Monday, July 30, 2007

I'm NOT Wild About Hairy

We went shopping at the local antique mall. It's one of the largest ones around with plenty of booths and all the old chotchkies you can shake a stick at.

My son and his friend love this place. They can't keep their hands off all the old stuff. They had to dial each and every old telephone. They had to identify the price value of every piece of jewelry. Even old purses got 'that's cool' remarks.

After an hour of browsing, we sat down at the snack area for a little break. It's a nice little place with several vending machines and free coffee. It was pretty busy for such a small area - two ladies were sorting some jewelry, and at another table, a couple sat conversing with a friend who, I noticed, never stopped talking.

We sat down at a table with three chairs. The kids were nibbling on their snacks, and I was drinking coffee. I noticed a tupperware container with fruit off to the side, but I thought it belonged to the couple next to us. After I finished my coffee, I got up to get some water from the water fountain. As I turned around, a man pulled up to the chair I was just sitting at, slowly swept my stuff to the side and sat in my seat at the table.

I stood there, dumbfounded, and he pretended not to see me. Nick and Matt sunk low in their chairs, their eyes darting from rude guy to me - I could tell they were as surprised as I was. The non-stop-talking man stopped long enough to pull an extra chair over for me to sit on, having noticed that our little table had just acquired one guest too many. The woman apologized for the guy, explaining that 10 minutes ago he was sitting there. Gee, my mistake.

Not two minutes later, the man stood up and pulled 'his' chair toward the two jewelry-sorting ladies. The boys whispered to me about how weird the whole episode was, but I was over it and just sipped my water. I relaxed, and looked over at a display that was adjacent to the snack area, when the boys began to make odd noises. I turned to see what they were doing, and was just about to tell them to cut it out, when my words logjammed in my throat.

My eyes rivited on what looked like a beige and gray flokati. but was actually Rude Guy's 60ish year old back. It took a few seconds for me to realize that, yes, that was his back, and no, he wasn't wearing a weird flesh and gray colored sweater. Nick and Matt were gasping for air, hunched over and laughing almost silently, with wet snorts sneaking out between breaths. I almost peed myself.

We hurried out of the area, off to where we thought we might be out of range, then burst out laughing. After we recovered, I asked my son why he thought the guy took off his shirt - Nick thought he had an itch. Why, I wondered, would a grown man strip in an eating area for an itch - to rub his back on a chair? The thought made me cringe. I silently hoped by the time we circled back, that his 'if it's not Scottish, it's crap" shirt would be back where it belonged. I didn't think my eyes, or my bladder, could handle it otherwise.

The Weekly Gewgaw - Japanese Deer Park Flip Calendar

The Japanese Deer Park was a theme park in Buena Park, and we use to go there when I was a kid. It had pearl divers, a lake, swans, parrots, seals (or sea lions), tea house, karate demonstrations, and of course, deer you could feed. It closed sometime during the 1970s.

The little device is also known as a perpetual calendar. The way it works is you turn or flip the large round section and the next metal number falls down. You just have to remember to flip it everyday, which I don't. This is one of about three that I have.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Taste of Torrance, Toy Trailer

I was driving down Arlington Ave. when I spotted this trailer - by the time I was able to take the picture, I was in Lomita. I took the photo through my windshield, while driving a stick shift, steering and trying to focus. My bad.

The Torrance Hoi Palloi

It's about time.

The Torrance Planning Commission is finally addressing construction hours in Torrance.

Unlike other South Bay cities, Torrance allows construction for 13 hours a day, seven a week. Imagine the glorious sounds of jackhammers, diesel trucks and really loud power tools wafting into your home everyday, all day, from 7 in the morning to 8 at night. Yup, it's legal to hammer in the morning, evening and all over this land on Christmas, New Years and all the other 363 days.

In Susan's perfect world scenario, any construction in Torrance would be limited to 8 hours per day, a shorter day on Saturday, and no construction on Sunday or holidays.

For those of you not familiar with what occurs during a Torrance Planning meeting, I would recommend you attend at least one. At the very least, you should visit the online minutes of those meetings. What you will find is Torrance is a bit of an Animal Farm - everyone is created equal, but some are more equal than others, and pigs run things here too.

If you live where the Hillside Ordinance is in effect, you can't build a birdhouse on your property without the approval of every human living within 4 city blocks, and special dispensation from the pope. This ordinance is reponsible for at least 90% of the hot air expunged during the bi-monthly Planning Commission meetings where the public can attend.

If you live in the HO, the commission and your previously amicable neighbors dictate where your new windows should be located, how big they should be, and whether they need to be clear or opaque. Your blueprints and plans are scrutinized as seriously as a proctologist examines a diseased colon.

A neighbor you've never seen will inform the commission that your planned balcony will constitute an eyesore because he can see it through his bathroom window while standing on his toilet. Commissioners will tour your neighborhood, take 8 x 10 glossies, and peruse the site with a dedication usually reserved for archeological digs in the Holy Land.

