Review of and Defense of What’s Your Number

I truly wanted to see this opening weekend because I love Anna Faris, but grad school and a series of bad reviews got in the way. Finally made it out to see the last Sunday night showing- probably before they yank it away from theaters.  I thought it would kind of be like The Ex List, with Elizabeth Reaser, the tv show I liked that got cancelled after a few episodes.  Yes, the conceit of the magazine article seemed quite ridiculous too- why would a woman let such a thing mentally block her? But- just go with it.

The previews/trailers didn’t do it justice. The whole, “I’ll help you hide from your girlfriends if you help me find my exes” thing between Ally and her neighbor Colin (Chris Evans) didn’t jive. It wasn’t until you find out that his dad was a cop and he knows how to track people down did that make any sense.

Strangely enough, the movie opens exactly like Bridesmaids did- Ally goes to the bathroom to freshen up before her guy wakes up just like Wiig’s Annie does.  I’ll tell you how What’s Your Number differs from BridesmaidsBrides tries to appeal to a male audience with barfing and diarrhea. That’s great for teen boys and dudes who never grew up- so it worked. WYN worked on the women’s front.  I wanted to like Bridesmaids, but hated it the first time around. It’s grown on me since. My initial opinion was that Wiig’s character was really alienating, off-putting and way too into herself, as opposed to Faris’ character’s self deprecation and natural silliness, which I found more relatable.

WYN’s previews make the protagonist, Ally, look like she gives a shit about the numbers, but it’s really a piece about a woman who doesn’t care, but feels pressured to, and how damaging articles in women’s magazines can be.  Ally obviously comes from the school of ‘Do Me Feminism’ and we see her low self esteem moments- what woman hasn’t had them? Assuming, she’s smart and always safe- does a woman have to seriously contemplate every sexual encounter?

Compared to other rom-coms, Ally is realistic and the Anne Hathaway characters out there are prudish, scrubbed and safe for puritanical American consumption. Women are trapped into still acting “pure”. The evidence? Articles in The New Scientist and AskMen even- where women lie- play down the number of sexual partners they have because they’re afraid of being judged – like Ally does at first in the movie.  We’re shamed for some reason into pretending we didn’t have certain conquests that we did.  Rare is the female character who is unapologetic about it like Samantha on Sex and the City.  Men wear their numbers like a badge of their testosterone levels.

What would’ve helped? Probably better trailers and better marketing, but– As cheesy as the exposition was in Crazy Stupid Love with Ryan Gosling’s character on why he’s such a player, it worked- you find out why he’s a man whore with low self esteem- his mom was cold and aloof, yada yada. With Colin we don’t know much about his psychology except that his dad worked a lot and didn’t take him to as many ball games as he would’ve liked.  Also, bestiality talk still isn’t that palatable- and there was some of it- about a dog in WYN. Cutting that would’ve been nice, but I see also that it shows how desperate some people are.  The strip basketball scene and the clay carvings were both- ehh.

WYN breaks some conventions nicely. Brides shows Annie always going back to the asshole, the playa (played by Jon Hamm). It wants her to be with the safe, nice, caring cop. In WYN, Colin has an equal in Ally. She’s on his level. She’s a dude who’s banged a string of people too. He’s flawed. She’s flawed and they accept each other. In the end, Annie conforms more than Ally does.

Neither Ally or Colin are society’s “safe” and “acceptable” mates.  Emma Stone’s character in Crazy Stupid Love is- she’s perfect- in law school and cool.  She’s presentable.  Why shouldn’t women have “hoes in area codes” and then try to find out if they maybe missed a needle in a hay stack? Men do in the movies and “the one” they find just consents to it.

I don’t think America could wrap their heads around certain things in WYN. It opens with talking about doggie style sex and then moves onto a discussion anal later.

