Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Trip, Continued

We said goodbye to Boston and headed toward Salem.

While in Salem, I recommend the 'Soup Factory' for a light lunch. Three guesses what their specialty is...

After an obligatory visit to the Witch Museum and the House of the Seven Gables, we decided to take a late night tour of Salem. It was...different. Our guide was a bit of a character, dressed like a pirate, and pulled off an English accent quite believably. His girlfriend accompanied him, I guess to ward off any witches (with a 'b').

Off to Albany.

My son insisted we stop at a beach somewhere along the way. This was a picturesque spot, but I was eaten alive by all manner of no-seeums, although no one else was. I was accused of making it up, that is, until they saw the giant welts spring up all over my legs and arms.

We read about Howes Cave at our hotel, and figured, why not. It didn't disappoint. Most large caves I've been to were in state or national parks. Howes Cave is privately owned, but they've been conducting tours for almost 100 years. It was discovered by a local farmer's cows - they used the original entrance as a kind of air conditioner. The tour took about 1.5 hours - lots of spectacular formations, and a small underground river where we enjoyed a short boat ride.

Cooperstown. Baseball. If we could only make one stop, at least for the hub, this would be it. Quaint, picturesque town on Lake Otsego. You'll like it even if you're not crazy about baseball.


While in Cooperstown, we didn't eat at the Foo Kin restaurant. We weren't in the mood for any Foo Kin chinese food.

After a visit with relatives in Albany, our last unscheduled stop was to the Stone Bridges, which is a very lovely and secluded spot with caves, sparkling streams and all the scenery you can handle. If your kids love fossils as much as mine does, the great gift shop chock full of all manner of fossils, rocks and minerals was worth the price of admission.

By the way, if you're ever in Albany, make sure to try a Boston Shake at the Tastee Freeze.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boston Trip

Our big vacation for the year was a 10 day trip to Boston and vicinity, with a stop over in Albany, NY, the hub's old home town.

The Westin had very nice fluffy beds and linens. This by far was my favorite hotel, even though it was a bit off the beaten track. We had to walk a lot to get anywhere, until we figured out how to get around on the subway.

We did the obligatory Freedom Trail walk. An old cemetery -

Little Italy - a small fiesta was going on.

We had to sample the wares.

High-five to Revere.

Nahas? I used to work at Nahas Department store in Gardena. My friend Suzanne worked the shoe department. Coincidence?

At the Public Gardens we took a trip on the Swan Boats - our paddle boat operator looked so enthusiastic, I had to snap his picture. I was thinking this job would be great for your butt and thighs.

A trip on the subway took us to this little podunk school - I think they call it Harvard. We didn't see any cahs pahked in the Yahd. However, I did snap this photo of a punk kid in a USC shirt - the nerve. One comment: Don't eat on campus - the burrito I had at the Science building was dry. (USC does have better food.)

Harvard's Natural History Museum was a nice diversion when we finally located it - I highly recommend the glass flowers collection, which is absolutely amazing.

Right down the road from MIT on the Charles River is the superb Museum of Science. We spent the whole day there. They have a math exhibit designed by Ray and Charles Eames, and their electrical exhibit is, well, electrifying - their Van de Graaf generator is the world's largest, and designed by The Man himself.

Impress your friends: What do you call glass made from a lightning strike? Fulgurite. The sample here is something like 25 feet long.

One last trip to the New England Aquarium.

From Boston we moved onto Salem, famous for witches and the mansion in the Parker Brothers' game "Clue". More to come.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Gewgaw, Rainbow Brite Sprite

Rainbow Brite was way after my time and I only know a smidgen about the show - however, this was submitted by my niece who wrote:

"This is my Gewgaw and it's from 1985. He is a Sprite from the show Rainbow Brite. I got it when I was little, and no I don't remember the show much at all. This would probably be more embarrassing if it weren't made around the same time i was born."

Seeing this green tribble sprite thing reminds me of the fuzzy green foot I recently donated to a local thrift shop, one I knew wouldn't toss it. They are guaranteed to sell it to some unsuspecting foot-fetish victim. Goodwill would have probably tossed it in the dumpster.

The greatest German Baroque composer...

