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”→
I’m about to move out of my apartment. It’s the place I’ve been living for the last two years. I’ve seen the change in seasons here. I’ve seen the trees in front of my home dump down cotton and pink petals. I’ve seen friends move away and strangers move in. I’ve seen a black widow hanging from a web. I’m starting to see poetry here, but for the first time in my life, instead of only writing it down, I’m starting to take photos. I took the shots above during my lunch break. I’m trying to think about contrast, lines, and composition. These are my lunch poems.
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 drove down to San Diego to start looking for a place to live, and I thought about how every city I’ve ever moved to has its own renting culture. Los Angeles apartments usually don’t come with a refrigerator; Boston you sometimes have to pay an extra moth of rent to the realtor; South Beach you can move into a place the day you start looking; and Long Beach you better not have a Pit Bull. Each city has its own way of navigating the renting process, so when we drove down to San Diego, I expected there to be a learning curve. I also didn’t expect to find a place on the first day. I remember when I moved to Long Beach my wife and I were looking for a month, and we were driving up and down the streets, trying to locate “For Rent” signs in front yards, and it felt like we would never find a place. I understood the struggle of finding the right place, and I expected to have to haggle with landlords. I expected to be forced to choose between our budget and what we wanted. And I expected to have enough tension and controversy to write an interesting blog post. But after looking at four places, Heron and I found a place we loved. We told the landlord how much we wanted to live there, sent over the credit check, paid the deposit, and we now have a rental. King of killed my blog idea. It was incredibly easy, this time, to find a place to live, and we’re actually thrilled with the results. So this started me thinking about all the times that I’ve moved across the country, and I thought about what it’s been like to look for a home, for a place to belong. I thought about all that I’ve learned by just looking for places to live. Here are five lessons I’ve learned over the years.
5. Watch Out for Desperation
When we were looking for places to live over the weekend, we came across a home close to North Park, San Diego. It was a single family home, but another tenant was living in the basement. The front yard had mulch instead of grass. There would have been plenty of room for my dog, but as soon as I knocked on the door and met the people living there, I was instantly suspicious. In turned out the current tenants were looking for someone to take over their lease. They had their three dogs locked in cages, and the dogs looked like they were trying to be on their best behavior, but if someone had opened their cages, then I would have regretted stepping foot in that home. The current tenants told us that they were moving out because they wanted to live closer to the beach. They had just moved from Kansas city. Four months were left on the lease. Now I couldn’t figure out why they would be in such a rush to get out of their apartment if they had four months left on their lease, and I could understand this idea if they were buying a home instead of renting — perhaps they landed a great deal — but breaking a lease or trying to sublet an apartment to live near the water, which is only ten minutes, sounded suspicious. I could smell the desperation to find a way out of a situation, and I didn’t want to be stuck in someone else’s trap. When I’m looking at places to live, I realize I’m being sold on a product, on a life, on a home, and like Odysseus on his way back to his wife, there are many detours and islands along the journey that are illusory when trying to find the place you belong, but you have to learn to separate false homes, false journeys, from the authentic ones. Continue reading “How to Find a Home: 5 Lessons from Finding a Place to Live”→
It’s not often that I make life announcements on this blog that are difficult yet the absolute right decision. If you’ve been following my blog and my writing journey for the past couple years, then you know I’ve lived in Long Beach and quit my job to become a freelancer. I’ve written for some fantastic publications like the LA Times, Slate, Salon, LA Weekly, and more. But now, after a great couple years in Los Angeles County, I’ve been been required to make a decision on my professional career.
Over the last year, I’ve started working as the creative director of a digital marketing company called Circa Interactive. I was working a little bit more than part time with the company, directing our creative and communications strategies, and the work has been engaging, challenging, time consuming, and creative. I love the people I work with, and we have a fantastic team. While I was working at this company, I was also creating The Working Poet Radio Show at the Downtown Public Library, freelancing as a journalist and contributing to the LA Weekly, trying to create a blog/magazine called Rockwell’s Camera Phone, and attempting to write a draft of a novel as well as write short stories and poetry. But now that we have more and more business coming in with the digital marketing company, I had to make a choice: my professional career or the creative projects. I had to make a choice whether I would move to San Diego and work full time — or stay in LA and lose my role at the company.
I have made the tough but best decision for my family: We’re moving to San Diego, and I’m going to work full time as the creative director for Circa Interactive. So what does this mean? I can no longer put on the show at the library, and despite the tremendous amount of support from the library, I have to focus my energies. I want to be known for the stories, poems, profiles that I write and my work ethic professionally. I want to be known for the family that I’ve built and the lives that I change. So moving to San Diego is the best decision because I will have stability, routine, and a creative space to refocus my energy on my professional and creative career. I will also have family, brothers, and sisters, and as I grow older, I have to admit that living near my family really means a lot to me.
As for journalism, I’m still going to write pieces, and at my work, even though you might not actually see my byline, I’ll be creating stories and projects that will continue to build upon my skills and be published in major publications. It’s thrilling work. We work with professors at some of the best universities in the country, and we’re helping tell their stories. I was just too overcommitted, too spread out, too unfocused, and I was forced to make a decision. That’s the hardest part about growing up, I believe. You realize that you only have one life with only so many hours to work on all that you love and be with all of those whom you love. There just isn’t enough time in one life.
As for The Working Poet Radio Show at the Los Angeles Public Library, I can not describe how wonderful of an experience this was. The Los Angeles Public Library’s sponsorship meant the world to us. Jim Sherman of the Los Angeles Public Library Literature and Fiction Department was the first person to contact us about putting on the show, and he provided us with an opportunity and gave us creative freedom to start something special. I can not find the right words to describe what his support meant to WPRS.
With the help of the fantastic Russell Pyle (check out his wife’s new book here about his struggle with cancer) who ran the cameras, edited the live show, mixed the audio, brought in second cameramen to film our show, and provide encouragement, we were able to take the show’s production to the next level. With the help of J. David Gonzalez, the producer of WPRS and my good friend, we put on three fantastic live shows at the library and recorded several great podcasts. We interviewed Roxane Gay, Jay Martel, Cosmo Scharf, Pamela Ribon, Tyson Cornell, Michelle Meyering, Chiwan Choi, Luis J. Rodriguez, Flula Borg, Daniel Halpern, Richard Blanco, Denise Duhamel, Mark Haskell Smith, Michael Semanchik, and more. We had some fantastic musicians, including John Rossiter, Das Tapes, and, my good friend, Jake Bluenote. We had Madeline Pena helping us on social media at the library. We had an unbelievable list of fantastic people who showed support. We had Oscar Gutierrez, a brilliant developer and general entrepreneur at Stauffer, and the guidance of Hilary Guy. The list goes on and on.
To all of these people, I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation and gratitude. Thanks so much for being a part of something short lived yet special. I’m still thinking about recording more podcasts or something else in San Diego, but whatever this project becomes, it will be at a much smaller scale.
Finally, I have to say thanks to J. David Gonzalez. Without him, this show would not have been possible. He’s a fantastic writer and a fixture at Skylight Books. Make sure you check out his story at Thuglit: Issue 11.
I’m not leaving LA until the end of October, and even though I’ll be in San Diego, I still plan on being involved with the literary community. I love the people here and all that’s being created. It’s just time to begin a new chapter. It’s time to focus my creative energies.