our documentary on Palms homeless writer JAY BRADY. Part VI: SIGNING OFF.

THE FINAL INSTALLMENT OF OUR SERIES OF INTERVIEWS WITH PALMS-AREA homeless writer Jay Brady, who closes us out with a Jerry Springer-style last word. Haven't seen him in a while, but I'm sure he's fine. He has friends with homes who let him crash pretty regularly.

During its creation, I had the idea that this documentary would get his book published and get him off the streets. I'm not sure how I got that idea, but don't worry, it's gone now. Shit, I spend all my days running like the hounds of hell are upon me just to keep these scruffy four walls of mine. That's how most of us avoid living in boxes.



THE COUCH IS GONE. Apparently, these bites covering my body are bedbugs after all, but I didn't realize they were in my couch and not my mattress until I noticed them streaming out of my cushions towards my half-naked body while watching Raging Bull the other night. Meanwhile, I ruined my mattress last month scrubbing it down with bleach-flavored Lysol, and no matter how many incense sticks I slide under my bedcase, it still has that faint foot smell, and is probably going to have to see the dumpster like about a third of my possessions have in the last month. I'm basically paying to squat in my own home.

The two guys remodeling Janet's old apartment helped me get the couch out of my place the same way it got in: over my balcony. Thank God all 218 of the Vinyl Junkies were living at my place that week in 2005 when I copped it, because I would never have gotten it over the balcony alone, and it sure wasn't going through the front door. It had a bunch of musty rappers camped out on it within ten seconds of landing in the mayoral compound, and it stayed that way pretty much right up until its unceremonious exit.

Between girlfriends, houseguests, extremely long-term houseguests and small invertebrates, there are an awful lot of individuals, living and dead, who know that couch intimately. Some of them, I wined and dined onto it, and hoped they'd never leave. Some, I welcomed into my home until they were financially ready to venture into the world. Others, I squeezed to death between my fingers until they exploded and left a piney smell. It loved all its occupants, and they loved it right back, no matter what they might tell you. If it really loved you, it left feathers in your hair.

Actually, I had to ask a couple I met at the market last week to wake up and get off the couch just before I threw it out. It was a comfy ass couch, man. It's the kind of couch you dedicate sonnets to. And I did, actually. check it out.

Anyway, it's sitting by the dumpster looking like Saddam's statue after the Iraqis knocked it over. My living room looks like a yoga studio. Anyone got a spare couch?


our documentary on Palms homeless writer JAY BRADY. Part V: GETTIN' LOADED

HERE'S PART FIVE OF MY INTERVIEW WITH HOMELESS WRITER JAY BRADY, where I 'went in', as the kids say, on Mr Brady somewhat, as it became clear that I was talking to a man whose core problem is alcohol, not homelessness. This documentary was shot in a day, and he's a couple of MGD tall boys in by this point.

Jay says the homeless are trying to kill the pain caused by the fact that they have nothing to do. It seems to me that they have nothing to do precisely because they're wacked out of their brains half their days. I understand that kicking a substance addiction when you're not homeless is hard enough. But lets pinpoint the problem.

99.100% of (relatively) sane, able-bodied homeless people happen to stay as high and/or drunk as possible. Coincidence?

If they were to stop, life would almost certainly get better. How long do you think someone sober and homeless would hang out at the park? Ten minutes? I only visit parks if I'm shitty drunk, or watching someone's baby, in which case I'm almost incoherent. If I was sober I'd probably run outta there screaming louder than the kid.

Intoxication accompanies celebration. If you have no home or money, the party's over. Make kicking your addiction and eating your first and second priorities, in that order, and I think you stand a much better chance of finding a job and your own water supply - two great reasons to pop a bottle or two. I think drugs and drank account for the downfall of just about everyone I know, really. Show me someone who should have been so much more, and I'll show you someone who knows all about drinking at breakfast. That goes for me too. Some of us explode fast; most of us slow burn. Better the latter, if you ask me.



NOW THIS ONE WAS FUN. Shout out to the talented director Jay Ahn, and to Gotham Green & Quickie Mart for having the vision to give a raw-ass hip-hop record the Hollywood treatment. Good looking out to Adam at Originators clothing store on Melrose for letting us use his spot. Download the song free here.



