Tom Ford’s Style Makeover


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Last night I was trying to make use of the lamentable offerings on Roku and found myself on the Conde Nast Channel.

Offerings included a snappy series of style makeover videos hosted by Tom Ford, a handsome fashion designer who once ran Gucci.

In each short, Mr. Ford and a middle-aged editor at GQ appraised a guy who needed stylizing.

An array of schmucks, always under 35, with nice hair and nice jobs, stood in front of a white studio backdrop.

Mr. Ford, tanned, expensive and exfoliated; large glasses, fingers on his chin, looked them up and down.

“You are quite handsome, do you know that? But your eyes have crow feet,” he said to one man.

“You have premature gray hair,” he said to another 30-year-old, “Your eyebrows need trimming. The eyebrows are the architecture of the face.”

Onto these men went layers of Tom Ford clothing: oversized wool turtlenecks, tight jeans, high boots, suede jackets, and strangling scarves.

And upon completion, he would render his verdict based on the men’s new clothes and grooming.

“Now you look like a successful restaurant owner!”

“Now you are ready to be the CEO of the company!”

“If you want to be President in five years this is how you have to dress!”

He delivered his opinions with the confidence of a scientist and the reliability of a psychic.

Who would argue with Mr. Tom Ford, a man of large ego and white teeth, who rode into fame’s frontier pushing brands and image, marketing and makeover, money and manliness?

Perhaps I would.

Well-knotted neckties and well-tailored suits, polished dress shoes and good hair might count for something.

And many live thinking that if I only knew what I wanted to do in five years I could figure it out.

Mr. Ford, no disrespect intended.

But please fuck off. People like you bring us down when you bring us up.

The only expert we need is our own conscience.
Perfectionism demoralizes.

A Winter’s Tale


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A man was moving out of his English cottage, and I was walking by, and he invited me in, to see it before he left for good, on a Toluca Lake street (where I’ve set my next short story), into a home, emptied of content, yet still full of emotion; an ideal cottage in the low millions, outfitted with dark wood floors, marble bathrooms, and discreetly elegant paneling; electric sconces, French doors, and striped awnings hung on black spears. And a subtly vaulted living room where cool winter light streamed through little steel windows splashing in blue light a brown, stained, scuffed floor.

He had lived here for seven years, placed in Los Angeles by a now bankrupt mortgage company who had conceivably compensated him well enough, but left him to hang out to dry when they collapsed. He became that very tragic figure: the enviable executive who lives in a beautifully decorated house where Roman shades, silent burger alarms, wi-fi, and built-in cabinetry mask financial illness.

He showed me photos from a glossy real estate brochure, of symmetrical rooms where couches and chairs mingled politely and toilet tanks stood erect in upright, polished splendor. He spoke wistfully of his 84 months here, 2,555 days of certain sunshine and uncertain liquidity.

I wondered if he had contemplated suicide, as I had many times, up awake at 3am, convinced I would never find work, angry at myself and my life choices, in fear of not paying my mortgage or getting the money for property taxes, medical bills and AT&T. Did the lush aesthetics of this house, with its fountains and sunlit corners, soothe the frightened beast inside of us all, the frail human alone as his nation commits economic genocide? Did hunger ever enter the confines of the redone kitchen? Did tears pour out of his eyes as he stood near the pivoting water spigot over the chef’s stove?

I did not ask.

A Jaguar, packed with plastic mattress covers and suitcases, sat on the driveway, and the backyard was full of rose bushes and two lounge chairs set on the green lawn. We walked through cerebral, reserved, tranquilizing rooms painted in healing greens and mournful blues from those cursed years after 9/11.

Every corner was well crafted and exquisite, from the ornate iron registers to the crown molding, to the high hat recessed lights, to the 50-year slate/asphalt roof, copper gutters, matte celadon backsplash tile, stone patio, Tuscan fountain and hi-efficiency heating.

White haired and kind voiced, with an intonation I remembered from New York, the man spoke with optimism and hope about losing the house profitably. He would soon set up his life somewhere in Sherman Oaks, holding a wet finger into the wind on Beverly Glen, hoping that this sale might release another California dream to carry him into future love and security.

Holiday Inn Express, North Hollywood.


Sunrise Ford

Holiday Inn

One of the strangest juxtapositions of new development and old crap can be seen in the San Fernando Valley east of Lankershim on Burbank.

A new six-story Holiday Inn Express is going up on the south side of Burbank Blvd. within view of the “arts district” yet firmly within the auto zone of muffler, tire, transmission, oil change, lawnmower and auto sales dealers.

