The fix-it man was here today… putting in a new kitchen counter top…. exciting. He’s about 40, I’d say. Always looks like he is between three different jobs at once… always working his butt off.… always sweating all over my floor…

He had to make several trips back and forth to the hardware store for parts, and to his workshop to cut and recut the granite before finally laying it in. I continued to work in the other room to stay out of his way.

A few hours in, he came to ask a couple questions about the kitchen’s water line, or something about the water valve… as he started to leave the room, he said, “So where’s the greenery?”

I had no idea what he was talking about. “Greenery?”

He repeated the question, as if saying it slower would somehow clear things up for me. I shrugged.

He then dug deep in his plumber’s pocket, and pulled out a giant bag of weed.

“Ah, GREENERY,” said I.

He had a proud ‘mine is bigger than yours’ face on and continued, “Ya, man. Where’s yours?”

I tried to diffuse and wash the shock off my face, couldn’t think of anything clever to say. “Well, there’s really no room here to grow it.”

He chuckled and went back to his mission in the kitchen.

Funny, I was a little touched and felt closer like we were friends, that he had that much trust and confidence in me to so openly brandish his 10 pound pot baggie right in my face.

By the end of the afternoon, his job was complete, I had my new sparkling kitchen. On his way out, he mentioned how he had to get the weed home to his wife. She is in the middle of chemo treatment for her crazy cancer…. in her liver, and a couple other places throughout her body… the doctors all say it’s now about simply prolonging any little life in her that’s left.

Up to that moment, I didn’t realize how much pain and anguish he was living in. You would never know it. He keeps it all to himself, tucked inside, and has always maintained a happy, life-is-grande disposition.

I am ashamed… all day long I had painted him so clearly and carelessly as a giant pot-head, with all my biases and profiling. I know it’s not the worst thing someone could think of you, but it slapped me in the face… stabbed me in the eye… I always thought I was superhuman and free of judging books by their covers…. but I definitely had done it.

Heavier still, it is so easy to forget how everyone has a hard life. Everybody. Nobody escapes. It’s hard. Sometimes it seems like ONLY heartbreak. You get dealt different cards, but in the end, everyone is broken and everyone has to get through it. It is a constant, pressing weight… and another kick in the pants reminder that my troubles are so small and menial, compared to everyone else.

F BombI got to see Robert Deeble’s fantastic show tonight… as magical as ever… I can’t stop loving him… afterwards, I spent some quality time with the enchanting Lili (Robert’s angelic, stage sidekick)… after some lovely ketchup, and picking her mind for recent, excellent, earth-shattering record-store discoveries, Lili asked, very seriously, if I could give her some helpful advice… I was touched by the sweet trust she was about to lay on me… she then went on to tell me how her next day at work was weighing on her heavily…. it was her company’s traditional, monthly “Fun Friday” and this month’s theme was “Super Hero” day… everyone was supposed to come dressed as their own made-up super hero… she was stressed and couldn’t think of anything… I could see this was important… so we brainstormed… easy.

We talked about super powers and different ways she could save the world… I incisively cut straight to her closet, asked what she might happen to have in her wardrobe… knee-high boots? a cape? maybe a giant ring? I was kind of on fire, hitting home run after home run… and then, a perfect hole-in-one, grand slam  touchdown… as I wrung my devious hands together, I suggested, “Hmm, you should be a villain…” (her face lit up and she was practically trembling with happy delight, it had never occurred to her, a villain)… named… “F-Bomb.”

I could see she was super entranced with this whole idea… “maybe make some kind of emblem to wear on your chest, simple, like a big round bomb with a fuse, and a giant “F” in the middle.” I made her swear she would have to stay in character all day long, and like all great super villains, she would need a catch phrase or trademark… she would have to make every sentence she spoke, every interaction, every conversation, include an F-bomb. Whether it was the president of the company, the cafeteria lunch lady, or the mail delivery intern, she had to enthusiastically punch it with an f-bomb…

Genius, I thought. My work was done. Lili was rightly inspired and super charged… and I am the devil. My biggest fear is that once she starts, she won’t be able to stop… like when my grandmother warned me about how you mustn’t cross your eyes, even in jest, because they will stick like that permanently… poor Lily…


All weekend long, my brother kept sending me photos and videos in real time of his son, my 10 year old nephew, at an archery range…. shooting bows and arrows… his beaming face blinding anyone in the near vicinity as he proudly posed beside the bulls eye he just killed… (well, the actual target was on the side of a wooden sculpted deer… somehow, he shot perfectly straight into the deer’s butt hole… bulls eye).

