Monthly Archives: December 2014

Yes, Virginia, Santa Does Need A Bath and Coffee


I’ve never been big on ceremony, traditions and resolutions that kick off on a calendar date (though I am considering three New Year’s Resolutions: to take up smoking, gain a little weight and exercise absolute authority at the expense of others; it just takes willpower). But I’ve discovered one of my own.

On Christmas Day, I give a $20 bill to the first homeless person I find. Usually it’s in front of the 7-11, though I’m finding the Circle K to be a bigger catch basin of the city’s human jetsam.

It started out of guilt. I was buying a Big Gulp with a $20 several years ago outside the 7-11 in Westwood. It was particularly cold (at least for California — I’ve become so wussified I don’t know cold anymore), and a homeless guy asked if I had change. I had a ton. I told him I had none.

When I got back to the car, I reached in my jacket pocket and fumbled through all the change and bills as I felt for the keys. Heard the wrong song when I turned on the car — April Comes She Will — and decided to give him all the change in my jacket. When I reached him, I decided everything in my jacket. He was so surprised he shook my hand with both hands, a gesture I’ll never forget. The only Christmas embrace that day, and one initialed on the wet cement of of my brain.

So every year, there is that. Never again the reaction I had that day. Once the guy just nodded, no thanks. But it makes me feel the day. And what’s more important than recognizing the day, than feeling it?

It was reinforced a couple years ago, when I had to walk home from getting my motorcycle fixed, a mile away. I didn’t want to haul the helmet and heavy jacket, so I piled them into an abandoned shopping cart left on Sherman Way, and began the trek home.

Despite holding at least $600 worth of motorcycle gear in my cart and an iPhone in my hand, no one on the walk home looked me in the eye. One neighbor stood on his porch til I passed to cross the sidewalk and get his mail. A young couple walked on the lawn instead of passing on the same pavement strip. Not one nod. Not one look in the eye. And I realized: maybe poverty has nothing to do with items. It has to do with acknowledgement. Am I ever so poor, afraid or simply circling our own orbit we are not flush with that, holiday or no?

So yes, I guess I am one for tradition, though I’ve had it recognized by several friends as a likely flush of cash. You know, they say, that money is going straight to the liquor store.

They are all probably right. To which I say, to them and all the Secret Santas I can look in the eye:

Happy Holidays. This drink’s on me.


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More Human Than Human: Why Cats Get Nine Lives And Dogs An Eternal One

Kids aren’t for everybody. But parenting must be.

How else to explain our need to anthropomorphize everything, from hamsters to Hondas? We’re expert at morphing anything into something human-esqe, and just as adept at convincing ourselves that anything human-esque loves us back (except, ironically, other humans).

So I get how crazed people get over cats and dogs. And I have to admit: there have been rare occasions when I have mentioned, perhaps even bragged, on my own domestic partners. But I swear, something’s weird about Teddy and Esme.

If I give them a treat, which is so embarrassingly often they must think they get a Snausage for farting, the hounds know the drill. Both know to sit, silently. Teddy gets the big rawhide, Esme the miniature. I usually give it to Teddy first, because he’s got those eyes that make you think he just came from cosmetic experimentation. That’s right, you manipulative ass, anthropomorphize the hell out of me. So he gets first bite.

And I always feel like a sucker, because the moment he has it, Teddy is gone. I am dead to him. He’ll run to the other side of the yard, like he’s afraid I’ll take it back. Or, preferably, he’ll chew it on the couch, where he concocts his own slobber and rawhide leather conditioner.

But if I give the mini rawhide to Esme first, she does something odd: nothing. She will sit there, treat in mouth, waiting for me to give Teddy his. She’ll do the same thing with food (assuming there’s not a treat in it); wait until Teddy’s bowl is on the ground also.

Whether you’re a vet or a dog freak (ahem), there’s something fascinating going on here. She’s either being polite or she’s waiting to see what Teddy receives. The first is unlikely, but the second is almost as odd; if I gave Teddy hamburger, there’s nothing she could do but accept her own treat. She weighs less than a quarter what Teddy does and knows not to be alpha over issues that matter; she won’t even eat from his bowl in the kitchen.

So what is she observing? And why? She’s smarter than most people I know, so I have to be careful not to assign brilliance. But I’d like the Dog Whisperer to come here and give me a straight answer. Cuz she ain’t talking.

And while he’s here, maybe he can explain Teddy’s behavior when I go to the spa. He and Esme normally bound outside for fetch when they hear neighbor-irritating rock from the jacuzzi and see me heading to the door in a towel (my nipples have become their dog whistle).

Esme, though, is a fair-weather fetcher. If it’s cold or rainy outside, she’ll stay indoors, right here by the space heater, which you will surely turn on before you go outside, thankyouverymuch. Allow me to anthropomorphize that as well; I love her to death, but Esme is all about Esme.

Not Teddy. Yesterday brought more rain to the Valley. There’s something about being the in spa in rain, watching water hit the roof as it percolates your insides. Storms are hypnotic.

Yesterday wasn’t one, but the rain came, hard. I grabbed a towel, knit cap and hit the spa. A good half hour. listening and thinking and settling. Finally, I turn the water off, open the gazebo doors, get ready to bolt for the porch.

And there’s Teddy. Just sitting, waiting. Wet as can be from puddling water. But he isn’t moving until I head in.

Hell yes I anthropomorphize my world. I choose to believe there’s love there, even if I can’t give you a reason why. Esme makes Einstein look like a monkey with a Rubik’s Cube. Teddy’s blossoming heart fills any desolate soul.

But that’s just the dad in me.


At Last




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And Now, A Word From The Contrarian…

How the Democrats actually won the mid-terms

There has been so much braying among conservatives over the proclaimed takeover of government (led by Walrus-In-Chief Rush; seriously, I wish net wizards would do a side-by-side with him and Mr. Ed. If they did, they’d see that they whinny with the same muscular jerks. Of course, the horse pales to the human’s sarcastic skills, though the human lacks Ed’s logic, humor, or the intuitive sense not to shit himself of camera.) that you’d actually think Republicans won.

But The Republican Party is no longer, unless you consider The Tea Party. Let’s not.

Let’s look instead at the GOP freshman who came to office in record numbers, at least for Republicans: women and minorities. Nowhere in the debates were there discussions of gay rights or gender equality laws. That wasn’t the case just a generation ago.

The Republicans have adopted the big-tent strategy of the Democrats. And while it’s fair to question the GOP’s big-tent approach, the fact is a big-tent is a pretty nice place to be. When are we harmed by being more inclusive? Lincoln saw this.

But in the larger picture, history favors the liberal. We once believed the universe revolved around our pebble, and burned those who thought different. We considered (not that long ago) some men 3/5 of another, and women less than that.

Today, we consider those notions prehistoric. Just as we are beginning to view the right of, say, gay marriage. States will hold out simply to be difficult, but they will eventually cede to the fact that we are all related. That they’re no threat, the differences. As embarrassing our lapses, we have still somehow learned there’s less to fear than we thought. Goddamn, you’ll be able to buy weed in a vending machine soon.

So let Rush poop himself. Someone has to play violin on the Titanic.






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