Totally reorganizing everything…there were far too many words to keep on one website and even I was getting confused. So I set up a new site called brickpicks.com that covers broadly cultural things. It’s me in my critic persona. There’s another new site called brickspolitics.com that is my shill site, in Bernie-speak, though I thought shills got paid. Brickshistory.com is about the past. Bricksscience.com is about (or vaguely about) things scientific. Bricksbrain.com is about brains (mine, yours, anybody’s). There might be another site to come. Meanwhile, this here old site, brickwahl.com, will emphasize my usual storytelling and pretty writing that makes the ladies roll their eyes.
I will vote for the candidate who promises to standardize the color coding on milk cartons, I think to myself, as the wife complains I got skim milk instead of 2% again. Oh well, last time it was 1%. At least I’m heading in a healthier direction, I said, it could have been half and half. It could have been chocolate, she said. I thought about making a soy milk joke, but she’s from Wisconsin.
Watching a David Attenborough documentary–Planet Earth–with a Sioux Indian is mildly disconcerting. Attenborough is intoning about the bison. That’s a magnificent animal I say. That’s a lot of meat, she says. We used to hunt them with arrows, she says. You could kill them with arrows? Nah, but if you could immobilize it you could hack at it. I blanch even whiter. That’s a lot of meat she says again.
I remember watching a very drunk friend make booga booga noises at some Satanists. They were trying to explain the tenets of their creed and he was making faces and crazy noises. It was the booga booga that scared them, and they fled quickly into the night. That was the New Years in August party, just before midnight. My favorite New Years Eve ever, actually, and it wasn’t even New Years Eve. Those hazy crazy lazy days of summer.
Sold a mess of LPs today, making room for books. Sold a mess of CDs this week, too. The collection gets smaller and smaller. The library–books–gets bigger and bigger. CDs I like, but they are certainly unhip. Plus I can’t read the liner notes. OK, I never did read liner notes. But even if I did read them, I couldn’t. Vinyl is hip but hopelessly analog. Cassettes I have because I haven’t transferred them onto anything wise. Otherwise I trawl YouTube, though spend too much at it and you get that lazy and worthless feeling, particularly if you read the comments. Eventually, I am reduced to humming to myself, off key, as I pull books out of the closet and slip them in the empty spaces where LPs used to be. I turn off the computer and retreat into a vast and erudite tome on the middle ages, the sort that makes me so dull to sit next to at cocktail parties. We’re still in the late classical period. Rome stands, though they’ve stopped draining the marshes and malaria has returned. The emperor is up in Ravenna, near Venice. Just ain’t the same. It’ll all be over soon enough, though, and things get all fucked up and eventually, well past the last page of the book, I’ll sit here typing this.
You know Silver Lake is not completely gentrified when the crackhead (possibly schizophrenic) babydaddy of your next door neighbor, who rants at all hours about how he is possessed by “el Diablo,” is caught sharpening a humongous machete in front of your house, spends one night in jail, and then he’s back in front of the door, macheteless but still screaming about the fucking Diablo.
Ah wow, nostalgia. This was the Silver Lake (though it was Silverlake then, before all the gueros moved back) that I knew and loved from the mid 80’s till sometime after its third or fourth cover of Los Angeles magazine.
Crack, cool. OK, maybe not cool, but you used to be able to buy that where the Silver Lake farmer’s market is now. Or on Micheltorena across from the school. Or at Parkman, right on the sidewalk, across from the liquor store where my pal Dave got beat up for badmouthing a couple cholos. Dave always was kind of an idiot that way. It didn’t pay to be an idiot back then. Now it does, and you get to write for the LA Weekly or be a reality star or an independent film maker. Back then you got beat up by cholos at Sunset and Parkman, or OD’d on junk or got AIDS. Maybe the cops busted you in somebody’s bushes with some bear you just met on Griffith Park Blvd. Try explaining that one to the new neighbors.
I heard the worst poetry I ever heard in a bar where Cheetah’s is now. A chick screaming in free verse about sodomy. Though she didn’t call it that. She’d written the poem while so engaged. Bent over and hating herself and writing bad poetry. Seriously, that’s what she told us. I wondered why I was there. But I digress.
There used to be lots of gays in Silver Lake too. No really, I remember. You could hear their sounds of love deep into the night, plus they threw great parties. And the dykes would beat the living fuck out of each other outside the club where the free clinic is now. They wore huge boots and drove big pick up trucks and beat each other up. No tea parties in Silverlake. Not then.
