Short Story Long: Frond Memories

For those of you who do not have palm trees on your property with which you have to deal, I am a bit jealous. We happen to have two. One is roughly a sixty footer that has been growing for perhaps near as long as our 1906 house is old. It stands majestically and relatively out of the way in the northwest corner of the backyard. The other comes in somewhere upwards of forty feet and it is literally and maddeningly situated smack dab in the middle of the backyard, about ten feet back from the kitchen windows.

I would estimate that in the course of the near thirteen years that tree and I have been acquainted, I have spent a cumulative total of two hours and thirty-six minutes just staring in WTF-style amazement at it wondering which one of the previous owners had the opportunity to uproot the palm tree in its infancy some half-century ago, but instead decided it would be a dang good idea to allow it to grow in pretty much the most obtrusive possible place that one could allow one to grow. Many’s the time I’ve looked out the kitchen windows and admired how much its trunk has all the view-blocking beauty of a utility pole or smokestack, and doubly so how its position subsequently limits any landscaping opportunities. Not coincidentally, many’s the time I’ve dreamed about going back in time and whacking that person in the shoulder with a frond for being such an idiot.

Speaking of fronds, that’s why I’m over-telling this story today. With the winds this past week, comes the trees’ inevitable shedding of its dead. The sixty-footer did so last week, dropping twenty-nine fronds heavily but mostly harmlessly onto the north sideyard. I came home last night to find the forty-footer had shrugged off twenty-seven. Why is it I know the exact number? Because I chop up each and every one — the better to pack them into the green bin and get them the hell outta my sight.

It wasn’t always like that. For our first few years together, the fronds would fall (I remember one bunch totaling 60 that practically scared the poop outta me when I was napping in the hammock and heard it break off in mass with a ridiculous shhhhnraaack! and then crash with a ground-shaking shhhhwhump to earth) and I would go about tying them up in bundles of 10 or so, lugging them all down to the curb and then praying and hoping that my bulky item pickup request with the sanitation department would get fulfilled — which it sometimes wouldn’t, forcing me to make another request, and the fronds would then sit there at the curb for another week. Maybe two.

I’d guess it was finally around 2008 or so that I decided to cut out the middleman, and instead purchased a pair of heavy duty shears, wherein after each frond fall I would cut up each one of the sometimes seven- to eight-foot tall beasts into three parts (as you can see in the accompanying timelapse of me attacking the forty-footers twenty-seven this morning): first separating the fan from the shaft, then the shaft from the tail. The process makes for a pretty good workout, especially considering that until chopping up the sixty-footer’s offering last Sunday, I was being a dumbhead in making the process aaaaaaall the more laborious by using the shears to forcefully make a full cut between the shaft and the tail.

Here’s the thing, decapitating the fan is a piece o’ cake. The shaft is very thin at the base of the fan and all it takes is a literal snip to make that separation. Down at the other end is a different matter. The shaft has not only widened out but it’s way thicker and denser too, thus making a full cut through that section took a lot of effort and time. It takes force, it takes position, it takes leverage, and then some more force, responsitioning and leverage. Factor in the inevitable dulling of the shears’ blades and it’s not a party. Not only that, but as a bonus on occasion, in the course of attempting that arduous cut– many of the fronds are lined with sharp little thorny spikes –the shaft would snap against my neck or head, cutting me. I sooooo rejoiced at the glory of life whenever that magic would happen. Hallelujah.

Apologies to Steinbeck for the “Of Mice and Men” reference, but for as much as I like to think I’m George, I can be such a total Lennie.” For whatever reason last Sunday, after cutting off the first fan I went to work at the other end, and it was only after roughly ten years of doing it the hard way of huffing and puffing and groaning trying to cut aaaaaall the way through that a light bulb went off and a voice said “Relaaaaax you numbskull. Don’t force it. Instead just cut into one side enough to score the surface and then bend it away from you!” And I was all, “Wha…?” And the voice was all “Just trust me. Truuuuuuust me.” So I said “OK,” and I scored the surface and then bent the shaft down and away and dang if the frond didn’t let out a satisfying kraaack! and part from the tail. Not fully, but after that making the remaining separation was an effortless snip with the shears on par with that involved at the other end.

