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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Wanna get some of these LA observations down before they get too stale. I don't feel especially sharp and witty, but so be it.

Great to see Rich Honig again after way too long. Rich is one of those loyal friends who remains in touch through the years and across many miles. Our trip to Disneyland was a sweet and easygoing day. With the free entry, we felt no pressure to pack in a full day's fun, so it became a relaxed amble through the park, stopping to enjoy old rides remembered from childhood. Bittersweet at times, as some sight or smell would recapture childhood trips to Disney World with Pete even as the perspective of an aging kid found new ways to appreciate the various attractions and atmospheres. After we left, it was on to Hollywood for some hot dogs at the famous Pinks stand. Kept feeling the ghost of Cassavetes directing "Minnie And Moskowitz" there as we munched our dogs, but frankly (har har), gimme Papaya King any day. I won't even mention the glory of Katz's deli in fairness to Pink's.

We got hold of Miles, who was out at a friend's house in the Valley (apparently to Angelenos, the Valley is what Long Island is to New Yawkers. Can't fathom why, but there you go), and invited us out. There we met with Miles, his lovely gal Jane and their friends Judie, Cliff and Tim. Cliff is a cartoonist with whom I share numerous favorites, so there commenced much yammer about Basil Wolverton, Jack Kirby and so forth. Fucking guy HANGS with Robert Williams! He and Tim have a project called "Rat Bastard" (check this: ) which we screened a bit of. Swell stuff, great guys. Judie is a FIRE EATER! She showed off this skill - deep in the evening's revels - to everyone's delight and amazement. She made me a bunch of delectable apple martinis… the first time I really enjoyed that drink (but a good wimp-out choice after all the Glenlivet of the previous several nights). Milo and I sang a bit (glad I had him to remind me of my own lyrics), Jane came running in wearing a cartoon dinosaur costume, and all manner of gladness held sway throughout. Cliff broke the sad news that Tiki Ti is only open from Thursday through Sunday, and here we were on Sunday night, after closing. Dagnabit!

I awoke with the snout of a Husky in my face. Allergy or not, it was impossible not to laugh hysterically at such an awakening, and that's a good way to start any day. Of course, it's always impossible to escape the shadow of my own dashed dreams, and this time it came in the form of a cd (among the pile of releases Jane brought from England, where she works with all sorts of hot bands and artists) by Har Mar Superstar. It's yet another KRS act (on some other label over in Britain) that seems to be succeeding. I said nothing about it then; good company distracts from these moments of hopelessness, and good company is what I was in, but Lord how they weigh when I'm alone. Har Mar Superstar tours, and it's easy to imagine that if I did, I'd "exist" as well. I might be delusional about that, but nevertheless I feel like my inactivity has let Slim down completely, and murdered my own chances for the modest career I've longed for. At this point I'm too ashamed even to email anyone at Kill Rock Stars. I kid you not. (Here it goes again. Shut up, whiner.) I put the cd lower in the stack so it wouldn't keep bringing my mind to such desolate terminals.

The last full day in LA was spent driving with Claudia through the mountains. Just gorgeous… Topanga Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, all that. It was always weirdly fun to see places formerly known only from jokes on Match Game (meet you at that motel in Encino, Brett), Carson references (take the Slauson cut-off…), V.D. Parks lyics (what's up Laurel Canyon) and the like. It was relaxing to just take in the sights and talk with Claudia as we drove and stopped for a "fatburger." She treated me like royalty the whole time. A perfect host and a precious friend. Brad was feeling quite ill, and doesn't enjoy Hollywood shit anyhow, so she and I changed and went to the Six Feet Under premiere I mentioned earlier. What a gas to see the concrete handprints of all the 20th century's screen icons along the red velvet carpet as searchlights combed the sky and photographers snapped away at arriving actors; it was magical to inhabit a real moment of Americana, even if Hollywood dreams are not my own.

