Thursday, August 24, 2006

How To Create a Bookmark for $6.

I was excited to see my friend's Denver-based band, Devotchka, play the Casbah Saturday night. I've known Tom for almost twenty years. I had last seen the band play in Denver on New Year's Eve, when they sold out the 600-seat Oriental Theater.

I'm perpetually early to everything. This time I planned on casually strolling over to the Casbah around 9:30pm. Around 8:30pm I got a call from Amber. She had inside information that only 40 tickets remained, and they were going fast. I hustled down there. Standing in line, the doorman said that the tickets would be gone in a few minutes. I just made it.

The opener was local band, Bunky. It was the first time I had seen them perform. Absolutely amazing. They're my new favorite band. Their song, Heartbunk, may be one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I've ever heard. But beyond their great songwriting and hooks… beyond Emily's amazing voice… one of the most engaging aspects of the show was the fact that the band was having a great time on stage. Emily's smile and sense-of-humor were infectious… the band's banter entertaining. For me, my enjoyment of a show increases exponentially when I see that the band is enjoying themselves up there. You accompany that with great music and I always leave with a warm fuzzy feeling.

Their CD has been permanently cemented into my car's CD player since Saturday night (FYI… their music is available on iTunes). Personal favorites include the aforementioned Heartbunk, Chuy, Boy/Girl, and Baba. I even have a special fondness for the noisy dissonance of Gotta Pee.

I saw the Cure play in Mountain View five years ago. They sounded great, but there wasn't a smile to be found on stage. I mean, it is the Cure, so this isn't surprising, but I remember leaving the venue feeling largely indifferent.

American Idol gets lots of viewers and attention, but here's what surprises me… it casts its net far and wide, yet it still seems to largely pull in crap. While I'm a random viewer, I'm rarely impressed with any of the talent. However, I can go out to any venue in town, on any night, and always find one band that blows me away. And I'm not just talking about people who have impressed me, but people whose music I would take with me if I was marooned on a desert island. In the last few months I've seen two dozen bands perform and I've encountered many incredibly talented people (Heather Duby, The Hot Toddies, The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Bunky… to name a few). And even better… not only do they sing, but they also play their own instruments and write their own songs. How novel.

I guess the point of this little tangent is that I'd love it if people went out and supported local music. Don't trust MTV or radio to define the contents of your jukebox. Get out and see people play. I think that you'll be surprised and impressed, and you're bound to find your own personal gem.

I got a chance to catch up with Tom before he went on stage. I picked his brain about life on the road and we talked about past, current, and future endeavors. Devotchka provided the soundtrack to the film, Little Miss Sunshine. I'm eager to see the movie.

As usual, Devotchka destroyed the place. They always put on the best live show. You won't find a better group of musicians anywhere.

Now… time for another one of my tangents….

I know that murder is wrong. But there really need to be exceptions. The last couple of shows I've attended there's been that one asshole that thinks the show is about him. I'm fine with people getting into the music and feeling passionate about the experience. But it's another thing when you're just being a distracting attention whore. There was one guy that would randomly appear in front of the stage, only to flail about, acting like he was having an epileptic seizure. He was completely disconnected from the music. I think that it should be legal to put him down. Another guy just kept obnoxiously yelling random stuff like an unfunny class clown. I just wanted to tap him on the shoulder and say, "It's not about you. Fade into the background." Then I would cap his ass.

The second thing… if you're there, please pay relative attention to the band and the music. There is a reason you paid twelve dollars -- to see the band. A couple was basically humping eighteen inches away from me with neither person interested in the music. It was distracting, and not in a sexy way. They thought they were alone in a hotel room with the clock radio turned on. It's one thing to grind in rhythm to the music. It's another to look like you're shooting a late night Cinemax movie. Although I will admit, there are two caveats to this rule… Caveat number one -- the lesbians making out in front of me… kind of hot. It would have been hotter if one of them hadn't been wearing a spiked dog collar and had hair shorter than mine. Caveat number two… if I'm with a woman, I'm free to hump away. It doesn't sound fair, but these are my rules.

Okay, enough talk about humping. My grandma reads this journal for Christ sakes.

Seriously. My grandma reads this journal.



On Sunday I ventured to the Del Mar Racetrack to lay some money down on the ponies.