I rejoiced in my ten-year-late discovery and upon finishing the job in record time came running in to share the news of my exciting discovery with my beloved Susan. In the end, let’s just say she looked at me very much the way a parent might look troubled upon a child who might be showing themselves for the first time (or fiftieth) to be perhaps a peck short of a bushel. In fact, I’ll it’d be a safe bet you’re looking at your screen in much the same way. I understand. Go ahead and tell me about the rabbits then, huh? Can ya? Tell me all about the rabbits!

Anyway. There is much joy here in Frondville on this day. Next year when the palms drop their next batches upon the ground I won’t be jumping with joy at the task at hand, but at least I’ll be accomplishing it more efficiently. Hallelujah!


I can’t tell you whether the charbroiling burger smells that emanate from Carl’s Jrs are unique in their aroma, but I can tell you that when I biked by the one on the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue yesterday morning and got a good whiff in passing, I boarded the sense-memory express on a nonstop flight that took me and my olfactory system all the way back to when my age was in single digits and I made numerous trips by bike to that very same franchise location from where I lived at the time about a mile away in the slums of Beverly Hills.

But not for the food. For the drinks. Or rather the glasses they came in. I don’t remember the particular connection between the fast-food chain and Warner Bros., all I know is that in the early 1970s Carl’s Jr began selling glassware emblazoned with pretty much every Warner Bros.cartoon character you can imagine.

Mind you, these were not the cheap thin crap glass you get in promos nowadays. These were thick and sleek, with a heavy bottom from which the sides rose and tapered out and surrounded some 16 ounces of the beverage of your choice. And the artwork? Equally awesome. Whether it was Bugs Bunny or Sylvester or Tweety Bird or Yosemite Sam or Foghorn Leghorn or anyone else in the Looney Tunes cavalcade of cartoon legends, the images were authentic, the colors perfect and the paint thick giving it a bit of dimensionality off the glass — as if they’d jumped straight out of the TV and into real life.

Even at my unadvanced age, I knew these were well-crafted things I’d cherish forever.

Needless to say I saved my nickels and dimes and would make regular trips every weekend to that very Carl’s Jr I biked by yesterday morning, and I would march inside to the display at the front counter in high hopes that a new character glass had arrived.

If it was one I already had, I’d withdraw, bummed out. Maybe I’d bike over and hang out with the Dan the Miner statue in Carthay Circle, scuffing the grass with my sneakers in impatient frustration — in large part because I was playing catch-up in something of a gotta-get-’em-all competition with my best friend Randy, who lived in Van Nuys and was collecting them as well. In fact I’m pretty sure I only found out about the glasses during a visit to his house when he showed off the ones he’d already obtained from the Carls Jr near his house on Woodman Avenue and Burbank Boulevard. So envious was I that I’m pretty sure I contemplated stealing them from him. Instead from that point on the race was on.

Continue reading Shattered

We All Have Our Weaknesses

Some have the strength to admit theirs. In my case I don’t have the filter to keep mine quiet… at least not this one.

Yesterday it was Twizzlers, though it was not a craving that came out of nowhere. A couple previous weeks ago I’d snacked on some and since then I’ve inexplicably and irrationally wanted more. Not continuously… just now and then my brain would think TWIZZLERS followed by MUSTHAVEWANTNOW!

I fought it for awhile, but the urge arose and overcame me on my ride in to work yesterday morning and I stopped at the CVS closest to the office where I soon found myself in a debate of simple comparative values. A five-ounce package was $1.59, but I knew one wouldn’t be enough, so I picked up two and was about to leave when I saw that a two-pound jumbo package was only $2.69.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure out that 10 ounces for $3.19 just doesn’t make any sense when 32 ounces of the same product are 50 cents less.

Of course, I’d just have a handful and then put the remainder in the break room for my coworkers because there was no way I’d nom-nom two freaking pounds of all that artifically flavored crap in one day, right?

Oh soooooo wrong. So sadly wrong.

It was like a flash addiction from the minute I opened the bag and the waxy freshness wafted out. I ate two. Then two more. Then two more. Then two more after that. By noon, more than half the bag was gone and I was feeling as guilty as I was ill, and managed to stop.

For awhile.

Then at 5 p.m. I snuck a peak at the bad inside the drawer I put it in. And then came the moment of surrender. That “Well, I might as well…” rationalization, in which finishing off the bag and ending the torment was better than leaving it to taunt.

