Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'm nursing a cold that my mom gave to me via her plane trip to Los Angeles. Has to be where she got it, as planes are airtight germ tubes. I sacked out at around 9:00 PM last night and woke at around 7:00 AM this morning. It's the first time I've actually awoke feeling rested and ready for the day. As I type, Atticus is trying to find a way onto my lap. Bullseye. He's on. Now he's jostling for the best position and flop, he's down and happy.

I hate colds. Hate them. I rarely get them but still. Hopefully I've seen the worst of this one. I hate the not being able to taste or smell, and the stuffiness. The fatigue before them and the watery eyes. I worked on Thursday and Friday and just sucked it up. Sure, my bed was whispering in my ear to stay and snuggle in its cocoon, but I got up anyway. After making a minimal effort to look human, I walked out to a way too bright and chilly morning.

So now that I can sleep in, I'm up. I plan to go back to bed as soon as I finish this post. What can I say? My bed has many alluring traits.

It was fun to have my mom and Jack here and tour around Los Angeles. They stayed in the Marriott hotel not far from me and that worked out just fine. The first night they were here, I went to see them after work and we had a great dinner down in the restaurant. It was fun to be back together like we'd done so many times in Baltimore. I was happy though, that we weren't in Baltimore.

We went to Christmas Eve service at a wonderful church in Beverly Hills. I knew about it when I started to go to church when I was first dealing with my downfall into depression several years ago. Though I've never been overly religious, I just felt that I needed it, and it was near by. It was a great antidote to my feelings of shrinking into obscurity and invisibility at the time, and had the perfect uplifting message that I needed. During the service, which was beautiful, my mom pointed out Hal Holbrook and his wife Dixie Carter, whom I immediately recognized once she said his name. I didn't recognize her at all. After the service, the night was windy and cold, offering an atmosphere unlike Los Angeles. The sky was ink black and crystal clear, and a full moon hung in the sky. The stars sparkled like diamonds.

Ad for The Wire Season 5 on Sunset

On the way home, we saw a huge ad for The Wire on Sunset. The three of us got excited about that, and I pulled over. Closing in on 1AM, Christmas, all in church clothes, Jack (the only smart one in the group) stood watch while mom and I ran out in the middle of Sunset Blvd. where I took this shiteous picture. It was the best I could do under the circumstances with shaky hands and a digital camera which is in dire need of upgrading. The fact that it was Christmas was the only reason we were able to stand in the middle of the street and do this. As you see, traffic was light.

A week before, I'd emailed another picture of a bill board to David Simon that was on Sunset going the other way, and he wrote me back to thank me for it. So, I sent him this one as well saying that I was glad that the show was getting the prime advertising that it deserves. The show's opening episode premieres on HBO on January 6th, for those of you who are curious. I didn't work on this season, so I have no idea of the story except that it revolves around the Baltimore Sun. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Collage Tree For Christmas, since I didn't have a tree, I made one. Yeah, made one. I brought out my art supplies and put a collage tree together. It was an idea that came to me last minute, as I couldn't justify having Christmas without a tree of some sort. I already had large sheets of art stock paper, so I cut the shape of the tree out of a couple pieces. Turns out that Vons had the right color gradated green on their brochures, so I took about thirty of them and used them for the tree. For the ornaments, I cut out jewelry from magazine and pasted them on top. I used my painting easel to hold up the tree and placed the presents around it. Perfect. The project took a couple days, don't ask me where I got the energy, but was well worth it. I worked on it after my mom and Jack had gone back to the hotel for the evening. They loved it and were totally surprised. It's the first Christmas I've ever "hosted" and I think it went off well.

There are many reasons that I like Christmas. Sure, it's stressful, but it offers time for quiet and contemplation. Everything in the outside world, no matter where I've been, seems to take a break for a couple days. I had time to work on my tree, have a movie on and just be in the moment. There was no traffic outside when I finally made it to bed, and it was just perfect. It's as if everyone has taken some time to breathe, including the buildings, trees, roads and earth around us. It's almost a perfect moment of clarity, at least for me because that's exactly what I allow it to be. I had to get a little older to learn and appreciate that.

For Christmas dinner, we ate a fabulous "family style" dinner at The Peninsula Hotel. Not only that, scored street parking right in front of the place. I was afraid it would be stuffy, but it was anything but. Our waiter, a Bulgarian named Emil, was excellent and the bread pudding was to die for. The champagne was free flowing as were the deserts. Beside us, an odd couple sat and were mostly quiet. I'm guessing the woman was in her sixties and took two huge platefuls of deserts back to her table. She was white, her husband was Asian and they were mostly finished when we arrived, but not soon enough that both my mom and I had summed up that the woman was bulimic. Among several other telltale signs, she was rail thin, not in a natural way, and the skin on her face clung to her bones by sheer will. She disappeared for twenty minutes after dinner while her husband sat and waited as if he were used to the ritual. She came back, her eyes watery and a fresh layer of lipstick applied. Things that make you go "hmm."