It was a college alumni event and we were located on the infield. While it was a great place to socialize, it wasn't a good place to see horse racing. At most, only about a quarter of the track was visible. Although the ground level view did provide an interesting perspective. I realized how fast those horses traveled. They blazed around that track.



I've only been to the horse track four times in my life, and the periods are spaced far enough apart that I forgot everything I learned previously. For my first bet, I went with a trifecta box because it's cool to say trifecta. I did no research. I just picked three horses and gave the guy six dollars.



I understandably lost.

I learned the lingo. For the remaining races I picked a horse to show (finish in the top three) and won about a quarter of the time. It's a universal fact that gambling makes everything more interesting. Even though I only laid down $2 for each bet, I found myself riveted to each race. If you ever find yourself restless or bored, just start wagering on stuff. It's like an adrenalin shot to the heart.

My triumph… for the sixth race I picked one horse to place (2nd place or higher) and another to show and both horses cooperated and finished in that order. I collected my massive seven dollars in winnings and plotted the extravagant purchases that would follow. It was a good day.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Art: Jill Laying Down.

Jill Laying Down (ink and colored pencils on paper sketch, 8 x 5").



A close up....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Laguna.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I used to take day trips all the time… Santa Cruz, Monterey, Napa Valley, Tahoe, Redwood forest…. For me, the ultimate expression of freedom is getting in the car and driving with the windows down. And while I stay active in San Diego, I rarely drive outside the city limits. It's not because I don't have the desire, it's quite simply because I don't know where to go. In the Bay Area, you could drive an hour in any direction and be in a completely different world to collect new adventures. In San Diego, day trip destinations are not as obvious to me. You have ocean immediately to the west. Mexico immediately to the south. Extensive desert to the east. And the continuous metropolitan entity of Los Angeles to the north.

Aching for a day-trip on Sunday, I chose Laguna Beach for my destination. It's an hour north of San Diego.

Laguna began loosely as an artists' commune, and for this reason I have a desire to connect with it. But I have problems making this connection. The town always seems continuously fleeting, aloof, and evasive to me.

I blame one thing: parking.

However, the town is not completely at fault. Mostly it is, but I will take part of the blame. Now I am willing to throw money at a problem if I can make it go away. With that being said, I'm not sure why this is, but I absolutely hate paying for parking when I don't think that I should have to. As a person, I'm rather lax and laid back. I accept things at face value and don't take an opinion of them either way. But the one thing that affects me adversely is if I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. Paying for parking can sometimes hit that singular nerve.

Now my paying for parking issue is purely contextual. When I go downtown, I am content to pay. That is expected. When I lived in San Jose and drove up to San Francisco every three weeks for fun, I was perfectly resigned to park in the Fisherman's Wharf parking garage for twenty bucks. There is a Stoic saying that goes, "Is a little oil spilled or a little wine stolen? Then this is the price to be paid for happiness and nothing is to be had for free." The cashier at the pay booth drank some of my wine and I was fine with that.

But let me tell you why parking in Laguna is evil. There are parking meters absolutely everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Along the beach. On sides-streets and alleys. On thoroughfares from the beginning of town to the end. Along the narrowest of streets to the widest. Like plastic cups at a frat party, they are absolutely everywhere. Well, why don't you park in a neighborhood and walk a ways, you ask? Nope. All residential parking requires a special permit.

I went up on a Sunday so of course the next logical thought is that the meters must be free on Sunday. Nope. Not true in Laguna. And not only are they not free on Sunday like they are in every known corner of the world, but they operate from 8am to 7pm. Everyday.

Now you're saying, just shut up, Bryan, and put your money in the meter you cheap-ass. Well here's the next problem. I have issues for sure. But let me highlight one of them. I am always conscious of time. It doesn't matter where I am or what I am doing or what I have to do, but I am constantly aware of the ticking of the clock. Here's where this becomes a serious detriment in Laguna: all of the meters have limits on how long you can park there. And not only that, but the parking officers patrol the area with ubiquitous aggression. I parked my car in a space, and before I even got out of it, a parking Mafioso has marked my tire with chalk to ensure that I moved my vehicle before my time expired.

So as soon as I maxed out the meter at three hours, the countdown began in my head.

