I watched a man get shot by police and die

It’s one of those things you don’t really think will ever happen. You don’t expect to see a crazy person with a gun. You hear about it on the news or read about it on Buzzfeed (“12 Ways Your Monday Could Be Worse!”) but it’s never one of those things you think “oh, ya, today’s the day when something weird that I never forget is gonna go down”.

Today was one of those days.

It’s a Friday, and I was proud of myself for being relatively productive, or at least getting up early enough to get enough done (which doesn’t equal productivity, but it *feels* productive, dangit).

I was still behind on work and trying to catch up, so I slipped into one of my favorite Starbucks, the one in Studio City. It’s the same one where I saw Jane Lynch walk in, use the bathroom, and smile at me as she walked out. That was a neat moment.

Also it’s convenient, quiet, relatively clean, and all the baristas are nice.

I was talking to a cute Armenian-Persian girl next to me. I was still upset I wasn’t being more productive, but what the heck, I thought, I’m gonna get up and pee and come back and try to refocus on work to meet a deadline.

Within the approximately 1 minute 30 seconds I was in the restroom (it would’ve been less but I dribbled a little on my shorts and I was desperately trying to dry it up) a crazy homeless-looking guy started firing bullets in the air across the street. I didn’t hear them or see them. I walked out of the bathroom and saw everyone standing and congregating near the windows.

It was a spectacle all right. Four LAPD cars trained towards the Union Bank building and approximately seven officers with their guns drawn and pointing. I asked a few questions of the people next to me, and noticed that people started ducking near the condiment bar and behind the pastry display case.

We’re all across the street and directly behind large police vehicles with armed cops. We’re not really in any danger. Even if the gunman shot directly at us, he’d probably hit the top of the glass. I mapped out the trajectory in my head and it didn’t seem plausible. But of course, guns, so everyone was freaking out.

I walked closer to the window and asked a guy at the window to point out the shooter. I heard commotion and orders from the outside, perhaps it was the cops yelling at the guy to drop the gun.

And I saw the gunman. Overweight, probably mid-50s, homeless and disheveled looking dude sitting there holding what looked like the shape of a gun under a piece of paper, pointed back towards the street.

As I peered at him, I heard two shots…BLAM! BLAM!

The gunman immediately fell back.

He was hit.

He was dead.

I’ve never seen someone get killed before, or even get shot. It was surreal, but it was as one would expect. The closest thing I could liken it to is a video I saw awhile back of a man in India who stood atop a train and touched a live electrical wire, and was killed instantly. The loud “POP” sounds and him falling back, lifeless, were exactly what I experienced today.

I felt an immediate sense of relief, even as the officers still drew their guns at the man. The cops did the right thing. This guy had a gun that he was waving around and shooting. He could’ve hit one of my friends walking to Starbucks in the neighborhood. He could’ve hit me, who was weighing walking across to Chipotle minutes earlier.

I don’t know what came over me, but at that moment I was Zen with everything going on. Logic, fear – everything fell into its appropriate slot. I knew a bullet probably wouldn’t cross the street diagonally, go through the glass, and hit us. Or even if it did, maybe it would hit me in the arm or the leg or something. It’s hard to describe, but I just…didn’t care. I knew I wasn’t going to die.

People started screaming, and ducked. Someone yelled to run away from the glass. I went back to my seat and started trying to focus on work again, while making sure the girls sitting around me were ok. There was no threat afterwards, the guy was dead and that was that.

Going to a gun range and learning how guns work while learning to hunt really helped me through this situation. The sound of gunfire isn’t unfamiliar to me, so I didn’t panic. I was equipped to understand the likelihood of getting shot having learned about angles and trajectories.

The barista, whose name I can’t recall but I’ll have to get at some point to include in here, went above and beyond in every sense of the word. She made sure the door was locked, kept people away from the glass, and comforted customers by offering to get them a drink. She also advised people to go when it was safe. Similarly, the cops who responded to the situation today acted appropriately. They made sure everyone was locked inside and safe in an intersection typically filled with pedestrians, families, and lots of traffic.

My number one regret is that I didn’t record the actual shooting. Of course, I didn’t know it was going to happen so it makes sense. I posted them on Twitter immediately, and I was inundated with requests from local stations like NBC and ABC to comment as a witness. I left the scene and spoke to NBC over the phone, then at NBC’s request, followed their news van to the far corner of Ventura because they wanted live reaction.

the thirst was, indeed, real

Then local radio. Then ABC, and CBS, and Reuters, and some NPR or something, and even Russia Today.

help me

Here’s the LA Times article featuring yours truly and a man who appears to be Wilford Brimley and, from reports, ushered people indoors at Chipotle (who knew Liberty Medical could make you a superhero?)

The media questioning was more surreal than the shooting itself. There was one point where I had multiple microphones shoved in my face and giving multiple interviews at once.

