Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Tour Around Gallery Row, LA

LA may not have a center, a heart, but it does have districts with attractive names. Or so some council or committee has, within the past decade, decided.

Hello, I am Giuseppe, and will be your tour guide this afternoon.

It took humor and optimism to name Spring and 7th "Gallery Row." In the case of either the word Gallery or Row, and certainly their marriage, it may take at least another decade before "art" is the first thing that leaps to mind.

Previously, this area belonged to the Shooting Gallery, a hidden, or at least largely ignored network of abandoned buildings, SRO's, and hotels with hourly rates, where guests could meet, mingle, and mainline heroin. Things were served up family style, and children welcome.

Skid Row proper was, and still is, just around the corner.

Today, the area is what you might call, "mixed use."

A thriving commercial district rubs shoulders with the likes of Ansel Adams.

Some galleries seem to have a better business plan

than others

That's all for now. Don't let the door hit you on your way out, and

See you in choich.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Let me wipe my glasses so I, too, can be visioning

I gave a friend a piece of advice recently, and she circled back later to thank me. Something I said – I think it had to do with fences and good neighbors, or maybe fences and good dogs fences -- led to a positive outcome.

Which was a shocker, not because it worked, but because so few people ever take my advice. Then again, I rarely take theirs. We humans constantly dispense and receive advice; it’s almost as natural as breathing.

I suspect that’s because advice isn’t only potentially useful, it’s also cheap, easy, and takes very little effort. In the realm of helping our fellow man, offering advice is the very least we can possibly do, and so you might say, we do the very least as often as is humanly possible.

Nevertheless, flushed with the triumph of my last piece of advice, I come bearing some brand new advice. Let’s attend the Altadena Community Visioning Workshops, the first one, at the very least.

Admittedly, I was ready to blow the whole thing off, primarily because I saw the word “Visioning” in the title of the flyer. Old corporate buzzwords do that to me. “Root cause,” “Data-points,” and all the “uber-this and uber-that.” More than a decade ago, when I heard “think outside the box,” for maybe the millionth time, I decided, since apparently everyone was now outside the box, I’d be a true renegade and jump back in. Corporate-speak, but most especially nouns morphing into verbs morphing into nouns fill me with dread suspicion. Maybe because, during a stint in corporate communications, I was instrumental in reinventioning some of them. (More on Patch)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

And then the rains came

I just spent an hour outside, fixing a roof gutter that got separated from it's partner -- the elbow, or whatever might be the technical term. I made a tourniquet with a Ralph's bag, and used my clippers to cut back the brush.

Wherever the rain has been hiding across our country, it has come out to play in my backyard and brought friends.

I'm drenched, to the underwear. To under the underwear.

California may get the benefit of climate change, though we're not particularly prepared for the off-season monsoons. And whatever late spring rain we receive will be at the expense of other thirsty places.

It's weird. Isn't it weird?

I saved the gutter and lost my clippers -- they got caught in the flood somewhere, but I never did like them anyway. A gift from someone, so I'm glad they're gone. Another incidental benefit of climate change.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oh, life's a bitch

When the bitch is only visiting.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tax Time: You do the Math

Every March I sort through my prior year’s financial history, add the profits and subtract the losses, enter the numbers in a booklet provided by my tax accountant, place all the corroborating evidence in plastic folders, and clip the folders to the appropriate pages.

“Oh, the rest of my clients could take lessons,” my accountant gushes. “This is beautifully organized.” But for all my hard work, the only thing I seem to get back is gratitude. When it comes to the income tax returns themselves, we don’t, by mutual agreement, cheat, fudge, or even snicker. As for his fee, I don’t think my accountant really cares much whether my records are in a leather portfolio or jammed inside a pair of old tube socks. He charges the same -- a lot -- one way or the other.

I kind of resent paying the accountant so much money to simply transfer the arithmetic from my forms to his. I feel particularly resentful as he typically finishes early and we spend the rest of the hour discussing the progress of his vineyard in Napa.

So this year, rather than fork over my hard-earned pennies to learn more about the growth habit of the California pinot grape, I decide to take matters into my own hands. I’ll file my own taxes. When it comes to numbers, I’m not a half-wit. I’m not a full wit either; I fall solidly within the three-quarter wit range. Besides, and not to get too personal about this, I didn’t exactly win the lottery last year. My 2011 financial escapades make for some pretty dull reading.

When handling your own tax returns, the first decision is whether to e-file or paper-file. As I haven’t time for the e-file learning curve right now, I sharpen a pencil and plan to party like it’s 1999.

Using last year’s return as a template, I go in search of forms. Which, in spite of the Internet, turns out to be surprisingly difficult. Of course, making fun of any dot gov site is like shooting fish in a barrel, but the IRS site is particularly incoherent, sporting old-school links scattered all over one ugly home page. Apparently I'm not the only one partying like it's 1999.

