At long last, reunited.

After posting yesterday about the long-missing vintage watch rather accidentally found as a result of a plush toy rescue, I brought out its matching partner for a reunion and then did a little e-digging to find out more details about the dynamic duo.

To accomplish that I had to remove the mechanisms from the cases in order to get at the identifying numbers, and I managed to do so without damaging the delicate devices.

A most intriguing part of that was getting closer looks at the engravings on the insides of the cases — not just the maker’s stamp, but if you look closer there are several others appearing to be hand-etched either indicating the various craftspeople involved in the building of the watch and/or any repairpersons who serviced it.

Inside the King case.
Inside the Queen case.

I learned via Pocket Watch Repair Dot Com (http://www.pocketwatchrepair.com/histories/longines.php) that the watches’ serial numbers corresponded with a manufacture approximately in 1951.

From Vintage Watch Resources

Then from Vintage Watch Resources Dot Com (https://vintagewatchresources.com/longiness-year-identifier/) I found that the model closest resembling mine was called “King” with the smaller version called “Queen.”

The primary difference in the King model shown (at right) on that website is the chessboard pattern of the face whereas the faces of mine are both monochromatic. I suppose that may be due either to a different model year or possibly to fading over time, but the latter seems unlikely. I’ve been familiar with these watches since the late ’80s so if any such change occurred it was well prior to that, and I’m pretty sure my stepdad kept these watches stored and not exposed to any elements that would cause such a change.

Of note Vintage Watch Resources lists the watch’s original price as $405. In 2020 dollars that equates roughly to $4,020. Cha-ching!

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.

Note: This site has long been too dormant and been dormant too long. I may change that or I may not not. But going on week seven cooped out with  the COVID-19 emergency, I’ve started wondering what I want to do with the rest of my life. And as a result I’ve been pounding keyboards with some of the stuff in my head — most of which gets deleted. Writing has always been a passion and equally a pain. It’s something I know I am good at, but for too often don’t have the patience. Few stories flow from me. They have to be dragged out, and then endure ridiculous tinkering. But more than a year after my last post, I posted to Facebook this little window into a few weeks of one childhood summer that I banged out relatively effortlessly a cou0ple early mornings ago, and definitely wanted to port it here to live and perhaps to breathe a breath of life into this comatose old blog rather than just leave it to disappear from  a social media platform. Anyway, here it is…

It was the early 1970s. I was at my grandmother’s house in Carbon Hill, Alabama, for a part of the summer. Just me and her. I was six. Maybe seven. Carbon Hill is a small town in the northwestern part of the state, outside of the larger town of Jasper, which I read once had the distinction once of being the top coal producer in the entire world. Grandma had a dusty little wooden house with a coal-burning stove in the kitchen that sat near the the crossroads of two strips of asphalt.

The nearest building was across one of the roads that had once housed her flower and gift shop shop, but now stood empty. The next nearest was the small church down one the other road aways, at which my grandma used to teach Sunday school in a damp dirt-floored basement underneath the pulpit. During a different summer visit, I sat in that basement with my cousins and Grandma going on with some story about David, transfixed at a large hornet might have been the size of my eyeball that flew to a s midair stop and hovered so beautifully in the open basement doorway. I couldn’t decide if the hornet was afraid to come in or was just taking its time figuring out which one of us it was going to sting, until finally grandma got fed up with me staring at it dumbstruck and slammed the door shut.

The nearest neighbor was my great aunt Nellie up a nearby dirt road who I visited even though Grandma didn’t seem to keen on it. Aunt Nellie was sweet and gave me Milky Way candy bars and told me to mind her sister Ola and that she loved and missed Lyndell. That confused me at first because everyone who knew my mom called her Casey, which is how I learned the difference between birth names and stage names.