It made me immediately appreciate the job celebrity and political handlers do at press conferences. Thankfully, the reporters were polite and accommodating, and I got the chance to chat with them and the crew in-between live breaks. Reporters seem to form a kind of brotherhood, joking around with each other about which station is going to buy dinner because they have more funding. Imagine the opposite of the Anchorman fight scene. I also do not envy reporters or camera crew. They have to perform in dark and heavy clothing in the 90 degree afternoon sun.

I crossed the street to give my info to the police, and spoke with some of the other witnesses. A couple of guys younger than me were in Chipotle right next to the scene when it all went down. The officers offered to purchase Chipotle for them since they didn’t even get their food when everything went down. I spoke to a couple more reporters, fielded some responses on Twitter and Snapchat, responded to some texts from friends, and then spoke to the police detective on my way out who thanked me for cooperating.

The scene was still unbelievable.  6PM on a Friday evening on Laurel Canyon, and the street is completely blocked off.  An enormous thoroughfare that would usually be clogged with traffic was quiet and empty, a parking lot of police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and news vans.

All in all, everyone perfectly performed their jobs. There aren’t many situations these days where I can say that. The cops responded quickly and neutralized the suspect. The baristas protected the customers and made sure they were taken care of. The reporters were courteous and did their best to get the story on the ground. And the detectives were professional and polite.

In retrospect, it seems like I was watching a movie the entire time. I was expecting some horrible dysfunction to happen at some point, because real life is fraught with horrible dysfunction. I remember it like a 3rd grader who remembers their weekend to share with the class – with great, specific, but completely rote detail.

 

About Bobby Kristina

As I sit here watching the reports of Bobbi Kristina, Whitney Houston’s daughter, being taken into the hospital after being found unconscious in the bathtub, I can’t help but well up with tears.

It’s a sadness that’s unexplainable.

At once, I remember how I received the news about her mother being found the same way at the Beverly Hilton almost three years ago today.

I had the same reaction. I wanted to know more. I scoured every site for details, refreshed Twitter obsessively.

At that point, my mind flashed back to pressing the “replay” button on my mom’s car stereo every time “I Will Always Love You” came on.

How she hit those notes.

My God, how she hit those notes.

My mind would fast forward to the days after my mom slipped into a coma after her stroke. I would listen to that song and I wouldn’t make it to the end without crying. I still can’t.

The bond between a mother and child is one that can never be replicated or fully described. You come from this person. This person is everything to you — your protector, your incubator, your nutrient source, your entertainment, your world.

To have that person taken from you when you still have so much more to learn from them is devastating. It’s not so much wanting them to be there for the events in your life. It’s thinking about the laughs you miss, the shared moments that won’t happen, the times when life will throw you curveballs that you won’t be able to catch and you just want to run, you want to run away from everything and to that one person who you know will have a kind word, a warm hug, and will provide the reality-steeped perspective you need to weather the storm.

I remember later that day when we lost Whitney when Bobbi was taken in because she was suicidal.

I don’t fault her. Shock makes that happen to people.

For all intensive purposes, Bobbi appeared to be Whitney’s best friend. She was the only one who wasn’t in it for the money, or the namedropping, or to be the hanger-on.

She was the only one Whitney called ‘daughter’ and the only daughter who called Whitney ‘mom’.

When I heard the news this morning, my mind flashed through all the rumors I’ve heard and read the past few years about Bobbi’s out-of-control drug use. How she is spiraling down the same path her mom did. How she

February 11, 2012, the day we lost Whitney, also became the day that we were tasked with one thing: take care of Bobbi. Don’t let her story end the same way her mom’s did. Her dad has his problems. Her grandma is trying her best. But for God’s sake, don’t let her end up the same as her mom.

We’ve failed.

Of course she’s an adult. Of course she’s capable of making her own decisions. Of course we have to take care of our own and not worry about others.

But she’s one of our own. Her mother’s voice made so many important moments of our lives memorable: weddings, funerals, love, heartbreak.

We owe it to her mother’s memory to take care of the daughter she left us with, the daughter she loved so much.

What is our relationship with celebrity, anyway?

We treat them like zoo animals. We watch them incessantly, gawk at them, follow them, treat their every creation like a parent placing their child’s artwork on their fridge. We pay them, we get to know everything about them, we speculate on them, we send them letters and well-wishes, they become a part of a strange, disconnected extended family. We identify them, when we meet them we tell them how much what they do affects us.

We do everything but take care of them, and even that’s not true. We give them money. We pay the bills, keep the lights on, keep their kids in school.

So why don’t we try to help them?

These are people. They’re people just like us. They have their faults, and their faults get pasted on billboards while ours at most leak out over a beer.

