Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Heavy Lifting

When I bought my house, it had an ancient all-in-one washer/dryer in the laundry alcove off the second-floor bathroom.

Which is better than nothing, except I couldn't figure out how to open the door on it. 

"Jenn used to do it with a butter knife, but I just went to the laundromat on Communipaw," my tenant volunteered. 

MK couldn't get it open either, and when I called the one specialist I could find for this off-brand, he said "A piece of advice on that model: Throw it out." 

I dug around on the holiday sales but missed them all because I was afraid to commit. Could I get them up the stairs? The old unit was only 22 inches wide. Nothing I could find was quite that compact. 

"They can always lift it," said BBF (Best Boy Friend is super-smart about this sort of thing). 

But I missed the sales, I thought when I went back online to look at prices. Then I found a loophole--the LG models were disguised as Kenmore models at Sears. I bought them. They look great. They are huge. 

The phone rang on delivery day. "They aren't allowed to lift them over the banister," MK said. "They want to know if you still want to accept delivery." 

"Yes," I answered. I didn't know how to get it upstairs, but I knew smaller units were useless. My new tenants have two babies. Children create dirty laundry. 

When I arrived in my house and looked at the washer and dryer sitting in my living room, I had a twinge of panic. They...look...so...big! But there must be a way. 

I thought for a while, back to when I'd had to drive Babcock to his storage unit at U-Haul. It was a container that was taking his stuff out to his new home across the country. As MK and I had sat there in the car while Babcock rummaged in his container, I'd noticed a gaggle of men standing by the entrance to U-Haul. 

Day laborers. Hourly guys, looking for pick-up work. 

"Let's try them," I said to MK now, a year or so later. "You do the talking. You're a big guy. They'll take you more seriously. You look like you can actually lift something." 

We drove over to the Tonnelle Avenue U-Haul. MK got out and choose the two largest men out of the line-up. He negotiated and brought them over to the car. 

Marcus and Augusto were lovely people--both nice, strong, and clever. I can't say it looked easy, but between the two of them and MK, they lifted the washer and dryer up over and the banister and up the stairs. We then had to drive them back to U-Haul, and the entire experience would've been easier if I didn't live in an 1895 row house with tiny stairs and huge banisters, but at least it's done now. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday Eviction

"I'm sorry--I'm being the Grinch here, but I need to renovate your apartment for myself and rent out the upstairs. Can you please move out?"

I felt mean, but my tenant knew it was coming. We'd talked about it before. He wanted to stay--who wouldn't, for $550 a month?--but it was inevitable. I didn't need four bedrooms for myself, but I needed one. 

The mother-in-law suite on the ground floor would be just right for me as an East Coast base while I stayed in Los Angeles for work. 

Somehow, he found somewhere, a share in Queens. I had to give him extra money for his move, but it was worth it to simplify my situation. Technically, it's a loan, but I'm skeptical.

I wasn't sure when he was moving out, but there would be at least a week in-between his departure and my arrival. I had ordered a few packages to my house--a used iPhone off eBay and a mini-fridge for the mini-apartment--but both were scheduled to arrive after Christmas, when I'd be there. 

When I got a notification on 12/23 that my 73 pound package had been "left on stoop," I was more than alarmed. I sent the former tenant a note. "Sorry, I'm already in Queens!" 

(The last I'll hear from him, I imagine.) 

I called MK, who had to be in Westchester in a few hours. He hurried over to my house, and was in a bad mood by the time he got there. The Light Rail had been packed with holiday shoppers going to Newport Mall, and he'd had to give up on it and take the bus, which took forever. 

He called me when he got to my house. He was pissed. 

My former tenant had left his security gate and door wide open, and left empty boxes and rubbish all over. 


But MK dragged in the mini-fridge and locked everything, then went to Westchester. 

When I got home a few days after Christmas, I went downstairs to survey the damage. 

He'd left, among other things, various pieces of a lighting kit, a skateboard, several frames, a ton of empty boxes, lots of books, a sack of coins, old magazines...I recycled the magazines, took the books to the resale shop, and put a bunch of stuff in the basement. After six months, I'll toss it. 

