Archive for November, 2007

A minor comedy of errors this morning. I get up and go out into the backyard to make sure the fog bank isn’t smoke from a fire and notice that a small potted kangaroo paw plant I’d been successfully attempting to nurse back to health this last couple months had suffered a second and this time fully fatal assault by Ranger.

The first came after my initial attentions helped the plant pring back to life sitting near ground level where it had been entirely ignored by the dog until for some unknown reason she decided to dig it out a couple weeks ago. I was pissed then but the sturdy little fella’s roots were still relatively intact and so we repotted it and moved it up onto a table next to the bbq grill where I thought it would be safe.

Stoopid me.

There it was this foggy a.m. fully mangled amid the spread of its soil — the plastic pot nowhere to be found (as if hiding that piece of evidence would be sufficient) — and I went into a mid-level WTF. The only problem is that when I pivoted barefoot on the patio to face Ranger who had that “Busted!” look of guilt all over her muzzle I ended up stubbing the big toe and the ball of my right foot righteously on a raggedy cinderblock.

That elevated my anger somewhat but I managed to stop short of assaulting the dog in part because I was bleeding something fierce and had to turn my attentions to staunching the flow and cleaning the wound.

When Susan got up she sensed a change in the force and asked what was wrong and I told her “I don’t like the dog anymore,” which is not true in a big-picture sense of course but at that immediate time and place…? Yeah, I didn’t like the fucking dog one bit.

The final domino to fall is that while the injury to my tootsie isn’t as bad as it seemed it might now prevent me from participating in Franklin Avenue’s much-anticipated 2nd Annual Great L.A. Walk tomorrow morning, that will span the entire length of Pico Boulevard from the Coca-Cola plant at Central all the way to the beach (some 15 miles). If so, I still plan to show up and see them off and/or hobble along for the first mile or so with them.

And in the meantime the scrapes are bandaged and I’m going to work off the fury I’m retaining towards Ranger (and yes: my silly over reaction) on the bike ride into work.

Caution: sports post ahead.

The last few Mondays have been weird in that I am no longer found on the couch in front of the TV watching the duration of Monday Night Football. That may seem like no big deal, but I’m talking about a show that’s easily been on of my favorite never-miss television programs for most of my adult life. At least it was until ABC moved the landmark program to ESPN, which is now in its second season of ruining it.

The last time I watched a full broadcast was the Cowboys/Bills game when Dallas managed to somehow pull a 25-24 victory out at the last minute. Exciting stuff. But since then I’ve tuned in only to tune out shortly thereafter, put off by the forgetable booth announcing team as a whole almost as much as I am by ESPN icons Stuart Scott and Chris Berman who’ve both become stock parodies of themselves.

How did my love wane so quickly? Well for one, the show simply lost a lot of its tradition and cachet when it left the network for cable. ESPN may be a sports powerhouse, but “Monday Night Football on ESPN” just doesn’t pack the same historical punch as “Monday Night Football on ABC,” which I began watching as a kid with Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and Dandy Don Meredith.

Second, it didn’t bring the booth team of Al Michaels and John Madden with it. That duo lateraled to NBC where they steere that ship’s  “Sunday Night Football in America,” which coincidentally  is rapidly becoming the new Monday Night Football.

Third, with the exception of the unexpected excitement of the above-mentioned Cowboys/Bills battle, the games have mostly been the suck. I mean, Patriots/Bengals? Yawn. Giants/Falcons? Feh. Ravens/Steelers? Pffft. Whose idea is it that these are marquee match-ups? And then this past Mondays 49ers/Seahawks dance? Please. It’s embarrassing to see a television franchise being put out to pasture so painfully.

It’s as if ABC and ESPN really don’t give a crap. That they’re taking some sort of perverse joy in felling a champion. I got home this past Monday night and turned on the San Francisco/Seattle game just as it went to halftime. After Berman’s “fastest three minutes” shtick and Stuart Scott showing how badass he is with his left brow cocked and loaded about a foot above his eye, then we’re treated to an endless interview with NASCAR teammates Jimmie Smith and Jeff Gordon speaking from some studio in cliches about how they’re competitors but friends too with the utmost in respect for one another and combined have one goal and that’s to do the best they can for the team irregardless of who crosses the finish line first and blahbity blah blah blahbity blah blahzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

NASCAR!? Seriously ESPN, you barely will give three minutes to an NFL weekend wrap-up but you’ll let these two perpetual left-turners blab on and on and on and on about themselves and the cars they drive? You’re trying to make me turn it off, aren’t you!?
And in answer, with Gordon in mid-drone about needing to put together a good race in order to top his bestest buddy Jimmie I switched off to the infinitely enjoyable HGTV.  Never to return? I wouldn’t be surprised.


Here I am above splitting the gridlocked lanes northbound on Vermont approaching 7th Street. The rest of my impromptu “20-Picture Project” is here on Flickr (including a WTF photo of the remains of a relatively large snake found on Jefferson).

