Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Time I Almost Died

At age 23 I moved in with the love of my life. A few months later she kicked me out in the middle of a snow storm… in my underwear. With nowhere to go, I moved into my Dad’s art studio by the train tracks near downtown Denver. Still heart broken, and recovering from walking phenomena, she called me out of the blue and invited me to a U2 concert at Mile High Stadium.  Even though I felt like crap, I accepted the invitation. Before she came to pick me up I drank half a bottle of vodka to calm my nerves.

Midway through the concert, I had to throw-up. I rushed to the restroom but there was a line a block long. I ran outside the stadium and puked. Earlier in the evening Public Enemy opened the show and there was some gang related violence in the parking lot. Security wasn't  letting anybody in or out of the stadium. I pleaded but I was locked out.

Wondering around in the snow, deathly sick, with nothing on but blue jeans, a sweatshirt and a blazer, I decided to walk back to my dad’s studio. On the way I saw a slow moving train headed in my direction. I decided to grab onto a ladder on the back of a boxcar. By the time the train was passing my dad’s studio it was going like 100  miles per hour. I didn’t jump. 

I held on for dear life as the train kept going all night, finally stopping in the middle of the prairie. Relieved, I jumped off but found myself in the middle of nowhere. Eventually I found a warm patch of concrete with no snow on it. I laid down and looked at the clear blue sky and felt happy for the first time in a long time. I was happy to be alive! 

Off in the distance I saw a single car disappear into the horizon. I headed towards the highway. At this point I was no-longer sick but my jacket was torn and I was covered in grease. No cars would stop for me. After many hours of walking down the desolate highway (being ignored by cars) I saw a train heading back the other way. I jumped on. The train traveled into the night and eventually stopped near a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. There was a pay phone but it was broken. I went inside and asked to use the phone. The lady said “no” and asked me to leave since I wasn’t a customer. Next to the truck stop was a laundry mat. I believed that my luck would start to turn around if my cloths were clean so I decided to use the few dollars I had to wash my clothes. Since I had nothing to wear, I looked in the dumpster behind the laundry mat and found a light blue body suit with a magnet belt straight out of the 70’s. I tried it on in the bathroom and it was tight… but it fit. I bought a small box of detergent and washed my clothes but did not have enough for the dryer. I asked the clerk at the truck stop for money. Again she refused. Carrying my wet clothes in a plastic bag I walked around looking for help. I couldn’t find another living soul. Way off in the distance I saw the lights of a town. I started walking. Once again I tried to flag down cars but nobody would stop. I was starving and decided to eat some corn from the fields by the side of the road. The corn was hard as a rock and completely flavorless. It was inedible. Eventually a highway patrolman pulled over. His license plate said Nebraska. For the first time I knew where I was. I told the officer my story but he looked at me like I was crazy and refused to give me a ride. After he left, another train came by going in the direction of the town. I jumped on.

On the morning of my 2nd day I pulled into the world's largest rail yard located in North Platte Nebraska. I quickly found a grocery store and called my dad collect on a pay phone. He was stunned to hear I was in Nebraska. He and my girlfriend had spent two days looking for me all over town… including at the morgue. He wired me money and I dried my cloths, eat at McDonald’s, and bought a Greyhound bus ticket home. Within a week I moved back in with the love of my life. 18 years later and we are still together.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Strange And Bitter Crop

The name "Luther" is old German in origin. It's meaning is "soldier of the people" or "renowned warrior". It's often used as homage to Martin Luther, the Christian protestant reformer, or to Martin Luther King, Jr (MLK) the civil rights activist. 


King Moonracer


I was conceived at the first hippy commune in the United States. It was called Drop City. At the time, my dad was a co-founder/artist and my mom was a local high school kid from Trinidad, CO.  I was born a few months after MLK was assassinated. In his wake there were riots happening all over the country. I was named "Luther" not to honor MLK but as a form of protection. My parents believed that there was going to be a violent revolution and the new regime would go easy on me if my name was "Luther."


