Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Seventies

Photos my mother posted of me and my sister, from long ago.





Monday, September 24, 2018

Ziggy Goes to Work

Remember Ziggy Fontana? He came by the office today. HE IS THE CUTEST.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Under DTLA

I had heard about this tour of underground DTLA somewhere, but I've forgotten where. I stumbled over it while looking for something else, and I can't even remember what I was looking for.

Explore the city’s “underground” past ranging from famous Prohibition-era murders to the famous speakeasy haunts that the Hollywood elite would frequent.
This experience includes a few stops, under the busy streets of Los Angeles, to discover a century-old tunnel and speakeasies, alongside more modern interpretations of the city’s hidden watering holes.

We met outside Cole's, one of the two places claiming to have invented the French Dip sandwich. I've been inside both Cole's and Philippe the Original now, but haven't tried a French Dip at either.

The walking tour headed out from there to the old Hotel Cecil, then to some defunct speakeasies underground. I'm not allowed to say where they were, but you can look at photos here. 



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Matter of Public Record




Here is proof I went and gave a talk.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

SDCC Souvenir

Here is my favorite new shirt. I bought it at San Diego Comic Con. 



Monday, August 06, 2018

No Thyme

Do birds eat thyme? Something has been eating the thyme I planted on my balcony.


Sunday, August 05, 2018

Careless About Carless

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I didn't have time to drive my car across the country, so I left Henry the 1990 Ford Taurus in my garage in Jersey City. I made vague plans to go get him another time. I knew my thousand-dollar car—a former Glendale fleet car acquired in 2002 in Torrance and driven with Turbo the Aussie from LA to NYC over four months—might not make it, but I hoped to get him home to the West Coast before putting him out to pasture.

But then I didn't have time for a while, so my car sat there, used on long weekends when I'd go home. Meanwhile, in LA, I went from renting a car to taking the metro. The metro doesn't go to my office, but the bus does, so after a bit of frustration, I downloaded an app showing me exactly when the bus would arrive. Eventually, before I moved to Burbank, I rented an apartment in Hollywood, where I could catch a bus to work, and take the Red Line everywhere else.

When using public transit would hit a wall, I'd get Lyft or a Zipcar or rent a car for a few days.

People thought I was insane for doing this, and told me so in the most impolite ways.

The discussions usually went something like this. "You can't live in LA without a car." "Well, actually..." "NO I MEAN IT YOU ARE WRONG, I KNOW THIS I TRIED IT ONCE FOR SIX MINUTES AND YOU ARE TOTALLY WRONG I HEARD THIS ALL MY LIFE AND I GAVE IN SO YOU SHOULD TOO. AND THIS IS PERSONAL YOU ARE ATTACKING ME AREN'T YOU."

I'd shrug and go catch my bus, though I would have agreed with them in the past. When I lived in Venice in 1995, not having a car would have been extremely frustrating. I'd ended up with a rental Toyota Corolla from Ugly Duckling, and it was always breaking. Once it was even stolen.

My aunt, a PR specialist who grew up in Hollywood, was astonished at my car-free lifestyle. "You have to write an article," she'd say.

Things change. After a few years, I realized I was never going to drive the 1990 Ford Taurus back across the country. Henry the Ford had long outlasted my time with Turbo, the German, everyone else, and any vague interest I had in that sort of thing. I thought of Henry as a loyal human, and I had to convince myself he was just a car once I finally admitted I was never going to bring him back to his ancestral home, and sent him out to the great New Jersey junkyard in the sky.

Last night, talking with other people at a party, I realized that while I'd been ahead of the curve, no one thinks I'm crazy for not having a car in LA anymore. Car-free culture has exploded here. Those of us who'd moved here for work and not gotten cars used to have a sort of quiet bond, like smokers outside a building on a weekday afternoon, but now it's become normal. No one blinks when you call a ride-share. When you say you don't have a car, they just nod.

I guess I should have written that article back when I had the chance.

Friday, August 03, 2018

August Morning

Perfect morning light in Burbank.



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Spirit Animal



I found a 2005 picture of two giraffes in my photo library and...what if I just...(click click).

The pushmi pullyu has always been my spirit animal. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Heading North

The trains from San Diego to Los Angeles were delayed for two days due to a "trespasser" being hit on Sunday.

Interesting choice of words. Accurate, I suppose, but sending a clear message of blame out over the P.A.

I had two seats to myself in business class, on the western side. The wifi worked well enough, and here was the view.

Not bad for a day's journey.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Turn Up the Volume

Journey with me for a moment, from a high floor in the Hyatt down to the lobby bar on Saturday night of Comic-Con.

