Why Yesterday I Didn’t Wear Pants

I’ll be honest. Last year wasn’t a great one. 2014, while it didn’t kick my ass across the room like 2013 did, did have more lows than highs, and in general it just wasn’t great.

There were of course, moments of greatness – like getting to spend some time in Paris with a very dear friend who I hadn’t seen in FAR too long. Also, getting to know my newest niece. Cause even at just over a year old, she’s pretty frakking amazing. And a couple of people came into my life or became bigger parts of it, who I now can’t imagine my world without.

But then again, there was the severe lack of employment, leading to a severe lack of funds, leading to a questioning of myself, what I do and my talents for doing it, and just generally putting me in a head space that wasn’t only unhealthy but downright destructive at times. I had a few medical problems, some rather serious, that had to be dealt with. Those weren’t fun. And paying for them isn’t going to be fun for quite some time I imagine.

But that’s all behind me now – at least as much as it can be for the time being. And as the new year started recently, I started looking at the things I wanted to change in my life, my work and my relationships. The news year’s resolutions started to form, though I really hate the term “resolutions.” Resolutions, for me aren’t a thing that you should measure. They are just things you do. And they shouldn’t be started under the pretense of New Year’s or for any other reason that begins with social pressure to “make yourself better.”

Instead, I set myself GOALS at the onset of a new year. Goals are tangible. Goals have a definitive success level that can be measured. When you reach a goal, you can see the result and say “Hey, I did that. That’s good.”

I have five this year. The first four are indeed personal and rather normal. They are the boring ones – paying off of credit cards, going on a specific vacation I’ve been wanting to take for ages, lose the weight I put on due to my medical problems last year… you know, the usual bullshit sorts of things that people talk about. But then there is the last one. And this specific goal is the one that made me take off my pants in public yesterday.

I WILL, AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH, DO SOMETHING NEW THAT IS WELL OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE.

(Honestly, I hope I do these things more than once a month, but I figure once a month is a good starting point.)

So I did it. One down, eleven more to go. Yesterday, along with over 100 other people, I took off my pants and rode around all day on the Los Angeles metro. And I liked it.

I participated for the first time in an annual event simply called the “No Pants Subway Ride.” It is organized one day a year spanning 59 cities in 29 countries and I can tell you, it’s a blast.

I arrived at our meeting point, where there were a varied group of people of all styles and subcultures standing around sort of aimlessly, until we all started asking each other “Are you here for the no pants ride?” At some point, about 15 minutes before we all headed into the actual metro station, someone announced that it was time to de-pants. And we did. Some straight off with no issues, and some of us (I assuming the other newbies like myself) taking an extra beat before pulling off our outerwear.

But then, there it was. A group of mostly total strangers all standing around in our underwear. Some wore costumes, some made outfits out of their underthings, some had themes, and some, like myself, just didn’t have on any pants. Which is sort of the point. The idea of the mission is to act like there is nothing off or wrong or different about not wearing pants. We were instructed to get on the train in small groups. To act as if this was just a normal day on the train.

So we did. Several times, the friends I was with were asked why they weren’t wearing anything below the belt – particularly because they were specifically dressed in Hogwarts uniforms sans pants. One of them just pretended she’d forgotten them. The other blamed his lack of trousers on a spell gone wrong. I just looked at the questioning parties as if I had no idea what they were talking about.

But that was just part of the fun. Now, I’m no prude by any means. I will wear the tiniest of skirts to a nightclub without batting an eyelash. In that environment, I am totally comfortable. But this was not a nightclub. This was not an expected venue for the outfits (and lack of them) that were seen and worn. Which is what I feared would take me out of my comfort zone. And it did. For a little while. But not for as long as I thought it would. The sheer absurdity of being in a group of people all walking around without their pants on in the middle of Los Angeles – at Union Station, on Hollywood Boulevard, was brilliant. And un-surprisingly freeing. To be honest, I lost all self-consciousness in minutes.

Also, not surprising, was the friendliness with which everyone greeted each other. It’s hard to throw attitude when your junk is on display, unprotected by nothing by thin cotton panties, teeny tiny briefs or form hugging shorts. If that’s all it takes to break down cultural strata, maybe we should all go pants-less more often.

I could try to wax on about the day and how life changing it was, but the truth is that it wasn’t that. It was just exactly what it was supposed to be – a brilliantly fun day, and after the subway riding portion of the day ended, my friends and I adjourned to the Pig-n-Whistle for some beers and burgers until it was time to put our pants back on and head home. And I did accomplish what I had set out to do – I did something new that took me out of my comfort zone. I highly suggest that everyone try to do that more often.

