happiness


Let it be known that I am a big old man with a collection of lost plush toys in plain view accumulated over a lotta years of street rescues. I’m totally OK with that.

So let me tell you the story and positive consequences Beanie Baby “Smoochy,” the newest member of that ragtag toy troop.

Tree. Frog.

Smoochy was first spotted looking sad on the sidewalk across the street from our house during a dog walk last week. I left him alone for several days in hopes that whoever might’ve dropped him might pass by and get reunited. But no go. By the third day Smoochy had been moved up into a nearby tree, and by the fifth day I had packed a spare plastic bag with which in accordance to CDC guidelines during the Covid-19 Pandemic to conduct a noncontact retrieval, after which he got decon’d through the next laundry cycle and now sits cleaner and far happier on my desk, Prior to joining the other rescues atop a nearby bookshelf.

Freshly laundered.

Welcome to your new home, Smoochster!

And here they are in a group photo of said menagerie of various plushies (and a small pretty beat-up figurine of Woody and his hat from “Toy Story”) that I just couldn’t leave on the mean streets of Lost Angeles over the many years I’ve walked and pedaled upon them.

The gang’s all here.

To reiterate, regardless of my advanced age, size, shape, political affiliation and overall grumpy demeanor, this crew is proudly displayed, and there’s nothing you can do to shame me about such a collection in large part because it gives my old heart joy to look upon them and the fate my interventions preventioned.

But wait! There’s more!

What time is it?

This entirely incongruous wristwatch photo I’m showing you is of a pretty unique circa 1950s vintage Longines 14K square tank, this one being the His version of a His-and-Hers pair belonging to my late stepfather and that my mother had at some point given me for safekeeping. The Hers version is and has always been safely in my watch and jewelry box. But a long time ago, I deigned to wear the His on an outing and afterward subsequently misplaced it. It’s been missing for more than 10 years now, and I curse myself every time I think of it. And while I’ve bestowed my “Nothing is lost, it is simply not revealed” affirmation after every one of those curses, I was pretty dang sure it was gone for good, having been accidentally discarded or left in the pocket of a coat that had gone to Goodwill. This was based on the fact of multiple futile searches over the years everywhere the watch could and could not be.

Or so I thought.

See, in adding Smoochy to the group, I decided to bring them all down off that carved wooden box they can be seen propped upon, dust them off, and rearrange them back on top of it, as shown. In doing so I had this great thought to myself:

“Hey self, let’s look and see what’s in that box?”

And guess what? The watch was in that box.

Why did I put it there more than a decade or more ago before my first lost toy had been found? Hell if I know. But that’s where I put it.

So proven, yet again: Nothing is lost, it is simply not revealed.

And the further moral to the story: If I had acted my age and hadn’t brought Smoochy home, guess where the watch would still be? Gone, baby, gone.

So If you happen to pass by some stuffed animal all alone in the street and think you’re too old to come to its rescue; or that it’s all rather silly to feel compassion for what’s nothing more than some stuffing-filled fabric and a pair of plastic eyes, you should considering lightening up a bit. Because the fact is you just never what else you might find.

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 river’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 city’s woeful waterway — little more than a drainage ditch to the sea. Though I’ve been aware of its potential, I never imagined that one day I’d see such a sea change in perception so that  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.

kayakroute

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 — however awkwardly — downstream for a water-level perspective of my beloved river, it’s not a dream come true. Because I never dared to dream this could ever happen. Not in my lifetime.

No, it’s much more than that. To me it’s nothing short of a glorious miracle. And for that I’m thankful to everyone who has fought so tirelessly and valiantly over the years to get the city’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 one  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 Sunday is the next CicLAvia, in which a route through the city is closed off to motor vehicular traffic and open only to the wide variety of self-propellers: cyclists, walkers, joggers, skateboarders, skaters, and the like.

I’m looking forward to this one in particular because of a couple firsts. The first first is that the course is brand new, spanning between downtown and the beach mostly via Venice Boulevard (click the graphic below for the bigger picture).

ciclavia

The second first is that contrary to every one of the past five CicLAvias I’ve participated in, I actually don’t have the day to myself and instead have someplace to be. Fortunately that place is down South Bay way and thus I’m relieved that I can avoid missing my first CicLAvia by incorporating it part of my overall roundabout outbound commute.

Specifically, I have to be in Hawthorne by 1 p.m. ready to participate in an spcaLA-offered beginner dog training class. So my plan is to roll downtown around 9 a.m., and just get meandering west until I arrive at Venice and then make my way around the marina and across Ballona Creek onto the bike path that winds its way alongside the sand out of Dockweiler State Beach. From there I’ll bail inland and back onto the streets via Imperial Highway, working my way onward via a staircase of eastbound/southbound/eastbound/southbound streets until I arrive at my destination, like so:

restway

Depending how I’m feeling about pedaling the entire distance home afterward, I may head up Crenshaw to Leimert Park and roll back home across the basin, or I’ll just ride the rails back into downtown by intersecting with a Green Line train to the Blue Line (perhaps working in a stop at Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers since I’ll be in that area).

I hadn’t yet been to a Dodger game this year, and frankly might not have made it out to see one this season had the good folks at Mr. Pink Ginseng Drink not invited me and Susan to their media event this evening– which just so happened to also be Kirk Gibson Bobblehead  (with Fist Pump Action!) Night.

We got a VIP tour of the place — including a visit onto the hallowed field during batting practice — before adjourning to a suite to enjoy the game. Sure, it didn’t end well… the Arizona Diamondbacks ended up winning 8-2. But whether the Dodgers are victorious or not, a summer’s late afternoon and evening at Dodger Stadium will always be one of my favorite places in Los Angeles and on the planet. Thanks, Mr. Pink!

Buster got some exercise/explore time out of the tortoise hutch and around the backyard this morning:


(click it for the bigger picture)

Thursday’s LA Times brought to my attention the 8th-Annual Ojai Valley Lavender Festival, and it didn’t take much convincing to get Susan on board for a daytrip out that gorgeous way.

The festival itself took place in Ojai’s Libbey Park and featured scores and scores of vendors selling just about anything and everything lavender-related. Afterward we explored the shops within the arcade across the street and had lunch before paying  a visit to New Oak Ranch where for $5 they set Susan and me up with pairs of clippers and let us wade out into a fragrant breeze-blown sea of the stuff clipping our own bunches of fresh lavender.

Susan’s wanderings brought her into contact with a rabbit and some quail. The only thing I got close to were the many busy bees, and it was somewhere in the midst of my cutting that I put down the clippers and got the above close-up of that hardworker.

Afterwards we came back through the village and out the other side, stopping briefly to check-out Lake Casitas before venturing to Highway 33 and the 101 south back home.

A Flickr set of other pix from the excursion can be viewed here.

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