WARNING: MAY CONTAIN POETRY

So, I’m finally back with more blog time bloggery. Sorry for the long absence, but I decided to take the month of February off for Black History Month. It’s just how I roll.

Okay, you caught me, I wasn’t celebrating Black History Month.  I mean, I wasn’t actively not celebrating it. I’m not a jerk. I acknowledged it and supported it. But I certainly had time to write, and I just didn’t.

I did manage to squeeze in some adventures while I was busy not writing though. One of which, attending the Chinese New Year parade, I will chronicle here in the first of my three part series, “February: Parades, Roasts, and Standing Up for Myself”.

PART ONE: THE PARADE

To get to the heart of Los Angeles for the new year festivities, I decided to take the subway instead of driving because, 1) It seemed more “adventurey” and 2) I didn’t want to write a blog about spending an hour and a half trying to find parking.

The subway ride was pretty uneventful, but I did find it interesting that, just like every public transit ride I’ve ever taken, it was filled with the same cast of characters as always, just played by different actors. There was the business guy with a newspaper, the hipster with a bicycle, the incredibly old lady who was either a sweet grandmother or a gypsy waiting to curse someone, the guy who kept dozing off because he was off to his third job, and the two teen agers who were furiously making out because this is the only time they can be “alone”, just to name a few. Incidentally, I averted my eyes from the horny teenagers, because I didn’t want to be cast as the “Creepy Bald Pervert”.

When I arrived, the curbs were already crowded with thousands of people (already not my cup of tea), but I was able to work my way to a decent vantage point. Now, I’m aware I can get a bit complainy in my blog, so to take the edge off and try something different, I’ll describe the parade in the form of a hastily written poem.

NOTE: I have never written a poem in my life, so I apologize in advance for the following.

ODE TO A PARADE

Strange bodies, pressed together

Sweat pours from the pores of a large man

Onto me

Poor me

I strain to see

Is that a dragon approaching?

Hard to say

Blocked by a large sign

Shoving bible verses down my throat

No, not a dragon

It is a local politician on an old timey fire engine

Moving slowly, slowly…

Oh…

…So…

…Slow…

…Ly

Were it on its way to an actual fire,

My condolences to the victims

They will be missed

More politicians in classic cars

Waving at me with their greased palms

Still no people legged dragons in sight

Oh, if only this procession could move

Half the speed

Of the jabberings of the tweaked out meth head

To the left of me

But alas, it continues its dead-on impression

Of a snail on Quaaludes

Finally,

After kicklines of karate kids

And bo-staff wielding middle aged men

The dragons come

But by then,

My aching back and blistered feet

Were crying out in pain,

And dragon me away

Wow, that got weird, fast. I apologize one more time, just to bookend that atrocious poem.

Okay, so the parade was not all it was cracked up to be.  Actually, it was exactly what a parade is cracked up to be. Boring. Slow. Crowded. Pointless. And yet, with all this negativity I’m spewing forth, I really didn’t have a bad time. Aside from the main event I had quite a good day.

I met up with a good friend. Ate delicious food truck food. Saw some Chinese acrobats contort their bodies in very unnatural ways. Also, during the parade, I got to overhear a very funny thing that was said by some bystanders. Something I would not have been privy to if I wasn’t on location.

At one point, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (previously Tony Villar until he “Latinoed up” his name to court the Mexican-American vote, I suspect) was waving at the crowd during his 3 MPH drive-by. He was wearing some traditional Chinese apparel and saying “Happy New Year” in Mandarin. That’s when I heard the Asian couple next to me say to one another, “Good Lord, he’s butchering it again, just like last year.”

For some reason, it made me happy to witness this. I guess it was a funny reminder to me that nothing is exactly what it seems.  Just depends on your perspective.  It also reminded me of something that happened to me about 7 years ago.

I was standing on a soundstage for the TV show “World Cup Comedy”. A TV show that had teams of improvisers compete to see who was “the best”. Kelsey Grammer was about to announce the winner of the World Cup Comedy Cup, and it was between my team and one other.

