Monday, July 23, 2012

Seagulls Reel

Seagulls Reel

                Seagulls reel.  They rise in a quasi-flock and at the edge of the surf and size things up.  To go out, make the effort against the wind coming off the water to pick at the leavings of sea lions, pelicans and cormorants or to turn back inshore, to sandwiches, chips, pizza, McDonalds, pork rinds, Doritos, cupcakes left unattended.

                Quasi-flock: seagulls are not loyal birds.  Their social structure ranges from that of vaguely affiliated hillbillies to unconstrained mobs.  Given the right circumstances they will peck each other senseless over a crust of bread.

                Seagulls reel.  Heading inland; the wind makes it senseless to do otherwise.  Pudgy brown children roll in the surf like churros in powdered sugar.  Fathers male bond as mothers watch hawk-like although a few barely at all.  And as the bright sunshine bounces off water concealing tormented and writhing sand shifting beneath the feet of all and sundry, conditioned by inflow and outflow, by the moon, the gods and worst of all El Nino, they play. 

The lifeguard watches.  Red-slickered, hooded to the point of chicken-bandy-legged and gymtoned, waving a fire engine red lozenge while the myriads watch not knowing or caring what he’s worried about.

                “How many you pull out today?”  At Zuma Beach there are always rescues.  It is treacherous to the point sensible people won’t go there.  You want a rip-tide that pulls you to Anacapa you go to Zuma Beach.  Swim parallel to the shore as long as you want to and nothing's going to happen but you swim into another one.  From Zuma Beach you can visit the entire west coast of north America for free and without hardly trying.  It doesn't ask if you want to go.

                And jellyfish, though technically you’re not supposed to call them “fish."  They are not fish.  They are 99.999% water and the rest don’t you fucking touch me.  Zuma Beach always had, has, and always will have jellyfish.  The man-o-war kind in fractions and otherwise dead and tentacled lolling on the breakers hitching rides or whatever gelatinous does.  Nothing helps a jellyfish sting but peeing on it, which probably doesn’t help.  But it is funny.

                Seagulls reel.  Inland like a U-turn on the boulevard.  A sunburned slacker with beach-buzz eyes loses his hot dog to a clear headed smart beak, feathers and sinew heading out to sea.  It’s alright now, the buffeting no problem.  This bird has acquired the fuel to get back.

                “Five,” says the lifeguard.  “Lots of holes out there.  That’s why I love this job.  Love to go into the water.”

                Where would we be without lifeguards?

                I know a thing or two about seagulls.  It is nearly impossible to identify one kind from the other because at different developmental stages they all look the same.  A gray one can be a white one on the way to becoming white and a white can be thirty different kinds of white.  Herring gulls have a red spot on their lower beaks so their offspring can target the food pump.

Were I to wake up reincarnated a seagull, horrification would ensue: “holy shit what did I do to deserve this?”  Because for a seagull, a broken wing, leg, an illness or serious wound is a death sentence.  And the wind, the force, the engineering of a creature constantly and persistently at the mercy of such, and the undoing should anything befall it.  I cannot snatch the hot dog before the other one can.  I lack the strength to fly out to sea.  I am going away and I cannot fix this.  The others don’t notice.  They just bicker and fight over the leavings, until the leavings are you.
Seagulls reel.  And at the end of the day settle further on down the beach.  There are no people or snack foods there.  Just beak tucked into wing fluffed with white feathers and sand.  Night will fall.  For a little while breath beneath the wing is warm

Los Angeles at a Glance

Los Angeles at a Glance

No one knows where Los Angeles begins or ends.  They did once but not anymore.  It spreads out in so many directions north south east and west stopped only by the sea and then barely, that there is no obvious boundary.  It is like the universe only dirtier and with much less order.  There will be heat death for Los Angeles someday, but it will be ugly getting there.  The ocean stops the city but when it does the leavings of masses mixes with the surf and while yeah, the reason the foam at Santa Monica is brown may have something to do with churn and rainwater, but you’re never really sure.  There’s forever a nagging.  Is it or isn’t it shit I’m swimming in? Whose is it and what are they infected with?

