Day one

2:00 am

Something awoke Fahd. The room was dark, its stillness interrupted by the hum of the fridge. He sat up and reached for his phone. The glare took a second to get accustomed to, and as he winced his eyes, he saw a message from Rami: If I call you, do not pick up.

He yawned, put the phone down and went back to sleep.

2:10 am

His phone illuminated but otherwise made no sound; it was on silent. It went dim after 45 seconds.

2:37 am

The man in a red cape stood in front of Fahd with his head bowed and his hands clasped together in front of him. He slowly revealed his right hand and pointed to the ground where an owl stood. A light appeared at the tip of his finger that produced a blinding flash, forcing Fahd to shield his eyes.

“You’re finally awake. We have very little time,” said the man. Fahd stood motionless, incapable of moving, and a force had seemingly taken hold of his head, preventing him from looking away. “I know what must be done.” The words left his lips free of his will. It had happened before, but he never paid much heed to it and dismissed it as an act of subconscious expression. Yet, somehow, something was different this time. He felt like he was trapped within a body that was not his, compelled to observe like an unwelcome guest hiding behind a veil.

“He will make himself seen, and you will know when the right time will be.” The man raised both his arms as a beam of light descended from the sky.

3:50 am

“Fahd. Fahd. Wake up.”

His girlfriend was shaking him up, as she has been doing so for the past week. Fahd sat upright. “Was I talking in my sleep again?” He turned to her and saw her face consumed with fear, tears in her eyes.” “Fahd, I really want to be there for you, but it’s been getting worse.”

“What was I saying? Could you hear any of it?”

“Fahd, you were screaming.” She covered her mouth to hold in a whimper. “I can’t…I can’t do this anymore.” She switched on the light and got out of the bed. I know it’s late, but could you please go?”

Fahd picked up his phone and checked the time. He had six missed calls from Rami.

“No, I understand. I’m sorry; I wish I knew what any of this is.”

“Do you not remember anything?”

“Just fleeting images. A man, a bird. I don’t know. Nothing that makes sense.”

He got up and put on his clothes. “I’ll call you later.”

“No, not until these episodes stop.”

He glanced at her for a moment, nodded, and left the apartment. The hallway lights flickered on, and though the city was blanketed with a layer of stillness, he could hear the murmurs of TVs from neighboring apartments and the shaking of keys as people locked or unlocked their doors.

4:25 am

Fahd turned the corner to his apartment building and heard a whisper. He turned around and stared at the empty street behind him. In the distance, he could see two men crossing the road and a woman seemingly walking her dog, her face lit with her phone. He continued walking toward his apartment but noticed that his steps were faster.

As he approached the main entrance to the building, a voice spoke through the intercom. “Are you still there?” It sounded like Ms. Parker, his neighbor from 405. He decided to ignore the occurence and pulled out his key from his pocket.

“Why aren’t you answering me? Hello?” Fahd looked around him to confirm there was no one else that could have been there. “Ms. Parker, it’s Fahd, your neighbor. Whoever you were talking to apparently left.”

There was a shuffling sound and then she said “He’s here” before hanging up.

“Ms. Parker?”

No response.

Fahd unlocked the door and went into the building. He pressed the elevator button and noticed that it had curiously been at the fourth floor.

He stepped out of the elevator and walked down the hall. 401, 403, 405. He paused infront of Ms Parker’s apartment; there wasn’t a sound. 407, 409…he heard footsteps behind him. He swung around prepared to face off with his intrepid pursuer. Nothing.

6:00 am

Fahd rolled down the window blinds, took off his clothes, and lay down in his bed. He picked up his phone and remembered the missed calls from Rami. He’ll call him back later in the day.

The Visitor

I am sitting on my couch watching TV. I live in a one-bedroom apartment with an open kitchen, a small dining table with four chairs, and a bookcase along the wall.


I look at the time and take a second to wonder if I had invited anyone over. Am I expecting a delivery?


ME: Coming.

I open the door. Before me stands a burly man. Gruff, with an unkempt beard, and looks like he’s been through more than he will be admitting to. He’s offputting

MAN: ‘Bout time. This 316?

Me: Excuse me?

Man: Maple 1, apartment 316. Is this it?

Me: Uh, yes. Sorry about that. Can I help you?

The man leans over, and it is only then that I noticed the travel bag with him. He lifts it up and pushes right by me.