We dragged a few pieces of old furniture to the curb, and I got to work scrubbing old plastic and rubber off the bathroom floor, while MK prepped for painting. Things could have been a lot better with my tenant's departure, but they could have been a lot worse too. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Heading Home for the Holidays

I bought my ticket to the East Coast on August 1. It's not like there were any surprises...I was going one way or another.

But I did hedge my bets and got the ticket for midday on Christmas Eve. No matter what was going on at work, I'd be out of there by midday on December 24. And I bought it to travel to Dulles Airport, near my mother's. Say she decided to go elsewhere for Christmas--I'd still be close to the train to Newark from there.

I didn't anticipate United changing the schedule to an earlier departure between August and December. If I had bought an earlier ticket, I might as well have bought a redeye for the night before. I couldn't go to work on the new schedule. I had to go straight to the airport in the morning.

But I'd bought my ticket out of Burbank, near my office. Which turned out to be the smartest thing I could do a for a heavy travel day.

Hollywood & Whitley, waiting for the 222 bus to Burbank Airport
I caught the #222 bus from the base of my street, on Hollywood Boulevard. It goes up over the hill straight to Burbank, and on to the Burbank Airport. The Burbank Airport is never crowded or unpleasant. Getting on a plane there on Christmas Eve was easy-peasy.

I connected through San Francisco, and my mother picked me up at Dulles right on time.

I head back up to Jersey City tomorrow night, where Jim and I get to build my kitchen. Well, Jim gets to build my kitchen. I am actually pretty good at stuff like that, but I'll be all thumbs with a pro working next to me. It's probably best if I just stick to assisting. At least, the project will go faster. When I work alone, I have to keep stopping every step of the way, so I can go watch YouTube videos on the next step.

Happy holidays, or rather, happy one more holiday to go! This has been quite the unexpected year in many ways. I'll have to check back in before New Year's.

Flying out of Burbank on Christmas Eve day

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Straight Outta Hoboken

Capitol reminds us of a certain 100th birthday.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Inside Hollywood

Having posted an atmospheric photo of the outside of where I'm renting in Hollywood, it's only fair to show a bit of the inside as well. 

I really do prefer to own, not rent. 

Friday, December 11, 2015


Here's my building on a particularly pleasant evening a few nights ago. 

I spent a lot of time trying to find a place with a bit of character. I definitely succeeded on that front!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Collector

I'm back in Los Angeles now--I was only able to take a few days off work for Thanksgiving. My plan was to put in a mini-kitchen into the ground floor apartment in my Jersey City house. I didn't, but I did get all my IKEA kitchen components ordered, a dishwasher delivered, and my expert's okay on the level of professionalism of the plumbing in the little downstairs apartment.

I'm loving my house, but I can't live in it anytime soon since I'm in LA for work for a few years. I'll keep the little apartment for myself for trips home, and rent out the three-bedroom part to a friend and her family.

Here's is my collection of appliances. Eventually, they'll not be sitting in the middle of the room.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday the 14th

Look, I like the Internet. It's a close friend of mine. It's made so many things possible for me--coloring from Uganda and Barcelona, writing and coloring from Kuwait and Cairo, taking an entire group of virtual and real friends in nearly real-time around the world for ten months while editing comics as I went.

In spite of what I'm about to say, I'm a believer in access and transparency.

We're dealing with an immature media. Insta-platform turns out to be somewhat terrifying, because not everyone has a grasp of analysis, legitimate data, and what is delusion and what are facts. I keep crap off my friends list with the judicious use of the FB Lists function, and off here by the comments approval function, but I see comments on other people's walls. And from the election to violence to things as clear-cut as scientific fact, many people seek simple, nuance-free answers. We've lost the culture of experts providing analysis which bears more weight than a guy who's never left his state sitting in a room, watching entertainment news and thinking "Well, my gut knows more than any informed expert."

This certainly isn't new in the world--the written word, propaganda film, radio, TV all had their day--it's just overwhelmingly louder because of the great democratization of media, which is channeled by bottomless pits of money intent on channeling the narrative for corporate, consumer, and political advantage.

