Twelve Thoughts in October

It has been six days since Donald Trump was named President Elect of the United States of America. I’ve worked three days on film sets since then and attended a couple rehearsals for an upcoming comedy show, and I have barely slept a solid night’s sleep. I’ve had countless discussions with friends about activism, about depression, about how seriously fucked we are, about Westworld. All of these discussions have been exhausting, most of all Westworld, because before last night’s episode I was seriously losing faith. I’m sorry for doubting you Jonathan Nolan, I should have remembered how good you are when Christopher isn’t breathing down your neck.

Maybe the best thing I did in the past week was write. On Thursday afternoon I sat down to write an open letter to the students of my alma mater after I was informed of some racist and homophobic incidents that had occurred the day after the election. As of right now, the letter has been read by almost 20,000 people and has been viewed by 35,000. Some local paper covered it, and I heard some teachers were even reading it to their classes in other schools. It is easily the most people I have ever reached, and it has been very humbling.

Because of the overwhelmingly positive response my letter received, I wanted to share something I wrote on my Facebook page in October. It was October 17th, and I had to move my car for three hours because of the weekly street sweeping in my neighborhood. When I am unlucky enough to find a good parking spot, I move my car at 9:45 AM and either go to the park to read, or I grab some breakfast at the Brite Spot diner down the street from me in Echo Park. I’ve been doing this for about four years, and despite the mediocre food, I like the coffee and the decor and the idea that I am in a position where I can have a nice, lonely weekday breakfast.

Brite Spot in Echo Park. If you’re a TV savvy person, you might recognize it as “the diner” from YOU’RE THE WORST on FX. It frustrates me that the characters on that show only ever refer to it as “the diner” despite the fact that the actors playing waiters on the show wear shirts that clearly say BRITE SPOT when the real-life waiters only wear black. Seriously, come on, why do this?

I was reading Stephen King’s It while sitting at the counter and drinking coffee, and after finishing a chapter I scrolled mindlessly through my Facebook feed. Somebody’s post stood out to me for some reason and it made me think, so I wrote down some thoughts in a status and shared them. Today I figured I would share that post here, for all of the people who may be following me now after reading my letter. So here it is, twelve thoughts that crossed my mind in the Brite Spot diner on an October morning:

I’m sitting in a diner, drinking coffee, and thinking about all of the things that I used to not know. So let’s take a trip back eight years, to my Freshman year of college. I’m 18, living in the Johnson dorm on Broad Street, and I am only two months removed from my home in the suburbs. Here are some things I didn’t know about, hadn’t experienced yet, or was unaware of, etc etc etc…

1. I had never lived in a community that wasn’t 98% white people

2. I had never sat in a classroom where I was the minority

3. I never had to face homeless people on a daily basis

4. I had never really read anything about sexual consent, and the most knowledge I had was “no means no” (which honestly seemed like enough)

5. I had never once thought about the fact that black people had different hair than white people, and I definitely had no idea what a weave was

6. Spanish was something I only ever heard in classrooms

7. I had never had a one night stand/random hookup/one-time-thing type of sexual encounter

8. I had never voted

9. I had never heard the term cultural appropriation

10. I had never experienced any type of violence outside of a schoolyard tumble.

11. I had never seen police treat a person of color unfairly.

12. Save for TLC’s “Scrubs”, I had never thought about catcalling or unwanted sexual advances by people in power

So eight years later…

1. I’ve spent the last four years in a mostly black and hispanic neighborhood and four years before that living in predominantly black neighborhoods with white college kids peppered in

2. I spent four years in a university that often touted itself as “the most diverse campus in America” and took multiple classes that focused on race where I was one of 4 or 5 white people in the class.

3. Homeless people are a part of my daily life and have been since my first day at Johnson, for better or for worse

4. After a very informative university sexual education course I learned a ton about consent and corrected some of my preconceptions about sexuality/gender/relationships. This was the first class where I learned that “transgender” was an umbrella term for a bunch of gender identities. See also: my own experiences

5. I had a fling with a black girl in college whose hair changed every week and I was genuinely confused and asked what the heck was going on. Then I watched Chris Rock’s GOOD HAIR and I figured it all out. This is also where I learnt a lot about the fact that people just touch other people’s hair without asking, which has always baffled me despite my totally understandable curiosity about how this girl could have an afro one day and then butt length braids the next.

6. I hear Spanish every day of my life. Trying to learn!

7. OkCupid, Tinder, Los Angeles, College, you get the idea

8. Voted for Barack Obama twice and less local elections than I would like to admit but I have been more active as late. Voting for Hillary Clinton this November.

9. Read a lot about it, have a lot of opinions about appropriate meshing of cultures as well as post-ironic art, and I now understand how people often feel like their culture is being bastardized and I am always aware of this effect on individuals.

10. Saw a man bleed out on Broad street before being carted away in an ambulance. Gunshot wound. Thankfully this was the only time I have been that close to violence. Dont know if he lived or died.

