I first started listening to Bob Dylan in high school on the long road trips with my dad and brother in a Subaru Legacy. During those road trips, I wore out certain Dylan albums: Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Freewhelin’. My favorite songs from Dylan have to be “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Tangled Up In Blue,” or “These Times Are a Changin’.” Like my love for Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan is an artist I admire who has influenced my writing and personal philosophy. But I’ve never seen him play live. I’ve just heard so many bad rumors about his performances being terrible that I never went out my way to make it happen. Then my friend D gave my wife a ring and said she had two tickets to the Dylan concert at the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. I jumped at the opportunity.
The seats were incredible, and we were so close to the stage I could actually give credence to the idea that Bob Dylan actually could see me. The theater was incredible, and the walls were velvet, and the balconies had an elitist feel of a country run by a monarchy. An old man sitting next to me was embarrassing his young daughter by dancing in his seat, and Val Kilmer was somewhere in the audience.
At Bob Dylan at the Dolby in Hollywood because Bob is eternal.
It was starting to hit me that I was about to see one of the greatest artists, poets, and musicians of the 20th century, but I honestly wasn’t holding my breath. I was expecting a skeleton to walk on the stage instead of a great poet. But Stu Kimball, the rhythm guitar player, starting strumming the opening chords, and Dylan sauntered out onto the stage in a wide-brimmed hat followed by his band. I can’t remember what song they played first — I wasn’t actually taking notes like in the old days when I was actually reviewing concerts — but Dylan stood in front of four microphones (he only seemed to ever use one) and the band played behind him like a machine that figured out how to sing. Continue reading “Bob Dylan at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood”→
This weekend my wife and I flew up to San Francisco for Litquake, the literary festival/pub crawl where writers from all over the country come to share their work and join a community of scribes who usually only communicate over social media. We stayed with Joe and Justine Clifford, and I read at their event Lip Service West, which tells real and gritty stories. I told a story about trying to find a way to convince a mental patient to willingly enter an ambulance in order to find a higher level of care, but I think next time I read in a bar I’m going to tell the story of how I got in a fight with a little person in St. Petersburg, Florida, or how I almost got in a fight during a community theater presentation of Macbeth in South Beach. Of course, when you read in a bar, you have to expect anything, and I’ll tell that story a bit later.
This was my second reading in San Francisco, and the last time I drove up the coast I wrote about trying to rediscover the California Dream for the LA Weekly and then read at Lip Service in the Tenderloin. San Francisco has always been one of those cities I’ve felt at home in — a sort of Boston transposed to the West Coast. The landscapes are stunning, and there is just so much water everywhere. I was able to shoot some solid pictures, and the Cliffords took us to Telegraph in Berkley, where I was able to find some colorful moments. It was cool to hang out with Joe, who is the author of books like Junkie Love, Wake the Undertake, and the newly released Lamentation. Continue reading “A weekend in San Francisco for Litquake”→
Griffith Park is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. When I was freelancing and dealing with the highs and lows of full-time journalism, I would often need a break from the city, and I would head over to hike the trail behind the Griffith Observatory in Hollywood to find solace and peace. Sometimes I would go with my friend and fellow writer J. David Gonzalez. We would talk writing, NBA, and literature. Most often I went alone with my dog Hendrix.
It’s part of the reason why I see Griffith Park as a place of serenity in this monstrous city. Hiking in Los Angeles is important to L.A. life, and it’s something Michelle Meyering discusses in a trailer for The Rattling Wall 3. There is just something about being above Los Angeles and having the ability to look at it from a higher vantage point that makes you feel the city isn’t so large, so intimidating and that you’re not lost in it. At the same time, it’s rare that you can see through the haze, the smog, and there is an element of vagueness to the horizon, as if Los Angeles can never truly be seen. I’m thinking about these things as my move to San Diego approaches. I’ve been thinking a lot about how Los Angeles has changed me.