IT MUST SUCK TO NOT BE HIP-HOP. Everyone's a hostage of their upbringing: where you are and who you hang out with in your early teens, when your ears are wide open and you're looking for anything that helps you make some sense of yourself. By the time you leave high school, the die is cast. I was a heavy metal fanatic when I discovered hip-hop at age 14, the year I moved to America. If I had moved even two years later, I would probably still be rocking a ponytail with the sides shaved, my girlfriends would all smell like cigarettes and black makeup, and my neighbors would hear Winger's second album in their nightmares. I would have had no choice in the matter. Instead, I get to hang out with ladies who should be models, my neighbors dance when my stereo plays, and I'm a conscious, participating member of this hip-hop world we all live in. But if you lived somewhere weird during ninth grade, or had an older sibling with something metal hanging off his or her lip, you probably don't even understand hip-hop music. You don't even know how to begin. A goddamn shame.

A good place to start is DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat", the greatest song in the history of the universe. DJ Kool is a Washington D.C.-based DJ.  D.C. is in the heartland of America, where black people invented all Western music that people actually like that isn't classical music. A good hip-hop DJ knows everything about all kinds of music, since hip-hop is made of every kind of music in the world. So I'm not surprised that a D.C. DJ created the greatest song in the history of the universe, or that the greatest song in the universe is a combination of a James Brown loop, some horns lifted off another of the greatest songs in the universe and a bunch of people going completely apeshit while a guy shouts about how he needs to clear his throat.

Many of the greatest songs make people cry. Some make people mosh. I know one that makes people leap ten feet in the air and land dancing like today is twenty birthdays rolled into one within six seconds of dropping the record. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter how many of you there are, no matter how often you've heard it. And I'm nominating it for the title of The Greatest Song In The History Of The Universe.

Cincy Brass Jazz Band cover "Let Me Clear My Throat"
DJ Kool clears his throat during an interview


our documentary on Palms homeless writer JAY BRADY. Part IV: SSI CHECKS

NO POST LAST MONDAY. The Palms Weekend observes Columbus Day, as the Seafaring Tight-Wearing Mass Murderer and I are both Genovese-born.

Yeah, he killed a lot of people, but so does McDonalds, so wipe the sweet & sour sauce off your mouse and let's move on. 

No post yesterday either. I have family visiting from Iran, so I have bequeathed my life to the goddess Itis for October. Unless they leave early, or California runs out of rice.

As you'd better know by now, director Bodhi Filmore and I conducted a series of interviews with local homeless writer Jay Brady, which I've been posting every week. Here's episode four, which covers the point where I deduced that Jay would probably have much less to complain about if he wasn't holding a tall can of MGD six hours a day, and consequently began losing interest in this project. Sure, I'd be way further in life if I wasn't such a boozer, but I'm trying to get that in check right now, and I still have a place to live. I like to think  that if I was sleeping in the street, getting drunk would be the last thing on my mind. But what do I know.

This episode does raise the interesting catch-22 homeless people face regarding SSI (Supplemental Security Income) checks. Apparently, the application process is a real pain in the ass which you'll have to repeat if/when an employer cans you, since only the unemployed are eligible. So many homeless people opt not to jeopardize the only check they can count on, and don't bother looking for jobs.

However, this episode does include another local named Sippy (on the bicycle), sporadically homeless until recently. He now has a daughter with his wife, who recently got a job at a spa. Good for you guys.



MICHAEL DOUGLAS IS A FAMILIAR FACE FROM MY CHILDHOOD. I don't mean Michael Douglas and I were childhood friends; I would have to have been in elementary in 1953 to manage that. More like, Michael Douglas was a star back when I was a kid in the hell-yeah'ing, God-loving Eighties. He was my kind of star. Knew his way around a suit and a mini-bar. Seemed like he had a firm handshake. Stately grizzle; like, sure he had a hangover most mornings, but he wasn't gonna be a dick about it. Remember Romancing The Stone and Jewel Of The Nile? The Indiana Jones rip-offs with Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner before she got fat? Indy was far and away the fattest gangsta on my screen back in the day, but Dougy did his thing in those flicks. Indy would have won drinking games, but Mike would have slayed him on the slopes, if you know what I mean.

His dad is double-triple O.G. Kirk Douglas, who ruled in Paths Of Glory, one of Stanley Kubrick's first and finest movies. His wife is Catherine Zeta Jones, who managed to become one of the hottest women ever despite the considerable handicap of being Welsh. And he was the lead in one of the best movies about Los Angeles ever, Falling Down.

Also, not for nothing, I just realized I'm currently rocking Michael's default haircut. Actually, I'm pretty sure I've been biting his whole style for about three years now. Everything except the throat cancer.

