I sucked at shining my boots when it mattered most — during my time as a cadet at a local public police academy. I was a complete failure at putting a proper gleam on my boots, and I paid the price at inspections in getting yelled at and doing pushups.

Since then in the course of my present employment my results have improved. Given how bad I was before, I’d say they’ve improved a staggering amount. By no means am I saying I’m the best. I’m just saying I’m far more satisfied with the endgame than I’ve ever been. Shame I couldn’t have figured this out when it counted.

My tools: Latex gloves. Saddlesoap. Angelus Polish. Heat gun. Kiwi Parade Gloss Polish. Water. Soft cloths. Horsehair brush. Elbow grease.

The boots: A pair of A.T.A.C. 8″ Shield Side Zip-up 5.11s, straight-outta-the-box.

My method? Credit where it is due: I owe a debt of gratitude to an area shoeshine establishment known as Code 7. They used to have a location much closer to my Los Angeles home but have long since shuttered that place and now operate about 25 miles away. For $10 (a bargain at twice the price; not including tip), they are masters, but a 50-mile roundtrip is just too far for me to travel even for such unparalleled and affordable excellence.

So I did the next best thing: imitated them. While I can no longer find it on their website, Code 7 used to have a webpage that listed the series of steps involved in their process. Based on that here is what I do, as shown in the accompanying 90-second timelapse (realtime: 60 minutes):

1) Saddlesoap lathered on, dried, and buffed off
2) Angelus polish hand-rubbed on and then melted with heat gun
3) Let cool and repeat Step 2
4) Let cool and repeat Step 3
5) Let cool and repeat Step 4 (yes, I bake in four layers of base on new boots)
6) Allow boots to cool completely
7) Kiwi Parade Gloss hand-rubbed on
8) With water, cloth and elbow grease, dab-dab circle-circle until shiny
9) Clean up work surface
10) Horsehair brush finish

Before and after (click to biggify):

 

Until yesterday, when this image rather randomly popped up on my Facebook feed from a group I follow, I’d made countless unsuccessful attempts to find any photographs of a place I worked during my junior and senior year in high school that was so near and dear to me: Hunter’s Books.

Situated on the southwest corner of Rodeo Drive and Little Santa Monica, my history with the place is one filled with fond memories and a fair share of intrigue, which one day I may go into in far greater detail. How I got my job there as a stock clerk itself involved a bit of stealth. I was sitting in chemistry class awaiting the arrival of one Mr. Thorpe, who I despised. I overheard a fellow student by the name of Marc Sugarman talking to another about a job for which he was supposed to apply at some bookstore on Rodeo. He said it was a done deal, all he had to do was show up and the gig was his — but he wasn’t really feeling it.

Since I was definitely in need of gainful employment at that time, as soon as school let out, I hustled on over and met with the stock manager, Barry, a short middle-aged guy with a gray goatee and spectacles. I told him I heard there was a job available, and he made some comment about me not being who he was expecting, meaning Marc. I feigned having no idea what he was talking about and boom, I was hired, wherein I joined a ragtag crew of underground characters who worked primarily in the basement or back. There was Reggie, the loveable short black frenetic homosexual who was in charge of shipping and receiving. There was the middle-aged and also gay Arthur with his huge mustache and his Joseph A. Bank wardrobe in charge of returns. There was Wiley, a tall quiet black man of a certain menace who primarily assisted Arthur and who almost always had some white gunk in the corners of his mouth and never had much to say. And stock clerk  Manual, the aspiring guitarist philospher , with his giant afro, his snide laugh and his coolness. Rounding things out was Dennis, an actor, whose receding hairline tormented him enough to seek out the Bosley Medical Group’s that left him with a line of hair plugs circumnavigating his forehead like a picket fence. Upstairs the sales floor was dominated by Susanna, an elderly German frau never without a scowl and menthol cigarette dangling from her lips. Her assistant was Margaret, a lovely young black woman who had a thing for James Dean. Last but not least was Larry, the boss of us all, who ruled from his roost up on the third floor.

