In 2008 I studied abroad through Marist College with a bunch of Jewish girls from "Western Mass."
It was a fantastic time. I went with 7 guys from my frat and we lived in a 10 person flat that was located below a law firm. With no neighbors after 6pm, things got quite aggressive and loud. In fact one of the 10 had to go home early after his internal organs shut down due to whisky consumption.
We also traveled every weekend and one time I found myself in Switzerland talking to a young lady from Los Angeles. When she asked me where I was from, I responded 'Indiana.'
"OMG I love the east coast."
I didn't understand what she meant by this, the east coast didn't seem to be tied to our conversation, but I just went with it.
"Uh, ya...I like the east coast too."
"Do you guys all have like shore houses that you drive to in the summer?"
"Shore houses no we have lake hous-" I trailed off as it dawned on me...this chick thinks Indiana is on the Eastern seaboard.
There are in fact a minimum of four states separating Indiana and the Atlantic Ocean. Referring to Indiana as 'east coast' would be equivalent to referring to Kansas as 'west coast.'
I remember going through the many stages of grief. At first I was mad. How the hell does this girl not know basic geography? Did she not need to know her states and capitols to pass the fourth grade?
But eventually I landed on acceptance. Indiana is in the grand scheme of things, irrelevant.
I ended up pretending that Indiana was somewhere around Pittsburgh the remainder of my conversation with this young woman and ended up shacking with her in an 8 bedroom cold dorm in a hostel.
I tell this story for two reasons.
1. brag about hooking up, duh.
2. I am about to say some controversial stuff about Los Angeles and I want you to know that I have been on the other side of the coin. I know how it feels to live somewhere irrelevant.
So let's start with today's query...What is the border of West Side and East Side in Los Angeles?
Countless people before me have tried to tackle this question, and countless have failed to provide an acceptable answer. After you leave here today, I promise to give you a hard and firm OFFICIAL position of what this blog considers to be the East and West side of Los Angeles...
But first let's start with a map of LA.
Now I will tell you a story.
In 2014, a couple hipsters in Silverlake called an actual town hall meeting to formally remove themselves as an east side neighborhood. Their rationale was that it was disrespectful to the people that lived East of the LA river.
A couple notes on that...
1. The only time anyone should be east of the LA river is once a year for a birthday at Art's District Brewery or to buy stolen car parts in Boyle Heights.
2. Look at the official map of Los Angeles above me; there are maybe two neighborhoods in Los Angeles east of downtown. Downtown is like the eastern boundary of the city of Los Angeles and any rational person will tell you that Silverlake is squarely on LA's east side.
For whatever reason, this stupid crusade caught a lof of momentum and the debate about East Side West Side flared up. The LA Times asked people to draw their own map. The finished product looked something like this.
So I'm just going to throw this out there.
This map is a joke.
Just like many a Manhattan Beach bro will tell you 'there is no life east of Sepulveda.' I can tell you that there is straight up nothing east of downtown except LA's version of Spearmint Rhino and possibly a couple tire yards.
So if Curbed LA and The LA Times aren't going to help us, perhaps I will have to do some primary research of my own.
A 2013 LA Weekly article proposed 5 ways of looking at the imaginary boundary.
I'll go ahead and save you a click. The article is not helpful. It breaks down how certain ethnic groups view the boundary and then how GANGBANGERS view the boundary. Allegedly there are gang members in Echo Park who throw up the 'west side' gang sign. Here's a hot take, the echo bark gangsters rep the west side because A. The west side is dope. B. The west side gang sign is MUCH more fun to throw up than the east side gang sign.
Every white person reading this right now has thrown up a W in their life.
So let's alter the mission of this post.
I seek to find out the border that separates east and west among drunk yuppies arguing with their friends.
Now I should be clear of any 3rd generation family from Alahambra or a crunchy hipster from West Adams telling me that my definition is a lie. I'm sure that Alahambra and West Adams are lovely places to raise a family, but in the grand scheme of things...for people in the entertainment industry making 50-85 thousand dollars a year...these places, like Indiana, are irrelevant.
Onward...let's throw out a few givens.
1. 310 area code
In order to identify as a west sider you need to live in an area that traditionally carries a 310 area code.
Sure this excludes some 818ers from west valley but the valley is the valley and it's gross. Move out of your parents' basement you child. Oh wait, they don't have basements in California...so you can't even sneak girls in and out of the basement door? What are you doing with your life?
Strictly using the area code trims a lot of fat, but we still have those annoying port of LA cities, Culver and Beverly Hills to take care of...
2. You must be reasonably able to ride a bike to a west facing beach
If you will refer to the LA map (figure 1) you will see that the last neighborhoods in southwest Los Angeles are Playa Del Rey and Westchester. We can argue whether Westchester belongs or if LA just did it to encapsulate LAX, but at least it contiguous.
What is laughable is the narrow line drawn due south from the hood (South LA) in order to lay claim of San Pedro and the port of LA. Now, while port of LA may indeed lay within the 310 area code...no reasonable person from Wilmington, San Pedro or Harbor City are riding their bikes to Hermosa Beach. I'm sure it's possible, I rode my bike to Ventura once, but it is not a reasonable expectation.
So to hell with you and your cruise ships San Pedro, you're just a glorified Long Beach to me.
