Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Eulogy for a Legend

Stan Lee started in comics when he was a pup, but he and the artists he worked with did not reinvent what we know of today as superhero comics until he was about 40. And he kept working, in one way or another, to the end.

So there is life both within and after the day job, and you don't need to be 25 to find it.

The world of comics is not so different from that of other creative jobs. There's a pyramid, and people get involuntarily or voluntarily weeded out, sometimes slowly, other times in big rushes, every few decades. Some people try to leave and get dragged back. Some people make it to the end--we've heard their names a lot over the last few years. Flo. Len. Mirthful Marie. Now the guy at the very tip of that pyramid, Stan "the Man" Lee. The figurehead of an entire industry, one which went from being nearly extinct (more than once) to roaring back, dominating pop culture with modern mythology. With responsibility. With power. Even with self-esteem issues. Comics are the perennial blooming teen, the permanent start-up. Their periodical nature creates innovation you'd never get with a small booklist, forces every publishing arm to reinvent itself on a regular basis. My job is herding feral cats, and I'm barely housebroken.

I don't have single-incident Stan stories the way many of you do. As a kid, I didn't meet Stan and get inspired to join comics. I only met Stan as part of my job. These meetings are a blur of ongoing, non-specific, minor interactions. Actually, that's probably the same as most of my early nineties Marvel peers. We had these Marvel conventions for a while, and I was really into getting frequent flyer miles, so I'd go to any of them I was invited to. Stan was frequently there--he was the embodiment of Marvel after all, even though he'd headed West decades ahead of the rest of us.

Stan met hundreds of people in the Marvel Mega-Tour weekends. He probably met dozens of people in the office every time he visited. For a while, every time I met him, he re-introduced himself. This isn't unique to me--it's what he did, introduced himself to everyone.

But eventually, he just started greeting me warmly. Not by name, no, I can't pretend I was an institution. But he knew my face and knew I was a colleague he'd see over and over. That's the best Stan story I have, and I'm happy with it.

I don't know that I'll make it to 95. But here's the good news, the inspirational part besides all the other parts of the Stan Lee legacy.

That's an entire lifetime away. Even more years than Stan was when he developed Spider-Man.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Raise the Red (and Blue and Green and Orange and Purple) Lantern

I had a rental car for the weekend, because I wanted to see a night event at the LA Arboretum in Arcadia, and I didn't fancy the idea of catching a Lyft to the Gold Line to the 501 bus after dark.

I was going to the Moonlight Forest, a celebratory display of exquisite enormous Chinese lanterns.

My photos are here. Well worth the trip!

Red Line History

Yesterday, after three-and-a-half years of hearing bus recordings say "Campo de Cahuenga" on approach to the nearby bus stop, I stopped by the tiny Campo de Cahuenga historic site at the Universal metro. It's only open two Saturdays a month from noon-4, so I had to give this a bit of thought.

The adobe structure inside the gated parking lot carve-out is a 1950 replica, the original having been demolished fifty years prior. But there are excavations--you don't need to go in to see them, as you can see them anytime from the metro north-side escalators. Actually, even those are replicas. The originals were reburied for preservation. Supposedly the Treaty, or Capitulation, of Cahuenga was signed here in 1847 on a table (now property of the Natural History Museum) on the porch during a rainstorm. Theoretically, this was the beginning of the end of hostilities between Mexico and the United States, eventually giving rise to the state of California.

You can try to read the platform tiles at the Universal/Studio City metro. Or you can click here to read about how many details are unclear or lost to legend over time. Some volunteers sat inside the adobe house, and they gave me a handout to read along with a replica of the treaty. So now I have my very own Treaty of Cahuenga. Which is not the worst thing, given I have accepted I am a reluctant but permanent-until-otherwise resident of this fine state of California. (So you can lay off the Jersey jokes.) 

A local history enthusiast (last seen leading that tour I took of DTLA old speakeasies) wrote an article about Campo de Cahuenga that dug into the background quite a bit more than the actual site does, and should you choose to visit, I urge you to read up a bit before you go. That said, I'm not sure I'd recommend going out of your way for it, but given how often I transit through this metro station, I was feeling pretty lame about not stopping in to this little patch of historic pasture right in the middle of the city.

Hours, such as they are, are here.


