Monday, September 30, 2013

The End

Given the genesis of this blog, I suppose it is worth noting that things with The Girlfriend did not work out.  I won’t get into the details except to say a tiny crack developed deep within the foundation of the relationship that widened over time and ultimately caused the entire thing to come crashing down.  I combed through the rubble to try and put the pieces back together, but things didn’t seem to fit together correctly anymore.  Some pieces were missing and news ones had been added.    The mystery of human relationships, I suppose. 

And so obviously the sudden void in my personal life has left me in a somewhat introspective mood.  But oddly not so much about my romantic life (or lack thereof), but of something bigger: Do I know where this is all going?  Am I happy?  Am I satisfied?  The answers are pretty straightforward: No, no, and hell no.  And suddenly this blog seems very claustrophobic. 

People always ask, “What are you passionate about?”  I’ve always struggled with that question and envied those who could rifle off a litany of endeavors that made their blood roil—music, cooking, underwater basket weaving.  I suppose the irony of my struggle to formulate a response is that the answer was so obvious the whole time: writing.  And solving the riddle of passion has made me realize it’s time for something a bit more ambitious than what’s possible within the confines of this blog.  So this will be the last post here.  I am sure that all three people who follow this site will be devastated, but rest assured I shall return.  Bigger.  Better.  Happier.


"Lend me your ears, and I'll sing you a song.  And I'll try not to sing out of key."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

500 Day of Autumn

"PSL10."  It was noticeably visible on the door as I walked into the local Starbucks today.  Of course, as we live in the age of the hash tag, I was obligated to investigate the meaning of this code.  The Google quickly led me to the Starbucks website, which then opened up a whole new world of previously unknown knowledge about PSL10.  For starters, did you know that "PSL" stands for "Pumpkin Spice Latte?"  And did you know that the Pumpkin Spice Latte is ten years old?  That's right, a seasonal Starbucks beverage has a birthday.  Giving something a birthday is a pretty consequential decision, don't you think?  It means that the Pumpkin Spice Latte was born.  It has Life!  Ten years of it, to be exact.

Anyway, the Starbucks website goes on to describe the Pumpkin Spice Latte's stats--calories and crap like that--and then sets forth its lore.  "The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a fall favorite!" the website declares.  "It's the drink for which you yearn during the non-fall months; the warm treat that stands tall above all the others.  Bow down to this herald of The Fall!  Drink upon this magnificent concoction of unmistakable spices!  Drink!  Drink it up!!!  And be happy that it's fall, you motherfuckers."

Ok, it doesn't actually say that, but I still took offense to it.  It got me all riled up that some asshole had the nerve to declare that the Pumpkin Spice Latte was the best thing about fall; that we all put up with the bullshit of the rest of the year because we know there's a piping hot venti Pumpkin Spice Latte waiting there for us in late September.  Well, you know what?!??!?!

I disagree. 

Now that Summer has passed the seasonal torch to her auburn sister, I am relishing the cool weather, the leaves changing color (a very vibrant "Southern California Brown"), and the afternoon light taking on the mysterious hues of the ever-shortening day.  Autumn is about so much more than a beverage.  It's a state of being.  It's about crisp weather, apple cider, scarves, football, bundling up, Santa Ana winds, Halloween, family time, Thanksgiving, fireplaces, leaf piles, getting cozy, hot cocoa, leaves changing colors, playoff baseball.  More things than there are words for.  I guess it's stupid to let a silly little ad campaign upset me--perhaps more evidence that I'm turning into an old curmudgeon--but the whole thing felt a bit cheap.  And not just cheap, but an affront to many childhood memories formed amidst the swirling winds of playground asphalt.

It's funny how our minds associate things.  Objectively, Autumn is a season of sadness.  It signals the end of the vibrancy of summer and serves as a cold, unrelenting bridge to Winter.  The days get shorter, the nights longer, and the weather colder.  Miserable in all respects.  And yet, events in my life have conspired to associate many happy memories with Autumn.  I guess it's not such a bad thing.  Summer may encapsulate the party that is the human existence, but Autumn is the intimate after party.  The space in between the hot, loud, crowded moment of the night club and the cold, lonely journey of the Hangover.  The night cap.  The winding down.  I guess that says something about me (something that won't be unpacked here).  But in any case, I'm happy as a clam that Autumn is once again upon us.  PSL10 and all.


