Full and happy

Los Angeleno by birth, Northwesterner by choice, Second-hander by nature. Librarian, housebound chef, father, and lowly subject ruled over by the needs and whims of a very old house.
Partial to Mexican, Italian and Vietnamese cookery but will eat damn near anything. Collector of many strange things..the result is chaos and anarchy and a very pleasant place to live.
There is pleasure in accumulation, not just "collecting": music, books and film, in all their multi-formated glory. Outsider artists and those kinds of prints you would recognize if you took liberal studies classes in college. Cooking implements and gadgets for recipes still untried or those ventured. Glasses for most types of libations. Flowers in the garden, herbs in the pot.
It's a life of the senses and a good home life reflects that. Walking helps take in all the rest. Requires no special equipment, opens up the pores, brightens the taste buds, clears the decks for further adventures, puts on the miles, widens the eyes and helps fuel the imagination.

Live boldly, play graciously and love with all your heart knowing that true love comes only once or twice in this lifetime. Speaking of which..donde estas, Empress of my Heart?


"Lack imagination and miss the better story" Yann Martel

"Life is a great adventure and I want to say to you, accept it in such spirit. I want to see you face it ready to do the best that lies in you to win out. To go down without complaining and abiding by the result....the worst of all fears is the fear of living." Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

"Not I - not anyone else, can travel that road for you
You must travel it for yourself" Walt Whitman

And above all, friends should possess the rare gift of sitting. They should be able, no, eager, to sit for hours-three, four, six-over a meal of soup and wine and cheese, as well as one of twenty fabulous courses.

Then, with good friends of such attributes, and good food on the board, and good wine in the pitcher, we may well ask,

When shall we live if not now?

-From Serve it Forth,
M.F.K. Fisher

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The mothballed 5 and dime

When I was a wee lad my grandfather Tata would take me to the local five and dime store there on Pico, not too far off of Vermont. It was a different neighborhood back in those days, a whole different LA. The store was run by another little old immigrant guy, that much I remember. He and my grandfather were pals, comfortable in the way that older working class men on equal footing can be. While the two old friends talked (maybe not so old back then) I would be given the run of the store. Back in those days, with those three year old arms, I could only carry so much stuff. The toys I chose were all inexpensive, cheaply made stuff for the moment. For my grandfather it was about pleasing the boy and that made the experience a good one for both of us.
I've been fortunate. My life is filled with many possessions, but let me tell you, I would give up any number of them just to have one of those little pieces of joy that came from the heart of my grandfather.

Accumulate Man has been alot like that, like a small shop filled with overflowing abundance, filled with lots of little pieces of joy. It's probably not too much different of an experience than what those two old men shared. It's been comfortable place for me to sit down and share stories with you. Sure, they've been on the most part fairly personal, a big scoop of stuff off the top of my life, a dip into the old memory bin, but it's also been a place to share bits and pieces of cool stuff, newspaper articles, all that, that have popped up along the way. It was fun for a long time, even after the Tengu Spirits of my old workplace came along and trashed the joint. I came back, straightened things up, went at it full force there for awhile but somehow I think I've either outgrown this place or just knew it was time to move on. To that end my stories about and for Jane will continue to spill forth over at the old "LFW" site, and Futon Cinema, as scattershot as it's been, will be, for the unforeseen future, the best place to find me and the further adventures of Accumulate Man.

Yeah, this was certainly "the place" to be there for awhile, but things change. Life on this end has changed dramatically from the days when you, my old team mates, awarded this spot "Best Blog". I have gone from full employment to being a economic statistic, from being wacked out and broken hearted to being fairly well along the road to spiritual recovery and happiness. I am living through the biggest historical event since the Great Depression as a soldier on the ground, and like the Joads I'll soon find myself along with all my possessions heading off down the road into some uncertain sunset. These days, instead of chatting with patrons from behind a desk I find myself spending alot of time chatting with my new old friend, talking man talk with him and all his customers while he sets up and slings his dogs.