The ending begins with Ally yelling that she’s a “jobless whore” and ending up with her man whore neighbor (which we saw coming, but didn’t expect in this way).  There’s also the scene where Colin and Ally walk to an “open house” and they talk about the type of woman who you can take home to your family, [bake an apple pie with your mom- or something–a list of characteristics I forget- will have to get a hold of the script] who’ll then take off her glasses and “fuck you sideways”. Colin says, “This woman doesn’t exist”.  She only exists on a show like New Girl or movies written by men.  Here, I think the writers are referring to the manic pixie dream girl again. Kudos to the writers of WYN for this. It’s ridiculous that women have to try to shoe-horn themselves into certain molds.  In WYN, Ally escapes this conformity and confinement by “being herself”.  WYN WYN.

Look at the posters for WYN

Visual rhetoric here:  Ally’s on top of the numbers. She has a man behind her.

Btw, the runner with Chris Pratt (Faris’ real life husband) in WYN is hilarious.

Liked Mylod’s directing.

Ally’s series of mishaps with guys is a riot- all the past Allys had us rolling.

You’ll have to see it. Viva la “jobless whore”.

*** Check out the latest “T&A Do LA” on LASnark.com. We talk tv and women.

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Call for Submissions

October 12, 2011

Paidtobenice and T&A Present:

My Bloggy Valentine

Volume One, An Anthology

Call for Submissions

Send us your blogs, short stories about Valentine’s Day– hilarious, romantic-al, horror laden- whatever moves you. Yeah, we’re putting this out now so we have some collection and prep time for a February (of what year we don’t know yet) release.

Overview

My Bloggy Valentine is a play on “My Bloody Valentine,” which is both a cult-classic slasher film and the name of a cult-favorite alternative rock band familiar to a hip urban audience. 

My Bloggy Valentine will be an anthology documenting the technological expression of everyone’s favorite emotion, love, as seen through the prism of Valentine’s Day blog entries.

Before and after “V-day” bloggers of all stripes take to their keyboards to recount their experiences and either extoll or lament the annual emotional climax that is February 14. As a holiday both adored and disdained, Valentine’s Day is ripe for conflict, humor and entertainment.

The book’s concept is a box of chocolates, divided into eight chapters representing eight pieces of candy. These treats will range from sweet to bittersweet to bitter, with stories moving from the vomit-inducingly lovey-dovey to the unwholesome or bizarre.

We’ll include all flavors of amoré because we all know that when it’s good, it’s great, but sometimes you get a bad one. And because not everyone’s ready for a relationship, we won’t limit ourselves to love between humans – valentines written to pets, food, products or love itself are fair game.

My Bloggy Valentine will be a collection with a treat for every special or not-so-special someone during the Valentine season, as well a source of entertainment worth reading aloud to friends all year round. It’s a celebration of human heart as it reaches out through the arm and onto the Internet.


Outline

Love can be sweet and it can be bitter, and it’s definitely everything in between.

Chapter 1 – White Chocolate with Fudge Filling

This is the best of both worlds, a fun contrast, opposites attract.

In this, we’ll explore everything that’s new and stark. We’re at the puppy love stage here.

Chapter 2 – White Chocolate with Crispy Filling

Snaps, crackles and pops in your mouth. The fireworks begin, but things are still innocent.

Chapter 3 – Milk Chocolate with Bacon

Things are getting salty and sweet at the same time. A touch of grease for the fire smoldering inside all of us.

Chapter 4 – Milk Chocolate with Truffles

Truffles are so grown up, refined. We’ll get stories about adult relationships.

Chapter 5 – Milk Chocolate with Coconut Flakes

We’ll learn that those who seem sweet on the outside can still be disappointing. We’ll hear about getting stood up, being forgotten about when others “flake.”

Chapter 6 – Milk Chocolate with Orange Crème

Sounds like a bizarre combination – citrus and chocolate, but sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes this is the piece that someone takes a bite out of us and puts back in the box. It’s a flavor that’s an acquired taste. Take it or leave it.