Imagine you are a naïve guest, perhaps from Iowa, who is coming to Los Angeles for the first time and you see this modernistic, multi-colored Mondrianlike building on Trip Advisor. You might be excused for believing that you had lucked into a real fine deal, a lovely, clean hotel with good rates right in the heart of North Hollywood.

Upon checking in, you drive up Lankershim, past Sunrise Ford with its bright red painted “Diesel Truck Repair Center”.

Lawnmower

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You go up to your room and look out and see V.A.S Auto Repair and John’s Lawn Mower with its garages full of grease monkeys changing oil, servicing radiators, and loading up pick up trucks with power equipment and lawn mowers.

EBT

If you are getting hungry, after walking through all the paint and gasoline fumes, and breathing in the smell of diesel, you can pick up something to drink at N. Hollywood Liquor where they accept EBT and can also cash your check for a fee.

$1 Taco

Smoke Shop

For a stroll you might stop by for a bite to eat at Tacos Manzano where Taco’s Tuesday is only $1. Or go directly next door to the Smoke Shop or Harry’s Auto Repair where the smog experts work behind cinderblock murals of Marlboro cigarettes and hookah. Pick up some pot at any of the medicinal pharmacies along the way. Marijuana is to modern Los Angeles what rice is to China.

Los Burritos

Quick Lane

If you don’t want burritos on the cheap you can have a more expensive burrito at Los Burritos or go across the street and get an American style burrito burger at Denny’s. If you crave nightlife you can go to El Zorro nightclub right next door to the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center.

In another 50 years, a new generation of vaca negras will waddle past here, orange drinks in hand, and wonder if that bad old motel with prostitutes and vagrants will ever be torn down.

Border Crossing.


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In North Hills, at Plummer, west of Sepulveda, the old and new San Fernando Valley sit side-by-side, stretched out on hot flat roads baking in sun.

North of Plummer, along asphalt and stone paved Orion Avenue, remnants of large properties sit in dry decay, pits of impoverished ranches behind dumps of rusted old cars, tarp covered boats, obese RVs, piles of wood, barking dogs, torn up sofas and iron gates. Un-watered and un-loved, once young and lush, now mangled and vandalized, blocks of withering draught, many acres of empty ruin, sit neglected and forgotten beside the roaring 405.

Rural delivery mailboxes, elderly Aloe Vera clumped and planted along the road, sawed stumps of logs, green Valley Oaks on yellow grasses, tall and proud wooden utility poles, cyclone fences; the San Fernando Valley of 1945 awaits its final pronouncement of death on this stretch of Orion.

9000 Orion Ave

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And then there is a border crossing at Plummer.

South of here, the streets are crowded, full of cars, pick-ups, street food, apartments, children, fat women in black spandex, tagged walls. The hum of traffic and the sound of Spanish, the ringing bells of ice cream on wheels, the smoke and smells of taco trucks, the improvised milk crates set up al fresco in a church parking lot for cheap and exhausted dining, the young fathers and mothers pushing strollers and herding children along, the food signs for pollo, jarritos, sodas, asada; in the churches, on the faces, behind the apartment doors: the presence of Jesus in every corner. Selling food, fixing cars, repairing tires: industrious, solicitous, hard-working people find a way to earn a dollar in myriad ways.

A poor barrio of exiles pushes its agonies and joys along, making new babies, holding onto life in the dust and noise, a small vital, gritty corner of the San Fernando Valley, feared and despised, loved and appreciated, rejected and courted, here for good.

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Azteca Tires

On Rayen St.

We Left Our Families


We Left Our Families by Here in Van Nuys
We Left Our Families, a photo by Here in Van Nuys on Flickr.

Motto For a City

I was driving west on Hollywood Blvd last week. Stopped at a light, right near the 101, I saw this poster in the window of a small shop.

Applicable to many who migrated here, it sets in words, the struggles and dreams, both won and lost, of men and women, defeated and determined, working and surviving, to transform their lives into something more significant.

I found the words poignant and sacramental, holy and human, a unifying testament of we the people, a city of angels: fallen and sinful, redeemed and reborn, for all time.

At the bottom of the print is the word cyrcle, a link to the art community that created the poster.

Books and Poseurs.


tumblr_mc60lu1Li51r12aa1o12_1280At LA’s first art book show at the Geffen in Little Tokyo yesterday, all the skinny people known to exist in the city of Los Angeles, all 2,000 of them, were gathered inside a large hall of ramps and rooms, to inspect and gather and pose, amongst the Instagrams, hundreds of homemade and craft printed ephemera, posters, books and many penis pictures provided by the coffee cupping community of handsome and intelligentsia.

