Friday, March 10, 2006

El Paisano

In addition to meeting my new cousin, I finished up Chapter Two of my in-progress untitled Max Beatty "mystery." (In case you missed it, here's Chapter One.) After being hired by night club rockstar Abby Jeunet in the first chapter, Max now recruits his friend and sometime partner, Micah Cohen, to help with the case. Their first stop, Charlie's Bar and Grill, where the owner has some further information on the creep harrassing Abby.

Charlie's Bar and Grill is loosely (very loosely) based on a place two blocks from my house. In real life, it's a place called the El Paisano, and right now it's shut down for liquor code violations. I've never been there, and to tell you the truth, I don't really want to go. It looks more like a dump than a dive. It looks like a rough place, a place you might not come out of alive.

In my imagination though, it's a semi-reputable roadhouse. It's still a dive, but it's charming not scary. It has character and live music, a jukebox and a dancefloor. Since I've never been inside the El Paisano (and I won't be able to until at least April 11), my imagination is allowed to roam free.

In my world, it's a place where you could pick up chicks. Where bikes are parked out front and the only one who is going to get hurt is the one who gets out of line. In my world, it's not so brazenly ethnic, but open to all, not just a place to drown your sorrows, but a place to have a good time. In my world it's run by a Croatian immigrant who would never allow himself to be shut down by the liquor board. In my world, it's Charlie's Bar and Grill.

It's A Boy

Here's my new cousin Drew "Lachey" Robert Espinoza. He's a healthy boy, just over seven pounds, with all ten fingers and toes. Right now he looks more like Yoda than Mom or Dad, but I'm sure that will change. Congratulations, guys!

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Coolcat's got some heavy traffic and meanwhile, I get linked by Newsweek. Trippy, man.

My Near Death Experience

Two summers ago, I was almost killed by my girlfriend’s jealous ex-boyfriend.  I was seeing this beautiful young Latina named Jessi, who I met pushing a trashcart around the building where I work.  She was a fun, spirited girl with a lot of heart and she liked me, even loved me.

But she was also a single mother from Mexico, here illegally, with an angry ex-boyfriend not used to liberal American values.  In Mexican culture the women are supposed to be subservient to their men, obedient and docile.  Jessi was none of these things, and nor should she.  The boyfriend was a hard drinker, demanding and mean, a general all around creep.

He was gone by the time I entered the picture, but I heard things.  I heard how he treated her when she was pregnant.  I heard how his family scorned her.  I heard enough to know she was better off without him.

We had a fun time, me and Jessi.  I took her to the zoo.  She told me funny stories in her animated, piecemeal way.  “And then my friend…..she go to him and say why you act crazy?  He say, I don’t know.”  We watched movies in Spanish together, The Devil’s Backbone and Like Water for Chocolate.  We cuddled and kissed and slowly fell in love.

One night she called me from her apartment and told me she lost her keys, so I told her I’d come help her look for them.  I had my nephew, who was eight at the time, at the time, so we got in the car and turned onto 17th.  (Consult map from previous post…Haha!)

Before long, I notice this big Dodge truck in the rearview mirror, it’s lights blinding me.  The truck was RIGHT on my ass.  It’s a residential street and I was going the speed limit, so I didn’t know what his problem was.  I made a left onto Peoria and got in the far lane, giving the angry man in the Dodge a wide berth.

There ya go, buddy, the road is yours.  I can sympathize with being stuck behind a car you perceive to be going slower than necessary.  I prefer they just get out of the way, so that’s what I tried to do for this guy.

But he speeds up, then slows down, then speeds up, slows down.  Toying with me.  By this point, I know something’s not right so my brain starts clicking off details.
Red truck.  Gothic writing in a white arc on the back window, says Benetez or something.  Arkansas license plates.  License plate holder has the dealership on it.  Red Dodge truck.

The light up ahead turns red and the red truck, still playing games, gets stuck with me.  But I don’t want to pull up parallel next to this guy.  He could have a gun and decide to take a few shots off.  So I stay well back, and keep one hand on my cell phone.

My nephew is becoming aware that something is wrong.

When the light goes green, the big red truck speeds off, much to my relief.  I creep along slowly behind him as he gets in my lane.  Up ahead, he signals to turn at the street I was going to turn onto, the street that would take me Jessi’s apartments.

