Archive for April, 2007

This time Saturday we’ll be finishing up a three-hour stopover at New York’s JFK (where we’d been thinking about figuring out a way to catch a taxi from the airport to the Empire State Building and back but probably aren’t going to risk it) and getting set to jet the Atlantic to Venice and begin our two week vacation there before getting on this ship and making an eight-day run around the areas’ various rivieras (say that three times fast) and their respective ports o’ call.

To say Susan is ready to go is an understatement. Her clothes all picked out and I think she’s test packed the new luggage she ordered months ago. Plus she’s battened down all the trip’s details.  She even pre-bought our tickets for the bullet train from Monte Carlo to Paris after the cruise ends, and hooked us up with a bag o’ euros and double-checked our boarding passes and itinerary and excursions. She’s immersed herself in travel books about Rome and Venice and Paris and knows where we’re gonna go and what we’re gonna do.

Me, I could barely find Paris on a map of France (seriously, I thought it was centrally located in the country). And I’m woefully behind logistically. I did have the Canon Digital Rebel camera cleaned, and I had the pants of my tux taken in and the jacket pressed and purchased a new tux shirt this past weekend. But my Sharper Image garment bag (last used in 1996) remains somewhere hopefully intact in the basement, and I have no real idea what other clothes I’m going to be putting in it, much less the various electronic components, converters, chargers, et cetera we’ll be needing.

Oh I did manage to rig the broken camera bag shoulder strap so we didn’t have to buy a new one. Hey, that’s something.

But not bloody much and it’s way past high-time to get my ass in gear on the matter because this trip is the most varied we’ve been on, clothes-wise. Africa was all about stuffing a single duffel with everything we might need. The trip last summer across all those western United States was also very simple — even better, our base of operations was a rental car.

This time around we’ve got formal dinners at sea and hotel rooms and and staterooms and locations that will require me on occasion at least make a passing attempt at pretending I have some sort of style. Jackets and sports coats and ties and dress shoes and pocket squares and bow ties.

Sure a lot of the sight-seeing will be walk-about casual, but it all requires coordination and as much as I wish it would happen my bags ain’t gonna pack themselves. So the onus is squarely on me to crack the whip and to do so in such a way as to leave myself time to get the house cleaned up and make sure we leave the pet-sitter fully stocked with animal food and treats — and most importantly have the time for some night group bike riding on both Thursday with the IAAL/MAF and the highly anticpated RIDE-Arc ride Friday.

In other words it is patently intrinsic upon me to get a move on!

I’m not sure what time it was yesterday. The sun had dropped behind the Micheltorena Ridge to the west but it wasn’t anywhere near dark yet. I was in the office when I heard Susan say “Oh no!” before I heard what she was saying “Oh no!” about.

Then the screaming outside amped up and I looked out the library window to find two women on the sidewalk across the street struggling with their dogs who had engaged. One I recognized. She and her two dogs live in the recently repainted craftsman to the north across the street. The other woman I hadn’t seen before and she was growing increasingly panicked and proportionally loud because she was trying to pull her big crop-earred pitbull off the neighbor’s dog and the pitbull, as they are well known for doing, was holding on tight.

I’m genetically predisposed to involving myself in these situations so through the living room and out the frontdoor I go, barefoot down the front steps, with Susan telling me to be careful while keeping Ranger and Shadow from coming with me. I start across the street but at a measured pace because first I don’t want to stub my toes (which I’m really good at doing and there are few things I hate doing to myself more than stubbing a toe), second I don’t want to burst upon everyone and freak the women or their animals any further, and third I don’t want to jump in the middle of a dog fight that I can’t break-up.

By the time I hit the curb and look around the parked car they’re behind, the woman with the pitbull is on the ground in the middle of the two dogs and screaming as if she’s the one being attacked.


My friend Mark, having rebounded from a long night’s birthday partying has posted a comment wanting to know the 411 on how yesterday’s ride went, and not to ignore him nor avoid a chance to ramble about bicycling, here goes.

I’m pretty sure this is my third (maybe fourth) Volvo City of Angels Fun Ride. I did consecutive ones back in 2001-2003, the crowning moment of them being at the last mile coming through downtown and spotting the legendary Voice of the Dodgers Vin Scully standing outside a Flower Street hotel who waved at me when I passed yelling out my undying love for him.

