Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NIGHT MOVES tales from the overnight bus between Hollywood and Pasadena


Night moves
Lots of love, laughs and lessons mark the career of veteran MTA driver J.B. Berry
By Carl Kozlowski 02/14/2008
"There is something interesting about wearing the name of where you work on your shirt or jacket for more than 20 years. The rewards of this kind of life, I think, tip the scales of personal growth rather than just expanding your financial worth. I mean who wouldn't learn compassion from chatting with a total stranger explaining how he just got out of jail, has no money, and is just trying to get home to his family? Who wouldn't think about human nature when one knows the customer that just got on the bus will be spending Thanksgiving Day riding the bus alone? To drive a bus in such a city as Los Angeles is to be on the front lines of American life. Such a person is James Berry." - Essay by Tony Dill, a regular rider of the Metro 180
Driving an overnight bus route in LA has to be one of the most thankless jobs in the city. Night after night, MTA's drivers come face to face with some of the strangest, saddest, drunkest and craziest people imaginable. These passengers will often try to sneak onboard for free or a "reduced rate," and get belligerent if a driver insists on their paying a full fare.
Toss this turbulent mix of humanity together on a giant vehicle that takes the most convoluted route imaginable to their destination and most who are able to drive a car will steer clear of ever hopping onboard a bus.
Most MTA drivers seem to just silently endure the endless loops that their routes take them on in the dead of night, as if tuning out the strangeness will make it all disappear and enable them to cross off another day on the calendar of their lives.
Yet James "J.B." Berry is the rare exception: A driver who has seen every imaginable kind of behavior in more than two decades behind the wheel of some of the wildest routes in the city.
But instead of walling himself off from his passengers, J.B. chose to become the MTA's most unlikely goodwill ambassador: a 57-year-old, African-American giant of a man whose boisterous personality can bring a smile to the saddest of souls and turn an otherwise lonely ride through the night into a party on wheels.
J.B. switched his route nearly a year ago to drive a route from El Monte to downtown LA, mainly because its start and end points were closer to his home in San Bernardino. That's a huge savings in both gas money and time in his nightly commute to work.
What he didn't count on was how quiet that route would be - he estimates he has an average of four riders aboard at any one time - and how much he'd miss his regular riders from the 180 route, especially a core group of about a dozen mostly African-American men whose outrageous rapport and antics led to them calling their group "The Loco 180."
Last Saturday night, after nearly six months of lobbying between the MTA and the bus drivers' union, J.B. took the wheel of the 180 for one last Saturday night run that reunited him with his biggest fans for an adventurous run that included a Hooters run for hot wings, an unscheduled stop at 7-Eleven for snacks and Slurpees, and a whole lot of laughter.
"I've always been boisterous, but Hollywood was special because I'd develop friendships with guys there, making my night go faster as we talked about everything from politics to sex, rock and roll and racial issues," J.B. explains. "On the 180 line, all the homeless people that I come in contact with are not all alcoholics and addicts. They're people who have fallen on hard times and don't know how to get out. I think with a little encouragement, they could improve their condition. And a lot of them choose to come onboard each night and hang because it's the one place they feel accepted."