Chapter 7 – Dark Chocolate with a Cherry Filling

Yes, darker desires and all and that ooey-gooey, “that sweet, that nasty, that gushy stuff,” as Jay-Z rapped. This is a classic, satisfying flavor, usually poppped all at once into your mouth to be savored, but makes your teeth ache afterwards.

Chapter 8 – Dark Chocolate with Nuts

Dark and nutty – says it all. We’ve been nutty, we’ve been with nutcases. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish who’s who.

Email lifebehindthesmogcurtain@gmail.com.

Looking forward to reading your stuff.

 

Skankenstein

October 2, 2011

Countdown to Halloween 2011

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Logline: A dead hooker is brought back to life using available body parts in a voodoo ceremony, avenges her death and takes out the bad guys who kept her and other women down.

Tagline:  This dead hooker ain’t no joke.

Setting: New Orleans

In the tone of: Death Proof and Planet Terror

Genre: Horror Comedy

Launch of “T&A Do LA”

September 12, 2011

Reprinted from  — over 10 thousand Twitter followers can’t be wrong–

“The Set-Up”

One of our names begins with T and the other with A – we’re a magical combo representing the front and the back, the best of both worlds, the humps and the lumps. We’re girls with similar life paths, who came to Los Angeles ages ago and earned our stripes looking for love among the Hollywood hipsters. We are here to share what we’ve learned with you, with the charm of Southern gals and the smarts of city vixens.

A has dated so many LA guys that she couldn’t come close to naming them all, and sometimes doesn’t recognize them in public. She keeps a spreadsheet of the ones she slept with – not because the list is that long, but because some are so easy to forget.

T has managed not to kill her boyfriend, somehow.

Take 1: The Set-Up

What happens when T tries to make a match for A? Somebody ends up in prison. Read on to find out who …

The T Side:

In the six or so years I’ve known A, I’ve tried to play matchmaker with her a few times. I set her up with the muscled bassist in my boyfriend’s band. I set her up with a quiet roommate who made video games and wore glasses. I set her up with a bad boy who had wild black hair and wore bandanas around it.

At this point, A’s probably second-guessing my attempts, as I’m 0 for 3 with the above-described young “gentlemen.” However, I assure her I’m responsible for one successful marriage – when I was a freshman in college, I introduced two people who are still together with two children now.

Back to Los Angeles – I was producing a photo shoot for a clothing designer, and one of the boy models was from the same state where I went to school. We’ll call him “M.” M and I kept in touch and I found him to be an awesome guy, except that he had an insane girlfriend who tried to kill every female who ever spoke to him. I’d kidnap him from her and we’d drive around and talk about basketball, living on the opposite side of the country from where we grew up, and what we hoped to get out of LA. M was always easy to be around, just like I found A to be.

After M had gotten rid of said deranged girl, I thought that he and A would make a cute couple, since A hailed from the same region. This was after A and I sat outside at wooden picnic benches one night in the back of a decaying dive bar in Echo Park and she was making a list of things she’d like to see happen in her life. I recall one of them being “to be a cute little old woman with a cute little old man.”

My chance didn’t come for some time since M moved away, but as soon as he got back to LA I booked them both for the day. I have a nice set of photos of them in the sunshine, on the Santa Monica Pier. I was pretty satisfied at this union I created.

This is where I’ll hand it off to A to tell you what happened after this. Apparently boys are a different story when they’re just your friends, as opposed to when you get involved with them in a romantic sense. I’m no stranger to having guys purely as friends who are total cads to women …

The A Side:

When you’ve banged your head against the wall that is LA dating long enough, you give up on success on your own terms. So even after a couple of laughable set-ups by T (one guy secretly hooked up with my friend, the other barely spoke to me), when she suggested an afternoon outing with her friend M, I was immediately in. Immediately, because I knew of this guy and he was hot – the kind of hot that makes you click longingly through their Facebook photos on a regular basis for years on end (not that I did that).