The east.  Desert spattered with mini-malls and settlements gives way to something called “Upland,” although it is not clear what it is up land of.  Up land of more land which is bleak and waterless, sandy and shifting both in its architecture and population.  Lots of Latino immigrants have settled in Upland; they don’t mind the heat so much but the boredom gets to them as they work at fast food joints serving people driving to better or at least more exciting places burgers and burritos and send them on their way.  Go away Gringo.  We’ve got to get back to the hopelessness and meth labs, the first is always waiting—it ain’t going to go anywhere-- but the second tend to explode and burn down if you don’t keep an eye on them.

San Diego used to be south of Los Angeles but it has lost its autonomy and bled in.  It likes to imagine it is the other way around, that it has bled into LA but San Diego has never had much of a sense of self despite what T. Jefferson Parker says.  San Diego is real estate developed and yanked from under the indigenous population because it is too nice for the likes of them.  Bushy blond hairdo’s and hot rods disappeared a long time ago.  There are dolphins living in tanks now in San Diego.  One of them is going to jump out and go splat on the tarmac one of these days.  It has happened before elsewhere and it will happen again but very few people know about it.  It’s a secret.

 I live in Encino south of “the boulevard.”   “The boulevard” is Ventura and to live south of it is a big deal.  Everyone wants to live south of the boulevard since that means you’ve got dough except in my case.  In my case it means I fell on the charity of an old friend or maybe he needed the dough and fell on mine.  Either way it’s a kind of an impaling on chenielle and as you wake to the leaf blowers and middle easterners with black- tinted windows on high-end sports cars careening around the curve and down the hill, it kind of make you wonder in general about the things people crave.

My neighborhood is Jewish.  There are conservative Jews, Orthodox Jews, regular Jews, non-observant Jews and Jews who switch off Monday, Wednesday, Friday and alternating Saturdays.  There are kosher, non-kosher, short, tall, bearded, clean-shaven, men, women, and children Jews.  Many of them wear yarmulkas on Friday night and Saturday too.  I haven’t quite figured that one out yet but there’s a reason they have 2 Sundays.  Of course like the rest of us, some of them have no Sunday at all.

 You cannot go to the bathroom in Los Angeles without getting on a freeway.  Cars are a religion here and people act all kinds of ways they wouldn’t ordinarily when they are in their cars.  With a car you’ve got loads of metal, plastic, and tinted windows around you and you can act any old way you want to. If you get really mad you can crash into someone.  Of course most of the time it suffices to bully them, sidle up alongside and say mean stuff, intimidate them by acting aggressive and or crazy.  You can say things with your car you’d never have the guts to say ordinarily.  Leaning on your horn screaming “get the fuck out of the way.  My needs are a hundred times more important than yours are and even if they aren’t, fuck you anyway.”  There is a lot of fuck youing going on from the inside of cars.  Fuck youing nobody’d have the balls for if not for the metal, plastic and tinted windows.

But the fuck youing isn’t the worst thing emanating from the interior of cars in the City of the Angels.  The worst thing is the “I don’t give a fuck if you live or die because I’m busy texting.  If I don’t tell my best friend lol right now, some kind of bad electrical impulse is going to go off in my brain and I’m going to have to eat a quart of Haggen Daas when I get home.  Wtf?”  Text messaging monkeys are worse than fuck youing monkeys since at least the fuck youers have self-interest going for them.  They may act like they want to run into you but they don’t since it would damage their armor and get their insurance rates hiked.  The texters, which includes the yappers just for convenience’s sake, are in the grips of advanced addiction and while if they do run into another car or a pedestrian they won’t much like it, what they like and don’t like has nothing to do with anything.  They are compelled.  Compulsion is a dangerous thing.

Well, that is all for now.  Some Angelinos will read this and like, totally go, “Wow!  What a negative Nellie!”  I will address this phenomenon in the next installment, “The Law of Attraction, Pathological Narcissism, and Basalt.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Gay Marriage and Short Sales

Gay Marriage and Short Sales

            I’ve been noticing there is a lot of coverage of the gay marriage issue in the media.  This is very important, we are led to understand, because God is involved.  I’m not sure when he got involved exactly.  Maybe it was in the middle ages when marriage was understood as a mechanism for insuring the transference of property and chattel, (read, women, land, and goats,) or in the nineteenth century when part of the emphasis became a legal mechanism for forcing men to support some of the kids they’d sired, or at least help Mama off her back long enough to keep the little ones from getting run over by Conestoga wagons.  The point is, He did get interested at some point and we’re all supposed to care about protecting the sanctity of heterosexual couples participating in it and that’s the way it is.  Queers, so the argument goes, will just have to settle matters of chattel with pistols at forty paces and we know this because it says so in the Bible.