There are a lot of us out here testing new waters, you know? I see them all the time in line at Helpline, and work with a few who are casualities of the great banking crash. There are a quite a number of folks who are turning inventive, too, taking their old skill sets and applying them in ways they never really thought of before. For instance, a few weeks ago, while running an errand, I met a gal, a newly minted personal chef, another soul inbetween positions, and told her about the Hot Dog King and his up-on-the-hill dog cart business. I introduced the two of them and starting next week she'll be making salads for his concession. She considers the upcoming venture to be some sort of great adventure. When I come back from my interview down south I'm thinking maybe I'll buy a portable restaurant grill and start up a branch business alongside my old buddy. Taqueria style Mexican food. What a great thing to do until my ship comes in.

Right now I have no idea what kind of ship I'm waiting for. Years ago when I was younger, much cockier, I thought of myself as being fairly bullet proof. I don't think I would have considered myself untested, but I really don't think, looking back on that old life, that I was really truly tested at all. Slowly but surely, layer by layer, I am being stripped down to my lowest common denominator. I am being pared down like a crisp Bartlett pear, peeled back like a Vidalia onion. I am getting down to the core of my being, finding out who my friends really are, discovering once and for all what my true values are all about. In the coming months I hope to see how to best apply those values, where they'll take me, who I can count on to help me see them through. What's great is that the party on the other end will be small, compact and filled with real people, real friends. Real. Wow, what a concept.

So, let's just say that this old five and dime of memories and stories needs to be shuttered for awhile. What you might see here, instead, are a lot of older pieces popping up, posts put into hibernation long ago. Not too much unlike Captain EO was at Disneyland. Think of what's coming up as a "greatest hits" tour. An anthology of Accumulate Man's best stuff. An airing out of the closet.

Okay, until I land let's just say that I'll see you all later. I think I'll go and trip the light fantastic with Jane for awhile, watch a few more movies and hang out a bit with my fellow unemployed foodie pals. Wish us all luck, the bold travelers and the rocket testers, the edge seekers and the great unwashed, yeah good luck and God's speed,all that. Right now, even with everything that we have going for us, we're going to need it. See at you at sunset!


Friday, January 22, 2010

A beautifully written food article!

Some things are worth sharing. I could mention it and hope you find it but I think it's worth reading just for the sake of the author's language and style. Vegetarian or not, I think you'll love the imagery this piece evokes!



Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Storm passes

When I saw this reader photo posted by dyslexicspeedreader in the LA Times today I suddenly was washed over by an extremely large wave of nostalgia. I remember those sorts of cloudy days in Orange County, days, after a storm would pass, that smelled of ozone and wet sage and far too many chemicals freshly washed from the air. I saw that photo and realized how far away from home I am, and what truly constitutes home in the heart. As much as I have become and embraced being a "Northwesterner" I will always be a Californio, a man made of sea water, Joshua trees and orange groves, of asphalt, high end malls and flakes of magic shed from the auras of movie stars. I will always be closer to this scene above...one filled with sky, sand and surf...than I will ever be of the beauty that lies before me any time I wish to look out my window and revell in it..a scene filled with farway mountains, snow and a sun that falls into some faraway ocean that I rarely get to see.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cooking with Jane: Saved by Conjunto!

I lucked out on my way to store the other day. I only wanted to bag a bunch of cilantro, a couple, three avocados at the discount grocer. See, I had some turkey left over from a bird I roasted the other day and had a hankering for turkey taquitos, something that every red blooded, wild half Mexican boy can use to help him grow up to be big and strong. But I was way laid, pulled into Goodwill by promise of good sales and such. Had to see what was lurking in the cookbook aisle before I went off and hit the grocery store.

Well, I did find a few cookbooks, even a nifty Mexican cookbook written by a full out Mexican woman living in London! But what thrilled me even more than that was discovering, just as I was heading to the checkout stand, a pristine, still sealed in it's wrapper collection of Tex-Mex Conjunto classics compiled by Arhoolie! I am telling you, I could have set everything else down at the moment and been happy as a clam (or whatever bi-valve you fancy!) I practically skipped out of the store and damn near forgot my original mission. I pretty much ran down the sidewalk to Save a Lot and got the rest of my shopping out of the way, just so I could get home and pop that new disk into my cd player. Do you know how rare it is to come across that kind of music in a second hand store? Rare, baby, rare, just the way I like my lamb chops!

