Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Room Additions (LA 6/18/14 to 7/7/14)

(And today [the next day, Wednesday] was another day I couldn’t leave the house—recovering, socially and financially, from yesterday’s expense.)

After a long talk from my mother, I go onto Indeed to look for work. On literally the second page, “posted 2 hours ago,” a request for employees for Barnes & Noble at The Grove. Well, I like when serendipity works for me. I apply.

I walk to “The Grove.” Locating its approximate position with my phone, I have trouble actually figuring out how to get in. I see Nordstrom’s, and assume that’s part of it, but I press on, intent on broaching the proper entrance to this fortress. I end up walking almost the whole way around the outside, buffered by garages and apartments and places that are not The Grove. I enter an area that looks like a different shopping center. A little further there is a “Farmer’s Market.” There is a carousel. There is a little structure selling Taschen books. And then I see, past all this fake quaintness, The Grove:

Horrible citadels rise up, shrines to consumerism—
They look like they’ve been here forever, Mayan obelisks overseen by aliens, or not at all, like they were airlifted by secret government bases and deposited here mere seconds ago.

I don’t go into B&N that time, but I do return a week later, and spend a lovely morning browsing their three floors, eavesdropping upon employees’ complaints about managers and monotonous tasks, and getting the lay of the land.

At home, having received no noise complaints, I increase the volume on my music, with growing confidence
Unfortunately, a neighbor counteracts by playing their own music loudly (blaring their bad music). I should have seen this coming.

It appears that Catherine Waller might have been the friend to whom R referred when she said she had “a friend putting on a show for the Hollywood Fringe.” R is following Waller on Twitter, which seems to suggest that they know each other. I don’t know what to make of this.
(One other thing: At the end of her 45-minute show, when she stood, beamed, and bowed, for two moments I thought it was another character—and the audience’s applause blew my head back.)

Good cookie from “Milk Jar Cookies”—like biting into seven cookies, or sinking into a pillow made of angels

Wasted money at an art and architecture gallery—
If you want to trick an art gallery into bankrolling your constructs and assemblages, be sure to get your BAs and MFAs from prestigious universities, to study abroad, to serve on the board of any number of what-have-yous. Anyone who indulges your work is a sap, but at least you will have given them the justification to do so.
Whatever artists are foolish enough to apply for a space without a CV like yours will be turned away: How can they be any good if they can’t fill a placard of “accomplishments”?

Walk to Sunset Blvd
Mel’s Diner
            I give the word “jamming” to my waiter, who wore a white cap. He had the rapid-fire, plate-spinning approach to customer service I find familiar to myself.  “How are you?” “Good,” I say. “Taking a break?” (I guess so—a break that has lasted months, and may last untold months more.) “Yeah. How are you?” “Oh, you know. I’m here.” “Yeah. You’re jamming.” He’s already leaving—he laughs.
            (That’s what someone told me when I was volunteering serving meals at a church—bouncing back and forth between bowls of food and their recipients. Someone shouted, in appreciation, “Now you’re jamming!”)

Book Soup
This store is a flurry of staff recommendations—which is a good thing. For every set of shelves (you know, the width of your body, a set of shelves) there are probably five or six staff recommendations, handwritten in marker on pink or yellow paper.
My guess is (I enjoy losing track of time) I spend two hours there, working methodically across and around the rooms.
I buy a collection of writings by Clarice Lispector, along with a biography on Lispector. I have been meaning/hoping to find one of her books for a while. I think hers is the kind of confused, fragmented, mystical, inward-searching spirit I find echoed in myself.

A billboard of January Jones, “For Your Consideration,” in her Mad Men dress: “She Loves Pearls, But Prefers Gold.” Perhaps intentionally, the sign has been placed above a shop proffering the exchange of gold.

Guy sitting on the sidewalk jangling a cup asking for change. I have to walk by him.
I look at him.
“Come On.”
I am passing him.

For my Senior Project, a friend and I, inspired by an event that facilitated interactions with the homeless, hung out at a halfway house for the previously/potentially homeless.
We interviewed and/or filmed residents, employees, and policy-makers within the organization.
The man in charge of the organization told us, “Most panhandlers are not homeless. For the most part, homeless people want to be left alone. They are wary of human contact. They are not the aggressive types you find hounding you for money. If you want to help reverse the plight of homelessness, make a donation to a nonprofit organization.”