I may have confused some of the details.  It happens.  But this is my understanding of the argument.

But if my understanding on the sanctity of marriage, hetero or otherwise is lacking, who could blame me?  I just lost a shitload of dough in the short sale of a house and was reassured by the law firm I had to pay to take said house, thereby not ruining my credit more than it’s already ruined, by a foreclosure, that I wasn’t nearly as upside down on my mortgage as most of the people they worked with.  Why I was supposed to find this reassuring I’m not sure.  Nor am I sure exactly what the law firm did with the money I paid them to get Chase Bank to forgive the 38k difference in what the house wound up being worth and what I owed.  I suspect they hired several supplicants to lick the feet of the persons in positions of authority at the bank, clean.  If there are other body parts of the lofty persons requiring cleaning, I’m pretty sure the lawyers would have charged more.  Of course I don’t know much about high finance and have no idea what hired supplicants charge these days.  There are a lot of things I don’t understand.

But man, the whole process took a long time.  Nine months.  Some of it is kind of funny when you’re far enough on the other side of it or psychotically hysterical whichever comes first.  For instance, when you realize you can no longer pay your mortgage, you have to stop paying your mortgage.  You cannot put your house on the market until you have not paid the mortgage for two months.  Once the two months have elapsed and you’ve gotten a friendly reminder phone call or two, maybe a reminder note in the mail goosing you to pay up, you can hire a realtor who hangs out a sign.  Many people might be interested in your house, but when they find out it’s a short sale they back off.  Most buyers lack the patience to wait six months to get their house and they know that’s what it is going to take.  The other thing is, at least in my case, the bank will not “forgive,” more that 20% of what you owe.  I bought my house on Hood Canal for 229K, it plummeted to a real market value of about 145k and since I owed 178K I could not accept anything less than 142.  To not be forgiven by Chase Bank is a very big deal especially with the new laws aggressively being pushed through state legislatures—Jan Brewer of Arizona just signed a whopper.  Wow!  I’m glad I don’t live there anymore—I believe it allows collection agencies to take one joint of one digit from each finger for every month you’re in arrears on any debt.

Once you’ve accepted an offer is when the fun starts.  Loads of packets of papers come in the mail the purpose of which is to ferret out every liquid asset you have.  Liquid assets include any monies in bank accounts both savings and checking over 2000 dollars, recreational vehicles, toys, you name it, up to the value of what you owe.  If you have any more that 2k, say, to cover bills, you have to take it out of whatever bank and give it to a friend to hold or hide it in the mattress.  You can’t give it to a relative since anybody with the same last name, either maiden or current, that you have will be found.  Big banks servicing mortgages are like the old East German Stasi.  They can find anything.  Oh, and I forgot.  That’s all big banks do: service the mortgage.  The actual mortgage holders are Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac.  I asked lots of people who these Fanny and Freddie actually are and could never get a satisfactory answer.  I suspect they live somewhere within the bowels of the earth and have virgins thrown to the every month or so, but your guess is as good as mine.

Anyway, once Chase or whatever bank has got all your financial information, including employment or unemployment history, examined it under a microscope to find out whether it’s true or false, ramped up the harassing phone calls coming in day and night whether they’re supposed to or not, sent overnight urgent letters reminding you of your responsibility and loads of shit like that you set on fire, you have to write them a “hardship letter.” Again, I don’t know a lot about high finance so I had some trouble understanding the purpose of this.  They already had the numbers; they’d already been through the numbers for all they were worth.  There was nothing more to say really.  So I fell back on my childhood Catholicism.  It always comes in handy in a pinch.  “oh my Chase Bank, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, who art all good and deserving of all my love, I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”  Then I stuck the labels from my prescription tranquilizer and anti-depressant bottles on the paper and sent it all along by US mail.  I figured that oughta do it.