No way, Jose.

I just go straight.  Forget it, I thought.  I’ll turn around up here.  Just go where you gotta go and get the hell away from me.

But the big red truck never makes the turn.  He starts gunning for me.  A big Dodge truck versus a tiny 4 cylinder Honda Civic.

I dial 911 and try to ditch him by cutting left onto a sidestreet.  

911 answers.  “Some dude in a truck is trying to kill me!” I shout.  In the rearview, I see the truck’s headlights right behind me.

“Where are you?”

“I don’t know!”  My nephew is frozen with fear.  The street is deserted.  All I can see are warehouses and empty road.  And the big red truck bearing down on me.

I try to outrun him, but he’s gaining on me, drifting left.  Pulling up along side me.

Suddenly I remember a move I learned in Top Gun. You remember the one.  I’ll slam on the brakes and he’ll fly right by, Goose.

So I slam on the brakes and he passes me, but he’s not going to give up that easy.  This is when he swerves towards me, trying to ram my car.  I jerk the steering wheel to the right, trying to get away.

He doesn’t hit me.

But he sees something, either me on my phone or the frightened kid in the passenger seat next to me, and he speeds away.

“Hello?”  The 911 people.

“He just took off.”

I got off the phone with them and called Jessi.  I already had my suspicions.  “Do you know anyone who has a red truck with Arkansas license plates?”

She hedged, then after I asked the question again, she said, “Yes.  The father of Dahlia.”  Dahlia was her daughter.

To make a long story short, that was the beginning of the end for me and Jessi.  I survived and so did my nephew.  My car was unscathed.  I later heard that “the father of Dahlia” was arrested and spent some time in jail.

You would think that would get him deported, but they don’t really look too hard at the fake identity.  He was out in a week.

I saw him one time afterwards, at Jessi’s apartment.  She was in the bathroom and he knocked on the door.  He didn’t expect to see me, six foot tall, two hundred twenty pounds, towering over this pathetic bully.

“Uh, is Jessi here?” he said in heavily accented English.

“Yeah, she’s in the bathroom.”

“Uh, okay,” he said, this weird look crossing his face.  Then he turned and walked away.  I closed the door and, not too long after that,  walked away too.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I went to the library today, for two reasons. One to pick up a book on tape I reserved, and two to get some face time with the cute librarian I saw there this weekend. But alas, she wasn't there. But my audio book was.

So I saw a freaky pic over at coolcat's place. You sure you wanna see it?

As scary as Hassellhoff is, notice the creepy look in his eyes. There are two Hoffs here.

Good Hoff, with the handsome smile and the bright eyes. This Hoff starred in Knight Rider and Baywatch.

This Hoff makes you go gooey, makes you want to scream and rip off your clothes.

This Hoff you can take home to Mama.

But look at this Hoff.

The smile is gone. The twinkle in his eye is now a steely glare. He's not going to cuddle with you or impress your folks.

This Hoff will kick your ass.

Scary, isn't it?

This is kind of scary too. A Bush-bashing session at the Cato Institute. I think that means that hell has frozen over. Better get your duct tape.

Good news on the family front. Take it away Uncle Jim:

Well folks the time is here. By tommorow at this time baby Drew will be here! It's about time I get a fellow guy in the house, I'm out numbered at home even the dog is a female. Last night at bed time Cori and I sat down and talked about all the things we have to teach to Drew. She is going to be a great sister. She is so excited, I think even more than I am. We are blessed to have another baby!!!! Finnaly a boy, to carry on my name, to take fishing, atv riding, hiking in the mountains. Look out world, here comes another Espinoza!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm sure he will be so tough that he will be born with a Marine Corps tatto. He is the son of a Marine, do you know what that means? While other kids are eating cotton candy and still on momma's nipple, he will be chewing on barbed wire and spitting napalm!!!!

I'll send pictures out when I get them.


And no, Drew is not named after the winner of Dancing with the Has-Beens. Nor is he named after a certain radio show host either. Considering Jim is a Broncos fan, I doubt it's this QB or even this one. To be honest, I have no idea where Drew came from.

