Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's happened again

44th and 8th Avenue, 2010
I was talking with a friend about the writing workshop I am involved in, and told her that I was working with memories of my days in New York City.

And as I told her I wanted to go back to revisit the places in lower Manhattan I remember, with a shock, I just realized.

It's happened again.

For the third time in my lifetime, a great American city that I thought was invulnerable and would be there forever, has been devastated and totally changed by disaster.

New York, 2001. New Orleans, 2005. New York, 2012.  The Jersey shore, 2012. These are the places I know. I realize that in my lifetime other great cities - not my own -  have also been devastated. Detroit, for one.

New York will recover, so too will the shore. But it is frightening to realize that in our lifetime, these irreversible changes have taken place.

Hold fast to your memories, and cherish them. Work to preserve the infrastructure of our great cities. Our libraries, our historical buildings. These cities are the repositories of our American culture. Let's not let them die.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Moon and mountain

This morning as Jack and I took our walk, the full moon was setting in the west beyond Saddle Peak, while the morning sun came from the east to ruddy the cliffs.

Click any photo to "embiggen."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Only in LA

When you key in your card to the ATM at the Nikkei Credit Union in the Japanese-American district on Sawtelle Boulevard in Los Angeles, it offers you the choice of language for conducting your transaction.

English or Spanish.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blow-out birthday!

Masks, Olvera Street

October 31 is my friend Marvin's 65th birthday. Last year, he and Karen were in L.A. and we all went to the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at El Pueblo de Los Angeles at Olvera Street.

He and Karen were planning to fly west to celebrate - and get away from New York and Hurricane Sandy. But as it turns out, flights out of NYC are cancelled, and they are hunkering down in their house on the Hudson River.

After laying in a good supply of batteries, candles, chain saws and booze, there's nothing left to do but party.

"I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,
But it's all right now, in fact, it's a gas!
But it's all right. I'm Jumpin Jack Flash,
Its a gas! gas! gas!"
Wishing Marvin a happy birthday. Have a real blow-out!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Prime directive met

 Tonight I was in the same room as Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner.

Needs and wants

Bottle tree, Hillsborough, NC

A story I heard today, which I may be telling badly:

A noted artist came to speak with a class of art students. When she arrived, the instructor asked the students to go around the room and tell her two things off the top of their heads.

What they need as artists.

What they want as artists.

But before they got started, one of the students asked the artist what her response to the question was.

A moment passed, and then the artist said, "I'm disturbed."

The room fell silent.

"I'm disturbed to hear that students who are so young and at the beginning of their lives are already being instructed to divide up the things they need from the things they want. If you want to live your lives fully as artists - what you want should be indistinguishable from what compels you - you can't separate them."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thematic Photographic - Travel Travel

Carmi at Written, Inc. posts a weekly photo challenge caled Thematic Photographic. This week's theme is TRAVEL TRAVEL.

Post a photo you've taken while traveling.

Click to "embiggen"

Ah, my heart is still in Venice!  Here, a lone gondolier rows on the Grand Canal at evening. The setting sun gleams off the polished iron ferro at the prow.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


"Diagnosis" - installation by Jena Priebe and David Lovejoy
Book lovers, rejoice. Here is your Mecca.

We just happened to stumble upon The Last Bookstore when we were taking a post-brunch walk through the historic financial district in downtown Los Angeles.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend update

I should explain why I haven't been posting as much lately. I've joined a writing group, and I've been spending a lot of time on my assignments. It's a three-session group; last weekend was the first session, and I'm about to attend the second one. I've already submitted my piece for today's session by email.

The teacher, or leader - it's kind of hard to figure out what the hierarchy is - is a noted local newspaper columnist, now retired. The group is small, yet diverse. People are working on fiction, non-fiction, memoirs - a variety of works.

If I like it and find it useful, I can sign up to continue on. To be totally honest here, I'm not really sure whether I like it and find it useful - but I'm certainly going to participate in the first three sessions enthusiastically.