So, I played that album again this morning and was thankful for it. I pulled together a nice omelet, too, and am getting ready for another work day at Helpline. I think of music, cooking and a good day's work and think, man, if it wasn't for that immortal triad I wouldn't have an excuse to get out of bed most mornings. Oh, never mind, scratch that. The cat would make sure I was up and out of bed, if only just to feed him and let him out into the world.

But today I had another excuse to be out in the world myself and it is spelled Conjunto! Go grab some, buddy and tell me if that music doesn't cure what ails you!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saving the world...

...one dog at a time! It's one thing to walk on down the sidewalk and peek at the "atmosphere", it's another thing entirely to work it, to be that smiling face under the umbrella shiling the goods.
I sat around the courthouse with my pal the Hot Dog King afternoons through most of the summer. Those days were filled with plenty of highs and lows. He was a good ear and a pal and helped me get through some hairy and uncertain times and for that I will be forever grateful. He, in turn, has been wading through his own personal swamp of uncertainty and I returned the favor of being an ear and good buddy. Turned out that it's all worked out to our best advantage.

He needed a weekend compatriot and I needed some cash flow. I already knew food, already had a good idea from hanging out forever at the cart what the spiel was. One day's worth of "training" turned into a weekend "career". We catch a lot return customers from his courthouse gig, but a lot folks gracing our stand are new customers, some as far away as the HDK's home state of Nuuu Yaaawk. Today I had my photo taken with a little girh and dog under the canopy of yellow and blue. In my eyes I am now a Sabrett's dog seller, some guy selling dogs who is going to land in somebodies scrap book. How cool is that?

At Uptown Mike's we turn folk's understand about the wonders and glories of hot dog around one dog at a time. I am more than happy to educate you about the wonderfulness of a Sabrett dog. Come on by and I'll show you how great a dog from NY can be!


Sabrett's official site!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Off to a new and somewhat different sandbox

I have strayed, but what else is new?

I love to write, caring not a wit whether or not my writing gets me into hot water. But we can't make soup without hot water. Well, I suppose I could, but I'm not a fan of ceviche.

So, I'm onto other things. I love this spot, I do. I love writing tales here in Tales and I suppose that every once in awhile I'll drop a post. But things change and new world beckon. And hey, this hasn't always been the only show in town. The food blog, Cooks Talk!, was a hoot to minister to and wa a pretty useful tool for showing off that old library collection of mine. That one I knew I had to set it down because it wasn't mine to add to anymore. And that ode to that old time flame of mine? Well, it was fun and meaningful and heartfelt to write, but I knew it had finally served it's purpose. I was done with it and needed to set it down, put it away, say goodbye.

So, instead of limiting my play to this sandbox alone I've decided that it was time to try out something new again. I've picked up my toys and writing pad and stories and have moved them to a new location. Sure, it's still Accumulate Man talking, but over there the stories will be tinged with a touch of cinema. Same kind of format, tales and fact mixed with a bit of fiction and a touch of memoir. Come see me there and be sure to bring your love of film, your love of life. It's been fun hanging out here, but like the tales that I wrote to my fifth wife, this is old territory. It's time to light out to a place where film, passion and life intersect.

See you there!

Accumulate Man


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hold the phone

This week will be one for the books. A couple days pushing dogs, an afternoon spent learning all there is to know about food safety, another afternoon culling together the remainders of a failed restaurant's emptied refrigerator, another moment or two spent calling in the mortgage and then, to top it all off, not just one but two phone interviews. At this point I really don't care if either one of those agencies offer me a job. What matters most to me at this point is that someone cares enough to call, gives a hoot enough to have me hanging onto my phone for an hour or so on Thursday and for an additional bit of time on Friday, too. With those calls under my belt I know with complete certainty that I can handle the stress of waiting, of wondering, of thinking too much in the dead of night. Just knowing that a call is coming in is about uplifting as a finding a five dollar bill on the sidewalk at lunch time. I now know where my path lies, and it is once again in the world of public libraries. Huzzah!


