Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Red Truck Civility

  The red truck had been at the park for close to a month. The inhabitants were young and innocent. Gotta be early twenties, thought The Van Man. He had watched their comings and goings and was pleased to know they were auto-dwellers like himself. He wondered the who's and why's of their presence. So young and living in a red truck with their little foo-foo dog. It must get cramped in there, how do they fuck?, he thought.
  Van Man watched The Young Guy leave and walk every morning to work at some pizza joint down the street. Each night he watched The Young Couple unpack their belongings from the back of the red truck and situate them in the front so they had room to sleep. They meant business and Van Man was proud of them. And he was not so lonely knowing they were there. The park had become a community and he was not sad that Mr. Bench had vanished into the lonely lost space of an unconcerned society.
  The Heat wave had been in full swing and The Valley got the worse of it. Van Man found that sleeping in the nude was the only cure for the sweltering fever. In the deep middle of one hot night, The Van Man was awoken to the sound of a Young Woman arguing close by. He peeked out of his van's back windows and spied a car parked right behind him. The windshield was blocked out by a sun deflector and he could see that the other windows were covered too. The sweat dripped down Van Man's concerned face. It collected on his chin and dripped down his chest. Must be ninety degrees in here, the naked Van Man thought. He crouched in the back of his van and peeked out the windows. After a bit of time, the Woman's voice became muffled and he could not make out the conversation anymore. It was time to go back to sleep. After three days, Muffled Woman was nowhere to be seen. She had stopped coming to the park. She couldn't hack it, thought Van Man. He was right.
  After the Muffled Woman stopped showing up, Van Man met The Young Couple from the red truck. They were under twenty-one and both had priors. But they were nice and sweet together. The Van Man was happy to know them. They were neighbors.
  From then on, Van Man would wave to The Young Couple whenever he saw them. They would wave back and exchange smiles. The Van Man thought to himself that in a world where people starved and children shot each other up at school and beheadings took place, it was good to know that there was still civility left somewhere. Even in the most unlikely of places. And it did not matter if you had priors or not.

Monday, September 29, 2014

People In Dark Places

  The audition was for some soulless advertisement and the pay was shit. Van Man questioned himself as to what merit there was in it. He debated to skip out on the audition.
  For years, The Van Man wanted the life. The actor's life. Auditions. The freedom to go to as many as he wanted. But he had imagined  that by the time he turned thirty, the auditions would be for more fulfilling projects. Perhaps for film roles of a noble nature. A police officer torn between turning in his drug-running partner and his loyalty to the force. An ex-con seeking redemption but finding love in a small town. A priest faced with saving starving children in the Sudan in the midst of a rebellion. Instead, he had an audition for a guy giving a presentation in a board room. Fulfilling it was not. Full of something it was.
  He thought about those starving children and the millions of other people just like them that would trade places with Van Man in a second. Starving, sick people born into shit. Horrible thoughts filled his mind. Flies and maggots squirming around on skeletal faces in the wastelands somewhere. Yeah, I'll go, he thought.
  He drove to Hollywood and Van Man felt good about himself. He was a decent man. He would do it for them, the people who were hungry in those dark, lost places in the world. The people who would never know what toilet paper was. Or tooth paste. The ones who were just happy to breathe. Yeah, thought Van Man.
  Van Man walked into the audition room and said hello to the scumbags. Fuck them, thought Van Man. He did the monkey-see monkey-do of the commercial audition and then it was over. The Director asked Van Man about the possibility of getting a haircut. Van Man explained that he would get a trim the next day and if they wanted him to get it shorter that would be fine. The Van Man drove back to The Valley. He thought about the shitty money he could make from the project and how it would help him pay for the thirty-five dollar haircut he would get. He did not think about the poor people lost in the dark.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mr. November