If we can crowdfund to support a celebrity’s movie project, why can’t we crowdfund to help a celebrity keep doing what they do? Why can’t we crowdfund their bills? Their expenses? Their therapy? Their sobriety?

Unions don’t take care of celebrities outside of giving them expensive health insurance plans. Studios and record companies don’t care, they’re replaceable. Managers and publicists don’t care, they get 10% regardless of outcome.

Why don’t we care?

We’re the end user. We get a product. We get the fruit of their gift.

We invite them into our homes at our choosing. There’s a reason the industry is called “entertainment”.

It will be a milestone when the first celebrity uses a crowdfunding platform or similar to fund their medical expenses, their rehab, or their therapy. When that happens, we’ll have broken down one of the last barriers that exists between celebrity and reality.

We may not like the results.  We may realize these people are people just like us and abandon them.

Or we may gain a special appreciation that they’re people just like us AND they have incredible talent.

Reports currently show that Bobbi Kristina is stable. Someone was watching over her.

Now it’s our turn.

I can’t stop biting my nails :(

There’s a Latin symbol of a snake eating its own tail called the ouroboros, pronounced similarly to a drunk Brit trying to say “outer boroughs”.

It’s supposed to represent how everything is cyclical, infinity, light/dark, feedback loops, and other things that a bunch of people who had nothing better to do than carve marble in the nude and get drunk on ill-prepared wine would come up with.

bro…bro…be cool

As a side note — can we stop acting like the Greeks and Romans were all that?

It’s been 2000 years.  Out of everything they ever created, you’ve got some crumbling columns and a few scraps of philosophical ideas.

If you had no Internet, no TV, mild to warm temperatures, and lived in an advanced city with a few decades to spare I’m sure that you could easily come up with a few of those concepts a week, let alone in an entire lifetime.

This was the best we could do?

Do we look back at hunter-gatherers in awe?

Or do we fetishistically pay homage to the Goths or the Vandals, outside of using both those terms in wildly different contexts completely removed from their original description?

*travels in time machine back to the 500’s*

IN THE FUTURE PEOPLE NAMED AFTER YOU WILL WEAR DARK MAKEUP AND LISTEN TO CRAP MUSIC WHILE MOANING ABOUT HOW AWFUL THEIR LIVES ARE

Of course not.

So Greeks and Romans should not be any different.  There’s nothing special about a bunch of lazy sunbaked alcoholics who decided to lick a few reeds together and scribble down some ideas.

In LA, we call that “Sunday brunch”.

By the way, if modern-day Greeks and Italians are any indication of what the ancients are like, I am not impressed.

Has there been any further or more disappointing fall between an ancient and modern culture than the Greeks?  They went from being the most advanced civilization in the world, the “birthplace of civilization”, to being unable to balance a checkbook.

I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FREE CRAP!

It’s like the stereotypical football star uncle who shows up to Christmas hoping he can ask for another loan every year because he’s got a “million dollar idea” and just “needs a few bucks to get it off the ground” and we can “go into business together” and “be partners” and “you wanna be rich, don’t ya?” and you smile and nod like you would talking to any other crazy person and stuff another roll in your face so you don’t have to respond how you want to respond and you’re hoping with the few remaining brain cells he has to rub together he doesn’t notice that you claimed to be gluten free recently.

And as he backs out of the driveway in his “bitchin” Fiero, you wonder — where did it all go wrong?

i don’t know uncle rico, how much of my money do you wanna bet you’re not going to pay back the loan I gave you last Christmas

An indicator of success for a civilization is initial hardship which also translates to individuals.

The Romans came from the Etruscans, an early and advanced civilization, the same way the Greeks developed from the Minoans and Mycenaeans, early and advanced civilizations.

There’s such a thing in life as “peaking” — getting too big, too quickly, and then having nowhere to go but down.

It’s why if family fortunes don’t get blown by the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren will most likely find a way to burn through all that Schlitz money realdamnfast.

This is why the British civilization became one of the most successful in history and to a degree, still is–they started off as a bunch of Roundheads and Viking nomads and just slowly, steadily built upwards from there until they basically created the modern civilized world.

Same with America.  The early settlers didn’t even know if corn was for eating, smoking, or hilarious warfare.  But gradually, we grew into the giant we are today.

in my search for this i found a dating site called “Native American Passions”, if any of you are interested

There’s also a shadow of success to live in if one becomes too successful, too quickly.

Look at the Egyptians.

The best thing to come out of there is over 5000 years old.

You know something’s old when Jesus is the halfway point.

In over 5000, five-thousand, cinco-thousando years, the best, BEST they have to show for themselves is a life-sized LEGO sculpture.

Even with their primitive tools, it took just 44 years to complete, or about the time we’ll finally get the stretch of bullet train between Delano and Bakersfield built.

it doesnt count as private development if you need a federal loan, xpress west

Even if they learned nothing, even if they used the same exact methods to the present day, they should have about 113 pyramids by now.

