Sunday, August 29, 2010

high roller

I started a two-week staycation last Thursday night. A staycation is the best kind of vacation for me because it gives me a chance to roam the Southland. I think a lot of people who live here find the physical vastness and dispersal of LA either intimidating or alienating, if not both. It can make you feel alone and disconnected from any sort of community. In other words, it's an ideal place for me to be living. I revel in what others find overwhelming, and I love to wander when I have the time do so.

I'm too nervous about money these days to do much gambling anymore, but I was in the mood for some casino action yesterday, so I drove from my house in Alhambra, first to the Bicycle Casino in the city of Bell Gardens, and then to the Commerce Casino in the city of Commerce. Back when I was a teenager and didn't have to worry much about money since I had well-to-do parents who provided for almost everything, I used to do quite a bit of gambling. I think it might've been my way of thumbing my nose at what I perceived as my parents' upper class pretentiousness. They were always dragging me to the ballet, the theater, and museums. My mom would take me for 'tea' with her fancy friends and refer to our neighborhood on the upper East Side of Manhattan as an arrondissment. All we needed were some fucking finger bowls at the dinner table to make the whole stultifying vibe complete. Gambling seemed like a suitably low-rent pastime and I gravitated towards it with a few friends in high school. One of these friends is a gambling addict to this day, and he's completely destroyed his life. Lucky for me, I recognized my true class position in time to avoid the same fate. One advantage of being a bourgeois teenage gambler is that there wasn't much in the way of consequences if I lost a few hundred bucks at the track or at one of the underground blackjack joints in NYC. There was always more where that came from. My father used to keep a huge wad of cash hidden in the house - several thousand dollars, mostly in hundred dollar bills. I found the wad one day by accident and was able to bankroll my gambling habit thereafter. I pocketed all the winnings, of course. My dad never seemed to notice that the money was missing... But nowadays, with a mortgage and bills to pay, and with an economy that seems like it will stagnate for the foreseeable future, I don't feel nearly as free and easy with money. There's no wad without consequences hidden in my house. My savings are all in cds and bonds and gold. I'm in full-on protective mode, and I'm entertaining the possibility of purchasing a handgun so I can be prepared when the generalized rioting begins any day now. Still, last night I wanted to gamble. I'm on vacation. I wanna wander. I wanna gamble. I'm not such a peasant that I'll completely deprive myself of a little action on a Saturday night...

I took Atlantic Boulevard south through Alhambra and Monterey Park. Without much warning, Monterey Park becomes East Los Angeles, where Atlantic Boulevard has degenerated over the last three decades into a wasteland of pawn shops, payday advance sharks, bail bondsmen, liquor stores, and fast food joints. There are actually still some lovely little latino working class neighborhoods in East LA, but the impact of 40 years of deindustrialization is unmistakable in the commercialized areas...

Atlantic becomes Eastern Boulevard in the city of Commerce, and Eastern takes you directly to the Bicycle Casino in the city of Bell Gardens. The Bicycle Casino is not what I would call an inviting establishment. A lot of casinos, whether they're in Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City, or on Indian Reservtations in the Southwest part of the country, attempt to create a hospitable atmosphere so that you don't notice yourself losing your shirt. Not the Bicycle Casino. Their aproach seems to be to underscore the built-in antagonism between the house and the players. There are armed guards all over the place. I may admittedly have been a little oversensitive to this after taking a few hits in the parking lot beforehand, but whatever... From what I could tell in the hour or so I spent at the Bike, there's no free food or drinks for the players sitting at the tables. The dealers all seem to be quiet in a sullen and unpleasant way. Plus, the place is dirty. In fact, it's worse than dirty because it has the same tacky glitz most casinos have, but it's not kept clean so it really looks like shit. I sat down for a few hands of blackjack and won $25. I would have won more had it not been for the old Chinese lady sitting next to me who hit on 18 and drew a picture card after I split on aces. I didn't do that douchey thing that some people do and yell at her for fucking up my hand, but I was a little chapped. I took it as a sign and cashed my chips right there.

While the Commerce Casino also has its trashy aspects, it's much nicer than the Bike. The atmosphere is much more welcoming. I sat down at a minimum bet blackjack table and bought $300 worth of chips. This seemed to send an invisible signal to some central nerve center because within two minutes a waitress came to get my drink order. I went on a good run right away. On all of my first three hands I pulled 21. A black guy in green coveralls smacked my back on the third 21 and said, 'You are hot tonight, baby! Gimme a little 'o what you got!' After 45 minutes at the table, I had more than doubled my money. Then I did the right thing when I felt myself cooling off. I walked away with a nice profit of $265. Now it was time for some sports betting. This is the great thing about the Commerce Casino - you can bet ball games in the sports betting parlor. I put $400 on the Angels to beat the lowly Baltimore Orioles. Why not? Fuck it. I'm on staycation. Scott Kazmir against Kevin Millwood. Kaz should be able to beat the Os, right? The line was even money. I felt the Angels were due for a win. They've had a bad year, and I thought they could at least begin to creep back towards .500 playing a weak team like the Orioles. Luckily I don't make a living at gambling because my thinking was entirely faulty. The Angels couldn't even scratch out a run. They made Kevin Millwood look like the next coming of Nolan Ryan. Four yards down the toilet. But it was fun watching the people watch the games on huge flat screen TVs. I watched them, and I smelled them, too, as the sports betting room was imbued with an odor of generalized hard living. I assumed the smell was the essence seeping collectively from the pores of the players. The only way I can describe it is that it smelled like there was an invisible gas in the air around all of us, composed of liver disease, farts, fast food, and the kind of body odor a guy gets when he's being yelled at by his superiors at work all day long. It's a smell that's both primal and incredibly vile. After a while it really started to get to me and I tried to make it go away by chugalugging as much beer as I could. No dice... A lot of the guys betting the games looked dirt poor, and yet here they were betting what little money they had. It's admirable in a weird way, the capacity in an otherwise hopeless life to create a little bit of hope for a few hours on a Saturday night... With the game over it was time for me to go home. I thought about trying to win my money back at the blackjack tables, but I know this is how people get in trouble, so I just got in my car and drove home.

