Monday, July 27, 2020


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


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


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.
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.

Houses=Money Pits

I was thinking about getting a car, but instead I'm going to get a roof.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Cultural Appropriation Mask

Here I am, ready for my run to the post office.

Friday, June 26, 2020

My Pal Larry

Here's my new action figure! I got it off of Kickstarter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Era of the Murder Hornets

Wednesday, March 11, 2020. I went by Trader Joe’s on the way home from pilates. It was busy but not too bad. Thursday night I stopped at Vons after work, and that was okay too.

Friday we learned we were going to work from home. We all raced around the office, except at the sink, where we’d spend 20 seconds, methodically scrubbing our hands just like we’d been taught on YouTube.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.

How long would we work from home? A while. A few weeks, maybe. Surely no more than a month?

“Did you go to Vons recently?” Liz asked me. “Yeah, it was fine,” I told her.

I stopped by Vons that night. It was not fine, and the checkout queues stretched down the aisles, so I didn’t hang around.

Monday, June 22, 2020

These Times

I want a woman VP too, but I think I could be convinced to go with Chris.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

I Thought No One Was Looking

I totally forgot I'd put this up here on my blog. From the NYT, 6/14/20.

A Craving

I just typed "best salad in Burbank" into my browser and yeah, I got nothin'.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I was in high school the first time I learned about the perils of walking-while-black in the USA.

Our family friend, Les, showed up at our house a little later than expected, and explained he was late because the police had stopped him. I was confused. Why would the police stop Les?

He explained this had happened to him often. He'd be stopped, spread up against a fence, frisked, and told he fit a description. He'd cooperate and then be on his way. The description was usually black, male, tall, about his age.

I was stunned. I was by no means naive. I'd grown up with plenty of poverty and violence nearby, and the neighbors...remember the (white) neighbors in the adjacent row house were always drinking, shouting, fighting, cussing, battling it out in the yard, and when they got more creative, one of them was arrested (in my attic) for firebombing a car in Georgetown. The police were actually quite helpful. My mother called them when those same neighbors tried to burn down our house. When my sister fought with one of them in the yard. When they traveled as a pack and assaulted my sister and mother walking to the supermarket. It's entirely possible my family might not be alive but for the Alexandria police force in the seventies and eighties.

Monday, June 08, 2020


Twenty days after leaving out of LAX, I flew EWR-SFO-BUR.

I was much less anxious this time around. Since my last flight, I'd been on buses, PATH, light rail, the #4 subway, one taxi with the windows open, three Lyfts, two Citibikes, and had been in a laundromat. I'd ordered grocery delivery, which I'd never done before. I'd ordered a pillow on a website and did curbside pickup (walk-up, actually). I'd sat masked in the park or on the stoop with friends, with several feet between us. I'd ordered from various delivery services ($$$$) and from restaurants that delivered to my neighborhood in Jersey City (most don't--yet). I'd worn four different masks and gone through over a dozen vinyl gloves.

Newark Airport was nearly a ghost town. There was no food for sale except for the self-serve "Global Bazaar" prepackaged stuff, so I was glad to have brought my own. I had nine seats to myself on the EWR-SFO flight.

SFO was a little better, and I was able to buy a salad. The United Club in SFO was open, FWIW, which wasn't much, but at least I could sit in a distant corner, remove my mask, and guzzle water.

TSA was easy and empty in both EWR and LAX. Precheck is meaningless without queues.

Would I fly again? Now, sure. Next month assuming flights are fuller, maybe not. My SFO-BUR flight was half full, and that was awful. Just too anxiety-inducing.

And now I'm going to sleep.

Morning Social

Ninety percent chance I'm heading back to Burbank today, but first, I spent the morning socially distanced from two friends in masks.

I got to pet this snore-y guy though. He was a foster named Thor. I nearly asked to take him back to Burbank with me.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Lots o' Lint


It's always something.

Before. Lint. Lots and lots of lint. 
After. Now with bird protection.

