End times

Just spent nearly $300 at Ralphs. Hot damn. The only things they were out of was toilet paper and cans of cat food. What an odd looking panic that must have been.

We have toilet paper and don’t have cats.

There was a noticeable lack of old people with shopping carts in a store that is normally swarming with them, though perhaps swarming ain’t quite the word. Creeping. Creeping with old people with shopping carts, of which there were few, so things moved speedily. Few old people, I mean, there were lots of shopping carts.

But I digress.

Now we’re gonna go out to eat. Don’t know when we’ll do it again. Nobody over sixty knows when we’ll ever to be able to do anything outside again. It’s now the exciting world of online deliveries for us.

I haven’t felt anything like this since I was a kid in the depths of the Cold War and sirens would go off and you’d think it was the end of the world.

Unfinished alphabet

(This must twenty years old. I believe it’s from an collection of all my stuff in a Word document and arranged alphabetically. These were on each letter’s title page. Alas, the Word doc proved unworkable and the alphabet unfinished.)

A

Pronounced uh. Schwa. Sometimes it seems half the vowel sounds in English are pronounced in  a schwa. There’s  reasons. Slow linguistic reasons. Gradual things like how the earth slides off the top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, slowly carrying rich people with it. Ha.

B

They dance, bees. They find pollen and they dance. I love them for that dance, all those lady bees dancing. I like dancing lady anything. Cowgirls slowdancing with oilmen in a honky tonk.  A beautiful black girl dancing to a good band.  A salsera’s  mathematical perfection. The pure sex of a samba line. One of the girls came by my table and put her spangled tits in my face. She danced and they shook violently from side to side. Then she laughed at my eyeballs following them back and forth. She laughed and kissed me and let me be.   

C

Like see. But it’s usually k. Cat. Cab. Can.  It’s not a sybillant., that c, most of the time. There are maybe fifteen sybillants. Most are s’s. A few z’s. No c’s. But see we say. A B See. Go figure.

D

I worked with a lady named Dee.  She had a baby in some guy’s car.  Women think of that cute baby. Men think of that poor car.

E

In high school I had a friend with a beautiful blue Thunder.bird. One the big ones you could fit four or five strapping teens in. The letters  on the license place said THE. It was The The. We’d drive around in The The and talk about girls and rock’n’roll. We’d go to concerts at the Long Beach Arena. Blue Oyster Cult. Deep Purple. We’d go to the Wilshire Theatre in old downtown Fullerton and watch Stones movies. Sometimes we’d take Kevin Ames. Really weird kid Kevin Ames. Tall, blonde, kinda off.  But fun off. We went to the Wilshire to see a zombie movie and Kevin walked through the theatre like a Thing. He walked like a thing into the old people’s hotel next door. That was gofno. If something was cool he’d say gofno. Two long O’s there, gofno. We’d say that’s cool. He’d say gofno. Just “gofno”. If something was uncool we’d say that’s fucked up.  But Kevin Ames would say eeeeeeeeeeeee.  

F

When I see the letter F I think of fucking. Must be a man thing.

G

Gee. When I was in high school, someone told me that there was a butter in India called gee. With a hard G. Gee. Not jee. It’s a rancid butter. They eat rancid butter? No, they wear it. Wear it? Not really wear it, just smear it all over. Why? Funerals or something. Oh.  It’s called jee? Like the letter? No gee, like the sound of the letter. Jee is like a jay. But why is it spelled gee? The butter? No the letter. They spell it gee. Who does? I dunno, spellers. Gee? Not jee? Yes. But that’s so confusing. Gee whiz.

H

Some people in England don’t even bother with their aitches. It is just barely the, that aitch. Just an exhalation pushed against the roof of the mouth.

 

This seat taken?

(Written maybe fifteen years ago.)

