Tag: Long Beach

Five Reasons to Miss Long Beach, California

Yesterday, Heron and I put the finishing touches on our old place in Long Beach. We vacuumed the floors, windexed the windows, and cleaned the bathrooms. Place is spotless. But as I was leaving, I noticed the liquor store across the street. I used to walk over there at night and talk to the Cambodian owners as they watched Chinese sitcoms on a miniature television. I noticed the homeless man walk by who slept on a bench at the doctor’s office in front of our apartment. I saw this crazy lady who just never stopped her dogs from yapping when Hendrix walked by. I said goodbye to my manager — who couldn’t have been better — and I realized I probably wouldn’t be spending much time there anymore. I have had this sensation in many cities, and saying goodbye is always hard. So, here are five reasons why I will miss Long Beach.

5. Portfolio Coffeehouse


When I was freelancing full-time over the last six months, I was, honestly, pretty lonely at certain points in the week. Heron was working, and I was at home, staring into a computer, writing pitches, hoping that the speed of email and responses would speed up. Sometimes, I just couldn’t talk to my dog without thinking I was insane. So I would drive down to Portfolio Coffeehouse on 4th Street. Honestly, I know it’s cliché to write and work in coffee shops, but I’ve always loved it. I guess it’s only cliché and strange if you’re not working and just pretending, but I would head down there, grab a table by a window and an outlet, and bust my freaking ass. But they had awesome lattes, and they make all these little designs with the foam. And they had some characters, too. A group of old men, probably retired, would show up every day, early, and talk in a corner about cultural events. There was this one fat guy who was the loudest. He could get annoying, but for some reason, seeing him there every time I went provided some consistency I was desperately seeking.

4. Running along the bluffs on Ocean Blvd.

View From Ocean BLVD

Whether I was working at the rehab center or freelancing, running became a part of my routine that I could not live without. It takes me out of my head; it eases stress; and it provides consistency to an often chaotic and frazzled world. We didn’t live on the beach or anything, but we lived five or so blocks away; so I would grab Hendrix or go on my own and run along the bluffs, staring out over the Pacific Ocean and the lights from Downtown and the Port. It almost seemed to look like an ancient Egypt. The weird thing about Long Beach is that they have a jetty for the port, and it breaks the waves. The ocean is flat, and no one swims there (probably because the ocean is seriously polluted). But there was something about running along the bluffs, staring out of the water, wondering about the mysterious islands with water falls, and overlooking the oil tankers that just made me at peace, calm, comfortable with everything that was out of my control.

3. The Food


As you can see from the above picture, you might be wondering why there is a shot of a random guy in a food category. Well, there is no real reason; the guy in the above photo is going to be my co-best man at my wedding, and it’s just kind of funny. So now back to the list. I thoroughly enjoyed eating in Long Beach. I wish I had more money to spend, because I would spend it all on food. There are so many different places to eat, and, being a kid from Massachusetts who wouldn’t know pho from a Korean BBQ, the LBC opened up my taste buds to some incredible flavors and spices. Number 9 in Long Beach had great pho; Tavern on Two had some awesome burgers on second street; Sushi on Fire treated us so well; Coco Renos had some bomb-ass Mexican food (plus, you can could take your food into the World Famous Reno Room).

But out of all the places to eat in Long Beach — there are honestly too many to name — the best part about the LBC for food was breakfast. The competition was fierce; there was Coffee Mug, Eggs Etc., and Starlings — and that was just by our house. My favorite place by far, however, was the Coffee Mug. You’ve got to be careful when you go there. Get there before 10. The line is crazy. I used to always get their honey-sausage scramble and drench my eggs in their verde chili. Holy shit! It tasted like a spicy version of heaven — which is Long Beach.

2. The culture and diversity

Berth 55, Joseph Lapin
Berth 55, Joseph Lapin

My buddy, Dan Stroud, used to say that Long Beach was the most diverse city in the country. Well, I found that hard to believe, and I’m still skeptical that it’s more diverse than New York or Los Angeles (Sarah Bennett, Long Beach expert and editor of The Post, would probably know), but there honestly is no city like the LBC, because there are so many different types of people. Did you know that Long Beach has the largest population of Cambodians in the country? A great article at the OC Weekly came out profiling Cambodia Town. There is no city like Long Beach. So many people, so many cultures.

