Thursday, September 17, 2020

Back West

When I got off the plane, the Flyaway bus to Van Nuys was waiting outside baggage claim. I hopped on it rather than sort out a Lyft, and I’m sitting in Van Nuys now awaiting a Lyft to Burbank. (The Flyaway gets me most of the way home, but not all.)

A guy who was on the bus is expressing dissatisfaction.

“I didn’t know you had to pay to get on the bus! No one told me!”




Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Live from Jersey City

I have something really special for you tonight!





Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Composting

New project! There are compost bins at the park down the street.  




Friday, September 11, 2020

I Don't Think So

FFS. Am I ever going back?



Ellis Island

Good morning.

This is where we’d come in as immigrants back in the day. We’d take ferries from Ellis Island to the railway terminal to my left, then head out into the heartland by train.

Not the Hungarians who bought my house.

They didn’t even get a mile away from where the ferry docked. They took good care of the house from the forties to the seventies.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Roof Update

Bad news: The roofers had to stop by to add a "gravel stop" to the roof because water was coming off improperly. 

Good news: They rescued my drone from the tree.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Birding

 Hey, kids! Comics! Get 'em here.




Sunday, September 06, 2020

Decision Made

Fate forced my hand, but in a good way.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Waffling

The upstairs bathroom wall has bubbling paint, and the roofers came over with their drone to take a look. They found a corner where water spills over and said they need to come back and put on a "gravel stop." I had to look that up. It's like a guardrail for water and diverts the rain into the gutter. (This is what I was trying to get a photo of when I steered my drone into the tree and lost it until it comes crashing down with the autumn leaves.)

My bedroom also has bubbling paint down on the ground floor. Is this related to the roofing or is it a coincidence? That's anyone's guess, but the roofers and their drone pointed out a lot of cracks in the stucco on the bay window and said "There's your problem."

They're happy to caulk everything with masonry caulk but it'll take a full day and cost $2,500.

I politely declined, but they'll still do the gravel stop. That's part of the roofing job.

For the caulking, I fretted a while and nearly went to Tsigonia for DIY masonry caulk. Tsigonia is the nearby hardware store where my new name is "my buddy." I guess I've gone there too many times. Michael Kraiger always made me laugh when he'd call Tsigonia "Tsongas," like Paul Tsongas, and I still call it that sometimes.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Poor Drone

Here's the last footage my drone shot before getting stuck in the tree.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Alien Abductions

Jay the orange feral had a mighty cat-venture.

He went in a car to stay a night in a garage, then in a car to the vet, then he stayed with the vet overnight after getting his balls snipped, then he came back in the car, and I gotta say, he did not seem terribly grateful.

(His friend Wally had an undescended testicle, and Barry turned out to be a female with an infected uterus. So that's why the extra night at the vet.)



It's Only Been Five Years

I guess I've been in Jersey City too long because I finally swept up the dried rat carcass that's been in the french drain in my basement since before I bought the house.

Monday, August 31, 2020

I Capture the Cat

I caught an orange cat.

He's in there, kept calm by the cover.



Sunday, August 30, 2020

T-N-R

I have a plan!

It’s to follow Tracy’s instructions and use a cat trap she’s bringing over to me tonight.

The trick is going to be catching the un-fixed orange cat rather than a skunk, raccoon, squirrel, or opossum. Or a different cat with a clipped ear.



Saturday, August 29, 2020

View from Above

I got a little drone. My idea is I can see when the gutters need to be cleaned out without going up on the roof (which is terrifying to me).

But I think I'm going to crash this drone before I figure out how to use it properly.

Yesterday, I saw a lot more of the convent next door than I meant to see.

Then just now, I bumped my drone into the house once and into some branches once, but I successfully used it to see there are only a few leaves in the gutter on the small roof.

