Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My June 17, 1994

Everyone remembers the moment they saw O.J. Simpson's slow white Bronco going down the San Diego Freeway with a phalanx of police cars following him. I happened to be in the middle of that moment. Well, not quite in the middle, maybe the periphery. But I was closer than most.

I was 23 years old, and while I was taking 16 units of classes at UCLA, I worked four part-time jobs, as well - an assistant to both a screenwriter and a member of a famous 1960s band, some busy work for my friend's mom in promotional sales, and a pizza delivery job. The pizza job, for San Gennaro restaurant in Brentwood, was the most profitable of them, but it had its drawbacks - driving through traffic was always an adventure for me, and my Chevy Cavalier had a smell of garlic to it that was always a chore to get rid of.

On June 17th, I was on shift at the restaurant, which was just off of Sunset Boulevard, and a couple of miles away from the freeway. I was feeling like it was going to be a busy night because the NBA championship was happening (Knicks-Rockets), and any time there is a major sporting event, there are lots of pizzas delivered.

The O.J. chase made it a difficult chore. Los Angeles is a strange town - it worships the villains more than any other town in America. I know that this could lead into another rant on Kobe Bryant (the crowd at Staples Center giving him a standing ovation every time he'd fly in for a game during his rape trial in Colorado), but I will choose another parallel - remember in Independence Day, when the aliens were landing before they would attack? Which town was the least concerned, the most open to the event? L.A., baby. Yes, it's only a movie, but face it, this is a weird town.

Anyway, as O.J. was in his slow speed chase, a parade of onlookers turned out around the overpass at Sunset, cheering him on, holding "Go, O.J., Go" signs. As I stood in front of the restaurant, several news helicopters were overhead. I could hear the "Ride of Valkyries" song by Wagner playing in my head, used so well in the film Apocalypse Now. Every delivery was a chore, and several of them had people watching the telecast as I got to their houses - some totally focused on the surreal chase, some pissed off because NBC, the network covering the basketball game, decided to make the majority of their coverage the chase, putting the game into a small corner of the screen.

As day turned into night, and O.J. made it to his home where an hours-long standoff would take place, the restaurant got a call for a delivery. The NBC news truck that was sitting outside of O.J.'s house wanted a pizza. There were two delivery people at that time, and I conveniently made sure that I wasn't the one delivering that pizza. The other guy, a Mediterranean fellow who had been delivering for years, took the call. In the short term, I was happy - I was able to get four deliveries in by the time he got back, without even being able to deliver the pizza. In the long term, I don't know. In a weird way, if I had gotten lucky enough to sneak past the mess, I could've been a part of the bizarre history of Los Angeles. Of course, I could've been shot, too.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Peace Offering to the Enemy

Now that USC football has gotten its just desserts, getting suspended for two years from bowl games and losing 30 scholarships for its illegal recruiting methods, I don't want to come off as gloating. Yes, it is true that I am an alumnus of UCLA, the Trojans' arch rival, but I do have many friends from that institution of "learning". So, just to show some sympathy, I have come up with a list of things that USC fans can do while missing out on bowl games.

Catch Up On Your Reading. I know that reading is not popular amongst USC students, usually responding to the suggestion of such with a grunt and "What? Me no read!" But there are several exciting things to peruse (that means, "read"), such as this.

Go Sightseeing. Here's an idea, go see Reggie Bush's parents house in San Diego! Or maybe stop at Morongo Casino, home of the Tim Floyd girl fight! Or, here's an idea. Why not see lovely Seattle, Washington? Pete Carroll seems to think it's quite lovely, a place to maybe settle down and start a new career. I'm sure that's the reason Carroll left, the lovely scenery.

Help the Children. Since there's no point in investing in the current batch of USC players, maybe you need to think ahead. Way ahead. Maybe start watching Pop Warner football. You can work on your booster skills by buying the more talented kids juice boxes. Just to keep in shape.

Rent A Movie. Solid, life-affirming films. Like The Program. Or Blue Chips. Or you could watch the 2004 Championship Video, since that's going to be the only artifact left over of them winning.