After properly praising him for his awesomeness, I joked and told him how amazing it will be when he can someday shoot apples off the tops of people’s heads and rob money from rich people to give to the poor…

Thus, the idea for last week’s Santa Monica show poster was born… nothing fancy, just a lighthearted doodle of a kid with an apple on his head, and arrows narrowly missing him (and the apple)… a memento keepsake for the downtrodden and their i-Phone background or iPad wallpaper…

1) It occurred to me, after the fact, it is probably not a great idea to enthusiastically encourage a 10-year old how cool it would be to shoot apples off people’s heads… I will feel especially terrible if he tries it with his 8 year old brother…

2) After i posted the poster and sent it out everywhere, I also realized… that just two days before, in Santa Monica (where we were playing) they had the tragic murder shooting spree by that evil monster Libyan idiot piece of garbage… killed 5 people… it was a big, national story…

I know, there’s a big difference between guns and bullets, and bows and arrows… but I probably should have waited to draw a boy getting shot at… at least, in the same town during the same week as the horrible tragedy…

dream slug
I just woke from a dream this… morning…. I don’t have too many terror nightmares or choking-in-my-sleep dreams… but this one felt so real to life. After a chase and crash in a car, I found myself in a carport garage, with a white car up on blocks… I was running from someone, because I could feel the urgency that we had to get it fixed right away so I could get out of town… the entire right, bottom, front side was destroyed… my father was at the front of the car on his back, looking at the damage…

[note: I never worked on cars with my dad. I never worked on cars, period. I don’t know anything about cars. I don’t know anything about repairing cars.]

I had some kind of welding tool in one hand, and a flashlight in the other and somehow knew what the problem was, and that I needed to get under the car to weld the hole that was dripping oil.

I crawled around the side, flashed my light underneath, and from the corner of my eye, I barely caught a glimpse of something moving.

I slowly snuck to the back end of the car as I told my dad that something bright orange was under there, and that he should move back as well… I said I thought it was either a giant slug or a walrus…

As I bent down to look again from the tail end of the car, I aimed my flashlight, and in the blink of an eye the thing jumped out and wrapped itself around my right arm. It WAS a giant slug. I started wrestling with it as it gripped me tighter and tighter…

and then… I jerked out of the dream and woke up in my bed… I was wrapped up in my comforter blanket, and it was twisting around my arm…. but the dream was still halfway in my consciousness, and I started beating my blanket all over to make sure there wasn’t something inside… (not because I thought there might be a real monster in my bed, but because I was worried that something real WAS in my bed that made me dream such a thing).

I jumped up, still frantically beating the blanket all over in a crazed panic… and there was… nothing.

The End.

This is my father when he was a 9th grade English teacher... circa 1975...
My father was a 9th grade English teacher… circa 1975…

Today is my father’s birthday. Each year, I get this uneasy feeling about how it might be his last. This year, though, it is a little more sobering and urgent because he has started losing memories. It’s spooky… and mysterious… and heartbreaking…

In the past, when we talked about sweet (and bitter) and fond memories, re-living the glory days, he might correct or edit or interject details that I had completely forgotten (or magnified or embellished)… or we would share in a gut-aching guffaw about a particular event that set a new benchmark in buffoonery or horrific embarrassment.

It’s different now. It feels like I am telling a stranger my own childhood stories for the first time. They’re funny, indeed. He laughs along, loud and hard… but from a spectator’s point of view, like he’s hearing the story for the first time… not something he is recalling or remembering that he lived through himself.

It’s a real killer. I enjoy my new dad, as much as I can, and we still hang out and have awesome conversations… and I will hold on dearly to these new memories we are making (and forgetting)… because soon, I won’t have this stranger to tell stories to.

Thank you dad for knowingly and unwittingly making me who I am… for not letting me use swear words at the dinner table, even if it was a hilarious joke I learned at school… for that time you spent more than you should have on my hot Roddy bike… for the time you ran into the dark forest I had wandered into, right into a nest of swarming yellow-jackets, and carried me out, both of us covered in angry, stinging yellow-jackets…

for that time when I was 17 and you knew I was lying, but still backed down and let me off the hook so I could save face… for being the only parent who came to every tennis match… for not laughing when I was 18 and threatened to move out of the house in a heated throwdown argument… for trying to teach me about character and courage and happiness… for being the only dad on the block who came out and played baseball in the street with me and all the neighborhood kids… for teaching me about grace and forgiveness… for making me mow the front lawn every week with an un-motorized push-mower…

I love you, Dad. Happy birthday… even though you won’t remember.

The only time I have ever played or entered a raffle was in the third grade. It was some kind of charity auction, during a Saturday afternoon, school carnival. One of the prizes was a super awesome, high tech, clock radio. I was lusting in my heart for this, I wanted it so bad. Just before the raffle drawing was to begin, my parents came and found me to tell me it was time to go home. I pleaded, “We can’t go home yet! I entered the raffle!”

