Wednesday, October 26, 2005

C. Auguste Dupin, $200 a day plus expenses

In case you didn't already know, I'm training to be a private investigator. After work I drive up to Van Nuys & listen to a semi-retired P.I. give lectures & sordid anecdotes from his personal experience. The instructor pretty much looks how you'd imagine a semi-retired P.I. would. We also watch videos, more than I would care to. But some of them are pretty funny, produced by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Ah, those wacky claims adjusters.

Anyways, the hardcore fans of this acclaimed blog (I call them "bloggies") will remember from some of my first posts that I was trying to start training about a year ago. Unfortunately, my previous lame-ass job prevented me from really attending regularly. So now here I go again, slightly fatter & eager to learn.

So what we're learning at the P.I. academy...hey, "P.I. Academy", that sounds like one of those B-movies they used to show on USA's "Up All Night"...anyways, what we're learning isn't quite as glamorous as Magnum PI, or even Simon & Simon, for that matter. But it beats post-production, which is where I've been treading water for the last few years. Right now we're learning about worker's comp, accident reports, taking statements, insurance fraud, & stuff like that. Later on we get to the stuff you'd expect to be in the curriculum; skip tracing & asset know, stuff you can market to people besides Mutual of Omaha.

I don't know if they're going to teach us how to drive our cars under trailer-trucks, or on just the wheels on one side. Luckily, I've amassed a wealth of information on such subjects by watching countless hours of detective shows on KDOC, Orange County. What have I learned about private investigation from these televised seminars?

1) Your client is usually setting you up, but that doesn't mean you can't seduce her.

2) You'll be framed for murder on a regular basis, so try to play it cool when they drag you downtown in the middle of the night.

3) Traffic laws do not apply to you.

4) Army buddies always bring trouble when they come to visit.

5) Always turn the light on before you walk through your front door; more than likely, there will be someone standing there waiting to brain you with the butt of their gun.

6) You need four elements to prove murder: motive, means, opportunity, & the fact that the victim as about to expose the killer's embezzling.

7) Make lots of seedy contacts: bartenders, prostitutes, bookies. Strange as it may seem, these are the people who will be able to help when you get framed for murder (see #2, above).

8) Surly mobsters & humorless government agents will constantly hamper your investigations. Deal with it.

9) Master the art of the suckerpunch.

10) Finally, remember that the public expects you to do things like drive cars off of piers & get forcibly ejected from fancy restaurants. For God's sake, please don't disappoint them!

The real punchline is that I actually have an autographed picture of James Garner proudly hanging on my wall. Anyways, with these golden rules of the trade deeply imprinted on my psyche, I know I'll be one of the best. Look for me in the crime blotter of your local newspaper.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Beer-Hall Putsch

I was gonna wait until I was able to put up some pictures we took of this, but figured I may as well get this one over & done with, & deal with the fancy stuff later. It's old news now anyways, but what the hell.


We spent Saturday gardening. Beer-gardening! Down at Alpine Village, where they hold Oktoberfest. I really can't say enough good things about it. Oktoberfest, that is...Alpine Village is so-so, I guess. The Alpine Inn is pretty cool, but the Village part is basically a few dusty souvenir shops, & a driving school, & a dentist's office. But we were there for the celebration going on in the big tent in the parking lot. Actually we got there early, so were were among the first few people inside. Who would've thought it's that much fun to sit & listen to oom-pah-pah? I must admit they had a rockin' band. These dudes in leiderhosen were chugging beer & running through the crowd & jumping up on the bench tables & basically earning their money during their 8-hour set.

I'm gonna try to post some of the pictures my girlyfriend too, especially one of the beer-garden safety guide, which, the security guards assured me when they saw me reading it closely, were not hard-&-fast rules. In the meantime, lemme tell ya:

The next day I was actually a little sore from waving my damn stein around like a drunken fool. At first I was just being campy & ironic or whatever, but after the third stein of the house brew I was really into it. It helped that the band kept playing songs which, they explained, you had to drink when the sang the chorus. Whew! Lotsa beer. The steins we bought at the gate (losta people brought their own freakin' beer-steins) got broken in pretty quickly. When we took them to the counter, theold guy working the taps saw that they were new & rinsed 'em out with beer. The first stein-full of Alpine Lager took a little while to get through, but the rest started disappearing pretty damn quick.

Almost as much of a spectacle as the beer-garden was the port-a-potty garden! The proverbial sea of humanity: as the night wore on, people were a little less concerned with keeping up appearances, & a little more concerned with finding somewhere to take a leak before they had an accident. I'm one to talk; I had to pull over on the way home to, uh, relieve myself. Jeez, I just realized...I took my beer into the john with me on one of the bathroom breaks. Eew. Was I really peeing with a half-full stein of beer tucked under my arm? Well, that must be the German way; after all, they're supposed to be super-efficient, right?