When Mr. Grammer announced my team was the winner, this is what the viewing audience saw:

Me and my team, with shocked looks on our faces, jumping up and down, celebrating while confetti flew everywhere and TV’s Frasier, handing us a giant trophy, and congratulating us on our victory.

What the audience didn’t see (or hear rather), was Kelsey Grammer muttering under his breath, through a TV friendly smile, “Is this thing over yet? I gotta get out of here.”

Again, nothing is as it seems. But that’s not such a horrible thing. Because, if that is true for the good times, it is also true for the bad times. So when things seem there absolute worst, I can rest assured knowing it can’t be all that bad, and that something good will come of it.

I’d now like to end this sucker on a super positive note:

1) I will not be doing any more poetry in my blog. I’ll be saving that for my private journal that I don’t write.

2) When my team won the World Cup of Comedy, no one threw a parade for us.


Downward Facing Blog

Sigh. I haven’t posted nearly as much as I hoped I would when I started this blog. And the last thing I want to do is make excuses. But the first thing I’m going to do, is make excuses.

I freely admit my main problem is that my body and mind are very resistant to anything that requires effort or even slightly resembles “work”. And even though I thoroughly enjoy writing this blog, nobody has relayed that message to the little procrastinator in my head. For the purposes of this post, let’s call him Earl.

I try tricking Earl into thinking he’s going to have fun when I sit down at the computer. I start by browsing Facebook or some other website that requires no brain power. Earl seems to be content with this. When I think he isn’t paying attention, I stealthily open up Microsoft Word, but before you can say “Times New Roman”, Earl’s onto me.

He’s all, “Wait a second, why is the screen all blank and stuff?”

And I’m like, “Oh, hey Earl. Listen, I was just thinking, I mean if it’s not too much trouble or anything, we could take a crack at writing a new blog post.”

But he’s all, “You’re kidding right? I work very hard at not working hard, and I’m not gonna let you screw that up for me.”

We go back and forth like that for a while, but eventually I win and crank out another post, but not without Earl kicking and screaming the whole time.

Ooh, I think Earl is taking a nap. Perfect time for me to talk about my most recent experience.

Last week, when I was trying to figure out what new thing I could try, a friend suggested I take a yoga class. I told her (at Earl’s request) that this didn’t seem doable today. She immediately sent me a link to a yoga studio that is half a mile from my apartment, with a $9 community beginner’s class. Coincidentally it was the same yoga studio another friend suggested a few weeks earlier. Take that Earl.

The first thing I did was head to the Rite Aid and buy a yoga mat. The studio said on their website they’d provide a mat if I didn’t own one. But I don’t have to be a yoga veteran to know that the provided mat was going to be filled with the bacteria and sweat of a thousand hippies. Or worse, patchouli oil.

I left a little late, but still with enough time to buy a mat and get to class on time. That is until I got in line at Rite Aid. There was one cashier, and the line was seven people deep. This would still be fine, if the lady at the front of the line wasn’t trying to purchase about 35 cans of cat food. With coupons.

Now, like hostages in a bank robbery, six strangers bonded over our hatred for the cashier and the lady with a houseful of cats (or one very hungry cat, I’m not sure). I made a little joke to the guy in front of me who was watching his two bags of ice melt. And shared a “What the fuck?” look with the lady in front of him.

The cashier finally called in reinforcements, but only after everyone in purgatory, I mean line, took turns doing that passive aggressive move everyone has done at one time or another. You know, the one where you look around all perturbed, throw your hands up in the air, and look at the imaginary watch on your wrist. It’s a lame move, but effective.

After I made it out of Rite Aid, I had very little time to get to class. On top of that I was tense, with some residual rage. Not too happy about that at the time, but looking back, what better way to see if yoga really works for me.