I take all things with a grain of salt—of course he, the leader of a non-profit purveyor of services, would advocate you give money to such services. But it makes sense. The people who are worst off are those who cannot even communicate. Of course those who have been burned by own society, scalded by their own families and scorched by their own lobes, back to front and back again, will shrink at your approach, will babble to themselves as protection against any unwanted interaction, will rest on a bench with a blanket over their heads as a statement Do not disturb, I am already and ever-unavoidably disturbed.

And I have not forgotten this. Although I find within the coming weeks that I make sure to leave the house with some change in my pockets so that I may plant them in the outstretched hands of vagabonds.

I also wonder—where do the people with cardboard signs get the markers to write their signs? I suppose it’s an investment.
I think of Peachum in “Threepenny Opera.”
Of course panhandlers always have a story—you can’t go up to someone and say, Give me money. Unless you’re mugging them. In a way, panhandlers do mug you, but they use guilt and narrative instead of the threat of firepower.

I can’t remember what I was coming from, but I think it was another late-night thing with Yoni that gave me the courage to do the follow:

This was written on the barrier to an embarrassing item I was attempting to buy from Rite Aid: “Lift Here. Alarm Will Sound.” That sounded like a contradiction: a request and a warning enjambed.
I lifted—but not “Here.” Electronic buzz of caution to criminals. I closed the barrier. I lifted—this time, “Here.” The buzz resumed, its tune increasing in insistence. I closed the plastic barrier. The next time, when I opened the barrier, grabbed my item, and set back the plastic, the alarm broke into song and did not stop—as if an awoken watchdog launching into compensatory duty.
I stood there, looking at the latch. I felt relieved—it could not get any more embarrassing than this, and so, in a way, I was saved.
An employee came into view from down the aisle. He waved at me—I held up a hand halfway in placation, in surrender—he waved me on, down to the cash registers.
I said, “I didn’t understand the warning—” He said, “Yeah, I don’t know why it does that—” He (a Latino) and the Asian elderly lady at the cash register appeared to be the only employees left, and the only other people in the store.
I guess Rite Aid was about to close. It was 10:00. Perfect timing to be embarrassed.

In the hallway as I leave my apartment, “Refresca y Fria,” fresh and cold: Box for an electric fan

Attractive girl walking down the street, talking to her friend. Her tugged-down shirt exposes her shoulder. She carries two cartons of water, one in each hand.
Here was the pick-up line:
“Excuse me, I think your shirt is slipping. It must be your jugs—your jugs of water. If you’d like some help, I can hold them for you.”
But of course I say none of this.

Big guy sits in a shaded bulldozer as his friend shovels into it the pieces of the street.

The Book Soup employee who rang me up yesterday I see crossing the street today. I appreciate the coincidence.
It’s a red herring, I think. But I will gladly eat red herring! I eat red herring for breakfast. I will eat red herring and like it.

Free KCRW concert in Pasadena
I wander around looking for the music. Is this some kind of labyrinth I am not yet permitted to solve? I hear sounds being piped out of loudspeakers, but I can’t find a band. Signs fling arrows in opposing directions. Yes, I want to hear “Live Music,” but I also want to see it. I am also trying to coordinate my location with Edan and T, a friend of Edan and Yoni’s from high school. Eventually, we find the venue, a square (I had just not gone far enough into the corridors of the courtyard).

Many people seem to take the concert as an excuse, a prerequisite, to gather and talk. I feel bad for the band. We meet up with Yoni and A, a girl from Tinder. Yoni wants to see 22 Jump Street, but it has sold out and we don’t have reservations. Edan gets money from all of us to go plug his meter. Yoni and A split from us to have some food, and we reconvene in an hour or so.

We go to Intelligentsia. Instead of an espresso shot, I accidentally order a latte. It’s 10:15 at night (that’s why I’m typing this up at 1:43 in the morning).

Edan and Yoni regale us of tales of their Israeli fathers in the army—crashing jeeps, oversleeping from being drugged, getting caught trying to hitchhike off base—it sounds like the Israeli army version of M*A*S*H*. Edan’s sister has followed in the family footsteps: dodging work, refusing to work, impersonating an officer. And she, an American citizen, had volunteered!

