Friday, October 14, 2016

As I write this, the apartment three doors down from me in my building sits quiet. Inside it, blood, sadness and worse stain the closet walls and floor. As the blood still dries, my whole building, a two-story, courtyard structure, where all doors face the pool area and are many times open, is as quiet as I've ever heard it. The doors are closed, TVs are quiet, conversations hushed or non-existent, and there is no foot traffic.

I was at work when the police cars arrived around noon, and men armored in swat gear with their guns raised and ready, snuck through our pool area and quietly knocked on the window of one of my neighbors who was home. After they got over their shock, he asked them about the man in the apartment across from them. They said they knew him by first name only. An officer stayed with them as the others banged on the door. No answer. The officer, who was also holding a shield, then told them to shelter in their kitchen after the building owner arrived with the keys.

I got a text at around 2 PM from my upstairs neighbor telling me that our neighbor had killed himself inside his apartment. As I sat in my cushy job in my luxury office building, there was a full investigation going on in our little close-knit building. Crime tape, forensics investigators, and eventually the coroner were soon to follow. People in the neighborhood were Tweeting about it, asking a local news blogger what was happening on our corner. Warner Bros Studios and their offices are across the street, I can imagine the faces pressed to glass as the activity unfolded front stage and center for them.

As her news sunk in, I checked the man's Facebook page, knowing he didn't have any privacy settings. It was there that I learned he hadn't acted rashly, but that he'd committed pre-meditated murder of himself. His last post was a suicide note, where he detailed his dissatisfaction with his life, finances, career, and that he was tired. He stated that several times, "I'm tired." He was down to seeing his teenage daughter once a month due to his ex-wife, with whom he had a contentious relationship, moving further away with her second husband. A second husband, this man had told me, who hated him with a passion. He wrote that he'd been thinking of ending his life for a few weeks, and had stolen a friend's gun and five hollow point bullets. He ended his post with, "SO I got the gun, loaded it up, and blew my head off." Yes, that was the tense he used, as if he'd already done it and was recalling it from the other side. Because, unbeknownst yet to the people who saw his post, he already had. In the comments under his post, I read as his friends tried desperately to figure out if he was okay. I sat there with the answer, but it was not my place to deliver it.

When I got home from work, the building was silent. I forced myself to look at the man's door. Had I not been texted at work I wouldn't have known anything had happened, except for the too silent silence. The neighbor who had the police knock on her door had removed the crime scene tape after everyone left, feeling it was insensitive to what had occurred. His next door neighbor, an unflappable guy who works on the Conan O'Brien show, came outside with a friend. We met eyes, his face fatigued from a collection of muscle movements as he had processed the day's events. We spoke. He hadn't heard the shot. We live in an older building, and sounds don't travel from side to side, because of the good quality of the plaster walls. However, I later found out that he had shot himself in his closet, which explains even more why he might not have heard it. I like to think that's because even in his state, he didn't want to risk the bullet hitting anyone else.

This man was someone who in the last few months I'd kept at an arm's distance, the few conversations I had with him revealed that he was simmering close to the brim. He wasn't a bad person--far from it, and wasn't outwardly hostile, but it was clear to me that he was troubled and harbored deep anger. A few months ago, he showed alarming symptoms of this when it was communicated to him by apt management (a dumb move from a rookie, not the landlord) that I'd asked that he be told not to leave the front door of the building wide open all day, every day, as it was a security risk and advertisement to thieves. He irrationally overreacted, then profusely apologized. However, it was enough for me to establish a boundary with him, and I told him upfront that was the case and why. A friendly boundary, but a boundary. I also know that the span of his life when I encountered him, that I wasn't seeing him at his best. I was seeing him, now I can say with a good degree of confidence, at his unraveling and at his worst. So I know, and want to state, that the person I described is not a summarization of who he was as a whole.

From what I knew of him, he was a talented pianist and keyboardist who had worked in various aspects of the music industry. He was a recovered/ing alcoholic (I don't know the proper term for someone who is now sober, no mean feat). At 19, he had come here from Vancouver to be a musician, but never really broke in or made a name for himself. He was 58 years old, and from what his friends posted, he was talented at keyboards and songwriting. I think of that 19-year-old, who had no idea that 40 years later, the events that would become his life in the town he was looking at with such potential and promise, would drive him to such an act.

