Sunday, December 12, 2010

New York newbie

Our Delta frequent flier miles were about to expire, so we cashed out and spent last weekend in New York. We zipped all over Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens in my first trip ever to NYC! It's taken about the entire week to recover from the minimal sleep and miles of walking, but the fatigue was worth it...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Play it safe

At the corner of Broadway and 6th...

Oh, I'm pretty sure those rigged up ladders are a perfectly safe alternative to scaffolding.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lazy Sunday

Took the subway to the Hollywood Farmer's Market today. Either I really miss Japan or those Japanese tomatoes are hella tasty.

The bus doesn't have a monopoly on crazy riders. This one drunk guy said, "Just between you and me, I'm on parole now, but when I'm off parole I'm going straight to Vegas to choke out my cousin. I'm paranoid. In fact I already tried to kill her twice. The first time I passed out drunk on the wrong driveway. The second time the police picked me up and drove me away!"

Just between you and me, I'm bringing my headphones next time I take the Metro.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Portos call

The 17,715 square foot Portos in Downey that opened on Tuesday was packed today. I saw the unending lines for Cubano sandwiches and cakes and knew I wouldn't get back to work in a reasonable time. So I admired the mixed-color windows and drove away. Cities of Los Angeles County...if you want to pump up your tax base and revitalize your decomposing downtowns, start wooing the next Portos location.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Broadway snake

Every so often I witness a shell game happening on the sidewalks of Downtown Los Angeles. Dudes set up a cardboard box and folks (presumably plants to lure in suckers) throw down $100 bills to guess which of three Starbucks bottle caps hides the mystery ball.

Last Sunday I saw something new...caring parents pay a fellow to photograph their children posing with a monster snake. Look at the smile on that kid's face. Christmas will surely be a letdown after snaky.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I have a hard time with these Japanese keyboards, so I will have to forget about grammatical niceties such as contractions.

We are back "home" after a night out with our local friends Kumiko, Yuki, and Dave, who treated us to a tasty dinner at an Italian restaurant in Ikebukuro called Salvatore Cuomo and Bar. I am no Italian food expert, but that was some good eating. Thank again! Funny thing...we met up at the new Krispy Kreme near the train station.

I think the scary typhoon has passed, so unfortunately we are flying out of Japan tomorrow.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tokyo Times


Great day...browsing Tokyu Hands in Ikebukuro, pasta lunch, Harajuku/Omotesando/Aoyama/Shibuya strolling with our friend Kyoko, fantastic David Choe/James Jean art opening with free stuff, okonomiyaki dinner, tiny jazz bar in Shinjuku for drinks, and back at our cozy hotel.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Tokyo...gotta make it good!

Sunday, October 24, 2010


We're about halfway into our Japan vacation. It's our first trip back since we worked here in '98-'99. Great being a tourist.

We worked our way up from Tokyo through Matsumoto (castle town), Kamikochi (Japan Alps park), Takayama (nicely preserved town), Shirakawa-go (farmhouse town), and now we're resting up in Kanazawa. Six days, six cities...yeah!

The clumsy score is even...I bonked my head a couple nights ago on a not-so-overhead beam, and EzraPounded walked into the storefront window of a jewelry store yesterday. Who will prevail?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

But stuck up Roxanne paid me no mind

The Roxie Theatre on Broadway isn't as high profile as the historic heavyweights like the Orpheum, Los Angeles, or the Million Dollar, but it still keeps me guessing every time I walk past.

What's behind the art deco exterior? Are the details inside still intact? Why won't the property owner(s) clean up the graffiti'd tower sign?

I noticed today that the panels were removed above one of the carved out retail spaces. I'm not sure if they will soon be replaced with another oversized sign, or if the owner is actually trying to unleash and clean up the hidden architectural details.

From today...

Compare with how it looked in February...look to the right of the marquee...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Clean slate

Atlas, the prolific "Kitty Cat Tagger," was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in County, fined $8,675.38, and ordered to put in 300 hours painting over graffiti around town.

Here's some of his stuff...

This one's from last December...

And it was just recently painted Atlas himself???

