2010: REWIND

And here we have the end of a year that's the beginning of a new decade we still have no decided name for (the Teens? The Oh-Tens?)...

The earth quaked. Volcanos erupted. Oil was spilled. Even a tornado grew in Brooklyn...After the beating we endured from Mother Nature one would think those 2012 predictions were coming two years too early. But not all was doom and gloom this year. Those Chilean miners were rescued. Democrats reclaimed California. And Modern Family won a well-deserved Emmy.

2010 wasn't without its lessons either. We learned that A) Zac Efron with a beard makes him look like...Zac Efron with a beard (In other news, Brad Pitt with a beard makes him look...homeless). B) Joaquin Phoenix ain't no Andy Kaufman. C) James Franco can do anything. D) Having Betty White Fever isn't such a bad thing, but a strict regimen of eating, praying, and loving can do wonders (just ask Julia). And E) Ricky Martin = yawn, while Amber Heard = jaw-dropper.
Simon left Idol. Lost left a few questions unanswered and millions of viewers polarized. The Hills finally went off the air and answered the age-old question, "Which came first, the douchebag or the collagen-filled fame whore?" Elsewhere, networks got social, animated features got despicable, Miley couldn't be tamed, and a woman finally won a Best Director Oscar (congrats Ms. Bigelow). But before you could get your G-T-L on while crying over the final season of Oprah, we all learned one important lesson we will never forget (thanks to the countless testimonials and personal videos that were shared by people around the globe): It gets better.

The year I turned 30 fittingly turned out to be a year of tremendous personal growth, teaching me a few inevitable lessons of my own. I learned - the scary way - that my parents aren't superhuman anymore. I learned how to speak from my heart for the first time because I needed to - or else a friendship would have been lost forever. I learned how to brush off the bullshit in order to appreciate the essentials. I learned that Texas does indeed make some kickass barbecue and that Yellowstone National Park is friggin' huge. I learned that broiled peaches drizzled with vanilla and sprinkled with sliced almonds makes for one helluva foodgasm. And I ultimately learned to trust my instincts and listen to the voice that likes to remind me every so often that I am lovable and that I am loved.

Oh, and I got a brand new car!

But enough about me. On to 2010's greatest hits, the best and the brightest -- the proverbial good stuff. After all, it's what you came here for, right?

First, a look back at what we experienced in theaters in 2010 (this is especially for those of you who didn't get out much). Maestro, please:

And with that I give you...


FILM PICKS OF 2010

1. The Social Network - On the surface, it's an adult drama about college kids. Deep down it's a cleverly written - and staged - morality play about the social politics of a generation that will look back at David Fincher's masterpiece as a time capsule representing a cyber era in which we finally started to feel the effects of our culture evolving at an exponential rate -- and Mark Zuckerberg as a Twitter-age Thomas Edison who forever changed the dynamics of human communication.

2. Toy Story 3 - A stellar closing chapter to a dazzling trilogy, the Disney-Pixar toon tackled that all-too-resonant issue of growing up and letting go in a way most live-action coming-of-age dramas rarely come close to. The final farewell scenes are the stuff Kleenex tissues were made for.

3. The Kids Are All Right
- Annette Bening and Julianne Moore were never more electrifying to watch as parents of two teens who befriend their biological father (a rugged Mark Ruffalo) in this delightful dramedy about a perfectly imperfect modern family. Place your Oscar bets now.

4. Inception - Or, The Movie to Tide Us Over Until Batman 3 Arrives. If The Dark Knight didn't cement Chris Nolan as a commercial auteur of our generation, then Inception surely did the job. Combining groundbreaking special-effects with an extremely intricate narrative that never loses us, Nolan reaffirmed our belief that a blockbuster can have brains. Employing a brilliant cast of pawns (Leo, Marion, Joseph, Ellen, and the magnetic Tom Hardy), he plops them down in a labyrinthine game that's part chess, part cat-and-mouse. What's real? What's a dream? We're still asking, the totem's still spinning...and we're still loving it.
5. Monsters - District 9 comparisons aside, Gareth Edwards's lo-fi monster movie (which came out in theaters and VOD in October) is a beautiful, bare-bones road trip adventure that isn't too heavy on allegory but lays on plenty of grit, emotion, and awe-inspiring wonder to make for a flick worth checking out and remembering.

6. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
- This astonishing documentary strips away the polish of stand-up comedy (and, at one point, Rivers' own makeup) and introduces us to the inner workings of a comic icon. Like many who saw this film, I gained newfound respect for the woman who knocked down the door for female comics, bravely set a standard, and at the age of 77, continues to haul her ass all over the nation for a gig, whether it be in No Man's Land, Wisconsin or on national television for the sake of Donald Trump.
7. Kick-Ass - The violence is unabashedly over-the-top. The zinger-filled deliveries are dead-on (finally, someone put Nicolas Cage's wooden persona to fine use). And two stars have been born in Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz. In other words, it's the anti-Spiderman...and the best comic-book adaptation of the year. (See also: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
8. Waiting for Superman - Davis Guggenheim's jaw-dropping documentary is not only an urgent wake-up call for America, it's a terrifying snapshot of the unprecedented abuse our country's children are unknowingly suffering from. Chronicling the lives of five promising kids who wish to be admitted into good schools - most whose fates are determined by a numbered ping-pong ball - the film exposes the gaping cracks in our education system and attempts to save what's left of it. Guggenheim, along with reformer Geoffrey Canada, undertakes an exhaustive review of public education (not ALL teachers are to blame), surveying "drop-out factories" and "academic sinkholes" and methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems. A must-see movie for all families.

9. I Love You Phillip Morris - Jim Carrey's long-delayed, hard-to-categorize and ambitious film was well worth the wait but will most likely be the most overlooked and underrated film of the year. The impossible true story about professional con man Steven Russell and his fateful romance with prison cellmate Phillip Morris (a gentle and wide-eyed Ewan McGregor) is one big, heartbreaking, hysterically sharp satire.

10. Winter's Bone - Debra Granik's little-indie-that-could is a noirish tale of survival that's also an atmospheric mystery. Set in the Missouri wilderness, the film vibrates with a chilling authenticity (at one point you'll start wondering, Do people still live like this?). Star Jennifer Lawrence plays the teen who's trying to learn the whereabouts of her drug-dealing daddy in order to keep her younger siblings and ill mother from losing their home. And what she learns and eventually discovers is unthinkable (let's just say it involves a chainsaw).

*Disclaimer: Movies not screened at press time: True Grit, The King's Speech, and Rabbit Hole

OTHER NOTABLES:

+ Get Them While They're Hot: Kick-Ass's Aaron Johnson in Nowhere Boy and Emma Stone in Easy A and the upcoming Spiderman reboot
+ When Baaaaad Movies Happen to Good Actors: Kristen Bell in When in Rome
+ When Baaaaad Movies Happen to Good Directors: Alan Poul and The Backup Plan
+ Disney Whore of the Year: Johnny Depp


TV PICKS OF 2010


1. Modern Family (ABC) - The consistently quotable comedy that reinvigorated the fam-com is showing no signs of creative depletion. Among this year's instant classic moments: Jay and Cameron's locker room "moon landing," the earthquake episode, Gloria's interpretation of "dog-eat-dog world," and of course, the best line from Season Two thus far: "Disabled inter-racial lesbians with an African-American kicker? I did not see that coming." The show is also clever with its sparing use of special, non-stunty guest stars: Shelley Long as Mama Prichett, Chazz Palminteri as Jay's sexually-questionable golf buddy, Minnie Driver as Claire's competitive coworker, and Nathan Lane as Cam's ex, the hysterically monikered Pepper Saltman. Coming soon: James Marsden's January appearance as a "Shirtless Neighbor."

