Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another Funny Thing Happened at the Library...

I would venture to guess that if you were to conduct a survey of the number of attractive women that frequent the public library, compared to the number of deeply disturbed gentlemen that frequent the library, you would find that disturbed gentlemen outnumber attractive women by a margin of six to one. This, I have noticed, is a rather unfortunate truth that the gentler sex has had to deal with, as deeply disturbed gentlemen seem to think it is perfectly acceptable to confront and hit on these poor ladies whose only desired companionship is that of a good book.

This is why I generally refrain from approaching women at the library, for fear that they will assume I am disturbed. That, and the fact that you're suppose to be quiet at a library, but mostly the first thing.

But the other day, as I was at a table, writing away and minding my own business, I found myself confronted by an attractive woman. She was an older woman, older than me at least. I would say she was somewhere between 33-36. She was ethnic, maybe Persian. And she was cute. She was definitely cute. Especially when she smiled. When I first saw her she was smiling at me.

"Excuse me." She said as she approached me. "But do you know where the other outlets are. I need to plug in my computer." She motioned to my computer, which was plugged into one of the outlets below the table.

"Oh, no. I think that is the only one." I said casually-yet confidently. "You can have it if you want. My computer has a few hours charged already."

"I tell you what," She said as she leaned closer towards me. "Why don't we just share your charger. I have the same computer as you, we can just trade off."

"OK!" I agreed, a little too eagerly. I made a mental note to tone down the enthusiasm.

And so for the next hour, we sat at the table and shared my charger. Our system was pretty brilliant if  I do say so myself. One of us would use the charger for ten minutes and then the other would use it for the next ten. But here was the brilliant part about it. Every time we would trade off, one of us would ask a question about the other. We would talk quietly for a few minutes, learning a little more about each other, and then go back to our work, before doing the whole thing again ten minutes later.

After an hour of this, I knew quite a bit about this fellow librarian dweller. Her name was Anna (not her real name) and she was Armenian. She had lived in Armenia for most of her life. But she moved out here some years ago and now worked part time in a bar in Pasadena, and lived with her mom in a small house. And she learned quite a bit about me too. She learned that I was a strong, impressive writer who had been mostly ignored by the Hollywood system because of his focus of substance over flashy writing. Oh yes, she knew me quite well.

We both knew each other so well, that I felt confident enough to ask her to join me for coffee at the coffee stand just outside the library.

"No, it's okay, I'm really not thirsty." She replied. This left me dejected, but I did not show it. Instead, I increased my typing speed by 40 percent, showing her how truly skilled I was. Ten minutes later she popped her head out from her laptop and looked over at me.

"You know, Randy," She smiled playfully as she said my name. "I actually think a coffee would be great right now." 

Gotcha, I thought. The typing fast manuever always works on the ladies.

And so, we stepped out of the library for coffee. Unfortunately the first thing she noticed was that I did not, in fact, order I coffee, but rather a grape soda.

"Truthfully I can't stand coffee." I explained. "But I thought it would be easier to talk to you out here than in there." I said. And then I waited. This was the moment of truth. Would she be annoyed by my deception, even fearing that I was actually one of those disturbed library types, or would she find my directness endearing, even attractive?

She smiled playfully again and I let out an almost non-existent sigh of relief.

"Very sneaky, mister."

We sat down at a patio table, and for the first time since we met, we had a conversation in normal, audible voices. And we talked about a great many things. The weather, the people of LA, the traffic, all the usual b.s. that people talk about while drinking coffee and grape soda. But then I asked her what it was like to be Armenian in Los Angeles and things got interesting.

"Well, for the most part, I don't really think people treat me any different. But-" She paused suddenly. As if she had something important to say, but wasn't sure if she should share it. 

"Go on. Say what you were gonna say."

"I don't know if I should. We just met each other."

"We shared computer cords, Anna. That's a connection that can never be broken." I joked. She laughed.

"OK. It's just that... I feel like we Armenians just have a better grasp of the world we live in." I opened my mouth, but before I could get a word out she reached over and touched my hand, which instantly silenced me. "I'm not saying that we are smarter than anyone else. It's not that. It's just that, the Armenians have been through so much, so much suffering and bitter disappointment, we had no other choice but to learn the hard truth about life."

"What kind of hard truth?" I asked while slyly looking down at the pretty hand that was touching mine. 

"Like, for example, the fact that this country, the US, is completely controlled by a secret society. A society that holds power over everyone and everything."

"Uh huh..." I muttered in confusion. I could tell she wasn't happy with this response, as her pretty finger left mine abruptly. I did not like this, so I tried to keep her talking.

"So, um, what secret society is this, exactly?"

She leaned in across the table. "The Masons. It's the secret society of the Masons. They are the real leaders over this country. And they will use their puppet to destroy the people of America."

"Puppet?" I ask.

"Obama, of course. He is not the real leader of this country, he is just some pet of theirs. And if he gets reelected the Masons will have completed their final piece of their plan. Then your country will turn into the Soviet Union, just like mine did."

"Did the Masons have power over your country too?"

"No, but clearly they are following their plan."

"I see..." I said, because I had no fucking clue of what else to say.

"I'm telling you!" She exclaimed rather suddenly. "You cannot vote for that man! He is under the Masons control! You must vote for the other one. Romney. He is his own man. He will destroy all of the Masons if he is elected. You must believe me!"

But I didn't believe her. And I was kinda weirded out by this current turn of events. So I slurped my grape soda in silence and tried to think of something to say.

"So, can I get your phone number?" I finally said. Because why not, right?

That night, I laid in my bed and wondered a great many things. I wondered if Anna was the female version of the deeply disturbed library dwellers. I wondered if it was fair to call her that considering she was from a different country and had, evidently, seen a lot more hardship than I ever will. And then I thought, what if she is actually right, and I'm the fool for not believing her. What if ten years from now I will be standing in a deserted street, huddled around a fire barrel while America burns all around me, thinking back to that one cute girl from the library who tried her best to warn me of the dangers ahead.

Either way, I finally thought, I should probably wait two days before I text her.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened at the Library

Well technically, it didn't happen at the library, it happened outside the library, in the parking lot.  I was out there in my car waiting for a spot. You see, unlike many of the public libraries in LA, the Pasadena library is a nice, clean library. This is why many people go there. This is why I go there. But, as a result, it can be difficult to secure a parking spot there. While this can be frustrating, it is not nearly as frustrating as the library closest to my place, where there are only five "good" seats inside. What does that mean, you ask? It means that these seats are separated from the rest of the seating, which means you don't have to deal with the loud, disturbed people that come in and out of the library all day. These five seats are so coveted that when the library opens its doors in the morning, there is a mad dash of ten or more people to get those seats. Ten grown people scuffling quietly but as quickly as possible down the library, playing the saddest game of musical chairs in the history of the world. I have played this game many times. I am not a proud man.   

 So yeah, now I go to the Pasadena Library, and I've graduated from mad dasher to parking space stalker. It's like Harvey Dent said in The Dark Knight, "You either die the hero, or live long enough to become that weird guy outside of libraries who just waits for a parking spot."

Anyway, so there I was, waiting in my car near the library exit, hoping to catch someone on the way to their car. Finally I see a person, an older Middle Eastern gentleman, leaving with a book under his arms. My shrewd detective skills told me that this meant that the man was probably leaving the library for good. So, not wanting to lose him to another parking lot stalker (there always out there, sometimes in hiding), I called out to him from my car.

"Excuse me sir, are you leaving?'

The man stopped walking and turned to me.

"Yes, good man. I am. Would you like my spot?" He said this with a great smile and a voice full of hope.

"That would be great! Thanks!"

"Just follow me, my good man, follow me!" He said with the same cheery disposition.

So now I was driving alongside him as he walked to his car. As I was driving, I felt a great amount of debt to this man, not just because he was giving me his spot, but because I had been feeling rather down about life earlier (in case you were wondering, I am living the library-dweller lifestyle because I recently got back into town and need to find more work), but now thanks to this man's genuine charm and hopefulness, I found myself feeling better about everything.

Perhaps this was the reason that I felt compelled to talk to him.

"So what'd you end up getting?" I asked him as we continued to slowly move down the parking lot.

"Oh you mean this?" He excitedly pulled up the book he was holding. I nodded. "This book is called Superbug. It's about this new disease that has been popping up in hospitals around the country."

"Oh, so it's like a fictional thriller book?"

"No, no, my good man. This is a true book. The disease is real. My friend got it while he was in the hospital. And then he gave it to me. Look, this is where I got it." He pushed his forearm close to my face, pointing out the discolored blotched circle on his skin. I think at this point I made an awkward grunting noise, but I can't be sure.

"And now, would you believe it, I have boils, big painful boils, all over here, and here, and here." He said as he motioned to his rear end and upper leg area.

"Oh...that's horrible. Do you know how you got it from your friend?" I asked, now thinking about my own well being more than his.

"I don't have a clue! That's why I got this book." He said with the same cheerfulness he had used when we were talking about parking spaces. It was as if this scary new disease he was now carrying, and potentially spreading, was like a fun little mystery from him to solve.

I could feel my butt start to itch.

"Well, good luck on all that sir."

"And good luck to you too, my good man!" He said, although I was not sure exactly what he meant by that. And then he got in his car and began to pull out. And just as he did, another car pulled into the lot on the other side of him. This new car seemed intent on claiming his parking spot. But before I could get angry, the Middle Eastern man rolled down his window and said to the other driver:

"Excuse me, my good man, this young gentleman has been waiting for this spot. I'm sorry."