There were still a few hippies left, I knew some, theirs was a different world. Talk of soap factories and love ins. We just stared, blinking in disbelief. Then we’d smoke pot together out of some ancient bong. There even remained a few ancient beatniks. Embittered, angry, hating everything…they hadn’t changed a bit. And punks, though getting into their late twenties and beyond, still scared customers away.
There was a gay bookstore, a gay steakhouse, a gay hamburger joint, a gay coffee shop, and bathhouses you could emerge from sparkling clean. We had a zillion gay weekly papers, all outrageous, and one very serious Lesbian News. There was a lesbian auto mechanic.
We had crime too, lots of it. You could have your car battery, your car radio and your car itself stolen, sometimes in the same week if it was your lucky day. We had shootings and murders and a Colombian gang that specialized in pick pocketing and breaking and entering. Suicides were popular.
We had a laundromat that had poetry readings, next to a gay bar with oiled musclemen dancing on the tables. We don’t have that anymore. Plus we had a surplus store, and still do. That, and me and my wife, are still here. Surplus and antiques.
Nowadays we have breeders and lawyers and hipsters and a zillion lovely young women who I refuse to complain about.. And oh yeah, the food was better then. I mean it was worse, but it was better. At least you could afford it.
Anyway that story I opened with was from my former editor who yelled at me for spelling Esperanza Spalding wrong (I had whooping cough, no one can spell right with hooping cough) and who I once got in trouble because I said Lemmy beat me up. And that story of his brought all that wonderful old Silverlake back. Nothing like a good machete story. Especially if no one gets hurt. If it was a machete story and someone did get hurt, well, that was what Echo Park was for. Maybe hurt is an understatement. They fished him out of the lake. Maybe they found the head when they drained it.
Or maybe they’ll find it when they drain the Reservoir.
I like to think it was used by Santerias. We used to have them in Silverlake. The botanicas on Sunset sold powders and spells, and you’d find dead chickens in the park.
I’ve never told this to the lovely young neighbor ladies. They’d be outraged. Chickens have rights too, you know. Some stories are best left to the aged and cynical.
One time I thought it’d be fun to get all my lady friends at work to join me for a lunch. A bunch of them, actually, eight, maybe ten. Maybe a dozen, I can’t remember. They’d all been asking me out to lunch as people in offices do and as I never went to lunch with anybody I figured I could take them all out to lunch simultaneously. Get it over with. I didn’t say that, of course, but it was the idea. And it made perfect sense to me.
I explained this all to a friend. She looked at me like I was nuts. Do you have any idea what you’re doing? Going to lunch, I said. With all of us at once? I said sure, why not. How long have you been married, twenty five years? Twenty eight, I said. And in twenty eight years you haven’t learned anything? I was confused. She laughed. You’ll see. So you will come, I asked? Absolutely not, she said. But she wanted to hear all about it. That’s a lot of estrogen, she added, cryptically.
It was a catastrophe. I lost any control of events about one minute after I proposed the idea. They started fighting. The restaurant got expensive. Then more expensive. Then really expensive. You’ll need a tie, I was told. More fighting. Someone was being pushy. Another one really resented them being pushy. I’d get snippy messages, complaints. The emails began getting crazed. One of my best friends—the gorgeous, icy, brilliant blonde—backed out. She didn’t want to meet any of the others, but don’t tell them that, she said. I didn’t have to, they just assumed it. Factions developed. Some of the ladies wanted to go here. Another there. Another got so mad she just lost it and started yelling at me for what reason I do not know. Totally blew her stack, a furious Filipina explosion. I was in the eye of a female hurricane, the storm swirled all around me.
Eventually they were all mad at me for having such a stupid idea in the first place. After a couple days of this, I called the whole thing off. That only made them madder. More fights started. I hid in my corner of the office floor and avoided them all for a week or two. Never went to lunch with any of them, wouldn’t dare. Lunch was a minefield.
The lady I’d first invited laughed and laughed. I warned you, she said. Then she asked me to lunch.
Wow. My twenty year old CD player died last night. It was Gato Barbieri’s fault. My brother Jon was over spinning Sonny Rollins’ CDs and then put on both discs of Gato’s Latino America. Must have been all that crazy Argentine yelling, or maybe the bandaneon doubling up on the melody but behind the beat so Gato’s skronking and the banadaneon’s wheezing a half beat later and there’s crazy ass obscure Latin rhythms dancing in and out of everything and the CD player said fuck it… I’m never shuffling another goddam disc ever. I’m Irish, inanimate objects talk. Even better, they argue. But twenty years. They just don’t make things like they used to. Twenty years ago I could jump up the stairs two at a time and comb way more hair and remember things. They don’t make me like they used to either. Now I’m down to vinyl and cassettes. How analog. An analog monologue in fact.