Oakland, California: Sunday morning ... woke to the sound of a full choir, singing and wailing, sounds bleeding out from a Baptist church across the way. One word for ya: LOUD! And the music was really good! I mean, they were JAMMIN'! It was all the way across the street, but it was so cranked up, so fulla passion, it made me awake with a fart and a smile, and I felt like giving a jovial scream of, "Hallelujah!" I almost expected Little Richard himself to come running out, with his ass on fire, going, "Whoooooo!" (You know, that thing the Beatles stole ...)
Later in the day, I was walking down the street, and this car goes speeding by, at like, 90 mph. Flyin'! Didn't even see it coming. And this woman jumps outta the way, up on to the pavement, and grabs my arm, panting. She says,
"You know what I thought, honey??"
"Um ... what?" says I.
"I thought there'd be, like, bullets flyin' and shit. Whew! 'Cuz, you know, when people drive THAT fast in a residential zone, there's usually something going down."
"Ugh," says I.
Then she goes into this story about how a few weeks ago, she'd been driving, right down on Adeline, not too far away from where we'd been standing. This car went by, at supersonic speeds, she said, and then there was the "rat-a-tat-tat" of bullets, and one guy was shot and died on the spot, and another innocent just spun his SUV around, to avoid being hit, and his automobile flipped right over. But he lived, and she did, too. And she thought it was gonna happen again, today.
"You just never know ..." she stammered.
I nodded. Then I just kept walking ...
A boy from Hawaii, with a girl from East L.A., driving in a cherry-red 1965 Mustang, speeding down LaBrea, listening to a guy from Brazil, who croons on a CD, "Live In Berlin," on their way to the Farmer's Market, talking about something going on in a desert somewhere ... The night ends downtown, in a dive bar, somewhere in Chinatown.
"Die guten Menschen der Welt muessen jetzt einfach dichter zusammen rutschen."
You said it ... and it's true. (In any language.) -Todd
Thassright, people. I just met Noam Chomsky, arguably the most important thinker alive on this planet. Like Bono from U-2 said, Noam's a "Rebel without a pause!" I've met some pretty amazing people out there, but THIS takes the muddafuckin' cake! When I shook his hand, I looked him in the eye and said, "You are an inspiration ..." He was very humble, just incredibly brilliant. The guy is amazing. He's written 70 books! And he's been fighting the good fight for a long, long time. I really can't describe my feelings as I write this ...
Actually, it capped off an amazing weekend, while I'll run down for you now, and in spite of all the darkness, there is HOPE! What an amazing time to be alive, don't you think? Life can be a challenge, but we build it, do we not? Life imitates art, and vice versa, say the artists! Push beyond! So my heavy weekend began on Friday night, when I went to a movie screening, hosted by a guy named Tom Tykwer, who made the movie "Lola Rennt" (or "Run, Lola, Run" as we say in spanish ...). I wanted to hear him speak, and they were running a great black and white film from 1955 called "Night Of The Hunter," with Robert Mitchum as an evil priest. He did nasty things, under the guise of being a child of God (sound familiar?). Duplicitous! There was only one problem, for me. No way to get there! Oh, sure, I've had many cars in L.A., which were all neatly towed away by the City, and weren't given back, so ... I either take a cab (expensive) or walk (exasperating) or call a friend or just bike it. I don't ride the bus. Just don't. So I decided to ride a twelve speed bike. Which led to another problem. The event was up on Mulholland (on the hill, near the Valley) and I was in Santa Monica. Ugh. Those of you who have visited L.A. or can read a map (no-one's really FROM L.A.) will note that that's a long-ass way on a bike! And that's a big-ass hill! There were times when I felt like it was going straight up to the moon! I'd put that 12 speed in, say, first gear (or 11th gear, whatever it is that's highest/lowest, for scrawny losers) and be peddling super-fast, with the sound just going, "Zweeeeeeee!" 600 revolutions per minute, my legs flying, straight up that hill. Cars whizzing by, me laughing in the mist. After a really long time, I thought I was almost there, and then I saw a sign with my destination, "Skirball Center Drive - 2 Miles." Farg! Two more miles! I wasn't sure if I could do it. But I did it. Shoot for the moon, and you just might make it.
I want to better no-one. Only myself.
But I tell ya, kind readers, after what seemed like an eternity, I conquered that hill. That gave me the feeling that I could do anything. Then I watched the film, chatted with Tom T., and we talked about Thomas D. Afterwards, I rode that bike all the way back to Santa Monica. It was easier coming down. But cold. Got some sleep, woke up expecting to feel the ouch in my legs, but it wasn't so. So I realized that I'm in better shape than I thought ...
On to Sat. night, where I ended up on stage, after watching a hilarious set from my comedy Dawgz, Sir E 'n' Mason and the bunch. Somehow I was thrown into a scat situation, and I Dwop-dooeey-ed it up with some guy named Jeffrey on piano. He said with a smile, "Maaan ... you were pushin' me! Damn, that was some hot shit!" And he was right. It was sumbody's birthday, lotsa fun, and I have to admit that we tore that joint up! We jammed well together like two cats in stormy weather, with nothin' but a feather coverin' your under-leather ... Yezz! The weekend was in full swing, and getting better and better!