2. Being Human (BBC America) - The second season of this British import packed a wallop of suspense, character insight, and humor. Star Russell Tovey is a unique find, an actor who manages to effortlessly blend comic timing, pathos and heroism - usually within the span of a minute-long scene. Pray that the upcoming American adaptation on SyFy is nearly half as brilliant as this original.

3. "The Power of Madonna" on Glee (Fox) - How the producers and writers managed to squeeze in 7 (seven!) musical numbers in one episode is a wonder in itself. But reworking the classics of a music icon in order to click with current storylines was pure genius. The dramusicom's most ambitious episode to date was well worth the wait. Sue Sylvester's shot-by-shot rendition of "Vogue" was hilarious. "Express Yourself" reestablished itself as the original anthem of girl power. The "Borderline"/"Open Your Heart" mash-up between Rachel and Finn was an exhilarating exercise in theatrics. And the all-dude chorus of "What It Feels Like for a Girl" breathed tender new meaning into a nearly forgotten single. All in all, the student body (and faculty) at McKinley High showed us how subtly brilliant the pop music of Madonna can be. Somewhere I'm sure Broadway producers are brainstorming a stage adaptation based on her catalog (Runner-Up Episodes: "Dream On," guest-starring Neil Patrick Harris and November's heartbreaking and timely "Never Been Kissed").

4. The Vampire Diaries (CW) - I admittedly had my doubts about this adaptation of the young-adult trilogy I had read back in the early 90s. What was feared to be a Twilight-for-TV (or a True Blood Jr.) has quickly evolved into one of the most thrilling hours on network television. Twist after delicious plot twist (Caroline's a vamp! Damon killed Mason! Who the hell is Klaus?) and some tasty morsels delivered by the delightfully wicked Ian Somerhalder have turned this into one well-paced, devilish soap.

5. Raising Hope (Fox) - Martha Plimpton, we never knew how much we missed thee. We also see a future Emmy nomination headed your way. Greg Garcia's follow-up to My Name is Earl is an extension of ABC's Modern Family, a Roseanne for the 2010s. Sure, the catalyst for the premise (a twentysomething impregnates a serial killer on death row after a one-night stand!) is wacked, but the warmhearted wisecracks of this blue-collar brood are an unexpected joy to experience.

6. Damages
(FX) - The overdue third season piled on the impressive guest stars (Lily Tomlin, Campbell Scott, and an unsettlingly brilliant Martin Short) and brought us a timely case full of twists, Machiavellian schemes, double-crosses, and the death of a major character we couldn't believe. It even found a clever way to bring back Ted Danson's Arthur Frobisher halfway through. Thank DirecTV for bringing the show back for two more rounds of dagger-sharp dialogue and Glenn Close's signature icy glares.

7. Sherlock
(PBS) - Putting last year's Robert Downey Jr. movie to shame, Masterpiece Mystery's modern take on the iconic detective is a fantastic, superbly written suspenser. Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the titular role, turning Holmes into a scarily brilliant puzzle solver with equal parts of arrogant foppishness and intense sex appeal. Dr. Watson (a perfectly cast Martin Freeman) is his associate, an Afghanistan vet who becomes the Ernie to Sherlock's Bert (they're flatmates at 221b Baker Street, of course). Together these two solve multi-layered mysteries that would keep all of the Law & Order teams guessing. The 21st century touches never feel gimmicky (Sherlock rapidly consults search engines on his smartphone; Watson's journal is now a blog) because so much detail is paid attention to the intricate storylines and ingenious twists. The game is sooooo afoot:


8. The Walking Dead (AMC) - Who knew a zombie apocalypse would make for gripping human drama on television (and only within the span of 5 episodes)? AMC wisely added this adaptation to its eclectic roster of shows with Frank Darabont at the wheel and has now filled the void left by Lost. Actually, it just might be the new Lost: The sheriff is clearly the new Jack, the old guy is clearly is new Locke, the redneck is clearly the new Sawyer, and the CDC headquarters they break into in the finale? Clearly the new hatch.

9. Beautiful People (Logo) - This single-camera coming-of-age sitcom that takes place in 1990's England is every bit of camp, poignant, and heartwarming as the memoirs of Barney's creative director Simon Doonan.

10. Oprah: The Farewell Season (Syndicated) - Sure, her Ultimate Favorite Things was over the top ("Everyone gets a 2012 Volkswagon Beetle!") and that season premiere was insane ("Everyone's coming with me to Australiaaaaa!"), but extravagant giveaways aside, O's 25th season is sizing up to be her most impressive to date. The groundbreaking "200 Men" show was an astonishing and taboo-shattering lesson in sociology. Her return to Williamson, West Virginia revisited the show's town hall meeting where bigotry and homophobia reared their ugly heads in 1987 when a young man with AIDS, Mike Sisco, stirred up his community by taking a dip in the public pool; the tense hour was a then-and-now look at how divided our United States truly are. And then there was the parade of how'd-she-get-them celebrities: Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, the cast of The Sound of Music, Ricky Martin, The Color Purple reunion, Marie Osmond...By this time next year her absence from daytime television will still be felt. There is, and never will be, anyone like Oprah Winfrey.

OTHER NOTABLES:

+ Holy Acrobatics: Pink's stirring performance of "Glitter in the Air" at The Grammys.
+ Holy Pregnancy: Pink's raucous performance of "Raise Your Glass" at the American Music Awards.
+ Whoopi and Joy's walk off-stage during Bill O'Reilly's interview on The View.
+ Let's Hope This Doesn't Become the Next Heroes: The Event on NBC
+ Why Hate Crimes Exist: The A-List: New York on Logo.
+ Most Unintentional Sitcom of the Year: Sarah Palin's Alaska
+ And I thought Wipeout was the bottom of the ABC barrel: Skating with the Stars


MUSIC PICKS OF 2010



1. "Wonderful Life" by Hurts - It's one of those songs that tells a narrative and includes an inspiring chorus that shares one simple message: "Don't let go." This British duo is the best thing to happen to new-wave-pop since Depeche Mode. And the video, with its cool, Bret Easton Ellis aesthetic, is soooo 1987 it, well, hurts. In a brilliant way of course:

2. "Oh No!" by Marina and the Diamonds - Armed with some Regina Spektor-like vocals while filling in the void left by Lily Allen, who went through some pregnancy drama this year, Marina (she's really just a solo act; don't let the name fool you) arrived with this breath-of-fresh-air single, a spunky anthem of self-deprecating independence:


3. The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green - Big, ballsy, and brassy, the former Gnarls Barkley founder offered the year's boldest (and most celebrated) chorus with "F**k You" and continued to deliver the soulful goods on his solo album.

4. "The High Road" by Broken Bells - The Shins-Danger Mouse collaboration (now playing in the trailer for Rabbit Hole) may be a downer but consider it a moody and mesmerizing meditation on all the shit you've been through...and then, release. Quite possibly the best tune for any given therapy session.

5. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West - The hip-hop douchebag who knows he's a douchebag proves that he's still an industry force (and pioneer) to be reckoned with. His fifth album - what many are calling his best yet - is indeed a masterwork full of venomous lines, epic instrumentals, and a powerful narrative that never strays from its jagged path.

6. "Dancing On My Own" by Robyn - The Swedish electropop songstress gives us a surprisingly resonant dance gem which happens to be an all-too-familiar inner monologue most of us have experienced whenever we longed to be with that One That Got Away.

7. "Please Don't Let Me Go" by Olly Murs - An irresistibly breezy single from The X Factor runner-up, a 21st-century Julian Lennon (just listen to his other single, "Thinking of Me") with throwback vocals and pop sensibilities that charm, tingle, and delight.

8. "I'm in Love With You" by Timbaland feat. Tyson Ritter - Possibly the best Timbaland single that never was, this collaboration with the lead dude from All-American Rejects is simply a joyful declaration (the title says it all) set to some signature funkage that's catchy as hell. Close your eyes, and you can almost imagine a raspier Justin Timberlake behind that mic:


9. "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love" by Usher feat. Pitbull - The infectious, get-off-your-ass-and-dance single got us falling in love again with Usher and applauding his newfound Europop sensibilities. Thank you, Max Martin, for showing him the way.

10. "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine - Technically a track from '09, but rightfully put in the spotlight in 2010, the earthy, uplifting single (along with that Eat Pray Love trailer) put Florence Welch on the map, winning over millions with its roaring imperatives and near-tribal-like orchestrations.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
- "Raise Your Glass" by Pink
- "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele
- Anything sung by Idina Menzel and Lea Michele together on Glee: First there was "I Dreamed a Dream," taken from "Dream On," the episode that also guest-starred Neil Patrick Harris. This moving rendition of the Broadway classic was performed on an empty stage, rendering viewers speechless as they watched a perfectly cast mother-daughter team knock it out of the theater. Then, there was the cover of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," this time done as a jazzy piano ballad. Who knew?

OTHER NOTABLES:

+ Soundtrack of the Year: TRON: Legacy by Daft Punk (Runner-up: Burlesque)
+ Empowering Dance Single of the Year: Kelly Rowland's "Commander"
+ Best Vampire Weekend Song That's Not by Vampire Weekend: "Something Good Can Work" by Two Door Cinema Club
+ Bruno Mars - Did you not see his performances on SNL back in October???
+ The Biggest Musical Event No One Paid Attention To: We Are The World 25 for Haiti
+ Best Jabs at Justin Bieber: the Shaved Bieber iPhone app and the Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber website
+ The I'd-Rather-Jam-a-Hot-Poker-in-My-Ear Singles of the Year: "Like a G6" by Far East Movement, "Blah Blah Blah" by Ke$ha featuring 3OH!3, "Mine" by Taylor Swift.

And there you have it.

Farewell 2010. Hello 2011.

Still processing the fact that 1991 will now have been 20 years ago,
H.P.M.


2010: A Look Back

Before I publish my annual year-in-review entry (you know it's coming), I thought I'd revisit 2010 with this five-and-a-half-minute video I threw together to remind me of the amazing company I'm in, the love I'm surrounded by, and the good fortune I should never take for granted.

And because I just love me a good old-fashioned montage. Let's take this trip together kids:


Mitsuzuka's Dictionary

prossibly (pross-uh-blee): adverb. a) in both a possible and probable manner. b) by any possibility or probability. c) a combination of 'probably' and 'possibly'. "Are you going to Bob and Mary's swinger party this weekend?" "Prossibly."

Lady Gaga: (lay-dee ga-ga) noun. Pop singer, performance artist and recently titled icon who has had a strong influence on the pop music (and fashion) of the 21st century's second decade and has rejuvenated the state of dance music in general. See: Usher's "DJ Got Us Falling in Love Again," Taio Cruz's "Break Your Heart," and the putting-on-the-map of producer RedOne.

Dancing with the Stars: a popular reality-competition television show that thrives on gimmicks, exploiting has-been celebrities and manipulating the American masses. (See also: the TV equivalent of a cheesy cruise ship variety hour; a show no one I know watches).

TMT: acronym, noun. Totally My Type. A declaration, often shared between friends, when one notices a stranger, usually attractive, who fits all the qualities one prefers in a mate. "That cute guy in glasses sitting in the corner of the coffeeshop reading Kerouac is such a TMT."

TYT: acronym, noun. Totally Your Type. A declaration, often shared between friends, when one notices a stranger, usually attractive, who fits all the qualities one's friend prefers in a mate. "That girl in the Red Sox cap and daisy dukes is such a TYT."

slommered (slahm-errd): adjective. a state of drunkenness to the point of being simultaneously sloshed and hammered. "Dude, after those four tequila shots and three vodka tonics, I'm so slommered."

Glee: a scripted American musical dramedy that has eclipsed American Idol as TV's most popular platform on which young adults can win the hearts of millions by belting out covers of beloved standards, showtunes, and pop songs.

maybe (mey-bee): adverb. a response usually given by a person who tends to avoid commitments and flakes out on invitations to parties, special events, and general get-togethers.

flake (flayke): noun. one who frequently uses the word "maybe."

foodgasm (food-gaz-uhm): noun. a) the physical and emotional sensation experienced at the peak of culinary excitation, usually resulting from stimulation of the taste buds and usually accompanied by groaning or similar guttural sounds. b) a temporary state of bliss experienced by most foodies.

running latte: expression. showing up late to work due to a detour to Starbucks on your commute to the office.

writer (rahy-ter): noun. every other person one is acquainted with or meets in Los Angeles.


According to Gym

I have found myself in an abusive relationship. With my gym.

The showers never work properly. And I keep going back. There's always one or two cardio machines out of order. And I keep going back. The air circulation in this underground facility is poor; just the other day I couldn't escape the stench of Dirty Old Man (a mix of armpit and Halitosis) while I pumped away on the elliptical. And I keep going back. It seems like the water is turned off "for maintenance" every other month, preventing me from refilling my bottle at the fountain or taking a shower and cleaning off the sweat and grime that has accumulated on me while listening to the new batch of tunes I've just downloaded to my iPod...

And I keep. Going. Back.

The gym in question is the 24-Hour Fitness on Pico Boulevard, just two blocks east from the skyscrapers of Century City. Besides the clientele not being the sweetest of eye candy one can ogle, the facility itself is in need of a major improvement. When the stationary bikes were upgraded to sleeker models last spring I had hope. I actually thought that a change for the better was coming, that my local gym was about to get the makeover it so desperately needed. But no. Turns out it was just a tease. (And what about that new fingerprint-scanning device at each entrance? You're telling me 24-Hour Fitness poured money into something that makes their employees lazier rather than putting it towards machine upgrades?)

Why do I keep going back? Location, location, location. The gym on Pico sits perfectly in between home and work. If I can get myself up at 6:45am I can shower there and then finish my already short commute to work. And if my calendar isn't scheduled with any evening activities, I can stop on the way home for a nighttime cardio session.