I stepped out of the shower that day to find Mr. Click-Worthy playing banjo on my sofa, like the hipster gods had just dropped him there (nice touch, T, letting him in while you walked your dog). He took a nip from my Jack Daniel’s before we’d even left for brunch (flag), invited me on tour with his non-existent band (flag), took us to the frat house where he worked (flag) and polished off a bottle of cheap bourbon by mid-afternoon (flag). But he was still charismatic and disarmingly hot, so when he took me on the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier and we kissed overlooking the Pacific, I was pretty giddy.

By evening, he’d told me I was beautiful a few dozen times and couldn’t keep his hands off me, but he was also too drunk to stand up. However, he was still hot, and I had just been crushingly dumped. He was perfect post-breakup, don’t-care distraction material. But it’s hard to REALLY not care, especially when they’re SO good-looking and you DO like them and hanging out is FUN, you know? So even as I told friends I didn’t trust him further than I could throw a bottle of Xanax and he blacked out entire evenings we spent together, I was secretly wandering into dangerous real-feelings territory.

After a road trip on which he bought Smirnoff Ice because it was the most alcoholic thing at the gas station (flag), he mentioned meeting up with an old friend, and the text odes to my beauty and charm stopped cold. It wasn’t surprising, since these types tend to burn bright and fast. But it was still a let down, especially when “old friend” turned into “new girlfriend” within a week or so. It became less of a let down a couple months later … when he tried to kill her while she was sleeping. He’s in prison now. So thanks T, but that was three strikes, and you’re out.

T is currently bench-warming for a bit, but who’s next in line for your perfect match? Ask us questions or tell us your set-up stories in the comments! (click here)

We’re having a “mancession”.

LICENSE TO WHINE

It was the day of my appointment to visit the CA DMV. We had moved back to California, after
being in racist redneck hell for year. I swore I wouldn’t complain about the west coast anymore-
with its streets that end and start again one block over or its people who talk like valley girls.

This time, I thought, I’d do it right, armed with my near decade of experience in LA and a year
away to reflect upon it.  Feeling like a kid with bad skin on yearbook day, I readied my hair and
applied some Shine Free powder to my face. I was going to have a good looking driver’s license,
damnit.

When I got up, I checked the Yahoo news online as I do every morning. An article said that people with negative initials die earlier than those without, 4.5 years earlier. The journalist gave examples: I.L.L., D.E.D..  Here’s a quote from the story: “D.U.D.’s live nearly three years less”.(http://m1.yahoo.com/w/ygo-frontpage/lp/story/us/384407/coke.bp?ref_w=frontdoors&.ysid=BLbZyv1fWR1LGMaAYspu.Eay&.intl=US&.lang=en).

It made me think of a boy I once knew who told me something entirely derogatory- that his sister’s initials were N.I.G. and she ended up marrying a black guy. Noella Isabella Giamb—.

Thank goodness I made an appointment at the DMV. Armed with my folder of papers, I was second in the appointments line. After filling out my paperwork and getting my number, I watched everyone else with their crying babies and listened in on people at windows tell stories of their multiple arrests. Yep, these were my fellow motorists.  I was called up in all of about three minutes.

The gal at Window 1 was pleasant, a grandmotherly type almost. I told her my last DMV appointment took five hours and that this was heaven in comparison. I also told her I was moving back. With this, I was waived from taking an eye test and written test since my old California license wasn’t going to expire for another four years, but no new photo. They had my old one on file and would print my new license with new address with it. I don’t remember being at all fond of my old picture.

Then I had to go back outside, get my car verified- to make sure I wasn’t trying to register some other vehicle. Done and done- passed with flying colors, even though my driver’s side mirror was set back into place with putty.  As I was told, I came back to Window 1.  My new plates were handed to me. 6SAD_ _ _. SAD? really? This was at the Lincoln Heights DMV branch- East Los. So, naturally my mind tangented off to Sad Girl from the Allison Anders film Mi Vida Loca from 1993. Her description is “she’s too happy to be sad”.

