Saturday, April 30, 2011

Altadena Get Away

Country retreat in pastoral setting. Mountain view; landscaped in California natives and old growth fruit trees. Airy, with open floor plan, fenced yard, and full length basement. Needs paint.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Delayed Reaction

(I turned in my Patch piece yesterday, and the editor said, “This is awful, it doesn’t even make sense.” So I made a few changes and he came back with, “Yeah, I guess you mean something.” I haven’t even linked to it; I can’t bear to look. I’m sure it’s terrible – something like zxckvjeiljzdfgi9arto !!??sar;…dklfgj—asdlkfj.)

Just before the accident happened, I had a second, maybe two, to look in the rear view mirror. Did time stand still or slow down? No. Or yes. I remember thinking, “Wow, maybe I’m going to die.” And then, you know, the car and I just took it.

The guy at the repair place, a collision center, said, “You were very lucky.” I asked if all the cars looked this bad. He said it happens every day.

When I finally found a decent fellow at the insurance agency, and I think I did, he suggested I sell it as salvage or have it towed back to my house. “Some people form an attachment to their car.”

I told him I wasn’t one of those people.

On the other hand, the little Matrix saved my life. But that’s stupid. That’s zxckvjeiljzdfgi9arto !!??sar;…dklfgj—asdlkfj.

I expect to be entirely back to normal by tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ye of little faith

I understand now. The financial meltdown had nothing to do with toxic assets or wanton greed and mismanagement. No,it’s just some of our finer financial institutions were too focused on engineering innovative strategies for saving the planet.

Let's not engage in name calling and finger pointing, they plead. How can we all work together to make a difference? War is not the answer; but envelopes are. If John Muir were alive, he'd tell you to switch to online banking.

For years, multi-billion dollar companies have quietly gone about the business of repairing old growth forests and rescuing endangered species. Remember what we learned in the old Chevron ad? Oil companies weren’t ditching broken pipes and junk in the wilderness to save the expense of trucking it out. No, they were providing shelter for the little lost foxes. “Do people care? People do.”

Ever since, I've been ecologically aware enough to leave the broken, the collapsed, the useless, laying around my backyard. That’s not a piece of crap, that’s a habitat.

Do people care? Neighbors do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Name calling

It's wrong to call an insurance adjuster a jack-ass, it insults the jack-ass. (Apologies to someone, Mark Twain maybe.)

This is Jethro, the mini-donkey at our stable. We're very much in love.

Jethro, yes, I would like a kiss, but you've got a booger.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What part of a car accident is good news?

The part where no one is hurt, And I don’t think I’m hurt. Then again, I’m the one who walked around on a broken leg for three days before admitting there might be a problem.

But let’s stick with the good news. It appears the guy has insurance. Third, there was a witness. Fourth, looks like I’m going to be on foot for awhile, so I’ll get really slender. Fifth, our tableau on the side of the road presented a cautionary tale so all the cars slowed to a crawl. Sixth, I don't have to drive to Santa Monica tonight afterall. Seventh … well, I think we’ve reached the end of the line here.

The CHP called a tow truck and now my (dirty, straw-filled, dog-blanketed) little Matrix is somewhere in San Gabriel. Don’t ask me why San Gabriel, I just let the officer handle that part.

Some of the bad news:

Since I only have liability, Allstate told me to handle the claim myself. I had to google how to do that. (Ok, maybe google is #7 on the good list)

The claim’s adjuster has 24 to 48 hours to make contact. Who knows how long after that before the wheels of repair are set in motion.

The back end is smashed in, the window shattered, tires flat. And there were only 60,000 miles on the most reliable car I’ve ever owned.

I didn’t have my camera.

“The unbearable lightness of being “ – I hate reminders. All of life hangs on a thread, the thread of whether you leave the house at 9:25 a.m. or 9:30.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A little night's music

Dame Myra Hess, born in London, is remembered not only as a great pianist; she was the first artist to challenge the cultural blackout in England which closed all theaters, museums, galleries, and concert halls at the beginning of World War II. When Hess started a series of concerts in 1939, other artists -- actors, dancers -- followed suit.