So - pardon the temporary light posting. And maybe I'll share some things later.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Still here

 Just taking a little time to relax. Will post again soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Tonight, the brakes failed on our neighbor's car down the street. It rolled down the driveway and knocked their propane tank off its foundation. The folks across the street said that clouds of gas billowed out of the stricken tank and filled the air, rolling downhill to their house.

They were evacuated. They are now at our house, having a stiff drink.

The air smells of propane. We can see the Fire Department lights in the darkness. I'll let you know how it turns out.

UPDATE: The incident seems to be over and our neighbors have gone back home.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My boring First-world problems

I'm not in a happy place today.

I just returned from an interview for an internal transfer, and I don't feel great about it. There was some procedural confusion at the beginning that really put me off my stride, and I feel I didn't recover from that.

Also, I began a three-week trial for a writing group, and while my work was praised, I don't feel like the direction I got from the teacher is compatible with what I want to write. An assignment is due Thursday, and I can't even begin to write it.

Maybe with the stress of the job interview behind me, I can move on.

Still. I'm not feeling very encouraged.

Maybe I need to take a walk on the beach.

Welcome, Sapphire!

Sapphire. I actually played a couple of chords on her keys.

I love a piano
I love the piano
I love to hear somebody play
Upon a piano
A grand piano
It simply carries me away
I know a fine way
To treat a Steinway
I love to run my fingers
O'er the keys,
The ivories,
And with the pedal
I love to meddle
When Padarewski comes this way
I'm so delighted
If I'm invited
To hear the long-haired genius play
 So you can keep your fiddle and your bow
Give me a p-i-a-n-o, oh, oh
I love to stop right
Beside an upright
Or a high-toned baby grand!

 Welcome Sapphire, UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance's new grand piano!

A wonderful welcoming event with great musical performances in a spectacular setting.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Screaming toddler sushi

A lychee-sake-tini
Sometimes you want to retreat to a dark, calm place. A place with a little mystery; a little sophistication. Candle-lit, perhaps. With an exotic air. A place to sip a finely crafted cocktail; to nibble on morsels meant for worldly tastes.

A Pan-Asian joint, dark with gently revolving fans overhead. The confidential murmur and craft of a sushi chef plying his blade.

On a Saturday night, while [The Man I Love] was off at some rubber-chicken dinner for work, I slipped through the moon-gate-shaped door of the Pearl Dragon Restaurant in Pacific Palisades, looking for a quiet getaway.

I should have known better.

It's Pacific Palisades!

When I arrived at 5:30, the place was almost empty, with a couple tables filled and a small clutch of people at the bar. I took a table, ordered a cocktail and a bowl of edamame, and browsed the menu for the rest of my dinner options.

Within 15 minutes, tables began to fill. And the first thing you noticed about the clientele was...half of them were small children.

Yes, this is Palisades. Affluent young professional families and their children go out to eat on Saturday night. There, at a four-top, a mother, father and their two young kids expertly wielded chopsticks. "She'll have an order of the chicken fingers," a Dad told the waiter while his seven-year-old nodded precociously. Little feet in blinking LED sneakers dangled from high chairs in the darkened dining room. Little girls in glittery hairbands traipsed between the booths, and little boys in soccer shirts sat on their dads' laps at the sushi bar. The din of childish voices rose in the air, louder and louder. The place is like a Chuck E. Cheese's - only with sushi.

As I sipped the last of my sake, a wee tot at a table across the room began to shriek in rage as her mother pleaded with her, then the child was snatched up and whisked to the ladies room, howls trailing from the hallway.

I paid my tab and got out of there faster than  Marlene Dietrich fleeing on the Shanghai Express.

1:00 pm Farmers' Market discount

If you go to the Farmer's Market during the last half hour, you can bargain with the vendors for the leftovers.