And so I did.

I Killed that bag.

All two pounds of whatever it is that Twizzlers are made of: Red dye. Rubberbands. Plastic. Sugar. Wax. Motor oil. Self-Loathing. Modeling clay. Hand sanitizer. Elmer’s Glue. Horse hooves. Coltan. Baby tears. Liquid Paper. Newt Gingrich. Unrequited love. Bath water. Nuclear fallout.

And all of it sat in my stomach and my stomach was like “WTF!?!! I’m gonna have to let this sit here awhile until I can get a jackhammer and some Liquid Plumber to break this mess down. Just you wait until your colon finds out about this.”

Needless to say the bike ride home, pregnant with the stuff, was a unique experience.

And really needless to say: I fear when my colon does find out it’ll stamp it “Return To Sender.”

Slice Of Life

The proof of my idiocy wound, 24 hours later (don’t click it if your squeamish at seeing it this size):


As I told Susan the night of the injury: if I can’t operate a simple pocket knife safely how can I ever be trusted around a blender. Or a baseball bat. Sigh.

There Were Fashion Victims In Those Days

The kind comment of the LA Fire Department’s Brian Humphrey calling me courageous in response to yesterday’s post about the last few months of my job search is greatly appreciated, but it takes a different kind of bravery to post a photo of me I found this morning while looking for my map of Death Valley. You’ll have to check it out after the jump because I’m too chicken to put it up ffront here, but first some background info to help soften the ridiculousness of the shot.

It was taken 17 years ago in September of 1990 in what I would hyperbolize as the prime of my resurrected life. I was about eight months separated from my first wife (and my then less-than-one-year-old daughter Katie). I had an apartment in the south of Glendale and a good enough job with Sparkletts with a route that included parts of Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Atwater Village and Glendale. In addition the physical rigors of the job had helped me to drop about 40 pounds, aided by the fact that the bulk of my diet no longer consisted of delivery pizza and bags of Reese’s peanut butter cups. As a bonus I enjoyed an increased social life. In short it was a time for me to feel my oats.

Having said all that, hindsight is not kindsight… especially when it comes to the fashions of the past, which ryhmes with aghast which is how I feel seeing the then-me now. So without further delay hence, let the pointing and laughing commence:

Continue reading There Were Fashion Victims In Those Days

Oooo Oooo That Smell!

Let’s just put it this way: I’ll be going to the store for some tomato juice later. That’s right, Susan and I got ambushed by a skunk this morning with me getting the worst of the juicing. We were nailed barely a quarter mile into our second consecutive four-mile morning walk. Trust me on this it could’ve been a lot worse, which I’ll explain below.

Here’s how it went down. Susan and I hit the streets around 5:20 a.m. this morning. We headed north to Sunset then over to Parkman then down to Silver Lake Boulevard. Walking up the west side of the street with Susan to my right we past several properties until to my left was a short retaining wall, atop which were crudely installed some plywood boarding to keep the property’s sloping hillside from migrating.

At about the midway point across the front of that lot from out of nowhere all of a sudden a surprising spritz of something swept over my face from the left side. It hit my cheek, my nose, went in my eyes and on my lips. The succession of my rapidfire thoughts that followed were “I don’t hear any sprinklers” followed by “that’s not a sprinkler that’s rain” followed by “rain doesn’t feel oily like that!” followed by “rain doesn’t burn like that!!” followed by “rain doesn’t smell like that either!!!”

Right about that last thought was when I heard something scrambling across the dirt and weeds about arm’s length from me and at elbow height and so it was at this point that I decided it was high time to alert Susan — who was still assessing the spray that got past me and struck her — to the situation. I believe I said “Skunk! Holy shit!! We’ve been skunked!” And I said it loudly. Then I ran into the street totally like a girly man. Like a shameless stinky gesticulating little girly man.

A few seconds later I managed to regain most of my composure and return to Susan’s side where I pointed out to her our rapidly retreating black-and-white attacker with tail up but only at half-staff heading south away from us. This was followed by a few moments of Susan and I wiping and smelling ourselves to determine the extent of the damage.