But congratulations Uncle Jim, Aunt Nat, and Cori, too!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Chuck Roy's Crop Report

Here's a sample of Chuck Roy's Crop Report.

My favorite line:
Pretend-a-Kind? Why don't I pretend to pay and we can sit around and talk about how pretend-a-high we are?
Great stuff.

Belt Buckle Madness

I woke one day a few weeks ago and said to myself, “I need some belt buckles.  But not just any belt buckles, cool rock star belt buckles.  Demons and skulls and guns, that kind of thing.”  So this is what I got.

As you can see, most of them are in bad taste, as any rock star buckle should be.  The top four are inappropriate for the workplace and the last one doesn’t look good with my business cazz stuff, so I won’t be wearing them most of the time.  But it’s better to have a rock star belt buckle and not need than it is to need it and not have it.

Speaking of rock stars, have you heard of this guy Matisyahu?  He’s a Hasidic reggae artist from NY, and I assure you, he’s no joke.  Check this out:  (From his website bio)  
He decided to set off on a camping trip in Colorado. Away from his suburban life in White Plains, Matisyahu had the opportunity to take an introspective look at himself and contemplate his environment. It was there in the awe-inspiring landscape of the Rocky Mountain's, that Matisyahu had an eye-opening realization: there is a G-d.
What’s interesting is that his trip here sparked his religious awakening.  Behold.

To be honest though, Matisyahu isn’t my thing.  I dig reggae and I’m neutral to Hasidism, but lately I’ve been really digging on some old school Pantera.

Last night, I set my media player to all Pantera all the time and played it in the background during my writing session.  Pantera is, if the truth were told, an acquired taste, but for me, the taste was acquired long ago.

Take the classic I’m Broken from the Far Beyond Driven album. Dime’s guitar sounds like a buzzsaw that could rip through steel.  Vinnie Paul’s drum fills are like artillery shells.  And that rhythm?  You can’t dance to it, but you can sure bang your head.

And there’s more.  If you want muscular?  Try 5 Minutes Alone.  Want abstract and gothic?  Try Becoming.  Only Dime could play that way.  And if you want a taste of Pantera’s hardcore cred?  Try Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks  You heard the man.  A hangover is inspiration.

Sadly, Dimebag Darrell, guitar mastermind behind Pantera’s southern fried sound, was killed.  Perhaps you heard about it.  So fucked up…..I can’t even say.

This is fucked up too.  Seeing that makes it kind of hard to believe in Karma.  Kirby Puckett died, too.  So did the director of Shaft.  That’s three, right?  These things come in threes.

On another note, I’m almost done with Chapter Two of my as-yet-untitled Max Beatty book.  It’s been fun trying to keep it entertaining but also serve the larger plot.  I’ll post it when it’s pretty enough.

One idea that I had, I don’t know, probably inspired by Six Feet Under or the Sopranos or any number of other things, is to have little dream sequences in the Max Beatty series, dream sequences specifically featuring the ghost of Dimebag.  I think it would be funny if Max gets himself into a spot and Dimebag comes to him in a dream, pink beard blazing, and dispenses some helpful advice in Dimebonics to get Max out of a jam.  It could be a fixture of the series, something fun to play with.  Who knows, it could contribute to the myth of Dimebag.

Speaking of, back to work.

Monday, March 06, 2006

That's Why You Shouldn't Vote for White People

In today’s See You in Hell category this morning, Milan Babic committed suicide in his Hague jail cell. I guess that plush European prison just wasn't good enough for him. Babic was originally a dentist before he became mayor of Knin, a city in Croatia.  When Yugoslavia disintegrated (literally) into civil war, the Knin Serbs suddenly found themselves living in a foreign country and were some of the first to organize militias.  And we know what they did.

Babic deserved a lot more than 13 years for his crimes against humanity, but an eternity in hell seems like a fair trade.  Next up, Karadizic and Mladic. I'm personally gonna take an interest in seeing them suffer.  (Not unlike Capote, I need these fucks to be captured so I can have an end for my movie.)