The 24-Hour Fitness in Santa Monica is a tad out of the way, and parking there is a pain (yes, this is Los Angeles, but over the years SM has become increasingly infamous for its difficult parking restrictions). The one in Hollywood by Arclight Cinemas (above) is arguably the best one in L.A. with its elevated views of the city, state-of-the-art machines, soap opera actors, and multi-leveled roominess, but you're not going to find me driving the extra 30 minutes to get there from the Westside. The West Hollywood gym is pleasant enough on the surface, but take a stroll back to the steambath in the men's locker room, and you may find yourself in the middle of a dress rehearsal for a porno. And then there's the one in Sherman Oaks which is just as nice, but to repeat: it's Sherman Oaks (read: The Valley).

Isn't a gym supposed to make one's workout as enjoyable and pleasant as possible? Do I deserve to be faced with inconveniences every other week? Must I stomach the sight (and smell) of the rotund, middle-aged dude who insists on wearing the same mysteriously stained tee and ripped runners shorts that are skimpier than a Catholic schoolgirl's skirt? Must my accommodations be so limited? My patience is wearing thin.

What do I do? Do I switch gyms and acclimate to a new environment, get acquainted with a different group of people? Farewell Wolf Blitzer lookalike who kept to himself, always clinging to his Simpsons aluminum water bottle. Goodbye quiet jock who always greeted me with a "How ya doing?" every morning in the locker room. So long Armenian housewife with the inappropriate amount of makeup; may your mascara run and burn your eyes for the times you hogged the stationary bike. And to Mr. Popularity I say nothing. While you were buddies with practically everyone you came into contact with, you never bothered to learn my name or say hello. Did I not warrant your attention or your need to make chitchat in between reps?

Maybe I do need a change in scenery. Maybe I don't. Maybe I should just feel lucky enough to have a gym I can call my own while there are those less fortunate who must get by with their rusted barbells at home...and the sidewalk pavement. I have until April to decide whether to stay or go. But something tells me my finances won't allow for a down payment on a brand new membership. I already got a new car. Suck it up, Hiko.

Oy to the vey.

For now, I'll just sit back, curl up on the couch, do my best impersonation of a sloth with a bag of chips, and ease into some holiday laziness. And then go back to the gym to burn it off.

It's a vicious cycle I tell you.

H.P.M.


Random Thought of the Week #18


Sure, spending 8 hours in a shopping mall is a great opportunity to people-watch, but after a while it gets hella depressing to see who (and what) is really out there.


Theme Song of the Month: November


Before I get my Christmas carol on and bust my belt at Thanksgiving, I'm going to play this track on repeat for a while. Cee Lo Green's "Bright Lights Bigger City" is one synthy jam of a single from his excellent album The Lady Killer. And maybe I'm drawn to its simple video because I too long for a little NYC action in the fall and enjoy surrounding myself with shiny pretty things while ridin' in Bentleys, sippin' on some Remy Martin and transporting mysterious suitcases through empty kitchens:


Farewell Sydney/Going Green


It happened sooner than I had anticipated.

She died in a small parking lot behind a Starbucks in Studio City on a hot Saturday afternoon. I walked out, iced coffee in hand, and attempted to get her going. I was planning to get a head start on some Halloween costume shopping with Christine, my wardrobe stylist friend who wanted to take me somewhere deep in the Valley for some warehouse deals. All I got was a p-p-puttering that made my heart sink. My 2002 Ford Focus, the first car I had ever owned, the vehicle that helped me navigate the traffic-riddled streets of Los Angeles for the past 8 years, had died on me. Luckily Christine had some jumper cables, but they didn't help. The battery was fine. My two-month-old service report had said so. The engine was what was on its deathbed.

My car didn't always have the name Sydney. In fact, she didn't have any name until Kathleen came up with it sometime in 2003 while we were participating in our weekly obsession over the jaw-dropping Cliffhanger of the Week on Alias. It was simple as that. My silver 4-door sedan would be named after Jennifer Garner's character from one of my favorite TV shows at the time.

Sydney has seen me through road trips up and down the California coast: 2 roundtrips to San Francisco and Palm Springs and three visits to San Diego. She even got the chance to see Las Vegas in the fall of 2002 during a visit made by both my mother and grandmother. She got to conquer the curves of Mullholland Drive, suffer the potholes of Beverly Boulevard, brave downtown's warehouse district late at night, enjoy the scenery along Pacific Coast Highway, be manhandled by valets in Beverly Hills, get slapped with a few parking tickets in West Hollywood, sunbathe in parking lots across the Valley, and weather a few fender benders, one of which was my fault.

I will miss her spunk, her impressive sound system (for an economy car), and her decent MPG. What I will not miss: those manual windows and locks.

Total miles driven with Sydney: 81,767

Now, my new baby: a Barcelona red (the dealer's color name of choice) 2010 Toyota Prius.

She was "born" on October 10, 2010 (that's 10/10/10) and was given to me in Santa Monica by a saleswoman who reminded me a lot of my favorite college professor. Perhaps that's what made the leasing go so smoothly...or trick me into thinking that I was getting a great deal. Actually, it was still better than spending my already non-existent fundage on the huge repair it would've taken to restore Sydney.

Nearly four weeks in, I can still catch that whiff of New Car Smell whenever I get behind the wheel. Nearly four weeks in, I've already topped 800 miles...and I've only filled the gas tank once. As I type this, I am still discovering new features (you mean I can control the radio and volume from my steering wheel??!!).

And barely four weeks in, we've already had our first accident (11/3/10).

Picture it: Tuesday night. Beverly Hills. Having just finished some drinks and apps with an old high school pal on the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel on Wilshire, I retrieved my Prius from the valet (I was supernervous handing her over for the first time) and drove the 2.5 miles it took to get back to my apartment. I parked her in my garage and unlocked the hatchback to take out my Jack Spade messenger bag which was carrying my MacBook. What greeted me when I lifted the hatch was a sight that would make eco-activists cry and irony-loving assholes laugh: a pool of neon green paint covered half of the hatchback and oozed out of the car, spilling on to the concrete floor of the garage.

As for the inevitable question of What the hell was a gallon of green screen paint doing in my hatchback? I had been transporting it from the viral promo shoot I had produced with Michael for Fox during the weekend before. We shot the first day on a green screen at Atomic Studios downtown and had to purchase an extra gallon to do some touch-ups on the enormous stage we were renting:
The promo was for the DVD release of Vampires Suck, but more on that later (once it debuts online)...

Not only did my $200 bag get completely ruined, some green had made its way through the brown wrapping of the art piece I had gotten reframed two nights earlier. Thankfully my laptop remained untouched. Half of the upholstery was soaked in the paint, some of it dripping down into the spare tire chamber and corner compartment. After spouting out several explicatives that would make a Turrets patient back away, I ran upstairs to get a bucket and towel and control the damage as best as I could. How could this have happened?

The valet. Everything was fine when I had given the keys to the valet. Did he pull a Ferris Bueller and go out for a joyride while I was recapping a decade's worth of my life to a guy I hadn't seen since I was 20? I mean, how could a hammered-shut can of paint flip upsidedown and break open?

Armed with a large ice tub full of water and a pair of old gym towels, I wiped up as much as I could while my hands and fingernails started to resemble the Hulk's. The water instantly turned green, and I immediately brought it over to the drain in the middle of the garage floor. It looked as if I were dumping toxic waste into the sewage system (actually, I was dumping toxic waste into the sewage system). It was past 11pm, and I had enough. I scrubbed my hands as if I had caught the Ebola virus and went to bed knowing that I would have to take the car back to the dealership to see how she could be cleaned more thoroughly by professionals.