It's impossible for me to understand massive lapses in logic and the inability of people to grasp they aren't experts on something they have zero information about. It's impossible for me to understand why people appear to aspire and champion ignorance and hate. What seems to be a collective rush toward mass stupidity is completely beyond my ability to comprehend.

I keep hoping it will go away. This doesn't seem to be working either, because hope is the human condition--it's why each of us continues to exist rather than saying, ah, screw it--but it doesn't go out and solve problems. I watch simple-mindedness take hold in individual and populist narrative...

...and I don't have any idea what we as a nation or world are supposed to do about it.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Some Things Last A Long Time

I saw a listing for a gallery show on Saturday night. An art exhibit and short film about my old pal Daniel Johnston was happening downtown on Saturday night. I'd met him in 1986 in Austin and we're still friends.

But then as Saturday night rolled around, I thought about how it was at the far end of DTLA, on the other side of Skid Row from the metro. I looked up how to get there--there was a bus. But the idea of taking the metro to the bus to a gallery when I could just download the movie seemed kind of goofy, so I tabled the idea.

I made a cup of tea around 6:45 on Saturday night and settled in to look for some appliances to put in my house in Jersey City. As the tea steeped, I got a note from a friend.

"He's there. It's on Instagram."

He sent me a link. Daniel himself was at the opening, sitting in the corner.

I left the tea steeping, grabbed my bag, and made a beeline for the metro. Every time I see Daniel, I wonder if...well, it doesn't matter what I wonder. It's hard to see him, anyway, without going to his house in Texas. When he plays, he's not out in the audience anymore. It's not in small clubs where you can just barge backstage. He plays big places now. Last year, he opened at the Hollywood Bowl.

I just missed the train, and had to wait ten minutes for the next one, then just missed the connecting bus, but another one came along going in the same direction, so I took that instead, and easily found the gallery.

Daniel was in the corner on a sofa, spacing out. Funny thing about memory--he forgets so much current information, but even out of context, away from New York or Austin, he spotted me in a second. "Marie!"

I headed over, and helped as much as I could to get him out after the show. Jeff, the director of the Devil and Daniel Johnston film was there, and he took this photo of me and Daniel.

"Want to come back to my room with me and my brother and get a pizza and talk about comics?" Daniel asked. I tried to change the subject, but I'm getting worse at it. I used to be able to turn it to Captain America on a dime. Maybe he's just wise to me.

"I need to go home and go to sleep, Daniel," I said. "We're not getting any younger."

"We're both still young," he said, firmly.

I looked at him for a minute, this man who shakes as he sings and plays, who goes into moments of spacing-out, which he has for years now. Once he did this at the Old Devil Moon on East 13th Street and my friends said they thought he'd been about to stab me with a fork. Which of course wasn't at all what was going on. He's been on meds a long time, but meds don't make him mistake his friends for his dinner. Every time I see him, okay, let's just say it. I worry it's the last time. That's why I left my tea and ran to the metro.

But this wasn't the time to talk about that.

Instead, I said "You're right, Daniel. We're both still young."

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Hollywood Habitat

I'm still working on the apartment--a microwave cart is coming soon, so I can get the microwave off the windowsill. And yesterday, I had to buy a blanket. The outrage! How many blankets do I own on the other side of the country? But it got chilly enough here that I had to fork over money for a new one. It feels great, too.

I also bought a really nice handmade bathrobe off Etsy, since it's less annoying than buying and hanging curtains.

Now that I have a stable habitat, I find myself missing yoga class, pottery, and sewing things. But that's still down the road--I'm still finding routines.

Here are some photos of where I live for now, in a little studio in Hollywood.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Setting Up Housekeeping

What's gross about my new apartment is someone's medium-length black hair is just...everywhere. I Swiffered a lot of it up, but there's always more. It's embedded in what is either linoleum or vinyl on the kitchen floor. It's hidden in cracks and in corners. It shows up on my cauliflower when I cook. And at 6:30 this morning (a Saturday), the smoke/carbon monoxide detector loudly declared I needed to check its battery. Thanks, detector!

