Friday, July 30, 2004
A work colleague of mine died the other day.
The details are sketchy. Apparently, he didn’t show up for work one morning and police found him in his apartment dead. There are rumors, of course, that it was from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, or from a drug overdose. No one really knows for sure.
When a friend told me about this, I wasn’t even sure whom she was talking about. She tried to describe what he looked like, but I couldn’t quite place him. She told me if I were to see him, I would definitely know who he was. I thought about this all day. Someone who was here yesterday isn’t here today and won't be coming back tomorrow. And I didn’t know who it was.
It was a strange day. The mood was somber and everyone spoke in hushed tones, avoiding the reality of it. We were pretending it hadn’t happened, but it was so obvious that it had.
Later in the day, I was talking with another friend and he was able to describe our colleague to where I could connect the name with a face. To be honest, I didn’t really know the guy at all. We had an acknowledged smile here, a nod there, but I don’t even think I had even spoken a word to him… Until the day before he died.
I was walking down a hallway and he was standing there, mid-conversation with someone else. I said, “Excuse me,” and he moved aside to let me by. As I slipped past him, he joked, “Well, not today, maybe tomorrow,” as in he would excuse me tomorrow.
We shared a small laugh and I continued on my way, down the hallway and into tomorrow.
But for him, there won’t be a tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
It happened again. (For some history on this, please see my post from May 14)
My penchant for laziness and general apathy has thwarted me out of millions of dollars yet one more time. Either that, or someone is stealing my ideas.
Just a few years ago, I invented an amazing contraption while at the grocery store. It was going to revolutionize the way you shopped, or at least the way I shopped.
There was a supermarket nearby where I lived, and we went there once a week for groceries. Their prices were reasonable, they offered double coupons and even had valet parking. Like most people, I’m a creature of habit and when I buy my groceries, I usually get a lot of the same things. One of the nice little perks about going back to the same place every week is that you get to know where your particular items are. This allows you to make a calculated run through the store with incredible efficiency.
You’re in. You’re out. You’ve got a bag full of groceries.
My only complaint about this store was that every freakin’ time I went there, they moved items around so that you couldn’t find them. One week, the Cheez-Its would be on the top of aisle eight and next week they would be buried somewhere on aisle two. This happened with alarming regularity until one week the entire store was switched around.
Needless to say, this was extremely frustrating. I don’t frequent this establishment anymore, but it did spark a brilliant idea: The Shopping Cart Computer.
The Shopping Cart Computer would make grocery shopping a breeze. There would be a small computer-like device that would be attached to the handle of your cart. You could find out about the weekly specials. You could program in your shopping list and it would keep a running tab of the contents of your cart. This ingenious device would give you price comparisons and suggestions to help save you money. It would even guide you directly to your items via a small map. It was brilliant. Looking for that jar of Paul Newman’s Medium Salsa? It’s on sale today for $2.99. Please proceed to aisle three, right in the middle.
Just think of the minutes that could be shaved off your shopping experience. Think of all the charity work you could do with your free time. Think of the inventions I could conceive with all that extra time. Sounds great, right? Fast forward to last week and me watching the Today Show.
Damn the Cart Companion, or Shopping Buddy, or whatever you want to call it.
Damn them all.
How can this be? How could this happen to me again? Am I making this up? Do I want to have the IQ of a genius so badly that I periodically convince myself I’ve invented things? I don’t think so. I’ve come to suspect that someone is on to me. Now that I think of it, I might have once seen a shifty-eyed Matt Lauer in the produce department.
I vow this will never happen again. I have one more great idea, but I won’t mention it to anyone. I’ll swear a blood oath to myself to see the idea through to completion. I will make millions.
Oh wait, someone already invented the Chillow®.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Last night I went with my wife and some friends to the Magic Castle. No, this isn't some sort of double-speak for dropping in on a rave and doing six tabs of acid with an ecstasy chaser; this is a real place.
The Magic Castle is a members-only clubhouse for illusionists, showmen and practitioners of the dark arts. I have long wanted to enter the doors of this restored Victorian mansion which sits on a hill just above Hollywood Boulevard, but until recently, it wasn't in the cards. Non-members may only enter on the good word of a member, or someone who knows someone who knows a resident magician. Not being anyone important, we knew someone who knew someone who could get us on the guest list.
When my wife and I arrived, we walked through the front doors into a lobby that didn't appear to go anywhere. Lucky for us, the woman at the front desk found our names in a leather-bound ledger and gave us a secret password. She then instructed us to walk up to a jewel-eyed owl statue and whisper the magic words. As my wife did this, a bookcase on the wall slid open and we walked through.
We emerged in a small, dimly lit bar with a distinct British feel. There our friends were waiting, decked out in firmly pressed suits and cocktail dresses. Having been there long enough to have downed a few gin and tonics, they informed us of some the rather interesting curiosities about the room. There was a Scooby Doo-ish portrait hanging on the wall with eyes that seemed to be looking at you, and ghostly grand player piano that played songs upon request, no matter what you requested. They had heard it play Welcome to the Jungle and my wife and I would hear Oops, I Did It Again followed by Stairway to Heaven later in the evening.
After a bit, we shuffled upstairs for an evening of fine dining. I won't bore you with the details of our meal, but I will say that the kitchen must not have been bovine-friendly.