This bouquet of zinnias and dahlias cost $6. Pretty nice.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A pull-over moment

Clouds pile up over Castellammare in Pacific Palisades

We're expecting rain today - or so the weatherman says. In LA, there are more false predictions of rain than real ones.

Click to "embiggen"

But even so, the clouds are so arresting today that I had to pull over on the shoulder during my morning commute and just take it all in.

What a gift, to live where I live.

My bread and butter

It's been two months since I learned I will be losing my job next summer. I've been exploring opportunities both within my organization and outside. I've reached out to friends and professional connections, and have been given some good advice, some referrals - and some pointed questions to help me focus.

I've applied for two jobs in the outside world, and it's as if those applications have fallen into a deep, bottomless well - no response.

But I've also talked with my organization's Human Resources department, and there's hopeful news on this front.

First - I've put in a request to be placed on the "transfer list" for positions that are equal in pay and responsibility to my current position. And I've been contacted and sent an appointment next Tuesday for an oral interview to determine my qualification for the list.

Second - I applied for a position in another department. The position classification is the same one as the transfer list position, but this is an actual vacancy that is being filled. I was contacted by the department's executive assistant and informed that they will start scheduling interviews in two weeks.

It's a little confusing - although I applied for the transfer list, I also applied for the vacant job like a real candidate. I don't know whether they are pulling the short list from the transfer list, or whether it's different. I also don't know whether I am "on" the transfer list, or whether my oral interview next Tuesday is intended to qualify me for said list.

But it's all hopeful. I've been studying and training and role-playing to brush up my interview skills. These are two very different types of interviews - one to establish my qualifications to be on a generic list; the other to compete for an actual vacancy in an actual position.

One thing to note - if I transfer within my organization, I will be compelled to leave the field in which I've built my career. I will be using the skills I've learned to work in another area of specialty - as an administrative professional. This will be a sad thing for me - but financially, this is the most sensible move for me at this time.  And who knows? Maybe I'll blossom and grow in this new area of specialty.

If it doesn't work out, well, then I'm still in the game. It's early. I have months to go.

So - wish me luck. And if anyone has any great job interview advice, I'd be grateful for it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thematic Photographic - Fall Colors

Carmi at Written, Inc. posts a weekly photo challenge caled Thematic Photographic. This week's theme is FALL COLORS.

Click to "embiggen"

Here in southern California, we don't experience the climate change that brings blazing autmn foliage to northern regions. Our autumn comes in more gently - a little fog here, and little rain there, but mostly our days are still sunny and bright.

Our brilliant autumn color can be found at the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers' Market, where the abundant harvest of peppers and eggplant blazes on the tables.

At one stand I found these tawny, striped melons - called Tiger melons. The size of a softball, they have pale white or yellow colored flesh.  What beautiful colors!

Morning mists

This morning, the clouds are clinging to the mountains.

Rain is coming.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What condition my condition was in

Hipsters in their natural habitat
We just wanted to find a place for a drink. We were downtown, and wanted a place near the Red Line stop. I looked at the Yelp ap on my phone, and there was the Standard Hotel rooftop bar, a mere half block away. "Beautiful views" said the reviews, so off we went.

The Standard Hotel in downtown LA is part of a chain of "boutique" hotels known for their fashionable and hip vibe. Transforming a staid 1956 office building once owned by the Superior Oil Company, the Standard opened in 2002, splashing onto the pages of architectural and travel magazines for its unique, creative and quirky modern design. It also had a reputation as an exclusive place for the young, celebrated, and hip to party. But now it's 2012, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so why not stop in for a glass of wine and a chance to see what all the buzz is about?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Convergence of all things LA

Union station
Today was an extraordinary day in Los Angeles. Several things all happened at once to make it a special LA Day.

First - - there were serious traffic alerts. In the downtown area, it was CicLAvia - a day when downtown streets were closed to automobile traffic and opened wide to cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers and other non-gas-powered wheeled vehicles. Residents were encouraged to come downtown and ride in the streets!