I admit, I'm a big Monty Python fan, and this is by far my favorite skit (well, it's tied with Dead Parrot). How Arthur Figgis, aka, Graham Chapman, managed to say "Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahn wagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nurnburger-bratwustle-gernspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shonedanker-kalbsfleisch-mitt ler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm", not once, but TWICE in one continuous uncut scene - frankly, I'm in awe. I wonder how many takes....

Although much of the name is nonsense, I ran it through Babel Fish, and this is what came out:

Johann Gambolputty de of Ausfern schplenden more schlitter crasscrenbon fried more digger dingle dangle dongle dungle burstein more banger horowitz ticolensic more grander knotty spelltinkle of grandlich grumblemeyer more spelterwasser kurstlich himbleeisen course more thrasher apple of breaker dares good evening please in more nurnburger bratwustle mitz weimache gladly kept in track more luber hundsfut more gumberaber preserves danker calf meats memo of ler more aucher from Hautkopft of Ulm?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Taste of Torrance, The International Printing Museum

A while back, my son and his class went on a field trip to this museum and I tagged along - it was one of the best field trips ever.

Who knew there was such a little gem less than 10 minutes from my home? Okay, so it's not really in Torrance, but it is on Torrance Blvd, just a bit east of Torrance, a stones throw from the 110 fwy, and hidden in a little building across the street from a K-Mart in Carson.

If you like printing, type, typography, graphic arts, antiques, and history, then this is the place for you. They have a full scale replica working Gutenberg printing press, antique linowriters, presses of all types, even antique toys. Saturdays are open to the public, and special events include operating a press, and printing using the museum's collection of real wood type.

During the week, school kids are treated to a tour of the museum, and an entertaining history lesson delivered by Ben Franklin (a very good facsimile anyway). He spoke of his life as a printer, and his many inventions, including the armonica, odometer and Franklin stove. The finale included a 'shocking' introduction to an antique electrostatic generator.

I can't say enough cool things about this place - see it for yourself. For more information, look here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Las Vegas Trifecta, The Gewgaw, Scrapbook, Las Vegas

This is a bit of a cheat, as this isn't really from Lost Wages, NV, but Las Vegas, New Mexico...oh, that Las Vegas I'm sure everyone is thinking.

I have a collection (surprise!) of vintage souvenir scrap and photo albums. I especially like the 'loving hands at home' type, but this leather bound one is quite nice too. It's Genuine Leather, Made in USA by the Mayflower Company.

If you are interested in the points of interest in Las Vegas, NM (and who isn't), check this out.

Crime Story - Las Vegas as it should be

I miss the old Las Vegas.

My first trip to LV was in the 1980's before the Mirage Hotel was built. I'm forever grateful I saw it the way it was before the theme park/faux italian tumbled-marble look took over. There was something gritty and completely adult about it - I loved the kitsch and mid-century strip club look about the whole place - it was frightening and exciting and exhilarating all at the same time.

Then they put that hideous cover over downtown. I just gave up on it in disgust.

We still go about once a year, but it's only to attend a basketball tournament, or see a show. Tell me I'm not the only one who misses the sound of coinage tumbling out of the slot machines.

Anyone remember this radically cool, stylized 'wiseguy vs cop' show, suitably called "Crime Story"? Why this show was canceled and NOT Miami Vice, I'll never know. Feh.

Here's the opening sequence. Downtown has never looked more beautiful. Sigh.

& Teller, sans Penn, Lifeless in Las Vegas

I'm a big Penn & Teller fan, but it's a real treat to hear from the silent, less statuesque one. This is a movie short by Ghost Works LLC.

"When Las Vegas is hit by the epidemic, how will you tell the living from the dead?"

I'd describe it as a tongue-in-cheek nod to every '...of the Dead' movie, with a poke at Sin City for good measure. Oh, and a slight-of-hand cherry on top.

The second half, "& Teller 2" is available here, but be advised there may be images inappropriate for the chilluns - there is something disturbing about teasing a zombie with your toe.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Costume anyone?

It's almost that time again - time to hit the thrift stores in search of an adequate and cheap costume for my 12 year old.