And now some bad news.  Spielberg is taking the year off.  Steve…I’m feeling that one, but still, there will be a void…

Speaking of movies, mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.  The Brokeback Backlash has begun!  I still haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain  (more on that below) but I did see Crash, and I have to say I’m not surprised by the win.  It was one of those message movies that feels weighty, with a huge cast, and some genuinely moving scenes.  I can see the point of all the criticism, but I still think Crash was pretty “deep.”

It made me cry (not a hard thing for a movie to do, to be honest) during the shooting and the car wreck parts, but my favorite part, the part that qualifies it for “deep” status is the scene where Terrence Howard lets Ludacris off after their run in with the police.

“You embarrass me,” he says.  “You embarrass yourself.”

That, to me, captures the essence of that movie, the interconnectedness of us all as human beings, with all our shortcomings and virtues affecting each other in ways that we may not even be aware of.  

And of course, the dialogue was stylized, and the racial tensions were not realistic, but it’s a movie.  You could say the same thing about Shakespeare, or David Mamet, or even Deadwood.  It’s drama, not documentary.  It’s an artistic expression of an idea, and so you just have to go with it.  And if you do, there’s something rewarding to be found.

As for Brokeback, I can’t say anything other than I still want to see it.

The reason I haven’t is because my movie date flaked out on me last Thursday.  Yep, a no call, no show.  Not even a call back.

Don’t worry, it’s happened before.  In fact, the last three girls I’ve had plans with have gone MIA on the day of the date.  Three girls, from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds, different personalities.  All of them flakes who blew me off.

Maybe it’s me.  Nah…..

Comedian Chuck Roy does this thing on Uncle Nasty’s KBPI show called the Crop Report.  Today he was talking about some marijuana legislation that was thrown out in New Hampshire or Vermont or somewhere.  He ended the bit by saying, “And that’s why you shouldn’t vote for white people,” which I thought was pretty funny.

Chuck has a point.

Just look at this guy.

  He embarrasses me.  He embarrasses himself.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Flash Fiction Friday - Of Mice and Men Edition


If Of Mice and Men had been about kidnappers instead of ranch hands….  

     “The transom.  I forgot the transom.”
     “Ransom,” George groaned.  “It’s a ransom.  How many times I gotta tell ya?”  He rolled his eyes and batted his ballcap against his thigh.  He and Lennie were walking down a dusty road, two poor nobodies with nothing.  The small man squinted up at his tall friend and saw the vacancy in Lennie’s eyes.  
     George shook his head crossly.  “Alright, Lennie, I can tell you’re having trouble grasping this, so let’s start over, okay.  We kidnap the girl, right, and we take her out to our campsite.  We’ll keep her bound and gagged so she don’t make no noise.”
     “One thing that’ll get us pinched for sure is her hollarin’” Lennie said.  “We should just knock her out, George.  Whatdya say?  Can I knock her out?”
     “Why, we don’t want to hurt her, George.  We just want her rich daddy to pay her ransom.”
     “The ransom,” Lennie said.  “I’ll remember it this time, George, I swear.  The ransom.  How much do you think we’ll get?”
     “Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe a million.  Maybe even more.”
     “A million dollars, George.  We can buy a lot of rabbits with that.”
     “Ay-uh,” George said.  “We can buy a ranch, a good ranch, with a little stream running through it with water cooler than a springtime breeze.  Acres and acres of grazing land as far as you can.  Plenty of room to farm, some animals, horses, chickens, cattle, maybe some hogs.”
     “And some rabbits!”  Lennie was getting excited but the smaller man ignored him.  
      “A big ole house with a porch and an old oak tree providing the shade,” George continued.  “We’re gonna live off the fat of the land.”
     “Tell about the rabbits, George.”
     “You know about the rabbits.”
     “And we’ll have some rabbits and I’ll get to tend to them.”  He clapped his hands together, giving himself applause for getting it out.
     “Yeah, but Lennie,” George said, “that’s not going to happen until after we nab the little girl.  So what are we gonna do?”
     “We’re gonna get the girl and take her back to our campsite.  She can’t make no noise, shhh, so we’re gonna knock her out.”
     “No, no, no,” George said, aggravated by his friend now.  “We’re not going to hurt her, remember?  We’re just going to tie her up and put a gag in her mouth.”
     “Right, right,” Lennie said.  “Then we’re going to go buy the rabbits!”
     “We have to get the ransom first.”
     “The transom.  Right.  Can’t forget that!”
     “Lennie, you are one dumb son of a bitch, you know that?  I take you under my wing, offer you work and protection, and all you can think about is rabbits.  You know, what?  Forget it.”
     George reached behind his back and pulled out a pistol he had tucked in his waistband.  He pointed the muzzle at his tall friend’s neck and pulled the trigger two times.  
     Lennie blinked a few times and fell to his knees, gurgling.  Blood dripped from his lips as he said, “Live off the fat of the land, George.  Gonna tend the rabbits.  Don’t forget the transom.”
     Then he fell onto the sand, quivered, and was still.