Figueroa at 7th
Second - there was a film shooting on the 105 freeway near LAX, closing down the area, Such a wonderful celebration of our primary industry!

Ceiling mural, downtown Metro transit center
Third - President Obama was in town for a fundraiser, and the news was publishing which streets his motorcade would use, so we could avoid them. In addition to the Pico corridor from LAX to downtown, and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, they happened to be some of the same streets CicLAvia was closing, only later in the day.

Mole festival at Olvera Street
 Fourth - it was the annual Feria de los Moles at Olvera Street, where the sauces of Puebla meet the sauces of Oaxaca in competition.

Mole tamarindo with handmade tortillas and cactus and pineapple agua fresca
Bike fanatics, food festival, film location shooting, and politics - the trifecta of Los Angeles traffic congestion. The message was clear. Don't go anywhere near the Westside, and keep your car away from downtown!

What could we do? Well, of course, we went everywhere. Wouldn't you?

We went to the Feria de los Moles, and ate delicious saucy things. We rode the Red Line with hundreds of bicycle fanatics. We hung out downtown and watched the cyclists cruise through the streets.

The old dude in the hat was really grooving, man.
Before leaving downtown, we had a drink in a rooftop hipster joint - more later, but all I can say is - I love LA!

Art and about

We're home now after an evening out at an arts gala. Reception, dinner, and an awards program. The honorees were introduced by celebrities. A hot young pop star performed.

She's a teenage dream
The food was great. Conversation good. Exhibitions wonderful. My feet are killing me and I'm exhausted.

Friday, October 5, 2012

What a difference

On Monday it was 104 degrees here. The hot winds were blowing from the desert, and the posted Fire Danger was "Very High." Today, it's foggy and 57, and moisture drips from the eaves. What a crazy contrast.

Jack much prefers the cool. He enjoys lying on the deck

and looking out over the garden.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Local watering hole

Every small town has its local joint where people hang out. My little community of Topanga is no different.

Pat's Topanga Grill is just up route 27, just before you get to the Flying Pig. It's nothing special, just a place you can get breakfast or lunch, or even just sit around with a cup of coffee.

There's a broad front porch, and an even bigger back deck. The decor features surfboards as art, also local paintings. The menu offers breakfast burritos, chorizo and eggs, omelettes, and burgers for lunch.

On the bulletin board, you can find notices for lost pets, solicitations for handyman and housekeeping work, yoga class notices and real estate flyers. This being Topanga, there are several flyers for new-age products or events. There was a flyer advertising used saddles for sale; also promoting a local band playing a tavern in downtown LA.

Pat's is a dog-friendly place, and when we were there, Jack was welcome. Another table had a pug on a retractable lead - he was quite interested in the dining room and pressed his nose against the screen door, just avoiding getting whacked with it whenever it swung open or shut.

Meet the neighbors!
Pat's serves a good, greasy patty-melt, and the Ortega-burger - a cheeseburger with a whole green chile - is awesome.You can choose firies, potato salad, or cole slaw.

The clientele is a mixture of locals, hikers, and visitors - sometimes called "Flatlanders" by those of us here in the canyon. The cafe shares the building with an art studio and a photographer.

Pat's Yelp reviews are mixed - the service is maybe a little slow, the personalities a little gruff. Maybe the expectations visitors from out of the community have are too high. Pat's is not a charming rural resort for tourists - it's a place for locals. 'nuff said.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Malamute in Malibu

 It's another scorcher today. Jack and I were hanging out at home, and he needed a walk. But it was 103 degrees outside our house! A short trot up to the street for a pee, and we were both ready to go back inside the house, which was relatively cool.

No, what we needed was some cool ocean breezes. Some salt air. The beach. What we needed was the 'Bu - Malibu.

Sadly, Los Angeles County has only two beaches that allow dogs - even on leash. One beach is in Long Beach, and the other is Leo Carillo State Beach, way up near the Ventura County line. But - the little State Park trailhead at Malibu Seafood allows leashed dogs, so Jack and I hopped in the car and headed out.

