Army Navy, one the finest bands to come out of Los Angeles in probably the last 10 years, has put out a new video, directed by veteran young writer/director Mark Schoenecker and featuring Martin Starr(Freaks and Geeks.) The well respected group has enjoyed steadily increasing popularity since they burst onto the scene several years ago. Their latest video, for the song titled “World’s End,” is a refreshingly unassuming masterpiece. In this era of illiterate Ke$ha softcore, and perplexingly popular yet total cheeseball songs like “I Wanna Be A Billionaire,” director Schoenecker refreshingly manages to capture the golden age of Sunset Strip innocence and combine it with 21st century, contemporary appeal. Stylistically, “World’s End” is seemingly modeled after the old music variety shows like Shindig, which once dominated television airwaves and introduced many famous musical acts. Yet, this is not really a “retro” video. Rather it represents a return to lost fundamental standards of taste, and attention to long abandoned qualities like color usage, ambiance, and subtlety. In other words, it is the future we now live in, the way we’ve always hoped it would be.
Just last week l was reading this article.
lt talked about flying.
Said we’d all become just like cattle.
Trusting our lives to people we don’t even know.
Like pilots. Said we do it all the time.
Then we get our heads bashed in. . .
. . .like cattle, for being so trusting.
A couple months ago, I picked up a DVD of Clint Eastwood’s 1977 movie, “The Gauntlet,” which was shot mostly in Phoenix. I hadn’t seen it since it was on UPN one afternoon in the summer 1996, just a few weeks after I moved here. I remember at the time being excited and feeling a sense of pride that Phoenix was my home, and that the film was set in what was now essentially my hometown. Indeed upon re-watching it, I noticed various downtown Phoenix landmarks are visible in the background. Hanny’s can actually be seen in a skyview during one driving sequence.
“The Gauntlet” is a pretty solid film up until the last couple of minutes, with it’s hyperdramatic, highly implausible ending( I find it hard to believe that hundreds of cops would just stand there silently, idly watching while the police commissioner and a supposed fugitive argue and shoot each other at point blank range.
The remark about air travel made by the waitress in Las Vegas reminded me of the nature of my own reservations about flying. It’s the fact that while it’s statistically safer, you have absolutely zero control over the outcome of the situation. It’s like buying a reverse lottery ticket with the jackpot of a horrifying death. While you’re much more likely to die behind the wheel, to some extent you can trust your own instincts and defensive driving skills, to give yourself at least some small amount of leverage to tip the balance.
I’ve always felt a similar, slightly less ambivalence toward mass transit. Though you may be in a heavy traffic, or construction environment when driving a car, you have control over the ambiance of your immediate environment(volume of the radio, level of peace and quiet, whom or what is sitting next to you.) I’ve ridden the bus several thousand times in my life, and besides the fact that it doubles or triples the travel time to any destination, the worst part about it is always the plethora of irritating and ill-mannered people you have to share it with. I sit in silence trying to avoid unsolicited talking as well as block out all of the loud and obnoxious banter from oblivious people who don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about the riding experience of anyone else. Once on a bus ride from Los Angeles, two ghetto teenage girls sat behind me discussing their multiple miscarriages the entire length of the trip. “I told my man he needs to start wearin’ cause I don’t wanna be gettin’ pregnant again.” One time on a West Hollywood city bus, the driver pulled over while a muscular Russian guy fought a drunken homeless black guy that had been harassing the other passengers. People who always talk of the great train systems in Japan and Hong Kong, don’t seem to realize that when attempting to duplicate it here, we would not have the luxury of riding it with courteous and intelligent Asian people(not even taking into account the “groping” incidents women frequently endure in these countries’ rail cars.)
I had a good experience the one or two times I used the Los Angeles subway to get to the San Fernando Valley(it was fast, and there was almost nobody on it) though one might question the wisdom of building an underground railway system in an area that is built on a famous faultline and therefore highly susceptible to potentially massive earthquakes.
Personally I would rather that cities incorporate strategies to limit or reduce the overall amount of people, rather than working to attract and accommodate large increases in uneducated people, herding everyone into cattle cars and virtually eliminating individuals’ control over their own personal space and travel experience.
In theory, I’m not really opposed to the idea of public transportation. I enjoyed the monorail at Disneyland as much as the next kid, and would gladly set aside my idiosyncratic reservations and fears if I were able to ride something remotely 1960’s/70’s futuristic to work everyday. Riding the contemporary city bus or light rail feels more like Soylent Green than 2001 A Space Odyssey, though.
The Phoenix of 1977 as depicted in The Gauntlet has been thoroughly transformed, yet like the film, it still retains much of it’s charm.
As with most change, something’s gained and something’s lost.
The plane landed rather hard and kind of awkwardly swerved a few times on the runway. The pilot even joked about it over the loudspeaker “And after that crash landing… welcome to L.A!”
I caught a cab to Mark Schoenecker’s place on Sunset and LaCienega. It’s hard to believe he’s lived there 10 years, but swoosh! Just like that, there they went. I hopped the fence, and the first thing I noticed was that it’s not as sturdy as it used to be. The thing is held together by like twist ties now, and feels as though it could collapse at any moment while you’re climbing it. Old habits be damned, I’ve decided to use the gate code from now on.
When I got into his apartment, Mark wasn’t home… naturally. I attempted to play a 45 record, “Turn Down Day” by The Cyrkle. It played the song at a slightly slower speed, and then the record player died. Apparently the motor is bad but every three months or so you can turn it on, and it will manage to play half of a song. I had dinner at Poquito Mas(studio plate) and wandered around Sunset for a bit. Drank a tall can of Pabst blue ribbon and fell asleep in the mustard yellow living room chair, until Mark got home and woke me up.
Saturday was the party at VJA’s house in Malibu that I flew in for. I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a long time. I met some new people I’m not likely to see for quite a while and wish I could see more of. Sitting on the deck, overlooking the beach I thought to myself “There are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.” I love old friends. I never forget them, and the ones who never forget me are the ones I love the most.
Sunday, after riding around in their Volvo listening to “Sounds of the 70’s,” (whoa-ho it’s magic…you knowwww”) I had lunch at the Beverly Center with Greg and Mark. We talked about that rapper dude “Dolla” that got shot there, and Schoenecker floated some of his own theories about the unresolved death. We walked around Melrose for bit, went into some stores but didn’t buy anything. Sunday evening we were lucky enough to have dinner with Alex Berg at Cafe Med. She discussed her dating misadventures, and we listened attentively and occasionally chimed in with some bad advice or the sort of useless insight you’d expect out of the type of guy she’s probably never been involved with. She wanted us to go with her to The Darkroom, but Mark absolutely would not go. I really did actually want to go, but it just didn’t materialize.
Monday I met up with Kathy and we walked for a long time and then had brunch somewhere on Melrose before she drove me to the airport. I tried to wake Mark up to say goodbye, but he didn’t awaken. So I left him a note on his fridge that said something like “Thanks Mark! Be sure and go down on someone on my behalf love, b.a.” Knowing him that note will probably fossilize itself there for several years.
On a whim I bought a plane ticket and am headed to Los Angeles for the weekend to visit some old friends and attend some parties. I apologize in advance for the run on sentence, but I can’t wait to wander around my old stomping ground in West Hollywood and have clueless jock assholes from Orange County and Mexican gangster hooligans wearing thrift store bought B.U.M. equipment hooded sweatshirts drive by and yell “faggot” while texting misspelled or abbreviated romantic messages to their soon to be pregnant with their second child girlfriends as I’m walking to Astro Burger to get a delicious ostrich hamburger. Ah the good old days. I love few things more than Los Angeles. Yet as I stroll down Sunset Blvd I don’t see any of the tacky billboards, ghetto advertisements, or riff raff milling about. All I see is the Sunset Strip, it’s 1966, and I’m on my way to Galaxy or Hullaballoo to see “The Palace Guard” or “Love” or Sky Saxon and “The Seeds.” I can’t hear any of the bass speakers and blaring hip hop music, the sounds emanating from rows of bumping Toyota Prius’ zipping by are drowned out by the roar of ’63 Chevy Impalas cruising past “It’s Boss” looking to make time with some as yet unknown chicks. Oh but snap out of it. Really I’m just going to Poquito Mas for some enchiladas.
Without going light speed into the future, my walking the sunset strip is as close as you can get to actual time travel…at least the sort of poor man’s time travel that was utilized so effectively in that movie with Christopher Reeve, Somewhere in Time. You know the one where he just sort of lays around in bed and thinks really hard…and suddenly… poof! presto!
There are few things I love more than Los Angeles the way I re-imagine it.
For some reason, I have had the Tears For Fears song “Head Over Heels” in my head for a couple days, which reminds me of the hallway scene from Donnie Darko, a movie which I remember when it was being filmed. I knew it would become sort of a cult classic, and I went ad far as to research the casting agent and try to get on it as an extra but wasn’t ever able to get ahold of anyone.
I did however manage to be in several scenes of the Kirsten Dunst movie “Crazy Beautiful”(which at the time had a working title of “At Seventeen”) which did not become a cult classic and is a mostly forgotten piece of shit. In fact, I was so poor at the time that the money I spent on the bus back from Palisades High School where it was shot, was literally my last dollar.
One of the scenes that my friend Mark Schoenecker and I worked on in this film, was in the bleachers of a high school football game. And they made us stand there and hold up these cardboard people to make it look like there were more people in the stands than there actually were. After about 5 minutes, Schoenecker was like “Fuck this, man, let’s get out of here. I’m not going to be holding up one of those cardboard MF’s.” So put down our cardboard counterparts, and we just up and left without getting paid or anything.
I still have never seen the film, as there were a couple close up scenes.. and I was so malnourished in that era that I’m mortified of what I must look like in it if they used any shots that I was in.
