Friday, January 30, 2009

You bring the sunblock, I'll bring the water

What is it about Altadena? Why is everything either hot or cold, rich or poor, sane or in? I could keep going -- old or new, wild or paved, beautiful or really, really ugly.

Take downtown. A butt ugly downtown, a pockmarked embarrassment to all the little towns that hover above Pasadena. Only one single boulevard, littered with the broken bodies of failed or ailing shops. No one plans a trip to downtown, no pedestrians roam the streets. No one buys anything there, because there's really nothing to buy, other than bandaids or gas. I want to shake this downtown by the shoulders and ask, "What happened to you? Shape up, make something of yourself; take a look at your sister Sierra Madre, or your rich aunt La Canada. Why the hell are you so pathetic? You have one gelato shop in a strip mall and you think you can call it a day?


But then Altadena has by far the most beautiful and historically quirky and significant entry trails to the mighty San Gabriel Mountains. Creeks, bridal paths, waterfalls for god sakes. A view from Echo Mountain clear through LA to to the coastline to Catalina Island. On any trail you might find ruins and relics of the 1800's, mining camps and mountaintop hotels. Altadena has unleashed some wild imaginings and some crazy, crazy dreams.

So I decided, let's take a weekly tour and discover Altadena, its belly and underbelly, as it were. And look at some of the myths and legends -- to bunk as well as debunk.

And I think I'll start next week's tour with the spooky wreck known as Zorthian Ranch.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Uh, hey baby, what're ya wearing?

There’s a Blog In Your Pajamas Day coming up in February, and I’m shocked and dismayed. What the hell are you guys wearing when you blog anyway? A three-piece suit? Evening wear? Stilettos?

I’ve been doing this for six months and now you tell me there’s a dress code?

So come that day in February, I’ll have to make the daring fashion leap from sweat pants to pajamas. Once I buy some. Who even sells pajamas? Amazon? I don’t think I’ve owned any since I was 10. But then, when it comes to clothes, there are a lot of things I don’t own.

Some people love to look at, think about, talk over, and shop for clothes. And they have very definite ideas, whole philosophies, religions, even, about accessories, what to wear with what and when. Needless to say, these same people may be my friends, but they’re horrified by my wardrobe, and are ready to drop me like a hot potato at the merest provocation. (They’re secretly hoping for a provocation before the next gallery opening.)

But in the temple of fashion, I come as an atheist. An atheist who wears a lot of denim.

I’m definitely minus the shopping gene. Except fish, I like shopping for fish – the kind you eat. But that’s it. And I really need some stuff right now – a new white shirt, a black skirt, some jackets. Pajamas, apparently. Shoes. Aside from riding boots and running shoes, I only have one pair. But they were very expensive, so it’s kind of like having six.

When I had a regular job, I had to tiptoe through the minefield of “Casual Fridays.” Casual Friday meant don’t wear a business suit, but don’t wear faded jeans. Look comfortable, but don’t look sexy. Look relaxed, yet serious. In the end it meant buy something that you will only wear on a casual Friday. This was all so unduly complicated and challenging, I just continued to wear a suit.

So it doesn’t surprise me to learn that, in coming to this blogging party, I've been dressing all wrong.

You were nice not to say anything.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm ok, you're ok. But she's better

Post match, my dog Phoebe has some really cool body and staple piercing, plus a whole stash of recreational drugs. How do you spell popular in Altadena? (Your well-wishes are most, most appreciated, but she asks that you make them meat-flavored.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Altadena weather & quake report

Unfortunate Sunday Evening:
Though she never started them, there was a time when Phoebe couldn't lose a fight. Once a giant dalmation, twice her size, jumped her and in one fluid motion she flipped him up and over on his back and held him there. No sweat.

she'll never come out on the winning end again, and it kind of broke both our hearts today. but she's doing ok, I think. we hate the emergency vet clinics -- they have their place, but it's not like home.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bride of Chuckie Cheese

Wednesday, 11 p.m.
I wonder if I'll feel different after my first kill. I also wonder about the size of my prey. Will I feel guilty if it's small? Relieved if it is large? Grossed out to find out how large?

Basic instinct. If one owns a house, one must protect it.