The room I slept in was in the rear of the house near the screened-in back porch. It had wood paneling and a ceiling fan in the center and bare floors and a large down bed with down pillows and a down comforter all positioned at an angle that when you’d fall in it would almost fully swallow you up. The bedding gave the room a deep, dense, and absolutely wondrous musty smell that has never left my nose, nor will I ever hope the day comes when it does.

Above the room’s ceiling and under the roof in one of the corners was a beehive so very large and active that you could hear endless droning of its workers day or night. So loud was it that often it seemed they were either in the room or on the verge of breaking through, but I never was freaked out by it. For that I can thank my best friend back in Van Nuys who was allergic and would run crying a mile like a baby in the opposite direction of where a single honeybee minding its own business might be. His embarrassing tantrums were a great lesson in how not to act around bees, most of which I’d encountered in my life had much better things to do than sting you. In fact, the incessant buzzing coupled to that thick aroma would often conspire to lull me off to sleep even when swaddled almost to suffocation in the humid-hot nights.

To the west of the house was a creek (which grandma pronounced “crick”) full of crawdads and the occasional cottonmouth. Behind the house was a chicken coop, and beyond that were towering sunflowers and corn stalks as far as I could see. There were also masses of beans growing somewhere, but their location I don’t recall. I only know they existed because of the many evenings spent shelling bushels of them on the front porch with grandma, done so under a bare bulb porch light that drew skies full of noisy flying things from the next county. Under the light stood a large bowl of water, and in the mornings it would be full of a fair percentage of those winged creatures who had the misfortune to land in it.

As a child of six or seven what terrified me weren’t the bees or the bugs or the critters in the crick. I became petrified by the black panthers I’d overhear grandma talking about on the phone and how there was no stopping them and they were coming to get all of us. I had no idea at the time or for years to come that she was frightened by the militant activist group so often in the news of the day. From my Jungle Book mentality all I figured she was talking about was a legion of bloodthirsty Bagheeras lurking out there somewhere in the darkness.

And damned if on one of those steam-soaked nights when something made a noise louder than the beehive and startled me from sleep, instead of my room the following morning, Grandma found me sprawled out on the backporch couch, garden hoe gripped tight in my hands from the vigil I’d stood in the dark, guarding over the house and the hens and beyond it the impenetrable sea of sunflowers and corn, where every whisper of the wind and sway of a stalk was a deadly black panther to which I’d defiantly stomp my weapon to keep them at bay and away from my grandma.

When she woke me frowning at my location, I told her what I had been keeping watch for, and Grandma gave me a sideways look stared out into the field and walked back into the kitchen wondering aloud where I’d gotten such a silly idea like that.

So I did it: I ordered a new toy. No, not a Harley-Davidson. Not a fully restored 1965 Mustang. Not a sky-dive or a 130-pound Hungarian Komondor (google it for some awesome).

Nah. I went and bought me an E-bike (actually us; one for me, one for Susan), though it can’t be considered an impulse purchase so much as a convergence of events: the right product finally coming along at the right price from what appears to be the right company.

See I’ve been eyeing E-bikes going back more than 12 years, but I always found reasons to run away from such a commitment, including but not limited to:

1) Financial: They cost too damn much
2) Ego: Up until a few years ago I was in my riding prime logging 6,000 miles per year on a single-speed bike and didn’t need any type of energized assistance thankyouverymuch.

Then a few weeks ago, a Facebook friend and really cool biking dude named Joe Anthony posted a link to a Seattle-based company called Rad Power Bikes and I clicked on over and really liked what I saw. I mean REEEALLY liked. The company seemed innovative and proactive and straight-forward and it reflected in their product line, which for all intents and purposes was comparatively affordable and well-designed.

Let me introduce you to the truly rad badass and beefalicious RadRover.

In addition there were sa-weeet incentives taking affordability to the next level such as a multi-bike discount and free shipping.

I was almost all set, but first I had to have a sit down with my ego, which was all “To hell with E-bikes! You’ve got plenty of miles left in them legs!”

