Al Martinez on Everything Else


al-martinez-photo.jpgAl Martinez is a columnist for LA Observed. He has previously been a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News. In 2012, the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens declared Martinez to be The Bard of LA and mounted an exhibition of his work. Al's books include the novel "The Last City Room" and nonfiction books "I’ll Be Damned If I’ll Die in Oakland," "City of Angles: A Drive-By Portrait of L.A.," "Ashes in the Rain," "Dancing Under the Moon," "Reflections," "Rising Voices: A New Generation" and "Barkley: A Dog’s Journey." His TV writing credits include “Out on the Edge,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Bronk,” and “Jigsaw John,” which Martinez created. He has a website.

Photo: Allen Martinez. Illustration: Calamity Cole

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Hug me, kiss me, take me
Martinez takes a shot at an effort by the Democrats to lure and romance America's eligible Latino voters to get out there and vote, believing it would be votes for them. But something went wrong.
Columns archive
Memories are made of this?
Martinez takes us into a new world of dementia, neurons and not being able to spell very good.
The Topanga barking and howling show
Martinez riffs on dogs, shifting family tenants in his house and why bible sellers are always in jeopardy at his front door.
The dreams of a normal man
Martinez observes a normal moment in a world of chaotic uncertainties. He sees no advancing terrorists in his yard or tanks rolling down suburban streets. It feels good. It feels normal.
Beer and poker: the last conversation
Martinez writes about poker, the prostate gland, Annabelle and the dreaded male "halfer" that haunts old age.
The autumn of my rabies
What do human drool and the beauty of an autumn day have in common? Well, a column for one thing. You'll just have to decide for yourself, but it won't be easy. Trust me.
Walking a lonesome road
Martinez walks a lonely road once crowded with friends and colleagues such as John Wiebusch. Time has diminished the crowd and left only shards of memory.
Toughing it out: Naked and not afraid
Nudity in the wilderness is television's latest obsession and Martinez' mission to wonder if there really is anything behind those blurred camera spots meant to conceal the secret genitalia.Who knows? Keep your eyes on the spots. He is.
A snake in the grass, and elsewhere
Martinez warns of snakes in the otherwise peaceful suburbs of Thousand Oaks, while remembering his own experience with a baby rattler that looked very much like a weed.
Water water everywhere, but ne'er a drop for water-boarding
As California's water shortage becomes more critical Martinez finds substitutes for water---unless human sweat, dog drool and purified pee-pee are a bit too much for you to take.
Always leave them laughing
Martinez learns how to laugh and how to cry as he observes, and later becomes, one of those people with tubes up their noses and oxygen canisters slung over their shoulders.
"To Be or Not to Be," that was Williams' question
The suicide of Robin Williams was as much due to his success as to his failure. He was America's clown, not its Hamlet, and the inability to truly cross over haunted him.
Writing about talking, talking about writing
There are writers and there are Writers; those who actually write and those who only talk about writing. Both species exist in Topanga, and their numbers are increasing.
Fire in the sky, blood on the sand
Martinez relives days of fire and thunder throughout Northern Mexico on a vacation turned dangerous. Segueing from the lightning of Hermosillo to the beach at Venice, he talks about a young boy killed by the fire from the sky, still wondering about life and questioning fate to the very end.
The silence of the bells
A judge's ruling that declares capital punishment unconstitutional in California causes Martinez to wonder if we are beginning to weary of the savagery and he hopes for the dawning of a new day of compassion.
Make it hot and sweet, mama
Martinez lies abed craving a hot, sweet thing right then and there, but Cinelli who lies next to him can always figure him out and suggests that he might just relax and think of puppies instead.
'Release me,' growls the bard of LA
Martinez turns his snarling wrath against doctors who just won't let him get the hell out of the hospital. Wasn't saving his life enough?
The Shower Lady says: 'But not down there'
Martinez is back, obsessed with nudity and cleanliness and a shower lady named Mahlita who will scrub him thoroughly, but not down there.
A little something to eat
Martinez riffs on a no-food diet: no meat, no sugar, no gluten, no caffeine, no fat, no nuts, no lactose, no alcohol and not a lot of anything else. We will become a world of tall, pencil-skinny people with small mouths and no stomachs.
Lights, action, angst and acrimony
Martinez & Cinelli weigh in on the Oscar Choices: McConaughey or Dern? A male stripper with skinny white legs or an old man's million-dollar quest?
A light at the end of the dog house