If it weren’t for them bringing people by their place to see a few artifacts like an aunt who harps on her ORIGINAL Thomas Kinkade painting (see?  he signed it.  SIGNED IT.  1 of 400) the country would collapse more than it already has.  More than 1 in 10 dollars is spent by a tourist, and more than 1 in 10 Egyptians is employed because of tourism.  They’re not Dubai saying “come and see our incredibly advanced cities of glittering skyscrapers and hotels shaped like boat sails”, they’re showing you the fruitcake from Christmas 1962 that they keep in the closet and trot out every year.

fresh as the century it was baked in

It’s effectively a society that’s cashing in its royalty checks from millennia before.  There’s no incentive to grow, advance, move forward, prosper, write a sequel (Giza 2: Electric Boogaloo!) or anything.

And speaking of no incentive, I need one to stop biting my nails.

My poor exasperated mother once offered me $100 to stop as a kid, which was like, 100 Hot Wheels.

I stopped for a few days.  I collected the $100.  I started again one day, completely unconsciously.

I’ve stopped for a week or two at a time but got the habit of just nibbling around the corners, or just testing the thickness of each nail with my teeth like a chef making sure the pasta is al dente.

When I’m anxious or hungry, it starts again, and happens so unconsciously that I usually am not aware of what I’m doing unless 1) someone points it out 2) I start bleeding.

I’ve tried manicures, I’ve tried polish, I’ve tried more addictive habits to replace it, and nothing works long-term.

see how cool smoking is kids

So please–if you see me, tell me to stop.

And if you have any ideas to stop, let me know.

Because I’m consuming my own tail here and instead of representing the cyclical nature of life I’m representing every failed civilization — literally consuming myself.

Photo on 11-11-14 at 11.43 PM

Being scared is not a way to go through life

I used to do this all the time and I still kind of do and I believe it’s more of a West Coast thing.

When something’s off, or unusual, I always say it’s “scary”.

Oh, your insurance premiums are going up?  That’s just “scary”.

Your dog came down with typhoid?  So “scary”…

Your house was broken into by the Bling Ring and they stole nothing because you’re a broke-ass b*tch?

“SCARY”.

But what does that mean?

Life can’t be filled with that much unrelenting fear.

You can’t be “so scared” all the time.

Most importantly–there’s a difference between *being* scared and *feeling* scared.

Feeling scared is a normal human emotion.

One of my favorite moments on Family Guy is in the episode where they make fun of the South:

Hi, uh, excuse me, you guys. Yeah, I’m here to pick up my son, Chris Griffin. Uh, he’s here to finger the guy who held up that convenience store. M-maybe you’ve seen him, his name is Chris Griffin. Oh, wait a second, y’know, I think I got a picture of him, somewhere…h-here you go. [gives the picture to the one who robbed the store] Yeah, you can go ahead and hang on to that, I got a ton of ’em at home. In fact, I was gonna throw that one out anyway ’cause Chris messed it up by writing his school schedule and a list of his fears all over the back of it.

We all have a list of fears, whether it’s something as innocuous as spiders or complex as commitment.

And let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than an arachnophobe that can’t commit! *takes drag off Virginia Slim*

You feel a lot of things that aren’t real.

You can feel nauseous on a car ride, but that doesn’t mean that your body is ready to undergo a dramatic explosion of brain matter.

You can feel full after Souplantation (if you don’t, you’re not American and didn’t get your money’s worth) but that doesn’t mean your stomach will burst, Alien-style, with focaccia.

And you can feel horny without tackling and furiously humping the senior citizen cocktail waitress with the wooden leg and holiday-themed press-on nails.

When your feeling enters a state of “being”–you’re doing something wrong.

Nobody wants to go on a trip with the person who wails about their nausea and wears it like a uniquely pathetic badge of honor.

Nobody wants to eat a meal with the person who unendingly b*tches afterwards about eating that last zucchini muffin.

And nobody wants to be around the person whose old-fashioned glass you have to monitor for fear they’ll titgrab the hostess.

This applies to all emotions.

Are you angry?

Jealous?

Sad?

Or are you an angry person?

A jealous person?

A sad person?

Or a scared person?

If you can’t tell the difference–find someone whose opinion you trust who will tell you *the* truth (not the truth you want to hear) and ask them.

You’ll likely be surprised.

What you see as that one incidence of anger or fear has likely been an aspect of your personality that you haven’t noticed.

And know that you know this–do you want to be that person?

An angry person?

A jealous person?

A sad person?

Or a scared person?

That judgment is up to you.

But the fact that you’re curious enough to reach the point where you can make that judgment shows you have demonstrated the initial willingness to change.

It’s the first step.

It’s the hardest step.

