Singing Christmas Tree


A few christmas parties ago our techie neighbor gave us a robot alarm clock….you set the alarm and when the time hit it would go berserk and roll around frantically, bumping into things, racing about, its alarm screeching and whooping and generally being absolutely awful.  He set the time for 11 pm or so, wrapped it with pretty christmas wrapping paper and put it under the tree. By 11 pm the party was truly happening, packed and loud and not out of control but threatening to. A good party always threatens to. The sofa facing the tree was full of pathetically stoned people. It’s like they showed up, sat down, and hadn’t moved since. They couldn’t. They’d melted into it, become one with the fabric. It was almost zen.

Suddenly our neighbor’s present began thrashing about in its wrapper and screeching and whooping. No one noticed but the stoners, since they were staring at the tree and had been for hours. All the pretty lights. Now one of the presents starts thrashing about and bleeping and screeching and whooping. Ummm wow, that’s fucked up. Fuck. Dude, yeah, that’s fucked up. Then stoner paranoia set in. Maybe it was terrorists. (It had only been a year or two since 9/11.) Dude, terrorists at Brick and Fyl’s party. Fucked up. The whooping and thrashing suddenly stopped. Someone fired up a bowl.  Continue reading


Years ago a beloved cell phone of mine made a sudden, unannounced and very graceful dive into a cup of coffee. It really was a perfect dive too. Alas, it was suicidal, and the poor thing lingered for days beeping fitfully and emitting little vibrating death rattles. At last the phone gods put it out of its misery. Sad. Sadder still that all the phone numbers that were on it disappeared as well. Some of those numbers I never did get back. Some of those friends I never did get back. Friendships died with the phone.

The good thing was that my replacement cell phone was given the prefix 420. It didn’t occur to me at the time. 420 was 4-2-0. That’s how I thought about it, 4-2-0. Not my card carrying friends, though. 4-2-0 was 420. Dude! 420! They asked me how I got that number. I said I had no idea, which they all found awesome and hysterically funny until they went off to find something to eat.

I got a wrong number on the new phone once. He thought I was a pot clinic. I can’t remember the name, something vaguely medical. I said I wasn’t it. But is this 420-xxxx? I said yes, it is. Oh. A long uncomfortable pause. Perhaps you have the wrong number, I said. Oh, sorry, he said, and hung up. I thought there would be a mess of those calls but that was it, just that one bewildered, disappointed and slightly weirded out caller. Stoners can weird themselves calling wrong numbers, like they’d just called the police who are coming over to arrest them right now. A siren freezes them like a deer in headlights. It fades in the night and they fire up another bowl. Whew.

I had a number in college that spelled y-o-u s-u-c-k. Kids would smoke marijuana and call me. Your number spells out you suck. I know it does. You do? Yeah, that’s why I picked it. You picked you suck? Yes. Wow. They giggled, bewildered. Once I tried picking up one of the girls. She was so stoned she thought I’d called her. Hi, she thought I’d said, my number spells you suck. Your number spells you suck? I could hear her girlfriends giggling. I asked her her name. My name? Her girlfriends told her to hang up. Click. It might have been the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Years later a friend of mine got a wrong number. The caller was a lady. She apologized and was about to hang up but he was slick, this guy, and two hours later he’s at her place. A long running not exactly healthy affair ensued. This was the days before cell phones, before email, before texting. I can only imagine his success rate texting. 

iPhones. I’ve yet to get an iPhone. I was just about to except a friend of mine has taken to wiki-ing every subject I am ever talking about, then showing me the screen so I can read it too. Apparently this is considered conversation.

Once I was at a jazz club. I’d accidentally sat down next to a couple who knew me, though I couldn’t remember them. The lady was so excited to be sitting next to me she pulled up my L.A. Weekly column on her iPhone. Look! It’s your column! She handed me the iPhone. I wasn’t exactly sure how one reacts in this situation, so I read a couple lines. Yup, that’s me. I handed her phone back to her. She beamed. She showed the virtual me to the real me. There was a big stack of Weekly‘s right behind me which contained the analog version of my column. But it wasn’t the same, I guess, as having the analog me, big as life, and the digital me in electrons there on her little iPhone screen. What a trip, she said. She sat there, furiously typing on the tiny keypad, tweeting. She took my picture and then typed again. Now you’re on my Facebook page! I said thank you and excused myself to find another seat.

I told myself that maybe I wouldn’t get an iPhone just yet. Not until these cultural issues worked themselves out. In a bar I’m still strictly analog. At a party I try to avoid the virtual reality for real reality. But those problems won’t iron themselves out. I’ll just start wiki-ing as people talk to me, and handing them my iPhone to look. They’ll glance and shake their heads like I do now. I’ll take their picture. Now you’re on my Facebook page. They’ll get up and find another seat.