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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Martinez is back, obsessed with nudity and cleanliness and a shower lady named Mahlita who will scrub him thoroughly, but not down there.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grandpa Al Martinez tries a different way to talk about rain and a little girl's response to it. Welcome to the tea party.
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.
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.
Sarah Palin, Mickey Mouse, Nikki Finke, Facebook, rage and the art of satire share space with Martinez today.
Even L.A. would do, but I prefer Topanga.
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?
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.
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.
"Love me, love my tree" is the battle cry shaping up in the mountains and canyons of (the) Topanga.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Al Martinez observes sex clubs, playing the flute and trolling among the guppies as eroticism raises its puckish head in the 'burbs.
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 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.
In his first occasional column for LA Observed, Al Martinez writes about the sweat and ardor behind the blackboards and books at old UC.