In the morning the service crew at Santa Monica Toyota were taken aback by the mess in the hatchback. After explaining to them what had happened, some of them started waving their comrades over: "Man, you gotta see this!" Some huddled around, some scratched their heads. I had a feeling that I would become known at the service garage as the Dumbass Who Spilled Green Paint in His New Prius and possibly be added to a secret Top 10 list of Idiotic Customer Accidents.

Regardless, three hours, three cups of coffee, one breakfast sandwich, and 45 dollars later, the cleaning team miraculously managed to get rid of the paint. Except for a slightly discolored patch on the upholstered side panel (and some fumes from whatever potent chemical they used), it seemed as if nothing had happened. My baby was back to being new.

Which reminds me: I have yet to come up with a name for her. I can't keep calling her "Baby." And Sydney II is out of the question. Suggestions are welcome.

While you brainstorm, I'll have to get back to the mess that was left in the garage...

Getting down on my knees with a can of paint stripper and a wire brush,

H.P.M.


Theme Song of the Month: October


Coming to you courtesy of Pink...

"Raise Your Glass" is her ode to underdogs everywhere (as well as marriage equality). The new single, off her upcoming greatest hits collection, also happens to be a catchy party-starter. Favorite part? It comes in at 2:05.


My 1985


Back to the Future's doing it. So are The Goonies. And Growing Pains just celebrated a similar milestone: 25 years.

It appears that 1985 was a pretty great year. Among that year's other notable occurrences: The Golden Girls debuted on NBC, "We Are the World" dominated the pop charts, and yours truly entered kindergarten at Blessed Sacrament Elementary on Maple Avenue in New Rochelle, New York. 25 years ago I -- armed with a backpack, a plaid sweater vest and a hideous Dutch boy bowl cut -- began my full-time academic career at this private school which was located just a block away from the home my parents purchased one year later so that I could have a short and safe commute every day.

My teacher, Miss Sullivan, was a perky-yet-tough brunette with a bob (and stature) that may have caused parents to confuse her with Olympic sweetheart Mary Lou Retton. She drove a navy blue Honda Civic CRX that she would park next to the hopscotch grid that was painted outside the side entrance closest to the school's music room. She seemed younger than the rest of the teachers at the school. What gave it away (besides her driving a cool sports car): the fact we addressed her with "Miss." She wasn't a "Mrs." She wasn't married. Which meant she had no kids. And according to standard kindergartener philosophy, only old people got married and had kids. So she had to be young. Even her aide, Mrs. Fortuna, seemed older, and not because of her prefixing title (in my mind I always referred to the former as Mrs. Fortunafish Sandwich).

My mother has always been proud to share that I had started reading at the age of 3, and although I don't recall the first word I was able to decipher on the page, I do remember that by the time I was in kindergarten (5 years old), I occasionally took over for Miss Sullivan during Reading Time and sat in front of my classmates to tell them stories about talking caterpillars and lost balloons. I would read two pages at a time and then show the class any accompanied drawings, clasping the spine of the large book between my little fingers, just like Miss Sullivan would do. For some reason I was never shy or intimidated to sit before my peers and recite several verses while they looked up at me from the floor (a foreshadowing of my future in speech and debate perhaps?). I just liked to read, and it didn't matter if it was to an audience or to myself. The seeds of my bookwormdom had been planted.

Nap time was a bizarre affair. For starters, I never napped. Every afternoon all 31 of us kids were expected to roll out our cushioned mats and lay down for a half-hour on the linoleum floor of the playroom. My "mat" was a rectangular rug sample taken from my mother's furniture store in Port Chester. It wasn't as plush as Stephanie Calucci's Strawberry Shortcake pad. It wasn't cool like Mike Vaughn's Masters of the Universe sleeping bag. And I didn't care. I didn't care because I thought nap time was a waste of time. Why lay down in the dark in the middle of a gorgeous afternoon when there were Legos to assemble, teddy bears to dance with, and more books about talking animals to read?

The playroom was also a hubbub of activity every afternoon. Imaginations ran wild, action figures were shared, and germs were undoubtedly spread. It was also the place where I became a thief for the first time. The loot: a miniature police car taken from the toy bin. I brought it home to add to my ever-growing collection of Hot Wheels and Matchbox vehicles. My little brain had led myself to believe that it was mine, that I was entitled to it, that it belonged with toys of its own kind. There was no elaborate plan to smuggle it out of the school, no blueprint outlining its great escape. One day, while the other kids started to put their toys away, I got up from the floor, casually walked into the adjacent classroom, and placed the car in my assigned cubbyhole next to the unopened juice box I had saved (Kevin Rudd had given me his Juicy Juice at lunch). No one batted an eye. Had I been questioned about it, I simply would have said that I brought it from home.

I know. Devious.

Thankfully this act didn't spark a passion for leading a lifelong career in shoplifting or burglary.

Then there were The Letter People. A television show based on the national literacy program of the same name, The Letter People consisted of 26 characters, each one with a lesson to teach. Mr. B was known for his Beautiful Buttons while Mr. F was known for his Funny Feet (consonants were male, vowels were female). Each week a new Letter Person would arrive in the mail, an inflatable and colorful figure that would be placed on the shelf that ran along the windows of the classroom. The day a Letter Person arrived in class was a day of excitement. What letter would it be? What would they look like? What would be their characteristic? The anticipation was high. The suspense nearly killed us. We couldn't wait for the day we completed our collection.

However, nothing was more exciting than classroom birthdays. Birthdays meant one thing: Cupcakes. For Miss Sullivan and Mrs. Fortuna I'm sure it translated into something more like: Sugar-Rush-Induced Chaos. My young taste buds were already trained to pick out the cheap, store-bought treats from the delicious bakery items that were usually delivered by the parent of said birthday kid. For my birthday, my mom had taken off from work to deliver Freihofer's chocolate-frosted yellow cupcakes. Little did I know that she was also planning a surprise party for me at the Ground Round family restaurant in Yonkers and had invited my entire class and Miss Sullivan. How none of my peers let the secret slip, I'll never know. Maybe there was a conspiracy amongst all of the parents, you know, like in A Nightmare on Elm Street -- minus the whole torching-a-child-killer thing.

I turned 6. There was a clown who performed magic. A girl vomited into a basket of popcorn. And I got a brand new Cabbage Patch Doll. Good times.

Blessed Sacrament Elementary, which was later called New Rochelle Catholic Elementary -- only to go back to its original name after I graduated in 1994 -- sadly shut down in 2007. I received the news one day when my father called me at work to tell me that he caught the local news and spotted one of my old teachers being interviewed on camera. Due to a lack of funding in the Archdiocese, or at least that's what I had surmised, Blessed Sacrament Elementary was no more. It came as a shock. Who ever heard of a school going out of business? I thought they were everlasting like Jesus, or the post office...or McDonald's. What could it have felt like to be in that final graduating class from B.S. (laugh at the initials all you want)? Where did the other classes relocate to?

