Saturday, October 30, 2004

I just felt a BIG earthquake about an hour ago.

It turns out it was actually a very small earthquake that was just centered very close to my apartment. I don't find that too comforting.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Today is not Halloween, but at my office, it is.

My boss loooooooooooves Halloween, and a few weeks ago, an email went out saying that we'd be having our costume contest today, and it was MANDATORY. (Emphasis hers.) Of course, Halloween isn't until Sunday, and in my opinion, there are two times you should be exempt from celebrating Halloween at your place of business:

  • If it falls on a weekend, or
  • If you're an adult
Of course, if Halloween falls on a weekend and you choose to celebrate it at work anyway, the natural thing to do is to celebrate it on the immediately preceding Friday. But my boss is going to be out of the office tomorrow, so she's making us do it today. All of us.

So that means we'll be the only people in our building the city the world who are dressing up today. We'll even be having a costume contest, judged by impartial strangers dragged in off the street. There will be three categories: funniest, most creative and, ugh, sexiest.

"I know you'll be my main competition for sexiest, Jerry!" my boss said to me the other day.

Double ugh.

The costume contest will be followed by a pizza party. Anyone who doesn't dress up, in addition to being ridiculed and harassed, isn't allowed to have any pizza. Trust me, she's very serious about this. I haven't dressed up for Halloween in about 25 years, but when the boss says it's MANDATORY, it's MANDATORY.

My initial thought was to wear something inconspicuous, so that anyone who knew me would know it was a costume, but anyone who didn't know me would just think I was a regular guy.

Yes... (embarrassed chuckle)... I'm going as a straight guy.

That shirt, if you can't read it, says "Flowers: $20... Dinner and a Movie: $60... Taking her back to your place: PRICELESS!"

And it suddenly struck me that I have to wear this shirt all day, and that people who don't know me will definitely not think Iím a regular guy. So much for being inconspicuous.

Did I mention this is all being videotaped?

Wish me luck.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Drew likes to buy little treats for the cleaning lady and leave her notes in Spanish on the days she comes. Last night, he panicked when he realized it was Halloween week, because on holiday weeks, "I always like to get something holiday-themed for her!"

Thankfully, a quick trip to Ralph's remedied the problem.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Curse you, Blogger! I just tried to republish and somehow a big chunk of my template disappeared completely, including my entire right-hand sidebar.

Well, it'll be back... in some form... when I have the time to rebuild it.

Until then, farewell "Harmony Korine Impersonators"...

Update: I figured out a (sort-of) solution to the problem. Because I remain the #1 source of information for impersonators of the director of Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy and because I remembered that googled phrase being a part of my old template, I simply re-googled it and viewed a cached version of the page, then viewed the source code and pasted it back into my template. What that created is a somewhat older version of this page, but if that's what I have to settle for, then so be it.

I say this not because it is interesting to anyone other than me, but because, gosh darn it, I'm proud of myself.



Remember the episode of "Little House on the Prairie" where Laura buys the run-down abandoned building in town and announces that it's going to be the home of the new blind school? Everybody thinks she's crazy (or "feisty" in some cases), because the building is in such disrepair that fixing it up would be way beyond their means. But Pa knows how headstrong Laura can be and Almonzo just shakes his head and says, "She's a go-getter!" And sure enough, by the end of the episode, Laura, Pa, Almonzo, Mary, Adam and nineteen blind kids with brooms have turned that dump into a palace, and the shelves are lined with Braille editions of Ivanhoe and Huck Finn.

Well, I think that episode gave me a very unrealistic sense of the possibilities of home repair. On Sunday, Drew and I saw a house much like that abandoned building, and, like that building, it was available for cheap (and we didn't even have to agree to let a crotchety old homeless man sleep in the basement as part of the deal). I walked in and saw not the dump that it was but the blind school it could be. And we came very close to buying it.

Pity those visitors forced to reside in the "guest house".

Yesterday, we went back with three of our friends, who took a look at the place and, like our own "Queer Eye" team, assessed the potential. But all they saw was the potential for frustration, misery and debt. There was the steep slope in the living room, which would mean no rolling TV carts or snack trays. And then there was the ugly wood paneling that covered every inch of wall space, except, for no apparent reason, the dining room. And of course, there was that huge gaping San Andreas-sized (and most likely San Andreas-caused) crack in the hallway ceiling.

Entrance to spooky attic (left), nonworking light fixture (center), massive crack (right).

