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 over...by 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 answering...so 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 drugs...my 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 look...one 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.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 28 (Part II) - Prejudice is squeezed lemon on paper cut

Key West, Florida:

I just thought this is important to jot down so I'll never forget it. I went to Hemingway's Florida house because I admire his work. I avidly advocate American literature as a cut above the rest. For the relatively short amount of time literature has been produced in our country, an array of the most simple to the most complex styles and subject matter blows the cannon countries away. I've been called on this before, but I'm sticking to my guns. Yes, I love fill-in-the-blank-country literature but I loooooove American literature.

Anyway, I'm not writing anymore about that subject. At the veranda of Hemingway's house, twelve of us (all white except for me), including a guide, were discussing some of his books when a couple and their child who was about four took a tour of their own. The three were Vietnamese - I know this since I heard the man utter "du ma" which is "f-you" as far as I've been told. The husband and wife were futsin' around with the camera and loudly talking in their language, disrupting our tour.

Then the little girl skipped into Hemingway's bedroom unsupervised, and the guide castigated the mother. "Can't let your kid run around by herself," the man with a heavy New York accent said meanly. At this point I was having breathing problems from stress. The couple got the child but kept on talking loudly and taking pictures copiously. Our guide said, "Some people who don't know English talk too loud." A few snickered.

I reddened, choking at my cowardice for not speaking up and for the runaway thoughts that got the best of me. For one, the image of my mom screaming it up on her cell phone assailed my thoughts, and immediately my gut hurt. This is painful to admit, but I've always been somewhat ashamed when she speaks Tagalog like she's singing soaring opera arias in public.

When the snickering ended, I heard someone say, "Do they even know who Hemingway is?" That's when my mouth was unsewn. "Don't you know? His books are translated in all sorts of languages. I'm sure they wouldn't have paid 12 bucks just for a veranda picture."

I honestly don't know how my voice came out, but no matter, I was able to breathe again. No tip for the guide.

Day 28 (Part I) - Animal farm with Hemingway in it

Miami & Florida Keys:

Today's been one of the most screwed-up-Twilight-Zone-animal-kingdom days of my life. I woke up extra early so I wouldn't get a ticket for parking at a street meter overnight. It was about sevenish when I crossed the road with my suitcase. This cabbie honked at me and fueled my blood right away. I gave my first finger of the trip and an extra vulgar expletive. Already the tension was high, and I had a feeling things were going to be either bad or really really bad.

My focus for the Keys to see Hemingway's house and Harry Truman's Little White House. Though only about 100 miles, the drive was slow because of construction and scuttling cop cars. I stopped by a gas station when I noticed a little brown dog heading for the busy intersection. The poor thing was shaking. I did my dog whisperer whistle, and slowly but surely he came bounding up to me. Extremely lovable dog which I named Petey. I arranged my back seat and up he jumped. I gave him water, a Cheez Whiz sandwich, and cheese puffs to tide him over.

Next to the gas station was a McDonald's and my little eyes spied a police car. Rolling my shoulders and leaving the dog in the air conditioned car (unknowingly unlocked!), I walked inside McDonald's and sought the law. I explained the situation and asked where the nearest shelter was. "No shelter. Gotta call the Humane Society," said this unintimidating cop. I'll call them for you so they can pick the dog up."

I explained to him that I was from Los Angeles and I couldn't stick around. I suggested he tell the lady at the gas station to keep the dog until he could get picked up. He nodded, capping his coffee. To make the story short, the lady said yes, but when the officer left, she told me her boss wouldn't allow it. We had some words. No choice but to go to the Humane Society myself. One hour away.

When I arrived I was told I had to drive Petey to some pet rescue which was one hour and a half away. By this time I was sweating like a MFer and grinding my teeth like Lou Diamond Phillips. I found the rescue place but they were closed! There was a vet clinic next to the center and they said to try a Humane Society branch that holds animals just for a little while. I drove there, and the door was open. I knocked on the desk, said, "Hello," so many times I sounded like Pee Wee Herman. I could hear dogs barking and people talking but they were ignoring me.

So I did what I had to do. I got Petey out of the car, let him inside the Humane Society office, closed the door, and bolted. I hope they find him a good home. Naturally I considered keeping the nice pooch, but for once I thought with my brain and not my heart.

As for the other animals I've encountered...Hemingway's six-toed cat spawn, lizard on the window, chicken crossing the road, and other critters I can't remember right now.

Since this is only about Petey's ordeal, I'll have a part II for the other stuff...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 27 - To the moon and the tan


My dream has come true. I finally got to go to the Kennedy Space Center and most importantly, the Astronaut Hall of Fame. The $41 entrance fee was an unexpected kick in the gut. The rockets and space shuttles were worth the ticket price, but the rest was a little disappointing... fun and educational for children but tedious for impatient tour haters like me. The free entrance to the Astronaut Museum was more like it. I drove seven extra miles to get there but it was worth it.

Ever since I saw the movie The Right Stuff (and later read the book by Tom Wolfe), I've been fascinated by the seven pioneers who made it possible for us to reach the unreachable. I was welcomed by the statue of Scott Carpenter and pictures of Gordo Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom and all the other boys including the recent recruits I don't even know. I'm just soooo lucky to be gallivanting around the country to the places I really want to see. I have another week or so, I think, then home.

Remember Cameron Diaz' neighbor? The old woman with the dog in There's Something About Mary? Well, I saw a bunch of them today in South Beach Miami. Tons of locals and tourists were tanned...and not regular tanned, but you're-going to-look-like-a-saddle-in-five-years tanned. Even the young kids look odd and wrinkled.

I walked around the beach sweating like a squished snail. I was assessing (making fun) of people while they stared at me in my black t-shirt and maroon corduroy. Yes, I'm a photophobe, a bathingsuitphobe, and a shortsaphobe. My hangups, however, made me hotter than everyone else. Then walking toward me came BaddicusFinch's mini-twin wearing dark rimmed glasses, dark shirt, slacks...and a messenger bag! We looked at each other, smiled and kept on walking. At least we weren't alone.

I trudged about three miles in search of the down-home pulled pork sandwich that Dexter Morgan loves so much. Of course there was none to be had. South Beach was rife for tourists with money, I suppose, because the cheapest meal I encountered was $25. Never thought I'd say this, but good thing I hung a left and stumbled onto Subway. I bought a veggie footlong which I can have tonight and tomorrow.

Throughout the states I've been to this trip, I hadn't heard the sound of a car horn. And voila! Miamians love to honk and tailgate...for no reason whatsoever. So my L.A. road rage kicked up a couple times. When a driver invaded my road space, I would splatter the tailgater's car with windshield wiper fluid. Sure enough, they'd drive around me and give me the look for which I would smile and flash the peace sign.