You will need to build a tinker-toy framework simulating the new construction so your neighbors and anyone driving by knows you have more money and equity than they do.

Do NOT expect this consideration if you live outside this surreal environ. The proverbial rubber stamp of approval is good enough for the Great Unwashed, otherwise known as the other 95% of the city. Commissioner Horwich leads the charge with relish, approving giant McMansions designed in the Lego/Monopoly Hotel style of architecture, across giant swaths of unsuspecting non-HO Torrance, his curmudeonly hands dispelling any doubt that ugly is alive and well, and about to be erected behind your home, with his gummy grimace of approval.

So, we're about to be thrown a bone. The commission is considering a recommendation to shorten the hours of construction. Perhaps we should be thankful and burn incense.

Better yet, write to the city council, the mayor, and most certainly, the planning commission TODAY.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I forgot it was 'Taste of Torrance' today.

Must of had my mid-life brain farts. Stay tuned 'til tomorrow.

In the mean time, I think I'll kick back and watch this guy on TV turn into a coelacanth. Ah, how I love 50's horror flicks.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Weekly Gewgaw, Catalina Shell Boat

This is a tiny souvenir from Catalina Island. Catalina is known for many things - glass bottom boats, sail boats, Avalon, wild pigs, and of course, tacky souvenirs.

It was made in Japan, pre fantastic cars and quality electronics.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter Goes to Summer Camp

We've packed up our kid, and given him to strangers. He's at summer camp this week. I'm sure he'll forget all about his lonely old parents after a day of swimming, archery and roasting marshmallows.

However, it did give hub and me a chance to go on a date and see the new Harry Potter movie. I felt Order of the Phoenix was the clunkiest and most tedious of all the books, so I was impressed that the movie was as good as it was.

However, Deathly Hallows is awfully good, and the ending is....well, you'll just have to read it for yourself. Having just finished reading D.H. just before seeing the movie, I confess parts of the movie choked me up. You'll have to use a Crutacious curse to get anymore out of me.

You know the book is good when your eleven year old would rather read it than play video games, AND he took it to camp. I warned him not to ruin the ending for himself by reading ahead.

The Sorcerer's Stone was the book that got Nick interested in reading - he read it in second grade. Before that, he preferred someone read to him, or to flip through picture books. He wasn't alone - at least 5 or 6 kids in his class read the book also.

Ms. Rowling's writing is the real magic about Harry Potter.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Playing the Sackbut

A year ago, after a group of musicians entertained at my son's school, he declared his interest to learn the trombone. In the sincere hope he would prefer a more petite (read cheaper) instrument, I waited a year.

Trombone it is.

His first lesson was this week. The trombone is a big and somewhat heavy instrument. Before the teacher met him, I think he was concerned that he couldn't manage it. But given that Nick's a pretty hefty instrument, I think they suit each other perfectly.

His homework assignment: to sustain a blow for at least 4 seconds, to work on low, medium and high tones. Practice at least 10 minutes every day.

He's a quick learner. He remembered how to assemble and disassemble the instrument, hold it properly, oil it and pack it away properly. Although at baseball camp this week, he took the mouth piece so he could practice during the drive.

I'm determined not to become my mother, and nag about practice. I hope he works short and consistant practices into his daily routine without too much effort. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed.

Tonight, brash bellows echo through our home. Mostly it's low blares, medium blurts and squeltchy spurts. It's a funny instrument, the trombone, definitely not a chick magnet. I think I'm going to like the trombone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Taste of Torrance, Pepper Tree

Peppertree Lane, Torrance

The California Pepper Tree is one of my favorite trees, and this one is a beauty. This small tract of homes was built around this tree, and the street named after it. I estimate the tree is over 70 years old. Bees are living in the large hole you can see in the closeup picture.

Although Tuesday would have been the preferred day to post Taste of Torrance if just for the alliteration, Wednesday it is. The photos will be of things, people, places around town I like, or not. I took the photo of the pepper tree on my walk with my nephew Luke (hi Luke!). He calls it the Daddy tree, because it's the biggest tree in the area.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Down and Conked Out in Los Angeles

We had tickets to a Dodger Game last night - outfield tickets where you get a seat and all-you-can-eat. No, we are not a family of Weebles - heck, if we were, we wouldn't fit on the bench seats. My husband's work place had a special group night, and we got a really good price for the seats. Plus free parking!

I picked up my husband from work, the kids were in the back, we're headed for the stadium - and my van dies in the middle of Adams and Figueroa.

People are not kind when they're trying to get home and your car is sitting in the street like a beached whale. They honk and cuss at you. My poor husband, who pulled a groin muscle playing softball earlier this week, had to push the car to the Mobile station across the street. Huffing and puffing, he was able to heave the beast up the driveway and off to the side. Then, he had to walk back to work to fetch his car. Rather than call AAA right away, we decided it might be better to wait until he came back with his car - I didn't want to be standing around on a street corner with two boys in that neighborhood once the tow left. My son, his friend and I hunkered down in the van.