1. The Port of Long Beach

The PortWhen I first moved to Los Angeles County, what I saw didn’t really match my expectations. I had this grand image in my mind that California was all palm trees and gorgeous beaches and beautiful people. Of course, this is true, but there are sides of California that aren’t really advertised. Yeah, I heard about poverty and violence, but what I never saw coming was how industrial it could be. Driving down the 405 towards Long Beach and coming into the cloud factories stretching for miles surprised the hell out of me. And when I saw all those factories that led to the ports, I knew I wanted to write about it. So, I did. I wrote about port truckers, union strikes, and blue-collar institutions. I got to know those men and women who worked at the ports; I saw their hard work and desires for a better life by lifting themselves up by their bootstraps; and I saw the beauty the harmonious machine that is the Port of Long Beach.

The Ending and Beginning of a Journey — Into the City

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer.  And when I first started thinking about this idea, “writer,” in correlation with my life, I really didn’t quite have a grasp of the image of what made a person a writer — or how the hell I could become one.  The one thing I thought I knew from reading my heroes (Hemingway, Twain, and Kerouac) was that I had to live my life, in some shape or form, as if I was living in a book.


Now, when I was younger, to try and fulfill this prophesy, I would travel and move as much as possible.  In fact, I thought that if I didn’t travel widely, I wasn’t really actually traveling like a writer.  Destination is death!  I was hungry for experience to write about, searching for it in Guatemala, Prague, Detroit — places that have become as much a part of my identity as my childhood.  And while that idea has changed — experiences come in all forms — the aspect that I still hold true about living my life like a book is the idea of structure.  For example, like the old cliché goes, there are chapters to one’s life, closing a book, beginning a new, a personal renaissance — all that bullshit. Each year, each period, each section of my life plays a larger part in the whole, and I have begun to expect the dramatic changes — almost yearn for them.  Because in a certain sense, saying goodbye is the ultimate freedom.

What I’m trying to say is that a chapter has ended; I am no longer a full-time freelance writer.


I’ve been looking back over this blog, and it’s been six months since I wrote my first real post about quitting my job, pursuing my career as a freelance writer, stopping the soul-sucking commute, and beginning to write, write, write.  And I did.  I wrote for some great publications — Salon, LA Weekly, OC Weekly, The Village Voice — and I told some great stories.  I wrote about the ports, the closing of a fish market, Jack Kerouac, truckers, books, poets/actors.  I even wrote a cover story.  And it’s been wonderful.  I worked with some great people who helped me out along the way down in the LBC and Orange County. (Sarah Bennett, Gustavo Arellano, Nate Jackson are incredible people!)

Fish Tacos at Berth 55
Fish Tacos at Berth 55

But in the end, I just felt that I couldn’t make enough of a living.  My student loans, my rent, and my medical insurance bills were always speaking to me — “Hey, you know you’ve got to pay me, right?” — and I found that I wasn’t happy waking up and hustling for pieces that paid very little — though some paid much better than the others.  And writing for me isn’t initially about the money, unless that’s your income — then, yes, it’s about the money.  I do like security.  I do like a steady paycheck, but I also love writing.  If an opportunity comes up to be a full-time writer, of course, I’m going to consider it.

And I’m going to still freelance on the side and pitch the stories I want to pitch. Meantime, an opportunity came up that I couldn’t refuse. As of last week, I have started a job as a Writer and Social Media Specialist at a public relations firm in Westwood.  From my window, I can see the Pacific Ocean, The Getty, and Westwood.  I moved to West L.A., and I’ll be working 2 miles from where Heron will be working in July.  It’s an opportunity that I feel lucky to have.

Red Berth

But there’s something else I’ve had to confront about working full-time as a freelance writer — besides the struggle to afford basic living requirements — is that I haven’t had enough time to work on my memoir.

I don’t know if you remember, dear reader, but a few months back, I wrote a post about revising my novel.  Six months ago, an agent at an amazing literary agency asked for some revisions.  The biggest revision: turning my novel into a memoir.  Well, because I have been so focused on writing to make money to survive, well, I haven’t really worked on the memoir.  I have pieces.  But I don’t have a manuscript.  And out of all the writing I’ve done, this is the most important to me, because it’s my story, my town’s story, my family’s story — the story I must tell before I can really write any other stories that I have in the back of my mind.  And in order to write this book, I need some consistency in my life.  I need to be able to come home from work and work.