Me: Hey! What do you think you’re doing? Wh…

Man: Who are you? Leave right now, if you please. Excuse me, are you listening to me?  Look, we’ve been through this before, and I’m really not in the mood for this. Let’s just get started so I can get you off my back.

Me: Look, I don’t know who you think I am or where you think you are, but you’re clearly in the wrong place.

Man: John Fidelio, 39, copy editor, disassociated from your family, living the isolated life because you’re a hermit on a journey of cyclical self-discovery, favorite food is steak but look toward a future where you are a vegan. Any of this ring a bell with you?

Me: A lot of people fit that profile, and you could have pulled most of this information from social media.

Man: Look, buddy, I’m sure this self-importance you blanket yourself with is great and let me tell you, it actually got old the last three times we’ve been through this…

Me: Been through what? You keep talking like I should know who you are. I assure you, I have never seen you before, and I don’t know anything about you. Please, sir, I need you to leave.

The man drops his bag next to the couch, searches through his pocket, and pulls out a pack of cigarettes with a lighter slipped between the cellophane wrapper and the pack.

Me: You can’t smoke here.

The man gives me an icy stare as he taps the bottom of his pack, pulls out a cigarette, puts it in his mouth, and casually props the lighter up to light it.

I dash at him and fall on the couch as he deftly sidesteps me.

The man takes a drag of his cigarette.

Man: You done? The sooner you let me get through with this charade, the sooner I will get out of your way. Hopefully, for good. Look, pal, it’s been a rough day, and any other time I would have dilly-dallied with you until you are in a state of comfort, but I’m not having it today.

The man makes get closer to the couch.

Man: Now, make some space. What are you watching? Star Trek Deep Space 9, eh? I thought you all but gave up on this show. Why the change of heart?

Me: I’m not answering any of your questions. In fact, I’m calling the police.

Man: How long has she been gone?

Me: What?

Man: How long has she been gone?

Me: I’m not sure what…

Man: Did she take the music box with her?

Me: How could you possibly have…

The man wipes his brow with his sleeve.

Man: Jesus Christ. I told them this would be a long one. Hear me out, and if you’re still not convinced, go ahead and call whomever you want. How long has she been gone?

Me: About two months.

The man holds the cigarette with his lips, leans over the side of the couch, and starts rummaging in his bag. He pulls out a thick notepad and pencil.

Man: All right, let’s see. Two months…two months…

He’s scanning on the first page as if going through an index.

Man: There we go. Page 348.

He flips to the right page and squints his eyes as he looks at the contents of the page through the smoke. He gives a wheeze, takes one last drag, puts the cigarette out on the sole of his shoe, and chucks the cigarette butt it in his bag.

Man: All right. So she took the music box. Did she clear out her drawer?

Me: Y-yes.

Man: That means she also tore that poster you got her.

Me: How…? Yes.

The man is going through a checklist, ticking boxes as is needed.

Man: Wait. Two months? She left you around your anniversary?

Me: On the day, actually.

Man: Jesus Christ.

The man scribbles some notes down.

Man: OK, according to my list here, she must have also taken her blue box, frisbee, hammock, clothes, Catan, and little Cthulhu figurine.

Me: Yes, yes, and yes. Could you tell me why and how you know all of this? Please?

Man: Sure, sure. I just need to check one more thing here and then we can begin. She left the ring, correct?

Me: What ring?

Man: The one you gave her on her birthday.

Me: I never gave her a ring on her birthday. Her birthday is…today.

The man looks surprised.

Man: Look, pal. Every one of these lists, covering every possible outcome, has her either leaving the ring or taking it with her. Now, think carefully and try again. Did she leave the ring?

Me: I’ll say it again: I never gave her a ring on her birthday. I never gave her a ring at all.

The man is now clearly flustered. He starts shuffling through the pages.

Man: John, you must be mistaken or you’re hiding this information from me. Either way, I will need you to take a deep breath and think again. Every damn list here has the ring.

Me: Look, I don’t know what that notepad is, and I don’t know what it is you are trying to achieve here, but there was no ring, there is no ring, and I’m starting to get bothered from you. Please, I have no idea how you came upon all this information, but could you leave?

The man stands up and walks to the bedroom. He turns on the light, looks around, and comes back out.

Man: There’s no ring.

Me: That’s what I’ve told you. Please just leave.