I obsessed over getting a plate that said SAD all day. I noticed other cars had 5RAD_ _ _. Even 6BAD wouldn’t have been that well, bad *cue George Thoroughgood or Michael Jackson here. I noticed really nice cars with license plate holders saying things like Beverly Hills Mercedes had plates starting with 6KEY_ _ _ and 6FLO_ _ _.  (*new conspiracy theory). It wasn’t until I was on the 2 North that I saw a man driving a dark blue Prius with the plate 6NUB_ _ _. That made me feel a little bit better.

All day, I scanned plates 6FOX_ _ _. Why couldn’t I have gotten something that fun? Other 3 letter combinations I saw- LEG, CIN, HIS on a car decked out in Jesus gear, VIS, DUH, but alas, no other SADs. I figured I could just go ahead and subtract those 4.5 years off my life.

I’m waiting for the day I spot another 6SAD blank, blank, blank. We’ll signal, maybe grimace at each other, maybe pull over and lament over this shared fate, probably not as drivers are impersonal as fuck in LA.

I figured SAD stood for Santa Ana dog. Yes, that’s it. It’s a Santa Ana dog mobile. In about a month’s time, we’re moving from our sweet lil Frogtown temporary rental on a lesbian motorcyle shop compound to the artsy fartsy downtown Santa Ana, a.k.a. The Downtown of Orange County with its Grand Central Art Center, Watermark Print Shop that does Mark Ryden and Shag’s stuff and the bevy of coffeshops, etc.. that follow that sort of thing.

SAD. Then I saw a car that got 6MAD_ _ _. At least I didn’t get that. Who controls the California license plate lettering? I bet they get a good laugh at their handy work, probably more laughs than most Hollywood comedy screenwriters get now-a-days.

*warning: writer is writing under the influence (WUI)

//of Woody Allen essays assigned as homework by professors of MFA program//

psyched about a new car and a new license plate for it in a few years…

 

At least it wasn’t JIZ:   ——->

 

8/11/11

Just learned there’s going to be reality tv show about CA DMV. Producers- please find out who does the license plates. ha

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/trutv-orders-california-dmv-series-222222

 

What do you have?

July 26, 2011

on a utility box by Loz Feliz & Hillhurst (north east side of the street), AWESOME:

 

 

 

photoshopped by paidtobenice

 

and now from Dave Chappelle:

Chappelles Show
Frontline – Clayton Bigsby
www.comedycentral.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:24400
Buy Chappelle’s Show DVDs Black Comedy True Hollywood Story

Busy Beez

June 19, 2011

New Projects:

 

 

Senior Living

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In progress:
Stan is going into his final year of college and head of the mathletes team at his university. He convinces four of his fellow nerds (who are tired of dorm and roommate situations with people their own age) to live part time in disguise and move into a retired persons assisted living community, so they can get some peace and quiet to study and win their coveted math trophy.

It seems like a great idea at first, but after the staff goes home, the senior citizens get rowdy. These octogenarian seniors give the college seniors some schooling on how to really live, be cooler, score chicks- that sort of thing- before they have to enter the “grown-up” world waiting for them. It’s a challenge of the wills between those who act old before their time and those who never really grew up.

—–

Tweet, tweet

Scanning the East Coast for a spell before being back West-

Got a team name? motto?

Here are some problems we wrote:

– picture of Thomas Jefferson

– picture of M. Night Shyamalan + Haley Joel Osment

Answer: 11

5 cents + The Sixth Sense

—–

-big card with a picture of the state of Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia, Nebraska, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas ..

-big card with 9 – e + a

-big card with a picture of a 16 oz. + a

-big card with a picture of Santa (Claus) + a picture of Maria Shriver

Answer: 1492

Columbus [sailed the ocean blue] with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria

—-

 

The Jacqueses do the brainy chihuahua/beagle’s bidding for earnings for dairy delights.

Will they win the 2K contest prize to get more?

Team photo in Chinatown, DC

Have Guts, Will Travel- A Forward


“And what do you do?” she asked.

She was a petite girl, vibrant green eyes hid behind geek-chic spectacles, pale face framed by low-cut bangs.  Her hair was red, possibly dyed, complemented by a an elegant black sheath dress, possibly American Apparel.  Definitely my type.  She told me her name was Alison and that she worked as a make-up artist for the movies.  Polishing up stars, aging effects, creature prosthetics, you name it, she did it.  Few things fired up my engine like a creative spirit, and the vodka-cranberry juice mix I held in my hand rippled as my mind nervously buffered a response that might earn me some measure of social capital.  In past weeks I had privately rehearsed my lines for such an occasion but when the lights raised and I was required to perform all I could do was stutter:

“Well, uh, I’m currently unemployed.  I just graduated college and I’m new around here.  But I don’t really want to do anything in my field of study and I’m not quite sure what I want to do, but, um, y’know, things will work out, I think”.

Belly flop.  Nice pitch, Don Draper.  I stumbled my way through a description of my ambitions, how I had been researching opportunities to counsel autistic children, or train as an EMT, or maybe even find a job in the therapeutic field  (“But what I‘d really like to do is write!”).  All the while Alison’s eyes darted periodically to the side, the unmistakable tell of someone itching for an opportunity to hit the eject button.  Such a chance arose when the arrival of a friend relieved her of any further indulgence of my company.  I swallowed the rest of my drink, along with my pride, and resumed drifting among the tide of party guests.

The house in Echo Park that was holding the event was three stories tall, each one host to flocks of artisans, trendsetters, dilettantes, and fashionistas.  If someone wasn’t a filmmaker or an actor, they were a graphic artist or fashion designer.  They had a card, an agent, and multiple hyphens to their job description.  The whole occasion was decidedly “bouge” as my roommate, Charlotte, would say.  She had dragged me along in the hopes that I might make some new friends, but I found little appeal in such a large-scale gathering with hardly a pretense for conversation.

With my dubious street credentials and serviceable wardrobe, I felt like fresh meat for the flannelled mafia.  After what seemed like an hour of forced banter and sentences punctuated by “WHAT?”, the white noise of the crowd had scrambled my senses beyond use.  I bushwacked my way past the beer pong table, across the DJ, up the patio, through the general forest of pretentiousness and found a nice corner where I could disappear.  Charlotte found me in my hiding spot guzzling down beers.

“Ugh,” she groaned, “You’re being awkward.  Let’s go.”  She didn’t ask if I was fit to drive (I wasn‘t) and so we had no choice but to sit it out in the car while I detoxified.  I offered to go back inside for awhile, but Charlotte had already said her good-byes and we couldn’t very well back-track on those.  God, how did I not know these things?  There, in a drunken haze, I resumed pondering a question that had been lingering my mind for the last few days, one which had only become more prominent in suffering the night’s festivities: Had I made the right choice?

Two months had passed since I had graduated from Cal State Northridge, earning a degree that I’m still not entirely sure is useful for.  I had thrown my cap in the air and with it a lifetime that had been charted by checklists, curriculums, and merit badges, now faced with the exciting and terrifying prospect of a life that was suddenly very multiple-choice.

For better or for worse, it was to be a bold new direction for The Dan Barron Show, full of new cast members, exciting storylines, and a different setting, with perhaps a few guest appearances by old regulars.  Because one thing was for certain, I sure as hell wasn’t sticking around in the San Fernando Valley.

While the past six years had supplied me with many treasured friendships and fond memories, life in the area had always seemed so….functional.  I had always regarded the Valley as a cultural vacuum absent of any psychic nourishment, just row after factory-pressed row of strip malls and chain restaurants.   A kind of TV dinner Americana.  Unless you really, really like watching strangers have sex for money, so much that you need these people to be your neighbors, I have little to recommend about the area.  Six years as a southern California resident and still I could scarcely refer to myself as an Angeleno, not when so much of its landscape lay unexplored.

