Weird night music What does it mean Disconnected distracted Dreaming without a dream Piano landscape Floating down radio waves Unanchored, unmoored Sounds across time Somber and serious Weirdly veiled Mystery beyond the Parnassus Why now Is it a poem What is a poem What is life Resolve into inherent What do I want What do I need Descending spirals Silence
Ebullient Hope shimmering You can’t take hope It’s not yours to give You are a part of me Where is the harmony Resolve into me Confidence, confide Blessed brilliance Changes Goodbyes are hard Kindness lingers Where is the soul I can feel it Pure goodness Love me Love you How long? Free and simple Can I be a baby again But when? Where are you? What are you doing? How are you really? I want to connect I can’t connect You are unknowable Beyond what you make known Talk to me How long? Memories linger in music Dissolve into daydreams A likeness found, then lost I am not the same You are not the same I am brave You are daring You lift me up Atoms in a wave
She reminds me of sea monkeys Doing cartwheels in a fish tank She reminds me of sunshine Coming out of a coke can in Thailand Her whispers are like windshield wipers All aglow with starfish Today I missed her
Friday. Nothing going on at work, so I had breakfast in bed, read Gotham, read Yalom. Tried to schedule my laser pointer shoot, but this is proving difficult. Must return to it.
Later, I generally figured out what I would talk about at tonight’s stand-up comedy open mic, and wrote the topics into my iPhone’s notepad. Mainly just transferring ‘bits’ I had jotted down into my phone over the past days and weeks, notes labeled as ‘joke’. Here transcribed is my notepad from the night:
My day. Career options.
Freezing my tears
My best friend (Voldemort) ghosted me.
Dan Lopez ghosted me.
Andre forcing me to get Alexa and Oculus
Sitting on toilet with Oculus going on a roller coaster
Alexa cheating on me
Church bully… Are you a vegetable? Are you a douche?
Fruit fly in my hummus. Throw it away.
Predictive type joke.
Whenever I get a call from my mom I wanna grab your stuff from you and then I’ll check the garage door.
Lunch of a veggie patty, toast, and cucumbers. I’ve run out of food, and must buy more.
I watched Barry; it is pretty good, but the hit man parts are a little broad, a little gruesome, violent-for-laughs. Not a big fan of that, but I’ll give it more tries. I love the Fonz … what’s that actor’s name? … he’s great in it. That scene where he tried to date the lady police officer: gold.
Afternoon, I wrote a bit more of Bad Psychiatrist. At least a half-an-hour was spent staring at an empty page. What an awful feeling, that. Like, a feeling of, I’ll never be able to write again. What’s it about? What’s the purpose? I don’t know. Oh, here are some words. Here’s a scene, a kernel of an idea. OK, at least it’s something. So I got down a couple of pages.
Dinner of apple and peanut butter, plus a vegan ‘Eat The Dough’ cookie. Watched Barry while I ate. Then I went to the open mic at Tao Comedy Studio.
The pre-show was dour. Music played softly: Jimi Hendrix; nobody talked. The atmosphere was like a library after closing, or a funeral parlor. Everyone was on their phone. Nobody made social contact with anybody, no small talk. Everyone was perhaps nervous, tense. Eight or ten people in the room.
Then the show started, and it loosened up. Turns out they were a great crowd. Lots of laughs. I think I did all right, and I enjoyed the other comedians too.
First up, kind of stand-offish, sarcastic female police officer HR-type person who doesn’t like her job or her co-workers. Another, an old guy doing curse word jokes. Another, the self-styled PC Pirate, complete with eyepatch, hook, pirate accent, and total commitment. I remember him awkwardly trying to move the mic-stand off the wire, using his fake hook; wonderful.
Then, a Gene Wilder look-alike with a zany sense of humor, including my favorite joke of the night: ‘You know the best thing about the beach? No spider-webs!’ The nervous girl with the fifty-odd notecards, the one-liners, and the Trump impression. And our headliner, the long-haired rocker-type who told us about how he got kicked out of a bar last night, at two A.M., which coincidentally is the time when bars close anyway. His shirt featured three or four women sucking, inhaling… something… vomit? I couldn’t quite make out what it was, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it. (The substance was marijuana, I later found out, when I talked to him. He’s getting back into comedy, lives nearby, and walked to the show that night. Left his credit card at the bar nearby, so needed to pick it up.)
Then I drove home and played Oculus Go with Andre and Tim. First, chess, which I won; then, Monopoly, which I lost. And then, bed.
These past eight weeks, I’ve been doing improv class every Saturday at Second City. Our instructor, Mark, gave us two great insights, which I think are worth sharing.