Replica. Of the bell, not NBC.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Shoes and Dumplings

I headed down to Row DTLA to meet my friend Steve today. He hadn't been to these converted warehouses yet. I had. It's where I'd first seen the sofa I bought a few months later. I stumbled over this area while traipsing around DTLA in search of...I can't remember. I think I was going to an art supply store down there, or maybe Moskatel's, the big sorta-Michaels.
Smorgasburg soup dumpling the size of my fist

Getting down there was a bit of a pain in the ass, because I was headed over to catch the commuter rail when I glanced at the commuter rail sign to learn about the—oh, joy—delays. And I'd just missed the bus to the Red Line. I got a Lyft to the Red Line to DTLA, where I caught a bus down 7th Street. I barely notice the tent city there anymore. This is not a good thing.

Steve and I had a good day exploring Row DTLA and Smorgasburg, and he dropped me off at a shoe store in Silverlake. I'm on a quest to find close-toe shoes I don't hate before I have to hike around Haiti in them. But Sole Junction was not the place I'd hoped for—the place I need to go see if Lucha's in South Pasadena, but a girl can dream.

The bus I needed from there to Glendale (for my stop at Nordstrom's to check out some Vionic shoes) wasn't going to be along for a half-hour, so I took a Lyft there too. Then after traipsing around Nordstrom's and DSW, I caught the bus back to Burbank.

Of course, it ran late, and I just missed the bus home from downtown Burbank, so I took my third Lyft of the day.

Which turned out to be a good thing as I had this charming conversation.

Lyft driver: "My parents are Armenian. They have not been able to learn English, since the Valley has such a large Armenian community, and so they haven't had to. Plus, it's hard for them to learn at their age. They're 50, 60, you know?"

I laughed. I couldn't help it. Yeah, 50 is soooo ancient. I guess it was to me when I was his age too. (He was 21 years old.)

Two minutes earlier, he'd asked how long I'd lived in New York.

"About 25 years," I'd said.

"So most of your life you were in the greatest city in the world."

"Um, not exactly." I laughed.

"I guess New York has its problems. It seemed pretty great to me the one time I was there."

I gave him a nice tip. 

Impending Use It or Lose It Vacation Days

You guys, I'm going to Haiti!

I'm not going with an NGO or a church. (Anyway, I'm not religious.) I'm not going as a journalist or a visiting creative. No speeches, no signings, no volunteering, no portfolio reviews.

I'm going as a tourist. Straight-up shameless sightseer. Not even a backpacker. I only have a week, so I'll just have to suck it up and pay what people pay for hotels there instead of seeking out the cheapest place in town.

I read somewhere about art colonies there, confederations of artists creating installations and pieces out of steel drums, paper mache, paintings. That's what I want to see. I know I won't get through much in a week, so I'm going to Cap Haitien, Jacmel, and PAP/Petion-ville.

One of my comics colleagues has in the past been active in teaching filmmaking in Jacmel, but I'm not even hitting her up for contacts, because I'm going to be too busy gawking at stuff and looking for cool art.

I bought the single English-language guidebook out there, plus the Haiti chapter from the Lonely Planet Caribbean book, and these weren't really enough, so I bought the Petit Fute too, and then I had to figure out how to crack the code to be able to copy-paste the French into Google Translate. I've read all kinds of tips on TripAdvisor and the Thorntree, scored my frequent flyer tickets for around Thanksgiving (anyone know what I should do with a five-hour layover in Ft. Lauderdale on Thanksgiving day?), and the one thing I'm puzzled by is how the hell to get any artwork I buy back to Los Angeles. Or at least to Jersey City. (Remember my smashed reverse-glass painting from Tunisia?)

Here are some useful things I've found through all this reading so far:

Guesthouse in Cap-Haitien.
Tours in PAP.
Hotel in Jacmel.

I've been reading up on the pervasive smell of charcoal and moto-taxis. That reminds me of Kampala, but I'm sure it'll be quite different. I'm pretty excited. I know I already went to Tunisia this year, but I need to balance out my day job routine with a bit of excitement once in a while.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Street Art

I went all the way downtown to look at art when I could've just walked up to Oak Street. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Garment District Touring

After the Los Angeles Flower District tour, I headed over to the "Blue Schedule" tour of the Garment District.

The LA Garment District is called the Fashion District, actually. You can take the girl out of New York...

LA Conservancy offers great walking tours throughout the year, mostly in DTLA. But once a year, they cook up something special. Last year was the Koreatown one, and the year before that, I took their Chinatown walking tour. I've been in Los Angeles now for 3.5 years, and I figure I'll stay until I'm out of new things to check out, or until MariesWorldTour 2021 happens.