Hub called when he got to his car, so I phoned AAA. The tow was scheduled to come within 30 minutes. 45 minutes later, it was getting dark, and still no tow. We had some snacks, but after awhile, even those weren't enough for the kids. We decided to venture across the street, through the homeless gauntlet, to a Quiznos, leaving hub with the van.

The kids wanted to bring their bats with them. I drew the line there, but I was a bit nervous, especially when all manner of street personnel were hanging about, looking for handouts. Fortunately, a car full of police officers pulled up, and engaged the neighborhood characters in conversation.

As we left Quiznos, I noticed the tow truck had arrived, an hour after my initial call. The nice driver apologized for the delay. It was pretty apparent those Dodger tickets were headed for the round file - but at least the Dodgers were winning. The van was towed to our mechanic's, and we headed home.

In retrospect, I'm thankful that the car didn't die on the freeway. I'm thankful that my hub was in the car at the time. I'm thankful we have a car, albeit it one that needs fixing. I'm thankful we don't have to pick through the garbage cans for food, cans or bottles, or beg to get our next meal. I'm thankful for our less-than-timely tow truck driver. And, I'm thankful for my home and warm bed.


The Daily Breeze Sucks

Infantile, but true. Something left a suspicious-looking pod at the Daily Breeze - overnight, it was transformed into an alien entity, a gelatinous shell of its former self.

DB stinks, it reeks, it looks bad, it causes zits and adds five pounds of ugly fat to your butt if you read it.

The downslide began when the Hearst Corporation bought the Breeze from Copley Press. Hearst owns the San Francisco Chronicle (thanks to an anonymous poster for this correction.) Hearst is also the guy for whom the term 'yellow journalism' was coined.

The Daily Breeze was once a truly local paper. Now, to quote an insider at the Breeze, they basically download stories from the mother ship, bad fonts and all, in an effort to save money.

Today, I noticed the "Today" section was given the pink slip. A new section called "LA.COM" South Bay Edition was the minimum wage replacement. I think only two stories were specifically South Bay related.

And what have you bastards done to Monty and For Better or For Worse? Attention: Family Circus hasn't been funny for 25 years. The other badly drawn and unfunny stuff isn't even worth noting.

The upside is the Hearst Corp. also bought the Beach Reporter. Rather than spend your hard earned cash on a subscription to the Breeze, pick up a freebie copy of that, and save yourself a few bucks a year.

On second thought, pick up the Easy Reader.

Update: I forgot to mention that I've grown quite reliant on the Daily Breeze. Every day it arrives at my doorstep, wrapped in a tidy folded-newspaper-shaped plastic bag. I find the plastic bags are the perfect size for picking up dog poo, as they fit comfortably over my hand, have no holes, and are large enough to tie in a knot after use.

The Weekly Gew Gaw - Ceramic Toilet

I'm not sure what this is - is it a mug (it's got a handle.) Is it an ashtray? Or an ode to a friend?

It has a poem imprinted on the side:

Goodbye Cruel World

The moon may kiss the stars on high
The stars may kiss the bright blue sky
The dew drops may kiss the grass
But you my friend......

Sea Lion Caves
Oregon Coast

I sure hope Sea Lion Caves has more to offer than this decorative item.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Baseball is Loveliness Squared

We were in Anaheim/Buena Park watching my son play baseball with his summer team. Perfect time of day for baseball - late afternoon. The breeze moves in, the shadows lengthen. The grass shimmers. Bats arc around their owners and launch white comets to cut the sky. Orange stains on pants give homage to a stolen base. Best game we ever lost. The kids hit well, did everything right, but so did the other team. You can't win them all. Oh, well, there's always the snacks. Kudos to our little group of stalwart players.

You can keep soccer and David What's-his-name.

I've been googling 'Torrance, CA,' and not much comes up. I'm disappointed. I get the usual city government sites, real estate junk, articles that mention it in passing, or an occasional blog where the author admits they lived here/never want to see it again. How sad.

I think it's time I changed that (she says as the little bulb in her head blinks wearily.)

So, although Monday is "The Weekly Gew Gaw", I think I'll pick Wednesday as the 'Taste of Torrance'. I"ll be sneaking shots of some of my favorite, or least favorite things in this city, and share them my 'vast' (both of you) virtual audience.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Forbidden Coffee

I just heard on the radio that the Starbucks near the Forbidden City in Beijing is closing for good. Apparently, the Chinese were outraged that an American company was hawking joe near the Sons of Heaven.

I'm sure Starbucks will survive this latest wrinkle to turn the Chinese into a bunch of quivering caffeine addicts.

