The Friends of California Libre...

28 April 2007

Hold the Presses, It's Your Noir Earth Day

Greetings, friends,
A few days back I put on my cashmere winter coat, maybe for the last time this season, and went down the hill at 1 AM in the rain to mail a letter. If there's anything more LA Noir, I dunno what. Then I spoiled it...the three alcoholic dudes who rented the house up from the nightclub on the corner came sliding home, and I thought nastily, get a grip, idiots. The hard-partiers across the street were blasting the tunes...yeah, all the way across the street. But then I realized, what kind of punk rocker am I? Fuckin' lame, must be. Well, at least I'm still walking in the rain, even if I'm wound up too tightly for LA. And PS thanks to all you pagans up in Topanga for doing your rain dances...they worked, ending the driest year in the history of Los Angeles. You might have saved us until next year's drought, so Happy Earth Day. (Or for you Tolkienites, Urth.)

All the driving around to different parts of LA, where I work as a substitute, and biweekly trips to the Bay Area have unstuck me geographically. I'm a tourist in my own home, walking around with the kind of gee-whiz I used to have as a teenager. Something is coming...some kind of epiphany or punchline to the cosmic joke. Maybe I'm being set up by the Goddess for a plane crash or a crazy college student.

Flying in from San Jose during a Santa Ana wind, the jet diverted over the Santa Monica Mountains and came into Burbank from the south. So what? Burbank is so dull that the airport was a salient cultural event while I was growing up. The planes usually take off to the south, but when those electric Santa Anas blow down from the desert, the planes come in low over the city, turning over my old house on Kenwood Street and shrieking down, over my middle school and Amelia Earhart's memorial at Valhalla Cemetery. Those were always great days for a kid, for a weird kid anyway, who'd ride a bike to the railroad tracks and watch the planes come in low, so low you could reach up and touch their cold aluminum. Passenger jets, little Cessnas fighting the wind with their lawnmower engines, and loudest, the corporate Lear jets carrying hidden cameras and a potential for movie star melodrama. At night I could see the landing lights come on miles away, as the planes turned and floated in silently, the noise blown away from me by the wind until they were nearly overhead.

The Santa Anas don't often become strong enough to turn a jet...I'd flown into Burbank Airport dozens of times, maybe a hundred, but never experienced this route until now at the ripe age of 41, woo hoo. I knew it was coming as soon as my plane crossed the mountains, Santa Barbara yellow-lit on the horizon, the oil rigs off-shore, then Ventura and Moorpark. Instead of following Interstate 5 into the Valley, the plane continued directly south along Topanga Canyon, banking east into the wind, so close to the mansions in the Hollywood Hills I could see the sky reflecting in the swimming pools. And as far as I could see was the sparkling basin of the city, Downtown lost in the lights, Hollywood all gussied up, the long chain of planes waiting for LAX strung out across the darkness. Now THAT'S LA Noir, Los Angeles like some ex-girlfriend turning on the cute for a sec, just for old time's sake. Well, I'm still enough of a punk rocker to smirk, So What. Too late, lady. Then the plane starts rattling like crazy in the wind. No problem. Some people are afraid to fly, but I can't think of a better way to die, over in a snap and onto the front page of the Times. Besides, the Santa Ana winds are nothing compared to what I've lived through: a 737 tilting from side to side as we came into San Francisco, the brakes locking as we skidded into old Stapleton airport in Denver, an engine bursting with black smoke as we took off from Oakland, and worst of all, the woman next to me praying on a Lear jet, as we nearly turned upside down coming into Lake Tahoe during a blizzard. Come and get me, airplane demons.

The plane turned over my house, just as I expected, throwing one final nostalgic curve-ball when the sky bounced in my own swimming pool, the pool I'd rescued a thousand bugs from, the pool I was floating in when Elvis Presley met his maker. Big Deal, So What. It's all over in a flash, except for the best part, walking out the back of the jet, down the old-fashioned stairs and onto the runway like some grainy "Twilight Zone". Yeah, if Burbank has any cultural advantage, it's the airport. I walked to my car across the street (seriously) and came home to write you this SCREED.