Our friends also pointed out that the home was half a block from the cemetery, a fact which Drew and I, in our Laura Ingalls-ian optimism, somehow overlooked. Nobody saw me as a go-getter, nobody called me "feisty" and ultimately, we decided to pass on the house and wait for a better one to come along.

The backyard was filled with cages in which we were told the previous owner grew his "herbs".

Meanwhile, a war has broken out in our apartment building between the tenants and the evil new owners. Somebody -- and somebody who definitely deserves to be called "feisty" -- apparently called the health department and registered a whole bunch of complaints. The housing people then came, did an emergency inspection and cited our building with a whole host of offenses. Take that, Evil Investment Corporation!

Well, the EIC isn't too happy about it, and when we got home, we all got not one but two notices on our door informing us that a) clearing the garage of all debris is the tenants' responsibility and b) they'll be entering all our apartments for "minor repairs" in the next week. The housing board posted a citation notice to the front door that the EIC must be legally required to leave up, because it's still there a day later. It lists all the issues involving our unsafe living conditions and contains a date when the reinspection will occur.

Take that, you rotten slumlords!

And since the EIC never responded to my offer, that got me to thinking... What would Charles Ingalls do?

Well, remember the final "Little House" TV movie, "Little House: The Last Farewell"? The plot involved some greedy developers who were using their sneakily-obtained deed to the town to force all the residents out. But the feisty Walnut Grovers weren't having any of that. They retaliated by blowing up all their homes and businesses (everything except the church, of course) and leaving the evil developers with nothing but a barren plain dotted by piles of debris. Was there a lesson in this? Wouldn't Charles have done everything in his power to sabotage that health inspection so the EIC gets slapped with a fine so massive that they surrender and sell the building to someone kinder and less insistent on forcing us all out?

Yeah, maybe. But when you think about it, how much did blowing up the town really hurt the developers? The Ingalls family lived in a one-room cabin with no indoor plumbing that Pa built by hand in about a week. (I'm nitpicking TV history here, but if you're building your own house and you don't have to worry about pricey central heating, why not put a few extra rooms on it, especially if you're planning on having seven kids? Of course, that would mean changing the title of the series to "Reasonably-Sized Home on the Prairie".) Were a few dozen log cabins, Doc Baker's exam room and Caroline's restaurant really so central to the bustling economy of the town?

The more I thought about it, the more the TV logic fell apart. It was just like with the cemetery house which, no matter how I tried, would never be a blind school. Ever. So I'm resigned not to fight the EIC and not to do anything sneaky to screw up the inspection. I'm not that kind of guy, and it probably wouldn't work anyway.

Besides, I'm pretty sure one of my neighbors will do it for me.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Chloe did not want to go to breakfast with Drew and Jerry. She cried and cried and cried. She didn't understand why she couldn't go out with her parents instead.

"Mommy and Daddy have to go visit their friend in the hospital," Drew explained. "He's very sick." Chloe did not accept this explanation. She continued to cry and pout and complain.

"This restaurant has cupcakes," Drew said. "I know Mommy and Daddy don't let you have treats for breakfast, but that's what's great about coming to breakfast with us. You can eat whatever you want!" Chloe did not stop crying.

Finally, Drew picked Chloe up and carried her to the car. "No, no, no!" she screamed. The neighbors watched as this little girl was dragged against her will into a car by a strange man promising her cupcakes.

Once she was in the car, Chloe stopped crying. She wanted to hear more about the cupcakes. Jerry and Drew breathed a sigh of relief.

Jerry and Drew and Chloe arrived at the restaurant. Drew took Chloe to examine the dessert case so she could pick out the cupcake she wanted. But much to Drew's dismay, there were no cupcakes at all. The restaurant was sold out of them that day.

Thankfully, Chloe did not know the difference between a cupcake and a flourless chocolate cake. The flourless chocolate cake did not look much like a cupcake, but it made Chloe very happy. "I got a cupcake for me and a cupcake for you!" she told Jerry. "Yours is the broken one."

Chloe ate her cupcake, and soon the tears were all gone. Now she was very happy and excited. She began talking very fast and bouncing up and down in her seat. She talked of how she wanted to be a rock star when she grew up. She invited Jerry and Drew to come to her concerts and assured them they would not need tickets, because they know her.

"Can I have french fries for breakfast?" Chloe asked.

"Yes, you can," said Jerry and Drew.