Though raised as an Orthodox Jew, Hess was rather a free spirit, and known to smoke, drink, and tell dirty jokes.

For a pianist, she had very small hands and short reach, so she would "spread the chords," which means instead of hitting each key of the chord at the same time, she played them from the bottom upwards. I believe this is also called rolling the hands. It limited her repertoire, but brought a unique quality to the pieces she mastered.

Like many of the greats, and Argerich springs to mind, Hess had a paralyzing fear of performing in public. She said, "When listening to myself play, I feel I am going to my own funeral."

Here are two pieces. The first is Hess. The second, Alicia Delarrocha, who for a time studied with Hess.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The writing life

When I graduated college with a degree in literature, I dazzled me. If asked, I could discuss Milton, Keats, Sterne, Yeats, Lawrence, Barth, Twain, Joyce, and Cary.

The thing is, was, and forever shall be, no one ever asks. Same goes for my opinion on various translations of Dostoevsky, even though the names Constance Garnett and Larissa Volokhonsky have, for a quarter of a century, been prepared to take a swan dive, splashless, off the tip of my tongue.

After college, my only job offer came from a San Fernando publishing house, as writer and dogsbody for a general aviation magazine. I took the job, but felt like an actor who’d spent years in repertory only to star in a tampon commercial. (Mom, can I ask you a personal question – do you always feel, you know, fresh?)

The general aviation magazine was one of the company’s five prestige titles. We had an editorial staff of three, with five regular contributors (two of whom died in helicopter and arobatic accidents). As low man on the totem pole, and even lower than that as I was a woman, I doubled as proofreader. The first issue I worked on had a two-page center spread about piloting your plane from Los Angeles to New York. I missed a typo, so the title – a banner splashed across both pages – read, “ULTIMATE FREEDOM: FLYING CROSS COUNTY.”

Now, about the publishing company itself. As my editor liked to say, we were in the house that porn built. In other words, there were a few legit and even, within a very limited scope, well-regarded titles; the money drains, the beards, as it were. The cash cows were some magazines that made Hustler look like US News and World Report.

The legits and porns shared the same building, with strong rules of non-engagement. However, when the legits got bored, which was often, we’d sneak over to the wild side – not to watch the shooting itself, just the traffic.

The main photographer for the porns was a 70 or 80 year man, who seemed more liquid than solid. He had pale blue, teary eyes, drips he wiped away with a hanky. He greeted all his new models the same way, “Hi, honEEE. Did you bring your license?” We figured the girls posed for the first picture holding a driver’s license to prove they were of age.

Sometimes the girls came with a friend or a sister. Or a mother. We knew it was a mother because the photographer would say, “So who’s the daughter and who’s the mommy?” before closing and locking the studio door.

I lasted less than a year. My next job was writing ad copy for a burial insurance company. That’s when I learned about the relativism of art. I had found possibly the only job that could make the topic of optional avionics on a Lear Jet seem like poetry.

Monday, April 11, 2011


What? You were gone all afternoon, and it's not like that ball is going to play itself.

Just so you know, I liked the book. I found the prose mighty tasty. And the plot, meaty. Maybe, if you actually dissect it page by page, the characters are a little hard to swallow. Still, the moral of the story gave me something to chew on.

It's funny, at first, when I just scratched the surface, I thought I could walk away. But you can't leave a book, can you; not once you sink your teeth in it.

Well, it's getting late. Whaddya say we knock back a bowl of kibble, pee on the carpet, and call it a night.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sweet Jesus

Baldwin Avenue, Sierra Madre

Thursday, April 7, 2011

No news is good news

If there’s one thing on which all the news outlets – left, right, center, north, south, over, under; PBS, PRI, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, KPCC, BBC, WSJ -- agree, it’s that we’re going to hell in a handbasket.

Given that’s the case, I’d like to suggest some modifications to the handbasket.