It's $5 to park, and you feel virtuous because you know you're supporting the state parks. It was at least 20 degrees cooler down here. The trail led down into a dry shady creek bed, and though you could hear the traffic thundering past on nearby Pacific Coast Highway, we spent a nice time hiking through the chaparral.

Jack did his business and I didn't feel much like carrying a bag of pooh further into the wilderness, so that was my signal to turn back to the parking lot and a trash bin. It was a good enough walk for a hot summer day.

What next?

We drove out to Point Dume, hoping to walk the bluffs and look out over the ocean. Ah, but once again - no dogs allowed!  Poor Jack!

I turned around and headed back into Malibu, and lucked out to find a parking place in the shade at the Malibu Country Mart. The mart is a loosely connected collection of buildings - one stately Spanish-tiled, and the others low and modest shacks - clustered about a courtyard with outdoor umbrella tables and a central play structure. There are health food restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques where you can buy board shorts, designer chocolates, and simple, stylish clothing costing hundreds of dollars.

Jack and I took a leisurely stroll around the courtyard, window shopping and checking out the various toy poodles, Boston terriers, and Lhasa Apsos that hung out here, along with Malibu mommies and kids in the play structure, assorted starlets and screenwriters.

I got an iced coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, where Jack was much admired for his good manners. While we waited for my drink, a trio opened the door and came in to order drinks. Two young women and an older man. Both of the women strode into the coffee shop in 5 inch platform heels - one strappy lavender and the other leopard print and magenta. Ms. Leopard Print also wore leopard print leggings. She wore a long, slinky black jersey shift emblazoned with a print skull, picked out in rhinestones. She reached down her scarlet-taloned hand for Jack to sniff.

Aside from her lavender sandals, her companion was dressed all in black - a pair of black stockings, with artistically arranged runs, were hiked up by garters that disappeared into a pair of black sateen short-shorts. She had dyed chestnut-colored hair that flowed down her back to her waist - the bottom 12 inches of it was dyed sea-foam green.

Their escort was an older man, slender, with a greying beard and longish brown hair. He wore jeans and a tee shirt, and his arms were blue with tattoos.

I settled down with my iced coffee; then the trio came out of the coffee shop and settled down at an umbrella table, too.  Beyond them, a white-blond-haired ingenue in a tie-dyed maxi-dress scrolled on her I-phone.

"If they offer me the contract, I know I want to work with him," said Ms Lavender Sandals. I tried to guess what industry they were in. Music? Porn? Fashion?

On the path beyond, a blonde woman in yoga pants led an entourage, a double-wide deluxe stroller bearing two blonde toddlers, pushed by a squat Latina woman, toward the inner courtyard and the play structure. At an adjoining table, a slender dark-haired man spoke excitedly in Italian into a smart phone.

"Of course I'd sing - that's what I want to do!" said the young chestnut haired woman earnestly. She gathered her long hair together in her hands and flipped it over her shoulder onto her chest, then wrapped it in her hands like a rope, and flung it back over her shoulder. 

Beyond the hedges, four Latino men wearing wide-brimmed straw hats to shield them from the blazing sun, toiled atop the roof of a low boutique, above the umbrella-shaded glades of the courtyard, their hammers pounding roofing nails into the soft and molten tarpaper.

The powerful blatting of motorcycle engines roared; then on the narrow roadway from the parking lot, two Harley motorcycles with impossibly long extended forks curved past the boutiques and headed out towards Pacific Coast Highway.

Ms Leopard Print rose shakily to her feet and picked her knock-kneed way through the tables to the rest room, patting Jack on the head as she went. How can anyone wear leggings and stockings in this heat?

I sipped my gritty, icy coffee, and Jack and I watched. In the brick-paved parking lot, the Land Rovers, Escalades and Porches glittered beneath the chamois caresses of the hand carwash.

Things are cool down here in the 'Bu.