Every time I return to New York and drive down Centre Avenue in New Rochelle I'll give a salutatory glance at the large building that sits behind the baseball field in between Blessed Sacrament Church and the large RKO moviehouse that now functions as an institution for those with special needs. What goes on inside the building, I haven't a clue. Some say Blessed Sacrament High School took it over, which would make sense, or maybe it's become one giant house for New Rochelle's homeless. Perhaps a closer look would be needed the next time I return to my old stomping grounds.

If those walls could talk...they'd probably cough up a few pellets of hardened chewing gum, a couple of neglected crayons, and years and years of chalk dust.

H.P.M.

*BLOGGER'S NOTE: The names mentioned above have obviously been changed for no other reason than the one to protect me from any future blackmail material my peers may have on me. And as for that hideous Dutch boy haircut, let me dig up some photos and get back to you on that.


Howl: 2010


I saw the best minds of my generation numbed by complacency, drowning themselves in music produced by computers, overfed, overstimulated, blinding themselves behind glowing boxes looking for an instantaneous fix, assembly-lined hoodlums plugging into a digital connection to the pixelated dynamo in the minutiae of the cybernight,

who glossy-eyed and high sat up puffing in the obligatory darkness of pet-unfriendly studios darting through alleyways contemplating techno,

who bared their souls to those disguised as Potential Matches in chat rooms and saw themselves slurping through Sunday brunches under umbrellas on boulevards,

who passed through Masters programs with hungry-wide eyes dreaming about mortgages and minivans among their bankrupt constituents,

who were ostracized by the mainstream for sketching off the page and coloring outside the lines with their own blood,

who were hunched over in shadowed bedrooms, typing in numbers, clicking their credit away and wondering what it would feel like to swallow that jagged little pill,

who got jaded in jam sessions in the orange-tinted galleries of Silverlake where the streets are littered with lists and propositions graffittied with pornography and tales that try to titillate,

who developed frozen yogurt addictions while dancing, and massacred their abdominals night after night with thrusts, with drugs, with carbs of the pho variety, and exercised them with blowjobs crouched in 1992 hatchbacks parked on poorly lit streets of shuddering dreams, illuminating the quiet universe of the Screenwriter, the teardrops of the Funemployed, secondhand storefronts, neighborhoods of trust-fund brats, rantings of barren stepmothers who subscribed to the philosophy of Harlequin,

who chained themselves to Vespas for the potholeless ride from Santa Monica to blessed Sherman Oaks on ginseng until the noise of freeways and BlackBerry chimes brought them down heaving silently and battered powerless to punchlines,

who sat curbside tantalized by texts tried and true for most of a Sunday and lifted their heads to the sky contemplating a dozen what ifs, such as what if they had signed away their identities to broadcast their emotions to a macaroni-and-cheese-smiling host who only cared about book deals and syndication, what if they had bled their hearts out to an audience of millions only to be forgotten by the time the next pop cultural wave crashed on the shores of the short-attention-spanned,

who talked continuously sixteen hours from haven to hole-in-the-wall to haciendas to Getty to taco stand to the Glendale Galleria, languid soldiers of spraytanned bullshit artists jumping through hoops off hiking trails, off railroads leading to barren wastelands,

who fell into nowhere Kabbalah Nevada leaving a trail of ambivalent picture postcards of the MGM Grand, suffering Western delusions of grandeur and development deals while lounging in coffeeshops filled with broken hearts,

who lit cigarettes behind 99-cent stores trudging through the rain toward soulless outlets promising yesterday's fashions,

who studied for hours because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Westwood,

who lounged starving and lonesome through New Orleans seeking hip-hop or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Frenchman to converse about Facebook and veganism, a hopeless venture, and so took flight to London,

who disappeared into the alleyways of Austin leaving behind nothing but the shadow of cargo shorts and the overflow of digital inboxes on smartphones,

who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the Bush administration in horn-rimmed glasses and shorts with bloodshot eyes sexy in their olive skin sending out email blasts,

who distributed eco-terrorist booklets on Hollywood and Highland weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Feliz wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Metro Rail also wailed,

who howled on their knees just for the hell of it, just because they never made it to where they wanted to go, just in time to be heard by soulless agents who would promise marquee-sized infamy,

who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly pizza delivery boys who graduated from prep schools and never left their neighborhoods,

who lost their lovers to the bitches of fate, the one-eyed bitch of the capitalist dollar, the one-eyed bitch that rapes your wallet on a weekly basis, and the one-eyed bitch that does nothing but sit and massage her cankles while scissoring the intellectual fabric of the academic's loom,

who copulated quietly and indulged in a bottle of cheap wine that would do everything but numb the pain of singletonness,

who licked the lips of a thousand girls trembling in the sunrise, and were red-eyed in the afternoon but were ready to sweeten their breath, flashing buttocks under tenement roofs and naked in the public pool,

who went out whoring through Seattle in stolen hybrids, secret hero of these stanzas, craftsman of informercials dedicated to breaking the self-esteem of girls and boys, getting it on in empty garages and theme park attractions, multiplexes' reclining chairs, on mountaintops in shacks or with minimart cashiers in familiar roadside junctions,

who fell asleep in enlightening lectures, were shifted in dreams, woke on a 6 train, and picked themselves up out of ditches hungover with anime tattoos and horrors of Madison Avenue cyber dreams and stumbled to unemployment offices,

who created great mythological dramas on the apartment hillsides of West Hollywood under the golden sunlight of the Sunset billboards and their heads shall be crowned with accolades come January,

who typed away all night rocking and rolling over in Red Bull-induced rants that brought them to cloudy conclusions,

who cooked partially hydrogenated oils in pools of high fructose corn syrup and drank coffee from tumblers designed to fit in anywhere,

ah, Paul, while you are not rich I am not rich, and now you're really in the total twixter flux of a generation and who therefore ran through the dry streets obsessed with a sudden flash of an idea to use the colon the exclamation point the alliteration & the overused irony,

who meditated and made revisions to their Life Stories in Bricks & Scones with not-so-subtle pseudonyms, and trapped the contradictions of the mind in between the pixels of a dozen jpegs and published transcendent blogs and set the anagrams and initials of superficiality against each other while attempting to recreate the sensationalistic language and phrasing of glossy-paged prose and sit before you confident and cocky and intelligent and shaking with anticipation, failed yet pouring out random tidbits with the hopes of capturing interest, fulfilling a few manic requests, stuck, yet writing down here what might be left and studied in a time we can't really imagine now, and rebirthed themselves in the earthy garbs of electronica in the silhouettes of strangers and blew the suffering of America's inactive mind for change and progress into a yea-aah eh-yo ya-yaa Auto-Tune cry that pierced the cities down to the last iPod with the absolute inanity of the song of life entering their ears and flying out the other side.

Paul Francis! I'm with you in Westchester where you're more successful than I am.

I'm with you in Westchester where you must feel very strange having never flown the coop, having never broken through the boundaries you made for yourself.

I'm with you in Westchester where you laugh at this and don't recognize me as your brother, your confidant, your partner in crime, your other self.

I'm with you in Westchester where we are great scribes on the same dreadful Mac, updating statuses to no avail, hoping we are heard by Simon & Schuster, heard by the affiliates, heard by HBO, heard by our idols we never met.

I'm with you in Westchester where your condition has become scandalous and is reported on the blogs, displayed for millions to laugh and roll their eyes and scroll down to the next piece of daily trash.

