Los Angeles

Support My Run for Suicide Prevention

Alive & Running 2017Without a doubt, I’ve never met a group of people more selflessly committed to helping others than my fellow counselors at the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center. They dedicate themselves to giving people in crisis the tools to stay alive simply because they feel called to do so. Joining them in their work has profoundly changed my life, and together we’ve helped over 50,000 callers and chatters already this year.

My enthusiasm for the Suicide Prevention Center should be clear from the fact that, though I’ve been running for years, I’ve never once had the desire to race — until I learned about Didi Hirsch’s Alive & Running 5K Walk/Run for Suicide Prevention. On September 24, I’ll take to the streets and race for the first time with my SPC teammates, families who’ve lost loved ones to suicide, survivors of attempts, and hundreds of others to raise money to support the center.

My modest fundraising goal is $500. My foolhardy running goal is to win my age group. Please sponsor me at any amount. Every dollar you give will help end the public health crisis of suicide.

We Are Not Hopeless

Ellsworth Kelly, High Yellow, 1960
Ellsworth Kelly, High Yellow, 1960
This is a story I heard yesterday. It was told by a young guy at the cafe table next to mine, with a shaved head and rippling muscles, wearing a tank top, cargo shorts, and dog tags. Earlier that morning, he explained, he had been sitting by himself outside when a stranger approached him.

“I think I’m going to kill myself,” the man said.

“Excuse me?”

“I think I’m going to kill myself.”

The young guy looked him over. He believed the man. “Okay,” he said. “Sit down and talk to me.”

The stranger wouldn’t sit down, but he didn’t leave. “Why do you want to kill yourself?” the young guy asked. The man told him he’d had enough. He said he planned to shoot himself. He didn’t know what else to do.

“I’d like to help you. Can I help you?”

The stranger shrugged.

“Can I call the police to come help you? I’ll stay here with you until they get here.” The man nodded.

“Are you carrying a weapon?” He nodded again. “Okay, look — we don’t want there to be any trouble when the cops come. So can I take your weapon away from you?”

Another nod. The young guy stood and gently patted the man down. He found a pistol in his clothes, which he removed. He ejected the clip, unloaded it, and set the disassembled gun down next to them. Then he called the police.

When the cops arrived, they talked to the stranger and asked if he wanted to come with them. He said that he did. So they led him to the car, taking the young guy’s phone number before they left. They called him that afternoon to tell him the stranger’s name and that he was getting the help he needed.

We look at the hate and death in the news today, and it’s hard not to despair, but we are not doomed. We feel helpless, but none of our actions are futile. We change the world the most by intently being as good as we can, by approaching every decision with the aim of being kind.

“I guess I did a good thing today,” the young guy said without pride or drama. We are not hopeless.

The Phoneix Must Burn to Emerge

After this morning’s Emmy nominations were announced without a mention of Alex Borstein’s name, I cremated my hospital gown in a small, private ceremony. I laid the ashes to rest on Alex’s porch in a tasteful sarcophagus.

#TastefulSarcophagus

A day of silent prayer, nonetheless lifted by the nomination of Niecy Nash for outstanding supporting actress as nurse Didi Ortley in Getting On.

The Day I Sacrificed My Dignity to Get Alex Borstein an Emmy

My #Emmy4Alex costume, v1If you’ve ever visited this blog before, or in any way socially interacted with me in the last two months, or found yourself on my block during the designated 45 minutes a day during which I yell it out of my apartment window, you know that Alex Borstein stars in my radio comedy Special Relativity (which you can listen to here, subscribe to/write a fawning review of in iTunes here or donate $6 for six more episodes here).

I adore Alex’s performance like a groundhog adores ground (as I’ve mentioned before), and if there were some award for it I could help her win, I would. I even signed her name to my proof of the Riemann Hypothesis so that she could be awarded a Fields Medal, but the committee saw through my ploy, possibly because my equations were written on a tray liner from Rally’s. So instead I turned my attention to scoring Alex another prize she most definitely deserves: an Emmy nomination for her performance as nurse Dawn Forchette in the superb HBO comedy Getting On.

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“All Sound and Comedy”

Special Relativity - A Radio Comedy Starring Alex Borstein

I’ve been strangely quiet on these pages about  since it premiered, especially considering that for months I wouldn’t shut up about it. I guess now that it’s out in the world I’ve been too busy being terrified about it — not terrified that people will hate it, but terrified that its existence won’t even register in people’s brains long enough for them to hate it. Because I know that if people take 24 minutes to listen to the first episode, they can’t possibly hate it. I will now tell you how I know.