Conversational partners’ subtext: “You didn’t tell me I was crazy. Thank you. Let’s do this again sometime.” (“You listened and responded. I appreciate that. I am not used to this kind of exchange.”)

“A” gives everyone a handshake that redefines the term “firm” (more like the requested squeeze in preparation of a blood donation)—each finger works together, all equal to the task—and we part.

Walking home at 1:00 in the morning: It’s actually quite peaceful

Fiesta Auto Insurance

I watch a movie on my phone, which gobbles up my Cellular Data because I haven’t thought to direct it through my Wifi

The next morning, it’s hot—technically not as hot as it is in Cleveland right now, but it is an alien heat.

The parking lot outside of Staples is where bicycles go to die: Wheel-less, abandoned. A sign says they have caught someone “yesterday” trying to steal or cannibalize bicycles, and that bike owners may notify the LAPD, but this stays up for weeks, and none of the bikes get claimed or moved. If anything, more join them.

I keep my wits about me (or my half-wits). I seem to inspire worry in others.

I see this ( on the Annapurna Twitter feed. This isn’t far from where I park my car. I wonder when it was filmed—was I driving somewhere beneath the drone?

Drinking out of Mason jars, blotting in my atelier

Auden on trauma: the child needs a trauma (will wait for one) in order to create—in order to fill the loss the trauma made

Reflection of traffic light onto sign of phone—makes it look like the phone is turning on

I know that face; I’ve made it myself. It means you’re not sure if you’ll ever see the person again. And you still have more to tell them. And maybe there won’t be time.

Poetry collection “Eunoia”: Each chapter winches around one vowel
A is black, contains all, saturated. A is start. Charged. Absorbs.
O moon, forlorn. Outward. Concentric, opening. Devouring. White.
I isolated, individual, limiting, nihilism. Shrinking, vanishing.
U undulates. Spurt. Loose. A universe of uno (uni-verse) in flow.

Or A is red—first “color” after white and black

I and O are opposed. Black and white. Inward versus Outward.
L-M-B sounds vs. T-K-P sounds, o vs. i. OppOsItes.

“Is” and “To be” are empty. No associations. Breaks, blips.

I read the free “LA Weekly” and walk back to where I found it, return it so that someone else can read it (there are only so many copies to go around, and they disappear quickly). Is this like what I did with the newspaper outside my steps?—penance for this? I guess I just don’t want clutter—I don’t want papers to go to waste.

Intention to drive to Skylight Books. Trying to wait out the traffic—How can I busy myself? Oh, look, there’s another bookstore. Done.
Aladdin Used Books—similar lack of rhyme and reason to The Last Bookstore, except 75% of the books are in Korean. And it all looks like it’s in order because the clean, white shelves are tidy, but there’s not, particularly.

The ad for How to Train Your Dragon 2 that unfurled down the side of a skyscraper has come down.
They are putting up a new billboard now: an image of a triumphant young woman in a coat, fist-pumping. Now they are working on her crotch.

Skylight Books
Only one employee. A customer who talked and talked. Though dense with esoteric stuff, the store is smaller than I thought. It does not match the picture I saw online.

A week later, when I return for the book I ordered, I am told to “go next door” to claim it. Literal next door is an empty front with a locked door. But next to that is “Skylight Books” proper, a place three times the size of where I had been, spruced by potted plants, and matching the image I had seen associated with the store.

Turns out the shop I had first perused was the “Arts Annex,” i.e. the space they bought up because they had too many art books to fit in their first store.

I kick a broccoli stalk on the sidewalk

Shaggy dog story: “Museum of Taller Ants” (versus shorter ants)

Taschen Used Books Sale: “A History of Photography” for ten bucks

Most mornings around 6:00 I am briefly awoken by the sounds of, I assume, somebody homeless going through the cans of trash behind the apartment.
I imagine that, in the evenings, people hear the same sounds—furtive clattering, restless movement, shamefully muted noise—emanating from my apartment window.
(Later weeks, I stop hearing these noises. I wonder if the guy has moved on. Same with the woman I used to see with the blanket over her head on a bus stop bench: I hope that she has just found a new spot, and that she isn’t dead).

