train people: the woman in the bubble

Hi everyone. I’m not just a link-posting bot, but I have been writing less lately. You’re welcome.

Today on the train I saw the following woman:

She was in her late forties, of indeterminate origin. Clearly a respectable office-worker type. She was one of those people immediately recognizable as eccentric. As soon as one sees such a person the only question is: what’s the situation? Because there is a situation.

She thumped into one of the larger seats with a table. Right away she went into what was clearly a settled routine. Out came the purse, and from the purse most of the contents spilled onto the table. There was sorting for a few minutes.

Next, she wound her hair onto four curlers. These remained for the rest of the journey.

A series of plastic containers was carefully lined up. Yogurt, dry cereal, and some slices of fruit were deposited from three of them into a fourth, and slowly consumed with a tiny plastic spoon.

These containers were replaced in the purse, and two more containers were opened. I think they contained lunch materials. Some manipulation of the lunch containers ensued and they too were placed back in the purse.

Satisfied that she was on her way, she kicked off her shoes and took out several books as well as two pairs of glasses and a small pile of tools or jewelry that I couldn’t quite make out.

The books were not read. However, she did do some minor repair on her nail polish, and I think some other makeup juju that involved a mirror and a lot of gyrations in the seat.

At this point there were twenty or so objects on the table, most of which she picked up or put down several times. At no time did she look out the window or at any other passengers.

From time to time this woman emitted a clearly audible hissing sound reminiscent of an air brake on a truck. I could not see any source for this sound or any behavior that indicated she was aware of it.

In short: LONG LIVE THE IMMEASURABLE DIVERSITY OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE and damn I am sure glad I don’t share an office with her.

60 miles of track with a mad prophet behind me

The other day my train car on the L.A.-O.C. line contained a high-quality crazy.

Our hero was large and cheerful, with a lion’s mane of blond hair and a three day stubble. He was accompanied by a friend, who told the conductor he’d “just popped him out of a mental hospital to take home to the wife!” According to the friend, the patient had “been in Atascadero ’cause they thought he was the Hillside Strangler!”

The two men sat behind me and provided a soundtrack for the next hour and a half.

They discussed their destination of Oceanside “Nothin’ but Marines! A guy could go on disability but I’d make more money spinnin’ a sign outside a pizza joint.”

A detailed yet incomprehensible discussion of wetbacks, shotguns, “just nukin’ the jails,” and “Sweet Home Obama” went on for about fifteen minutes. It began when the train went by the downtown Los Angeles jail.

At one point the topic went to the world of entertainment, where my new friend said “you can be Gene Simmons, put you in a robot suit with a stratocaster, down on Venice Beach. Makin’ $900,000.”

Norwalk, as we passed, was “Another sleepy little neighborhood full of gangs. Surfer sacrifice hung up on th’wires.’

Drugs were a big part of the conversation. Some incident involving tweaker women chasing them from a bus stop was mentioned. He was very interested in the possibility of medical marijuana in Oceanside. And, of course, “I could crush up a Ritalin right now with a credit card!”

Southern California geography was covered during a transfer stop: “that way’s San Bernardino. Could start thumbin’ it that way at the end of the world. Rather be in San Luis, millionaires draining out.”

Religion: “He’s the antichrist. Gonna shave your head, make you a Marine, send you out to Fontana. L. Ron Hubbard.”

About other passengers and social anxiety: “I guess people are okay. Better turn me the other way so I don’t see that one guy who looks like a cop, though. I get anxious. Like we didn’t face back against everyone, you know, so we didn’t scare them all.”

And finally love & marriage: “If the husband don’t work and the wife don’t work then it is not a marriage. Love might work. But you know, love is stupid.”

Every single thing that guy said was completely insane and 100% accurate. I should be that good.

Jack Marquette: 1948-2008

He was responsible more than anyone else for the Los Angeles underground music scene that lit up my brain in high school and gave me so much in the years afterwards. The art of all kinds that arose from Theoretical and the Anti-Club turned a lot of us upside down in the best way. Thanks, Jack.

From the Savage Republic mailing list:


Truly a sad day…

Jaques Ren Marquette 1948 – 2008

.We have lost a true pioneer of the LA music scene..

I (thom f.) was fortunate enough to know Jack Marquette and he is a
large part of SR’s exposure and success. He gave my first band, Spadra
Moods, our first chance in LA and he promoted my first two shows with
SR. He broke bands like the Abecedarians, Psi-Com, and many others.
The following was sent to me to today by Marnie Weber…

Our very dear friend Jack Marquette passed away early this morning,
after bravely battling a long illness. His partner, Fredrick Ascher
was by his side. All of your thoughts, prayers, visits and love over
the past few months touched him deeply. Jack meant so much to all of
us, he will be greatly missed.

Rats, Sydney Pollack died

He was a talent, productive, and apparently a great guy.

I actually got to interview him once and he was one of the very few famous people who impressed me and made me think: this person deserves to be famous. Refined, gentlemanly, and very warm and genuine.

