Monday, March 23, 2009

Look! I planted a butterfly garden!

Progress report in a month.

So in last night's dream my brother had received a big box in the mail which was a marine aquarium, complete with fish and water and modern filtration systems. It was a new technology, totally encased, with all the trimmings and zero maintenance. All you had to do was plug it in. My brother was unimpressed, and I was a figure of complete envy. He never got around to plugging it in, which was driving me nuts.

Yesterday, as I was about to fulfill my plan of dropping all other plans and submitting to the garden, Mrs. Ditchman turned on HGTV during lunch. "Here's something you should watch!" and I looked over at the screen to see the title card: 25 BIGGEST MISTAKES IN LANDSCAPING. Since I am a good husband, I didn't take it as an insult. Partway into the show this guy's face came on, and I nearly fell out of my chair.

Tony is an old friend from the Dantean Point days, and a member of our Algonquin Circle of local southland writers. He's hilarious, but so was everybody in that inner clique. Sure, we were steeped in squid sh!t most of the time, but it worked like ink all the same. I don't miss it much, but I do remember fondly the creativity, the good music, the cheap wine, and the ever-present laughs. There are more stories there than in this dumb blog, I assure you.

What happens to a circle of loosely-knit artists, fifteen years out of the nineties? Well, most of those guys can be found in the IMDB nowadays. Mark, the group's official Sergeant at Hips (as opposed to the Sergeant at Arms) went on to be a film/tv editor, editing "Jackass: The Movie" of all things, so I suppose we can either blame him, or thank him, for what did and did not make it into the final cut of that cinematic treasure.

Carey, for whom I retain a certain esteemed respect and was in my wedding, went on to be a winemaker for Arcane Cellars, in Oregon. They have a nice cabernet. The pinot tastes like bad ham water.

Karl went on to be a a successful voice actor for The Simpsons. Contrary to the information on his Wikipedia entry, he is hardly German. Last time I saw him he was in an off off-Broadway play. After the show, I went backstage and annoyed everyone by demanding to see him. When he finally came out, stunned by my attendance thousands of miles from home, we had a good laugh and he introduced me to everyone in the show. Nice guy. Once played a Klingon on Star Trek: Voyager.

Eric was, and I assume still is, a particularly talented writer, hilarious, studied under T. Coraghessan Boyle at USC, and could play a mean piano, which always made for spirited meetings (Carey and I happened to have a piano there in the living room.) He is now a writing instructor at the Oregon State University Honors College. Though his "Hotness Level" on RateMyProfessors.com flatlines at zero, he gets high marks from his students, some of whom he evidently owes drinks.

And then there's Neil. Neil is working somewhere in L.A. I caught up with him on Facebook recently. Evidently, he's still traveling the world in his spare time, God bless him. He recently went here:

...and refuses to say where the exotic place is so that it doesn't get spoiled by tourists, (the bastard/the bastards.) He went around the world (literally) back then, which he put on his resume when he returned because he got sick of prospective bosses asking him what he did for all those years he wasn't working. He was working actually -as a bartender in Ireland and teaching English in post-communist Czechoslovakia, for example. He saw the Berlin wall come down in the 80s. He saw the Dalai Lama's toilet. When he came home, he found that all his friends were gone or crazy, so we took him in. He wrote about his travels, and it was a terrific read.

And there's Hunt. I have no idea where Hunt is. Hunt was working at Sony Studios, last I heard, and it was there that he showed me the first HDTV I ever saw, ten years before anyone ever owned one. It was amazing, at the time. We all appreciated having Hunt around because his jokes and quips weren't nearly as cutting as Eric's, and they balanced each other out. Nice guy.

Our group was called GLACFAC, which stood for "Greater Los Angeles Cooking Fighting And Club". This made absolutely no sense, since we never cooked nor fought, and it became funnier and funnier as the meetings went on, eventually taking up its own silly and surreal meaning. We met a few times a month, usually on hump day, and shared writings, thoughts, conspiracy theories, wine, and real dirty martinis (vodka topping off a jar of olives, with a dash of garden soil.) Carey would make an agenda customized for every meeting, and its unveiling was the highlight of every night. (He would, by hand, cut-and-paste funny photos together at work, in the days before Photoshop.) We had a motto, which was in Esperanto: "Ni havas el luno!" It means loosely "We own the moon!" (we were convinced America should claim it because it had put its flag there.) Everyone always had to arrive with an "interesting fact" and if it was neither interesting nor factual, you were forgiven if it was funny. So, in the days before the Information Age, we shared a bunch of funny disinformation once a week and we had a good time doing it. This was all before the Internet, and one meeting we wowed over the potential of something called a CD-ROM.

After a few years of dedicated meet-ups rivaled only by A.A., GLACFAC culminated in a retreat to Mark's parents' condo in Mammoth, where we all drank a lot of wine and made a big pot of some damn good chili. We also wrote a collective screenplay that weekend, just for fun, which we called "Goodbye World". It was a comedy about the end of the world, which may or may not come in the next 24 hours. I cleaned up the thing and submitted it to a random film festival, where it became a finalist. I still think it's a great title.

Me, easily the least creative of the bunch, I went on to aluma-glory in the suburbs. Life is funny that way. Life is funny all sorts of ways, but when you're sitting around on a Sunday afternoon, putting off cleaning the aquarium, and a face from the past arrives unannounced on the tv screen and tells you what you're doing wrong with the landscaping, you can't help but think about these things.

A funny thing about the past: I don't want it back, (I'm happy here in the present) but it sure is fun to visit once in a while. I would love one more GLACFAC. A sort-of reunion, but it's impossible and it will never happen. It will never happen because these guys are artists, and artists can be relied on for little more than incidental, televised, extempore directives in a weekend of sudden gardening. (My new novel: The Sudden Gardener.)

But it would be funny as hell.

The men of GLACFAC at their last official meeting, c. 1996. We had drinks somewhere. Not shown: Eric, who had flown to Oregon by then. I think someone had him on one of those newfangled cel phones. Whatever we said to each other that night, it amounted to goodbye.