Archive for November, 2012

I sat down on Friday to enjoy a persimmon and a guava, and brought my trusty little lockback pocket knife with which to slice them. The persimmon and the guava were part of a bag of backyard goodness my friend and neighbor David brought over. The knife, pictured below previously belonged to our tenant Joe, and was discovered in a fishing tackle box of his that I found in the basement a year or two after he died in 2008. I’ve kept it nearby ever since. It’s a great little knife.

I didn’t realize it’s above-average attributes until I brought it with me one recent Saturday to the Rio Hondo College and as I was sitting at a table with others in my class and using it to slice up an apple, a fellow student picked it up and commented on it. He read the “Japan” stamped near the base of the less-than-two-inch-long blade, and was impressed, remarking that this must be a vintage knife as it’s rare nowadays that such a small blade would be made with Japanese steel. Stamped above the “Japan” is “440 C Stainless,” which I later came to learn is the highest quality 440 stainless steel.

It made me appreciate the knife even more.

Back to the persimmon and the guava on Friday. Turns out I didn’t even need the knife because the persimmon was so ripe you could eat it like an apple or tomato — the guava the same way. I followed those up with a store-bought grapefruit and again the little knife wasn’t used because it was too small to quarter up the fruit’s large diameter.

Afterwards, I took the paper plate upon which the inedible fruit bits sat and I scraped them off into the nonrecyclable trash bin before putting the plate in the recyclable bin. Unknown to me then was that I’d placed the knife on the plate and piled the rinds and stuff atop it and scraped it into the trash, too.

It was about 24 hours later, when I decided to have another persimmon and guava and grapefruit that I realized the knife was missing. It was not in its usual place by my desk. It was not on the table by my chair in the livingroom, and I went into the usual dark funk whenever something of mine is not where it’s supposed to be. Of course, I also was quick to say what my mom has always called The Magic Prayer: “Nothing is lost. It is simply not revealed,” but my heart wasn’t in it. Logically, I checked under and around my desk and my livingroom chair, Illogically I checked places the knife would never be: upstairs, outside in the backyard. Finally it dawned on me it might be in the trash, so Saturday afternoon, I did some searching of the containers in the kitchen and the cans on the side of the house. Still, no knife.

So I groused and I fumed and I frowned and I nashed and I looked again in all the logical places I’d looked before, and again in the illogical places, too. Then this morning I wrote the following on my Facebook page:

With apologies to WH Auden, stop all the clocks and shut off the phone… this is me obsessing: My absolute favorite pocket knife has maddeningly gone missing and its disappearance happened at some point after using it to slice some fruit either yesterday or the day before (I’m not sure which). Compounding my frustration is that the fruit was either ripe enough not to need slicing (persimmon and guava) or too big for the pocket knife’s short blade to be effective (grapefruit). Having searched in all the places it might be (as well as many places it absolutely wouldn’t), I then did a cursory and unsuccessful search of the discarded garbage, my fear being I accidentally pitched it with some other trash. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to don some makeshift biohazard gear and dive in deep to the budding repulsive compost-in-training for a more complete examination that leaves nary a broken eggshell, turkey bone, coffee ground, nor grapefruit rind unturned. Few things frustrate and fixate me more than a cherished thing that’s just up and vanished, so like I said, silence all the pianos and stop the dog from barking… this is me obsessing.

After getting back from a wonderful 3.5-mile hike in Griffith Park with Susan and Ranger, I finally rolled up my sleeves and plugged up my nose and this afternoon dove determinedly into the outdoor cans. Damn the stench and the stickiness and the sog and the yuck and the muck I was going to go piece by piece until I found it, or threw up trying.

And I did. No, I didn’t upchuck. I found it. When I lifted the three-day-old remains of our Thanksgiving turkey, there it was sitting in a damp and dank bed of coffee grounds.

And I wrote this on Facebook and posted the above photo:

Start the clocks back up and turn on the phones… This is me no longer obsessing over my gone-missing absolute favorite American Valor 440 Stainless Japan steel pocket knife, pictured here after it was recovered from the trash into which I so unknowingly and ignominiously discarded it. And no I did not literally cry for joy when I found it under the turkey carcass and covered in coffee grounds. I just smiled in relief.

Nothing is lost. It is simply not revealed.

I’ve heard seen my share of terrestrial wildlife while mountain biking in the Verdugos — lizards, toads, bobcats, coyotes, deer, a coast horned lizard, garter snakes. On this pre-gluttony Thanksgiving Day ride I added a baby rattlesnake to the list. Found, as seen below in the center of the frame, sunning itself on the asphalt section of the trail just below Tongva Peak (click it for the bigger picture):

It started moving off trail as soon as I stopped to admire it. Not having time to get my phone camera out, I simply pointed the handlebar-mounted GoPro cam at it to capture it before it disappeared in the scrub.

