Next On A Very Special Episode of “Driveway Blockers”

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?!


First In An Occasional Series: Bikeway Peds Behaving Badly

With the completion of the stretch of the Los Angeles River Bikeway through Elysian Valley have come conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists. Certainly a percentage of inconsiderate individuals from each side are responsible for these negative interactions, but inevitably blog posts about the topic will be published in which proprietary pedestrians seems to relish making broad generalizations about cyclists as the creators of the friction while righteously holding themselves entirely harmless.

It’s a similar infuriating us-versus-them attitude I’ve seen time and time again from hikers/equestrians who can do no wrong and mountain cyclists who they seem to believe unconditionally suck as a whole.

The thing is, whether it’s on roadways, trails or bikeways, my time in the saddle involves only a very small percentage of aggravation because I’m one of those cyclists who actively strives not to suck. As such I found it a bit ironic that during yesterday’s amazingly enjoyable 20-mile morning ride in which the streets I pedaled upon were almost completely empty, I had two encounters with pedestrians on the bikeway, both of which were caught on my handlebar cam and demonstrate the irresponsible behavior many pedestrians simply refuse to acknowledge — while at the same time getting taxpayer money spent on biased signage that strives to reinforce both pedestrian entitlement and cyclist inconsideration.

As such I’m going to begin this “Pedestrians Behaving Badly” occasional series, starting with the following stills culled from yesterday’s timelapse:

In this first one, I began slowing while ringing my bell at about a one-second interval more than 100 yards away from this bikeway bogarting couple and their three canines (two unleashed), increasing it in intensity and decreasing my speed as I drew closer.

Thanks to their inattentiveness (which wasn’t broken until I had passed them at less than five miles per hour), the smallest dog drifted into my path, but saw me at the last moment and abruptly changed direction with an understandably startled growl as I passed.

Continuing on past the startled couple, I have little doubt that despite my best efforts to show a consideration and caution they weren’t willing or able to reciprocate they found no fault in themselves and complete fault in me.

The next image below shows a jogger coming toward me, a pedestrian heading in the same direction as I was, and two  unleashed dogs. Take the dogs out of the shot and this scene is full of awesome, with both people moving comfortably out of the bike lanes on the shoulders of the bikeway. Trouble is both dogs belong to the jogger and as I approached they were roaming freely and unchecked back and forth across the width of the bikeway.

Were the dogs aggressive? Not in the slightest, but that’s not the point. Did their guardian seem like he was completely entitled to disregard the city’s leash laws? Absolutely. Fortunately neither dog impeded my progress and instead of having to take some sort of evasive action I was able to proceed around the bend where I soon passed another posted biased reminder whose unspoken intent is “Because Peds Don’t Bloody Well Have To Yield To You.”



Walk This Way

Just amazing how a community can come together. When I turned the corner yesterday afternoon and came upon the hundreds of people gathered at the Silver Lake Recreation Center, there for a walk organized to honor and remember Dr Marc Abrams — Silver Lake’s indefatigable “Walking Man” — I choked up at such a wondrous sight. It made me so proud to be a part of this neighborhood.

Flickr photoset is here.

Silver Lake Loses A Bit Of Its Stride

I was greeted this pre-dawn with a tweet from my friend Walt, saddened by the death of the man well-known as the Silver Lake Walker, otherwise known to his patients as Dr. Marc Jacobs.

In shock and abject sadness over the sudden loss of such a fixture of the neighborhood I then went about posting up on a bit of what he meant to me as a treasured community icon who I encountered numerous times since moving to Silver Lake in 2003, such as in the series of images above (click for the bigger picture), captured as he passed by me and other cyclists outside Trader Joe’s as we readied for a ride.

I’m going for a walk today at lunch in honor of him.

UPDATE (3:46 p.m.): Well, I did it. Took an extended lunch and logged five miles walking in honor of Dr. Abrams, stopping at Trader Joe’s to pick up a couple  bouquets of flowers in hopes of recognizing his house on Moreno Drive and leaving one there and leaving another at the mural on Sunset. Alas, I couldn’t recall the house’s location so both bunches of flora ended up at the mural.

And if there’s anyone reading this who thinks I’m making too big a deal about the man’s impact on this neighborhood, here’s a short and wonderful documentary from Lauren Malkasian made about the Walking Man a few years back:

Deaths In The Family

Friday was a sad day that just got progressively sadder. In reverse order of discovery, one of our three treefrogs died, the imminent demise of LA Metblogs was announced, and I lost a Twitter friend. It’s the last one that’s affected me the most.

Her Twitter name was @glittergran. Her real world name was Sonia and she was a retired fashion editor somewhere in England, and that’s about all I knew about her (which is a helluva lot more than I know about most of the tweeters I follow or am followed by). I’m not even sure how we found each other out there in the ether, but I fell in love with her because of her marvelous personality, which came shining through in 140 characters or less. In turn she enjoyed my tweets and my blog and always found time to encourage others Twitter followers to give me a looksee.

A few weeks earlier this month she suffered a stroke, but was released from the hospital and seemed to be recovering. Then came the news yesterday that she had passed Monday, provided by an assistant of hers who’d taken over her Twitter account.

It surprised me how much her death affected me — even moreso when I found that her final tweet had been to me.