The bar was all bad lighting and red vinyl and drinkers who knew their booze. The bartendress would whip up concoctions no one had ever hard of for some odd drunk. I strode in and heard the tinkle of a jazz piano. saw plenty of empty stools and one lady, a redhead looking sad, completely miserable, and silent. She nursed a beer. I pulled up right next to her. This seat taken? I actually said that. She rolled her eyes and shrugged. I sat down. Began with uninvited small talk. No response. More small talk. A joke. Nothing. But I kept at it, and after ten minutes she began nodding to my questions. A crack of a smile to a stupid joke. I mentioned dinner. Nothing. Can I buy you dinner? Still nothing. I worked on that angle for a while. Finally she nodded a maybe. Bartendress brought menus. Anything you want, lobster, anything. She looked, finally after some encouragement ordered an entree. I ordered an appetizer. It was her favorite, a shrimp cocktail, and when it came, she selected a shrimp from the serving dish, dunked it in the cocktail sauce, and nibbled at it. She smiled and said that piano player is really good. He was, and that married fight was over.

Pissing in the sink

So today a lady friend sends me an article about peeing in the sink and why it’s the green thing to do. I bet you never knew you were helping the environment when you piss in the sink, she texted. But I don’t piss in the sink, I replied. Sure you do, she said, you told me about it. But I do not piss in the sink, I said. Why not, she said, you’re tall enough.

All my life people have assumed I piss in the sink. Female people, anyway. With male people it’s never come up. But inevitably at some point, usually at work, a lady would ask me about peeing in the sink. I would say I don’t pee in the sink. Sure, she’d say.

Angie

Back about 1981 a woman with a fraffully English accent left a message on our answering machine saying Hello, this is Angie and told us what was happening at the Brave Dog that weekend. The Brave Dog was a crazily hip and completely illegal nightspot for weirdos in Little Tokyo. It’s a subway station now. Who’s Angie? my wife asked. Somebody said it was Angie Bowie. David Bowie’s ex? Calling us? For a second I thought we’d made it. She must be calling everybody on the Brave Dog list, my wife said. Maybe it’s her job. I pictured David Bowie’s ex in some weird outfit and crazy make up and huge platinum hair, pressing all these 213 numbers with endless fingernails. I could almost feel the ennui. She used to hang with the Beatles. Now she was calling us. It was too ridiculous. It couldn’t possibly be Angie Bowie. It must be some other Angie. That was forty years ago almost. I wouldn’t be so easily thrilled now anyway. Too long in Hollywood. This town is full of exes. But I’ve always wondered who that Angie was, not that I thought about it much. But I’m retired now, and have more time to think.

How I write

I don’t follow any fucking rules. I just make use of the capabilities English has built into it, and has had long before grammarians existed. If we can verb and noun nouns and verbs, it’s silly not to. I just assume everything my English teachers taught me was wrong and have a ball writing. Otherwise I don’t really give a damn about what people think. If they can read it and understand it, it’s English. If they don’t like it they can read something else. The world is full of words, there’s plenty for everybody.

No order whatsoever

I remember at the house on Edgecliffe in the 80’s we had hundreds and hundreds of albums but I was so punk rock they were in no order whatsoever. Anarchy, I said. Sometimes if I was tired of hearing the same record every week—we were having parties almost weekly, loud obnoxious drunken punk rock parties that went on till dawn—I’d hide the record way in the back somewhere. Only the most determined digger—The Panther was the best—would flip through hundreds of LPs to find Sticky Fingers. Most would just pick something that looked cool and it might be some frenzied Yugoslavian punk rock or squealing Swiss saxophones or bad Lee Michaels. Then there’d be a drunken screech of the tone arm across once perfect vinyl, a pregnant few seconds, and Brown Sugar again.

I’m told they make motion pictures here

We moved to Hollywood forty years ago this very month and have lived in Hollywood and Silver Lake since then. And in that long span of decades we’ve only watched the Oscars once, when we were invited to a viewing party, which was kind of a new thing thirty years ago. But we hadn’t seen any of the movies or recognized almost any of the stars and couldn’t give a flying fuck about what they were wearing and found ourselves with absolutely nothing to say. We were just staggeringly bored. In fact it remains the dullest party I can ever remember. An hour into the festivities we made some lame excuse and split early to go see some loud music in a no doubt dank and dark club. That party was our one brush with show biz fandom. That was our whiff of the Day of the Locust.

