Archive for February, 2007

Taking Stock & Looking Ahead

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

As I finish up my third consecutive week working here in El Segundo, I’m pretty pleased with my cumulative commute score of 6-6-2, which translates to six days driving, six days mass-transitting, and two days bike commuting. Certainly the less I’m crawling the freeways in my truck, the better. But still… I could’ve been a lot lazier and the tally could’ve been a lot worse. And, hey eight non-vehicular days are nothing sneer-worthy.

Still, it could’ve been better, especially these last two drag-ass mornings that left me running late and with little choice but to drive. Today I was just no-excuse stupid slow, as opposed to yesterday where I could blame the rain if I really wanted to, but I won’t. I was on track to bus-train-train it on-time, but wussed out. Though I must admit that the super-slow surface street drive* home last night and my wonderful encounter with the window punching self-entitled urchin (see yesterday’s post below) notwithstanding, it was nice not to be out in the inclementia.

* The eastbound 105 was so hellishly clogged the
four-mile
trip to the 110 Freeway was optimistically
estimated to take 25 minutes, so I just stayed away.

Yet still I’m the kind that’s irked at easy ways out and so next week I’ll be back at it, looking to go 0-4-1 or even 0-3-2… or at the worst 1-3-1. If I’m a real bad ass I might set out at like 4:30 a.m. and get one more pre-marathon training trek in and walk the 15.5 miles to work. Hell, that’ll require a whole new scoring column… something like 0-3.5-0.5-1. I know, I know: get the net.

In the interim I’m sure Susan and I will log a four-mile walk around the neighborhood this weekend, and Sunday’s shaping up to be a bright bright sunshiny day for my planned group bike ride from the Cornfield at noon down to Watts Towers for a tour and back. Despite the short notice it looks like it’s generated some interest, and though I’m always retiscent to predict turnout it wouldn’t surprise me if I roll up on Simon Rodia’s awe-inspiring creation with 20 – 30 of my fellow cycling citizens.

Another Reason My Car Commute Sucks

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

UPDATE: If you’re visiting from Jalopnik, welcome and thanks to them for the link love… I think. As to their subheadline sass over asking “who calls a horn a honker,” the answer is: not me. Down near the end of this post “honker” refers not to a horn itself, but is rather the agent noun form of  the verb “honk” and describes the person honking the horn. But seriously, agent nouns? Yeah, you know… walk/walker, talk/talker, misinterpret/misinterpreter. Clear? Clear.

The good news was that the dude was too wasted to carjack me stuck in traffic tonight there on Vermont Avenue next to the USC campus in the middle of a downpour. The bad news was that he was too wasted to walk a straight line out in front of my truck. where he tipped over across the wet hood with a whump before uprighting and feeling his way around to the driver’s side where at first he politely and almost disinterestedly tapped on the window glass but quickly set to hammering at it when I didn’t respond.

I’m pretty sure he would’ve continued with increasing ferocity until it broke had I not rolled it down and when I did he didn’t bother with the exchange of any pleasantries.

“You gotta give me something,” he said furtively and seriously slurred. “I’m hurting, man.”

I suggested that pummeling his fists against my truck might not be the best way to enlist my support and that was the only time he looked directly at me with eyes that were glassy and distant beneath heavy lids.  Then he looked away and said “Huh?” before repeating that I needed to give him something and do it right now.

“Never mind,” I replied, flipping open the center console lid. “I got some change for you if that’ll help. He semi-grunted and wobbled unsteadily on his feet while  swinging his head up and down the street until a scooped up what probably amounted to about a buck’s worth of nickels, dimes and pennies and held it out to him, dropping them into his cupped hands.

“My girlfriend just broke up with me,” he said.

“Smart girl” is what entered my mind, but “Oh man, that sucks!” is what exited my mouth.

“Yeah, she kicked me out!” He blinked slowly and started a portside list but caught himself before gravity fully kicked in.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, trying to sound like I meant it. “Hope that helps.”

He looked down at the coins I’d given him and for a moment I thought I saw a look of disapproval pass across his face, but the line of cars in front of me had started moving and a sharp blast of the horn from the vehicle behind us got his attention. Seemingly involuntarily the hand holding my donation rose and with extending middle finger was directed to the honker, which caused the money fell from it to the pavement where it tinkled and rang as it landed on the soaked street.

