Sunday, January 22, 2012

DIY Double Feature: "The Cool School" & "A Single Man"

First, watch The Cool School, and learn all about the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles (late 50s - early 60s).

Then, watch A Single Man, a story that focuses on an English professor planning his suicide in Los Angeles during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).

It's Mid-Century L.A. done up documentary style...

...  and then recreated by Tom Ford.

It's The Greatest Generation as you rarely see them - arty and/or gay.
(Technically, some of these folks are part of The Silent Generation, but you never hear from them so who knows what they're like).

It's L.A. as it will never be again, possibly never really was.

It's artistic and professorial lifestyles that appear to be going the way of the dinosaur, or are unicorns that never really were.

Together, these films should inspire you to live how you are and where you are.  Even if it seems to suck, make the most of it.  It might actually be better than you could possibly know.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Black. Coal. Kohl. Night. Ink. Jet. Raven. Soot. Onyx.

The other morning, after not really sleeping, I woke up with "Heart of Rock n' Roll" in my head, and I cursed the day ahead of me.  It turns out, it was a very Huey day.

In the dark, pre-sunrise hours of the morning, I walked to work.  Crossing an overpass, I heard a man who sounded to be auditioning for Below Bridge Troll #1.  He was screeching accusations and defenses, repeating things like, "You don't know!  What do you think I'm doing?"  He was far enough away that the "you" could have been someone else, but he was also close enough that it could have been me.  After I passed him, I continued to hear him for blocks.

His voice echoed through the empty streets in a way that made it hard to tell if he was gaining on me, moving parallel to me, or drifting off in an entirely different direction.  When I heard him yell something about hunting, I felt like I'd stepped into my own personal, one-on-one version of The Warriors.   But, a number of blocks later, he shifted to a tirade about fighting in 'nam, and so I lost interest.  He was suddenly too cliche to be either intriguing or threatening.  Also, I'd reached the part of town where there are fancy hotels with 24/7 valets, so if there was any actual trouble I wouldn't need my wits, I'd just need to make my way to the safety of a heated awning.  About that time, I realized that the Bridge Troll Warrior had scared off Huey...

...  And then the song was back.

Soon after, in the first few minutes of my shift in the stock room at my department store job, I sliced open my hand multiple times and I was bleeding all over the product.  This happens a lot.  Sometimes I just keep working.

I should probably be more considerate about bleeding on stuff that other people are going to buy and bring into their homes, but sometimes I just don't care.  Sometimes bleeding on the electronic coin banks that will soon belong to my fellow man feels completely acceptable.  More than acceptable, actually.

I know how that sounds.  But, it's not like I found a good vein and then used a box knife to splatter my feelings all over the Keurig coffee brewers.  It's just that, in this job, cardboard and plexiglass cuts come with the territory.  Most of the time, it's nothing.  But sometimes you'll get a one-two punch, a nice fresh edge of cardboard will lash out at you, and then you'll move some heavy boxes which causes your wounds pop open every few seconds... and with each split, you debate whether it's worth the effort to go get a bandage.

On that day, after a particularly deep slice at the tip of my index finger, I decided it was a slippery-slope to not bandage my wounds.  I really don't want to become that person.  A sprinkle of that person - Petulance? Spite? Laziness? - is tolerable, but too much and it seems you'd just learn to hate yourself.  And with good reason.  So I started off for the locker room to get one of the bandages I bring to work. I bring my own, because at this job, if you want access to their off-brand bandages with expired adhesive, you have to call a supervisor to meet with you and (maybe) sign one out to you.  Yes, access to basic First-Aid requires paperwork.

I think it is annoying by design.  It likely saves the company tens of dollars annually.  It worked on me.  I did it once and then decided to bring my own Band-Aids.  But on that day, the injustice of it all felt unacceptable, and so I decided I was going to call a supervisor and pull the trigger on getting a bandage.

No answer.

New plan:  I'm going leave the building outside of authorized break-time, walk across the street and buy new Band-Aids.  Sure, I had some in my bag, but damned if I was going to be an efficient employee that day.

When I left the Rite-Aid, I crossed in the middle of the block and walked right over a pigeon that had been recently hit by a Max train.  Not that it was breathing or suffering or anything, it was too destroyed for that.  If police pigeons run diversion programs to ensure teens don't fly drunk, this would be an ideal image for their Power Point.  "I remember this one like it was yesterday, we found feathers nearly two blocks from the scene."

I found myself standing there and looking at it, nearly a moment too long.  Traffic wasn't an issue, it was still early, plus it was the first business day after New Years, and a lot of people were still on holiday.  The issue was that I was staring at a dead bird.  I had entered another slippery slope moment.  If I decide it's okay to look at the dead bird a few seconds longer, I'll crossover into full-on creep territory and take up taxidermy.  I didn't kill the bird, but only a certain kind of person looks longer than...  You know.  And I know too.  And so I moved.

I got as far as a bench on the sidewalk, where I sat, without a coat, enjoying being way too cold, and thought about how it must have felt, to be flying along, when, suddenly, BLAMMO.  Out of my pondering came a clear statement, "At least I'm not that bird."  I was still alive.  My mood was just that, a mood.  Temporary.  Passing.  There was nothing permanent going on with me.  I had a not-great song from the 80s on continuous loop in my brain for no reason, I walked near some guy having a rougher go of things that I am, I gave myself a batch of flesh wounds that would be healed in days, and I'd seen a dead bird.  Not really so bad.  And, unlike the bird, I was still there, my heart...  still beatin'.

Like it or not.

And that was the second statement to pop to the top of my brain, "like it or not." Which was weird, because usually I like it, life, breathing in and out, etc.  Yet, in that moment, I wasn't sure if I'd maybe lost, or started to lose, that baseline.  As a test, I decided to see if I could choose, right then and there, to just let the mood go.

Initially, it felt like it would take Herculean effort to release it, and hanging on to the dark cloud seemed so much better.  Which is not what I expected, especially when you take into account that cliche that it takes more muscles to frown than smile.  I sat on the bench and wondered about an expression of neutral indifference, or the expression that says, "Pfft" - surely those take less energy than either frown or smile.  Perhaps I could get to the spiritual equivalent of those faces.  And if I couldn't, there's got to be situations where, regardless of energy expenditure, it's actually easier to not smile.  Like, do you keep smiling even when you can't tell the difference between the dark that's just before the dawn, and the dark of a bottomless pit?


Of course it's not possible to tell the difference between the two kinds of dark.  The difference in the shades is all about intangibles like faith (the non-religious variety for me, thank you) and the setting on your personal pilot light.  When things are a bit grim, you can assess all available evidence and see only what's there, or believe that everything is in the process of becoming something else.  Something else that might be worse, but it might be better.  Either way, that something else will start becoming something else as soon as it arrives.  Even though I sat on the bench and debated hanging on to my foul disposition, and considered what life would be like if I just shut down my furnace and let it go cold; I still knew that I wouldn't do it.  I can't resist looking up, out, forward.  No matter what, I will always get back to scanning the black and asking, "Did I hear birds chirping?  I think morning's coming..."

It's tiresome, sometimes, that optimism.  Overwhelmingly tiresome sometimes.  But only sometimes.  Like on that Huey, slippery slope filled day.  But it's also days like that when it proves to be most useful.  I could list a whole lot of examples that would justify my being bratty employee, I could make stronger arguments than I have so far to rationalize my being in a generally sour mood, but it's all window decoration.  There are just as many reasons to be amiable.  Life is what it is, and it'll go how it'll go, but you can be your own constant.  It's a total pain, but what else are you gonna do?