Safe Salon-ing

I find it helps to have a yard in the first place, and it double-helps when your colorist lives upstairs.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

While You Were Sleeping

I've been keeping an eye out night after night, hoping to see some of the critters in my yard.

Friday, June 05, 2020

A Long Journey

My FedEx Ground box looks like it had quite a few adventures in the Jersey City depot since it arrived there on 5/21.

It looks like they tried to deliver it and and I wasn't home. (Which is completely false.) The tracer person told me the problem was they thought it was a business, and so the business was constantly closed because most businesses are closed now.

I suppose it's possible they thought it was a business in spite of the sender (me) marking it "Residential" and in spite of it being sent "Home Delivery." And in spite of me calling about 12 times and saying my name, address, and "It's residential" over and over.

A different tracer told me it kept almost getting sent out from the depot but had never actually left, that's just how far behind they were.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Do The Left Thing

Do you remember how furious I was when that motorcycle cop stopped me for "jaywalking" across a deadend road while I was walking to work?

I felt hot rage. It took me a few minutes to ramp down my challenges to him and realize that the guy with the gun had me at his mercy. I had to play dead, essentially, which was even more humiliating than being detained for walking to work instead of participating in LA car culture. What a waste of my time, his time, and Burbank's time.

It's a testament to the patience of our black community that it took this long, militarized enforcement, and Donald Effing Trump in the White House for our young people to start breaking shit.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Moment

Is this the moment the paradigm shifts?

We’ve thought this before. We’re usually wrong, at least in my lifetime. We see a moment, Los Angeles on fire, fury in Ferguson, women on the streets, protestors chanting “I can’t breathe” in cities across the country. But the moment passes. We leave Charlottesville, Trump Tower, Baltimore. We return to our devices, games, Netflix obsession, our comforts, our almond lattes, our gluten-free oatmeal, our consumerism. We are the Amys, not the Karens.

Is this even real? Who are these guys with umbrellas? The instigators systematically breaking windows, their eyes devoid of fury, anti-Soros conspiracies fueling their methods? Has the shit stirred up by online bots spilled over into physical life?

"Somebody hold my blunt."

I was too young to understand the late sixties, the fury on city streets contrasted with the Cold War-fueled space race. You’ll believe a man can fly. Only white men with access to advanced degrees, of course. The street-based fury hadn’t reached the upper echelons of power yet. The outcome of those

Kissing Opossums

That's not social distancing!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

They're Multiplying

There's a whole family in the yard?

Not Cool, FedEx

I shipped my old Apple monitor FedEx Ground from Burbank to myself in Jersey City. I got a newer (used) Apple Monitor to use in my home office in California, now that I have to take the term "home office" seriously, so I thought it would be nice to upgrade my home office in my Jersey City house too.

I shipped the screen in one narrow box on May 15 with signature required, because it was scheduled the arrive the same day I would, and I wanted to be sure I was there before they left it.

I sent the stand in a bulky square box on 5/16, knowing it would start moving on Monday 5/18 for arrival 5/22. I didn't do signature required since I for sure would be there by 5/22.

You can probably see where this is going.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Mini-Lion Attack

If I leave the door to upstairs open for even a second, just to check cat food and water, Lily pushes through.

Why? What is so interesting in my apartment?

My desk, apparently.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

They Eat Anything

What do raccoons eat for dinner? I can't tell what this is. It kind of looks like a leaf or a squirrel.

Or maybe it's a mom carrying a kit?

Dogs v Birds

In a world where individuals guilty of existing-while-black are murdered by law enforcement or by racists who own guns, I keep reading comments where people suggest my--our--friend Chris is guilty of being a jerk for OFFERING A DOG A TREAT.

I'm not saying he was trying to make friends with the dog. He was clearly offering the dog a treat so the dog owner would leash the dog which was illegally off-leash in a migratory bird habitat.

The number of commenters in the world who claim Chris had ill-intent toward the dog due to offering it a treat is small, but nevertheless horrifying and absurd.

