Thursday, August 15, 2019

Letha Bean 1945-2019

The first time I spoke with Letha, which was in 1997, the first words out her mouth were those of instruction to me, and she changed my life.  While working long hours in Burbank, I often took weekend trips by myself to Lake Tahoe and Monterey, among other places.  And during one of those trips a year earlier, which was in 1996, I had stopped on a Friday night at a hotel in Buttonwillow.  I was awoken the next morning by some determined house-keeper trying to break into my hotel room.  She used her master key and opened the door only to be stopped by that slider latch that you can swing over the door jam. 

Uncle Roger


My uncle Roger passed away in New York this past July, 2019.  I have fond memories of him.   He was a slender man, very unassuming.  And by that, I mean, a little bit meek in his stance, thinning dark hair, and kindness in his voice.  He wore thick glasses and was not athletic looking, and if standing, spoke to you with his fingers pressed together, as if in a semi-praying manner. 

However, he was a surprise in so many ways.  He had the quickest wit of anyone I’ve known, and he could infuse humor and insight into the same sentences in a way that would make one reframe their experiences of the world.  And he loved tennis and played regularly. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Lamenting Long-Hauler

I had to take an Uber or Lyft back from the auto repair shop not long ago, and an older gentlemen picked me up.  He was exacting in getting my name checked as I got in and going over where I was headed.  I sensed that he was a retired man, yet wanted to make a little extra money and maybe even stay out of his wife’s hair for a few hours a day. 

He was slim, probably just about seventy years old, white, and dressed in denim pants and a white dress shirt.

When I was buckled up and ready for take off, we immediately started chatting, and somehow got onto the subject of driving long distances.  Knowing what I know about myself, and what I found out about him, the subject was inevitable.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Oh Shit. It's June!


One of my sixth grade teachers at Dixie Canyon Elementary School, May Ambo, instilled fear in me about the month of June.

I was in her reading class, and we had been given the opportunity to choose from a selection of her small library of books at the start of the year.  I chose, “The Blue Man,” by Kin Platt.  From the cover, it looked like some sort of mystery.  And blue was my favorite color.  Apparently, my criteria for choosing book assignments at the time was based on loose association.  I really didn’t like reading much back then anyways.  Such a contrast to how I am now.  I am constantly reading.

I was part of the brighter class section.  Four home rooms rotated through four teachers each day…let’s see if I remember them…Ms. Zimmerman was our homeroom hostess and also our social studies teacher.  Ms. Trot was our history teacher.  She had a monotone way about her.  Ms. Bihn, a colorful southern woman, was our math teacher…and Ms. Ambo, English. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Waiting For Evolution In The Afternoon

It’s the name for a very short piece of music I once wrote on my little Roland D-20 synthesizer.  It sounded like a sort of melting of major 7ths and 9ths, volleying from the root major to the second degree minor, and it had a little little, childish break into the key of the flat 3rd degree for a few bars, then settled back into the root major and second minor again.  All instrumental, never really went anywhere and ended in just under two minutes. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Exiled

She met a man who wanted to move her away from his family, which also served to move her away from her own friends.  The thing is, she became more rigid and controlled over the years, probably from this type of restriction placed on her by her husband.  I last saw her a few years ago, and it made me sad that this once fun, laughing, vibrant woman, who had always been a little shy, had become so self controlled.  It’s just no good.  It’s never worth giving up those you enjoy being with in order to please a man.  I think she may have done it because she had lost both of her parents and a sister, and so there was some sense of helplessness and actually wanting to be dependent on somebody else who could provide for her.  But, to me, it’s just not worth letting yourself be changed that much by someone else’s requirements.  

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Question That Made A Loud Industry Go Silent


 U.S.C.'s Bovard Auditorum - Photo By Fred Herrman

I recently went to a set of symposiums at my alma matter, U.S.C.  It was presented by the School of Cinematic Arts and was a week in which the school brought in professionals from all parts of the entertainment industry.  As an occasional donor to the school, I am invited to events as they come up.  I thought this week would be interesting for me for a couple of reasons. 

Firstly, I worked in the industry for about twenty years doing both live-action production work in film and television, as well as a lengthy career in animation at both The Walt Disney Studios and at DreamWorks.  I was invited to work on two Pixar feature films, but during that time, both of my parents were declining with Alzheimer and dementia related illnesses, so I felt that I couldn’t be four hundred miles away in the Bay area.  It’s too bad because I would have loved to have worked on some projects for Pixar. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Eulogy For Billy Gentry

My spouse's stepfather passed away this past January of 2019, and a few days before the memorial service, which was held at the grave site, I wrote this eulogy for him.  However, due to the nature of how the service was structured, which was out of my wife's control, the setting was not appropriate nor long enough for me to read my thoughts of him.

Monday, October 1, 2018

When MySpace's Space Was Gobbled Up


Do you even remember MySpace?  Were you active on it at all?  I was.  It was the big social media website that was popular leading up to FaceBook. 