My theory is that a chinese company will immediately step in to fill the void. They'll call the new coffee house "StarLucky" or "888 Sunbucks". The logo will look suspiciously like Starbucks' - ok, so they'll just rip it off. They'll serve coffee alright, but it'll have boba in it. The specialty will be Lotus seed flavored espresso. Instead of giant muffins, they'll serve bao stuffed with bean paste, and they'll offer mysterious squares of multicolored baked goods with names like "Beauty Heaven Cakie" and "Happy Wonders Slice". The coffee will not be hand picked by Juan Valdez. It will be non-latin southeast asia roast.

The local teenagers that hang out there will look like they just came from a 1976 Bay City Rollers concert.

It will be a bad coffee house, by the standards of anyone who knows coffee. But it'll be a bad chinese coffee house.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Creak and Shuffle

I've read blogs about people with drug addictions, homelessness and alcoholism. Blogs about travel, parties and midnight rendevous.

My big story tonight: I helped my parents with some bookkeeping. That's it, folks. I hear you clicking 'next blog' as I type this. If you're under the age of 30, this post is probably as facinating as watching your grandfather clip his toenails.

My parents are in their 80's. They're in good health, go to the gym daily. They creak a little, no one speaks loud enough for them to hear, and their eyesight is failing. Nap a lot. I help them to the doctor's, or pick up groceries. My sister takes them shopping, and her daughter visits and helps out too. My parents are still pretty independent and try to do as much as they can without 'bothering us'.

Of course, it's no bother, but they hate asking for help.

My dad gave up driving over two years ago. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when that happened, but we also understood what a sad day it was for him. Nobody walks in L.A., as the song goes. Mostly, because you don't get anywhere, and the mass transit stinks. Driving means independence, freedom, possibilities.

They'll have to pry the steering wheel from my cold dead fingers, damn it.

Macular degeneration makes it hard for them to read bank statements, or letters. It's difficult to call businesses for information because they can't hear well, or see the buttons on the phone, or find phone numbers in the phone book.

One time, my mom (who is about 4'10" and 100 lbs) didn't want to bother anyone, so she took the bus to Kaiser Permanente in Harbor City, about 6 or 7 miles from her home. Typically, not a problem, but by the time she picked up her prescription there were no more buses going back to her home.

My sister was at work in El Segundo, around 15 miles away, and her daughter was in Long Beach with her baby son.

I got a call from my dad asking if I could get my mom from the corner of Normandie and PCH. It was about 9pm, and I was playing slots at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas.

Fortunately, my niece's husband is a swell guy, and he drove at mach 5 from Long Beach to rescue my mom. She sheepishly admitted it probably wasn't a good idea to take the bus that late, but she didn't want to bother anyone.

The only time my mom and dad bother me is when they try not to bother me.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Toy Story

In my old life, I designed toys for fast food restaurants. (Btw, if your 4 year old weighs 200 pounds, it's not my fault.) I worked for many years with an old friend of mine that I've known since middle school. We did a lot of freelancing, but we've tapered off the last few years to do other things.

Brainstorming original toy ideas could get tough. Over the years, my friend and I collected a ginormous horde of toys, for inspiration and for reference. Lucky for me, they've been living at her house. I estimate we have at least 2000 toys stored in those big hefty Rubbermaid bins .

Today, we started sorting them to sell at our booth at the local antique mall, or maybe through Ebay.

Picture two grown women up to their knees in freebie toys from every major quick-serve restaurant - Mc Donalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Carl's Jr., Jack in the Box, Arbys, Chick-fil-A, Hardees, and some I don't remember. There was also a sizable collection of retail toys. We sorted in her front driveway. I suspect people thought we were having a yard sale.

I think our collection alone will probably make the bottom fall out of the tiny toy market.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mulligans, I'm Sorry

The kids talked me into taking a trip to Mulligans. Sat in the shade with my crossword puzzle and magazine, while my son and his two buddies terrorized the miniature golf patrons. Not really, they're pretty good kids, but they are eleven.

Before we left, I rode the go karts with them. Something crazy competitive comes over me when I'm in one of those cars. I'm typically a pretty conservative driver, but put me in a go kart, and I turn into Professor Fate.

If you've never been in a go kart, they have a gas pedal and a brake pedal. I don't use the brake pedal. My right foot hurts, I'm pressing down so hard on the gas. I don't know why I like nearly running a kid off the track, or bumping another driver, but I do. My motherly instincts vanish when I'm in a go kart. It's embarrassing.

Today, I had an accident on the track. One of the kids spun out because another kid pulled a police move on him. I proceeded to broadside him at full speed. We weren't hurt, and fortunately, it was my son's friend. He laughed and turned the car and sped off, but I nearly pee'd myself. The young guy in charge darted over, and shouted 'Whoa, dude!"

I thought I was going to get booted out. Me, a 40-something mom getting kicked out of Mulligans. No refund, no return. They'd take a mug shot of me, post it at the entrance, and not let me back in EVER.

That thought lasted about 10 seconds, and I was back to my old crazy self, racing around that track, hunging those curves, passing other drivers, and lead footing it to the finish line.