Taking that as my queue to bid the dude adieu, I hit the gas and put my assailing panhandler in my rearview mirror.

Pedaler Peddling

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Well, it was a unique start to the day to be sure. I’ll spare you the lovely details other than to say it’s not too many sunrises that I greet with long overdue backyard poop-scooping duty, but since I’ve been getting home well after dark these last several weeks and today is trash pick-up day on our block, I answered the call.

Along the way I discovered that Ranger’s been pulling a shawshank and done a dang fine job tunneling about halfway under the south fence. I did only a half-assed job filling in the void because I still had to get packed and ready to bike in to work, the same way I went last week. Don’t know if this trip was smoother this second time because I had a better awareness of the rugged terrain, but it was pleasanter pedaling the whole way.

Getting home will be a different route all together as I’m planning on rolling up to West Hollywood from El Segundo for a 7 p.m. gathering of the Metblog Los Angeles faithful at Barney’s Beanery. Initially I thought about heading west to the bikepath at Dockweiler Beach and going coastal up through the Marina and Venice before coming back inland at Santa Monica. But instead I’ll be opting out of coming up and over the most direct route of La Cienega Boulevard and the plan is to bypass the elevations (and near-freeway like atmosphere) through Ladera Heights and Baldwin Hills and instead head around the horn up Sepulveda to Jefferson on through Culver City and then thread my way up from there to Barney’s near Santa Monica and La Cienega boulevards.

Day Of Discovery

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Though Monday morning started off wet and dreary and disappointing with the cancellation (because of potential thunderstorms) of a whale watching excursion out of Redondo Beach  that I’d planned on going on with my friend Cybele, it turned into a remarkable day of discovery under clearing skies that included first-time visits to the Watts Towers, the Korean Friendship Bell, Pt. Fermin Park and Lighthouse, Wayfarer’s Chapel and San Pedro’s Ports O’ Call.

I can’t think of a single day in my life in L.A. where I’ve taken in so many landmarks I’d never seen before.

A Flickr photoset can be viewed here.

And I was so deeply moved by the monument to the human spirit that Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers are that from practically the moment I got home I got busy planning a group bike ride to them for this coming Sunday afternoon and posting it on the various bike-related calendars like Cicle.org, Bike Boom, and Midnight Ridazz.

Sunday Morning Four-Miler

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

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Susan and I took a wonderful four-mile stroll today along Sunset across Echo Park to Douglas Street up into Angelino Heights and then back down around Echo Park Lake and up the the Brite Spot diner for breakfast before coming back home.

But now it’s time to get down to the business of grocery shopping and laundry and vacuuming and dusting and maybe a haircut and some prayers for the showers that are forecast won’t interfere with our Presidents Day whale-watching excursion tomorrow morning with Cybele.

More photos of the Our Lady of Guadalupe mural (in the Echo Park parking lot south of Sunset between Logan and Echo Park Avenue) and other stuff is here.

OK, So This Is The Story…

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

There’s plenty for me to kvetch about in regards to yesterday’s first L.A. Storytellers workshop at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. But the encompassing aggravation is that I’m a writer, not a teller.

I won’t go too deep into a play-by-play other than to say I arrived to find a much larger turnout than I’d been expecting, and I’m happy to say that the Music Center personnel were terrifically accommodating in allowing me to secure The Phoenix in the Dorothy Chandler’s coat check room (perhaps the first time a bicycle has graced the confines normally reserved for furs and such).

After checking in, the workshop facilitators with Cornerstone Theater (of whom apparently actor Bill Pullman is perhaps a board member because he was the the videographer for the day) got everyone loosened up and mingling with several engaging exercises successfully designed to get us all talking to each other, Then after a bagel and juice break we reconvened to count off from one to five and be divied up into smaller groups for the actual story telling. I wound up in the “1” group and as fate would have it I was the only male among the 10 of us.

After some fun physicalization drills, our group’s director Page dove us right into the storytelling and I made the mistake of speaking up and inquiring as to whether I should freestyle through the 100 word synopsis I submitted when I signed up or wade through the 3,000 word draft I’d written some time ago.

Page’s eyes got wide at “3,000” but she told me that the choice was up to me and why don’t I go first.

“But I don’t want to go first.”