They were both unamused… and faithless… and tired… and decided to go home anyway without me, leaving me to walk home by myself later (the school was only three blocks from home).

When the raffle drawing finally got to the incredible clock radio, everything seemed like a dream… in slow motion… I heard Miss Burke (my third grade teacher) call out the winning number… I looked down at my raffle ticket… lo and behold, I WON! I really won!

Miss Burke was giddy with delight and frantically waved to me across the room to come up. Everyone was applauding and cheering as I walked through the crowd and approached to collect my prize.

I skipped all the way home, raced inside to the kitchen, and announced to my parents that I won the super prize that I TOLD THEM I was going to win.

And so began my delusional life-faith in believing that anything is possible and you can get anything you want if you dream hard enough…

Generally, I am running late… wherever I need to go, whenever I am leaving my house, I am typically behind schedule and in a rush… I have accepted this as a curse of physics… or a law of nature… or a truth of the universe…

As if paparazzi were stalking me, I’m always bolting to or from my car… the space between my front door and the door of my car is the only short window of accessibility or visibility… likewise, the only tiny peek that any of my neighbors get to see me is if they happen to be outside in the free air at the exact same lucky moment I am making my mad dash.

Today was no exception. There was no extra time to fiddle or dilly-dally… I had to be somewhere, and I was already late… gotta go, gotta go… grab keys, grab shoes, go, go, go…

With my hands full of all my essentials and day’s necessities, I juggled my keys in and out of the front door’s lock with my two last free fingers (like chop sticks), and headed out… I made it three steps away from the goal line, and…

“Heyyyyyyy… Michaelllllll…”

Like a jungle leopard springing out of the bushes, my friendly neighbor caught me in no-man’s land.

Neighbor: “Heyyy, how have you been?”
Me: “Oh, hi! Great to see you I…”
Neighbor: “Hey, I have been meaning to ask you…”

He went on to chat and wax and I could not find an escape hatch to get out. After ten minutes of niceties, a giant non-sequiter blind-sided me from out of nowhere… he was talking about something to do with the neighborhood, and what it was like 40 years ago when he first moved here (which I do actually find extremely interesting, like seeing those beach photos from the early 1900’s, before your home town was ever born)… then, with the most sincere, sweet-hearted intentions, he said,

Neighbor: “You know, when you first moved here, I remember how I wasn’t sure about you… you had this crazy look… you looked like David Koresh.”

[dumbfounded pause]

Me: “You mean… because of my magnetic, awesome charisma?”

Neighbor: “No, you LOOK like David Koresh.”

In all my years, I have been called many things… I’ve been told that I look like Eric Stoltz… or Jesus… or Chet Baker (Mike Roe would always send me “young” Chet postcards from the road… cruelly followed by postcards of the aged, heroine-worn, craggy Chet to show me how I would look someday)…. or Charlie Sexton… or Andrew Robinson, the actor who played the “Scorpio Killer” villain in Dirty Harry (thanks Kristin)… or the time Waz walked into Jim’s studio and saw my giant portrait on the wall alongside all the celebrities… Harrison Ford, Selma Hayek, Bruce Willis, me… he thought I was Kris Kristofferson… or when I was waking up from surgery, and the nurses gathered around my bed as I was being lifted into a wheelchair, they told me they thought I was Ozzy Osbourne… but I have never heard the David Koresh comparison…

My neighbor plowed through several other topics, and I tried to follow along, or at least look like I could hear what he was saying, but I could only see his lips moving… no sound… I was so lost and distracted, trying to think of what David Koresh looked like …

Besides, I had nothing left to say, anyway. No more clever comebacks, no witty retorts… I was speechless… all I could think about was how all these years, I have been a cult leader in his mind… and it really doesn’t get any better than that…

Tonight, in the middle of the dark, as I was getting in my car, a neighbor leaning halfway out the window yelled,
“Hey Michael, looking good!”
Me: “Thank you. Happy Valentines Day.”
Neighbor: “Wow, nobody’s said that to me in over 10 years.”
[awkward ache-silence]

If I were King, I would make Valentines Day like Christmas… the entire month of February, everybody would wish everybody “Happy Valentines” as they passed each other on the street… or the coffee barista would forcibly greet you with it at the counter… or the postman would say it every time he sees you… all month long, we would say it to each other… and let everyone celebrate a whole month of love.

Eventually, after it became the norm, I would expand it to make it said all the time, all year long… make it a formal greeting. It would become engrained in our children at an early age. People would get conditioned to automatically say it all the time.

At first, my country would be mocked by other countries, but we would be so filled with love, that we wouldn’t care. Then, masses of heartbroken foreigners and aliens would be dying to move their families to our country of love.