Next time, I'm going to stick to my crossword puzzle.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thar's Oil Under Thar!

Torrance has alot of abandoned oil wells. Here's some trivia I dug up:

1. First oil well was struck in 1921.
2. By 1925, there were close to 600 wells operating in Torrance.
3. By the early 1920's, the city of Hawthorne prohibited oil drilling within the city. Other cities, including Torrance, followed suit, but pumping still continued.
4. In some areas, there are abandoned oil wells every 150 feet. Some of these wells are filled with nothing more than old mattresses and telephone poles.
5. Wells are several thousand feet deep.
6. Beverly Hills High School has an oil well on its property which is still in operation to date. It brings in an annual revenue of $300,000.00 per year in royalties to the school.

I mention this because Torrance school administrators are once again planning to put a bond measure on the ballot. Why? To repair schools in TUSD that are in need of repair because, well, long term deferred maintenance will cost you to the tune of 300 million dollars, according to board president Heidi Ashcraft. Ouch.

Why deferred, why such urgency now, you might ask, and frankly, that's the $300 million dollar question. I wish the Daily Breeze would start asking those difficult questions of our TUSD administrators. Instead, they're fussing over Antonio 'Viagra' Villaraigosa and the chica he's been boinking the last few years.

Attention Daily Breeze: This is the SOUTH BAY. Antonio is NOT our mayor. He can shack up with a crack whore, for all we care.

TUSD: You have some 'splainin' to do. How do our schools become such hazardous scrap yards in the first place? How is it going to be different next time? At the very least, come up with some creative solutions for generating cash flow, like, say, oil drilling. It's a thought.

Hey, if they can do it in Beverly Hills...

Queen For A Day

I've used my new scanner for the first time; everything went flawlessly. I'm da man.

Rather than use a homely photo of myself, I've drawn a decidely more attractive, albeit 2-dimensional version of myself. It's complete with exploding halo. Photoshop is as friendly as ever, love it, love it.

I struggled with making the image 'avatar' sized - I couldn't upload it directly from my computer into my profile. Blogger stubbornly refused - my file was too large, it proclaimed in a whiny voice. Finally managed to load it into Photobucket, and voila! A wee picture of me next to my profile. I could cry.

You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Weekly Gewgaw - Tooth Teepee

I mentioned earlier that I am a pack rat.

Seriously, I'm making a hearty effort to purge myself of my stuff and simplify, simplify, simplfy. I've managed to put my collections in perspective, and I'm making great strides. For instance, I've separated myself from some of my pillow covers (yes, I collect vintage pillow covers, wanna make something of it?) by donating them to military museums. I'm even throwing away some of my son's old scrawly drawings and art projects - like his endearing papier mache pig. Not everything gets tossed, but I keep my favorites, and the rest go into the recycle bin.

I think the breakthrough came when I realized - you live in a house that's under 1100 square feet, you can't keep everything. If you try, the house will explode.

Of course, those who know me also know the state of my garage. It contains a frightening collection of junk that threatens to swallow up anyone who ventures in there. But I've labeled 'cleaning garage' as a 'blue job' and hence, it's my husband's responsibility. (Blue jobs for boys, pink jobs for girls - taking out trash: blue job. Putting bird seed in the bird feeders: pink job.)

Because I realize I will never stop loving my collections, I'm posting a photo of a select gewgaw every Monday. I'm calling it (you guessed it) The Weekly Gewgaw.

If you have a favorite (or embarrassing) gew gaw, feel free to drop a comment. If you post a photo of your gew gaw on your blog, please feel free to send a link along with your comment. I would find great comfort knowing there are other crazy coots out there.

My first submission is an item called an Injun Tooth Teepee. In fact, it's a container where you store your dentures. This item is in such bad taste that I can't even justify my owning it, much less displaying it in my home. However, I have a rather distinctive collection of racist chotchkas, which I will gladly share in the weeks to come.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Number 2 in One

The three of us share one bathroom. Things get a little tight, especially in the mornings, and especially because our, ahem, movements move around the same time.

As I was showering this morning, nature called my husband. It was an urgent call, so I beat it out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel and still dripping. Of course, Nick's colon started to bark soon after Frank hit the head, so he began to beat on the bathroom door. Minutes later, hub trudged out.

My son raced in, and just as quickly, raced out of the bathroom, holding his nose. "Mom," he said. "It's really bad in there."

I go in to open the window, and sure enough, it's pretty bad. I'm grumbling because I'm the one who has to open the window.

"Mom," son complained. "It wouldn't be so bad, except Dad used that Renuzit junk, and now the bathroom smells like fruity poo!"

If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they make an air freshener that works?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Lynda, Deke and Adobe Illustrator

My husband just brought home Adobe CS3. I love my new toys.

I've been working on Illustrator 8, and whenever I turned in my files, I'd get dirty looks from other designers. I guess bad things happened to the files when opened on later versions. Printers liked it because my files didn't explode like later versions,

It was time to say goodbye.