Friday, August 27, 2010

tito to the twinkies

I just found out that the Minnesota Twins have claimed Brian Fuentes off the waiver wire. Tito, as he is known affectionately by his teammates, handled questions from the Angels beat writers with dignity and class. He did not bash the fans who have booed him on occasion, and he said he enjoyed his time and his teammates in Anaheim. He is not an archetypal closer with a 100 mph heater. He relies on off-speed pitches and the deceptiveness of the funky way he grips the ball. He will almost certainly not be the closer for the Twinkies as they have All Star righty Matt Capps as their ninth inning guy. But Fuentes definitely gives the Twins an effective left handed situational arm, and he will make them a better team coming down the stretch and in the playoffs, assuming they can hold off the White Sox in the AL Central. The Angels will get a Player to be Named Later in the deal. Fernando Rodney is likely to be the Halos' closer for the remainder of this season and in 2011. I'm not sold on Rodney, but that's a conversation for another time. I wish Fuentes well. He had big shoes to fill after Frankie Rodriguez left town. Fuentes blew some big games over the last two years, but he is exactly the kind of player I appreciate most - a gritty competitor who's steady and makes the most of limited physical gifts. Fare thee well, Tito...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

i have a thing for england

LA has always had a love affair with England. And vice versa. One of my favorite books is Evelyn Waugh's The Love One, a Hollywood novel told from the point of view of a droll Englishman. Reading it brings a smile to my face. The movie is brilliant as well, directed by the great Tony Richardson. A pantheon of the UK - LA nexus would include Waugh, Richardson, Led Zeppelin, Fairport Convention, Greatta Scacchi, Morrissey... I love English music and English films. The kitchen sink genre is so great. One of my favorite people in the world is English. I don't see him in person all that often, but it's always great fun to absorb his Englishness when we do get to spend time together. Maybe my affinity for English culture explains why I ended up in LA. I got to thinking about all this after something very English - something pleasingly English - popped up on my iPod tonight...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

do you feel like i do?

I went on Prozac for the first time about 15 years ago, a few months before the big Northridge quake. The only reason I remember the start date with such specificity is that I was struck at the time by how unusually blasé I was as the ground started rocking and rolling. This was an earthquake that destroyed my tv and all the bottles and glasses in my kitchen cupboard. It cracked the walls and ceilings of my shitty second-story
apartment on Rendall place. It felt as if the whole apartment was gonna pancake on top of the first story of the building. It compelled superstitious Mexicans in my neighborhood to live in tents outside their homes for weeks afterward. It even forced a large chunk of the 10 freeway to collapse onto the intersection of Venice and Fairfax. It wasn’t the Big One, mind you. We still haven’t had the Big One that the mystics and statistics say we will. But the Northridge quake was still pretty damn big. It killed Nilsson Schmilsson for Christ’s sake! And yet, there I was, in bed, by myself (of course), getting thrown and bounced around everywhere, but it didn’t feel to me like a big deal. “Huh,” I thought. “We’re having an earthquake. How interesting.”

The wonder of antidepressants, and also the curse they carry with them, is that they act as a kind of generalized novocaine protecting you against the vagaries of life. They're a safeguard against extremities. They keep you out of the depths of despair, but also make it difficult to experience anything approaching euphoria. A friend of mine has likened his experience on meds to wearing a large body condom.

I've cycled on and off meds repeatedly since the Northridge shaker, until finally deciding a little while ago that I probably need to be a lifer. Bad things have happened during the phases when I've been off antidepressants. Breakdowns. Panic attacks. Nasty irritability and embarassing explosions of my temper. I don't really want to get too deeply into these episodes right now. Some of them are actually pretty funny in retrospect, like the time I tried to run some hipster's Galaxie 500 off the freeway...

What interests me most at the moment is the prospect of a life without much pleasure. I'm on a much, much stronger regimen of meds now than when I first started. 120 mgs of Cymbalta and 60 mgs of Remeron, every day. Enough to knock over an elephant. For a time I was mixing in a little Welbutrin as well, and my psycho-pharmacologist also had me experiment with Abilify. But now I'm back to a two-drug cocktail that seems to be doing what I need it to do. It's still a pretty hefty daily infusion. It has to be because you build up a tolerance over time and need more to get the job done. The consequence of this boost in potency is that my body condom is now made of steel. No pain. No pleasure. No fear. No joy. No panic. No ecstasy. No worry...