But earlier I found what may be my new favorite crosstown street for my commute… at least coming home: Washington Boulevard. I pick it up in Culver City and first pass the old Selznick Studios (now Culver Studios) then roll through the somewhat eclectic Culver City Art District before hitting the Helms District. Across La Cienega it gets a bit less loverly but its wider dimensions mean the curb lane is pretty much unencumbered by vehiculars.

An interesting thing happened when I stopped near Gramercy Place to grab a couple snaps of a unique mural I found called “California Dreaming.” A couple young skateboarders were across the street on the northside of Washington and as I was checking out the art they crossed and came up to where I was standing and started talking about the mural and telling me they were here when the artists put it up.

“Man, it is gorgeous isn’t it?” I said, and they nodded perhaps a little bit in surprise that some old white dude on a bike could appreciate such stuff.

“Have the taggers been leaving it alone?”

“Pretty much,” the bigger one said, “except over there at the right end.” I looked over and high up indeed was some bastard’s illegible scrawl.

“That’s bullshit !” I said.

“Yeah, disrespect,” he said.

About that time two other kids appeared crossing Gramercy and the bigger one walked over to talk to them, leaving the smaller of the duo standing next to me.

“So it was more than one artist that did this?”

“Oh yeah,” the kid said, and preceded to point out each section and the name of the artist who did it. Then he asked me somewhat incongruously, “You a writer?”

I don’t know what that had to do with anything so I just said something about liking to document the street art around town before it gets messed up.

“Oh,” he said. “You a filmmaker?”

“Nah. I’m just a dude. On a bike.”

“Oh. Cool. Well, take it easy then.”

And he stuck his hand out and I shook it and then we bumped fists and I rolled out telling him to be good and he said “Yeah.”


Agh, us faultless “entitled” humans. Practically every day I’m shown another example of how we think we do own the planet. This time it was on a rather small scale via an alert to residents of the next monthly Silver Lake Improvement Association gathering later this week.


As highlighted above, one of the items to be explored concerns “our coyote problems,” and you just have to know that kind of slanted, narrow sillytalk just chaps my coyote-loving hide enough to whip off an email to the boardmembers:

In regards to the item on the agenda of this coming Thursday’s community meeting, I may have to show up for once just so I can be one of those pro-animal hardcase voices in the wilderness that points a resenting finger at it being referred to institutionally as a “coyote problem.”

Sadly it seems I should expect members of the SLIA board to roll their eyes at anyone defending the creatures, but the fact is the coyotes’ presence isn’t their fault, it’s the fault of those of us who — be it inadvertent or not — provide them with predatory and scavenging opportunities.

And then there’s that little matter of burning down a huge section of their habitat in Griffith Park last May and forcing them to relocate. Lest we forget, that catastrophe wasn’t caused by a coyote that was careless with a cigarette, it was one of us human problems.

Will Campbell

UPDATE (3:50 p.m.): I ended up receiving a very nice reply from SLIA boardmember Lorraine Kells that demonstrated how easily I misconstrue irony when it comes to critters I heart:


I’m the guilty one.  I hurriedly made up the flyer with my typical Los Angeles tongue-in-cheek, ironic stance because the whole idea of having a wildlife specialist explain to people that the coyotes were here first and attracted by our garbage and wasteful habits is NOT their problem, but the problem of those who refuse to admit they live
in what was a wilderness scrub and home to mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes which once thrived in balance should be obvious, but it’s not.  So, it’s our problem about ourselves, which we call our coyote problem.  Officer Randall does a great job of stating that.  You’ll enjoy him.

I don’t disagree with you, but I’m responsible for the irony which you took for intent; nevertheless there are many who view the animals as pests, so bring out your friends and fight for those critters.

Warm regards,
Lorraine Kells

To which I replied:

Thank you Lorraine. I fool myself into thinking I have an eye for irony and a sense of humor but it seems that’s never more not true when critters are involved. I’m familiar with Officer Randall and I’ll do my best to get to the meeting, but I’m also one of those fools that commutes to work (in Westchester) by bike (or even worse: carpools). Either of those crosstown scenarios might keep me from being there Thursday night, but I’m sure gonna try.



You’re gonna wanna click the above
Eureka Dunes panorama thumbnail

First off props to my beloved Susan because I gotta say it takes a special woman who says “hell yeah!” when I tell her that I want to drive out to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night with our two dogs and spend the following day next to a the biggest pile of sand in California and then come home the day after that.

It was sooo worth it. Five and a half hours spent Friday night rolling up the 14 to the 395 to Big Pine and then the 168 up, up, up winding roads dodging brazen jackrabbits until going down, down, down to where the pavement ran out then dodging even more jackrabbits until we found the turn off for Eureka Dunes and 10 miles later we pulled into the deserted campground, stepped outside into the blessedly still but chilly (but not as bad as we’d expected) 1:30 a.m. air under as many stars as there are grains of sand in the dunes and decided we’d save the tent pitching for daylight and sleep in the car.