I had to pick up some Teflon tape from Home Depot because the shower head was spurting, but that wasn't a big deal (and I got to see a possum on Sunset Boulevard from the bus window). The ignition thingy for one of the stove burners clicks at strange times, and one burner doesn't work. I looked it up, and a little piece needs replacing. I should probably leave that to the building manager.

Also, I really did screw up by taking an apartment on the parlor level. What happened to me swearing never to do that again? I was so tired of looking and the location is good. I hear WAY too much I don't especially want to hear. Cars going into the driveway next door. Neighbors heading to the backyard to talk on their phones. Too much music, too much television.

And the helicopters. What's up with the helicopters over Hollywood?

All that said, I love the building laundry room, someone else having to deal with the trash (I just throw it in the dumpster), the old character of the building, the building manager and her little dog, unpacking, the fact that someone receives my packages and I don't have to get them sent to work, and how I can walk to the bus stop at the end of the block and be in Burbank in 15 minutes.

Of course, it doesn't always work like that. If I get out of the house after 8:03 and before 8:30, I take the metro, but connecting to the bus in Burbank makes it a 40 minute commute. Still not too bad, though the return trip at night makes no sense because of traffic. For whatever reason, traffic is terrible after work and fine before work.

I am head-over-heels in love with paying normal rent. It's still more than I paid at home, but it's a lot less than I'd be paying if I hadn't opted for an older studio apartment. And being in Hollywood means I can walk to pick up a lot of things, though one of the local supermarkets just closed.

I own a bed now, a $149 mail-order frame and an IKEA memory foam mattress, though I haven't figured out the right place to put it. The dining room table and desk are set up. There's a short list of things I need—kitchen cart so the microwave can go somewhere, ironing board and iron, over-the-door full-length mirror, a mop, a vacuum, maybe a television at some point, or maybe not. I might want a second glass, though there is something quite appealing about living with one of each dish and no extra anything. But you never know, I might have a visitor, and it would look silly to say "You have to share my glass. Here, you sip, then I will."

I haven't sorted through everything I brought along yet, simply because it's hard to find the time. It's all in neat piles, probably on top of medium-length black hair.

I am resigned to being here for now, but I can't say I'm enjoying myself. It isn't bad. I've made the car-free thing work for me pretty well, and my biggest complaint is food truck lunches. But I miss my house and my friends.

But I'm looking forward to the part where I don't have to endure winter. That might be okay. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

You're Gonna Make It After All

Finally, I have a home near my place of employment.

Meaning, while I have a great house in Jersey City, I now have a studio apartment in Hollywood, just over the mountain from Burbank. That's where my office moved to back in April, though I showed up late, in early June. It's where I go every Monday to Friday for more than eight hours a day.

I've been hemorrhaging money on short-term housing since June 2. You know that's much pricier than simply renting, though it includes utilities and Internet. But what an experience! I was able to taste-test multiple neighborhoods. "May I try a spoon of the Los Feliz? How about the Hollywood Hills? Is the Toluca Lake fresh? Can I sample the Downtown?" 

I don't regret a second of it, as much as my bank account suffered. But I had to stop. I was getting tired of the moving (though we know from experience I can go for years on that front), and I wanted to unpack my hard drives and monitor, and I need to go through my stuff in storage in JC and see what has to come out here to brighten up my "bachelorette pad," as a friend puts it. I feel like Marlo Thomas or Mary Tyler Moore when he says that. Can I turn the world on with my smile? 

Probably not, but I can at least enjoy the adventure of going down twenty thousand roads, even though we all know exactly where they eventually end up. I know where home is. Most narratives are like this, with the ending being a foregone conclusion, but the fun is in how we get there.

The fun for now is in staying just under Whitley Heights, right over the Times Square of Los Angeles. Ack. Spare me the Hollywood Boulevard Elmos! On Friday, I ran over Spider-Man's toe with my luggage. Did he glare at me? How would I know? But he did say "Watch it," to which I managed to not respond "Dude, you're supposed to be faster. You can do whatever a spider can, you know."