One of the funniest moments of the night, oddly enough, happened when we were first walking in. The guy behind us in line saw the coupons I had printed out off of the Alpine Village website, & asked in a booming baritone: "Ah, I see you haff a coupon zat you fotocopied!" When I handed my lady friend hers, he laughed, "Do you haff enough copies? I hope you haff von for your vife!" Before I could make with any kind of comeback, they opened the doors to the beer-garden, & he loped away towards the entrance like a Panzer rushing the Polish border.

Post script:

You can buy Alpine Lager at Cap'n'Cork in Los Feliz...that place with the Captain Morgan statue out front. It probably won't be the same unless you have a bunch of German roomates though.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Chorus of Disapproval

I've always liked music. Even when I was going through a phase where I listened exclusively to bands that didn't technically technically play "music" per se (check out Cannibal Corpse's "Vile" or even their early stuff like "Tomb of the Mutilated" & you'll know what I mean), I still loved to listen to the albums in my room, reading along with the lyrics. Some of the bands I would listen to actually knew how to play their instruments & write songs, & some were just interested in making a statement. I was never that good at playing music myself, despite countless hours practicing the guitar when I should have been doing my homework. So I had to settle for vicariously experiencing the thrill of music through listening.

It's funny how some music can profoundly affect the way you feel. And it doesn't have to be Beethoven's 7th. Or 9th. Or anything by Beethoven, really. As stupid as it sounds, I've felt the same overwhelming sensation while listening to Misfits, where you're taken away to another place that words alone cannot adequately explain. I've listened to early Rancid & known that the people making that music, raucous & abrasive as it was, had felt exactly what I was feeling at that moment, & were able to canvey the emotion in their music. These sounds helped me through some hard times, aka the foodstamp days.

Nowadays I listen to stuff that would revolt me back when I had Cannibal Corpse in the CD player. And even though I've sold just about all of my Emperor & Burzum CDs to Amoeba, I've held on to the ones that still give me that tingling feeling when I hear them. Unfortunately, it seems that when it comes to this reverence of the power of music, I'm in the minority. I can't condemn other people for their taste in music, but I can say this: it seems like these days everyone wants their music to be as loud as humanly possible. I could relate to this when I was 15, but now it seems crazy to be sitting in your car at a red light, by yourself, blasting Tupac, or Los Tigres de los Norte, or Yellowcard, or ANYTHING, for chrissakes. You can't tell me you're really enjoying the music. When my friend Erin & are hanging out we would blast the radio during blocks of Social Distortion & pound beers. Well, we did until he went under house arrest. That was what I consider a social setting; but even then we would sing along with the chorus & appreciate the music.

My girlfriend's neighbor plays the blandest music so loud you can feel your teeth rattle. Dave Matthews Band, loud as an airplane jet, late at night or early in the morning. Linkin Park, Staind...Gwen Stefani?! As you can easily surmise, he has the personality of a dead moth. And NO appreciation for music. I suppose the part that pisses me off is that he isn't really LISTENING to the music. He's talking on the phone & watching tv or jacking off or taking a shit, NOT experiencing the interplay of words & music. My girlfriends other neighbor plays loud music at inopportune times, but, since he actually loves music & wants to enjoy what he's listening to, it's loud but not counterproductively loud, & it's decent fucking music. I may not be King Crimson's #1 fan, but it's more engaging than Green Day's new concept album. Why not just turn The Price is Right up full blast? Why not just start screaming at the top of your lungs? Why not just go outside & be deafened by the construction & gardeners & traffic?

Next time you're listening to music, ask yourself: am I really listening to music?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Haiku written while staring out the window when I should be working

Outside in the rain
There are pigeons on the ledge
Stoic as gargoyles

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Postcards from Arkham Asylum

You know who really loved their jobs? Those supervillains on the Adam West-era Batman. Think about it; they were always cackling & rubbing their hands together gleefully. They could barely contain themselves as they hatched each week's nefarious scheme. You never saw Caesar Romero dragging his heels as he poisoned the Gotham City reservoir. Frank Gorshin never had to be prodded into coming up with those tantalizing clues, in the form of riddles. If you think about it, he didn;t have to leave the clues at all, he could've just robbed the banks & been on his way.