  He was in the on-deck circle for the last time. New York City chanted his name. One last time. Once more he was ready for greatness. New York was ready for magic. A generation was not ready to let go. But change was on the horizon.
  A shirtless Van Man sat on the floor of the sweltering house. He was alone in a house full of Stuff. Items from some life that was not lived anymore. Relics of a past which no other person had a care for. Stuff. Things that remained because their owner was dead. Items that the owner's children did not want. Van Man had been there to sell the Stuff. He was there watching over the Things to make sure no person came to steal any of the Items.
  The Center Fielder sacrificed the Runner over to second base. Mr. November was up. The stadium was electric and thousands of light bulbs flashed. The Splendid Splinter made a deal with The Devil and it was time for Old Scratch to collect. 
  Van Man had watched him play for twenty years and now it was over. Twenty years. Two decades. Three years before Van Man had lost his virginity. In those two-hundred and forty months, Mr. November was a constant. Always the same. Something to count on. He was there every Summer and nearly every Fall. He was finished with one chapter and ready to start the next. Van Man seemed scattered every day during those twenty years. He looked back at himself and did not like what he saw. Inconsistency. He felt he had only just begun his chapter after all that time. And the Stuff sat in the sweltering house.
  Van Man looked around at the Items. They were once new and now were not. They seemed aged, scuffed, alone. The years had gone by and the Things had seen change, but had stayed the same. Much like Mr. November. One day, different people would come to buy the Stuff. To make their lives seem fulfilled. The Stuff would become happy again. The Things would begin a second chapter. The Van Man knew one thing for certain and that was he was not for sale.
  Mr. November crouched into his signature stance, toggling the bat as he got set. The Pitcher liked the sign and checked the Runner on second. The bat wiggled. The pitch came in at eighty-six miles per hour and Mr. November laced a single into right field. The crowd roared and babies were born. The throw home was not close and Mr. November had won the game. He had given a generation one last moment to keep with their past. 
  Van Man sat in the sweltering house. Alone on the floor. Surrounded by Things that scuffed but did not change. Mr. November walked the field and said goodbye to the fans. Alone on the field. Surrounded by a stadium full of people who unknowingly changed while they watched him play for two decades. The Van Man knew he was close to the answer, but he could not see it. The heat broke in the house and Mr. November walked away from the adoring crowd and into the locker room. The end is the beginning.
  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Another Day In Paradisio