My Aerobed and I moved into my bachelorette pad on the 15th. I made two trips in my rental car, one from my temp housing in the Hollywood Hills and another from my storage unit, then returned the car to LAX. Getting back was a total drag, because I had to wait for the Dollar shuttle, then wait for the Flyaway bus to Hollywood, but I slept soundly on my own sheets, with the beautiful quilt Michael Kraiger's mother made for me a few years ago.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed up to Burbank to look at some mid-century furniture stores. There's some nice stuff out there, but I couldn't justify the cost, so I shifted gears and headed to IKEA. I talked to the home delivery desk and learned I could order a bunch of stuff and it would be delivered to me within 24 hours for a flat fee of $59.

I bought a dining room table and two chairs, a desk and office chair, and a mattress, paid the delivery fee, and then headed home. Burbank had a festival going on which made getting out of there super-annoying, but the delivery part couldn't have been easier. I was just settling down to eat breakfast on my windowsill when my phone rang at 9 a.m., and my IKEA boxes were in my apartment by 9:30.

Now I get to put it all together.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Same view, but night.


Friday, October 09, 2015

Home for the Weekend

I'm in New York for a comic book convention, so work put me up in a hotel. I'm right across the street from the office I had with my previous job, so it's nice to know my way around.

But best--nice view.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Los Angeles Victorians

There is a small neighborhood of beautiful Victorians down off Sunset, toward Downtown. I'd been meaning to go over and take a look at Angelino Heights, but I hadn't gotten around to it.

Then, I spotted a walking tour with LA Conservancy.

Sign me up.

The whole walk would only take 20 minutes without a guide, but with a guide, it took a few hours. We even got to go into a few houses. I was jealous of the houses, of course, wishing my own house was a lot farther along, and remembering how nice my last condo was when Turbo finished it.

Here are photos of the whole walking tour. It made me wish I'd gotten the leaky oil-tank house up on Beacon Avenue, the one with the intricately carved fireplaces.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

As Language Evolves and Spelling Disintegrates...

Today's helpful hint. And while we're at it, "he" is a pronoun. "Hee" is a giggle or part of a donkey's call. "Heh" is somewhere between a giggle and a laugh. "Hehe" only exists in the imaginations of those too lazy to type extra vowels. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Kitchen Upgrade

We all know I like planning, and the more impossible the task, the more fun I have figuring out ways around it. So give me a mission like renovating an old kitchen in Jersey City and I'm stupidly happy, even more pleased when I find out the new IKEA line doesn't have all the sizes I need.

Hallelujah! Something aggravating and impossible! 

My contractor might be less delighted, I know, but I think at least he finds me a little funny. Though I'm not sure how long the tolerance will last. I find he usually lets me waffle a while then finally interrupts with "Just let me do it," and off he goes whether I'm done thinking or not. (This is a good quality in a contractor. I am not complaining.) 

One thing I learned from Turbo the Aussie (the ex who approached every problem from learning to make my morning coffee at a campsite to building a house on a mountain with the same curiosity and can-do attitude) is to study the problem first. Go to Home Depot. Study the solutions. Go back to the problem and study it some more. Google. Eventually, you get there. That's how I've already screwed up twice in theory and had to get a new plan. Best to screw up on paper.

Initially, I thought I'd just leave the kitchen alone for a while. I certainly am spending enough money on heating, laundry, windows, painting, locks, and the bathtub. But then I realized I was avoiding using the kitchen on my trips home, because it's disgusting.

That's when I realized new cabinets would be a good thing.

They look fine in the photo below, aside from the garish gold knobs. It's when you open the base cabinets to find the warped particleboard that it's really a drag.

So I'm getting all new lower cabinets, new appliances, and new doors for the top cabinets. Or maybe entirely new top cabinets, depending on the condition of the existing ones. I visited a custom IKEA door shop yesterday, which is such a great idea, but the shipping costs had me taking a closer look at Grimslov.

The only thing I haven't worked out yet is what to do about the ugly wall tile. Any ideas? I'd like white subway tile, but I'm not sure I like all the dust that comes with removing the tile currently on the wall.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Union Station Walking Tour

It's so hard for me to sit still on weekends, though I have a ton of stuff to do.

Like choose a refrigerator for my house in Jersey City. Read an outline for work. Find an apartment here in LA/Burbank.

