Blogging from deep down beneath the Greater L. A. hipsterpolitan region….

I’m a writer, but there are zillions of writers, perhaps you’ve noticed. This here is a bunch of my stuff. I hope you dig it.

I try to blog at least once daily so there’s a lot of stuff here. You can browse by category or look at some selected essaysstories (non-fiction), neuroscience pieces, jazz writing or smartassery. Some flash nonfiction even.

My LA Weekly stuff can be found here.

My email is My phone is 323-420-7410. I do a lot of short writing on my Brick Wahl page on Facebook, and really short writing on Twitter. I get all professional on LinkedIn, all pensive on Pinterest, and all whatever the hell it’s for on Google Plus. You can even look through my library at Goodreads. I’m all over the goddamn internet and all over this goddamn town.

Patrick Roy

4-1 and the Avalanche are humiliating the Wild in the season opener. I began looking for something else to watch. Nothing. So I leave the goddam game on. Four goals in five minutes and seven seconds later, Minnesota is up by one, in Denver no less. The roaring crowd is silenced. There’s a smattering of Minnesota cheers. Patrick Roy, behind the Colorado bench, looks big and mean and French Canadian, even in the expensive suit. He could stop anything between the pipes in his player days, but here he just looms and glowers and snarls, helpless. Zach Parise, his bête noir of the night, skates past him and nods. Roy nods back. He can’t trip him anymore. He can’t hit anybody. He can’t even talk to his goal posts. He can just feel shame.

The good times.

The good times.

Thirty bands

Wow this thirty band thing. It’s like some kind of plague. Infected, I tried coming up with thirty bands I shared the stage with and all I could come up with was Beatlemania, the Norman Luboff Choir and Corrosion of Conformity. Then I remembered I wasn’t actually on the bill, that was just the line up of the Lollapalooza no one talks about. I was supposed to be on a Gong Show once, sharing the stage with Chuck Barris, but cell phones weren’t invented yet. I played drums for Sky Saxon twice in one night, neither time voluntarily. And I remember once opening for Green Day, they were the 13th band on the bill, we the first. We were so first, in fact, the manager wouldn’t open the doors and our half dozen fans stood outside, listening through a window. Sort of like the sound check we never had.

I did have a guy leap stark naked into my drum kit once. To make things worse he was the guitar player. One of the guitar players. The other was slithering across the stage like a snake. That left me and the bass player, or just the bass player, actually, as there was a naked stoned guitarist flailing about where my drums used to be. I remember another time when the stark naked daughter of the district attorney of Ventura County ran screaming across the floor into my drum kit but didn’t fall in. I don’t remember if I said anything, but I do remember that her rack toms were bigger than mine. Heavy metal sized. An autistic guy fell into my drum kit once.

When this stuff stopped happening I got bored with drumming and became a jazz critic.

I did actually play with Joe Baiza a couple times at Al’s Bar on No Talent Night, but his attorney told me never to mention that. I also opened for Black Flag the very weekend they got arrested for playing punk rock music. In fact, they had just gotten out of jail. The LAPD called them nuisance in publics or something like that. Anyway, they put them in jail and this song is called revenge and it’s for them. It’s not my imagination, I got a gun at my back.

Herman Riley in 169 words

(LA Weekly, 2005)

Lockjaw and Prez made him pick up the saxophone. This was New Orleans. There was a teenaged “Iko, Iko”, the very first. By ’63 he’s in L.A., playing Marty’s every night, and players—Sonny Rollins, everybody—dropping by, sitting in. Steady work with Basie and the Juggernaut and Blue Mitchell. Twenty years with Jimmy Smith. A million sessions for Motown and Stax, and first call for a slew of singers—that’s where you refine those ballad skills, with singers. Live he slips into “In A Sentimental Mood” and everything around you dissolves. There’s just his sound, rich, big, full of history, a little bitter, maybe, blowing Crescent City air. He gets inside the very essence of that tune, those melancholy ascending notes, till it fades, pads closing, in a long, drawn out sigh. You swear it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard, that song, that sound, and you tell him so. He shrugs. “It’s a lifetime of experience” he says, then calls out some Monk and is gone.