And can you believe it, the other driver actually left. The Middle Eastern man then smiled and waved at me before leaving me with his beautiful empty spot.

"What a nice man," I said to myself. "I hope he didn't give me a horrible disease."

Then I scratched my butt, and thought long and hard about the life I was leading.

Then I went home and took a shower.

The End

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So a cop pulled me over in Mississippi....

Our story begins in my car, which was somewhere on the Mississippi Interstate. My older cousin and I were in the middle of a 5 hour drive back to New Orleans from Alabama. This was our second 5 hour drive in the last three days; the first, naturally, being our drive from New Orleans to Alabama. My point being, after 7+ hours in the car, we had run out of things to talk about.

Which was why we were currently listening to one of my books on tape. The book was Game of Thrones. It's a great book, if you haven't read it; and even better if you listen to it as a tape, because then you get the added bonus of having a soothing British Voice take you through the adventures of Westeros.

 So that's where I was at this moment, with my older cousin, on the Mississippi Interstate, just cruisin' down the road while being lulled into a false sense of security by a soothing British narrator.

And then I saw a cop car in the corner of my eye, perched on a grassy hill on the side of the road, and everything went to shit.

I immediately looked down at my speedometer and realized that I was going 80 miles an hour, which was definitely over the limit. I wasn't sure by how much, but I knew I was definitely speeding. So I did what any rational human being would do, I pumped the brakes.

And as I was doing this, I heard my cousin scoff in that way that he does when he thinks what I'm doing is moronic (He's a bit like an older brother in this way):

"It doesn't do any good to slow down once you see the cop, Rudy, he already knows exactly how fast you are going."

For whatever reason, this caused me to seethe inside. 

 Oh really? Is that how it works? Please forgive me for being such an idiot. I must be the first driver in the history of the world to slow down once they see a police car ahead of them. Can you ever forgive me, sweet cousin? Maybe I should just open my door and throw myself out into the mercy of the road and hope for a swift and quick death, would that make you happy? 

 As I was thinking this, my eyes were glued to my side mirror, praying that the cop stays put. But like a nightmare come to life, I saw the black and white start to drive forward and merge onto the highway.

"Cruise control, dude." My cousin said to me casually, as he watched the cop following me in his mirror.  

What a great fucking response! I am so glad that you said 'cruise control' when I'm about to be pulled over by a cop. It solves all my fucking problems. In fact, that's such a great response, I think I'll repeat it when the cop pulls me over and asks me if I know how fast I was going. "Cruise control, dude.' I'll tell him. And then everything will be okay.

And then I saw a sign on the side of the road that literally made me gasp. 

50 mph.    

No. Fucking. Way.

There is no way the speed limit was 50 miles an hour and I was going 80. Holy shit. I was going 30 miles over the limit in the Mississippi. What are they going to do me? What do they do to you if you go thirty miles over the speed limit in Mississippi? Oh shit, I have California license plates. What are they going to do to some young Californian who drives 30 miles over the limit? 

I looked over at my cousin, and I saw that he had the slightest of smirks on his face. At first I was shocked that my cousin could be this heartless... and then I realized why he was smirking. The same damn thing happened to him recently. I suddenly recall one of the many conversations we had as we drove to the lake house on Friday. He told me that a few months ago he was pulled over for going a great deal over the speed limit.  I remembered that he told me the price of the ticket was so high he had to do several days of community service just to get it lower, and even after that it was still 600 dollars.

I remembered when he was telling me this I was laughing about it, totally schadenfreuding like a motherfucker.

Now it was his time to schadenfreude, that motherfucker.

So now, as I watched the cop getting closer and closer to me in my rear view mirror, my mind was running through the consequences of this unfortunate event. How much money am I going to have to pay? How much money am I getting from this summer job? Jesus, do I really have a summer job at my age? How embarrassing. My cousin is never gonna let me forget this. This is gonna be a long summer...

It was at about this point that the cop was now close to my bumper, it was only a matter of time until...



I pulled over to the side of the road. I watched the cop in my rear view mirror as he got out of his car and moseyed up to my passenger door. He looked exactly  how you would expect a highway patrolman from Mississippi to look. Bushy mustache, aviator glasses, walked like he was John Wayne... you get the idea.

I scrambled to find my registration. As I was looking, I suddenly spotted the cop in my peripheral, his big serious face was leaning into the car, just hovering over my smirking cousin. 

"I need to see your ID and your proof of insurance." He said, robotically.

"What about my registration?" I asked, confused.

"I don't care about that." He told me dismissively, as if that was the first time anyone had ever mentioned the word "registration" to him.

So I searched through my wallet looking for my proof of insurance. Only, I can't find it. It's simply not there. I rummaged through my glove box once more, hoping to find that little red card, but no luck.  Oh my God. What do they do to Californians who recklessly speed and then don't have proof of insurance.

"Is there a problem?" The officer asked impatiently.

"I can't seem to find my proof of insurance, officer."

There was a silence after I said this. And then, finally, a reply.

"Step out of the car, sir."


A took a breath of air and opened my door. 

It's OK, Randy. This is not a big deal. Just remember to act calm and casual, act like you're concerned, but not worried. Make him respect you. You are a man, just like him. The two of you are just two men who are having a conversation. He definitely won't arrest you. Probably.

I made my way passed my car and meet the Mississippi Officer, who was now standing behind my car and staring at my ID. 

Remember, Randy, make him respect you. Play it cool, but serious. Calm, cool, but serious. That's you.

 "OK, Mr. Walker," He began to say. I remember his glasses were off now, and he was staring right into the pits of my eyes as he spoke. "The first thing I want you to do is calm down. Just calm down."

"What?" I say, confused. What does he mean calm down? I am calm. I'm calm, cool, and serious. How could he possibly confuse that with not being calm? What kind of sick cop game is he playing right now?  

"I said, you need to calm down. Because when you freak out, that makes me freak out."

Freak out? Freak out? What does he mean freak out? 

"...OK...I don't feel like I'm freaking out. But OK."

"OK, good." He said, in a way that made me think he hadn't heard what I had said. "Now, let's start with your ID. Your eyes in this picture here are not dilated. And yet, I can see your eyes are very dilated right now. What are you on?"

Did I just hear him say that? Did he just ask me if I was on drugs right out of the gate? Is this really happening?

 "I'm not on anything, sir. I'm not sure why my eyes as are dilated."

"OK, fine. Let's move on. I see your car is from California, why are you way over here?"

"Oh, well, I'm working here for the summer."

"In Mississippi?"

"Well, no, I'm working in New Orleans."

"I see, so why are you out here?"

"Well, I... me and my cousin are coming back from a weekend at a lake house in Alabama."

He made a face of frustration at this. "Where in Alabama was this lake house?"

God damn it, what was the name of that town again. I could never remember how to pronounce it. It starts with a T and there is an L in there somewhere....

"Well..." The cop said impatiently.  

"Um... Toolusca... Tuscalina... Tul...."

"Tuscalousca?" He helped me.

"Yes! Tusaclousca! That's it!"

"I see. Mr. Walker, don't you think it's funny that you can't remember the name city that you just visited?"

"Yeah, but I'm not from here, I'm from-"

"California, I know." He said, like he wasn't buying my story at all. "Alright, well let's talk about your young friend in the car. How many times has he been arrested?" He pointed to my cousin, who was sitting patiently in the front seat.  

 Young friend? He's eleven years older than me, you ass. What are you saying? You think I look older than him.  

"That's my cousin, sir. And he's never been arrested."

"You understand, that if I run a background check on him and find out you're lying, we're through talking."

Through talking? What does that mean? It probably means he's just gonna arrest me, but that's a really strange way to put it. 

"Yeah, I understand."

"Then why are you so nervous?"

"I'm not nervous, sir. If anything I'm just anxious because I really can't afford a speeding ticket."

The cop tilted his head down towards me in a condescending manner. "Son, this isn't about a speeding ticket. This is about carrying massive amounts of drugs in your car. This about smuggling thousands of dollars cross state lines. This is much bigger than a speeding ticket."

Thousands of dollars? Massive amount of drugs? What the fuck is going on right now?

"Officer, I give you my word, I do not have anything in my car."

"So I have your permission to search the car?"

"Yes." I say in a calm, cool and serious manner.

"You understand, if I find anything, anything, in that car, me and you are done talking. Now are you sure I can check your car."

There's nothing in my car. I have nothing to worry about. Except... I did just take a trip to Coachella in that car. And that car was filled with various friends who had various hobbies and interests. What if one of those friends left one of their interests in my car, or maybe a hobby of theirs fell out of their pocket and is now tucked away under my car seat. There's no way that's possible, right? Right. No way. Except, maybe it is possible. And what if it is? What then... Well, I guess we'll be done talking.  

"Yes, go ahead and check it." I said, coolly, calmly and seriously.

He watched my eyes very carefully as I said this. He was studying them. He was trying to catch a liar, but I knew there was none to be found. All he would find would be a serious man with a dash of uncertainty.  But would that be enough to warrant a search?

He continued to stare right at me, for what felt like forever. And then he let out a sigh.

"OK, Mr. Walker, I want you to go back to your car, get in, and drive away."

And then he handed me my ID and watched me as I returned to my car. I felt like each step took three years at least. Did he really not write me a ticket? Am I really getting away with this.  