Dawn Batson dredged up this photo of me at Harlowe’s from when she came to visit in December of 2006.When I see it, all I can think is “such innocent times.” Dreary to see a photo like this really. I feel like I need to time travel back there to my diet depsi drinking, cream chipped beef on toast eating self and save him from the smirk on his face.
Dear December 29, 2006 Self,
“Young man, you have no sense of what hellish things awaiteth you these next couple years. You’re going to experience whirlwind romances, unconditional love and romantic tumultuity the likes of which you have not yet seen. You will finally win over the girl of your dreams, an astonishing achievement by 2006 standards. But if dreams can come true, then nightmares can too. I know what you’re thinking…but yes you still can and will feel pain from broken heartedness. You will discover there are other ways for relationships to go badly than what you are familiar with. Right now you think it’s so hard to find someone that you love who actually loves you back just as equally. Well, I got news for you, pal, it turns out that’s only the first step! There are so many other variables in the equation, that you are simply not prepared to deal with grasshopper.
If all that were not bad enough, you’re also going to have ultrasounds, CT scans, endless anxiety, and eventual scrotum surgery to deal with that mysterious third testicle you’ve always been worried about in the back of your mind and is probably giving you discomfort at this very moment.
Most of your friends will have gotten married or essentially vanished from the world as you know it, and having blown your own chance you’ll be flying on your own…one of the last to remain, like “Bear” from the 1978 movie “Big Wednesday.” You are going to experience many unpleasantries and suck ass things. You should just immortalize yourself forever in that pose and call it a day. Oh and after breakfast Dawn and Ferraby are going to ask you if you want to come back to L.A. with them for New Years Eve. You should do it because your new years eve is going to blow otherwise. You’re not going to get to makeout with anyone at midnight, and the one girl at the party who wants to is underage and not the one you want.”
So I went to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and let me just say that I want to move to Las Vegas. I love it so much, it has surpassed Los Angeles as my all time favorite city. Don’t believe anyone who tells you it’s a crummy place. The truth is that it’s magical and dreamlike.
Once my business was done at the show, I walked up and down the Las Vegas strip over and over and over. I went in every single casino, not to gamble but just to gaze around and explore. The first chance I got I walked really far to get to Circus Circus(a circus themed casino). I had always wanted to see it since it was in “Diamonds Are Forever,” one of my all time favorite movies. People had warned me that it’s part of the old strip, and sort of a seedy area now, but I didn’t care. I stubbornly walked really far to get to it, and I was not disappointed one bit. Circus Circus is an awesome place. People have to learn to love the idea of something, the feeling of it.
Circus Circus is like a gigantic 60’s carnival with slot machines. I would say that it’s like Chuck E Cheese with slot machines, but that would not be doing the place justice. And their slot machines are good too. I played for a really loooong time with only 5 bucks, and I left with 10. Oh and the game that the kid plays in “Diamonds Are Forever”(1971) where they shoot water and it blows up the balloons…it’s still there! I’ve also started getting into the habit of writing the year of the movie next to the title, as there are so many crappy remakes of my favorite movies, I can’t even keep track anymore and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and start thinking I’m talking about some modern film godforbid. seriously..barf
Getting back to why Las Vegas is wonderful, it is a sort of fantasy land. Like you can live in alternate realities there and dream worlds. Say you’re in the mood to be in a pirate atmosphere, you just head on over to Treasure Island. Say you feel like going to the Circus, you tumble on down to Circus Circus. What’s that? In the mood for some Springtime in Paris? Just travel a few blocks to Paris casino! Oh, you’d rather visit the old west? Well no need to bust out a delorean time machine ala “Back to the Future 3″(1990), just come on down to Bills Gamblin Saloon! You get the idea. Las Vegas is the escapist’s paradise. Get it? It’s really, really neat.
One thing I always remember about Los Angeles was that it’s often difficult to get into places. The vibe is one where everybody always says “no”. Whether you’re at the bank trying to cash a check, looking to go into a bar, or just asking a friend for a ride…the word “no” is something you get used to hearing. In fact, part of coming of age in Los Angeles is learning the wisdom to not ask for anything, as the moment you stop asking is when you finally start getting somewhere. While wandering though Las Vegas, I didn’t experience any of the cold shoulder you typically get in LA. I had no problem getting in anywhere. No one ever treated me as if I wasn’t supposed to be there.
There were no annoyingly pompous doormen, guest lists, etc. I could walk into the biggest hotels and restaurants, without any hassle. It was a completely friendly and totally welcoming atmosphere. Everyone is in a good mood and eager to help.
I had an amazing burger at this place called the Stripburger(strip as in Las Vegas Strip, not strip clothes) It was really juicy, even better than Johnny Rockets or the ostritch burger from Astro Burger. Also, while at the airport waiting for my plane back I won $250 in an Airport slot machine called “White Ice.” I had only put a buck in.
Las Vegas, I dig.