Until yesterday, when this image rather randomly popped up on my Facebook feed from a group I follow, I’d made countless unsuccessful attempts to find any photographs of a place I worked during my junior and senior year in high school that was so near and dear to me: Hunter’s Books.
Situated on the southwest corner of Rodeo Drive and Little Santa Monica, my history with the place is one filled with fond memories and a fair share of intrigue, which one day I may go into in far greater detail. How I got my job there as a stock clerk itself involved a bit of stealth. I was sitting in chemistry class awaiting the arrival of one Mr. Thorpe, who I despised. I overheard a fellow student by the name of Marc Sugarman talking to another about a job for which he was supposed to apply at some bookstore on Rodeo. He said it was a done deal, all he had to do was show up and the gig was his — but he wasn’t really feeling it.
Since I was definitely in need of gainful employment at that time, as soon as school let out, I hustled on over and met with the stock manager, Barry, a short middle-aged guy with a gray goatee and spectacles. I told him I heard there was a job available, and he made some comment about me not being who he was expecting, meaning Marc. I feigned having no idea what he was talking about and boom, I was hired, wherein I joined a ragtag crew of underground characters who worked primarily in the basement or back. There was Reggie, the loveable short black frenetic homosexual who was in charge of shipping and receiving. There was the middle-aged and also gay Arthur with his huge mustache and his Joseph A. Bank wardrobe in charge of returns. There was Wiley, a tall quiet black man of a certain menace who primarily assisted Arthur and who almost always had some white gunk in the corners of his mouth and never had much to say. And stock clerkÂ Manual, the aspiring guitarist philospher , with his giant afro, his snide laugh and his coolness. Rounding things out was Dennis, an actor, whose receding hairline tormented him enough to seek out the Bosley Medical Group’s that left him with a line of hair plugs circumnavigating his forehead like a picket fence. Upstairs the sales floor was dominated by Susanna, an elderly German frau never without a scowl and menthol cigarette dangling from her lips. Her assistant was Margaret, a lovely young black woman who had a thing for James Dean. Last but not least was Larry, the boss of us all, who ruled from his roost up on the third floor.
Like I said, I have plenty of stories about this place, but I’ll save them for later. In the meantime I’m just thrilled that this photo materialized.
Gustavo Dudamel conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony may have been listed as the star of the show (and it was fantastic!), but the reason I bought tickets to the July 13, 2017 performance at the Hollywood Bowl was that my beloved Vin Scully — eternal voice of the Dodgers and of ALL of Los Angeles — was on the bill to narrate Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” and he did so beautifully with characteristic humility and eloquence.
The chance to hear again what has been the voice of ALL of my summers as a native angeleno was something I couldn’t pass up, nor could I not memorialize the occasion.
NOTES: Scully’s narration begins at about the 8:20 mark. An encore performance is scheduled for July 18, 2017, at the Bowl. This performance was recorded (faaaaar better than me and my handheld recorder from Section J) and is scheduled to be broadcast July 30, 2017, on KUSC-FM (91.5). Gawd bless my fellow audience members. This was my first visit to the Bowl in several years where everyone was pretty much completely quiet throughout the whole program.
I tend to not get caught up in the “supermoon” hype. I think every full moon is a super moon, and it seems there’s been a proliferation of announcements of the events in the press (I’d never heard the term until a few years ago) perhaps fueled by social media.
Nevertheless at about 6:15pm I wound up breaking away from the Seahawks/Patriots game on TV, dragging my tripod-mounted spotting scope upstairs to a vantage point at the east-facing master bathroom window and I managed to get a pretty good snap of the thing courtesy me placing my iPhone’s camera lens to the scope’s eyepiece, balancing on the sink and holding my breath in an effort to stabilize everything while at the same time trying to center the satellite in the frame, while triggering the shutter — really MUCH easier said than done.
Having said that, I was able to get one of the most detailed shots of the moon I’ve ever had (click the image below to enlargify) in my many years of amateurishly pointing various devices up at it and snapping. PS. Don’t marvel about the glow emanating from the moon. That’s basically the extent of the viewing area offered by the scope.
I read a poem this morning shared by an acquaintance on Facebook. It was written by a woman who explained with regret why she killed a harmless spider that startled her and with some recognition that fear was no excuse. I appreciated that sentiment but not enough to dispel the disappointment at its demise.