But what does this tell us about Culver City and Beverly Hills? Again, technically they aren't even part of Los Angeles, but this is a bar argument for privileged white kids and privileged white kids definitely live in both Culver City and Beverly Hills. Let's split is, 30,000 people rode their bikes from Culver City to Venice Beach last Sunday. But I'm pretty sure no one in Beverly Hills owns a bike. Culver City is not yet excluded.
3. You must be able to wear shorts in the bar.
With the exception of maybe Shore Bar and Buffalo Club almost every west side bar will let you in with shorts. In fact, most bars on the west side will let you in wearing Rainbows an obnoxious bro tank and a pair of 4 inch inseam Chubbies. If you get denied from a bar in this outfit, you are not on the west side. (Or you are at a bar run by Crossroads alum. Crossroads kids are like the east siders of the west side, they suck)
4. Pass the eye test.
So this is a bit subjective, but let's say I told you I was 'out on the west side.' You would likely assume I was in Venice or Santa Monica. Possibly Brentwood but even that was a stretch.
If it then turned out I was at Pink Taco in the Century City mall this would confuse you, because while Century City is west-ish, it is certainly not on the west side. Hell, you're closer to WeHo than the beach.
Similarly if you live on Gayley in Westwood, you would not tell someone you 'live on the west side.' (Well I suppose you could but you would be a fraud) You would say I live in Westwood. It's not like UCLA is a strange hamlet that no one has ever heard of, similarly a Culver City person would probably say they 'live in Culver City.'
THEREFORE. Century City, Culver City and Westwood DO NOT pass the eye test.
What does pass the eye test? Mar Vista (Venice adjacent) West LA (Santa Monica adjacent) even Playa Vista (Marina Del Rey adjacent)
So to recap. If you are in a 310 zone, easily bikable to the beach, you can wear shorts to a bar and it feels like you're on the west side? You're on the west side.
So what is this border?
(Before I give you this answer I want you to know how badly I wanted to troll you all and just say Lincoln. In fact, I wrote an article for the Venice Beach Head in 2013 how I wanted to build a giant wall on Lincoln to keep all of the filthy east siders [I referred to them as wildlings] out. It is entirely likely I gave Trump the idea for a wall. And as much as I may abhor 'west side' life east of Lincoln, I acknowledge its right to exist)
You must be west of the 405 to be on the west side.
NOW, does this mean that EVERYTHING east of the 405 is the east side?
No it does not.
No one would mistake Diddy Riese as an east side establishment. A west sider could correctly establish that he was 'heading east' to get a delicious ice cream sandwich but there is certainly a difference between going east and going TO THE east. Just like Indiana is East of here but not THE EAST.
No the east side starts at La Cienega. If you live east of La Cienega you are an east sider...
Well what about everything in the middle Dave?
Well if you live in the middle, I suppose you live in Indiana and that's why no one ever wants to visit you.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
I never thought it could happen to me.
One of my first memories as a young child was watching the Presidential returns on the evening of the 1992 election.
"Who are we rooting for?"
George Bush. He's a Republican.
"And why are we rooting for him and not the other guy?"
Because Bill Clinton is a Democrat and Democrats think that the rich people should give some of their money to poor people to make them less poor. Republicans think people should work hard for a living.
I'm kidding. I don't know what the fuck my parents said. It was 25 years ago and I was five years old.
The truth is, I never had strong feelings one way or the other. I think both sides bring up some very fair points. You should have to be drug tested to receive government assistance! But also every person should be able to afford health insurance! People should use whatever bathroom they want! Kilroy's had unisex bathrooms one summer and it worked out fine!
I even thought Bernie's little dreamland of 60% taxes with everything free was kind of fun. It works in Denmark!
But in all honestly, I would be lying to you if I said that my decision to come out as a democrat was in part because of the election. TBH I don't give a fuck about Trump. Ya I voted for Hillary, but as a straight white man with affluent parents, I'm going to be just fine. I mean...did I write a stunt script called The Interview 2 where a struggling writer goes after POTUS? Sure, but mostly I did it for lolz.
No, the decision was made after I read this article from a Santa Monica City Councilman.
I'll save you the agony of reading it but essentially this city councilman along with some of his buddies made a dream list of proposals to 'Make Santa Monica Great Again.'
Chief among them was this specific passage.
- Our Pier is a success by all measures. Unfortunately, the Twilight Dance Concerts are now a security burden to our city. They must be canceled and reimagined. Above all let’s remember that while we share our Pier with the world it must retain its local flavor.
OH FUCK NO.
Did some fuckboy just suggest CANCELLING MY BELOVED TWILIGHT PIER CONCERT?
Hold on, let's scour the internet for a photo of this so-called coalition trying to ruin my summer.
WELL HOLY SHIT!!!
Kinda looks like the membership of the Motion Picture Academy! #SantaMonicaSoWhite
Can we zoom in really quick? How about that guy in the middle?
That is the face of someone who has never consumed three bottles of Pinot Noir on the beach followed by an XL Godmother from Bay Cities.
Now look I realize that as a young white guy, it is my destiny to become an old white guy. Outside of dying tragically young there is nothing I can do to avoid this fate. What I can do, however is vow to never be a bitter, 'get off my lawn,' type grown-up.
Phil Brock, the author of the document (I believe he is far right in the photo) goes on to rally about trimming the fat in city hall and reducing government spending. (HM WHERE HAVE I HEARD THAT BEFORE?) Upon further personal research, I discovered that this is the main argument against continuing the Twilight Concert Series as security costs for the weekly event last summer ballooned to nearly a million dollars, mostly going to hire private security guards and pay for police overtime.
