obituary


Since I’m on the verge of going another two weeks without posting, here’s a little stopmotion somethin’ from August 17:

I broke my long streak of not going on night group rides to saddle up and ride the streets in memory of one of the bike community’s most unique members — EddieBoyinLA, nee Edward Alvarez — who succumbed to illness and left us earlier this month.

The news of his death galvanized riders young and old. The turnout to celebrate him was incredible and the ride reminded me of how much I used to love getting out on my bike to course through the dark city with a bunch of loveable miscreants, ne’er do wells, degenerates, and rabblerousers. In general, saints all.

Rest and ride in peace, EddieBoy.

Notes: I did something different dimensionally this time and inserted portions of real-time footage “replays” into the timelapse. The first is at the 2:55 mark when we went through the 2nd Street Tunnel. The second is at 5:20 as we rode out of Chinatown north past the Cornfield park where a huge rave-style event was taking place. Lastly at 7:29 at Lincoln Park using a still I shot I got, I paired it with audio of that rider who scaled the statue with a megaphone to lead everybody in an “I say EDDIE, you say BOY!” cheer.

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.

 

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:

“Baby?” Susan said softly this morning with a serious undertone that indicated something had happened.

“Yep?”

There was a pause.

“Hop’s dead.”

She’d found him last night before going to bed.

“Oh,” I sighed. “I’m sorry about that.”

Hop became part of our family a couple years ago or so when we adopted him from my friend Sean Bonner along with two other European treefrogs he’d had. The trio was driving him crazy with the racket they’d make at inopportune times, such as the middle of the night or during business calls. Susan, to my surprise, approved of the transfer and quickly named them Hop, Skip, and Ajump.

Skip and Ajump, the Europeans, died within the first year, but Hop proved to be of tougher stuff, and Susan dutifully made weekly trips to the local pet store for crickets that she regularly fed him. I’d augment his diet with the occasion fly I’d trap under glass and release into his aquarium. He was a swift and sure hunter.

The most remarkable thing about Hop was his call. He didn’t make it much the last year or so, but there were times before that when he’d let loose with a series of loud and sharp noises that best could be described as sounding like a small dog barking. Yap! Yap! Yap! Sometimes it would go on for a few seconds. Sometime a minute or more. Seriously, it was quite the surprise that something so loud came from something so small, and one of my goals was to get audio  of the vocal display. It proved impossible, because he’d always clam up before I was ready to record.

Frog’s are decidedly difficult to read so it was also impossible to know if we were doing right by Hop. My main presumption was that if we were doing something drastically wrong, Hop wouldn’t have hung around as long as he did. Still, I’d thought about getting him a tank mate, but not enough to risk Hop not getting along with the new amphib, or perhaps getting along too well and producing a bunch of little Hops. I was also notoriously lax on cleaning his home, but he actually seemed to be troubled more during the few times I would scour it, then if I left it alone to just become an algae growing experiment.

Susan came downstairs, checked the tank and then came into the study a few minutes ago as I was writing this. “Hop’s still dead,” she said.

“Yeah. I’ll clean out the tank after I finish this.”

There was brief talk of a more convenient and disrespectful disposal, but we decided to bury him in the side yard. It will be a simple and quick ceremony, but far more fitting a family member than flushing.

 

 

I was seriously  saddened to read in today’s LA Times that Charles Ray Walker (aka Bamboo Charlie) was found dead August 26. I first learned of him and the wonderful Boyle Heights space he transformed a couple years ago:

From the LA Times story today by Hector Becerra:

What Walker did, over two decades, was turn something grim into a wonderland garden of edibles and toys. He grew fruits and vegetables on bare slopes. He took discarded toys and whimsical signs and decorated terraces and elaborate stairwells he carved out of the dirt. He built a shack, and under the cool shade of a tree, a home entertainment room with a television set and sofa.

I’d always meant to go there and say hello. Now it’s too late for that. Now, all I can do is go and pay my respects, which I did this morning with Susan:

Flickr photosets: Susan’s and mine.

An ultra-awareness of the fragility of new life comes with the territory I trod in observing hummingbirds brought forth into the world via our property. But that doesn’t make it any easier whenever I’m taught the next in a continuing education of harsh lessons on that subject, such as the one today.

I had concerns yesterday evening when I found the backyard nest suspiciously super-still. Neither of the chicks, which by yesterday had grown enough that both their heads stuck well out above the nest’s rim, were visible And there was nothing in the way of movement coming from within the nest. This morning, the same thing. And to make the situation more dire, the sun shone through the nest wall that would never have penetrated if there were chick bodies in there.

A search on the ground yielded nothing but a torn shred of nest material.

This afternoon, I finally couldn’t stand not knowing anymore and sent up a probe visible below, realizing my fears. The nest was entirely empty. Both chicks — nowhere near the fledge stage — were gone. I can only conclude that another bird, maybe a jay, discovered the nest and raided it and the two chicks, which had been doing so well under the dedicated and diligent care of their mother hummingbird, are dead.

Another more thorough and cautious search of the ground around the site yielded absolutely nothing.

There is some consolation in that it wasn’t worse. The mother could have died while getting food or water and the chicks could have perished a slower death in the nest. While I didn’t actually see the mother, I did hear some clicks in the area that are probably hers.

I can only hope she’ll try again, but I’m pretty sure she won’t attempt it here and instead will do so from a new nest in a completely different location.

So sad.

 

UPDATED (3.05): Yep, pretty sure it was jays. Found a fast-moving sinister pair methodically casing the branches of the same tree this morning, as if returning to the scene of the crime in search of other nests to pillage.

Shadow’s deterioration into total immobility during her last months made it tough to remember when she was so full of life and personality. And that’s what makes finding this forgotten (albeit ultra low-res) video mostly of her during a 2005 hike with me and Susan in Bronson Canyon Park that much more of a pleasant surprise in that it shows Shadow how she should and will be remembered: in all her rambunctious creek-hopping, keep-up-with-me glory. I love you, Shadow. Rest in peace.

Next Page »