I sucked at shining my boots when it mattered most — during my time as a cadet at a local public police academy. I was a complete failure at putting a proper gleam on my boots, and I paid the price at inspections in getting yelled at and doing pushups.
Since then in the course of my present employment my results have improved. Given how bad I was before, I’d say they’ve improved a staggering amount. By no means am I saying I’m the best. I’m just saying I’m far more satisfied with the endgame than I’ve ever been. Shame I couldn’t have figured this out when it counted.
The boots: A pair of A.T.A.C. 8″ Shield Side Zip-up 5.11s, straight-outta-the-box.
My method? Credit where it is due: I owe a debt of gratitude to an area shoeshine establishment known as Code 7. They used to have a location much closer to my Los Angeles home but have long since shuttered that place and now operate about 25 miles away. For $10 (a bargain at twice the price; not including tip), they are masters, but a 50-mile roundtrip is just too far for me to travel even for such unparalleled and affordable excellence.
So I did the next best thing: imitated them. While I can no longer find it on their website, Code 7 used to have a webpage that listed the series of steps involved in their process. Based on that here is what I do, as shown in the accompanying 90-second timelapse (realtime: 60 minutes):
1) Saddlesoap lathered on, dried, and buffed off
2) Angelus polish hand-rubbed on and then melted with heat gun
3) Let cool and repeat Step 2
4) Let cool and repeat Step 3
5) Let cool and repeat Step 4 (yes, I bake in four layers of base on new boots)
6) Allow boots to cool completely
7) Kiwi Parade Gloss hand-rubbed on
8) With water, cloth and elbow grease, dab-dab circle-circle until shiny
9) Clean up work surface
10) Horsehair brush finish
Note: I warn you ahead of time this post may change the way you feel about me as a potentially normal human being. I’d advise not dwelling on it too much and just chalking it up to “Oh that Will… the lengths he’ll go to about something so trivial — and then write about it!” But if you want to overthink my sanity or lack thereof, that’s OK.
Whilst most of my communication is done via fingertips and a keyboard, my job has me writing violation notices in triplicate on an almost daily basis, and as such I’m always searching for a gooooood ballpoint pen to provide whatever boost to my crappy penmanship. My journey has led me to find two of my favorites. The Staples 1.0Â and the Paper Mate Profile 1.4. Both of these instruments are gloriously smooth. In fact the latter claims to be the “World’s Smoothest Pen.” I am unable to refute that trademarked boast, but I don’t agree with it, I think the Staples 1.0 edges it out.
Trouble is the pen containers themselves that encase their ink cartridges are relatively bulky –additionally so with the inclusion of rubber grips — and as a result, carrying the requisite two (“always have a back-up!”) in my uniform shirt pocket while on duty is not an option.
Enter Pen No. 3. The Bic Clic Stic, the very model of compact and slender efficiency, two fit in my pocket like they were custom built for it. See how it and the Staples 1.0 compare, below:
The only problem is the Clic Stic does not write to my satisfaction. Not that it’s bad, it’s perfectly acceptable. But in the environment within which I scribe, i.e., usually while on my feet outdoors holding a ticket book at somewhat of an awkward angle while trying to write information legibly in very small areas on a slightly unstable surface, it’s just does not feel as comfortable as either the Staples or Paper Mate.
With an acceptance of form over function, I made do with the Clic Stic because of its overall design until it dawned on me a few weeks ago, that I might be able to do a simple hack involving the taking of the ink cartridge out of the Staples and/or Paper Mate and swapping it for the one that comes standard with the Clic Stic.
Of course, when that dawning occurred I was down to my last Staples 1.0 and upon removal of the pens’ respective guts I found the Staples ink cartridge was about a quarter-inch longer than the Bic’s. Since an irreversible trim would be in order with no guarantee of success, I wasn’t about to risk sacrificing it without some back-ups on hand.
And that brought me to a local Staples last weekend, where I spent 10 minutes wasting my time scouring their huuuuuge selection of pens only to find that particularly store on that particular day didn’t have a single Staples 1.0 in stock. Much grousing ensued and led to me taking a box of Paper Mates to the register. When the cashier asked me if I’d been able to find everything I wanted, I curtly told her absolutely not. When her bored looked turned to one of mild surprise I insisted she not worry about it because the last thing I wanted to do was waste more time talking about it. After all, a pen’s a pen, right? Wrong.