I want a double-wide, with air conditioning and safety features. Shelving for essentials such as deodorant, moist towelettes, mascara, spring water, scotch, and sunscreen. A compartment for my boxer’s Senior “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Dead” canned food. A compartment for my boxer (she won’t mind if it’s dark, she’s old and will sleep the whole way, but I don’t like to travel alone).

Then there’s the handbasket material itself. Wicker gives me waffle butt. I’m thinking something with upholstery and daisies.

As for electronic accessories, we can eliminate GPS, which would only say, “Go straight to, go straight to, go straight to…”

This just might be a cottage industry if I hurry.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mid Week Matinee: The French have a word for it

When I get the flu, I multi-task – watch TV and flip through a mental catalogue of fatal diseases.

Yesterday, battling a near-death experience, one movie drop-kicked me right past the C’s. It’s called The Major and the Minor, filmed sometime in the 1940s, directed and written by Billy Wilder.

You see, Ginger Rogers is fed up with New York and wants to return home to the mid west. But she’s short on train fare. So she dresses up as a 12-year old girl to buy a half-priced ticket. Fast forward through a half dozen improbabilities, and she ends up in the sleeper car of a middle-aged male stranger (Ray Milland). They bunk in separate berths for the night, but he briefly crawls into bed with her during a thunder storm. The next day he tells her to call him Uncle Phillip.

All very innocent(sort of),as Ginger looks like a 35-year old cocktail waitress holding a balloon. Still, don’t expect a Disney remake.

When it comes to weird mid-century sexual implications, I prefer You Never Can Tell. A german shepherd, owned by a young beautiful secretary, is knocked off by a bad guy and returns to earth as a human, a private investigator. Blah, blah, blah, the secretary and the investigator fall in love. The story skirts the issue of, well, you know, by unveiling at the 11th hour the secretary actually comes from a long line of parrots (on her father’s side). So it’s not a dog and woman, it’s a dog and a bird. Or something like that.

Sometimes it’s better not to think too much. I found a clip on youtube. Dick Powell is the reincarnated dog, the assistant a racehorse, and Miss Hathaway his former owner. The movie is no longer available, even on Netflix. I don’t know why; maybe someone thought too much.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I know brilliant people

Artist Victor Henderson (on right), famous muralist and founding member of the the LA Fine Arts Squad. Check out a video retrospective of his work here.

Show runs through the April.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The cheese stands alone

To secure your heart’s desire, where wouldn’t you go, what wouldn’t you do? Ask Shakespeare, the romantics, the impressionists, expressionists, the Beats, the Supremes.

Ain’t no mountain high enough, indeed. And no humiliation too great.

Pride? Who needs pride? Can you pare pride into long thin slices and stack it on sourdough? Pride is a poor cold substitute when it's late at night and all you want is a grilled cheese.

Which is why I’ve come crawling back to my Italian grocer. All four feet ten inches of him. My powder keg, my Mussolini of the Mortadella. My bad boy of the deli counter who has found an outlet for 80 years of broken dreams, rage, and hostility: Me.

Our relationship defies reason, sense, boundaries.

“Can I have…”

“No, you wait. I’ve gotta other customers, ya know.”

“But no one is here and …”

“No, you wait. I’ma busy.”

His is a gruff charm, a tough love. The way, when I’m in a line of 10, he passes out his sample slices of cheese heaven to everyone but me. And when it’s my turn in line, he stomps away mumbling something about checking his inventory.

Yes, he’s far from perfect and I’m not wearing rose colored glasses. I have no illusions about his wizened olives and fatty bologna. But I don’t think I can live without the aged Provolone.

Call the whole thing an obsession at this point. Like a dog who returns to the master who kicks him. Yesterday, a guy split his Genoa salami sample slice with me while we waited in line. He said it was the grocer’s 60th anniversary this month.

“So,” I said brightly when it was my turn. “Happy 60th!"

“You wait. I gotta check something out back.”

I've tried to quit him. I've tried to find more wholesome antipasti relationships. The heart wants what the heart wants.