Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This Old Man ...

... doesn't mess around with Knick-knack-paddywack.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jolly Old Saint Prick

Christmas Eve.  I grew up with no Jews around so I never thought to call the holidays anything but Christmas even though I didn't think about Christ on the day after I was six.  Merry Christmas.  Sounds nice.  Comforting.  All this Festivus shite is exactly that.  Shite.  More made up shit.  I'm not bagging on Kwaanza.  I went to a celebration a couple of years ago and it was touching.  I try to say nothing but Happy Holidays these days.  In my mind that means Christmas and New Year's rolled into one, but I'm coming to an understanding that the world is wide open and there are many iterations of the winter holidays occurring near the Solstice.
I've spent many a Christmas Eve in bars around the world.  And in a Midnight Mass or two.  I've shacked up with Jewish girls that had Christmas trees in their New York apartments.  And once when I was stranded on a layover there was another old girlfriend that was a non-Christmas observing member of the tribe that picked me up from the airport.  We drove around San Francisco taking pictures of empty laundromats and walking around the streets of the Mission that were quiet for once.
I have kids now, so there's a tree in the living room and some stockings hanging above the hearth.  There's a big stack of presents in the garage that I wrapped a week ago from Santa.  Tonight we'll put out some cookies and milk for the fat man.  We'll read The Night Before Christmas.  We'll eat bagels and lox tomorrow morning and open presents one at a time, going around the room until every gift has been received.  It will take a long time.  We won't talk about Jesus.  We will say thank you several times and express our gratitude for more than the gifts we open.  We'll eat roast duck as has become our family tradition.  I'll assemble some toys in between skimming some of the books I'm likely to receive. Later I'll watch some basketball.  The Blazers are playing.
Christmas hasn't always been a holiday that I've cherished or celebrated with joy and reverence.  I had some disappointing ones as a kid.  Jokey cards from convenience stores containing IOUs.  Drunkenness.  Violence.  Stark reminders that all was far from well.
I've experienced a few odd ones.  Like the time I was stranded in an apartment in Germany with a drunk Klansman from Missouri.  It was my German girlfriend's place.  Petra was a student at the local art college.  She was away with her family, but let me stay there to get out of the barracks over the holiday.  The redneck came with some friends that stopped by earlier and stayed behind when they left for some reason.  The other guys were supposed to come back but there was a snow storm or something.  In between telling me maudlin bigoted stories, he suggested that we put on Petra's underwear and just lounge about in them.  It would be funny, he said.  Finally, to shut him up about it, I let him call his family on her phone and listened to him blubber about missing them so.  When the beer was gone I drank a bottle of Jagermeister that she had under the sink.  It was the old style, regular shaped clear bottle with a hunter on the label.  This was long before it became a craze in the U.S. and as far I'm concerned it should have stayed under the sink.
I'm never lonely on Christmas anymore.  I don't talk to any of my friends.  Or even think about them much.  Some of it is having a family of my own that demands my attention.  And the other is having four hundred of them just a few taps of my iPhone screen away.  Facebook has taken a lot of the mystery and the romance out of old friendships.  Reading holiday greetings in the form of status updates prompted some frustrated feelings in me earlier today.  The festivus shite.  But also the attempt at warmth through such a cold medium.  Doesn't feel right somehow.  Every time I hear the text alert on my phone I dread one of those mass holiday greeting texts.  They make me feel lonely.
We went to the Nutcracker last night.  Thankfully most people still dress up for it.  My son was relieved he didn't wear a tie for nothing.  He told me he thought it was going to be like when we went to the White House, that we would be the only family dressed formally, as he calls it.  I tried to explain that we were dressed almost casually in comparison to dress a hundred years ago.  I was thinking while watching the dancers that such a spectacle is less profound when we carry portals to almost every imaginable visual stimulation in our pockets.  It isn't the same as a living breathing company of ballerinas twirling and leaping to a live orchestra on a beautiful designed stage, but it does diminish it a bit.  I don't want it to, but it does somehow.
My children are excited to get a bunch of gifts and spend a couple of days with both mommy and daddy home.  It's a special time for them and I'm glad to be a part of it.  It's how I feel about most things religious; why do you have to make such a big deal out of things?  The Natural World is amazing; do we really need to attribute it to God whipping it all up in a week?  Talk about diminishment.  Did we really need to invent this whole babe in a manger hoohaw just to get people to stop all the regular life stuff and have a feast and share some gifts?  We do need tradition and ritual in our lives and I do suppose I've oversimplified things.
Anyway, I just needed to ramble a bit.  Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Les Dragsters