This may sound like a drab existence, this life without pleasure. The thing is, though, I've never really felt unmittigated pleasure in my life, even when I wasn't on meds. The happiest days of my life took place when I went to sleepaway camp every summer as a kid. I loved it. I had great friends. They liked me. For eight weeks every summer over 10 years, I would go to a place and receive the kind of validation I rarely got back home. I would play sports with my pals, swim, listen to music, and go on field trips to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Roaring Rapids. I even smoked my first joint at camp. Yet even in this ideal sanctuary, I was constantly worried about something or other. I always thought something terrible was about to happen to me. So maybe pleasure is just a mirage. Maybe pleasure doesn't really exist in any kind of lasting form, at least not for me. I have sporadic moments of pleasure - I hear a guitar riff I love; I see a great baseball game; I read an amazing passage in a brilliant book; I have an interesting conversation with someone I like and respect... But none of it ever creates an enduring state of mind. Even sex is really not all that pleasurable for me. Sex in my life is more about insecurity and worry than it is about pleasure, connectedness with another person, and the fulfillment of my manly needs. Am I going to be able to perform? What will she think of me if I fail to please her? Will she reject me? Am I doing this the right way and sticking this or that in the right place? It's really not that satisfying. I prefer beating off, to be honest. I scratch the itch that needs to be scratched and then I'm done, answerable to nobody but myself. I find the time leading up to sex more enjoyable than the sex itself. The flirtation, anticipation and seduction. But even here the pleasure is fleeting, and the sex never lives up to the flimsy promise held forth by the seduction. Sex is overrated. Pleasure is overrated. Fuck pleasure. Pleasure is akin to the observation deck at the Empire State Building. You think you're gonna see Spidey swinging from the top of the building, just like in the cartoon, but then you get up there and it's like BFD. I'll stay on the ground floor, thank you very much, because at least if I just hang out in the lobby I won't be tempted to hurl myself off the deck in anguish. So fuck pleasure. Pain is the condition of possibility for pleasure. That's a little Foucault for you. History of Sexuality, Volume 97. Forget Foucault. Fuck Foucault, and fuck pleasure. Pleasure sucks. Receptiveness to pleasure means opening yourself up to its opposite. The master becomes the slave. Fuck Hegel. Fuck pleasure. I'd rather live my life with a permanent Captain America-style shield. That is to say, I'd rather not strangle the asshole to death after he forgets to towel off the bench at the gym. I'd rather not throw my TV through a window after Luis Castillo drops an easy fly ball in the bottom of the ninth. I'd rather not yell at my friends petulantly when they're 45 minutes late for something or other. Go ahead and shit on me guys. I'm bullet proof. You can't hurt me. I didn't fall for the sucker bet. I know myself. I won't get pissed when some fox walks right by me on the street like I'm invisible. I don't care. She's already making some other guy's life miserable anyway. Fuck pleasure. You can take your pleasure and stuff it deep inside your tushy. I bet you'd get a lot of pleasure out of that! It's a paradox, or an irony, or something. My tushy is cemented shut and fortified with rebar. It won't bother me anymore when my parents suggest - without even being fully aware of what they're implying - that I haven't lived up to what they hoped I'd be. I don't even know if I''ve lived up to what I hoped I'd be. What difference does it make at this point? Hope is the expectation of future happiness, a future in which you'll be able to experience pleasure. And pleasure is for chumps. It's like the Pick 6 at Santa Anita. It's like the Lotto. You know who plays Lotto? People who don't have a fucking pot to piss in. I remember a janitor at UCLA telling me that he'd bought $200 worth of Lotto tix when the jackpot hit $40 million. I tried to explain to him, gently, that the extra tickets he bought increased his chances of winning by .000000000001%. Why did I bother? I don't know anymore. The dumb schmuck will never realize that he's getting played, and that there's a pipeline running directly from the promise of easy wealth to the reality of abject poverty. That's why he's poor. Keep mopping those bathroom floors, you fool. Make sure you get every last drop of piss off those floors. I think you missed a spot. Fuck pleasure. Pleasure is fool's gold.

So what does it all mean? What's it like living a pleasureless life? It's good, actually. It's right. It's straight down the middle. I feel nothing, and I like it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The guy's got some very bad gas...

Bobby Parnell came on in relief for the Mets during a game with the Astros earlier this week and hit 102 mph on the gun. 102. I'd never seen that before. Earlier this year, Tigers righty Joel Zumaya pitched in a game against the Angels and hit 101. I was very impressed at the time, but I also wasn't surprised a few weeks later when Zumaya's elbow exploded in a gruesome scene at Target Field in Minnesota...

A man's arm is not designed to generate the kind of force it takes to hit triple digits on the radar. But watching Bobby Parnell pitch this season has me believing both that he's destined to be one of the greats, and that he'll have longevity. I know I may be getting a little ahead of myself with this. Parnell has not really been tested in too many 'high-leverage' situations, and he's melted down in several key spots when he's gotten the call. Still, sometimes you just get a feel about a guy. I remember having the same kind of feeling about Lenny Dykstra when he was called up in 1985. He just had that somethin' somethin' about him. He homered in his first game as a major leaguer. I think it may have even been in his first at bat, and I believe it was against the Reds, maybe off of Mario Soto. I was watching the game at home on WOR Channel 9. Steve Zabriskie was doing the play-by-play with Ralph Kiner and Tim McCarver. Where is Steve Zabriskie today I wonder? When Dykstra hit the ball out, he motored around the bases like Lou Brock, no slow home run trot for him, and I was hooked right away. It kills me that Dykstra turned out to be such a douche. I loved him so much as a ball player. I had a feeling about him the first time I saw him play, and now I have the same kind of feeling about Bobby Parnell.