It was a peripheral service somehow of the music industry.  I don’t know it’s genesis, but by the time that I was on it, it was busy and buzzing with activity.  The thing about MySpace at that time was that you could customize your profile page.  And though I know close to nothing about writing code, for it took HTML code to customize, I was able to get bits of code from the internet to do what I needed.  There were sites dedicated to helping a person put photos and designs on their MySpace page.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Cleaning Up

I was driving two days ago when I noticed to the right, out of my passenger window, a woman carrying two giant clear plastic trash-sized bags of aluminum cans.  She was stepping out of a large,  maybe acre-sized field at whose edge by the sidewalk was her bicycle and an attached wagon.  That’s where the bags of cans were going to be placed. I then naturally took a look at the field behind her; clean as any field could be.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Voice Recognition In Humans


Have you ever thought about how incredible it is that we can hear a voice anywhere; on the radio, on a phone message, out of a crowd, and we know who it is?  On the face of it, it doesn’t seem that incredible.  I mean, if you know someone from their being a friend of yours, or from loving their music, or listening to their shows, you might think, “Well yeah, you hear their voice and you 'know' who it is."

Friday, July 13, 2018

On The Roof Of The Sea Castle

Every once in a while, a person has one of those vivid memories that resides in the midst of a foggy mire.  One of mine is that while I lived in the Sea Castle Apartments in Santa Monica, which was giant, Art Deco, aquamarine apartment building, and formerly an old-timey beach club (“The Breakers”), I got to see one of the most memorable fireworks shows ever.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Twisted Twitterers And Such

Something that is really strange to me is that a lot of people follow others who they don’t like and don’t agree with in any basic way on Twitter.  For instance, take Tomi Lehren.  She tweets out ultra conservative and inflammatory tweets multiple times throughout the day.  Most liberals hate her Tweets and post replies to her that are vicious and venomous. 

It boggles my mind why people do this.  Why would you, the average person who has limited time and resources each day to deal with work and family, follow someone you really don’t like?  I think it’s because people want to get themselves worked up and angry.  There is no other logical reason. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Sweet Smell Of Memories


What reminds you of when you were young?  Is it music? It is a smell? Is it a physical place? It is thinking or seeing someone from that time?

For me, it’s mostly the first two or three.  Music shoots me back to a time so quickly that it’s like some sort of emotional wormhole for me.  I think this is true for a lot of people.  For some reason, music, smells, and places are able to tap into a person’s memory extremely directly.

Music is just an incredible thing, isn’t it?  I wrote another blog entry a while back called, “Time After Time,” in which I described the strange phenomenon of how a song can whisk me away so quickly, it makes my head spin.  There can be something in the musical arrangement or in the words and melody that just cut right through to me riding in my ex-girlfriend’s father’s Trans Am, or to me sitting on the ledge of The Sea Castle, an apartment I had on the sand of Santa Monica, or of finishing the last few miles of one of the twenty-six full length marathons I have run in my past.  Songs have the effect of almost softening up my soul, bringing down the defenses that I’ve normally put up to blur out the memories’ acuity.  The music allows me to feel the feelings again, if only so momentarily. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

On The Fast Track

I used to be against carpool lanes and express lanes.  This was my reasoning.

If you’re going to force people to travel with at least one other person, then there must be a better way of doing it, such as some sort of positive reinforcement to the people engaging in it, but without being a detriment to those not doing it.  And removing one lane from a five lane freeway, which is the size of most freeways in the Los Angeles area, is a detriment to the greater public.  That’s a 20% in driving space suddenly taken away from a work force and a travel force, many of whom could not possibly commute with someone else given the insane distances that comprise Southern California. 

And then there’s another thing.  Enforcement.  Carpool lanes are extremely difficult for law enforcement to monitor.  It’s not like there are little ramps along the carpool lanes on which motorcycle officers can sit and dole out citations as single travelers pass by illegally.  I see so many drivers in the carpool lanes who are single occupants, and non-hybrid/electric vehicles, that it makes my head spin.  What a foolish plan for such a large urban area; the honor system. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Night Duster


It was a typical summer evening in the Central Valley; still very warm and humid air and a flat horizon all around with just a few ribbons of car lights indicating distant roads.  We were driving back down Highway 99 south of Bakersfield after an afternoon of getting a few things done for Brenda’s parents.

To our right at about Two O’Clock appeared off in the distance a bank of horizontal lights that were moving above the ground.  We quickly identified them as the flying lights of a crop duster spread out across it’s wings.  The pilot made sweeping turns and dips down to the dark fields for maybe fifteen seconds, and would then ascent back up and into the black sky.  There were moments when we couldn’t see him at all as he turned away from our direction.  But sure enough, the row of lights reappeared as he flew in our direction, maybe two or three miles from us.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"She's A Valley Girl And There Is No Cure"

My last visit there to the original mall has always haunted me.  I was reminded of the poignant memory after reading Kevin D. Williamson’s article, “Closing Time,” in the National Review this week.