Some of the forms I need do not appear when I click on FORMS, and they still don’t appear when I click MORE forms. I try for some navigational advice by clicking TAX MAP, which turns out to be a map in name only, so then I move to the FAQ.

I hate FAQ’s, with their perky, disingenuously stupid pretense that we’re conversing in-person. “Where can I …” and “Why do I …” Spare me this antiquated attempt at warm and fuzzy, which couldn’t have fooled anyone even back in that party year of which the IRS and I are both so fond. (More on Patch)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Morning workout at the track






Clock it


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Got Water?

People seem more ecologically responsible these days. For example, this
year I didn’t notice any automatic sprinklers going off in the rain. Then again, I didn’t notice any rain.

We have a long dry year ahead of us, and that can make for all sorts of unpleasantness. Worst will be the fire danger, probably stretching from early summer into autumn. I expect we’ll be put on a strict water-diet and rates will rise.

If there is rationing, I hope it’s on the honor system, and things won’t get weird like they did in our city to the South. When Pasadena rationed water a couple of years ago, they tried to start a neighbor-snitch-on-neighbor campaign, encouraging citizens to spy on each other and report sightings of off-day watering to a local authority. That’s just all kinds of creepy.

I’m happy to save water, but there aren’t many corners left to cut around here. No leaks, no half-loads of laundry. No half-filled dishwasher. No dishwasher, for that matter.

But I will be putting a little Darwinism into practice; natural section will take place in the garden.

Even though my house is old, a nonagenarian, it had no landscaping at all when I bought it. Just a few giant trees and then some Home Depot snapdragons that were scheduled to die as soon as escrow closed.

According to a long-timer in the neighborhood, my house has a checkered past. Back in the 1980s, it was a "pharmacy" of sorts, which explains why I have two front doors. Then in the 90s, it flipped yearly, from one owner to another. So in either case, a well-tended garden wasn't a priority. (More on Patch)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Anyone home?

"Time is what keeps things from happening all at once."

"Wait for the other shoe to drop."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How to get something out of no thing

As promised, lemonade, it's on the house.

You would think I’d know better, but you’d be wrong.

You would think I’d know better because I read about shattered car windows and stolen laptops every week, right here on Altadena Patch. In fact, I posted some of those reports to this very site just last month.

A few days ago, I left a laptop in the backseat of my car and in the morning there was no back window and no laptop. Which was only briefly shocking. In retrospect, it was an entirely logical outcome.

The thieves knew precisely what they wanted – the evidence weighs against impulse shopping and recreational vandalism. Only one window was shattered, the window closest to the laptop, leaving the rest of the car intact. Call it Stockholm syndrome, but I’m actually grateful for that.

They didn't take the other items in the car – a really nice scarf, a sweater, and a whole case of decent wine. They (or he or she, I don’t know if more than one is involved) didn’t rifle through the glove box or the console or the hatchback area. Nope, they knew what they wanted, and I was just the one to give it to them.

I like to picture their faces, though, when they realized what it was they actually got: Dude, it’s a Dell. A really old Dell. A really old, huge, ugly Dell. (More on Patch)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Things to do in LA while ...

some guy named Steve makes things all better again.

Meet the adoptable at My Pet Garden on Colorado Boulevard. And wish Albert could work and play well with others.

Take some shots of a neon sign that has intrigued me for years.

I should have shot the sign five years ago. The non-smoking part ruins the entire noir effect, doesn't it. Why not gluten-free breakfasts and something for the lactose-intolerant while they're at it?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Somebody Kidnapped Nelly-Belle

I've been writing a novel for the past two months, unmolested in my favorite library room. Here.

Returning home and after transporting hay to the stable, I forgot Nelly, my laptop, was in the backseat of my car. And late last night, somebody smashed in the window and took her. And when they took an old wheezing laptop, they took everything, everything.

I had written the best I had in me, the best I could squeeze out of my little mind, and someone is going to sell the shell, only the shell, according to the cops, for about $50.

And I told the cops, "Please, if you bust into some house and they're storing stolen computers, mine looks like she has a Bounty Paper Towel for a cover. Green squiggles and things. She's huge, and ugly, and if you see her, I want her back."

I'll never get her back, I know that. I just don't know how I can write again what I lost. It was better than me, much better than me. I know you wouldn't expect the words "dry" and "erotic" to add up. But they did.

I was just so proud of it, of what I had written. And it's gone.

And this all reminds me of what I told my friend Oscar, when Apple was $25 a share, "We should buy, we really should. Now." And for some reason or another, we forgot to do so.