See, the great irony of being a scriptwriter is that, if you’re lucky enough for your idea to actually become a finished show, it’s almost always kind of disappointing. That’s because the final product can never live up to what you envisioned as you created it. But in my almost 20-year career, the first episode of Special Relativity is the only project I’ve worked on — in radio, TV, games, theater, anything — that came out better than I imagined. It’s better than what I’d been hearing in my head for years.

For that I have to give the credit to the cast, whose performances are so good that I would’ve had to willfully sabotaged the editing to make a bad show. I’m listing their names again here, because every one of them is pitch-perfect: Alex Borstein, Dee Bradley Baker, James Urbaniak, Ted Travelstead, Alyssa Potter, Andréa Moser, and Tom X. Chao. I want people to hear the show because it’s a felony to let those performances go to waste.

There’s a moment in the final scene which I won’t spoil but which when you hear you’ll feel a click in your brain, just like I did. That click comes from Alex Borstein’s effortless performance, suddenly not able to efface itself anymore, reaching over and closing that circuit in your consciousness that only electrifies when you’ve just experienced a tour de force. Don’t you want to hear that?

Well, I guess I like the show, because I just typed four paragraphs when I’d only intended to write a three-sentence set-up for a link to its review in the Los Angeles Times. Remarkably, the paper’s TV critic Robert Lloyd selected Special Relativity as a TV pick last week, despite it not being on TV or even having any pictures. He calls it “all sound and comedy… filled with evocative scenes and memorable characters, and of course praises its “crackerjack cast.” “Please, may I have some more?” he asks. I sure hope so.

NotFoolingAnybody.com Lives!

Hat Creek in Austin, TXOn May 3, 2012 I drove past Michelle’s Donut House on Santa Monica Blvd., a hilariously mangled former Winchells Donut House. I snapped a picture and then lamented on this blog that I couldn’t submit it to the long-lived but defunct Internet chronicle of such beautifully stupid storefront conversions, Not Fooling Anybody. Well, today I can. Not Fooling Anybody lives, and lazy entrepreneurs should not sleep well at night.

I daydreamed in that post about taking over and resurrecting NFA, but it turned out that its founder Liz Clayton had never given up on the site. She just needed a hand to resurrect it after a hacking and guide it into the twentyohteens. So I lent her one, and this week NotFoolingAnybody.com stepped out of its limo onto the red carpet (discreetly covering its personal area) just in time for its tenth anniversary.

The site now features 171 joy-inducingly awful repurposings, captured by an intrepid group of rangers from across North America. A couple of my favorites are below, but I encourage you to improve your day by perusing all 171. Better yet, submit your own. Any of my Milwaukee readers want to grab a shot of Siva Truck Rental and Leasing on W. St. Paul Ave.? It’s the place with the backwards Avis sign.

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Kate Hansen is My New Favorite Olympian

Kate Hansen with her Luge World Cup medal

I love this interview with US Olympic luge racer Kate Hansen from KCRW’s Press Play. Kate just became the first American, male or female, to win a luge World Cup race in over 16 years. This despite getting her start in never-frozen southern California, rolling on a sled down the streets of La Cañada, just a few miles up the 2 freeway from me.

Kate 1On Twitter as @k8ertotz. won her World Cup race in Sigulda, Latvia. A few years ago on that very track, I fulfilled a childhood dream of riding in a bobsled. I will never forget how much it hurt. The centrifugal force when we hit a curve was massive. It pushed straight down, like a helicopter landing on my shoulders. And we didn’t move anywhere near Kate’s speed. Our sled maybe touched 60 mph, while Kate flew down at 75.

So Kate routinely endures 25% more force than I did, and she does it lying down, so it smashes right into her heart and lungs. Meanwhile, she’s riding a sled going so fast that it steers with the slightest movement. “If you’re just going down a straightaway and you just look left,” Kate says, “You will bash a wall pretty hard.” “Pretty hard” being about the same as if Kate rode her sled the wrong way down the 2 and into an approaching Escalade.

You can cheer on Kate in her four Olympic runs on Monday Feb. 10 and Tuesday Feb. 11, assuming you’re willing to get up at 3:45am ET and stream it on NBCOlympics.com. That’s because, while Kate has a world championship, she doesn’t have the one thing NBC Sports requires for TV coverage: a penis. Despite six networks’ worth of coverage, NBC only plans to broadcast men’s luge.

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1. On Twitter as @k8ertotz.