With this goal in mind, already I feel like even if this year isn’t overall better than last, at least it’s going to be a hell of a lot more fun.

Me with the No Pants representatives from Hogwarts.

Me with the No Pants representatives from Hogwarts.

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Part of my favorite no pants clan – a Star Wars group. A Stormtrooper, an Ewok, Han Solo, Darth Vader and even a Wampa – all without pants.

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The crowd with no pants heads up to Hollywood Boulevard.

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Just a normal day on the metro… without pants.

Pancakes & Booze Los Angeles

So last night, I went downtown to check out the Pancakes and Booze Art Show and Party at Lot 613 Warehouse. Tom Kirlin has been doing these shows every few months here in Los Angeles, where the parties were born as a concept and those attending this weekend’s festivities were promised art, pancakes, booze, music and a zombie fashion show. The show is running for 2 nights, and at a $5 cover charge, it’s a pretty good deal for a Friday night in LA.

Though, having attended a few of these shows and shown work in a few of the original shows back in Kirlin’s old small warehouse space on East Jefferson years ago, I think it’s come to the attention of the public that these shows aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Though a good time and a FANTASTIC idea, a few years on and I feel like they should have worked out the kinks by now. And there are a quite a few kinks…

Though it is an amazing thing to see a variety of art work from a number of new and upcoming artists on the walls, there needs to be someone to actually curate the shows in order to make them more cohesive and more engaging. The fact that it seems that Kirlin just throws the art up wherever it will fit with no real design to the shows makes the amount of artwork shown a bit of a mess. It’s too much. The eye is bombarded by the sheer amount of different work all butted up against each other mixing artists and styles. It’s confusing to view artwork this way and makes the experience a bit of visual overload. Editing down the amount of artists showing and limiting the number of pieces each can show would go a long way to making this show a more visually entertaining experience for everyone.

Also, giving each of the shows a general theme would go a long way towards that goal as well. At the show this weekend there is everything from graffiti art to painting to photography and mixed media pieces but none of them had any theme or connection to each other. Again, it made viewing the artwork a bit epileptic and makes the viewer feel like they have ADD. You truly don’t know where to look. Giving each show a theme – even if it’s a general theme – I think would work better towards the greater goal of the Pancakes and Booze shows – which is to get new artists shown. But the truth is that some of the pieces shown last night were just plain bad and some were downright offensive, and though it’s a 21 plus crowd, there is no need to show pieces that are more suited to the Playboy Mansion than an art gallery. (Before you all start flaming me, I would like to state for the record, that as an artist, I agree that art is subjective and meant to raise questions and sometimes eyebrows, but the graphic nature of some works combined with the fact that they were just bad paintings are just unnecessary in my humble opinion.)

As usual, the pancakes were quite delicious, though the wait for them was 45 minutes. For ONE pancake. Let’s get on it, if you’re going to do such a big party and offer up free pancakes, maybe it’s time to add a second pancake station. I spent more time in line for my one tasty breakfast treat than I did inside the show.

Now that I’ve ranted on about the art and the pancakes, all I’ll say about the booze is that it’s not free. Once upon a time at Kirlin’s old location, the booze was free, but since the party has moved to its new location, it’s a cash bar, kids, just as an FYI. But the drinks aren’t entirely overpriced and they do offer you an ATM on the premises in case you forget to stop by the bank on your way out or if you’re like me, you just never carry cash.

Which brings me to my biggest disappointment of the evening. The flyer and advertising promised a Zombie Fashion Show. I was really looking forward to that, honestly. I mean, ZOMBIES AND A FASHION SHOW – the possibilities are awesome and my head walked into the show with visions of a runway filled with models in the latest styles from a local designer hobbling and wobbling bloodied and with brains on their mouths. What we got was a few girls in tacky unimaginative bathing suits with badly done zombie makeup walking into the room to the hoots and hollers of the men present. Only ONE of the models took the zombie theme to heart and did the zombie hobble – which I have to say must have been wickedly difficult to do in heels. The rest just did the boring “model strut” and walked in and out with no nod to the fact that they were supposed to be the undead. My friends and I all thought this part of the show could have been done a lot more creatively and successfully than it was. Even one of my friends made the comment, “I feel sorry for these girls.”