When I finally get in my car, I immediately turned to my cousin and give him the slightest of smirks.

"What? What happened? How bad was the ticket?"

"No ticket." I said, as I turned the car on.

"Oh, I can't believe this. You didn't even have your proof of insurance."

"Dude," I said as I merged onto the highway, "You don't even know the half of it."

And then I flicked the radio back on and let the soothing British voice take me the rest of the way home.

The End

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Quick Story About Peanuts Before I Go

So I'm about to go out of town for a few weeks, but before I go I thought I'd share this story that just happened to me. I still haven't finished packing, by the way, so I'm pretty much just gonna run through this and hope you can keep up. Ready?

 OK, this story takes place on Monday, just after Coachella (which by the way, was an absolute blast and I plan on sharing that whole experience with you soon). So anyways, I have left Coachella that morning with my two new friends/camping companions. All three of us are filthy and tired, as we had just spent the last three days camping in the desert and partying our asses off (again, it was a crazy time, I can't wait to tell you about it).

Anyways, as you can imagine, being filthy and tired, we all desperately want to go back to our respective homes and shower and sleep. But first we have to make the drive back, which normally only takes about 2 and a half hours. Unless, of course, you're an overconfident moron, like me, and assume you know the way back without double checking first. Then it takes four hours.

So, after the four longest hours of my life, where by the end of it I'm so tired I want to cry a little and I can feel that my fellow companions want to strangle me, I finally find the way back to Los Angeles and drop the girls off at their hostel. Then I head as fast as I can back to my apartment.

I'm only five sweet blocks away from salvation when a thought hits me. I'm absolutely starving. I have to eat something before I sleep or I'll be miserable all day. I curse out loud at this thought because I know damn well I don't have a thing to eat back home, which means I'll have to make a trip to the store. And right now, the thought of going to the store is so horrible it makes me want to murder somebody. But there's nobody in the car except me and my growling stomach, so I curse again and head to the nearest store.

I find the first available parking spot and quickly park. I rush into the store, buy a couple of frozen pizzas and head back to the car. I go to throw the pizzas in the back seat of my car, and that's when I see it.


Peanuts everywhere.

Apparently one of the girls had opened up a rather sizable container of peanuts and put it on that back space that's behind the back seats (I don't know what you call that area, back windowsill area? I don't know, back the fuck off me.)

Anyways, apparently the lid was never put back on the peanut container, and now the peanuts were fucking everywhere. This enrages me because back when I recently bought this car it was in practically mint condition, despite the fact that it was ten years old. I had vowed to keep it in the same condition for as long as possible. For the most part, I had kept true to my word. But this Coachella trip had definitely left its mark on my car, and I wasn't not too thrilled about that. And now, seeing hundreds and hundreds of peanuts (that may be an exaggerated figure, it's hard to tell with peanuts) covering the back windowsill area at this particular moment just really fires me up. Those peanuts must go now.

So I jump into the back seat and start flinging peanuts out of my car like some kind of super hero. But I soon realize this is very tiring and not very effective (keep in mind, I am a very weak and impatient man at this point). So I try a different approach. To conserve strength, I decide to throw all the peanuts in the container first and then throw the whole mess out at once.

 So I start doing this, but I soon realize this is just as slow and ineffective as the last method. In fact, at this point I have determined that picking up peanuts, in general, is tiring and tedious, no matter what method you use. This realization frustrates me and causes me to empty the peanuts container out onto the parking lot even though it's only half full and thus accomplishes nothing(again I was very tired at the time).

As I do this, I somehow let the container fall out of my hands and onto the pavement. This makes me furious, and a mutter obscenities and jumped out of my car to get the container. But as I do this I end up bashing my head on the edge of the window, hard.

Now my head is throbbing and I am completely and utterly overcome with fury. I show this by screaming "Goddammit!!" loudly, and kicking the container of peanuts as hard as I can.

I watch it as it skids across the parking lot floor (while making a terrible scrapping sound along the way), and I realize it's heading straight for this nearby Hispanic family that are putting groceries in the back of their car. I watch in slow motion as the Hispanic family turn and see the container going right for them. Before they can do anything the container goes right under the old grandmother's legs and disappears under the car.

Then there is just the briefest moment where we all just stand there and wonder what to do next. Then I see the man ( a big man, I might add) walk towards me in an intimidating way. I shout, "Oh I'm sorry! That wasn't meant for you! Honest!" And then I jump in my car and drive off. I eventually got home and went to sleep, but my car still smells like peanuts.

The end!

(I bet that made you want to read about the rest of my Coachella adventure, right?! No, not really, you say? Well, trust me, you wrong. And you're gonna see how wrong you are... but not for a couple of weeks. Bye! I gotta fucking finish packing already!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gotta Pay to Play

 During the bleak summer of '09, while I was searching for work on Craigslist, I came across a job ad that seemed exciting. "Looking for those who want to become proud Grassroots Activists for Gay Marriage" the ad read, with the last part in bold font. Now I am a big supporter of gay marriage, and I'm also a big supporter of things that make me seem impressive. Maybe it was the bold font, but this ad seemed to to cover both of those areas, so I applied to the job and was able to schedule an interview for the next day.    

That night, as I laid in bed, I thought nervously about the upcoming interview, and that's when I realized that I actually didn't really know what a Grassroots activist did. I had heard the phrase many times in my life (I went to UC Santa Cruz after all) but it wasn't til just then that it dawned on me that I only had a vague idea of the meaning behind it.

Oh well, I thought, I'll just try to BS my way through the interview and hope for the best. 

The next day, I went to the interview, which went pretty much like this:  

Interviewer: So Mr. Walker, why do you think you would make a good grassroots activist for gay marriage?

Me: Well... because, gay marriage is important, especially on a grassroots level. And without activists, how are people going to know that.

Interviewer: Know what?

Me:... that gay marriage is important... and also... grassroots, you know.

Interviewer: I see. I like what I'm hearing. Can you start tomorrow?

That night I couldn't sleep. I was too excited. I mean, I was a Grassroots Activist now! For Gay Marriage! I was a part of something important, something that mattered.

This was made all the more exciting by the fact that I really had no idea what they wanted me to do, as that bit of information was not covered in the interview (I feared to ask because I didn't want them to think I wasn't qualified for the job.) So now I was laying wide awake in bed, wondering what the hell to expect for tomorrow. 

Maybe it was on purpose that they didn't tell me what I needed to do,  I considered, maybe it's something dangerous, or even illegal, and they can't risk anyone knowing beforehand.  

I decided this was the most likely reason, and then I repeated my job title in my head, over and over. Each time, feeling more and more impressed with myself. 

Randy Walker, Grassroots Activist for Gay Marriage

Randy Walker, the Great Gay Marriage Grassroots Activist 

Grassroots Activist Randy Walker,  The Hero that Gay Marriage Needs  

Randy Walker, The Robin Hood for Homosexuals. He Steals from the Homophobes and Gives to the Fabulous  

It went on like this for awhile, continuing to spiral into greater and greater hubris, until I finally fell asleep.
Day 1

The next day I arose from bed and headed to the Grassroots Campaign Headquarters. I know what you're thinking, you're thinking that that sounds like a hideout for superheroes. Well, sadly, it was not. Instead, it was a place where I was handed a slip of paper with words on it. I was instructed to memorize these words down to the letter, and then repeat them later to strangers on the street. The words contained a message. Sadly it was not a cool secret message, but rather an overt and slightly tactless message: we need money, please give.

Naturally, when I realized my job was to simply ask for money, instead of the silliness that I had imagined the night before, I was a little disappointed. But I knew that this made a lot more sense and that it does take money to do anything in this world, including making a change for the better. So I braced myself for a day of asking strangers for money.

Now, this is never an easy thing to ask, but it especially wasn't easy during the 09 summer, because if you remember, that's when the recession was at it's absolute worst and nobody had any idea when things were gonna get better.

 Oh man, I thought,  this is gonna be interesting.  

But I was determined to do a good job, so I stood in one corner of the room and memorized those words until I had it down pat. Afterwards, I hopped on the Activism Bus (again, not super hero-related in anyway) which took me to the section of the city that I had been assigned to "street canvass" ( a fancy term for asking for donations).

As I rode the bus, I made conversation with some of the rest of the activists and tried to pick their brain for information.

"So what's it like doing this? What should I be expecting?"

"Well," One of my fellow activists replied, "It can be a pretty hard job at times. It's not easy to get money from people these days."

"Yeah, I figured that." I said. "But I mean, even if we have a couple of bad days, we're bound to have some good days as well, as long as we keep at it with a good attitude, right?"

"Yes..." He said reluctantly. "except, each day you have to earn sixty bucks, and if you don't you get fired."

"What?!" I laughed in disbelief. "Nobody told me that!"

"Yeah, they don't tell you until the first time you come up short. Then you get a warning, then the next time it happens you get fired."

"Oh. Well, sixty bucks isn't that hard to get, right?"

He gave me a slight smile when I said this. "It can be. Depends on the day. You'll see what I mean."

I kept silent for the rest of the bus ride, trying to prepare myself for what was to come. Remember, I told myself, you're Randy Walker, Gay Marriage Activist of the Grassroots Variety. 

About ten minutes later, I was dropped off to my assigned section, downtown Pasadena. This seemed like an odd place for them to send me, but I did my best to get people to talk to me. "Help overturn Prop 8?" I called out to the passer-byes, as I had been instructed to do. But I found that technique less than effective.