The first was to not try to drive the scene; to not have a pre-conceived notion of what you want to do when you go in. You just want to go in blind, and say the first thing that comes into your head. Whatever happens, happens. If it doesn’t go the way you planned it, no problem, just go with it. It’ll be better because of it.
I think this is important advice for life as well as improv. Sometimes, you just want some specific thing so bad, that if you don’t get it, you feel like everything’s ruined. For example, at one point in my life, I wanted to fall in love. And I decided I found this great woman, and really fell for her, but she just wanted to be friends.
I didn’t see at the time that being friends would’ve been for the best. If I didn’t try to drive that relationship to where I wanted it to go, hell or high water, well, maybe I’d still have a friend. If I had known, if I had been taught this (because this isn’t innate), to let things just go naturally where they want to go, it could have prevented a lot of pain. I guess that’s the essence of Buddhism, and also, that great Rolling Stones song: ‘you can’t always get what you want/but if you try sometime, you just might find/you get what you need.’
The second part we learned about is the yes-and. This means, whatever your scene partner says, you agree with it, or at least with the reality of it, and then add your own statement. Go along with it, and see where it ends up. Even if you get a ‘no’, just keep going, adding statements, and have fun. Don’t depend on an outcome, but just be there to support your scene partner and keep adding. In life, this means to be there to support your friend, and to keep adding ‘ands’. Don’t be nervous about sounding stupid, because no matter what you say, it’s you, and it’s who you are. There’s no such thing as a wrong thing to say.
In my life, there are a lot of moments I keep going back to, thinking and wishing I had said this or that, but didn’t, because of nerves, or thinking it might come across as stupid. When I invited a friend to see a show at the Pantages theatre, we were both pretty impressed by the interior of the lobby. I wanted to quote Larry David from Curb, with his classic line, ‘Well this is pretty, pretty, pretty… pretty good. Pretty good.’ But, I didn’t; I overthought it, thought it might sound dumb or she wouldn’t even know what Curb is. So I just said, ‘Well, this is pretty cool,’ or something like that.
Or the time we saw a movie, and I was sitting there on the bench in front of the theater. I was pretty nervous again, and I was looking around for her, because she was a bit late. So I saw her coming up from behind, and she said, ‘Aw, I was gonna surprise you!’
And I just said, ‘Oh, oh… yeah.’ I think about that a lot. Even in that moment, I wanted to say, ‘Well, I guess I’m just too quick for ya!’ But, I was nervous. These are the things I come back to sometimes, and turn over and over in my head. Where it went wrong.
If only Second City had come along sooner! But, lo, I go forward not with the gloom of the past weighing me down; no, I go forward with a sense of beaming bright optimism for the future, because there is always something new to learn, and where there is life, there is hope.
I went out to La Quinta this past weekend to visit my grandma. That Sunday morning, I did my first painting en plein air. It was incredibly relaxing and peaceful. I’ve always loved this mountain view of San Jacinto, which is just walking distance from her house. The painting process took about took two and a half hours. Here is the result.
When I’ve showed my paintings to a few people, some have expressed thoughts like, ‘I could never do that’, or, ‘aren’t you nervous’. I just tell them that it’s actually relaxing; that you have to let yourself go and just go for it. Just paint what you see. Paint it with wild abandon. Attack the canvas and make it cower, as Winston Churchill would say.
Also, the painting process teaches you to really see. You come to appreciate the view, nature, and peace, both inner and outer, as it frees you from all thoughts and anxieties not related to that scene. That tree, that mountain, or those bushes and grasses. As you go on your painting journey, all you think about is color, form, stroke.
I started painting in December. Why does one decide to paint? I got the initial seed of the idea when I read ‘The Last Lion’ series of Winston Churchill biographies, and discovered how much joy can be found in painting. How it could take one’s mind off the ‘black dog’ of depression, apparently. And it kind of worked… it really does take your mind off of everything, as you become completely absorbed in working the canvas. The hours just seem to fly by, kind of like video editing, but even more so.
Before this, I had been dabbling in doing art on my iPhone. But once you experience painting with oils, nothing can replicate the intimate and tactile experience of mixing and melding real physical goop. It is quite unlike anything. How you look at it up close, the shininess of it, the brush strokes, even the smell of it. But it can also be infuriating.
Anyway, here is the story of my painting journey thus far.
This was my first effort. I wanted to make an abstract, a real piece of ‘modern art’. I thought it’d be easy. How wrong I was. I made a few strokes with red, which I liked, but quickly realized I had no plan. I drew a cat in the middle. I was so unhappy with the finished piece, I mushed it all together with my hands, until I liked it. Thus, my first oil painting.
