Sunday, May 25, 2014

Art in Altadena -- Take a bite

Food for the soul, guaranteed.

Temporary art installation at the very permanent and always beautiful Altadena Community Garden, Lincoln/Loma Alta, is open every Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm, through June 22. All are welcome, and it's free.

And really, if you live in any of the Dena's, you must drop by.

Visits also available by appointment. Thanks to organizer and artist Ben Pruskin for the tour (Ben of the rabbit Teenage Couple piece), and Liz Garrison for the alert -- more info here on her website. Though not part of this project, it's always good to check in with Garrison, a well-known LA artist, to find out what might be happening in your own backyard.

And since it's June, or just about, we should kick it with a summer song.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Estate Sales: I see dead people and wine glasses

I hold small dinner parties on my patio. And so long as I stick to my signature dish (ie, the only dish I can make, reliably), things move along pretty smoothly. Except for the crystal. When one fills and refills guests' glasses with wine and spirits, at some point, said glasses will hit the concrete. That's a given. A death and taxes kind of given, if your friends are any sort of fun at all.

Which is why, once or twice a year, I take in an estate sale -- a high-end estate sale -- and restock my shelves. You can easily get a set of 12 to 20 really really nice crystal glasses at a ridiculously reasonable price, usually two or three sets to choose from.

Still, if it weren't for my crystal needs, I'd avoid estate sales. They're such a wicked reminder of what you can take with you when you join the choir celestial, and that would be exactly nothing.

It's bad enough I have to join scavengers, scavengers like me, in pawing through some dead stranger's stuff. We all sort of look like the cleaning lady in the 1950's version of Scrooge. You know that scene? Where he's dead, and his cleaning lady stripped him of his best PJ's and says, "Ow gov'na, Oi 'ave 'is bed curtains too, an' you won't foind a 'ole in 'em."

But worse still is seeing the long line of people with stacks of plunder. You can't help thinking some day their plunder will be plundered, with fresh anxious grabby fingers sorting through their personal belongings, criticizing and coveting.

So I don't want stuff, and never stray from my estate sale-mission, never get sucked into collections of ceramic toads or 18-century picnic baskets. Actually, I'd be happy enough to decorate my table with IKEA glasses, were it not for my friends. What can I say -- my friends are high maintenance, but worth every farthing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In the beginning, there was the word

People think writing is a physically passive pursuit. Not true. A writer is similar to a sculptor in that a certain amount of physical enthusiasm helps, elbow grease at the start. I know writers who write standing up, for example; personally, I attack the keyboard like the frustrated pianist I am.

But unlike sculptors who get to bang away at stone or something equally impersonal, writers start with nothing. We have to build something first, then destroy it, showing no mercy. Out with the was's and the is's and, painfully, even that really elegant but uninvited and totally irrelevant phrase.

The hardest thing about writing? Knowing that whatever words you put down at first will not be there at last.

Which is why I use a lot of them to begin with -- toss them about with utter abandon, bring every possible word I can think of to the party. Orgy! Orgy! Later, it's my job to hate what we've done. That's called editing. Or shame. Sometimes both.

I try to tell the words it's nothing personal, just business. "Thank you all for coming and suiting up. Atavism -- love the shoes. Unfortunately, most of you didn't make the cut, but please try again. Because and It, you made the team; the rest of you are free to go."

Sometimes you chip away at your monster and end up with something pleasing. Other times, you chip, chip, chip and end up with nothing. You just don't know how things will turn out -- you might turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, or that sow's ear might be a sow's ear after all.

In which case, you try again. I meant to write about Frognerparken. I'll try again.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Internal Revenue Surprise

I received a letter from the IRS today. Well, not a letter, more of a note, really. A brief lecture, something I could have received from my dad, regarding investments, investment advisers, and due diligence; i.e., the world is full of scams and scammers, don't be a chump.

And with the note, also like my dad, the IRS sent me a check. A very modest check -- Dad, again! Three dollars, if you must know. The only thing it lacks is spend this wisely in the memo line.

But unlike a check from my dad, I earned this one. Apparently, in my enthusiasm to celebrate the ides of April, I got all giddy and went overboard.

There's something sweet, touching, about a $3 check from the IRS, something almost personal. It conjures up an image of Gladys the bookkeeper in Sacramento, wearing butterfly glasses, a pencil stashed behind her ear and an ink smudge on her cheek, eating lunch at her desk as she scours each and every return. And the triumph she must have felt, that AHA! moment, when after running the numbers and double checking the tape, she found my error.

"If you think you got a $21 dividend from Charter, Missy," she mumbles, "then I'm the Duchess of Cambridge."

Gladys pulls out the company checkbook, and says to Paul the office boy, "Run downstairs and make sure the refund goes out in the morning mail. Something tells me our Ms Bugge could use this."

Maybe I'll just sit on the money for awhile and consider my options -- pay down the mortgage, for example, or invest in some radish seeds. Probably the latter; I like to watch my investments grow.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What did Shakespeare say -- something about too too solid flesh melting, and so forth

I stopped by Debbie's place this morning. To walk her dog (this is not her dog, it's Albert). Debbie sports a neck brace these days (temporarily), and cares for three dogs (permanently), assorted cats, and who knows what else -- Debbie has a big heart.

I got there at 9 am; it was 80 degrees and climbing.

Her Kirby, a yellow Lab-ish, is a favorite of mine. The guy's got charm -- which is a good thing, as he's not a perfect gentleman on the leash. He pulls -- something I would normally correct, but he has a gammy leg, which means I can't in good conscience do the Albert-jerk. I can't do much but try to reason with him. "Kirb, please," and "Kirb, give me a break," and "Kirby, mind the shoulder."

The first three blocks, he shows no mercy. Kirby's in command, and we move onward, upward, forward, side-to-side; explore every fresh scent, piece of paper, blade of grass, mailbox, tree stump, and whatever teacup pup lurks behind a fence. Until about block five.

By block six, it's 10 o'clock and 90 degrees. That's when Kirby decides the death march is over. He starts to limp. Suddenly, I'm the bad guy, it's all my fault. He turns to me with moist, accusing eyes that say, "What sort of monster are you, anyway? We're frying out here, and I'm a veteran."

So we stop to rest on someone's wet lawn, get his heart rate down. We pass the time, chatting about this and that.

"What do you think about this NBA Clipper thing, Kirbs?"


"Throwing your hat in the owner-ring?"


"Ready to go now?"


"We're just a block away, soldier. Whaddya say we march on -- there's a water dish with your name on it."


"Allrighty then. We'll wait here until you give me the word."

Mark Twain, or maybe Teddy Roosevelt, had the best dog quote ever, and I can't find it, or even recreate it. But it's something to the effect of -- if you want to know how little power you have in this life, try getting some other man's dog to sit.

Or woman's.