I can vouch for that strange sense of belonging. I met J.B. just more than two years ago, when he took over the 180 route between Pasadena and Hollywood. Back then, I had a severe sleep disorder that would often result in my passing out immediately on the bus ride home. I'd ask him or other drivers to yell out my stop and make sure that I got off at the right place.
J.B. told me sit behind him that first night - a decision that he quickly came to regret as I unleashed a series of snores and snorts that sounded like a buffalo stampede (Editor's note: Kind of like at work).
By the time I got to my Pasadena stop, he was yelling full-force for me to get off the bus, while the Loco 180 guys exploded with laughter.
"Wake up! Wake up! It's your stop! Man, you snore like a wounded animal!" J.B. yelled before unleashing guttural heaves of laughter. As I came to and stumbled off the bus in shame, I was surrounded by a wall of whooping. When I was forced to board again a night later, J.B. was ready for me.
"Oh, HELL no!" he laughed. "You're gettin' on the back of the bus! I can't have you sitting right behind me, sounding like a dying animal again!"
So I walked with a sense of shock to the back of the bus, like a modern-day Rosa Parks judged by the sound of my snoring rather than the content of my character. And little did I know that this night began my initiation into the Loco 180s, as it marked the first night in a week of shameless pranks played on me by the rest of the gang.
One night everyone took turns balancing coins on my face as my head tilted back in full snore; they placed bets on who would finally cause me to jolt awake. Another night, I snapped awake after they dangled snack foods and sandwiches under my nose (Editor's note: Kind of like at work).
But once I realized the joking was all in good fun and I explained to J.B. that I had a serious medical condition, I became fully accepted into the club and started to receive an education in life - from the grand to the gritty - that I will never forget.
"J.B.'s a lot friendlier than most drivers, and it's nice to see how he deals with people on a regular basis." says Ray Martin, a cameraman for ESPN and a fully vested Loco 180 member. "Some people have a bad day and he'd cheer them up. Some people would be all pissed off due to lousy day, he'd cheer them up too. Some would be over-the-top angry, he'd calm them down. I've been driving again since he left. But I heard he was back tonight so I had to come."
Indeed, Martin wasn't the only person happy to see J.B. back on the route. At nearly every stop over the course of his 8 1/2-hour shift from 8:30 p.m. to 5 a.m., people would burst into laughter, hugs, shrieks and smiles. And as he double-parked his bus in front of the 7-Eleven in Hollywood on Cahuenga Boulevard for a group mission for Slurpees, trading catcalls with young women dressed to party as he jokingly tried to talk them into "upgrading" from their limo to his bus, J.B.'s joy was obvious too.
But the laughter didn't always come so easily for this St. Louis native. In fact, while he recalls a happy and stable Midwestern upbringing, his initiation into Los Angeles was downright difficult.
"I had a good life growing up. I had my mother and father, both sets of grandparents all together, and they taught me how to respect my fellow man and love my fellow woman and how to always be a strong man," J.B. recalls. "My father and mother passed away when I was an adult; things just weren't going right in St Louis, and I'd outgrown it. I came out to California for a new beginning, a new start, and wound up on the streets for a couple of months. That's why I understand about homeless people finding nowhere to go and finding a comfort zone someplace like my bus."
J.B. came to the MTA in 1986 after working as a security guard and then a driver for a garment-industry company. His ex-wife also worked for the MTA and passed him an application. He started on the 210 route down Crenshaw Boulevard before working the Vermont Avenue and Slauson Avenue lines.