Like a lot of aspects of my life, I sort of wandered into the current stage of my development.  One May afternoon, in the parking garage of my apartment building, I happened upon my neighbor loading up her car with her belongings.  She griped that she was fed up with the building management and said she was moving into a friend’s house in Silver Lake.  I had spent one memorable day in the town, years ago, and voiced my envy that she was migrating to such a hub of arts and culture.  She told me that she knew of an apartment for rent that I could look into and from that throwaway suggestion arrived one of the great turning points in my life.

Ah, Silver Lake!  As a perpetual man without a country its myth as a haven for quirky culture addicts like myself was seductive.  It was a place with texture, the palpable sense that it had been made with human hands.  It had a kind of small town charm that was hard to find in southern California.  Hell, the average coffee shop seemed to exude more life and personality than a given block in Northridge.  Academia was finally in my rear-view mirror so what was left to tie me down?  With hardly a backward glance I boxed up my life and set out on the road so that my bohemian rhapsody could begin.

Suffice it to say, my initial impressions were a wee bit unreflective of the movie in my mind.  Rather than being greeted with open arms, I was thrust into a cannibalistic rat race to be the most stylish, connected, name-droppingest person in town.  It was high school but with nicer clothes.  At least, that was how it appeared my shy, jobless, beardless ass. It can be tough meeting people in a new setting, and doubly so in terrain as spread out as Los Angeles, where people hardly ever seem to leave their cars.  There becomes something symbolic about the long stretches of highway that link each town, the constipated roads that breed resentment.  Objects in space separated by walls of glass and steel.  You flick on your signal lights, look another driver in the eye and think:  Do you see me?  Are you going to let me in?

This circles back to that night in July, hammered in the car with my roommate, with the question hovering over my head that I carried with me all the way home and for months after that.  Was this town that felt so Member’s Only the place for me?  Loathe as I was to admit it, my sojourn among the hipsterati felt like a near-bust.  So when I should have been dining on the sights and sounds of central Los Angeles and its surrounding territories, such as the art galleries, the comedy performances, the music venues, the festivals, etc., I found myself seeking refuge in the spotless Neverland of nostalgia.  Good lord, I actually looked for excuses to return to the Valley.  How fast-acting and potent an anesthetic time can be.  In mere months, the vanilla burg I had so staunchly derided was awash in sepia-tones, compelling me towards a simpler era that had familiar faces and rules that made sense.  When I wasn’t manufacturing reasons to take shelter in the past, I was holed up in my apartment as if preparing for an imminent nuclear holocaust.  Over time the days and nights without incident began to smear together.

“You know, I used to feel sorry for you, Dan, but now I‘m over with that.  You don‘t even try to go out anymore,” Charlotte told me one night as she was polishing herself up for another big party.  Her routinely castrating remarks had become grating, yet I possessed enough presence of mind to know that this time there was a kernel of truth in her words.  Almost out of protest I put on my jacket and climbed behind the wheel of my car.  I took a drive around Echo Park and Silver Lake just to feel the electricity of human existence again.

This was LA, there had to be something going on.  After over an hour of meditatively patrolling the streets without purchase, I resigned myself to another melancholic Friday night sedated in front of the tube and pulled into the driveway of a liquor store.  As I left the establishment with my date for the evening (all six of them), four high school students asked if I could buy them some alcohol.   They told me that they had heard some kind of a gathering was going down in the parking lot in back of a vintage shop.  For lack of a better idea, I decided to join them.

The orange glow of torch lights carved through the blackness of the night sky, illuminating the parking lot from afar and drawing droves of people to it like moths to a lantern.  As my new companions and I drew closer, the rhythmic rumblings of drum beats increased in pitch, stirring my blood in bracing anticipation.