I'm pleased to announce that my first published book, Scream at the Librarian, has now left the presses. The SCREED will guide you to it (believe you me) when I get the information from the publisher. I received the first sample of the book the morning of 11 April, and learned that night Kurt Vonnegut had died. The irony is not lost on me; although I have many writers held dear, Vonnegut was certainly one of the first. I was probably not much older than 11 or 12 when I read Breakfast of Champions and said to myself, I want to do this. Unfortunately, Vonnegut won't least not yet.
Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84
By Dinitia Smith
The New York Times

So it goes. In the meantime, here's the cover of Scream at the Librarian to tantalize you:

It's about a year since I wrote this book, a long lonely weekend at Jason Rhoades' cabin out in the Mojave Desert. It boggles my mind how much has happened since. Last year I celebrated Easter with about the most fealty I could, spending Ash Wednesday in New Orleans and Holy Week in Sevilla. This year I took the opposite tack, driving my poor, aging VW Jetta on yet another desert adventure, to sinful Palm Springs and Las Vegas.

Palm Springs is bigger than ever, slowly filling the Coachella Valley with tract homes and high-fashion strip malls. Like so many resorts over the last century, Los Angeles slowly engulfs them. Now the far end of the city is in Indio, looking east into the desert, where Phoenix lurks hours away. It's fun, but I don't know what to do there. It took a mind-blowing 3½ hours to make the 120 mile drive from LA, so I had to think of something. I hung out with my friends and read. In the old days I'd sink into a quagmire of alcohol and other substances that George Bush's entire church couldn't raise me from.

Then it was off to Las Vegas via Joshua Tree. The National Park was jam-packed for the holiday weekend, and I was happy to pay $15 just to get out of there. I camped at Jason Rhoades' cabin, now abandoned at the end of the city, where the two-lane road north disappears into the deep desert. It was eerie, but I was glad to see the Plexiglas House that Lucy worked so hard on, pretty and intact:

Especially after the purity and isolation of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is disgusting. I was never a huge fan of the city, but during this trip I telephoned both of my friends who are natives to commiserate. I hadn't been there in 8 years, and the changes were enormous. Nearly all of the 1960s casinos, which themselves uprooted the 1950s resorts of "Ocean's 11" are gone; even some of the large 1970s casinos are dwarfed and appear imperiled by the gigantic, ugly 21st century hotel blocks. The desert basin of the Vegas Valley has disappeared in every direction, replaced by a dull, homogenous carpet of condos, walled houses and strip malls. Even more disconcerting, the malls are dominated by franchises; I must have seen dozens of Olive Gardens, IHOPs, Starbucks, Bank of America, Chevron, Taco Bell, KFC, Chili's...and so on. With so few unique businesses, there were no points of reference other than the casinos on the Strip, which themselves are agglomerations of buildings from other places, the Tour Eiffel, the Campanile, the Trevi fountain, the Pyramid of Khufu. Las Vegas resembles nothing so much as the game of Sim City, where landmark structures are surrounded by a swelling urban growth that has a minimal variety. It was truly frightening, possibly the most inhumane and depressing city I've ever been in. The lifeline of cars and trucks across the desert to the edge of LA (which now resides in Barstow) only convinces me that LA itself is a star performer in this bland, robotic culture. In deciding to vamoose I never made aspersions about LA's rich culture, the arts and music and cinema, but now I wonder if those are just freakish appendages, a bit of gaudy makeup on a city which is almost as uninspiring as Las Vegas. In any case, I can't see much to bring anyone to either city. Twenty-five million people are already here to rip money out of nothing. The only city south of San Francisco with any character, I think, might be Tijuana...although all that character comes from greed too. Perhaps you'd have to venture a lot further to find an authentic culture.

One explanation for the meaningless life we offer here in LA, obviously, is that we are under the TOTAL CONTROL of the ILLUMINATI (thanks, Geri; I double-dare all of you to read this):
Subject: mind control
uh what?!

