Obligatory Breaking Bad post

Yes, I came late to the Breaking Bad party, but once I was hooked I was hooked to a fanatical degree. And like so many of my friends, I watched the series finale live last night. And a comment about it was the first thing I heard when I walked into the KFI newsroom this morning.

So I guess that means I need to post a Breaking Bad blog.

I thought the finale was just about perfect. Was it better than “Ozymandias,” the third-to-last episode? No. No episode could be. That one was simply the single best episode of any TV show ever. There’s no way it could be topped, and I wasn’t expecting it to be.

But I loved that creator Vince Gilligan didn’t leave us with any hanging chads, no obscure endings or sudden fade-to-blacks and tell us, “Well, you need to decide for yourself what happened.” For that, thank you, Vince. What was even better, the resolutions were satisfying and true to the characters.

The entire plot of the whole series – I say now the best TV series ever made — was summed up in the first episode: Chemistry is about change — the way different elements interact and make things happen.

Going back to watch the pilot again I can see now that the rage, the life disappointment, the self-pity that eventually made Walter White “break bad” was all there BEFORE he went on that fateful ride-along to bust a meth lab with his brother in law, BEFORE he ever met Jesse Pinkman, the catalyst who would eventually result in the creation of Walter’s Heisenberg. Proof? Walt stomping on the leg of the teenager who was making fun of his son, and Walt telling his car wash boss to F off.

It was the cancer death sentence that set Walter White on his course, not Jesse Pinkman. Jesse Pinkman’s meth-cooking just gave him the vehicle.

Best lines in the finale? There were many to choose from. My two favorites, “Elliot, if we’re gonna go that way, you’re gonna need a bigger knife,” and “Cheer up, beautiful people. This is where you get to make it right.”

I’m going to miss this show. But in my mind, I’ve already got a sequel worked up. It goes like this:

In 2013, an ancient Don Draper meets up with Jesse Pinkman, who is still trying to rebuild his life, and asks him, “Hey, wanna make some money?” And so begins the first episode of Breaking Mad.

Sirens interrupted my coffee on National Coffee Day (photos/video)

Loud sirens interrupted my coffee on National Coffee Day Sunday morning.

Usually, fire trucks tear through my neighborhood because Santa Monica Boulevard or La Brea are blocked with traffic, but this time it sounded like a lot of them and they all stopped right around the corner from me.

The LAFD was responding in force to reports of an apartment on fire at 835 N Fuller Avenue. One street and half of another were filled with fire trucks and at least one ambulance. LAFD says the bulk of fire was in the living room area of one unit. All occupants got out. At least one person was evaluated for possible smoke inhalation, and the cause is under investigation.

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They didn’t let me get very close, but I managed to grab some video of the mopping up phase:

Here’s how I want Breaking Bad to end

Walter is too far gone to save, so he has to die, or at the very least, find himself in prison… where I’m sure he’d eventually take over.

But the one I’m rooting for is Jesse. Jesse needs to win. I want him to get away and somehow get all the money. I am firmly Team Jesse.

And of course every member of the Nazi Brady Bunch needs to die in the process.

In just a few more hours, we’ll see what we see…

Don Jon

A round of applause for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon. It’s not a classic, but it is enjoyable, and its porn-addiction plot device isn’t used as much as a crutch as you’d expect. And at just 90 minutes, it’s the right length. It may not end with the full “rom-com” resolution, but when it ends, it’s at just the right time.

If there’s a deeper message here, it’s that people use porn as a salve or a way to “escape,” or as Don Jon himself puts it, “to lose myself.” But porn isn’t the only escape of choice: His girlfriend, played by Scarlett Johansson, uses “chick flicks,” unrealistic portrayals of love and romance. Julianne Moore uses sex itself as an escape from a very deep and very recent emotional wound. Jon’s father uses football, his mother uses hope for grandchildren, and his sister uses constant phone texting. Everybody uses something, and who’s to say whose medicine is less acceptable than others?

Three out of five, and a fine first directorial effort. Four out of five for Julianne Moore, who does an awful lot with very little.

Flu shots

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I got in line early for flu shots Friday at Clear Channel.

I asked, “I hear these shots have eggs in them… How about bacon?”

I also said that if someone would give me 20 bucks I would pull my pants down and say, “I’m ready! Oh wait, you mean, these aren’t butt shots? Oh my god I’m so embarrassed!” But no one took me up on it.

No one appreciates my comic genius. Also, no one wants to see my butt.