Blood? Out of the question. And no poison. Instead, I had settled on the Maserati of contraptions -- a souped up electric death chamber in neon blue. $59.

The grim-faced man across the counter (who didn't ask for ID) said, "Lady, you'll get your maximum kills if you buy the Duracell pack." Maximum kills? We're not talking about a colony, are we? ARE WE?

No time to consider that. I have bigger, uh, things to fry. Time to prepare the scene of the crime.

I cover the kitchen table with newspaper and turn the open face of the deathpit to the wall. There will be a body, I hope, but not a body I hope to see. The bait? Something my victim finds irresistible: Brie.

Shuffle the dogs into the bedroom and close the door. While apparently totally uninterested in the live body, they will be fascinated by a dead one.

I sleep fitfully, listening for -- something. Nothing, just a lot of dog snoring. And a little dream time doggy chasing of something they would not chase when awake.

4 am.
Footfalls. Scratching. Then a zing. Or whatever sounds like an electric jolt. I can't stand the suspense. I tiptoe into the kitchen. The light on the death chamber blinks, which according to directions, means mission accomplished. I go back to bed.

Thursday, 7 a.m.
I wrap the chamber in newspaper and take it to the trash, my head averted the whole time. Holding the Maserati upside down in the trashcan, at first I hear nothing, then a thunk. Full of morbid curiosity, I want to look; confirm the kill. But I can't

Still, proud, but thoroughly revolted, I head back inside. Somewhere it's written, adults do this kind of thing without vomiting. And they do it a second night, for the ensurance.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And Their Weather Sucks

I got my rejection email from the New Yorker today, and I was pretty darned excited. To my mind, this opens the floodgates of communication; it's the start of a long and fruitful exchange with the magazine, and in due time, I expect to hear from every one of the editors.

Perhaps the email was a bit terse, but they had a lot on their hands, what with the inauguration, financial chaos, Gitmo, and whatnot. No time to chat about the weather, know what I mean?

The email said my piece had "evident merit." At first, all I saw was the word "merit," and popped the cork on a cheap bottle of pink cava. But midway into my 9 a.m. celebration, it hit me: Strange coupling. I know what evident means, I know the definition of merit -- but isn't all merit pretty much evident? Or is there another rejection letter that claims hidden merit. Or evident crap. Further investigation required.

Google "evident merit," and you'll see there are lots and lots of us out there, flaunting our merit for all the New Yorker staff to see. We're a veritable club of evidently meritful analysts, satirists, poets, novelists. (I hope the others invite me to dinner sometime. I'll bet their booze is good.)

And while the editors of the New Yorker may think they've successfully buried my hopes and dreams under their heaping pile of evident merit, I'm pretty tenacious. My give and their takeback isn't over, no not by a long shot. Besides, I find it really handy these days that, when people ask me what I'm up to, I can honestly say, "Writing a piece for the New Yorker."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I dislike ceremony -- graduations, weddings, religous stuff, funerals. Grandstanding. Don't know why -- well that's not true, but doesn't matter.

So the radio was on as I drove to class, and I expected to be bored by a bunch of speechwriters who had tried to capture the quote they'd live on for the rest of their lives. ("That was me, little Timmy, I put that phrase in the president's mouth...")

Instead, I was deeply touched and made hopeful. The speech was brief, to the point, lacking frills, and -- most of all -- it lacked the historical headline. Obama hadn't wasted the last two months to come up with big stick, fear itself, ask not, and all that other rhetoric. Instead, in 15 minutes or so, he said, Here are our problems, and, you know, roll up the shirtsleeves.

Fresh air. What courage it takes to be clear and concise. The gravitational pull has been slow, but I think Obama is my kind of guy.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A little lipstick for the pig

Hmmm, what angle will make the backyard crops look ever so much better than they look in person? Farm Girl's are so neat, kempt, abundant. I know! I'll stick a couple of minimum-wage dog models in there to divert attention.

Albert, smell the kale -- NOW! Phoebe, you think you're too good for this? Get back here, SCHNELL!

Oh, and what is that crop, romping with abandon in the foreground? Beets. Shit, who eats beets? But, I have a sack of dandelion weeds pulled up from a neighbor's yard. I'm going to plant them, oh yes I am. I pay $2 a bun for those at Ralph's. And if I can't grow weeds, well (we won't pursue that thought).

