Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, there was this sign. Some brave soul covered over the word “eye” and made this ad 100% more effective.
September 30, 2007
This guy had penciled his sign out first to assure himself of the proper layout, then went back and inked it over, but all freehand. Turns out it was done by a retired graphic designer in his seventies for his daughters yard sale.
1. Date is prominent.
This man knows his stuff. The date is the most important information on a yard sale sign. Our graphic designer puts it as the lead. Perfect. I need to know if the sale is a week old or not. No one takes their damn sign down. They’re too exhausted dealing with the ebay hustlers and skinflint retirees to go around collecting their signs at 2 in the afternoon.
If you forget your address, I’ll drive up and down ten blocks till I see a bunch of double parked cars and find you, but not if I’m not sure the sale is still on.
2. address is set apart.
This helps. I don’t really need to know if it’s a stoop sale, a garage sale, a yard sale, an estate sale or a fire sale, tell me when and tell me where. I’m gonna come look.
3. No bubble letters.
Look how thin the man’s lines are. Too many folks think we’re gonna need sloppy fat bubble letters to read your sign. Clearly this sign illustrates that fallacy. Any yard saler worth his front pocket full of quarters knows a piece of cardboard nailed to the phone pole is gonna be a yard sale. You could write it in french, we’ll slow down and look for THE DATE and THE ADDRESS and check you out.
Of course, this sale featured a lot of baby stuff, which really proves to me this man knew the ins and outs of advertising. Some people are just so excited to advertise their baby stuff. Nothing turns off a saler – hobbyist to pro – more than baby stuff. By adeptly leaving this snack out, he turns no one away before they even get there. We will see for ourselves your mound of blankets and onesies, a car seat with elmo buckled in by your offspring who has unfortunately outgrown the strapping down stage. But since we’re already there, we will take a minute and look for one of the last bits of your prior life – the fun one, where you spent discretionary income on amplifiers and comic books – and hope to find that last symbol of freedom you’ll have to sell to make room for building blocks and doll houses. It was this last subtle manipulation, sir, that made me declare this The Perfect Yard Sale Sign Ever. (which isn’t really english but sounds cool)
This is a tomato bug from my mom’s garden back home. It was about four inches long and eats the buds off the tomato plant.
September 29, 2007
Papa Sean came up to sleepy Richmond District and we played photoshop and drank whiskey. Yes, I’m grinking again.
I grew up reading. Choose Your Own Adventure books, the Chronicles of Narnia, Hardy Boys, didn’t matter, I was always reading. I would read my sister’s set of Little House on the Prairie books. Girl books, boy books, I didn’t care.
I got older and discovered poetry. It appeals to people who believe in books. People who crave the order of our writing system but secretly cheer when an author is brave and breaks a rule like breaking an egg and something beautiful is revealed are the kind of people who love poetry. If you’ve ever bought a forty year old grammer text book because you love how a diagramed sentence looks, you probably have also stumbled across a few poems you enjoy.
I started reading poetry in my parent’s Yankee magazines. Yankee is published in Dublin, New Hampshire, a little town with maple trees turning pretty colors in autumn and that’s about it. They would feature articles about snow, moose, and lobster and publish poets who wrote in free verse. I loved the length of these poems. I think it was that shortness that drew me to them more than anything else. But also it was the strong sense of place these “local color” poems had. That whole magazine was a propaganda campaign designed to trick us into loving swampy bug infested land that blazed in the summer and froze in the winter.
In high school a red headed woman in her sixties who was still fit and wearing red frames for her reading glasses introduced me to the larger world of poetry. She wrote comments in swirling cursive that praised my ability to set a mood with the thunder storm, and my desire to understand other people and myself…
I was hooked. I felt like a craftsman, picking five or six words and looking at how many vowels they contained, how many letters they added up to, how many were derived from old french, and feeling like i truly understood those words, and could then arrange them into something with meaning. That was poetry for me: treating a single word as a physical thing with a dream inside it, and bending that word one way and then another so the dream changed shape as the word changed places with others. That was what I loved about it. Understanding that the physical relationship altered the meaning of things, and at 14 years old, a clumsy kid who twisted his ankle trying to stand on a skateboard, was afraid of the water and the sun and girls – I hadn’t found many physical things I could control and manipulate. So I started writing poetry.