I'm with you in Westchester where you drink the spa water of the breasts of the smothering mothers of Yonkers who wish to wear their dream evening gowns to their daughters' weddings and bake endless pasta dishes that will only strengthen the cord they'll never cut.

I'm with you in Westchester where you pun on your friends, layer sarcasm on your parents, challenge your followers, and dismiss your lovers.

I'm with you in Westchester where you scream in a studio apartment that you're losing the fight of the eventual dodgeballing of the generation gap.

I'm with you in Westchester where you bang on the catatonic keyboard that the soul is innocent and immortal while you reminisce about the first couple of sexual conquests you claimed shortly after coming out of the closet.

I'm with you in Westchester where a few more hits will never reunite your mind with your heart and bring you an equilibrium you've longed for since nap time.

I'm with you in Westchester where you accuse your doctors of neglect and plot the revolution against the bigoted national GOP.

I'm with you in Westchester where there are several thousand mad activists all together singing the final chorus of 'Single Ladies.'

I'm with you in Westchester where we spoon and shove our tongues down the United States under our Egyptian cotton, the United States that shouts all night and won't let us unite ourselves.

I'm with you in Westchester, and in my dreams you float bathed in an illumination that only enhances your beauty, float from a high journey on the freeway across America in tears to the door of my bungalow in the noisy night.

H.P.M.


Theme Song of the Month: September

The song is "Devotion." The group is Hurts. The sound is hypnotic, Depeche Mode-esque. And yes, that's the duo pictured above. Not to be confused with a Calvin Klein ad.

This is what's been playing repeatedly on my iPod for the past week. Play it all the way through to the epic end:


Cause for a Truffle Shuffle

To celebrate 25 years since the dynamic duo of Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner gave us The Goonies on the big screen, the Blu-Ray gods have blessed us with the above (available November 2).

Needless to say, I nearly hyperventilated when I happened to catch this announcement while browsing through Amazon. The film represents a true landmark of my childhood, one of the first movies I had seen in a theater (the first, or the earliest I can remember, was the re-release of Pinocchio sometime in the early 80s). I have vague memories of my grandmother taking me to see The Goonies in one of the old moviehouses on Main Street back in New Rochelle. It must have left a huge impression on me because whenever it showed up on TV, I would drop everything and glue my eyes to the screen. Perhaps it was the whole wonder-and-awe sentiment of the film, allowing millions of little boys and girls to indulge in their ultimate fantasy -- that there's adventure and excitement (and pirate's booty) just waiting to be discovered in your own backyard.

Once my family had recording capabilities on our VCR (circa 1992, embarrassingly late compared to others), I'd tape the movie to keep for future viewings. It wasn't until I was in high school when I finally got the unedited VHS copy in its plush and oversized family-friendly case; I could officially add it to my library, proudly shelved alongside Jurassic Park, My Best Friend is a Vampire, and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Cut to 2001: My mom had bought our first DVD player on Central Avenue in Yonkers for a then-reasonable $250. Later that summer, I visited a friend in Philadelphia and, upon stopping at a nearby Suncoast, discovered the DVD had contained commentary by the reunited cast. I freaked out and immediately purchased it before hopping on a train back to New York. Goodbye crappy VHS. Hello newly minted DVD...with bonus features! I was ecstatic.

And now, nine years later, I am a giggly little boy all over again...and somewhat sad to know that there exists an entire generation that probably doesn't know the movie at all.

If I ever see the words "Goonies remake" printed in Variety anytime soon, I may have to pull a Sloth and bash the heads of a couple of studio execs.

H.P.M.


4

With my current state of affairs, I had nearly forgotten that TheFirstEcho.com turns 4 years old this month. Four years of "life updates" from Los Angeles. Four years of pop cultural commentary and numerous attempts to make sense of this odd planet we call Hollywood. Four years of trying to navigate my life through a gauntlet of rejections, celebrations, surprises and achievements.

Looking back at one of my first postings, I see that four years ago I was obsessed with a new local band called Under The Influence of Giants (and where are they now?) as well as Christina's then-released Back to Basics (a far cry from her Bionic plea for attention). Four years ago I just started working at Anonymous Content. Four years ago I joined a little event called Hot in Hollywood. Four years ago I clearly wasn't the same person who now writes this to you.

Where am I now? Well, if you've checked out my previous entries, then you should get a clear picture. Despite it all, however, there still is hope. There still is ambition. There still is the urge to kick some ass.

And then there's my newest musical obsession: "Microphone," by Sweden's pop prince, Darin. The take-charge, nothing's-gonna-stop-me message is what I need right now. And it doesn't hurt that it's hella catchy with its circa-1988 synths:


The Big C: Part 2

August 16, 2010. 8:00AM

My mom had lung cancer.

Well, I hope that's true by the time you read this. Had. As in, gone. Done away with.

Where did we leave off?

This morning I was too lazy to drive to the gym, but I pushed myself out the door to go on a jog/walk in my neighborhood. I say jog/walk with an emphasis on 'walk' since my pathetic endurance allows me to jog three or four blocks at a time. With every step and every breath I took I imagined each inhalation of fresh air, by some way of divine magic, pumping into my mom's lungs from across the country. Each step, each sucked-in ounce of oxygen, was for her. If I sound like I'm getting all mystical and holistic on you, then blame/applaud Eat Pray Love. I'm 60 pages away from the end, and reading it couldn't have come at a better time. Sure, it's brought on the itch to drop everything and travel across the globe, but simply reading it every night before I go to bed is an act of meditation in itself. I've dogeared several pages on which I've found some helpful quotes to remember. The book can work for anyone, no matter what kind of shit you may be going through.

As I huffed and puffed along the streets of Westwood, I tried to muster up every good thought possible and started to envision positive signs at every corner. I noticed a man walking his golden retriever across the street. The dog turned its head when it spotted me, as if to say: "Hey man, hope your mom pulls through." His voice was soothing like an old man's, full of wisdom and experience. Like Morgan Freeman.

It continued as I went further, imagining wellwishers from all walks of life greeting me along my route. The charcoal gray cat that always sits in front of the house with the brick path: "Hello Hiko, how's your mother doing?" The Guatemalan leafblower who took off his soiled cap and nodded to me: "Buenos dias, Senor Hiko. Send your madre my love." The jogging powercouple who passed me on Santa Monica Boulevard: (out of breath) "Send Sandy our best!" Even a voice from the massive Mormon temple perched on top of the hill two blocks from my apartment: "Although we don't share the same values, we wish your mother all the strength in the world."

The world had my mother's back.

I had gone through a similar scare back in the summer of '04 when my father suffered a stroke in the middle of the work day. It was sudden, and therefore, more of a shock. I received the news when I working as a PA in Studio City. It was extremely terrifying for my father since he had lost his father to a stroke when he was young. I had flown out the following week to see him go through the rigorous physical therapy the best rehab could provide. It was as if the Universe was slapping me in the face telling me, "Hey! Just because you're getting older doesn't mean your parents don't." Thanks for the reminder.

Besides the DVDs, the numerous September issues and the home-cooked meals I plan to provide for my mother, I feel that some music would also help her get through the recovery process. I've already sent her that James Taylor and Carole King concert CD, and although she's managed to learn every word to "Alejandro," she'll need some new tunage. And if you know me, I've already started compiling a playlist. Consider it her aural therapy. Consider it a belated sequel to my summer soundtrack as well.