So, now I sit in my quiet building, in my quiet apartment with the aftershocks of a desperate act silencing the walls around it. That silence, that fills the vacuum after something loud and violent has intruded on an ordinary day.

I'm finishing this post three days later on a Friday, halfway through the work day, on my way to a much-anticipated weekend. That night, "The Night Of," I didn't sleep well, thinking of what was just a few doors down. The remnants. I'd wake, and in my half sleep haze would wonder if his ghost was lost and wandering around, confused at what had happened. If that ghost hoped that what he'd done was just a dream and now he was glad to be alive. Or, did he know and was walking around with regret?

I hope he found the peace he was looking for. I'll end this post with a apt sentiment one of his friends posted on his Facebook page, "A good man was lost today to depression, he sunk, and couldn't bring himself back to light... So he became light."

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Happy Birthday to me.

My awesome friend Shannon took the left side of the photo of me in 1997, and we recreated it in the same place, almost 20 years later.

How do you like them apples?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I wrote this before my birthday post, but am just getting around to finishing it now.


Back in Baltimore at my old Starbucks. How many hours did I spend here writing, talking, getting to know the people and families of the workers and regulars. Or, sitting here working on the show bible from "The Wire," my first time having taken on such a task of documenting the characters, story lines, locations, and every single thing of an entire season of a TV show. Checking again and again, wanting to get it right. I hadn't been here ten minutes when I was asked for my number by a would-be suitor. I politely declined. Sorry, Sam.

I'm here while my mom takes her water aerobics class in the pool that Michael Phelps trained in and from what Sam told me, now owns. It was also used to have an ice rink, which is where this hilarity occured. Last time I was here, I frolicked in the huge jacuzzi while mom took her class in the small pool. When she was finished, I went with her and her classmates to the locker room and a flood of memories of being a competitive swimmer came back. Teenage girls built like Amazonian water goddesses walked about, changing from high school clothes into racing suits. When I was getting dressed, one of them, who had to be almost six feet tall, exited a bathroom stall, naked and completely at ease as if she were fully clothed. As she washed her hands, across the mirror, wearing only what she came into this world with, it reminded me when I used to do the same thing as a competitive swimmer, and the freedom of it. When you are in a sport, especially intensely over several years, your body is a tool that you are training, fine-tuning and preparing for battle. Thus, any inhibitions disappear. Seeing that girl breeze by me like that brought it all back. I'd forgotten some of those intricacies of the girl who lives inside my past, and it was good to remember them. And, her.

Unlike everyone else, I'm enjoying the humid weather here. I'm also hoping for a couple good thunderstorms. I even moved to an outside table so my body and hair can soak it in. It's been dry as a bone in California, and the wildfires are making it worse, filling the skies with smoke and ash. I took this photo of the sky, which doesn't do it justice. The sun was blood orange, and those are not clouds but smoke and ash. I'm sitting outside Last night, we had dinner at B, an awesome restaurant in my mom's neighborhood.


It's the next day, and after accompanying my mom to her church to meet the group that she volunteers with and the clients they serve, offering clothes, counseling, food and other services, I walked to the coffee shop in my mom's neighborhood. Sporadic big, fat raindrops plopped on my skin and slapped the sidewalk. I crossed paths with a woman walking her dog, and she said in African-American jubilance, "I love this rain, feels so good!" I shared her sentiments. Living in a state that's been in a drought for years, boy have I missed the rain. We've gotten some spates of it, but it's rain that's just passin' through. When I moved here, I wrote about the difference in the rain on the west coast and in a place like Baltimore, where rain has had practice being rain. I miss rain, and as it is also humid here, the walk was even more pleasant. Severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for later this afternoon. Oh, let's hope so. The lack of rain and real weather in California will be what eventually drives me away from there. As an artist, writer, and synesthete, there is nothing for me at least, that compares to the inspiration that rain, thunder and approaching storms can deliver. I've been here for nine years, on top of another eight when I lived here the first time. Though Los Angeles has been awesome for me and I've had experiences, access, privileges, and accomplished things professionally that I couldn't anywhere else, the rarity of rain, wonderfully puffy clouds, wind, and even overcast days is starting to matter more and more. The movement of nature instead of it being just a backdrop. When Los Angeles gets these things, it's gorgeous, but it's too few and far between.

As for those thunderstorms I was hoping for. I got them. One while still at my mom's place, and even more that kept my flight on the tarmac for two hours. American Airlines handled it well though, passing out free snacks for us and letting people walk around on the plane. The flight attendants kept people calm and the pilots did a great job keeping us informed and being honest with us about status of us actually getting to take off. I had another source, a high school classmate of mine who is now a meteorologist at 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Originally written on April 9th:

Perhaps it's the rainy weather today mixed with the ambient indie rock that Priscilla's Coffee Shop is playing, but I'm feeling the need to emote today.

Across the street tonight, the MTV Movie awards will be held for the first time at Warner Bros Studios. Should be interesting. Fireworks and loud music will be involved. I'm down with that. Get down with your bad selves, Hollywood.

I've had a new job for about five weeks and really like it as well as the folks I work with. Interestingly enough, it's not really a writing job, but more of a research, proofreading and content quality job. When I interviewed for it, I was ambivalent about this kind of a role, not being creative or copywriting. However, it has two things going for it. It pays incredibly well. And I mean, a lot. And, it's an 18-month contract. Most important, even more so than the money and stability, is that when I spoke to the person I'd be working for, he was smart, pop-culture savvy and funny. Then, the interview went well and I got the call that they wanted me for the job. So, I put my feet into third position and took a glissade of faith.

And, I've landed well. So, here's the great thing about it that was a pleasant surprise. I've gotten further on the actual story plotting of my book in this last five weeks than I have in years. And, good story plotting.

Because the job is in the business district of downtown Los Angeles, every comfort is provided. Along with luxe buildings, great food courts, every convenience imaginable, it's steps from the Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art, The Broad, and Disney Symphony Hall, and top restaurants. And, a choice of lively, yet secluded places that I can write during my lunch hour. Including, the MOCA plaza where I took this selfie. Like my patterns?

Since my job is not a writing one, per se, yet uses the same muscles, once I sit down to write I'm primed like a dancer who has just properly warmed up for class. (Yes, I'm all about the dance metaphors today. Got a problem with that?) And, because I'm limited to an hour, I'm incredibly focused on the task. Another perk I did not see coming. It's made me excited and happy about writing again. Even better, the three novel classes I'd taken last year laid down a fantastic foundation from which to build.

One more thing, is that I can take the LA Metro to and from work, which means my commute is stress free. Though I'm a chill driver, I like the freedom of being carless. Don't have to worry about parking, timing, or be at the whim of traffic. I have a ten-minute drive through my pretty neighborhood, park in Metro parking, and walk a nice walk to what I call the Hogwarts Express. Why? Because my stop is also the stop for Universal Studios, which just opened the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park this week. However, if a zombie apocalypse breaks out, I have a feeling that those of us on the Metro are going to be pretty screwed.

Speaking of Hollywood, before I started this job, I worked at a great event with my friend Brian Kramer, a top photographer in Los Angeles. One of his services is event photography, mostly for high-end entertainment or chichi corporate events. In this case, it was for the show "Scandal," where the entire cast, in costume, poses for pictures with the crew on the set of the oval office. Brian photographs, and on site in real-time, we printed four hundred 8x10 glossy photos and put them in nice folders to give to the cast and crew. It's something they do every year, courtesy of one of the main producers of the show. I've worked several events with Brian, because they are fun and he's fun. And, you end up with things like this:

Yes, that's me in the middle of the cast of "Scandal" on the oval office set, standing with the entire cast and next to the gorgeous Kerry Washington. The woman in the maroon shirt is Justine, who was also part of the photo booth crew. Talk about someone who is smart as a whip and calm as can be under pressure. Brian, standing to Justine's right in the black shirt, is the photographer and owner of the booth.

Another wonderful experience was that I got to go all House Stark. I met a real, live 100% wolf. One of the crew members had a pet wolf that also served as his therapy animal. He was kind enough to take my photo with him. He and friends had rescued wild cubs along with the mother. I can't remember what the circumstances were, but apparently they were not in a good situation. For those of you who think that wolves are just like dogs, just look at the size of this magnificent animal, who was the runt of the litter. Look at his feet, and look at my feet. That should tell you something. He was fascinating to watch as he loped around the set.

Well, I keep putting off hitting the "publish" button, so now is as good a time as any.