Become a Fan of Another Team. People in Los Angeles bandwagon all the time. It's in their nature. If the Clippers get Lebron, for example, and Kobe gets hurt or retires, couldn't you see thousands of Clipper flags on cars in this town? So you won't lose any credibility. Just say, "Oh, I've been a fan of theirs for a long time," or, "My sister goes to that school." If Chris Rock can say he's a Knicks and Lakers fan, then you can have two college football teams. Don't worry, I'm not expecting you to come over to UCLA. Here's an idea - how about the other USC, University of South Carolina? They have Spurrier, you won't have to remove the bumper sticker off of your car...just a possibility.

Work Out. Take the time to exercise. I hear former USC linebacker Brian Cushing has a great program.

Work on Fixing South Central LA. Come on, shouldn't it make sense that a university that costs so much to attend should be located in a place with some kind of a nice view? Take a moment to be noble. Plant some trees. Work with the community. Work on building up the area around with you. Start with that shithole of a stadium.

This is just a start. Look at it this way - you have a chance for emotional, spiritual and intellectual growth here. Instead of focusing only on football, you could actually work at becoming a better person. Now there's an idea - an evolved USC football fan. Never thought I'd see the day.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ten Songs I've Liked in the Last Couple of Years (That You May Not Know)

A lot of people think I listen to weird music. That's fine, because I think there are a lot of people who listen to lame music. It all evens out. I used to be really harsh on people's taste, but I've softened (really, I have - I know some of you may think that's not true, but I used to be a dick about it). Now, I usually will let people have their thing, as long as they don't force me to listen to it (unless it's Justin Bieber. I'll never understand that one. It's like school play shit).

I wouldn't force people to listen to stuff, either. I will, however, do things like this just to get people aware of some great music out there. You won't like every song. You might not like any song, but odds are you'll find one song you may like. It's worth a try, right? And with all that being said, I wouldn't be surprised if this list ends up looking like a Pitchfork best-of list. This may be them without all of the pretentious essaying.

Real Estate, "Beach Comber". Beach music by way of New Jersey. Mellow, catchy, shambling. They don't have a video for this song, so here's one of those You Tube "Still Photo with Song" clips.

Titus Andronicus, "A More Perfect Union". Another one from New Jersey. Because there needed to be an album based on the Civil War that loosely quotes Springsteen and talks about minor league baseball. The original song is seven minutes-plus; this video is half that. I prefer the full song, but the lead singer looks like he's eaten human flesh at some point. So he's got that going for him. Which is nice.

The xx, "Infinity". This song could so be in a Michael Mann movie. Just really cool, sexy. The whole song is here, but if you want to watch a cheesy video someone did independently (with a shorter, lesser version of the song), here it is. God bless young people with a dream and a video camera.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, "This Love Is Fucking Right". I have no clue what the line "You're my sister, and this love is fucking right" fully means (at least I think that's what they're saying, and I'm not going to look, because I don't want it to change), but another catchy, fuzzy song. And what's the deal with all of these bands not having videos for these songs? Another You Tube Still Clip special.

The Walkmen, "On the Water". I wanted this on the list (and thus made this list the last couple of years instead of year), because the video kicks ass. Circle of life shit (and I know my last two blog posts have had animals dying. Swear to God, I am not into hunting. I'm not militant PETA, either, but I love animals). Haunting song, just has a drunken, moody quality. I like a drunken, moody quality. In my women.

St. Vincent, "Actor Out of Work". My friend, Frank, says that a lot of times I just like certain songs because the singer is a "foxy, folksy chick". He also said a couple of things about the fact that I'm aging and my tastes are following suit, but that's okay. Annie here is a foxy chick. The song doesn't have the balls that some of my older stuff may have had. I still like it. And the video is amusing. So there.

Girls, "Lust For Life". Two guys named Girls that seem pansexual and have videos that come from the indie wing of Abercrombie and Fitch, but they make catchy, hiccup-filled guitar jams, and sexuality has nothing to do with it. Or everything to do with it. One or the other. Here's the clean video (let me say, the "dirty" video is NSFW and not safe for anyone who is uncomfortable with nudity on either side. You have to find that yourself, if you choose).

The Morning Benders, "Excuses". If you liked the Real Estate song, you'll like this one - a little more sweeping, bigger, I guess. Still catchy. Another still with song here.

Neko Case, "People Got A Lotta Nerve". Before Frank accuses me again, I'll leave it to the first comment on the You Tube page for this video. "My God her voice! I think I'm in love!"

eels, "Little Bird". We've all been on the porch, guys, missing that girl. So, here's another guy doing the same thing. Heartbreak sucks (but it works well in music, and it's heartfelt here).