Parenll throws extremely hard, but he looks so effortless doing it. He's tall and lanky, so he's not like a Jonathan Broxton or Bobby Jenks type who muscles the ball up to the plate, relying on the fact that he weighs 300 pounds to generate all that energy behind his pitches. I could actually imagine a Zumaya-type injury happening to Jenks, but not to Parnell, who unleashes the ball free and easy, with a live arm and perfect mechanics. He just lets the pitch happen. The night after Parnell threw several pitches at 102, Gary Cohen noted that both clubhouses were buzzing with talk of Parnell's velocity and his stuff. Parnell throws his hard fastball with serious movement, tailing away from righty batters and boring in on lefties. There are those who say he needs more seasoning, perhaps as a setup guy, before he becomes the team's closer. That's horsehit. The guy's ready to get a shot. He's 26 and just entering his prime. Why wait? My hope is that he will seize the opportunity that's presented itself with the Francisco Rodriguez controversy, step into the closer's role, and stay there for good. Bye bye K-Rod.

Watching Parnell over the last few months of the season has gotten me me thinking about other relievers in Met history, going back to the mid 70s, when I first became obsessed with baseball. Parnell throws much harder than Tug McGraw, of course. Maybe he's not as fiery as McGraw was, but that's a good thing. This is not a slight against McGraw, one of the great figures in the history of the Mets. But there is a difference between being fiery and being a great competitor. They are not the same thing, though sometimes they overlap. Much as I appreciate fiery guys like Larry Bowa and Wally Backman, their kind of explosive temperament is probably a handicap at the end of the day. I've developed an aversion to fiery guys playing on my team. Fiery means loss of composure and focus. I prefer silent bulldogs, like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, or John Lester, guys who intimidate you with their seething intensity and confidence, but rarely show any prolonged outward emotion. Again, it's too early to say anything definitive, but I feel that Bobby Parnell may be one of those silent warrior types.

Another thing Parnell has going for him right now is that the Mets have absolutely no shot at making the playoffs. I was reading a blog this morning that cited a computer generated analysis showing that the Mets have less than a 1% chance of playing in the postseason at this point. This means there will be little pressure on Parnell when he comes into games for the remainder of 2010. Nothing is more dangerous than someone who's got nothing to lose. This is part of the perfect storm that's formed for Bobby Parnell. No pressure means he can relax, perfect his repertoire of pitches, experiment, learn, and build up his confidence for 2011 and beyond.

I think of the Mets teams I grew up with during the mid 70s. What grim years they were! Those teams had even less likelihood of making the playoffs than the Mets do today. I can remember going to Shea Stadium during the period from 1976 to 1980. There
used to be less than 10,000 fans in the stands at a lot of these games. I attended one such game with my dad, probably in 1978 or 1979. Mets against the Expos. The 'spos were actually prretty good back then. They had Tony Perez, Gary Carter, Chris Speier, Ellis Valentine... The game was probably in mid September because the field was all torn up from the Jets playing at Shea as well. The stadium was so empty. I could hear the players chattering in the field. It was depressing to be a Met fan in those years, even more depressing than it is now, but I bet it was ok for certain types of players, especially relief pitchers, guys like Skip Lockwood and Bob Apodaca. They could come into games that meant nothing, be relaxed, and make a living playing baseball.

Things changed starting in 1983. Think about how much easier things are for Bobby Parnell than they were for relievers like Jesse Orosco or John Franco. Those guys were junk ballers and spent significant chunks of their careers on Mets teams that were expected to win. They had to deal with serious pressure and their own limited abilities, the exact opposite of Parnell's circumstances. He throws 100+ mph fastballs and has no pressure right now. What Franco and Orosco had, and what Parnell now has the opportunity to learn, is pitching smarts. It's one thing to uncork a fastball at 102, another thing altogether to mix in a change up, cut the fastball, or just put the heater in a location where the batter can't put a good swing on it.

Parnell also doesn't strike me as a guy who is easily rattled. He seems grounded and poised. The Mets have had too many easily rattled closers over the last ten years. Remember Armando Benitez? The guy would come in to a game, blow his huge fastball by the first two batters with no problem, but then the slightest little thing would happen and he'd come unglued. A bloop single, an error, an infield hit or a walk, and next thing you know he's giving up tape measure home runs and the Mets lose the ball game. You want your closer to be a guy who's mentally tough, a guy who can get out of bad situations, not one who falls apart the minute something bad happens. I watch a lot of Angels games, too, and this is what scares me about the prospect of Fernando Rodney becoming the closer for the Halos He throws pretty hard, though not nearly as hard as Bobby Parnell, but what does it matter when he loses focus so easily and responds poorly to pressure? How many times have I seen him walk the bases loaded this year? Too many.

During a Mets telecast on SNY a few weeks ago, Gary, Keith and Ron were talking about closers and Gary said that all fans of all teams - with the exception of Yankee fans - hate their closer because he's not automatic. Fans tend to remember the blown saves. Mariano Rivera is the exception. He shortens the game in a devastating way. A manager playing the Yankees knows he has eight innings to try and win the game because the game's over once Mariano Rivera is in to close it out. There's no question, like Gary says, that I've hated the Mets' closers for a long time. I hated John Franco, even though he seemed like the kind of Staten Island grease ball who'd drop vowels at the end of certain types of food ('moozarrrel') and use words like moo-yan. I hated Benitez for all the reasons described and because he seemed dumb as hell. Above all, though, I hated Billy Wagner because, like Benitez before him and Frankie Rodriguez after him, he just seemed to get rattled too easily. What made it especially bad with Wagner is that he would get chapped when other players made mistakes, but no one would ever get in his face when he gave up a three-run bomb because he's fucking Billy Wagner. I didn't like the guy's attitude, nor the way he approached the game.