  The last day of the heat wave and it was one worthy of Hell. The Sun would not go quietly. Brown-outs littered the Valley, from Toluca Lake to Encino. Somebody went crazy from the heat and put a college in Woodland Hills on lock-down. And The Van Man had another audition.
  He needed a headshot so he dropped in on a photo lab in North Hollywood close to the audition. It was a cheap place he had discovered which was good because he was dead-broke. Before the audition, Van Man received a phone call from his Father, The Hustler. A few minutes passed and The Father dispensed his racist views of football and life. Van Man was relieved when The Father changed the topic to movies.
"You got Netflix, dontcha?", asked The Father.
"Uh, yeah.", replied Van Man. He lied because The Father threatened to never speak to him again if he moved into a van.
"I'll tellya whatcha gotta see. You ever heard of Nymphomaniac?"
"Yeah, I have."
"Boy, lemme tellya, that's strong stuff.", said The Father.
"Oh, yeah?"
"I'm tellin' you, son, strong."
"Did you see both parts? There's two parts--"
"Volume one and volume two. I got both of 'em. Hell, I got the dvd."
"You've got it?", asked Van Man.
"Yeah, I got it for this ol' boy I know. Wanted me to get it for him and he never picked it up!"
"Well...that's good."
"Everybody gets nekkid in it, boy. Every one of 'em."
"I've heard."
"Great actors, too. It's got that, wait a minute, Stellan Stars--Staarsgard."
"Yeah."
"Shia Leboof. Charlotte Ramplin'...", The Father continued.
"Christian Slater.", Van Man added.
"He gets nekkid, too."
"I know a movie you might like. It's a foreign movie--"
"That Blue movie, yeah, I already saw it.", said The Father.
"You did?"
"Already seen it."
"With the two French girls?"
"Yes. Damn, boy, don't you listen'?"
"Now, that's some strong stuff.", said Van Man.
"Not as strong as this."
  After their conversation, Van Man was beaten. He knew he would become his Father one day, perverted and old. He was half-way there. And it was time for the audition. Van Man had no idea of what to expect which is the way he liked it. In the case of the audition, all he knew was that his character was some type of Russian/European artist named Fred.
  Only a lone young actor waited as Van Man walked in. That was a good sign that it wouldn't take long to be seen. The Young Actor had sides. Van Man asked he if could take a glance at them to see what the scene was about. The Young Actor handed him the sides and said, "It's real wordy." Indeed, it was. The scene was three pages of dialogue and it dealt with the Ottomans revolting against the Russians and Fred's feelings on that. Fred felt "wary" in one sentence. No matter, Van Man would commit no matter the theatricality of the dialogue. He knew to have conviction in everything he spoke. That was the key to acting.
  The Director, Casting Director and Producer entered and introduced themselves. The Casting Director was American. The other two were not. Van Man could only guess they were probably from the Ottoman Empire. Young Actor auditioned first. The Van Man tried to judge his technique. He watched and tried to find something he could steal. Unfortunately for Van Man, The Young Actor's acting seemed unnatural and forced. There was nothing he found interesting in that audition. The Director and Producer did find something interesting about Young Actor and whispered to each other. They're gonna love me, thought Van Man. He slated and began his reading. Van Man was Al Pacino. He was Daniel Day-Lewis. He was Gary Oldman and Marlon Brando with a twist of Dennis Hopper. Van Man raised the quality of the wordy dialogue, gave it depth and was poised throughout. That's conviction, motherfuckers, thought Van Man. He finished the reading and waited for the applause. It didn't come. The two Ottomans thanked Van Man and asked The Young Actor to stay. Van Man left, got into his van and drove away.
  He needed ice cream. That would help kill the demons that had taken over his head. The demons always told him that he's no good. They came every time. It didn't matter if it was failure or success, they would find a way. But ice cream would help. The brown-outs were still in full swing and the ice cream shop was closed. The demons rejoiced. They screamed louder. Van Man needed a fix. Something, anything. He pulled into the coffee shop. He rushed in, set up his laptop on a table and put on the earphones. AC/DC blared and the soothing began. He had his fix. The Thunder washed away his sins and he felt better. There would be more auditions, he knew that fact. There always had been.
  As the day changed into evening, The Sun lost its control over the people of the Valley. The college lock-down was lifted. The brown-outs were fixed. And The Van Man thought about who might have Netflix.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The King of the Park

  The Van Man was not interested to know the homeless man who lived at the park. Van Man watched him sit on the park bench every single day. He looked dirty to Van Man. He also seemed very crude. Once, Mr. Bench whipped it out and pissed on one of the trees. In broad daylight. Van Man lived in a van. He had enough insecurities as it was. He did not need Mr. Bench as a reminder of how close he was to being on the streets and filthy. He made a choice to never look in Mr. Bench's direction. No matter how long they both shared the park. Mr. Bench seemed like a nice guy to Van Man, though. He acted friendly to the joggers and would count reps for people that worked out nearby. Van Man knew those people did not really want to interact with Mr. Bench, but they feigned niceness. Van Man would have none of that. He was well aware that a kind gesture to the right person could go a long way. And to the wrong person it could be dangerous. He did not want Mr. Bench to feel that it was okay to start up conversation with him or ask for money or food from The Van Man.
  One day, Van Man arrived at the park to exercise and enjoy his lunch of meat and raw vegetables. As always, Mr. Bench was seated on his bench. As Van Man got out of his van, Mr. Bench said something unintelligible to him. Mr. Bench pointed with his cane towards the pull-up bars. Van Man had his guard up and ignored Mr. Bench. Fuck him, thought Van Man. He walked to the pull-up bars and noticed a white shirt on the ground. It was Van Man's white shirt from the day before. He had left it accidentally. And he realized what Mr. Bench had said to him. Mr. Bench had made sure nobody touched Van Man's shirt. He protected it for him.
  The locomotive of shame rushed over Van Man. He's a nice enough guy, thought Van Man. After the work-out, Van Man smiled and nodded at Mr. Bench. He reciprocated the gesture and appeared happy. Van Man was sure it would be different now. He would offer a smile to Mr. Bench whenever he saw him. He was now of the mind that a smile went a long way. That is, until the next day. Van Man arrived at the park and walked to the pull-up bars. He did not smile at Mr. Bench. He ignored him. Van Man did not want to get too friendly. But he still thought Mr. Bench was a nice enough guy.
  Then one day, Mr. Bench wasn't there. Van Man knew his absence was strange. And unsettling. Mr. Bench never showed up again. Van Man would not allow himself to think about what might have happened to Mr. Bench. That would have done no good. Mr. Bench was gone and The Van Man felt alone.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Crazy From the Heat