During my high school days at Ulysses S. Grant, and with my girlfriend Trish, I went to what probably amounted of hundreds of movies in the General Cinema Theater on the third floor.  I even saw “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” in that theater.  It was a strange feeling walking out of the theater at the end of the film through the entrance that had just been a location for the movie I had just seen. 

I remember going to Perry’s Pizza, and to the arcade.  I often visited my friend, Debbie who worked at Crabtree and Evelyn inside the mall.  She always seemed surprised to see me for some reason.  “Ah, we’ve spent most of our pre-adult lives in this mall, Debbie, so don't be so shocked.”  Debbie was one of the cuter girls who ever worked in the Galleria, so he naiveté was always excusable in my book. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Planning Of A 50th Birthday Bash – A Man’s Naïve Yet Unwavering Determination

I really needed a few days rest after the big event for Brenda before embarking on writing how I got the whole thing done.  I had a deep fatigue once it was all over. But I’ve now slept late for a few days and am back up and running.

The party was just incredible, and it went literally exactly how I planned.  It took a lot of energy and time to arrange, but it was worth it because she would only turn fifty years old once.  Being that it was my idea and execution, it was like planning an entire wedding when I had never in the past planned any event whatsoever.  Nothing bigger than, say, six people going to a movie together, and that was back in my twenties.  Actually, I remember helping arrange a barbeque related to Brenda’s aunt and uncle flying in from Oklahoma just a few years ago, but my role was simply to make a list of presumed attendees and what they might bring; hot dots, chips, buns, salsa.  You get it.  It wasn’t anything that took more than a half hour at the most to create and send out. 

The idea of Brenda’s "50th Birthday Bash" occurred to me about a year and a half ago.  It was, at first, a vague notion; the kind that one briefly daydreams about because it feels still distant over the horizon.  But time is a funny thing.  It creeps upon you, changing its perspective from a benign haze located somewhere in the fog of the future to the menacing reality of a freight train triggering blaring red lights and flailing crossing arms.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Time After Time


Tonight, with my significant other taking care of her mother for a week, I went to see a movie here in Burbank called, “Hell Or High Water,” which was a well-written film.  After I left the theater, I turned on my car’s XM Radio, which had already been set to the eighties channel. I normally listen to the Highway Country on channel fifty-six, but just before arriving at the movies, I had switched it the channel feeling like a little taste of the eighties.  As I drove away, Cindi Lauper’s,“Time After Time” started to play. I was never a huge fan of the song, but for some reason tonight it hit me hard in taking me back to my high school days, and specifically, to memories of my high school girlfriend, Trish.  I don’t know why this was.  I previously wrote about my experience of having a high school girlfriend in “High School Girlfriend.”  I allude to that article because having her in my life at that time was very significant to me.

When I heard Lauper’s song, it was neither her voice, nor the lyrics per se, that whisked me away.  I am a very auditory person in the way of musical instruments.  In fact, if I’m not listening to a song carefully, I usually digest the melody, the chord structure, and the general “sound” of the song faster than I notice the lyrics.  With many songs, I could hear a song once or twice and then play the general chords and melody on the piano.  It’s only when I focus my attention onto a song that I really hear what the story is about.  


In order to leave downtown Burbank and towards my house, I drove west over the Olive Avenue bridge that spans Interstate 5 freeway, and suddenly it was the flanger guitar, which backs the song, that arrested me and brought me back to the 1980s.  Immediately, I felt the desire, like a homing pigeon that suddenly got his bearings, to drive to the front of Trish’s family house, which was 7.7 miles away from where I was.  I went west on Victory out of Burbank, turned left onto Fulton Avenue.  As I rounded the corner onto Oxnard Street making a right turn, being that it was nighttime and not that well lit around there, I tried to make out the first visible residential street sign to my left…Nagle Avenue.  “Nope, that’s not it!”  It was always the second street.  “Ah, there’s Varna Ave.”  I turned left, past another high school friend’s house, Christine, a blonde who hung out with the stoners and who later posed nude in "Hustler Magazine," which, by the way, I had no qualms about investigating while at university.  She had a body that rocked. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Right Turns

I think it's time to review how to make right turns because I notice this all the time.  When people are approaching an intersection and want to make a right turn (this also applies to those turning into driveways of businesses from busy streets), they tend to make their turn from the driving lane (if it's a one lane road in either direction) or from the second lane (if it's a two lane road in either direction), thus, blocking the free flow of traffic.  This bugs the *&$# out of me because the person is relying on my brakes just so that they can make a turn with a looser radius.

For the record, the way that right turns are supposed to be made is for the driver to merge toward the curb and keep just a few feet away from it while making his or her turn.  This creates a separate lane for the person making the turn allowing the people in the lane from which they left to keep driving straight without having to yield to an idiot with their head up their %** and probably a cell phone in their hand.  It sounds like a little thing, I'm sure, but especially for someone who enjoys driving and is good at it, being blocked suddenly by people making very loose right turns invokes fantasies of having an unregistered heap and hurdling it into the backs of these drivers' cars.

So, let's be civilized and simply safely and prudently merge to the right when making right turns people.