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The first time I saw BaddicusFinch emerge from the back door of the alley where I'd parked, I thought he looked just like Jim Kelly. Puffed hair, skinny body...I just felt bad. When he showed me all the white hairs that sprouted in the last six weeks, I really felt awful. My poor man has let me do this trip which was an impulse act. He shouldered my responsibilities as well as his and had time to call me several times a day with nothing but good intentions. No maliciousness. Seeing him feels right. Being home is just right.

We had falafel not too far from our building. We sat by the window and watched Downtown foot traffic go by. I love my city, I thought. I'm lucky for the super nice and super cool Baddicusfinch, I'm lucky for my brothers and sisters who called me everyday, and I'm lucky for my mom, who kept asking, "Where are you? When are you coming home?" And to my friends who clearly missed me. Bring on the heat SoCal. I can take it...inside my air conditioned loft!

Day 35: 10 min from home, caught by the man


Woke up and packed my stuff one last time. My battered suitcase is going to be donated when I get home because I broke the handle. I felt pretty sad about it. I'm the type of traveler that takes the same things on trips and is reluctant to purchase anything new or more innovative. I've got my belt with the secret zipper compartment for bills (shh!), alarm clock, alarm watch just in case one doesn't work, super battered bandanna, etc. Anyhoo, I headed back to Los Angeles feeling strangely sad. I miss BaddicusFinch, friends, and family, but I feel like I can go on and on with this journey. My escape plan was to pivot north to the Midwest and Canada, but I'm not entirely heartless and self-centered!

Nothing too exciting happened on my last leg of the journey except for listening to Johnny Cash my whole time in the desert. I guess his tunes were the best fit I could muster with all the cacti propping the scenery. Ten minutes from home on the I-10, I was driving 80 on the fast lane thinking how great it was to finally be able to break away from 65-mile-an-hour highway decree when suddenly I saw flashing lights in my rear view mirror. It was the f-ing CHP!

The officer said something through his loud speaker, but I couldn't fully hear it because of old Johnny Cash. He made a right to the next lane (with two cars in between us), and I followed. Then he veered to the next lane. Then the other. I followed kicking myself. I hadn't been ticketed in 21 years and every since getting one in New Mexico, the bubble has burst. Cops are all out for me now. Finally the officer exited the freeway, but since I didn't have enough clearance to follow, I continued driving.

So the talk of the town is...will he send me a ticket for my insolence or is there a warrant out there with my name on it. I say he'd just let me alone. It would be too embarrassing to write on his report: Subject driver did not follow the patrol car and patrol car was stuck exiting freeway.

Day 34: Chupacabras or wild dog?

New Mexico/Arizona Desert:

I made a pact with BaddicusFinch that I would be back in less than six weeks. Well, today is the sixth week, and I'm home.

Now to step back a couple days...I drove twenty miles straight from San Antonio to El Paso then from El Paso to Phoenix. I would've braved the last seven hours to L.A. but for the crazy lightning storm that disrupted traffic flow. I watched over three hours of panoramic laser light show from sunset until dark when the rain came. Heavy, obnoxious, and threatening. I'd no choice but to get off an exit and get lodging somewhere. What a great dramatic end to terrific, life-changing trip.

Did I mention I nearly hit a dog/creature that crossed the highway lighting fast? I released my foot from the gas and screamed like a MF. That was one of my biggest fears, you see, hitting an animal. I don't want to leave roadkill for the buzzards.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 33 - I could scale the Alamo

Austin - San Antonio:

I loooove the Lydon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin. Very simple, informative...and free! Any guy who brings electricity to Texas is alright by me. The library was sparse in its design and approach. I like that. Since Bush had his grapes yesterday, LBJ had Walter Cronkite today. There was a special exhibit about the newsman who saw an entire century and lived to report about it. Very like.

From Austin I sped to San Antonio before the Alamo closed. I was extremely put out that the famous fort was so tiny. I could scale the walls with a couple of phone books under my feet. Ah, well, I'm sure the folks were puny back then.