I'm a little overwelmed. Illustrator and Photoshop are pretty familiar, and there are some great new features. I'm eying Dreamweaver with a little trepidation, but it's time I learned.

My husband introduced me to a wonderful website, It's got online tutorials for every piece of software out there. When I got my MacBook, I got a very quick intro to my operating system, and all the Apple goodies that appear on my Dock. I was right at home with my computer within hours. They've even got a tutorial for Blogger, which I'm going to check out.

The teacher for Adobe Illustrator CS3 is a charming fellow named Deke McClelland. I think by the time I'm finished with the zillion hours worth of videos he's narrated, I'll probably invite him over to dinner. Or at least buy him a box of throat lozenges.

Lawndale Krishna

I listed an old Yamaha keyboard of mine on craigslist. This was part of my goal to purge the house of junk, especially large items that were simply sitting about the house demanding handouts from the dust gods. For $30, I figured it would sail out of the house, and I would be $30 richer with one less thing to dust.

The first person to e-mail me wanted it for her young son, but couldn't get over here before the weekend to pick it up. So, she asked a friend of hers in Lawndale to pick it up.

Lawndale is a small town tucked between Gardena and Hawthorne. It's the kind of place you drive through, in spite of its glitzy electronic billboard on the 405 freeway and endless stream of decaying strip malls.

Lawndale is a city where people park cars on the front lawn.

I asked my buyer for her friend's name (safety first!). Nirantara, she wrote, would come by on Thursday at 3:00.

Nirantara arrived at my doorstep at 3:15 - right on time, more or less. I opened my door, and a short, bald, middle-aged white man was wiping his feet on my doormat. He removed his blue slippers (the bedroom variety), and introduced himself. His voice, unlike his name, indicated he was a native of New York. Dressed neatly in a long blue striped tunic-type robe, black framed glasses, and a generous supply of cologne, he was all business, and hastily test drove the keyboard. His strong scent annoyed the dog, who grumbled during his brief visit.

I struggled not to stare at the badly painted and crumbling yellow stripe that creeped from the top of his head down the center of his face, and instead, related the many features of the keyboard. He quickly realized his friend was getting a very good deal, and gladly paid with six crumpled five dollar bills. I helped him carry his purchase to his car, and we thanked each other. I think this is what's called a 'win/win' situation, according to that 7 Habits book my husband raves about.

Honestly, I don't know if he is actually a Krishna. When I was a kid, Krishnas were colorful, albeit annoying fixtures at airports and shopping malls. They wore robes, chanted while beating tambourines and danced around. In 1970, unless you were Yul Brenner or Mr. Clean, bald was not cool. Being chased by a group of chanting bald men was more than a little disconcerting.

I figured they all moved to Berkeley during the 1980's.

So Nirantara, I apologize if I've made a mistake and you're not a Krishna, and just a nice guy who ignores fashion trends.

On the other hand, if you are a Krishna, I'm glad I no longer have to see you at the mall. Nothing personal.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Sugar and Vice

I have a secret vice.

If I were beginning a 12 step program, admitting this would be the start of breaking the horrible cycle of addiction. But honestly, I don't care. I don't want to quit. I like it.

I'm addicted to reality cop/detective/investigative stuff, like what's on Court TV.

I confess: watching pathetic crooks get caught makes me feel infinitely superior. Watch any of these programs, and you'll notice you have nothing in common with the vast majority of these people.

No one I know leaves every bit of clothing (clean or dirty) strewn around the kitchen, and sleeps on a mattress without sheets (ok, maybe teenagers and frat boys). Who sleeps off a night of binge drug or alchohol use in the back yard of a stranger's house? Nobody. Most of us buy our pants so the waistline (hence the name) falls somewhere in the general vicinity between our hips and waist, and not under our buttocks. Tatttoos? Well, I know a few people with tattoos, but no one uses their face as the canvas. And, my family and friends are gainfully employed, so holding up a liquor store or breaking and entering aren't alternative career choices.

I've concluded most criminals fit the description of a typical guest on the Jerry Springer show. (Admit it, you've all watched at least one Springer show, or at least caught a whiff of one.) I think we can all agree we're higher up the food chain than those people.

It's a harmless addiction, really. It won't give me lung cancer or an embarrassing venereal disease. Some might argue it's eating away a part of my brain, but I don't think so. I do sudoku.

In case anyone is thinking this was an absolutely pointless blog entry, take note of my "10 Things I Learned From Watching Reality Cop Shows". This will be especially helpful if you are contemplating a life of crime.

1. Video cameras are everywhere. There are cameras in every shop, parking lot, restaurant and police car. They're on street corners and highways. Everyone owns a video camera or has a video phone. There are videos hidden in teddy bears, eyeglasses and clock radios. Unless you plan to rob your own bathroom, there's a high probability that any crime you commit will be caught on tape.

