ramblings


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.

license_20130415071614_94143At right is a re-creation of the vanity license plate I saw on the ass of the ridiculously large and and even more ridiculously expensive-looking Fleetwood Revolution LE Earth Schooner cruising eastbound ahead of me in the No. 3 lane of the Pomona Freeway on Friday.

Maybe your interpretation is the correct one, but my reading of the incomplete words was as “SWEAT SUCKS,” which was followed by a semi-incredulous shrug of my shoulders while thinking that if the vehicle’s owner is proud to broadcast his or her or their aversion to any type of physical activity either laborious or recreational that produces perspiration, so be it.

Whatever floats your land boat, Jabba.

But then I got close enough to read the custom frame around the plate (also re-created below), and though it clarified things entirely it opened up a whole other level of incredulity, while inducing some chuckle-induced eye-rolling:

frameInstead of “SWEAT SUCKS,” the plate was an approximation of “SWEET SUCCESS.”

Full Disclosure: I am of the unwavering opinion that with the possible exception of 0.00002 percent of ALL the vanity plates in existence in the galaxy, the rest are lame.

So it is that from so unapologetically biased a basis I decree this particular plate is among the other 99.99998 percent, first and foremost because in the list of unwritten rules regarding vanity plates (the first one being: Don’t get a vanity plate), one of the top ones is:

If, in the course of requesting and acquiring a vanity plate, there is any possible ambiguity in the lettering that could cause a misread, you shouldn’t get that vanity plate.

I can just imagine this owner smugly ordering and blissfully attaching this plate to his spanking new Fleetwood’s backside, proud to proclaim his financial achievement and totally blind to the fact that it can be so easily misread… until it’s finally brought to his attention by other lesser motorists at various red lights or RV parks.

“Ha! ‘Sweat sucks!’ That’s funny! I hate sweat, too!”

“No! It’s ‘Sweeeeeeet successssssss!’

“Oh. Well… ‘Sweat sucks’ is better.”

“But it’s –.”

“Whatever, dude.”

Eventually it happened enough times where the owner frustratingly figured he had to get the frame to put a stop to the madness. And that’s where the unwritten subsection of that unwritten rule above comes in, involving the unfortunate after-the-fact realization of the confusion inducement:

If, after acquiring the plate you only then are made aware that it is being misread, you should immediately surrender the plate and by no means purchase and install a customized frame to clarify and or correct and or otherwise correctly and completely spell out the misinterpreted wording.

Of course, there’s no real penalty for breaking these rules, just as there’s no real cure for dumbshit. But in looking further into this specific violation one wishes there were ordinances prohibiting a person’s transgressions against basic common sense — for their own safety!

Allow me to explain, by showcasing the specific recreational vehicle in question, one which  veritably turns full-sized quad-cab pick-up trucks into Tonka Toys like this, by the way (click it for the bigger picture):

2010 Fleetwood Revolution 42W LE 3 Slides + full sideslide

Check out the size. This beast is 43 feet long. It’s powered by a 400-horsepower diesel engine. Width and height I’d guesstimate to be 10 feet and 12 feet, respectively. Something that big comes with a big price tag. A quick check of the internut found used and new ones in a price range spanning $200,000 to $400,000.

Four. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. Gasoline not included.

In a nutshell: the vehicle alone makes a bigger-than-bold statement. By itself it already screams FLTHYRCH, so putting a vanity plate as a backside exclamation that augments that blaring point is RDNDNT at best and DNG STPD, at worst.

Why stupid? Well see, it’s all well and good if the only attention this vehicle attracts is from the likes of mild-mannereds like me and the reactions don’t go past smirks, chuckling and eye rolls.

But seeing as it’s piloted by a privileged 1-percenter hogging up the public highway lanes across this great city, county, state, and country, rolling along surrounded by the rest of us 99-percenters, there are inevitably some far more desperate and angry than I who instead of seeing a humongous RV with a lame vanity plate and a lamer explanatory frame, sees a giant bag of money driven flagrantly by someone who just has to be an equally ginormous tool. Maybe they imagine a neon sign in the rear window that says RIPE FOR THE PICKING and/ or a bumper sticker that reads:

DRIVER CARRIES NO MORE
THAN $10,000 IN CASH.

Maybe it’s a 65-year-old handyman who’ll be lucky to retire at all and sees nothing funny about it. Maybe it’s a 20-something day laborer with a family back in Mexico who hasn’t been able to send money home in a month for lack of work. Maybe it’s a gangbanger and his homies with nothing better to do. Maybe it’s a guy rapidly approaching 50 who’s putting himself through a training program at his own expense in hopes of landing a job that barely pays him in a year a tenth of the top-end cost for that RV. Oops, that last one’s a bit too close to home.

Without belaboring it any more than I’ve already belabored it, my point is: One person’s “success” is another’s “sucks.”  Especially so the latter when it’s those that fail at recognizing they’re doing themselves no favors by flaunting their SUCS to those among us who think that SUCS.

 

 

There’s a subset of strangers and acquaintances I meet and or interact with out there who — despite all evidence to the contrary — find it perfectly acceptable to call me “Bill.” I find it fascinating. What I also find fascinating is that it’s not a two-way street. If I did go by “Bill” I would bet the odds would be preeeeeeetty long that anyone would auto-default to “Will.”

To me this kneejerk opt-in to an overtly familiar short-version of William is an intriguing  paradox because anyone familiar with me knows I don’t cotton to Bill in the slightest, and if you’re not familiar with me why are you going there without even the courtesy of asking my preference or permission to do so?