I go to the IHOP up the street. The combination of the horrible Top 40 Sirius station, my alone-ness, and a miscommunication about the menu with the waitress (I asked not “What is the difference in price—” but rather “Is there a difference in price between the regular pancakes and the pancakes with fruit on them?”) which branded me an idiot, puts an expression on my faced that forced my waitress (along with some last-ditch, instinctual effort to save her tip) to say, “Are you OK?”—not in the normal lorem ipsum of her service profession but as the intervention of a friend—except she was still a stranger, and I gave her the correct answer for both strangers and friends: “Yes.”

6:29 on a Friday night and I’m sitting here reading, the dishwasher to my left, My Bloody Valentine to my right, listening.

Saturday night I get to see Lee Fields and the Expressions live! At the Troubadour.

Their opener is a disco throwback/modern production outfit, an international band (a Hispanic on guitar, an Asian on bass, and some swarthy Shia LaBouf/Balthazar Getty hybrid on drums—maybe Armenian?) providing grooves for a zesty young black woman.

She’s got spunk to spare. She sounds like Diana Ross. Her pop star dance moves do that Californian blend of gymnastics/cheerleading/hot yoga. In between songs, her voice gives one a slight association with helium.

When she starts to introduce the last song, she is called aside by the bassist, who reminds her that there are actually two songs left to play. Leave it to the Asian to know how to count.

Lee Fields: He is a powerhouse. He is so happy to be here.

His band functions as one unit. Seven players. Them white, him black. At 7:1, this ratio, unfortunately, seems to match the audience.

White guys in front of me make brief fun of his gruff, raspy voice which is revealed between songs. Well. If your throat was the New York Metro and you were conducting subway trains of screaming love through its tunnels, your voice might get a little hoarse, too.

During the last three songs, a woman with blonde curly hair dances in the space directly in front of me, never mind the fact that for the preceding majority of the concert the space to the immediate left of her boyfriend served as sufficient.

Mid-shlep on the walk back home, I buy a Gatorade at a convenience store. The proprietor makes me wonder: You come to America and you own/operate a 7-11. You have to serve dumb Americans. Is this any better than your old life? Were you fleeing oppression? Are you here to provide a better life for your children? In any case, all I’m thinking is that it must be disappointing.
Your life might not be that different here: bills, traffic, commercialism.
The grass is always greener? Los Angeles is a desert.

Sign on a utility pole advertising “Room Additions.” At first I read this as “Room Auditions” and wonder what this could mean. What kinds of rooms are best suited for particular purposes? I imagine a room’s acoustics and ambience tested for a band’s rehearsals. Who knows, you might find the best spot for your cupcake factory is on the third floor of an apartment building.

While I am waiting for Yoni to finish using the bathroom at a Five Guys, a piece of paper blows past my feet on the sidewalk. I pick it up. I read it. I can’t quite tell what it is. Typewritten and hole-punched in a manner that suggests a course that has never updated its syllabus, the doubled-sided page appears to be the history of some sort of cult.

A few keywords and key players stick out, like “Urantia” and “Vern Grimsley,” but overall I have the impression of history trying to paint back over itself, whitewashing events that were too odd and mysterious for it to comprehend in the first place.

I search the page for clues about its author’s intention, something conclusive like “This guy was crazy” or “And then they all died.” Although this is a random, disconnected passage, the author’s cryptic approach to the material gives me the feeling that the rest of the piece would prove just as oblique.

I show the paper to Yoni when he emerges, and he reads it with equal curiosity. What’s it trying to say? Who are these people? Google doesn’t give too much of an answer: the picture produced by the first page of results is fragmentary—from the perspective of whoever these Urantia followers would be, and not anybody objectively sane. At least I can finally pinpoint the time period: sometime in the seventies or early eighties. We decide to leave the paper for someone else to find. We joke that we are now true believers of Vern Grimsley.

We have eaten lunch outside a small place called El Diner; Yoni declares the shrimp quesadillas to be the best Mexican food he's ever had. We wander—for some reason Yoni has to have more food, and he spends a while debating what to eat at an Einstein’s Bagels (a honey-glazed lox bagel). I eat a brownie.