I kind of like living in the industrial part of downtown (KIND of; I'm not crazy about it), partly because when you live a good distance from those farty lofts, the buildings around you look like the hideouts of those classic villains. Abandoned toy factories, paper recycling plants, decrepid self-storage units & slaughterhouses; these are the places you would find the Penguin, or even Vincent Price's Egghead ("Eggsellent!") sitting around chastising their bumbling gang in matching turtlenecks.

Let's see...there was the Bookworm, who was that, Roddy McDowell? And There were a couple of different Mr. Freeze's. Or were they Dr.Freeze. And I know there like, at least 3 Catwomen. Eartha Kitt & some other chicks. And, uh...King Tut, & the Black Widow...I don't think the Scarecrow was on that show, though. When you think about it, it all comes down to the Riddler, that's the quintessential supervillain. I mean, he lays it all out on the table, no bones. Plus he always had snappy comebacks for Burt Ward & Adam West. What did he call 'em? Now I forget. "Boy Blunder" & uh, what did he call Batman? Must've been funny or I wouldn't have thought to mention it.

Hey that reminds mind really is starting to show some signs of age. Or signs of abuse, whatever you want to call it. Why, just the other night, I was in line at Big Mac's Liquor, right there on Sunset & Lucile, & some dude walked in who I vaguely recognized as someone I should be pissed at. Why I should have been pissed I have no idea. None whatsoever. But I started to get pissed anyways, & was giving him the stinkeye even though he showed no signs of recognizing me. Was he someone who talked shit to me at my old job? Did he steal a parking space from me? Maybe he was one of those pricks who walks in front of you on the sidewalk like you don't exist, then gets all huffy when you bump him out of your way with your forearm? WHO WAS THAT ASSHOLE!?!? Ah, fuck it. Next time he does whatever he did, I'll be all over him. Maybe I oughtta start writing these things down in a notebook I can carry with me.

Heh heh. Everybody in the office is at lunch so I'm blogging at work. I'm getting paid to blog! Hey...Does this make me a professional writer? No. No, it doesn't.

It's a long way to the top when you wanna be a supervillain.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hooligan's Island

So we went & saw that "Green Street Hooligans" movie, the one with Frodo like you've never seen him before. Lemme tell ya, if I could do it again, instead of being a beer-swilling ne'er-do-well in Los Angeles, I'd be a beer-swilling football hooligan in ye olde United Kingdom. I'd loosely followed that scene via the mystical magical internet & some light reading, but what a great concept, a whole movie about British soccer fans running amok. I especially liked the fact that they were able to sprint through such superfluous elements of the plot as story & character development. No, I'm serious!!! I didn't pay to see Elijah Wood act, I paid to see him fight!

So now it turns out there's a whole slew of similar movies that were released in the UK that I gotta get my hands on. There's even one starring Gary fucking Oldman! Yeah, yeah, I shoulda known, I shoulda known, this is old news & I'm just another American johnny-come-lately. So fucking what. Here are just a few of the things I'd be able to do if I were a supporter out there, instead of a Monday-morning quarterback out here:

1) When your home team (I guess in this instance we'll have to suppose it's the Dodgers) is getting beaten, & there's some pricks making a ruckus in the stands cheering for the other team, you know, you see it at every goddamn game...well, instead of just glaring & giving them the finger like I do, you beat the everloving shit out of them. There's a way they say it in the movie that sounds a lot wittier...."Beat seven shades of shit out of them" or something like that. Very English.

2) You get to drink 24-oz cans of Fosters. It's Australian for beer, mate! Never mind the wimpy oversized cans you buy here, they have tall-boys of Fosters readily available. At least they did in the movie.

3) You get to be a snappy fucking dresser. They call it "casual" out there. The outfits these guys wear to streetfights cost more than two months of car payments. Awsome! Could this be my new look, a departure from Dickies & goofy t-shirts? The answer is yes, people!

4) English pub: your home away from home. These guys spend their free time in honest-to-goodness English pubs (well, they're in England, so I guess that's not such a big deal to them). I've found a pub in Pasadena that I took my brother to, & it wasn't half bad. Imagine living in a city where EVERY bar is a rowdy English pub. Nice!

5) You get to drink & sing & throw things & basically go buck-wild. Does it get any better than that? The answer, my dear readers, is no.

So in lieu of uprooting myself & heading across the pond to support Cardiff City, I guess i can settle for watching the games...yes, watching soccer. It's not so bad. The games I've watched have actually had some scoring, which helps. It's a little trickier to warm up to the sport watching 0-0 ties. Oh wait...that's nil-nil! Haha. I don't guess they'd appreciate any token acts of hooliganism at that place in Pasadena. That's how us Americans get a bad name.

Sheesh. Obviously I need to find a way to blow off some steam. Getting drunk watching Raider games isn't quite enough. And that's saying something!