Like I said, I have plenty of stories about this place, but I’ll save them for later. In the meantime I’m just thrilled that this photo materialized.

We’ve been coming to Olvera Street’s annual Blessing of the Animals event since 2004. First a couple years with Shadow and then one with Ranger. Buster, our 18ish-year-old Russion tortoise, has been the designated representative of the various pets of our household every year since 2007.

This is the second year that we’ve joined with the fine folks at the Reptile & Amphibian Rescue Network and been a part of the initial processional. Last year we lucked into accompanying them basically by being at  their booth wherein they invited us, and this year we did the same thing, thereby getting ceremoniously doused with the holy H2O by Archbishop Jose Gomez at the front of the long line of other pet owners, and allowing Susan and me to quickly get to the real reason for coming downtown: margaritas at La Golondrina.

I set up our GoPro on a corner of Buster’s basket and timelapsed from prior to the event’s commencement of the procession to well into our lunch. The following stills pulled from the video show Buster and me prior to the event; the moment a bemused Archbishop Gomez flings water in our general direction; Buster in line at La Golondrina with a curious little girl; and lastly the moment Buster escaped the confines of the basket. Thankfully her freedom was short-lived thanks to Susan’s sharp-eye.

In the course of my duties yesterday, I did a follow-up with a lady in South Los Angeles with whom I’ve been I’m working as she transitions from unknowingly tethering her dog in violation of the law to doing so via a lawful alternative system. Progress has been slow, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that near the end of my visit with a promise from her that she would have everything completed within a week, a neighbor pedaled up with with a guitar slung across his bike’s handlebars curious as to why there was a guy in a uniform and a badge in his friend’s yard. She put him quickly at ease and we discussed the issue with him promising to help her get her dog properly confined.

I’m not at liberty to divulge specificities, so all I can say is the lady is a singer and told me that back in day she was a member of a prominent gospel group that performed all over the world and on television for such variety programming as “The Flip Wilson Show” and “The Mike Douglas Show.”

And before I left them the neighbor picked up his guitar and treated me to the following impromptu quick minute of music, which I offer to you because it was  such a pleasant and surprise joy to unexpectedly find myself enjoying those beautiful moments in a place not very well known for providing such things.

Susan’s not very good at answering the question “Hey baby… what do you want for Christmas?” That’s not a judgment, just a fact borne of the roughly 16 Christmases we’ve been together. Sure there were times when she knew EXACTLY what she wanted, such as that year she said without pause and I kid you not: “A rototiller!” But mostly when asked she typically shrugs. Concurrently I’m not at all very good at intuitively knowing what she might want.

So on the day before this past Christmas Eve when we did an out and back through Echo Park for our regular pre-Christmas local shop/walk-around, one of the last places we popped into was a dark, dusty and rather dreary antique shop on the north side of Sunset Boulevard just west of the bend at Mohawk Street. Nothing from the jumbled piles of stuff jumped out at me, but a framed print depicting a monochromatic farm-like setting of old buildings and birds and barren trees got Susan’s eye. She picked it up and gave it a good looking over.

The proprietor offered “That’s a Wyeth. A lithograph.” Sure enough the signature in the bottom right read Andrew Wyeth. And when she asked how much, he said “$150.” At that pricepoint, she promptly set it back down and we were soon on our way.

I mentioned how I’m not very intuitive, but I’m not a blob of gelatinous goo either. So when sometime later that day, Susan commented offhandedly that she really liked that picture, I knew what I had to do.

And the next day I did. Loading myself up with enough cash to make a polite but firm and very fair counter offer I prayed the place was open on Christmas Eve, which it was. Marching straight back to the print I reminded the owner of our visit yesterday with the Wyeth and told him what I was willing to pay. He mulled it a moment, said OK and the transaction was complete.

Susan was very pleased when she unwrapped it the next morning, and it has since found a home on the dining room side table.