If you think that oil companies have a racket, they don't hold a candle to Laguna's parking mafia. It is unreal. And during the entire day I didn't see an entire cop, but I did see loads of parking enforcers. I'm convinced that you could commit any crime you wanted in Laguna and as long as it didn't involve parking, you would easily get away with it.

So here is what I did over my three hours in Laguna. I ate lunch at a good French restaurant called C'est La Vie where I ordered a mighty tasty ahi tuna sandwich. The waiters and waitresses were all French which added to the ambience.

I dashed in some art galleries – a thing that Laguna is famous for. I found a few things that caught my eye but nothing that impressed me greatly. I must rant a bit – please skip this paragraph if you're tired of my art expositions. There is an art reproduction printing method known as Giclee (pronounced gee-clay). Back in the day, if you bought a Giclee print it meant that it was produced using a special technique, equipment, and process. It had some weight. The problem is that the term has now been diluted to nothingness now. It is abused by artists who use the term to describe anything that they turn out of their ninety-nine dollar printer at home, and this abuse has filtered up to galleries and printmakers. This leads casually to this observation. I was absolutely amazed by how many galleries I walked into that sold prints for a very high amount of money (some ranged in value from $2500 to $10,000 for what amounted to a poster). I saw very few originals hanging up on the walls. Now prints are good economically for artists. If you can paint one thing and sell it an unlimited amount of times, that's good financially. It's like printing money. If you only sold originals then you got paid once and it disappeared. But I can't understand why someone would walk into a gallery and buy a poster for $5,000 instead of an original. It makes no sense to me. And everything now is Giclee this and Giclee that. It seems like it is 95% of the market and I find this unfortunate.

After perusing a few galleries I walked along the beautiful path that lines the beach.







If you ever see a painting of Laguna, there is a 90% chance that it is of this view:



At one point along the cliff-side boardwalk, I descended stairs to get close to the rocks.



Waves crashed.



This image always conjures up a story that I find terribly haunting.

The waves in Northern California get big. Halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz sits the town of Half Moon Bay. Just a short distance out, when the winter storms come down from Alaska, waves reliably reach heights from twenty five to fifty feet tall. Waves pack unbelievable power and they crash against the rocky coast in dramatic fashion.

When I lived in the Bay area there was a story on the news about a newlywed couple who were exploring the Northern California coast, near Monterey, on their honeymoon. They had driven down the coast and got out of their car to take pictures of the incredible ocean view. The man wanted to take a photo of his love set against the scenic backdrop. She perched herself on the rocks. Suddenly a wave crashed against the rocks with mighty force and swept her into the sea. The man instinctively, yet dangerously, dove into the frigid water after her. His attempt was futile. She had drowned. Again, I find this story to be so hauntingly sad, and I'm reminded of it whenever I see waves crash forcefully onto the rocks. (I had originally seen this story on the local nightly news, but have been able to locate the article on sfgate.com.)

The cliff-side boardwalk casually winds about the coastline. It was warm and humid outside. To obtain temporary solace from the weather, I dipped inside the Laguna Art Museum which had a nice display of artwork by early Monterey artists. I found myself frequently glancing down at my watch, trying to determine the latest time I could leave the museum and still make my car in time. As usual, I arrived at the car much earlier than I needed to, so I zipped into some additional art galleries before departing.

I don't know how many times I've driven south on the 5 from Los Angeles. But whenever I do, I'm always anxious to get home. This is unfortunate, because there is a scenic rest area right after San Onofre that I want to stop at but either miss because I'm not paying attention or am too eager to get home. This time I took the exit.



I then continued home.



(The odd thing about this journal entry and many like it is that I just wanted to say that I drove up to Laguna in three sentences and include a few pictures. I'm always amazed how these entries grow and evolve as I'm writing them. This is good for me as a writer… I'm not sure how it is for you the reader.)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

No Pandas Since Everyone Knows They're Bitches

I have a season pass to the San Diego Zoo. I really enjoy my time there. I ventured to the zoo this morning as I hadn't been in a while. Even beyond the animals, the extensive grounds and steep hills make for a nice walk.

It was so crowded at the zoo that I found it difficult to approach the exhibits, so as I walked around I spent a lot of time in my own head, as I often do. And a particular question popped into my head… let's say that the clock strikes midnight and the zoo is void of all people. All of the cages open and the animals are free to wander and mingle. But they're all cool. No animal tries to eat another. It's a good vibe. Which leads to the question… if you're an animal and you want to have a poker game, which animals do you invite to the table?