 Then I noticed that people were averting their eyes long before they heard what I had to say. That's when I realized what the real trouble was: my clipboard. As soon as people see a man standing still on the sidewalk and holding a clipboard, they shut off their ears, keep their eyes straight ahead and increased their pace until they're safely passed him Logically, I could understand this mentality. But personally, and emotionally, it felt bad man. Real bad.    

The second half of the day went a little better.  Later, I found that this was true for all of my days as an activist.  Maybe it was because in the afternoon, people had just a little bit more compassion for their fellow man than in the morning.

 But whatever the reason, I was able to converse with many more people during the second half of the day.

Not that these conversations usually went anywhere, mind you. On my first day, most people wanted nothing to do with me or my cause. In cases like this, I usually got a quick "no thank you" before they walked away, but occasionally I would get a snarky "Go with Jesus" reply. The first few times I received one of these comments, I tried to engage them in a healthy discussion of why they felt Jesus would hate gay marriage. But each time I did this, I ended up wanting to shoot myself because their logic was always completely circular and mind-numbingly ignorant. So after awhile, I just started replying back "You first." and then focus on other people who might be more receptive to my cause. 

But I soon discovered that when I did find others that were receptive to the cause, another obstacle would arise.

"Look, I believe in gay marriage, but I'm not giving money to anyone in this economy." This was a very common response.

"I got no money for myself, much less for you." was also a popular way to reject me.

 One woman, who was all smiles and sympathy when I first told her I wanted to legalize gay marriage, acted horribly offended when I ask her for donations, and promptly started to scream at me: "Excuse me?! Did you just ask for money?! Look, I'm happy to sign whatever it is you want me to sign, but there is no way I'm giving you any money. I have four kids I have to feed. One of them is in college. You have any idea how much tuition is?! Also, my husband has cancer. Throat cancer! And so does the dog! What do you want me to tell them, that they have to die now because I gave all my money to you? I don't think so buster!" Just to spite her, I really wanted to ask her if she thought her dog's life was more important than human equality, but I wisely stopped myself from doing so. 

At one point I looked at my watch and realized it was 3, meaning I only had 2 more hours to make my quota, and I hadn't gotten a dime yet. That was when I began to wonder if I was going to get fired on my first day.

But then, as luck would have it, I came upon a nice old man who believed in the cause and donated a hundred dollars. So I was safe... for the day.

On the bus ride back to headquarters I asked another activist why I had been sent to Pasadena, as it seemed like a rather conservative place for what we were trying to do. Wouldn't it be better to go someplace that was more friendly towards our cause, like West Hollywood?

"West Hollywood, and the neighborhoods like it, have been sucked dry." She told me. "During the 08 election there were street canvassers and activists on every corner, trying to get support for the cause. The people there gave and gave and gave, and then Prop. 8 passed anyways. Now, there is a lot of bad mojo there. People are still hurt and bitter from the election. We sent some people there a couple of times... it didn't go well." She said this last bit like something bad had happen, but she didn't want to discuss it further. "Now," She continued, "we go to the more conservative areas in the city, hoping to find some like-minded individuals among the Republican crowd."

That night I laid in bed awake, again unable to go to sleep. I just kept thinking about what the girl on the bus had told me. West Hollywood is off limits! That was definitely a disappointing blow. You see, I sort of had this fantasy in my head of being sent over there and being embraced by the people who were touched by my passionate activism. He's just like Harvey Milk, the imaginary people in my head said, only he's straight. Which is a damn shame, we might add. 

Now it seemed like this fantasy would never come to be, which again, was disappointing. But even more disconcerting was the fact that we were being sent to the most conservative areas in town and trying to raise money for gay marriage. To me, this seemed a lot like the Romans feeding the Christians to the lions, only this time the Christians were us, the lions were Christians, and the Romans were suppose to be on our fucking side. Oh well, I told myself, not much I can do about it now. Better just try to sleep and mentally prepare myself for tomorrow. 

Day 2: 

The second day on the job was much like the first. Except instead of Pasadena, I was sent to some small ultra-conservative blue collar town on the outskirts of town. The only notable thing that happened here was a homeless man stole my lunch bag which I had hid behind a tree while I was canvassing. But I don't think the homeless man stole my lunch because he disagreed with my politics, I think he stole it because he was hungry. So in that way, I did a good thing, which was nice.

 I also raised a total of 30 dollars, half of my daily quota, which was not so nice, and led to me having a dreaded "sit-down" with my bosses back at Grassroots HQ.

Now let me tell you something about these HQ sit-downs, they're not fun. Not fun at all. First of all, they make you sit down in this small room, where tons of index cards are tact on the walls. And each of these index cards have a name and number on it. The names belong to activists who made over 200 dollars in one day, and the number is the exact cash amount they brought in on that day. So you just have to sit there and stare at all the names of people that are better than you, while you get reprimanded
for being a shitty Grassroots Activist for Gay Marriage.

As for the sit-down itself, there elements of it that definitely reminded me of the interview I did to get the job:

Boss: Randy, according to your clipboard you only brought in 30 dollars, which is half of your quota. Can you tell me what happened?

Me: I don't know... I reached out to everyone that passed by, and I said everything you wanted me to say.

Boss: OK, well, what are you going to do tomorrow?

Me: I'm...going to... reach out to everyone who passes by and say what you want me to say...

Boss: Good, see that you do. Because we'd hate to lose someone like you on our team.

That night, I laid awake in bed and thought about these last words. It would really suck to get fired from this job in my first week. I mean, I had already made sure to rub it in my gay friends faces that I was doing more for their cause than they were. Oh, did you hear Ron? I'm fighting the good fight to legalize gay marriage, so one day you and your boyfriend can get married. No big deal, I just believe in helping others. That's just the kind of guy I am.

 I was going to look really stupid if I didn't last more than three days on the job. So I became extra-determined to do a great job the next day, no matter where they sent me.

Day 3

Glendale. They fucking sent me to Glendale on my 3rd day. Can you believe that? Glendale, the ultra conservative,  Armenian-filled neighborhood (nothing against Armenians, but statistically, those guys are not big fans of gay people). I mean this place was such an obviously bad choice for what I was trying to do, that more than one skateboarding teenager approached me (while laughing) and stated the following sentiment:

"Seriously dude,  Glendale is not the town for this. You're not gonna find any luck here. Try somewhere else."

 "I can't. I was sent here by the people above me. It's part of their strategy."

"Well, their strategy is fucking whack!"

I tried, more or less, to explain the same thing back at Grassroots HQ, during my second "sit-down" in two days, after I had returned with only 4 dollars (which was given to me by a nice elderly woman who I suspect didn't really understand what I was telling her, but wanted to help anyways).

"Don't try to blame your way out of this." I was told. "Plenty of people of have been successful in Glendale. There's a reason we use this strategy, because it works."

That night, I laid awake in bed and took turns between wondering how I had escaped from being fired, and envisioning myself back at that sit-down when they told me they used that strategy for a reason, and shouting at them: Your strategy is fucking whack, bro!

Day 4

On the fourth day of my activist career, I was sent back to Downtown Pasadena. And again, I experienced more or less the same thing as my first day. Except this time, I ended up talking with this man who was dressed in a nice suit and tie. He looked a little young, but he came across as a successful business man, who seemed very eager to help my cause.

In fact, his monetary support seemed like such a sure thing, that half way through the conversation I started to space out and envision my own index card pinned against that stupid wall at HQ.

The card would read: Randy Walker, the Ultimate Grassroots Activist for Gay Marriage. And below that, a number, the dollar amount that told everyone how great  I was at grassrooting for gays. What would that number be?  I wondered greedily. 250? 300? 600?! I mean the sky was really the limit when it came to wealthy, and generous, sympathizers of the cause.

Then I shook off this day dream, refocused my attention to the present, where this wealthy business man was still talking to me. It was at this point when I realized that he was now inserting the dreaded J word into his sentences.

 That's right, Jesus. And he was using the word in very bad ways. Like telling me I need to be with Jesus, and accept his love, and stop trying to help the sinners.

Dammit all to hell! I thought. This was just a big ruse. He's not a wealthy sympathizer for the cause, he's just a crazy Jesus freak in a nice suit who tricked me into talking with him for an hour and acting like he wanted to help me, just so he might get me to agree to join his Church. Dammit all to hell! 

Later that day, I had my third sit-down at HQ. They asked me why I was only able to bring in 24 dollars. I told them that religion screwed me, just as it had been screwing gay people for years. They told me that was not an unacceptable response, and that I had one day, exactly one, to get things in gear, or I was out.

So that night, I laid awake in bed and wondered. I didn't worry, fret, or panic. I just wondered calmly, what the hell was I gonna encounter tomorrow? No doubt more averted eyes, rude responses, and Jesus freaks. And perhaps, just perhaps, a lovely pile of money that amounted to sixty dollars. It was possible. I just had to really focus myself and go out there ready and hungry. I owed it to gay marriage, and I owed it to myself.  

Day 5

Yeah, I'll just save you the suspense and tell you now, I didn't make a fucking dollar on this day. Not a single dollar.

 I don't know what to tell you. I tried, I really did. I mean I literally talked to everyone who came by me.

Including the sketchiest dude I had come across in a long, long time. He looked like a gnarly biker dude who had seen a lot of bad things, and done even more.