That is hardly the only argument against though as many Santa Monica residents are none too thrilled with an additional 50,000 people coming to the beach every Thursday night to get drunk. It adds traffic, it adds noise, it adds...energy.
You can even see Mr. Brock's bias in his own words where he erroneously refers to the concert series as the 'Twilight Dance Concerts." It is in fact the Twilight concert series with only a single show last year, Rufus Du Sol, falling under the category of 'dance music.' Surely the kids weren't dropping molly before checking out 77 year old gospel singer Mavis Staples.
But even so, let's eliminate all of Mr. Brock's prejudices and take his argument, strictly as a fiscal one.
I took the liberty of diving into Santa Monica's 380 page 2015-2017 operating budget.
TL;DR Santa Monica generates $550,000,000 a year.
Santa Monica spent $950,000 last year on the Twilight concerts.
Santa Monica spent .17% of their budget.
Now this is one of the arguments often AGAINST defunding Planned Parenthood. It's a drop in the bucket, there is no way defunding a relatively small program can help the country balance its budget!
But let's even look past that.
The Twilight Concerts are more than likely GENERATING revenue for the city. It brings people to the city to shop at its stores, eat at its restaurants, drink at its bars. In fact 68% of Santa Monica's revenue is derived from local taxes. 15% comes from fines, licenses and permits. Guess what! The city isn't letting KCRW use the pier for free!
And that doesn't include many of the other revenue streams it generates, metro rides, parking fees, sponsorship opportunities.
Hell, if the million dollars is too much to pay up front, make Snapchat cover it. They are DYING to fit into this community. What better way to buy some good will than to save the community's most precious tradition?
Surely one could find ancillary arguments to harp on. Namely is it a generally good idea to let 50,000 people get drunk on the beach? And I would be inclined to hear this if there had been some societal harm done, but there are rarely any arrests, any damage done, any thefts. It essentially has the same vibe as a college football tailgate, the difference is that when Mr. Brock (presumably) drives to USC to tailgate on Saturdays he isn't doing it in his own back yard.
In closing, I want to say that I believe in traditions. The TCS has been going on for over 30 years. It is beloved by many hundreds of thousands of west siders in the greater Los Angeles area. It is a way to showcase our city, something that sets us apart. Anecdotally, every time I take an out of towner to one of these shows, it ranks at the top of their experiences in California.
Summer is short and should be celebrated, the arts are important and the feeling of riding your bike north up the bike path while the sun dips below the Santa Monica mountains is something we cannot afford to lose.
It's been some time since the aforementioend op ed was written and the Twilight Series will indeed continue on this year. It will be scaled down from 10 to 8 weeks and private security will take over to lower costs. But I believe we are staring down the beginning of the end
So take an extra look at the Ferris wheel this summer. Have one more pint at Big Dean's. Don't worry about that early Friday meeting as some day in the near future you won't have a reason to rush home on Thursdays anymore.
Because as we know, it's always only a matter of time until old white men ruin everything.
Friday, March 24, 2017
Obviously our country has undergone some real tragedies in the past five years. There have been numerous natural disasters and acts of terrorism just to name a couple. In fact, some may consider this current presidential administration to be a threat to our very existence.
But none of that shit has impacted me quite like the discontinuation of McDonald's Chicken Selects.
Seriously when I heard that McDonald's was getting rid of Chicken Selects in favor of bone-in NON-SAUCED chicken wings I almost had a fucking stroke. Seriously, there was nothing better than waking up at noon on a Sunday only to get a 5 piece chicken select, Super Size fry and the biggest fucking Coke the arches were allowed to sell by law.
To make matters worse, McDonald's briefly reintroduced the selects in 2015 only to rip them away again, thus destroying my soul in the process.
After a brief boycott, I returned to Mickey D's and I now place my standard order of Double Cheeseburger meal plus a spicy McChicken 4-5 times a week, but I'm still not over what they did to me. If I had to describe the feeling I imagine it is like when your wife cheats on you and you decide to 'work it out' and stay together. Yes, you move past it but you never forget.
I cannot overstate how devastated I was over this. One time on a trip to Europe, I specifically flew through Dublin because the Selects are still a permanent menu item in Ireland. (and tbh that's like the only cool thing about Ireland)
Alas, the Selects are gone but McDonald's continues to exist on almost every street corner in America. And as someone who is in incredible shape but still has horrendous cholesterol and high blood pressure due to their diet, I feel uniquely qualified to rank the entirety of the McDonald's menu and piss of 90% of my friends. So go ahead, start a fight in the comments and tell me how much of an idiot I am.
Per usual I will not rank drinks or special items. But obviously if you get anything other than an OG Coke at McDonald's you are a fucking chump.