Potential denial-phase aside, there just wasn’t all that much in the way of stank. Definitely present was that familiar bouquet of burned rubber with notes of rancid onions, but it was surprisingly subdued. And while never actually having come into direct contact with the projectile anal secretions of a skunk before, I do remember when our dog Shadow did back many years ago. She got hit badly and despite countless baths I swear I could smell remnants on her even after a year later. Plus I’ve certainly had to endure the noxious clouds let loosed on many an occasion by the nocturnal emissions of the skunks around our house… sometimes it’s bad enough to wake us up.

Thus is why I say it could’ve been a helluva lot worse. Given the skunk’s three-foot distance and strategic high-ground position, if Pepe (or Penelope) Le Pew had wanted to unload upon us it most certainly could have brought the rain, baby.

At best we suffered an abbreviated warning stream shot across the bow. Or maybe that’s giving the skunk too much credit and it wasn’t a warning at all. Maybe we just benefited from encountering a skunk that had sprayed recently and hadn’t yet had a chance to replinish its depleted supply of stank. Perhaps we surprised it out of its sleep and it decided to go to guns right away. Whatever the reasons and background all I know is that I’m having a much easier time dealing with the smell than I am with the fact that I had skunk ass juice in my eyes and on my lips.

But anyway, given that after the conclusion of a preliminary olfactory investigation we weren’t terrifically odious Susan and I opted to continue the march, paying particularly close attention to dog walkers and joggers who’d pass us and enter our wakes to see if they’d let out a deep sniff and a “phew!” None did. At least none that we could audibly discern.

Upon arriving home, whoo boy did the dogs take immediate note of the additional aroma and all the compromised clothing promptly went into the washing machine for the first of repeated cycles in they hope they can be salvaged. I’ve washed my face several times, too. With hydrogen peroxide. Like Lady Macbeth trying to get the blood off her hands, baby.

The Search Goes On…

I did it again. I got my hopes up high and huge that I would be The Perfect Choice for a gig in Hollywood I went after. Felt even moreso after I got to the second interview with the new marketing director.

But that second dance was in the middle of December. And a “Happy New Year” follow-up email sent the week after Christmas went unanswered. Seeing the writing on the wall I sent another one to the firm’s HR director about a week ago telling her I was indeed still available and very much interested. That one drew a response but it told me more than I needed to know:

Thanks for the follow up. We have narrowed in on [a] specific candidate though we’re still in the negotiation phase so the decision is not yet final. I will keep you posted.

Awwwww, come on! Didja have to go there with the “yeah we left you behind but we might come back and throw the bone in your general direction if our first and oh-so-infinitely more appealing and probably better qualified not to mention spiffier dresser with flawless skin and perfect teeth and higher IQ and more experience and more pleasing personality and wicked sense of humor along with a better cell phone who’s fluent in five languages turns us down.”

Really, now. A simple blanket blow-off of “We’re still in the process of finalizing our choice” would’ve been fine. Would’ve been better. Because to be frank this entire job searching thing is one big egosuck — especially when you have to hunker down and suffer through repeated rejections no matter how good you think you are. No matter what benefit you might think you’ll be.

So in the days that have passed since being told I was second best (or perhaps third or fourth) I’ve been recovering from the blow. And by recovering I mean trying to dig deep and steel my resolve to stand up and smile and dance with whoever next comes down the CareerBuilder/Monster/JournalismJobs/DotCom pipe.

I do my best to keep the outlook positive. I do my best to know that this isn’t forever and that there is some company out there that will slap me on the back and welcome me inside.

But it gets dreary. It gets mean. It gets scary. I find myself in the car on the way to the store, or walking the dog, or taking a picture or doing something in the backyard, or reading, or sleeping, and suddenly there’s a physical pain I experience as the voice inside my head tells me I don’t have what it takes. That I’m not tough enough or employable enough so why not just give up and become a cabbie or a clerk at Radio Shack. Do something punk, the voice tells me. Anything!

Ahhh, but I can’t do that. I won’t do that. And I’m still telling that voice no. And I’m still telling that voice that as difficult as it is it could be a helluva lot worse and lonelier if I didn’t have the love of my life standing with me. And I’m still telling that voice it is just a matter of time. And as such I pick myself up and go through the motions all over again, albeit a little more wary. A little less enthusiastic.

I applied to two jobs this morning. Two jobs I could and would kick ass at. Let’s see what happens.