Sunday, December 29, 2013

Remembering a Friend

Today I went to IKEA to buy some furniture. Of course this ended up being a process, ordering a pickup from ZipCar, remembering where the hell Burbank is, trying to resolve my shopping lists against massive piles of stuff called "Flövig" or "Hœkenføn" or "Plęnf." By now at 8PM I have assembled most if not all of my furnishings and am sitting back with some Trader Joes's tamales and a glass of red wine.

I also had to populate some of the storage I bought.

Some of it was books or little things I had collected over the years, little things I had from my family home. One of them was a little a little silver bowl given to me by my friend Mimi, which I was polishing with toothpaste (which works marvelously, especially with the natural ones without harsh chemicals.)

If you've been an avid reader of this blog, you know all about Muriel "Mimi" Monette. If you were lucky enough to have known her, you would as I do still remember and treasure the times you had together. One day in the last year of her life after a jaunt to Malibu (Santa Barbara at that point was too taxing,) after out customary glass of champagne at her apartment she picked up a small silver dish and told me "I want you to have this." I demurred at first but she insisted, so I took it, and still have it.

But you know what I really regret, and am horrible enough to admit? That I didn't ask for a couple her paintings! Mimi was an artist- the best kind. One who did it for the pleasure it gave her, and if she painted you the pleasure it gave the subject. She especially loved the coast of Southern California and loved painting the life guard stations from Santa Monica to Malibu.  There were at least a couple of those paintings I wish I had been crass enough to just ask for rather than just admire.

But, I can content myself with her letters in her strong script which I've kept, a small silver bowl, and many delightful memories of my dear friend "Mimi" Monette.

I hope her family treasures those paintings.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Tale of a Sofa

Or, no good deed goes unpunished..

One of my neighbors asked a favor. They know I work from home and asked that I let into their apartment delivery people with a new sofa for them. Basically being unable to come up with an excuse why I couldn't do so, I said yes. I asked them to let the delivery people have my number so I know when they get here and they let me know the timeframe.

So the delivery takes place. The sofa isn't just a sofa, it's a sectional monster that would look bulky in, say, the departure lounge of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, Grand Central Station, or perhaps Utah, never mind a medium-sized apartment. The delivery people can't get it into the lobby- it won't fit into the elevator and can't be manoevred up the one stair from the lobby.

After much hazzerei the delivery guys manage to cart this mauve chenille dinosaur down the alley and around to the back, and without smashing any light fixtures or having coronaries deposit it and the ottoman (itself almost the size of a Honda) in the living room. My neighbor hadn't really made room for the behemoth so it was more in the middle of the room than against the walls, but I wasn't going to fool with his stuff and neither were the now-sweating people from Bob's House of Oversized Furnishings.

I certainly wasn't going to tip them (since I wasn't left any money to do so, and I wasn't even invited to the party that the new furnishings were being premiered at) but I did give them some bottled water I had in the icebox. It's only fair and only human.

Come this evening I get an email from the neighbor. Not "thanks for doing this, I owe you a drink." Not "thanks for doing this, please come to the party." No, I get "Omg they made the couch wrong!  The L shape is on the wrong side!!  :("

My response? "Oh dear. I guess you should have been here after all." After all, if you choose to have a sectional that could be used as an emergency landing strip by small aircraft wedged into your apartment, your sanity is the thing I'm going to be questioning first, not your decorating abilities..


Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I'll always remember them this way- before Battery Park City, before the area became a hub of activity with apartments and shops. Two cool, somewhat detached towers that were an ode to American Progress and capitalism.

I wrote on the five-year anniversary: "They were not beloved when they were built, indeed they were seen as dinosaurs: the last gasp of urban-planning gone bad. They were in a sterile plaza that demolished the street grid of Lower Manhattan, a plaza so windswept that navigating it was nigh unto impossible. As an object, the cool beauty of the twin towers was successful as art, as a building it was less successful.

But I came across this image and it reminded me of how lovely the towers were, and on the anniversary of the horror that consumed so many lives, I thought a short elegy to their beauty was apt."

I think it's still apt 12 year after that horrible day.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

8 Years Ago

From 8 years ago, my memories of Katrina.

If I only had a heart........

