Archive for January, 2006

What Lies Beneath

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

A brief follow-up on yesterday’s post about L.A. history… I don’t know how I’ve missed this in the year and a half I’ve been living where I’m living, but walking the dog this morning we came to the corner of Occidental and Bellevue (as we have done many, many times) I saw for the first time this exposed brick underlayment harkening back to those days of yore:

Brick

Ghosts In The Air & History Underfoot

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

I don’t want to wax too nostalgisophical about Los Angeles, but the “city of angels” is an apt name for this place… in the sense that angels can be seen to signify change or reinvention via an anthropomorphed spirit or presence of something that once was real but is now more or less memory.

Being a native, my L.A. landscape is full of these ethereal memories. Countless are the places I can venture past and where now may stand a minimall or a condo complex or a Redline subway station used to be a place where I lived or visited or played or learned or otherwise knew about. Living here for any length of time you come to accept that such a loss of touchstones just comes with the territory. Literally.

Some of my earliest L.A. memories come from where I lived in an old courtyard apartment building that stood on the corner of Westminster and Fourth Street in what’s called Windsor Square. I lived there with my mother when I was sometime into my third year and I can remember looking out of my east-facing second floor bedroom window and being able to see the illuminated Union Bank logo on the west facing side of the tall building on the southwest corner of Wilshire and Western. Back then the logo was kinda strange… it was like a big round money bag topped by an eagle head in profile with small wings on either side. I used to remember wondering how a fat bird like that could fly.

The apartments on that property met the wrecking ball sometime in the 1970s. They’re condos now. But I don’t mean this to become a My Dead Places list. I merely bring it up because one of the things I truly cherish about the Silver Lake area I live in is that there are remnants that regularly remind me I live in a very old part of town. Obviously not “old” like Parthenon old… but then again for something to go 80 years or more in L.A. without being resurfaced or torn up and built upon is quite an achievement in my book.

A significant landmark? Hell no. What’s prompting this post is something as simple and insignifican as a section of street — specifically the paving contractor’s stamp that I see while walking the dog:

Street Stamp

This one is located just off the southeast corner of Marathon and Parkman, but they’re all over the place. Of course, I did a web search for the company name and came up with nada.

I would guess that part of my appreciation of such an historical footnote is fed by the regular disappearance of my personal landmarks and coupled by the 18-year period of my life lived in the San Fernando Valley, where landmark status was once (unsuccessfully) sought to preserve the 1950s-era car wash that stood at the southeast corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Boulevard (Now it’s a doubledecker shopping center). It’s not that there isn’t history in the valley, after all Encino was home to a 1,000-year-old oak south of Ventura on Louise (that sadly fell in 1997). It’s just most of its modern history only goes back a half-dozen decades (making the Encino oak’s death all the more heartbreaking) so it’s tough to get all excited when you’re walking streets that aren’t even 40 years old and living in places that aren’t even as old as you — and easy to yearn for a section of the city that has some history.

That’s why something as simple as a two-mile walk around my neighborhood is always a romanticized thrill. I pass residences that have been standing since before automobiles roamed the earth and up the Music Box Steps that are named and famous for their role in the 75-year old Oscar-winning (for the category of Short Subject) Laurel & Hardy film, and I envision a far simpler and more delightful place. What many may see as a meaningless contractor’s stamp in old section of street is a ticket allowing me to travel back to a time in this town when the clang of a Sunset Boulevard Pacific Red Car was long from becoming the angel of my imagination it is today.

Anatomy Of A Ride

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

I finally set out mid-afternoon on the bike ride I’d promised myself, and it began rather inauspiciously with a jerkwad behind the wheel of a Chevy Suburban honking at me as I was crossing the intersection of Sunset and Benton because I was keeping him from making his left turn.

So I locked eyes with him and spit in the specific direction of his planet killing SUV. And his jaw dropped in what I can only guess was shock that some sub-human cyclist would dare impune his superior righteousness.

Dick.

Fortunately that must’ve been my quota for encounters with center-of-their-universe types because I rolled the remaining distance without incident — but some mighty headwinds coming back down the L.A. River bikeway alongside Griffith Park.

For the record and/or posterity my route mimicked most of the Midnight Ridazz path from a couple Fridays ago:

Sunset to Park to Glendale through the Second Street tunnel to Little Tokyo up to Temple over to Main to Sunset and up Broadway into Chinatown over the river to a left on Pasadena Avenue and a left on Avenue 19 loop around near the Home Depot and go up over the River again to Riverside Drive all the way to Fletcher. Right on Fletcher to the first light and then left up to the bikeway entrance all the way up around the horn and over to Victory to Zoo Drive back up over the Golden State Freeway to the bikeway again and now south back to Fletcher and up across Riverside and south on Glendale to a right on Silver Lake Boulevard along the east bank of the Reservoir down to Parkman up to Sunset. Left on Sunset, right on Occidental and home. All that equals 21 miles.

Certainly worked off that McGriddle sandwich I had for breakfast — and then some.