The McDonald's menu; ranked:
42. Dying a slow death of Ebola and AIDS simultaneously
41. Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
40. Side Salad
39. Sausage McGriddle
38. Sausage Biscuit
37. Apple Slices
36. Sausage McMuffin
33. Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit
32. Bacon Egg and Cheese McGriddle
31. Bacon ranch crispy chicken salad
30. Bacon Egg and Cheese Griddle
29. Bacon Egg and Cheese Bagel
25. Hotcakes and Sausage
24. Big Breakfast
23. Bacon ranch grilled chicken salad
22. Southwest Buttermilk crispy chicken salad
21. Steak Egg and Cheese Biscuit
20. Egg White Delight McMuffin
19. Southwest grilled Chicken Salad
17. Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
16. Chicken McNuggets
15. Sausage Biscuit with Egg
14. Yogurt Parfait
12. Sausage Burrito
11. Crispy Chicken Sandwich
10. Baked Apple Pie
9. Double Cheeseburger
8. Sausage McMuffin with Egg
7. Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese
6. Hash Brown
5. Hot n Spicy McChicken
4. Double Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese
A few quick thoughts before the podium finishers. This may sound like I hate McDonald's breakfast and it's true, I typically don't get out of bed before 10:30am ever. Oh, there is all day breakfast now? Fuck you, I prefer lunch. However to justify my rankings...I almost always award points for more stuff...more cheese, more patties, more egg. Obviously a sausage egg mcmuffin> sausage mcmuffin.
Nuggets aren't as good as you want to pretend they are, even if you drown them in buffalo sauce. The hot n spicy McChicken is lightyears better than the standard variety and lastly a special shout out to the DQPWC...a delicious fucking sandwich but sometimes you just aren't fucking with 12,000 calories.
3. Egg McMuffin
Look, personally I don't fuck with the Egg McMuffin. I think Canadian bacon is gross. However, I respect the shit out of the institution that is the Egg McMuffin. Without this creation, there is no fast food breakfast. Countless hangovers have been slayed by this greasy behemoth, so in effect not ranking the Egg McMuffin this high would be like not respecting the Tetanus shot or something else that saves lives. Oh you don't think a hangover is a life threatening medical condition? You aren't partying right homie.
I understand that there is a nationwide opioid crisis, but I'm not sure I comprehend why. McDonald's french fries certainly must be better than whatever high you get from drugs. My brother is in recovery and he tells me about all this crazy shit they do like equine therapy. I don't understand how a horse would make me want to party less, but if every time I had a craving someone just gave me a giant fucking bag of salty McDonald's fries? I think I could kick that habit.
1. Big Mac
Say what you will about the Big Mac. Does it need pickles? No. Is that little piece of bread in the middle absolutely necessary? Probably not. Can you order two cheeseburgers w/ mac sauce and make your own Big Mac for less than the cost of a Big Mac? YES (but you look poor.)
However, the real crowning achievement of the Big Mac is perpetuating the story of 'the special sauce.' Yes, I know it's just Thousand Island sauce, but the childlike curiosity in me takes over and I suspend this knowledge with every single bite I take.
Without the Big Mac special sauce there is never Frisco sauce, never In N Out sauce, there is no G Love and the Special Sauce. My life has been made better by the lie that Ray Kroc has been propagating for years and yours has too.
In fact one of my life mottos has long been 'Always order the secret sauce.' I'm not quite sure what it means but I think it's something like if someone offers you drugs in a bathroom, you should probably just roll with it.
Enjoy the weekend friends.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
It all started as an off handed comment.
"I want some fucking Taco Bell."
I had just had my wisdom teeth extracted and was on lots of pain killers and a local anesthetic.
I had to settle for Skyline Chili that night but a few days later when I returned to Los Angeles, I found a card in my bag.
"You can have some Taco Bell now. Love, Mom"
Out falls a $25 gift card to the land of the fourth meal.
Now I would love to tell you that I rationed that gift card...but one particularly hungover Sunday I used the whole thing.
At 9 o clock in the morning I spent $7 on a number 80 (3 soft tacos, large Pepsi) a chipotle chicken loaded griller and a mini shredded chicken quesadilla.
Around 1pm I realized I had criminally under ordered and returned to the scene of the crime and spent $18 more on...
-2x Doritos Locos Taco - Nacho
-2x Doritos Locos Taco - Cool Ranch
-2x Doritos Locos Taco - Fire
Crispy Beefy Fritos Burrito
Crunch Wrap Supreme
Mystery Airhead Freezee
Chipotle Chicken Loaded Griller
Shredded Chicken Quesadilla
At around midnight I finished my feast. I slept until 4pm the next day.
Cut to: 3 weeks ago.
My mom visits Los Angeles to help my brother move here. As part of my reward for helping out she gives me ANOTHER Taco Bell gift card. This time for fifty (50!!!!!) dollars.
Realizing the error of my ways, I decided to stretch this gift card out. I also decided to sample the whole menu for science or some shit. I have not finished off my gift card experiment and am ready to report my findings.
Note, drinks and special limited items will not be included because fuck you this was a tedious process.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Taco Bell Menu; ranked:
56. Chips and Cheese
55. Chips and Pico
54. Chips and Guac
53. Cheesy potato burrito
52. Black Bean burrito
51. Bean Burrito
50. Breakfast Quesalupa
49. Biscuit Taco
48. Cheesy Roll up
46. Combo Burrito
45. Potato Griller
44. Fiesta Taco Salad
43. 5 Layer Burrito
42. 7 Layer Burrito
41. Beefy Fritos Burrito
40. Cantina Power Burrito
39. Beefy Nachos Burrito
38. Mexican Pizza
37. Nachos Bellgrande
36. Cheese Quesadilla
35. Fiesta Taco Salad
34. Cantina Power Bowl
33. Chicken soft taco
32. Hard Taco
31. Soft Taco
30. Grande Scrambler
29. Grilled Breakfast Burrito
28. Chalupa Supreme
27. AM crunchwrap
26. Shredded Chicken Burrito
25. Bag of Doritos
24. Taco Supreme
23. Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch
20. Cheesy Gordita Crunch
19. Soft Taco Supreme
18. Grilled Steak Soft Taco
17. Smothered Burrito
16. Grilled Stuft Burrito
15. Hash Brown
14. Those cinnamon thingies
13. Mini quesadilla - beef
12. mini quesadilla - chicken
11. triple layer nachos
10. Spicy Tostada
9. Caramel Apple Embanada
8. Gordita Supreme
7. Double Decker Taco
6. Doritos Locos Taco - Cool Ranch
5. Doritos Locos Taco - Fiery
4 (tie) Breakfast Crunchwrap
4 (tie) Chicken Quesadilla
Some preliminary thoughts before we get to the podium finishers. Taco Bell has some truly abhorrent chips. It's quite understandable why they aren't marketed. Any proper Tex Mex restaurant should have incredible chips and salsa. Taco Bell's taste like they have been under couch cushions for 7 to 8 years. Taco Bell's Burritos are hit or miss, as a carnivore I ranked the veggie options lower. Also Taco Bell Breakfast is low key excellent and you should try it out.
