Halloween Suicide

In 7th grade, my friend hung himself a couple of days before Halloween. I learned about it from a couple of crying girls the following morning outside of the junior high. At that age, half of everything you hear about someone else is mere gossip, so I kept watching the school buses, expecting to see him get off one and confirm that it was all a horrible rumor. With each bus that emptied without him, his death felt more real.

Halloween is an especially inopportune for a peer to take his life. Everywhere we looked, the morbid decorations were no longer playful, but yet another reminder of death.

I found it inopportune for another reason, too. We still went out trick-or-treating that year despite the somber mood. At some point in the trek between houses, someone referenced the topic we were all trying to avoid. I chimed in, "I don't get why he didn't at least wait until after trick-or-treating."

I cringe when I think back to that comment. I honestly wasn't trying to trivialize the matter, that was legitimately how I felt. If you're going to kill yourself, fine, but take advantage of the free candy first!

Really, though, the quip speaks to just how young we were. My number one concern then was maximizing the number of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in my pillowcase… there's no way a 12-year-old was capable of making such a final decision about his own mortality.


Schmaubrey Shplaza

When you live in Los Angeles, you inevitably run into celebrities fairly often, but most of the time there's nothing worth saying about the encounters other than, "Saw 'em!", which makes for boring stories to most people aside from your East Coast relatives who find this sort of thing fascinating. So while I normally don't namedrop on this blog, I do have a slightly better than nothing tale to tell about a certain famously moody Parks and Recreation actress who we can call, oh, Shmaubrey Shplaza, for the sake of protecting her identity.

Two friends and I were eating at a Vietnamese restaurant when Shmaubrey Shplaza came in with two friends of her own and was seated at a table across from us. We did a quick, whispered, "That's Shmaubrey Shplaza," and then went on with our own lives and conversations. If anything, we were more focused on the waiter, who my friend decided she had a crush on. I started to glance at strange books sitting on a shelf next to us, one of which had a cover my friend thought was funny enough to take a picture of.

For the record, she took a picture of the book. But given the angle the picture was taken at, Shmaubrey Shplaza apparently thought we were snapping a photo of her eating in the background and got irritated.

Look, I don't blame her for thinking we were taking a picture of her because I bet people do that kind of thing to her all the time. But we really didn't! And it's one of those things where you almost want to get up and show Shmaubrey Shplaza the picture and prove that she isn't even in the background so she has nothing to roll her eyes at, but that's just going to make you look crazier.

It's also possible that Shmaubrey Shplaza didn't care about the photo at all, but was just sort of scowling and staring intently because that's what she does naturally. Like, Shmaubrey Shplaza was pretty "in character" throughout dinner, even as her friends seemed pretty pleasant.

Whatever. I pride myself on not being that guy who tries to coyly take pictures of celebrities, but now a celebrity seems to think we're that kind of people anyway. Sometimes you just can't win!


Starbucks Birthday

I almost didn't attend Eric's party because the invitation seemed like a joke: a birthday celebration at a Starbucks at 5pm on a Saturday. Now that I've experienced it, however, I have trouble understanding why more 30-somethings don't throw their birthday parties at the coffee chain - it's like the grownup equivalent of McDonalds.

The employees seemed a little perplexed by the unannounced party, but they didn't attempt to kick out the few dozen of us that took over the Starbucks patio. It probably helped that attendees bought a good amount of coffee, plus various pastries to serve as the birthday cake. It also helped that though conversations were boisterous, they fell short of rowdy. That's not to say that the studying college students and LA duo working on a screenplay weren't put off by the sudden influx of people on their previously quiet area, but to their credit, they did subsequently join in singing "Happy Birthday" all the same.

I don't normally patronize Starbucks (because corporatism and caffeine, yuck) but I will gladly make birthday exceptions.



"You'll never be able to move on until you stop sharing a Netflix account. Knowing what TV series your ex is marathoning is way too intimate."

I don't offer relationship advice very often, but I feel very strongly that a breakup isn't final until someone changes the Netflix password.


The Break-In

There was a break-in at my house last week. Sort of.

I was there just sitting in the living room when my front door popped wide open. I figured it was my roommate, who had left to run an errand not long before, returning, but it wound up being a strange man.