But it wasn't until he landed the 180 line in 2005 that J.B. really formed a bond with his riders. It was on that colorful route, filled with Hollywood dreamers past and present, that he came to know people with nicknames like Spaghetti, Black Fred and Cat Woman. He got punched one night when he turned a non-paying customer away, yet inspired such loyalty that the Loco 180 members jumped off, caught the thug and knocked him around a bit until the cops came.
He also recalls countless nights during the holiday season when his riders would bring him cookies, treats and leftovers from holiday parties - which he'd then pass along to those less fortunate. He survived a night when a guy he called Teeth - whom the Loco 180 members recall as having ridiculously large teeth that stuck out from behind his lips like those of a crocodile - made the whole bus burst into laughter with his oddball looks, stranger lisp and the fact that J.B. was absolutely terrified that the guy was trying to bite his neck.
J.B. went through a divorce along the way, even as he continues to raise his teenage daughter, and he found romance anew with a cute younger driver who happened to stop her bus each night at the same break spot and found herself worn down by his charms.
One particularly memorable night, the laughter got so crazy that he had to pull the bus over for a team of paramedics. "I'll never forget that one," J.B. recalls with yet another body-shaking wave of laughter. "This one man just started laughing so hard that he couldn't breathe and he wound up begging me to call 911. It turns out he had laughed his way straight into a heart attack. He was stabilized by the paramedics and wound up getting taken away OK - but he started laughing again while they rolled him off, saying ‘You're killing me!'"
It's easy for J.B. to remember these moments, thanks not only to his own gifted memory but because of Tony Dill, a former NBC News employee who became a Loco 180 member and served as the unofficial historian of the group. His series of writings captured the
full range of emotions and experiences that come with riding night after night.
"I'm from the East Coast. I started writing the stories because they seemed like the kind of things that should be put on paper and they were interesting, unique tales," explains Dill. "People have an issue about Los Angeles, about how people don't meet because we're in cars, and yet here we are, a couple dozen people late at night sharing all kinds of experiences. You run into people who are smelly and just in an unfortunate condition. But mostly it was a lot of fun - so much laughing going on that I can't imagine what the other people on the bus thought. It was a rolling block party almost."
That party vibe was back in full force Saturday night, including a stop for hot wings, a pit stop bathroom break in the bushes of a Rite-Aid, a raucous roundelay of trash-talking insults and jokes, and most of all genuine happiness to see a rare individual back on the scene of his greatest exploits.
As he roared down Los Feliz Boulevard on his last Hollywood-bound run of the night, J.B. offered one of the many life lessons he's learned through his job.
"I understand how they feel. If you can show one ounce of kindness to a person who's down on their luck, that might make their night or day," J.B. sums up. "That kindness spreads. I have helped humanity out in that way. I've been there before on the streets, so I know how you feel. You've got to be kind to people because kindness comes back to you. My life is very, very good. I'm not the richest guy in the world, I have bills to pay and am in the red, but I have a home, family and friends who care about me. I have a job, and MTA has allowed me to work for them in a way that can help people. Sometimes people just need a little help."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


