Archive for January, 2013

Rest In Peace, Uncle Doug

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

My uncle Doug died. My middle name comes from him, my mom told me when I was a boy, and thus he became my favorite way back then simply because of that similarity.

Apparently when his body was discovered he’d been dead for around three days.

The last times I saw him in person was 1987 for my grandma’s funeral, and a couple years before that solemn occasion when I took a train trip all around the country: LA to New Orleans to Washington DC to Chicago to Denver to San Francisco and back to LA. During that epic tour I spent some times in Tennessee and Alabama visiting relatives and seeing the sights. One stop along the way was a visit to the town of Jasper, Alabama, near to where he lived and I met up with him and his wife Jeanne (who passed a few years ago; that’s the three of us pictured below during that stay).

uncledoug

Uncle Doug, me, and Aunt Jeanne. Somewhere in Alabama. Sometime in December 1985.

We had dinner together at the hotel the second night I was there. The next morning we met up and I went for a ride with him around Carbon Hill, the family hometown, and I got reacquainted with those environs I’d last visited for a section of summer spent with my grandma back when I was seven.

When we said our goodbyes we shook hands. In his was $100 that he placed into mine. I balked. He insisted. “You’ve go a long trip left. Just in case something happens,” he said

Uncle Doug was always gruff with me the few times we’d spoken on the phone over the course of my life. The conversations were awkward during mostly difficult low times of my life where he’d call most likely at my mother’s behest and do his best to counsel me on the right mindset and actions to take. I did my best to listen.

And that was pretty much the extent of our relationship.

The relationship between him and my mom, took a frustrating turn around 2003 when my mother moved back there to reconnect with the home turf she’d left for California as a young lady and to help him and Jean with various things. Instead things ended up with nasty words, accusations and angry feelings exchanged. And my mom, realizing why she’d left Alabama in the first place, came back to Los Angeles with the door firmly shut on the south at-large and her brother. The feeling was mutual, I’d guess.

So it is that the last 10 years of uncle Doug’s life, I’d never said a word to him. My mom may have sent flowers in both our names when Jeanne died, but that was her doing.

When my mom called me this last weekend with the news of his passing, it took me a day or so to get choked up, and even then it felt kind of forced. Maybe because we’d never been that close. Maybe because the way my schedule is, I didn’t have time to grieve much less attend any services that might be planned. Even when she called back to say I was named in his trust to receive 15 acres of what she called well-timbered land in Walker County, Alabama, replete with a creek running through it, I greeted that news clinically and wondered why me?

But then on my way to training yesterday afternoon, I was transitioning from the 101 to the eastbound 60 and I thought about old pictures I have stored away in an album somewhere. Of him and me when I was a couple three years old standing next to his super sweet 1966 Mustang Fastback. I’m not sure why that image and why then, but the waterworks just came on hard, and for the next few miles I found it so utterly depressing that in my entire life, my connection with my favorite uncle consisted mostly of a few pictures and uncomfortable phone calls. Maybe the feeling was mutual when he was alive.

Well, I am sorry, uncle Doug. I am so very sorry.

One of these days I’ll beat it down to the basement and dig those pix out and up into the light. And another one of those days I’ll beat it down Bama way and be found standing upon the land my uncle Doug saw fit to pass on to my undeserving self. I’ll listen to the creek burble and hear the wind through the boughs, and I’ll figure out a way to honor him and his gift that’s far better than that which I’ve attempted to do here.

 

Silver Lake Stormwatch: January 27

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

rain0127Went cumulative this time ’round since the backyard dealt with a relatively rapid series of storms over the last few days, ending sometime this morning when I looked out at a patch of sky and found it 57% gray-free. Given that the month of January has brought us almost three weeks of dryness, I’d say these systems more than made up for it, dropping 3.54″ into our backyard precipitometer.

Given that this season to-date still seemed drier than last, I was surprised to find more had fallen now than at this same time in 2012 — by almost a full inch, thanks to a 37-day-long dry spell between December 2011 and January 2012.

January 24-27: 3.54″
Season Total: 16.57″

UPDATE (01.28): Another weak system swept through yesterday evening, but did not produce measurable results.

Here’s One Thing Armstrong Was Truthful About… Maybe

Monday, January 21st, 2013
meandlance

How Tweet It Was.