I went to college to write poetry. To find an audience of other people who loved it and wouldn’t give a half frown and shake their head no if you asked them about poetry. It occurs to me that so many other poets were 14 when they began, and wanted that power because they were so weak everywhere else. Now we have a branch of the arts created by runts.
Let’s consider mature poetry.
There is so much you have to believe in before you believe in poetry. You have to believe first of all that books are very powerful. That hard covers house truths. That publishing houses are sending agents out across the land to find the very best spiritual leaders who have renounced city life and the internet and have gone back to the land to raise goats and write about the truths they discover. You have to believe that. That these book agents are renting bicycles and riding down dirt roads in Kansas because anyone who approaches the author in a motorized vehicle will not be given an audience. And this book agent rides the two and half miles through mudpuddles and shows up by the barn with his pants cuffs mudluscious and the poet continues to pull the goats teat while looking the book agent over, and finally says, “All right, I’ll give you some poems, but you gotta do it my way.”
If you don’t have that kind of background, then a book of poems isn’t gonna get you. You’ll have no reason to believe. You’ll remember back to the weakest kid ini high school and remember he was the one who wrote poetry, and you will equate all the 14 year old jon rolston’s and 14 year old girls, I don’t know their names because I didn’t talk to girls, but there were 14 year old girls writing poems, I’d find them in the halls, accidentally left on a desk after a class, you might have been one yourself. But we’ve grown up.
I don’t care about poetry as much as I used to. Is it because I bought myself a dog and boss it around? Is it because spiritual truths gleamed from midwestern goat farmers don’t speak to me? So I don’t read much poetry. Poetry and I have decided to see other people. I’m a modern man. I want moving images. Words were a stop gap story telling device until we could figure out how to get the visions in our head to come out alive. Words were middlemen. Now we have movies.
Writing is an elderly media. elderly, wheelchair bound, begging for a push from video. There is no reason to spend time reading when the vision can come quicker through video. Here I am writing about it, blogging about it, blogging, BLOGGING, when I should be Vlogging, i have all the equipment, but I’m old now too, and unsure of myself, confused about where the cable goes in, and how I get the sound adjusted. So I write. But I’d rather be making a movie.
September 28, 2007
It would be interesting to serialize a comic strip on stamps. Every sunday a new panel is released. Maybe sign up with the post office to have a blank postcard mailed to you with the stamp on it.
Buildings of iron and stone in a city of homeless. Broadway cuts right through the bullshit of downtown Los Angeles. It’s a nod to New York’s Broadway, but the closed up theaters with their marquee’s advertising a shoe sale happening in what was once a magnificent Art Deco lobby with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s mugs plastered in recessed brass frames, wild patterns of carpet leading to the heavy swinging doors of the silver screen projection room that is now warehousing chinese footwear knock-offs being sold by spanish speaking business women leaves a pall of a forgotten heritage too heavy for me as I walk towards the Staples Center, a giant sports coliseum branded after a stationary store.
What the fuck happened to L.A.?
I stop at a magazine sidewalk shop, the kind that exist on the very surface of the concrete, unattached to the main frame of downtown. These little plywood buildings and rolling carts with telescoping arms of A-frame displays hawk flowers, drinks, the news. Somehow allowed to sprout up like a weed and provide strangers with bus maps, water, post cards, a hot dog, they signal to a pedestrian a regular guy. He stands outside and sells things. You can ask him a question.
At this one everything is in Spanish, and I look at what is going on in a pop culture I don’t speak. Then my eye happens upon a stack of comic books. They are priced at a buck twenty five each. Over a hundred laid out, some with cowboy covers, some with police drama shoot-outs. And this pile with sexy women on the cover. I pick one up.
The asses are drawn by a man holding a pen in fantasy land. Ditto for the tits. But what makes me decide to buy this one are the pictures superimposed on the drawings. Someone in spanish speaking dreamland decided to put real porn on top of the comic book porn. Sometimes the scene doesn’t even line up, like this ass shot. Sometimes the picture looks like it was drawn from the photo.
