Saturday, June 24, 2023

Angels of Angeles

My HOA has some long-abandoned bikes to dispose of, and I remembered Burbank Bike Angels from when I’d once bought a used bike from them at an event in front of my old office. They’re a charity and they fix up old bikes to give away to the needy. (They also sell some to pay for parts.)

I wrote to them, and they said they’re by the Burbank Farmers Market every Saturday. I was skeptical as I’d never seen them there, so I went to check it out.

As I’d suspected, they were nowhere to be found. I asked at the information booth.

“Do you know where the bike people are?”

“Sure, they’re in that building.”

I’d been completely off-base looking for some volunteers and old bikes in a parking lot. They have a whole building full of bikes and parts and workshops. All volunteer workforce! It’s perfect.

Friday, June 23, 2023

What's the Limit?

As I read about the submersible disaster, I am reminded of the book Into Thin Air, where we see the toxic combination of adventure tourism and catastrophic danger. What factors drive outfitters and entrepreneurs to overlook safety risks? To take a chance on a small window of good weather among a very large mansion of bad weather? To believe their own personal judgement is somehow superior to recommendations from the wider world and its standards?

It's the profit, sure. Follow the money. But it's also those seeking legend, and those who are inclined to trust their own vain instincts. "We know best! We are innovative! Trust us. Regulations do not apply to genius." I know it's heresy, but Shackleton was cut from the same cloth, though the pressures were slightly different, investors and national pride replacing tourism. And he ended up with dog soup. (Sorry, sorry, I love the Endurance story too.)

It's impossible to read about the submersible story without feeling a visceral reaction, a disturbed queasiness as one momentarily wonders what instant pressure death would be like. It's terrifying, gross, and creepy, and then you was indescribably fast. Did their brains even have that moment of comprehension or was it all so instantaneous, no one had a thought at all? Then I go on to think about how time slows down when I'm in danger. Best not to think too much about it.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

What Is Dignity?

Going through some papers and found this gem.

A man is haunted by his childhood memories, comic books, etc., and asks the dignity a suit and tie?

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Requiem for a Mentor

John Romita Sr. was so kind and unassuming back there in his office at the corner of the Marvel Bullpen at 387 Park Avenue South—it took me a while of working nearby before I figured out he was the legend whose Spider-Man art I’d grown up on.

He died yesterday at 93, after living a long and rewarding life as an artist whose influential work defined and refined an era.

But he was also a leader, an art director, and he mentored dozens if not hundreds of aspiring artists who worked doing art corrections and touch-ups as Romita’s Raiders over the years. His leadership included setting an example of kindness and authenticity as well as professionalism. Some of my closest friends came into the business as Romita’s Raiders.

I remember we’d sometimes get annoyed when our art director was so often tasked with drawing cards celebrating some exec’s friend’s anniversary or whatever, chafing that the recipient likely had no idea what a treasure they received. But I for one was maybe a little jealous. I only wish I’d gotten around to asking for one myself. All our best to John's family and friends—he impacted the lives of so many of us.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Tempting Darkness

In April, 2024, there will be a total eclipse across parts of Mexico and Texas, going up through Ohio, Buffalo, and Montreal. Hotels rooms are already going fast. 

Trying to decide if I'm going to have a go at this--I'd have to fly somewhere. The eclipse won't be anywhere near California or New Jersey.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

New Camera

I got a new point-and-shoot camera...just testing it out today. 

Still a lot to learn!

Friday, June 09, 2023

Gallery of the Pacific

Here are some photos of other moments from the trip I took last week.

Enjoy! At least, I did. 

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Pacific Postscript

I met up with my old friend Sean last night to check out 1) dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in Darlinghurt followed by 2) the nearest iteration of Vivid Sydney, an annual light show. 

If I’d known the light show was this cool, I’d have gone to the Circular Quay installation instead, but I was too worn out by then to add more to my day.

Next stop: LAX. That’s all, folks.

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Polaris Pajamas or Paw Paws?

The processing power of my brain has gone numb, and I am lying in a Best Western bed across from Sydney’s Hyde Park, unable to compute what all I’ve seen over the last week. The volcano alone would have been enough, but the land diving had put me over the edge, and I can’t take any more input. At least, not yet.

How did I used to travel like this for months—even a year once—at a time? Everything is overwhelming and exciting, and it’s funny I used to also build in time for writing. Right now, I feel like a social media post is about my max, and I’m woefully behind even on that, because sleeping feels more essential than social media.

The sudden shift from Vanuatu to Australia is aggressive, like flying to New York from Haiti. I filled my water bottle from the hotel room tap and took a few tentative sips, then laughed at myself and gulped it all down.

Diving Into Dirt

All three of Air Taxi’s small planes were scheduled to fly to Pentecost Island this morning for Naghol, or land diving. I went to the Tanna volcano with Air Taxi last week, so when the transfer van pulled us tourists up to the domestic gates at the Port Vila airport, I scampered up to the counter and paid my departure tax immediately, rarin’ to go. The next seven people to follow my lead went on the same plane as I did, captained by Duncan from…I have no idea. I can’t even remember his accent. British? Aussie? I have forgotten, weirdly. Anyway, Duncan was a professional pilot who works all over the world, including in Afghanistan during the most recent evacuation.

“How old is this plane?” I was pretty sure it was at least as old as I am, but Duncan wasn’t saying. “Older than all of you, younger than me.”


We all put in our earplugs and took off first, and the single-engine Air Taxi followed with six passengers 13 minutes later. The other two-engine aircraft with eight more folks followed along after that.

We knew rain was imminent, but Duncan was a pro. He dodged the clouds and got us through the hour-long flight with minimal turbulence. But when we got there, he landed and then turned to us as soon as we all had our earplugs out.

“The other two planes turned back due to the clouds. You’re the only people here today.”

Shit, was I lucky! Last week, I’d been thwarted by the Air Vanuatu jet from Sydney being delayed by two days, and I’d missed my Saturday booking. Imagine if I’d come back to Vanuatu from New Caledonia and missed it again! I sure wouldn’t be able to hang around another week.

Check out the land diving photos, they tell the story better than I can.

We missed the picnic and dugong spotting on Efi Island on the way back. Duncan wasn’t taking any chances with the rain. I’m back in my hotel now, drenched in sweat and dirt, and I’ve just scrubbed the mud off my shoes so I can get into Australia tomorrow. I’ll be there for 20 hours before it’s off to LAX.

What a completely weird and incredible experience.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Thursday, June 01, 2023

But Will It Rain?

Here's the plan for Saturday. I hope it doesn't rain. I hope Air Vanuatu doesn't leave me stuck on New Caledonia tomorrow. I hope I see the dugong, but I hear that's tough.