Back at the apartment, Yoni asked me why I had books face-down in a stack on my table. I didn’t know why. But I thought about it later and I realized:
I want a visual representation of what my brain is interested in at the moment. If I’m interested in movies, the books about movies will be at the top. If I’m interested in spirituality and typewriter art, that’s the book that’s going to be at the top. If I’m not, it’ll be at the bottom. The stack gets shuffled and of course the colors of the spines move around and it makes a nice kaleidoscoping pattern, and this is more interesting than having a shelf of books. As to why they’re face-down, it’s because in my mind the books are sturdier, they have more weight, if they are not face-up. The stack seems sturdier if the spine is on the right and the cover is down—to counter the fact that the books will be read in the opposite way. So when I’m not reading them, I let them reconstitute themselves by placing them at a reverse.

I show Yoni a poem I intend to read at an open mic. While walking up Fairfax, I had passed a small, unassuming front, and its sign said “Da Poetry Lounge.” It claimed, somewhat improbably, to host the second-largest open mic in the nation every Tuesday night at 9. Turns out this was true, as I showed up with my poem in my back pocket at 8:45 and saw a line stretching around the block. And they made all of us stragglers sit on the stage. There must have been close to 100 people there, half of whom seemed to be on stage sitting Indian-style squashed up against each other. But more on that later. I showed Yoni the poem. He said it reminded him of S. I later had to revise the poem, because I read on the Da Poetry Lounge Open Mic FAQ that all poems had to be three minutes or less, and mine was five minutes. So I scraped two minutes off of it, which actually made it stronger. Most of the fat came from the front—it took me a bit to rev up to full speed, and it turned out that I could just start off at this point of firing on all cylinders. Here is the final, edited version of the poem. I wasn’t sure what to call it, but one possible title was “Abused by the Muse”:

The muse likes to come in through the backdoor, breaking and entering
Playful and annihilating
I can never acknowledge her presence
A watched pot never explodes

She’s a Gorgon to turn me petrified.
I have never seen her, only glimpsed at her reflection in the cracks in a mirror hidden in shadows through the corner of my eyes, upside-down and standing on my head
This is the only proper way I may address her

She is too big for me
She needs me

I am tortured for information—
What’s it like to be flesh and blood? And she squeezes me to a pulp, testing my levels

The muse needs my limbs for her twitching strings
The back of my skull for her wrecking ball
My nervous system for her toboggan
My blood for her to course through, to overheat, to steam to a boil

She will switch me
The way a chair is placed first against one wall and then the perpendicular
A feng shui of the synapses

She is a truck and I am her roadkill
I am in the passenger seat of her kamikaze biplane
I am the notebook she throws into the garden to decay through winter and be recovered in spring
Maybe she’s as angry and confused as I am

I set myself as bait
I wander around a field, calling out “Hello?” like a schmuck, and the muse comes and slaps me across the back of the head, claps, boxes my ears, and vanishes
I pad my cell so she may box me around the loony bin          
I am nothing without her
I have to beg, don’t find me, don’t hurl me into the briar patch, for her to direct her wanton engine at me

She is called by associations
She is abated by the intersection of two unalike things—
So I venture to faraway places where she could never find me, where she will always find me—because the force of her connecting, slamming, speeding like a bullet train, completing the circuit with me within me in this faraway place will invoke a greater collision
For I have allowed her passage to a place she’s never been
And she eagerly devours nerve endings to pump her form into new crevices—like squeezing a packet of Gogurt
Engorging my brain organ

And yes, I craft it afterwards
Like a custodian after the orgy
Like the first wistful purging of the bowels in the metabolic cycle that follows the banquet
I am a lightning rod with burnt wires
I will recover, I will gasp for breath
I will feel elated and ashamed
And I will defenestrate myself again and again in the hope that she will snatch me before I hit the ground

Or at the very least that as I lie there, broken, at the bottom, in the garden, that she will seep into and replace me and make me into something less-is-more than what we were.