There will be hard steps down the road, mind you.

Changing is both the hardest thing you can do in terms of sheer will and the easiest thing you can do in terms of obstruction (really, there’s nothing that stops you from changing, ever).

Maybe it will be worth it.

Are you happy where you’re at now?

If you’re not, stop being scared.

Feel scared.

And change.

I have no chill

I’m not great at interacting with people.

For starters, I’m intense.

Not intense like “awesome!”, more intense like “will attack you with a battery of thoughts, words, and commentary and stop making noises by moving your lips in the figures of speech, because I’m still talking”.

I’m not for the weak. I pick up on everything going on—sounds, smells, cues, placement of objects, etc. I’m like your dog, but with night-vision goggles on.

we will fight fire with fire.

–cats

That probably puts off 50% of people right there.

People have different temperaments. Just think among your group of friends.

how was my day? it was fine, thank me

Half of them run at a slower speed. At the deepest end are the most unflagging of stoners, who can’t be bothered to move if they bong-lit the apartment on fire.

Then there are the casually-stoned, the non-inhalers, the leisurely, the relaxed, and the calm.

None of these people enjoy intensity. It harshes mellow.

The other 50% of people run at a faster speed. There’s the brisk walkers, the mild joggers, the sprinters, and the most unhinged of cokeheads.

YOUKNOWI’MGONNAGOBACKTOSCHOOLANDGETMYGED

YOUSHOULDDOITYOUSHOULDDOITROLLERGIRL

I’m somewhere right below “sprinter” on this scale. There’s a constant beat going and if things aren’t moving, I get irritable.

I do best around people who operate at about one half-notch below me in speed. If I’m convinced you’re keeping up with me but that I’m moving too fast, I can then slow down and be relatively comfortable.

But life doesn’t work this way.

And then I realized–I have no chill.

Lots of people have their meditations–golf, art, hiking, exercise, writing, glassblowing, underground gardening, whatever.

I don’t have those. They bore me and if I don’t get them right the first time, there’s little incentive to continue.

I have to spread my chill over the day to keep functioning, like a hummingbird who ingests sugar to stay alive. And as a result, I can be self-indulgent. It’s hard to stop at one chocolate because it’s the perfect distraction. Anything that can take my mind off what’s going on is a plus. My future office will have rhabdomancing acrobats in the background just to give me something to look at.

WHY ARE YOU JUST STANDING THERE?!

Also, I challenge myself in weird, spiteful, masochistic ways.

How many cups of coffee can I drink before I go for an intense run and be able to get back to work with increased intensity?

I only need, like 2 hours of sleep, right?

Of course I can get this writing completed in a crowded coffeeshop!

Unfortunately, my lack of chill gets taken out on other people.

Most people probably don’t notice.

But for those who do it’s visibly off-putting.

Who wants to engage with someone who’s consistently high-strung, hardheaded, and physically uncomfortable? If there’s someone shifting in their seats, I will bet you this half-filled jar of nail bitings it’s me!

There’s few people I can relax around, and I treasure those that I can. And to those that I can’t–I’m sorry. Not “sorry not sorry”, not “sorry BUUUT…”, not “sorry IF…”, but sorry.

I don’t want to shop at this Trader Joe’s ever again

I love Trader Joe’s.

Let me repeat:

I have a passionate, undying, borderline-fanatic love for Trader Joe’s.

damn right it does

I shop there at least once or twice a week, sometimes once a day, because the prices and the variety are unmatched.

But I had an incredibly uncomfortable experience today at the Trader Joe’s on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood that I should share.

I walked into the store to buy something for lunch and headed to the restroom–after all, they say you should never shop on a full bladder, or something.

There’s one men’s and one women’s restroom, so I ducked into the men’s which consists of a stall, urinal and sink–standard stuff–and lock the door behind me.

stahhhhhhhhp ittttttttt

As I’m washing my hands, I hear what sounds like a key opening a lock. As soon as I turn around, an older man with a Trader Joe’s badge proceeds to walk into the restroom.

I’m in shock.

What if I was actually, you know, going to the restroom right then?

never is a man more defenseless than at this exact moment in his life

“Uhhh…excuse me. I was using the restroom,” I say, hoping he’s either senile or they just discovered uranium behind the restroom wall or there was some other valid reason for the dude to barge in and not even knock and ask if anyone’s in there.

Unfazed and looking down as he uses the sink, he says “the restroom already has privacy and has a separate stall.”

Odd answer.

I ask, “then…why is there a lock on the door?”

“Eh, the manager from 9 years ago never changed it out”.

I walked out of there still dazed. What if I was a woman, how violating would this feel to have some stranger just unlock the door your locked while you’re using the restroom? What if someone did that to my mother or a friend of mine?

I picked up my “Middle East Feast” and paid, and asked to talk to the manager.