Of course, I could see these things just by asking someone upstairs to look out the window. But I'm getting there.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Ode to Lafayette

This morning, I didn't feel like pulling out the patio furniture since we're supposed to get thunderstorms later. So instead I opened the back door and sat just inside, an eye open for curious animals and carpenter bees, while indulging in a hot breakfast instead of my usual weekday fruit and yogurt.

I'm 24 hours away from the weekly Los Angeles weather and Covid review, when I get to decide if I'm ready to go back or extend yet another week.

The other coast is a great place to be from November to April/May, but right now it's been unruly. I thumb-typed the below text out a few weeks ago and just now went back to it. I'm not getting into the age-old battle of NYC vs. LA. I understand we're in this together and the real story is if you prefer urban or rural. But I do like a bit of weather.

* * *

I awoke at 3 to the loud rapping of hard rain on the downspout outside my window. The smell of wet and green permeated the fresh air. I’d only slept one night here with the windows closed and the a/c unit on. 

The rhythmic sounds and smell of grass, leaves, and moss were glorious after so many months in a dry climate, one where sleeping with the windows open only results in a veneer of dust from the 134.

I lay awake until 7, then finally dressed and left my house. The rain had stopped and I could hear a cord banging against a flagpole, as well as the sound of distant air conditioners and the blaring warning that the street cleaners were en route to a nearby block. A graying old man in a beret whizzed down the sidewalk on an electric scooter. Cops were double-parked outside Martha’s, picking up breakfast. Martha's is one of our local Black-owned businesses. I headed around the corner to another, The Grind, the most perfect coffee shop run by another Hamilton Park transplant...it opened up in Bergen-Lafayette about six months after I bought the house.

The afternoon I moved in, there was a riot of high school girls and their mothers, fighting in front of my house. That day, the cops had not come to Lafayette Street looking for breakfast or coffee. And what I'd said to Michael Kraiger that day, when he was helping me move was "Oh no, not again." I grew up on a street where screaming matches and violence were fairly common. I knew the drill. Stay inside. Stay out of it. Don't let on you're the one that called the cops.

But that hadn't happened again. A one-off, perhaps a misunderstanding. All I have now is the sound of the street cleaners, the neighbors talking to each other, the cicadas buzzing, and sometimes, rain hitting the downspout outside my window.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Faking Normal

Every Saturday, I check the weather in California, the covid-19 rate in California, and the fire report in California. 

 And every Saturday, I change my flight another week.

I like to go to the neighborhood pool in the morning, but today I needed to go to the post office, so I used a Citibike to cycle there along new bike lanes.

Now enjoying a bit of normalcy at Sam A.M. Paulus Hook. These moments are found treasure. I now relish what was typical of the previous rest of our lives.



Saturday, August 15, 2020

Migration Thoughts

I have to go back to Burbank one of these days.

It's perfectly comfortable there, though the virus rates are high in CA, and they've said it's so hot that electrical usage is off the charts and they're going to do rolling blackouts, like they did in Kampala when I lived there in 2005.

Meanwhile, the heat here broke and the weather is currently ideal.

My little studio in the bottom of my house has mini-everything. It's like living in an RV, down to sitting outside on the patio enjoying the breeze while eating and swatting mosquitos. I even have wildlife.

And the takeout food nearby is vastly superior to what's mostly local chains in Burbank. Plus I have a pool a few blocks away, plenty of Citibikes, and did I mention a bunch of friends to socially distance drink coffee with?

But I have a temporary bunch more responsibility at work. so I feel like I should be in the right time zone for availability, so I am probably going back. A bit concerned about the rolling blackouts though.

I'm going to end up sleeping on the balcony with the radishes, aren't I?

Monday, August 10, 2020

Border Crossings

I was a guest on Peter Moore's podcast! We had a good chat about border crossings.






Sunday, August 09, 2020

Just Normal, I Guess

Crap. I was sorta hoping I'd had it, not noticed, and had a kind of mutant healing factor.