So, I begin again a new but the same journey.  So from now on when you read my blog, you’ll still see me sharing stories I’ve written for some magazines, but you’ll be following the longer journey of me trying to publish my book — plus, just what it’s like to live in L.A.  And I’m no longer chasing being a writer, because, well, I am one.  Nothing can take that away anymore.

I will share everything along the way.  I hope you’ll stay around to see how this story develops.  Really appreciate you being a part of this.

So let’s see what happens in the next chapter — Into the City.


Sci-Fi, Mental Health, Poetry Foundation — A Lost Weekend

This weekend, Heron went up to Sacramento, and when she’s out of town…I watch Sci-Fi movies.  Heron loves some pretty good movies, but it’s hard to get her into Sci-Fi.  I don’t push it.

But this weekend, I walked down to Broadway Video in Long Beach, and I asked one of the guys for a movie rec.  Told him I wanted to see a movie kind of like Blade Runner.  So he suggested THX 1138 — a George Lucas movie starring Robert Duvall.  Now, I had never heard of this movie, but I trusted the guy at Broadway Video, because he initially recommended a Kubrick film and an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick book.

Well, this movie, THX 1138, is everything I love about a good Sci Fi/dystopia story.  Here’s the plot overview from IMDb: “Set in the 25th century, the story centers around a man and a woman who rebel against their rigidly controlled society.”  Man, this movie pulls out all the stops to present a world controlled by machines where they imprison their citizens with psychological manipulation.  It was like watching a movie infused with 1984, The Allegory of the Cave, and anything written by Foucault.  At the heart, it’s a story about forbidden love and the repercussions.

There’s just something about these movies: a man fighting against society: to free himself from convention — literal and metaphorical — to understand what it truly means to have liberty.  That’s what I want my memoir to be like.  In a lot of ways, coming-of-age stories (bildungsroman) have a similar idea in mind.  A young kid rebels against society in order to remain an individual, but what he finds is that he becomes a part of the society — for good or bad.

But THX 1138 is pretty intense.  They keep their citizens sedated so they will remain calm at all times.  In fact, if they don’t take their medication, then they’re brought up on drug evasion chargers.  It’s like watching, at times, a series of psychological experiments.  There’s this one seen, which is the cover, where the “authority” has Robert Duvall’s character in a room.  They’re trying to rehabilitate him.  So they keep him in line with a series of electrified sticks.  Well, just check out the video.

So after this, I finished Freud’s “Civilization and It’s Discontents.”  I’ve been meaning to finish it for so long.  Guilt, Freud sure hates guilt.

But all this just kept me thinking about mental health.  Psychological freedom.  How is that possible?  All of my favorite movies and books are about a main character, in one way or the other, struggling against society for freedom and truth.  Is truth freedom?  The truth will set you free, as they say.  Ah, what am I even talking about?  I will develop these ideas over the next couple blogs.

I need to really work hard this next week, because I have about five major deadlines the following week.   Something I’m working on right now is balancing several projects and learning to stay focused on each project during certain time periods.  It’s difficult, but I’m managing.  Communication becomes difficult when you have so many projects.

Oh yeah, I was mentioned by the Poetry Foundation for my article at the LA Weekly: In Defense of the Future L.A. Poet Laureate.  Okay, goodnight everyone.  Tomorrow I’m going to share a post on the first time I read Slaughterhouse 5.

New Piece and a Sad Story

The Coheed and Cambria show was great, and I wrote a review, with some narrative elements, which you can find here: Coheed and Cambria Concert Review.  There were a couple of moments I didn’t put in the piece. For instance, when Heron and I were sitting up on the loft, waiting for the show to begin, Coheed and Cambria were waiting in the room next to us.  They were banging on a tambourine, rapping, and repeating “Waka Flocka.”  At least, that’s what it sounded like.  They were just having a good time, and it’s cool to know that a band who has been around forever are still enjoying their lives.

But so onto the sad story.  Here’s your last chance to walk away.  I’m warning you.

Photo Taken By Denise Lanier

My friend, Denise Lanier, who writes at Wonky Woman on a Bent Bike about her adventures with a recumbent bike, stopped by with her dog Luke.  So we went down to Rosie’s Dog Beach, and we were throwing the ball into the ocean, and Luke was lunging out into the waves, as if nothing was going to stop him.  Hendrix, my dog, is still a bit nervous of the waves, so he just kind of watched.