Jerry wanted to take a picture of Drew and Chloe, but Chloe did not want to have her picture taken.

Chloe later agreed to have her picture taken, so Jerry tried again.

Chloe looked at the picture and was not happy. "I want a picture by myself!" she demanded. So Jerry took another picture.

"Look! Isn't that a nice picture?" Jerry said, showing Chloe the screen on his camera phone.

"That is not what I asked for!" Chloe complained. "You can see Drew's arm in that picture! I wanted a picture of me alone!"

"It's okay," Jerry said. "I'll cut the arm out on the computer at home."

Chloe was happy. Drew told Jerry not to show the picture to Chloe's Mommy and Daddy, because they would not be happy to see her eating french fries for breakfast.

As Jerry and Drew and Chloe were finishing breakfast, the man from the kitchen brought out some new cupcakes he had just baked. "Yay! Cupcakes!" Chloe said.

Chloe picked out a cupcake that she wanted to have later. She also picked out a pink one for her mother because she's a girl, and a white one for her father, because he's French. Drew bought the cupcakes and handed them to Chloe to carry.

Jerry and Drew took Chloe back to her house and played games, wondering how long it would be before her parents came home and they could leave.



Tuesday, October 12, 2004

It's official: in terms of our living situation, Drew and I are totally screwed.

Like brothers and sisters comparing notes as their parents' fights lead ever closer to divorce, the tenants of my building are getting more paranoid by the day, scheming and eavesdropping in an effort to figure out what horrid fate awaits us all. I've spoken more to my neighbors in the last few weeks than in the entire year prior to that, and everybody's freaked out. After our landlord sold our building to the soulless, faceless Evil Investment Corporation (EIC), we all found ourselves slapped with steep rent increases. (Drew and I are facing a 22% hike.) But we're afraid that's only the beginning.

For the most part, the rent hikes just bring us all up to market value, which sucks because we all had such a sweet deal, but then again, it's not totally unreasonable. The scary part is that this weekend, a couple of representatives of EIC were casing the building with clipboards in hands and merciless, Satanic grins on their faces. One neighbor listened in to their entire conversation and heard them talking about landscaping the yard, retiling the entranceway and gussying up the courtyard. As we all know, unless your landlord is Santa Claus, you ain't getting this shit for free. Somewhere down the road -- none of us knows how far away it'll be -- they're either going condo, or they're turning these into luxury apartments. Either way, we'll all be priced out of our range and forced to move out.

It's given everyone a Norma Rae/Fight the Power attitude. They talk to each other in the garage and slip printouts from the housing commission under their neighbor's doors. One aggravated guy has been complaining that the new owners arenít taking proper care of the lawn and that heís going to hire someone to do it and deduct the cost from his rent. This attitude should probably last another five minutes before everyone freaks out and starts looking for other places to live.

It would be easy to launch into an emotional tirade against our new owners and excoriate them for everything theyíre doing or planning to do and how theyíre ruining peopleís lives, blah blah blah. But I know what Iím up against, and I know Iím going to lose. So instead, Iíd like to say this to the landlords: You donít know the people who live in the building, but I do. My neighbors are a nice group of people, and I like them a lot. Over the time Iíve lived in the building, Iíve grown to know some of them and created some bonds based on mutual respect and trust.

And that can work to your advantage. Let me spy for you. Iíll be your eyes and ears in the building. Iíll let you know who the real troublemakers are (*cough*, Apt. 306, *cough*), so you can boot them out first. I know whoís got an unauthorized pet (*cough*, ferret, *cough*), who has an illegal cable hookup and who lets their guests park in the garage. And you can know all of those things, too. That bitch who smokes in the courtyard? Letís can her first. Jack up her rent to five grand a month. Sheíll never be able to hack it on the meager tips she earns at the nail salon.

All I ask in return is that you kick me out last. And that we make life hell for those two college kids with the yapping dog that never shuts up. Itís perfect for you. But more importantly, itís perfect for me.

Please. Call me. I know things.