I got to class, just as it was starting. Everyone was already lying on their mats, taking in deep breathes, looking very peaceful. I saw an area of real estate where I could set up camp and weaved my way through the bendy and enlightened crowd. I did everything I could to not disturb them. Until I unrolled my brand new mat.

I don’t know what they use at the yoga mat factory to roll those things up, but when it unfurled, it sounded as if King Kong were undoing the Velcro fly on his swim trunks. I was embarrassed, but immediately comforted by the fact that I was probably the only judgmental person in the class who would have frowned on this anyway.

Over all, the class was amazing. I was surprised to see that for the most part, I was able to quiet my mind and simply focus on my breathing and posture, just as we were instructed.  And even though I am not limber at all, I was still able to do most of the poses without killing myself. But I wouldn’t be me if there weren’t some tense moments in this otherwise serene setting.

At one point I was in what I believe is called “happy baby pose”. This is where you lay your back with your legs spread eagle and your knees bent. Actually, the whole class was in this pose as well. How weird would that be if I just decided to pretend to be a giant baby while everyone else was doing some other stretch? Come to think of it, this is L.A., so probably not weird at all.

Anyhoo, that’s when I distinctly heard the teacher tell us to imagine a glowing golden orb in our “Fart Chakra”. Fart Chakra? Are you serious? That can’t be real. And why was I the only person in class straining to stifle my inner 13 year old from having a laughing fit? These people couldn’t have that much control could they?

Well, not wanting to be too judgey, I lay there on my mat and imagined a glowing golden orb in the only part of my body that could possibly be my fart chakra. It felt foolish, but not nearly as foolish as when I later told my friend about this and she told me the teacher more than likely said “heart chakra”.  Oh, yeah, that does make a little more sense. I’ll know better for next time.

Something else I noticed is that I am a little put off by “yoga voice”. That very calm, controlled, loving voice of the teacher that should be soothing. And for the most part, is.

I don’t doubt that the teacher is being sincere. But there is a part of my reptile brain that listens to her and can’t help but think this woman is one parking ticket away from unleashing a suppressed inner rage that would result in a murder spree.

I’m fully aware of how irrational that is, and to my credit, did not dwell on it for very long. I just find it interesting that my brain can go to such disturbing and cynical places at times.

I have since signed up for more classes, and have been to a total of four as of this post. I am more than sold on the whole yoga thing.  It appears to be a great way for me to learn to slow my mind down and focus on the moment. And honestly, if I can just touch my toes someday, I will consider it money and time well spent.

For those of you who have never tried yoga (if there are any who haven’t tried it) I highly recommend it.  Especially if you feel your fart chakra is out of alignment.

It appears Earl is waking up from his nap, and since he has been good and allowed me to finish this post, I’m going to reward him with some video games now.

Namaste.


Back From Sick Town

What’s that old saying? If you want to make God laugh, make a plan? Apparently, if you want to make God give you a horrible head and chest cold, start writing a blog about doing something new and exciting every day. Well played God. Well played.

Today is the first day in a week that I feel back to my old self. Or I should say my new self. Being sick felt a lot like “Old Ryan”. Slumped on the couch, playing video games, eating bizarre combinations of whatever I have in my fridge. If you haven’t tried my famous “Soy sausage, swiss cheese and BBQ sauce on the last piece of bread sandwich”, I envy you.

During “Sick Week 2011”, I just couldn’t muster up the brain energy to write anything. Not that I had much to write about. Unless you’re interested in hearing about my many awesome “Final Kill Cams” in Call of Duty: Black Ops (nerds will understand that), or would like to know about the first two seasons of Damages (which I watched in two days). The latter, by the way, you should see if you haven’t started watching already. Holy smokes is it good.

I have to admit, aside from the sore throat, snot, and body aches, I enjoyed being sick on some level. It gave me an excuse to go back to my old ways and not feel guilty.  I got to do nothing and say to myself,  “Oh, poor me, if only I weren’t sick, I could be out doing something worthwhile.” This kind of thought is common for me, and I find it disturbing.