Monday, January 11, 2010

The joy of working the dogs

I spent the weekend helping out the Hot Dog King, but maybe it was a case of the Hot Dog King helping me out, instead. It's been a mutual admiration society we've been running for awhile now. Both of us being foodies and fans of the Three Stooges is a plus, but having a pal who is also unemployed AND a natural born hustler makes it even better.

It wasn't rocket science running that cart, that's for sure. Basic mathematics was required for counting cash. Customer service skills I have in spades. Watching the number of dogs in the wells, well, that was easy, about as easy as fishing them out and applying toppings according the wishes and desires of my patrons. It was the waiting and the thinking inbetween customers that made it tedious at times. Otherwise it was fun and easy, and that, my friends, is what work should be all about.

I stood there, under the eve of the Sedgewick Albertsons, soaking in the strange balminess of the weather, the pleasantness of the customers and the comraderie of a pal. The work I was doing this weekend gave me a different kind of thrill than the satisfaction I get when I work at Helpline. It was a different kind of fatigue at the end of the day, too, a delicious sort that said to me that I worked, not just for the sake and survival of the community, but this time, for it's pleasure, too.

It was an ephiphany, then, for me, to discover what it was that work really meant to me: a bit of delicious fatigue at the end of the day delivered up because I spent the day entertaining, nuturing and participating in the growth and well being of my community. If only work in my profession could be as simple, easy and as fun as serving up that humble dog.
But, you know, applying topping to wursts is not where I am going. The destination remains a mystery, somewhat like the ingredients of those dogs I was slinging. And that mystery will continue up until the day my ship comes in, and that day, children, is the day I set my hot dog tongs down.


Friday, January 8, 2010

I am part of the ten percent

I wake up early most days, not early as in six or seven, not early the way many folks do as they prepare for another work day. I'm not waking up early to watch the sunrise, take a walk or hit the gym. When I say I wake up early it's usually two or three in the morning. If I'm lucky it's closer to four like today, and for that I can blame the cat.

No, I've been waking up at one or two or three in the a.m., sometimes with indigestion, sometimes due to bad dreams, sometimes because I forgot to brush my teeth or turn out the light, but usually it's a combo pack featuring all of the above items, all laced together with a dollop of anxiety thrown in for good measure. I usually wake and wonder "what the hell", wonder how a humanities-based, soulful Mexican man could end up an economic statistic at age fifty-two. I do more than wonder, sometimes, as I know that my proclivities and appetites and passions have had alot more to do with my status than the economy ever could. But still.

So I wake up knowing that I could use some lettuce and not some coffee and pad around the house worrying about my dwindling bank account and the steady pace of my debts. I look around me and know that the holidays are over and done with but wonder why I still can't seem to motivate myself to put away the boxes still sitting around my living room. I have irons in the fire and am thankful for a good solid work record but all the same I would rather be doing something rather than nothing so I look towards the dawn and the rest of the day in order to fill it up with meaningful activity.

These days meaningful activity falls into several categories. I knock out three days a week at the foodbank, which I am forever thankful for. I kill time hanging out with The Hot Dog King, and, to keep my soul intact, make chili for the man once a week. Starting this weekend I'll be learning how to peddle dogs, but even that seems about as much of a stretch for me as that projector work I was attempting a while back. I still write, but not as much as before, and have a new film blog lifting slowly lifting off the ground to prove it. The only time I feel release from the bondage of uncertainity is when I go second handing or take a walk. At least walking is free.

I know that plenty of sleep and water and exercise would help me out more than anything else, but I would rather watch movies and drink coffee and cook instead, all the while wondering when I can stop being a statistic. I suppose someday I will be able to look back at this and know that I weathered a remarkable storm, that I came out of it with more than a t-shirt. I will come out of this travail an entirely different man, in a completely new part of the world, without debts, without a house. A man without anchors. A man with brand new wings.
And baby, in the end I will still have my soul. Unlike some folks I know I never ever had to sell it in order to be where I am at or give it away in order to go where I am going.

Maybe instead of waking up and worrying I need to get up in the morning and write country/western songs, instead.


The last few lines of this piece are my story in a nutshell: