Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Garbage In, Garbage Out (if we're lucky)

I needed two long leggy supermodels to jazz up my Patch article this week, so put out an SOS to neighbor Courtney.

Cute overload. So sue me.

If you want to know why da guys, Hartwell and Beckett, are in (perfectly clean, never-been-used) trashcans, then you'll have to read the piece.

These two have earned some serious cookies. I'll get my people on that straight away.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The boys are back in town

Yes they are.

It's 105 degrees in the shade, but some guys are always cool.

DB, Earl, Cafe (left to right):

Kenny Mac (of course, he's a New Yorker):

Photographer Kevin, AKA Mr. Downtown:

Bandit, Birdman, Van Helsing, Terry (Right to left):

Ranger Keith:

Patch Editor Dan:

I seek relief camping with a few friends. (That guy who looks like Tom Waits? Banjo.)

Tomorrow we'll visit the girls. In the meantime, You can satisfy all your polyester-stud cravings at Katie's house. And she'll even send you a personal postcard. (No kidding. I'll show you mine if you show me yours.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Job

When detasseling corn, grasp the tassel neck firmly. Bend it a bit and pull in a steady motion. The stem will resist for a second, then slip out easily. If it breaks mid-glide, you’re pulling too hard.

We were a mix of high school freshmen and migrant workers. The only thing we had in common was that almost anything could sound like sex.

The supervisors would pick us up in a supermarket parking lot and we’d ride in a flatbed to the cornfields.

The migrant workers were white like us and about the same age, but you could tell us apart. They had hard little nut-like faces, their lunch was Twinkies and a thermos of Kool-Aid mixed with Vodka. They could put out cigarettes with their bare toes.

It didn’t occur to us to mess with these guys. We knew they could kick our ass for a dime and then ask for change. But we admired them, vaguely, as you admire anyone who feels more comfortable in a given situation or environment.

I didn’t know how they lived, where they stayed. I didn’t know any of their names. But then again, I didn’t know why we were detasseling corn. Still, a couple of them took a shine to me, and I liked that.

Some of my friends lasted all summer and socked away a few hundred dollars. By day 3, I realized I didn’t need the money anyway, and walked off in the middle of a job.

The guy supervising us had an old nut-like face, and told me I couldn’t visit the farmhouse to use the bathroom. That’s what the aisles in between cornrows were for.

We stared each other down.

It took two rides to hitch my way home. Country roads, crows, and corn, corn, corn. The parental units said they knew I’d be too soft to stick it out, and maybe now I’d be more appreciative of home and the country club.

They didn’t know anything. I had drunk Kool-Aid mixed with vodka, and could, if pressed, snuff out a cigarette with my barefeet. I could hitch a ride home. I had quit my first job. I had my first taste of freedom, and it was sweet.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Compelling places

Persson’s Nursery. This time, it quietly closed.

That’s my Patch piece for the week.

Onto to a related topic, my favorite foreclosed home.

Albert and I have poked around a little, in and out.

And decided

Whoever the owners were, their risk was worth taking.

I'm sorry they lost.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The waterfall

Some might say my waterfall is

more like a faucet. But I find drama

in privacy.

It's my secret place, as luck will out.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The actor

French actor Gerard Depardieu outraged fellow passengers by urinating in the aisle of an Air France flight as it prepared to take off on Tuesday…
A passenger on the flight said Depardieu, 62, the star of movies such as "Jean de Florette" and "Green Card," appeared to be drunk and insisted he be allowed to use the bathroom during takeoff, when passengers must remain seated.
When asked by a hostess to return to his seat, Depardieu urinated in the aisle.

Once upon a time, I met Depardieu. And by met, I mean the introduction was probably along the lines of, “This is R’s girlfriend.”

I was in college, it was 1979, at a small gathering. I don’t think anyone at the time could foresee the splash Depardieu would make a few years later, and the splash he'd make a few decades after that. He’s consistent, though; always sets his sights on #1.

But back when I met him, on this evening, a group of French and Americans surrounded this beau of the ball, murmuring things about mise en scene, diegesis. He was, to the best of my knowledge, at that time, still in the habit of using restrooms.

“Depardieu! He’s feral!” said this one director, who was a friend of a friend. “He follows his instincts, like an animal. He has no training, no education, he comes from the streets and has been in jail. He’s brilliant.”

I remember looking at Depardieu, and he didn’t seem so brilliant to me, just clumsy, with lumpy cheeks and a tuber-sort of nose like a sweet potato. The bull in a chinashop of French intellectuals and American guys who had lots of family money. As the night went on, Depardieu drank and drank, and grew increasingly oafish. Which seemed to please almost everyone.

It was a time when most people I knew thought misbehavior the purest form of behavior, but these people could only misbehave, themselves, by proxy.

So then there was a screening of the film. And Depardieu became Depardieu! Tender, strong, hurt, weak, virile. For an hour and a half, he was achingly, painfully beautiful.

When the lights came on, someone was snoring. Depardieu had passed out.

I plucked myself out of blatant misbehavior shortly thereafter. It’s fun to be a wild child, but eventually you’re not wild or a child, just meeting expectations. Besides, if you want to be wantonly mischievous for the rest of your life, you need handlers, around the clock.

I think we all reach a point in life when we decide whether we’re defined from the inside out or the outside in.

The inside out is tough, because you assume all responsibility for everything life throws your way. But the outside in, what artists call negative space, means you have no this, you’re only that. And one day you find yourself peeing in the aisle of a plane because you took this flight all by yourself but never learned to handle your own baggage.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hiking near Baldy

When my friend B suggests a hike

I don't ask when

Just how soon

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer night in Altadena

Believe it or not, sometimes an accordion is just what the doctor ordered.

Concert at Farnsworth Park

With assorted strangers

And darn it, I'm still shooting a Canon

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good enough

My third grade teacher wrote “nice” on the blackboard. “Never use this word,” she said, or something to that effect. “It’s dull and vague. Always be precise.”

I wouldn’t have remembered this, except she accidentally wrote it in crayon instead of chalk. You can’t erase crayon from a blackboard, so I had a whole year to stare at and contemplate “nice.”

This “nice,” was in lower case, and looked plain. Not even a Greek E on the end, an affectation I have for some reason developed, don’t know where I got it. I also cross my 7’s. And somewhere along the way, I started saying eye-ther rather than ee-ther, and no one could change my mind.

I grew quite fond of “nice.” As one who doesn’t beg to differ but lives to differ, I’ve been its champion ever since. A home-grown tomato isn’t awesome; trust me. It’s ok, it’s a better than average; a tomato you grow, nurture, and pick from the backyard garden is, well, it's nice.

And the photos, books, and experiences I appreciate on a daily basis – nice.

No, something “nice” will not keep you up all night, nor lift a corner of the tent for a peek at heaven. The awesome and outrageous experiences happen now and again, and usually at some private place.

Nice means something has given you a small reward, a bit of pleasure. A smile.

Which is nice, and that's better than ok.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Walk a mile in my shoes

Because the cyclists elected me prom queen, I’ve temporarily moved my base of operations to another location. Won’t say where it is, but here’s a hint: There’s no graffiti, no bikes, and almost no hikers but me.

It has been my habit, on the way up the trail, to listen to a local public radio station.

One in particular offers PRI The World, a program that covers international events with real live correspondent-feet on the ground. The host, Lisa Mullins, has – bar none – the best radio voice extant, it’s like an oboe or viola, painting the daily picture in moderate, calm notes. No hysteria in the upper registers.

But this local radio station also produces a few of its own shows – shows which seem to have ambitions beyond the Pasadena stage. In the wake of a major international event, they try to elbow their way inside, with seemingly no budget and no foreign correspondents.

So when the story in Libya first broke, for example, their solution was to interview anyone who had ever visited, known, or seen a Libyan. Bonus points if they could spell Khadafy. (Aside: Bonus points to me if I can spell Libya.)

During this latest market crisis, the local news readers, thirsting for a piece of the action, break in every fifteen minutes to breathlessly pinpoint where in the hell we can now find our handbasket.

They can take a hike. Just not where I hike. But you can come along.

And listen to this, instead.

Or this.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Art appreciation

Overheard at the Huntington Sculpture Garden:

"Arghhh. No more ass pictures! And no more pictures of taking pictures. Where can we get a drink around here?"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Yes, we have no bananas. And no lettuce, either

Of course, I saw this coming. According to the economic banometer, the market will continue to peel off some recent gains.

The county extension agent advises shovel pruning this puppy and starting from scratch.

But try not to worry. Things will get better, they always do. And for no discernible reason.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To Can and Can Not

Just as there are certain things we’re born to do, there are certain things we should try only once.

I took a class on canning tonight. It’s good to feel humble now and again – if one doesn’t make a habit of it.

It was kind of like being back in my ceramics class, or flying a plane, when the teacher sort of takes over at some point, spotting disaster. (Here are the teachers, prior to disaster alert.)

I can grow food, my problem is what to do after it’s grown. Here’s Christina -- talented writer, photographer, dedicated teacher, horticulturist, seed-saver, chef, world-traveler, blah-blah-blah. I think she lacks focus.

After learning many things, including that botulism is not detectable by sight or smell, I said, “It seems there are many ways this canning business might kill you.” They laughed. I was serious.

My jars are safe, pretty, because they required little self-participation.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Meat and Greet

Sure, I have my faults. Aside from the big-ticket items, and just off the top of my head, I’d say -- big feet, bad temper, atrocious spelling, and the inability to ever return a library book on time.

And there’s that little problem about finishing things I start.

I’ve started as a vegetarian, over and over again. And confronted many a failure with some A1 sauce.

This summer, I joined a group of environmentally concerned carnivores and bought a portion of a a schoolgirl’s 4-H project. Mary had a little lamb, and I’ve got the leg in my freezer to prove it.

My thought was, if I must eat meat, at least let it have been humanely raised and respectfully treated. In other words, happy meat.

Apparently, there's a growing movement promoting spiritual carnivorousness that goes way way beyond my modest attempt at compassionate consumption. This conclusion is based on the emails from the group, emails asking the organizer if they could know the lamb’s name, post a photo, visit the lamb while she was still, uhm, with us. Someone suggested a field trip.

Suddenly it seemed like some kind of virgin sacrifice. And I started feeling pretty darned sad as doomsday approached.

I don’t ever want to meet my meat. I don't want to know the color of its eyes or that it liked to be scratched behind the left ear. I want some distance between us, a cushion of time and space.

All this to say, while shanks and chops and other significant lamb bits cool their heels in my freezer, I’ve once again gone vegetarian.

Which of course means there will be no barbecue. If history repeats itself and memory serves, not for at least another two or three weeks.