“Why not.”

I started to say because I don’t wanna, but looking around at the pleasant circle of ladies (most of whom were older than me) I had a good idea that my story — besides being monumentally looooong and rather personal — was also going to be the only tale involving a throat being cut. And all my personal indicators were telling me to be anyone but the first one.

But instead I just said “fine” and away I launched bumblingly into a very poor construct of my downtown tale of theft, insurance fraud, deceit, double cross, blackmail and murder in which I felt obliged to apologize for the backstory, in between getting ahead of myself and having to backtrack and reiterate and generally just feel like an idiot.

But nevermore so idiotic then when I was finally getting to the homestretch and all of a sudden up pops Page with a built-in condescension she may or may not be able to avoid but was perhaps trying to mask with something attempting sincerity (and failing) telling me from behind this phony grin that I instantly hated how sorry she was to interrupt but that I needed to wrap it in the interest of everyone else having the opportunity having to tell their stories.

Note: I have a history of reacting rather strongly
to being interupted in the middle of presentations.

A lot of things happened in the seconds that followed Page’s spike strip. I looked at my watch expecting in horror to see that a half hour had somehow transpired from the moment I opened my mouth, but was pleased to see I was only approaching my sixth minute. Then I got pissed off at Page for a whole number of reasons: stopping me; failing as the so-called “director” to provide anything resembling direction (such as “try to keep your presentations to less than five minutes” would’ve been nice); her fake grin. Then I totally lost my train of thought and briefly toyed with just saying “and they all were incarcerated happily ever after, the end.” and abruptly gathering my stuff, bidding the fair ladies adieu and getting the fark outta there and on with my life.

But instead I shrugged and wrapped the story up anticlimactically and sat back seethingly inwardly as Page and her assistant scribbled some notes before moving onto the next story, which was an elderly woman’s quaint tale — in poem form — of herself as a young girl coming down with her Yiddish-speaking mother to the old Philharmonic via the Red Car to see Arthur Rubenstein perform. Very nice.

The rest of the women brought forth nothing resembling stories so much as brief recollections, vignettes and reminiscences of downtown events and experiences. Most were very nice and very brief, reinforcing me as the odd man out, literally, figuratively and narratively.

After that we adjourned upstairs for some final thoughts with everyone before being released. Whereupon I retrieved my bike and rode down to the site of my story’s murder — my first time back since my last day working there in 1982 — to find the place was just as I remembered it from 25 years ago:

1106.jpg

Barring getting some sort of “thanks but no thanks” correspondence from the events organizers, I’m certainly willing to return for the second L.A. Storytellers workshop and subsequent “performance” in a couple weeks. But that’s contingent primarily on my willingness to whittle my story to a more concise format, and secondarily on whether or not I have any desire to work with the likes of people such as Page. Editing the piece down is no problem, but should I accept that mission and then show up to find I’m paired with her again, I just might run screaming from the building.

Alt-Commute Success

Friday, February 16th, 2007

The good news is that with yesterday’s work commute my year-to-date mileage tally stands at 164.9, meaning in the first half of February I’ve already vastly improved on all of January’s slow start of 67 miles.

Trouble is I’m still three miles below where I should have been at the end January 31, which means that to get back on track I’ve gotta roll 170 miles these last couple weeks of February — a short month, too.

While that’s totally doable, it’s not like it’s the last month of the year and I have to all-or-nothing crank it out to catch up. So in the interest of common sense, patience and moderation I’m only going to aim to put another 80 miles away by February 28 and then work it out so I’m all balanced or even in the black by March 31.

Bonus props: I said I wasn’t going to put a work-commute-related mile on my truck this week and I didn’t. Besides biking yesterday, I mass-transitted Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and today, keeping practically a gas tank’s worth of 200 miles off my odometer.

Ed Begley Jr. would be proud.

And tomorrow I’ll be downtown at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where I’ve been selected to participate in  L.A. Storytellers: A Collection Of Downtown Memories, a series of two workshops being put on by the Music Center and the Cornerstone Theatre Group. I have little idea what’s involved other than a lot of creativity in action.

If you want to read a 3,000-word draft written a few years ago (and dug out of the depths of my hard drive) of the downtown memory I’m contributing, I posted it here.

And of course, I’ll be biking down there.