…But I Get Up Again

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

So I put on a tie and got myself down to the Ronald Reagan state building at 300 S. Spring Street in time for my 8:15 a.m. hearing to appeal the Employment Development Department’s categorical denial of my unemployment benefits. As I said yesterday, I felt the opportunity to elaborate my side could bring needed dimension — and reversal — to the EDD’s very one-sided decision to deem me ineligible. Nevertheless there are two situations I dread: courtrooms and hospitals. So to say I was anxious is putting it mildly.

After having a chance to review my case file my name was called and I followed the hearing judge down narrow corridors into a small windowless chamber. After some orientational instruction the tape recorder’s play button was pushed and away we went.

Since no one from the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association or the L.A. Zoo saw it fit to show up and dispute my appeal, it basically came down to me restating the letter I sent to the EDD after they denied my claim.

Less than 20 minutes later it was over and I came away with the strong sense that the judge would be overturning the EDD’s decision, which definitely added to my feelings of elation and relief that the ordeal was over. Even if the ruling isn’t in my favor, I’m just glad to have gotten through it. Time to put it away and move on.

And I celebrated by deviating from my diet with a McGriddles value meal from McDonald’s that I got on the way home. I don’t know what’s worse, eating the tasty but craptastic food items or acknowledging their abject lack of nutrition on my fitday.com journal (the McG has how many calories!?). Nothing to worry about though as I’m going to further celebrate this positive turn of events with a 20-mile bike ride with an hour on the treadmill down at the YMCA thrown in for good measure.

Two Things…

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

First up: I finally — finally! — finished and filed the story on gorilla trekking in Rwanda that I’ve been working on for months. And by “working on” I mean “dicking around with so frustratingly.” Being my own worst critic, I am not at all satisfied with it. It’s waaaaaaay long and suffers from a convoluted sequencing wherein I jump back, forth and sideways in time.

But there is something to be said for it being done. And by “done” I mean at least it’s at a certain level of readability and completeness that I could deliver it to the editor who’s been interested in it for as long as we’ve been back from Africa. Hopefully she won’t throw it back in my face and say “Ha-ha, very funny… now where’s the ape story we talked about?”

Second up: I got those primates off my back not a moment too soon as tomorrow morning I have the joyful task of appearing before an administrative law judge downtown who’ll hear my appeal against the Employment Development Department’s denial of my unemployment insurance claim. I feel I have a good case as to why I’m entitled to my benefits, but courtrooms are almost as terrifying to me as hospitals so I could use any and all hopes and best wishes and crossed fingers that all goes well and I’m able to calmly and persuasively state my side to the best of my ability without pulling a cowardly lion and running away down a corridor and out through the nearest window. Thanks in advance.

Oh, and third up (just to break the monotony and brighten the mood): Another example of my newest fauxtographic diversion. In this case the subject is Pepper, captured while lounging this morning atop the back of the club chair in the library:

Fauxtography: Pepper

Score Four!

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

My quest to lose 30 pounds by July 1 took a very positive step forward with my weekly weigh-in this morning. I lost three pounds this week bringing my two-week total to four and my weight to 256.

I’ve decided to make my Fitday.com journal live so you can see all the details here.

What Are The Odds…?

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.”

So Susan and I decided to walk early this afternoon from our house in Silver Lake down Sunset Boulevard into Echo Park to an Asian market about 1.5 miles away to get some snow peas and any other stuff that might catch our eyes while we’re there. We bring our cameras and go for the stroll under blue and sunny skies down the thoroughfare, hit the market, get our stuff (including an impulse-buy fresh coconut), and head on home.

A block away from our street, I look down and spot an audio accessories cord on the sidewalk, still bundled up in its twist tie. Just sitting there. I bend down and pick it up because I’m thinking it just very well might be the type of cord I’ve been needing for more than a year.

Cord

Now as you can see, it’s not some fancy, hard-to-find cord. It’s just your basic cord that would plug into an Aux-In port of a stereo. I didn’t say I was having trouble finding one, I just said I’ve been needing one for more than a year when I first got the boombox that would allow me to plug-n-play my truck’s portable Sirius satellite radio receiver. The boombox does comes with an Aux-In port if you want to use it with a CD Player or an iPod, but not with the cable that would enable its use.
I know… I could have gone to Radio Shack and snapped one up for $1.79 (if that) had I bothered. But the problem was I couldn’t be bothered beyond occasionally rifling through any of the several boxes of cords and cables down in in the basement to see if I had one. The only cables that I had that came close have a single plug on one end and two or three colored plugs on the other (red and white, or red and white and yellow).

Those wouldn’t do. I needed a cord with a single headphone jack-sized plug on either end, dammit. I just didn’t ever need it bad enough. But sure enough, west of Benton Way on Sunset Boulevard, there it was waiting for me. Susan called out “Score!” as I pocketed it and once home, connected the iPod to the boombox via that cable and everything worked like a charm.

What are the odds that this specific cable would be directly in my path? Who knows. This city never ceases to surprise me.