So when nobody showed the slightest interest in checking out Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, I gladly took myself out for dinner and a movie. I'm tired of most of you anyway. But this is not a good movie, guys. Uninspired. Confusing. The dialog reminds me of my nephew staging a conversation between two action figures. The lead is Shia LeBeouf, whose dramatic range, as this clip demonstrates, consists of him saying "no no no" a lot. Douglas is obviously the high point, but even he phones it in. If reading from a teleprompter while raising your eyebrows a lot is acting, then I'm the next Michael Douglas. Money Never Sleeps misses so many golden opportunities, the biggest being the chance to have become the defining movie of a critical point in American economic history, as the original was for the Eighties. And all because, well, it sucks. I mean, it's just not good.

Can't wait for Wall Street III.



New Orleans, August 29 2005: the view from my boy DJ Real's hotel room

YOU KNOW THE END IS NEAR WHEN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DECIDES TO HAVE SEASONS. We went from the hottest day in recorded history to the rainiest day in recorded history in six days or less. It's the Mercedes Benz of climates.

Janet didn't find a roommate. She's moving out of the mayoral compound this weekend into an apartment down the street, which I'm told has a great washer/dryer. As the Palms Weekend goes to press, Pudge is clearing his stuff from my closets for his flight today back to New York, where his girlfriend awaits in an apartment they will share. I took the opportunity to de-clutter my place, but stopped after I realized my pad could pass for a strategically arranged indoor junkyard, and I'd be sitting on the floor of an empty apartment if I kept going. Me and these dreams; that's all it'd be.

Marcus' younger cousin is moving in across the way. Got into a cross-balcony shouting match with his buddy the other night after he parked his car precisely in the middle of the driveway. Didn't get a good look at him, but caught a Luniz vibe: short, and not happy about it. I love hood folk who wait until they hit the Westside to start threatening people's lives. They're always so surprised when the cops show up. Fuck the code of the streets. I'm a rapper, and I will summon police officers on you.

Never liked fall. Not sure why, it just puts a lump in my throat.




LIFE IS A TRADE. RICH COUNTRIES TRADED PHYSICAL LABOR for desk jobs, and manly afflictions like gout and steel beams through the chest for dainty conditions like tender fingertips and screaming jolts of pain that shoot through your neck when you check your email. Yes, you are one of a select group of history's biggest pussies if sitting down and typing hurts, but this isn't the Bible. Guilt isn't going to fix this.

Allow me to suggest the standing desk. Donald Rumsfeld reportedly used one during his time as Dubya's defense secretary, presumably to relieve any back and shoulder stress incurred from sending thousands of kids to get their heads blown off. Neck pain prompted me to follow suit earlier this year until a month's worth of twelve-hour deskwork stints as a result of all-out war with my web hosting company GoDaddy forced me to bring the desk back down to earth temporarily. You can blow rent on a shmancy adjustable desk, or you can heighten your current desk by perching it atop some of the unused crap cluttering your home, which in my case is a few boxes full of CD copies of my two albums that haven't quite flown off the racks yet. My music may not support me yet, at least it supports my desk.

I traded neck problems for insomnia a few years ago. Turns out sleeping on your stomach with your head at a ninety-degree turn for several hours nightly wasn't much good for my neck, but it's the only way I get any sleep. Now I've traded carpal tunnel syndrome for achy feet. Fair trade? Who knows. But I'll bet most of us would make just as much money with construction jobs, and we wouldn't need the back therapy or gym membership.


our documentary on Palms homeless writer JAY BRADY. Part III: SURVIVING VEGAS.

Episode 3 of The Palms Weekend's first documentary The Great Delusion, a series of interviews I took with homeless WLA writer Jay Brady. In this episode Jay talks about his short-lived marriage.  Here's episode one and two if you're late. Jay has written a book called Homeless Sweet Homeless, which we're trying to get published. Please contact me at james [at] theunfamiliar dot com if you'd like a copy of the Homeless Sweet Homeless manuscript.



Director, Sum wife and Westwood Block resident Nzinga Kadalie wrote what lazy writers call a ‘scathing diatribe’ of our neighborhood 88 Cents & More store where nothing is 88 cents. Palms Weekend (food) critic Janet Dandridge also chimed in with her 88c experience with the story, slated for print today. However, at some point this year while we were cracking blunts and overcooking pasta, the ‘88’ was apparently renamed the ’99 Cents And Up’, as a cursory glance at the store wall revealed this morning. Here’s the story, with Janet’s pre-99c rant preserved because it’s funny.