I like Six Feet Under, so it was all a lot more involving than the "Lord Of The Rings" premiere for me. The show regulars were there as well as semi-regulars like Kathy Bates and Lili Taylor. Amazing to discover that the guy who plays Furio on the Sopranos does NOT speak with an Italian accent! Chatted a little with the guy who plays Brenda's crazy brother, but without Brad on hand, there seemed little point in trying to chat up the cast. Instead we wandered around the lush, two-story affair grabbing free glasses of Glenlivet (natch) every ten seconds, and examining the recreated set from D.W.Griffith's INTOLERANCE that loomed in the vast courtyard. Hollywood looked pretty sparkly from up there. As far as the 2 episodes screened, I'd better keep mum for loyal viewers, but I dug 'em.

The main "Sport-is-a-failure" moment that night occurred while a band played (mostly the music was recorded swing stuff, far more conducive to a good night than the horrible crap blasted at the LOTR party). These guys were generic rockers, doing stuff like "Theme from Flashdance" in that "isn't this ironic" way the Skels used to perform "Right Back Where We Started From" over ten years ago. It was weird watching the audience of stars, schmoozers and industry suits enjoy this Fred Durst retread as he and buddies romp romp romped through their set. "What Ifs" and "No Ways" volleyed violently through my head until I shook 'em off with my regular mantra of "doesn't matter… doesn't matter…" and headed back down to the car. That night ended with a quiet chat under the citrus trees at casa Dourif.

The flight home was nearly as annoying as the flight out, and back in freezing Long Island the cabby demanded 30 bucks for an under-5-minute ride home. Prick. I tipped him one lousy buck. Today I feel ill and old, but that's the price of almost constant partying plus jet lag. It was fun fun fun even if my constant references to my constant self pity give a different impression. I guess additional little memories will be shared in other entries, but that's the overview. It's good to be home with loved ones, and it sucks to be back in the real day-to-day, too. Some Ebay items were waiting and Meredith sent me a cool comic book, so that all helps. Emails from friends (sending encouragement after reading other whiny comments from previous days) arrived amid the barrage of spam and forwards. It reminds me of how many of those same good people shared the excitement of the Willoughby release party a million years ago.

So now the task is to restore physical health to whatever degree possible, and attempt to develop strategies for reducing this depression. Last week was mostly a giddy break from ME. And with that, I'll do you that exact favor by stopping this. I'll be back when something funny comes to mind.

I'm coming down with a bug of some kind, no doubt picked up on the plane. So I'll write more about the trip shortly, but now I see Fred Rogers is dead. He was one of my true heroes, and I LOVE his songs. Never covered any of them as I'd wanted to, since it would have been taken as "camp" and too many assholes have mocked him for too long. Along with the crucial message of respect and kindness he lived to share, Fred's tunes are sophisticated little gems disguised as simple ditties. His philosophy, fully embodied by his actions, was based on bravery and wisdom often mistaken for wimpiness and naïveté. He never exploited his success to sell garbage to children, never considered changing his approach to suit increasingly corrupt and shallow cultural trends and never traded on the power of his celebrity to enrich or enshrine himself.

There will be tributes-a-plenty out there in the real world, so there's no need to go on about him here. But, suddenly, life sucks that much more.

Back in New York. Christ it's cold. How do you people stand it here?

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Slightly tipsy. Just back from a premiere and party at Grauman's Chinese Theater for the show "Six Feet Under."

Read that sentence again. A premiere at GRAUMAN'S FUCKING CHINESE. Kind of hep, eh? And a party. Pretty swell fun, despite the indignity of being surrounded by lacquered young Hollywoodens, all doing better than I ever will for no justifiable reason and others doing well for every good reason imaginable. Sheer talent as well as the schmoozers/schnorrers. Me more in the Schnorrer camp.

Gotta catch a plane tomorrow and deal with the no smoking, the time change, a potential hangover, and all of it. But you may freely interpret my lack of timely entries as evidence of too much fun being had. It's been great. And now it's on to New York, the cold, and an eventless horizon.

But I'll see my Shelley, and you have no idea what glory that represents now. Damn I miss her. Nothing but Shelley means anything now. I'll share LA tales once I'm situated at the home computer, but as of now I am interested solely in family and impending fatherhood; The auld creative dream rests snug in a coffin it should have been laid in years ago. Los Angeles has helped concretize that determination (and it IS a determination; brutal realizations never having had much motivational sway hitherto, and this new path demanding the determined suppression of a host o' bad optimistic habits), so this was good. Even if I hadn't had so much fun. But I've had so much fun.