Man: I…this can’t be. There must be a list I overlooked.

I put my face in my hands and sigh.

Me: Why can’t this end?

The man starts going through the pages, perusing each of their content. He slowly lifts his head and looks at me.

Man: OK, let’s go through this again. You said she left you on the day of your anniversary, correct?

Me: (annoyed) Yes.

Man: And she took everything with her?

Me: Yes! For Christ’s sake, yes! She took it all! This apartment is free of her.

Man: You’re sure you looked everywhere? Under the bed, in the closet…

Me: (Angrily) You will leave right this instant or I’ll…

Man: What’s that box on top of the bookcase?

Me: What box?

The man reaches behind three photos and pulls out a rectangular box with a note. 

Man: It says here ‘John, do not open this. I’m actually surprised you even found it. You rarely look at these photos anymore, but I love you and I always will. Do not open this box!’

Me: Can I have this, please?

Man: Sure.

I open the box, and in it is a note that conceals a ring. I unfold the note, reading its content.

Man: A note? Let me check the footnotes. Section B, addendum 543, A-prime 3768. Ah, there we go. (Pauses for a moment as he reads) Oh. Wow.

The man goes through his notepad.

Man: The ring that ‘she’ bought, not ‘he.’ What an awkward typo. Yeah, you probably know this by now, this is the ring she wanted to give you on her birthday, so. Yeah. Anything in that note I should know about?

I look at him with pain in my eyes.

Me: She wanted to give this to me to remind me of the gift that I am to her. I really fucked up.

Man: Hate to be doing this to you, but this is not where this ends. I did not come here to show you a box.

Me: You said this is not the first time you and I have been through this?

Man: Well, yes, but the circumstances always change. It’s how you’re feeling that awakens me. Human emotions exist on a near-infinite spectrum, and I am notified whenever you feel like you do now.

Me: Sad?

Man: Hurt and wounded. Desolate, depressed, unmotivated…call it what you will. One of humanity’s fallacies is thinking that naming emotions is a road to recovery; like you need to defy what it is you are feeling or embrace it to become better.

Me: I can do without a lesson in psychology.

Man: Why don’t you sit down.

Me: I’m OK, actually. I don’t have it in me to relax.

Man: Suit yourself.

The man lumbers toward the couch, sits, puts the notepad in the bag, and pulls out a notebook with a retractable pen.

Man: Let’s cover the basics. You’ve always been prone to sadness and have adopted it as your neutral emotion. You and most of the world, by the way. Your species might want to start seeking more substantive solutions beyond pharmaceuticals and yoga.

Me: Species?

Man: News flash: I’m not human; I am a symbiote. Half-human, half-ethereal. I won’t launch into a lecture that would reinforce the simulation theory or even posit its validity in the first place. However, we have been watching you and honestly? You’re all trying too hard and requiring way more from us than you deserve.

Me: So, a non-human…

Man: …half-human.

Me: …appears in my life, as he has multiple times before apparently, walks in knowing more about me than I do, drops on me an ‘I am an alien’ comment and I’m expected to react how? And if you are what you say you are, could you not have picked a better body to…meld with?

The man looks at himself.

Man: You think this is the body I would have picked for myself? No, John. This human body is an old friend of yours, your father, and you, thrown in a blender and crapped out. Let’s skip all these pleasantries because we never have enough time to run through them and I am starting to run late.

I hesitantly pull up a chair from the dining table and sit down.

Man: Now, where were we? Your mental state is not a result of your upbringing, it’s not due to trauma, and stress has little to do with it. Did I shatter your in-depth understanding and perceptions of the human mind?

Me: I mean, if you say so. It’s all rather subjective, really. According to studies…

Man: And that’s your self-defense mechanism kicking in.

Me: My what?

Man: Every time your emotions get out of wack or you’re cornered, you pull out the proverbial hat of intellect and start talking like a snobby little wanker.

Me: But this is how I always speak.

Man: Ah, denial. Of course; your second card-up-the-sleeve. Your one-way to disassociating yourself from whatever you are being called out for to discretely play the victim when someone does not understand you. How would you have said it? It’s all rather rudimentary, my good sir. Please. I’m surprised she didn’t leave you sooner.

Me: Hey! That’s uncalled for and you know nothing about why she left!