And now to Noam. Never on a Sunday, they say, but it WAS ... so to they, whover the they may be, I say, "Nay!" in resounding tones, un-known to most gnomes. Because the little man with the funny name is huge. He's a giant in the world(s) of thinkers/politics/linguistics. Simply incredible. And if more people (in this country, and around the world) would turn on their thinker, would think and act just a little bit like Noam, with some human dignity, well ... the world would be a better place. Honest. True words, bare-basics logic. What an inspiring man, in these troubled times. I mean, it wouldn't take THAT much, to be a little more human, would it?? Actually, maybe it would. Maybe it would require an entire paradigm shift, a complete revolution (Ooops! that naughty word again!) of thinking. But that's what we need, I'm oh, so sorry to say. Let's all try to reach out to one another, instead of attacking each other. The boogie man is in all of us. I'm talking about everyone, now, both sides. If we don't, then our precious existence will simply cease to exist. Like one guy said to Noam, "Isn't it ironic that they have 'Apache' helicopters and 'Tomahawk' missiles, after wiping out all the Indians here?" Yes, some common sense is needed. Yes, we need to re-evaluate what's important, good, and true. I looked right into the soul of a true american icon. Someone who cares. Thanks you for your words of wisdom, Noam. There's so much more to life than CNN. And I gave him the song! I gave him the song! You know, the one from the 2nd Calico Soul CD. Do you guys know how long I've wanted to do that?? It went something like this: I said, "I'd like to give you this song that I wrote ... it's called, "Noam Chomsky." (Laughter, from a happy throng around him.) "Oh, that's great!" he said.
Noam, if you're reading this, it was an absolute pleasure. I hope you enjoy the music, man.
And now, out of genuine respect, I shall name all the musicians who played on the song: one Chris Tuba, who played keyboards on the track, AND tuba! (Chris is a UCLA graduate and humanitarian, although a really bad kisser, due in part to his bad breath.) On the bass, Mr. Jeff Edeker (known in many countries as "The Laughing Man"). The incredible Ferber brothers: Mark on percussion, and Alan on trombone (Alan has gone on to play with Dr. Dre). Sir Bijon Watson: one bad-ass trumpet player, 'nuff said. The one and only West Side Ken on baritone sax, holder of many accolades (me fave is that he played with Red Rodney), also a UCLA graduate. Ken's the guy in the famous Swiss Nosebear story. On drums, Danny the Strong, a silent giant. (One time we were on tour and a guy pulled a gun on us. He stuck it right in our faces, and Danny told the guy in his best Eastwood, "Don't point that thing at me, or I'll have to take it away from you." A big drummer with a big sound. Yours truly on vocals and guitar. Rock'n'rolla. -Todd
Dear terrorists: Please don't attack us with weapons of mass destruction ...
You'll kill all the homeless people.
They're out there ...
They're with us or against us. They're Vietnamese, Lebanese, dirty German East. They're the conquered, hungry, tired masses. Victorious, sharp, outrageous, pissed off, don't give a shit. I'm talking about the people IN America.
This is America. Into the Lion's Den ... This is the industrial (burp) capitol of the world. This is Heaven. This is Hell. And everything in-between ...
Bizarre. Cool. Funny. Fearful. Stupid. Brilliant. Misunderstood. Over-the-top.
It's everything. It's nothing but a thing. Today I walked 6 miles through L.A., soaking up the vibe. Huge. I saw bumper stickers proclaiming, "Peace is Patriotic." OK ... But then I saw a mad hunter driving by, his back window showing peace protesters in the cross-hairs of his shotgun. Eeek. Saw a car that said, "Jesus' El Camino." Whatever. More saying, "War Is Not The Answer!" Amen. Is hydrogen power the answer??
There's the blue-smoke-screen voodoo of Hollywood (we call it movie magic). There's the plight of the slaves, looming, Lincoln at Gettysburg, another Getty and Rockefeller, baseball players with cocaine habits, Las Vegas' decadent charm, gumbo on Bourbon Street, tourists filming the Grand Canyon (yes, I've done it, too), pirate radio, speedsters in Montana, Christians and Muslims and Jews and Mormons (Oh my!). There's a guy named Rumsfeld who was a champion wrestler in college. This is America. The Good, the bad, the ugly. The angry. Can one be balanced? Neutral? Removed? Equal? Is it possible?
The Melting Pot. The fire AND its shadow. The entire spectrum of Humanity. Is it good? Is it bad? It's both. It is what it is. We go out and hear kick-ass hip-hop all up in yo booty. Shake it! Go to the improv, and it's Art vs. Life ... and we watch as the most theatrical Napoleon becomes "the Fairy God." Crack up. Watch dream-scape Mason turn into Kissinger before your very eyes. And the amazing Snake Boy slithers in the background, as imaginary leaders scold him. We were on an all-time comedy high, in the midst of all the darkness. Oh, I wish you could've seen us vamping and laughing! No shame. I've never killed any indians or burned any witches ... but I know that it happened. I feel it.
Creativity knows no limits. Where do we go from here?? The choice is yours, America.