I struggle with my writerly voice, dear readers. This fact, I am sure, will surprise none of you but it is an important piece of context for the play of the day.
I sent an evite today for an anti-Valentine’s day party I am throwing. This is a somewhat trite sort of soiree, I’m aware, but a good excuse for cocktails among friends should never be wasted. The play after which this post is titled is as follows: I think there are two genres I’ve mastered, the corporate memo (I was famous for them at my pre-graduate school job in journalism. All very tongue in cheek without pissing off management*) and the evite. The ‘message from host’ section of my invitation for this February gathering may be my best work yet.
If you desire the actual copy on this and are not among those in Los Angeles invited, you’ll have to e-mail me directly. It’s morbidly funny and mildly profane and thus I hesitate to post it herein. Let it be known that it involved three footnotes, a Sartre reference, and the phrase ‘heart you.’ God bless the beautiful disaster that our socio-linguistic ecology has offered us all.
*Such memos included corporate jargon of my own invention and, at least in one case, bear trainers at the then-visiting circus.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and claim that the photo booth is a residual technology. I base this claim on the fact that, even if the booth uses a digital camera and various editing software to allow users to pick filters, it still spits out those darling little strips. Hard media. You don’t plug your phone into the machine to pull off data. You get to hold the glossy rectangle in your hands. Oh, the sweet pleasure of such a thing, a document of whatever the hell it was you were doing in the booth when the flashbulbs went off to catch you.
I love photo booths. I want one in my living room. They offer a strange social function–one is forced to sit in a very small space with the people one is closest to and be photographed. And, in this particular moment, are not all our activities always already ready to be documented? Do we not crave mediation of even the most banal affairs? The photo booth answers this desire without the instantaneity of broadcasting that the YouTube video or the smart-phone pic seem to demand. It’s the nostalgia in me, I suppose, for certain mechanical devices now fallen into disuse, and for the print and paper sort of recording that makes me so attracted to this particular form of documentation. But one likes to relish in such nostalgia. To that end I’ve sought out the best bars housing photo booths in the Easterly side of my lovely Los Angeles.
They are as follows, ranked in order of preference:
The Cha Cha Lounge (Silverlake). An excellent bar, except on late weekend nights when the hipster crowd takes over and you have to scream over the very loud, very contemporary pop rock and equally loud classic 60s and 70s tracks (played, I think, because scenesters find them ironically enjoyable). In addition to a photo booth, though, they have a foosball table. Awesome.
The Shortstop (Echopark). Also an excellent bar. They have a dance floor and occasionally, soul night. Dark and loud and lovely. This was a college haunt of mine.
Tony’s (Downtown). Perhaps my favorite bar in Los Angeles. It is listed in 3rd place only because it’s further away from me than the others on this list. They have a sizable outdoor area and a ping pong table. A long list of whiskeys. Two good IPAs on tap and the crowd is fabulous, in the down-homey downtown sort of way. Their booth is nice because you get two sets of prints.
The Edendale Grill (Silverlake). Kind of a charming space–I believe it’s in an old fire station. This bar’s crowd is a bit ‘young professional’ for my taste, but its a perfectly reasonable place to spend an evening. It’s also a restaurant if you’re hungry and the food, while overpriced, is pretty delicious when you order well. I like the mussels. But I always like mussels. Because they are delicious.
Those lovely little pics you see above this post are of myself and my dear comrade Marco. Taken at the Edendale, they are a pretty typical example of what such machines can produce.*
*I realize that my scanning and uploading of this strip of images may make unstable the opening lines of this post. But that’s the beauty of the narcissistic endeavor that is blogging. Meta-ironies abound.
A friend of mine and I like to go to karaoke about once a month or so, if schedules and desires align. We usually go to the Smogcutter, a spectacular dive in Silverlake where Charles Bukowski is rumored to have whiled away many a drunken hour. Last night, however, we went for a slightly more upscale, scenester local–the Bigfood Lodge in Los Feliz.
I have a total of two tunes in my repertoire, and only two. This is due partially to the fact of my genetics. I cannot sing on key, ever. No one in my bloodline can and my guess is our heirs long into the future will be damned with this same curse. There is a salve for our inherited deficiency, however. Songs sung either in the ‘scream’ register, or those sung in falsetto can, on occasion, be the right fit for the likes of us. They must be very carefully selected, however. I have more than once grabbed the mic only to clear the room with a poorly calculated choice. Dylan is out. Don’t even try. Cash can be done, but only with immense finesse–that I happen to lack. No Bowie. And never, ever Journey.
I prefer a very specific era for my chosen gems of these two genres–the 80s. This allows for maximum camp and performative potential and minimum requirements for faithful rendering.
I hesitate, dear readers, to tell you what these two songs are, lest you ever have the pleasure of sharing an evening with me and a karaoke machine. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. But for the sake of participatory journalism and the culture of personal revelation via blog, I’ll do it anyway. Drum-roll please: Emotional Rescue by the Rolling Stones (Mick in falsetto is ridiculously good) and Life During Wartime by the Talking Heads (screamie genre here, at least when I perform it).
Last night the bar was low on Stones, so I went the Heads route. I would argue that, and I realize this is a biased judgement, I killed it. That crowd of hipsters may have hated my sweater and my boot-leg jeans, but they loved me as David Byrne. Dare I say that I warmed the cockles of their cold, aloof, hipster hearts? I do. I dare.
And that, oh comrades my comrades, is all that one can ask from a good Monday night on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Fame matters here, banal and bizarre though it often can be. My city is one whose primary industry is the production of vapid and vacuous reality television and blockbuster violence (and yes, some really wonderful stuff too, though in much smaller proportions). It is a place where people tweet their star sightings, where red carpets are always at the ready. At least on the karaoke stage, though, anyone can have their fifteen minutes. And then, unlike those pour souls followed by film crews, creep back out into the quiet night, anonymous but joyous just the same.
It has been ridiculously beautiful in Los Angeles lately. New Year’s day was sunny and warm. Excluding a few colder days since, it feels suspiciously like spring. This, I suppose, is not the ideal winter for our specific ecology but it does make for glorious weekend walks along the Silverlake Reservoir and outdoor drinking at The Red Lion.
Luckily the warm weather has not hindered the phenomenon known as the ‘winter halo.’ The play of the day is simply this: I looked up at an enormous moon as I drove home around 6:30 today, and by 1 a.m. it was hugged by a perfect circle of something like clouds. It looked like this during the lunar eclipse about a month ago as well.
The sunsets in New Mexico are unbeatable. Nuclear, really, if you follow Delillo. I’d say though, given our temperate climate, the moon in Los Angeles has a spectacular and awesome quality that belongs very much to the city. And when that moon is full, good things happen. Terrible things happen. Magical things happen. It is one among many reasons that this city is livable, whole. Sprawling though it may be, we still have a relationship with the much larger universe. The sky is a serious thing here, light pollution and all.
Look up. You won’t be sorry you did.