…so anyway, I wrote it out on an index card and thought I might read it. I also planned on getting to Da Poetry Lounge ridiculously early to sign up, but then the time got away from me, and I didn’t want to look ridiculous waiting around, and as it turned out the poem wouldn’t really have fit—

—the poets spoke in the tried-and-true cadence of performed poetry, and the pieces seemed to fall into a few categories: political rants, lost love or new love, the struggles of the poet’s minority, letters to a mentor who had died, etc. And audience members just loved snapping their fingers, which I had previously learned to be the way you show approval at a poetry slam, but I can’t snap my fingers, and I wouldn’t be doing it all the time even if I could. The people who got up to speak who said it was their first time and seemed very nervous (their papers shaking in their hands) all had this look of exhilaration after they finished to applause. It was all lovey-dovey. I mean, most of the poets were great. I can’t do what they do. The poets in the second half were the real newbies—they copied the exact same cadence, but they weren’t nearly as good, and they performed to a drastically reduced crowd. I don’t need to go up in front of a crowd to exorcise my demons. They’re not the kind that can be killed with claps.

The MC had his kid up on stage, too, which was the best part (the MC at The Last Bookstore open mic had her niece up on stage, so maybe that’s a thing now). They had a dance battle, which his son won. In between poems, the MC joked with the DJ behind him on stage, who had been told to “scratch” people off the stage if they went over the time limit. I suspect that the poets were given a grace period of thirty seconds or so. We were told that if anybody kept going after being scratched, music would cut in, like at the Oscars, and if the poet still kept going, the music would turn up and the lights would go out.

The best performer was a guy who slammed in Japanese, among other displays of prowess. I liked his line about making double entendres because he speaks “with two tongues.” That was the best line of the night for me and I showed my approval by going “Mmm” as some members of the audience were wont to do.

Rare was the poem that did not mention the poet’s childhood or parents. I found this funny, and telling. What wasn’t so amusing was having to sit Indian-style cramped on a stage in a fire-hazard venue for what seemed like eternity. My butt hurt.

Looks like The Oasis Theatre is where the Koreans have their church. (It has been empty and abandoned-looking every other time I passed it.) There is a parking structure set up to accommodate this weekly purpose.

Wheelchair guy crossing the road at night—I prepare myself to run across the street to flag down any cars barreling down upon him, because the light has turned green and the cars that have been waiting for him to pass are blocking the view a new car would need to see him—but he makes it.

Comedy show in Eagle Rock
Maria Bamford, social anxiety, which I love. Good to hear “showing up” is still the way to move forward.
Honesty works well; “being themselves”
How is it that some comedians can “open” to the audience, while others can’t seem to bring the audience in any closer than arm’s length? (Similarly, some comedians can be themselves, do their own thing, not hinge on being liked, and they still get liked—well, maybe those two qualities (being yourself and not contorting for approval) are actually what causes approval.)
Usual topics—same as everyone: Looking for love. Trying to “make it” in your career/dreams. Fighting against your perceived obstacles—
The best performers have some sort of struggle, some kind of weight attached to them: having body/weight issues, being gay or black or both, fearing communication, not being a conventional beauty but figuring out how to manifest that beauty (So it’s unfortunate that they have had to deal with the bad shit that comes with being “born that way,” but it might actually make them funnier, more interesting, more compelling, more worth listening to).

Don’t try to be too clever. Bring the pain. The one who gets the most vulnerable the fastest and eases the audience into it the most pleasantly wins!

Email: “___ ___ would like to be paid through PayPal.”
Oh really? What a polite way to say “Pay me my money.” I would like to be paid by somebody, too. Can we just send these invitations to random people? Will people pay you? This could be better than Kickstarter!

(Control-F the word “meaning” in a document: “Not found.” Ah.)

Mannequin in a pharmacy window in Los Feliz—rocking a neck brace, raising her arm up to show off a wrist brace, too

Saw a sign for the “Don Quixote Café” and tried to find it—should have known that the quest would prove fruitless

But stumbled upon an enclave of a community: cart says “Take a Book Leave a Book,” and farther up there is an offer “Free Guitar Lessons” with people sitting around it outside

Stack of eight fading Huggies boxes under a small palm tree

Church’s weekend is stacked: “Korean Worship; Hispanic Worship; English Worship; Filipino Worship”

Bus stop ad for Scarlett Johansson vehicle “Lucy” poses question: “The average human uses 10% of their brain. Imagine what she could do with 100%.” If we used 100% of our brain we would soon be back to 10—burnt out, and realizing that most mundane tasks require little mental effort.

