way laughing now.

Although I still believe Trump has no chance on winning.  The polls you see on TV and online and all the doomsayers who predict a Republican victory only exist to increase ratings and garner more clicks and likes.  If you dig deeper into the analytics of the state-by-state Electoral College make-up, Clinton is going to be our next President.

By tomorrow afternoon Hawaii Time, the Donald will be preparing his concession speech.  And it will be the most hate-filled, hyperbolic, and most insulting to our democracy concession speech in the history of presidential politics.  And it will hurt your ears and eyes to listen and watch.  You will cringe and feel embarrassed for him.

**********

I can only hope this election will serve as a wake-up call to our country.  And I think it will at least from a political standpoint for both parties.  But if Donald Trump receives anything close to 40% of the popular vote, that speaks to an uglier fission that a “wake-up call” cannot fix. It’s already clear we’re a divided nation of politics, geography, education, income, and just about any other demographic you can create.  But if such a hate-filled candidate can garner that much support, we’re in deeper trouble than I ever imagined.

Which makes me appreciate my adopted state of Hawaii even more than I already do.  Where I live, there is such a welcoming culture and community.   While there are differences in politics, at the end of the day you’ll never be judged by the affiliation of a party but what kind of person you are. There are core values to the people who live in Hawaii, and because of that I could never see this state voting for a candidate of hate . . .  for one that has no Aloha.

And that is the only thing about this election that makes me smile.

 

 

Sports

World Series Preview

1920x1200_bos_holiday_wp_3
2013, such a magical ride for the Red Sox

Sports is not real life.

Or rather, watching sports and rooting for your favorite team and linking your happiness or sadness to the outcome of a game that you are just a spectator to is not “real life”.  Win or lose, you’ll still get up in the morning, get dressed, go into work, and deal with things that would be happening if that game never took place.  If your team celebrates a championship or laments a failed playoff run, you will not be shaking champagne with them or patting anyone on the back in consolation in the locker room.

I’ve known this since I was young, and I am even more acutely aware of it now that I’m older.

So why do I still take sports so seriously?  Why do I get so elated when my teams win, and descend into depression when they lose?  Why did I get so upset a couple of weeks ago when the Red Sox lost to the Indians in the playoffs?

I’m sure it is tied into simple Freudian-type analysis.  For most of us, our lives are devoid of the opportunity of glory of the larger than life variety.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  While rarely epic, we still have the opportunity on a daily basis to make our significant others, family members, friends, co-workers, or even strangers happy.  We should always have that as a goal, and when it happens should celebrate it as a great day.  I surely do.

Glory should never be a pre-requisite of satisfaction, and such a concept is so far removed from our everyday lives we don’t even consciously seek it.  But the Epic Moment, the (as Lloyd Dobbler once said), “Dare-to-be-Great-Situation”, is something we still crave on a deeper atavistic level.

lloyd-dobbler-2
“I am looking for a dare to be great situation.”

If you’re lucky, you might get one in your life.  Or if you’re blessed by the gods of chance, maybe two or three.  But most of us will never experience something that fits the “according to Hoyle” definition of a Heroic Moment.

So for me, and millions of others whether they realize it or not, that is an allure of sports…the chance to witness and vicariously have a “Dare-to-be-Great” situation where you have ultimate victory.   And “sports” is actually not the apt word for this.  I can watch Tiger Woods playing golf and root for him, but at the end of the day I don’t really care if he wins or loses. The New England Revolution is the pro soccer team of the area where I come from, and while I hope they do well I have never followed them.  Rooting for Team USA during the Olympics is fun and there’s national pride to give a tendril of emotional attachment, but those games/matches will never have the same meaning as ones by the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics.

For the wins or the magic moments of a sporting game to mean anything to me, there must be a deep emotional attachment to the team and to the players.

This feeling cannot be faked.  It cannot be manufactured after following a team for a few games or even a few seasons.  You earn emotional attachment by investing your heart and soul into years and decades of following and rooting for the success of a team in which you have zero control over.

And if you’re lucky, well actually let’s just say “really f’n lucky”, you’ll get to see your team win a World Series, an NBA Championship, a Stanley Cup, or a Superbowl.  And if you are “off-the-charts-stupid-lucky”, there will be amazing moments during that championship run that bring your team back from sure defeat.  Walk-off homeruns, epic 4th quarter comebacks, three goal deficits erased against your rival, and maybe even an interception on the goal-line to get your team the Lombardi Trophy.

20150201_200719-1
I still cannot believe that this is my photo, that I was at this game!