K-Lo is a Stooge

This post from Kathryn Jean Lopez on the Corner made me want to puke.  Alright, so I exaggerate.  It just annoyed me.

In her infinite wisdom, she said:
It's Sunday morning. There are errands to run. There's a bike to fix. There's work to do. You name it. It all ranks higher than you wanting to know about what Jack Kemp and John Edwards think about Dubai Ports World or anything else in March 2006.
Granted, I can think of a million other things to do besides watch Meet the Press, but I suspect K-Lo’s opposition to Kemp and Edwards (both former Democratic VP candidates) has more to do with their political affiliation than her own hectic Sunday schedule.

What a stooge.

Thankfully here's a conservative who isn't a stooge.

The Gospel of James

In honor of the Sabbath, further thoughts on God and religion:

1) God gave you a brain and the faculties of reason. Use them.

2) The God of religion is largely an anthropomorphic fantasy. If a personal relationship with God is what you seek, avoid religion at all costs.

3) If you want to learn about the nature of God, venture out into the world he created and experience God first-hand through his works. Don't rely on words written two thousand years ago by unsophisticated, superstitious men.

4) God is not a petty creature, so he doesn't mind if you masturbate or if you sleep with another man's wife or if you eat meat on Fridays. However, he does insist that you breath, that you eat and shit and sleep and fuck. (And don't forget to use that brain!) These things are non-negotiable. Failure to do them will result in your death.

5) God knew what he was doing when he created gay people. Deal with it.

6) God is bigger than any box Man tries to put him in. (Including the one I'm trying to put him in now.)

7) Any man (including me) who tries to tell you about the nature of God is full of shit.

Misquoting Jesus

This guy's story of lost faith is similiar to my own, especially this part:
"The fundamentalist scholar who peered so hard into the origins of Christianity that he lost his faith altogether."
Of course, I'm no scholar, but it has long been my view that the easiest way to lose your faith is to do a rigourous and intellectually honest investigation into the history of the early church.

This isn't as easy as it sounds for the true believer to do, as it requires one to confront one's faith head-on and entertain the possibility, even if for just a moment, that the Bible contains inaccuracies, and even outright falsehoods. Too often it seems, the unflappable belief in Biblical authority trumps all rational thought, allowing believers to explain away textual inconsistencies.

Take the Judas story, for instance. In Matthew 27:5, Judas Iscariot is described as throwing his betrayal money in the temple and running off to hang himself immediately afterward. In Acts 1:18, Judas buys a field with his blood money and then dies from a horrible fall that results in his disembowelment.

Notice how the details of these stories are quite different. The basics are the same: the betrayal, the payment of silver, Judas dying, but both the timeline of events and the manner of death are completely different. If Judas did throw his money into the temple, then it would follow that he was unable to buy a field with it. And if he hung himself immediately after the betrayal, it's only logical that he couldn't have died in some kind of freak accident on the field he never bought.

Obviously, this begs an uncomfortable question for strict Bible constructionists: Which version is true? Both stories can't be true, and yet if one is false, then it can't be said that the Bible is an unerringly true document.

Believers solve this inconvenient problem by abandoning reason altogether, relying instead on reason's little bastard cousin, faith. My Dad, an evangelical of the old school variety, came up with some clever mental gymnastics to explain away the Judas contradiction. In his version, Judas did indeed hang himself, as stated in Matthew, but the rope broke and his body fell, splitting open and disgorging his guts, as stated in Acts. See? Both versions are true! Yet, there is no way to logically support that conclusion based on the text itself.