I wrote all that because it finally dawned on me that there might be a title to that work of art, and it only took some brief googling to find out it is called “The Mill,” most likely painted in 1958 around the time the Wyeths bought the property and subsequently restored it. I found other paintings (more famously “Night Sleeper,” featuring Wyeth’s dog) that feature the location, known as Brinton’s Mill, built in 1720, in Birmingham Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Note: I know I do not utilize this place much anymore, but with my Dodgers in the World Series for the first time since 1988 and facing elimination by the Houston Astros in Game Six tonight (on Halloween!) here at home, I’d be remiss as a life-long fan if I didn’t post up the following fantasy that I SO hope becomes reality:

I had a vision last night. It is of a tomorrow not too far from now. Not too far at all on the calendar, but to get there we must leap across a wide and deep chasm tonight that so many are saying we cannot and will not clear.

In my vision we take that leap and we do end up on the other side where there stands a man on a hill in a field. He is surrounded and protected by his fellows and the field is encircled with the love shown him by the cheering and supportive throngs. But in the midst of all that joy and support the hill he stands upon is a lonely, lonely place. In his right hand he holds his weapon of choice, a palm-sized orb of bright white leather and red thread, with which he is so well practiced and so highly skilled.

He is a dignified, respectful man, wise beyond his 31 years, who in the direct face of a recent reprehensible and disgusting display of racist ignorance and derision — with the world seemingly clamoring for him to respond to it with furious condemnation — instead he returned a calm consideration and a thoughtul decency requiring so much more strength to deliver.

Swaggering forth to face that young man from a five-sided white pentagon embedded in the earth — an equally lonely place — comes the insulting enemy. He has been labeled a beast and called a monster, but he, too, is just a young man, though one infinitely less wise than his 33 years. On his head sits a helmet that shields his grotesquely styled locks from view and in his hands he wields his weapon of choice, a strong and well-turned staff made from the hearty wood of an ash tree, with which he too is well practiced and so highly skilled.

The cacophonous chorus of cheers for the man on the hill turn to a tempest of torment for his opponent sixty feet and six inches away as the two settle in and prepare for battle amidst the deafening din.

With laser precision and able command of a wicked wizardry the man on the hill flings the orb twisting and turning, rising and dropping in a succession of launches toward the pentagon where the pineapple-haired hater tries in vain to launch it into the air and beyond the field entirely. The first is swung at mightily yet missed entirely. The second is fouled off into the crowd, which then rises as one cheering louder. The third he watches go low and beyond the reach of his staff. He starts to chop at the fourth but pulls back at the last possible millimeter as the bottom drops out too soon and bounces in the dirt before him. He crowds in for the fifth and the man on the hill brings it in high and tight forcing him to twist out of its way.

And the sixth? Well, that comes after both men step aside amid deep breaths and deeper thoughts to gather themselves. And when it does it is a righteous freight train perfectly straight down the middle that he freezes before and can only simply stand and watch as he is slain.

And the surrrounding crowd in unison with all those across the land joyously cry out “Yuuuuuuuuuuuu!” And that man on the hill was not so lonely anymore.

#GoDodgers
#ThisTeam
#GetToWednesday
#YuGotThis

Gustavo Dudamel conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony may have been listed as the star of the show (and it was fantastic!), but the reason I bought tickets to the July 13, 2017 performance at the Hollywood Bowl was that my beloved Vin Scully — eternal voice of the Dodgers and of ALL of Los Angeles — was on the bill to narrate Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” and he did so beautifully with characteristic humility and eloquence.
 
The chance to hear again what has been the voice of ALL of my summers as a native angeleno was something I couldn’t pass up, nor could I not memorialize the occasion.
 
NOTES: Scully’s narration begins at about the 8:20 mark. An encore performance is scheduled for July 18, 2017, at the Bowl. This performance was recorded (faaaaar better than me and my handheld recorder from Section J) and is scheduled to be broadcast July 30, 2017, on KUSC-FM (91.5). Gawd bless my fellow audience members. This was my first visit to the Bowl in several years where everyone was pretty much completely quiet throughout the whole program.
 
If the embed at the top is not functioning, here the direct link to my YouTube post: https://youtu.be/rUbrYgvWMFI

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