Well, boring as it is, make the best of it. For Easter Sunday itself, David Del Valle had offered a comp ticket to Zumanity, and I thought, here's a sick way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus I finally get to see at least one of the bodacious Earl sisters in a state of semi-nudity. Alas, the devout French-Canadians who helm Cirque du Soleil and Zumanity took the holiday off, and we were stuck going to the Crazy Horse Revue at the MGM Grand. Basically just a high-end strip show, I was amazed at how many couples spent between $45 and $200 to watch a dozen admittedly amazingly healthy young European nubiles writhe around for 90 minutes. They even threw in a gay magician for David. I was equally surprised that there was no table next to my'd think that the casino wanted to sell me drinks. They don't. All the perks in Vegas, free drinks, free tits, cheap buffets, are gone. Some bars were more expensive than LA, and the food only a little cheaper. The one score was gasoline...almost 30 cents cheaper than here in environmentally conscious California. Still, I feel a tinge of pride driving back into the desert from Vegas, leaving Stateline and the too-tall dummies of Bonnie and Clyde behind, where the first sign announces ENTERING DESERT CONSERVATION AREA.

At least the Crazy Horse girls really were French...I saw three of them go backstage while I watched the baccarat and, sure enough, I recognized that sharp Parisien patois. It must be a good gig, dancing in the nude for middle-class Americans.

You're thinking, man, Joel is SO negative. Yeah, lately I've been hearing voices, the voices of my great-grandparents, most of whom died before I was born. My grandparents, they were all a piece of work, as they say. My eight great-grandparents, to a one, were whip-smart. Louis and Maria, they bailed out of Italy and made it to Chicago, like Joe and Ida, who saw the writing on the wall and left the Ukraine, eventually making it big in Los Angeles. Cohen got educated and moved Bertie Mae out of Texas to Arizona. James was orphaned after the Civil War, married and moved to Texas, had 11 kids, and when his wife died he married Katie, had 9 more and moved them all to Arizona. These people were tough, and I look to them to guide me. I know one thing: they wouldn't put up with this shit.

That is the theme for Noir Earth Day: do not take any shit.

If you have bad karma, try to level it by once, once, once in your life doing something for someone you'll never meet.

'Make the Commitment' Bracelets

Once again Merck is offering to donate $1 to cancer research for every free bracelet kit ordered from them.

Don't doubt that the universe has a sense of justice.
** Text message boss killed in crash **
The former boss of a no-win no-fee compensation firm, which "sacked" its 2,500 staff by text message, is killed in a car crash.
< >

You see, the Goddess and I have a little private joke. She lets me in on her secrets, but like Cassandra I get to keep them to myself, since no one will listen. I don't mind. I'm always blown away by the terrible conditions people put up with for nothing. Anything to believe they will somehow come out better in the end.
Army of God
By Sarah Posner
The Washington Spectator

And we are all the same; the people who went to Pat Robertson's college are just as bad as I am:
Scandal Puts Spotlight on Christian Law School
By Charlie Savage
The Boston Globe

They're just as fickle:
GOP's Hold on Evangelicals Weakening
By Alan Cooperman
The Washington Post
Democrats to Widen Conflict With Bush
By Jonathan Weisman
The Washington Post

On Noir Earth Day I celebrate the self-importance of some people:
NY Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban
The highest courts in two states dealt gay rights advocates dual setbacks Thursday, rejecting same-sex couples' bid to win marriage rights in New York and reinstating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Georgia.
Gay Marriage Ban Upheld in Washington
By Curt Woodward
The Associated Press
Child tips off cops to drug-dealing mom

Just as I celebrate the arbitrary goodwill of others:
New Jersey Approves Gay Civil Unions
By Jon Hurdle
New Hampshire Governor to Sign Bill Allowing Civil Unions
The Associated Press
Massachusetts Court Backs Gay Marriage on Ballot
By Denise Lavoie
The Associated Press
South African Parliament OKs Gay Marriages
The Associated Press