Shannon met my mom and me for a coffee on the 26th. There was a funny caveat to that meeting, in that the last time I'd introduced Shannon to my mom was about fifteen years ago when I'd first arrived in Los Angeles. A bad habit that she has is not paying attention when I introduce her to people and she can come off aloof, even when that's so far from her personality. Well, fourteen years ago, Shannon was no exception and when I introduced her, she barely acknowledged him, something for which I've chided her for ever since. On the flip side, about ten years back I played a dirty message that Shannon left for me, mentioning a certain sexual act that he wanted to do with the both of us when my mom was visiting. Of course, the message was a joke, completely funny and was meant just for my ears, but it was just too good not to play to my mom. She laughed, and when I told Shannon I'd played it for her, he was completely horrified and told me that he could never meet my mom. Well, the both of them met on December 26th, 2007 and did just fine. We joked about both incidents and had many belly laughs. I was glad that my mom finally got to meet and talk with the Shannon, and likewise for Shannon. He brought a really cool Christmas gift for me which was called a "Liquid Lunch Martini Set for Two." Totally cool gift and I loved it. The inside contains recipes for different martinis. Cosmos are included.

But of course.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to you all. I'm sitting here filled with coffee, scrambled eggs, bacon, orange danish and champagne, having just opened presents with my mom and Jack. It's all good, and I'm about to nap.

I hope you are all having a good one, with plenty of cheer.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A post will come soon, but I don't know how soon. I've been so busy with working, holidays, holiday parties and other outings. And, getting ready for my mom and Jack's visit. Now, they are here and we had dinner tonight. It's great to have them in Los Angeles and they are staying in a hotel. My place is just too small and it's a one bedroom. Plus, it doesn't have us on top of each other all the time.

Time for bed though.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

In keeping with my promise to take advantage of what Los Angeles offers, I found myself at a great event on Thursday, December 6th. Focus Features had a screening of Eastern Promises at the Laemmle theater for free. Even cooler was that after the movie, Viggo Mortensen would be on hand for a Q & A. How cool is that?

Not wanting to go by myself, I cajoled Cathy, my friend who is a member of the DGA into going with in case credentials were needed. Plus, it was a good excuse to have a girl's night out with her which was way overdue since I'd gotten back. She came, DGA card in hand and we were through the door. Most of the people who were there were SAG. I'd spoken to the publicist a few days earlier to make sure my name was on the RSVP list. Cathy hadn't seen the movie before, and I'd warned her that it was violent. Turns out that she did much better than I did during some of the scenes.

It was weird watching the movie knowing that the person I was watching on screen was going to materialize in the room afterward, all Purple Rose of Cairo style. Shannon and I had been to a similar event with the Nick Drake documentary. Of course, the late Nick Drake didn't appear, but his sister and colleagues did and answered questions. What is so neat about events like these is that it gives you a deeper appreciation for what you have just seen on screen and the people who put it together or were a part of it.

Viggo Mortensen at Eastern Promises screeningIn this case, Viggo Mortensen appeared as himself after we had just watched his character Nikolai, the Russian "driver/undertaker" for the mob. It took a couple seconds to adjust from the tattooed, heavy-accented, intimidating and mysterious character to the understated man who walked into the theater holding a plastic bag from his purchase at the Virgin Megastore, which was at the same complex. The theater in which it was held was small, as it is an independent art house theater, so it was an intimate setting. (This Wireimage picture was taken at the event.) Also interesting was how soft spoken Viggo Mortensen is. He seemed intelligent though, and handled it well when an obvious uber-fan stood up to congratulate him on a few of his personal projects outside of the movie and offered him a gift. It was awkward for the rest of us in the theater, as you don't want her or the actor to be embarrassed. She was a really big woman, first to thrust her hand into the air when the moderator took the questions to the audience. She went on for a couple minutes, and Cathy whispered to me that she thought they were supposed to ask questions about the movie. I agreed. Time and place, people. When you are attending an event in this sort of forum that is clearly geared toward a group, the event isn't about your moment, but about enhancing the experience for the group. Luckily, she was able to walk up and give him the gift and got a kiss on the cheek from the actor. It could have gone south, but thankfully it didn't. It was one of those thick syrupy moments where you're just rooting for both sides to come out ok.

Afterward, many people went up for meet and greet but Cathy and I headed out of the theater, starving. On our way out we passed a woman who looked in her 40's, standing and clutching what looked like a box of chocolates, waiting for Viggo Mortensen to make his way back up the aisle. He had another screening to go to at a much bigger venue after ours and his people were encouraging him to keep moving. I thought about both women and the other grown adult women who had plopped themselves in the first row in order to be close when he was being interviewed. I wondered what they were looking for and hoped they got it. A moment of acknowledgment, to leave a piece of themselves with the object of their admiration and maybe just for one moment, to register with and matter to them. It was completely fascinating and a little unsettling.

I don't know if it makes sense, but I didn't feel like attempting a meet and greet in this setting. The event wasn't really meant for one, but there was a short window of opportunity for it. In some similar situations, I do, but in this case I felt I'd gotten what I'd come for. I knew that was okay with Cathy, as she works with stars of huge caliber all the time.