A Catholic dater confessesBy Carl Kozlowski
Often I’ll hear my friends talk about how hard it is out there in the dating world, and all I can think is, you haven’t really felt relationship stress and confusion unless you were raised Catholic. My dad grew up in Poland, a nation that’s practically more Catholic than the Vatican itself, and he actually spent six months in a seminary studying to be a priest before he finally opted for marriage instead.
These kinds of mixed messages are a standard part of growing up Catholic. Combine that with the fact I spent a full 12 years in Catholic schools, including four years in an all-male Catholic high school an agonizing two miles away from the all-girl one. We were taught sex education by my priest-principal. Nothing like learning from the experts, huh? I’ll never forget the nadir of my sexual education—when Father Tribou asked us, “Why is it bad to go steady?” and our class moron responded, “Because if a girl gets pregnant, her father knows who did it!”
Add in the trauma of high-school dances at which (just like the cliché) we either couldn’t slow dance at all or were separated by a yardstick. Throw in heaping helpings of guilt, and the result is a whole lot more relationship confusion than most people face. By the time I hit adulthood, it was almost enough to drive me to give up on dating and head to the seminary myself. On the other hand, I’m not the seminary type. I like women.
Then one day I had a revelation: I wasn’t even sure that I needed to date women who shared my religion. I knew this wasn’t the kind of revelation my Catholic parents were hoping I’d have, but I figured they’d come around. Despite the unbelievable hassle my sister endured for marrying a Protestant, my parents changed their tune after she popped out five kids, and my parents realized that, in a way, she was more Catholic than they were (they only had four of us). So I decided to open up my dating field to non-Catholics. After all, I was looking for a connection, not someone to attend Mass with. Or so I thought.
It bothered me when the first non-Catholic woman I dated never seemed to understand why I enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the robes and chalices of the Mass. The second one preferred getting her Sunday workout at Bally’s rather than experiencing the sit-stand-kneel rituals that I’ve come to call “Catholic calisthenics.” Our frames of reference were completely different. In turn, I couldn’t relate to non-Catholic services because of their lack of awe and spectacle, and I felt a fundamental lack of interest in those who didn’t practice any faith at all. So I decided that from then on, I’d date only Catholic women, but finding them suddenly seemed confusing.
Here are a few lessons I learned that might help any Catholic single on the dating scene.
Pick a parish that fits your personality. There are two basic kinds of Catholic singles groups.
First are what I call “party parishes,” yuppie churches in hip neighborhoods whose idea of a social outing is a ten-bar pub crawl on Saturday nights that inevitably leaves participants leaning over a toilet and begging for God’s mercy long before Sunday morning. But the women are so attractive and, shall we say, free-spirited, that donating money during Mass feels more like paying cover. If you think of the Communion wine as a pre-party aperitif, and believe that Jesus’ greatest miracle was turning water into wine, then you belong in a “party parish.”
If that’s not your scene, there are more conservative parishes where the singles are so reserved I call them “marriage monasteries.” Here, a Friday night gathering of the singles group means having a potluck dinner and settling in for a long talk by a priest about the suffering endured by Christ on the cross.
The strange thing, though, is that these churches seem to produce five times the marriages that the party parishes do. Then again, they say misery loves company. Or maybe hearing so many discussions of Christ’s sufferings actually makes lifelong monogamy seem like no sacrifice at all. My point is, parishes have distinct personalities. Make sure it matches yours.
Be careful of gossip. Just because you’re hanging with a church group doesn’t mean that you’ll be protected from rumors and gossip. I found that people take such an interest in who’s hooking up with whom at the party parishes or predicting who’s headed down the aisle next at the marriage monasteries that you’d think Vegas-level wagering was involved.
And be forewarned: if you’re in a relatively small parish, you’ll wind up running the same risks as living in a small town. After dating a few people, word spreads like wildfire about how wild or pristine you are, and you’ll be stuck in a category as the kind of guy who dates only one type—either ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ girls.
Unless you sit home reading the Bible, there’s no real way to avoid gossip entirely (even then, people will gossip about how you’re a shut-in because you’re sitting home reading the Bible). But the more you gossip, the more you open yourself up to it. So try to mind your own business. Or, as we Catholics might say, ‘Do unto others…’
Don’t be afraid of the Web. According to Wikipedia, there are more than 60 million Catholics in the U.S. (as the Bible says, go forth and multiply). And plenty of us choose to look for dates online. I like a big, everyone’s-welcome site like, where members indicate their faith in their profile, but for the hard-core Catholic, there are Catholic-only sites. One enables you to judge whether someone is right for you based on just seven questions. These questions ask whether you adhere to church teachings on major principles, like whether you agree the Pope is infallible.
Ironically, most guys use these questions solely to see whether a woman is “naughty” (a score of 5) or “nice” (a score of 7). Most women will try to sound conservative and say they agree with all seven ideas, but free spirits will admit to disagreeing with a couple of things—like believing in contraception and premarital sex. Imagine the mental hoops involved in answering those questions. Answer one way, and you sound like a candidate for sainthood; answer the other and get labeled “loose.”
The beauty of the more general online dating sites is that you can screen not only for people of the same religion and with similar values and life goals, but also for folks who like the same movies, music, and ice-cream flavors. These may sound like trivial questions compared to your views on the Pope, but a Catholic girl who likes Adam Sandler, Bruce Springsteen, and butter pecan? That, to me, takes “soul” mate to a whole new level.
Carl Kozlowski was named “America’s Funniest Reporter” by the world-famous Laugh Factory comedy club in 2006. He has written for Details and Swing and is a frequent guest on National Lampoon Radio on the XM satellite network.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