I mention this because I actually have a few readers now and, for the first time, received feedback on my last post. I now have three people following this blog (all of whom I suspect are covert radicals like myself).  I was told by those who know me that I have surrounded myself by slackers but I am obviously  "not a slacker" and asked why I would promote such a "worthless" point of view?

It is true that I have worked tirelessly my whole life and am not a "slacker". I am not a fan of work and responsibility but I have not succeeded in "doing as little as possible." What I have done is become the reluctant champion for those with whom our society has, what I would call, an "uneasy truce." I am on a one man mission to advance the cause of those who are still in constant threat of psychological, spiritual, and even physical, annihilation because they are incapable, or flat out refuse, to "go with the program".  "Slackers" are the ones that look and sound the most like me and with whom I most strongly identify. But they are not the only ones. I have managed to make a career as a champion for bitches, freaks, psychotics, bums, thugs and junkies.  None of these people even remotely look or sound like me but I like to believe that I have earned their trust and respect. Why? Because I respect them. I admit that I am comfortable in many ways. But I still have a gut feeling that something is very wrong. Not doing what our society wants us to is not necessarily a character flaw. 

In case you were wondering, I'm not a public defender. I work for a non-profit and the project I work for is, in my opinion, radical. So radical that I think too much attention threatens it's very existence...so I will remain intentionally vague.  We have an unofficial slogan "high tolerance, low threshold." When I talk about this philosophy to outsiders I often pretend as if it is "new" and I don't know exactly what it's all about: 

"High threshold, low intolerance? I can't remember." 

In actuality it is not a  "new" concept in America. Basically it  means "come as you are and do as you please." Outside of America, many still believe we all live by this creed. In reality, only corporations and a few privileged youth and very wealthy individuals can get away with it. Admittedly, it has unlimited potential to breed both power and corruption. Once it is fully realized that such an environment is being attempted (with government funding) for the mentally ill living in extreme poverty, it probably won't be tolerated for long. So shhhhh. Even some of those who are on the inside, and benefit on a daily basis, are suspicious of it and try to tear it down. It''s an exciting,  inspiring and often brutal place to work.

Lately I have been referring my staff to the movie the Hurt Locker. According to some definitions a hurt locker is " a figurative place where someone is said to be, or will be, getting hurt or beaten." 
 "We are in the business of handling bombs, explosions, and hurt" I tell my staff. 


"And our cause is not for everyone... to bring back the dead". 


"To harvest a strange and bitter crop. "  




Sunday, February 14, 2010

Assimilation Into An Unworthy Society Is an Unworthy Goal

I don't control the TV remote at my house. The only time I get to watch whatever I want is when my girlfriend is outta the house or asleep. Even then I have trouble because everything is hooked up to Tivo, which I don't know how to operate. Basically what I do is watch all the weird obscure things she recorded to be cool but will never watch. 


You can probably tell from my last post that I had too much coffee and was having trouble sleeping last night. To fall asleep I decided to watch this educational video from the 80's that my girlfriend had recorded from "god knows where" called "Film Genres: Romance". It was very cheesy but had an interesting moment of insight when the unknown "experts" discussed the impact of the movie Annie Hall on the baby boomer's. Annie Hall was the most flawed heroine that they had ever seen on screen. She gave an entire generation (especially women) permission to be totally screwed up. It reminded me of art critic Dave Hickey's response to Jackson Pollock when he saw his work in a mainstream magazine for the first time as a kid. His instant reaction was "anything goes." He was suddenly liberated. He never stressed out about his Mother complaining about his messy bedroom again.


This got me thinking about my "best of the decade" lists I was working on. I looked at them and realized many of my "best of's" were stuff I knew were great but didn't necessarily remember much detail from. I started to think about a list of my Annie Hall and Jackson Pollock moments. I realized that my world hasn't been "rocked" too often... but I have had a few tremors.


As I started to list them, I started to notice a scary theme among my hero's: a general lack of focus, goals and ambition. Fat,  broke and tired is starting to look more like a final destination than a stop along the way.