Don’t get me wrong, my friends and I had a good time last night, but most of that was down to our own interactions within the background of the event. Overall, the Pancakes and Booze Shows are good and I think they’re worth the $5 cover and can be really fun. I just think that they could be SO much better and they have the potential to be GREAT. But they’re not there yet.

Mommy, Can I Have A Luck Dragon?

Last week, as I was trolling around on the internet as I usually do in preparation for my weekend and in order to try to find some fun and inexpensive ways to waste time and get off of my own couch, I saw a post on Twitter about a “Double Feature Drink-Along” at a theatre downtown of two of my favorite super awesome 80’s fantasy kids movies of all time: Labyrinth and The Neverending Story. I instantly sent the link to a couple of my friends with the subject line of “WE HAVE TO GO TO THIS.”

It was decided, though, a few other friends who had been invited couldn’t make it, that my good friend G and myself would hook up early, grab some grub and then head down to the Downtown Independent Theatre on Main Street in Downtown LA for the main event. Organized by the theatre and Cinema Speakeasy, this was sure to be a good time. But because I wasn’t sure how many people would indeed be attending, I didn’t buy tickets ahead of time. (I wish I had but we’ll get to that.)

G and I arrived slightly after 7 pm and found that the parking was easy – there is a $5 lot just next door to the theatre and the theatre itself is a gorgeous strikingly modern building that sort of stands out next to a Latin dive bar in a section of town that’s not quite there yet in the massive gentrification of downtown Los Angeles. Outside the theatre was one security guard checking pre-purchased tickets, but as non-ticket holders, we were told to wait outside. So we did. For about a half hour. This was the downside to the evening.

When the event managers finally did come outside, they simply told everyone to go in and buy tickets, which begs the question – why were we made to stand outside? During the films, G and I both noticed that there were more than enough empty seats inside the theatre, which made our waiting unnecessary and kind of irritating. Not to mention that a number of the people who had been made to wait had actually bought tickets ahead of time, but they were on the Will-Call pick up list so didn’t have tickets in hand. It seemed to me that the security guard should have been given more clear instructions in the situation and all that waiting could have been avoided.

But whatever, we got in and got our first round of drinks. The drink prices weren’t great ($6 for beer or wine) but weren’t horrible and with the purchase of a ticket, the promoters generously gave everyone a Tecate to get their evening going. The beer choices were pretty good actually – limited yes, but at least it wasn’t all Tecate.

G and I found seats in the upper end of the theatre and settled in. Not long after, our hosts came through to outline the rules of our game and all bets were off. It wasn’t just a drink-along; it was also a sing-along, shout-along, heckle-along, as well as occasional dance party and comedy night. Best line of the night, I think came from the man sitting just behind us. As the opening credits came up on The Neverending Story, someone shouted, “Whatever happened to that kid?” at the name of Noah Hathaway who played the fearless, feathered-haired pretty pretty warrior child and said guy let go without missing a beat “I’m sitting right here.” (By the way, since I was actually curious, I looked it up. It turns out the former child actor owns a tattoo shop with his wife and races motorcycles here in Southern California. I wonder if anyone has ever asked him for a Luck Dragon Tattoo?) Honestly, the minute the lights went down and the first film started and EVERYONE in the theatre started singing along to the brilliantly 80’s theme to the Neverending Story, I knew I was in for a fun evening.

After the first film, there was a short intermission for bathroom breaks and to gather more beers for the next film, so G and I went up to the rooftop bar at the theatre, which offered a beautiful view of the LA skyline and a place for smokers to top off. Being in those situations always almost makes me wish I still smoked, but truly I wasn’t drunk enough to wander over to bum one off of anyone.

Again, the comments from the audience started as soon as the opening credits rolled on the second film, Labyrinth, that classic Jim Henson creation featuring the legendary David Bowie as the Goblin King with the most magnificent mullet ever created by a hair stylist and a series of disturbing crotch shots (which was featured as part of our game as we watched the film), not to mention the introduction of Jennifer Connolly’s baby blues to the world (as well as her then caterpillar like eyebrows) as she screeched “It’s Not Fair” throughout her fantasy world.

It was a good night. I laughed my butt off and for the low price of $12 plus drinks, I got a little tipsy, had a good time and got to see a luck dragon in all it’s 80’s bad computer graphics imagery on a large screen again. The idea is a simple one and yeah, it would be cheaper to do this at home with a group of friends and DVD rentals, but still, you can’t replace the random commentary of a lot of people feeding off each other throughout the night. It was the best part; and in hindsight, totally worth a little waiting.