Confidential to Liz - I blew my chance to hit Tiki Ti. FUCK!

But in short, for now: as much as I could not imagine living here, all I miss about NewYork is the loved ones. The city the state and the whole life can go piss up a rope. I think "home" could permanently be a zipper bag in any comfortable room. With a bit of Glenlivet. The worst thing about heading back to civilian life is the loss of that temporal "hey let's blow it out" mood. And the pernicious resuming of that "oh, I can see you anytime... not tonight" delusion that is the source of all grief.

Gimme the clock ticking and the temporary bunker. But first, gimme my wife.

Your faithful retiree - Sport

Sunday, February 23, 2003

I did intend daily entries, really I did, but this'll have to do. I need to get ready and git to Disneyland with Rich, who works for the mouse and has free access. Some scattershot observations about the past few days...

Met Miles at the Frolic Room on Friday. Great little joint with Al Hirschfeld murals, but the LA no smoking thing is REALLY annoying. You have to go out front where there are stools and and ashtray provided, but you can't bring your drink outside. So it felt like taking a bite of an oreo cookie, having to cross the street for a sip of milk, return for another bite, etcetera. So we wound up at The Cat and the Fiddle, a place with an outside deck where one may enjoy both toxins together, just as nature intended. Everyone here is on the make. A pleasing open friendliness shadowed by the feeling that it's all "just in case" you can help them careeristically. For example, once when Milo left for a minute, I decided to record a few minutes of crowd chatter on minidisc. So I'm sitting there holding the mic and three young women at a nearby table all get up and come over to me. "Are you recording the sound in the place? "Yes" (well, no... now I'm recording you asking me this). "For a movie?" She looked beatific with excitement. "No it's for a project of mine." The beaming smile collapses. "Oh. A project..." and they turned together like a flock of birds, headed morosely back to their table without a further word.

Visited Amoeba records, a very large store with a lot of everything. Nothing by Sport Murphy, however. Everyone else, though. Lots and lots of Sleater-Kinney. I did not belong in there. I fully grasped the enormity of my nonexistence in the music business at any level whatsoever, and it was not especially troubling. It felt more natural wandering past the old shoeshine joints on Hollywood Blvd, the Capitol tower and other relics of old times.

Last night we went to a party at the home of a musican named Jack Lancaster. I knew his work, especially a version of Peter and The Wolf, which featured people like Brian Eno and Viv Stanshall. Jack is a great guy, and told me lots of Viv stories. All the guests were smart, interesting and very pleasant people and all was well until some guy took a seizure, turned gray and collapsed on the kitchen floor. This put a crimp in the merriment, to say the least, and we didn't stay too much later. Over at UCLA, Van Dyke Parks was appearing in a sort of Avant Garde opera by Pere Ubu's David Thomas. At first I had slight regrets about going to the party instead of that but it all worked out well... including, I think, the guy who collapsed.

I'm a little frayed, mostly on account of the first night out with Miles. Still regrouping. Maybe Space Mountain'll set me up again... there were all kinds of things I intended to mention, but all I can think of right now is how much I miss Shelley. Oh, here's one quick thing: driving along the highway, there's this huge fracas by the side of the road. Two guys duking it out with a screaming audience of upset friends circled around them. Hot Damn! Then we get closer and see the camera crew. Shooting a movie! I wished I could call those girls from Friday night and say "get here quick! A MOVIE!"

Claudia's been great, squiring me around and seeing to every concern. Some of the nicest times have been just shooting the breeze with her and her daughter Cleo, listening to Scott Walker, eating french fries.

Brad and Claudia have an orange tree and a lemon tree. The lemons have invaded the orange tree, creating mutant lemoranges on one side og the tree. They taste more like edible lemons than inedible oranges. During one of the very few times I've seen any TV, I caught a local access show with musicians from "Assyria." Absolutely bizarre stuff... trying to figure out measures, I had to quickly count 1,2,3,4,5,/1,2,3/1,2/1,2,/1,2,3,4,5,6/ and like that. Truly baffling changes and very specific dissonances creating a flavor unlike anything else I've heard. And this was a regular civilian ethnic musician, cam-cordered at a local family event at a rented hall... not some arty knitting factory band or someting. Hypnotic shit.

Nuff said. Off to Disneyland.