But like most people, I'm excessively curious. I have to walk around and investigate my surroundings.

Yesterday, I went on a walking tour of Union Station with the LA Conservancy. It was great! Look, it's not Grand Central with its secret FDR car and dizziness-inducing glass catwalks, but it's still a great look at a snapshot in time, with its Mission/Art Deco architectural style and it being the end of the line of a grand journey across the country.

I did that journey myself in 2001, from Penn Station to Chicago, then switching to the Southwest Chief for the cross-country Amtrak trip. I loved it. I'd do it again in a second if I had the time.

Here are some photos from yesterday's trip.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Helping Yourself Feel Less Helpless

I bought four tickets today to send Syrian refugees from Budapest to Austria. It was really easy, especially since my laptop had stored my username and password from when I was in Budapest a year-and-a-half ago.

The tickets are only $11 each.

There are other direct ways to help, detailed here. Give it a try.

My friend Zora was just on the Greek island of Mytilene (Lesbos), and she reports back from there on ways to help refugees traversing this area.

You not only help refugees, you help yourself feel like useless in the face of a humanitarian crisis. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

House Progress

My house is really coming along, thanks to the efforts of Michael Kraiger (who is painting and coordinating), Jim (who does carpentry, kitchens, and rabid-animal soothing), and a great master plumber named Chris at Royal Heating and Cooling.

I think I've convinced Jim to let me hire him to do the kitchen. That probably sounds kooky, but I had to come up with a way that didn't cost me an arm and a leg or he would stop me. No problem--I have experience in cheap kitchens. Hopefully this time I won't get drenched in gray water. Last time, Al H (my friend from college who is a contractor in Brooklyn and Manhattan) was doing something to one end of a pipe we were moving while my job was to hold the other end and get covered in skanky water. That was fun.

I'm in love with my little house. But I laugh at myself too. I'm so stuck on old and slightly broken things. I guess that's a good thing as everyone I know is aging.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Home Is Swallowing Me Up

I'm home in JC for the long weekend, and it's spectacular. The cafe owner wanted to know what I think of the West Coast (I didn't even tell him I went there--word travels fast). My contractor friend is willing to put up with me a bit longer to do my kitchen. The little room at the top of my house (it's small but comes with a distant view of Manhattan) is almost done and I can make it all my own. My storage unit is surprisingly organized and things make sense in it (shocking), and my car is running smoothly. I've seen some friends—not all of them, of course—and am off to see my hair colorist today. 

On Thursday night, Denise and I went to dinner at GP's, where we sat outside on Hamilton Park on a perfect summer night. She walked me over to my car, where I promptly fell in this hole. With my good foot. 


Once we determined that nothing was broken aside from my pedicure, we laughed and laughed. I really need to start paying more attention to my feet. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015


It's been ten years, since that lonely day you left me...

That's a lyric from a Jason and the (Nashville) Scorchers line, from back when I cared a great deal about music, in my teens and twenties.

It continues to where the singer shoots his lover, and that has of course nothing to do with me, but that and the last line of the song runs through my head when I hear about the hurricane that hit New Orleans ten years ago.

That's the day Herr Marlboro came tearing into my apartment on the Ggaba Road, back from running errands in Kampala. "Did you hear about New Orleans?" He went straight to the television and put on BBC or CNN (I forget which we got there).

It's also the last vivid memory I have of when things were going well for us. Right after that, his family came to town from Bavaria. We all went to a dinner at an outdoor garden in an Italian restaurant, where I ate something that made me terribly ill. They left in the morning, before I got so sick. He took them off to Murchison Falls while I stayed in Kampala, going to doctors when I wasn't lying on the sofa watching repetitive coverage of Katrina. This is covered in the first chapter of Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik.

Everything went off the rails shortly after, and then we were chased by a hippo. I ended up leaving, getting far, far away in a hurry, and I got very ill in Swakopmund, Namibia.

You can read all about September of 2005 early in this blog. You have to read between the lines a bit, because my book about this time hasn't been written yet. I don't know that it ever will be. I'd like to write it, but it's hard to find the time. I used to not write it because it was hard to revisit. Now I can revisit it without upsetting myself, but time is at a premium.