Modeling is exhausting.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sign Language

Over at Birmingham Daily Photo, the lovely Virginia is doing a series on hands. And it made me think, there's so much about our appearance and our past we can hide through make up, a hair cut, clothes, shoes, accessories, medical intervention, even charm. But hands?

A person's hands will reveal how much time was spent in the great outdoors. Are you clever? Spoiled? Artistic? Can you rein in a horse, fish, carve, play piano? Are you gentle and good with children?

Funny, the scars on hands never seem to go away. I have two dogbite scars, still, from my heart's dog back when I was 17. I even have a scar from a glass jar tantrum when I was five. I like those scars.

Look at your hands right now. They tell so much about what we treasure and what we regret. And the palms -- so untouched by life lived, unless you're a really useful person such as a carpenter or plumber or mechanic.

As a child -- a very young child -- I had a godmother, a very elegant godmother. She had ivory hands and long, real fingernails. I thought her hands were the most beautiful things in the world. My godparents only visited once or twice a year, flying in from some exotic place or another. I would watch, mesmorized, as Aunt Lorelei tended to her nails -- the clip, the file, the buffer, the undercoat, the polish.

I was sure I would grow up to be an Aunt Lorelei, glamorous and gentle and lovely. But stuff happens. My godfather was arrested for bank robbery; Aunt Lorelei remarried, and we never heard from her again. True story. I still miss the both of them. Here's my Uncle Fred and his hands.

Yes, I was bald for awhile.

Oh, but I guess we were talking about hands...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's Here, Somewhere

I've lived in rat-infested hovels before. Not in recent memory perhaps, but in memory nonetheless.

In rodent situations, men are worthless. But ok, because always, always, a resident dog has stepped up to the mousy plate. And if the rodent did not adhere to the eviction notice, it would, that night, be scared to death by two gleaming doggy eyes.

One place I lived (with worthless man), mornings would greet us with a mouse body untouched, but stomach-up, in the kitchen with a look of terror in its dead, but still open, eyes. Nearby, a doggy tail waving with pride.

All this to say, there is a mouse definitely in my house. As I write. As I sleep. As I wake. As I (shudder) shower. For two days, there has been a mouse in my house.

My boxer was a terrific terrifier of anything that squeaked (really, a terrific terrifier of anything that scared me). One time something got in the attic and my boxer was up all night (well, we all were) running laps in the kitchen and living room barking the order "Get out or I'll kill you." Whatever it was up there, it decided Phoebe meant business.

But now, my boxer is 12. She has kept her figure, but the hearing is shot; she has passed the guard duties on to Albert the Lab.

Albert, however, hears no evil -- sees no evil-- wants no evil -- is downright scared of evil -- unless it has rubber, a solid bounce, and a Spaulding insignia. So when I hiss, "Albert, go get the mouse," his call to action involves nothing more than a dangerous tail and a tennis ball.

Yes, Albert is all man.

So tonight I tear the place apart to search for my ratty tenant. I'll have a broom in one hand, the vacuum in the other. Phoebe will be snoring next to her gold retirement watch, and Albert, well, scared of vacuums and brooms, will probably tip something over as he scampers out the door in search of his balls.

(Picture found at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What if Shakespeare Blogged?

The Tempest would not exist. Macbeth would lack some vital sword fights. Given the insidious, time-consuming seduction of blogging, I suspect we’d only have some half-finished sonnets, a recipe for shepherd’s pie, and a bunch of photographs of Stratford-on-Avon.

"How do I love thee? Let me count the way."

Oh, and some one-act plays.

Juliet would have said, screw it – County Paris is ok, at least my dad likes him. Hamlet would have decided to be. Othello would have had a beer instead. There’d be a Sixth Night, A Bit of Ado, The Merry Wife of Windsor, One Gentleman of Verona, and a Comedy of Error.

And there’d be none of the shit no one reads anyway, unless it’s thesis time -- Titus Andronicus, Cymbeline, Coriolanus ...

"Love!" Anne H would have said, as Shakespeare pulled the savory pork pie from the oven, "no labor lost here."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

aMAHzing! It's another boxer advenchur

Don't ask me Virg, I was out sailing yesterday. I get back and my matinee smells like a locker room, jujubes all over the floor, with talk about who's man enough to sleep with a French Poodle. Never leave your movie palace in the hands of self-appointed assistant managers.