I have chosen to be a partner with the creatures that inhabit this world. I am not one so pure; after all, I had bacon for breakfast this morning, and a hamburger for dinner last night. But I am otherwise avowed to coexist as best I can with those to which I come in direct contact. And I default to disdain for those who aren’t. I will go out of my way to pardon a housefly from the window screen prison it finds itself. I will praise the praying mantis, rescue the ant. Relocate the house centipede. Driver 35 miles to get an injured opossum care. Be late to work to free a gull from a certain and horrible death. No cockroach goes stepped on that crosses my path. Spiders are a marvel and an amazement that command my respect. Our perimeter is home to countless brown widows, our garage a haven for their black cousin. When rodents ended up doing several hundred dollars damage chewing up the wiring of my Baybee’s Ford Escape, I didn’t employ inhumane traps or poisons, but instead deployed a spray solution of Peppermint oil and water and one of those electronic sonic devices. And don’t get me started on how much I adore those creatures people proudly love to hate: coyotes, skunks, pigeons, raccoons, rats, snakes, sharks. Any fear of them is based in an ignorance and/or a bias that too many stubborn people seem sadly only too righteous to maintain.
I do have a footnote to that code of coexistence: If you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you. Thus I don’t suffer the mosquito or the tick or the flea attempting to feast off me; or pretty much any parasite or predator regardless of their number of legs — but especially those of two who have this ability to maliciously and intentionally harm. They are the worst.
We all lived in a world this week full of tragedy. The latest in a succession of the them, and the next undoubtedly yet to come. But this one was of police officers killing people and of people killing police officers. It was enough unnecessary and vile death to cut me to the core and its culmination was enough to have my concerned superior exercise caution and order me not to do my job on Friday. We stayed in the office and did paperwork. I understood and respected the decision but my impulse when I got up yesterday morning was to suit up get in the field tall with my head on a swivel because the need for me doesn’t go away just because sanity does.
Which brings me to what happened this morning. A nothing. A trifle. I was in the backyard and dark of mood at Buster the tortoise’s hutch with her breakfast and the requisite spray bottle full of water to moisten the meal and top off the water bowl from which I’ve never seen her drink. The sun bathed the area in light and the air was cool. I did a doublecheck of the cone created by the antlion larvae that’s taken up residence in a corner of Buster’s space and, no I didn’t destroy it. Instead I admired the tiny ambush predator for its diligence in maintaining the delicate structural integrity of the trap and its patience in waiting for a hapless meal to fall in. But that’s another story.
I was spritzing Buster’s greens with the water bottle when to my left I heard the telltale chirps of a gregarious group of “bushies,” more commonly known as bushtits, that were gathered in the quince tree from my neighbor’s yard whose branches overhang the fence. On an impulse I directed the spray in their direction and within a few moments others were drawn to it and there were at least ten of the little birds chirping and bouncing up a storm around the trees boughs and leaves shimmying and fluffing and rubbing themselves against the leaves where some of the water drops had landed in appreciation at the surprise spritzing to such a degree that the whole tree took on a jolly air in its shaking. If I’d redirect the spray to another part of the tree they’d move to it. Even a hummingbird joined in. And dang if I didn’t stand there cranking out the water in that full bottle until my hand was tired and it was empty. And doubledang it if I didn’t suddenly find water falling out of my eyes because in this latest of a seeming unending series of hells we’re going through I was just struck by the absolute beauty of this interaction and how gloriously blessed I was both to experience it and more important to appreciate these lovely little birds bopping around and literally soaking it all up. I think I’ll make this a habit.
The moral to this belabored ramble? Find beauty wherever you can and be a part of the world, not apart from it.
Last night/this morning showcased the first Christmas Day full moon since the year Nineteen Hunnert and Seventy Seven so of course having gotten up early, I snapped it from our porch pre-dawn as seen below. Murry Christmas!
In the 12-plus years I’ve been a-blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a week or two without posting SOMETHING. So you can imagine my shock when I saw I’d last been seen here basically more than three weeks ago.
The funny thing is, I’ve still been communicating, but mostly on Facebook, which for reasons known only to Mark Zuckerberg has been able to squirrel its way in to becoming something of my defacto mode of e-communication. I don’t even tweet much anymore.
But enough about that. Without any further preambling, here’s some of the stuff I’ve been doing of late:
1) Kayaking The Los Angeles River
As part of a pilot program this summer, a section of the long-lost Los Angeles River coursing through Elysian Valley was reopened to the public for use as a recreational resource, an opportunity angelenos have not had since the 1930s when the riverâ€™s channelization was begun to prevent flooding.
As a boy I accidentally discovered the river, and from that single experience I have never stopped being enamored with and zealously protective of what so many others have dismissed as our cityâ€™s woeful waterway â€” little more than a drainage ditch to the sea. Though Iâ€™ve been aware of its potential, I never imagined that one day Iâ€™d see such a sea change in perception so thatÂ the river would made accessible and embraced not as a prohibited place but as public parkland to be explored and experienced and as something to connect with after so long a disconnect.
