Archive for January, 2009

The Handwriting On The Wall

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Susan’s been pretty good about it, but I haven’t done much  in terms of reportage or documentage since the pre-renovation demolition  commenced last week — in part because I was somewhat deflated when the house’s equivalent of the famed Al Capone’s vault (ours being a crawlspace section of the bedroom that’s been walled off and inaccessible for gawd knows how long) was opened up to reveal nothing inside accept some old wasp nests and some craptastic wood paneling.

Given the treasures and trash our backyard has given up, I’d not so secretly been hoping for a stash of old newspapers or magazines. Maybe a beer bottle or an empty pack o’ smokes.

Nopes.

But a couple nights ago Susan told me the destruction of old plaster and lathe in what had been the apartment’s hallway had revealed a datestamp of sorts, most likely indicative of when the work was done breaking the single home into the four separate apartments. So at first light this morning up I went to take a look and a snap:

11251950

November 26 25th, 1950

Susan thinks at some point 58 years later and before the framing is covered back up we should inscribe this beam with the date we began making the house whole again. I totally agree.

I Spent The Following Nine Seconds With An Asshat Motorist And Lived To Tell About It

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Biking south of 8th Street on La Brea I was “passed and slashed” as I like to call it — aka: cut off or turned in front of — by an inattentive and irresponsible motorist. Below are the nine frames/seconds of the incident captured by my handlebar cam.

But first let me break ’em down for you:

First frame: With the green light at 8th Street I’m moving through the intersection at approximately 15 mph. The motorist is still out of frame somewhere behind me on my left.

Second frame: I’m midway across the intersection.

Third frame: I’m across 8th.

Fourth frame: Our motorist arrives and passes me. I notice the signal and the vehicle’s sudden reduced speed so I ease off the pedals and coast, sensing trouble.

Fifth frame: Just as I thought, the motorist is going to fire the car across my bow into the Goodwill parking lot.

Sixth frame: She’s going in! The driver doesn’t not so much as glance over her shoulder to see if the burly motherfucking bicyclist she just passed a literal second ago — you know, the one with the RIGHT OF WAY — might be hindered by her sudden and unsafe maneuver. She just goes for it. In response, that thumb in the upper right of the frame means I’m on the brakes. Hard.

Seventh frame: I manage to slow enough to avoid any attempt to occupy the space she’s now fully bogarting.

Eight frame: I’m at a full-stop as she completes her turn.

Ninth frame: Here I mull over a broad list of potential responses, but I’ll spare you the spittle-inflected invective I decided upon.

Here’s a slideshow of the nine snaps:

As usual, I’m always glad one of us was paying attention, and always sad it has to be me.

Putting the “I” In Bike

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

It was way back in August when I first started attempting timelapsifications of my morning and evening bike commutes and uploading them to YouTube. My main motivation was simple: to counter the festering perception that bicycling in Los Angeles is an unsafe practice. So far so good.

Fast forward to a couple days ago when I get an email notification of a comment to this video of my morning commute I posted to YouTube back on August 15:

The comment reads: “I like how you paced that Lexus at :36. Shows you how slows cars can be. But that’s a big commute, why don’t you just live closer to work or work closer to home? I would hate a 1 hour commute in ANY form of transportation.”

My response was basically to say that I love where I live and I enjoy where I work and bicycling between the two is a joy so I see no need to change either. But since making that reply I’ve mulled the question and confess I find the commenter’s position to be… let’s go diplomatic and call it a “quaint.” The person’s implication is that homes and jobs are pretty much things you can exchange as if life was one giant fully stocked drive-through convenience store, with a very liberal return policy.

Sure, I understand and respect that one person’s hour-long commute is another’s nightmare, and I also understand that we all have our limits. For example, I’d probably draw the line at a bike commute of more than 20-miles each way. Not that I wouldn’t do that, but there’d definitely be some alternating vehicular action involved as I just wouldn’t do it e-v-e-r-y work day like I’m attempting to do this year.

But there’s more to it:

  • There’s the fact that the 30-mile roundtrips I make allow me to keep my weight at a comfortable 215-220, even though I am long past the junkfood-free days of meticulous and methodical calorie counting and portion control that allowed me to drop from 263 pounds to 208 over the course of the first six months of 2006.
  • Further on the fitness tip, my biking regimen has put the $70 a month I was literally giving away to the downtown YMCA for my unused membership back into my pocket. The streets of Los Angeles are my health club.
  • And since we’re talking money howsabout the $1,000-plus I saved on gas in 2008?
  • Not only that but as an alternate commuter my office building’s transportation program subsidizes me to the tune of about $30 a month.
  • I’ve hammered this aspect home many times before, but one thing you can’t put a pricetag on is the street-level awareness one gets from pedaling through the varied communties that make up this town. You have no choice but to acknowledge and absorb what’s happened or happening around you. And while not everyday yields up an exciting new discovery, at my commuter cyclist’s pace well outside the four-wheeled box I strengthen a connection between me and my city that is priceless.