Ever since Alanis Morrisette, I can’t actually remember what “ironic” means.  But this morning as I read the news and the details of the latest JP Morgan Chase “investment officers,” who’ve run off with another 2 billion dollars of other peoples’ money, scandal, I couldn’t help being if not amused, made to feel like upchucking.  Since I don’t understand high finance I have no idea what effects another cadre of greedy amoral bastards fleecing whatever remnants of the economy we have left, will have.  Just like I had no idea how a lot of other people being way more upside down on their mortgages than I was, should have made me feel one whit better during my own odyssey.

This morning I asked my realtor if I could go ahead and take a little money out of the mattress and put it into my checking account so I can stop worrying about bouncing checks.  She said I’d better wait a couple of months.  She said it might take the bank awhile to realize the deal is done and I don’t owe them money anymore, so they might take it anyway.


Meanwhile, on the Senate Floor, I believe the House Republicans are debating whether or not the rights of peckerwoods to marry the stumps they love so well, as ordained in the Bible, are being infringed in the great State of Arkansas.   God Damn I’m glad those guys are on the job!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Guy with the Plastic Cup at the Bottom of the Ramp

The Guy with the Plastic Cup at the Bottom of the Off Ramp
            You know how it goes.  Traffic, long light.  This town has gone to hell, like most these days.  I see the homeless guy in camo fatigues jumpin’ around like a lot of them do, high speed friendly patter and big smiles trying to get whoever’s pulled up along side them to open the window and give them some dough.
            Me?  I ain’t along side him yet and although I usually think of giving people whatever change rattling around in the bottom of my purse I can or a buck or something, generally by the time the light changes it’s too late.
            But this is the Van Nuys Boulevard exit off the 101.  A dinosaur has chewed it up—must have been something like that-- so it takes 800 years to exit the freeway.  I’m staring at the particle board siding slapped onto the concrete butting.  A Tyrannosaur bit it.  That's the only reasonable explanation.
            The car in front of me moves a few inches.  Light changes.  I’m here for another cycle.  Plenty of time to get a buck for the camo with the plastic cup.
            Some people say these guys begging for money aren’t really poor, they’re just scam artists.  This means they live at big houses with swimming pools and saunas “south of the boulevard,” as they say around these parts.  I find this interesting.  I’ve stood on street corners before.  If you’re a woman, within five minutes someone comes up and asks if you want a date.  Probably if you’re a guy the same thing happens although maybe it takes longer.  Stand there long enough looking weak or vulnerable and you generally get spat on, old McDonald burgers thrown at you, that kind of thing.
            So as a career choice, it doesn’t seem a particularly wise one.
            Light changes, I pull up a couple of dozen yards.
            Anywho, I figure the nutzoid patter they all do is to keep the flung fast food and expectorating to a minimum.  If someone is batshit, flingers and spitters possessed of even a modicum of imagination must entertain the notion that said individual, particularly one in military fatigues, might be capable of violence and even possessed of a firearm or two.
            I pull up along side him, put down the window but only part way.  His face is all scarred up, particularly around the eye, leading me via my lightening fast Touring machine circa 1957 mind, to calculate the probability that some kind of head injury may have occurred, wot with the eye being so close to the gray matter and all.  I give him a buck, he says thank you lovely lady and all that other crap.  We chat a little.  Let’s face it, the light at the bottom of the ramp is not going to change for, like, another 30 years.  He tells me of all the celebrities he’s seen.  Jay Leno, someone I’ve never heard of, Mark Wahlberg gave him 20 bucks.  Patter, patter, patter.  The light changes and it’s time to move on.
            He puts his hand on the top of my car, looks me straight in the eye.  One of his, the one with all the scarring is a little milky.  I wonder if he can see out of it.  For that moment he does not look crazy at all.
            “This is Uncle Sam part 2,” he says.
            Under the freeway waiting for the next light to change.  Some woman’s come off her ramp, sits in the middle of the intersection but even though all the other drivers, at that particular moment, hate her.  She’d rather endure that than sit through another interminable cycle of the goddamn light.  This is Los Angeles, after all, and inside your car is the safe zone.  Like a hermit crab tucked inside its shell.  It’s why it will never change.  It’s not about movement.  It’s about invulnerability.
            The woman moves out of the intersection.  Traffic moves.  It is clear for a little while in front of me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Unpaid Internships
A note on this piece. My son has applied for an internship with a politician. There is much competition for it as the position has some prestige. It entails working all day for free, but it will look good on his resume. A woman in her fifties I met the other day has applied for an internship at a well known museum. It entails working all day for no pay. She doesn't have the energy to do it and as a result, cannot further her career. These kinds of internships are increasingly common as any college or soon to be college graduate will tell you.