 

I’ve got to witness all of that and more in the last 15 years, and I am extremely grateful for this amazing luck.   Four Superbowl victories (the last one I witnessed in person), three World Series titles, one Stanley Cup, and one NBA Finals victory.  There has been Tom Brady and Big Papi and Paul Pierce and Zdeno Chara and a host of other legendary Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins that I have been lucky enough to have on my side.

As we head into the World Series, I wish the fans of both the Cubs and the Indians the best of luck.  Chicago hasn’t even been to the Series since 1945, and it’s 108 years since they won it all!  Cleveland made it to Game 7 of the Championship in 1997 (their last appearance), only to lose in the 9th inning to a then five-year-old franchise when they could not close it out.  Their last title was 68 years ago!

20160328_222607-1
Although I have no deep emotional attachment to the Cubs, I do feel a kindred spirit with their fans and I love their ballpark

I’ve been to Wrigley Field and still have that Cubs fishing hat I got there decades ago.  I’ll be rooting for them, but at the end of the day with no true emotional attachment I am hoping for a competitive and fun World Series.  But no matter what happens it’s nice to know that one team will make a long-suffering fan base collectively experience that Dare-to-be-Great-Situation, that ultimate feeling of victory.

 

 

 

 

Sports · Uncategorized

The Dude vs. The NFL – A Look Back into the Archives

I’ve been in a writing funk recently, so I’m going back to my old (and original) blog from 2007 for some material.  I feel this entry is an apt one to repost, since my favorite football team played on Thursday and today I was left adrift with NFL games I truly didn’t want to watch.  But this Sunday, unlike my choices from 9 years ago, I decided to read a book instead of subjecting myself to the shitty games that were broadcast here in Honolulu.

But fun to look back at a Sunday almost a decade ago . . .

Thursday, December 13, 2007


 

This year The Patriots have played many games out of the normal Sunday afternoon schedule. And while it’s great to see your team compete on National TV, it presents challenges. If you’re married or in a serious relationship, there probably isn’t much of a problem. You clean your garage, you cut the hedges, you go to the multiplex to that romantic comedy with your special lady friend, or you spend a little more quality time with your children.

But if you’re single and live in a studio apartment. . . .

My God, it really forces you to take ugly looks at yourself.

The Patriots beat The Steelers last Sunday, and it was their first normally scheduled game in the last month. The previous three contests were all played at night, and it’s made Sunday afternoons extremely taxing. Take for example December 2nd. Living in San Francisco, the only game on my TV set was the 49ers and the Carolina Panthers. I didn’t want to watch even a second of it, but for some reason I switched the channel to Fox. I guess my brain waves have been wired to pant like a Pavlovian Dog for QB sneaks and shotgun formations and safety blitzes.

But I regreted my decision quickly. Only three minutes into the game the announcers (guys I’ve never even heard of . . . the Z team of Fox) have referred to Vinny Testerverde as “The Old Guy” at least 12 times. They even put it on their graphics as San Francisco’s key to the game: “Don’t Let The Old Guy Beat You”.

And here are the highlights of the first quarter:

*San Francisco calls a timeout before they punt.
*The timeout seems to be a genius move when Carolina muffs the punt and the 49ers look like they recover the ball. On the field the officials first signal SF ball and then give it back to the Panthers.
*It looks like the officials blew the call, but The 49ers coach, Mike Nolan, doesn’t challenge.
*Vinny, aka “The Old Guy”, has 1st and goal from the 3 but cannot score.
*It’s week 13 and the Panthers have yet to win a game at home.

I check ESPN hoping they’re showing The World Series of Poker. Instead it’s The Great Lakes Classic, a bowling event. Walter Ray Williams needs two strikes AND two pins to beat the immortal Mike Scroggins. This is tense. First strike wipes out all the pins quickly. His next strike is more dramatic, with the last pin wobbling before it falls. He only needs two more . . . and gets the win when he knocks down seven.

This is what happens when you live in a city with two bad NFL teams.

I shudder knowing the game after this will be the 3-8 Raiders. But I switch back to the “football” game. Here are some more stellar statistics:

*With 10:07 left in the half Carolina has used all their timeouts.
*Testerverde throws a TD, and it’s the Panthers first TD at home in something like 80 quarters.
*The 49ers somehow convert a 3rd down and keep a drive alive. Of course they end up punting four plays later, but damn they must have felt good about getting 10 yards in a series.

Back to bowling.

It’s now the women’s championship. It’s Carolyn Dorin-Ballard vs. Diandra Asbaty. Dorin-Ballard has a lunch lady vibe about her. She could easily be a tough aunt from your Dad’s side of the family that nobody fucks with. Asbady is actually cute, a red head with a nice smile who seems as if she enjoys drinking beer and, well . . . bowling. Both of these women have their names on the back of their shirts. Not printed, like a football player, but their signatures embodied into the material. When I notice this I flip back to the other game.