 He looked like he was in his mid-forties, and he was built like a brick shit house, except for his protruding beer belly, of course. He had angry biker tattoos up and down both arms. And he was wearing a wife-beater that was covered in food stains. His pants were tattered, and his face had a large scar running down his cheek. And to top it all off, he had an epic, thick and filthy mustache whose ends dropped down past his chin. Basically, if I was profiling, I wouldn't have given him the time of day. But I wasn't profiling, I was desperate. So I talked to him. And I'm glad I did. Because, while I didn't end up getting any money from him, I did end up getting this incredible response after I asked him to help legalize gay marriage.

  "Gay marriage, huh? You know, I had some gay friends back in the day. They're all dead now. The virus got 'em. You gotta pay to play, baby, you gotta pay to play. I paid once. I spent two years in jail for having sex with a minor. I didn't know she was minor though. I met her at this bar, and one thing led to another and pretty soon we're doing it in the bathroom. The bartender called the cops, and the cops came down and asked me why I was banging a 16-year-old in a bar bathroom. I told them she was in a   21-and-over bar, but they didn't care. I just got outta the joint last month. You gotta pay to play baby, you gotta pay to play. Now I have to go go buddy, my mom's waiting in the car."

Later that day I had my fourth and final sit down at HQ, which didn't go so well.    

"The fact is, Randy, you've been here for five days. And in those five days you made 158 dollars for us, while getting paid 10 dollars an hour, for 7 hours a day. So you've actually managed to cost us, and our cause, money that we need to fight the good fight."

 And that was when it was decided that I, Randy Walker, the Grassroots Champion and a Hero to the Straight and Gay Alike was no longer needed to help overturn prop 8.

 I'm not gonna lie, that night, as I laid awake in bed, I was ambivalent on how to feel. On the one hand, I no longer had to do something that I hated doing (asking people for money), but on the other hand, I now had to live with the fact that I hurt the very cause I wanted to help (I'm sorry my gay friends, and relatives). It was a confusing night, to say the least.

But then, as I continued to lay in bed, I thought back to what that biker guy had said to me. I played his words back in my head, over and over. And for just a second, I thought I had found a deeper meaning to those words that put this whole ordeal in perspective...

But then I realized I was just suffering from sleep deprivation, because really what I had heard was a bizarre, rambling response the likes of which may never be heard again. And that made me feel a little a better about everything.

And then I went to bed.

The end.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Going Back to the Old School

Hey everyone, it's Friday, it's a gorgeous day, the weekend is upon us, everything is grand. And wouldn't you know it, I'm under the weather, and feel like an old wet ass. But never fear! Because as fate would have it, the paper I wrote for in college (Fish Rap Live! What! What!) just put all of their old issues online! Woohoo! Let's christen this moment with me sharing one of my favorite articles I wrote as student. I'm talking of course, about the time I spent 12 hours at a bar in downtown Santa Cruz. Enjoy!

(quick note: so hit the link, and then turn to the next page. The article is entitled "2pm til last Call." Trust me, it'll make sense!)

12 Hours at a Bar!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Gnarly Day: Part Two

This is the second part of my historically gnarly day.  For the first part, go here.
OK, so where are we?... ah yes, I am in the middle of running from my (undeserved) porn problems. And I'm not alone. My roommate Cormac is with me. And he is just as scared as I am (neither of us could be described as tough men). And where do end up after our escape from reality? Why, Griffith park, of course. Griffith park, the famous park in LA that's home to the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, the Greek Theater (the very one that is referred to in the title of the movie Get Him to The Greek), and the tunnel that is seen at the very end of Back to the Future Two. Indeed, it is a magical place. A place perfect for two guys who want to forget about their current troubles.

So here we are. In Griffith Park, sitting on a bench on top of hill overlooking the city. It's calm up here, peaceful. I start to feel a little better about the world.

This peace lasts for about fifteen minutes, and then it all goes wrong.

It starts with shouting. Suddenly, we hear loud, frantic, shouting coming from behind us. The shouting is incoherent but it sounds like it belongs to someone with a German accent. We turn around and see a German on a bike, stopped in the middle of the road, shouting and pointing at a parked car. And he's not pointing at just any parked car; he's pointing at the parked car that belongs to me. And he's pointing at the parked car that belongs to me because there are billows of black smoke pouring out of the engine.  

Now I'm completely alarmed, as well as confused. Why would my car be smoking? I take a couple of steps forward, and then I see something under the car and I stop in my tracks. Orange waves of flame are shooting out from under my car. Why would my car be smoking? Because it's on fire, that's why.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don't know if I'm skilled enough of a writer to explain my state of mind at this point. I mean, a second ago I was trying to think about my best strategy to use against Paris Hilton and her porn lawyer, and now suddenly I am trying to process the fact that my car, my PARKED! car, is on fire.

I guess the best word to use is shock. I'm in shock that this is happening. The world seems to be going in slow motion, except for the flames, the flames look as if they are shooting out in fast forward.  I run to my car, but the faster I run, the slower the world seems to be going.

I reach my car and begin to try to open the hood. But just as I reach for the latch, I notice that the paint on the top of my hood is bubbling. Bubbling!

I pull my hand away and just stare at the bubbling paint, feeling almost hypnotized by it. It's so beautiful, and so disturbing at the same time.

I think Cormac grabs me at some point and takes me away from the car. He tries to talk to me about what we need to do. But I can't hear him. The only thing I can hear is the one single thought that's running through my mind. My car was in park, how did this happen?! The engine was off, for Christ's sakes! How did this happen! Cars don't just catch on fire when they're in park, with the engine off. That doesn't happen!

I look over to the German biker who is still in the middle of the road. He's still pointing at my car and shouting at me, as if I haven't already fucking noticed that it's in the process of burning down.

At some point, I call the fire department. As I punch in the numbers 911, my phone switches to "emergency mode" and the screen turns red. This makes it feel even more like I'm dreaming.

I give the fire department my information and location, and just as I end my conversation, a park ranger pulls up.

"My car's on fire!" I immediately tell him.

"I can see that." He answers. "What happened?"

" I don't know! It was just in park, and then the engine burst into flames! How does that happen?"

"Sit tight." He says, ignoring my question. "And stay away from the car. I have to make some phone calls." And then he takes out his phone and casually dials a number like he's about to order a pizza. I feel the urge to throttle his neck or shove his phone down his throat, but instead I walk back to Cormac who is standing a safe distance away from my car, watching it slowly burn.

"I can't believe this happened." He says.

"I don't believe this happened." I answer.

We don't say anything more after that, because there's nothing else to say. So we continue to watch instead. We watch my car burn, and burn, and burn. I notice that the flames underneath my car are getting larger, and up in the sky there is now a huge black cloud of smoke that is rising past the tallest trees in the park.

As we watch the carnage unfold, a new biker comes are way. He stops when he reaches us.  

"What happened?" The new biker asks.

"My friend's car suddenly caught on fire, for no reason." Cormac answers for me.

"Oh that's crazy." He says, and then holds out his water bottle. "Here, try this." I give him a blank stare, as I have no idea what he's trying to tell me. Does he think I'm thirsty?

"Pour this on your car." He says, sensing my confusion. This does indeed cure my confusion, but it also ignites the fury within me.

"Are you crazy? That little thing of water is not going to put out a flaming engine." I say this in a relatively calm voice, but I really want to scream at him.

"It's worth a shot." He responds. "What if the fire catches on one of the trees and the whole park goes up in flame." He says this in a tone that suggests that I should be ashamed of myself for not being more environmentally conscious.

"Dude, I'm not going to walk up to a burning car with a water bottle in my hand! What if it explodes?!"

The biker gives me a shrug, as if to say: Fine, be a prick. 

Between this guy and the pointing German, who I'm starting to suspect may have started the fire, I suddenly find myself hating all bikers in general.

Then I get a call from the fire department. They can't find the road I'm on. I let out a string of expletives and run over to the park ranger and shove my phone in his face. He talks to them.

Twenty minutes later they finally arrive. And when they do, they are all smiles and laughs.

Yes, smiles and laughs. While my poor, innocent car is roasting, they joke back and forth as if they're at a family barbeque. Don't they understand that the only thing I have in this world right now is that car, and now it's slowly disintegrating before my eyes. Of course they don't, they're firemen. They only care if some house, or person, is on fire, not some stupid car.

But I care.

And as they pry open the hood and extinguish the fire with gallons of water and foam, I think about all the good times I've had with this car, and how that will never happen again. I almost feel myself getting emotional, but then one of the firemen makes a loud crude joke to his buddy and they all burst out laughing, and the moment is ruined.

 Once the fire is out, the firemen slap each other on the back, jump back onto the truck and disappear down the hill and out of the park. And now it's starting to get dark, and it's just Cormac and me, and my poor, hideous car. 

The ranger comes up to us. "A tow truck should be here to get you guys in a little while. Until then, hang tight."

So we hang tight and sit on that bench with the great view, just like earlier, wondering what the hell we were going to do, just like earlier. And as we watch the city go dark before our eyes, we don't say much. We just appreciate the quiet, and pray we don't hear any more screaming German voices behind us.

"This has been a pretty gnarly day." One of us says at some point; the other agrees emphatically.


Weeks later, my insurance company conducted an investigation as to what caused my car to combust. This is what they told me when they were done with the investigation: "After a thorough investigation, we have concluded that the fire was not the result of arson, nor was it the result of any malfunctions that are on our recall list. Therefore, the investigation is closed, you will receive an insurance check in the mail."