3. Chipotle Chicken Griller
Not only is the Chipotle Chicken Griller delicious, it is also $1 between 3 and 5pm. For the unitiated, grillers are like mini burritos without all the bullshit like rice and Vegetables. To be specific the chipotle chicken grilled consists of tortilla, chicken, cheese and 7-8 packets of fire sauce. It tastes like heaven. Were I to commit a heinous crime and be sentenced to death I may inquire as to whether in addition to my filet and baked potato the guard can squeeze in something from the dollar menu.
2. Doritos Locos Taco - Nacho Cheese
I remember when Princess Diana died. I remember when the towers fell and I remember the day that the Doritos Locos Tacos came into my life. I was nursing a hangover after an evening of Vegas Bombs at the Broad Ripple Brothers. I remember going to Steak n Shake first to get a milkshake to drink while I waited in the drive thru line at Taco Bell. This was the best decision I ever made in my life. When I got home with 9 Doritos Locos Tacos, I quickly determined that Nacho Cheese CLEARLY separated itself from the pack. Since the day I have consumed an average of 4 a week for the past 5 years or so.
1. Crunch Wrap Supreme
Was it ever even a real question?
Going to Taco Bell without ordering a crunch wrap supreme is like going to Coachella without taking drugs. I'm sure it's fine...but really what's the point? The recent triple stuffed crunch wrap promotion has reinvigorated my love for a true timeless classic. I've enjoyed one 10 of the last 14 days.
During this streak I have probably gone through 80-90 bags of fire sauce and I will likely no longer have a colon by the time I reach 50, but as I lie on my death bed from colon cancer, severe diabetes and a cholesterol of something like 500, I hope my doctor asks if it was worth it.
You're god dam right it was.
This is the first time in my life that I have ever ridden Chicago's infamous 'L' train. I am 19 years old and I am sipping out of a truly abhorrent one liter bottle. I've made some sort of screwdriver to go, but thanks to the 100 degree August heat and my inability to procure ice what I am drinking bears a closer resemblance to bath soap than a cocktail.
I'm on the verge of vomiting because I tried to microwave bacon hours earlier to disastrous results. I ate it soggy. I haven't eaten bacon since. To make matters worse, my face is still freshly scarred from a boating accident two weeks prior. I look homeless.
I spent the previous evening chugging shots of 10 dollar vodka with four friends in a Loyola University dorm room. Today is day one of Lollapalooza 2006.
'How many more stops?'
There is a chance I puke raw bacon before I even make it into my first festival.
Against all odds, I rally a bit as we hop off the red line at Lake. Young, drunk and naive is a wonderful way to see Chicago for the first time as an adult. It was a Friday afternoon but seemingly the whole city had taken the day off to celebrate summer.
I would move back down to Bloomington in a week, into a frat house!!! This was essentially my last hurrah after a summer that consisted of getting drunk on boats and coming up with excuses to why I couldn't drive myself to my night shift at Fry's Electronics.
'I told you mom I took Benadryl for my allergies.'
'You know they make a non-drowsy type right?'
I entered Grant Park in awe as I stared down Buckingham fountain. We walked under the massive balloon set welcoming us to Lollapalooza 2006 eagerly awaiting performances from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West and Blues Traveler (lol)
Upon entry my friend Jack buster out four press passes for us. He had somehow gotten us all credentialed through The Booze News and due to some security confusion we ended up in the artist lounge drinking Strawberry Daquiris during an Umphrey's McGee set.
The rest of the weekend was a blur, at times I ended up sleeping in train stations. I followed a homeless man to University Park attempting to score some weed. I snuck in through a window of a bar that I would later come to know as Gamekeepers and of course I jumped in the fountain after RHCP's encore of 'Give it Away.'
I drove back to Indiana the next day (stopping at the Merrillville Portillo's of course) knowing that my life would never be the same. I had never been a big music guy. I mean I woke up at 5am to go buy College Dropout the day of its release so I could listen to it before school, I've seen Dave Matthews 30 times...but it wasn't until I realized that there was a whole sub culture of getting drunk in a giant field that I really cared.
Five Lollas, Five Coachellas, Three snowglobes, a north coast, a couple Hards, a CRSSD...
I've jumped fences, I've bribed guards, I've paid coyotes to smuggle me across the border.
I have mastered the act of recklessly drinking in a field. I have made three day festival girlfriends and I have probably bagged enough UV rays that I will meet an untimely end at 65...