The night before the CicLAvia that took place in April 2011, I had heard that Lance Armstrong was coming to town specifically to participate. As such, I tweeted a reminder at him and was positively fanboy-floored when he immediately tweeted a confirmation back my way.

But then again, given what we know now about his long-running penchant for dishonesty, since I didn’t physically SEE him anywhere on the course the next day I can’t be 100 percent certain he wasn’t lying out of his spandex-clad ass.

One thing is for certain: this brief exchange went from being my most favorite tweet ever to my least.

It wasn’t the first time I rode/sat/stood in awe of my hero Mr. Doodyhead McLiarface (and there was also this previous encounter during the 2009 Amgen Tour of California). But it is the last:

 

Next On A Very Special Episode of “Driveway Blockers”

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

In this Season Nine premiere of the never-ending dramedy we find our sleepy homeowner who has just pushed his trash cans out to the street early this cold morning for today’s pickup. In so doing he discovers a pearlescent green Honda Element SUV parked in too small a space at the curb by his garage whose late-for-yoga, mat/coffee-carrying driver is exiting and whose vehicle’s rear end is encroaching more than two feet across his driveway apron, effectively prohibiting his wife’s imminent departure from the tight, two-car garage, even though there are at least two curb spaces within the homeowner’s spitting distance  large enough to accommodate the vehicle.

The devil-side of our homeowner considers simply speed dialing parking enforcement and towing said illegally parked pearlescent SUV of said late-for-yoga, mat/coffee carrier, but goodness triumphs and instead homeowner attempts to spare the person the imposition of ticket and impound fees by requesting that the vehicle be relocated. Stupid him.

Homeowner: Excuse me?
Yoga Mat/Coffee Carrier (walking away from locked car turns in surprise): Yes?
Homeowner: Your vehicle is blocking my driveway enough to make it next to imposs —.
Yoga Mat/Coffee Carrier (interrupting while walking to the rear of the vehicle and over dramatically throwing up the hand not carrying the rolled up yoga mat and cup of coffee): May I stop you there?
Homeowner (considers not stopping, but does): Sure.
Yoga Mat/Coffee Carrier (talks slowly to homeowner as if addressing someone developmentally disabled, accompanied with a deliberately irksome nodding): Yes. I seeeeeee that your driiiiiiveway is blooooocked, and I will reeeeeelocate my caaaaaar immeeeeeeediately.

A few seconds pass quietly as the Homeowner and Yoga Mat/Coffee Carrier stare at each other, the latter oblivious to the fact that the former is intently considering the ramifications of bum-rushing the latter.

Yoga Mat/Coffee Carrier (breaking the silence): OooooKaaaay?
Homeowner (considers giving Yoga Mat/Coffee Carrier the award for Best Extended Use of Vowels in Marked Condescension to the Wrong Person at the Wrong Time before saying, nonplussed): Wow. Inconsiderate AND patronizing.
Yoga Mat/Coffee Carrier (obviously irritated at being cross-condescended, as well as reminded the center of the universe is elsewhere, while also  being forced to be a couple more minutes late to yoga class): We’re done and you’re welcome!
Homeowner: Not quite. The irony is if I hadn’t given you consideration and gotten this STARTED you’d be returning to a vehicle that had been ticketed and towed. So it’s YOU who are welcome.
Yoga Mat/Coffee Carrier (unlocks door, gets in and before slamming door and starting vehicle repeats): We’re DONE!

Happy Ending: Pearlescent-green Honda Element seen below on StreetCam parked in a legal space (with another one across the street) that the late-for-yoga mat/coffee carrier could’ve and should’ve utilized aaaaaaaaall aloooooooooooong, Ooooookaaaaaay?!

suv

The Big Chill: Icy Conditions This Morning In Silver Lake

Monday, January 14th, 2013

My Charlie Brown Ninja figurine with KickYerButt action (don’t judge) proves it got cold enough at our Silver Lake-based domecile last night to freeze the surface of the “frog pond” solid enough to support his weight… until it didn’t. Fortunately I was able to resuscitate him after he fell in. And return to being totally fascinated by this minor example of a cold-weather byproduct that is the utmost in trivial to most of the rest of the nation.