Over the next couple weeks, I plan on reflecting on Los Angeles on this blog. I’ve come to love this city. I’ve come to think about it as a second home, and I feel that I was able to grow as a writer tremendously here. I was able to publish in great publications like the LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Slate, Salon, The Independent, and more while I was living here, and I also published poetry and fiction. On the other hand, I’ve also had a lot of artistic failures with stories, which most people will never see. In the end, I’ve been a part of several fantastic L.A. organizations, and I’ve met so many people who will continue to inspire me. So how has L.A. changed me? Continue reading “Hello Goodbye Los Angeles: From the Griffith Observatory”→
This weekend, I fled Los Angeles, work, and all my responsibilities and jumped on a jet plane to Walla Walla, Washington. I have never been to Walla Walla — or really ever heard about the place — but my family, who do enjoy wine tastings, raved about the town that is five hours outside of Seattle and closer to the Oregon border than you might expect. Honestly, I needed to get away. I’ve been anxious, trying to find the balance between my professional and creative life, and I thought spending time in a town where the only thing to do was farm or drink wine would provide the cure. So I went there with the idea that I would eat, drink, and take photographs. You’ll see some shots below.
We stayed at a winery called Abeja, and we had the most fantastic rooms and the most incredible breakfast. I remember the last breakfast most distinctly. They brought over a baked egg seasoned with a bit of thyme, parmesan cheese, sea salt, and some light cream. Then they brought out bacon with sourdough waffles covered in fresh apples with a dollop of whipped cream. We drank their wine, too, which was good, but I have to be honest with you: I don’t know anything about wine. I wish that I did, but when I taste four or five different wines it’s really hard for me to tell the difference. I’m trying to learn and respect the craft, but one thing that I have learned from my family and friends is that all you have to do is say something descriptive like “minerality,” “apricot,” or any other floral or fruit taste, and people might actually think you know what you’re talking about. The people I was with knew wine, and it was fun to learn, but I was more interested in the sights in Walla Walla. And of course, the company.
What I loved most about Walla Walla was that everywhere I looked there was a different landscape photo opportunity. It was close to the high plains desert, and every piece of land was used to grow crops. It reminded me of a place Jack Kerouac would have loved to wander through, and he would have written about the people who worked the land. Because it was farmlands and they were growing different crops, the colors of the Earth altered as much as the contours of the landscape. Continue reading “Wine and Photography in Walla Walla, Washington”→
I grew up in Clinton, Massachusetts — a small town in Worcester County. We were once the crowning achievement of the Industrial Revolution, and the factories from the Bigelow Carpet Factory are still on Main Street, serving as a reminder of a former life. I love Clinton. I still have family there, and I have incredible friends there. That town has helped me become the man I am today, but I couldn’t wait to leave when I was a kid. It’s not that I disliked the people or thought it wasn’t a great town; it’s that I hated the snow; I hated the cold; I hated the small-town nature of my childhood existence. It just wasn’t where I wanted to live long term. I needed to find my home, and there were two places I knew where I wanted to live: Florida and California.
I started to develop this fascination with the idea of paradise. I started to think about the ocean, the sun, and the weather. I thought about Florida and California, and I built these ideas of these states as the key to happiness and success. That once I moved beyond the cold winters my life would be easier, more peaceful, and free.
So I went to college in Florida, and I lived there for four years, and I studied creative writing in Miami for three. Now I live in California — the place where I thought would be the most free state in the country — and I’m about to move to San Diego. What I’m trying to say is that I understand what it’s like to live in a place that most people consider paradise. I know what it’s like to live in a city where tourists line up, year after year, with their cameras to take photographs. I know what it’s like to take for granted the beauty that surrounds me and become accustomed to beautiful weather that you almost feel oblivious to the flowers blooming almost all year round or standing on the beach only to turn around and see snow on the mountaintops. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve spent the last ten years of my life chasing paradise, and I’m no longer looking for it. I’ve found it, and I can’t imagine ever leaving it. It’s obviously a state of mind. It’s a place that I can find in my writing. It’s my family. It’s music. Even though it’s so obvious, it’s important to remind myself that paradise is not a place. That’s what is on my mind this week.
Here are some quotes from writers on paradise:
“It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are … than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges.
“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” — Milan Kundera.