Monday, July 28, 2008

Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man, by Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of
omission and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people,
from Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as, in
a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don't bother your head about sins of commission because however
sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn't be committing
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you get really painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven't taken out and the checks you haven't added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven't kept and the bills you
haven't paid and the letters you haven't written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of
Namely, it isn't as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn't get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forgot to pay a bill;
You didn't slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let's all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this
round of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven't done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn't do give you a lot more trouble than
the unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind
of sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.


(as listened to in Poetry on Record vol. 1 while folding my laundry and not taking out a medical insurance plan)

shout outs

"Shout out" means acknowledgement, usually for others.

When we shout out for ourselves in desparation

Depression could be okay if it made me return to words.

A kind of fragmented sentence could be okay if it was true.

If it was a true representation of the pieces of sensation

barely keeping track of.

Thought must be a level of synthesis above this grappling.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

LAPD vs. pedestrians

On Monday, I got a ticket for crossing the street wrong.

I was crossing 7th St on the east side of Alvarado, right next to the Westlake / MacArthur Park Metro station on the Red Line. I crossed within the boundaries of the crosswalk, walking my bike and not riding it, and I made it across the street before the light turned yellow. Once I arrived on the opposite sidewalk, a cop immediately stopped me and began writing me a ticket. I looked at him with incredulity. He said, "Once the red hand begins flashing, you cannot enter the intersection at all."

He then proceeded to ask me for my ID.

[Unrelated note: he filled out my race as white, and I had to correct him. I said, "I'm not white." He said, "What are you then?" I should have said black. What could he have done? I said, "Asian / Pacific-Islander." He said, "I don't think I have that - what do you put on forms?" I barked. "Other."]

I didn't argue with him, and later looked up California Vehicle Code 21456, which he cited on the ticket. It did in fact stipulate that the way I crossed was illegal. But seriously, who knew!?

So many questions were running through my mind. WHY would a cop bother ticketing pedestrians in a neighborhood with so many other, more consequential crimes? I could probably identify 15 people selling fake IDs, 5 instances of public drunkenness, and 50 instances of littering within a 2 block radius of the corner we stood on. How could pedestrian traffic really be the priority here?

As I rode home, I thought about all of the times that drivers had broken minor laws in ways that directly endangered my life while I rode a bike. And I got straight up angry. I wanted to say to this cop: I ride my bike and take public transit every day, and it cleans YOUR air and makes YOUR city better. YOU benefit directly. But instead of protecting cyclists and pedestrians, all of whom are doing the city a public service, you criminalize us. Instead of ticketing the thousands of drivers who anticipate green lights or blow through intersections at unsafe speeds, you plant your sting on the sidewalk and fine working-class transit users.

The day after I got the ticket, I was at the same intersection and saw another pedestrian being ticketed. I asked the pedestrian offender (who, coincidentally, was also walking a bike), if he was getting a ticket for crossing the street wrong. He said yes, and added, "It's ridiculous. Pedestrians have no rights."

I asked the cop why he was doing this, and he said he was ordered to by his supervisor. I asked if he could just give warnings instead of tickets - educate instead of punish. He started some kind of explanation, but had to interrupt himself to go ticket some more pedestrians who were wantonly crossing the street at that moment.

Curbed LA did some reporting on this issue. I also found this article in Streetsblog. I recommend reading through the comments in the Streetsblog article. Unlike the comments in the Curbed articles, these have more substance than your usual internet jackassery.

Later comments in the Streetsblog article give good advice on how to contest the ticket. The logic in this article will also be helpful, even though it pertains to DC, and not LA.

I am happy to relay information like this here. But I also worry that most of the people in my neighborhood who are getting these tickets do not have the internet or other resources to learn how to fight them. What I really should do is go back to that corner and make sure nobody breaks the law, so that the sidewalk officer can't ticket anyone.

I want this officer and all of his supervisors to suffer full accountability for this nonsense. For the record: the officer who gave me the ticket was named Peterson. The violation occurred in the Rampart section of the LAPD's Central Bureau. The Rampart police station is located at 2710 W. Temple, LA 90026, and can be called at 213 485 4061. The Central Bureau Deputy Chief of Operations is Sergio Diaz. His email is .

The sting took place in District 1 of LA City. The Council member who represents this district is Ed Reyes:, 213 473 7001.

Thanks, LAPD, for making walking a crime in one of the nation's most pedestrian-hostile cities.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"One must keep on looking..."

I wrote what follows in May, after the end of spring lacrosse seasons but before the beginning of summer adventures. Now, it resonates with passages at the end of To The Lighthouse, when Lily is having her vision, or struggling to have it as the case may be. What I wrote below is about how an artistic moment happens passively. What Lily knows is that after these fortunate incidents, we must hang on.

"Phrases came. Visions came. Beautiful pictures. Beautiful phrases. But what she wished to get hold of was that ery jar on the nerves, the thing itself before it has been made anything. Get that and start afresh... It was a miserable machine, an inefficient machine, she thought, the human apparatus for painting or for feeling; it always broke down at the critical moment; herocially, one must force it on."

"One must keep on looking without for a second relaxing the intensity of emotion, the determination not to be put off, not to be bamboozled. One must hold the scene - so - in a vise and let nothing come in and spoil it."

Lately, perhaps because I have few tasks to complete and no schedules to follow, life seems a meager and humble struggle to keep things tidy. It consists of simple and forgettable tasks like folding the clothes and emptying the sink and deleting an irrelevant email and picking up the keys off this table and placing them where they will be remembered, on that desk.

As I go through these actions, which are too minute to deserve the title chores, the phrase that often enters my mind is "daily struggle against cacophony." I know that what I mean is entropy, or perhaps chaos, and not the rattles and buzzes of cacophony. But I stay with the metaphor which apparently has deep roots in my subconscious because this word, cacophony, appears gutturally at all routine moments. I am taking a shit. Cacophony. I am watering the rosebush. Cacophony. I am tossing the old coffee grounds in the trash bin. Cacophony.

My everyday life seems one cymbal-filled, slowly rising and randomly dissonant morning. Most sensory input is subtle, like the vibrations of a far away speaker: the buzz of the refrigerator, the gradient of heat from where I sleep to the window, the unobtrusive blue of the carpet.

And then there are moments which are like locating a clean and clear note somewhere inside the labyrinthine pith of cacophonous and thick sounds. I look in my rearview mirror and see the sea, and the slow red of sunset, and I realize that there is a rhythmic beat underneath all of this, yes, and that beat moves me through dusk to sleep and then a next day. The beat allows me to be happy; or my happiness enables the beat. Either way, I suddenly and firmly know that the perfect reflection of the ocean means I should be here, despite all the times my daily routine seems pointless, empty, and insignificant. I do not have a future in the sense in which the educated elite in their early 20s are expected to have one - that is, a career on the horizon. Nor do I have a future in the job-marriage-401k sense in which members of the middle class are expected to have one. Instead, I have daily cacophony, and the occasional peal of a clear note. I have a simple horizon. And I am perfectly happy.

16 may 2008