Sometimes, I just want to give up, you know? People are just so...god, they're just so dense. I don't want to be that person, but sometimes it's hard to see the good, the smart, the reasonable in people. They want so badly to prove they are uniquely more clever, they are special, they see an angle no one else sees. "They're both jerks."

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Mammals on Breadalbane Terrace

Different animals peeking around in the front of house versus the back of the house.

Front of house

Back of house

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Clickable and More Fun

Here are some more fun links about our pal Christian Cooper.

He used to do a web comic called "Queer Nation." I colored some and Yancey drew some. We had a blast, though web comics were not really a thing for many more years. Queer Nation was ahead of its time.…/www.queernation.c…/archive_fr.html

These links are more fun than scream-y spaniel woman.

She Went There?

48 hours ago, if you'd asked me "What do you think Christian Cooper would be famous for," I'd have guessed for something he'd written, a science fiction book or maybe the Star Trek comic he used to write where he introduced the first gay character in the history of Star Trek. Or maybe I'd have said "He was featured in that documentary about Central Park birders," because he's a dedicated and locally famous birder. He gets up at some obscenely early hour in the spring so he can be at Central Park by dawn to watch migratory birds.

If you wanted to dig in more to his background, I might have told you about his global travels, his days editing at Marvel, how he's a Harvard grad whose friend from college was the first male ob/gyn I'd ever met, or how he'd jumped through all the hoops necessary to get a small condo in the East Village back in the day, and he'd made his exclusive roof rights into a tiny, green paradise. I might have mentioned he had a fabulous 30th birthday party at a private mansion which inspired me to do the same a few years later (at the Frying Pan lightship). He hired a few drag queens to come to his party--were they telling fortunes? I no longer remember. I might even have mentioned I vaguely remember he knows some Klingon, but maybe he just had the Klingon dictionary and I read a lot more into that than I should have. I probably would have told you that Chris is never one to back down from taking a stand on a moral issue. He's gone to his share of righteous protests.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Making Do

My little ground floor apartment in Jersey City is more a bolthole than a residence. It's about 450 square feet, maybe a little less. The bedroom, living room, and office are the same small room. Likewise, the kitchen and dining room share the same quarters. The bathroom has no separate shower. The bathroom IS the shower, plastic curtains serving as dividers.

The kitchen has no oven, but it does have two small gas burners, a microwave, a toaster oven, and now, an Instant Pot.

Oh, and I have my tiny backyard with patio umbrella, but it hasn't been that hot here yet, so while I cleaned up the patio and dragged out the umbrella stand, I didn't make use of it yet.

My upstairs tenants have been out of town during the entire pandemic, so I could use their oven. And they wouldn't mind since they're not using it and I'm feeding their cats and sending them video of the nice cat to show their five-year-old twins. (The kids are less interested in the mean cat.)

But I wanted to see if I could make a successful meal using the tools I have, so I'm pleased to announce that... ...I successfully had a delicious meal of baked chicken breast with parmesan and spices, partially microwaved and partially toaster oven-ed sweet potato, and Instant Pot asparagus spears.

Now if only I could figure out the right approach to an overripe banana and Bisquick.

Pandemic Conundrum

We find ourselves at an odd moment for so many reasons.

Our lives are suddenly prospectively shortened. We realize our list of dreams needs to be addressed.

Simultaneously, we are trapped within our homes, or at most, within a controlled orbit in masks and gloves with social distancing, hoping the studies are right about exposure.

I was just listening to a program on WNYC where the obituary writers talk about DO IT NOW, because death comes suddenly.

What a conundrum, that so many have realized there's no time like the present for following dreams, but the present isn't having it.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Settling In, the Lafayette Edition

I headed home from the airport, put on my disposable gloves, got a takeout coffee at The Grind and an egg-in-a-wrap from Martha's, took them home to dump into my own dishes, scrubbed my hands carefully, and had breakfast in my own home.