That was not a lie, but more correctly is my present physiological reality, borne from getting past the police academy as I did at my already advanced age to get my present job. The cumulative result of countlessly hauling myself over over six-foot walls and fences, trips up and down the infamous Nike Hill, hours of defensive tactics, and miles and miles of laps around the track have left me with some ongiong lower back/sciatic issues. And on those few times since that I’ve mounted my trusty two-wheelers — even for relatively short rides — more than not there’d be some nagging and lingering aches, pains, leg numbness, et cetera.

With those things making it tough to get motivated, I ultimately told my ego to shut the funk up and that if it was time to bring in a battery back-up to get me away from the frustration of not being able to get back in the saddle, so be it. My ego was all “Whatevs loser.” And I was all “Fine.” And my ego was all “Fine!” Which is fine.

Next up, of course I had to pitch it to my better half. When you’re the type of austere person who happily motors around in an almost 22-year-old truck, and spends time trying to fix $15 box fans that crap out after 10 years of use, it can come as a bit of a shock when suddenly I start wanting to throw thousands of dollars at the internet.

So at her burfdae dinner last weekend, I broached the subject of us getting not one E-bike, but his-and-hers type burfdae giftsesses, and she A) didn’t laugh me out the restaurant, or B) slam her foot down on the floor in total rejection.

Her eyes did go wide at the estimate cost-outlay, but I think the idea appealed to her because while she’s enjoyed biking in the past, she’s no fan of hills or of trying to keep up with me (though I would argue that’s probably easier to do now that AARP and Forest Lawn are contacting me on a regular basis). Being able to bike together on a more level playing field would instantly increase opportunities to get outdoors and go roll around town exploring together, which is something both of us miss.

This morning, I had her look over the models and she decided the RadCity Step-Thru (also pictured) was the one for her so I ordered them up from the website (www.radpowerbikes.com) and barely hesitated in clicking the submit button. Delivery is estimated at 5-7 business days. So we might be out on the road on or around Easter Sunday!

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Joe who I mentioned up top. In the ordering process the company obligatorily asked how I’d come to hear of them. I started to select Facebook from the drop-down menu options, but no offense Mr. Zuckerborg, I really don’t like giving your company credit for anything accept the further decline of civilization, so instead I chose “Referred by a friend.” That of course prompted a request for the friend’s name,” which I readily entered. I hope it benefits him in some way, and by that same token should this lengthy diatribe ultimately find you ordering up your own Rad Power bike, maybe you could do the same for me.

In the end, the bikes are going to be all the reward I need. I’m totes excited to find myself thinking something I haven’t in a long time: “I can’t wait to get on a bike and ride!”

I sucked at shining my boots when it mattered most — during my time as a cadet at a local public police academy. I was a complete failure at putting a proper gleam on my boots, and I paid the price at inspections in getting yelled at and doing pushups.

Since then in the course of my present employment my results have improved. Given how bad I was before, I’d say they’ve improved a staggering amount. By no means am I saying I’m the best. I’m just saying I’m far more satisfied with the endgame than I’ve ever been. Shame I couldn’t have figured this out when it counted.

My tools: Latex gloves. Saddlesoap. Angelus Polish. Heat gun. Kiwi Parade Gloss Polish. Water. Soft cloths. Horsehair brush. Elbow grease.

The boots: A pair of A.T.A.C. 8″ Shield Side Zip-up 5.11s, straight-outta-the-box.

My method? Credit where it is due: I owe a debt of gratitude to an area shoeshine establishment known as Code 7. They used to have a location much closer to my Los Angeles home but have long since shuttered that place and now operate about 25 miles away. For $10 (a bargain at twice the price; not including tip), they are masters, but a 50-mile roundtrip is just too far for me to travel even for such unparalleled and affordable excellence.

