My First Book Signing

Steven Deeble signing copies of 'Persistence of Vision'.Last night I had my first book signing at Timeless Pints Brewing Company in Lakewood, California. Two of the bartenders, Ken and Rae, had purchased my book on Amazon and when I was signing them, I got an idea.

“Do you think the owners would consider doing an author event here?”

They said they’d ask and the next day I had the green light.

Timeless Pints is my local. It is a community hub that is family-friendly (Dog-friendly, too). The minute I walked in the place Rae had me in the palm of her hand. I’ve met some cool people there. So when they agreed to host my first book signing, I was thrilled.

Tami Shaikh, an author I met through the Southern California Writer’s Association, gave me some tips on how to set up for Point of Sale transactions and what things I would need to have on hand. My friend Vanessa’s daughter, Judy, handled all my sales. Judy an enterprising, bright, and charming 11 year-old, I just sat next to her and signed books.

Oh, and people bought me beers. That was also pretty great. Lots of people from my high school graduating class came, which was nice. We gave away the first copy as a door prize at our reunion a couple of months ago. Some folks from work came and brought others. Even made a couple of sales to people I didn’t know. The place was packed and everyone had a blast.

As we were about to shut down they got a call from a woman who identified herself as an ex-girlfriend from high school who was on her way but had been stuck in traffic. She asked if I could stay a while. I hadn’t seen Rosella in 40 years. What a trip.

So now I’m working on the next event – a book signing fundraiser for the Historical Society of Long Beach, to be held at the cemetery where they do their annual Halloween tour. I have family buried in that cemetery so I’m really looking forward to it.

‘Persistence of Vision’ Book Signing at Timeless Pints Brewing Company

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be signing copies of my first novel, ‘Persistence of Vision’, at Timeless Pints Book Signing for 'Persistence of Vision' at Timeless Pints.Brewing Company in Lakewood, California, on Saturday, September 23rd, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Timeless became my local the minute I walked in the door. Bartenders Ken Jones and Rae Carreiro welcomed me, as did Stacy and Patti. When the book came out, Rae and Ken bought copies and I asked if the owners would consider doing an author event. They asked, and the owners agreed. I am so fortunate.

Rae has booked a Peruvian food truck for the afternoon. Timeless features 13 of their own craft beers that are brewed on-site. Books will be available for purchase and I will be there to sign them. Well, and to drink beer. It’s a brewery, after all.

So come on down and bring your friends and family. There are games for the kids. And beer for the grownups.

Did I mention there will be beer?

Very Special Paper, Indeed

Musical InstrumentsIt is 1988.

My father lives in a hunting cabin off the highway near Missoula, Montana. It is Spartan in its décor. There is a cot. A small fridge. A bathroom. He isn’t here much. Most of his time is spent in the Rattlesnake Wilderness, where the U.S. Forest Service maintains a cabin for the rangers.

We have returned from town. His neighbor, a young man with long, wavy black hair, is outside. The man wears a black T-shirt and black jeans. My father has described his neighbor to me as being ‘crazy’. This diagnosis stems from an obsession the man seems to have with paper. My father tells me he has spoken about the ‘special paper’ he needs for his project. He can’t get it in Missoula. He must get it shipped.

We get out of the car and my father introduces me to the ‘crazy’ man. We start talking and my dad excuses himself, leaving us alone. I mention I play music. His interest is piqued. “We should jam some time,” he says. I tell him I don’t have my guitar with me.

He smiles. “Come here. I want to show you something.” The crazy neighbor takes me inside his hunting cabin. It’s the same model as the one my father occupies but this guy had a different decorator. The walls inside his cabin are covered with musical instruments – guitars, basses, a lute. There are instrument cases leaning against the walls – cellos, violas, violins. There’s a piano and an organ, and some kind of electronic keyboard.

An Atari computer displays musical notes arranged on a staff.

My father’s crazy neighbor turns out to be a composer. He plays these instruments. ALL of them. He tells me he is composing a ‘heavy metal’ symphony.

Adjacent to the computer is a tall stand that looks something like a drafting table. Sharpened pencils and a drafting brush for clearing eraser crumbs rest on an oversize sheet of paper, printed with repeating lines of musical staffs. It is the paper a composer uses for writing out all the different parts for the instruments in an orchestra.

Very special paper, indeed.

Jerry Lewis: The King of Comedy has Left Us

Jerry Lewis passed away this past Sunday. For many, who only know his annual telethon toJerry Lewis raise money for Muscular Dystrophy, they have missed out on one of the true greats of film comedy. I came to know Lewis first through his variety show on television and his films with Dean Martin. They were a perfect team, like Laurel and Hardy. Their personalities played off each other in an almost musical way. But not long after I began watching Martin and Lewis films, I discovered a book at the local library called ‘The Total Filmmaker’. It’s author: Jerry Lewis.