NZINGA SAYS:  Whether you like it or not, it used to be if you live on the Westwood block, the 88 Cents & More store is not only a necessity but an experience. Even down to the name -- everything in the store is definitely worth almost exactly 88 cents, but best believe you pay MORE, as the store’s title once implied. I used to think of it surcharge for the experience. But now, they've actually decided to be realistic...and change the friggin' sign to actually reflect what we've known for years, but what they apparently just found out that the shit is 99 cents and UP.
SO..in light of them getting with the program and being frank with their clientele... This is in memoriam of the store we, the Westwood Block dwellers, once knew as The 88. Let’s journey back in time to a couple of weeks ago when the 99 & Up Store was the still The 88....

We casually stroll past the candy machines that dispense aluminum Barbie handcuffs in plastic bubbles and spools of vinyl table wrap with floral indentations that I’d imagine house ancient braille prophecies, into the back of the store. To your right: dusty plastic brooms. To your left: crusty plastic sunflowers with imitation water droplets. Ah, you’ve just officially entered The 88. 
Depending on if we’re there on a Wednesday or a Sunday, you’re either gonna be greeted by the trashy yet pleasant Pakistani man who projects slight spittle while simultaneously catcalling to chicks and screaming in Urdu to his homie, who lives on the other end of a phone (understand this dude is going to have get his cordless phone surgically removed from his ear). He is truly gifted. Or, you get the LADY, who looks like the missing Indian South Park character. She really is the missing link to the show. Someone should tell her, so she doesn’t have to follow us around the store with her eyes. Please note, although they sell hundreds of different kinds of calling cards, neither of these people can tell you which one you can buy to call Trinidad.

We greet them with a smile or evil stare - whichever is appropriate - and keep moving, toward the reason I wanted to share this experience in the first place...

We bear left, and there, directly in front of you, is one of the best-kept secrets of Palms: the best fragrancing options this side of Overland. Incense. Champa of all varieties. YOGA champa. NIRVANA champa. MONEY champa. And my favorite of all...DRAGON'S BLOOD champa. Super cheap. This, for people who appreciate smells, is a dream come true. Right here on the block. For those who don't really do incense, this part of the experience doesn't really pertain to you. Vons has tropical varieties of Febreze on sale right now. That's the best I can do for you. But for those of you who do... Usually, whatever Champa you're in the mood for, the 88 Cents & More Store had it, surprisingly. I wouldn’t have recommended the 88 experience for many things, i.e. sponges or baby wipes or perfume, but admittedly The 88 Cents & More Store had been fragrancing my apartment since 2007. But now I guess the 99 Cents & Up store will have to do.

JANET SAYS: For real, the store is great, yet full of shit. I'm saying, seriously, enough people lie to me already about what they can and can not do, what is true and what is not true, and then these folks at that store just rub it in my face! So many businesses advertise falsely to get people in their store and get away with it! If you say that everything in your store is 88 freakin' cents, then why is the cheapest item 99 cents? Come on, for real??!! They know that they can get away with it because it's within walking distance to folks who really need to get stuff out of the cheap store.

Look, if I need a toothbrush, I go there. If I need panty liners, I go there. If I need fabric softener sheets, I go there. If I need some caffeine, I go there. If I need shoelaces, I go there. If I need a board to write ‘Car Wash’ on, I go there. They literally have everything you need, even though the items are off-brand and usually don't have as much longevity as stuff in other stores. It's very convenient for many things - but still, "you ain't got to lie Craig!" (I have no idea where that quote is from, but it seems appropriate) And then what makes it a lil' more bothersome is that the dude who's at the counter always says, "Hey baby," and in my head, I'm always like, "OMG, if this dude says that ish to me one more time, I am going to hurt him." But really after saying that in my head a few times, I actually translated it to him like this, "What up fool (ha ha ha - like it was a joke, but I was serious)," with a big smile on my face. Now he only uses that "hey baby" line every one in a while - I guess when he's feeling the spirit.

Moving on to that lady in the store - me and her weren't getting along too well because she just disregards you the entire time you're in the store. One day, I said hello really loud with a huge smile on my face. I think the impact of the hello and the big smile made her think I might be crazy because from that day to present, she is oh so pleasant to me. She even puts my change in my hand! All in all, the 99 cents store - oh, my bad - the 88 cents store is a necessity for the block, and I appreciate them. I just wish they wouldn't lie to me yo, fo' real.
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