  It was the fourth day of a tremendous heat wave. People must have died. The Van Man was sure of that. In the Valley, not even the ice cream shops got off easy. One that Van Man frequented lost its power due to a brown-out. Damn, thought Van Man. He wanted to eat his Oreo Salted Caramel flavor in the coolness of the shop. He had decided on a treat for himself because of the discovery that his Van had a flat tire earlier that morning.. He had to pay a hefty sum to get it replaced right then. The Van Man understood that when one lived in a van, one must keep it mobile. He drove away with a cup of ice cream. It was too hot to be outside. Van Man drove to what had become his favorite coffee shop. It was his place of retreat from the heat and his solace for writing. It was also a perfect place to shit and brush his teeth.
  He drank the coffee and wrote on the pages. He wore earphones and listened to AC/DC. Van Man found that he was more focused and wrote better when he listened to Rock 'n Roll or Soul music. That day, however, he found out something far more interesting.
  AC/DC grooved in his ears and he noticed: every single woman in the joint moved with the beat. Every one of them. The fat ones, the skinny ones, the black ones, the white ones, the yellow ones and the browns. The gay ones and the straight ones. It did not seem to differentiate. And it did not matter which song played. Bon Scott roared and the women moved with such perfect rhythm. They're struttin', thought Van Man. Even the baristas behind the counter seemed to break out of their robotic motions and come alive. The old men who sat together and drank coffee appeared as though they smiled. Had Van Man made all of this up in his mind? He considered that he might have gone crazy so he ripped off the earphones. The women no longer moved with the electricity that they once had. The coffee shop had become sad and boring filled with robots and sad men. The Van Man was sad and he quickly put back on the earphones. "Gimme a Bullet" played, Bon roared and the party was back on.
  The heat swelled in the Valley and people died. Power was lost all over. But at a little coffee shop in Toluca Lake, a party continued. The Van Man smiled and listened to The Thunder From Down Under. It was hot outside, but not nearly as hot as that party.

Monday, September 15, 2014

St. Charles and the Valley of Lost Souls

  The Van Man drove along Moorpark Street. It was night and the air was hot. He was tired and beaten. The Sun had beaten him that day. He had showered at the gym and was heading to the park to sleep for the night. Van Man was lost in deep reflection. When he came upon the intersection at Lankershim Boulevard, Van Man noticed a Young Man slumped against the statue of St. Charles. The Young Man's head was buried in his arms at the feet of the The Saint. The light from inside the veranda lit the scene perfectly for all traffic to see. And, yet, Van Man knew the scene was private and he should not look at it. Another lost soul, thought Van Man.
  The Van Man drove faster. He wanted to get away from the loneliness of the scene. North Hollywood became Toluca Lake and he was troubled with thoughts. Van Man was reminded of the eerie image he had seen earlier that day. A handmade sign had been constructed using a chain-link fence and white foam cups along Victory Boulevard. The foam cups had been precisely placed in the spaces of the links and formed the message: GOD FORGIVE ME FOR IT. What had he done?, thought Van Man. He didn't really want to know. He figured the less he had to think about it the better. And he was right. But Van Man knew there was another lost soul in the Valley, brooding in the darkness. One that was sorry to God for whatever unspeakable act they committed.
  And The Van Man drove on. His thoughts scared him that night. They were dark and dangerous, filled with remorse for a past he did not belong to and shame for a future he could not see. Van Man felt a kinship with the lost souls. He was often one of them, distraught and tortured. He remembered The Homeless Beauty and he could not bare it. She was a lost soul, too, he thought. Van Man did not want that for her. He wanted Homeless Beauty to find herself. If she could rise out of the ashes, then maybe there was a chance for him. He drove on.
  Toluca Lake became Burbank and he was close to his destination. But the thoughts consumed him. Was The Van Man destined to end up like his Father? Broke, broken and alone? Living out the end of his days in a motel? Van Man chased a dream to be a successful actor, just as his Father chased a dream of being a successful gambler. The odds were stacked against both. He drove faster. The thing about a dream is that it lives on hope. Hope is what separates the dreamers from the rest of the animals. His Father had lost it somewhere. Van Man was not his Father. He was something more. A better man. Perhaps, but he had yet to show it. He lived in a van and had not touched his dream. And Van Man would, in time. But not that night. That night belonged to the ones who could not figure it out. The ones who were caught somewhere between truth and fiction in the Fantasyland of Hollywood. The lost souls of Los Angeles claimed that night. And The Van Man was happy to give it to them. They deserved it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pick-a-Part Blues

  There were some things that The Van Man did not understand. And there were some things he did. In 1986, Van Man's Mother bartended at a little joint called Our Place. Van Man would often help her set up the bar on Saturday mornings. He refilled the ice bin, set up the bar stools and stocked the tables with napkins and matchbooks. He enjoyed those Saturday mornings immensely because after his job was done, Van Mother would allow her son to watch Cinemax on the bar television. Van Man was happy because, for some reason in 1986, Saturday Morning Cinemax only showed horror movies. That was something Van Man understood. What the Van Man did not understand was why Van Mother would not allow him to use the Men's restroom at Our Place. She only allowed him to use the Women's restroom, no matter how badly he needed to go. And he did not understand why a fold-out photograph of a butt-naked, muscular man was stapled to the restroom wall. Van Man felt uncomfortable as he sat on the toilet and looked straight ahead while the naked man stared back at him. Every time he had to use the Women's Restroom in Our Place, Van Man would never understand.
  2014. Los Angeles. And Van Man still found himself not understanding some things. On one of the hottest days of the year, Van Man strolled along the aisles of rusted-out vehicles inside the Sun Valley Pick-a-Part. He hoped to find a tire mount for the back door of his Van. It was a Chevy. Van Man carried his toolbox and searched. And searched. The Sun beat down on Van Man and the hundred other men who searched among the vehicles. He was careful with his footsteps. He did not want to fall victim to the broken glass and twisted steel that littered the grounds. An hour passed and he realized that there were only three Chevy vans in the entire lot. This was something he could not understand. And it was hot. The time passed and The Sun's reflection danced off the glass-covered dirt. Finally, The Van Man came upon a suitable tire mount and realized to his dismay that it belonged to a Dodge. He did not understand why he suddenly had a disdain for the Dodge Corporation. It better damn work, thought Van Man.
  Van Man opened his trusty toolbox and began the disassembly. The Sun shone its trusty rays down onto the Boys of the Pick-a-Part. As he worked away on the Dodge Mount, Van Man sensed something among the many men who rummaged through the rust and debris. There was laughter and lively conversation in the air. There was camaraderie. He thought that the Pick-a-Part might be a place where girls were not allowed. Maybe it was a Men's Club. The last vestige of a bygone era, thought Van Man. Sweat poured down his face. And The Sun was hot. When he had the Dodge Mount off of the vile Dodge Van, he decided that it was time to go.
  Van Man walked up to multiple check-out lanes. It seemed to him that there were no less than one hundred tired and sweaty men in the lines. All of them with pieces and parts of Fords, Hondas, Toyotas, Chryslers and the dreaded Dodges. But not one Chevy part. That was something Van Man could not understand. The lines were slow. For the first thirty minutes, The Van Man stood in The Sun's mean glare. An hour passed and he had closed in to the front of the line. Van Man noticed a Dirty Man in the lane next to him. Dirty Man had oil and dirt smeared across nearly every discernible part of his skin. Dirty Man also wore a sweat shirt and a pair of jeans that were just as dirty. Van Man did not understand why Dirty Man wore the hot clothes on the hottest of days. The Sun is laughing at this dirty bastard, thought Van Man. Dirty Man approached the Check-Out Clerk. He seemed to ask a question, then a commotion began in the line behind him. Van Man watched as an Hispanic Man yelled in Spanish at Dirty Man. He ignored the Man. The Hispanic Man became more aggressive. Van Man did not understand what he was screaming at Dirty Man. And he did not understand why. What Van Man did know, however, was that The Sun was somehow behind the commotion. Must be the heat, thought Van Man. 
"Nah, man, tell 'em he's gotta go to the back!", screamed a Young Man.
The Van Man understood that.
"Make 'em go to the back, he's gotta wait in the Sun like everybody else!"
The Sun was going to like that.
In front of Van Man, a Gentleman clapped and smiled. The Check-Out Clerk ushered Dirty Man off into the Sun. Van Man watched as the many Men, in their lines, smiled and joked in camaraderie. Dirty Man was sad. The Sun was glad. And the Hispanic Man muttered something in victory.
"Fucking Asshole..."
The Van Man understood that well.
  Finally, it was time for Van Man to purchase the Dodge Mount. He did so gladly. The Clerk gave him a free bottle of water, something to use against The Sun. Van Man left the Pick-a-Part and The Sun beat down. He drove in the stifling heat with a feeling of better understanding of the world. He reached his destination, the park that he frequented. Van Man was happy to have the Dodge Mount. He took out the Mount and held it up to the back door of his Chevy Van. The Mount was a perfect fit. Except that it wasn't. It did not have the right hinge fixtures. It was, after all, a Dodge Mount. He knew that the heat had gotten to him and he had made a mistake at the Pick-a-Part. The Van Man was frustrated, The Sun had won and there were still many things he did not understand.
  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Homeless Beauty

  The Sun beat down on the residents of Los Angeles with an anger. The Silverlake boys and girls hid their fair skin inside the coffee shops, emphasizing the fading of the hipsters. The Malibu beaches were filled with everybody but the rich. And in Studio City, The Van Man's Van pulled into the Mobil at the corner of Ventura and Vineland. He needed gas. He had run empty only a few nights before coming home from the 24-Hour Fitness, the night of his meeting with the Headless Horseman, and he had to sleep in Van Nuys. All night, frightened by the sounds of the homeless rummaging through garbage cans with his blade and bat by his side. He wasn't going to run out of gas again.
  Van Man pumped the gas into the van. Out of nowhere, a homeless girl approached him. In the few seconds that passed before their interaction, Van Man was struck for an eternity. He couldn't believe what he was seeing in front of him. He thought her beautiful, but Van Man didn't understand why she had oil and dirt smudges on her face, neck, clothes and everywhere else. Of course, he had seen homeless before. He had seen young and homeless. He had seen gorgeous women with no self-confidence, too. But The Van Man had never, ever seen a Homeless Beauty. Her soft features peered out from behind the dirt and smudge. Van Man was taken aback by her black hair and dark skin, she was a Roman Goddess he had never read about. He thought her the possessor of the softest eyes he had ever seen. And he looked deep into her eyes and could see they were destroyed, crushed. Worthless eyes. She was timid at first and did not want to ask. Homeless Beauty wiped a couple of loose hairs off her forehead and spoke.
"Excuse me..."
"Huh?", replied Van Man.
"We're trying to get back home and we don't have enough money for the bus ticket. Can you help us?"
"Um...I'm sorry, I'm paying with a card."
"Oh, okay...", said the defeated Homeless Beauty.
  She was embarrassed. Van Man could tell that. She turned and walked off from where she must have come. Van Man instantly felt horrible and began to justify to himself why he didn't give some change to the Homeless Beauty. He couldn't rationalize a damned thing. As he pumped the gasoline, Van Man thought about those eyes filled with worthlessness. He asked himself questions that he would never be able to answer. Was she swindled by the world? Did she come into it broken? Broken little girl from a broken little home on a broken little street in a broken little town and now in a broken big city. Van Man finished pumping the gas and boarded his van. He thought about driving by the Homeless Beauty as he left the gas station, but he couldn't even look at himself in the rear view mirror to check his hair. Van Man pulled out a single dollar bill from his wallet. He walked over with a smile to the Homeless Beauty and her Homeless Dude. The Dude just sat on the curb and stared blankly, straight ahead. Van Man thought that there might be something wrong with that Dude. Homeless Beauty looked over to Van Man as he held out the dollar bill. She smiled warmly. As she grabbed the dollar, Van Man told her he forgot that he had this last one. She was graceful in her movement as she took the money and sat back down with Homeless Dude. Van Man walked away and got into his van. He was sad.
  As Van Man cranked the grizzly bear engine of his van, he thought again. Is she on heroin? Did she start dating that broken Dude and he got her on it? Promising her broken heart the world, saying that the truth of the world is on the spoon...made of that stardust. Or maybe they got on it together. Fueled by the energy of new love and sex between fellow black sheep. But they discovered something greater than the new sex and love and laughter between them. The greater thing joined them even deeper. That greater thing became a Hellraiser Box and they opened it together.
  Van Man pulled out of the lot and passed the Homeless Beauty. He smiled at her and she smiled back. He knew she still had that little bit of whatever made her beautiful in the first place. He knew that she wasn't completely gone. She wasn't completely defeated. Van Man knew that her beauty, which she always equated with an art that was original to her soul, was still very meaningful to her. She probably even caught a glimpse of herself in car windows from time to time, very quickly fixing her hair so the owner didn't spot a homeless person peeking in their vehicle. As The Van Man and his Van pulled off into the heat and traffic of Los Angeles, he knew why The Sun was so mad. And he was sad.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Late Night and the 24 Hour Fitness

  The night sky cloaked over the sleeping Valley and The Van Man went to the 24-Hour Fitness located in the Sherman Oaks Galleria. It was late and he needed a shower. It was past one in the morning, which some friends had warned him was not a good time for locker rooms and gyms. It was the Witching Hour. Van Man strolled into the front lobby at about one-fifteen, checked in and headed to the locker room.
  Van Man was alone except for a short, burly, twitchy guy. He was about The Van Man's age and seemed just as inexperienced with they gym lifestyle as Van Man, for he had only just started using the gym for its shower and mirror luxuries. A few minutes passed.
"Hey...you know if it's okay to wear shirts in the steam room?", asked Twitchy.
Van Man was confused by this line of questioning and replied with a hesitant mumble that sounded like "I'm not sure."
"I guess for guys it don't matter. I know girls have to, so I was just wonderin'", said Twitchy.
Then Van Man realized that the Twitchy Man was trying to ask if he had to wear a shirt in the steam room.
  Van Man grabbed his towel, which was wrapped around a container of body wash and a plastic bottle filled with raw honey. He knew that displaying the raw honey and body wash was a sure-fire way to attract unwanted attention, so Van Man kept them concealed as much as possible. The shower stalls were all empty and he was able to select his favorite one. Van Man was glad. After a few minutes, he noticed that someone else had begun to shower in the stall across from his. He thought it must be the Twitchy Guy. As Van Man finished his shower, he opened his stall door and found himself looking at a naked, old butt. The Old Man that the butt was attached to hadn't closed his stall door which made Van Man very uncomfortable and he walked away very fast.
  As The Van Man got dressed, he thought to himself that stuff probably happens a good bit because it was a gym. He walked over to the sinks and began to brush his teeth. Suddenly, the Old Man appeared beside him. And stared at him in the mirror.
"You have a beautiful face. Very handsome.", said The Old Man.
"Thank you.", replied Van Man with the toothbrush dragging across his teeth.
Van Man just stared at his teeth and hand and toothbrush in the mirror. The Old Man stared at Van Man. Then he was gone. The complexities of peripheral vision had left Van Man frightened. He hastily rinsed his mouth and grabbed his bag, exiting the locker room through the back hallway which he had never done before. Van Man didn't even know where it led. The Steam Room. He walked past the steam room doors and from behind one appeared Twitchy.
"Hey, man, you know how to turn on the room?" Van Man did not. And he was glad to see Twitchy.
As they stood at the doorway of one of the steam rooms confounded, Van Man noticed a sign on the door window which read: "STEAM ROOM CLOSED 1AM - 4AM FOR NIGHTLY CLEANING". Twitchy saw the sign, too.
"Well, guess I'm not steamin' tonight." Van Man agreed and walked away.
  As he approached the front lobby, he noticed The Old Man talking with the Front Desk Dude. He was waiting. Van Man walked to the front door as Old Man held it open for him. They walked to the elevators. Van Man decided he had only one defense and that was to pretend he was on his cell phone texting. There was a disturbing silence filling the air as the two men waited for the elevator. It finally arrived and they both got on. Van Man did not have enough time to push the button of his floor because Old Man had already pushed it. They were going to the same place.
"I'm sorry.  I didn't mean anything by what I said.  I just like looking at you."
"It's cool.", Van Man replied. The Mother of Van Man had always taught her son to be polite.
  The two men exited the elevator, into the parking garage and walked in the same direction through the rows and rows of empty parking spaces. Images of Disney's Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman popped into Van Man's mind.
"You're just very beautiful.  Great face."
"Ah, thanks, man."
"I bet you get that a lot, don't you."
"Yep.", Van Man stated.
"I got that a lot, too, when I was your age.  From women and from men."
Van Man could see his van only fifty yards away.
"It was the Sixties. Do you know about the Sixties?", asked The Old Man.
"Yeah, man. I've heard about the Sixties", replied Van Man.
  Then there was a beep. A car alarm beep. The Old Man was at his car and Van Man was glad. The rest of what Old Man stated to him would forever be lost in the Sleepy Hollow of his mind, but Van Man finally got to his Van. And he had remained polite.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Long Lost Brother of Axl Rose

  Starbucks. Toluca Lake. Van Man had just seen two actors of moderate fame that he recognized that morning, so he didn't mind to let his mind travel. For a split-second, just a fraction of a moment in the history of the universe, considering time and place and the absurdity of Los Angeles in the summer he thought that the grizzled, red-headed gentleman with the pig tails down to his waist was the fiery lead singer, Axl Rose. That brief moment passed and Van Man realized that, of course, it wasn't. He ordered his coffee and sat himself, as he envied Axl Rose's Long Lost Brother's table which was right next to an outlet. And in clear view of the pretty Granola Chick who sat outside with a squirrel tail coming out of her bag. Van Man eyed Granola Girl and Axl Rose's Brother, as he waited for the moment to grab the spot.
  After a few minutes, Armenian Man snagged the empty table of the Brother of Axl Rose and Van Man sat, content to stay in his spot. Then he had to take a leak. Van Man walked to the restroom and felt good. The coffee was kicking in. To his surprise, there was only one man waiting for the men's restroom. The Long Lost Brother of Axl Rose. Van Man thought to think of an interesting thought that would entertain hiim. Before he could muster that thought, The Brother of Axl Rose spoke.  "You gotta piss?  'Cause if you do, you can go ahead.  Been workin' one." Van Man quickly nodded and made a jumbled grunt. The men's room door opened and a non-descript gentleman exited. Axl Rose's Brother kindly stepped out of the way as Van Man entered the restroom, locking the door behind him. Van Man was glad.  
  After he was finished, Van Man quickly washed his hands, knowing The Long Lost Brother of Axl Rose had been workin' one. As he exited, Axl's Bro rushed in to the bathroom and Van Man knew then that he was not a relative of Axl Rose. That man was a gentleman.