I was a film geek starting in sixth grade. I began shooting Super-8 movies, writing screenplays, and directing the neighborhood kids to die on cue. I read every book I could get my hands on about making films or film history. Here was a book by an artist I admired in which he shared his feelings about the medium and some of his techniques.

I learned about the films Lewis made after he and Dean Martin went their separate ways – ‘The Errand Boy’, ‘The Nutty Professor’, and ‘Cinderfella’. He borrowed from the silent comedians who had only their bodies and faces with which to express themselves. And not just Americans. There was a fair bit of Jacques Tati mixed in with Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

In his book, Lewis described how his love of the medium had started while shooting the Martin and Lewis films. He wrote that between setups he would wander off to talk to the guys up in the catwalks to find out what they did. He would lose track of time learning about the different types of lights. They would have to send someone out to find him to resume shooting.

There was one thing in the book that did not compute with my sixth-grade mind. Lewis described the act of ‘licking celluloid’ as if it were an intoxicant. Only later, as an adult, did I finally come to understand what Lewis meant.

Lewis claimed to have invented video playback, and many have given him credit. Being able to watch a take immediately after it was shot by recording a separate video image has become the way films are made.

Lewis’ career went through peaks and valleys. While he continued to perform live in clubs across the country, his films ceased to hold the public’s interest – in the United States, anyway. In France, Jerry Lewis was lauded as one of the great film comedians of all time.

I remember one performance from his variety show. He was in the stands watching a red-carpet reception for a film premiere. There’s no dialog. He just watches, waves, tries to get close. Then he gets a brain storm. He paints his chinos and windbreaker black. Sneakers, too. He puts on a scrap of black fabric for a tie. And he strolls down the red carpet himself.

Martin Scorsese was a fan. He cast Lewis in his film ‘The King of Comedy’. If you haven’t seen this film, you have missed one of Robert DeNiro’s greatest performances. Lewis plays a talk show host. DeNiro plays a fan named Rupert Pupkin, who kidnaps Lewis. In a strange twist on the skit from Lewis’ variety show, DeNiro (With the help of Sandra Bernard) forces Lewis to interview him on television, so he can be just like all the stars he sees on TV.

Much has been said, and there has been much speculation about, Lewis’ reason for making Muscular Dystrophy his personal cause. Regardless of the reason, he personally raised many millions of dollars for research into this debilitating neuro-muscular disease. May he rest in peace.

 

 

Not my Best Day

'Hey, Neil?' by Steven Deeble

‘Hey, Neil?’ by Steven Deeble
Photograph by M. R. Lewis

It is 1986.

I watch the capstans turn in the cassette recorder on the table. I look up as the detectives glance at each other, signaling another change in tactics. They have been questioning me for almost two hours.

Three weeks ago, my mother was found murdered.

The tape records my answers, alternating with expressions of my grief.

“We found your studio out back in the garage,” begins ‘Good Cop’.

“We’re painters ourselves,” chimes in ‘Bad Cop’.

Oh, great. I picture sad clowns and dogs playing cards.

“You have a painting – it’s a brain.”

Oh, fuck.

“Yeah.”

“What does the astronaut represent?”

“Our ultimate technological achievement.”

The astronaut is Buzz Aldrin at Tranquility Base, taken from the classic photograph by Neil Armstrong. In my painting, he has been relocated into a surreal seascape.

“What about the brain?”

“That’s how we achieved it.”

“What does the checkerboard represent?”

“Integration. The black and white squares – think of them like woven threads.” I interlock my fingers. “There is strength in the integration of opposites.”

“What about the ocean?”

“It’s the source of all life.”

“And the lightning?”

“Electricity – the power of the brain.”

“What do the mountains in the background represent?”

This gives me pause.

“There aren’t any mountains in the background.”

“Sure there are.” They look at each other. “We both saw them.”

Shit. They’re seeing breast imagery.

“I didn’t do a good job of painting the underside of the clouds. You did a Gestalt.”

They look at each other again.

“A what?”

I explain figure/ground reversal.

Later, as I am leaving, ‘Bad Cop’ stops me.

“By the way what’s that painting called, anyway?”

“It’s called ‘Hey, Neil?’”

His face reddens. He is a big guy. He steps towards me.

“What?” The word comes out like steam from a crack in a pipe.

“The painting is called ‘Hey, Neil?’.”

His jaw clenches. He seethes. His eyes narrow to slits.

“You called it “Hey! Kneel!’? Like ‘Get down on your knees’?”