Man: Oh, really? (Leans forward) Do you want to go there? Actually, maybe that would be the fastest way to get done with this. (He opens the notebook and flips through the pages) September 4, you callously message your ex to pamper your bruised ego. Guess who was signed in on the computer where his girlfriend was working. October 9, you blame her for being late to a movie before you asked her what delayed her. For the record…

Me: I know why she was late.

Man: Well, I’ll skip over that one, then. October 11, you promised her a night out and 25 minutes before you were supposed to pick her up, you cancel.

Me: My boss had just dropped in and invited me to a stakeholder dinner. These are the things that get you promoted.

Man: Did you get that promotion?

Me: …No.

Man: Moving on.

Me: How long is this going to go for?

Man: Oh, there is no time to go through the full list, but just another couple points will do. November 11, exactly one month later, in the heat of an argument, you ask her to leave. Of course, being the little puppy, you beg for her forgiveness not two hours later and buy her flowers. The wrong kind, the wrong color, with a ‘be my Valentine’ card. 

Me: It was the only thing available!

Man: Yes, convenience is better than nothing, and I’m sure the results were overwhelmingly positive. Here, let me go back a few more months. (flips through the pages) Ah, here’s a good one: March 25. You decide to play a trick on her by having one of your friends pose as a thief and point a fake gun at her.

Me: Hey! Context! We were laughing a few days earlier about how silly it would be for me to save the day as a superhero. Mike may have gone a bit too Stanislavski on her, but it was thematic.

Man: Uhuh. I’ll bet she fawned over your rescue and made sweet love to you right there and then.

Me: Move on.

Man: February 6. You decide to eat in and order dinner. The delivery person arrives two minutes later than they were supposed to, prompting you to call the restaurant and demand they refund you the money. Let me tell you, she was not impressed. February 1; you take her out on a blind date to her favorite restaurant and booked a band to play her favorite song. Huh, that’s nice. January 20; you cook dinner for her and confess your love to her over dessert that you also prepared. Nice. In fact, let me see here. (He flips the pages) Up to this point, you’re an ideal boyfriend. Care to tell me what happened?

 Me: Shouldn’t you already know? Isn’t my life laid out in that notebook of yours?

Man: Only the actions, not the intentions or feelings.

Me: Well, too bad because I don’t know. One day things were great, then things were not. Look, I hope you’re not going to tell me some shit about my life from the angle of this relationship. I’ve been with other women whom I broke up with. I’ve experienced pain and joy. I’ve gone through sleepless nights…

Man: Spare me the tears-in-the-rain monologue. I am here to remind you that things are not bad, or good for that reason. You are as happy as you will ever be.

Me: Wow. Platitudes? That’s all an observant symbiote has for me? I’m doomed already.

Man: Not platitudes. I’m just reciting what your mind keeps replaying when you look yourself in the mirror every morning…and three, two, one.


Me: I’m not going to even ask.

I get up to open the door. A postman is standing there with a box.

POSTMAN: Sign here, please.

I close the door and take the box in. I place it on the dining table and open it.

Me: It’s a coat. I never ordered this. Is the address right?

Man: It is.

Me: It’s nice, but I’m not sure who sent it. There’s a note in it.

Man: Isn’t there always one? Right, I need to leave.

Me: What? Just like that? You haven’t shared with me anything of substance or a message to drive an epiphany. What was all this for?

Man: Look, buddy. Just as you are guided by base instincts, I also have a commanding officer who’s pinging me. I don’t know, do what you will with whatever it is you heard from me. To be clear, my cue was the delivery of the coat, it says so right here. (points at the notebook)

The man stands up, picks up the travel bag and heads toward the door. 

Man: Stop watching Star Trek or wallowing in what was. I know you two used to enjoy the show, but you’re better off watching the news or something else. Let bygone be bygones.

Me: I have so many questions.

The man stops at the door and takes a heavy breath. He turns around to look at me.

Man: I’ll answer one.

Me: All right. Why don’t I remember you? How many times have you visited me?

Man: Hey, pick one.

Me: Why will I forget you?

Man: Your capacity to retain information, no matter how important, is limited. Think back on how many people you met whom you thought you would always remember. Can you pinpoint every poignant conversation you’ve ever had? How many times have you had a breakthrough that you’ve forgotten about?

Me: But I’d remember someone who looks like you.

Man: I don’t always look like this. You just happen to have chosen this form for today. Tomorrow I may be a cat. Three years ago I was a barber.