"Hi?" I said. He mumbled something incomprehensible and let himself up the stairs. Perplexed, I sprinted toward the staircase to try to catch him, which is when I encountered two women - presumably a mother and teenager daughter - letting themselves into my house as well.

"What is going on?" I asked.
"We're here to look at the apartment," the younger one said.
"Uh, why?" I said.
"The room for rent. He's showing us the room for rent."
"I.. wha… uh… there's no room for rent. I live here."

We continued to try to hash out the details a bit more, but I realized the longer I talked to the women, the longer the man upstairs was unattended. "Look, you're welcome to come in, but there's no room for rent here," I said before running to find the man. [I probably didn't have to be so nice as to invite potential intruders in, but I was frantic and unsure of how to deal with the situation.]

Upstairs, I found the man stumbling up and down the hallway. When I got a good look at this face, I realized he might be a former neighbor of mine who I hadn't seen in a long time, but he looked especially sickly. It didn't seem like he was stealing anything, so I asked, "Are you all right?" and kind of gently coaxed him back downstairs. I couldn't understand his mumbled Spanish, but I was pretty sure he wasn't a threat to me.

At the women's request, I called the landlady to see if there was actually a room for rent anywhere in the compound. She told me no, and urged me to call the police to get the people out of my place. I told her that it probably wasn't necessary because whatever was going on seemed like a mistake, not malicious.

It turns out it was my old neighbor after all. He had spent a long time in the hospital after being diagnosed with a brain tumor and his mind wasn't right anymore. He wasn't just sort of confused, he was terribly confused, and somehow the ladies got pulled into his story that my apartment was for rent. The women apologized profusely, but I assured them there was nothing to apologize for, and we called the man's daughter to come take care of him.

Meanwhile, we're being more proactive about locking the door because you never know when someone's going to let themselves in and try to rent out your home when you're not looking.


Eurovision 2009

Sadly, we're still 7 months away from my favorite event of the year, Eurovision. Fortunately, Celeste and I recently watched a video of the music competition from 2009 to tide us over. It might be my favorite year that I've seen of Eurovision yet given how many funny songs and videos it had. It was enough to inspire me to create yet another compilation video; I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:


New Role Model

Honest to gosh, this kid is my new role model.

"All we are saying is give peace a chance."

Cutest GIF ever:


My Road to Rocky

Having gone my whole life without seeing any Rocky movies (boxing just seems so primitive), I decided to finally partake in an American cinematic staple by marathoning all of them. I know even many Rocky fans haven't seen more than a few films in, so it was kind of overkill to go all in like that, but I couldn't resist the story of a man who was derided for dating a supposedly (but not really) "retarded" woman while shockingly no one points out that Rocky is clearly the one with a mental disability all along.

I know most people think the franchise gets worse the further it goes, but for my money, it finally gets good at Rocky IV. Rocky was whatever, II and III were all sorts of dull, but 4… 4 gets crazy campy. Before his fight with the Russian heavyweight Ivan Drago, Apollo Creed does a ridiculous patriotic dance routine as James Brown performs "Living in America" that so greatly encapsulates American excess and arrogance…

… and then in the subsequent fight, Apollo dies. At first I was surprised that a Rocky film would be so critical of American culture, but by the end, the movie has turned 100% pro-USA again.

You see, Rocky wants to avenge Apollo's death by fighting Ivan Drago, and the Russians schedule an unsanctioned fight on December 25 (because Commies have no respect for Christmas!) At first, Drago kicks Rocky's ass, but Rocky is scrappy and stages a comeback. By the end, the all-Russian crowd that was booing Rocky begins chanting his name and calling for American dominance.

It already doesn't seem believable, but then Rocky gives a speech that wins over even the Russian government officials AND THE COLD WAR IS OVER!! No kidding, Rocky has finally brought Russia and the United States together by knocking out their most prized fighter. Sometimes you need to kick some ass to promote peace!

Rocky V meanwhile is so ghetto, it's great. Rocky's no longer a boxer, he's a father. All his son wants is a little bit of attention, but Rocky only makes time for another aspiring boxer who wants to be his protege. Once Rocky's mulleted protege becomes successful, however, he ditches Rocky for money, fame, and babes.