I had dinner with an old friend, Alyson, a few hours ago. It's been seven years, and it was great catching up. Time goes by so fast. She's known me since I was fresh out of high school. Now I'm old and tired. Yes, I'm tired. The strain of having to make it home before a certain date is getting to me. Sometimes I feel like I could continue north and drive forever, but a pact is a pact. Six weeks of fun then go home to poor you-know-who and the animals.

I'll be home soon, everyone. I promise not to crash.

Day 32 - Bush's grapes


Just had dinner with Jeremy at Nippon Restaurant. He flew there for a two-week assignment that will end this Friday. Good company. Good fun. He even paid for dinner…hopefully not on the company card. Thanks bro.

Today was a bit stressful as I was trying to spread myself too thin. From New Orleans I drove to College Station, TX to see the George Bush Presidential Library. And from there I skedaddled to Houston to visit the Rothko Chapel and make it in time for dinner with Jeremy.

I feel like I need to cram since I’m trying to get home by Monday. My body feels wobbly from stress sometimes. Tomorrow is going to be ambitious as well...Austin for the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and San Antonio for the Alamo and dinner with Alyson.

Anyway, Bush’s library was pretty nice and simple. Lots of pictures of 41 as a pilot and as a young politician. Not much about the Iraq War though. I think the most interesting part about the Library are the grapes. Yes, my friends, nearly half the exhibit was about winemaking. You even see mannequins in red check shirts manicuring the grape vines. Why is this you ask? Well, I looked over the list of library donors and saw a bunch of winosaurous rex. Weird, that’s all. Barbara Bush looked like Gillian Anderson when she was younger. Must be a nice family...but terrible politicians.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 31 - What is a crux?

New Orleans:

I called Sunrise Hotel in Houston for tomorrow night's lodgings, and the man who answered said I shouldn't stay at his hotel because it's in a bad neighborhood. Cripes! The next-cheapest motel I called was America's Best Inn. I asked the owner if his neighborhood was safe, and he answered in an Indian accent, "If bad things are going to happen they're going to happen anywhere." He answered my question without really I booked the room. What the hell. I've stayed in the pits on this trip.

Why am I not talking about New Orleans? Simple...I met a very strange and kind woman who walked me to the nearby liquor store and shared a bottle of white wine with me at her place - the Tennessee Williams home - at ten o'clock in the morning. Yes, this is a very odd story.

I parked the car so that I could pinpoint the historic house. The streets were empty so I kinda got frustrated. Then a woman unlocked a side gate and I semi-yelled, "Excuse me, where's the Tennessee Williams house?" She pointed at the house she had stepped from. "This is it."

The landmark was a two-story yellow house with all the curled wrought iron railings of New Orleans. The woman with blond hair and deep blue eyes smiled and said, "Would you like to see it?" Of course I nodded like a sugar addict. I took a look at the swimming pool and the grounds. I thought that would be it, but she pointed up the stairs and I followed her. She let me in the living quarters decorated eclectically. Instrumental music played in the background. The woman's name was Emily and she was 61 years old. She asked my name and nodded as she entered her room furnished with a massive bed and red tapestry.

"I just finished this painting this morning. Her lips I did with nail polish," she said, handing me the picture. "It's St. Therese of the Roses. She's also known as St. Therese of the child Jesus."

"I was named after her," I said. She gave me the painting. Serendipity. We brought the wine back, and I nervously patted my stomach. I'm not a wine drinker...or a drinker period. My favorite drinks are root beer and water. Nevertheless I drank the white wine with a giant ice cube in the glass. She said, "Where you have drugs in L.A., we have alcohol in New Orleans. It's legal."

This is what I learned about her...her family was part-owner of the NY Mets, and they were responsible for hiring Jackie Robinson; George Bush fell off their horse; she has expensive art in the house; she's a crux (???) and a psychic; she speaks Aramaic and she spoke in tongues in front of me; she can crush her enemies and blood will flow; she called the police on her boyfriend for trying to stab her with a knife last night that's why she needed her wine; she said that she was there when Jesus was crucified and was brought to life again in 1949; she has good skin and raised her leg to demonstrate how fit it was.
Then she said that it was fate that we met. She smoked copiously while I shook my head to decline a cig. This went on for two hours. She summoned T. Williams (whom I didn't see) for me and told me to stop taking prescription meds, I guess. Then she sat on a stool in front of me and told me to stare into her eyes. I did...for like ten minutes. She said I needed to breathe harder and louder and that I needed to smile more. She was probably right. After such intense eye-staring, she said she cured me of my bipolar disorder. Just wean the drugs slowly, and all will be well. Then she hugged me.