Even with all those pluses, it may still add up to one big minus to those who can’t fathom having to travel such a distance and timeframe, much less do it by bike — and I can see there POV. Shame they can’t  or won’t see mine.

Se7en Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The rules:

1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

I was tagged by Sean Bonner.

1) Valuable Lesson
Though no longer phobic nor as full of abject hatred for cockroaches as I once was, my previous fearful irrationality about the creatures can be traced back to the time when I  perhaps 4 or 5 years old, and not knowing any better while thirsty at La Cienega Park across the street from where I lived at the time, I picked up a can of Coke someone had left opened on a wall and when I found it still contained a fair amount of beverage I took a big swig only to immediately discover the can also contained a cockroach that was now crawling around my mouth. Needless to say I spat it out, squashed it and then for good measure jumped up and down on it until I was exhausted. Though I’ve mellowed with age these last few years, there was a long stretch of my life where I would cross a street to kill a cockroach.

2) It Is Never Better To Be Sorry Than Safe
In addition to pepper spray that I’ve carried mounted on my bike since the summer of 2007 I now carry a stun gun with me whenever I ride. I hope I never have to use either or even threaten to do so, but if such a situation presents itsel, I’m a firm believer in it being better to have something and not need it than the other way around.

3) A Cartoon Made Me Do It
Some of you may already know this about me, but that’s why “probably” is in the headline: In what’s perhaps the most brazen thing I’ve ever done in my life, I purchased a Penthouse magazine when I was 8 years old. Why would I want such a thing? Well, because of the funny pages of course. A previous visit to a barbershop had me sitting next to a gentleman who was perusing a copy and at one point he turned a page and I spied this marvelous half-nekkid busomy vixen with wild black hair in a comic called “Oh Wicked Wanda!” and I went into full-tilt WANT mode. I committed the mag’s title to memory, saw it was carried in the neighborhood liquor store and shortly thereafter, a plan was hatched.

Utilizing my freshly learned cursive writing skills I “forged” a note from my “father” authorizing the store’s clerk on the corner of Tower Drive and Wilshire Boulevard to “Please sell my son one Penthouse magazine.” Though scared shitless I nevertheless went into the place with the note and a bag full of allowance pennies/nickels/dimes, where I first pretended to be interested in the candy. When I’d milled around the place enough and it finally time to put up or shut up, I walked up to the counter with the note and the money. The clerk, a big bearded dude read it (one can only imagine how poor the handwriting was), looked at me, looked at the note and there was that frozen moment where the entire existence of the world hinged on his response. Then he nodded with a smile that I can only describe as impressed, turned grabbed a copy and bagged it. As he counted out the change I looked everywhere but at him, and when he was done, he slid the leftover coins back to me and then handed me the treasure. I did my best not to run out of the store.

The tragic end of the story is that I never got to look at it. When I got back to the apartment, my mom was home from work and all I could do was quick-stash the issue under the mattress. That wasn’t the problem, The problem was the next day turned out to be the day our twice-monthly housekeeper Bob came and cleaned the apartment. Of course he changed my bedsheets and of course he found the Penthouse and of course he called my mother at work at with “Guess what I found under your son’s bed!?”

To her credit my mother was not outraged. The way she tells it, when Bob called her in shock and surprise, she told him that she was just glad to know I liked girls and not boys. Then she instructed Bob to throw the trash out. That evening she confronted me with the news and asked me where I’d gotten it. I told her I’d found it on the way home from school because I didn’t want to give up my source, in case I ever decided to try again — which I didn’t.

4) Nerves Of Steal
I went through a ridiculous clepto phase as a kid. I would take stuff just to take it. Once I stole a treasured stopwatch from my godparents. Because it was shiny. I hid it by burying it in the dirt, which of course ruined it. In that same time frame I stole my friend’s Schwinn Stingray. He lived around the corner from me and I hid it in the back of the apartment building. As if I was ever going to be able to ride the thing.

5) Rescue Me
As an adult, I am helpless to bike by a lost plush toy without stopping and rescuing it. The most recent one found was last week during the rains. Flickr pic.

6) At The Sound Of The Beep
Most of you already know I’m a fool, here’s just the latest proof. This Sunday morning I heard an electronic beep-beep-beep that would pause and then beep-beep-beep again. I tried to ignore it, but as I took out the trash I lost it and suddenly the most important thing in the world was finding and killing the source of that beep-beep-beep. It didn’t take long to locate where it was coming from: inside the debris bin stationed in front of our house and rapidly filling with splinters and rusty nails and plaster and lathe and other crap currently being demolished as part of our upstairs renovation.

Did I go inside like the smart person I often allege myself to be and change out of my flip-flops into some sturdier shoes, while also grabbing a pair of work gloves? Maybe don some long pants while I was at it? Nah. I just climbed in and clambered to the top of this decidedly unstable pile of potential tetanus shots and pain and commenced trying to pinpoint the beep-beep-beep’s position, which was of course some unknown depth beneath the surface of the stuff and required much shifting and shoving of junk.