It was sent at the end of a brief exchange (trivial even — but on Twitter aren’t they all?) that began when I sent out a brief harumph of a critique about the disappointing “The Lovely Bones.” In the tweet I said the best thing about the film was its somewhat out-of-nowhere use of The Hollies “Long Cool Woman.” She tweeted back that I made her feel old because she owned the original vinyl album that song is on. I tweeted back “Sweetheart, damn the years. If you’re old then I’m a martian,” followed up by another tweet: “PS. I have my own share of those LPs,” accompanied by a picture (at right) that I snapped of our shell-full of vinyl.

In the busy week that followed I didn’t really notice an absence of Sonia’s presence on twitter. I figured she had doctors’ visits and was doing more important things like resting and getting better. Then came the message to me Friday morning:

Hi I am glittergran’s PA. I know she tweeted to a cyclist in LA so I guess it must be you. In case you don’t know she sadly passed away on Monday. Her funeral is tomorrow at 11am – just in case you want to share a thought at that time. I know she was fond of your blog and tweets.

I was stunned, but handled the shock and the emotion until I was looking at her past tweets and found the last one she sent after I had tweeted that picture to her of my record collection:

Thanks WB. I was having a bad day, but that made me smile.X.

Then I lost it. Jeez, I just got choked up again. Whoo…

Rest in peace, Sonia. My Twitterverse has lost a lot of its sparkle, but I know Heaven’s that much brighter with you there.

A Death Over Our Heads

Susan called me at work yesterday afternoon. There was a nervousness to her voice that I picked up immediately and I feared one of our animals had been hurt.

“Joe’s passed away,” she told me. Joe was her tenant, the last of the three renters who occupied the house when she bought it in 1999. He lived upstairs since 1986. She said Joe’s brother was there and there were men in white coats and gloves and by the time I got home at 6 p.m. his body had been removed and all looked like nothing had happened.

I last saw Joe when I came down to the garage to help get the rest of the groceries out of Susan’s car Saturday afternoon. He was on the sidewalk talking with another man I didn’t recognize. I said hi to Joe as I started back up the front steps with the bags and he nodded back at me. Joe was HIV positive and in his 60s and in the last couple years his physical bearing had deteriorated significantly to the point of Susan and I wondering how much longer it would be until he needed hospice care. He moved slower and more stooped whenever I saw him and as of a few weeks ago I noticed a delivery of oxygen tanks standing outside his front door.

Joe’s brother said to Susan that he was told by the attendants that the death looked to be a result of natural causes and that given the condition of the body he may have expired sometime over weekend. Susan said she could smell the decomposition as the whitecoats struggled getting him out of the house. His brother told her he’d opened up the windows and turned on the air conditions to help air the place out. It’s weird to think of Joe’s body right over our heads for two days. Maybe more. And that he might have died while we sat watching television or grilling in the backyard.

Apparently, he was discovered earlier in the day by his weekly housekeeper. Whatever her reaction might have been it was enough to alert our neighbor Ralph across the street who phoned the police and Joe’s brother. The police came, as did the coroner. I’m guessing the whitecoats were mortuary personnel. Ralph told Joe’s brother that when he last talked to Joe he’d mentioned having trouble breathing.

I didn’t know much about Joe in the almost four-years Susan and I have been together here. The extent of our contacts pretty much involved passing each other on the way in or out. Our longest conversations involved him complimenting the Halloween or Christmas decorations or telling me something that wasn’t working properly. I knew he could be a pain in the butt, but he was the type of person that would vent his frustrations in a letter or an email or a voicemail message about Ranger’s barking or a malfunctioning heater other such matters and then follow up with an apology the next day. Most months that he paid his rent, he’d adorn the envelopes with a happy face. He’d worked for the city painting out graffiti. He had a pizza delivered Friday night. He drove an increasingly dinged-up Dodge Neon. He walked with a cane. He like the colors we painted the house last year. On occasions recently he took to listening to the TV with the volume way up. There’s an old Univega bike of his down in the basement.

Joe played a part in Susan and I meeting. He’d taken the picture of her that she’d posted to her profile. It was taken from above, with her looking up into the camera and the light vibrantly illuminating her blond hair. In one of his missives sometime after I moved in during the summer of 2004 expressing his outrage over a rent increase or similar matter he even took a modicum of credit for our relationship because of that snapshot as if it somehow should exempt him from such things. I’m pretty sure he said he was sorry for the outburst shortly thereafter.

Joe’s brother said he hopes to have the place cleared out in a week or so. I can only imagine what a chore that will be packing up and moving 22 years worth of stuff, emotionally as well as physically. And in the meantime, Susan and I are obviously shellshocked not only at the reality check that comes with death, but one that happened so close to home.

Rest in peace, Joe.

400 Calories

At the northwest corner of Crescent Heights and Wilshire this morning sat a weathered man holding a weathered piece of written-upon cardboard in one hand and a plastic cup in the other. I don’t remember what the sign said verbatim, but it included the words “Please Help” and gave information that the man was hungry and had no place to go and that he was a veteran of the Korean War.

Had the light been green to cross Wilshire and continue southward I would’ve just kept on going, but it was red and so I pulled beyond him and stopped and even though he was out of my sight he stayed in my mind — especially the word “hungry” — and so I pulled up onto the sidewalk and retrieved the container of yogurt and the banana and the Luna bar out of my backpack. It was to have been my 400-calorie breakfast consumed later at my desk, but suddenly I didn’t need it because he needed it more.

As I drew beside him, he jumped a little at the sound of my voice when I said “It ain’t much sir, but you’re welcome to it,” and then he gratefully accepted the items and said “God bless you” and I said “And you” and he caught sight of my bike with a sidelong glance and added “Be careful out there!” and I said “Thank you, take care” and I got on my way.