Back then they were much more what I would call a fun ride… or at least somewhat hella more free spirited than they are now being much more strictly regimented by a squadron of LAPD motorcycle police. While the officers provide a wonderful service for the riders by corking intersections much as the way as would be done to keep a funeral or presidential procession moving, they tend to embrace a bigger role as cowboys moving a herd to market by swooping around and attempting to keep us all tightly corraled to the No.2 and/or No. 3 lane of whatever street we might be on by incessantly blipping and chirping squawking and farting their motorcycle sirens and yelling at us in such a way as to leave me feeling the word “fun” should be excised from the event’s title and replaced with “STAY TO THE RIGHT!”

My friend Stephen Roullier did it last year and that aspect was enough to keep him from ever wanting to pay for the privilege of doing so ever again. Can’t say that I blame him.

M grumblings about it not withstanding, rarely is it that I want to miss an opportunity to bike en masse anymore and I’m glad I didn’t miss this one. While the cops were really having fun being cops and my standard t-shirt and hiking pants bike outfit certainly didn’t fit in with the predominately Lycra-clad crowd (that I’d guesstimate was 600 riders strong… maybe more),  it was an awesome route that began and ended at the Police Academy in Elysian Park and went through downtown and the areas surrounding the colisseum before coming back up through the eastern side of the civic center and over into East L.A. then across to Hollywood and up over the Cahuenga Pass down Barham at 43 miles per hour and turning onto Forest Lawn Drive to go past Forest Lawn and Mt. Sinai cemeteries (where I said a hey to Mark’s dad as I passed) before entering Griffith Park to swing a backwards loop up and over its “roller coaster” and then continuing south along Riverside Drive and back up Stadium Way through Elysian Park to the Police Academy, a place I’m familar with from my days as an explorer scout with West L.A. Division.

I wound up getting home around 11:30 and though I’d hoped to include the bridge walk that had been scheduled at noon, it was just too soon and my legs were just not at all interested.

And while I didn’t see the legendary Vin Scully anywhere out there along the total of 52 miles I covered, I did spot in passing my occasional biking and blogger buddy Eric of Survive LA out walking his massive dobie on Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park who didn’t hear me when I called his name. And a short while later on Hollywood Boulevard another acquaintance, Heidi, who I know through friends Cybele and Manny. She didn’t hear me either because when I was about to call her name I was forced into silence because I totally blanked on it. Duh.

Pix from the ride are here on Flickr.

Tomorrow morning is the City of Angels Fun Ride. Forty-plus miles of police-accompanied (i.e. yelled at ceaselessly by The Man to stay to the right and obey all traffic laws!) bicycling goodness. I’m opting for my Giant road bike (improved this afternoon with two new shoes and a fresh saddle) rather than The Phoenix because the course includes climbs up into Elysian Park, Cahuenga Pass and the Griffith Park “rollercoaster.”

Then if I have the energy to do anything after that I may meet up for the L.A. River Bridge Walk departing from MTA Gateway Plaza behind Union Station at noon.

P.S. Look for a post scheduled to go live tomorrow morning on about my fateful day in L.A. 15 years ago when the riots broke out.

Ya know, I’m down with this music festival whose name it shares with the valley where it takes place out there happening right now as it does every year. I know there’s a boatload of bands and it’s hot and bottles of water are $20 dollars and the porta-potties are filthy and there’s a whole buncha ancillary shit happening that’s now and wow and far too bitchin’ for someone in my middle-aged demographic to understand.

As such an old fart, you’ll just have to grin and fucking bear it when I beg and plead for everyone to just shut the hell up about it.  I see one more front-row POV freezeframe of some apparently pixel -worthy musician I don’t know or recognize and I’m gonna hurl.  Or worse: a turn-around snapshot of a vast audience in various stages of passing out and or appreciating said musician (98% of whom are far too wasted or dehydrated or both to not look like they’re dead and just don’t know it yet).

It’s a fucking concert. You’re there. I get it. Now put the camera down and enjoy the show before I get really mad.


So with the job interview and me recalling my childhood insomnia, I totally forgot to give it up about the four-minute visit I paid to the Hawthorne branch of the California Department of Motor Vehicles this morning.

Seeing how I needed to produce proof of a clean driving record for this position I was to apply for, I scrambled yesterday on short notice to make an appointment with the DMV place nearest to the company’s location. Hawthorne it was.