Eventually over the course of several minutes I moved enough of the crap to uncover the source and it was a smoke detector, whose tone was a warning that the unit had detected its hard wiring had become detached. No shit. In fact, it was the same smoke detector I wrote about last November here.

By all rights I should have stabbed/scratched my hands/feet/ankles/wrists several times over. But in there among all that injury potential, ironically the only wounds I suffered came when I was unsuccessful in opening the device to get at the 9V battery so instead I bashed at it with my left fist lacerating a knuckle until it cracked apart and I was able to yank its guts out and triumphantly put an end to the beep-beep-beep.

7) Ride The High Country
I am harboring delusions of going to Death Valley this March, but the nutso part isn’t in the going, it’s that when I get there I want to get a dawn start from Ubehebe Crater and ride my bike the 26 miles of really bad road to Racetrack Playa where my wonderful wife Susan would then meet me and we would camp out that night on the Grandstand. That’s been at the top of my “To Do In Death Valley” list since my first visit in February 2003. If I don’t do that this March, then it’ll be November. Defintely going to cross that off in ’09.

Who I’m tagging: Susan Campbell, Bryan Frank, July Frey, Joel Ordesky, Liz Rizzo, Mike Schneider, Heather Schlegel.

The Hills Are Alive

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Made good on my Bike Every Day promise to go out and get some dirt yesterday. Susan joined me in venturing out to the Beaudry North trailhead where civilization ends and the Verdugo Mountains begin, and we set out, she on foot and me on wheels to do some exploring. We stayed in contact viz our two-way radios that came in very handy for checking in.

Here’s a timelapse of the uphill portion of my ride, All in it’s about three miles with something like a 1,600-foot elevation gain:

Though it’s been somewhere between three and four years since I last put treads to these hills (I still can’t believe it’s been that long), nothing much has changed. I had dreams of powering up to the top, but I did end up granny-gearing it most of the way.

The view from Tongva Peak (El. 2656′) wasn’t crystal clear, but one could see all the way to the coastline. And the clouds were spectacular. The air was clean and the hillsides were green. It was a cool scene. If you know what I mean. Jellybean.

The Verdugos May not be the most scenic, the summits not the highest and the fireroads getting up and down would probably bore most mountainbikers, but for me their proximity and surprising abundance of wildlife make them the the perfect place to get above it all.

To Errand Is Human

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Things I did yesterday when I finally got my ass up and on my way:

1) Took truck to gas station to put air in the left rear tire, which has had a reeeeeeeaally slow leak for about a year (note to self: I should reeeeeeeaally get that patched).

2) Went to Orange 20 Bikes to pick up my mountainbike, which now has new forks, a headset and stem.

3) Went to Home Depot to get something to stickify the long- slippery patch of concrete around the southwest corner of the house (the better for the workmen demo’ing the upstairs not to slip ‘n fall). Ended up settling on floor paint with an abrasive added to it. PS. On the home project front, Susan’s ably chroniclizing the work that was begun this week.

4) Leaving Home Depot I witnessed the absolute chaos that happens when a person drives in and tells the horde of day laborers that he needs two of them. Total madness of everyone trying to dive into the backseat at the same time.

5) Costco run (but I made the mistake of deciding to get from Hollywood to the Atwater Village store via Los Feliz Boulevard even though I knew better; eastward motion between Vermont and Riverside in a word: glacial).

6) Got a haircut that was so long overdue I just told the barber to shear off about five pounds. Trouble is now I’m gonna look somewhat like a graying Sluggo for the next couple weeks, but at least my neck isn’t sore from carrying around all that excess weight.

7) Rode the mountainbike around the way for pretty much the first time since May 29, 2006, as a test to make sure she was trail-ready enough for my first offroad ride since that same day and year.

7) Later on, Susan and I watched  the awesome Margarito v. Mosley welterweight champsionship fight on HBO and I still haven’t stopped laughing at the commentator who said “Mosley’s hit Margarito with everything but the stool and the referee.”

Standing Out In A Crowd

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Inauguration at L.A. Live

Thanks to my friend Eric Richardson of Blogdowntown and his excellent coverage of the inauguration event held at L.A. Live’s Nokia Plaza Tuesday morning, I now have visual confirmation of my presence in his photo, above.

See me and my bike there? No, over there. In the back — what can I say I got there just before Aretha sang. No, I’m on the right. Farther right. Keep going. By those two giant yellow arrows . Yeah, those. The ones labeled “Me” and “My Bike.”

Click for a much larger version where you still can’t see me in those moments immediately following the administration of the oath, standing in the middle of Chick Hearn Way and tearing up like a baby while clapping like a madman.

Bonus! For a less teary and mad and decidedly less hard-to-find me, check out this screengrab featuring an image the camera-ready Bryan Frank got shortly after I arrived and introduced myself to him as a long-reading fan of his blog BeFrank. Dude went and posted it to and inauguration slideshow at the CBS/KCAL site:

befrank