Last year, I was lucky enough to find an authentic 1960's suit and a plethora of skinny ties from the same era. Add one fedora and some sunglasses and voila, Blues Brother. Elwood, I think. Or was it the other one...

Years before: Clown, Knight, Darth Vadar, Indiana Jones (complete with whip), Buzz Lightyear, and a pumpkin,

I'm stuck this year. 12 year olds are no longer into cartoon characters. Now, they want blood and guts. Because he's kinda tall, people might give him the stink eye because he looks older. If he looks too horrifying, it's very likely no one will answer their door.

Ideas are welcome.

The Gewgaw, Organ Grinder

As a child, my parents would take a regular trip to downtown Los Angeles to Chinatown, where we'd shop the only chinese grocery store within a 20 mile radius. I recall seeing a street performer that was there almost every time we'd go. I called him the 'monkey grinder' (which now brings to mind an image of some hapless monkey going through a meat grinder, yuck.) We'd hand pennies to the little monkey.

This little ceramic piece is a stereotypical Eye-talian organ grinder, who handily dispenses powdered cheese.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Walker - Scandinavian Style

My dad is finally coming around, and will be purchasing a rolling walker.

Stubborn as he is, he has resisted walkers and has stuck with his little cane for the last several years. About a month ago, he took a tumble, and although he didn't break anything, he was sore for weeks. He suffers from neuropathy, and walks the way a toddler does.

After some gentle prodding, he agreed to go to the Home Health Care store in Old Torrance. We test drove several walkers - these aren't those old time aluminum numbers that you see with tennis balls on the feet - these things look something like a modified stroller/shopping cart. They come with baskets and seats, breaking systems and other accessories.

The biggest problem I had with them is none of them remained standing once you folded them up. They would tumble over, and I could just see an elderly person falling over a collapsed walker. Ouch. All had too many toggles, cheap construction, and tiny stroller-type wheels.

My dad preferred the walker with the large rubber wheels because it would work better outdoors. I had to agree, but I still thought the whole thing looked pretty ungainly, and poorly designed. Not to mention my mom almost fell trying to pick it up off the floor because it wouldn't stand on its own. We left without buying anything.

I hit the internet, my favorite shopping venue. After a few searches, I found the almost perfect walker.

Not only is this walker the coolest one I've seen, it's the best designed, it has features that I can't believe no one else has thought to include. For one, it stands when folded. It also has a nice little cane holder, which none of the ones we looked at had. It folds up with one hand, and the brakes self-adjust. The seat moves up and down with ease, and it adjusts easily - heck it's almost perfect!

Oh, it only had a little bag under the seat for holding stuff, which makes it less than perfect, as my parents would like to use it to go to the grocery store. Damn.

I hope I can talk them into it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Taste of Torrance, Guess Where?

Google Earth is a nifty gadget - even the least attractive places on the ground look pretty cool from above.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First Day o' New School

Today, my son attended his first new school in 8 years. He attended his former private school from preschool until 6th grade.

This change came about for reasons I won't get into right now, but our family agreed it was time my son left. Of course, he could have attended his local Torrance middle school, but instead, he chose to take a leap of faith that I don't think I would have had the guts to do at his age.

He chose to attend a newly established charter school in Gardena, located in what looks like an office building. Although it's not your typical-looking school, the non-profit organization that is administrating this charter had some very significant successes in their three previous schools, so we took the plunge.

One benefit of this charter school is that the emphasis is on technology, math and science - three subjects I felt weren't his former school's strengths. Their goal is to substantially improve low achieving students, as well as nurture high achieving students, providing them with opportunities to challenge themselves. After-school tutoring is available for everyone, and uniforms are a requirement.

A good number of the students qualify for free lunch.

Three (or was it four?) of his teachers are men - not including the PE teacher. My son has only ever had one male teacher since preschool. After 8 years of church ladies, it's quite refreshing.

This was the first time in years he's been excited about starting school. However, one day does not a school year make, so I'll be watching his progress closely. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Gewgaw, Puss in Bootie

This wee ceramic 'Souvenir of Vermont' is a classic gewgaw - it serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever except to offer a surface for dust to rest. However, it is cuter than a speckled pup under a red wagon.