Trent Dilfer, who for some reason is the starting QB for San Francisco, gets sacked. It is only the 11th sack of the season for The Panthers. Dilfer then throws an INT which is returned for a touchdown. It’s 17-0 Carolina.

Could professional women’s bowling be better?

Yes. Yes it is.

Asbaty makes two strikes in a row. While I’m trying to figure out how old she is (my guess is 29), the announcers say she “has finally figured out the lane”. Figured out she was throwing a ball at ten pins from the same distance as every bowler does in the world? Is there a sand trap that creeped up without us noticing?

Then the announcer says that Asbaty wanted him to give a “shot out” to her grandmother.

Okay . . . switching to the football game Dilfer gets sacked again (The Panthers now have 12 on the season . . . my God- this is exciting). But I somehow pry my vision from the intense action and glance at the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen. The Dolphins lead the Jets 13-10. For a few seconds I ponder whether I’d rather be in Miami watching their winless club duel the hapless NY Jets. It’s a tough choice- their shit sandwich to the one that is now on Fox? There is no way to answer that question except to watch some bowling.

It’s too bad I’m not watching The Dude, Walter, and Donnie advance to next Round Robin.

Instead we’re now in the last frame of The Great Lakes Classic Championship. Asbaty needs a mark to win. They flash a graphic that says she was part of a NCAA Championship team from Nebraska in 1999 & 2001. That would put her at about 27 or 28 (I was close). I wonder how it would feel to date a professional bowler. Would she talk about 7-10 splits while in bed? Does she have a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be bowling”? Could she drink me under the table?

And then Asbaty rolls . . . she gets a nine. I was hoping for somebody to yell “OVER THE LINE” and pull out their “piece” on the lanes. Mark it an 8! Am I the only one that cares about the rules?!!

No such luck. This is not The Big Lebowski come to life. One more pin and Asbaty is the winner. She gets it and is all tears. And then a guy rushes up and hugs her, who The announcers say is her husband. The dream is over.

film-the_big_lebowski-1998-the_dude-jeff_bridges-bottoms-pj_pants

With the “NFL Game” Dilfer has just thrown an interception with 1:24 left in the half. But Carolina doesn’t have any timeouts, and the “Old Guy” has to rush. The second quarter comes to an end after Vinny throws a ball that is astutely described by JC Pearson as being “way underthrown”.

It’s getting close to noon and I have yet to step outside. I would like to have the last hour and half back in my life, but I’ll simply have to use it as a good life lesson. I get outside for a walk and some lunch, and when I return I see the San Francisco 49ers were somehow worse than the Carolina Panthers today. Next time I will show more fortitude: when The Patriots are not playing on a Sunday morning/afternoon I will immediately leave the apartment.

Uncategorized

15 Years

img_20120805_184832

Ten or twenty or whatever-even-year-anniversaries are easy opportunities to reflect on an important moment, whether it’s completely personal or a shared experience of the world.  In a way it’s lazy, but I guess it’s human nature to repress things until we’re prodded by external forces (such as a calendar) to confront them.  So here it is . . . fifteen years since September 11, 2001.

Has it really been fifteen years?

We all remember where we were.  I was at 3270 Descanso Drive in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles   I was scheduled to work at 10 am that morning at California Pizza Kitchen and awoke at my usual nine am, just enough time to shower and scramble and get in my VW Pasaat Wagon that would zoom me through the surface streets to downtown LA.  I did the same thing every day.

But something was wrong.

That morning the phone kept ringing and ringing.  I’m almost positive my roommate Fozzie was gone that day.  I can’t remember why . . . the details are escaping me, but I think he had gone up to Ventura because I can’t remember speaking to him.  But for sure nobody answered the phone and there had to be at least 3 calls.

The night before I had gone to Taix, the French place in my neighborhood that was an old- school upscale restaurant with this great retro lounge.  I went there with a few of my CPK  compadres to drink after our shift and watch Monday Night Football.  I can’t recall who was playing, but I do remember flirting with the hostess and experiencing an overall feeling of fun.  Our group in that dark lounge on Sunset Boulevard was a good one, doing shots and laughing and it was the kind of night, although very simple, that at 31 you’re old enough to realize how lucky you are to experience it.

But back to the wretched morning, Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  I wasn’t hung-over, but the night before I certainly had too many drinks and not enough sleep.  The phone rang several times and I was too tired to answer it.  So when my alarm went off at 9:00 am, I hit snooze and tried to get a few more minutes of glorious slumber.  When the clock radio went off again, something told me to listen to the answering machine.  Nobody called us that early, and back then (when the land line was the only show in town) hearing the phone ring during the dead of night or early in the morning almost certainly meant bad news.   When I got out of bed and listened to the answering machine, I heard the shaky and sullen voice of one of the lead servers at CPK.  His name was Tirso and he said something to the effect:

“Hi, Mike.  We’re not going to open today.  I’m sure you probably know why.  I’m calling everybody and, um, I don’t know if we’re going to open tomorrow.”