Bobby Parnell will break the long line of flawed Mets closers, if he's given the chance. I'm convinced of this. This is not to say that he'll be flawless. Mariano Rivera is the closest we'll ever get to a flawless closer. But Parnell has the makings of a classic, in tradition of Trevor Hoffman and Troy Percival. The shameful Francisco Rodriguez fiasco has opened the door for Parnell. He has the physical gifts and, from what I can tell, he has the mental fortitude and the right bearing to be great. He's poised and confident with a slightly ornery edge. That's perfect. That's exactly what you want. He's in a perfect situation now to set himself up as the guy in 2011. The Mets are out of contention so there's not a lot of pressure, but it's Major League Baseball so there's just enough pressure for Parnell to get a feel for what it's like to close out games. I would love for him to make it impossible for the Mets not to make him the closer next year. This may be asking too much. Voiding K-Rod's contract or trading him will not be easy. There's a lot of money and a very powerful union involved. But I hate K-Rod so much. I would be so excited if the Mets could get rid of him and make Parnell the dude who gets the rock when the game's on the line.

a healthy family

These guys are my favorite band right now. If you love electric guitars as much as I do, you'll love this. This is not the version from their album, Fearless (which is actually better than this one). They are obviously synching in the video, but it's still pretty cool to see them. I love the twin double-neck guitars. That shows that they too are guitar fetishists. Roger Chapman's vocals are incredible. He's got rusty pipes...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Am I hip or what?

I’ve started taking this Yoga class on Thursday nights. I’m searching for something to help me open up my stiff muscles. I’ve always been very tight, but it’s only in the last three years or so that I’ve started to understand what a blessing it must be to be flexible. I will never be flexible. My mom is very flexible. I didn’t get that gene. I got the bald gene. Not that these things are completely a question of genetics. My tightness of body is reflective of a tightness of mind which itself is reflective of the dark years we’re living through. I'm all for the decline of the American Empire, I just wish it didn't have to be so nasty. I’ve tried to cut myself off from the bad stuff out there. I hunker down in my house. But the nastiness is in the air. You can’t fully avoid it. You can't avoid breathing it in. I have a real sense that I should be doing yoga regularly, but something repels me from committing to it with real conviction. A friend of mine told me to stop with the weights altogether and devote all that time to yoga. He's a physical therapist. He said what I really need, especially someone like me, is elongation. The weights do the opposite. They make the muscles contract and harden. I definitely feel hard. Hard and tight. I’m a cynic. I can’t be optimistic and get enthused about the wonder of it all. I’m not able to live in the moment. I like to plan for the future, even though I know there’s no future. I am the tightest motherfucker in this yoga class. This studio is in a section of downtown LA that used to be very scary just ten years ago. It's basically on Skid Row. Eighteen and Life. Skid Row has contracted with the increasing dominance of finance capital, and parts of it have been given new names, like 'the Historic Bank District.' There are lots of expensive lofts in restored buildings from the 20s and 30s in these 'districts.' It's Barton Fink with wine bars and the occasional homeless person that they haven't yet managed to sweep off the street. But they will. I have mixed feelings about it. People who go to yoga classes have mixed feelings about gentrification.

The studio is in an amazing space. It’d be cool to see 20/20 play in this space. I don't believe in anyone anymore. This studio has sky-high ceilings and a vast wooden floor that they keep shiny and spotless. The floor might be pergo. Last night I was trying to decide if the floor is pergo. I was trying to decide this in the middle of a pose I couldn’t do because I'm too damn tight. You don’t have to bring your own mat, which is good because I don't like guys who walk around with yoga mats. When the class starts, I have problems right away, in lotus pose. What I sit in is not really lotus pose because my knees are up near my ears. I feel it in my ibands. It hurts. The muscles feel like they’re gonna snap. We sit in this pose for way too long. I wish the teacher would shut up and get us out of the goddamn lotus pose. I try not to a priori reject the foolish things the teacher says when we're in lotus pose. He plays Indian techno pop music on an iPod, over speakers. It gives the proceedings some hip exotic flava. The studio has a gong. I'd like to go all Carl Palmer on that gong. It's the kind of thing I would have done in eighth grade, knowing I’d get in trouble, but doing it because I loved getting a rise out of people. I liked to subvert the dominant paradigm. Being a cynic was subversive, but it was subversive in a conservative way.