Everything changed for me in September of 2005, and that's okay. People do change, you know. But I migrated into a zone of a long state of depression, which only responsibility for a dozen employees in Cairo was able to pull me out of, a few years later. What really changed from this time is my outlook, and my inability to trust others. I do sort of, sometimes, I guess, but essentially, at some point in handling all this myself, I become my own mini-kitchen, a self-sufficient package of competency. It's morphed into a zone of familiarity and comfort. It's fine. I know other people have different ways of living, usually involving their own definitions of fun and happiness. This is what works for me, and I don't fight it anymore. It's kind of great, in its own way.

Pray for me, mama. I'm a gypsy now. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Foot Update

Here's an updated look at my right foot. Hooray!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What's It With Me and Feet?

Do you remember this? I stubbed my toe on the vacuum cleaner the night before leaving for my mother's house a few days before flying to Mexico. That was in July of 2013.

Then do you remember this? I vaguely remember stubbing toes on the other foot, then walking all over Manhattan right after. When I got up the next morning: ouch. This was in October of 2013. Same year, different foot. My podiatrist in Jersey City is great, and his assistant was a big fan of Iron Man. I was writing an Iron Man novel at the time.

Well, now I have a new treat to share with you. I'll try to get a Burbank podiatrist appointment in the morning, but if not, maybe my JC guy can take me when I get home on Thursday for the long weekend. 

At least this time, I know what I did. I ran across Hollywood Boulevard--not exactly against the light, but after the little countdown had started. That's technically illegal here. Los Angeles takes its jaywalking seriously. I didn't get a ticket, but I did hit an uneven bit of pavement and nearly go sprawling. I semi-recovered and continued to trip a little, and thought "Oh hell, I'm going down." I felt my shoe fighting my foot and nearly lost it.

I didn't lose the shoe or land on my face, fortunately, but I did damage a foot. I continued on to the apartment-viewing appointment I had with a sweet-as-pie former resident of Jersey City Heights. I liked her, I liked the loft-style apartment, but I ultimately decided I preferred the older places up the hill a bit and even something in Toluca Lake or Magnolia Park, Burbank. I'm a little concerned about ending up in Hipster-ville, and it's important to me to have people from different economic and social backgrounds living around me, so I think I might need to avoid newer developments with all the bells-and-whistles.

But maybe I'll think about getting a place with an elevator this time.

Addendum: Hey, wait. Looking at the photos...that's all the same foot, isn't it? I really do not want a second right walking boot. It's a shame mine is in my garage in New Jersey. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Los Feliz to Los Feliz

You know my big plan to rent an apartment?

I didn't get very far. I quickly learned that the studios I thought were acceptably priced ($1200-1400 or so) had something wrong with them. They overlooked a parking lot and were dingy. They seemed really dilapidated. I saw one that was pretty good, but was on the ground floor, and I remembered from my first 8th Street place that you can't sleep with the windows open on the ground floor.

And I learned too that no one calls you back, because why should they? There are dozens of applicants for anywhere reasonably priced. It's a seller's market, and we're all grasping at scraps.

I understand now I'm going to have to pay a lot more to live in Los Angeles, but because I haven't found the right place yet, I rustled up another sublet for a month on VRBO.com. It was a nice-looking back house in Toluca Lake, and all was going well until the owner sent me the contract.

"We do not accept credit cards at this time."

Hmmm. That's odd, I thought. The last place, the excellent place in Los Feliz, sent me a bill along with the contract and I was able to pay it online. This contract said to pay by check.

I wrote the owner back and asked if he wanted me to bring him a check the next day.

"Cash only, or cashier's check or money order."

Wha--? I was taken aback. With a personal check, at least I had a few days to cancel it if he gave me the keys and they didn't work the next day or something. At least there is a slim margin of error in case Internet guy is a con artist.

I decided not to sign it yet. I went to sleep instead.

In the morning, the owner called me at my office.

"Did you get the contract?"

"Yes, but it's a little weird you don't take credit cards."

His tone changed completely. He was suspicious. "What do you mean by that?"

"Well...just that there is security for the consumer with a credit card."