So I did the next best thing: imitated them. While I can no longer find it on their website, Code 7 used to have a webpage that listed the series of steps involved in their process. Based on that here is what I do, as shown in the accompanying 90-second timelapse (realtime: 60 minutes):

1) Saddlesoap lathered on, dried, and buffed off
2) Angelus polish hand-rubbed on and then melted with heat gun
3) Let cool and repeat Step 2
4) Let cool and repeat Step 3
5) Let cool and repeat Step 4 (yes, I bake in four layers of base on new boots)
6) Allow boots to cool completely
7) Kiwi Parade Gloss hand-rubbed on
8) With water, cloth and elbow grease, dab-dab circle-circle until shiny
9) Clean up work surface
10) Horsehair brush finish

Before and after (click to biggify):

 

Until yesterday, when this image rather randomly popped up on my Facebook feed from a group I follow, I’d made countless unsuccessful attempts to find any photographs of a place I worked during my junior and senior year in high school that was so near and dear to me: Hunter’s Books.

Situated on the southwest corner of Rodeo Drive and Little Santa Monica, my history with the place is one filled with fond memories and a fair share of intrigue, which one day I may go into in far greater detail. How I got my job there as a stock clerk itself involved a bit of stealth. I was sitting in chemistry class awaiting the arrival of one Mr. Thorpe, who I despised. I overheard a fellow student by the name of Marc Sugarman talking to another about a job for which he was supposed to apply at some bookstore on Rodeo. He said it was a done deal, all he had to do was show up and the gig was his — but he wasn’t really feeling it.

Since I was definitely in need of gainful employment at that time, as soon as school let out, I hustled on over and met with the stock manager, Barry, a short middle-aged guy with a gray goatee and spectacles. I told him I heard there was a job available, and he made some comment about me not being who he was expecting, meaning Marc. I feigned having no idea what he was talking about and boom, I was hired, wherein I joined a ragtag crew of underground characters who worked primarily in the basement or back. There was Reggie, the loveable short black frenetic homosexual who was in charge of shipping and receiving. There was the middle-aged and also gay Arthur with his huge mustache and his Joseph A. Bank wardrobe in charge of returns. There was Wiley, a tall quiet black man of a certain menace who primarily assisted Arthur and who almost always had some white gunk in the corners of his mouth and never had much to say. And stock clerk  Manual, the aspiring guitarist philospher , with his giant afro, his snide laugh and his coolness. Rounding things out was Dennis, an actor, whose receding hairline tormented him enough to seek out the Bosley Medical Group’s that left him with a line of hair plugs circumnavigating his forehead like a picket fence. Upstairs the sales floor was dominated by Susanna, an elderly German frau never without a scowl and menthol cigarette dangling from her lips. Her assistant was Margaret, a lovely young black woman who had a thing for James Dean. Last but not least was Larry, the boss of us all, who ruled from his roost up on the third floor.

Like I said, I have plenty of stories about this place, but I’ll save them for later. In the meantime I’m just thrilled that this photo materialized.

We’ve been coming to Olvera Street’s annual Blessing of the Animals event since 2004. First a couple years with Shadow and then one with Ranger. Buster, our 18ish-year-old Russion tortoise, has been the designated representative of the various pets of our household every year since 2007.

This is the second year that we’ve joined with the fine folks at the Reptile & Amphibian Rescue Network and been a part of the initial processional. Last year we lucked into accompanying them basically by being at  their booth wherein they invited us, and this year we did the same thing, thereby getting ceremoniously doused with the holy H2O by Archbishop Jose Gomez at the front of the long line of other pet owners, and allowing Susan and me to quickly get to the real reason for coming downtown: margaritas at La Golondrina.

I set up our GoPro on a corner of Buster’s basket and timelapsed from prior to the event’s commencement of the procession to well into our lunch. The following stills pulled from the video show Buster and me prior to the event; the moment a bemused Archbishop Gomez flings water in our general direction; Buster in line at La Golondrina with a curious little girl; and lastly the moment Buster escaped the confines of the basket. Thankfully her freedom was short-lived thanks to Susan’s sharp-eye.

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