Rest In Peace, Huell Howser

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

I’ve been in awe of Huell Howser since I first started watching his “Videolog” shows on KCET way back when dinosaurs like Payphoneasaurus and Eveningnewspaperus Rex still roamed the earth.

In other words: a LONG time ago.

Not only was I immediately impressed with the infectious, manchild-like enthusiasm and energy he brought to exploring so many obscure aspects of his adopted state, but also the waltz of his Tennessee twang not often heard on airwaves on this side of the country —  as well as the massive biceps he would display that ever-threatened to bust the seams of the short-sleeved shirts he wore.

And despite how things changed, for the next 35 years, Huell remained Huell, always there with a microphone at the end of one of his massive arms, and always ready to be sincerely amazed by things that might not really be all that amazing.

As chance would have it I got to meet and shake Howser’s hand and express my gratitude. Susan and I had opted one weekend morning back in, like, 2005 or so, to go to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, that runs the length of Ivar between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. After wandering around and buying veggies and stuff, we went to the food area to get something to eat. I forget what we ended up getting, but as soon as we sat down to dig in, there he was, larger than life, walking amongst the tables headed in our direction.

“Huell Howser!” I called out and stood up. And he smiled that big grin of his. He drew closer and I stuck my hand out. “I love everything you do, sir!” was the best I could come up with as he grabbed my hand and shook it with a bit of a humble shrug.

Without a moment more passing he brought that energy of his to bear and asked us if we’d tried the food at one of the nearby booths. We told him we had not.

“Oh you really should,” he said followed, of course, by: “It’s amazing!”

And he was past us and heading onward through the crowd.

I sat back down and looked at Susan. “Huell fucking Howser!” was all I said. In amazement.

When Howser announced his retirement a short while ago I went into mourning a bit at the realization there’d be nothing new from him to see on television. I read of the speculation that his abrupt departure might have been necessitated by illness, but I ignored that because it was tough enough processing a Huell-less TV landscape, much less a California without him.

So when I heard the news yesterday afternoon from my mom, I continued on with my day, my first reaction being one of denial in hoping my mom was wrong. But inwardly I knew she wasn’t. And a shortwhile later when I checked online, I knew there was no escaping that I’d lost one of my favorite television personalities and California had lost its tour guide.

I take solace in knowing he’ll live forever in reruns, this one being one of my absolute favorites:

Racial Coventry In Our Own Backyard — Literally

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

I’m familiar enough with the history of this country to be aware of and repulsed by the prevalent use of racially restrictive covenants that prohibited property ownership and occupation — a completely legal practice that stood in place until it was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 1948.

A restrictive covenant is basically a legal obligation imposed in a deed by the seller upon the buyer of real estate to do or not to do something.

As an aside, it should be noted that it was a lawyer from right here South Los Angeles named Loren Miller — the son of a slave —  who was instrumental not only in winning many local cases against racial covenants, but also the most celebrated one: Shelley v. Kraemer (1948),  which he and partner Thurgood Marshall argued successfully before the U.S. Supreme Court. Miller would later go on to be named Justice of the California Supreme Court by Gov. Edmund G. Brown (our current governor’s father), serving until his death in 1967.

But back on topic. Cleaning out her files, Susan came across a copy of the original grant deed for our property made out by the parcel’s original owners George and Katherine Palmer, dated September 26, 1907. It starts off with some pretty standard normal conditions:

  • that it be used for residential purposes only;
  • that any out-buildings not be erected less than 75 feet from the front line of the lot;
  • that the value of the dwelling built must be greater than $2,500 (remember that’s 1907 dollars);
  • that anything built be not less than 1.5 stories in height;
  • that the home should be built no fewer than 35 feet from the front of the lot nor within four feet of the sides.

Then there’s a cool one, specified:

“That this property shall never be used for the sale of intoxicating liquors.”

Then it gets repulsively nasty, see for yourself:

rescov1

Click it for the bigger picture or read the transcribed abhorrence below:

“That the party of the second part, his heirs, administrators, executors or assigns shall never convey lease or rent these lots or any portion thereof to any negro or to any person of African or Asiatic descent.”

Despite too-regular reminders provided by our past, I am always ever-amazed and embarrassed at how those in this country so shamefully and selfishly managed to subvert and disregard the second line of its Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”