Here’s the timelapse vid of the bottom-to-top-to-bottom ride (my standard 5.75-mile route going up the Beaudry North and Verdugo motorways about 2,200 feet to Tongva Peak and then back down via the Verdugo and Beaudry South motorways):

Yesterday I followed rules 1 and 3 of the Fixer’s Manifesto and repaired our patio table umbrella, of all things. After almost eight years of exposure,  a foot-long section of the bottom part of the wooden pole, just above where it sits in the stand snapped clean through.

I figured this out yesterday morning after noticing the umbrella was listing to port exceptionally hard.

My first thought was just to remove the broken section and reseat the remaining pole in the stand, but that would have left the umbrella at basically my neck level, which would force me basically to either duck/cover and or limbo down first if I wanted to sit at the table beneath it. Doable, but inconveeeeeenient.

So my second thought was to write the entire umbrella’s obit, but then I was all: “Dang, new patio umbrellas run like upwards of a hunnert bucks!”

Realizing that spending money unnecessarily was stinkin’ thinkin’ I got busy working the solution instead of the problem. See, the pole is a top and bottom section joined in the middle by a metal sleeve, so I pulled the umbrella up and away from the table and undid the sleeve. At first I figured I’d just hunt around the house for a suitably sized dowel (or go buy one at the hardware store), saw it to an equal length and use that as a replacement for the bottom part of the pole. But that wasn’t going to work out because the part of the broken section that goes into the sleeve was threaded and I am inconveniently without the skills or machinery required to thread a piece of round wood.

So I started to write the umbrella’s obit again, but then I stopped abruptly because I remembered something. Wouldn’t you know there was this hollow metal pole that for years and years has been sitting under the steps on the south side of the house. I can’t recall where it came from or what its purpose is/was, or why I kept it all this time, but there it was.

And wouldn’t you know it was literally the same diameter as the pole. Sat perfectly in the stand. Problem was though, the diameter of the hollowed inside part of the pole was about a third-inch smaller than its wooden counterpart, which required me to get a rather large buck knife and risk amputating some finger bits while I whittled the end of the top part of the pole (the one with the umbrella attached) until the two pieces fit together pretty much perfectamundoly (as seen at right).

As you can see below, the umbrella now sits waaaay high above the tabletop, the result of the metal pole being about a foot too long (and me without the machinery too cut it down to a better size). I suppose I could saw the length off the top part and rewhittle, but for now having too much room to get beneath it is a far, far better thing than not having enough, not having it at all — or spending upwards of a hunnert bucks for a new one.


Buster is a mind-changer. Most of my life I considered tortoises to be plodding, simple-minded and uninteresting creatures. But then along comes this Russian tortoise into my life in October 2001 and she burned that opinion to the ground — and continues to do so.

Even though this clip ends in her failure to escape and me coming to her rescue, it’s a great reminder of how awesome she is and how incredible tortoises can be — how curious, how energetic, and how stubbornly unstoppable. Her ancestors don’t date back 200-million years because they just sat around the planet.

She looks at the almost two-foot-tall pile of river rocks I’ve arrayed on the left not as a way to be kept in, but as a way to get out. And though she suffers several setbacks in her escape quest, she ultimately gets thiiiiiiiiiis close to succeeding — all the more incredible when you consider how poorly equipped a tortoise is to such a rigorous endeavor.

Regardless of how inadequately outfitted Buster is to climb over a pile of rocks, “quit” is simply not in her vocabulary. Well… neither is “vocabulary,” but you know what I mean.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for a lot of things and one of them is Buster’s indomitable spirit, which keeps inspiring me — especially so at this latter stage of my life when I’m attempting to scale my own disproportionate rockpile and achieve a place in a new career field.

One of the most splendiferous bonuses of having a backyard to walk out into is those times when I do so in the midst of a visit by any number of creatures. Though some are more welcome than others (I’m holding my nose and looking at you skunks), all are wondrous reminders that even at our most city-fied and urbanized, nature finds a way.

This morning’s encounter involved a very healthy and huge juvenile red-tailed hawk who I found perched high in the tallest of our twin palms.

It obliged me just long enough to run inside and return with my camera to get the following sloppy series as it made its exit northward to less paparazzi-rich environs (click them for the bigger pictures):

Now that’s a storm! No weaksauce zero-point-zero-one-nuthin’ rainfall total this time. Just a good, old-fashioned one-and-a-half-plus inches dropped until it stopped sometime between last night and this Sunday morning.

November 17: 1.68″
Year To Date: 2.31″

What’s Behind Door No. 1?

The prize package emerging from this sweet looking El Camino revealed himself to me on Redondo approaching Washington Boulevard, while the treasure behind Door No. 2 flung herself directly into my ride line later in the afternoon on Sunset Boulevard just past Alvarado (click both images for the bigger pictures):

The wide perspective of my handlebar-mounted GoPro camera can be deceiving, making it look like I’ve got plenty of room and time to evade the invasions. In fact, these two happened with me essentially at the respective vehicles’ rear bumpers, giving me just enough time to call out “Way to look!” to both startled idiots as I steered wide and rolled past.

At least there wasn’t a Door No. 3.