Saturday, August 08, 2020

Scanning from Storage

Last time I went into my storage unit in Jersey City, back in 2019 before pandemic changed our lives, I discovered my scanner had somehow crashed to the concrete floor. Which was a bummer because it was an expensive scanner I'd bought for scanning negatives.

I picked it up and heard a lot of loose things shaking around. Not good.

Today I went to my storage unit and retrieved the scanner, thinking I might as well stop putting off the bad news. I unwrapped the scanner from the bubble wrap and plugged it in. It made scanner start-up noises, but when I tipped it, things were still shaking around.

I found a cord and connected the scanner to my laptop, pulled a photo out of one of the little albums on a shelf in my tiny apartment on the ground floor of my house, and...success!

Here is Steve and Catherine in 2001 on-board the Direct Kiwi freighter at Terminal Island, Long Beach Container Port south of Los Angeles. They'd driven me there to start my first grand trip around the world.

I was glad my scanner worked, because my original scans were all crap, sized small because the internet was young and websites had to load up quickly with just a few MB of content.

Unfortunately, the scanner only worked once. I'll need to get a new one eventually.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Back to Normal

My power came back on around 11:30 am, so was out for 24 hours.

My internet came back on around 9 pm.

It was kind of fun finding candles in the backs of drawers, cleaning branches off the sidewalks, tethering my laptop to my phone, and loading the fridge with deli ice.

Ultimately, no harm done. The roof performed like a champ. Meaning nothing flew off the house this time around.

New Office

Raccoons are hereby evicted for the duration of this no power thing.



Tuesday, August 04, 2020

After the Storm

Today was quite the adventure! Sitting on the stoop now for the cell signal. I have candles and ice. That’s enough for the moment. Good thing the roof is new.





Hurricane Prep 2020

Oh joy. Guess who is super-prepared?

In Burbank. Not so much in Jersey City.

We've taken outside stuff inside (like plants and raccoon watering bowls). Swept up loose debris, pulled valuables out of the basement.

The wind is picking up. I wish I'd gotten around to buying sand bags.

Good news, if I have to clean up a moldy basement, I have masks and gloves.

Ready as we'll ever be, I guess.



Sunday, August 02, 2020

Summer Day

The humidity is thick and exhausting to wade through, the air pregnant and overdue a thunderstorm, like the swampy weather I remember from the summers of my youth in Alexandria, Virginia. Air conditioning was something you went to the movies for, or to the video arcade at the mall, or maybe to the Smithsonian if you were broke and could only afford metro fare. In those days, everyone sat on their stoops and sweltered, or sat in front of a fan by the window. Evenings were about lightning bugs, watermelon, and throwing shoes in the air to watch bats swoop down at them.

Now I drink iced coffee and pant in front of the window a/c, but sometimes, I still sit on the stoop. In a mask of course, and I leave the bats and fireflies alone.

Squeaky Friends

The animals are not interested in the squeaky ball, but they sure like water.



Friday, July 31, 2020

Ghost in the Attic

The whole roof project went so smoothly. Then last night it rained, so I went upstairs to see if anything was leaking. 

Good news, no leaks.

Bad news, the kids room is haunted.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Blow the Roof Off

 Adventures in roofing. 




Demolition

125 years worth of roof material is now on the convent lawn.



New Roof - Day One

The roofing team showed up around 8 a.m. One of them went to knock on the convent door to request the nuns open the gate to the side of my house, while a team got to work installing the "ladder-vator," and they others went upstairs to tear off the old roof. 

Demolition involved about an hour of some type of loud saw noise, various tarps being hauled up to cover the areas once exposed, and a lot of guys yelling back and forth. 

The neighbors probably love me right about now. 

One guy's son had the job of removing nails from the debris on the ground, thought I'm told I'll be finding nails and bits of roof for years to come.

I couldn't find the cats to try to lure them downstairs into my apartment. The second noises started outside, they disappeared. One of then learned how to hide behind the stove.