Monday, October 11, 2004

I'm glad the famous East Coast-West Coast rivalry doesn't extend to bloggers, because my boy Drew and I had a hella-good time (okay, I promise I'll stop with the lame street slang now) last week with visiting DC-dwelling blogging superstar Chrisafer and his linkless loverboy Glenn. I'd only tried the "I like your blog so much I want to meet you" thing once before, and that ended in a friendship with text blog veteran/photoblog newbie Paul and his main man, Toby. Paul had turned out to be everything I imagined he would be, so I had no reason to be nervous to meet another blogger. Still, I was, because I'm always nervous to meet anyone. What if Chris and Glenn were total jerks? Or, more likely, what if they thought I was a jerk? Thankfully, Paul and Toby were coming along, too, so no matter what, Drew and I were guaranteed a good time.

Well, C&G weren't jerks, quite the opposite. Chris is everything you'd expect from reading his blog -- funny, charming and extensively knowledgeable about all things pop culture. Glenn was all of those things, too, (mad props for the obscure Simpsons reference, G), though he seemed slightly confused by the blogging connection that drew us all together. (Very amusing.) The six of us had a great dinner, and we locals did our best to suggest some sights for our guests to see on the rest of their trip.

It probably would've ended there, but, Drew and I being the total attention hogs that we are, we invited the guys out for another night on the town. Thankfully, they accepted. And over more than a few drinks at some local WeHo hotspots, we got to know them a lot better, just enough to be really, really sad when the night ended and we had to say goodbye. Okay, fine, so it helped that by that point, I barely knew where I was anymore, but when I woke up the next morning, my head was pounding, and I was bummed because our new friends were going home, 3,000 miles away.

Thankfully, now that we're 2 for 2 on blogger meetups, there are other supercool local bloggers to meet! See you soon, Karen!

Finally, a happy belated birthday (see, I told you I'd forget) to my always hilarious, amazingly prolific, and often naked (if his stage credits are any indication, at least) blog buddy Hot Toddy, who will always be older than me and for that reason and all those listed above, he will always have a place in my heart and on my blogroll. Maybe someday he'll visit, too.

As for those other guys, Chris and Glenn were lucky enough to have had a few celebrity sightings while they were in town, and I think they were excited to tell all their friends back home about their brushes with greatness.

I know just how they feel.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Iím not going to deny that I may have just a teensy bit of bitterness in life. My obituary will hopefully note many of my better qualities, from my typing speed of 90 words per minute (which Iíve just removed from my resume because I no longer want any jobs where typing fast is an essential skill -- after years of those jobs, my wrists hurt), to my ability to charm peopleís moms, to my fondness for pretzels. I do love pretzels. But if the word ďbitterĒ sneaks in there, I canít blame anyone. Even if itís preceded by the words ďvirulentlyĒ, ďagonizinglyĒ or ďsoul-crushinglyĒ. Hey, Iím not one to argue.

My only mention so far on Defamer was as ďa frustrated writerĒ, and though it stung at the time, they werenít too far off, even if they werenít referring to the best example. Itís hard to be a writer without being frustrated -- even, Iíd imagine, if youíre a successful writer. Iíd never claim that my frustration is any more than most peopleís, only that it can be virulent, agonizing and soul-crushing if I dwell on it too much.

What brings on this self-reflection? A few days ago, I read that someone I know sold a script. Now, I know what Morrissey says on the subject, but if this were a friend we were talking about, thatíd be different. In fact, I also have a friend who sold a script recently, and Iím really happy for him. Really. Virulently, agonizingly, soul-crushingly happy maybe, but definitely, definitely happy. See? Hereís a smiley face to prove it. :0)

As for the other guy, well, hereís what happened. I knew him from film school, but I didnít know him very well. Several years ago, when we were both just out of school, I ran into him outside a movie theater, and we started talking. We talked about the things frustrated writers talk about, including what we were working on at the time.

I donít remember exactly what was said, because it wasnít until later on that Iíd realize how important this seemingly insignificant conversation would turn out to be. At the time, I was about halfway through writing a screenplay. I was really excited about this particular script, and I was at a very optimistic place in my career. My last script had been optioned by a studio, I was with a pretty big agency, and I was very hopeful about selling the new script when it was ready. And for some reason, I did something I rarely do.

I told the guy what my script was about.

I donít remember exactly what I said, and I know I was vague, but I told him.

That was Saturday. On Thursday or Friday of the following week, I read Variety and saw that an idea with a very similar premise had just sold. And guess who the writer was? Now, I know what youíre thinking: how could someone write an entire script in one week? Well, he didnít.

