Friday, July 31, 2015

Culture Shock-ish

I've hit a wall lately and been kind of blue. How blue? You know, dejected. Disappointed. Things have been drudge-y. My friends are mostly back East, and the ones I have here I haven't seen much or are out of town. The distance between the West Side and Burbank/East seems massive. And finding a place to live that is affordable, and easy commute, and not a hideous box seems impossible. I desperately miss my home, or maybe just knowing what to do.

I was feeling sorry for myself a few days ago, when it hit me.

The alienation. The uncertainty. The blue mood. Wait, I know this one! 

It's exactly what happens after the thrill of novelty wears off when I go abroad for an extended period of time. Once the sense of adventure turns into an awareness that one is isolated from friends and family and without an easy exit.

The good news is it goes away.

The bad news is it comes and goes at unexpected times for many months before it goes away.

And so I steel myself for the latest journey abroad, though this one doesn't require a passport. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015


This is probably overkill as it's quite expensive to live in...but what am I looking for out here as far as an apartment? Something with a bit of personality. No boxes with carpeting, please!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Broadway Theater District Walking Tour

I went on my second LA Conservancy walking tour on Saturday.

It was marvelous. The decaying theaters I'd walked passed and marveled at were explained to me, one by one. We were even taken into a few of them.

Look, they're no Loew's Jersey City. They were smaller, less ornate, and mostly in much worse shape. But these had history back to vaudeville, back to pre-cinema. Which was marvelous to hear about.

Here are photos of the Broadway theaters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

San Diego Fun

Here is something required of me now that I'm back in the editing trenches--I have to go on panels at conventions.

This is one of two DC trivia panels featuring me and the Group Editors. It was a bit like Hollywood Squares or Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me in that we were charged with being funny if we couldn't pull off just the straight answer.

I didn't make a complete fool of myself. Just a partial one.

Friday, July 17, 2015

New Hair

There's a hair cutter who I adore—her name is Christa, and while I couldn't afford to see her very often since she was at Cutler, an upscale Soho salon, I did go see her once in a blue moon. She seemed to have both precision and organic training, or at least style. Plus, she's fun to talk to. 

The good news for me is Christa just moved to LA, so I went to see her on Thursday night. And since she's a free agent and not cutting in a salon yet, she was quite affordable. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Next Stop: Los Feliz

I went to Comic-Con, spent long nights at the bar talking to strangers (it's my job), and trekked back on Monday via Amtrak.

My old friend JG of Comicraft (he designed, remember?) saved me a spot in line, and we boarded the Amtrak for the ride up the coast on the noon Pacific Surfliner. I disembarked at Burbank Airport and caught a taxi to the rental car agency. I'd tried to get one at the airport, but the price difference between that and the Victory Boulevard Enterprise was as huge as Tracy had warned me it would be.

I had nearly changed trains at Union Station, so I could disembark near the rental car agency and walk to Enterprise, when I remembered I didn't have to do things the hard way. There are these things called taxis. 

The car rental place gave me a little Nissan hatchback—much better than the clunky Dodge Avenger I had the last time. I stopped by the office then headed to Los Feliz to get the keys to my new place.

I'm in Los Feliz for a month, though I only have the rental car for a week. From the little apartment I've rented off VRBO, it's a .8 mile walk to the Red Line. That's nothing. But I've been here long enough that my brain goes "Oh no, that's a long walk." It absolutely is nothing. That's only a bit longer than my JC walk to the PATH train, but I've inexplicably decided it's too much. What the hell is wrong with me? I've been here five minutes.

I'll drop off my car on Monday morning and take the train home. Is it too much? We'll find out.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Party in the Basement

One of my freelancers explained to me that plumbing knows when you're vulnerable.

And so this happened on Wednesday night, when I was at a dinner in San Diego and not hearing my phone ding. My JC tenant turned off the gas and the water. The good news is he was awake late on a deadline, which is the best of all worlds for me. He could easily have been out of town or asleep.

This morning, after finally getting to sleep at 2:30 (Comic-Con involves a lot of late nights), I got a 6:30 call from the plumber. It was 9:30 in Jersey City.