I like the guy who teaches the class. I believe he’s a yogi. He turns off his iPone before the class starts. There have been a few cell phones going off in the middle of class. I’m guessing that’s not ok. I turn my cell phone off about 20 minutes before class starts, just to give myself a cushion to make sure it’s off. There’s some very foxy chicks in this class. I spend much of my time in the class thinking about what they look like naked. I bet a lot of yogis have sex with their students. I would if I were one. The yogi who teaches my class is so free and easy with his body. I like the way he unfurls his long black hair as the class is coming to a close. He gives us a blessing. He takes Visa. He touches the students. It’s not a sexual thing, it's just that he’s into connectedness with other human beings. I’m not used to being touched. I recoil when people touch me, but with the yogi I guess it has to be ok. You’re supposed to empty your mind when you’re doing a yoga sesh. I can’t do that. No surprise there. But last night I learned pigeon pose. I needed two blocks to do it, one underneath my ass cheek and one in front of me. Once I got the blocks in place and assumed the pose, it felt very good. It got at exactly the spot on my body that's fucked. I think I will probably have issues in my right hip and hamstrings for the rest of my life. These things don’t get better as you get older. But this pigeon pose helps. I’ve never known a sensation like the one I feel when I’m in pigeon pose. It’s almost too much for me. It might be the most incredible sensation I’ve ever felt...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hunger

Eighteen months ago, in the midst of one of the bad episodes of depression/anxiety I struggle with periodically, I was horrified to discover that I no longer fit into my size 35 jeans. My waistline had been trending upward, or rather outward, for several years, from 30 to 32, then from 32 to 34, 34 to 35, and finally from 35 to 36. I got naked and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, something I'd never done before, just to confirm what I knew I would find. I had a big fat ass, a protruding belly that made it impossible for me to see my cock without a mirror, bitch tits, and a nasty tripple chin. All my self-loathing found validation in that fat fuck looking back at me in the mirror.

A woman I'd been dating had recently dumped me unceremoniously at a swishy bar on Hyperion. I thought she was inviting me there at 10pm on a school night because she just couldn't wait any longer to see me again. My mind wandered recklessly into fantasyland and I ignored the built-in safeguards I have that help me to steer clear of the kinds of hopes and expectations that invariably lead to disappointment. I pictured myself meeting her at the bar, kissing her passionately, and then driving her back to my place where I'd ravish her. I got a hardon just thinking about what she would look like naked in my room, her crumpled drawers on the floor next to my bed. What would she taste like, I wondered. What would she smell like? ...When I arrived at the bar, she ordered a gin and tonic and proceeded to gun me down. She did it swiftly and surgically, no pussyfooting around, leaving me face down in the gutter.

So now a few months later I stood there in my bathroom looking at how badly my physical appearance had deteriorated over the past few years, and I knew why that cunt dumped me. She was shallow, I tried to convince myself, and she couldn't handle being with a guy who's fat and bald. Maybe one or the other, but not both... So I joined a gym and went on a very strict diet. I'd show her. Someday I'd run into her at the grocery store, or at a movie theater, or at the Griffith Observatory. Maybe I'd even have a new girl on my arm, hanging on my every brilliant utterance, laughing at my incisive wit. My new, fit body would be on display, along with a newfound confidence and virility, and that girl, the one who dumped me in a fucking fag bar in Silver Lake, would want me back.

None of this will ever happen, of course. I recently did some Facebook stalking and discovered that she's now married to some tall, good looking guy who's probably charming, funny, smart and successful. He undoubtedly makes a ton of money and has a much, much bigger dick than I do, which I'm sure he knows how to use on/in her with masterful technique, so much so that she squeals at the top of her lungs and convulses with unimaginable pleasure every time they do it - and there's no question in my mind that they do it 3 or 4 times every day...

I'd be lying if I said I hope they're happy. In fact, I hope they're dreadfully unhappy. I hope he impregnates her with triplets and then leaves her for some 24-year-old piece of ass. I'm generally not a vengeful person, except when it comes to the Phillies, Red Sox, Braves, Yankees, and women who hurt me. But there's no point in papering things over and worrying about the karmic consequences of wishing bad things on other people. I try not to engage in magical thinking. I'm a materialist, and as a materialist I believe that it's not consciousness that determines material life but rather material life that determines consciousness. So there will be no metaphysical comeuppance for me as I hope and wish and pray that she has to raise those triplets on welfare. I hope they're horrible, snotty kids who make her life miserable. But none
of this will come to pass either. The two of them, the girl who dumped me in the fag bar and Mr. Wonderful, will be so fucking happy together, I know they will, and they'll probably live in the Chemosphere and make love every night against a glistening backdrop of LA's majestic expansiveness. They'll raise their kids lovingly and the whole family will live the kind of well adjusted life I would live if I wasn't so fucked in the head.

I may have had my heart broken and my fragile pride shattered, but at least the gym and the diet enabled me to get fit and lose weight, a lot of weight actually, about 35 pounds. My head is hopelessly scrambled, and I feel like I'm badly damaged goods in emotional terms, but people tell me I look good. They tell me all the time. These are people I know as well as people I don’t know. And it never, ever gets old. I grew up convinced I was ugly and unlovable. Nobody ever saw or understood the hurt I walked around with and intervened. So it’s nice to finally get some positive feedback. It’s about fucking time. I like being flattered. I like it a lot. It fills a big void and feels like compensation for the deeper emptiness, the rootlessness, that I feel way down inside of myself. So go ahead and flatter me for fuck's sake! Tell me how great I look! Give me something I can hang onto.