Me: But what did we achieve today?

Man: What was needed. Take care of yourself, and make sure you take that coat with you; it’s going to be cold.

The man opens the door and leaves. I rush to the door.

Me: Hey, I…

There was no one there. I close the door and go back inside. I open the note that came with the coat. 

Me: There are no words in this. It’s empty.

I sit in front of the TV and switch channels until I come upon a news report.

TV REPORTER: …Thanks, Bill. It’s getting really cold, but that hasn’t stopped people from going out enjoying their time. I’m standing here on Santa Monica Boulevard with a young woman who’s… 

Me: Laura.

I look at the coat, run out of the apartment, and grab it on my way out.

LAURA: The cold should never be an excuse to not have fun.

TV reporter: Are you here with someone? 

Laura: Yes! I’m with my boyfriend of one month who just asked me to marry him.

TV reporter: Wow! Are you going to go for it? Are you sure about it?

Laura: Life’s too short to overthink, and sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.


Moving out in California for dummies: 12 things to keep in mind.

After spending four years in the glorious city of Los Angeles, I thought I’d move my family south-bound towards Long Beach in search of new experiences. Why Long Beach? We wanted to be closer to the beach and not too far from LA. Venice and Santa Monica were not considered because I’ve had my fill of them and I consider them parts of the grander LA experience.  Santa Barbara and Malibu are fun for a visit, but I could not see myself living in either.

I thought the move would involve a phone call or two, followed by a comeback-again-soon party hosted by my compound. Afterall, I was an impeccable tenant who had paid his rent on the day every month. Surely I will be missed and my future homeowner will welcome me with open arms, right?

Of course, I was soon anchored down to reality when I started doing the math after I had handed in my one month’s notice to my residential compound. Pro-tip: Never, EVER do that. Do your research and be meticulous BEFORE you tell the world; but this is why you are here, so good for you!

Here is a checklist to keep in mind and consider when you’ve finally decided to move:


    1. Most apartment/house hunting websites possess the same database of entries. Don’t waste time trying to seek a better deal for the same listing.



  • Do not base your selection on photos or hearsay. Take the drive and see the place for yourself. Pay attention to the location, surrounding businesses and overall finish of the house/apartment. I’ve heard that unless you were on a tight budget you should avoid living around a liquor store. This could just be hearsay from privileged people, so don’t take my word for it; go see the place for yourself and be your own judge.




  • If you are looking for two bedrooms and a den, do not search three bedroom apartments. Be sure to read the description of each two-bedroom listing as dens are not a search parameter in the filtering options.



  • If a listing is cheaper than it should be, consider that not all places come equipped with a washer/dryer unit or designated parking spots. Again, read the descriptions and see the places for yourself.



  • Though personal residences owned by homeowners may be less of a hassle to rent from than it would have been from a compound, maintenance fees and services you would require in your home will have to be covered from your end. Plan your budget accordingly. For a two-bedroom apartment, you may run yourself around $100 every couple of months or so.



  • Most lease agreements carry a duration of 12 months, with some giving you the option of six or nine months. Be wary that the shorter the duration of your contract, the more the rent of the same apartment would be. The difference is minimal, never going beyond a few hundred dollars additional per month, but that’s a few hundred dollars you could have spent elsewhere. Plan wisely and ahead.



  • If you plan to vacate your apartment before the end of your lease contract, the homeowner/compound, depending on your original agreement and duration of stay, will expect you to pay them one or two months worth of base rent (rent minus taxes and service fees). This may sound like common knowledge, but when the maths kick in, the numbers will become serious. I intended to move from my apartment in LA to one in Long Beach. Since I was moving in July and my leasing contracts ended in November, I effectively owed my compound a month’s rent on top of the rent I had submitted a week prior. We’ll get to the numbers later.



  • Remember that security deposit you put down on your current home? The more you took care of the apartment/house, the more money you will receive of it as a payback. Of course, you will never get the full amount back no matter how much care you put into your home. As a general rule, you will be charged for the repainting of any colored wall ($50 per is an average to keep in mind), the cleaning of carpets, as well as for the maintenance of any furniture that may have been damaged during your stay.



  • Once you have settled on a place, make sure you ask the owner/leasing agent about the amount of the deposit, the duration of the contract and any other additional fees (swimming pool/gym memberships, gas, electricity…etc.)