Rather than reconnecting with his son, though, Rocky is fixated on the protege who used him, and the tense feelings culminate in the usual BIG FINAL FIGHT that the franchise is known for. Except, for the first time, instead of happening in a boxing ring, it's just a street fight that happens outside of a bar. As usual, Rocky almost loses, but the aged star pulls it together to knock out the kid he's been mentoring.

As far as cinematic street brawls go, it's not quite They Live good, but it's still pretty funny that the writers chose to end the five film story arc not with a championship or an act of heroism, but with a drunken, petty feud that the cops come to break up.

So glad I stuck it out with you 'til the bitter end, Rocky.


Blow It Out Your Porthole

Despite some initial success (meaningless ribbons and certificates) in my earliest years, I believe I officially gave up as a visual artist in 8th grade.

On the one hand, maybe I just couldn't handle not receiving constant praise on my presumably unimpressive artwork from my art teacher for the first time. On the other hand, I think he was a dick who stifled my expression.

I was excited about our landscape assignment because it was the first time I ever painted on an honest-to-gosh canvas. Something about painting on a canvas makes the process seem so much more official than doing it on paper.

While my peers took a traditional approach to the assignment, I chose to paint an island seen through a cruise ship porthole. More than half of the canvas was devoted to the interior of the cruise ship and the landscape aspect of it was kind of incidental in the background.

I thought it was a modern approach to landscapes and showed how removed we are from nature. Most people really do only experience a sight like that through glass on a boat, and I wanted to acknowledge that fact in my painting. Whether I was able to articulate that idea better or worse in 8th grade, I don't remember.

My teacher graded it poorly and called it a cop out. Okay, maybe part of the reason was because it was easier than painting an actual landscape. But all that other stuff I just said? That was a part too - a bigger part. This teacher had one idea of what a landscape could be and stomped on my creativity.

He also didn't like my mixed media collage that incorporate the lyrics to The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony". (Looking back, maybe I was anti-capitalist before I even knew what that meant.) What a fucking buzz kill. Then again, I suppose the true mark of a great artist is not being appreciated in your own time.

I'm not sure where the porthole painting is anymore, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn it somehow made its way to an art museum because that shit is genius.


How The Onion Made Me a Better Person

I'm not satirizing satire - The Onion really did prompt me to make a positive life decision.

A month ago, I tore a hole into my fitted bed sheet. It's old, so I believe the sheet had just worn thin over time. Since the hole was small, I just ignored it, but the more I slept on it, the wider the hole got from incidental tearing.

I considered sewing it, but then realized I didn't have the skills for that, so instead I fastened it with safety pins. Sleeping on top of safety pins isn't too comfortable, so I started just sleeping on top of the hole as if it weren't there.

Most people would be like "Time to buy a new sheet!" but I wasn't convinced that was necessary for whatever reason. Then I read I read The Onion's article "Nation's Single Men Announce Announce Plan to Change Bedsheets by 2019" and it dawned one me what a schlub I am.

I know I often make myself the punchline, but that's on my own terms, thankyouvermuch. Not wanting to be the butt of the joke in this case, I finally bought a new fitted sheet! Look at me being an adult, world!

Now, before things get too self-congratulatory, I should probably also admit that I still have not replaced this blanket that is also slowly accumulating holes.

I got this sucker over ten years ago in a corporate giveaway and I still sleep with it on my bed. A real adult would probably get rid of it, but, uh, baby steps.

Also, a real adult might know how to put a fitted sheet on his bed. After fifteen minutes of solid effort, the corners kept untucking and popping off, leaving me stewing in frustration. At one point, I even aggressively poked my finger through one of the corners as I tried to stretch it further (and I swear I didn't even cheap out on this sheet!) meaning I technically have a hole in this sheet, too, even though I hadn't even slept on it yet. ARGGGGHH!

The best solution would have been to ask a roommate for help, but I was determined to stretch it on my own and even used Google for potential tips. That's when I found this second Onion article: "Study Reveals Majority of Suicides Occur While Trying to Put Fitted Sheet on Bed."

I was about ready to hang myself with the fitted sheet at that point, and once again, The Onion put things in perspective. I might owe The Onion for not only improving my life, but also saving it.