People who know me well can predict this guest list exclusion: absolutely no birds are invited. I hate birds. Sorry flamingos.

I'd certainly invite the brown bear because he would have good stories to tell. If you're ever camping and you encounter a brown bear, sit down on a stump and listen to him because you're going to hear some great tales.



Not only that, but during the game you could always have this exchange:
Brown bear: Your turn, Bry. Are you in?
Me: Does a bear shit in the woods?

I'd definitely invite a camel. If for no other reason than he wouldn't drink too much beer. I mean, c'mon, he's a fucking camel. He travels thousands of miles in the desert without tasting a drop of water. He's not going to be doing keg stands in the kitchen.



I like turtles, but since they can reach a hundred years old, you'd have to hear a lot of stories about when gas was a nickel. Sorry, but no turtle.

Now here's the kicker: what animal would you invite to get the party started? Which animal would be the one to make the jokes? The clich├ęd answer would be the hyena. But this would be a horrible choice. This would be like inviting Robin Williams. It sounds good on paper, but after five minutes of his hyperactive routine, you'd want to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart. A hyena would be obnoxious. If you really want to invite a cool animal, here's where you go… invite an otter. You've never laughed so hard until you've hung out with an otter. They're the life of the party.



Have you ever seen a sad otter?



You most certainly couldn't invite a panda bear. They get all of the attention and special treatment at the zoo. The zoo always advertises the pandas. They get shown panda porn on TVs in their exhibit. Two pandas hump and it makes national news. In order to even see the pandas, you have to get into a special line while people constantly tell you to be quiet. Pandas would be snobby and want you to open a bottle of wine. We don't need that kind of attitude.

I posed my zoo poker question to Amber tonight and she brought up two terrific points. You couldn't invite a giraffe because its long neck would help him catch peeks of other player's cards. In the same vein, you couldn't invite a kangaroo because it could hide cards in its pouch. While I think playing cards with a kangaroo would be a pure delight, the risk of cheating is just too great.

The idea that koalas get stoned off eucalyptus is a myth, but they still don't seem to be too cognizant. It sounds bad, but I think that it would be easy to score some easy chips from a lackadaisical koala. The koala is in.

With all this being said, for a table of six, me included, here are the other five animals I would invite to my poker game:
1.) Brown bear
2.) Otter
3.) Camel
4.) Koala
5.) Zebra (because it's a hip animal)



My HOA rules allow me to have a pet, but it cannot weigh more than twenty five pounds. This is limiting. I loathe tiny dogs and am not a fan of cats. I'm not looking for a pet, but if I were, I'd want a Fennec fox. I saw one at the zoo today and it’s a cool animal. It's too small to fetch a beer but it does eat insects. And while it's not manly to say, it's pretty damn cute.



One of the zoo handlers had the fox outside of its cage and talked about it. Because I'm a nerd, I asked lots of questions. It was an interesting discussion. Animals are fascinating critters.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dilemma of Infinite Proportions and Grave Consequences.

Because both now appear on my TV at exactly the same time… a choice must be made… Angelina in Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Salma in After the Sunset? Which love do I go with? Which do I betray?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Palindrome (served with hot water, whiskey, and a touch of honey).

I turned 33 today. There are obvious age milestones... 16, 18, 21, 25... maybe 30. After that you seek solace in subtleties. For some reason 32 doesn't seem very old but 34 does. So right now I will find sanctuary in 33.

....

I had a magical weekend of musical adventures. On Friday night Adam's band, Secret Apollo, rocked the Honey Bee Hive for their CD release party. The place was packed and I had fun catching up with friends new and old. The band sounded incredible and the whole evening had a great vibe.

On Sunday I checked out Oakland-based band, The Hot Toddies, at the Whistle Stop. You gotta catch them if they visit your city. I enjoyed their show immensely and I can't use enough adjectives to describe their live set and their music. Amazing harmonies. Fantastic arrangements. Infectious songs. Great energy. Whimsical, irreverent, flirty, and thoughtful lyrics. I bought their E.P. at the show and have been listening to it non-stop. I can't wait until they release more songs and make a return to San Diego.