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. 

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


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


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.


...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'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!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Condo Spiffing Up

I've owned this condo for more than a year now, so on this anniversary of my purchase, I got the kitchen tap replaced.

The old one was loose (and ugly, too, but that's probably a budget thing from the last owner), and I totally can see how that happened. The garbage disposal no doubt got in the way during installation.

I hired a pro for that reason. The garbage disposal perplexed me. To be fair, everything about garbage disposals perplexes me. I guess I lived in Manhattan too long, and they were illegal there for years.

I'm pretty pleased with my new kitchen faucet.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Package Express

Ancestral end table
I'd come to California in June of 2015 with two pieces of soft luggage and a carry-on. I'd stayed in sublets initially, trying out different parts of town, eventually landing in a vintage 1920s Hollywood studio and then moving into a Burbank 1980s-"vintage" condo a year-and-a-half later.

I'd been living as minimally as humanly possible in Hollywood. Well, that might be an exaggeration. I had both an IKEA dining/project table AND a desk, so that's exorbitant, right?

I bought the condo a year ago, moved in my pine slat platform bed frame and IKEA memory foam, my table, my desk, and I'd bought the previous owners chest of drawers and media console/TV off her. I hadn't mastered the art of TV watching yet, but now that I had purchased a custom sofa, I decided to make an effort at living like a normal person.

I brought some Egyptian tentmakers bazaar pillow covers back from my storage unit in Jersey City, but how was I going to get my grandparents end table from Jersey City to Burbank?

Rented hand truck
I puzzled over this for a while until a friend mentioned shipping by Amtrak. I dug into that, went down various rabbit holes, and ended up at Greyhound Package Express.

Nex trip home, I had a rental car I'd picked up at Newark Airport, and I drove straight from my flight arrival to Home Depot to buy some boxes and packing materials. I stopped at my storage unit and got the table, but ran into a problem in my tiny apartment in my house.

Because the entrance to my apartment is under my house's stoop, I had limited space to get the box out the door. And the rental car was a sedan--the box wouldn't fit.

The partially assembled box, packing materials, and table went with me to Staples for some packaging peanuts, and then we all drove to Newark Penn Station for the Greyhound. Because only a complete fool would drive to Port Authority with this setup.

Even Newark isn't ideal. There's no parking lot, so you end up hoping for the best. Hoping didn't really work out for me, so I parked in a pay lot nearby, walked to the Greyhound counter in Penn Station, sussed out the specifics of how this worked, then walked back to the car. I used a packing knife and tape to assemble the box and pack the table, then used a hand truck I'd rented from the 440 Home Depot to pull my box to the counter.

This all happened so fast, I forgot to take a photo of my box before it was
behind the counter at Greyhound Penn Station.
The attendant processed me without even a sideways glance. This all made total sense to him.

"Which station do you want to send this to?"

"North Hollywood, please."

"It'll be there in 3-4 business days and cost you $67."


My rented hand truck and I walked back to my rental car in the pay lot, drove back to 440 to drop off the hand truck, and went home to Lafayette. It was that easy.

And a week later, on a Saturday morning in Burbank, I grabbed the Zipcar over behind the Von's and headed to Magnolia Ave. I parked the Honda Fit next to the North Hollywood Greyhound station, borrowed their hand truck, and pulled my box out to the car.

This was all shockingly simple.

So simple, I think I'll bring out my childhood coffee table next time.

Fit into the Fit.
Now I have this stuff to get rid of.

Did it survive the trip?

Sunday, April 22, 2018

HBD to Me

What the hell? How did this happen?

Ugh. Jesus. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Echo Park Sunset

There's a yard in Echo Park where a man named Randy has decked out his yard in glass and colored water.

I had a rental car as part of a project I was involved in where I'd have to head to San Diego later in the week, so I took advantage of the pleasant Sunday evening to head to Echo Park. The easy way, via a car instead of a bus to a train to a bus or whatever.

The yard is fabulous and fun, the kind of yard that makes you want art in your own yard, if only it were not a balcony with homeowner's association rules about not hanging thing from it.

Here are more photos from my excursion.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

No Chocolate in the Chocolate Shop

I'd heard whispers about the mysterious Chocolate Shop in DTLA, seen posts by people who had glimpsed it from Sixth Street, but I'd never quite figured out exactly where it was or how to get into it. I'd see mentions of tours by museum tour groups, architectural hobbyists, but I didn't see a way in.

But I'm a member of some LA conservation groups, and so I kept my eyes open.

When the email came in from the bus tour group I'd heard about, I jumped on it.

And so on April 15, 2018, I took the bus to the metro to the bus all the way to the far side of DTLA, by the Greyhound station, and took a tour bus back to Grand Central Market, to the Bradbury building, to Angels Flight, to a few downtown buildings, to Pershing Square. I'd been through all this before, lived a few blocks away when I'd first moved to LA (this time), so I patiently went along with the tour until we got to the Chocolate Shop, the reason I'd joined this group.

We entered next door via a Sixth Street storefront under construction. The man who hosted us had gone into the Chocolate Shop as a kid, to play video games in the sheet-rocked shopping arcade that had blocked off the Batchelder tiles below.

Here are the photos I took of the Chocolate Shop.

We spent a half-hour or so studying the tiles, then headed out. As the tour moved on, I cut out. "We're right by the Red Line," I explained. I didn't want to go all the way back to the Greyhound station just to turn around and come back.

"You take public transit?" The tour host asked with surprise. "Bless you."

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Hey Kids, Comics!

Upon hearing there’s an upcoming reprint of a rare series I worked on in 1993-4, my first reaction was to write the editor and ask if 25 years is too long to wait to ask for corrections.

Even funnier, the team was happy to do them.

We like to get things right.

Castellated Brick from 1895

My house guest starred on Instagram!

I'm not sure what "hard to miss" means. That's either good or bad...but I like to think my house is just plain awesome.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

A Fried Ravioli Afternoon Tragedy

Sometimes I see terrible things by the food trucks at work.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Overnight Field Trip

My original interest in spending a weekend in San Francisco was fueled by the new sleeper bus, but then I realized that flying from Burbank to SFO and back from Oakland was actually cheaper than sleeping on a bus. I've taken a sleeper bus before, in China, and it really wasn't bad. The real problem with the US version is it would leave me in Santa Monica at the crack of dawn. The time it takes me to get home from Santa Monica by land is roughly how long the flight from Oakland to Burbank is so...yeah.

Maybe next time. Maybe if the sleeper bus has a sale at some point.

My secondary interest in spending a weekend in San Francisco was that my hair cutter just moved there. She'd been in New York first, then moved to LA a month after I did, and now she'd moved up to Haight Street, so this seemed like an opportunity to look a bit more civilized. Plus, I could sightsee and get to an urban environment rather than the quirky, confusing boulevards of Los Angeles county.

I booked a room at a tiny hotel in Haight Ashbury, downloaded a public transit app to my phone, made a list of places to look for new clothes, and off I went to Burbank Airport early on a holiday weekend. I had been up to the Bay Area for non-city reasons, like to visit Yancey in Cupertino or on the outskirts, camping and cycling, but I had not been into the actual city of San Francisco in DECADES, I realized.

It's lovely there.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Evil that is Social Media

I did that thing where you download all your FB data to see what the evildoers of the world are learning about you.

Here is some important information I discovered is out there in the world, about a location I created in 2012.