Does this substitute-B shit happen to  the world’s Waldos and Wades and Walters and Warrens and Waynes, Wendells, Wesleys, Winstons, Woodys, Wyatts and Wyntons?

“Hi. How are you, I’m Don Geevadam.”

“Hi, Don. I’m Walt Weethadoubayoo.”

“Pleased to meet you, Balt.”

Halt! Never happened. Never bill — I mean: will.

But it happens to me. And when it does — far more than it should — I am quick to correct, as in this screengrab example below that I’ll leave you with from a Facebook exchange this morning with the Auto Club of Southern California over my disappointment that a new program I was interested in wasn’t available to us because our Ford is a hybrid (slightly enlarged if clicked):

aaa

 


(click for better readability)

I love finding random stuff. Some litterbug’s trash is my momentary treasure. Even moreso when it’s just chock-full of unintentional irony, such as this second page of a brief scene discovered this morning in the gutter in front of our house. Why ironic? Well, being someone who makes valiant attempts to minimize the use of my automobile I found the stuff in one of its car-cultcha characters, Russell, ‘fessing up to something of an addiction to excessive driving (though it’s probably a lie to cover up what he’s actually doing). To further the fun, it looks as if the page has been tread upon by a vehicle tire.

Perhaps these were sides used in an audition for this unfunded yet purportedly upcoming Silverlake [sic] 90026 pilot?

If so and otherwise just for the hella, here’s an audio of me undertaking not one but both deeply dramatic roles:

…since I last sat in a barber’s chair. No lie. A full calendar year. Don’t really remember why I decided to stop — I liked my barber; Louie over at Tony’s Barbershop next to the KFC where Glendale Boulevard  meets Fletcher — but as I just kept not going the idea of just letting things grow kinda grew on me. After all, I’ve been wearing it short since I was in ninth grade.

Not that in the past 12 months I haven’t tried to keep some semblance of order to my locks. I bought one of those clipper kits at Costco a few months back and use it to kept the sides short. Mostly. And Susan’s been a dear in helping keep the back from going full-blown mullet — or at least she used to until she finally stopped bringing up the rear probably in hopes I’d seek the services of a professional to tame things.

It’s true things are pretty wild up there. See? I call this look the Angler Fish:

Maybe you can’t tell from the above snap, but there’s hairs up top in that air that are knockknockknockin’ on the eight-inch-length door. The last time I wore it anywhere near that long? Sixth grade. And that wasn’t by choice, that was by the haircuts-aren’t-as-big-a-priority-as-food rule given my mom’s limited income.

Now it’s by choice, and I think it’s probably a mid-life thing. I’ve worn my hair so close to the scalp for so long that it’s nice at this late stage to be able to let it all hang out — and actually makes me miss not doing so when I was younger. Maybe it’s a silly way to capture lost youth, but far less so than, say… a Harley.

As evidenced by discovering two relatively fresh piles on the parkway today while sweeping up the frontyard and sidewalk, either one dog-walker or more have become perfectly OK with their pooch pooping in front of our house and then failing to remove the fecal matter.

As such I’m mulling over the following options for signage and could use guidance among the following three I’m considering:

  1. Please scoop your dog’s poop
  2. If you’re not a dick, up the dogshit you will pick
  3. Circumstance and a dogged (no pun intended) sense of righteousness will eventually conspire to allow me to catch you not cleaning up your dog’s dungheap. So by all means, go ahead and let your pooch crap in front of my house — again. But be warned: when that glorious day of reckoning arrives, I shall race down like winged vengeance upon the steaming pile, palm it from where it lays and do my level best to decorate the back of your head with it.

No. 1 is respectful and direct, but I like No. 2’s Yoda-esque truth. No. 3, though, is very, very satisfying, but would require a pretty large piece of cardboard, hope that the offender isn’t too short-attention spanned, and probably a good lawyer to help get me acquitted of any assault charges. Thoughts?

I think occasionally I’ll come up with an amazing photograph (or at least one that I find so), simply because I take so many pictures. It’s a law of averages that once every couple thousand snaps I’ll be blown away by what I find. It’s certainly not from a mastery of camera mechanics so much as a massive amount of frames made.


The corner of calles Allende and Madero in historic Queretaro, Mexico.
(click it for the bigger picture)

Take the above photo for instance, which I thought was lost when my previous desktop computer crapped out for good last November (but it turned out I’d had the foresight to migrate my photo archives to an external hard drive). It’s a timed exposure — about five seconds in length — with the camera handheld but braced against the balcony railing of our room overlooking Calle Ignacio Allende at the spectacular La Casa de la Marquesa Hotel in Queretaro, Mexico, during our extraordinary visit in the summer of 2008.

I did the long exposure simply because it was too dark to get the scene of the beggar in a doorway without using the flash and destroying all the rich color and texture. And it’s doubtful the flash would’ve illuminated the mood even if I’d used it.

So I opened the shutter it turns out a moment prior to the couple coming from around the corner and walking past the woman ignoring her and her outstretched hand that held a cup presumably to catch any spare pesos that might be offered.

Little did I know that the headlights of a vehicle approaching Calle Madero on Allende from the right would have a bonus strobe effect on the couple’s legs as they walked past.

Pros could certainly argue why it’s not a better fauxtograph than photograph. It’s blurry, busy, and not an easy or quick read. But to me it’s one of my favorite shots of the thousands I took during that trip in large part because of the serendipitous inclusion of the passersby, ghostlike and fleeting against the flesh-and-bone woman looking for a handout. I don’t want to dive too deep into tortured symbolism, but it juxtaposes the fantasy of affluence against the reality of poverty.  I couldn’t have intentionally captured that even if I knew what I was doing.

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