Four and a half hour later we were up with the dawn and it was even colder (but still wonderfully windless and deserted), and soon the coffee was percolating on the campstove and coyotes were yipping somewhere unseen in the distance and then the sun popped up over the eastern mountains and immediately began warming things up and we had breakfast of corned beef hash, bacon and eggs and as we raised the tent we openly wondered if we’d somehow lucked into getting the entire monstrously magnificent Eureka Valley to ourselves.

A short time later we had our first lookeloo: a fella in a sedan pulled out to take a couple photos and move on and by 11:30 it was still all ours ours ours and decidedly in the low 80s and gorgeous and so Susan and Ranger and Shadow and I hit the dunes. We didn’t make it to the 700-foot top, opting instead to romp around up to about 400 feet or so before heading back for ice-cold Coronas at camp and a nap that was disturbed occasionally by the passing trains of two-wheeled and four-wheeled offroaders, the latter stopping long enough to be overheard saying “That’s some impressive freakin’ dunes” before heading off.

At sunset we had a couple visiting pairs of people who parked nearby and made quickout and back trips onto the sand before coming back to their vehicles and leaving.

We did end up with a neighboring camp, but they had the fine sense to set up about a half mile down the road. As darkness fell, we got the fire going and had a great dinner of steaks and veggies and cheap red wine bought at the Stater Bros. market in Mojave. Afterward we marveled at a couple of bats and their acrobatics through our camp picking off moths drawn to our lanterns.

I tried my hand at several five and 10-minute timelapses of the starry skies but after losing patience I joined Susan and the dogs in the tent and appropriately bundled up we were all asleep or getting there by 7:30 p.m.

Up again at 6 a.m. to another phenomenally windless and glorious day I got a morning campfire going and coffee brewing. After breakfast Ranger and I had another romp to about the dunes’ 250 foot elevation, then came back to break camp with Shadow while Susan and Ranger headed out for one last visit to the sandy stuff.

We were packed and on our way by 10 a.m. as planned, leaving us enough time for a sidetrip to the Manzanar Interment Camp off 395 outside of Lone Pine. By 4 p.m. we were home to find all the cats had been well cared for by my mom. Afer unpacking we dropped the rental SUV back at Hertz and since then he dogs have pretty much been sacked out from their fantastic journey and Susan and I have been pulling pictures taken off our cameras, including that 18-shot 180-degree view posted above of the south end of Eureka Valley and the dunes.

Without a doubt everything conspired — the weather, the lack of other people, the location, the light traffic out and back — to produce one of the best camping experiences ever. Plenty more pictures to come. Later.

First it’s back to the grind of doing dishes and sleeping in a real bed.

UPDATE (11.12): My Flickr photoset found here; Susan’s is here!

This has been a pretty hectic couple weeks at work and it’s been a bit of a scramble at home, too, what with Susan traveling and us falling behind in finding a petsitter while we’ll be in South Carolina for Thanksgiving. Though our go-to sitter was booked, she referred us to a wonderful gal who we met Wednesday night and will be able to take care of our zoo while we’re across the country.

On top of all that we’re taking the dawgs with us and going to Death Valley’s Eureka Dunes this weekend, so getting all the logistics and provisions and transportation squared away  (and mom onboard to cat-sit), added to the franticality.

It’s going to be an interesting outing unlike any other I’ve made out to one of my favorite places on earth. We’re driving out to the ultra-remote and primitive camping area at the foot of the amazing 700-foot tall pile of sand in a rented Toyota RAV-4 tonight — and leaving late… like around 8. So we’re not even going to arrive until well after midnight. Then if I have the energy I’ll somehow manage to pitch the tent in the pitch darkness and we’ll pile in to sleep until morning. That, or we’ll just get as comfortable as two dogs and two humans can get in a mid-sized SUV for the remainder of the night and make camp after daybreak.


Saturday’s gonna be spent climbing to the top of the dunes, and surveying the rugged great wide opens of Eureka Valley and just generally hanging out and decompressing and listening to the deafening silence that is out there. After dark I’m hoping the skies will be clear because Comet Holmes is out there moving around above the northeastern horizon and that would be cool to get some nice timed exposures of its visit. After another night we have a leisurely breakfast Sunday, take a last look around and load everything and everybody up and get on back home.

That picture above is from two years ago this Veterans Day weekend and my first and only visit to “Yoo Dee” back with Susan in 2005. I came back on top of the world only to have the rug pulled out from under my life the next day by the zoo which kicked me out after six years of faithful dedicated service as both an employee and a docent. When something so crap happens so close to something so cool it can’t help but sully the memories. So it’ll be good to finally go back and make some new ones.

Alternate commuting pays — literally! I didn’t even know I was entered into the complex’s rideshare drawing, but I found out today in the form of a $25 check delivered to my desk!