It's like you're there.




Hey Kids, Comics!

The annual pilgrimage to San Diego Comic Con sure is simpler now that I live a few hours away instead of across the country.
Good Nite Inn Seaworld room

I'd planned to go to the office the first half of Thursday, but then I didn't want to show up in San Diego too late, so I moved my Amtrak ticket to just before lunch and headed down to Union Station on the Red Line. Amtrak adds additional trains for SDCC, which start and end at LA and San Diego, not continuing on up the coast. This is how I hope to avoid riding the train with colleagues on the way down—I start in LA on a train that originates there, and then I don't end up with anyone who boards in Burbank. 

Some of my colleagues are wonderful to talk with, but not all of them. It's not like I get to choose when I buy my train ticket, so this is a bit of preventative maintenance. Avoidance is harder than it sounds since we all buy business class tickets for this particular journey. It's the only way to guarantee a seat on standing room only trains. 

I picked up lunch at Union Station and boarded. Initially, one of my colleagues sat down next to me in spite of my attempts at avoidance. Good news, he was one I enjoy speaking with. But then he had to move to let a mother sit next to her two kids, so I was able to read scripts and catch up on some work on my journey. 

Three hours later, I disembarked in Old Town, one stop before the end of the line at the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego. I'd booked a motel cheapie out in the land of topless bars, which seem to now offer vaping as well as nude woman, and I was able to walk from the train station, though the walk was not one I'd want to do at night. 

View from the Manchester Grand Hyatt
This night was on my own dime, and I'd picked the Good Nite Inn off booking.com, which turned out to be perfectly fine aside from being in a remote location. I checked in and walked back to the train station, where I caught the trolley to the convention center. I picked up my badge, met my good friend and partner-in-crime Stuart, and we went to dinner. We headed to two different parties later that evening, and I caught a Lyft home long after midnight. 

Friday morning, I packed up, headed in by Lyft to the Hyatt (now on the company tab), and headed to Brickyard for coffee and breakfast. My first panel started at noon and I had two more over the course of the day. I crammed for all three, like a student during finals week. The secret to not saying something stupid in public is to know what you're talking about. At least, that works for me. 

Prepared, I waded into the hall. First stop, DC Super Hero Girls panel. Second, Justice League. Third, Young Readers. Later, the Eisners, where one of my comics was nominated in three categories, but won exactly none. 

When I dragged myself back to my room after a long night at the Hyatt bar, I was relieved. The hardest day was over. Only one panel a day after this, I thought, and promptly fell asleep. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reunion 2018

Me and two of my college friends had dinner in South Pasadena tonight. I haven't seen one in decades. The other coincidentally works upstairs from me in Burbank.


Friday, July 13, 2018

New Toy

I bought an Instant Pot, a few months ago. I opened it up, glanced at it, asked around for what I could use it for, and concluded there wasn't much point in having bought it. Most of the answers involved hard-boiled eggs and perfect rice. I don't exactly find these challenging on the stove, so I was baffled about the whole point of my new appliance.

I finally used it twice this week. Success!

Of course, I could have cooked these on the stovetop easily too, but at least I gave it a shot. I'm still working on finding out what best to use this for.



Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Bit of Greenery

Today I realized the giant plant that came with my condo would make the perfect divider between desk/office space and sofa/living space.

If only I hadn't nearly killed it by dragging it out onto the sunny balcony where it has mostly shriveled up and almost died.

Plants and I don't get along. The only plants I ever manage to keep alive are spices—basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley. The incentive keeps me interested.

But this plant is the type that can recover, so I pushed it onto a bit of flattened cardboard and pulled it back inside.

The living room is really coming together. Of course, I only use my desk and office chair, but perhaps I'll sit on the sofa to strum my ukulele.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Learn Something New Every Day

Last Sunday, I paid two visits to the ukulele store in Little Tokyo. One right when they opened to drop off my uke, and one at the very end of their day to pick it up.

They gently filed down "the action," meaning the nut and the bridge. It was made for stronger hands than mine and I was getting blisters from pushing down so hard. Now playing is easier, but the strings are new so they aren't staying in tune for long.

They replaced my low G string with a regular one, which I'm going to have to sort out once I get better at this. I want to keep the original intent going—this uke belonged to my friend Edward Readicker-Henderson. He died in 2016, a travel writer who kept going up until he physically simply could not. He'd developed an interest in ukuleles while writing about Hawaii, and his brother Donny built this uke from leftover walnut from the bed their father made. The top is spalted curly mango and the fret board is ebony. It's matching bass uke lives in Guam, which coincidentally is where my great-grandfather resided after the war. He was involved in the rebuilding, which is something he wrote about in his 1947 book, Lion Six.