Upon paying the check, we were presented tickets to a show in the Palace of Mystery. This was very exciting. Apparently, there were magicians afoot and we were going to see them in action. We wandered through the restaurant and out into another lobby, which was full of pictures of old magicians, dioramas and magic memorabilia. Incidentally, this lobby also contained a small bar. I suppose the more intoxicated you are, the better the magic is.
After having another drink, it was time for the show. We presented our tickets and entered into a small theater to see grand illusion in all its glory. It was quite a performance: Two magicians and more magic tricks that I could count. There were card tricks, volunteers from the audience and making a blonde assistant appear out of nowhere followed by the old audience favorite locking-her-into-a-box-in-which-sharp-objects-are-inserted trick. Don't worry, she came out fine; not even a scratch.
After the big show was over, we decided to see if the masters of illusion in the Close-Up Gallery could fool us with their parlor tricks. The gallery is small—a fire hazard even—holding only about 22 people. This can only mean you're about to be truly amazed by sleight of hand. I saw no wires or mirrors. Objects seemed to appear out of thin air and words uttered by audience members somehow ended up on slips of paper in sealed envelopes. If these powers were in the wrong hands, one could make a dishonest living swindling tourists down on Hollywood Boulevard. For my own protection, I decided I must never obtain these skills.
After an evening of mystery, supernatural and the unexplained, I leaned over to one of my friends and said, "Some of those tricks were amazing! I still can't figure out how they did them."
She just looked at me and whispered, "It's magic."
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Tomorrow I tell my boss that I don’t want to work here anymore. I could give the take-this-job-and-shove-it speech, or even yell out a simple, “This place blows!” But I won’t, because it’s not really true and I wouldn’t want to burn any bridges.
They want me to stay and have offered me a sizeable raise and a shiny new three-year contract… Only I don’t want to work here for three more years.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s been a great run. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve worked on many different projects and some of them I’m even proud of. It’s just that staying where I am makes me feel complacent. There’s more out there for me, I just know it.
Did I mention that I don’t have another job lined up yet? Half my brain is telling me to be completely terrified and the other half is encouraging me to feel extremely liberated. I suppose that might be some sort of fight-or-flight mechanism kicking in, but it could also be that I’m hearing multiple voices in my head, which could mean schizophrenia. Luckily, I have over a month left on my current contract to sort this all out.
I do have some job prospects with people who seem interested in my services. They sound promising, but I don’t want to get too keyed up for fear of invoking some sort of Hollywood jinx. People promise all sorts of things in this town that never materialize, so you can’t go getting yourself worked up each time. If you do, you’re in for a world of disappointment.
That being said, there is one opportunity I’m extremely excited about. It would be working for… I can’t say for whom exactly, but it would be a biggie, at least in my mind. I would get to learn some new skills, take on different challenges and broaden my horizons. Of course all this wishful thinking just raises the odds that my heart will be broken and my dreams will be trampled upon.
Wish me luck, or curse me for turning down a fistful of dollars and a pretty darn good job. I’m still quitting tomorrow.
Monday, July 12, 2004
I saw Inez at Trader Joe’s.
Normally I don’t get too worked up when I see an actor or some other form of celebrity, but when I saw Lumi Cavazos at the supermarket yesterday, I got very excited. Sure, she was in Like Water for Chocolate, but she was also in one of my very favorite films, Bottle Rocket.
I saw Inez at Trader Joe’s. Awesome.
Friday, July 09, 2004
Being that it’s a slow time of year, I’m actually working on launching a new show instead of the dating show I usually write for.
My company is producing a new talk show with a moderately known personality, and while it’s nothing groundbreaking, it at least has the surface appearance of trying to help people rather than exploit and humiliate them.
We were working on a few ideas where the host would be talking about personal responsibility, about realizing your potential and about dealing with internal issues as a path to improving your life. More specifically, the thought was how things like plastic surgery can often be just another excuse for not dealing with real problems, problems on the inside. Sure, maybe it’s a bit contrived, but food for thought, nonetheless.
Then we had a meeting with THE MAN. THE HEAD HONCHO. THE BIG BOSS.
He wasn’t buying it. He told us that people—or more specifically, women who would be watching this show—did want all those things, and who were we to be telling them that these things might be bad?
We had written about nose jobs, boob jobs, tummy tucks, chin lifts, liposuction and Botox.
He was telling me all these things are part of Middle America’s dream.
I thought about the great responsibility that comes—or at least should be considered—when writing for a mass audience.
He was saying that people eat what they’re fed.
This may be true. People often do eat what they’re fed and believe what they hear, but I had to wonder: Why can’t we put out a positive message?
If I had asked this out loud, he’d tell me that good ratings pay my salary, but positive messages don’t equal good ratings.
And then I’d wonder: When will I become that cynical?
Saturday, July 03, 2004
This afternoon, the wife and I are going to a party somewhere deep in Hollywood. Like the two of us, it will be an odd mixture of psychologists and people working in the entertainment business, and that always has the promise of crisis and spectacle. We’re supposed to dress as if we’re going to a country club, so I can only assume this means there will be lots of croquet playing, little sandwich eating and Bloody Mary drinking. My attire will have the I-am-going-yachting-or-to-the-private-tennis-club look.
While all of this sounds interesting, pretentious and fun, I’m really looking forward to where everyone will be going after the party. A couple of weekends a month a group called Cinespia projects old movies on the side of a mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It should be interesting to watch Kiss Me Deadly only a few steps away from Valentino and Cecil B. DeMille.