Sunday, July 08, 2018

Meet Ziggy

Here is my new friend, Ziggy Fontana.

Ziggy now lives with friends of mine, about 20 minutes north of Burbank. I was able to meet Ziggy as part of his socialization process. My friend Monica has kids, and I piggybacked on the first-ever Ziggy-meets-children event to also do Ziggy-meets-Marie.

Like most puppies, Ziggy does not like to hold still for long, so Monica had a hard time getting a clear focus.

There's no way I'm getting a dog, because I work crazy hours and that would just be cruel, but I'm so glad Ziggy is not too far away.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Burbank Refrigerator, the Sequel

You might be wondering what happened with my refrigerator problem.

I'm optimistic it's been solved.

A guy from Thrifty came last Thursday morning. He was nice and prompt and knew what to do. He pulled out my refrigerator and changed the Minotaur.

That's right. My Minotaur was cranky. I'm lucky I wasn't eaten alive, I guess.

He also ordered a new control unit, and he'll be back with this over the coming week. I left town for five days and came back to a frost-free freezer and no strange noises, so I guess my Minotaur is tamed now. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


Now we're talking. If I could travel like this every time, I wouldn't mind flying at all. 

Stalking the Wild Whatsit

The motion detector light went on behind my house at 2:30 a.m. This woke me up and I stumbled groggily into the back room, where I heard a rustling directly outside the open bathroom window.

I have screens and window bars, and I reminded myself of that as I heard the sound of a person, the friction of clothing against clothing, the quiet sound of motion as they backed away from the window well.

I froze. What to do?

It's a raccoon, I thought. Or a cat. But how could a cat make that noise? Cats are silent, mostly. But we have big raccoons living next door on the convent grounds. What do raccoons sound like when they're waking up? Raccoons don't wear clothes, so it's hard to imagine them making any sounds at all.

You have window bars, I reminded myself. There's simply no way a prowler could get in without picking the door locks, and that would take time, plus I would see them outside the door.

I assumed the worst—someone wandering the neighborhood, looking for potential burglary spots. The best-case scenario is oddly loud raccoon, and another possibility is a human looking for a place to sleep.

But who would want to sleep in a moist window well? Probably infested with cat, rat, or raccoon feces?

I gingerly crept back to my bed, where I cowered until I fell asleep.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018


I seem to never stop working on my house in Jersey City. Once I finished the upstairs, I moved on to the downstairs. This past trip, I dug a hammer head and a baby toy out of the drain under the front (newly refaced) stoop. The facade and yard still awaits me, once day when I'm really procrastinating on some writing.

I hung some souvenirs over the weekend, including some things I'd been struggling to figure out how to display. I don't have a great photo of the Polynesian ceremonial war paddle, but it's finally up. You can see one side of it in the top photo.

Goatskin lunchbox (Ethiopia, 2001), ceremonial paddle
(French Polynesia, 2011), Tintin folk art  (Madagascar, 2011)
Folk art painting (Marrakesh, 2009)

Bhutan, 2011
St. George & dragon, Mary and Jesus (Ethiopia, 2001)

Sunday, July 01, 2018


I'm sure that's a hundred percent accurate.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

What's He Need With A Car, Anyway?

I was back in JC over last weekend and the 4th. I rented a car for a few days, and when I got off the bus up on Communipaw outside Enterprise, I noticed a new place across the street.

Gonna be a long wait, then, if you're trying to get your car fixed.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Fun with Ownership

Yesterday, I returned from my second ukulele class at LACC to this weird noise coming from my refrigerator.

I was less than thrilled. I went onto the HOA message board to search for appliance repair recommendations.

And there I found this. The person I bought my condo from looking for a refrigerator repair person. OH SWELL, I have a recurring problem.

At least the Maytag was polite enough to wait until I was a year in.

The appliance place wasn't open until Monday, so I just ignored the buzzing refrigerator and went about my business. But it got louder and louder, until eventually, at five on Sunday morning, I got up to fix it. Because I couldn't sleep with that racket.