ShopRite miraculously opened up delivery slots, so I got as many groceries as fit in my half-size fridge. They even had Lysol wipes, which I hadn't seen since early March. I stopped by the dollar store--they had hair wraps, the right kind for maskmaking, and I pulled out my cheapie sewing machine I hadn't touched since I moved to Los Angeles.

Plus, I apparently went back in time and bought a huge number of disposable gloves and left them in my Jersey City house for Pandemic Marie to find. Part of the DIY experience! There are several woodworking masks under the sink and in the basement too.

The apprehension I had before flying home is starting to dissolve. People just get by, but with more social distancing and masks. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Testing the Waters

I took a plane Wednesday night. Crazy? Maybe. My theory, based on reading some reports about air filtration on planes and how many (very few) people are flying, was that flying is pretty safe. While my experience seems to bear out this hypothesis, I have ten days of isolation in Jersey City and then another two weeks on return to LA to find out if I guessed well.

My biggest concern was getting from my apartment to the gate. I waffled for days over which airport to fly out of. Burbank Airport is a ten-minute bus ride away, on the nearly empty 222 bus, while LAX can be anywhere from a half-hour in the dead of night to two hours in traffic. Longer if I take transit and hit all the connections wrong. But flying from LAX means a direct flight to Newark, and flying from Burbank means a connecting flight via SFO or DEN. What’s safer, two flights and waiting in a second airport, or getting to LAX?

I talked it over with Steve B, who had driven to Burbank a few weeks ago and hit zero traffic. Ultimately, I split the difference.

Fly out of LAX, fly back to Burbank.

I obsessively checked the United seat assignments for a few days leading up to my flight. Was it crowded? Where could I sit and be far from others? Should I switch to a day flight instead of a red-eye?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

I Hope They Have Triple-A

I seldom look at my work phone and no one (including me) has the number.

Shame about the fan belt.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Now What?

Hey, Monday. I love you too.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Winning Waffles

Remember the Great Grocery Tragedy of 2018, when I won frozen waffles in supermarket Monopoly and then my refrigerator stopped running?

You’ll be delighted to know I won frozen waffles as my grand prize once again this year. I was sorta hoping for the $1000 Vons gift card, but this is almost as good.

Thursday, May 14, 2020


Yesterday, I found rice and dried beans in the store, and now this. It’s almost normal...except I don’t think I’ve ever bought 8 rolls at once before. It’s all the supermarket had.

When we look back at this time, one of my first memories will be how happy I was when I found potatoes after days of all the potato shelves being bare everywhere in town.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Widening My World

Today was the day I expanded my world beyond the mile surrounding Warner Bros. and my condo.

I figure nothing is going to change in the near future--possibly not for more than a year. So the question is...what is it like out there? If California reopens on 5/15, how do we alter our behavior so our world is safer than it might have been otherwise?

I donned my homemade mask (two layers of quilting cotton and one thin interfacing between), stuffed latex gloves into my bag, and headed out.

I caught the #222 bus north to Pacific and Hollywood Way. All buses are free at the moment, and able-bodied passengers can only enter and exit through the rear door. There were only three passengers on the bus, all keeping their distance. All wore masks.

I used my bag to push the button when I wanted the driver to stop, and then walked a mile to Lowe's. I only saw one other person during that walk, a dog walker two blocks away.

Lowe's was...not empty. It wasn't crowded, and everyone had on masks, but the number of shoppers was disconcerting.

I headed on to Target, but the line to get in was kind of nutty, so I walked over to Walmart. There was a queue there too, but Walmarts have actual sewing sections, so I was interested in stopping there. The line went quickly...but apparently so did the fabric. I haven't seen shelves this empty since my last look at the toilet paper section in any major grocery store. I bought the last fat quarter of fabric--it has tacos on it. (Not sure who will want a taco mask, but someone will.)

I left Walmart, passing a tremendous queue of cars all waiting for their curbside pickups. The line to get into the store stretched around the block now.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Dream House No More

A lot can change in two weeks.

Here's the sad story of gentrification gone completely wrong in Burbank.