"Halloween parades through Autumn.  Australian Bora Bora [stump]."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Island Wedding Adventure

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend G & P’s wedding.  The boat ride over offered a small hint of the magic to come.  Shortly after leaving San Pedro harbor, our vessel was surrounded by a haze that obscured the view in all directions.  Speeding through the blank, infinite plane of ocean felt like being transported into an alternate universe.  After a while the shadowy outline of Catalina Island slowly began to emerge from the mist.  The closer the boat got to Avalon harbor, the more it felt like I was being invited into a magical secret.  Many evoked the grandeur and majesty of the Jurassic Park entrance music, but for me it was a much more intimate, romantic feeling.  Maybe it had to do with the unique features of the Avalon itself, its buildings and streets stretched and squished in strange ways to make it look like something out of a storybook.

The wedding ceremony was held in a location nestled high among the mountains and overlooking the sea.  The haze of the prior day had burned off and left in its place the most magnificent clear blue canopy.  The sun was shining brightly and a cool sea breeze was blowing in.  Seeing the bride and groom surrounded by their loved ones with the majesty of nature as a backdrop was incredibly spiritual.  And when the time came for the bride and groom to seal the deal with a kiss, you couldn’t help but feel that the marriage was blessed by a power whose comprehension is beyond our grasp.  The gods were happy. 

Shortly after the ceremony, the festivities shifted to the reception venue where the mirth and merriment commenced in earnest.  I will be honest, my recollection of the events of the evening remain a bit hazy, but suffice to say I was happy to have been a part of it.  It always makes me happy to see people in love, even more so when those people are dear friends.  True love is a tricky thing--hard to find and even harder to hold on to--so to see G & P wield it so adroitly brings a big smile to my face. And like the mighty Excalibur, I hope that the bond forged in the burning flame of their love atop the mountains of Avalon will last all of eternity.  

Congratulations, dear friends.


"For love is immortality."

Friday, September 20, 2013

One If By Sea

I'm on a boat.  Its engines are busy churning up ocean into a white spray; cutting through the stillness with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.  We started in the drab, industrial  surroundings of San Pedro but are now in open water, having left any reference to dry land far behind.  

There is something about being in the middle of the ocean that is magnificent.  The faint smell of salt.  The sun reflecting off the water.  The air whooshing past.  And when you look out on the horizon--when you gaze into infinity--the vastness is mesmerizing, humbling, and terrifying all at the same time.  It certainly makes you reflective. 

Anyway, as we head deeper into the mist toward Avalon, the excitement builds for G & P's wedding.  It feels blessed, and I am glad to be a part of it.  So with that, enough Internet.  Onward to celebration!


"Don't you worry 'bout a thing."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Disturbance in the Force

One of the highlights of my day is walking by this magnificent sycamore tree right in front of my office building.  It is mighty and magnificent, towering above the workers hustling to and fro far beneath its canopy.  But far from being ominous or imposing, its radiates a certain reassurance that there is harmony in the world.  I'm not a tree specialist or anything, but I'd assume by its size that this tree has been there for decades.  I always think about the people who've come and gone underneath this tree long before I even entered the World.  And during all those years, this sycamore has stood watch as silent sentinel.

That is until this morning.  Right away, I noticed that my usual morning approach was askew.  It quickly dawned on me that the tree was no more.  Well, I should back up.  That the tree was mutilated beyond recognition.  I'd seen a bunch of "corporate" type people milling about the tree in the past few weeks, but wasn't really sure what they were up to.  Now it made sense.  The tree's canopy had grown to a point where it bent a flag pole to a 45 degree angle.  I guess the building's owners decided this transgression against Man could not stand.  And so out came the chainsaws.

The sight of this beautiful tree missing half of its canopy was sickening.  Unnerving, really.  The beauty of a tree lies in its asymmetrical symmetry.  The natural curvature in its branches.  Seemingly random, but really following a simple plan--go toward the sun.  That was all gone now.  In its place the straight, abrupt lines left by the violence of Man.  I sighed and went into the building, happy that at least half the tree was in tact.

But when I left for work at the end of the day, the entire tree was gone.  In its place a massive void.  I'd assumed they'd just leave it be since mutilating the tree had created space for their precious fucking flagpole, but the building's ownership must have had other ideas.  I was surprised at how quickly they were able to completely vanish this magnificent tree.  There was nothing left to show that a tree had ever stood there.  Its chopped-up corpse had been hauled away and people were already unrolling that "instant sod" bullshit where the tree used to be.  The whole thing made my skin crawl, like watching someone get away with murder.  I guess one small victory is that my office faces the other side of the building so I didn't have to witness any of the carnage.