Next time, I’ll be sure to buy tickets ahead of time and probably will try to get an even bigger group of friends to go with us. Maybe I’ll even go one step further and show up in costume (as was encouraged on the event listing, but sadly only a few brave souls took that to heart). Okay, yeah, probably not that last bit, but I’ll be sitting in the back with friends singing along as loudly as I can.

You can sign up for the Downtown Independent mailing list here: http://www.downtownindependent.com/

Also, sign up for Cinema Speakeasy’s mailing list as well… they do events in both LA and San Francisco and they’re always worth checking out. http://www.cinemaspeakeasy.com

Friday Night, Rainy Lights

My knees hurt. A lot. If you know me, you know that even though I am an avid bicyclist, I have a dodgy knee due to a car accident a few years back and I have spent the better part of the last 6 months working to rebuild the strength and musculature of my entire right leg to avoid further degradation of the knee cap. I think, last night, I reversed all the good I had done. In one night. In the span of about 2 hours. It was worth it.

A few months back, I noticed that a band that I love quite a bit, Pendulum, who do a sort of techno drum & bass rock hybrid and do it well, was due to hit Los Angeles on their tour supporting their current album, Immersion. Having missed them the last time they came through, I went ahead and bought tickets. I had no idea who would go to the show with me, but thought “screw it.” I wanted to go and I’d worry about that later.  About a month ago, I realized I still didn’t have a date for the evening, so I asked my good friend A to come with me. She’s always up for something new and different and I love that about her. She agreed and that was that. Fast forward to the day of the show and after a brief discussion yesterday afternoon, we were led to the perfect plan.

I live on the westside of LA, very close to the beach in fact, which is nowhere near the venue and would require a long drive. A lives in Hollywood a short bus ride down the street to the venue. So the decision was made on the following: option 1) park at the venue where we would be subjected to jacked up parking rates (over $20 to use an unused grocery store lot next to the venue) and not be able to drink very much, not to mention wasting money on the overpriced watered down cocktails that the venue has to offer. OR, option 2) meet at A’s house, share a bottle of wine, take the bus to the venue for the low, low price of $3 for both of us, be a bit drunk and be able to enjoy the night without the stress of how much to drink. Option 2 it is. DONE. (Not to mention, I had NEVER taken a bus in Los Angeles before and the thought of it intrigued me to be honest.)

After a bottle of red between us, and a happy warming buzz, A and I braved the 2 block walk in the rain to the bus stop. I forgot my hat. Whoops. My hair got wet, but as my hair is currently in a state of “it’s growing out, I know it looks like crap,” I really didn’t care too much. Also because this was not to be a Look Cute to Meet Boys sort of evening. This was a Be Comfortable And Dance My Ass Off sort of night. As such, my lack of hat didn’t bother me in the least, nor did my ever dampening hair. Fortune smiled upon us not only in that the bus arrived just minutes after we got to the bus stop and that the dollar machine on the bus itself (Buses take dollars now? See how long it’s been since I’ve been on a bus?) was broken, so our ride to the show was not a tiny $3. It was an even tinier NOTHING.

The bus ride took us just to the lovely corner of Western and Wiltern, where the venue, The Wiltern Theatre is located. Super convenient! We arrived, although only 20 minutes before the headliner was scheduled to play, and there was still a line around the building for entry. Guess everyone else had read that the opening band sucked too. But the line moved really quickly and a few minutes later, A and I were inside and had enough time to scope out a place on the floor to watch the show from and even to grab one more drink at the bar. (Dear Wiltern Management, Just a FYI – $8 for a 6 ounce cup full of very cheap box wine is not only ridiculous, but insulting.) Though really all I cared about at this point was that my hair had stopped dripping. OK, so next time I’ll remember my hat.

Now, the main event, as I’d said was Pendulum. And they came out with a bang. And a lot of lights. The crowd didn’t stop moving for the entire set, myself included and as I mentioned, my knees are killing me today and I’m pretty sure are threatening to stop working altogether if I ever do that to them again (which I will). Pendulum sounded mostly fantastic. A few little things about the show I didn’t enjoy. MC Ben “The Verse” Mount was a bit hard to understand. Truly for an MC, this is not a good thing. And he seemed lacking. I can’t quite put my finger on it really. I’ve been trying all day, but I just didn’t get the impression that he was all there.  He seemed a bit distracted to me. But that’s one little thing right? And honestly, the music did sound fantastic. But that brings me to another thing about this show that I had a bit of an issue with.