The manager was checking out another customer and sent over someone else to talk to me.

I echoed what happened, and the young girl didn’t understand which employee I was talking about. I didn’t grab his name because I was still in “wtf” mode of the situation but offered an accurate description of him. She shrugged her shoulders and said “yeah, it happens” and that was the extent of how far I got with her.

I left the store and emailed corporate letting them know the situation, got the confirmation the message was received, but no response. I’m pretty surprised by that sort of conduct–not only does it violate customer service etiquette, it violates human etiquette. If I did that to someone in my own home, they could likely sue me for sexual harassment.

So why would it be ok to have some strange employee just walk on in, no knocking, unapologetically, at a store where I’m using the restroom?

I don’t really give a damn about this kind of stuff, but idk what’s wrong with this Trader Joe’s store. This week alone I found plastic wrap baked into one of the falafels I got there and I’ve been shopping at Trader Joe’s and this store in particular for years without incident not to mention I’ve never found a foreign object in food before that isn’t hair.

I recommend Trader Joe’s to people up and down, but I’m not gonna go back to this store anytime soon.

your neon sign beacons towards sadness and despair

Why does Uber hate me?

I’d like to think I’m a relatively low-maintenance individual.

I’m self-sufficient and my diaper only needs to be changed once per day.

Which is why I was stunned to find out that I have a really low Uber rating–and I’m not an Uber driver.

How is that possible? (you say)

Cuz Uber drivers rate passengers too, dummy.

Ratings are out of 5.

Now, if you’re an Uber driver and your rating is below 4.7, they tie you to the back of an UberXL (the big ones) and drag you around the greater metropolitan area til you give better service and/or fire you and take away your iPhone.

what did I ever do to forsake you

It’s a good idea so that drivers provide the best service.

But I’m a passenger.

I’m paying.

And according to Uber drivers, I suck.

Needless to say, I’m inconsolable.

I found some tips online to see how you can earn a high passenger rating:

  • Compliment their car or music
  • Ask them about themselves (how are you doing, where are you from, how long have you been driving)
  • Make small talk (how about this crazy weather/traffic/drunk people, do you have any weird stories, have you ever been to place xyz)
  • Tell them a little about yourself or where you just came from/are going to
  • Have the address of your destination or tell the driver how to get there
  • Leave a tip for efficient service
  • Don’t throw up in the back seat

Ok, let’s go through these one by one.

  • Compliment their car or music: I’m a car nut and like to use UberX most frequently (cuz I’m also cheap) so I get a wide variety of cars.  9 out of 10 times I will either compliment the car or make a generic positive compliment about it.  Am I too cloying?  As far as music, the only things I’ve heard in an Uber are Top 40 or Top 40 Dance Remixes.  So unless Katy Perry is driving me, I’m probably not going to compliment their music preference for “the stuff everyone is listening to”.
  • Ask them about themselves (how are you doing, where are you from, how long have you been driving): I come from a long line of Torosian men having in-depth conversations with strangers.  Check.
  • Make small talk (how about this crazy weather/traffic/drunk people, do you have any weird stories, have you ever been to place xyz): I literally can think of one Uber ride where I didn’t talk to the driver.  One out of dozens, and now that I remember it, I DID talk but it was a 40 minute drive and I was reading emails in the backseat so I wasn’t my gabby self.  I got the same driver again and he was really nice so I doubt he tanked my rating.
  • Tell them a little about yourself or where you just came from/are going to: I do this in 7 out of 10 rides because the other 2 out of 10 rides have painfully quiet drivers who either grunt occasionally or respond in a halted, mousy voice.  No dice, suggestor of these tips!
  • Have the address of your destination or tell the driver how to get there: Unless the driver is telepathic, the whole idea of it is to tell the driver how to get someplace they’re taking you.
  • Leave a tip for efficient service: You can’t leave tips for Uber drivers.  Trust me, I’ve tried.
  • Don’t throw up in the back seatshit.

It was a late night, I ate some room-temperature tuna appetizers (one of the only times in my life I’ve literally tasted myself getting food poisoning), and when the driver showed up he took the absolute wrong route back to my apartment.

We were at Hollywood and Vine.  Hollywood.

I lived off San Vicente and Wilshire.  Brentwood.

You can reach that destination a variety of ways, namely taking Sunset Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, Wilshire Blvd, Olympic Blvd, or if there’s traffic and you dislike anything remotely scenic, Pico Blvd.

where scenery goes to die

Or if you enjoy beatings, the 10 Freeway.

also known as an “LAPD Thank You”

So with all those options available, bizarrely, our driver chose to take the 101.

Through the Valley.

To the 405.

Back down into Brentwood.

That’s a 20 mile drive.

On surface streets, it’s about 9 miles.