You know, it's funny.  Man has a lotta swagger about his awesomeness, but in reality Man is just man.  Nature has been here way before us, and I'm confident it will survive us by a wide, wide margin.  This whole incident with the sycamore made me angry and depressed at the same time--"How can you not get how absolutely stupid this is!?"  And of course, it hammered home the injustice that lies in the difference between the arduous difficulty of creation and the nonchalant ease of destruction.

Maybe it's just an LA thing, the whole "fuck you" to nature.  Collateral damage from literally living in a desert.  It made me think back to my trip to Seattle and Vancouver (Seacouver!) this past May.  Taking the MUNI from the airport to downtown Seattle, what struck me most was how green and lush everything was.  Part of that is certainly due to the climate in the Pacific Northwest, but I also felt that a large part had to do with Man's relationship with nature being different.  It wasn't all about conquering and dominating, but living in harmony.  Or, at the very least, seeing Mount Rainier looming in the backdrop made you realize who was really in charge.

Anyway, I suppose I should make a positive out of a negative.  I don't know why, but the absence of the sycamore tree has led me to dust off my "tweet journal" from the Seacouver trip.  Its whole tortured (and lampooned) existence was so I could "blog" about my trip after the fact.  I guess I didn't put up with all that ribbing just to have it sit in a drawer.  And so, next stop, Seattle!

That is, of course, if I can decode my terrible handwriting.  Good lord.


"'Come, Boy, sit down.  Sit down and rest.'  And the boy did.  And the tree was happy."

Monday, September 16, 2013

An American Romance

I live in a city that has a large population of Armenian immigrants.  One effect of this concentration is the most delicious scents wafting through the cool evening air of my apartment complex.  Exotic spices, savory stews, meats roasting to tender perfection.  I also like bumping into old grandmas and grandpas on the street going about their daily walks.  They have the look of people who have lived in interesting times in interesting places far, far away, but who are now content to have their daily walk uninterrupted by anything interesting.  And so I'm happy to oblige.

Of course, Glendale is not an exclusively Armenian enclave.  There're smatterings of other non-Armenian establishments here and there, one of which is the Korean market.  Something pretty comparable to what you might see in Koreatown a short drive away.  It's always funny going from the local Starbucks, which is the Armenian Man's hang out (old and young) to the Korean market, which is pretty much almost exclusively Korean.  The two are right next to each other, but you never see people going from one into the other.  I suppose this is evidence of stereotype's ability to erect walls?

Anyway, today I found myself on my weekly produce run to the Korean market.  After stuffing my bag full of kale, tomatoes, pluots and other such delights, I was making my way to my car when I was struck by the sight of a very well-dressed Korean girl standing in the middle of the parking lot.  She had her hair did, her lipstick red, and her heels high.  It was a strange sight, a pretty girl in the parking lot neither coming nor going.  Just waiting.

Certainly not waiting form me, though.  I walked right past her with the quickest of quickness and proceeded to place my groceries in the car.  But as I was busying myself with the trunk, enter the Hunk.  This debonair Armenian gentleman arrives in his chariot to whisk the Korean girl away.  After stepping out of the car to greet her, the two embraced.  Not hugged, but embraced (and there is a difference between the two).  The embrace was for a brief second, but even from where I was, I could feel the electricity of the connection between these two.  A tenderness you usually don't see in public.  These two were probably only on a second or third date--there was still a hesitancy to the whole thing, and the girl had decided it's still too early to disclose the location of her domicile--but you felt good about their prospects.

And of course the ethnic pairing stood out to me.  I suppose that is a bit narrow-minded of me (or exposes my shelteredness), but you really don't see that pairing often (or at all?).  It moved me.  A budding romance built on their inner spirits.  From the inside out.  The right way.  It definitely made me happy to be living in America (or at least in California).  A Japanese guy standing in the parking lot of the Korean Market in an Armenian City bearing witness to one more small step toward the color-blind society that is our American inheritance.  It gave me a good feeling to know that when the Dream comes, it will be fueled with the Love.


"My eyes have once again been proven wrong."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Miserable One

I don't know why but "Castle on a Cloud" decided to occupy my consciousness for a brief moment today and in doing so left a flood of memories in its wake.  Funny thing is, I don't actually associate the song with my trip to see Les Miserables as a reluctant child dragged their by his mom.  The only things I recall from that experience are wearing uncomfortable clothes, the stage rotating to expose three different set pieces, and Jean Valjean doing a series of very heroic things.  Instead, "Castle on a Cloud" sticks out in my mind because it's tied so closely to the Winter Pageant in sixth grade.