  • When it’s time to pack your stuff, expect to buy more boxes to pack them in than you thought you would. Just add five boxes of each size when you are done acting like you understand spatial geometry.



  • If you will be hiring a moving company, make sure that they present you with the maximum possible charge (they will not bill you for more than that amount). Also, according to California law, a moving company will charge you for their journey back to their source. This is colloquially called the “double-time charge.” The trip took one hour from my old apartment to the new one; I was charged two hours. They are not scamming you; it’s law.  Scroll down to Item 36 for the official legalese.



  • If the movers’ quote is more than you are willing to invest, don’t despair and start shopping for cheaper services. A quick search online will lead you to countless nightmare stories of people who worked with incompetent companies and lost lots in the process. Stick to the professionals and plan around them. In my case, I rented out a U-Haul and moved whatever I could by myself and left the bigger items and furniture for the movers. I was originally quoted $1700 for the move but ended up only paying $800 and $130 for the U-Haul. The math is clear.



Now, let’s have fun with the numbers. My math was jarring, and honestly, I only realized the density of the numbers while writing this post. Be a better planner and do all this BEFORE you take the plunge:

$3000 (month’s rent in old apartment) + $3,000 (break of contract of old apartment) + $2,750 (deposit on new apartment) + $2,750 (first month’s rent on the new apartment) + $250 (deposit on the key fobs) + $800 (mover’s fee) + $130 (U-Haul) + $200 (boxes) + $300 (food for the first three days. There was no way any of us was going to cook before we completely set up) = $13,180.

In hindsight, was the move worth all that additional money? If you are moving for the right reasons and you feel it in your heart, don’t let the numbers bog you down. Admittedly perhaps it was my oblivious nature that had me uproot from LA without properly working out the math. There is something to be said about caution: Would I have moved had I seen that $13K price tab? Probably not, but now that I am here, I am happy, and that alone is worth every cent I have.

The La La Land post

I finally watched La La Land: a charming movie that should have ended 20 minutes before it actually did, but I seem to be echoing the same complaints for most every movie I have watched recently. Maybe I cherish my time. Maybe I’m just a dolt who’s become too accustomed to the brevity and promptness of modern media. Maybe, as a once-avowed gamer, I would like to pause and resume my films? Maybe David Lynch, who famously refused to include chapter selects on his DVD’s because films should be watched in one go, should just…lynch me. That was a horrid pun, and I know it. Maybe I’m too used to Netflixing and chilling, the prospect of sitting in a dark, loud theater, no longer drives the same patience. Are we done analyzing my habits? Good. On with the show!

Wait, before we get on with this review, did anyone really use chapter select screens on DVD’s/Blu-Rays? I mean, I may have utilized them once or twice, especially to read the titles of each chapter, but otherwise I just skipped until I got to the part I wanted. Moving on.

Rather than have every word muttered to a tune (Les Miserables be damned to the pits of hell where it was first conceived), Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play the roles of folks who just like to break out into song from time to time. Yes, there are choreographed set pieces, and some of the songs may initially sound forced, but Emma…goodness gracious that woman can act. Lest I strip Ryan from any credit, his portrayed mastery of the piano is convincing. The fact that he was able to attain this level of confidence on the instrument in four months is certainly an achievement.

The film weaves your classic star-crossed lovers, boy meets girl story. But, as is always the case, it’s not the whats I am interested in, but the hows. Damien Chazelle, following up on his Hollywood darling Whiplash, brings to the screen a dreamscape awash with soft glows and sharp primaries. The film feels like a smooth reverie you dream up right before you go to sleep or right after you wake up.

Whiplash was…good, and the cinematic approach to characterization is certainly proven again this time around, but I must admit the following disclaimer: I didn’t exactly enjoy it. Yes, the passion was there and Simmons certainly reminded me of a once brilliant professor, but the movie fell short for me. Fantastic, then, to have La La Land neutralize and improve upon my expectations.

The movie is also an unabashed love story to LA in the vein of Woody Allen’s love of New York in his Manhattan. Though watching a movie based on a city you live in has its caveats. For starters, LA is not only about Griffith Park and its Observatory as the movie industry would love you to believe, but I get the sentiment. Also, identifying locales in the movie may break “some” of the immersion when you discover that their upstairs is on one side of the city, and their downstairs is a 40-minute ride through freeway traffic away. But I digress and nitpick.