Growing up in what was once hippie Boulder, in the late 70's and 80's, I was exposed to a lot of drugs, concerns about the environment, corporations, government, organic food, etc. Things that are just now starting to work their way into mainstream consciousness. I remember a quote by Malcolm X when I was really young that became my secret motto: "Assimilation into an unworthy society is an unworthy goal." Interestingly, I Googled that quote and nothing came up. Either that quote has been censored or Macolm X (or anybody else) never said it. If it is unclaimed, I claim it now, thank you.


Movie wise, I remember working as a projectionist for the self-proclaimed longest running film series in the history of the World (at the University of Colorado) when Richard Linklater's "Slacker" came out. The biggest star proffessor on campus at the time was the expirimental film pioneer Stan Brakhage. I abmired him mostly because of a chance interation I had with him while tagging along with my girlfriend to his studio. He held a private screening (for just the two of us) of a film that was a long thread of white Japanese characters on a solid black background. It was beautiful to look at but gave me a very sad feeling. When he told us the actual story, I was a little shocked to find out it was a very tragic folktale . I felt that I had somehow known the story even though it was in Japanese (which I don't read) and went by at lightning speed. 


The first night I projected "Slacker" I felt that I finally understood what I was meant to do with my life... as little as possible. There was a quote from a homeless guy in the movie that I still think of today: "I may not live well but at least I don't have to work to do it." I mention Brakhage because half way through the movie he stormed out of the theatre and screamed at the top of his lungs that it was the worst movie he had ever seen. 


Below are a few of the moments that defined my life. When I told my girlfriend she said I should be ashamed and keep this to myself. Luckily not too many people are likely to read this. Hi Mark. Happy Valentines day. 


Enjoy!




Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm Not Crazy

Although I don't pretend to understand quantum physics, I do understand this: Science is revealing a reality that is very different than the one we have all been taught (and continue to believe in and experience). I often wonder what dramatic events (or technologies) will force the masses to confront reality, as science now knows it. Will it be a dramatic encounter with a being from another time or dimension? Will it be a device that can detect artificially produced light from outer space? Will it be the revelations of gods and angles? I believe that such events are inevitable and may be happening as we speak. It is clear to me that the era of reality, as we now know it, is over.



Saturday, January 16, 2010

DON'T FIND YOURSELF HALFWAY UP A LADDER YOU DON'T WANT TO CLIMB


My move to Los Angeles started on a ferry boat in San Francisco on the 4th of July. It was my birthday. My girlfriend and I were joined by two friends to watch the fireworks. They had been married for nearly a decade but still had a never ending debate about the merits of Los Angeles vs. San Francisco. Roger is a lawyer who was born and raised in LA. Amy is a therapist who was born and raised in San Francisco. The Bay was exceptionally cold, windy, and thick with fog. We were all underdressed and the only thing keeping us warm was a bottle of Grey Goose. The only fireworks I remember from that boat ride was the fight that broke out over the city of Los Angeles. Honestly, I don’t even remember that.


The next day my girlfriend asked me what I thought of Roger’s perspective on LA. I admitted that the only thing I remembered from that entire night was how embarrassed I was for spending half an hour (or more) locked in the bathroom of our favorite restaurant… puking. She reminded me that he had described San Francisco as a beautiful woman who is stunning to look at but actually very shallow. Not much below the surface. Los Angeles, however, is the opposite. It is ugly in many ways, but you can spend a whole lifetime getting to know her without ever getting bored. I was skeptical of such a simple analysis but her mind was made up. She was sick and tired of San Francisco and wanted to move to LA. I refused.


Although I grew up in the Rocky Mountain West, my High School was obsessed with surfing. We were thousands of miles from the ocean but my friends and I all had bleach blond hair, wore surfer shorts and flip flops… even in the winter. At the time there was no doubt in my mind that someday I would live in LA.