If you’ve learned anything about me from checking out my blog – and the sheer self-aggrandizement of having a website about myself called – then you’ve probably realized that I’m trying to “make it” in L.A. not only as a reporter and a stand-up comic, but sometimes even as an actor.

I had an agent who didn’t do jack for me for 2 or 3 years here, and I’d given up all hope of acting in anything substantial. Then one day I walked into the office of legendary TV producer Stephen J. Cannell – the guy who created “The A-Team” and “Rockford Files” and just about every cool buddy-cop show ever – to conduct an interview with him. And I was wearing my porkpie hat, pinstripe jacket and red checkered vans (just like the cartoon of me on this site), and Stephen -who retired from TV a decade ago to write crime novels – said “If I was still doing TV shows, I’d audition you on the spot.” Because he loved my “look.”

He didn’t even know I was a performer, but when I told him, Stephen!(freakin’!) Cannell! gave me 20 minutes of advice on how to kickstart my career. He said If I followed his advice, I’d have an agent within a month. I did as he said, and voila! TWO WEEKS later I got called in by an agency that’s considered one of the best character actor boutique agencies in the business!

My meeting consisted largely of “cold reading” five different short scripts to show my natural talent and range – things I thankfully actually have. And I got signed, and have been going on 4 or 5 auditions ever since.
Which is great.

Except for the fact that “character actor” in my case means “fat guy.” With an occasional side combo of “slow and stupid.” But anytime I dare complain about being sent out for those kinds of roles, my numerous actor friends say, “Do you know how hard it is to get an agent in this town?”

And so it was that I got sent out last week on a film called “Savage Sistas,” which is described as follows:

(Seriously, you’ve got to read this. And then kill yourself immediately if you’re a screenwriter with any talent whatsoever, because crap like this is getting made while your – and MINE – Great American Screenplay isn’t!)

“With the ultra-violent brand of horror films such as THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and HOSTEL as a defining force in the genre today, it was only natural that director/writer Dan Smith would create a story with plenty of action, suspense and buckets of blood. SAVAGE SISTAS is a straight up 70s grind house horror film. This story combines the tight friendships of THELMA & LOUISE with the terror and dread of THE HILLS HAVE EYES. With one last chance to celebrate before getting married, VONETTA and her three closet girlfriends leave the inner city of LA and set out on the road to Las Vegas for a wild weekend to end all others. But as these girls drive across the desert, they are totally unaware that they are heading for a road trip to hell. The fun suddenly fades when the girls take the wrong exit off the main highway and find themselves on an unmarked road and out of gas, stranded in the middle of nowhere. When all hope seems lost, a mysterious highway patrolman discovers the marooned women. But this is far from the lucky break they were hoping for. Their encounter goes from bad to worse as a simple misunderstanding erupts in violence. But this is not the only nightmare they will encounter out in this desolate place. Soon they will confront a horror more deadly than any one of them can imagine. If they are to survive, these sisters must become stone cold killers. SAVAGE SISTAS will leave you grasping for breath. And wanting more!”

Now, let me start by saying that I DO believe that audiences will be wanting more when they’re done watching this movie. That’s a given! After all, they’ll be wanting two hours of their life back and a cold shower to boot. Just to clean the stench of what they’ve polluted their minds with.

But this is the kind of project you audition for far more than any respectable roles when you’re starting out. I was to play Babyface – (and I quote..) “An overweight, oafish man who is unsure of how to relate to women.”

Well, if this is typecasting, I’m very disappointed in my agent. A role like this will likely set me back 20 years if it’s noticed by any woman, anywhere. Even if it becomes my big break, there is not a scene I’d want anyone I cared about to see either.

In fact, I called a Catholic priest friend of mine about my moral and ethical dilemma here – should I audition for something I find morally repellant, or either blow or blow off the audition? I thought the man of the cloth would tell me steer clear of this morally questionable enterprise.

Instead, he said “Carl, you know how hard it is to get an agent in this town…”

My audition took place at a spot called Loudmouth Studios, in the heart of the suburban wasteland of Studio City. To get there, since I don’t have a car and rely on the transit system, required me to endure the entire length of the MTA Gold Line before taking the infinitely smellier and more decrepit Red Line, and then hopping my bike for a 15-minute ride through an assortment of side streets. Yes, this meant I’d be traveling about 80 minutes – EACH WAY – for my moment of glory as Babyface, the slow-witted, obese cannibalistic killer. It is at times like this that I thank God I have another, “real” job at a newspapers so I can someday choose to focus on my dignity without worrying about my wallet.