I don’t like that it is that easy for me to fall off the wagon. I don’t know how much I believe in this, but I sometimes wonder if I choose to get sick.  As if somewhere deep down, my mind notices I’m actually getting shit done and says to my body, “Crap, the kid’s gaining momentum.  I can’t seem to break him of his positive attitude. Quick, shut down his immune system before he gathers any more steam and we have to do a bunch of stuff that’s too difficult or we’re afraid of.”

Ahh, sweet self-sabotage. What would I do without you? (A lot more probably.) I’d love to be rid of that stinkin’ thinkin’, but I don’t think it is possible to do away with all together. Not for me at least. There is always going to be that nagging voice telling me my ideas are too stupid and that I’m just plain not good enough. But I’m on to you self-sabotage. I know you’re there, waiting to thwart me and my plans for myself. But as G.I. Joe (or was it Kennedy?) says, knowing is half the battle. So go ahead, make me sick. Fill my head with doubts.  Tell me I’m not smart enough, good enough, deserving enough.  You may win some battles, but I’ll be damned if I let you win the war.

That vicious voice in my noggin told me not to post this blog.  That I didn’t have enough to say. That this was pointless. But I didn’t listen. The plan is, keep writing no matter what. Whether I write about the great strides I take toward my goal, or write about the times I take a few steps backwards.

Oh, and for the record, I did do something new for myself today. I took my first yoga class ever. And it was fantastic. But more on that, my stand up comedy class, and (I wish I were kidding) upcoming clown workshop I just signed up for.


Past Two (sniffle) Days

I’ve been sick with a cold. Sore throat, snot, and an achey body make it hard to muster up the strength to do anything but watch some WGA screeners and eat way more soup than anyone should.

Here’s some things I’m looking forward to once my post nasal drip becomes past nasal drip:

Volunteering at Bread and Roses, a place that serves food to the homeless in a restaurant style atmosphere

Train trip to Santa Barbara

Road trip to Napa Valley


Brief Update…

I don’t have much time to write a full on post tonight, but I thought I’d at least post a quick update on the past couple of days.

1. Signed up for a stand-up comedy class I’ve been putting off for two years

2. Searching for deals on hotels and airfare for a trip to Austin for the South by Southwest film festival in March. If that falls through, rest assured, a trip will be taken.

3. Per my friend Stuart’s suggestion, purged my apartment of a bunch of crap I don’t need and donated it to Goodwill. Dear Goodwill, if you are reading this, when I say “crap”, I mean really awesome stuff.

4. Still not sweatin’ the small stuff. Five days in a row (a big deal for me)

5. Letting go of the past, content with the present, and super excited about the future.

6. Sense of purpose holding strong.

Once again, thank you for all the comments. Y’alls my friendships. 🙂


Day Two (Day Three if your name is Tara Ochs)

It was brought to my attention by my dear friend Tara that the title of my second blogpost “Day One” was confusing because as she said, it was technically Day Two. First of all, screw you Tara. Secondly, just kidding, I love you. 🙂 I guess I just saw the day AFTER my first post as the official Day One of my lil’ journey, so once again, screw you Tara (xoxo).

Day two was a pretty amazing day.  For me. Remember that an amazing day for me at this early stage of my journey might just be an average/boring day to you. You’ve been warned.

I started the day by sitting down at the computer and googling “Things to do in L.A. today”. One of the first things that popped up was “Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space”, an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA. Well, I’ve gone to museums before, so nothing new there. But I usually rush through them so I can get back home and do more culturally stimulating activities like update my Facebook page or play Angry Birds on the toilet.

One of the intriguing things about this particular exhibit was that it required “active participation of the viewer”. And of the five pieces, the one that really caught my attention was a twenty foot long, 3 foot deep indoor swimming pool that museum goers were encouraged to immerse themselves in, literally. Well, if I was going to go to this exhibit and write about my experience, there was no way I was not gonna do that. So, I stuffed my bathing suit in my backpack, removed my inhibitions from my internal backpack, and off I went.