Martinez takes a sort of near-death trip through Einstein Country with a little white dog that appears and disappears at will. A hound from Hell? A messenger from heaven? Nobody knows. It just sits there watching and waiting.
Two monsters, six nymphos and a coyote
Martinez taps into his 3-year-old granddaughter's story-telling genius, puts it together with another weird, er, unusual story and emerges with next year's number one best-seller on the New York Times lists. Writers, read on and learn.
Peaches: A Christmas story you may have heard before
An often-reprinted essay that takes us back to a moment a half-century ago when a hard-drinking city editor defined in his own way who we were as journalists and what our responsibilities were as humans.
Run, run the cougars are coming!
Martinez sees a battalion of man-eating mountain lions emerging from the highly-publicized birth of two of the predatory beasts in the Santa Monica Mountains. They are not to be cuddled, he warns, but feared.
A little night music in the canyon
Jazz floats through Topanga like ribbons of gold, drifting through the Santa Monica Mountains on a cool Friday night from Larry Cohn's Canyon Bistro, laying a moment of serenity on a calamitous world. Martinez takes you there.
'I Am Woman,' hear them roar
Martinez riffs on the aromas of Thanksgiving and is thankful that a woman might be headed for the White House. You might not have noticed, he writes, but the upraised fist of today's political revolution is wearing nail polish.
A tea party in the rain
Grandpa Al Martinez tries a different way to talk about rain and a little girl's response to it. Welcome to the tea party.
Mary, Mary quite contrary
Martinez ponders COPD by dawn's early light, skeptical of the notion that the survival rate for its victims is improving. He finally turns to his sister Mary, also a victim of the disease, and she tells him how to handle it: just pretend it isn't there.
A warning in the wind
Martinez senses warnings in the wind as a new fire season begins in Southern California, predicted to be the worst in a century. He stands on the rooftop of his Topanga home and remembers the howling fire storms of other days, and the sirens that wailed with the rising intensity of a woman's scream.
The mouse that scored
Sarah Palin, Mickey Mouse, Nikki Finke, Facebook, rage and the art of satire share space with Martinez today.
I'll still be damned if I'll die in Oakland
Even L.A. would do, but I prefer Topanga.
A triumph of thumbs
Al Martinez speculates on the future of fingers when over-usage of the human thumb in the digital age eliminates their need. How will we apply an important gesture of human displeasure when the middle finger is gone?
In the autumn of my books
Trying to straighten out his cluttered office, Martinez agonizes over parting with any of his books, feeling as though he is pushing unwanted children out the door. He just can't do it.
The damndest cold man ever caught
Martinez has a cold and imagines himself tended by a wife who responds to his every need, as a woman should, worried by his loud moans and a facial expression of sorrow that would make a coroner cry.
Trees, Fire and War in (the) Topanga
"Love me, love my tree" is the battle cry shaping up in the mountains and canyons of (the) Topanga.
Korea: Memories of a distant thunder
Martinez revisits images of a war fought long ago, reviving the silhouettes that once marched along the mountain tops of the Korean Peninsula, leaving blood and fire in their wake.
Up and dry: In search of the imperfect martini
A martini ain't a martini if it's made of vodka, but it sure has its lip-smacking qualities. Don't take my word for it. Spin a Billie Holiday CD, hold the chocolate sauce, add an olive if you must and here's looking at you, kid.
The Hollywood connection, baby
Martinez looks at Obama's Hollywood connection as described by Big Ears, his secret source, and discovers, well, actually nothing at all, except that the notion of a parallel universe might be credible after all.
The sweet bird of peace grows older
Santa Monica peace activist Jerry Rubin celebrates his 70th birthday and 30 years of ranting against war and other harmful pastimes with a 100-day fast, a party and a new flight for the Sweet Bird of Peace.
Dinner, a movie and a large can of martinis
Martinez visits a dine-in theater and muses over the possibility of edible movies, Matt Damon's expertise at playing his face and large, gallon-sized cans of martinis, hoo-boy!
Sex in the city, lust in the 'burbs
Al Martinez observes sex clubs, playing the flute and trolling among the guppies as eroticism raises its puckish head in the 'burbs.
A clown in a wheelchair passes by
Martinez relates to an angry clown in a wheel chair as a circus parade of humanity flows down the Third Street Promenade.
An old dog at the front door
An old dog scratches at the front door. He's tired of wandering and has work to do. So we open the door and Al Martinez trots in. Home at last.
Al Martinez on Everything Else: California's golden bares
In his first occasional column for LA Observed, Al Martinez writes about the sweat and ardor behind the blackboards and books at old UC.

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