Read – It’s Flu Shot Day At Clear Channel

Luke the cab driver

Luke the cab driver was the messiah. He was our savior. He drove the cab the night my mom had to call someone to rescue us from my stepfather’s latest rampage. Dear old stepdad would soon run out of steam and sleep the rest of it off, but in the meantime, Luke was there to drive us away.

We’d never met Luke before. He just happened to be driving the cab, that was all.

Luke was an old black man, thin, with gray hair and a deeply lined face. Or, at least he seemed old to me. I was all of seven. Maybe eight. Maybe ten. I don’t really remember… that was a time in my life where I’ve blocked lots of things out. There are whole chunks chucked away somewhere, some 40-odd years later. But I do remember Luke the cab driver that one night.

His cab smelled like a pipe. Well, he did, and the cab smelled like him. Not a musty smell, but rich and earthy, real pipe smoke, not like cigarette smoke at all, not the way my stepfather reeked of cigarettes.

I know there was conversation. I remember Luke being very concerned that my mom was so upset. She was never one for control. I don’t think she was able to tell him where to take us. So we drove around town for awhile.

There wasn’t a lot of town to drive around in. We probably made the same circles a few times while my mom cried and tried to answer questions without breaking down. There were offers to take us to the police station or even the hospital, but my mom would break down again and frantically beg not to be taken there.

I remember Luke offered to let me sit up front, and I very vividly remember him making a grand show out of how against the rules it was, but he offered, and I climbed over from the back seat.

Evening was coming in. There was still some light, and I remember the clouds… they seemed thick, and so random that the randomness of them was almost a threat. Not like rain clouds. But not not like them either. They were hard to read, like trying to figure out my stepfather’s mood when he got home from work. Maybe it would rain. Maybe it would storm. Maybe they would just sit there and make you anxious, and then finally blow away.

It’s funny the parts of memories I can pick out from the rubble of the stuff that’s been smashed and buried. I remember Luke telling me his name then, and I remember him talking about the sky. “It’s too bad there’s so many clouds,” he said. “Always like to see stars when I’m out.”

And he explained about constellations, in his own limited understanding of them. I later knew a lot more about them, but I remember him talking about how some stars were all bunched together and looked like things, including one, he explained, that was a “big ol’ spoon.” He thought that was funny, that God would put a picture of a spoon in the sky. “Woo, what was he thinkin bout?”

I was fascinated, and tried to make sure I’d remember to look up the next time the clouds weren’t in the way, threatening me to keep my eyes down and my mouth shut.

He told me how each twinkling star was a good soul who’d died and gone to heaven. He told me to try to remember where all the stars were, and if I saw a new one, that meant someone good had just made the grade, like a gold star on a school paper.

I asked him how old he was. He laughed and told me, but for the life of me I don’t remember what he said. But I remember him telling me that one day I’d have cracks in my face just like him, only he hoped I’d be doing something else than driving a cab.

But at the time, driving a cab with good ol’ Luke seemed like it would be the best job in the world. “Do they let cab drivers have partners?” I asked.

“No, fraid not. Cab drivin is a solo gig. But it gets me out of my room and sometimes I meet nice folk, like you.”

After awhile my mom seemed to be able to make more sense, and she told Luke to take us back home. When we pulled in the driveway I asked if I could stay with Luke and drive around with him some more. I was an awfully weird kid. And honestly, driving around with Luke sounded a lot better than going back inside, not knowing what to expect from the rain clouds.

Luke gave a big, hearty laugh, and I remember him telling my mom not to worry about the fare, that getting to meet a great little kid like me was all the payment he needed. And he got very serious when he talked to my mom, and I overheard him insisting she call him again if she needed to get out of the house, that he wouldn’t charge her.

I don’t know what it was that made me think of Luke this evening. But I did. And I went outside and looked up. I know there are no new stars, not really, not ones we’d ever see. But if there were, surely Luke the cab driver is up there somewhere by now.

Who knows who Luke really was. Who knows if he had a family, a wife, kids, grandkids maybe. And I never saw him again. But it sure is a nice thought that for kids and moms in trouble, hopefully there’s a Luke to come to the rescue, not by being a hero, not by doing anything else but his menial job, but by just being kind. By just pointing at the angry clouds and explaining there are stars behind him, stars that represent good people, kind people, people who deserve to have stars pinned to the sky as a reward when they’re gone.

Hell, if I had my way, Luke the cab driver, wherever he came from, wherever he went to, would have a whole damn constellation to himself. Maybe even the big ol’ spoon.

 

(Originally published on my writing blog here.)