My second painting was my greatest failure. I had clementines (lil cuties) for breakfast, which I thought would be a nice subject for a still life. And I thought a black background would go great with it; black and orange. So I painted the whole canvas black, and waited a day for it to dry. The next day, I started painting in the oranges, but it completely mixed in with the still-wet black paint, creating an ugly gray. Thus, my second painting, ‘eyes of defeat.’ Stymied… for now.
My mom got me some books on oil painting from the library (she’s a librarian, so she’s always doing this). I decided to actually follow one of the tutorials from the book, and came up with this painting of pears. I painted on a paper grocery bag, because I didn’t want to waste a canvas on another failure. Luckily, it turned out all right! I was really surprised. This is actually one of my favorites. I had a lot of fun blending shadow with light on the pears, and the green looks so tasty. The only thing I don’t like is how I messed up some strokes around the middle pear’s stem.
Another tutorial from the oil painting book. I thought this turned out quite nicely too. Just a few a few hours one morning, and great fun. I do like landscapes.
I decided to tackle my oranges again. This time, it kind of worked. I like how the upper right one turned out, but the lower left one gave me lots of trouble. My dad didn’t realize these were oranges, sadly. I really don’t like the shadows on the plate either; it just looks like a dirty plate. Overall, however, this turned out better than the ‘eyes of defeat’ painting.
My first painting after returning to L.A. I went to a painting workshop at Sun Space, and they had a live model sit for us. It was really intimidating, doing my first portrait. At certain points, I just think the painting is the worst thing ever. But keeping at it, something comes together, halfway presentable. I don’t know what or how it happens, but it just does. Also incredible was how every painter at the workshop had a radically different style, all covering the exact same material. Eye opening how differently we all see things.
In Mario’s castle, there are many paintings, and this was one of them; I decided I must paint it. It’s just so whimsical, simple, yet beautiful. I really had fun with this, mixing the blues, and forming puffs of cloud.
This was an abstract I wanted to do that represented energy, heat. I was inspired by stuff like Mark Rothko, and knew I wanted to use a palette knife. I couldn’t figure a way to make it interesting until I put those ‘brick’ shapes into it. The last thing I did was put the yellow frame around it, which I think ties it together.
I wanted to try watercolors after seeing Bambi again recently. Watercolors, much more unforgiving. You make a mistake, and it’s there forever. Dries very quickly. But I love the lightness of it.
Another portrait painting workshop at Sun Space. This is my latest painting. It was a struggle, because I started out not knowing what I was doing, and hating what I saw. I thought it looked so ugly for most of the session. But… I guess my philosophy kind of worked, which is to attack the canvas with gusto, and not think too much. It finally turned into something interesting. I kept thinking, ‘there’s a real person under there, I just need to find her.’
I got charcoal pencils for Christmas, so I figured I’d try some sketching too. After I got my sketch book, I tried this. Worked off a picture of myself from a little while ago. Tough, but hopefully, it’ll get better. Mouths are hard. So are eyes and noses. And hands. In fact, everything in a portrait is tough.
I watched a Ted talk by a cartoonist, who said, ‘anyone can draw’, and proceeded to teach the audience how to draw simple cartoons. He was right.
This is a weird lisa cartoon, which I saw on the icon of Youtube user, thingsicannotfindelsewhere.
This is a picture of my sister. Drawn from a photo taken on our ski trip.
This is a new sketch I drew of my old cat, Wabe. I think I’ll just share a few nice stories here about my old best friend.
We got her in 1995, a year after we moved to America. I was seven. Somehow, the parents heard about a new litter of kittens going up for adoption, so we drove a long way to some house to see them all.
Three or four tiny little kittens were running all around this one bedroom. My dad was the one who ended up choosing her. She was a calico. He said he chose her because she came right up to him and rubbed up against his leg, purring. She was the friendliest of the bunch.
Well, we drove her home, and talked about what to call her on the way. ‘How about Peanut,’ someone said. ‘Because she has brown patches like a peanut.’ So it was decided, our new cat’s name was Peanut.
She was tiny, and had a big head and even bigger ears. Brown and black patches against mostly white, and an all white fuzzy tummy. I remember playing with her, and putting her on my head.
One day in school, we learned about rabies. So, naturally, I started calling her ‘Wabies’, which eventually became Wabe, or the Wabe.
One night I was watching the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards in my favorite brown blanket, and the Wabe jumped up and laid down between my legs.‘Yes, this is my good friend,’ I thought to myself.