Next I went to Staples.com and found a box of a dozen of them was only going to cost $5.29 — but get this: the only shipping involved a whoppingly excessive $9.95 charge. Much WTFing ensued until I discovered that Staples offers free delivery to its stores for customer pick-up, so I selected that option and a couple days later after being notified via email that my order was delivered, detoured on my way home to pick it up. I was humorously not surprised to find my box of pens — roughly 5″ x 3″ x 1″– had been shipped in a box that was easily 18″ x 12″ x 4″. Ironically, Staples has apparently never heard of padded envelopes, which they sell.
Long story short, I sat down yesterday with six of the Clic Stics and six of the Staples 1.0s, and about six minutes later, having successfully completed the final pen hack I now had the best of both worlds where form equaled function: a half-dozen fully operational Clic Stics holding their freshly trimmed and installed supersmooth Staples ink cartridges. And there was much rejoicing.
Lately (and to the point of ad nauseum in my less-than-humble opinion) there’s been a trend fadding or a fad trending called the ALS Bucket Challenge, nobly started to raise money for research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but now everybody’s seemingly dumping buckets of iced water over their heads and challenging everybody else to do the same.
My particular bucket challenge isn’t something I’d demand anyone else do nor does it waste a drop of water. As alluded to in my previous post I got busy yesterday afternoon transferring the above-pictured big ol’ pallet of brick slices from my parking space in the garage up 17 steps and around to the side yard using two of the pictured buckets.
To be specific, a bucket holds 20 pieces weighing 44.6 pounds (yes, I weighed one). On Facebook yesterday I submitted the above picture and opened up the guessing as to how many buckets it might take. Here’s the comment thread that resulted:
Roughly three hours later, the transfer was completed involving a total of 52.5 buckets (kudos to Steven Frein for his guess of 50 buckets).
Here’s where they ended up neatly stacked in the sideyard:
And whilst enjoying a cold beer afterward, I did the math and can now use the term “ton o’ bricks” quite literally: 52.5 buckets at 44.6 pounds per bucket equals a total weight of 2,341.5 pounds, that I loaded, carried up 17 steps, and unloaded. The total number of half-bricks was 1,050.
If my back and the rest of me weren’t so totally freakin’ exhausted I’d be feeling pretty badass right about now.
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.
Back last September, I was apparently the only one in the world who DIDN’T know of the existence of resistance bands and how they can aid those such as myself who are pull-up challenged (meaning with my long-ass arms, weak upperbody strength and my 200-plus pound bulk I could barely do one).
Since then, I’ve made some progress, but not much. I’ve gotten pretty good at doing assisted pull-ups but if I’m lucky I’m only able to do two without the bands (and the second one isn’t pretty).
So now I’ve turned it up a notch. Instead of occasionally cranking out one, two or three sets of 10, I’ve raised the bar so to speak and now do 10 sets daily of what’s shown in this clip: 10 pull-ups with the last one followed by a 10-second hold at the top. Then two more and a five-second hold. Basically I do this once every hour from the time I get up until I have to leave in the afternoon. With this extra dedication, determination and effort (which will eventually be doubled to twice an hour) I’m looking forward to finally weaning myself off the resistance band and getting to the point where I can count off five of the suckers completely on my own.
You might remember last September when I wrote about visiting the garden of Bamboo Charlie (nee Charles Ray Walker) after I learned of his sudden demise. If not, you can read and see about it here.
Bamboo Charlie was homeless by choice and a beloved fixture in that area near the Boyle Heights Sears, carving out a quirky paradise on a slice of land near the east bank of the LA River. After I learned about him when his story made the LA Times, I failed to go see him when he was alive and so was heartbroken to only be able to visit his place after he was gone. It was a magical place.
One of the things I did when Susan and I visited was take a mature chili pepper from one of the many plants he had cultivated and put it in my pocket. When I got home, I harvested the seeds and planted them.
They sprouted and grew pretty quickly and even blossomed when pretty much everything else around the house was battening down for winter, but I wasn’t sure if the bees had pollinated any of the plant’s flowers. I should never doubt bees getting the job done because when taking out the trash yesterday, I glanced its way and was surprised to find two peppers have begun growing from where blooms had been, like so:
It’s a small tribute, but I’m happy to see Charlie’s legacy live on. Heretofore they are called The Red Hot Charlie Peppers.