So for me, thanks to L.A. River Expeditions (Facebook), to be among the first wave during this historic first season and doing what you see in these clips at the top and after the jump: putting a kayak into its waters and putting my butt into that kayak and paddling â€” however awkwardly â€” downstream for a water-level perspective of my beloved river, itâ€™s not a dream come true. Because I never dared to dream this could ever happen. Not in my lifetime.
No, itâ€™s much more than that. To me itâ€™s nothing short of a glorious miracle. And for that Iâ€™m thankful to everyone who has fought so tirelessly and valiantly over the years to get the cityâ€™s much-maligned and misbegotten river recreated in enough influential minds so that it can now be leisurely recreated upon.
Physically and soulfully these waters were very moving.
2) Unrocking The parkway in front of our house
I can’t remember if it was four or five years ago, but it all began when our next door neighbor contacted me to tell me he was redoing the section of parkway in front of his house with river rocks, and would I be interested in going in for half of the cost and doing mine as well to give the two parkways some continuity.
I figured why not. It would look better than the dirt and dead grass that had been there and it would be an opportunity to do something positive with the guy with whom, frankly, I’m not on the best of terms.
So a few weeks later he shows up with a metric ton of the palm-sized rocks and we pour them out, and the continuity lasted for all of as long as it took for the grasses and weeds to grow from between our rocks. See, he keeps his section of the parkway completely sterile, using gardeners he’s instructed to pluck pretty much even the slightest growth of green. Me? I’m my own gardener and I instructed myself not to give a hoot about what grows.
The only thing I’d been meticulous about is putting the rocks back that people for some stupid reason can’t resist kicking or tossing all over the place: the gutter, the street, the sidewalk, our front steps. And yes, I’ve even confronted people I’ve witnessed taking the rocks – literally picking up several and walking off as if there’s a “Free Rocks — All You Can Carry!” sign posted.
Fast forward to this week, and I’m finally done with these rocks. Agreeing to partner this design option for our parkways did nothing to improve things with the neighbor, and so I decided that it’s time to reclaim or refresh our decidedly seedy section of the parkway and remove the river rocks.
I started yesterday (August 12), and quickly discovered that it was something easier said than done. What I thought would take a couple hours of clearing the roughly 40′ x 4′ area, is going to take about eight or more… mostly because over the ensuing rainy seasons, what started as one layer of rocks on the surface of the soil is now in places two or three layers of rocks that have been buried by the flow of water and soil, hastened by those people who’ve tromped on them and pushed them deeper. It’s really quite remarkable how low some of these rocks have gone.
I found out during the first four/five foot long section I cleared from the driveway apron to the magnolia tree, which also involved digging up all the dead patches of grass. And there are a LOT of dead patches of grass.
Soooo, what you’re seeing here in this timelapse is roughly 45 minutes of me attacking with little more than a spade and begloved hands the second four/five foot section between the magnolia tree and the brick walkway. Ended up filling the bucket three times. That’s a lotta rocks. And I’ll do it again tomorrow. And the day after. Until it’s done.
Not sure yet what I plan to do once it’s all cleared. I may just leave it bare. I may plant something. Or I may supersaturate the soil and set the rocks back into the wet dirt side by side like so many tiles. At least that way if some idiot wants to take one or toss oneÂ it’ll require a little more effort than just bending over and getting grabby.
Menial labor? Meaningful labor? Bit of both from where I’m toiling.
This behavior is not something Ranger ever learned, nor was she taught it. It was discovered quite by accident after the kids next door hit a soccer ball over the fence into our yard. When I found the ball, for whatever reason, I arc’d it over in Ranger’s general direction and holy wowzers she proceeded to use her muzzle to line drive it directly back to me.
One time… two times… could happen to any dog, right? Well, we all know Ranger isn’t any dog. As if to prove it, she tossed it back to me practically every time I tossed it to her. We’ve had streaks of 20 or more, from as far as 10 feet between us.
Now, “toss” isn’t really what she’s doing. She isn’t even doing what trained seals do and bouncing it back off her nose soccer-style. What she’s trying to do is catch the ball in her mouth, but since it’s too big to fit in her jaws what happens instead is an uncannily precise return to sender.
The trick is, it’s all on me. Pretty much her rebound shot is entirely dependent upon how nice a lob I send her way. If it’s near perfect, the ball will most often come back through the air either directly to me or at least within my reach. And by the time I catch it, Ranger’s already poised and ready for me to send the next one here way.
The following link takes you to a snippet of crappy video from a lousy camera, but you get the idea â€” and you can bet I’ll be setting up a better cam to capture it next time we: Play Ball!