Saturday, February 29, 2020

Friday Night House Concert

Last night, I forced a work colleague at ballpoint to accompany me to see my Austin friend Kathy McCarty's house concert in Echo Park.

We had such a marvelous adventure—first, we took the metro to the bus, and of course the bus had a fine collection of weirdos. The bus took us to Echo (No) Park(ing), where we walked up a hill to a stranger's house, the venue for the show.

I'd never been to a house concert in Los Angeles, only at my friend Tracy's house in Jersey City, meaning I'd never been the stranger who attends. But we weren't strangers long, as Kathy was there with her West Coast gal-pal posse, all interesting and smart people.

No one seemed inclined to adhere to the start time, and for a while, I worried a bit about getting home, but I kept reminding myself it was Friday night and I had nothing important to do in the morning. I forgot all about this once the music started.

First up was the local duo of John Hawkes (yes, the actor but once of Austin band Meat Joy) and Rodney Eastman, performing clever but not glib songs. Then there was a puppet show (really), and finally, Kathy played a combination of her own songs, Glass Eye songs, and Daniel Johnston songs.

The night felt like it belonged to a different time—bands playing in a group house in Austin or Dayton in 1985, teenagers along for the night, a cat wandering through the middle of the performance.

Before moving here, I'd heard the thing to do in LA is to go to house concerts, but damned if I know how one hears about them if one isn't Facebook friends with one of the performers. I'd do it again in a flash if I were just a bit more with-it and a lot less working-not-so-with-it.

Here's one of the songs Kathy sang, which she also sang at the memorial for Daniel Johnston, where she was accompanied by Jacob Schulze.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Burbank: Pedestrian Paradise

Walking to work. Intersection of Olive and Alameda.

Old man: "Whaddaya think this is, a racetrack?"

I laughed and kept walking. I have no idea what he meant. I wasn't lackadaisical but I wasn't walking particularly fast either. I didn't almost run into him and we didn't even get to the corner at the same time.

Walking to work. Intersection of Bob Hope and Alameda. I have the light.

Halfway across the street, I notice the woman in the car at the crosswalk is about to turn right on red and hasn't seen me. I half-pause. She looks left, sees me, stops, I finish crossing. A car three cars back honks at the woman. She's obviously going too slow for him, since she's paused to let a pedestrian cross.

I am still walking, now on the sidewalk in front of my building. The guy who honked the car horn drives by, his window down.

"Pick up the pace!" he yells.

I give him the finger.

Monday, February 24, 2020

But I Can't See Home From Work

I just realized I can see my office from my apartment.

Such a small world I inhabit during the week.

Oh, and one of my colleagues pointed out this to me. It's our office in the background in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. It's a new building but you can't win them all, I guess.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Raising the Roof

Look! Roof photos.

After weeks of waiting for a permit, tearing off and replacing the little roof on my Jersey City mini-castle only took a single day.

This all started because heavy winds blew the downspout off the front of the building. I can see how that would happen after who-knows-how-many years. I don't know the last time the drainage system was replaced, but it's looking good now. Plus, when the roofers came out to take a look, they noted the mini-roof on the bay window had no drainage at all, and the lumber all needed to be replaced.

A day later, everything looks grand. I want to do the main roof on top of the house, but there's a flat section, a pop-up box section, and a pointed roof at the back. Complicated. And pricey. Fortunately, nothing is leaking.

Elite Roofing brought a drone. Now I want a drone too. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

...and a Bigger Closet

What I really need is more clogs.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sunday, DTLA

When I moved to LA in June of 2015, I carried two suitcases, a laptop, and a plan to go home and get my car by the end of the year.

I stayed in Toluca Lake, DTLA, Studio City, East Hollywood, Los Feliz, and Hollywood before ending up a mile from work. I never did go get my car.

Today, I got off the Red Line near where I’d stayed in July, 2015. How long was I even on 4th and Main? Two weeks? Three? I wandered through Grand Central Market, stopped for a coffee, and am going to the craft fair downstairs before meeting friends.

DTLA is where I would live if I’d bought a place when I’d first arrived, or if the Burbank Bus has gone to Universal metro then. Too pricey now, but nice to visit.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Random Yeti Talk

Today I was at the Los Angeles Travel Show, and I stopped by the Bhutan table to tell them they have all the best yetis.

Sometimes I don’t even know why things come out of my mouth...

Friday, February 14, 2020

Here's How You Celebrate Valentine's Day

This blurry photo is of Joe Dante and John Sayles talking about the 1978 high art masterpiece Piranha at the Egyptian tonight.

I had never actually seen this film before, and it was pretty damn funny. I wanted to asked the filmmakers if they had any idea why Aquarena Springs (San Marcos, TX) decided to let their real name be used in the film, but I wasn't sure if anyone else would care, so I didn't ask the question.