He explained some things to me about a blocked CO2 vent and something rotting, as well as a bit of info about my glorious new 40-gallon gas-powered water heater, and in a gravelly morning voice, I'm pretty sure I agreed to everything including building a Batman fountain in the yard.

Happy New Water Heater Day, everyone!

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The DTLA Residency

What I’ve taken to calling my DTLA residency—my 9-night stay in a mini-loft in the old Hellman Building on 5th and Main—ended this morning, with neither a whimper nor a bang, but with the usual blur of rushing to the bus stop. I had to be at Union Station for my 11:15 a.m. train to San Diego Comic-Con, and I didn’t want to risk arriving too close to departure time.

The DTLA experiment had been a grand success. I ate well, learned a lot about the neighborhood, successfully lived without a car, and didn’t get mugged, though when I stumbled over the crime stats on a real estate aggregator website, I was taken aback by the theoretical risk. But then I brushed it aside, remembering too well the state of Avenue B in the early nineties when I’d moved there. Didn’t get mugged there either. 

 I’d been catcalled my first day, and yesterday a man did that irritating breath thing. There’s a name for it, but I can’t remember it. The breath thing is a quick sucking sound, a little less obvious than the classic wolf-whistle, and disgusting as hell. You want to just smack the person for turning an innocent walk down the street into something disconcerting.

 Not the first time, no. And I’m impressed how far we’ve come in a few decades to where street harassment is worth remarking on. Once, it was so common no one even talked about it. Like cracks in the sidewalk or gum on the curb, catcalls were just a part of life.

 Admittedly, there are a few countries where street harassment (“compliments,” according to some clueless yahoos) is still common and acceptable. I’m not going to point fingers. This is about my stay in Downtown Los Angeles.

I can’t tell if I want to set up shop in DTLA or not. Today, I love the access to services and food, and the easy life of jumping on the metro. But then, do I want to be in the middle of the great divide, where rents are $1800-and-up, except when they’re free if you’ve got a tent? Is it ethical to spend $30 on an entrĂ©e while a homeless person stares in the window? And if you are doing it somewhere else, where no one is watching, is that really any different?

I used to hate outdoor cafes in Alphabet City, because you’d get hassled for change, and sometimes you just want to eat, not wrestle with guilt. I can’t tell if it’s meaningful to live on the front lines of this, or meaningless, since it’s happening whether you bear witness or not, and it’s not about you.

As for gentrification…I have no idea where these people living in tents on Skid Row are supposed to go. There are so many homeless people in Los Angeles. Is the social services system here underfunded? Ignored? Well, probably. Isn’t it everywhere? Housing the homeless seems insurmountable when looking at the pop-up tent cities, when watching people bathe in the Los Angeles River from the window of the train.

 Anyway, the answer to the question of is DTLA for me is: I don’t know yet. I have many more areas to try before deciding. And because I don’t know, I tried to pack in as much as I could to my short stay.

My final excursion this morning was to G and B Coffee and then to Eggslut, both in Grand Central Market. G and B is accessible to all, but Eggslut has insane lines on weekends, and I’d avoided it so far. But then I read about the “Slut,” which is the specialty item, a coddled, poached egg over potatoes, all in a jar. Huh? 

 I wasn’t even sure I wanted that. Waiting in line seemed a stretch.

But I was game for trying if it didn’t involve a lot of hassle.

So this morning, I left the Hellman loft at 7:30, stopped by G and B for a delicious latte, then waited with a small group until 8. A bell rang, and we were all allowed into the market at 7:59.

The smarter move would be to come in from the Broadway side. Eggslut (no, I can’t explain the name but there’s no denying it’s memorable) is on that side, and you’d get there sooner from there. But I’m a fast walker and I made it to be second in line.

I bought the “Slut” as well as the “Fairfax.” The latter is an upscale version of an egg-on-a-roll, only for a ridiculous $7. I got it because I wasn’t sure the “Slut” thing was going to work for me.

But it did. I think it’s the chives and salt, but the combination of tastes was delicious.