Now, all kinds of thoughts and emotions were passing through me. I didn't know what to believe - but she was very nice although her mood varied. When she took my glass for another serving I told her I had to go.

Well, if sitting in Tennessee Williams' living room with a very nice woman who spoke in tongues wasn't a New Orleans experience, then I don't know what is. Funny if you notice, though, the pictures I took of the house are pretty blurry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Nice new metal signs have just replaced the oversized panel signs that hung over the King Eddy Saloon doors. Did the owners get a cue from the Bringing Back Broadway signage requirements taking root a few blocks away?

I'm not much of a drinker so I haven't been inside yet, but the folks who walk out don't look hardly as wacky as the stories I hear...

Day 30 - Help is help

New Orleans:

It's raining outside, fogging up my 10th floor view. The best room I've had so far and it's on Charles Street. Sadly, I'm so desensitized to less-than-accommodating sleeping arrangements these days. The next day could prove musty with palmetto bugs.

I have long considered New Orleans to be the meat of my trip. I've been salivating for it since reading Anne Rice, Tennessee Williams, Faulkner and all that jazz, and the Big Easy has been at the top of my list for almost six weeks now. I decided to ground myself and visit the Lower 9th Ward where the displaced residents are still waiting for a miracle after Katrina.

I'm not being dramatic or bleeding-heart. Two reasons why I took a is to know what the other side of the bridge from the French Quarter holds. Secondly, I wanted to see the houses built by the Make It Right foundation, started up by Brad Pitt. I like architecture and I'd heard a lot about the different architects that contributed their designs - even Frank Gehry, William McDonough, and other superstars. There's even the house designed by Thom Mayne that floats when there's a flood. Cool stuff.

I've read some blog comments about the project. One said something like, "It's some liberal wet dream with fancy shmanzy houses."

Now that I've seen the homes, interspersed with condemned and dilapidated houses, such nastiness boils my goiter. Help is help. Over a hundred fifty homes are either built or under construction - that's something at least. I understand the other complaint about changing the style of the neighborhood too much that it's becoming a bit foreign. Perhaps architects should have dug in and consulted more with the community...but lessons were learned and the designers and engineers are listening now.

I liked the houses. They have solar capacity, good ventilation, and great composition. I'd love to live in one of those if they were plopped in Los Angeles. Katrina changed everything. I wish people could have their old homes back, but they're too expensive to replicate. Once customizable mass-production techniques are hammered out, the new homes will be cheaper to build and easier on the electric bill.

In my travels so far, I make sure to walk to the not-so-nice areas part of time. I might sound like a hoity toity d-bag, but I just want to be grounded. I want to make sure I don't enjoy myself too much because life isn't always about being a tourist.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 29 - Laundry day

Tallahassee, Florida:

Today was driving-laundry day so I don't have much to say...except that...

I realized at the Keys yesterday that most privately owned historic sites are horrible. For instance, the Ernest Hemingway house...the guides herded us in and spent three minutes per room feigning that it was too hot to stay longer, and then another group came in. The furniture is groped, the banisters are unprotected from oil from the hands of sweaty tourists. The guides told us we could roam around unassisted after the tour, thank you very much. Now give me a tip. Mark my word, that house ain't gonna last fifty years with the neglect it's getting from everyone that seemed to be connected to the house - especially the curious, like me.

On another note...remember the Richard Nixon Presidential Library? It used to be run by a private foundation so if you'd visited three years ago or earlier, you would've noticed historical revisionism. Watergate was made into something to be proud of. Something heroic for Tricky Dick. It was a good thing the National Archives took over worked to tell a more balanced story of President I-am-not-a-crook's shameful administration.