I remember spending most of the trip feeling like dying, and I remember protesting loudly when we obviously weren’t taking a sane route back home, and I remember being so dizzy and sick I slumped against the glass most of the drive.

Instead of taking 30-45 minutes, it took an hour and a half.

Relief came when I saw the Getty.

*insert Hallelujah chorus here*

Almost home.

And then for the first time in my life, I projectile vomited.

I felt terrible, and offered to pay the driver cash on the spot to clean it up and for his obvious inconvenience (tuna appetizer in the backseat of his Uber–wait, that stuff’s expensive.  He should be paying ME)

He kindly refused the money and said Uber would pay to clean it up.

So, it looks like Uber took the money out of my passenger rating.

I still believe in Uber and it’s saved my butt (and other body parts) in more situations that I can count.

Anyway, if you haven’t signed up for Uber, then 1) shame on you cuz it rocks and 2) use this coupon code when you sign up:

uber.wyatt

My Nonny can beat up your grandma…

My grandma is 92. Don’t ask her either, she’ll tell you.

She’s a petite, no-nonsense Italian woman. After marrying my grandfather, an Armenian, she had no way of communicating with her mother-in-law, who was from “Ze Old Count-ree” and spoke little English. So, my grandmother learned the Armenian language, how to cook Armenian food, and volunteered at the Armenian church where she became one of the “Junior Ladies of the Baking Angels”, a title she retains to this day (which proffers endless amusement):

Grandma: I have to go bake at the church tomorrow. I’m one of the Junior Ladies.

Me: Are there any Senior Ladies?

Grandma: Yeah, they’re the old people.

Me: How old could they possibly be? 100?

She’s survived everything, from the 7.3 Kern County earthquake of 1952 where the brick buildings around her collapsed, to my grandfather suffering a fatal heart attack behind the wheel in 1969 weeks before my parents’ wedding, to my mom’s nearly-identical accident in 2004 when my Nonny became my surrogate mom.

She worked at a packing shed as a floor lady, packing boxes of grapes in an ever-so-careful fashion to maximize weight and minimize space. Imagine that episode of “I Love Lucy” with the chocolates. That was her, every day, waking up at 4:30 in the morning to drive from town out to the fields—until age 75.

I remember how my mom got the call on her brick cellphone (pre-Nokia days) when I was just a kid on summer break from elementary school. My grandma was tripped up by an ill-secured wooden board and broke her hip. My mom corralled me into the car and gunned it across town, to find my grandma sitting in a wheelchair in the parking lot and frowning outside the packing shed. They didn’t call an ambulance out of sheer incompetence, but were perfectly capable of calling us to come collect her. We laid her in the backseat of her car and she was driven by my other grandpa at speeds unsafe for any Saturn to the ER.

Her hip was replaced, and that was that as far as work was concerned. She loved that job, and consistently says how much she wants, to this day, to go back and do it. “If it wasn’t for this damn hip, I’d be working out there now,” she says.

She has since supplanted that irrepressible urge to work by coming to my parents’ house five mornings a week to clean and do the wash, volunteering at two churches and at the Armenian Home for the Aged (where she’s older than most of the residents). We’ve tried to get her to slow down or pay someone to handle the house tasks, but she won’t hear anything of it. She still cooks, drives, rakes leaves, washes her car, and probably gets more done in a day than I do in a week. She’s alert, sharp, and will sneak an ice cream bar from your freezer under your nose and feign ignorance.

When people ask her about her health, she has the best responses. For instance:

Concerned individual: “Oh wow! Ninety-two years old. How’s your heart?”

My grandma: “I don’t have one.”

And then she erupts into laughter.

Today, on her way into church to sell donuts (like she does every Sunday without fail), she tripped, fell, and cut her chin open. The paramedics were called and tried to take her to the hospital, but she resisted, insisting on driving herself home. They wouldn’t let her, so she had them call my parents to come pick her up and take her to get stitched up. I just spoke to them on the phone, and she was pissed (“DAMN SLIPPERY SHOES” I heard from the backseat as she attempted to use my dad’s cellphone) but we joked about the irony of spraying a bunch of blood on the front entrance to the church.

Everyone’s grandmothers I know are nice, sweet little old ladies who bake cookies and knit afghans (the blankets, not the people). Mine does that too, but it’s all just a front. She’ll just as easily reach for a third glass of red wine or punch you for getting out of line.

That’s why I’ll always love my Nonny.

How to win at life

Maya Angelou passed away this morning at the age of 86.

Yes, she’s that kindly black lady whose poems you probably read in elementary school, then again in middle school, and just as a fun refresher, in high school.

And in case you didn’t get enough Maya Angelou—her poems and stories frequently appeared on standardized tests, SAT tests, AP tests, and we basically inscribed on the inside of your eyelids by the time you were 16.