11. Heard stories in college of my black friends being arrested while the cops let my white friends go, and have seen multiple instances of stop and frisk in my neighborhood in LA, one time involving a police car turning around, leaving their squad car in the middle of the road blocking traffic, handcuff a guy, run his ID, un handcuff him, return his ID, and drive off. This happens all the time in my neighborhood, and I see it.

12. When I was 21 a friend told me that every day people in New York would tell her to smile as she walked down the street. I was totally confused and asked if she might be exaggerating, which she obviously wasn’t. She told me that people often touched her hair so they could see her neck tattoo while she waited in line for coffee. And over the next 5 years I heard countless stories of this happening literally every day to almost every woman I know. Also once we all became adults and entered the working world I have heard just as many upsetting stories about bosses/older men being inappropriate with young women and then some

Just a reminder that it takes a long time to learn things. Let’s try to understand where people are coming from and where they might go with the right education and the right experiences.

I posted this to my Facebook I asked my waiter for the check. At that moment a man walked into the Brite Spot and sat at the counter. I instantly recognized him: it was Todd Edwards, the legendary DJ, singer, and producer who is probably most known for his work with Daft Punk on “Face to Face” and “Fragments of Time.” He nodded at me as he sat a few feet from me and I nodded back.

I had actually met him once before at a FYF Fest Pre-Party at the Standard in Downtown LA. He was DJing at a party sponsored by Body High, and after his set I spoke to him for about 5 minutes about how much I loved his music, how much fun I had dancing to him spinning, and how I had just started dating a girl who I was trying to introduce to house music. He was extremely kind, and listened to every word I said.

He looked back up in my direction, and I asked if he was Todd. He nodded in that awkward way that famous people nod when they’re spotted in the wild. I mentioned that we had met before and that I loved his work. He said thanks, smiled, and then we resumed doing what we were doing.

After about ten minutes I settled my bill, picked up my book, and headed for the door. I passed him on the way out and we talked briefly once more. We discovered that we’re neighbors, and he said he hoped that he would see me around the hood. I echoed this sentiment and I went on with my day.

So add a 13th thing to that list. When I was 18, I had never had a natural interaction with someone whose art had really affected me in a positive way. Now, at 26, I am constantly meeting actors, directors, comedians, and musicians whose work I love thanks to my work on film sets, my membership to Cinefamily, the comedy show I host, and my general lack-of-embarrassment when meeting bands after concerts. Some of those people include Tim and Eric, Jason Schwartzman, Brendon Small, Jon Daly, Tunde Adebimpe, Henry Rollins, Noel Fielding, Sam Smith, Michael Madsen, Barbara Kopple, and so many others.

A month before I ran into Todd at Brite Spot, I attended a screening of the Magick Lantern Cycle from one of the founding fathers of experimental filmmaking, Kenneth Anger. I was thrilled to see Scorpio Rising — one of my favorite short films — on film, with an audience. After the film portion was over, Anger and Brian Butler performed experimental noise music while his films projected in the background, Butler on guitar and Anger on theremin. He is 89 years old with jet black dyed hair. He is an absolute pleasure and the purest definition of an artistic filmmaker. After the show I was honored to shake his hand and tell him I loved his work, my go-to line for the artists I respect and admire. I left the Regent that night feeling fulfilled, inspired, and floored by his presence.

That feeling, and the feeling of being surrounded by great people who make great things, is the feeling I was chasing when I decided to move to Los Angeles. I am constantly reminded that even if I never make any art of consequence, there will always be others who will, and that I can enjoy their labors of love without petty feelings of jealousy or regret. And that is something I had no concept of eight years ago.

It will be very interesting to see how much more I will know in another eight years. At this point, so close to the election from hell, I sincerely hope that I will only know four years or less of a Trump presidency. A man can dream.

By Brad Moore
November 14th, 2016
Los Angeles, California

P.S. A lot of young men and women who attend CRN added me on Twitter and Medium, and from what I can gather some of them are members of the Gay Straight Alliance. If you are one of those students and you are reading this, I highly recommend that you seek out the work of Kenneth Anger. He was pretty much the first openly gay filmmaker in Hollywood, making films with homoerotic subject matter as early as his 1947 debut Fireworks. His work has inspired generations of filmmakers and artists, and his bravery in the face of what must have been constant derision from people less than thrilled with his male-on-male gaze is something to be admired. He is still alive, and he is still making art, a fact that is remarkable given how many gay artists died during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s. His work is a reminder that people have always felt these feelings, that people have always harbored desires that they feared to share, and that sharing those desires can be such an effort in ecstasy that the rewards can be worth the risks. He is also a great entry point into the world of experimental filmmaking, an art form that can be frustrating at times but very inspiring when one keeps an open mind. Here are some links to his work:

Fireworks, 1947

Scorpio Rising, 1964

Lucifer Rising, 1972

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, 1954

Kustom Kar Kommandos, 1965

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