"So you'd dispute a charge."

I have no idea how we went so quickly into him thinking I'm a con artist. I thought I was talking to a man I'd never met about an Internet transaction for an apartment I'd never seen, and suddenly I'm the bad guy for trying to look out for myself.

"Well, no, but it's for my protection in case we have a disagreement."

"I don't think we can do business then."

I let him have it, saying something along the lines of "You've set this up so there you have all the power and there are no protections for me, and any business transaction is a two-way street, not about one person holding all the power."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

House Hunting

Renting an apartment in a sprawling city turns out to be a baffling experience. How did I get so far in life without ever having to do this before?

I have owned properties for my entire adult life since I left Jersey City group housing in 1992 (when I was in a three-bedroom on Mercer Street with Other Marie and Otis). I have rented sublets overseas, but that's easier. You just take what's affordable and doesn't look too gross. So the last time I rented an apartment like I'm doing now was, well, never. I've never filled out a rental application, had them check my credit, supplied two months bank statements. It's just never come up.

That's right, I've never subjugated myself to the credit check and judgment of a rental agent. I've never had to be charming and look dutiful and responsible on cue in order to get housed. I don't even know if I can do this. I'm a known eye-roller.

I'm finally starting to seriously search for an apartment today, so I might be filling out some forms this afternoon.

It all comes down to location and character. I can't—won't, really—live in a carpeted box with vertical blinds. I won't live in anything without good natural light. I won't live on the ground floor. I won't live anywhere without food and services within walking distance. And obviously, it's all about the commute in LA, so I am limited to places with easy access to Burbank. My other rule is I need access to public transport. Yes, I own a car, but it happens to be garaged in Jersey City, and I'm not sure if I want to drive my 1990 Ford Taurus across the country for a week, though I did buy it in Torrance in 2002 and drive it (with Turbo, who actually drove it for large chunks of the way while I was back East) across the country to get it to New York City between April and July of that year. I might drive it out here, but I'm not so sure it would make it. That might mean getting rid of it. Would I want to own two cars, one back East and one in LA? Well, why not, I guess. I already own a house in Jersey City and am still getting an apartment here.

I'm starting out looking at studios in Los Feliz, Franklin Village, Ivar & Cahuenga, and Burbank/Toluca Lake. But I might just need to stall for another month, getting a sublet as fast as I can, so at least I have time to consider all my options. I love the idea of living in Downtown LA, but I don't love the rents there.

I'm being flaky about this because I can't figure out what location actually has it all. Probably because there is no such thing. Where can I find a concentration of restaurants where I don't feel weird going in alone at night by myself? There are a few clusters here and there, but many clusters end abruptly and suddenly that magnificent paradise of take-out turns into oh, I didn't realize it was only three restaurants and one is burgers-only. 

My grand experiment of sublets around town has been utterly informative, and I feel like I know way more today than I did on June 2, when I arrived. But I still haven't seen the right place.

I miss my brownstone walk-up over the trees of Hamilton Park, one stop from the West Village. I need to stop pining away for what I don't have here and try to appreciate this odd sprawl for what it is.

Which I haven't figured out yet. LA regions are so disparate that it seems impossible to make generalizations about this place. I'll let you know when I sort it out.

But it might be a while.

Saturday, August 08, 2015


She quickly sewed up a satchel
for carrying my purchases home.
I'd been bombing out on finding women's clothing boutiques in L.A. I'd tried searching my favorite indie designer's websites for outlets here and hadn't had any luck. I'd found one nice thing in DTLA and the proprietor of that shop had suggested I try Silverlake.

So today I used Yelp to find a boutique at Sunset Junction, and caught the bus over. Which was dead easy. The key to the bus in LA seems to be travel-on-main-arteries. Buses run frequently on Hollywood, Sunset, and Santa Monica.

And now Matrushka is my favorite local clothing shop. The owner even tailored her shirts to fit me, on the spot.

"I think I've seen your label before," I said. "Do you sell anywhere else?"

"No, just here."

"You should sell at Flirt Brooklyn. It's a boutique where they make a lot of their own stuff and also stock independent designers."

"I think that's the one place I do sell..."