I know exactly one trick with refrigerators, which is to turn it off and let the ice melt. But I couldn't do that without my food spoiling, so I turned to the Internet for help.

I ended up dragging it away from the wall, taking off the back with my little IKEA tools (my real tools are in JC), cleaning out the drip valve, and putting it back together. I found the diagnostic paperwork crammed into the back, so I used that to run tests via the control panel. Yep, it's a fan. But that only helps me if I'm willing to take apart the freezer compartment and buy a part, which seems to me where my handiness ends unless I drag all my food to the freezer in my office kitchen. I'd prefer a pro do that part, in a hurry.

But I could get rid of the ice. So I used my hairdryer and got rid of all the ice. The buzzing stopped immediately.

It'll be back in a few days, I imagine, but by then, I'll have an appointment with the appliance place.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Multitasking Saturday

Here I was last Saturday morning, getting ready for my LA river hike and later, my first ukulele lesson.

Ha. I was nervous, okay? It all went fine.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Urban Hike

This morning, I went on an Atlas Obscura-sponsored hike alongside the Glendale Narrows section of the Los Angeles River.

The day was overcast—lucky for us hikers given it's June. I wore a hat and sunscreen anyway.

We met at Marsh Park in Frogtown, which is a double-camel-hump-shaped sliver of LA sandwiched between the 5 freeway and the river. From there, we followed the pedestrian and bicycle path alongside the river, checking out the weeds that spring out of this section of the river along the way.

The LA River inhabits that concrete ravine you've seen in so many movies—I first remember becoming aware of it when I saw the movie Grease in 1978. Most people think of it as a visual blight, a gaping wound across the city, a hybrid of stark brutalism mixed with natural curves that creates a practical and decidedly unattractive aesthetic. This is technology at its ugliest. Nature was controlled through any means necessary without a single thought to visual appeal or harmony.

And yet, like the industrial wastelands along the New Jersey Turnpike spur lining the road from Newark Airport to Manhattan, there is true beauty in the brazen human assault on the natural world. The contrast of a perfect spring day, the herons, the cyclists, the dogs scampering along on leashes alongside this pervasive sun-drenched trench. How can anything be simultaneously rigid and meandering? Who thought a fifty-mile concrete trench was a good idea?

The Army Corps of Engineers, that's who. And it works, because the purpose is to wrestle the river into submission, controlling flooding and crushing nature without humility.

The Glendale Narrows is one section of the river with a soft bottom, without concrete underneath, so weeds grow here, springing from the mud to be constantly beaten back, a never-ending tussle between human and nature. I'm still wrestling with my thoughts on the Los Angles aesthetic. It's not an attractive place, despite glowing descriptions of palm trees and sunny days. That description is symptomatic of the cluelessness of the luxury-class, a superficiality enjoyed by the wealthy of the stunning Hollywood Hills or Beverly Hills or even Santa Monica. The Los Angeles of the working class is gritty and utilitarian, an uneasy alliance between the industrial, the crass commercialism of storefronts and parking structures, and the elevated or subterranean cuts of freeways. Eventually you start to notice the endless possibilities for public art among the shocking wasteland of carwashes and squat shopping plazas, the small pockets of nature pushing back against the relentless destruction of humanity. And so we find the river. Pockets of greenery. Herons. Fish. Egrets. And supposedly, there are activists who buy exotic ducks in Chinatown, releasing them into the river habitat.

The environmentalists led us along the river bike path, then we climbed through the barriers and carefully walked down the concrete slope to the water. We walked a mile and a half from Marsh Park to Sunnynook Pedestrian Bridge, which I had no idea existed until the moment it came into view ahead of us. We crossed over, hiked back, and ended up at our starting point at noon.

The hike was pretty amazing. I had no idea so many natural nooks and crannies sprang out of the riverbed. I have seen people's tents along the river and so had made assumptions I'm not terribly proud of. But the river itself is a tiny pocket of natural chaos pushing through the limitations of human construction. The river always wins, in the end. It's merely a question of when.

More photos here.