For now, however, I was already there and had taken the afternoon off of work to be there. I was trapped in Studio City, which certainly had no other fun activities to offer. So I rode in to Loudmouth and prepared to take my punishment. I and a thoroughly creepy guy with a squat but extremely muscular frame named Jasper were called in together and then given our directions by the casting directors – who were, amazingly, two women. I was amazed because, as the official plot description above might indicate, it was a very misogynistic film in which 2 of the 4 heroines are killed by the end (Don’t write me complaining about giving you spoilers – you should be THANKING me!!!)

Nontheless, Jasper and I were supposed to enact a scene – improvising our way through it, it turns out – in which I would first essay a role other than Babyface. I was supposed to play a driver whose car has broken down on the side of the road and Jasper – in character as “Badcop,” a member of our inbred cannibalistic family – was to threaten me until I agreed to get out of the car. The catch was he wasn’t allowed to lay a finger on me; it was to be a pure mind game, which is kind of strange, you’ll realize, when the actual script for Badcop and Babyface only allows us to grunt for dialogue.

I knew that when Jasper/Badcop counted to three, I would have to get out of the car because bad things always happen in movies on the count of three. So I pretended to step out, only to be ordered onto my knees and find myself called “Fatass.” For some reason, rather than scaring or upsetting me, it was actually funny – but I managed to suppress my laughter and go with the flow.

After the scene was cut off and Jasper offered a surprisingly humble “I’m sorry” for sneering at my weight, we got on to the real business at hand: terrorizing women through degradation. I was to hold a rope and pretend it was a dog leash – a dog leash with an imaginary woman wearing only her skimpy underwear as she crawled on all fours as I petted her and kept saying “Woof woof!” Jasper was to bust in next and try to force himself up behind her sexually as I reacted with confusion because Babyface doesn’t know anything about women.

Ultimately, our equally illiterate “Pa” was to bust in and break the woman free from Jasper before hanging her by handcuffs inside a bathroom as she awaited being cut into our dinner meat. And as he did this, I was to cower in fear from “Pa”, apparently providing whatever comic relief could be found in junk like this.

And so I yanked the rope around, barked at thin air in varying yet troublesome volumes, and got called “Fatass” again for free. I’m starting to think Jasper isn’t really sorry, but is starting to enjoy his role.

Judging by the quality of the script – if one can even apply the word “quality” in any way, shape, or form to it – I’d say he’ll be the only one who enjoys it.

But as the saying goes, you gotta start somewhere.

Friday, February 1, 2008


(Actually I'm voting for Ron Paul - the only true leader to come along in my lifetime. Viva la Revolucion!)

Hooked on voting
No contest — not even Tuesday’s election — is too meaningless for me to cast a ballot
By Carl Kozlowski