Instead, that argument relies on an uproven (and in my eyes, absurd) belief in the accuracy of the entire Biblical canon. Bart Ehrmann, the biblical scholar who sparked this post, puts it this way:
The Bible simply wasn't error-free. The mistakes grew exponentially as he traced translations through the centuries. There are some 5,700 ancient Greek manuscripts that are the basis of the modern versions of the New Testament, and scholars have uncovered more than 200,000 differences in those texts.

"Put it this way: There are more variances among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament," Ehrman summarizes.

In other words, to claim that the Bible is objectively true requires the complete abandonment of your rational faculties.

It gets worse:
Most of these are inconsequential errors in grammar or metaphor. But others are profound. The last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark appear to have been added to the text years later -- and these are the only verses in that book that show Christ reappearing after his death.

Another critical passage is in 1 John, which explicitly sets out the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). It is a cornerstone of Christian theology, and this is the only place where it is spelled out in the entire Bible -- but it appears to have been added to the text centuries later, by an unknown scribe.

For a man who believed the Bible was the inspired Word of God, Ehrman sought the true originals to shore up his faith. The problem: There are no original manuscripts of the Gospels, of any of the New Testament.
Many scholars now believe that the four books that make up the Gospels were based on earlier, now lost, documents, which would make them second hand accounts, at best. (Read more about the hypothetical Q document here.)

Of course, not many Christians know these things. Churches are in the business of fortifying faith (even if it's based on distortions) not sowing doubt, and most individuals do not have the time or desire to investigate these things on their own. Others simply refuse to delve into anything that might contradict their own deeply-held beliefs.

But I think it's important, especially since what you get in churches these days is a kind of populist pseudo-Christianity, evolved and mutated so many times over two thousand years that I doubt even Jesus Christ himself would recognize it.

Cinnamon Kiss

I finished reading the latest Easy Rawlins novel, Cinnamon Kiss, by Walter Mosley this morning. Over the last four years or so, I have devoured the entire Easy Rawlins series, scooping up each new book as soon as humanly possible. Easy Rawlins is perhaps my favorite detective hero, which is saying a lot because Easy is in a pantheon with some real heavyweights: Chandler's Marlowe, MacDonald's Travis McGee, Connelly's Harry Bosch.

Mosley's biggest strength, among many, is his ability to create three dimensional characters, even among the supporting players. He straddles the fine line of creating people so simple they could be described in a few words, and yet so complex that they retain the unpredictability of real people.

For instance, Easy's volatile best friend, Mouse, is a cold-blooded killer but he is also fiercely loyal to Easy and has helped him in his adventures more than once. Then there is Jackson Blue, another old friend of Easy's, a man with a genius IQ but the spine of a jellyfish. Or fellow detective Saul Lynx, a white man married to a black woman. Or Mama Jo. Or Easy's adopted children, Jesus and Feather.

These are characters that become familiar as you read the books, almost as if they could be people you actually know, but they never get stale. If anything, they seem more well-drawn, more real, with each successive book.

Of course, it's been somewhat obvious that over the last few books, starting with Bad Boy Brawly Brown and continuing through Little Scarlett, that Mosley has been more interested in other things than Rawlins, such as some of his science fiction and other "more serious" work like The Man in My Basement (which I hated) and 47 (which I may not ever read).

Unfortunately Cinnamon Kiss isn't a return to form for Mosley. The plot is thinner than Jared the Subway guy after a month of veggie delight lunches. It also seems that Mosley was shooting for examining the Summer of Love sixties, but that aspect of the book is dropped about half way through, leaving behind a palpable sense of incompleteness.

Still, it was a good book, though flawed, and definitely worth reading. If you haven't read any Easy Rawlins books, start with Devil in a Blue Dress, and I assure you, by the time you get to Cinnamon Skin, you won't care about the plot. You'll just care what happens to Easy and the colorful cast of characters that surrounds him.

Next up: Not sure, yet. I picked up a copy of Michael Connelly's new book, The Lincoln Lawyer, this weekend. It's not a Bosch book, but Connelly is routinely readable. You never know though, I might pick up something completely different. I feel uneasy when I'm not reading something though, so I'll be reading whatever sinks its teeth into my neck first.