Sometimes words work

So we watched an inspired, passionate Phil Ranelin set at the Watts Towers Jazz Festival on Sunday; it swept the crowd despite the amateur antics of the sound guy. Wonderful stuff. Pablo Calogero does amazing things on the soprano sax without ever venturing into the overwrought preciousness that afflicts that horn. What a wonderful player. Phil’s trombone playing is like expressionist watercolors, gorgeous and imaginative and just a tad out, and the alto player whose name escapes me was superb as well, just a hint of dry, a fine soloist. Don Littleton was on drums, good as always and smiling as the bassist nailed it over and over…I’m afraid I wasn’t being a journalist–been avoiding it–and got neither his name nor the pianist’s. The soundman somehow lost all power to the PA halfway through the set so the horn players had to really belt there for a stretch, it worked. Eventually the mics came back on (though the soundman didn’t seem to tell the musicians…who had to figure out which were live and which dead all by themselves….)  Then we headed way the hell out to Altadena for a BBQ and ran into Winston Byrd in the local Ralphs. He was shopping, not blowing high notes on the trumpet–that would have woken up the customers–but jazz, apparently, is everywhere. Or jazz musicians are everywhere.

As are words. Kamau Daooud was the emcee, if he read any of his own superb stuff (“each morning i read the newspaper/ and weep into a pot of coffee/ i muffle my whispered screaming/ with the music of the masters/ i find religion there/ rocking in ecstasy/ to the heartbeats of loved ones”) I missed it. (Look for The Language of Saxophones. I treasure my signed copy.) But I did have my mind blown by a poet at Watts, which doesn’t happen often. Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez read a couple pieces–great stuff, it’s no wonder he got that primo gig (and he had them memorized, which amazed me). But it was his son Ramiro who really zapped my cerebral cortex. Maybe because a relative brought on stage is usually a comparative let down, I could not believe how good this Ramiro was. Pop’s stuff is widely available–he has a site,, that I really recommend–but the son is unknown. I’d love to hear more of him. There was this propulsive narrative that put you right there in the scene he was describing (and not a pretty scene, either) and kept you moving and on edge, and the imagery was so vivid, and the emotion so real, the fear and fearlessness, the hate and anger, and a disassociated ability to describe it all from a resigned point of view, as if he was in it and observing it simultaneously, it was stunning. Father’s intense pride in his son’s verse was obvious and no wonder. Both had similar, horrific life paths (see dad’s website for details) seemingly reversed completely by poetry. I never thought that actually happened. Terrific stuff and a great follow up to Phil Ranelin’s brilliant performance. Even the audience listened with equal intensity. Sometimes words work, I guess.

(And pardon the clumsy review, I’ve never tried to describe a poem before. Not easy, especially when I can’t even see it before me but just remember my startled, awestruck impressions.)

Anyway the BBQ was a nice family affair when we got there. Perfect in the heat. The moon, looming large, turned blood orange and disappeared. We watched. Altadena was hushed, even the birds silent, only the idiot tree frogs kept up their songs. Eventually the families had to take the kids home and tuck them into bed, and the responsible people–now responsible, though once thoroughly ill behaved–went home soon after, tucking themselves into bed. The morrow was a school day. All that remained were a handful of freaks and cultural reprobates at one table, laughing into the wee hours, unrepentant.

Burning of the Downtown Library

(The library burned in April, 1986, and I found this in my analog writing box on an old cocktail napkin from the late ’80’s.)

As the library burned I stood watching the pages untitled unbound soar free catching fire and coming to ground at our feet flashing hints of spark and smoke then crumbling ashen ashes all fall down. The one in my hand, a moth-winged flutter, the words break up and spill into the gutter, letters like grains of sand, while windows belch flame and columned smoke as of distant cities sacked till the mind dances with visions of Alexandria.

Los Angeles Central Library, April 29, 1986.

Los Angeles Central Library, April 29, 1986. (Photo from LA Library collection.)

A mandate is a state of mind

No one seems to look at is this way, but right now Donald Trump is supported by about 10% of registered voters, and Bernie Sanders about 15% or even 17%.

Or let’s put it this way–right now nine out of ten American voters do not want to vote for Donald Trump, in fact most would not vote for him under any circumstance whatsoever. Among other reasons, they loathe him. It’s hard to win over people who hate you and wish you had never been born.

And eight or so out of every ten American voters feel are not feeling the Bern to various degrees. Some aren’t feeling it a little bit, and perhaps some of those could be swayed. Some aren’t likely to feel it all and would feel safer with a moderate Democrat or even a moderate conservative than a life long socialist. And some feel about Bernie the way almost everyone else feels about Donald Trump.

That’s the math. True believers in both camps will claim not to believe in math. A mandate is a state of mind.

Dylan Thomas

Notes On The Art Of Poetry by Dylan Thomas

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,,,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,, ,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.