I’m not trying to titillate any puritans here, but let’s stop and marvel at the crossroad we have stumbled upon. Two totally separate fantasy lands have collided.
September 26, 2007
I’m taking twenty percent off all palm readings this week. I really want to make a little booth with red velvet curtains and take it to the park and give people readings based on snap judgments of their clothing.
September 24, 2007
Another clear case of using fantasy to sell a product…Not even Rusty Sunshine works with that many of his shirt buttons undone.
I’ve started doing a remodel with this guy. I’m a ditch digger by trade, but Mr. Berens is gonna teach me how to be a finish carpenter. There are many funny stories to come in the near future about my new job. I’ve offered to help him with his web presence. This is the first step.
For a week now I haven’t been able to use my computer at home, so no posting photos or scanning any papers. But I finally discovered my problem was the faulty old wiring in my faulty old house. I’m blogging from the top of the stove in the kitchen where the landlord actually had the wiring updated. So I’m back to the daily posts, but watch your step around here, the kitchen floor is slippery.
September 22, 2007
This is an interview conducted in downtown LA with a woman who is filming a documentary about the quickly changing face of this gentrifying section of the city. Developers are buying up the warehouses and converting them to lofts, and the city wants the many hotels which currently house the near homeless, the down and outers, to be turned over to non profits who will control the tenants with curfews and social programs.
It is raining on the nickel for the first time in months, downtown LA is having the smog rinsed off. A woman is sitting under the awning of the banquet cafe.
Her name is Aline. She wears a North Vietnamese regular’s green army cap with a bright red metallic star in the center and black leather boots that come almost to the knee, dark blue jeans with an expensive design embroidered into the back pockets and her hands in the pockets of her waist cut black wool pea coat with two rows of big black buttons in perfect lines up and down her chest. She looks like she may be used by the Russians to sexually humiliate captured spies.
“I feel like I’m back in europe, drinking red wine on a sidewalk cafe with these little showers coming in and making the streets shiny.”
A guy in a t shirt missing a front tooth, holding a pink blanket stops short and looks at her, saying, “hey hey hey,”, then turns to me, and asks,”this your wife?” The security guard comes by and the man keeps walking. That’s how it works on this one gentrified corner of skid row in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Private security protects the new colonialists.
Regardless of her fancy dress today, Aline has been living in a flop house with cement floors and a shared bathroom for almost two years. She is filming a documentary about the Single Resident Occupancy hotels of this neighborhood. The life is starting to affect her.
“I’m getting tired of stepping over shit and piss and people screaming incomprehensible things, i’d like to go to a nice apartment with plants and books, have breakfast with a friend and discuss intellectual things. Have you heard of the pathology of anthrolpologists who sometimes can’t connect back to their original culture after being in the field so long? They are stuck in between two worlds and just lose it. I worry this could happen to me, being in this whole skid row hotel world makes it hard for me to smoothly fit in to other social situations – at CalArts or something. Its kind of screwing me up. I have to be conscious of who am and where I come from or I’ll end up…..” she opens her hand towards the crazy man holding his pink blanket by the trash cans across the street.
What’s life like living on skid row?
“You must accept things how they are. You don’t have power to change anything. You’re gonna eat crappy food, its unhealthy, you’ll develop a limp or a heart problem. You accept there’s toxic air streaming into your lungs and I wake up with my throat hurting even though I quite smoking a month ago, everything is bleak so I go have a beer at noon and breakfast is $2.95 but who knows what the salmonella situation is? She wipes off the counter but it just moves the grease, and how can you fuck up eggs? It becomes a task where I have to force it down, force the food down. When I smoked it was easier because I could choke it down and then go smoke.”
What’s this world like down here?
“Its normal that crowds of people are hanging out, there’s weird street rules: don’t stand on this street corner too long, walk fast through here, don’t use the sidewalk here, knowing when to say hello or not say a word…
Who ever I walk with it becomes a whole different experience. A whole different experience if I walk by myself than with Willy, who’s an African American male who helps me with the movie. When he walks by himself, people don’t stare, other black males say ‘whats up’, someone might ask him about when the mission opens – me, I don’t get that question ever.