For Noir Earth Day I pay my devotion to the Goddess, especially in the form of my dear goddaughter and all the other young women out there suffering in a world that they could render empty in a single generation, if they so chose. Take the power seriously: here is a message for you ladies. Do not accept the judgment of anyone, good or bad.
For Girls, It's Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too
By Sara Rimer
The New York Times
The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body
By Courtney E. Martin
Sexualization of Girls in the Media Is Harmful
By Catharine Paddock
Medical News Today

Don't take any shit:
51 Percent of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse
By Sam Roberts
The New York Times
Leave me be, 98-year-old woman tells young admirer
How the Web Became a Sexists' Paradise
By Jessica Valenti
The Guardian UK
Israel envoy recalled over bondage gear street shame
Japanese Minister Wants "Birth-Giving Machines," aka Women, to Have More Babies
By Justin McCurry
The Guardian UK

Be careful what you eat and drink in this creepy American society:

Scare Models

Photographs show a series of skeletal models.
"Precocious Puberty" Is on the Rise
By Kim Ridley
Ode Magazine
US Girls' Early Puberty Attracts Research Flurry
By Molly M. Ginty
Women's eNews

Remember not to act like boys; you can do much better.
Full Frontal Feminism
By Laura Barcella

You have a lot to fight for:
New Hope for a Woman's Right to Choose
By Allison Stevens
Women's eNews
Women Leaders Move Into Power in State Capitals
By Robert Tanner
The Associated Press

And a lot to fight against:
Mississippi Senate Passes Anti-Abortion Bills
Feminist Daily News Wire
College Students Face Sticker Shock for Birth Control Pills
By Justin Pope
The Associated Press
Menopause at 30 for Millions in Poverty
By Jeremy Page
The Times UK
Man proposes, then allegedly KOs fiancee
Top Court Upholds Abortion Ban
The Associated Press
Court's Abortion Ruling Undercuts Roe
By Stevens and Bowen
Women's eNews
Supreme Court Ruling Threatens Women's Health
By Amy Goodman
Democracy Now!

Many countries have it even worse than we do:
Nicaragua Adopts Strict Abortion Ban
By Joseph B. Frazier
The Associated Press
Nicaragua's Total Ban on Abortion Spurs Critics
By N.C. Aizenman
The Washington Post

Remember how good we have it here in California, and FIGHT BACK!
Abortion Ban Spurs "Free Choice" Move in Congress
By Allison Stevens
Women's eNews
Bush Pick for Family-Planning Post Is Criticized
By Christopher Lee
The Washington Post
Proposed Law to Legalize Abortion Roils Mexico City
By Laurence Iliff
The Dallas Morning News
Need a Safe Abortion? Go to Mexico City
By Kavita N. Ramdas and Maria Luisa Sanchez
Angry ex-wives urged to burn wedding gowns on Dutch TV

Watch out for your health along the way:
Matador's chances of fatherhood hurt by goring
Some Women Allergic to Semen

And don't let Christians get in your face:
Born-Again Abortion Clinics
By Josh Harkinson
Mother Jones
3 Central American nations ban self-styled Anti-christ

Finally, remember this joke from my aunt Nona and Dana:
Two old ladies are outside their nursing home, having a drink and a smoke, when it starts to rain. One of the old ladies pulls out a condom, cuts off the end, puts it over her cigarette, and continues smoking.

Maude: What in the hell is that?

Mabel: A condom. This way my cigarette doesn't get wet.

Maude: Where did you get it?

Mabel: You can get them at any drugstore.

The next day, Maude hobbles herself into the local drugstore and announces to the pharmacist that she wants a box of condoms. The pharmacist, obviously embarrassed, looks at her kind of strangely (she is after all, over 80 years of age), but very delicately asks what brand of condom she prefers.

"Doesn't matter, Sonny, as long as it fits on a Camel."

The pharmacist fainted.

Vive le screed!


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