I vote every day, several times a day. And it’s not just because my dad was an immigrant from communist Poland, where no one was allowed to vote, and taught me to appreciate the opportunity to cast ballots in a free country.
I only think of my dad’s lessons in that regard every four years, when it comes time to vote my conscience on who should be the leader of the US and by extension, the free world. But most of the time I’m voting about whether I think Brit-Brit or K-Fed would be the better parent for their beleaguered tykes, or if I think “The Apprentice” should finally be canceled.
Yes, I vote in the polls offered by Web sites such as AOL, CNN and MSN — polls that ask utterly meaningless questions but yet give participants the strange satisfaction that they’re part of some grand decision-making, casting our judgments upon the boorish behavior of celebrities and politicians in a manner that would make Puritans proud.
And yet, as silly as it may seem, being among the 180,000 or so people who participate in a typical major-Web site online poll has made me question a few things about our current presidential elections. You might say I’m being trivial about the most important election we face, but then I say that the very primary process we’re engaged in — and especially the supposed “expert” pundits who constantly analyze each state’s votes — is what’s turning our democracy into a joke.
Just take a look at what’s happening here. We start each primary season with two states that no one ever thinks about outside of a presidential election: Iowa and New Hampshire. Hell, the only way I’d ever set foot in one of those states is if I got horribly lost (which, um, actually happened to me once in Iowa). But yet we put them first and have candidates waste an average of $200 per voter in an attempt to get that “all-important” first victory.
Only 5 percent of Iowa Republicans took part in the 2004 caucuses and 10 percent of Iowa Democrats. So if the people there don't care to participate, why are THEY being treated like prophets?
The second that someone like bass-playing Baptist minister and former governor of the worst state in America (I come from Arkansas so I can say that, thank you very much) Mike Huckabee wins Iowa, pundits breathlessly wonder whether the other six Republican candidates are dead in the water. How can they win?! Can they come back?! Huckabee’s got the momentum to take it all! they say.
That is, until five days later when he gets stomped by John McCain, a guy who would have dropped out of the race last summer if he listened to his low polls. So he becomes the unstoppable candidate that no one can possibly beat! Until, um, Michigan, where Mitt Romney and his magic underwear won a commanding victory on Tuesday.
The same goes for the Democrats, where Barack Obama was anointed as our next king for the five days between winning Iowa and losing New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton and her tears. And even more shocking (!!!), she won despite being down 13 points in the polls behind Obama the day before. Making a 16-point turnaround to win the election is such an odd occurrence that the Democratic Party’s official munchkin, Dennis Kucinich, has demanded a hand-vote recount.
Let’s just face it: Everyone’s a winner this year. At least, that’s the way Big Media wants it, because it makes the news “exciting” and “a horse race” where “all bets are off.” An easily decided race means that viewers will start paying more attention to “American Idol” than the American president. Never mind they already do.
What the pollsters don't take into account are these things:
Polls are crap. Unless you ask the SAME 508 people how they feel about candidates throughout the polling season, you'll always have differences in the results because it's always a different group of 508 people being asked. They might have had different opinions all along — meaning, if you seek out a different group each time, OF COURSE they'll have different answers, but there's no way of knowing how EACH group really changed their opinion from week to week. Ask the SAME group how they feel each time or don't bother at all.
And besides, I’ve never been asked once for my opinion in a supposedly representative presidential poll, nor has anyone I’ve ever known. Have you?
One thing that we can all be certain of, though, is that we’re going to be having “change.” Lots of change. Obama never explains what the hell that means, Hillary claims she can bring it despite the fact a victory for her would mean we’ve been ruled by a member of just two different families for more than two decades, and Edwards says he’s fighting for the people while living in a $25 million house.
The Republicans amazingly claim they’ll bring change, even though it’s their own leader who’s screwed everything up in the first place. The only thing that changes with Romney is his stand on the issues from state to state, while McCain says he’s bringing change, but that he’ll keep our troops in Iraq for “10,000 years” if he has to.
Huckabee is the rare Republican who loves raising taxes, so we’ll all be left with change rather than bills in our wallets, leaving Ron Paul to actually propose innovative ideas — like bringing our troops home — and getting labeled a crackpot for doing so.
The only thing that's clear is that nobody wanted Fred Thompson to be their president. I knew that he'd do poorly from the beginning because he looks like death warmed over. Now I’m just waiting for a "very special" episode of "Law and Order" any day now in which Thompson's character is magically back on the case.
In that case, I can see myself getting hooked on “Law and Order” again because I’m gonna need a new addiction. I’ve finally come to my senses and realized there’s really no one worth voting for in this election.

