1. FRANK TALK ABOUT MEXICAN MUSIC
A blast of oompah-oompah Mexican music woke me early on Saturday morning. The clock said 7:30. I put on some shorts and followed the noise two houses down and rang the bell. A middle-aged man came out from his side yard. Since we're not next door neighbors, we've never had reason to introduce ourselves in the five years since his family bought the place. After a few sentences, I realized his English comprehension was very low and I had to pantomime that it was early (pointing to wrist, where a watch would be, if I wore one) and that I needed sleep (diagonal praying hands next to tilted face).
He moved close and said, in angry, broken English, "This is my fucking house". Last week I lost my temper with a wayward movie usher, so it seemed best to play it cool this time around. The conversation went on like this for a while, me gesturing calmly, him expanding on different variations of how this was his fucking house and how he "worked fucking hard". He got me on that last point: I wasn't working hard at that particular moment. 7:30 on a Saturday morning is my time to loaf.
It struck me that similar half-communications take place thousands of times a day in America. Most English-speaking Americans probably base their views on immigration solely on one-off exchanges like this. I'm the only person I know who favors 100% immigration (meaning, literally, everyone who comes here gets in; I know that it will never happen, and that you don't agree, and that you probably think I'm joking, which I'm not). But I don't have much sympathy for anyone who moves here and forgets to learn English. I understand English is tough, and there're lots of exceptions to the rules of conjugation and grammar and whatnot. So what? Five years is a lot of Berlitz classes. If I lived in Stockholm for five years, I would not have the raw cajones to pull the old me-no-speaky-Swedish trick. And I certainly wouldn't blast Elvis at dawn while my neighbors tried to sleep.
For my part, the lesson I took away from this exchange was distinctly non-political. My neighbor is just an asshole.
2. DINNER AT SAN CLEMENTE PIER
My in-laws took me out for a late birthday dinner on the San Clemente pier. I can see why Nixon liked this town. It's nice. There was an interesting discussion on my eventually growing my hair out and getting a "fuck-it cut" ala the teen heshers of 1979's "Over The Edge". Later, I was presented with a birthday cake;
In this picture of me blowing out the candle, I have a mysterious globby growth on my face. Even though it doesn't exist, should I be concerned?
3. NOT MEETING GABBY GIFFORDS
If I could travel back in time to 1996 and befriend Barack Obama I would. I and my wife had a rare opportunity to correct the mistake this weekend, when Gabby Giffords spoke at the Scripps College commencement speech. My wife and Giffords were buddies back in college, and now Giffords is one of the youngest members of congress (AZ's 8th district). She married a fucking astronaut! President Giffords seems like a plausible scenario for the 2020's. This would have been my only chance to hobnob with future greatness.
But we overslept. In hindsight, maybe this wasn't such a mistake. After several lengthy conversations with my old drummer Brooks Headley (now a world-famous chef in New York), my ego can only take so many soul smooshings in one weekend.
4. ECHO PARK COOKOUT
I showed up with a bag of thrift store blouses and a bottle of red food coloring. My idea was to rope people into posing for my "street violence" photo series. Luckily for me I tested out the food coloring before dousing anybody with fake blood. Up until this weekend, I'd had no idea that red food coloring semi-indelibly stains skin. My hands were left with embarrassing red splotches, like they'd been dunked in boiling water. More friends arrived and I could tell they noticed my skin condition and kept mum out of politeness. After downing their beers, several people pulled me aside and asked, what happened to your goddamned hands?
"Street violence," I mumbled forlornly. Another good idea shot.