So we played for a few hours, and as the sun set over the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary became nothing but a shadow.  We walked towards our car with two soaking wet dogs.

That’s when we heard the crash.  It sounded like two cars colliding into each other.  (This is really your last chance…)
I imagined the bursting of plastic and aluminum.  So I looked at Heron, and she gave me the nod, and I ran across the parking lot to the wall overlooking the street, and I expected to see two cars smashed up and two frustrated drivers scratching their heads and exchanging insurance information.

But over the wall, I saw a black great Dane laying on the ground.  A group of people were standing around the dog, and a woman was stepping out of a beige Mini Cooper.  Her bumper was on the ground in front of the car.

“Heron,” I yelled back towards the car.  “It’s a dog.”

So Heron put Hendrix in the car, and she ran over.   We booked it down the stairs and ran into the road.  The group of people were just standing around the dog — even the owner — staring as if the dog was a television playing some horrendously mind numbing show.

Heron, having medical experience, ran up to the dog and asked what happened.

“He was hit from the side,” a woman said.

“What do we do?” I asked.

Heron sat down and started to compress the dog’s chest on the side of his ribs.

“Should we give mouth-to-mouth?” a woman asked.

Heron nodded as she compressed the dog’s chest.

“He’s going to be okay,” I said.  “Let’s do something.”

The dog’s owner, a quiet and surprisingly calm man, opened up the dog’s mouth.  His gums were blue, and his tongue was limp.

“He’s going to make it,” I said.

“I can feel a pulse,” Heron said.

I took over for Heron, and I started to compress the chest, refusing to give up.  The owner was cupping his hands over the dog’s nose and blowing into his mouth.  A woman stopped in her car and asked us if we needed her to call an ambulance.

Instinctively, I told her somebody had already called.  I asked one of the members of the group when they called the ambulance, and no one had even called yet.  I yelled at them to make the call.  Then Denise, from the parking lot, said she was on the phone, too.

I couldn’t believe no one from the group had even called an ambulance.  I wouldn’t give up on that dog; I thought for sure he was going to make it.  I thought for sure he was going to wake up.

That’s when the dog’s owner opened his mouth again.  The lips were still blue, the tongue limp, the eyes glazed.  The owner wanted to give up.

“He’s going to make,” I said.

I continued to compress.  Heron switched to take the dog’s pulse, and she realized he was dead.

“Are you sure?” I said.  “We can’t give up.”

The dog’s owner had already quit.  In fact, he looked like he had given up as soon as I had arrived.  I just couldn’t understand that.  If that dog on the road was Hendrix, the paramedics would have had to drag me off of my dog.  But I guess it’s important to keep in my mind that everyone reacts differently to death.  I just can’t imagine giving in without a tremendous fight.  If I’m ever dying and you’re around, don’t quit on me.  Go until you can’t go no more.

So we walked away and headed back towards our car in the parking lot.  Heron kind of pushed me along, because it was getting obvious, even to me, that the owner was just ready to move on.  Ready to accept the reality of the situation.

I watched the paramedics arrive, and they were in no hurry to help.  I thought maybe they would help, but they seemed to know the dog was dead, too.  I watched the owner pick up his dog.  A blanket covering his body, and the dog was limp.

I walked back to the car, where Denise, Luke, and Hendrix were waiting, and I just kept staring off into the horizon.  The Port of Long Beach, the cranes, the waves, the pier.  Time passing.

Coheed and Cambria Slideshow

So this Friday, I went to the Coheed and Cambria concert with Heron, and she took some amazing photos.  Check them out in the slide show.  Plus, my review will go live tomorrow at the OC Weekly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the event, Heron and I went to The Stache Bar on 4th Street.  I had an old-fashioned, and she had some sort of ginger beer, rum, mint concoction.  We have a friend that swears by the bartender there, and it’s probably one of the best places I’ve been to in the LBC to have a drink.  I really don’t mind spending my money there.

Well, it’s Sunday night, and I had some buddies in town from college this afternoon.  Going to go to bed early.  Denise Lanier, the author of Wonky Woman on a Bent Bike, will be stopping by.  We might do some cross blogging.