THE SIDE OF THE ROSE PARADE YOU"RE NOT SUPPOSED TO SEE or How I Saw Five Arrests in Two Hours on New Year's Eve

Wild in the streets
A side of the Rose Parade that America never gets to see
By Carl Kozlowski

Photo by Tracy Lowe

Everyone loves a parade, especially in Pasadena, where we kick off each year with the Greatest Parade in the History of Mankind, the Rose Parade.
Flower-laden floats, celebrities, horses, princesses, a queen; what’s not to love? This year, I decided to drink deeply from this seemingly bottomless trough of high-brow tradition and family entertainment and actually spend New Year’s Eve along Colorado Boulevaard with thousands of other partiers.
But after being at the epicenter of all that excitement for just a few hours, I can truthfully say that what happens before the parade starts and television cameras roll — the part of the event that America never gets to see — is often bereft of any dignity and is sometimes totally unfit for family viewing.
In fact, all this unabashedly illegal and sometimes downright perverse activity was so bad that it prompted in me a whole new level of respect for what our police in this town sometimes have to go through just to earn a paycheck.
It all started with me running into a group of friends from Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena. I feared I’d be bored spending the wildest night of the year with a bunch of Christians. But these folks were anything but boring as they set up their parade-viewing stoop in front of Fred’s Mexican Café, on the corner of Colorado and Arroyo Parkway in Old Pasadena, where they had coaxed a bunch of street kids into watching their spot throughout the previous day in exchange for some cash and dinner on the sidewalk.
I could see things were headed in an interesting direction when one of the kids got busted by patrolling police officers for hiding bottles of vodka. Another boy refused to have his bags searched for drugs. Another guy was so loaded that he did an impromptu dance after accidentally dropping a lit cigarette down his pants.
But just a short two hours later, when midnight finally rolled around, the dancer — El Loco to his compatriots — had forgotten all about that searing experience, pulled down his pants and mooned drivers caught in traffic on Colorado Boulevard, then put his private parts on display for select vehicles.
No cops were nearby to catch that part of his act, but when eight squad cars from various jurisdictions rolled past in slow succession, El Loco quickly hiked up his pants and did a jig, the moonwalk, the Running Man, Russian gypsy moves and a couple of interpretive numbers in an impressive display of energy that reduced the cops to laughter and led to a round of applause from passersby.
As El Loco took a well-deserved rest, things took a more urgent turn directly behind where we were sitting at Fred’s. A woman who had tied one on that night tried to walk out of the restaurant, then seemed to pass out, fell down and opened a bloody gash on the back of her head.
“I’m concussed,” she stammered as her date panicked and a passing doctor and I stopped to make sure she was OK. When paramedics arrived, though, she refused to go to the hospital and was ultimately strapped to a gurney, at which point she screamed a torrent of profanities, à la Britney Spears last week. As the woman at the pre-parade bacchanalia was being loaded into the ambulance, a cop took a statement from her date, who didn’t know exactly how to describe her condition until the cop asked, “Would ‘batshit crazy’ suffice?”
From there, it was off to King Taco right up the block on Union Street. While standing in the bathroom line, two guys looking for dates didn’t like getting shot down by some female customers. One of the guys put one of the girls in a chokehold. The other guy shoved another girl to the floor before a group of diners forced them both to flee. Restaurant staff knew enough to lock the doors so the attackers couldn’t return.
Eventually released from King Taco but still in search of a bathroom, I strolled west to the Subway sandwich shop at Colorado and Raymond Avenue only to find about 10 shrieking people running out and a platoon of police running in. What could have happened? A robbery? A hostage situation? The crowd finally erupted into peals of laughter as cops dragged out a guy who had defecated in his pants and on the floor of America’s favorite sandwich shop.
As two officers suffered through patting the guy down and other cops held their noses, the suit-wearing suspect stared straight ahead and refused to offer a statement, as if there was anything left to say. It was at that point I realized that behind the Kevlar vests, cops are really just as human as the rest of us.
In all, only 29 arrests were made at the parade and the Rose Bowl football game. In years past, those numbers usually ran well over 100.
So let’s throw our Boys in Blue a little shout out for a job well done, because in Pasadena, life for them isn’t always a bed of roses, especially on New Year’s Eve.