Which is ironic because she hated standardized tests, branding them in an open letter to President Obama as “not what did you learn, but how much can you memorize.”

She’s Oprah-approved™ and one of the rare individuals to appear at the White House under both Clinton (where she read a poem for his inauguration) and Bush (where she read a poem for the Christmas tree lighting) and Obama (who gave her an award so nobody had to hear another poem).

And in all that poetry, all that work, I’ll bet you can’t name a single thing she said or wrote.

I know I can’t.

You probably sat in class and thought “that’s nice” and got back to your life.

But you missed something. I missed something.

We missed the story of a woman who raised herself up to take life by the horns and do all she could possibly do, who was raped at the age of 8 by her mother’s boyfriend, who was the first black female streetcar driver in San Francisco, who was both a pimp and a prostitute, who was asked by MLK to organize her own march, who would rent out a hotel room near her home as her writing studio and voraciously write for seven hours straight per day, who crafted 7 autobiographies over the course of her life.

That’s all fascinating detail.

Every life has fascinating detail.

Every life is different, every life is difficult, every life is important, but every life is defined by what you make of it.

What you missed, what I missed, among all the subtext and imagery and watered-down, weak-tea interpretation of this dear lady’s work is the following powerful message:

You’re not special.

Nobody is special.

You’re all different.  Different doesn’t mean special.

Barney told you that you were special around the same age you started reading Maya Angelou’s poems and it was all nice, feel-good crap.

Barney lied and you were lied to.

come here children, I’m going to turn your brains to mush tell you a story!

This woman took herself from the lowest possible rung of society, overcame every disadvantage, and became incredibly strong, successful, and most importantly, special.

You’re not special.

So why are you living a life where you’re not trying to be?

The single largest contributor to LA traffic is…

^^this guy.

You see, we have something in LA called a “traffic problem”.

Well, it’s more like a 24-hour-per-day-vehicular-clusterfuck.

In fact, it’s gotten so bad that traffic at 10PM is as bad as 6PM because they decided that at 9PM they’d just, you know, alternate shutdowns of major on and off ramps.  For shits’n’giggles.

You know I’m not the kind of person to sit idly by when there’s a problem.

When things go south, I’ll put the fkkn Mayor on notice:

Thus far, his solution has been to increase the number of people who stand in busy intersections at rush hour from 0 to about 5, which helps because people are slow and stupid during traffic and need someone in a lime green vest with jaunty hand signals to get their rears in gear.

You’re welcome, Angelenos.

But even I, your humble scribe *gouges into iPad screen with quill pen* cannot stop the Godzilla that visits LA at least twice a year:

trust no bitch

Last time he attacked the Brentwood-Santa Monica border, leaving a wake of disappointed illegal immigrant students and rich people in his wake.

This time?

He decided to take on the heart of the Westside, right next to Beverly Hills.

At 3:44PM, I counted 15 cop cars in a one mile stretch of Beverly Glen Boulevard, right near the embassies (the French one, where the flag out front is surprisingly not just white.

My first thought: who’s the foreign prick who’s visiting?  

My second thought: some high-falutin douche is in town and fkking up our traffic.

I googled “visits LA today”, and sure enough…

And yes, all major roads near my domicile were about to be closed in…13 minutes.

I parked quickly and alerted everyone, like a frightened citizen of Tokyo.

“STAY AT WORK!”

“IT ISN’T SAFE!”

“ORDER FROM THAT PITA RESTAURANT DOWN THE STREET, YOU KNOW, THE ONE WITH THE GOOD HUMMUS, AND HAVE THEM DELIVER.”

“TELL MY WIFE SHE WAS ALWAYS A FRIGID BITCH”

I got to my roof, because if I’ve learned anything from the Weather Channel, when a tsunami hits, you should always seek elevation.

I perched and waited, like the bird that craps on my window.

Neighbors told tales of how they had to park on the main street and walk–WALK–to their apartment (what is this, Eastern Europe?!)

And sure enough, about an hour and a half later, a black limousine goes speeding up Beverly Glen, while exactly two people weakly yelled “woo!”

That’s it.  That was it.  The monster had passed–but spared no one.

IMG_1947

if you squint closely enough by the 76 station you can see the tiny smattering of meek-voiced supporters facing the motorcade.

Traffic still snaked around streets as entire neighborhoods were sealed.

The President was picking up an award from Steven Spielberg this trip, and everyone knows Steven Spielberg can’t just up and leave to go meet the President in DC to give him an award.

The damage was done.  Good, honest, working people’s entire days were ruined.  The people who paid for this motorcade had to wait for it.

It’s like the CEO of a company having to wait two hours to exit the parking garage because Jim, the intern in accounting, has to crawl out the driveway.

In LA, we don’t fear tornadoes, hurricanes, or even earthquakes.

We fear presidential visits.