2. DNA is essentially fool proof, unless you happen to be a chimera. Any hair, skin flake or bodily fluid has your essential oils pointing a big ol' nucleic finger at you.

3. Police are well trained, and surprisingly few get killed in the line of duty. Criminals, do not get any formal training - which is probably why they get caught. Not surprisingly, they have a very high rate of early burial.

4. Unless your name is Phil Spector or OJ, the prosecution can afford to place more experts on the stand than you and your public defender.

5. Criminals are never tall, dark and handsome, nor tall, leggy and blonde (except Paris). They usually have bad skin, bad hair, and have made bad fashion choices. Meth does bad things to your teeth and complexion. Lack of personal hygiene is accentuated on TV, and everyone, except crack addicts (and Paris), looks fat.

6. Police dogs bite really hard and the scars look really bad.

7. When hiding from the cops, choosing under the bed, in the bathroom, or in a closet is a lousy idea. Ask any 7 year old.

8. Smart crooks are rarer than multi-million dollar lottery ticket winners.

9. Under intense interrogation, fabricated stories fall apart.

10. Crime doesn't pay. Unless you're the producer of a TV reality cop show.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I think boredom is highly underrated.

I remember when I was a kid (cliche, I know) there were vast swaths of time during the summer when I had nothin' much to do. My mom would kick me out of the house, and there'd I'd be, in our Edward Scissorhand neighborhood bored to death. Then, I'd walk to my neighbor's homes, ask if so-and-so wanted to play. When I successfully found a playmate or two, we'd either build something, put on a stupid play in someone's garage, ride bikes, skate or sneak around the neighborhood and pretend we were spies or something.

I don't envy children these days. Almost everyone I know who works has their kid in daycare where their entire day is pretty much spelled out for them. Even when they're home, they spend a lot of time on the PlayStation.

I'm a S.A.H.M., so therefore, I am here. My kid, like every other kid, plays video games. But hey, this is So Cal, the sun is shining, and I think it's time for him to be bored.

I kicked him and his friend out the door. They wandered about for a bit, then when the boredom became almost too much to bear, they stuck some Star Wars figures to a remote control car and peppered the sidewalk with TNT Pop-its. Then, in a stroke of genius, they began to video tape the whole thing on my son's phone. The movie (as they tell it, and as far as I can figure) is a sci-fi/Gone in 60 Seconds/comedy of some sort.

Boredom has its rewards.

Scary Tree is Gone!

Oh my gosh, the Scary Tree has been cut down.

Today, a squadron of Latino gentlemen arrived in a large disheveled truck with implements of destruction. Their goal - to execute the Scary Tree.

Not a small job, and one not taken up by the lighthearted run-of-the-mll gardener. Nope, this job entailed the use of CHAINSAWS. Serious stuff.

But now that it's gone, I'm waxing nostalgic. I mean, my husband and I now have that much less to make fun of. Having a Scary Tree as a neighbor did have its upside. For example, if you shook it, black dandruff would fall off the leaves, giving a Darkside version of snow. In southern California, that's as close as we get, folks.

Of course, the removal of the tree exposes other problems. Now that it's gone, the trash cans are exposing their naughty bits to us in all their smelly grey glory. I'd just as soon not see what my neighbors have been eating for the last week. And, of course, Juan's Tree Removal Service did not remove the pile of defunct Scary Tree sawdust. Nor did they remove the pile of dead Scary Tree leaves that are composting on the roof of the Butt Ugly Apartment.

Beggers can't be choosers, I guess.

My husband is happy. He can now walk unmolested down the sidewalk. My plants are happy. They receive life-giving sunshine that was sucked up when Scary Tree still haunted the neighborhood. But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for it.

I think that I shall never see
Another deformed Scary Tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Rending the flesh from a robin's breast;
A tree that looks like hell all day,
And eats the squirrel as dinner prey;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A sheath of mildew'd underwear
Upon whose blossoms bugs have slain;
Who's crust and mold had caused a stain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only Venusians can make a Scary Tree.

-- sorry Joyce Kilmer

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Torrance Dust Bowl and the Green Foot

My son's room is in need of cleaning.

I know. He's plenty old enough to clean his own damn room, but he won't. I didn't clean my room as a kid unless my mom threatened severe bodily injury, which she was more than happy to dole out without warning. I don't hit my kid, which is another topic for discussion. Well, I have flicked him on the head from time to time...

His room is very dusty, and its a wonder he isn't choking on the dust mites that have multiplied by the billions in the giant dust bunnies - make that dust bears - scampering about on the floor. When dust grows teeth, it's time to clean.

Part of the problem is he's a pack rat. He gets it from me. For example, he's eleven, and in his desk there was a collection of finger paints. They were courting a pack of "My First Pencils", and a Toy Story stamper set. I think I bought the stuff when he started kindergarten. I also noticed he kept every stumpy crayon, chewed colored pencil, desiccated marker, and worn eraser he ever had. I'm hoping someone else has use for erasers with pencil holes drilled in them.