I guess any place that featured mermaids and a swimming pig had a good sense of humor, and no one really believed piranhas would eat them if they went to Aquarena Springs. Plus, the film was a low-budget Roger Corman special, and probably no one had the money to make new sign.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Creeping Gentry

This beautiful old building was the home to Modern Plumbing, which was anything but modern.

You'd go in and talk to the wise-ass, gruff and stocky Jersey guys behind the counter and you could say "I need a doohickey that does the thing, you know, that thing," and they'd nod and sell you that thing for four bucks. I once went in looking for a piece and they gave me that piece out of their backyard trash.

It's either a sign of the times that these newly renovated apartments are $2,150, or maybe it's a great example of hubris. This building faces a busy street, with not much parking, and minimal bus service. It's nowhere near the PATH or Light Rail, and seems like there'd be a lot of cheaper rents nearby.

But maybe this is just a symptom of rapid gentrification, and the KFC next door is going to switch to selling organic, spoon-fed, artisanal, cruelty-free chicken.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

New World Manners

I always feel foolish when I automatically thank someone after they’ve done nothing meriting a thanks, and it just slips out.

But I feel even stupider when I thank Siri.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Define First World Concerns in the Form of a Question

I'm a fan of peanut butter, but over the last six months I've been trying out other nut butters.

So here is my report. You didn't ask for this, but great news, you're getting it anyway!

Almond butter: Yum. This can be delicious. It can also be bland. Depends on the manufacturer and the ratio of oil to almonds. But almond farming is messy and destructive. Not the farming itself, I guess, but when you do more than a little almond farming, and it takes a lot of almonds to keep us happy with our almond milk and almond butter.

Coconut butter: On its own, not so great, but mix it with almond butter and this is big yum. But again, our obsession with almonds is unsustainable, at least until we figure out how to not drain the world of water and bees while we farm almonds. (I guess coconut isn't really a nut? But it says nut right there in the name.)

Sunflower butter: This tasted disgusting to me. Like taking a bunch of sunflower seeds and smashing them up into a paste. I don't mind sunflower seeds, but I did mind a smashed paste of sunflower seeds. Right into the trash bin.

Cashew butter: Dee-licious. The only nut butter that was yummier than this was the Rx Nut Butter kind that usually has some almonds in it. But cashew butter is also super expensive. Maybe I can grow a cashew tree on my balcony?

What's next? Maybe brazil nut butter or macadamia nut butter. Or maybe I'll go back to the basics with peanut butter.

(Hint: In case you don't know this, the way to deal with the oil separation in nut butters is to turn the unopened jar upside down for a while before you open it, then once you've mixed it up, keep it in the refrigerator.) On to Tuesday!

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Human Nature

I've never wanted to travel more than right now, while my passport is off for renewal.

Which leads me to...where could I go for a weekend that 1) is new to me and 2) doesn't involve Mexico or Canada?

I'm thinking Oahu and a ukulele factory, but that's going to take a few days more than a weekend, isn't it?

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Small Business Support

In Burbank, the liquor store is a great place to shop for all your cacti needs.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Luxury Lodging on the Road

Someone I used to work with (Rob) read my 2006 book Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik, and his primary complaint was "Why couldn't you have written about your entire trip instead of just the Africa part?" He hasn't traveled much at all, and he's curious about life on the road.

Of course, I started out with a story about the entire trip, but the publisher wanted an Africa travelogue, so that's what I wrote. I directed my ex-colleague to both the 2001 and the 2011 MariesWorldTour sites, but I doubt he'll get around to reading 24 months worth of blog posts.

But then I started thinking. What IS life like on the road? We have such fantastical ideas of travel—a world of luxury (ha, no) and adventure.

Yes, there is adventure. And my idea of luxury transforms to a car with a seatbelt after a few months of being crammed onto gearshifts and onto the back of motorbikes.

So here, Rob, is a look at the luxury of long-term travel. I pulled a bunch of photos of hotel rooms out of my photos database. I think this gives a pretty idea of the relentless nature of travel, as well as what a reasonable budget gets you once you graduate out of "on a shoestring" hostels.

Here are photos of a bunch of hotel rooms I stayed in during MariesWorldTour 2011. 

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Mattress Shopping

I’ve been learning about mattresses for a little over a month. When I first got to LA, I bought an IKEA latex mattress, with mixed results. I've been thinking of buying a new one.

Today I made another trip to the local department stores, where I again tried out the beds that have made it to the finals. (I tried a bunch of the mail-order ones and most of them were way too squishy, not as good as my IKEA one.)

Let's see...Beautyrest 900-TSS Medium Firm. Stearns and Foster Hurston Luxury Firm. Maybe a Brooklyn Bedding hybrid but I'd need to try it again next time I'm in Manhattan. 

I spent several minutes on each, on my sides, back, front. I’m not buying until my tax return is in, but napping in downtown Burbank is fun...

...until you remember lice exist. Now I’m paranoid about department store mattresses.