As the years wore on, so did the reputation of the LA. First there was the Rodney King beatings and the ensuing riots. Then the OJ Simpson trial. Finally there was the Rampart scandal that exposed widespread, hard core, corruption throughout the LAPD. By the time I left college, LA was pretty much of the table as a place I wanted to live. After living in the city of San Francisco for 10 years, whose population almost universally considers Los Angeles synonymous with hell, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to come here for the weekend. As of that faithful 4th of July, the closest I had been to LA was in an airplane on my way to San Diego.


As much as I wanted Los Angeles to go away and leave me alone, it wouldn’t. I felt that I had done a pretty good job of refuting my girlfriends pro LA propaganda but one day this City snuck up on me quite unexpectedly.


I had what I thought was my dream job working for the City of San Francisco. It was high pay and low stress. My co-workers even took me into a private room to warn me that I was working to hard and creating “unrealistic expectations.” As a self-identified “slacker” I was thrilled. I returned to my cubicle and did my best not to impress anybody. It worked. My co-workers started smiling at me and inviting me to lunch. I came in late, left early, took two hour lunches and nobody seemed to notice or care. My biggest problem was figuring out something to do with the rest of my time. Even though I was not yet 40, I decided to do what everybody else was doing… plan my retirement.


As I was surfing the Internet one day for a place to retire, I accidentally stumbled on the website for the Architecture Urbanism Design Collaborative (audc.org). The core values listed for the organization are as follows:


Love: Envisioning communities – even if dispersed - based on caring, sharing, and belonging.


Beauty: To set an example for people to rise to.


Ethics: To instill, by demonstration, a way of acting, to demonstrate integrity.


Abstraction: To create a background that allows individuals to define identities amidst the infinite possibilities of contemporary life.


As I read these words I felt the walls closing in on me. I suddenly realized I was in a prison and had to escape. But where would I go? At the top of the unusually sparse page was a button that said “random”. I pushed it.


The article that came up was titled “Los Angeles and the Theology of Ether”. It described the theory of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt that national governments are withering away and being replaced with a new world order of placeless networks of flows and hierarchies. Although these networks do not have fixed locations the authors suggest that “new Romes” appear to control them: Washington DC with the Bomb, New York with the Money, and Los Angeles with the Ether. According to the article:


“Los Angeles is the center of production for ether. Hollywood, as both a mythic place and a mode of production, is the telematic inhaler for the rest of the world, a sponge so soaked and saturated with ether that it can anaesthetize the entire world. Now that we have Los Angeles, we no longer need other cities. Los Angeles has been designed as a giant stage set, ready for broadcast. As a generic background, it can be exported to any location”.


Not exactly Shangri-La but I decided to move here right after I read it. Featured with the article was a hazy photo with downtown LA off in the distance. I made it the wall paper on my computer. I also changed my computer password to onmyway2la and began a search for jobs here.


Much to my disappointment, I could not find any jobs in LA (that I qualified for) that would pay anything close to what I was making. Also, I kept thinking of an expression I had heard from a homeless man who had offered me career advice, “don’t find yourself half way up a ladder you don’t want to climb.” I had once been employed working for the homeless and now felt that I should have listened to the his advice and continued working in that field. Although LA is the homeless capitol of America, I was discovering that there were very few decent paying jobs doing that kind of work here.


Finally, I noticed an opening as an Analyst for the City of Santa Monica’s Homeless Services. I didn’t know what an analyst was but the pay was the same as I was making at my current job and it related to the issue of homelessness. It felt like a “hale mary” but I applied for my first job in LA.


Weeks, and then months, went by and I never heard anything. Eventually I forgot that I had ever applied for the job. With so few prospects in LA, I gave up on the idea of getting a job here and reapplied myself to not working for the City of San Francisco. My lack of initative eventually paid off and lead to a promotion. Two weeks into my new position I got the call from the City of Santa Monica. I was now making more money than that job but I remembered the homeless man’s warning “don’t find yourself half way up a latter you don’t want to climb.” I accepted the interview and booked my first flight to LA.