If you're a creative person, I think it's beneficial to see creative people speak about their work in person. Or, to see their works in person. So much is on television, the internet, whatever, but to see someone or like the last weekend where I went to the galleries, art in a personal setting makes much more of an impact. It makes it real, tangible and accessible, and in their words I see similarities in my own goals or creative processes. In the case of Nick Drake, hearing his sister and colleagues speak about his depression and the effects of it on others struck an uncomfortable chord with me. A necessary chord though, to know that I wasn't the only one who had traveled that road, especially when things got their darkest. Viggo Mortensen struck the creative process chord in an unpretentious, matter of fact way that for lack of a better way to put it, made the thought of taking a risk creatively not such a big deal. This was a guy that all of us had just watched naked in a bathhouse fight. Incredible scene.

Anyway, even though he's a very handsome man who looks way younger than his years, he had a very disarming personality that didn't appear fake or rehearsed. I kept having to remind myself that he'd been Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. However, in person he seemed like some guy you might end up talking to at a bohemian coffee shop.

It was a great opportunity and I'll definitely be going to more like them in the future. There are many with directors, actors, writers, the works.

And no, I won't be bringing chocolates. ;)

UPDATE: Holy referrals! Looks like the Viggo fan sites found me. You guys are quick! I posted that last night! Welcome to the blog. From what I've heard, Viggo's a good egg. My friend, who doesn't suffer fools lightly, was the sword master on Alatriste and spent months with him. He spoke very highly of Viggo.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I did something I wasn't particularly in the mood to do last Saturday and almost ended up not going. I've learned over time that when I feel like that it's a sign that I should especially go.

Today was no exception.

When I last lived in Los Angeles I'd heard about an artist's area called Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. It dates back to 1875, when it was a stop for the Pacific Electric rail system which served the Los Angeles area from 1875 to 1953. It has several warehouses which were converted into galleries in the 90's, I think. The result was a great way to spend my afternoon looking at art. Incredible art.

Painting by Cameron GrayThis artist, Cameron Gray had incredible work. The paintings were made up of tiny paintings on cut art board squares and then mounted to form a larger picture which contradicted the larger one. They were very colorful and way cool. There are more examples of this artist's work on my Flickr page, as are these, and they can be viewed much larger in all their detail there. Below is a close up detail of the above painting. You can see the different pieces of artboard. For a larger view, go to my Flickr page.

Detail of Nuke Painting by Cameron Gray

A couple months ago, I went to the downtown gallery show and it wasn't as varied and good as this space. Here, the galleries are impeccable and spacious and the artists had clear vision and skill. It was easily up there with New York galleries, but lacked the pretentiousness of them. Meaning, you got to enjoy why you were there in the first place, to see art. New York art galleries are filled with people who don't even seem to appreciate art, but see it as more of a scene or fashion label. Sure, this place was a scene too, but it felt more alive, warm and real. The shows were about the art and making it accessible to those who wanted to see it. Both buyers and appreciators.

Bergamot Station - Collateral Damage

This artist, Ellwood T. Risk used target practice papers for his figures. Again, the work was incredible.

That night, several of the galleries were having show openings. I milled around in the spaces, in some cases listening to the artist talk to patrons about their work, other times just walking around in the large spaces by myself, standing in front of giant canvases as a hired musician sang songs of yearning. At one of them a man who had bought several of an artist's paintings showed me around the gallery and talked about the artist's work. It was then that I realized I'd put myself in yet another situation because I simply wanted to see it. Now, I was in it. In an art space, looking at top rate work, talking to art people about...well...art. In Los Angeles. Who knew the art scene was so active here? I sure didn't. And it sounds odd to say so, but welcoming.

It was way beyond my expectations and I will certainly be going back.

Bergamot Cafe They even have a cafe called Bergamot Cafe. Before I gallery hopped, I sat down and had a mocha and chicken quesadilla under some metal art that was posted on the wall. I took this photo, and caught the woman on the right mid-lipstick application. It was chilly outside and until the warm coffee hit me, the same inside. Out of picture, two artists talked about the goings on in their galleries and the people within it.

On other notes, the job is still going really well. I like the people which includes my boss, it takes me all of seven minutes to get to work, and I like the work. It's non-stop once I get there and that's the way I like it. When I work, I can't stand downtime. I like to have a lunch hour, of course but when I'm at work I like it when it moves at a fast pace. I'm more creative and effective that way because of my constant need for stimulation. And, the people, like I said are really funny, sharp, talented and nice. Sounds cliché, but they are team players who work well together and want each other to do well. That's so important. I also like being a vital member of the team and getting to work with so many of them on a face to face basis.

I have a couple posts due here. One from Thanksgiving and others, but I've been keeping busy in both personal and work life. It's a good thing, and I think once I ramp back up I won't take so much time between posts. Also, it's the Holidays. Yep, add that to the mix, as I'm sure it's affecting those of you who read this blog.

The main thing is that I'm taking advantage of being back in LA.

Even when I don't feel like it.