Sixth grade was a big year in elementary school.  As "seniors," we were ostensibly in charge (as much charge as you can take over an elementary school), and sort of acted like hot shots.  I went to a so-called "magnet" school, so the students didn't all matriculate to the same middle school.  Instead, kids were assigned to different "magnet" middle schools based on the whims of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Sorting Hat.  That meant this would be the last year with a large number of my cohorts, including my Secret Crush.

As with most secret crushes, I don't think my Secret Crush knew who I was.  The simple fact of the matter was she was a cool person and I was not a cool person, so our paths seldom crossed.  I suppose the extent of my contact with her was when she'd flirt with the really nerdy kid who sat next to me and "double checked" her homework answers against his.  I'd always curse his big brain and my own inability to master the vagaries of mathematics.  I'd try to use these opportunities to chat her up, but a girl who listens to Nirvana and watches the Real World is to a boy who plays Magic: the Gathering and watches Batman: the Animated Series as oil is to water.  

And so sixth grade progressed without much incident until the announcement for the Winter Pageant.  As with each and every all-grade performance in years past, there would be tryouts for solo performers.  Now, I never usually go for this sort of thing since the prospect of being front and center with a jillion parents and students staring at me was too much to bear.  So in prior years I usually took more of a . . . supporting role.  One year I was one of many nameless, faceless cats in our rendition of "An American Tale" and another year I was one of many nameless, faceless orphans in our rendition of "Oliver."  The perfect roles since less intensive roles meant more hanging out with my Best Friend during rehearsal time.  But that year, I decided I was going to use the Winter Pageant as an opportunity to impress my Secret Crush.  How exactly this was supposed to work didn't really cross my mind, but I figured since I watched so much Wonder Years it was bound to work.  Oh, the logic of prepubescence.

Anyway, the tryout song was announced as "Castle on a Cloud."  Hearing that song for the first time sent a chill up my spine.  The subtlety and complexity hidden underneath a veneer of simplicity.  The haunting yet angelic voice of the singer.  It was a masterpiece.  Something that professional singers probably struggled to achieve mastery over.  Something . . . that was gonna be a piece of cake for me.  If you practice enough, you get good at anything, right?  Ah, the lies of childhood.  And so I took a copy of the sheet music and dutifully went about practicing morning, day, and night.  In fact, I vividly recall lying awake in bed the night before the tryout and visualizing my singing transporting everyone to a literal castle on a cloud.  And after I was finished, the crowd erupted into applause, roses rained down, and my Secret Crush awaited with a big fat (French) kiss.  I went to sleep happy.

Of course, oftentimes things don't turn out just quite the way you visualize them.  Tryouts for solo performances by tone-deaf Japanese kids are among those things.  Soon after the tryout started, I could tell from the teachers' faces that something was amiss.  Elementary school teachers are kind people by nature (you really have to be to excel in that job), but I could see their horror creeping through their "smiles."  It was as painful to watch them as I'm sure it was painful to hear me butcher that poor song, especially since I had equated yelling with singing--"THERE IS A CASTLE ON A CLOUUUUUD!  I LIKE TO GO THERE IN MY SLEEEEEP!!"  When I finished, the teachers threw out the requisite "Good job!" so as not to do too much harm to my young psyche, but I knew that there would be no solo performance for me.  My Best Friend was there to greet me with a chipper, "Dude, at least now we'll get to hang out during rehearsals!"

Despite my performance at the tryout, I was still in the running for a "showcase" role at the Winter Pageant because, of course, elementary school is still the time of "everyone wins!"  Shortly after receiving formal notice that I indeed would not be selected for a solo performance, I was selected to be a part of (or rather, hidden within) a quartet, three fourths of which were very strong singers.  I think we ended up singing "My Favorite Things."  Well, they ended up singing "My Favorite Things."  I really didn't even have to sing, and I'll admit that most of the time I just mouthed the words (hey, better for everyone, right?).  

As for my Secret Crush, well, she and my Best Friend were eventually paired up as part of a small group of couples that performed "Jingle Bell Rock."  No singing; just dancing in pairs.  Each day during rehearsals I'd "practice" with my quartet while my Best Friend would dance the afternoon away with my Secret Crush.  I'd see him out of the corner of my eye and rue is dumb luck.  The irony was that my Best Friend and Secret Crush absolutely despised each other, and their daily contact only fueled their mutual hatred.  It was the absolute worst thing that happened to him, and each day after school he'd vent about his horrific experience that day over a round of Magic: the Gathering--"Dude, this is so stupid.  I can't believe I have to dance with her like that, holding hands and putting my arm around her and crap.  What're they gonna do next?  Bring out the mistletoe and make us kiss [blech]  It's just unfair.  It's really unfair."

You're damn straight.


"What a bright time.  It's the right time to rock the night away."