I immediately went to the TV.  Just past nine am Pacific Time the Towers were already gone.  It was all so terrible, but I sat there and watched for hours.  I recall going online and getting the instant reaction to what was being called the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.  At some point that morning I called my Mom, and I remember being scared and feeling so happy to hear her voice.  I know I also called a bunch of friends, but other than my Mom I can’t remember any of the conversations.

After digesting more news on TV and online, I had to get out of the apartment.  I had a basket of dirty clothes and took it to the laundromat.  There was one other person there, the attendant, and we nodded to each other when I entered.  I can’t remember if there was a TV there, but I certainly didn’t look at it.  After loading my items into the washer I sat outside in one of the plastic chairs and just zoned-out in the sunny and warm day.

I’ll never forget sitting there, questioning myself on whether or not I should be doing laundry.  I remember getting a flash in my head, imagining my future grandchildren asking me what I did on September 11th.  I would have to look the kids in the eyes and tell them I cleaned my dirty socks and underwear.

But what else could I do?  I was alone and I needed to get away, from the television, the internet and from the spot I learned the world had changed.  A cute girl in her 20s walked in to do laundry at some point, and when she went outside for a cigarette we chatted for a few minutes about the shock of the day and she went back inside.  I had brought my notebook with me that day and this is what I scribbled:

Tuesday

September 11, 2011

3:28 pm

 

     The World Trade Center is gone.

     Both towers.

     Gone.

     Six years ago I was on the top of one of those buildings in the outside observation deck, getting my photo taken and basking in the beautiful New York day.  You know there were people on top when it happened.  It sickens me to think of that.

     I really haven’t been able to digest all this craziness.  U.S. commercial planes smashing into the buildings.  Thousands of people dying.  Hijacked jets flying into the Twin Towers and Pentagon.

     How do you react?  How can one comprehend something that doesn’t seem real?  It’s as if you’re watching a movie or a computer simulation.  With such a horrendous act of terrorism on American soil how can life go on as normal?

     How can it not?

     Our best defense as an individual is to try and go on with our daily lives.  Because what’s the alternative?  Cowering in complete fear underneath our beds?  Crying and moaning over the fragility of our existence?   Yes, we need to understand the horror of today.  Yes, we can never forget this fucking cowardly and insane act.  But we can’t let these assholes ruin or even change our spirit of freedom.

     As I wrote earlier, I need more time to articulate all of my feelings.  Sitting here on the corner of Glendale and Fletcher in Los Angeles, I’m trying to keep it all together.  Laundry is something that needs to be done in everyday life and I’m here doing it.  Should I be with friends and loved ones now?  Perhaps, but my family is 3,000 miles away, I don’t have a girlfriend, and I guess there is a big part of me that just wants to be alone and think and contemplate my life.  Fuck . . . I don’t know what else to say now.

As much as I try I can’t remember what I did later that evening, but I definitely had a lot of booze.  All I can recall is sitting on the back stairs, staring out to the skyline of L.A. and being spooked that there were no airplanes in the sky.  At some point I picked up my journal and here is what I wrote later on that night.

Early Wed- 1:07 am

September 12

 

     It might not be over.

     Shit . . . I mean how can we be certain?  L.A. is a huge fucking target, and nobody can know if we’re not next.  I work on the bottom of a stupid skyscraper.  And while the Ernst & Young Building isn’t a symbol of America it’s a tall goddamned building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.  Do I even want to go near the place, or even such a major metropolitan area that could be attacked in all kinds of nefarious ways?

     No.

     This is fucking ridiculous.  I’ve seen the TV clips of the towers collapsing over and over and over again.  It’s so insane.  The sound gets to me almost as much as the images.  Crunching metal and screams and the explosions.  And the people jumping off the 70th floor, tumbling through the air while the buildings burn and smoke billows out of them.  It can’t be real.  It has to be some hoax . . . some reality show stunt.

     But it isn’t.

     ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, and the local stations are giving us the video reality of this tragedy round the clock since it happened.  Although I might be 3,000 miles away from it, in the year 2001 that doesn’t matter.  Live and in stereo . . . the country in flames for everybody to see.  I hate to admit it but I’m scared.  

     What does it mean . . . what does anything mean??

 

Fifteen years later . . . I don’t think anybody has an answer.  Or else you can only have the personal answer that works just for you.  We mourn the people who lost their lives.  We never forgot the horror.