   "But what caused the fire?" I asked. "How does a parked car just catch on fire?"

"We're not sure. Maybe the plastic coverings around the electric wears got too hot from the engine and caught fire. That's happened before."

That was the only answer I ever got. It's a little infuriating because I really want to know why this happened, and know for sure.

But hey, at least I got an insurance check.

As for the porn lawsuit. Well, I decided to just pay the lawyer to write a strongly worded letter to Mr. Porn Law telling him to fuck off. Cost me two hundred dollars, but it did the trick. I never heard another word from him or Paris Hilton.

But later on, I told one of my friends about the whole thing, and he laughed at me, "Man, they tried to pull the same thing on me. Told me I downloaded Transformers illegally and they wanted me to settle with them or they'd take me to court. I wrote back and told them to shove it up their ass. Never heard from them again. I can't believe you actually hired a lawyer. You moron."

So there you have it. In the end, Mr. Porn Law didn't really have a case against me. Probably. Which is why he decided to light my car on fire instead. Because he and Paris Hilton want me to suffer. At least, that's the best theory I could come up with. But what do I know, I'm a moron. If you can you think of a better one please share below. If not, then I guess I'll see you back here on Friday.

The End

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Gnarly Day: Part One

So as the title implies, this is gonna be a two-parter, the second part will be posted on Friday.

 It's hard to talk about this day, because it was one of the single weirdest days of my life. But I'm going to do it because some day one of these things may happen to one of you, and in that event, I want you to be prepared. Enjoy!


Alright, where to begin... I guess we should start at the beginning, in the morning, when I walk out of my apartment and retrieve the mail. Usually I never get anything except bills and junk mail, but on this particular day I find a big envelope addressed to me. The heading on the envelope tells me that it's from the law offices of someone and someone else.

Now, if a normal person were to receive such a letter, I imagine they would respond with apprehension. But not me. I respond with great excitement, because my brain is wired in such a way that every time I get a call from an unknown number, or an email from an unknown sender, or a package from an unknown lawyer, I honestly believe that this is the thing that is going to change my life for the better. Not once in my twenty seven years has this ever happened. But that has not stopped me from believing that it will happen the next time.

So I tear open this package with bated breath, thinking to myself that this must be either a large sum of inheritance from a great uncle or aunt (despite the fact that, as far as I know, I haven't had either in awhile), or maybe something even better, something that mysterious lawyers give to well-deserving people.

My hand plunges down into the envelope and I pull out the stapled sheets of paper and eagerly start to read.

As I read, my eagerness turns into confusion, and then my confusion turns into fear, and then my fear turns into terror, and that's when I decide to hightail it back to my apartment and find my roommate Cormac, so he can help make sense of this thing in my hand. He's a smart guy, I say to myself, he'll know about these kinds of things.

Seconds later, I'm a little out of breath and knocking on his door. I can hear him mutter to himself as he stumbles towards his door. As soon as the door opens I hand him the letter and ask him to read it.  He gives me a grumpy look as if to say that he's in no mood deal with this nonsense. But he takes the letter anyways and begins to read.

I watch his face drop as he reads the letter.

 "This can't be real." He says, more to himself than to me, as he sits down at his bed and grabs his laptop.

"I know right?! There's no way this is real."

I guess I won't keep you in suspense any longer. This is the basic gist of the letter that was freaking us both out (minus all the legal jargon, of course):

   { Dear Mr. Walker,
 several weeks ago we subpoenaed your internet provider and obtained proof that you illegally downloaded the video "A Night in Paris" starring Paris Hilton. The company we represent owns this video; therefore, we are going to sue you. If you try to fight us in court, you could pay up to 150,000 dollars. However, if you settle now for the sum of 1500 dollars, we will consider the matter closed. We suggest you find legal representation as soon as possible. We cannot represent you.}

For those who don' t know, 'A Night in Paris' is the rather witty title of the Paris Hilton sex tape.  Suffice to say, this was easily the most bizarre letter I have ever received in my life.

And I know what you're thinking, you're thinking that clearly this is some kind of scam. But let me point out two things. One, not that I'm an expert at this kind of thing, but the document looked legit, it had a bunch of back pages filled with lawyer mumbo jumbo; and two, a couple of weeks prior to this I had received a letter from my internet provider informing me that they were being subpoenaed and that I had to respond to their letter if I didn't want to be included. At the time I didn't really know what the hell they were talking about and I was far too lazy to go through the anguish of mailing a letter, so I went to my standard go-to plan for these kinds of things, and ignored it. 

But apparently, my go-to plan wasn't good enough to keep trouble away, because now people were asking me for 1500 hundred dollars for my supposed night in Paris. 

"Did you download the Paris Hilton's porno?" Cormac asks.

"Hell no!" I say, which is the truth. Why the hell would anyone download porn in this day and age? I mean don't get me wrong, I'm no saint, but there are a lot better options now than downloading some filth into your computer that is probably riddled with nasty viruses. Further more, of all the smut out there,  I can't think of one that is less appealing than the one starring scrawny, unattractive Paris Hilton. OK, I actually can think of a lot of smut that is less appealing, but that's neither here nor there. The point is that I have never watched or downloaded this trash and I wasn't about to pay the 1500 dollars that I didn't have.

"Well," Cormac says carefully. "It says that the video was downloaded from your wireless account, so that means anyone who has access to your internet could have done this."

"But that's only you and Alex [the other roommate]."

"No, it's only me and Logan [a former roommate], look at the date of the infraction. That was back when Logan was living here."

I check out the date on the paper, Cormac is right.

"Did you download the video?" I ask him.

"No." Is all he says. I study his face as he says it, trying to judge if this is the kind of face that would want to see Paris Hilton naked. I decide that it's not.

"Well, I guess I'll call Logan and see if he downloaded it." I say, even though I know the chances of him saying "Why of course I downloaded the video, Randy. Let me just write you a check for 1500 dollars!" were slim to none.  But I don't really know what else to do at the moment. As I start to call Logan,  Cormac tells me he's going to check online to find out any information that he can. I pray he finds out that this is an obvious hoax that is no cause for alarm.

 "Hey Randy, what's up?" I hear the distinct voice that belongs to my former roommate Logan and I switch into interrogator mode:

"Logan, how are you doing today?...Good. I am calling because I was just wondering, for no reason at all, if you may have downloaded that Paris Hilton sex tape while you were living with us."

"Paris Hilton sex tape?" He says after some pause. "No, I definitely did not download that."

"Are you sure?" I ask gently. "maybe you did and you forgot."

"No Randy, I would not have forgotten such a thing. I assure you, I definitely did not download that video. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, no reason. Hope all is well with you, I gotta go." I hang up on Logan before he has a chance to say goodbye. A bit rude on my part, but I'm a man who needs answers, dammit, and clearly he has none to give me.

"Logan says he didn't download the video." I tell Cormac.

"Yeah, well, he probably would have said that either way." He answers without looking up from his computer.

"Yeah..." I respond dejectedly.

"OK, so I have some news." Cormac says as continues to stares at his screen. "I googled the lawyer's name that was on the letter and it looks like he is a legit lawyer."

"Great." I remark miserably.

"Not only that, but it looks like he has a twitter account. And guess what his twitter handle is?"

"What?" I ask, even though at this time I could not care less. 

"Porn Law." Cormac answers with smirk on his face.

"You're kidding me." I respond in disbelief as I rush over to his computer.

But he's not kidding. Apparently the lawyer who's suing me works exclusively for porno companies and he is so proud of this fact that he goes by the name Porn Law on Twitter. Cormac and I spend the next ten minutes reading the thoughts and feelings of Mr. Porn Law. Apparently, most of his thoughts and feelings are about how awesome it is to work with porn stars all day, how awesome it is to date porn stars, and how awesome it is to drive a really nice car.

"This smug sonnovabitch." I say after tearing myself away from the leech's twitter feed. "He has pornstar girlfriends, a nice car, and he still wants my 1500 dollars?!" Cormac can tell I'm getting really heated so he tries to calm down.

"Look man, this probably isn't a big deal. We don't know anything about the law, I'm sure this is some kind of scam. We just need to get in touch with a lawyer and get some consultation."

An hour later, we find a lawyer who is willing to give us free consultation. We fax him over the documents and wait to here back from him.  As we wait, Cormac and I try to discuss our plans for scripts and comedy sketches, but it's clear that all either of us can think of is the thought of me being taken to court and being forced to pay 150,000 dollars. Suddenly an image pops into my mind, an image of me in court putting a 150,000 one dollar bills into Paris Hilton's thong as she dances and laughs in my face. I feel myself start to seethe as I picture this image.

Is she behind this, I wonder? Is Paris Hilton the one who is making this happen? I always thought she was a terrible person and a horrible influence on young girls, and I told this to numerous people. Had it gotten back to her? Was this her way of exacting revenge, by taking what little money I had? Did I stand a chance against the combined forces of the Hilton Empire and Mr. Porn Law?

 I don't have any answers to these questions, but there's a rage inside me that was growing by the minute.

Then the lawyer calls. He tells me that after going over the legal document, it appears that Mr. Porn Law actually has a case, and that we should begin taking the next appropriate steps as soon as possible. This, of course, means I have to hire him; which I'm not at all excited about doing. I try to think of exactly how much I have in my bank account, but I'm not sure. Maybe I just don't want to remember. I

I tell the lawyer I need to think about it and that I'll call him back later in the day.