Tapioca and Dobie were adopted yesterday. So I walked a couple from the infirmary (this little girl has mange, but is just full of good humor. Won't be ready for adoption for a couple of months.

And then I walked a couple of favorites.

Tangerine (I made her smile in the sun).

We were on Tuxford when we heard gunshots across the street. Some burly Pick a Part guys hid in here.

Tangerine stood her (our) ground, and barked furiously in the direction of the gunfire. She's fearless; I had no choice.

And then a three mile trot with Rookie -- Mr. Perfect.

If only I could swing my camera as something other than a lethal weapon, as Truant muse can, you'd see why Rookie is perfect in all ways.

But in general, the day was beautiful, if you can look far and away. Warm, warm. Almost like summer. And I did get to say good-by to Dobie. (It was kind of mushy.) He was one of the first dogs I met here; it was back in September, and he was in the infirmary. In fact, I think I took him on the first walk. And many walks since then.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Saturday Matinee: Idiot's Delight

I have always gone for a man who's a little prettier, a little dumber, and a whole lot sweeter than I. (Than I? Than me? I think it's than I. Well, who cares. That's why I like 'em a trifle dim.) And actually, that's pretty much the gist of the movie, with some anti-fascism stuff thrown in. (Unlike the smart people who occasionally visit my blog, I'm not much for the political-message movies. I guess that means we'll never date.)

But let me get back to the trail. Revenons a nos moutons, as it were. The movie is Idiot's Delight, 1939, and I'll bet a whole box of fairly new tennis balls no one else has seen the whole lovely mess but me (but I? I think it's but me. Yet again, who the hell cares? As one of the aforementioned brainiac boyfriends used to say, the point is mute. Which, if you think about it, makes a certain amount of sense, but now I'm digressing even more than usual).

Robert Sherwood play; Gable, Norma Shearer, Edward Arnold, Charles Coburn. And only one song, which is as close to a musical I will stand. (In fact, shove me in that box and lob the tennis balls at my forehead rather than drag me to the Shubert for Mandy Patinkin sings Sondheim.)

But back to the mutton of the matter. Truth may be beauty (though that point can be argued), but a self-deprecating beauty is all ye know, and all ye need know. Gable's Harry Van is the older brother to his Peter (it's a name, a name) in It Happened One Night. And maybe his last romp into broad comedy. Pity. The masterfully masculine can lead one only so far before getting downright irritating; but I'd follow a gorgeous goof like this anyoldwhere. (i.e.; e.g; er, often have.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's trite, but true: The earth moved for me

Guess you had to be there. 5 point oh-oh in San Berdoo.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Don't count on it

Do you have some sort of analytics on your blog? I did, but I found it either very confusing or very depressing. Oh, there was traffic all right. Allegedly. But let’s examine the quality of this traffic.

From an international perspective, I touch all the continents except Antarctica. Around the holidays, I’m curiously popular in some of those lightly travelled areas such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Uruguay. I also have a bit of a following in Egypt, Pakistan and India. And the Philippines were highly interested in my Christmas post.

France has stopped by many times, but for 0.1 seconds each time. The same with Great Britain, Spain, Italy, and Poland. So what I have to say to them is this: If my site makes you malade to your stomach, stop the fuck visiting. You think I need your cool continental disdain; the mocking “Monday – France – 8 – 0.1?” Go haunt Stephane. (I do remember leaving a comment on a lovely French photography blog, and she left a comment on mine that she would now explore what I have to offer and get back to me. It’s cruel that I’m still waiting.)

So let’s move closer to home. I can lay claim to about 20 states, but some of them conspire with France and Spain. They visit repeatedly, but leave in a great hurry every time. “Good heavens, how did I end up here again?” Most particularly in this regard, I can point to Connecticut, Ohio, Oregon, and a great swath of the Great Plains.

See, it’s why they return over and over that really irritates me. They visit just to snub me. No, I know my pictures aren’t any better constructed this time, I’m no more profound. Nothing’s different. You didn’t like me before, you won’t like me now, and you won’t like me in the future. Leave me in peace.