A sample:

1. "The Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + The Machine - If this doesn't lift your spirits, then get yourself some serious therapy.
2. "For The First Time" by The Script - These Irish lads have returned with a single about getting through tough times with your head held high:

3. "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry - Because everyone should feel this way.
4. "Oh No!" by Marina and the Diamonds
5. "Please Don't Let Me Go" by Olly Murs
6. "You Lost Me" by Christina Aguilera
7. "Crossfire" by Brandon Flowers
8. "Monster" by Lady Gaga
9. "It's Working" by MGMT
10. "Include Me Out" by Robyn

August 16, 2010. 1:38PM

My dad just called to say that the 4-hour surgery went well. She will have one night in ICU, then off to her regular room to recuperate.

I can breathe a little easier. Hopefully she will too.

TO BE CONTINUED...

H.P.M.


The Big C

August 11, 2010.

My mother has lung cancer.

I think the more I say it - or if I write it down several times - the less scary it will become. But right now, I'm not sure if it does. I'm also not sure if it was inevitable. Inevitable meaning: Life has treated me pretty well thus far (no abuse, no trauma, no life-scarring events), and I've been extremely fortunate without having to endure any extreme hardships, which only begs the question of What could possibly go wrong? Inevitable meaning: my mother had been a smoker for as long as I can remember, and as an f'ed-up sign of irony delivered from the Universe, she was diagnosed only two months after quitting cigarettes altogether. Inevitable meaning: I'm starting to think that Fate definitely doesn't like to be tempted.

This recent development has forced me to teeter closer to the edge of that Worst Nightmare I've had ever since I was a child: losing a parent.

But before some of you jump to express your sympathy (to those who have already, it is tremendously appreciated), I must say that it isn't all gloom and doom. Her doctors are hopeful because A) it was caught super early (I believe it's called Stage 1?) and B) she's in "the best possible situation given these circumstances." They don't even foresee her needing any further treatment (i.e. that nasty chemo) once she has the surgery to remove the small tumor that's been sitting on top of her right lung.

The tumor. When I think of the tumor, I envision it as a cartoonish black blob, much like that animated mucus creature in those Mucinex ads you see on TV. It has short arms, a pair of stubby little legs, and a vicious, take-no-prisoners attitude. I'm a tumor, and I'm just gonna plop myself down in your body, and I don't give a shit how if affects you. I dare you to get rid of me. I ain't going nowhere. In my mind, Mr. Tumor has a cockney accent, carries the lazy swagger of a Russian mobster, and lacks grammar skills.

My mother's surgery is scheduled to take place on Monday, August 16 at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. The medical facility, as my mother described it to me over the phone, is a gorgeous, well-kept resort-like place. "Naturally," I told her. "It's Greenwich."

"They even have a grand piano in the lobby when you walk in," she continued.

"Of course they do." Again: Greenwich. I wouldn't be surprised if every room featured a chandelier and plasma TV for each "guest."

The doctor who is to perform the surgery is Dr. Paul Waters. My mom told me to Google him, so I did, hence the headshot I found on the hospital's website. Dr. Waters hails from the University of Toronto (we adore Canadians). His specialty his Thoracic Surgery. He's around my mom's age. He has a pleasant demeanor. He enjoys Italian food, reruns of Magnum P.I., long walks with his Golden Retriever, Chester, and skiing in Vermont every January. Okay, so that last part isn't true, but maybe he does enjoy a plate of spaghetti and meatballs every now and then.

My plan is to take a red-eye into New York on the morning of Thursday the 19th. By that time, my mom will have started her preparations to make the transition to a full recovery at home. I, along with my dad and a dozen other family members, will see to it that she gets plenty of care. I've already compiled a list of DVDs she'll need to watch, and she has already expressed interest in tearing through the September/Lady Gaga issue of Vanity Fair. My five days back in New York shall consist of movie marathons, catching up on my own reading, and cooking several Trader Joe-provided meals for both of my parents (because let's face it: my father's cuisine doesn't stretch much beyond his noodle bowls and chicken-and-rice dishes).

August 15, 2010

Since I won't be able to talk to my mother before her surgery tomorrow morning (with the time difference and all), I called her today to check in. She had taken the day off to tie up loose ends around the house and do some cleaning which I'm sure was a way to mentally prepare herself for the next few days. I wished her well (they're going to make her faster, better, stronger, etc), told her that I loved her (something we all need to say more of), and mentally prepared myself for another manic Monday.

Everything is going to be all right.

TO BE CONTINUED...


Theme Songs of the Month: August


That's right, songs. As in, plural. As in, more than one. The first you may recognize from a certain trailer for a certain movie starring a certain actress named Julia Roberts: Eat Pray Love. It's Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over," a joyous ode to...joy. And hope. Because without hope, there can be no joy. And right now, I need all the hope I can get.


The second tune, the rapturous "Drumming Song," also comes from the outstanding British band. Turn up the volume and let it recharge your mental batteries:


Treadmill Musings


Location: 24-Hour Fitness gym.
Time: 7:45am


Today, I will amp it up to Level 12.

That guy looks like LaFayette from True Blood.

Okay, is that smell coming from Old Dude Who Needs to Wear Longer Shorts?

Did I remember to turn on the dishwasher when I left the apartment?

Is it wrong of me to think that Fox News correspondent is hot?

Why is this TV tuned into Fox News?

"From here on out, I'll be your commander!"

I hope to God there's no one hovering near my locker when I go back in to shower. Out of all the lockers in the room, why does someone always have to pick the one RIGHT NEXT TO MINE?

Hey, where's that Wolf Blitzer lookalike? I haven't seen him in a while.

I'm hungry.

The water from this place tastes funny.

Does she really need to be wearing that much makeup on the elliptical? She's only going to sweat it off. Silly woman.

"That boy is a monster...m-m-monster..."

Must remember to edit that Comic-Con footage tonight on iMovie.

Shit, I have to be in the office a few minutes early to catch that 9am conference call.

I should've shaved at home.

I could come up with a really kickass concept for this music video.

If I freelanced, would I come to the gym this early in the morning? I should keep the routine if I do.

I need another vacation.

I need to RSVP to that press screening. Gotta email that publicist.

Must put together a to-do list.

I should write down these thoughts I have.


Random Thought of the Week #17


More like Newfound Discovery-Slash-Obsession than Random Thought...

"Oh No," by Marina and the Diamonds. I'm hooked. The new single (from the album The Family Jewels). The new video (it apparently came out two weeks ago). Where was I when this memo went out?

Check it:


Why I Love SYTYCD


It's routines like this that get me off the couch cheering and clapping. Mind you, the kid comes from the world of ballet. Other things to note while watching this outstanding choreographed number: 1. It's the first time a male competitor has been partnered up with another guy (other than group numbers). 2. Never have I heard the audience chant a dancer's name after a performance. 3. The judges rarely give standing Os, and 4. The. Kid. Comes. From. Ballet.


It's also another reason why I love Tabitha and Napoleon (Nappy Tabs, for you regular viewers).

Watch the entire thing HERE.

Bless you, summer television.

H.P.M.

P.S. - I want to have lunch with Mia Michaels.