Archive for March, 2010

The winter storms worked wonders for the channelized waterway known as Ballona Creek, leaving its banks cleaner and its wet stuff clearer than I’ve ever seen it, such as here at the water’s edge near the pedestrian/bike bridge that spans it between Overland and Sepulveda in Culver City.

But unless the rains that are forecast to fall in the next day or so are substantial enough for one last flush then things are going to get ugly and fast. The algae that’s already sprouted and growing rapidly beneath the surface (fed in part by nitrogen-rich runoff) is going to explode at its inevitable exponential rate.

Oh well. It was nice while it lasted.

Just a highly fauxtified still from my sunglasses videocam, supplemented with a bit of the incongruous intrigue thanks to the planted weapon from which the jogger (suspect?) seems to be running.

It’s just a fact of biking on the streets and I’m long used to getting crossed at intersections by all manner of civilian vehicles who roll through my right of way  pretty regularly — be it aggressively intentional or distractedly unaware.

This morning’s “meetcha in the  middle” partner was a first. Good morning, officers!

(click for the bigger picture)

Just felt like sharing this first fleur of the season from our front yard.

I call them kaleidoscopes lilies irises (thanks Jac!), because I don’t know better and because I get drawn in by their mesmerizing beauty and lost in their hypnotic symmetry. But maybe someone out there for more botanically knowledgeable than me can properly ID them… and yes, I’m looking at you David — I mean Capt. Landscape!

I’ve been to my fair share of places around the world, and it surprises me when I say Death Valley is my favorite place on earth. Since my first visit in the winter of 2002, I’ve been back at least once a year — sometimes twice.

If you’re so inclined you can download a PDF file of “Sunny Delight,” an October 2002 Orange Coast magazine article I wrote about Furnace Creek after a July visit that year where daytime temps reached 120 and at night it never dropped below 100 degrees.

For all I’ve explored, I’ve seen but a fraction of what the park has to offer… and that’s part of its allure. For all its vast nothingness there’s always someplace else to go and do. Even if that someplace is a hike into the broad flat of a desolate saltpan.

I can’t nutshell what the place means to me other than to say if you’ve never been, it should be somewhere on your life’s to-do list to go get some of its magnificent fulfillment for yourself.

Susan and I are going back for more this weekend, our sixth visit. I’m thrilled to be able to share it with my cousin Nathan who’s flying out from Tennessee on a mini-vacation to come with us. We’ll be driving out early Friday morning, coming in the back way through the Panamint Valley and after a stop at the Charcoal kilns at Wildrose we’ll be dropping down into the valley proper and hitting a lot of the sights up and down the park’s main roads: Stovepipe dunes, Furnace Creek, Badwater, Zabriskie Point, Salt Creek, Rhyolite, Titus Canyon. We’ll camp that night at Mesquite Springs. On top of all that, I’ve never been during the early spring so I’m looking forward to what’s expected to be a pretty glorious wildflower bloom along the way, fed by above average rains this past winter.

Come Saturday morning is The Main Event: my long-delayed/canceled/ruminated-about mountain bike trek from Ubehebe Crater to Racetrack Playa. Word is  that parts of the 26-miles of bad washboarded road between the two landmarks have been graded for the first time in a long time, so it might be not-so-bad road. We’ll see. The plan is Susan and Nathan will see me off early and after a couple/three hour headstart will catch up with me and we’ll end up pitching tents at the south end of the dry lake bed, which might still be covered  with a few inches of run off from the rains, as it was when Susan and I went out there last in 2005.

Sunday morning we’ll come back out and go out the way we came in except we’ll go over the 190 across the Panamint Valley to end up around the backside of Owens Lake backdropped by the Easter Sierras for a stop at Manzanar before heading home.

The downtown Brooks Brothers store is closing, reportedly due to unrealized plans to relocate to a new space in the long-delayed Grand Avenue project. Most will mourn the end of that branch of the upscale clothier’s 71-year-old Los Angeles tradition, and normally I would too. But this time it’s a bit personal. So instead I will mourn for those who’ve lost their jobs, but say good riddance to the establishment in my most begrudging, bitter voice.

One of my first revolving lines credit was with Brooks Brothers. I got it in 1986 or ’87. It wasn’t much, a few hundred bucks, but I was proud of it. Fast forward to when my first marriage broke apart there were a lot of reasons, but one of the prevailing ones was we were just plain young and stupid with our finances. We bought a pair of top-of-the-line VW Jettas, we splurged on laptops and desktop computers. My first cellphone was in 1988, an in-car Mitsubishi job that cost $1,200, and back then there were no free minutes — in fact you were lucky if the per-minute charge was 20 cents.It didn’t take long to run up a bill close to $1000.

That was just one example of the ridiculous crap that we couldn’t afford and wouldn’t have had except for the the scary level of credit we’d been able to build up as little more than 20-somethings with no assets.

When bills came due and past due and past-past due and then the credit cards got canceled and creditors started calling, the one company that never bothered me was Brooks Brothers in large part because at that time I owed them nothing… but that didn’t stop other companies with which I maintained zero balances from sniffing the wind and closing accounts.

When all was said and done and I’d fully scorched my credit card landscape in the early 1990s, I’d gone from having a Dayrunner organizer stuffed with plastic, to a simple wallet that held my driver license and my Brooks Brother credit card.


I do these walks amazed that people actually join me. Still, when it got a couple minutes to 10 a.m. and I was the only one standing by the fountain at the corner of Hoover and Jefferson, I endured a mix of disppointment and relief. The former because no one loves to throw a party that no one comes to, and the latter because it meant my Saturday was free to take care of too much business that I’d otherwise have to cram into Sunday.

There was the backyard to weedwhack, and the Costco to visit — and let’s not forget preparations for next weekend’s Death Valley trip which is going to be extra special because my cousin’s son Nathan is coming out from Tennessee to come along with Susan and me.

I was ticking these duties off in my head as the clock ticked that much closer to 10 when a voice from behind me asked if I was the guy doing the walk.

Guilty as charged.

And that’s how I met Perry and instantly shoved all those things I was looking forward to going home and doing aside in favor of going for a loooong walk with her. Then, as we were getting acquainted,  up come a couple of USC students — Adam and Laura — asking about the walk and we welcomed them and introduced ourselves.

Not long after that we were off heading west on Jefferson to the top of Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park and back east on Adams, and a great time was had by me and my three generation gap-closing co-hikers less than half my age.

I didn’t go crazy tweeting our progress or snapping shots with the camera but my Flickr photoset of the 15-mile 6.5-hour trek  is viewable here.