Let the word go forth that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born after Dynasty went off the air, tempered by texts, disciplined by hard drives, proud of their smoky perfumes, determined to create and propagate nihilism.

Within eye and hand reach, the brilliance and magnificence of our artistic world, the modern culture of Los Angeles, here it stood proudly, the Van Goghs, Picassos and Michaelangelos of our era gathered in one room.

There was JIMMY, self-described as “An LA based queer zine with beard appeal…published in the hills of Silver Lake and the heart of Hollywood, inspired by the classic fag mag format…”

Aaron Krach, based in NY, was “an artist and writer who collects stuff and gives stuff away.”

Little Joe, from the UK, was about queers and cinema.

The Austrians were represented, not by Maria Von Trapp or Adolf Hitler, but lower case springerin, a quarterly magazine “which addresses a public that perceives cultural phenomena as socially and politically determined.”

And Susan Mills’ books “reflect an interest in language that is not written for publication” and she asserts, blankly and clearly, that she is “drawn to a tabula rasa quality”.

Finally, there was Strange Attractors.

It explores investigations in non-humanoid extraterrestrial sexuality.

We know that there may be life on other planets. But fantastically the possibility exists that it may not come from a vagina and penis. The orgasm may be fired by ray gun. Zero gravity and floating upside down might assist oral copulation. One-eyed cyborgs, reptilian monsters and their love life inspires these romantic artists, filmmakers and visionaries.

If that cums to pass, and sexually obscure visitors from another universe descend upon the City of Angels, humans may learn that a penis may not represent all possibility and potential. And the art world as it exists in Los Angeles will be doomed.

The Blight of AMAZING


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I first become aware of this mutant word amazing spreading over the land, in 1989, when I started work at Ralph Lauren in NYC.

The store manager, red-haired, tailored up to his ears in custom shirt, knotted tie, and dunked in half a gallon of Diptyque’s Olene, would take his hands and adjust our collars or necktie before releasing us onto the sales floor to insure we properly emitted the aura of Polo to the public.

We were only let go when he said: “You look a-mazing”.

Twenty-four years later, amazing has our tongues in a vize grip. Reality TV, HGTV, make-overs, cooking shows, tweats and texts, all of it is infected with amazing.

It isn’t hard to find. It comes out of Andy Cohen, Michael Kors, and any 13-year-old girl on Facebook.

Its usage fits in with the penchant for American exaggeration and hype, to create a super-sized sales pitch for ordinary events and mundane things: Amazing omelette, amazing frying pan, amazing kid, amazing coffee, amazing Mom, amazing day, amazing walk, amazing sun, amazing beer, amazing toilet paper.

Amazing was once was reserved for a spectacular and rare event, such as the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, which President Rutherford B. Hayes pronounced, “All surprisingly beautiful, amazing, unequalled…”

How noble and spectacular that World’s Fair was and how fittingly it was spoken of.

Once it bequeathed and anointed a World’s Fair. Now it is used in salad dressings and baked potatoes.

Here are some comments, chosen randomly, from the food blog White on Rice:

I love Cristina’s potatoes, they are amazing!

It’s amazing what can happen in a garden over a few summer days. Last week we headed up to Park City, UT for the amazing Evo Conference.

You’re photos are amazing and now I want to go visit Boulder CO!

We could see and smell the amazing flavors that a slow roasted fig could become.

When we asked all you amazing readers for tomato recipes, you all inspired us tremendously … Thank you for all that, you amazing people!

What you see before you are some truly luscious, silky, delicious and amazing blood orange bars.

That is all I have to say. I am off to go take an amazing dump…..

A Twelve-Hundred Crib.


$1600 19th C. Rococco Iron and Crystal Large Chandelier

$1600 19th C. Rococco Iron and Crystal Large Chandelier

$1600 French Style Bunk Bed for Children

$1600 French Style Bunk Bed for Children

$1600 "Children's Sofa"

$1600 “Children’s Sofa”

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We were walking in Santa Monica and came across something gross and disturbing. It was called “Restoration Hardware Baby & Child“. Inside this store, there are $1200 cribs, a $1600 “children’s sofa”, fur bedspreads, fur sleeping bags for pre-schoolers, and a $1300 Versailles chair for a child. We ask ourselves (rightfully) about the gun culture in America, yet some of our non-violent spending values and domestic priorities are completely askew.

Something to think about during the Christmas Season.