I tell Cormac what the lawyer said, and he doesn't respond for awhile.

"This sucks." He finally mutters. I grunt in agreement, and then we sit in silence.

"What do we do now?" I finally say.

"I don't know man, you wanna go to the park?"

"The park?"

"Yeah, man. It's a beautiful day out, let's forget our troubles and just enjoy the sun and the grass."

I can't help but laugh at this, as it seems that after all the shit we have just been through, we are have come back to my original go-to plan that got me in trouble in the first place. But I have to admit, ignoring this sounds like the way to go right now.  

"Yeah man, fuck it, let's go to the park."


And that's where we stop today. But don't worry, there is still a lot more to happen on this day, and the best part has yet to come. I hope you enjoyed part one of A Gnarly Day, and I hope to see you back here on Friday.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Geez, Aziz

Alright, so here is the post that I was going to do last week before those Peyton Manning rumors started swirling, quickly turning my world upside down. (Sadly, as I'm sure you all know, he will not be playing for the niners next season, which is too bad. Oh well, at least we got Alex Smith back!)
But onto more pressing matters, let's talk about a certain comedian named Aziz Anzari. Funny guy, nice guy, or so it would seem... but let me tell you a little story about our friend Aziz that will shock and appall you. A story so dark and twisted, it's guaranteed to make you rethink everything you knew about this bright rising star of comedy.

The story starts on a casual weekday night in the city of Los Angeles. At the time, I was currently enrolled in sketch comedy classes at UCB (Upright Citizen's Brigade), which meant I had free passes to most of the UCB shows. Which is why on that particular night, I was standing in line outside of the UCB theater on Franklin Ave waiting to get into the next show. I had been standing in line for a good couple of hours because UCB is a pretty small theater that is always packed to the gills and I wanted to make sure I got a good seat.

Well, around 11:30 they finally let us in. Despite my effort, the best seat I could get was right in the front row. This is always a risky move when you are attending a comedy show because you run the risk of setting yourself up for getting mocked by the comedians. But I had no other choice, so I took my front row seat and just hoped for the best.

So for the first hour of the show I see about 3 different comedians do their thing (usually UCB has improv or sketch shows, but on that night it was more of just straight stand-up comedy), and it's funny and I'm laughing and everything is going fine. But after that first hour, I start to get really tired. I had been standing in line for a good long time, and it was now past midnight, so you can't blame me too much for this.

Anyways, it was at this point that my brain started telling me that it would be a great idea to close my eyes. I told my brain no, that would be a very bad idea, given my current situation.

But you know how brains can be. So sure enough, as the fourth comedian is being introduced by the host, I realized my eyelids were falling further and further down, covering my eyeballs.

I shook myself awake, fighting my brain's urge to sleep with all the energy I could muster. I focused on this new comedian on stage. It was Aziz. I didn't know who he was at the time because he hadn't become big yet.

But I quickly realized that he was a funny man. And his humor actually helped me fight my sleepiness. At least at first. But it wasn't long before my brain repeated its request for sleep. I fought it as best as I could, but I could feel my eyelids getting heavy again.

Somehow, I managed to stop my eyes from completely closing. Through sheer will power alone, I was able to keep them open about a half an inch, just enough to see and enjoy the show in front of me.

I was pretty proud of myself for being able to do this, but that was before things went horribly wrong.

I remember Aziz was in the middle of slaying the crowd with this story about how he tried to kiss this girl who shunned his advances like he was a leper. It was a hilarious story and I was enjoying it greatly, despite my current condition. Anyways, I'll never forget the moment when, in the middle of telling this story, he turned to my section of the audience and his eyes dropped to mine and he stopped his story, mid-sentence, and started to smirk.

At first, I thought I might have been dreaming. You know like when you're at the movie theater and you dose off for a second and you have a quick flash of a dream where you are part of the movie? That's how I felt right then, like I had taken a snooze and now I was dreaming that I was a part of the action.

Anyways, as I was figuring out whether I was dreaming or not, Aziz opened his mouth and said the following to the crowd:   

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to stop the show. But I have to say one thing real quick. That man right there (points right at me), that man, I believe, is the most stoned man I have ever seen in my life! I mean, I've seen a lot of high people at my show before, but I have never seen someone that high in my entire life!"

At this point I was positive I was not dreaming because I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up and a surge of adreline rush through my body. As this happened, the entire crowd of people turned to me and started laughing. I mean everyone is just hooting and hollering at the "stoned" man in front of them. While this was happening, I stared straight ahead, trying to act like I'm not even noticing what is taking place. And then my eyes catch Aziz's for the second time, and he gives me a look that I will never forgot. Now, it may have been because my brain was exhausted, combined with the shock of being mocked by a hundred people, but I swear on everything holy, that look that he gave me was a look that said: I will do everything in my power to destroy you, you scumbag.

 The next day I tried to put things into perspective. Surely this comedian didn't want to destroy me, he was just having a little fun at my expense. Nothing wrong with that.

So I let it go and laugh off the whole incident. I even tell my friends about it and how funny it was. It becomes a story we all enjoy retelling from time to time.

 And then, about a year later, a certain movie called Funny People came out, along with this little gem. As a result, to this day, when I go out to parties or social events and introduce myself to people, there is a decent chance that I will hear these words said in a high obnoxious voice: "Hey look everyone, it's Raaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnndy!"

And every time this happens, I think back to that night at UCB, when Aziz looked me in the eyes and let me know he was gunning for me.

Since the release of Funny People, Aziz has been quiet in the "destroy Randy" game. But I know he's plotting something. He's definitely plotting something...but whatever it is, I'll be ready. And by ready I mean I'll be powerless to do anything and probably a little sleepy, because I'm always sleepy. The end.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An Intern and his Porn

 Writing last Friday's post made me remember this little golden nugget of a story that happened on the very first day of my internship in NYC. I felt compelled to share with you all:

Like I said, it was my first day on the job at Stuff Magazine, and I honestly don't think I had ever been as excited as I was at that moment in my life. I was ready to do anything to prove that they had made the right choice for an intern, especially if that anything required a huge dose of unnecessary eagerness and hyperactivity.  

Sadly, it did not include any of these things. Mostly my first day included opening mail and then throwing said mail into the trash. For some reason, magazines get mail from a lot of odd people. Like prisoners, for example. I must have opened twenty piece of mail on my first day alone that were from prison inmates who either wanted us to hook them up with a 'hottie' from the magazine, or wanted us to know that they had a girl, and sometimes a sister or a cousin, on the outside that really wanted to pose for the magazine (you should have seen the pictures that came with the letters). Shockingly, the editors of the magazine wanted nothing to do with these people and instructed me to throw away their letters.

Then there were the people who would send in entire unpublished manuscripts, despite the fact that, as far as I know, Stuff magazine has never published an entire 200 page manuscript in any of their 120 page issues. The first one I received that day was all about a man rambling to himself while sitting on his couch and staring at a picture of his ex-wife. (After just writing that description, I kinda think that could be turned into a decent story, but I assure you the story I read was incoherent slop. And no I didn't read the whole thing).

Finally, there were the packages that contained good ol' wholesome porn. I remember the first time I ripped one of these packages opened and a DVD fell on my lap, on the cover was a naked green woman with styrofoam antennas sticking out of her head.  The title was Alien Seduction IV: Orgies in Space

"Yeah, we get those all time," One of the editors told me. "I don't know why, we're not allowed to even mention porn because of our advertisers. But the companies send us new stuff all the time..."

I offered to throw it away along with the piles of other mail I had tossed, but he told me to just leave it at my workspace for the time being. He then instructed me to do the same if I happen to come across any more mail porn that day.

So by the end of the day, I had 5 pornographic DVDs stacked on top of each other on my desk, with the green alien woman on top. I could feel her stare as I tried to work, trying to seduce me with her alien charm.

Eventually, my editor grabbed his coat off his chair and proceeded to get ready to leave.

"Alright, good first day, intern Randy. I'll see you tomorrow..." I could see his gaze switch from me to the stack of the porn on my desk. "Oh, I almost forgot," I watched him as he picked up the stack of porn. "These are for you." He said as he thrusted the numerous boobies and butts into my face.

 I'll be totally honest with you, I wasn't sure how to proceed at that moment. I mean, you don't just say no to a stack of free porn, especially when it's a gift from your editor on your first day of work, but... what if this was some kind of test. What if he wanted to see how would I react in this situation. Maybe my decision would affect the outcome of the rest of my internship.

"Um, thanks!" I said, taking hold of the stack of smut in my arms. I wasn't sure if I had made the right call, but now that I had made it, I sure wasn't gonna stick around. I told everyone I would see them tomorrow and headed out the building and towards the nearest subway station.

It wasn't until I was actually on a train that I realized that I was just holding a stack of porn in broad daylight for everyone to see. I kicked myself for not thinking to grab a bag from the office to cover my little gift. I looked around nervously, to see if anyone had noticed the awkward pervert on the train, but it seemed like no one had. The only thing I could do was tuck my 'gifts' under my arm and act natural while I waited for my stop to come.

So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Until finally, I realized that I had missed my stop. I wasn't sure how long ago either (keep in mind this was only my second time ever using the NYC subways). So now I was stuck on this subway train with a stack of porn under my arm and I had no idea what to do. Obviously, I couldn't just stay put and move further and further away from my destination. But on the other hand, getting off the train would require going past a lot of people, and I wouldn't be able to conceal it from everyone. I briefly entertained the idea of just leaving the porn there on the train, while I made a graceful exist. I'll be paying it forward, I tried to convince myself, to some lucky guy who might be a little lonely.