My greatest fan base is in California, and I no doubt constitute most of that fan base. I edit my writing a great deal (don’t look so surprised), so I visit myself quite a bit to change an “and” to a “so”, or alter some embarrassing grammatical gaffe after a consultation with Strunk and White. So if I make a lot of errors on a particular day, I’m actually quite popular.

The analytics are now history; I probably installed them incorrectly anyway. Maybe France & Spain visited long and hard day after day, but it was metrically.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Skin Deep

Many ask how I keep a smooth complexion and rosy glow, and far be it for me to hide such secrets. Given our economically challenged times, you’ll be happy to know most of the tools can be found at your local Home Depot and require minimum investment.

Shopping list:
Safety Goggles
Sand Blaster
Paint Scraper
Duct Tape

Ok, the sand blaster requires some cash outlay, but take care of your tools, and they’ll take care of you. Plus, if you stand against an outer wall that needs some assistance, it’s two birds with one handful of grit.

Consider your complexion a canvas. A brief blow from the sandblaster will take care of most of the egregious flaws, such as acne scars, lines, and those pesky blackheads. Stand still and expressionless, and don’t look in the light. (And for god’s sake, safety first! wear the goggles.)

After treatment, the turpentine will work as an astringent and close up the pores.

When at Home Depot, ask the courteous salesperson to match the spackle to your skintone (I’m a #3!). Use liberally, and wipe off excess with your paint scraper. (I know, I know, you’re asking “But what about grout?” Grout was fine for your grandmother, but it’s too gummy, and it tends to collect dirt and turn an unattractive gray on windy days.)

For a really special occasion, I steal some novacaine from my dentist and shoot it in the “expression” areas – between the brows and around the mouth. Trust me, no facial muscles will dare move that night.

And on those days when you need a little extra help, pull your visage up with duct tape. Duct tape, you say – won’t everyone notice? Not if you disguise it with a duct tape silver hat (see instructions on my craft blog).

So you’re ready now? Not quite yet. Practice, practice. Practice on your mother and other older family members. The first few times you’ll find the sand is too coarse or the blaster set too high. But given time, you’ll find the right mix.

Next week we’ll look at make-up and blush. Latex or water-based? How much lead is too much lead? How much base coat? Roller or sprayer? Our answers will surprise you. Plus wood putty and minwax, pros and cons.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hey dogface

Who needs a new dog to take them through this New Year? Recommendations: Tapioca. Doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, laughs at all my jokes (if they're clean). Likes to pose in front of reflective windows (yes, that's my new camera). She has one ear set at a jaunty angle (sort of like Spencer Tracy's hat). And Rookie, a devastatingly handsome guy who didn't complain that I spent the whole walk singing to him ("You're the tops, you're the Mona Lisa...You're the da, you're the da da da da" ). He'll also make sure your ears are clean and presentable.

Boxer Rescue Los Angeles.

'Cause baby when you're on bottom
I'm on top!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ciao, baby

"It Started in Naples." One of the writers probably jotted that title on a cocktail napkin after 10 Campari's. You can tell the movie was thrown together at the last minute. The title makes absolutely no sense because the movie starts, middles, and ends in Naples.

There's no pretence of a story -- which is kind of refreshing. Just a few links between wise-cracks, sketches, songs and kisses. Sophia and Italy are so beautiful, and Gable looks like he's having a good time, De Sica charms the hell out of me, and the whole thing makes me laugh, especially the scene in the bar and the other one in court.

I used to watch it on the late, late show when I was a kid, and can do a perfect imitation of the street urchin, "Oh, chur, eveddybody loves Nando." Now I don't know if it plays anywhere, although there's a DVD (but I'm not that far gone).

Somewhere there's a line about misspent youth, and I spent way too much of my kiddihood watching old movies, especially if Gable was in them. I had a thing about Gable, even if he was dead. Recently someone mentioned Gable in the context of he-men movie stars, and the host (or whoever) shook his head and said, "Gable was different; Gable was fragile."

Yes, god damn it, that was it. Or part of it.

So, It Started in Naples is on my short list of silly and forgotten movies that I love to love. See why, Americano.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year from Echo Mountain, California

I waved to y'all, just as the TV Cameras should be panning the mountains high above the Rose Parade. You're down there somewhere.