The music sounded great, but the song choices were a bit all over the place to me. And granted I have never seen them live before and didn’t know what to expect going in, other than I had heard that their live shows were fantastic and sort of mind-blowing between the live music and mixing and light shows. If last night’s performance was any indication, I think they weren’t on their game. The set list was disappointing. More than one of the best songs from their last album, In Silico, were missing entirely and only one of the singles from the newest release was called out and showcased. There just didn’t seem to be any connection with the audience.

As I mentioned, it SOUNDED fantastic, but I’ve been going to shows longer than I care to admit and what makes a great performance is that audience-artist connection. It just wasn’t there. It seemed to me that Pendulum were on auto-pilot and just running through the choreography that they’ve done every other night for however long this tour has been going. (I’d hate to think if this is the beginning leg of this show.)  But again, I was still dancing my butt off, and enjoying myself thoroughly.

And then it was done. The show came to its end rather abruptly and in a shorter time frame that I would have expected as well. The set times as listed prior to the venue stated Pendulum was meant to play from 10:10 to 12:15 – allowing them a full two hours. But they started closer to 10:30 and were off the stage by 11:45 – which means that they really only played for a little over an hour and maybe that was part of it. It was too short. And as I mentioned, it was abrupt.

It was sort of like lots of foreplay and no follow through. There was all this build up and then the expected encore, which should have consisted of the most intense and climatic of the mixes and songs that they could possibly play, just petered out. I wanted an explosion and I got a firecracker. And then it was done. Good show but it was like dating a boy in high school… fun at the start, but over before it really got there, leaving you wanting more. More than once walking out of the show, I heard “that was short” from someone.

I love Pendulum. And I did have a good time in spite of all of the downsides. Next time they come to LA, I will probably try again. But last night, I felt as if my date started flirting with the waitress before she brought the dessert.

Consuming the Arts

Tonight I would like to write a little something about a project that has become rather near and dear to my heart. It’s called the Consuming the Arts Theatre Project.

Once monthly, at the Lounge Theatre here in Los Angeles, a group of writers, actors, musicians, spoken word artists, poets, and artists get together to put on a themed show of one-act plays and pieces to entertain and amuse for the viewing pleasure of a growing audience. The project was started by my friend Aurora Lizardi and her friend and partner Carrie Morris-Factoran 3 years ago as a non-profit in an effort to bring theatre and art to neighborhoods that don’t have access to shows like this. Not to mention providing a showcase for the amazing group of artists and performers who participate, with no expectation of reward other than the applause of an audience. Each show is woven around a theme that is not only common to all peoples, but meets head on some of the more controversial subject matters that everyone must deal with.

I’ve now seen three of these shows, and this last time, I offered up my services to photograph the event. I was intrigued as to what I might capture both onstage and off. So this past Sunday night, I headed out to the Lounge Theatre to do just that.

Jennica Schwartzman and Christopher Reed Performing "Lion's Den"

The theme of this week’s event was “Forgiveness” and featured a one-act play written by CTA contributor Evan Baughfman, music by Tim Banning, comedy (done as improvisational word jazz for lack of a better way to to describe it) by Matt Geiler and a fantastic set of original spoken word and poetry by Jacole Kitchen, who I firmly believe is my generation’s Lucille Clifton. (And if you don’t know who Lucille Clifton is, go look her up!)

Spoken Word Performer Jacole Kitchen

The last performance of the night was an original one-act play written by CTA’s Aurora Lizardi called “For Keeps.”  (She also acted as the lead and did a fantastic job.)

Performance of "For Keeps" by Aurora Lizardi

Not only was it acted really well by both Ms. Lizardi and her co-star Matt Munroe, but the addition of musician Jake Newton to play in and out of the scene transitions was a fantastic touch and highlighted the play’s theme so well it was as if Newton wrote the song for it.

Singer/Songwriter Jake Newton Playing During "For Keeps"

The performance was so good that the audience gave them a standing ovation, which I am told is a first at CTA, but it was well-deserved. If you have the interest and the inclination, I highly suggest that you come check it out sometime. The performers are fantastic, the event is fun and original, and if that’s not enough they provide a lovely spread of snacks and wine during the intermission for their audience. (Free food is always a bonus.)

It’s good fun. It’s a good cause. It’s just good. Go.

For more information on the Consuming the Arts Theatre Project, follow them on Twitter @feedyourart and check out their next show on March 23rd.