Went to Edan’s house to see fireworks in the valley—a panoramic view of a few scattered skirmishes
Jacuzzi and conversation with Yoni, T and Edan
I slept on the sofa. I wake up, check my email, and see Edan has tagged me in a photo. “It must have been while I was asleep,” I think, steeling myself for the worst, because I definitely didn’t submit to any pictures while I was conscious. It’s not too bad, just Yoni and me with our eyes closed, listening to music, and T looking at the camera, probably ready to leave. But Yoni doesn’t like the picture because it makes our Fourth of July look lame.
After breakfast, around 11:00 I say, “Well, I think I’m going to get going soon.” But Edan quashes this idea. Considering I have to drive back and then walk 40 minutes to get home, there is no particular rush to instigate this process (which was why I had neglected to leave the night before—that, and traffic).

Edan wants to see the Neutra house—it’s all the way in Silver Lake, so Yoni complains, but it’s the best thing we can come up with—but then I check my phone (all of our phones are slowly dying of battery) and see it is closed. So we try to figure out what to do. Yoni predicts that if we go to Santa Monica we will wander around, get ice cream, talk, and not do anything of much value we couldn’t do closer to home (none of us are particularly close to one another, let alone anything of interest). Also, it is hot. We spend a lot of time looking for architecturally interesting places that we can tour with no notice on a Saturday on a holiday weekend while Edan plays GTA. We end up driving down the hill to eat Mexican and sit at Starbuck’s and then we call it quits. We make a plan to meet at LACMA tomorrow for the Bank of America cardholders’ Free Sunday. Yoni’s main squeeze N, whom I have met once before at his house, will be joining us.

I walk towards LACMA and call Yoni. I get my ticket and my sticker. In the next call, he says they are getting food from the trucks across the street. This food-ordering and eating process, as per Yoni, takes a long time. Edan takes a picture of N and me in front of a piece of the Berlin wall. Why? I assume Edan will also take/post pictures of Yoni and N, but no—and it hits me later that Yoni has probably instructed him not to do so, to preserve the image that he is unattached, so that any girls he meets on Tinder who looks him up on FB will not say, hey, what about your girlfriend? Sneaky.

We run into R again. I am used to this by now.

We visit the groovy Japanese art building that reminds me of the USS Enterprise crossed with a submerged seashell crossed with a chapel. Kimonos.

I am clowning around more than I usually do. Stop it, Isaac. Just stop it.

I land a few jokes that make N laugh. Dick jokes seem to work. I recall Yoni mentioning (in the Jacuzzi) that he and N shared the same sense of humor.

Wandering. Lookin’ at art stuff.

On our way out, down the street, they notice something that I had missed, despite having walked past it a few times: a streetlight speckled with LACMA stickers. The three of them pick a few colors, thinking that this will trick the guards into letting them in at a later date. We eat at El Diner. We walk up the street to get Milk Jar cookies, but it’s a Sunday evening, so they are closed.

I have a hack about my bed sheets. It’s a full-size bed, and my regular sheets won’t fit it. Oh but they do: if I lay the top sheet down on the bed and use the springy sheet to cover me. In fact, I end up doing this for the set of full-size sheets I had bought on clearance, too, because one of their edges is not long enough to reach the corner of the bed. I had previously taken a scissors to it, and thought that that was the hack, but now I just use the two sheets in the opposite way they were intended and sleep just fine.

For a while now, I had been looking forward to reading at The Last Bookstore and hearing what other people had to say.
I had written a piece about The Last Bookstore itself, which I had been germinating over for a bit. I had been inspired/stymied by the store’s design (type “The Last Bookstore” into YouTube and you can see some amateur videos of people running around the store, principally in the upper level known as The Labyrinth—my poem doesn’t require precise knowledge of the store’s design, but it’s certainly an added treat.) The piece shifted from being a scattering of musings into something more Borgesian, Ballardian. Something fictional, mythical, apocalyptic. As with my poem about the Muse, I found that I needed to write from the first person perspective rather than dispense objective statements and “advice;” I needed to dial up the violent, inflammatory, bodily and religious imagery, etc., in order to elicit attention/provoke a reaction; and I needed to jettison certain sequences I enjoyed because they didn’t end up fitting.