So I suppose there’s more than a little irony in us living in a place for thirty years now that was built in 1931 and has probably been populated by a whole series of people who worked in the Industry. Silverlake after all was a movie studio suburb, that’s why it’s here. Yet Fyl and I are in our own universe and show business in another, and neither we nor show biz are even aware the other exists. I even worked for a studio for 15 years and somehow maintained my abject ignorance of all things currently film related. I really don’t know how we’ve managed it, I mean it’s not deliberate, we’re not trying to make a point or be, ya know, different. We live surrounded by the film industry. Yet somehow year after year we’re blissfully ignorant of its biggest day, like a pair of atheists in Vatican City not realizing it’s Easter Sunday.

Something real

Back around 1980 and someone puts on the Cars or the B-52s or Joe Jackson and you bellow I don’t wanna listen to this shit, put on something real and they know exactly what you mean, though it’s almost impossible to explain what you meant to people now, and you might not even know anymore yourself. But sometimes, when the circumstances are just right, it comes welling up out of nowhere, that feeling, and suddenly you’re an asshole again, cackling at shit going wrong and heckling the musicians like some crazed geezer uncle the kids aren’t sure what to do with.

Not that I’ve ever done this.

Office space

When I first started working in offices back in the mid seventies all office space was open, unless you were literally in an office with a door. There was no email then anyway. All communication was done on the phone, by memo, verbally or whispered. People sat at metal or wooden desks and there were big metal file cabinets everywhere to store all the papers, as everything was done on paper and filed. Every desk had in and out boxes, and inter office mail came through twice a day at the very least. The clatter of dozens of typewriters filled the air like machine guns. Phones rang like fire alarms. Every office looked like a microcosm of the agoraphobic expense of desks and adding machines in The Apartment.

I first remember cubicles in the 80’s though they were pretty open still, three sided and often only waist high between neighbors. That was essential because there was no other way to communicate with the people around you unless you called them on the phone which was weird, as they were just a few feet away. I began to see floors full of three and four walled cubicles five feet high as the eighties went on. Once email and intranets became standard business practices in the late 90’s offices grew weirdly silent and the employees mostly invisible. They padded about on the wall to wall carpeting and even the chairs rolled silently on casters, with none of the squeak of wooden legs across wooden floors of the old days.

In the early 2000’s instant messaging (as they called it then) made it possible to hide in your four walled cubicle and gossip relentlessly and have virtual affairs and talk to corporate head hunters. And everyone had access to the internet, not just the company intranet, so an employee could surf away an afternoon if no one was looking. No one ever was. You really had no idea what your fellow employees were doing. Floors could be eerily silent. You’d walk around a couple corners and discover entire departments you didn’t know were there, people in cubicles hunched over computers typing silently on lap tops. The rat a tat of work station keyboards was becoming a thing of the past. Sometimes on a stroll you’d uncover the eerie remains of departments suddenly vanished, artifacts scattered about like something awful had happened and the people had fled, leaving behind pads of paper and office art and an Alice Cooper’s greatest hits cd.

Cubicles had evolved into these towering things so high you could look across your office and have no idea if half the cubicles were occupied at all. The last job I had I was specifically assigned to a floor to bring it back to life, my boss told me, get them talking, make them laugh, to see if I could get them to communicate with each other. It was a rough assignment. The last thing people wanted was to actually talk to each other, or let HR see them them there, ripe for a lay off. But I succeeded, and when I left what a happy bunch they seemed. Most of them had not even realized most of them were working in the same department. It was seen as a major achievement. It was my final culminating achievement of nearly four decades spent in offices. Then, beaten down by a life of epilepsy, I retired.

Last I heard the top brass was still discussing an open workspace. It seemed inconceivable to the employees, a crime against nature, a violation of basic human rights. It just sounded like 1975 to me, but with computers. I was gone before any of that happened. My last cubicle had the walls six feet high, and the lady next to me would come by and whisper about everybody else.