The thing is, I look as good as I've ever looked physically, but my body never feels right. Exercising and dieting don't make me feel strong. On the contrary, the zealousness of my three-times-per week gym routine, three hours each time, and the punishing dietary constraints I place on myself, have created a situation where my body is constantly in pain and I'm always hungry... I try to stretch as much as I can, but my hips and hamstrings are perpetually tight, sore and strained. When I wake up in the morning, I can barely bend over to tie my shoes. Bending down to put food on the plate for my cats is torture. In fact, anytime I have to bend over for something, I groan like an 80-year-old man. Sitting in a car for more than ten minutes virtually guarantees that the simple act of walking will be difficult for the remainder of the day... But I can't dial down the exercise. I'm pretty sure I have some muscle tears, especially in my right leg, but I won't get it checked out. Why? Because what if the doctor tells me I have to stop exercising in order to heal? I'd get fat again, and then I'd have virtually nothing going for me. I'd rather be thin, fit and in serious pain than fat and out of shape but pain free. And the same logic applies to food. One of the challenges I face is that I'm wired to eat. If I was just all pleasure principle, all id, with no superego, I'd be like a dog and eat each meal until I was completely stuffed, until there just wasn't any food left to eat. I used to do this. I would eat and eat until all the food was gone. But I'll gain weight if I go back to anything even mildly approaching this kind of eating. I need to maintain discipline. Discipline is good. Discipline. Pain. Routine. Self-denial. Hunger. I'm always hungry, so hugry in fact that I eat my sparse meals extremely quickly. My meals don't usually last more than about five minutes, and I eat most of them over the kitchen sink. There's no joy in eating for me. Joy in eating is for people with no discipline, for people who don't know or can't withstand the kind of pain - physical and psychic pain - that I live with every day.

I went out for dinner with a friend last week. The waitress brought my dish first. Big mistake. I was done with my food by the time my friend's dish came. I couldn't help it. I was just so fucking hungry. I hadn't eaten all day. When I returned home at the end of the evening, I immediately stripped down to nothing and weighed myself. I was three pounds heavier than I had estimated I'd be, so I woke up at dawn the following morning and went to the gym to run on the treadmill for an hour. My whole lower body was in agony as I started to move my legs. My right hip and hamstrings felt awful. ButI muddled through the pain. I had discipline, and in recognizing my discipline I began to relish the pain and sought to intensify it by running harder. The pain was good, and I wanted more of it. Pain is a great rememdy and clarifies so much in life. Discipline. Pain. Routine. Self-denial. Hunger. The hunger is the hardest part. I'm so fucking hungry all the time...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Alone Again Or

I periodically feel starved for romantic companionship, and yet on those rare occasions when I meet someone with whom a romantic relationship is possible, I feel my autonomy slipping away and quickly do whatever I can to undermine things. In a variation on this theme, or perhaps an extention of it, I think I unconsciously choose women that are not right for me so that I have an easy excuse when I feel myself wanting to escape from the prison house of commitment. The sad fact is that I'm 42 and I've never really been in love. I've had occasions when the first flushes of romance and lust feel like love, but I've never really had a deep romantic connection with a woman that made me want to spend the rest of my life with her. I'm starting to come around to the idea that some people are just not meant to be in relationships, and I may very well be one of those people...

Sometimes this thought upsets me, but I wonder how much of the sadness I feel is simply an internalization of other people's values - values that I don't necessarily share. Every time I talk to my father, for example, he asks me how my "social life" is going, which is code for are you still an asexual weirdo? The question pisses me off, but the only response I can muster is to chuckle and try to change the subject. My dad's 88 years old, and I'm not about to lash out at him if I can help it. He's not gonna change at this point. I have to accept that he has a hard time getting his mind around the idea that living alone might be an appropriate life choice for someone like me.

Part of my getting older has entailed recoggnizing that being alone is not so bad. I've pretty much been alone all my life. That's another discussion altogether... Let me illustrate the pleasures of solitude by recounting how I spent my Saturday evening... I returned home from my weekly doubles game at about 4:00 and took a shower. At 5:00, Trudy, my great cat helper, came over to help me cut my kitties' nails. I need her especially for my older cat, Polly, who is skittish to the point where it's very difficult for one person to hold her and cut her nails. Vito, the four year old tabby, is no problem. Unfortunately, Polly got so freaked this time that she peed all over the place when we finally trapped her. Oh well. I love Polly unconditionally. Seems she's the one lady I can truly love! ...It was nice to catch up with Trudy, who is one of the kindest and warmest poeople in the world...

Trudy left at 6:00. I wanted to roll a number, but I could not remember where I left the papers (!). I went out into the balmy evening. The weather this summer in LA has been perfect, especially in the late afternoons after the fog burns off. The sun felt good on my face as I crossed Fremont en route to the liquor store. I always feel embarassed when asking a cashier for a pack of Bamboos or Zig Zags, but I needed those papers so I had no choice. I rolled the thing up once I was back home, relaxed on the couch, and plugged the iPod into my head. I've been on a real progressive rock kick for about six months, so I listened to Genesis, Jethro Tull, Family, VDGG, Be-Bop Deluxe... One of the great things that happens when I lie down on the living room couch is that Vito invariably comes to me and plops down on my chest for a chill out session. He's a great cat and makes me feel loved. I often pick him up off the floor, look him in the eyes, and I say, "I know how much you love me, but do you know how much I love you?"

At 7 or so I fixed myself a vodka cranberry cocktail and watched the Met game, which I had recorded earlier in the day. Having won the first game of a three-gamer with the Phillies,the Mets sent lefty Pat Misch to the mound, just up from the minors, to face off against Roy Halladay in Game 2. It was a bad mischmatch from the start and the Mets lost. Still, I always enjoy watching Halladay pitch, even if he's systematically shutting my team down, like he was last night. The guy is such a ferocious competitor.