After eating more eggs than any single person probably should, I packed up the loft. I’d say I stood back and surveyed the space I’d been in for the last eight nights, but that’s just nonsense. It was more like I threw everything into the bag in a rush, grabbed my laptop plug, and ran down the hall dragging my luggage while rolling up the adapter cord and wondering if I got everything before locking the keys inside the apartment.

And now I am again in transition, owning a house and a single car garage in New Jersey, renting nothing, living out of a bag with most of my possessions in twin storage units in Burbank and Jersey City. Superpowered by Eggslut, sitting by the window on the Pacific Surfliner as it winds along the coast down to San Diego.

Next stop: A short work-related residency at the Grand Hyatt. See you there.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

A Week in Downtown

It's only been a week since I arrived in DTLA, but I have learned quite a bit in that time. At least about the area around my apartment.

But also, I learned about the modern part of the area. On Saturday morning, I celebrated Independence Day with an LA Conservancy walking tour.

Here are the photos of DTLA. I've been loving it here, but on Wednesday, I leave for San Diego Comic-Con.

I don't really want to leave Downtown, but duty calls. Or at least the Hyatt calls.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Friday, July 03, 2015

From the Valley to Downtown

My stay in Studio City was harmless enough--it seemed fine, and I appreciated the anonymity of the generic serviced apartment, as well as living almost on top of the metro. I couldn't believe how easy it was to get to work. The #155 bus stop was outside the building, and let me off right at the corner of the Burbank building my office is in.

I sometimes feel smug for managing to get around on public transport here. Everyone told me it couldn't be done. But then a bus comes early or late, which isn't like home where you just wait another five minutes. Sometimes they only run every half-hour or hour, and then I'm reduced to Uber. On the worst night, I'd just missed the #222 bus after dropping off my rental car at Burbank Airport. It was around 11, and I had an hour to wait. I pulled out my phone and searched for options.

Damn. All bad. 

I finally used Uber, which I get a little annoyed every time I do that, because it feels like defeat. But I didn't want to hang around on a street corner for an hour.

On my last morning in Studio City, I packed a bag in a bag in a bag--three mostly empty bags to take home to JC where I'd fill them up for the return trip. I dragged it on the bus to the consternation of commuters, and left for Newark from work via the Burbank Airport.

Both flights were late, and I missed the connection. I hate you, modern domestic flying. You are horrible. But Burbank Airport is tiny and cute and easy. You could do worse. Try the enchiladas. 

I disembarked late--the window guy was meeting me at The Lafayette (so named by my deadpan, charming contractor, and I think it's going to stick), and I needed to be there by 10. Uber is wasted on a trip you can easily do by public transport, but I grabbed a latte, then opened up the app and got an Uber to my garage, where I rolled up the door and reclaimed my 1990 Ford Taurus.

I was home in time to shower before people started showing up. I had to make a comic before I was allowed out of the house to run errands, but at least I was there in my own home, which is looking better and better with each small improvement. Art on the walls, curtains on the windows, my crap packed up and ready to take back to LA.

I saw friends and socialized, stopped by my PO Box, bought octopus earrings at the Grove Street market, dropped way too much money on clothes at Lingo (imagine if I'd also gone to Flirt Brooklyn), and went to Home Depot eight times.

Finally, on Monday morning, before the crack of dawn, I put my car back in the garage and got an Uber back to Newark. I slept all the way back to LAX, where I stumbled over the $8 shuttle to Hollywood. From there, I caught the Red Line up to Studio City and got a taxi to work. At the end of the day, I caught the bus back to the Red Line and took the metro to Downtown LA.

At Pershing Square, I was catcalled. I was startled. And then I walked past the gaggle of people hanging out by 7-11. DTLA is sketchy--with wealth and poverty living side-by-side, if not hand-in-hand. I was skeptical. I'd lived in something like this on Avenue B in the nineties. I didn't want to do that again.

But after putting my luggage away in a converted industrial loft, I went out to find $10 Vietnamese carry-out and a bodega right downstairs. And the metro was a five-minute walk away.

Perhaps I'd been hasty in my judgment. I kind of love DTLA.