Archive for July, 2014

Marijuana Storytelling and You

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Commander Blast-off celebrates his promotion  to the rank of Field MarshalWhatever your opinion of pot, haven’t you one good marijuana story?

A friend of mine was so baked once that he walked into a department store women’s restroom, surprising the hell out of a lady with his leather jacket, orange mohawk, and T-shirt featuring Ronald Reagan in a penis hat. All the guy did was turn a wrong corner, but the woman’s horror movie screams could be heard on every floor. We were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe for three straight minutes. Watching this big, punk rock tough guy fly out of a ladies’ room like dobermans were on him was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Of course, we were stoned as well, but that was a long time ago and I’m still laughing.

Another time, a young schoolmate of mine created a pipe out of a piece of fruit, employing the sediment screen from a bathroom faucet to line the “bowl.” My dad had to replace so many of our family faucet screens after that, he still mentions it to this day.

Then there was that rumor circulating at the record store where I worked. A female colleague had gotten stoned for the first time ever, run out into the middle of traffic, and was promptly struck and killed. I was told this on my first day by my new manager, who fired up a joint and blew smoke into the air-conditioning vent to prevent our fallen co-worker from haunting us. This manager told me all employees who smoked were required to do likewise. (He turned out to be a cabbage-headed idiot and the story wasn’t true.)Bought this sticker on Venice Beach in 1989, but never stuck it to anything becasue it was always too good to waste –don't judge me

The very last time I smoked pot, I was headed north to hang lights on a movie set with a crew-mate who handed me a fatty somewhere near Bakersfield. After three big lungfuls, my brain suddenly hit me with, DUDE. You borrowed all those CDs from Angelo and you never returned ’em. You are SUCH an asshole! For the next hundred miles, thoughts of this failure returned to the same piece of music. All those CDs…such an asshole…never gave ’em back. Now, from a great distance, I can laugh at this as well.

And smoking or not, I still enjoy the camaraderie of others’ shared marijuana experiences, be they friends younger than me or those with whom I otherwise have little in common.

Because who hasn’t heard a stupid-good pot story that was rich with takeaways? You either laugh or scoff at the near-miss folly (fortunately someone else’s) or you guilt trip the person at the center of your intervention: either way, there’s something for everyone. The world would be a little duller without ganja-themed storytelling. (more…)

“A fact that needs to be spoken”

Monday, July 21st, 2014

His limitlessly enthusiastic facial expressions just kill me_HBOJohn Oliver joins the national dialogue on prison reform – vividly.

I’m sure it will surprise no readers of this blog to know I’m a radicalized John Oliver fan.

From Net Neutrality to the World Cup, I’m thrilled at the breath of fresh air HBO has allowed Oliver to blow our way on the topics of the day. As I watched this piece last night, I was pleased to see that just about every prison reform and private prison-related topic I’ve covered here – he nails. But, of course, the best part of the segment is the musical number. By singing about prison reform with Sesame Street muppets he sends it all over the top, simplifying the issue, making us laugh, educating and surprising us.

It’s a fact that needs to be spoken

America’s prisons are broken

It’s a hard truth about incarceration

prisons are needed for our civilization

But mandatory minimums for heroin and crack

stack the system against Hispanics and Blacks

Our prison population is bigger than Slovenia

‘Cause we put people in jail instead of treating schizophrenia!

Oliver and his writing team are hilarious. For me, they created a valuable tool I can use to snow plow through an otherwise complex issue. Helping to widen people’s understanding of incarceration in America and those behind bars just became a little easier. Thank you John Oliver.

 

The Argument Against @HiddenCash

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

DAN TAGUE_dan_tague_sthhhudio_dot_com2Never mind the guy’s icky; there’s no excuse not to donate the cash

For anyone unfamiliar with the @HiddenCash story, there’s a rich dude running around the U.S., stashing fistfuls of cash for people to find. It’s called a Social Media Scavenger Hunt. He uses the @HiddenCash Twitter handle to drop clues as to the money’s general location, or to announce the next area to be blessed with his self-promotion benevolence.

We know it’s a guy, ’cause in early June of this year his identity was revealed, either by an interviewer or by design (I’d bet on the latter). He is alleged real estate scammer Jason Buzi, an ex-mortgage industry mercenary who keeps his house flipping out of the traditional real estate processes. Buzi is what’s known as a “lowballer”: He saturates neighborhoods with flyers offering “Ca$h for your home,” then contractually locks suckers into the price he offers. Assuring his clients they don’t even have to leave their homes, their contracts obligate them to sell to him alone. Buzi then goes off in search of an unknown third party to cover his end of the deal, leaving homeowners high and dry ’til he does. Eventually, the mystery investor acquires the property and flips it for a much higher price.

I don’t know about you, but I know someone who lost their home through these kinds of “deals.” And when the recession hit, Buzi is known to have made the money he’s now giving away. Personally, I wouldn’t search for his money if he put it in my bathroom. (more…)

What It’s Like to Win a Literary Award

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

I earned my first literary award in Folsom. This time? Las Vegas…

2014-ALA-banner

ForeWord Reviews IndieFab Book of the Year Awards, presented at the 2014 American Library Association Conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

IndieFab CertificateFolsom prison has its thugs, killers, and seething sodomites perched like gargoyles, set to pounce on the right bounce, but it’s got nuthin’ on exposed armpits in Vegas.

What is it about Las Vegas that makes tank tops so ubiquitous? From wife-beaters to big, tie-dyed side-wallers, it seems six of every ten meanderers goes sleeveless, choosing the display of warty pits over dignity. It’s as if they think armpits, with all of their “character,” have become substitutes for good ink work. They haven’t. And we’re not talking about your nicer tank tops, either – more like saggy, cigarette ash ‘n mayo varnished nightwear. Blech.

Yes, I know it’s Sin City; let it all hang out; blah-blah-blah. But that’s no excuse for flaunting your weight-loss stretch marks each time you roll some dice, lift a fork, jab at a slot machine button, or u-turn your rented casino scooter into another herd.

When planning a trip to Vegas, it’s helpful to adjust your expectations a notch below your last memories of the place, ’cause Vegas today is all about elastic waist bands, approximated quality, billowy tank tops, and carry-along toy trumpets of frozen, fruity booze.

I realize that Frank Sinatra’s life has been highly mythologized, but I’m confident there was a moment when he looked at Vegas and thought: it’s only downhill from here.

WORST ROOM KEY GRAPHICS EVER_Where Excuses Go to DieHarrah’s check-in…

Thursday-to-Saturday Vegas beats Friday-to-Sunday anytime. Just ask road-weary parents of toddlers and teenagers  –which my wife, Crystal, and I are not– or drivers –like we are– who hate being stuck behind card-carrying members of Snails of America. Once your return trip eats up an entire Sunday, ending with a drive directly into the blazing sunset, you won’t make that mistake again.

Midnight departures out of Los Angeles are the best, and nondescript commuter vehicles are the smartest. (A little over 3½ hours is our best time.) The only drawback to getting a room at three on a Friday morning in Vegas is who and what you encounter upon arrival. Since the front desk area is much quieter than normal, you tend to notice the first of your fellow visitors.

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