When we were walking together, a random car stopped and asked if I needed a taxi…
The rain has stopped and the street is wet and the light across the city is stunning, with dark clouds casting shadows and blue sky lighting up the sky between them.
“Police are very different. They won’t look if he is walking by himself, unless he jaywalks, then he may be in some trouble, but if we walk together, depending how I’m dressed, how I actually walk, when I dress down and in the mode and get in there, wear a hat and look down and out cops don’t take notice of me either. Or I can be an obvious counter point, all on how I walk. If I’m out of place, the cops take more notice, to see if I’m lost, in trouble, buying drugs…the people on the street I’ve met, they won’t talk the same to me when i am dressed like now, they know, i know, that I’m someone else.
“The weird thing is, I don’t know in which situation I’m safer – when I blend or not. At first, last year, I thought I was safer when I blended, but now I’m sure. I don’t think I am.”
Why are you down here? We talked about the influence of Bukowski on both of us. How much is he to blame?
“I haven’t found the answer myself. Bukowski might have some to do with it, but it’s not the entire story. He’s part of a much deeper tradition going way back, I’m thinking of Bauldelaire describing a similar world in late 19th centrury Paris, but he was smoking opium, not drinking.”
A rainbow breaks over downtwon and the kids on the street are standing there watching it, it rarely happens in Los Angeles. For some, it may be the first one they’ve ever seen.
“I think being here is a way to transgress yourself, your background, to see if you can connect with something that’s on the other side, far away. I’m curious what I’ll find among all these down and outers. I want to know if there’s anything at the bottom of something.
“There is a general fascination with failure, human failure and societal failure, it talks about the frailty, for me, of human beings, human life.
The girl comes out of the coffee shop from behind the counter, cell phone in hand, saying she’s looking for the rainbow to the person on the other end.
“Failure seems more authentic than success. Look at two people. One, they failed. They thought they’d get married, get a house, whatever, there’s something they didn’t become because they fucked up. When they can recount that story, it comes across more authentic than some guy who was a successful business man who tells his story, it will sound like only what he’s not telling is true, because he has much more to lose. Through being successful you aquire successful ways of using language to protect yourself. He can use it as an instrument to his success.
“But it could be that the guy who failed is trying to keep up a certain persona too, so it could all be bullshit. I don’t know… I wonder how instrumental that language is… At The King Eddy bar (the bar connected to her hotel room) in the smoking room you feel like you need to somehow record, somehow document these people’s language, it comes from an unstreamlined place, a place of no resistance, it has nothing to do with the language of advertising, business.
“I want to capture their language. There’s a much more heterogenous nature in the language among that group, many more individual accents, the unique words they use. Everything. The whole deal. They are individuals more so than any other group I’ve encountered.
“I’m looking for something not controlled. Any kind of transition is possible here. It’s a liminal space. An undefined space. American society is trying to eridacte those liminal spaces. You don’t want something undesignated for use, something not immediatley legible: this is a shopping mall, this is a loft space, this is a hotel. but these residential hotels are still liminal, you have no idea whos in there, no control over who’s in there. Pedophiles. Junkies. Illegal people. Those liminal spaces are exactly a democracy, what it’s supposed to be. When you’re in Europe you think that’s what America will offer, but you have to go way out into the desert to find it and even there they are trying to control it.”
When will this movie project be done?
“It will be arbitrary. At some point I’ll get sick of it. There are so many stories I could go on for a really long time, but I don’t think that will be healthy for my psyche. I’m gonna need to see rich people who are beautiful and healthy affter this.”
So Aline, the lady bukowski, laughs.
September 21, 2007
folks, i broke my monitor adapter a few days ago, so can’t do much computing right now.
September 19, 2007
the fellah’s upstairs are in this band called diego’s umbrella. they shot a little video for one of their songs and this is the teaser. i was the only guy they knew with a real mustache, so they asked me to sit in. if you look real close, you’ll find me in a black outfit pulling the guy into the van. the boys play some darn good music. it’s always a treat to here ‘em practice on a sunday afternoon.