Wrote well, acted well, directed well. And he flew his own jet all over the world, which I thought was particularly badass.

Local characters: The landscaper

The gardener

Here is the gardener for my neighbors. She is in her late fifties or early sixties. She does their whole yard, lawn and plants, with one helper, once a week. Her pickup truck is stickered with patriotism. She clearly has arthritis or knee injuries and walks with a kind of swiveling cowboy swagger that says: I am in pain and I don’t give a damn. She chain smokes. While she is working she does not stop except to take stock of progress or give instruction to her assistant. She’s so focused that it takes two or three attempts to contact her before she’ll break away from work.

She is a force of nature.

The gardener

meetings with remarkable men

I have renewed faith in the coffeehouse experience. The last two nights when I’ve stolen an hour from the on-call stuff, once each at D’s and at Kéan, have been fruitful. Last night I talked to an artist about his art, how to survive financially, meditative practice, the difficulty of explaining things, and a lot of other topics. We both learned a lot. Tonight, I shot the shit with an airline pilot about travel, cities and their virtues, the madness of money, aviation, and the local criminals. We were joined by another friend of his who did some kind of airport work and I mostly listened as they discussed money, sex, and cars.

I learned a lot and met some interesting people. Yay coffee houses.

Life in These Here Now United States: My First Night in Kansas City

In 1997 I got a contract job working for Sprint in Kansas City. I’d never done out of town contracting, but this was attractive: good money for work I find easy, in an inexpensive town. I set off for a cross-country drive on Interstate 40 at a leisurely pace, stopping for the night in Flagstaff and again in Tucumcari, NM. After a long day of 80 mph in the rain and mud and cowshit up Highway 54, I arrived in the late evening at my destination.

I’d plotted out an inexpensive motel on the north side of town for the night, since I was moving into an apartment the next day. Of course I got lost. Since KC is surrounded by a ring road I went around the city a couple of times, got off on the south side instead of the north, wandered various neighborhoods, got back on the ring road, and finally stopped for gas and directions late at night in a North Kansas City service station.

The night guy at the gas station was probably no more than 25, but was missing several teeth and had a worn look to him. His skin was at once greasy and dry, and he sat like potatoes in a huge black sweatshirt. He had two knives on his belt and stank of cigarettes. He was delighted to meet me, especially when he found out I was from California. After giving me (accurate) directions to the motel, he explained himself.

“I really want to get out to California. I’m about half saved and then I’m gonna go west.”

“What’re you going to do there?”

“I’m a biker. I got to get into one of those biker gangs out West, the Angels. You know the Angels.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“It’s my dream, man. I want to ride with those guys. And I really like the violence. I want to fight, you know, I wanna stomp someone.” He smiled at me with the innocent toothless mouth of an infant.

“Damn. That’s, uh, kinda hardcore.”

“Damn right. I’m Italian, I got Mafia in my blood. I want to get in it. You know, out West it’s for real, those guys. I gotta get there and prove myself.”

“You know,” I said, “California is a lot more expensive than here unless you’re in the middle of nowhere.”

He pointed to his eyes. “I know, and I’m ready. I can take care of myself. I can do a job here and there, you know. I’ll always survive. I just got to get where the action is.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to the guy. “Well, take care of yourself, man. I hope you do okay.”

He flashed that wonderful grin again. “Hey, no worry! I’m headed there and I’m gonna kick some fuckin’ ASS!”

He shook my hand, welcomed me to Kansas City, and sent me cheerfully on my way. Nicest wannabee murderer I ever met.

area man survives social event

I went to a party last night and it wasn’t a failure!

This is good, because parties have traditionally either totally alienated me, or hyped me up followed by a nasty crash afterwards. At this one I just had conversations with some nice, interesting people and then went home and went to bed.

There were musician guys there with rock ‘n’ roll hair but they were the thoughtful and well-educated kind and not yahoos. People were interested in ideas and things, and no one got sloppy drunk and in my face. Also, my Enron shirt was a hit.

It occurs to me that the resilience I’m acquiring through NFB is useful in these social situations so I am not one large nerve and I don’t get weird blowback effects afterwards.

Oh, and there was Stilton with apricot in it.

I did have one embarrassing moment when I introduced myself to someone who’d introduced himself about 45 minutes before. Fortunately I could tell this was a cognitive effect of treatment since it was so unusual, and he was interested in the explanation rather than totally offended.

And now, photo time.

Tibor Rubin

dberg refers me to an OC Register story (genital/genital or bugmenot to read it) about Garden Grove’s hometown hero, who is a genuinely admirable guy.

Anyone who picks maggots out of a prison latrine to clean the sores of his friends deserves the Medal of Honor and free beer for life. Especially when he’d already been in a Nazi death camp before he went to another war and got thrown in a prison camp again.

The army’s official site about him is more descriptive of his life in combat and has background on his life and a video of him which has some very affecting testimonials from his fellow inmates.

And now he’s the “Jewish Santa Claus” and gives out candy to the kids in his neighborhood.