Friday, May 25, 2007

Dear Senator Reid

Dear Senator Majority Leader,

You blinked, and I'm upset about it.

While it is true, as you said, that Congress could not override a veto of appropriations that included a timeline, IT IS EQUALLY TRUE that the President cannot get funding for his war without signing a bill.

This is the power of the purse, and you did not wield it. The carnage has been funded by Congress once again.

You have attempted to speak of the appropriations bill as a success, but it is no such thing. Funding our misadventure in Iraq, funding the waste of American and Iraqi lives in an unjustified occupation, blessing the malignant policies of an administration that has gone terribly wrong, this bill is very simply a failure. Moreover, it constitutes a serious blow to my confidence in your party's ability to lead us out of the Bush area.

With grave disappointment,

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


A scene from A Place Called Home, the youth center where I work in South Los Angeles.

A few minutes ago, three of the music teachers came into development and took seats around the conference room table. William said, "The kid doesn't know what this meeting is for, right?"


"He's going to get nervous when he sees you with a camera."

I egged them on by offering to fingerprint him.


Then the kid comes in. Pants hanging down, cap low on his head - as you do.

They sit him down and ask him if he knows why he's been called in. The kid fidgets and says no. William looks around. "Nobody told him?" The boys shake their heads. William says, "Well, you're here because you have been amazing to us. You improve day by day, and you're helping teach younger kids while stepping up and becoming the musician you need to be. So we have something for you."

Then William produces a guitar case. He instructs the student to open it up. He does. By now, his hands are shaking a bit. From the cases, he produces a beautiful classical guitar. William says, "The neck is thicker than what you're used to." Nonetheless, the kid plays it pretty well. They got him a nice one: rich, warm tone.

William says, "That's yours. With our thanks."

I'm really glad I was in the room for that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Growing A Tomato Plant In Hollywood

"Is that a shoot?"

"I don't know."

"I think we should dig it up and plant it somewhere else."

"If we plant it in the ground now, it will die."

"How do you really know that? Let's try it."

"Shouldn't we give it more time? We only planted it this morning."

"Why did I drive here just to look at the soil? It's not coming up. I'm useless here."

"You know, you can transform your experience of watching the soil."

"Will you shut up already?"

"Your choice, man. Go ahead and suffer."

"Maybe LITERAL gardening isn't for me. Maybe my real inspiration is in making art inspired by tomatoes."

"Um, you know we have incorporated as a tomato nursery."

"Don't oppress my process!"

"Right, you guys talk, I'm going to water this little guy."

"Oh sure, water it AGAIN. And tomorrow it's going to need more. And the day after that. And the day after that. It's hopeless."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

This Is Closer Than I Ever Need To Be, Thank You

9:42 PM

The flames are almost in view of the kitchen window. The Griffith Park wildfire has now consumed more than 200 acres. The roadblocks are one block north of my location, and I can feel the heat and gag on the smoke. The helicopters are zooming overhead and I hear the clamour of radios. There are five water-dropping helicopters in service tonight. The school where they have evacuated the Vermont Canyon neighborhood threatened by the fire is just two blocks south of me. These flames are high, very high. I can see the glow.

They think this was started by a discarded cigarette on the golf course. The culprit was himself badly burned. The temperature reached 97 today and it has been very dry.

The loudspeaker I hear is a police car issuing instructions to the residents north of Los Feliz Boulevard (one block north of where I am - wondering if I should relocate my books!). The evacuation area is just a little further north, to some very expensive homes on the southern ridge of the park.

There is no talk of evacuating this area (indeed, they are evacuating people here). It is closer than I need to get. I can actually feel the heat of the fire. That's plenty close.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Farewell To A Good Wine

Had a moment of silence last weekend for the loss of a darn good wine.

In fact, the best under-$20 wine I have ever tasted: the D.H. Lescombes 2005 Syrah from New Mexico. A delightful, peppery potion it was, and it's all gone. All drunk up. In fact, the last two bottles anywhere are sitting in a wine rack three feet away from me as I write this.

And I don't want to open them.