I swallow. “No, like Neil Armstrong. The astronaut.”

I think he is going to hit me.

I Choose to be Lightning

It is 1986.Lightning

I am driving through torrential rains on the San Diego Freeway. Lightning strikes every five seconds. It’s the most amazing storm I can remember. And I can remember a lot of storms.

As I exit on Western Avenue, the delay between lightning and thunder diminishes. I stop at the light. A bright flash lights up the night sky but I can’t see the bolt. The thunder sounds simultaneously. My radio goes dead. I think the radio station is off the air.

My windshield wipers sluice rain from the glass. They slow, then stop. I punch buttons on my radio. KROQ. KWST. KLOS. KMET. KNAC. All gone.

I realize my engine isn’t running.

I have always been fascinated by lightning. I spent the evening at a party in college sitting on the patio watching a spectacular dry lightning storm. My beautiful date was inside getting the attention she deserved from any number of guys. I wanted the lightning.

Not long after that I renewed my driver’s license. I changed my signature so the S in my first name resembled a lightning bolt.

I was crossing a bridge in Montana as it was struck by lightning – watched the blue glow travel along the power cable connecting the street lights. I watched another storm from the giant M on the hill behind the University of Montana in Missoula. It crossed the valley towards me, a physical manifestation of my emotional state.

I’ve seen lightning in a snow storm. It was like being inside a light bulb.

I eventually reclaimed my date from the party and drove her home, only to sit with her in front of her parents’ house watching the lightning strike every few seconds.

It is 1986.

My car won’t start. I turn on the emergency lights. They blink – once. I push the car through eight inches of water in Miami-style rain. Another car pushes me to the gas station on the corner.

I leave it overnight. The next day the mechanic tells me he’s had it on the charger all night.

“I don’t know what happened to it, but it won’t hold a charge.”

I have a pretty good idea what happened to it.

I Never Danced With My Mother

It is 1975.Ballroom Dancing

My mother, frustrated that our father doesn’t dance, has decided my brother and I will make up for his failing. Under threat of loss of allowance, once a month we are driven with some of the neighborhood girls to Call’s Fine Arts Center to attend cotillion.

This is where Bobby Burgess, Mouseketeer and lead dancer on ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’, learned.

Chloe Call announces the first dance.

“Gentlemen, please rise, cross the room and select a partner for our first dance, which will be a foxtrot.”

Kami Current is a safe pick. I know her and hope that she feels my pain. I take her white-gloved hand in mine and place the other in the small of her back. We await further instruction.

The music begins. We look at each other. Other couples are dancing. I flag down one of the assistants.

They stop the music. Mrs. Call asks ‘How many of you aren’t familiar with the foxtrot?’ Two hands go up – Kami’s and mine.

And so, it begins.

Mom thought they would teach us, but these kids have been coming for several years, have grown up with it. These are parties where they practice what they know. Lessons are added to the bill, held an hour before the party each month.

I block most of it, save for the night Laurie Ronson wears clogs when we do the polka. I get a kick out of Laurie. So did the kid in front of us when her clog goes airborne.

Out of protest I refuse to dance with my mother.

But one night, at the Blue Café in Long Beach, James Intveld is playing roots rock. There is a woman there who doesn’t know how to dance. I take her onto the floor and tell her ‘Just relax’. She does, and I lead her around the floor like I know what I’m doing. We have so much fun that when Intveld and company take down their gear and head to another gig at the Foothill, we go with them.

Mom has been gone now longer than she was in my life. One of my greatest regrets is that I never danced with her.

I would give anything to dance with her now.

Ion Overload on the Back of the Dragon

It is 2011.

Vince is dying. We have several phone conversations. He reminds me of things from

Little Corona at Sunset. ‘The Back of the Dragon’ in silhouette. Photo by Mark Shadley.

when we were in college. My Les Paul. Songs I wrote. He reminds me of my pilgrimages to ‘The Back of the Dragon’.

I haven’t been in decades. We decide to go there, but the latest treatment has knocked him down. It was crazy thinking he would have been able to make it down to the beach, let alone up onto the Dragon’s Back. So I went there in his honor. I rode ‘The Back of the Dragon’ once more, and I recorded it for Vince.

It is 1977.

Senior year. We have part-time school schedules and part-time jobs. Once a week we drive to Little Corona straight from school. We lay on the beach, swim in the surf, ride the rushing current through ‘The Chute’.

It’s a jet-propelled water slide. In the ocean.

We read Vonnegut’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ aloud sitting in a circle. We hold it up and show the author’s hand-drawn illustrations, like we’re in first grade. The Dragon is in front of me but I do not see it.

It is 1980.