I'd been wondering how long it had been since the roof had been replaced, but the roofers told me likely never—new layers had just been piled on since the house was built in 1895. It's had at least four owners in the modern era, and there was a gap of about ten years right after the Great Depression when it was owned by a bank. An immigrant family from Hungary bought my house in the 1940s, and held onto it until the nineties. 






Lafayette Watering Hole

After seeing the local wildlife drink from the kiddie pool, I bought a dog bowl and filled it with water. 

I left it out last night along with a squeaky ball, since the little raccoons seemed to be playing with the pool ball in earlier photos. This is the same idea as a webcam on a watering hole in Namibia, only with opossums instead of elephants. 

Mileage varied.





Sunday, July 26, 2020

Comics During Covid

This is easily my second favorite panel I've ever been on. (The first was when I called Frank Tieri from the other end of an SDCC stage for answers to a trivia question.) 



Saturday, July 25, 2020

Backyard Water Park

 I found the most amazing thing on my backyard trail cam. 



Pandemic Living

 My new patio is occasionally used by humans under quarantine. 



Summer Cats

The cats who live upstairs in my house were NOT waiting for me today when I opened the door to go in and feed them. 

This is unprecedented. They are curious cats. 

I found them just lying around being lazy. One of them halfheartedly swiped at me. 

I turned on the a/c and 20 minutes later they were running around doing normal cat stuff. So today I learned cats can be hot even when I don't notice it's hot out, cuz they have fur coats.




Friday, July 24, 2020

Arrival

Flying in from LAX to Newark on Thursday morning after a thunderstorm--I couldn't figure out where I was. Everything was covered in clouds. Then I saw the tip-top of Manhattan poking up through the mist.




Raising the Roof

I'm in Jersey City, where I get to quarantine a few days before getting a new roof on my house. 

Technically, I'm supposed to quarantine 14 days, but I will have to go outside to meet with the roofers, and let them in to go up through the hatch. I'll wear a mask and not get close to them. 

I guess that's when I let the cats come downstairs for a change. They'll be scared of roofers for sure.




Thursday, July 16, 2020

New Plan

I like to do an ambitious solo world tour once a decade.

MariesWorldTour 2021 is endangered by several factors—aside from the obvious "would I leave my job this time" to "there's a global pandemic on, and you can't leave your house" to "my passport went from being the gold card to an expired Discover card overnight."
First MWT: In 2001, I left Marvel, sold my condo, and spent a year going East to West around the world almost entirely by surface transport. I met Komodo dragons, got stuck in post-war East Timor, spent far too much time with Russian merchant marines on container ships, fought off a pervy Uzbek train conductor for days on end, had my bag slashed in Mongolia, cracked ribs in Ethiopia, threw up in China, Sudan, and probably places I've forgotten, and thought I'd die more times than I really need to go into here.
That trip evolved into Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik, the book about me running around Africa. Some of you read the book. Some of you were actually along for the ride on the original website.

Pandemic Excitement

Wakes up, rolls over, wonders “Is Spock an elf?”

Picks up phone, learns there are entire sites and threads devoted to “Spock is not a space elf.”


Hello, Wednesday. 


I think it’s Wednesday. Maybe.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Nostalgia

I was reading over my old MariesWorldTour 2011 site, looking for something, and came across this entry, which took me right back to the border between Morocco/Southern Sahara and Mauritania.

* * *
Border Day
Bamba was trying to tell me something. He kept motioning at things. The glove compartment. The dashboard. He wanted me to do...what? He'd speak to me in French, because he'd gotten it in his head that I understood French, though I'd repeatedly said that I did not. Perhaps saying this in perfect French isn't a good strategy.
I fumbled around, trying to help him out. He kept putting one hand to his ear. I dug around in the glove compartment and produced some earbuds.
"No."
He pointed to his ear again.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Masks for All

 These have been coming out better once I adjusted my machine's tension. 



Saturday, July 04, 2020

Fifteen Years

My mother has been posting every day on her blog since 2005. Here's a short article talking about her photos and notes.