As it turns out, he had a very high-powered manager, and managers love to brag about how good they are at selling things. So his manager blabbed the entire story to the trades: Unsold writer calls him Monday morning with a great script idea he thought up over the weekend. Manager loves the idea, tells him to write up a treatment. They fax out the treatment a couple days later, and by the end of the week, theyíve got a deal. (There was no mention of where the unusual sense of urgency to rush their project to the market came from, but I think I have an idea.)

Iíll admit that his idea was different from mine. When I told him about it, I had been purposely vague enough that he couldnít steal it. But even though his idea wasnít a carbon copy of mine, it definitely ďborrowedĒ essential elements from mine and was clearly ďinspiredĒ by our conversation. (If Iím being vague again, itís not just because Iíve been burned before, but because you never know who reads your blog.) He made a lot of money off it, and heís made a good career as a writer since then.

As for my script, it went out about six months later, and it didnít sell. To be honest, the guyís treatment had little or no effect on my script, which failed to sell for a lot of other reasons that had nothing to do with him. And that put me in kind of a nebulous moral/karmic area. What he did wasnít really stealing, and it didnít end up hurting me. But it was definitely shitty. So I couldnít sue, and it didnít make sense to spend the rest of my life cursing his name and wishing for his downfall. I simply shrugged it off, and moved onto the next script.

But a little bitterness? Sure, I think Iím entitled to that.


Sunday, October 03, 2004

I'm not sure what exactly the theme of this weekend was, but I've narrowed it down to two possibilities: "Jerry and Drew's House Hunt Weekend" or "Jerry and Drew Spin Into Chronic Depression Weekend". Real Estate in LA is probably the scariest thing imaginable. If I watched that haunted videotape in "The Ring", all I'd see would be spacious mid-Wilshire homes with crown mouldings and built-in washer/dryers that were just out of my price range.

When we came home Friday night, the long-feared rent increase note was taped to our door. (We've been fearing it ever since our building was sold to a cold, evil, faceless investment corp.) $275 more a month. Well, $277.27 to be exact. The extra $2.27 is some kind of city fee they're allowed to pass along to renters in their building. When you're renting a 15-unit building, it's important to pass along every penny you can to your tenants, because you don't want to end up eating a whole $34.05 a month, and because listing $2.27 on your rent increase forms will let everyone know what greedy, dickish jerks you are.

So we flipped through the Homes section of the paper and picked out the 3 or 4 two-bedroom condos in Los Angeles county priced under a million dollars and then embarked on our tour of terror. Everything we saw was tiny and squalid and unlivable and not in a neighborhood where we'd want to be and, most of all, if we really crunched the numbers, still probably out of our price range. And lots of real estate agents are aggressive and/or snotty, like the guy who made us take our shoes off even though the carpets were filthy. I'm sorry, I know I'm new at this, but in my opinion, the only thing you should have to take your shoes off to buy is, well, shoes.

There was also the woman who told us she was selling her condo because she was moving to Israel. The thought really made me sad. I mean, to leave sunny West Hollywood for a war zone, you really have to love your God. But by the end of the day, all I could think about was how much better the real estate market is in the West Bank. She'd probably get a place twice the size of her WeHo pad for under 100,000 shekels. Lucky stiff.

If we made any progress, it was in deciding that Westwood is off our list of places to look. It's no cheaper than West Hollywood, but the places (the ones we saw that were in our price range, at least) were much dumpier. Also, we pretty much decided we weren't ready to buy a home at all.

Just when we were about to pack it up for the day -- and maybe forever -- we decided to check out one last place. It was 4:45, so we raced across town to get there before the open house ended at 5pm. I joked in the car that we'd be telling people after we moved in, "Yes, we'd almost given up hope, and we barely made it by the end of the open house, but something told us to check it out, and we fell in love instantly."

It was an actual house. And it was on a corner lot. It had character, it had hardwood floors, it had three bedrooms. And it had us at hello. We really did fall in love instantly. It was more than we ever dreamed we'd be able to afford, and it even had a cute little backyard big enough to fit all our friends whenever we decided to throw a party. (Granted, we don't have a ton of friends.) Sure, it wasn't in the greatest neighborhood, but it was only about ten minutes from where we are now, and it was close to the freeway, so it would actually make our commutes shorter. Plus, it seemed like one of those areas that was up-and-coming, meaning our property value would rise in the years ahead and this home could end up being a great investment.

The problem? It was about $300,000 out of our price range. We told the real estate agent how much we loved it, we took his business card, and then we got in our car and cried.

Oh, well. There's always Tel Aviv.


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