I have an epiphany about people’s moods improving at the beach. I imagine there is something happening at the particle level, the exchange of liquid and solid that is releasing something into the air.

I have intuited ‘The Ion Effect’. A friend loans me a book explaining that Ions are negatively-charged particles that we take in via respiration. Breathing ions improves people’s moods.

Idea: Places where water strikes hard surfaces really hard is optimal for releasing ions. I go to Little Corona to the rocks. That’s when I see it. There’s a line of rocks receding into the ocean resembling the back of a submerged Dragon.

I climb to the top of the tallest rock. There’s a cleft on the edge like a seat. My legs dangle over the water crashing against the rock below. The ions come straight up the rock into my face.

I go back when the moon is full and the tide is high. It’s a powerful experience.

I’m grateful to Vince for reminding me about it.

On the Run in the Getaway Car

Streetlights in the fogMy car plunges into the early-morning darkness, sweeping along the curve of the freeway onramp. My brother, Scott, rides shotgun. My sister, Kathryn, sits quietly in the backseat as the bubbling synthesizer of Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” from ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ begins.
 
I feel the music, feel the pull of the centrifugal force from the arc we are making towards the freeway below.
 
‘On the Run’ is less music, more sonic sculpture. There is a flight announcement…echoing footsteps. The pulsing synthesizer intensifies.
 
Ahead is a streetlight. The moisture in the air carves a bright sphere from the darkness.
 
The music crescendos as we pass into-then-through the sphere of light. It fades as we return to the darkness.
 
I smile for some reason. Something is happening. But I don’t know it yet.
 
Now two synths build together, divide and sweep around the inside of the car as a man mumbles something about living for today. The pulse peaks and squeals as the car punches into another bright bubble from the next street light. My stomach tightens, smile broadens as we are swallowed by the darkness again.
 
The synth quietly gurgles in the background.
 
Another cycle rises to crescendo without the histrionics, but still matched in synch with the passing of the streetlights.
 
It recalls the urban myth of synchronizing ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ with ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
 
The piece begins to build again. A buzzing becomes a plane descending rapidly.
 
No more streetlights. Ahead is an overpass under construction. Work lights and scaffolding covered in sheets of clear plastic.
I think it’s over, but I am wrong.
 
The plane crashes as we pass the scaffolding. The work lights strobe crazily amid mad laughter as we streak past the scaffolding. I feel it inside. I grip the steering wheel.
 
We roll out from the overpass into the morning darkness as the piece fades completely.
 
Kathryn, from the darkness of the back seat: “Did you feel that?”
 
I’m stunned. Before I can answer, Scott looks at me, nodding.
 
“Oh, yeah”.

Life on the Isle of California

‘Isle of California’ (1972) by Victor Henderson, Terry Schoonhoven, Jim Frazin of the L.A. Fine Arts Squad. Image from federicodecalifornia.files.wordpress.com.

The man across the aisle is wearing a gun. It’s Friday afternoon in April, 1993. I’m in the Santa Monica Laemmle watching ‘Reservoir Dogs’. His coat is caught on the chair arm. The gun is an automatic.

There has been a verdict in the trial of the four LAPD officers charged with violating Rodney King’s Civil Rights.

The officers were previously acquitted of assault charges, resulting in the L.A. Riots. The coroner attributed 60 deaths to the verdict.

I get why he’s carrying a gun after the riots. I went to a range with a friend who was an NRA instructor. I was good with a .45 and a Glock 9. I killed many paper men. But I don’t have the temperament to own a gun.

They are announcing the verdict tomorrow morning. There is a curfew for the weekend – sunset to sunrise.

After the film, the man with the gun waits with me at the corner.

“Excuse me, but I noticed you’re carrying a gun.”

He’s embarrassed. He’s a cop. He’ll lead a group of officers in the field if anything should happen.

I picture him watching Michael Madsen sawing off a cop’s ear with a razor to the music of Steeler’s Wheel.

Saturday morning: convictions of two of the officers for violating Rodney King’s civil rights are announced.

No riots.

On Sunday, Roy Felig and I meet on Santa Monica Boulevard.

There are no pedestrians. No cars.

Armageddon.

We walk to Butler. Village Recorders. A famous mural covers the building.

The street beyond the studio is blocked. There’s a guarded gate with large barrels to slow approach.

Beyond the gate – a multi-story building surrounded by a parking lot.

The mural shows Interstate 10 truncated near Blythe, now the water’s edge.

Context – I completely misinterpret ‘Isle of California’ as California falling into the sea.

Armageddon.

We wander closer to the mysterious gate. We see two things: a sign informs us this is the Santa Monica Courthouse.

And a sniper on the roof tracking us with a telescopic rifle.