But last year I kinda decided I was done.
I get three day hangovers after drinking beer at a ski cottage. Imagine what would happen if I was sleeping in dirt, chugging Gran Legacy and shoveling non descript pills in my mouth for 96 hours.
I don't even think a rehab facility would take me, they would probably just direct me to the nearest hospice and give me the number for a priest.
And to be honest, I'm not that mad about it. I don't need to see Lady Gaga pour blood on herself in a few weeks. I am no longer interested in what Lorde is doing down at the tennis courts and I certainly do not know or care what the fuck a Father John Misty is.
I aged out. I'll have to stick to my OAR/Train concerts at the Hollywood Bowl where I can smugly drink my red wine and sing along to songs that I swore to my mother that I would always hate.
And as much as I will always long for...
Wait a second.
Hold on, I just got a text.
*Lollapalooza line-up released*
Oh The Killers eh? Man they had a great OC cameo.
Chance the Rapper? Never seen him before.
Fucking Blink 182?
I CARE ABOUT MUSIC AGAIN.
Chicago was the first city I ever fell in love with and then I abandoned it to chase a dream and escape the winter. but after 6 years I'm hoping Grant Park will take me back, to the city where it all began.
A tear runs down my eye as I leave the Foo Fighters show. It's 2011 and this is my last day in Chicago. I packed up everything I own in my brother's Trailblazer. I have my first day of work in a few hours in Indianapolis, the Chicago era is over. After a couple weeks of training in Indy I will move to LA forever.
'I can always come back.' I tell myself, but I know I won't. This is it.
How quickly three years went by. All the friendships forged, all the memories. Jesus, I almost got arrested re-entering the United States on a private jet that one time. That was wild. I can't wait to tell my grandkids about that some day.
I walk out of Lollapalooza for presumably the last time. It's raining hard as I start driving east down the 94. I stop at the Merrillville Portillo's, it's closed.
Complicated feelings arise as I think about every decision that led to me driving down i65 at 3 o clock in the morning on a Monday. I'm only 24. I have my whole life ahead of me, but it feels like I've lived a pretty crazy half decade.
I pull into my parents house at around 5 in the morning. Sleep for an hour and go to work.
"Did you ever think about skipping Sunday and maybe getting some rest before your first day?" My dad asks.
"No, last Lollapalooza. Had to make it count."
Little did I know that six years later I wouldn't grow out of it. I would still firmly have a passion for drinking heavily in wide open fields. I would still be jumping up and down wildly screaming 'so I guess this is growing up.'
And besides...a leather couch is much more comfortable than sleeping under the sun in Indio right?
I guess I'll just keep telling myself that. Lolla 2017, I'm coming for ya.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
I remember my first time sleepwalking. I 'woke up' curled in a ball outside my Freshman dorm. It was January and I was wearing nothing but a pair of boxers. I was cold. I had no idea what I was doing there. I started banging on the exterior door to Briscoe Shoemaker but as it was likely 4 in the morning, there was no one to help.
I was starting to panic when I saw a small window ajar. I ran down to it and pried it open as far is it would go, opening up a hole that was about 2' by 2' I was still 18 back then and probably had little body fat. I was able to squeeze through the hole and then I fell directly into the laundry room. Someone must have been washing their clothes quite late into the evening because there were still two adjacent dryers running and they were SO warm. I curled up like a cat on top of the dryers until a maintenance worker poked me awake at 6am and led me back to my room.
It would not be my last sleepwalking event unfortunately. I woke up once on the beach in Barcelona. I woke up in a pool chair in Mexico...at the wrong hotel. And Friday morning I woke up leaning against my Park City condo door when my friends opened it for an early morning coffee run.
They weren't surprised in the least.
Short of handcuffing myself to a bed Mike Birbiglia stlye or hanging a key around my neck I really don't know how to stop it. Maybe not drink so much? Maybe pee before bed. Or maybe do nothing, because it always makes for one hell of a story.
We were in Park City for Jack's 30th. Jack and I have lived together on and off for 11 years (2006-2009 Bloomington, 2008 Italy, 2011-2017 Los Angeles) in fact in some states I may be eligible for benefits in the result of his untimely death. We had been going on this Park City trip for the past 5 years but this time it had a little more weight to it.
A 30th birthday, at least one with an out of town trip feels a lot like a wedding except no one needs to dress up and typically there aren't any parents there. I suppose in that way it's more of a mixed sex Bachelor party where people crack a whiskey the moment they wake up.
In my case, I never exactly stopped drinking whiskey on the slopes which led to some incredibly sloppy skiing and some spectacular falls on my part. By the time I got to apres ski at Umbrella bar, a very concerned server named Janet was concerned with how much I was bleeding. I tried to explain to her that I had some very small cuts but that I was just bleeding a lot because I had been drinking all day and my blood was thin. Also I forgot to bring gloves.
This didn't seem to comfort her in the least.
I sobered up in the hot tub and after 3 Red Bulls, a 5 Hour and 3 cups of coffee you would have never known I spent the previous night in the hallway.
We made our way to downtown Park City for dinner at Main Street pizza and debated our plans for the evening. Would it be Shot Skis at the spur? A TI concert at Park City Live? Dancing at Downstairs? We settled on a bar crawl. But not just any bar crawl, a THEMED bar crawl; the theme? Jack's drinks through the years. I believe the order went something like: High Life, well vodka, Jagerbombs, Rumpleminz, Tequila and then a round of shot hat. Thank God we all lost interest in the theme before we got to see yas and flat lines.
At the last bar we tried to order a bottle and the conversation went like this:
"We would like the $150 bottle of Absolut please."
"Great, where is your table."
"We don't have one."
"Well you can't get a bottle without a table."
"No, it's fine, we are just going to chug it on the dance floor like douche bags."
"This is Utah."
Apparently they don't have frat guys in Mormon country.
Saturday morning I woke up with a sigh of relief to discover that I was on the couch. I had only bought a one day pass and decided it was probably for the best to just spend the day relaxing. I couldn't justify a $140 lift ticket to go ski in slush...
That lasted until about 11 when I was on the Quicksilver Gondola to Park City Mountain.
It was incredible how much better I was at skiing sober! In fact when my crew was done for the day, I stayed out for a few extra runs with some IU bros that I had bumped into serendipitously.
I skied back down to the umbrella bar and found Janet pouring drinks again.
"You're not bleeding today."
"It's amazing how I don't fall when I'm not hammered."
"I can't believe you forgot ski gloves but remembered to bring puka shells."
"Hey Janet, if I slurp all the coagulated foam off of that bar mat, will you give me this beer for free?"
She was not amused. (Jk, she loved it and totally gave me the beer for free)
We stayed in Saturday night and cooked ourselves dinner (after finishing an entire 24 of PBR at the Apres hot tub) because sometimes when your 8 favorite people in a city are in the same room with you, it doesn't make sense to leave the comforts of your own home.
Somehow we ended up playing 8 of Mundt (I lost) and Kings (I lost) and this Pictionary spin off where you try to draw things from the trip. (Yes both me sleeping in the hallway and my puka shells were drawn)
Jack had his cake, we presented him with a book of 10 years of photographs and the birthday weekend was declared a success.
Sunday was a dark day. After forcing down a Cheeseburger at High West my health started to deteriorate and I sat in a bed trying to determine what was wrong with me. Here is my search history.
Everything was seemingly OK though. We made it to the airport, I bought a 1 pound bag of Skittles and a 1 pound bag of Sour Patch kids and arrived back in Venice around one o clock in the morning.
The rollercoaster of emotions settled and I thought about my 7 companions from the trip. Two were already back in Milwaukee, one was off to SF, another to Austin, another to New York. In a few hours we would all be separated by thousands of miles and I would be laying in bed with a hangover.
It's funny how life works. People come and go, it's sad. I wish all my friends lived on the same street as me and we hung out all the time, but then of course one must realize is that is part of what makes friendships so strong. Anytime you run into someone at a wedding, at a bachelor party, at a festival you remember that it clicks right away like they were never gone at all. You could run into a friend walking down the streets of Paris and within 30 seconds be telling old stories at a bar. These are the moments that make life interesting.
So thank you to all of you who make my life what it is, it's fun to go on a solo trip now and again, but it's the people around you that make the story worth telling.
I was reflecting on all of this as I walked into my apartment Sunday night. How great is was to spend a weekend with my roommate of 10 years, how wonderful it was to see a few people who had made the trip from the east coast and the midwest. I had spent the previous 10 days with my mother and brother. You know what, everything is going to be ok, I thought.
And then I opened my front door and there were three Alpha Chis from Knoxville sleeping on my couch.
Apparently it's college Spring Break and they are here all week.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
"I promise there is a reserve tank on new cars."
It's pitch black and there is a torrential downpour outside. The words ZERO MILES TO EMPTY have been flashing on my heads up display for the last five minutes.
"Didn't you do this drive with your dad just 8 weeks ago?"
My mother is clutching her seat belt as if it will make the car more fuel efficient.
"Worst case scenario, I'll get out and walk for help while you stay in the car and play Solitaire on your iPad. It will be great."
She doesn't look so sure.
We're about 5 miles outside of Wickenburg, Arizona...a place I couldn't have placed on a map two months ago, a place that I am now strangely well acquainted with.
We pull up to a single pump gas station named Barry's as the car sputters to a stop.
"Never in doubt," I say with a shit eating grin on my face.
We top off and make the jaunt to our 2.5 star Best Western. The front desk lady implores me to make it to breakfast in the morning, claiming she makes the best bacon in Wickenburg. I promise to stop by.
Meanwhile in room 223 my mom hasn't been able to find The Bachelor. I call the front desk.
"What channel is ABC?"
"I have on channel 12, it's not the Bachelor."
"Oh sorry honey, The Bachelor airs at 7 o clock in Arizona."
My distaste for this one horse town grows by the minute.
I'm here to bring my brother to LA. I was here to visit him over Christmas and over the past two months his doctors have decided that he belongs in Santa Monica, precisely one mile from me.
My feelings about this are obviously complicated. Six months ago I got a phone call that he was missing and now he will live a stone's throw from me. Meanwhile, I drank 24 beers last Saturday and walked onto a dance floor proudly declaring that I could probably take any single girl in the bar home. I'm not sure I'm the best example.
In the past 30 days, I turned 30, found out a friend's cancer had returned, missed out on like 4 jobs, but also found out that my show was picked up...oh and my mother has a chronic nerve disease. To say it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride would be underselling it. Yet here I am, forced to confront life's challenges with little to no idea what I'm doing.