I couldn't imbed this awesome video that Ray Gordon shared with me for whatever reason.  Tous jaillissent, le link ést icí.  Appreciéz si´l vous plaît.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Art Therapy

This guy in Upstate NY was brain damaged in a bar fight a few years back.  He built a miniature fictitious WWII era town called Marwencol in his backyard populated by figures representing people from his life and his imagination. He took pictures of his scenes like the one above.  His photographs were discovered by a NYC gallery which led to a documentary film.  Marwencol the film is supposed to be damn good.  Sounds it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Time Marches On

The projects I've yet to finish were filmed longer and longer ago.  Honestly the only progress I've made of late is to not fret about it too much.  I don't like that they're unfinished.  Most involved have moved on.  As have I in many respects.  It feels pretty crappy to have such big projects that so many invested so much time, energy and good feelings into go neglected.
I've picked up the ball and tried to move toward the goal line only to fumble it so many times over the past few years.  I'm lacking the heart to pick it up again.  I try once in a while, but something invariably comes up.  I'm weary of bugging people.  Unanswered phone calls.  Canceled meetings.  I'm not really blaming anybody.  I understand it's the nature of such a project.  I enjoyed some of the process and learned some things along the way.  One of which is that I don't want to go through something like that again.
Time may well be marching on, but the nagging feeling I have about Dangerous Writing in particular is not likely to go away until I manage to see it through.  Even though it seems there's no joy left in it for me, I am committed which is why I'm putting it out there again.
But why is it that I would rather go the dentist than do the remaining work on this worthy little film?  Can it be that when it's finished it can be judged?  Or that it may be a final reminder that I failed as a filmmaker?  I'm both terrified and bored by such questions.  Moving on is what I would like to continue to do.  Unfortunately, there's only two ways to do it - finish the films or don't finish the films.  I don't seem to truly want to do the work to accomplish the former and I can't bring myself to accept the latter.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Shoe Dog

I love the Brannock Device.  So simple yet I've always approached the Brannock as if not just anybody is qualified to operate it.  I worked as a shoe dog for a bit back in the 80s when I was 20 and 21.  Started at JC Penney and then moved up to Nordstrom.  Though we had a few Brannock's around, we generally took the customer's word on their size.  I was never able to look at a person's feet and know their shoe size, thankfully I didn't sell shoes long enough to acquire that power.  There was a man at JC Penney called Mike that had been selling shoes for over twenty-five years.  Mike could do such things.  I remembered him from when my parents took me to get shoes when I was a kid.  He liked that I remembered him until I started outselling him and then moved on to Nordstrom.
Actually, initially I worked in Men's Sportswear at Nordstrom and that was much easier than selling shoes.  Stand around the sales floor folding a few lambswool v-necks until someone needs your help.  After a few months I took a job as the assistant manager of the Annual Shoe Sale.  That wasn't really selling as much as organizing.  After the sale, I was fed up with retail and worked as a bike messenger for a while.  Then I moved to San Francisco and after a lousy couple of weeks as a messenger there, I got a job doing window displays at Macy's.  For a short while I went back to Nordstrom's at San Francisco Center.  My girlfriend at the time worked there and Macy's had laid me off while the Holiday decorations were up.  Nordstrom offered me a full-time job after the holidays and the half-yearly sale, but I told them I had to go back to Macy's.  Though I never did go back to Macy's for more than a couple of days here and there.  The next few months I was poorer than poor.  Man.  It was bleak.  My girlfriend moved out and took the bed with her.  My friend moved in but he didn't have any furniture nor any money.  We slept on wadded up clothes.  We walked all over the city or sat around our empty apartment reading books and listening to punk records, smoking cigarettes and drinking tea.  We found a case of MJB coffee packets in a dumpster and took a break from tea.  We didn't eat much.  Top Ramen.  We got really skinny.  But we always paid our rent and our bills on time.  I started working in nightclubs around that time and eventually started living right again. 
I never worked in retail again.  I probably wouldn't mind it.  I was always good at selling, earning top commissions in my department.  Never pushy,  just attentive, suggesting things that I honestly thought would be something the person might like.  I doubt I would want to sell shoes again, though I notice that, in general, shoe salesmen don't provide the service they once did.  It's rare that they'll slip the shoe on your foot anymore.  That's how we did it.  Up and down, back to the store room, up and down some more.  Stacking the boxes and restocking them.  It was serious work being a shoe dog, an appellation in which we took pride.