Dear Pacific Gas and Electric,
Congratulations! After lengthy consideration we have decided to award you, Pacific Gas and Electric, the 2012 Harvey Nutley Internship, re-instituted just this year at our house. Be assured, the competition for the prize was stiff and we spent many hours pouring over the resumes of countless excellent and highly qualified candidates. In the final hours however, we concluded that your qualifications, with your superior ability to deliver not just natural gas, but electricity to residential customers, were superior to all other competitors.
Unfortunately, due to budget constraints at this time, the internship is unpaid. However we can personally guarantee that your experience in delivering free utility services to our household will be far from trivial. The character building and gold star credit this time spent will provide in your future endeavors will hold you in good stead as future, more financially lucrative opportunities arise, which they surely will!
Again, congratulations Pacific Gas and Electric. We look forward to working with you in the coming year and have little doubt that your performance will remain at the same high quality is has been during all the years in which paid our bills.
Harvey Nutley and his dog, “Rhomboid.”

Dear Time Warner Cable,
Our heartiest congratulations! After much consideration we have chosen you among the legions of too many qualified candidates to count, to receive the Harvey Nutley Cable Delivery Service Internship 2012.
This highly regarded prize has been awarded to many fine cable delivery services going on to illustrious successful careers including Comcast 2011, AT&T 2010, and Blitzkrieg (Munich) 2009. All have ventured forth to make vast and significant contributions to the world of delivering excellent landline, cell phone, Internet, and Cable Television services including all sports channels and free HBO. We have little doubt that after your experience with our staff, (myself, my assistant Rhomboid and my 37 year old daughter forced to move back home due to loss of employment and her husband taking the name of his upper body clothing of choice popularly called the “wifebeater tee-shirt” a tad too seriously) you will agree that your time with us has been well spent.
Unlike previous years, due to budgetary constraints this will be an unpaid internship. Rest assured however, that your experience will be both unparalleled and invaluable in your later quests for successful employment.
Again, congratulations. You have our sincerest regards, Harvey Nutley and Staff.
PS, the Soap Opera Network is not coming in at all well. Intermittently fuzzy, audio and video out of sync. Please remedy this problem forthwith to avoid problems with the start date of your internship.

Dear State Farm Insurance Company,
It is with great relish and a warm heart that we write to inform you of triumph in the stiff competition this year to insure our car. The Harvey Nutley Internship 2012 received more applicants this year than in any previous, most of them fine and well qualified candidates. However in the end, your qualifications outshone them all. You may toot your horn, albeit not too loudly—hubris being an unappealing quality—for the grace notes and special touches your unique and outstanding application provided. A free calendar at years end? Sparkling. Discounts on oil changes at Manny’s down on 12th? Sublime. And the piece de rĂ©sistance, if I may be so bold, “Support your Local Police” bumper sticker vouchers. All of these special touches rendered State Farm the uncontestable Harvey Nutley Internship awardee this year.

In previous years the Harvey Nutley Internship has included a stipend in the form of a monthly check, however internships 2012 will be unpaid. Still, rest assured the experience of providing the Harvey Nutley Foundation including “Rhomboid,” daughter Faye and her husband Biff, recently out of rehab having renounced domestic violence forever, (God willing since she claims to love the bastard), with comprehensive auto insurance, will be a fulfilling and life changing one. Again, congratulations and you may take pride in your accomplishments, they are hallmarks of a bright future.

By the way, could you throw in roadside assistance with that? Biff’s got a cracked distributor cap and you know how fussy spark plugs can be especially when it rains.
Sincerely, all of us here… (Rhomboid! Get the fuck off the couch!) At the Harvey Nutley Foundation.