I was fascinated right away by the way her shoulder blades went up and down as she strolled past; by the way she purred; I would gently put my finger on her throat just to feel it rumble. I’d put my ear against her too, just to hear that deep purr. And I was fascinated by her ‘woog’, that furry underbelly, which I loved to scratch.
Then, our crazy fun aunt Inger visited all the way from California. She was an artist, and a singer-songwriter too, so she wrote a song about the Wabe. She even packed our school lunches and created artworks on the brown paper bags, drawing pictures of the Wabe, and writing the lyrics of the song in beautiful flowing handwriting. The song went: ‘Wabie, Wabie, that cat is so crazy. Wabie, Wabie, that cat is so cool.’
Later, we’d build castles out of pillows and couch cushions, and put the Wabe inside. We’d throw her into big piles of pillows too, just for fun.
But sometimes she’d get mad if you went too far. She might bite you if you bugged her too much, but she never bit too hard. And she’d always lick you afterwards, where she bit you, if you put your hand out.
In the winter of 1996, there was a big blizzard, and probably five or six feet of snow fell in one day. We let the Wabe out into her first snow, and she jumped and played and explored and loved it.
She became an athletic young cat. We let her be an outdoor cat, and she made the best of it. She would even jump up to the roof and walk all around it. We’d sometimes even let her in from the second floor windows.
One game I played with her was called The Game of Trust: when she was sitting, with two paws down in front of her, I’d just poke one hand underneath one paw, which she would lift and place on top of my hand. Then I’d put the other hand under the other paw, so she’d basically be standing on my two hands with her two front paws, therefore, trusting me…
My sister Hanna had a little plastic watermelon purse thing, so we made up another song. The lyrics went like, ‘Let’s put the Wabe in the Watermelon. Let’s put Wabe in the Watermelon.’ Probably, it was inspired by that Harry Belafonte tune, ‘Put the Lime in the Coconut,’ but I can’t be sure.
We also scared her once, when we played a song called ‘Bawittabaw’ by Kid Rock for her on the boom box. The song starts real slow, but builds to a mad crescendo; we turned it up all the way, and made the boom box lunge toward where the Wabe was sleeping. She ran, fast.
Sometimes when she was sitting on the ground, I’d also lay down, put my head underneath her, and just looked up at her from below. She seemed so tall. Her character always seemed so dignified, noble. She loved sitting by the heat vents, and sometimes she’d lick my hair.
There was a friendly black and white neighbor cat across the street called Boots. We decided this was Wabe’s love interest. There was also a rival. He was a big, fluffy, mean cat who lived in the house behind ours. His name was Pumpkin. Wabe and Pumpkin would sometimes have fights, and we were worried about Wabe getting hurt, but she could always hold her own.
When it came to mice, the Wabe had an interesting way with them. She would sometimes catch mice or chipmunks, but she generally wouldn’t kill them. One time, I saw her laying out in the sun, in front of the house, with a mouse laying right next to her. The mouse was breathing… maybe Wabe was just playing. I feel like she was almost too nice to want to hurt them.
One day, we saw another cat at the pet shop, and my sister decided she must have it. So we came home with a little shy tabby kitten called Ray. Wabe wasn’t very happy about this, and I guess she was pretty depressed about it for a while. They ended up fighting quite a bit, and would hiss at each other.
Wabe got other nicknames over the years, too, like: the Beast, or Beastro. And so did Ray, who remains the Kitten, or Kittanya. Though they had some fights, they eventually got used to each other, and even managed to sleep on the same couch sometimes. Friends? Just maybe.
As I got older, the Wabe was always there for me. She was someone I could count on to hang out with, but didn’t have to think of things to talk to about, instead just sharing a comfortable silence. I was always kind of shy, so this was great.
One summer, probably sometime during high school, I decided to do a little experiment. The Wabe liked to go outside late at night, and I always wondered where she went. So, I decided to follow her. She went in our front yard, and then into the neighbor’s yard. I tagged along.
Suddenly, the neighbors came home, along with their big dog. I dove into the bushes beside their front door. Then, the Wabe walked off; what a pal. I just leaned, petrified, between my neighbor’s house and the bushes, hoping they wouldn’t notice me, especially with that dog. They just went inside the house, none the wiser.
Unperturbed, I followed the Wabe some more. She went to the house across the street, which was having some construction work done on it. Wabe walked across the gangplanks above the gaping pit in the moonlight. Cicadas buzzed, fireflies glittered in the night around her.
Then she crossed Fairview Avenue and walked up to one of my classmates’ house. I figured it’d be really embarrassing to get caught by someone I knew from school, so I called it a night. But the Wabe kept exploring. And wherever she is now, I’m sure she’s exploring still, with her tail held high.