At 7:15, people were waiting in chairs. Sign-up was “at 7:45” but I knew from Da Poetry Lounge that first come first served means the most fanatically early claim the spoils.
When they announced that the sign-up sheet was in play, I got into line—at the end.

People played guitar and sang, did comedy, did poems, talked about activism.

The highlight/lowlight was a guy in a do-rag who looked like he was in his mid-forties even though he was probably in his (black don’t crack) early fifties.

He had brought a tape of a beat with him to rap over. The soundman started the tape. “Turn it up,” the guy said.
Uh oh, I thought.
The chorus of his rap went “Ain’t no stoppin’ this, ain’t no stoppin’ this—” which he would then repeat another three times. He had some verses about his accomplishments and day-to-day life (“Gettin’ paid, gettin’ laid—”), and then it was back to the chorus, where it was clear his heart really lay: “Ain’t no stoppin’ this, ain’t no stoppin’ this—”
I wonder what would happen if he actually didn’t stop, I thought.
And then he did didn’t stop.
It became like the hip-hop version of “This is the Song that Never Ends” popularized by Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop. The spirit of Andy Kaufman was surely impressed. The set of hipsters behind me pronounced him “obnoxious.” But the guy was just getting started.
“La la la la, la la la la,” he chanted. “La la la la, la la la la—”

Eventually he ended, and we all clapped. “Ain’t no stoppin’ him!” the MC said.

(Actually, the song is still going, because it’s been stuck in my head ever since.)

My slot ended up being third-from-last, slightly expedited by the departure of several would-be performers who had decided not to wait it out. In front of me was a comedian who talked about his unexpected, spontaneous, ultimately unconsummated excursion into a same-sex hook-up. Then it was my turn. “Let’s hear it again for the guy before me!” I said.

“This piece will take me about three minutes to read. It’s called—”

The Last Bookstore

Books are a virus—“language is a virus” that burrows into ventricles
Used books like spent needles
The books used the people

The covers had to be shut—
Like boarding up a wormhole
A glass house of nothing but shuttered windows

We quarantined centuries of questions into the Labyrinth

And in that arc of used, glued books outside the Labyrinth’s main maze, we sealed our information, we built a shrine to lost knowledge
Paper and pulp returned to the status of trees—shelter, shade, aesthetics, and decay
The bookstore aspired to be forest

The workers in the Labyrinth approached their duty like nature guides, noticing tracks, strange vegetation, the changing in the arrangement of rocks that made up the sides of mountains. They plugged holes, preventing landslides.

The Labyrinth revealed our books more closely as parts in a whole, shuffling, like sentences themselves, or letters, rearranged by an almighty author in furtive purpose only somewhat known to him—the books were neurons in his brain

A bit of order, yes, but the pieces scattered at will, and against him—thoughts were forgotten as books were bought—or forgotten as books were forgotten, where they were put or what their purpose was

We decomposed the pages into the mulch of our collective unconscious

Call me Theseus, the narrative the mind told itself, a bit of string unspooling from remembering to imagining

Within the wilderness, I’m a hunter-gatherer of words.

I just want there to be somewhere to move, something underneath, beyond, or through.

I’m moving past the book; my momentum is just past the book—like the karate master who punches not an opponent’s head but the space just beyond the opponent’s head.
A book is like a hurtle
Like the veil before my beloved
The scrim in front of our secrets

I am obsessed with the image of a decorative carrier that has forgotten its message, and become only decoration

The message is impenetrable—the only necessity is to acknowledge it, just as you would acknowledge a person

It is the same message, over and over again
            Stressing its importance
            Something about mortality. Something about the way things work.
            The messenger is the minotaur
            A flake off the feather of a fractal
            Plotted against a long enough scale, maybe opening a book and reading it is the same as looking at a book and not opening it.

The messenger has become the message through its repetition

It was never just words, but what emerged—an idea, a connection between people. And this could never be contained, or closed, or shut. We could not remove what we could not measure. We could not quantify our qualities.

If the books were never here, they could not be destroyed.

And where nature and books meet again, in this mingling of oracles
The next step is going back to writing on the beach with a stick, as words wash back into the sea with the tide

The message, “it is”

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