The Blue Schedule (including three walking tours) started at Santee Court at 10:30 a.m., so I strolled over slowly. I passed a sewing supply shop—hey, I need a zipper foot for my sewing machine! They had hundreds of zipper feet for all kinds of machines, but I don't actually know what my used machine is, in spite of digging around a lot online. There's no brand  marked on it. But I know where the zipper foot store is, and next time I head to that part of the world, I can take a machine foot along for them to match.

Downtown is a mixture of trendy apartments, expensive restaurants, repurposed lofts, Skid Row, wholesale bong shops, and completely different versions of "living on the edge." I could get from the Fashion District to Las Vegas or Tijuana for about twenty bucks on a discount bus. In the spirit of the moment, I went into a bodega and bought a lottery ticket. I didn't know how to do this, so I had to ask the proprieter what I was supposed to do. He had the machine do it for me.

The meeting point at Santee Court consists of old factories renovated into New York-style apartments. Sort of. More like a Disneyland version of New York. There are a few of these high-end lofts floating around in, I dunno, Dumbo, I guess. We were able to go inside one, and also over to some nearby repurposed lofts. I'd love to live downtown in one of these. My favorite would be on 4th and Main where I was when I first hit town, by the Red Line. But getting to work was a hassle. Hollywood, Burbank, and Los Feliz are much easier for getting to my office.

The second tour was of the California Market Center, the New Mart, and the Cooper Design Space, which includes offices for companies like AG and 7 For All Mankind. Of course, none of these were open on weekends, but last Friday of the month, you can go to sample sales in all these buildings. I went to a special sale in California Market Center a few years ago—I got things for five dollars each!

By the time the third tour started, I was really dragging in the 87 degree heat. I ditched early and hopped on the DASH bus back to the Red Line. The day was long but I love these kind of things.

I've uploaded photos here.

Flower Market Tour

I made it to the Los Angeles flower district by 8 in the morning on a Saturday! Even I was surprised I pulled this off. I took a look at renting a car, taking the commuter rail, and finally, I just did the usual bus over the hill to the Red Line.

The occasion was a downtown LA Conservancy tour, which started at the Southern California Flower Market, continued on to the Original Los Angeles Flower Market, and passed by various smaller vendors along the way.

We learned that the former was started by Japanese migrants in the late 1880s, while the latter was formed by Europeans immigrants in the early 1900s. Today, the markets are not so specifically regional, and people from all kinds of backgrounds participate, including many Latinx vendors.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

More Fun with Home Repairs

There were two heavy steel covers hanging around my tiny yard back in Jersey City.

One was in the vestibule of the entrance to the downstairs, covering a drain.

The other was over was was either an oil tank alcove or a coal chute, or possibly both at different time in my house's history.

Both of those are now gone, courtesy the same company that did the stoop (Jetco) and the backyard stucco. They reported that the drain under the stoop doesn't actually go anywhere. I can only assume the drain is designed to put water into the soil beneath the stoop, then. I know when I tried to figure it out, I found a pipe full of soil and children's toys. At least now I have a drain cover instead of a big plate that clanks when I step on it.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Pasadena Sunday

There's a big flea market at the Rose Bowl on the second Sunday of every month. I went once with Tracy and a rental car, but that was almost two years ago, so it was time to go again.
I didn't have a rental car this time, but that's actually a good thing as parking is a bit of a hassle outside such a big arena. The shuttle bus stop is near the entrance. 

Here's how to take public transit to the Rose Bowl Flea Market: You get to the Raymond and Holly aka the Memorial Park Gold Line station first. I did this on the 501 bus, which goes from Burbank directly there. Then you catch the Sunday 51 bus directly to the Rose Bowl. Oh, and it's free. Ridiculously easy. I doubt that bus runs on Sundays when there are not events, but on flea days, it runs once or twice an hour. 
I walked once around the arena, and then dove into the offshoot, the real "flea-like" part. This is exhausting, though, so eventually I spotted a good and restful distraction, and sat down at the tarot card reader's booth. 

For ten bucks, I got some pleasant conversation and hearty entertainment. I've had my palm read, my cards read, gone to psychics, and had my chart done. I've even had a reading over Skype. I enjoy all of these things immensely, especially when the reader seems to be tailoring the reading to me. Today's reading was extra-fun, because the reader pinned me as working for money right now and seeing a choice down the road between doing so and escaping for the creative. I'd say IT'S LIKE SHE KNEW ME, except isn't this everyone's dream?