First bonus was that an appointment was available at 9:30 a.m. — the next day! Can I get an amen!! The next and last bonus was that I walked in the door at 9:32 a.m. and was out the door with a printout of my driving record at 9:36. And that included a full minute waiting at the desk where you go if you have an appointment. No sooner did I have a seat after that amidst the massive amount non-appointmented masses with my number F023 when over the intercom comes “Now serving number F023 at window  21.” So I’m up and moving past everyone else who are totally now eyeballing me wondering who the hell I bribed and how much and over to Window No. 21 I go with my number and not two minutes later I’m back out in the Hawthorne sunshine alongside El Segundo Boulevard with my print out in hand and on my merry way.

I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile: create a chrono-log of my memories as a native angeleno. From my earliest on up be it a recollection fuzzy or crystal clear, paragraph to novella in size, mundane or meaningful, it’s important that I attempt a compilation of my memories.

And so we begin with the earliest concrete bit of recall, and it is indeed a moment — and a fleeting one at that. Probably pretty mundane as well. Definitely fuzzy on the details such as when. I’m going to say it was 1967 mainly because I have pictures of me during my third birthday that year taken in the courtyard of the Hancock Park adjacent  apartments on Westminster Avenue just north of 4th Street. In one picture in particular I’m sitting in one of those old  pedal cars and holding a popgun rifle and not looking very thrilled.

If it weren’t for that photographic record I’d actually have no memory of my third anniversary, so thanks to those black-and-white images I can bracket an inexact timeframe for this memory. In other words I was either a pre-birthday two or a post three. Enough about that.

The memory is a simple one. After a bath, my mother had put me down for the night, but for whatever reason I was restless and unable to go to sleep. I was already well conditioned about crying and that it should only be done if there was pretty darn good reason and not being able to score some shut-eye on queue was certainly not one of them. Goodness knows I’d tried to add it to the list but all it brought was loud stomping up the stairs and a thrown open door where my mother’s backlit silhouette would ask what’s wrong and in telling my shadowmom I wasn’t sleepy she would respond gruffly and most seriously with the demand that I figure out a way to keep quiet and get sleepy and quick. That’s not meant as some sort of attack on her child-rearing skills, she just didn’t have the inclination to baby me and in retrospect I actually can appreciate that.

So instead, I kept my trap shut and my eyes dry and decided to just get up and grab a look around.  Having at some previous point mastered the art of climbing in and out of the crib I had long outgrown I clambored over the rail and down its side to the floor of the bedroom whose door was open a crack allowing in light from the hallway.

Mother was downstairs talking on the telephone and nothing beyond the door — the bathroom, my mom’s bedroom or the top of the stairs — held any interest for me so instead I padded across the floorboards to the window, which faced east, and looked out into the night.

And there it was that I saw a big blue bird off in the distance. It wasn’t a real bird, just a large lighted sign on the wall of a tall building however far away that had a bird’s head sideways atop a big round moneybag body.  There were some words around the sign, too, but I didn’t know how to read yet.

I have no clue how long I stood looking out the window at the sign and the night and whatever else might have caught and held my attention. Same goes with whatever thoughts might have been provoked by the view. But I do remember that when I got bored or sleepy or both I padded back across the floor, climbed up carefully as I could into my crib and drifted off perhaps to dream of giant glowing birds.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized what I was seeing was Union Bank’s long-extinct logo high up on what had been their 22-story mid-Wilshire building on the southwest corner of Wilshire and Western. For awhile in the 1990s it was famous for its huge murals of Shaquille O’Neal and now the murals are gone and the high-rise is in the latter stages of being renovated into contemporary loft housing. When I was 13 I learned the apartments were torn down to make room for a box of condos; my first exposure to the erasure of landmarks to my personal history.

Below is a Google Earth still that depicts the line of sight between my toddler eyes at the proximity where the long-gone window would have been on Westminster and the sign’s location on the tower’s woefully windowless west-facing wall (shown here):

(click to enlarge)

Distance had little meaning to me as a child and I always thought the floating bird as far away as the moon and twice as big. Instead, it was but a half a mile away as a bird might fly.

And until this moment I never realized my relative proximity to the assassination of Robert Kennedy that took place another half-mile’s further flight away at the Ambassador Hotel a week after my fourth birthday — a date I happen to share with his brother John. Had I looked out the window that night? Or maybe the faint sirens stirred me in my sleep? Who knows. But I do know that after the shooting, Bobby Kennedy was taken to the nearby Hospital of the Good Samaritan. Where I was born, he died.