I walk down the 'main drag' of Wickenburg and peer into the one bar the town boasts, wondering if the sad cowboy I had drank with on Christmas night is in there still waiting for his life to take off in a certain direction. He's not, just two men playing pool. Apparently rainy Monday nights in Wickenburg don't pop off as hard as I had hoped.
I walk into a Circle K and grab a forty of Coors and a bag of potato chips. Seeing as I'm already drenched and I doubt a police officer would mind given the weather, I go ahead and pop the beer in the parking lot as I wander around the abandoned town. There is a McDonald's in the distance but I figure my Jalapeno chips will likely provide a sufficient supper.
I return to room 223 to see my mother already asleep, her hand bandaged to cover the damaged nerve endings in her finger tips. I finish my beer while watching Minority Report on HBO. I fall asleep with the television on.
The following morning my mom wakes me up for breakfast at 630, something I am not too happy about. After two months of sitting on my ass, waking up prior to sunrise seems especially cruel. Living up to my word though I make my way to the continental breakfast. The bacon is OK. Certainly not something I would point out in a Yelp review, but it suddenly dawns on me that this may be the only breakfast place in Wickenburg, hence serving the 'best' bacon.
We arrive at my brother's facility at 8am and manage to load our rental Camry with 5 bags full of his thrift shopping. Apparently the hot thing to do in this Phoenix exurb is to hang out at the Goodwill and buy random shit. He has 17 hats and 8 women's head bands. I steal three.
The first two hours of the trip I play a podcast. This allows me to wake up and emotionally prepare for the conversation to follow. I have never been good with sharing my feelings, I'm even worse at listening to people share theirs. I haven't had a real conversation with my brother about what's been going on with him the past couple years at all, and I'm nervous about the truths that I may discover.
We're at about the California border when I start to learn about rehab romance and codependent relationships. I learn about the 'thirteenth step' an especially horrid situation where males pray on women with less than a year of sobriety to fill the void in their lives.
I learn why all of the upper middle class kids are now hooked on heroin. (It's because they run out of painkillers to steal.) I learned what narcan can fix (heroin overdose) and can't fix (heroin cut with elephant tranquilizer) Then I start to wonder why we live in a world with elephant tranquilizer. Do we really need elephants? Do we need them tranquilized? What do you do if you are the mother of a child who dies of an elephant tranquilizer overdose?
My head is spinning by the time we pass Palm Springs. Texts are rolling in from my softball team. "Who is bringing the beer to the tourney this weekend?" My Park City chain asks "Can we just stay up for 96 hours next week?"
And it kills me because I legitimately care that we have been at our Palmdale tourney and I would love it if we stayed up for 96 hours in Palmdale. I want my heart to be in the right place, I WANT to be focused on Al-anon meetings and figuring out the best way to be a support beam, but I'm just lost and I kind of wish I could make it all go away. I can't.
As we coast into Santa Monica and I'm unloading luggage in front of a counselor so that she can search it on contraband my first thought...MY FIRST FUCKING THOUGHT is 'wow this sober living house could have been used to throw a crazy banger.' My second thought is 'man the Indiana Purdue starts in an hour, at which bar am I going to watch it?'
I don't want to think these things, but I do and it makes me feel just worthless. How does one become a beacon of light when they are consumed with just as much darkness. I hear about how kids become hooked on Ambien and Xanax and I think about the fact that I openly request these things before a flight or how I've taken hydrocodone on a Sunday before because I had a bad hangover.
"Why don't people just stop when they're getting a little in over their head?" I ask.
He looks at me deadpan. "They can't...that's the point."
I return to my home and see bottles of alcohol and a gigantic bong strewn all over the apartment and think to myself, this is all my fault. I glorified everything. I made it look to him like I was a fucking rock star when in all actuality, I was just a kid skating by but hiding all the negativity from the world.
Sure I've done some cool shit, but at what cost? I realize that some of us can just get away with it and others can't.
So what do I do? How am I supposed to feel? No one prepped me for this, no one told me how to react. I look down and realize I am wearing a parody DARE shirt. I was just in a house of addicts wearing a fucking Chive shirt that makes fun of a company that tries to get kids not to take drugs.
I rip it off and throw it away. I wonder if I will change and the answer is probably no. If I started living the life that I thought I was supposed to instead of the life I wanted to live it would end it bitterness and regret.
But what I can do is just be there. I can believe that things will be better.
I don't know what I'm supposed to do, so maybe I'll just start with listening. Anyone can listen. I may not have anything to add, but I can listen and say the words "I love you." And that's gotta be a decent start.
My mom picks me back up and we head down to her hotel in Hermosa. We make plans to go to Harry Potter world, we buy tickets to a Bruno Mars concert. I map out some hikes, I get a reservation at Malibu Wines and make sure our next five days are some we don't ever forget.
I thought life was going to be easy.
I thought I could just kinda fake it until I make it and then everything would be ok.
But then when your father has open heart surgery, your mother has a chronic illness, your brother is fighting some shit, you realize...life is not easy. Life is hard. But there is really nothing we can do about the curveballs that life throws at us except roll with the punches and try to make the most of every day that we're here.
I can't dwell on the past or the bullshit that I've been dealt. I can focus on making memories, being a generally good guy, and doing my best to make the experiences of my family and friends generally pleasant.
So tomorrow I'm not going to worry about that what I can't control, I'm going to take my mom to Universal Studios, buy my brother a wand and get a fake Slytherin tattoo because life's too short to not be a wizard, at least for a day.