You too can wear the RACECAR shield.
Model: Neil Rinden

You can ride my bike

Yeah, you can ride my bike but you have to work for it.


Banksy in Oceanside?

Apparently I have a knack for unknowingly taking photos of street art by well-known artists. I'll just innocently like how they look until Matt Sperling sees my photos and says, "Dude, that's a Barry McGee! He's my favorite!" and I'm all, "Barry M-who now?" That happened here and just the other day with this Banksy.

So it was fitting when I went to breakfast on Saturday with Matt Sperling, Marisa and Matthew and saw a crowd of people in the parking lot across the street taking photos of something on the side of a taco shop. We had to wait for a table so I decided to go across the street to take photos of all the people who were taking photos of the wall.

I don't know why I like to do this but I do. When I went to the Statue of Liberty, I took photos of people crowded at the end of the ferry, arms and necks craned up to the statue. In Las Vegas, I took photos of people crammed against the railing by fake Lake Como, photographing the fountain outside Bellagio.

Turns out everyone was abuzz this Saturday with the idea that the rat on the side of Bull Taco is a Banksy work. Banksy may be / probably is in Southern California right now since his documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop" was up for an Oscar and he recently left new marks around LA.

It hasn't yet been confirmed if this kite-flying rat with the sign that cautions drivers to watch for immigrants running across the highway is a legit Banksy. And I don't know if I would have even taken its photo had I just been walking down the street and noticed it. More than the painting itself, I'm kind of stunned by the reaction. Reported by every news agency out here - TV, print, and online including TMZ - they are all buzz-buzz-buzz about Banksy.

Was connoting rats with tacos a good idea? Is this racist? Is it too drippy to be a real Banksy? People were scoffing, marveling, posing, flashing peace signs. One man held a video camera and was making his own documentary. Would you like to comment? How much is this wall worth now? Did Banksy stop in Oceanside on his way to San Diego? Does Banksy even like Mexican food? Is he a mere mortal or a graffiti god?

Laguna Canyon

Magda took me hiking in Laguna Canyon.


Do not honk at blind people

I could tell a long-winded story of how long you have to wait to get an appointment at the Department of Motor Vehicles in California (weeks) or how many hours we spent there yesterday (six) or I could just jump to my favorite part of the day: the question on the written test for a California license about what to do when you see a visually impaired person at a crosswalk, waiting to cross the street. I was looking over Matthew's test and this was one of the ones he missed.

A blind person at a crosswalk, what to do?

a) Pull up to the crosswalk so that the blind person hears the engine
b) Pull into the crosswalk
c) Pull up to the corner and honk the horn so the blind person knows you're there

He said c).

I started laughing and couldn't stop and still can't when I think about it.

"Is that what you do when you see blind people on the street? Honk your horn?"

He couldn't stop laughing either.

For the record, that is NOT what he does, he just got confused by the logic of all the questions which I understand because the overall the test was kind of tricky. But seriously, that question is too much. And what about b)? Pull into the crosswalk when you know someone can't see? What kind of dick move is that?

We were having this conversation while sitting in the car, waiting for the Honda to be inspected for its new plates. It took forever, while next to us a row of cars filled with 16-year-olds getting their first licenses steadily crept forward. The DMV workers came out, talked to them, ignored us, went inside. Repeatedly. It took ages for them to notice us.

At one point I suggested we honk the horn and then when they turn around to stare at us we say, "Oh sorry, I thought you were blind..."


Blame it on Charlie Brown*

* I didn't know when I took these photos that this is the work of
Banksy. Nice.
West Hollywood, CA



The other day Matthew read a Facebook post from Jacquie about her zumba class. "What is zumba anyway?" we said and turned to YouTube. We watched a video and were dying, not because it's funny in and of itself but because I zumba all the time, every day. I just didn't know it. I call it "being stupid in my house and dancing around crazy."

"Oh my god, I know how to zumba! I am already an instructor!"

I have a few signature moves that I do - down the hall, around the ottoman, through the kitchen - with enough regularity that Matthew tunes it out. When he ignores me I tell him, "I don't think you're appreciating what's happening right now."

"What do you want me to do? React every time?" He asks.

"Yes," I say.

After we watched the video, I realized something. I now live near Marisa, one of the all-time goofiest and least self-conscious people I've ever met. She BUSTS MOVES, completely unprovoked. The first time Matthew met Marisa, she walked into my office, laid down on her back and started breakdancing and then stood up and introduced herself.

I sent her a text, "Okay new idea. We are destined to take zumba classes together. I just watched some on YouTube."

I didn't hear back from her right away but yesterday she emailed me a message with a photo. She had just gotten back from a zumba class. What! I knew it!

We agreed that we should teach together as long as we make no eye contact whatsoever because, you know, laughing. And since she is getting her Masters in Philosophy, we could incorporate some of that, too. Neurozumbalosophy: understanding the neurocognitive underpinnings of what it means to feel that which is referred to as "the zumba joy."

laughing quietly to myself

About how I was so proud I packed a week of clothes plus my mobile office - laptop, printer, scanner, cords - into a carry-on bag only to realize when I got there that I forgot UNDERWEAR.


The study of stuff

Okay, after this I'm really going to try to stop talking about stuff I own. GOD. It's just that the turn I took down creepy art road a few days ago really got me looking around and wondering why I like what I like and keep what I have. Sometimes it's easy to pinpoint. My monkey statue is a good example of that.

In the summer of 2009 I went to Graceland for the first time. I hadn't thought about Elvis a whole lot before then but I walked out of his house entranced. This in and of itself is not unusual for me; I'm often waaaay behind the curve. I was working for Crystal Bowersox in December when she opened a show for the Doobie Brothers. I'd devoted less than five minutes of attention to the Doobies in my 35 years but after I saw them onstage being so pro and backstage being so gracious I was all, "Have you heard of these guys?!? They're called the Doobie Brothers! Wow!" Turns out I was familiar with about 20 of their songs simply from existing on the planet Earth, I just didn't know it.

Elvis got me with his monkey statue, among other things.

I got home and wanted my own monkey statue. I kept my eye out and eventually, believe it or not, a monkey statue popped up on Craigslist. I drove 30-odd miles to buy the statue from a lady who also talked me into buying its companion piece, the monkey lamp, not pictured here because it's unspeakably ugly. I keep it out of sheer stubbornness.

In our old home, the monkey statue was displayed atop a bookcase in the studio-office. At night, when I was awake and up late reading, the recessed lights from the sharp-angled ceiling would catch the monkey statue and project its elongated shadow on the wall. In all seriousness, a few times I was afraid of the monkey statue. In the new home, the monkey is nestled between the stove and the coffeemaker and it's not spooky at all. Once I even balanced the monkey on the lid of a saucepot in which I was cooking rice in order to keep the steam from escaping. After a minute I decided that wasn't a good idea, put the monkey back on the counter, and found a lid that fit better.

This guy I bought on the street in Mexico in 1995.

I love this etching: the birds on the right, his shifty eyes and pointed beaky nose. He's crisscrossed the country with me and hung in most of my rooms. Now he's installed above the bed and keeps a mysterious eye on me.

Finally, I offer these two ceramic plates. I'm not sure what they're supposed to be for. To put hot dishes on? I just look at them. I bought them at the Necromance store in Los Angeles.

The anatomical plates sit on the library card catalog, another secondhand purchase, that serves as our bar. Usually a slew of liquor bottles are also on the card catalog but before we moved to California, I gave away most of the booze. Anyone who came to our house during our last week in Kentucky was given offers. What do you want? A desk? A floor lamp? A bottle of vodka? Have you ever tried coffee-flavored PatrĂ³n? It's yours. I don't have a clear-cut reason why I have the plates with the eyeball and bones, I just do. I always liked biology. The study of life is fascinating.


The landscape of where you are not

This Southern California landscape is redundant in its beauty. Several times I've been riding my bicycle north as the sun set to my left and dropped behind the water line. A cascade of pinks and orange dust the skies, glow in the underbelly of the clouds, and ping diamond-like off the water. Without fail, I'm wowed and then laugh to myself because it seems like such a joke. It's predictably postcard-perfect and really, really pleasant.

Writing about what I hang on my walls made me recall a conversation that Matthew and I had with Jane when she was here last week. I don't remember how it came up but Matthew told Jane that he doesn't hang pictures of himself standing in front of utopic scenes. He used the example that a photo of ourselves on an Icelandic glacier in hail and high winds with snot frozen on our upper lips would be acceptable. Arms around each other on warm sands, palapa and beach volleyball in the background would not.

Which just gave me an idea: what if there were a volleyball league that played exclusively on top of glaciers? It could happen! I'd hang that photo.

I remembered the Alaskan glacier photo I thumbtacked to my cubicle wall when I worked in New York. That glacier reminded me of the beauty outside of New York, a perfect contrast to the beauty of city mayhem. I just hung photos around my desk here in Oceanside, shots I took in Berlin, Prague, London, Houston, and Iceland. Most of them are streetscapes, graffiti and art on public walls. One is through a window from an ancient turf roof house in Iceland. Another is a bathtub that I caught sitting in someone's backyard in Reykjavik.

Why did I hang that bathtub over my desk and not glaciers, mountains, and waterlines? I think because there is so much landscape in California to see. I get my fix from the Santa Rosa Mountains to the east and the sunset that is practically tedious with its allure. I understand why so many people live here. So I turn my mind to other questions, like does anyone bathe in that tub?


Ominous design

I've been writing about Elise a lot lately. I hadn't hung hardcore with Elise before moving here but we knew each other in Cincinnati and I could tell she was awesome. Seriously, though, drive in a car with someone for about twenty times longer than you want to be in a car and get deliriously tired and low blood sugary and slaphappy and wake up grumpy and make up stupid jokes that really should never be repeated because they wouldn't be funny in any other context and you KNOW you're cool with someone.

Also, part of our road trip was a barter. We took Elise out here so she could visit a potential grad school and in exchange she gave us one of her original paintings, a self-portrait that we chose. We hung the painting over our couch so there's a big Elise on our wall. It's wonderfully creepy. I'm getting used to seeing her all the time but in those first few days sometimes I would talk to the painting, "Oh, hi Elise," and "Quit looking at me, Elise." Maybe one day I'll be lonely and I'll look up and think, "Naw, it's cool. Elise is here."

The painting itself is eerie. She is painted laying on the floor and I'm just not sure if painting Elise is okay. She looks like she might be tripping, over her own feet or on acid. But I was instantly drawn to it and it fits perfectly because we've inadvertently started collecting creepy art. Not on purpose, apparently that's just what we like. Andrew Morison thoughtfully sent us a housewarming present and it arrived today, an original print from a guy named Jeral Tidwell who is part of Crackhead Press in Louisville, KY. We took it to a framer and on the receipt, he called it Wicked Bunny.

This will actually be the second wicked bunny print in the house, the first being a silk screen from a set of 20 that Evan made for the Rabbit Hole club's opening in Cincinnati. I loved this on sight and it's been hanging over my dresser ever since.

I tried hanging Evan's bunny in the living room for a day but it was too much paired with Elise. It felt aggressive, as if the walls were trying to tell me something I didn't want to hear, like the rug is fluffy and the sunlight is streaming in the windows but the apple cider in the fridge is cyanide. Then I put the Evan bunny back over the dresser, hung some inoffensive figure drawings that I bought at an estate sale in Oxford, OH and peace and balance was restored. Why has HGTV not hired me yet? I totally have a niche.

Sorry, we are The Fruhstucks

RACECAR is putting out its second vinyl release! I know because I watched Matthew stuff records into sleeves for hours today. And even if there weren't a bazillion copies of The Fruhstucks sitting next to my desk right now, I would want to buy this 7" because a) I think Sutja Gutierrez and Miguel Camara are magnifico and b) actual record is purple.


Jane was here

Agent Orange

I must be in the mood for bar brawls right now because I was straight-up giddy after my first visit to the Royal Dive. A recommended local bar, the Royal Dive is off the well-lit path and tucked between a canyon and an industrial area. I'd gone out for sushi with Matthew and his friends from San Diego and we decided to check out the Royal Dive.


Agent Orange was playing. As in the punk band that started blowing tunes up when I was still regularly pooping my pants (1979). Before I veer too far into poserville, let me say that my past forays into hardcore music were not recent nor extensive but for some reason I was thrilled to pay the surprise $12 cover at the door. There were three opening bands, 8 Ft. Face, The Secret Samurai and The Aggronauts and before we heard them all and Agent Orange was on, there were several fights, two guys thrown out - one of them by headbutt - and my sandal feet were bathed in beer.

The best were the two guys who circled each other slowly, so slowly that the movement was barely discernible. They were like two gorillas at a slow dance if it were the kind of dance where you kill each other. I couldn't hear them but Matthew told me the conversation was along the lines of,

"Who are you?"

"I'm nobody. Who are you?"

"I'm nobody too."

"Oh yeah?"


A bouncer came up behind me and warned that he might have to rush past me at any moment and it might get crazy. I told him that yeah, we'd noticed that. At one point one of the gorillas got bored or dizzy and peeled off to the sideline. The guy remaining fixed his jaundiced eye on Matthew and busted out some more nonsense like, "What would you do if I came lookin' for ya?"

"I don't think you will," Matthew said.

"Do you think I could kill you?"

"You've got no reason to."

Again, I couldn't hear what they were saying, I just knew that Matthew had his arms crossed, his legs planted wide, and was talking really, really calmly. I, on the other hand, was busy getting the giggles which in hindsight was fairly inappropriate given that the guy really did seem bananas. Eventually he got bored, left, and the music came back on. The bartenders were super friendly and most of the audience seemed so too.

Surf punk, I approve.


Road House

I barely remembered Road House from 1989 so when it was on TV last month and Matthew asked if I'd seen it I said, "Is that the one with Dolly Parton?"

Oops, I was thinking of Rhinestone, presumably because both movies begin with R. But considering how tuned in I was to Patrick Swayze in the late 80s, how could I make such a mistake? Have I never written about the Dirty Dancing slumber party I went to at Jennifer Puthoff's house in eighth grade? Unforgivable.

Road House was on TV in the living room and I was puttering around doing other things but sooner or later I stopped, stood still, and stared at the screen because I mesmerized by Patrick Swayze's lines. During one speech he gave to his staff at the Double Deuce bar, a "place where you sweep up the light bulbs after closing", Matthew came up with the idea that I should try to conduct a meeting comprised entirely of quotes from Road House. Fantastic!

For the past two years, at the end of rehearsals and before we hit the road, I sit around a large table with the Idols and tour management staff. I go over rules, regulations, and procedures. I have to explain what I expect of everyone, how we do things and, importantly, why. It's a lot for everyone to take in at once and I've tried to pare down the handout; it's gone from maybe 12 pages to eight or nine. I try to pass off parts to others so it feels less like a lecture and more like a conversation. I try to be funny but you know who's funnier than me? Patrick Swayze's character in Road House, Dalton.

Dalton is a working-class thinker, a martial arts roughneck with a philosophy degree from NYU. He's unflappable. He wears tight jeans and the pleaty-est pleated pants you'll ever see. He will cut you. And if anyone in my meeting remembers Road House and gets it? We'll be friends for life.

Dalton arrives in Jasper, Missouri to clean up the bar and leave when he's done. What, of course, he doesn't foresee is fixing the entire town by eliminating its evil warlord and falling in love with a hot doctor who's the evil warlord's ex-wife. Dalton is, they say, the best damn cooler in the business and re-trains the bouncers after getting rid of the negative influences on the staff. Dalton's character is basically introduced in the movie as he's stitching up his own stab wound that he sustained in a knife fight. See? Bad ass.

Please know that I will not be getting in any knife fights in my effort to emulate Dalton. I will probably not being doing much shirtless Tai Chi by any lakes this summer either and that kind of bums me out.

What I do need to work out is how I can make the following relevant to my meeting:

**"I'm telling you straight, it's my way or the highway. So anybody who wants to walk, do it now."

Note: everyone I say this too will be under contract and not actually allowed to walk. This will be pure intimidation on my part.

**"People who really want to have a good time won't come to a slaughterhouse and we've got entirely too many troublemakers here. Too many 40-year-old adolescents, felons, powerdrinkers and trustees of modern chemistry. It's going to change."

Note: Hm. Not sure if this really applies to the American Idol crowd.

**"Be nice. If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won't walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you, and you'll both be nice. I want you to remember that it's a job. It's nothing personal."

I like the above. A lot. If anyone at my meeting asks what a Double Deuce bouncer did, "And being called a cocksucker isn't personal?"

I will tell them, "No. It's two nouns combined to elicit a proscribed response."

Think about that!

**"I want you to be nice...until it's time...to not be nice.. All you have to do is watch my back and each others'."

There's more but I think you get the idea. My main task is making all this apply to ticket sales, meet and greets, and unruly teenyboppers at the aftershow.

**"Well, it was a good night. Nobody died."

"It'll get worse before it gets better,"
Dalton replied.


laughing quietly to myself

About how Matthew opened a lollipop wrapper with his switchblade. That's real tough.


Under the pier

Last night after dinner I walked and Matthew skated to the Oceanside Pier. It's crazy to me how quickly I can get to the MOTHERF'ING PACIFIC OCEAN from my couch. Everyday I know it's right there but the fact that I just have to stretch my legs a bit to see the night tide roll in still feels slightly unbelievable.

Under the pier they are working on the road and I tried taking night photos with my Olympus for the first time. I wouldn't say this one of Matthew skating turned out exactly but I like it, especially how the lights look like music notes.

Sweet ride

Alta Loma Rd, West Hollywood

laughing quietly to myself

About how the vet thought the dog's name is Pepsi and I didn't correct her because I thought it was funny. How Kentucky of us.