Jazz and I are fuck buddies. Every once in a while I’ll whip out my jazz playlist on Spotify and vibe to it in reverent comfort before letting it go for the next week or so. Gosling’s passion for the genre, however, is underscored by his inspired, if not at times, patronizing, outlook. Yes, Jazz has its roots in dinky New Orleans shacks, but must I really be a trained tenor to enjoy a piece of opera? TL:DR version: nope.

I get it, however. Passion can induce anything with an element of divinity, and of that I am appreciative, but I wonder why the same treatment was not granted to the art of acting. Emma plays the role of a struggling actress, herself passionate about her craft. Not once did I hear her express her passion, debate and counter-argue Ryan, or segue into hopelessly romantic views of the art of performance. Both crafts are handled with the same amount of technical reverence, but while Emma’s passion is implied, Ryan’s is underscored and highlighted for the most of the film.

Also, he gets to introduce her to an American cinema classic, Rebel Without a Cause, that I struggle to believe someone with an Ingrid Bergman wallpaper had never watched. Yet he, on the other hand, is all-knowing in his craft and it is implicit that there is nothing of worth that she can offer him save for encouragement and comfort.

It is important to note that as much as I enjoyed this movie, I felt it piggy-banking off of the whimsical charms of old-school musicals rather than introduce anything new. Yes, the sense of nostalgia is grand, and I must admit that I left the theater yearning for some Dick Van Dyke artistry, but how much credit can an homage really garner? Work with me here.

When we all reveled at The Artist, it wasn’t because it did anything new, but because it beautifully proved that silence is a gift that still resonates in this loud, sound-polluted world we live in. It turned its attention to the charms and delicate moments between people, and the story was successfully portrayed through intertitles and silent nuances.

La La Land, on the other hand, only sets out to remind us why musicals of yore are so loved and cherished, but follows the Hollywood trend of employing actors first, performers second. You see, Mary Poppins was what it was because Dick danced and Julie sang. Hollywood today just trains actors to perform, hides behind their inexperience, and holds a bold sign that reads: charm.

If you found yourself infatuated with this movie, do yourself a favor and go watch Vincente Minnelli’s An American in Paris. Gene Kelly is indelible in it, and that sequence of Gosling and Stone dancing in the stars that so many have raved about barely holds a candle to the former.

But don’t let me stray too far from the intentions of this movie. It is magical, touching and does a great job at entertaining and enlightening viewers with its love of jazz, Los Angeles, and the magic that happens in our everyday lives.


I love to read and write, but I always find reasons why I shouldn’t. When I look at a blank page, I am flooded with a sense of primordial dread that is usually best left for blindfolded people tied up in a car trunk. Why am I not able to express myself? Habit is too easy of an answer, otherwise I’d just tag everything with a lack of habit.

No, the issue is not habit, but rather dedication and a lack of confidence. I never thought I’d ever admit that so casually, but it’s true.

Should I just keep a diary until I get myself into the habit of writing? Maybe it’s the kind of writing that gets to me. I’m a pragmatist and a logician to the farthest point that I may call myself so. Why am I expecting myself to write the next sci-fi wonder? Maybe I am the guy who comes up with slogans and enjoys technical writing. Let’s put this to practice.

It’s not the result I should be focusing on, I know, but my mind drives a tough bargain. If no result is in sight, why bother? How depressing. Nothing happens overnight, and if I wanted to write, then I need to start making a habit of it. There’s that “H” word again.

So, today’s Sunday. It’s pretty lax. I’m feeling well and I am about to pour myself an opening cup of coffee. Speaking of coffee, did you see the new Twin Peaks teaser? I loved that show. In parts. The first season. Most of the first season. But the ads and teasers for the upcoming season are deplorable! I get it, people are excited, but can we get more than a trickle of images and cast lists? Or maybe that is the intention of the creators. In an age of super information (I feel old), mystery is a strong selling point.

Before I end this unedited jumble of words and nonsense, I would like to add that I will be watching La La Land today. I generally hate musicals, so let’s hope this is more Moulin Rouge, and less Into the Woods *shudder*.

Five days in Los Angeles

Five days in Los Angeles
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I was recently approached by a friend to offer her insight about the stand-out things one might do in LA. I am not an expert, nor do I entitle myself an “Angeleno,” but I have spent the better part of one year in this expansive city exploring it through the eyes of a visitor.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, was what I sent her. Let me know what you think and if you would like me to add anything to the list!