Other items headed for the thrift store: an empty Build a Bear box/house, assortment of faux Beanie Babies, 12 lbs of picture books, unbuilt models (mint, in the box!), Yugioh figures - tons of usable crap. Unfortunately, he wants to have a yard sale. He has visions of making big money unloading his stuff at close to original retail to a bunch of local rubes who don't know any better. He wasn't impressed with my explanation about charities, donations and the Federal Income Tax. Our compromise is that I'm putting up a few items for sale on craigslist. Mom has no spine.

Like I stated before, he gets the pack ratting from me. One item in the 'to go' pile is actually mine. It's a big, stuffed, green fake fur foot I got when I was eight years old. It's been playing footsie with some other toys in the little cabinet over his closet. Given that I'm in my late 40's, I think it's time I retired the thing. What was I thinking? Did I really believe that it was going to become a family heirloom? Or, was I planing to haul it over to the Antiques Roadshow? Feh.

If anyone is in the market for a vintage foot, look for it at the Value Village in Carson.

The Butt Ugly Apartment Next Door

I live in a house I bought in 1999 – it’s the smallest house on the block, but in spite of that, it has tripled in value over the last several years. I like my house – my yard, my garage, the landscaping – pretty much everything. It’s a great neighborhood, good schools, ocean breezes, the whole nine yards.

Except that I live next door to a butt-ugly apartment.

The guy who owns the place bought it over 20 years ago, so he probably paid what you pay for a SUV today. It’s worth a tidy sum, but the huge rents he rakes in is where the real money is. But does he try maintain the place? Of course not.

1. The paint job. It’s a decomposing salmon color, that has blotched and faded since it was painted A YEAR AGO. Peeling paint and crumbling stucco add to the charm. Cheap paint, no prep and a careless disregard for wood rot have probably contributed to the paint’s refusal to stay put. Next time, hire a PAINTER to do the job instead of a color-blind crack addict. Bonus architectural feature: Someone chucked a wet glob of something at the building several months ago, so there’s a petrified splotch on the wall.

2. Landscaping. Or lack thereof. A crumbling assemblage of bricks surround a quaint dirt patch with a fine selection of weeds, brambles, dead plants, cigarette butts (courtesy of the shirtless loser who lives with his dad), Taco Bell cups (courtesy of shirtless loser, or his chunky girlfriend), rocks, cardboard box, broken glass, and dog shit (courtesy of shirtless loser’s chunky girlfriend’s dog).

3. Scary Tree: The one greenish spot in the dirt patch of death and decay is the WAAAAY overgrown Japanese Yew that threatens to devour your head when you try to walk under it. It’s growing like a green cancer, with branches and leaves filled with mold and mildew due to the lack of sunlight and air - Lord knows what other living organisms slither within it’s horrifying depths. Allow the crusty branches to touch your head, and all that crud rains down like nuclear fallout. No one over 5’8" can walk beneath it without stooping. It may very well obliterate all access to that stretch of sidewalk, so you’ll have to walk on the -

4. Dog Poo: Remember shirtless loser’s girlfriend’s dog? There’s more poop than green grass on the misnamed greenbelt where poo dog shamelessly deposits his runny stink chunks.

5. Driveway: Flotsom and Jetsom have taken up permanent residency on that driveway, and they ain’t moving out. Does the word ‘broom’ have any other meaning other than ‘the broken thing lying in the dirt patch’ (forgot to mention that earlier.)

6. Trash Cans: They gots lots of them, but somehow, the garbage ends up everywhere except in them. Curbside trash pick-up is once a week, but the tenants find it difficult to maintain that schedule, so the trash sits - nothin’ like the smell of putrifying garbage in the morning. And I don’t think the half-eaten bean burrito and feminine napkin in the recycle bin are recyclable.

7. Broken household items. Occasionally, a broken piece of furniture or bag of clothes appear on the greenbelt, and unfortunately, abandoned junk tends to reproduce faster than a welfare mother. I can’t imagine someone actually needing a 3 legged couch with mystery stains, black arm rests (the sofa is beige), a missing cushion and queer odors, so I don’t see the point of the ‘free’ sign. If you call, our city will pick up large items and take them to the dump, but the landlord apparently prohibits the use of the telephone for any other purpose than to scream into it at 2am.

8. Tenants: Needless to say, the good tenants move out as soon as they can, and the shirtless loser ones stay behind, inflicting their bad tempered women, armpit hairs, backdoor head shaves, pasty love handles, poo dogs, cigarette butts, butt cracks, 400 decibel cell phone conversations, and crappy oil-dripping cars on the rest of us.

9. Shoes on the roof: ‘Nuff said.

I’m tired, and I can’t think of anything else. I have other things on my mind, like how to pick up a feminine napkin that has leaped over the fence and landed in my shrubbery. Any suggestions?