 But what if someone sees you leave it behind, I thought, and they shout at you 'Hey you forgot something!' and then everyone will turn and see the pile of filth that belongs to me. And then I'll be known as The Porn Guy and no one will want anything to do with me.

No, I couldn't have that happen. Not on my first day in the Big Apple. No, there was only one answer that remained. I had to leave the train with the smut in hand and go find the right one that will take me back to my apartment.

So at the next stop, I vacated the train as quickly as I could without looking suspicious. I breathed a sigh of relief once I had two feet on the Subway platform. But that relief did not last long when I realized that there were twice as many people on the platform than there were in the train.

These people started pushing past me to get into the train. And as they did this I could feel their eyes on me, judging me. I looked down to avoid their stare, but then I was greeted again with the stare of the Alien woman who was still trying to seduce me. I have to get out of here, I thought frantically, I have to get to higher ground. And so I ran for the nearest stairway that would take me to the surface and away from this filthy underground smut convention that I had unintentionally created.

So now I'm walking down the streets of Manhattan, not really sure where I am, while still holding the questionable material. I gather the nerve to ask someone which way 60th St. was, and they point in a direction without saying a word. They didn't even look at me. That's interesting, I thought.

After walking about 5 blocks and crossing paths with countless people, I come to a definitive conclusion: people in New York do not give a shit if you walk around with porn. Even if it's weird alien porn, it doesn't faze them a bit. This realization started to make me feel embolden, like I was breaking new ground as a person.

I felt so embolden in fact, that when I saw a cop up in front of me, I decided to ask him for directions, because I was beginning to think that I had been given wrong directions. He won't care about what I'm holding, he's a New York City cop, he's seen it all. 

And so, I approached the police man and asked him if I was going the right way to get to 60th St. He didn't answer right away. Instead he looked at me, and then looked down at what I was holding. I looked down too. We could both see the green alien giving us a 'come hither' look. If only I could, I thought, but instead I'm probably going to jail because I'm a complete idiot.

The cop looked back up at me. A smile spread across his face.

"60th St is the other way." He said kindly.

I thanked him profusely and got the hell out of there.

Anyways, to make a long story short, I found out about ten blocks later that that cop had purposely given me the wrong directions because NYC cops are dicks. But they don't care if you walk around with porn. In fact, no one in New York City cares, I know because by the time I had finally reached my apartment I had crossed paths with just about all of them.

And that was my first day as an intern in New York City.

The End

Friday, March 16, 2012

Meeting Peyton Manning

OK, so I was planning on writing about the time that Aziz Ansari publicly mocked me in front of a large crowd of people while he was doing stand up, but that story is just gonna have to wait. Because while I was in the middle of writing about that experience, my roommate burst through the door (OK, he gently knocked and then came in, but that doesn't sound as dramatic) and informed me that the football God himself, Peyton Manning, recently worked out and practice with the Forty Fucking Niners!!!! My immediate reaction was this:
oh my god! oh my god! oh my god! They're going after him! They said they weren't, but they are! Harbaugh you brilliant fucking madman!!!!! Oh my god, oh my god...

Then I calmed down and realized that there was still a long way to go before this actually meant something. But then, in my excitement, I couldn't help but think back to one of the most cherished memories, possibly the most cherished memory, in my life. And that was the time I got to meet a Mr. Peyton Manning. And that is the story I will share with you now.

OK, so this story needs a little back story. As some of you know, most of my extended family (Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc...) hail from the hilarious town of New Orleans. And as some of you also know, the Manning family also hail from the same town.

But what only a few of you know is that my cousin and Peyton went to the same school together and actually became good friends. Better still, my cousin was a wide receiver for the school's team which meant he was catching TD passes from none other than Peyton. Did your cousin catch TD passes from Peyton Manning? I don't think so. Clearly my cousin is better than your cousin.

Meanwhile, I am just a very little kid at this point and a die hard 9ers fan. From Montana to Young to Garcia (I don't care what anyone says, I always liked Garcia. Guy was a scrapper), I don't think anyone can argue that I had it good as football fan during my childhood years. Glorious times indeed.

OK so numerous years later, Peyton becomes the number one pick in the NFL and goes to the Indianapolis Colts. During that summer when I visited my family in New Orleans, I only heard about how I should watch out for Peyton and how much potential he had to be a superstar in the NFL.

So me, and my little brother, start watching his games with casual interest during his first season. And then with a little more interest during his second season. And by the third season we realized he was one of the best quarterbacks we had ever seen and he was only going to get better with time.

So I couldn't help myself, I became a huge Peyton Manning fan.

And let me tell you, this has been a huge bone of contention with a lot of my friends.
 How dare you say Peyton is your favorite player! You are a 49ers fan! You're a disgrace! Go watch the Colts, you traitor! 

This has been going on for the past 14 years now. And I'm not gonna lie, it still hurts. I can't say I didn't bring it on myself, as I did start to care more about watching Peyton play than the Niners play. I mean the Niners were awful for ten freakin' years, and in that time Peyton and the Colts created a dynasty that won more games in one decade than any other franchise in NFL history. Peyton broke records left and right, while the Niners gave us seven seasons of Alex Smith (I know, I know, he improved tremendously last year, but you can't say those first six years weren't hard to watch).

So yeah, I got a lot of shit for loving Peyton Manning when I was 'supposedly' a Niners fan. The term bandwagon fan as been thrown in my face more times than I care to remember. But you know what? It was worth it, because he was amazing to watch.

Now, fast forward to the summer of 2006, or the golden summer as I like to call it, because that was the summer I worked as an intern for Stuff Magazine in New York City. That was the summer where a lot of life goals were scratched off the list. Including meeting the great Peyton.

How did this come to be? Well, my cousin (yes the same one who caught TD passes from him) called me up one day and informed me that he was going to be attending a wedding in NYC, and that Peyton Manning would be there as well. Even better, he told me that the two of them would be at a post-wedding celebration in a Manhattan bar afterwards, and that if I wanted to I could drop by and meet him.

Obviously, this is something I very much wanted to do.

So on the night of the wedding I dressed in the nicest clothes I had (which was a clean t-shirt and khakis, I was an intern after all) and took the train to Midtown Manhattan.

I arrived at the bar and looked for the man who had become my football idol. After a little searching, I found him. He was standing by my cousin, drinking a beer and talking, like he was just some normal guy without a laser rocket arm. This threw me off, because I kind of thought he would be like ten feet tall and glowing, like some sort of huge illuminated football trophy of himself. But no, there he was, just this totally ordinary guy.

At this point, I start feeling cowardly, like I should walk out now before I embarrass myself. But I knew if I did that I would regret it for the rest of my life.

So I walked up to my cousin, and tapped him on the shoulder. Both him and Peyton looked over at me, and for a second I thought Peyton was going to suddenly bark: Hey, you can't just go around tapping people on the shoulder when I'm talking to them! I'm Peyton Manning goddamn it!

But that didn't happen. Instead, my cousin introduced me to number 18 and we shook hands.

"How do you like working for Stuff?" He asked. Holy God, my cousin and him were talking about me earlier.  Suddenly this seemed very significant at the time. And perhaps that would explain my odd rambling response that came flying out of my mouth.


Now this wasn't totally untrue. There was an article being planned for the Halloween issue about celebrities' favorite movies, but I was in no way working on it, nor was it my job in any way to go about asking celebrities what their favorite horror movie was. But I had just done that did. To Peyton Manning. And I asked it in a very fast and nervous manner, and I wasn't entirely sure if Peyton had comprehended what I had said.

 The next few seconds felt like years. I looked over to my cousin to see if he had understood me, but he was just looking down at the beer in his hand. I took this as a bad sign.

And then Peyton spoke:

"You know what movie always scared the hell out of me, Shaving Ryan's Privates. Don't watch that one alone."

Mother of God, I thought, did Peyton Manning just make a porn joke. This is indeed the best day of my life.

My response to this was less than epic. I chuckled nervously and then suddenly excused myself so I could get a drink at the bar.

I remember standing at the bar, wondering why I had just ran away from Peyton and his porno jokes. I'm such a failure, I thought. And then, as I paid for my $12 beer (this was Manhattan after all) I  suddenly realized what I needed to do.

I headed back to my cousin and Peyton and held my beer up in front of him.  

"Peyton," I said, making sure I spoke each word clearly and slowly. "I've been watching you for many years, and you're my favorite player. I would just like to take this time to cheers you, in hopes that next season you win the Superbowl."

Peyton made a face at this, not quite the Manning face, but definitely in that same vicinity, that seemed to suggest that he had heard this many many times. But in any case, he lifted his beer towards mine and we cheersed (sp?) for him to win the next Superbowl.

Now I have no doubt that many people have told Peyton Manning that they hope he wins a superbowl, but, how many of those people did it in the off-season before he won his first Superbowl. Probably none.

Except for me.

Now, I'm not saying I had anything to do with the Colts winning the Superbowl that next season, but I kinda do think that I had something to do with it. And honestly, I think deep down, Peyton feels the same. Clearly we are connected in some crazy way. We can't explain it, it's just the way it is. And that's why, even though it's a long shot that he'll be a 49er, if he does end up playing for the red and gold I will only have one thing to say to all the 49er fans out there:

You're welcome.