1) Hollywood

Image source: Wikipedia
Image source: Wikipedia

I wanted to start off with the most touristic spot that many visitors ask about. Yes, it’s the Hollywood you see on TV, no it is not the Hollywood you see in the movies. In fact, the novelty of being there will fade out within mere minutes. Factor in the charm of seeing the Walk of Fame and the likes of the Chinese Theater, and you have yourself 20 minutes. You will more than likely bump in to shady characters, and almost definitely be bombarded with photo requests by costume-wearers who seem to celebrate Halloween year-long, but while you’re on Hollywood….

2) Have lunch at Hooters

Five Days in LA_Hooters
Image source: Wikipedia

As juvenile as it may sound, especially that we’ve all grown up beyond waitresses serving you chicken wings and beer, wearing the tightest possible shorts and shirts, you can not come to LA, nay, to the United States, and not eat at Hooters. Is it awesome food? Nothing special, but the place has to be on everyone’s bucket list.

3) Visit Universal Studios / Disneyland

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I’m not sure if you’ve been to either of them, but you have to experience them in your adulthood, specially if you’re lifted, which brings me to…

4) Weed is abundantly available

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Nuff said. Whether you’re a casual smoker or an all-out stoner, you will be sampling top-shelf produce from one of the hundreds of dispensaries peppered around the city. No shady dealings, no dodgy contacts–Straight up business. If you create your own license ($140), you will go home with a medical marijuana ID to show off and laugh about, and you will get to see the insides of the dispensaries–well worth the view, if I were to be asked. Where can you get that license, you ask? Why it’s at places like…

5) Venice Beach

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If you want to know why palm trees, murals, and awesome coastlines are synonymous with California, this is the place to prove it. Absolute haven for hedonists, artists, and beach goers, it is a magnificent piece of land that I love visiting on a timely manner. After enjoying a gorgeous day out, especially over a weekend when a massive drum circle shapes up on the beach around sunset, your next logical stop would be…

6) Santa Monica Pier

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Located an easy 30 minute walk along the Venice Beach coastline, this decadent and vintage spot is another one of those areas you can’t not visit while you are here. It’s nothing special, comprising of a Ferris wheel, some random rides for kids, and a few artists displaying their works, but the vibe and feel of the place is another must-see.

7) Food. Lots of it.

LA is known for it’s love for food, and you will find any cuisine your heart desires. Honorable mentions are In ‘N’ Out Burger, complete with their “secret menu” that was only shared via word of mouth until the internet took over, SugarFish with its sublime approach to sushi that you have to taste to believe, and that dingy Mexican joint that sells the best tacos. Also, you will have to try Churros and Funnel Cakes. I’m not sure about the origin of the latter, but the former is Mexican and is the bomb-diggy when it comes to sweet, cinnamon treats. As a general rule, avoid anything that looks like this burger, and you should be fine!

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While I’m on the subject of food…

8) Food trucks

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Scattered around the city is a ridiculous amount of food trucks that serve up everything from the saltiest to the sweetest of foods. Hamburgers, cakes, fried Oreos, waffles, chicken wings, pancake sandwiches doused in banana mustard and basted with vegemite.

I’m not really sure about that last one, but you may as well find it! If you’re not accustomed to eating from a truck, let me comfort you from now: Every one of them is graded as a stand-alone restaurant would and are required to display their score for all to see. Regardless, be your own judge and don’t go around eating deep-fried fava beans mixed with pig fat just because a truck brandishes an ‘A’ score.

9) Comedy Clubs

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These places are a dime a dozen, but there are a couple of places like the Laugh Factory that you will probably want to visit. It’s where most all comedians you grew up watching had their start, and where you will most likely bump in to Jesus. Seriously, Jesus. Just ask around.

10) The Viper Room / House of Blues

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Two iconic spots that have hosted every rock, blues, and jazz musician you can think of. If you are looking for live music, this is probably where you would want to go. They also host a plethora of musical events that cover genres beyond rock. Just check out their schedules prior to your arrival.

11) Clubs

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If you entertain the club scene, there are a multitude of clubs to consider, my favorite being Playhouse. It’s smack in the middle of Hollywood, arguably has the hottest pole dancers and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the dodgiest Mario / Luigi cosplay on this side of the world.