The Mets are a very frustrating team to root for, but one of the few things the Mets have over the Yankees is great announcers. I grew up listening to Bob Murphy on the radio, and I was very sad when he passed away a few years ago. But now the Mets have an incredible team of broadcasters. Gary Cohen does the telecasts with Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling. The three of them are so interesting to listen to that it almost makes up for the way the Mets rarely seem to be much good. Plus the team has Chris Carlin and Bobby Ojeda doing great pre- and post-game shows back in the SNY studios, and Howie Rose announcing the games on WFAN radio. So I spent the remainder of the evening with Gary and Ron and fell into a zen-like trance as the rhythm of the summer game washed over me...

At 10:00 I made myself a late dinner, read the New Yorker, and then went to sleep. It was not at all an exciting Saturday night, but I found it very satisfying. It's the kind of Saturday night I can never have when I'm in a relationship, and for this reason it's the kind of night that makes me feel like being alone is least for now.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I'd like to offer some thoughts about Francisco Rodriguez and the situation in which he's put himself. He represents to me everything that's wrong with the modern ballplayer. Yes he has nasty stuff when he's sharp, and he’s not even 30 years old yet. But I’ve never liked the guy much. Actually, that’s not true. I liked him in the 2002 World Series. He was a great bridge to Troy Percival and came up huge in some tense situations. But he hadn’t yet become the ass clown that he is today and that he's been for a long time now. At some point after the 2002 World Series, he decided that he does not need to comport himself in a way that honors the game. He is part of the new breed of self promoters that have become more common in baseball as the salaries have gotten more and more obscene.

With Frankie there’s too much fist pumping, too much pointing to the heavens and thanking God, as if God is all about Frankie Rodriguez and only Frankie Rodriguez. It's hard to for me to watch. It's exactly what I hate about the way baseball has evolved. It also happens to be the type of behavior that always has the potential to get one of his teammates drilled in the rib cage. He regularly violates one of the fundamental unwritten rules of baseball: Never do anything that embarrasses yourself, your teammates, or the opponent. In other words, don't flip the bat if you hit one out, don't stand in the box and watch the ball, and don't Cadillac it around the bases. Don't do juvenile handshakes and dances if you make a great play. Don't pump your fists every time you strike a batter out. Act like you've been there before. Play the game hard, but play it like a grown up. I would say the same thing to Brandon Phillips and even Jose Reyes. In fact, Brandon Phillips now knows the consequences of acting like an ass clown:

A few years ago, I was watching an Angels telecast when Frankie came in to close out the game. With each out he recorded, he gyrated wildly, pumped his fists, and did his whole ass clown routine. Rex Hudler, who always played the game the right way in his day, was doing the color for the Halos at the time and he pointed out that opposing teams see Frankie acting the way he does and it makes them want a piece of him. They want to shut him up. They want to put him in his place. They want to teach the guy a little humility. That's not the kind of teammate I would want if I were a ballplayer. Who wants to play behind a guy who gives the other side even more motivation to win?

Frankie got away with his antics in the OC because, while the fans in Anaheim are devoted to their Halos, they are not given to the fits of apoplexy that you get with fans in New York, especially Met fans, who've endured so much disappointment and humiliation, not the least of which comes from having to play in the same town as the fucking Jankees. The difference between playing in Anaheim and New York cannot be overstated. There’s very little pressure, relatively speaking, on guys who play for the Angels. A player who signs a big contract with the Angels will never feel like there's a noose around his neck. He can live in a huge house on the Pacific Ocean in Corona Del Mar, show up to the yard, deal with benign beat writers, and play in front of fans who get into it, but not too into it. Look at Hideki Matsui for proof. He's been a complete bust for the Angels, but he never hears boos from the fans at the Big A and he never gets slammed in the LA Times or the Orange County Register. Same goes for Scott Kazmir. The only thing that gets the fans and writers angry is if the player turns on the team, like Jim Edmonds and Mo Vaughn did, or turns on Mike Scioscia, like Jose Guillen and Shea Hillenbrand did.

Frankie obviously didn’t take into account the yawning cultural chasm separating Anaheim from New York when he went for the slightly higher contract the Mets offered him after the 2008 season. I bet he'd like a do-over on that one now. He didn’t realize that the pressure of playing in New York would get to him and that it would be all the more intense for him because he was going from a very good team playing in a relaxed environment to a bad team and a very poorly run organization playing in arguably the toughest town to be a pro athlete. He obviously can’t deal with the pressure because this most recent meltdown of his, attacking his 54-year-old father-in-law in full view of the players' wives and children at the ballpark, is the fourth (publicly known) such incident he’s had since coming to the Mets. The guy doesn’t belong in New York. The ass clown act and the inability to deal with serious pressure are both part of the same overall personality profile, one that belongs to an immature, selfish, self promoter. I'd like it if the Mets could move him, and I bet at this point Frankie would like it as well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

a statement of intent

Hello and thanks for stopping by to check out my new blog. I tried blogging a few years ago but then stopped abruptly in the midst of some personal problems I may have occasion to recount here in the future. In any case, I'm treating this as a catalogue of thoughts and experiences, and even as a diary. There was a time when diaries were private affairs, consisting of conversations one would have with oneself. But this is a new, more exhibitionistic world we're living in these days, and I sometimes find myself getting seduced by the catharsis it seems to promise, even as I simultaneously find those seeking the catharsis repulsive. Perhaps I operate with a double standard. In any case, let's just see how this goes...