The museum itself was pretty much what I expected. Various pieces of giant works of contemporary art scattered about. Some inspiring, some confusing, some just plain weird. No surprise there. Except maybe the alarming amount of sculptures that centered around ball sacks. There were actually only a few, but still more ball sack than I generally like to see in such large scale. Anyway, bleep blorp, skipping to the pool…

I grabbed my swim trunks from my bag and got changed. There was about 40 feet of real estate between the changing room and the pool exhibit, so I left my shirt on so as not to arouse the ladies and/or look like a douche. I walked into the room and the first thing I noticed after the blue neon lit pool (that looked kinda like something you’d see in a swingers club in the 70’s) was the 15 year old life guard. Seriously. They had a life guard. But I guess you have to have one. God forbid someone drown and was floating face down in the water. Museum goers would just think it was part of the experience and say it was a “really interesting metaphor for how we are all just skimming the surface of life, and therefore, dead” or some such thing.

The other thing I noticed was that I was the only person in there that had on swim attire. Everyone else was just wearing street clothes and dipping their feet in the pool. I asked Chip (I don’t really know his name, but that seems like a good enough name for a lifeguard) if we were actually allowed in the pool. He said yes, but no diving. Damn, I wasn’t going to get to do a cannon ball.

Well, off came the shirt, and into the pool I went. The website said that the pool would be heated, but unless the pool was originally 40 degrees, and they heated it to 50 degrees, they lied. Either way, when my nether region reached the water, well, let’s just say there was one less ball sack in the museum. But my body eventually became acclimated to the icy water, and I was now doing exactly what I set out to do: sitting in a pool in the middle of a museum.

Gosh, how can I describe the feeling? Let’s see, have you ever been in a pool? Well it was exactly like that. It was extremely underwhelming. But here’s the thing: I didn’t care. I have never really been an “it’s the journey, not the destination” kinda guy. Which I’m sure has been a real treat for anyone who had ever travelled with me. But on this day, as I sat in an chilly mixture of water, chlorine, and sweaty, artsy fartsy hippy feet, I was perfectly happy. To me, that was in and of itself, amazing. And if that ain’t the ultimate goal of any “adventure”, I don’t know what is.

http://www.moca.org/

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=269244&id=809922304


Day One

Wow. Thank you to everyone who read my first blog post and gave me so many ideas on what I can do over the next six months (and beyond). It has only been 10 or so hours since I posted, and I already feel a change within myself. Something kinda magical happened when I wrote that first blog.

First of all, the skies parted. Literally. It was overcast and gloomy, but when I left the house today, I could see the sun. I’m aware my writing a blog did not really cause this to happen, but if anyone wants to give me credit for it, I’ll take it.

Secondly, the figurative clouds seemed to disappear today as well. I had an extra bounce in my step, which only a few days ago I  would have attributed to cancer of the foot. But with my sudden new outlook, I can see it is a direct result of having a goal that I’m excited about.

Finally, I’m happy to say I stayed true to my commitment and tried something new today.  A good friend suggested that I try “guided meditation”. This is something I would normally scoff at. Not to her face of course. It would be more of an inner scoffing so as not to hurt her feelings. If you are like I was and have no idea what guided meditation is, it’s basically a video with a disembodied voice, guiding you through a short meditation on any number of things. Affirmations, stress relief, focussing on goals, etc. They have a ton of them on YouTube. Did I just hear someone scoff? Well stuff that down like a normal human being, would you please? Thank you. Moving on.

So I gave it a try, and I have to say I found it oddly soothing and helpful. I did one on achieving goals, and even though at first it was hard to slow down my always racing mind, I was eventually able to walk away from it with some clear goals in mind, and  more importantly, the belief I can make them happen.

The bigger thing I took away from all this was that I was reminded that just about anything can be useful so long as it is met with an open mind. Though next time I am deep in meditation, I try it I will try not to reflexively check an incoming text message, as I did about halfway through.