This exquisitely crafted ukulele sat unused for most of 2017, but I finally spotted a beginner's class at Los Angeles City College. The class only went for five sessions, and I miss the third one due to being home in JC, but I treasured every other one. I suck at playing the uke, not gonna lie. But it is just so much fun to do something completely new to me.

Though my neighbors might be less enthralled, but one of them is a classical singer, so it's only fair I fight back with my jangly attempts at Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.



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

Upgraded!

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

Trinkets

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

Alarming

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. 




Monday, June 11, 2018

It's Like California Backwards

My friend Denise created these earrings for me...pretty fantastic, aren't they?


Saturday, June 09, 2018

Day Trip

As part of my ongoing quest to furnish my Burbank condo in a way that balances the midcentury aesthetic of Burbank with the Marie-aesthetic of handmade international quirkiness, I headed down to Orange, CA, over the weekend.

There's an old town there, and while "old" here is something entirely different from New York and vastly different from "old" in Europe or China, it was certainly older than the area surrounding it.

I caught the Metrolink train from Burbank to Union Station, changed to a different Metrolink train, and headed to Orange. I visited just about every shop and a flea market.

I didn't find anything. All I bought was a juice. But I enjoyed the browsing, and was back home by late afternoon.




Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Procrastination

I'm tempted. I'm not sure this would make sense as I'd have to miss one of the classes and it's clear across town and I never leave work on time, but yeah, tempted.



Monday, June 04, 2018

Nondescript

See that unassuming storefront?

That's camouflage for the Chocolate Shop behind it. You'd never know it's there. Most people don't.


Sunday, June 03, 2018

70 Stories over DTLA

See that enormous building in the middle of this photo?


That's the building with the transparent slide up on the 70th floor.


It sounds scarier than it actually is—the slide is only one story, so it's over before you realize it's begun. Tracy and I went on the slide in December when she was in town for work. We were terrified. Who wouldn't be? But also a bit disappointed. Slide, boom, it's over. No seconds.




The best thing about the slide is the wings painted on the glass.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

In the Eye of the Beholder

Over the weekend in JC, I pulled the cushions off the old sofa to beat the dust out of them. There was a brand name on the sofa frame underneath. The sofa had been in my office in Manhattan, and when the company moved to LA, I took home my furniture.

I had a house that needed furniture, and furniture that needed a house, so for the cost of a few hours U-Haul and a parking meter off Broadway, this made sense. It's nothing spectacular. Really simple.

I looked up the furniture now using the brand name.

And...

...I really do not understand anything about value.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Home Furnishings

I just shipped my Moroccan rug from NJ to Burbank. This image is not my rug—it's one I found on Google Images that looks like my rug. I can't take a picture of mine, since it's in a box somewhere with UPS.

My rug isn't valuable and it was not expensive, and its sentimental value is primarily in being reminded of the discomfort of once being a rookie traveler. But I want a rug for next to my bed, and my Burbank condo is taking on the look of mid-century minimalist Foreign Service officer back from abroad, so the rug would fit in nicely.

I bought this wool kilim for $70 in 1995 because that's what I had in my pocket when pal Steve B and I went to Marrakech and thought it would be fun to visit a carpet shop.

It wasn't fun. It was intimidating. This was my first exposure to the hard-sell, and it was on top of being aggressively harassed by touts—including robed and hooded men on Jawa motorcycles—for the first time. (Aside: Marrakesh is way easier now. Don't even worry about this anymore.)

I'm not intimidated by this kind of thing nowadays, and if I were, I couldn't travel the way I do. But the rug I ended up buying out of the weird sense of obligation that goes along with being a tourist in a shop of emotional manipulation experts is headed my way, so I can look at it every day and feel both inadequate and ridiculous every morning.

But here's the thing about this rug...it's kinda dirty. I took it out in my backyard in Jersey City over the weekend and swept it, but its colors are dull. This morning, I searched for tips on how to clean it once it arrives in Los Angeles county.

And I got the answer.

Or at least, AN answer.

Take it to the self-serve car wash.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

I'll Show You for Free

I wish I could go on this tour, but I can't due to being 3,000 miles away.

This tour actually stops at my house and laments the stucco someone put up over the tin, probably in the early 2000s. The guide remembers seeing it happen.

I am annoyed about it too, but my hope is that person's cover-up action, probably an attempt to solve a cold or leaking problem, left me something to work with down the road.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Door Guardians

I bought a little hanging rack and set up these souvenirs I bought in Tunisia. They look great, and they'll keep away burglars, no doubt!