We rounded the corner and what I saw then gave me an instant contact high.  All around rows of multi-colored tents had been erected, and with them what had to have been nearly fifty people.  The crowd was a diverse mix of punks rockers, fashion mavens, geeks, and scene kids.  Canvases had been propped along the fences and street artists were going to work on them as if there were something criminal about the color white.  The air was bathed in a thick grey mist and the acrid blend of aerosol, charcoal, and cigarette smoke flared my nostrils.  I had suddenly found myself in the middle of a genuine LA happening, spontaneous, inebriating, and crackling with anarchic energy.  A “brown bag social” they called it.

Then came out two fire dancers.  To the sonic shredding of local metal band Power Axe they swung their gasoline-soaked chains in a golden cyclone of medieval fury.  The act culminated in their signature move the Ring of Fire, wherein they singed the earth around them, irradiating them like angry gods.  Attendees stomped the cracked pavement as if united some tribal ritual.

“Don’t you ever hurt yourself doing that?” I asked one of the dancers following performance.  I had gathered inside the shop with the two of them and one of the artists.

“Oh, of course I do,” he said, proudly displaying his battle scars, “But when I’m out there doing my thing people worship me!  And it totally makes girls drop their panties.”  Class act, that guy.
What had spurred such a gathering?  It wasn’t about money, because nothing was being sold, or publicity, because far I could tell no journalists were around.  No, through sheer passionate force of will this small pocket of town had been transformed into a howling paean to the invulnerability of youth.

This was why I moved to Los Angeles.

There was a lesson to be learned from the whole experience.  Actually, three.  The first one is that it really pays to buy booze for underage youth.  Not only will you look cool in their eyes, but they may open you up to new experiences.

The second message I extracted from the evening was to open myself to the possibility of surprise.  The wonderful thing about Los Angeles is that there is something going on at any given moment.  One only needs to start lifting up rocks and seeing what they find underneath.

I’ll get to the last and most substantial lesson in a moment, but first I want to talk about my feelings immediately following the event.  I hit the mattress positively vibrating with inspiration.  The thrill of the night had massaged my inner-Kerouac, jolting me from a half-awake existence.  In a reflective moment, I thought back on my life, the wilderness years where I firewalked through fear and doubt.  I thought back on the months since I had tried to establish a new life, where I allowed myself to be held hostage by my anxieties and denied myself from feeling the pulse of my surroundings.

It seemed like there were a hundred stories in that parking lot, alone, from the various bands, to the creepy store owner who organized the event, to the fire dancers, to the two fashion designers who smoked me out.  Suddenly I was invigorated with an insatiable hunger to know more and a need to record my findings.  Never mind that my journalistic experience is limited to a community college course and a year-long stint on my high school newspaper.  I come equipped with an enduring love of the English language, an incurable sense of curiosity, high threshold for weirdness, and faith in the concept that most people really love talking about themselves.

What I internalized in the weeks following that fateful night was that greatness, or at the least the will to claim it, is a conscious decision.  It isn’t preordained or a green light to be bestowed upon by the arbiters of cool.  It all starts with you.

So here it is, the progeny of years of labor pains and a stroke of inspiration.  Screaming, covered in mucus and amniotic fluid, ready to greet the world.  Throughout its lifespan I hope to cover a broad range of subjects, from high culture to fringe culture.  The less comfortable the better.  No story is too big or too small.  With enough panache even the most mundane occurrences can achieve a kind of truthful transcendence.  I have big plans for this site that I hope to roll out over the next year, but more than a forum for my own purposes, I would like for this to evolve into a vehicle of expression for many other unique voices.

Consider this a mission statement, a call-to-arms, a flare-shot to any and all ready and willing.  Photo essays, short stories, interviews, profiles, podcasts, web comics, artwork, video content.  All are welcome under the umbrella that is YAY! LA.

Together we can collect and retell the tales contained within of the City of Angels.  A city of a thousand shades, of limitless stories.  A place that everyone seems to have a love/hate relationship with, and yet those who grow up in it never seem to want to leave it.  My city.

– Daniel A. Barron,
Editor

Coming soon YayLABlog.com

The great Dan’s travails of travels across town.

Being a New Urbanite: