Monday, April 27, 2015

To Live and Die In LA

  Monday morning ushered in the car horns and sunshine. The Van Man opened his eyes and found himself on a couch. It was not his couch. He lived in a van. Mr. Funny had stumbled into the room. Van Man did not feel too hungover, just a slight headache and a really dry mouth. Mr. Funny looked groggy and tried to form words into a sentence. It was a question about Van Man's van. He informed Mr. Funny that he was parked in a spot good until eight. It was seven forty. Mr. Funny and The Van Man chatted for a few about the events from the night before and came to the conclusion that Ted Danson should have balled Grace Jones instead of Whoopi.  Grace was a fucking animal. Van Man said his goodbye and left the Westside. He headed back to The Valley.
  Van Man needed coffee as he drove up Sepulveda. But he needed to shit and shower even more. As he reached The Valley, he stopped off at the gym and found good parking. With ease. A parking space was as good as gold in Sherman Oaks. Van Man grabbed his bag and walked in. There were very few gym rats and the locker room was quiet. He nearly had it to himself. Van Man undressed and locked up his bag in a locker. He went into the bathroom. It was glorious. Van Man was in awe of how clean and fresh the bathroom seemed. Mornings were where it was at. He entered a stall and was so relieved not to find the normal scene displayed: wild animal crap splattered all over the bowl with soiled toilet paper wadded on the floor. Van Man spread toilet paper on the seat and sat down. It was clean, but he was not an idiot. "Let's Get It Started" played over the speakers. Van Man remembered how the album version was called "Let's Get Retarded". He wished that version played. He sat and held his towel and raw honey. It's a good day, he thought to himself.
  With his shit and shower finished, Van Man was ready to get his coffee. He had to make one brief stop for ice at the store where everything was a dollar. He arrived and found more parking spots. It was, indeed, a good day. Van Man stood in line. He noticed the man in front of him looked like a Creepy Fred Savage. Or maybe a Normal John Pankow. The man fumbled with his cash as he talked strangely to the check-out woman.
"That's pretty.", said Creepy Fred Savage.
"Huh?", replied Check-Out Woman.
"Your name.", said Creepy Fred as he gestured to her name tag.
Van Man looked at her name tag. Stephanie.
"Oh, thanks."
"That's pretty one."
Van Man noticed that Creepy Fred forgot to use the article "a" in his comment to Stephanie. Van Man knew then that something was not quite right with Creepy Fred Savage. He continued to mutter things to Stephanie as she handed him his change. Van Man put two and two together. Creepy Fred Savage was a retarded person. And he liked Stephanie the Check-Out Woman. Unfortunately, Creepy Fred was so enamored with her that he would not take his groceries and it was Van Man's turn.
"Two bags of ice.", said Van Man.
"Two ice.", replied Stephanie.
"Thanks."
"That's two eighteen."
Van Man looked over at the card swipe machine where Creepy Fred stood and fumbled with something invisible. He walked over and stood at the card swiper.
"Oh, I'll get out of your way.", lied Creepy Fred as he just stood next to the card swiper.
Van Man was unsure if Creepy Fred would remember his four digit PIN if he watched.
"I won't look. Don't worry, I won't look.", Creepy Fred assured him.
Van Man rolled the dice and swiped the debit card. He entered his PIN into the swiper and the ice was his. Creepy Fred stood and looked at Stephanie. Van Man declined the receipt, walked around Creepy Fred and grabbed his ice from the freezer. As he exited, Van Man noticed Creepy Fred Savage had not moved an inch and continued his stare at Stephanie as she rung up another customer.
  Van Man drove off in search of coffee. He thought about the adoration Creepy Fred Savage had for Stephanie the Check-Out Woman. Innocent and pure. Stephanie must have hated her job. April was close to its end and May was near. The Valley was bright and hot. The Van Man had a good day and he had not even had his coffee yet.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Passion

  The Van Man arrived at the coffee shop and walked toward the door. A familiar face sat outside at a table. Van Man had identified the face as a former co-worker from his summer camp days. The co-worker was a religious fanatic, a man possessed with a calling to some god in heaven. Mister Religion had grown out his pubic-hair beard, but Van Man was sure it was him. Fuckin' freako, thought Van Man.
  Mister Religion was in deep conversation with some disciple. Van Man could not help but notice how this former co-worker spoke with such strong conviction about whatever the hell he was talking about. Van Man was sure they were talking about sucking dick. Or maybe how to get to heaven. What Van Man remembered most about Mister Religion was his extremely dark outlook on life. He seemed like a nice enough fellow on the outside, but inside, he was one morbid fuck. One summer afternoon after the two had finished up their lego camp classes, they decided to partake in lunch together. They agreed on a pizza joint. The two spiritual opposites sat outside and scarfed. Mister Religion explained to Van Man some of his truths about life. He told Van Man that he believed all of humanity was evil by nature. There was not one thing that could be done to change that. And that was why "God" was so important to have in one's life.
"Do you believe in God?", asked Mister Religion.
"I believe in lots of things, you know?", replied Van Man as he licked the pizza sauce from his fingers. Mister Religion laughed.
"Really, do you believe in God?"
Van Man wanted to look at Mister Religion and say, "I am fucking Satan." But he decided to keep the conversation light. The lunch had been four years prior. And Van Man could plainly see Mister Religion was up to his old tricks again.
  Comfort was cool and Van Man had never been cool with religion. He had been raised as a Roman Catholic in Christian-rich Alabama. The unstoppable force teamed up with the immovable object. Van Boy had spent countless Sundays in grim churches surrounded by hundreds of sad and weird worshippers. He would be unfairly forced out of the comfort of his room where horror movies played on the convex television and herded into a place that Van Boy felt was more frightening than anything Wes Craven could conjure. He would sit on rock-hard benches and be forced to kneel every so often. As to what he knelt to, he did not know or give a shit. The worst part of all of it was the boredom. It was a waste of time and never any fun. Van Boy would use the time wisely and sleep. Many times, he would awake to find himself surrounded by hundreds of weirdos knelt in prayer, while Van Boy would be contorted in some position in an effort to get some shut-eye. And sometimes a churchgoer would wake him up as he snored. These were the things he had to deal with. One Sunday, after a good snooze and as the congregation filed out of the church, Van Boy was stopped by The Priest. He seemed like a giant. The Priest extended his hand. Van Boy extended his and the two shook hands. This is what The Priest did. He shook hands with the worshippers. Then pain shot up Van Boy's arm as The Priest squeezed the life out of his hand. The Priest smiled. Van Boy shook his head and pulled back with all his might. The Priest was strong and did not let go. And he smiled which showed teeth yellowed from smoking. The pain was immense. And The Priest finally let go. He continued to shake hands with the rest of the churchgoers. Van Boy walked away very fast and never returned.
  As the thoughts flooded his mind, The Van Man decided it was better to not say hello to Mister Religion. God versus The Devil was just too much of a main event to handle before eight in the morning. And he had not had his coffee yet.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Opening Night

  The Big Man ordered his coffee and slipped the barista some cash. The Van Man watched him as he took back his change. Big Man held the coins up to his eyeballs and inspected each one carefully. It was important to The Big Man. Everybody's got something, thought Van Man. He was right. Every person had one thing in common with everyone else. Something out there fascinated them.
  Van Man had his hearing back. It was not perfect, but the ringing was gone. In a few hours, the Western show would open and audiences would delight in gunshots and peanuts. It was exciting. It was one of only three places where Van Man could still find magic. On stage, on set and in between a woman's thighs.
  The Big Man left with his order and his coins. He was happy with the magic they held for him. Van Man stared at the line of customers. All had an interest. Something that fascinated them. Makeup, fast cars, mason jars, walking around in panties and heels, old anatomy books...those were the things that made up life for so many. The Van Man had acting. And coffee. And his van.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cowboys and Engines

  The Van Man's hearing felt better as he sipped his morning coffee. His hearing felt the best it had since before the gunshots. He was in the midst of a stretch of three consecutive plays in The Valley. The first production had been a two-week engagement at a college. He portrayed a stoner cheese sculptor stricken with grief and guilt. The guilt was the easy part. Van Man had started tech rehearsals for the second, a Western. It was staged at a converted jewelry store on Burbank Boulevard. For the show, the Director insisted on the use of high-caliber blanks which filled the small store with deafening explosions ten times per night. He had a ringing in his ear for three days from the first night. After that, Van Man decided to use ear plugs on stage. So much for realism, he thought.
  Van Man enjoyed his coffee and thought about the day ahead. He had to jump under the hood of his van and replace the master cylinder. Sounded harder than it was. He then had to prepare an audition for another play. Othello. Van Man was no Shakespeare freak, but if he had a dream role written by The Bard, it was Iago. The audition notice described Iago as a "fashion designer, flamboyant, but real, think David Bowie/Velvet Goldmine/70s Glam Rock/Eurotrash". LA theatre was alive and well.
  Van Man finished up his coffee. He was appreciative. He had his acting gigs. He had his van. The Sun was out and the skirts were short. His hearing was better. The Van Man sipped and waited for something else.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Good Friday

  Time passed. In LA, winter was over. Dead. It took Spring with it to the grave. April and Summer had arrived. They brought sunshine and hope in their carry-ons. It was the definition of a promise of better days. The Van Man believed the ladies. One more time.
  His birthday came and went. Thirty-four years of not fitting in. Just the way he liked it. Van Man had a strong mind and body. He was capable of anything at his age. Laundry.
  The previous two weeks had been filled with rehearsals, performances and grueling work. He had wondered if he could balance rehearsing two plays simultaneously. With a little finesse, he did. Van Man had filled his life with acting and, yet, he was not satisfied. Not even close. He worked construction for money. Maybe that would help fill the hole inside. It did not. It made his clothes dirty. So he laundered.
  April Fool's passed and Easter was close. He had a performance later in the evening. "Back In Black" played and The Van Man dried his clothes. Slowly, a slight satisfaction mellowed his soul. He remembered that he had scored two primo tickets for AC/DC at Dodger Stadium in September. It's the little things, Van Man thought. And the dryer turned and the clothing tumbled.