Many of you know that I don't have the closest relationship with my siblings. I have one sister who stayed back in Massachusetts, who seems perfectly keen on never speaking to either my brother or me again. I figure that whatever reason she has for this is her reason, and I don't press- if there's some wrong that I did, since I don't know what it is, an apology would sound pretty false. My brother and I have a more cordial relationship, but we aren't excactly close. I call him or he calls me every six months or so, and we usually chat desultorally about stuff until the conversation just sort of peters out. I've always told myself that there's the family that you are born to, and then there's the family you make. I have the family that I made, and frankly, I'd rather spend holidays with them. Not to say that I never want to see my brother face to face (or, god willing, face-lift to face); we're just comfortable where we are. So it was with more of a sense of duty ("Will I look like a complete asshole if I don't make that phone call when this hurricane I vaguely heard about hits near them? Uhhhh, Yup!") that I picked up the phone and hit speed dial. Bob was there, he and his wife were fine, they were not going to evacuate. The State of Mississippi said they needn't, apparently, and since Bob volunteers for the fire department in Bay St. Louis, he also felt he'd be needed. Bob is like that- he was that way as a kid, too. He wanted to be the one to charge into the disaster and help. I was the one who wanted to charge into Bergdorf Goodman, and well, charge. After about a half an hours talk about gadgets, cars, and other stuff, he signed off with his usual "love you, Bro" 

When I woke up the next day and went into work and saw the reports of the damage, I experienced something that I have never experienced before and hope never to do so again: complete blind panic. Despite the fact that my brother and I had never best buddies, and had a realtionship that was pretty much covered by twice yearly phone calls and Christmas cards, I was totally pole-axed by the idea that he and his wife could have been washed away in the storm surge. Adding hellish gloss to this was the fact that technology managed to not only fail (no phones land or cell) to alleviate my dread, but to exacerbate it (live, clickable satellite photos showing the devasted coast of Missisippi). For days I plodded through my tasks at work, staring at that stupid screen, hating everybody who was asking me to give up an atom of my precious time to focus on anything but my needs (well, more than usual, anyhoo) Hating all of the pundits from FEMA who were sitting on their asses and turning away aid. Hating (even and yet more) our President, who did his Crawford version of Nero, strumming his guitar and eating birthday cake while New Orleans flooded. I didn't want to tell anybody about it, since I honestly felt that I would burst into tears at the mention; when one of my co-workers got it out of me I almost did. Lucklily, that last day (Friday) came news from a ham radio operator that my brother and his wife were safe. I've never wanted to do pretty much anything with a ham radio operator, but if I hit the lotto, dude, I am totally buying you a car. I've even spoken to my brother, at the Ramada Inn they are in. Lost everything, but they're alive, and insured. 

There's a scene in the movie "The Women" where Joan Crawford tells Norma Shearer that Joan won't be able to break up Norma's marriage without her help. (Paraphrasing)"Not because he isn't crazy about me, he let's that old-fashioned sentiment put the indian sign on him" 

It certainly put the indian sign on me real good......

On the funny side, my brother always painted Bay St Louis as being the back of the Bayou- Bob always wanted to appear as down-to-earth as he could get. Having been nearly wiped off the map, I've learned a lot about the town: it's Nan-freaking-tucket with a drawl. Loads of cute shops and antebellum manses (sadly, now heavily damaged). I used to think about it practically hearing the theme from "Deliverance" in my head. As one of my friends said, "Tom, I met your Mother, and apples just don't fall that far from the tree...."

Love you, but you're busted, Bro

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Minor Luck

I am, I suppose a lucky person. I have reasonable health, I have lovely friends and I live in a place with a wonderful village feel. I know "minorly" isn't a word, but I would consider myself "minorly lucky." Today I had two instances. I went to the car wash which has a two-dollar weekly special. I noticed something stuck in the coin return in the bay I parked in and when I used my nail to pry it out out came two golden dollar coins! Free car wash- whoo-hoo! 

Then I decided I needed to eat (hadn't yet) and went to Jack in the Box (they have unsweetened iced tea on tap.) I ordered a fish combo from the kiosk and took my slip to the counter to get my drink cup. After giving it to me the manager exclaimed "oh no!" Apparently they no longer serve fish and no-one had reprogrammed the kiosk. So he offered me any another combo whether higher priced or not and a slice of cheesecake. I ordered something chicken and no bun. It came out on a bun. The manager came out with my no-bun burger and told me to keep the second one and handed me some coupons for more free jack food.

So you see what I mean about "minorly" lucky. I didn't win the PowerBall last night, I did not get a high-paying job two blocks from my house and I won't wake up tomorrow looking like I did 20 years ago. But I got a free car wash and a fast-food chicken sandwich.

Sometimes you have to just accept that your luck is minor.

Clean car photo from my iPhone

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Today, Wednesday I awoke to a State where one of my rights which had been taken away by a popular vote was reinstated. It's not a right that I was in any danger of exercising. It was not my right to vote, my rights concerning age discrimination or my rights concerning the fact that I cannot be fired in California simply for being gay although in 29 other states I can be. I was my right to marry the person I might love.

I know that there are people who honestly feel that the sanctity of marriage is compromised by this ruling, but it's not the job of the state to sanctify anything- that's what a church is for. I neither wish to nor expect to walk down the aisle at Good Shepherd until the church decides to allow it, if they ever do. If I meet someone and wish to, I'll do it at city hall. The idea that I actually might have the option to marry says absolutely nothing about anything but my civil rights. Why are stable, long-term same=sex couples denied the right to marry when Kardashians and Britneys can do so on a whim and back out in a few days?

The day Obama was elected was a happy one for this Democrat. However it was tempered by the headlines that Prop 8 was (barely) passed. My straight friends and colleagues (the democrats anyway) were so happy. I was too, but there was that nagging "get to the back of the bus" thing that took some of the sweetness out of the day. Today's ruling was sweet indeed.

Monday, June 03, 2013

How To Do It, and How Not To Do It.

Back in the day when GM was struggling, one of the true believers cut some footage into a short film that I believe was shown at a in-house gathering. It was so good it made it to the internets and I believe to broadcast. It was perfect- it showed in a brief, snappy way what the company had achieved and where they were going:

Then the marketers decided that a sequel was necessary. I hope the original people didn't have anything to do with it. I'd like to think that some department above them thought they could do better, because the second one was everything the first wasn't: bloated. self-referring, celebrity-driven, obvious in it's use of stock footage and worst of all, more about self-congratulating crap than about the promise of the product coming up. See below:

But I have to write that the best commercial for a automaker in the past 20 years was in my opinion the Cadillac commercial "Moments". See below:

Those Saarinen staircases of the design center and the jewel-faceted cars. Cole Porter and rappers. Movie premiers and a kid clutching a model '59. Brilliant. I think it should be up there with the Apple "1984" ad in that it's telling people this is the new Cadillac. A company that knows where they've been and know where they're going.

As an ad for a brand it should be studied in marketing classes.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Trying (and Perhaps Failing) to Not Sound Bitter

Jason Collins came out.

I'm glad for him personally and happy for what that might mean for LGBT people in sports. I am glad that the President even phoned him to express support. While I am sure that he's no going to be asking me out anytime soon (although Jason I am single and like tall guys.. just sayin') I do have do ask what's the fuss about? He's gay. So am I. So are millions of people on the planet. We live here, we do our jobs, and we contribute to society. We're in Congress and we collect your trash. Sometimes we don't do your hair- we tune up your car. Or sell it to you. Or design it for you. We're your co-workers. We're your friends. We're your family. We won't get a phone call from the President congratulating us on our courage coming out; yours would be enough.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Dogs and Wagons

A recent post on FaceBook reminded me of something from my yoof: family drives with the dog. In this case it was the seventies and summer drives in our "beach" wagon (as it was referred to) with our family dog Jackie. Dad would drive us to various destinations of scenic beauty while us kids in the grand tradition of the last century roamed unfettered by safety restraints between seats and cargo areas. We'd go to the Berkshires, to the Quabbin reservoir or to Rockport in a day.

One of the things I clearly remember is Jackie navigating. He's plant his butt between Dad and Mum with his eyes on the road and his nose in the AC vent, scouring the terrain for any objects he might have to warn us puny humans against.

Except when he'd fart.

In the seconds before we could smell it, we'd know it was coming- Jackie would decide that the best place possible to be in this rolling living room was in the waaaaaay back, and this was the sign to roll all the windows down. Even the tailgate. even at the risk of exhaust entering the cabin. Because while exhaust can poison you Jackie's farts could melt your face.

Of course, in retrospect it didn't help that we would insist that Jackie had his own cone at the Tastee Freeze like the rest of us (he preferred butter pecan). Jackie at least had the good taste to look a little abashed.

While I know that this era of strapping the kids and the pets and ourselves in is the safest way to be (and I never even sit in a car without a belt) I do have a sense of nostalgia for the bad old days where "climb over" was common and farting unfettered poodles could drive a family outing.

image: wikipedia commons

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Eating Out

This evening I went out to dinner with friends. We went to a local place on Wilshire here in town and I decided that for once I was going to have a starter that we'd share: asparagus in a really nice mustard sauce. I ordered meatloaf with mashed potatoes and sautéed kale.

I loved it, but wish it had been about half the size of what was served. It wasn't one of those Cheesecake Factory portions that should be serving six, but I didn't come near to finishing it, and knowing myself I likely never will, even though I did take the rest home.

With all the talk about the obesity epidemic I kind of wish places did half-sized entrees. Wheeling out a plate the size of a truck tire heaped with food may make people feel they "got their money's worth", but giving me something that is a third the size at half the price will make me comfortably full, save food and money being wasted and just generally make more sense.

Image: my iPhone

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Great Outdoors; I'll Pass, Thanks.

I am not one for the outdoors. By outdoors I don't mean sitting in the park on a warm spring day reading a book and sipping a frothy-frozen coffee beverage while in the back of my mind plotting my next meal. I mean the Great Outdoors. I do not camp. Well, not that way.

I was lucky enough to find this out early. I had (have) an older brother who loved all that stuff. Being the younger sibling I insisted that I was included on some of these trips to the outdoors only to be bored rigid. I can remember one where we went fishing on the Mill River in our little town. I can remember sitting in the boat with my pole and looking up in wonderment at the underside of the bridge spanning Meadow Street. 36 seconds later I realized that for me fishing was the most boring and pointless thing in the world. There are fish at the market and since this was the Mill River in the 70's any fish that might have survived the level of pollution most likely would be toxic to eat.

Then there was camping. My brother and a his friend went camping and I wanted to go. My parents basically forced them to allow it. They sat in the tent whittling or telling stories or whatever and after about 12 minutes of this I realised I was cold, the ground was lumpy, I was bored and we'd had the better part of 200 years of being a country so that we could sleep indoors on our Sealy Posturepedics and chat with our friends on our touch-tone Trimline phones while enjoying steam heat.

Luckily the campsite was in our backyard, so I could drop this idiocy and go have a sandwich and watch "Rhoda."

So I learned my limits early. I'm not likely to climb Runyon with you when I can be using an elliptical while listening to techno music. I would like to visit Yosemite, but would do so only to stay at the Ahwahnee. If I am on a boat it had better be flying Cunard colors.

Because my idea of roughing it is going someplace where there isn't a Trader Joe's.

Image: Internets

Friday, January 04, 2013

Winter in Los Angeles

I love winter in LA. It's certainly not terribly cold, although it can get down to near freezing at night and most older buildings aren't built with insulation, so heating can be expensive- I don't use mine.

What I really like is watching people at this time of the year. You'll see natives pulling out parka when it's a little over 60º while tourists from places like Wisconsin are in t-shirts and flip-flops.

This is the time of the year that it rains. Rain is greeted here as, say Tokyo regards the arrival of Godzilla. Action McNews blares headlines about "Storm Watch 2013" while darkly warning about the impeding storm as if it were a shower of man-eating clams rather than water.

Granted, storms here can be fraught. We've had mudslides, trees uprooted, and flooding. Traffic will come to a stand-still because half the people on the roads will go three MPH while the other half will go 20 miles over the limit, presumably because they have not been informed that automobiles are not water soluble.

But the main thing that I like about it is how clean and clear the air is here after the rain, and that I can see snow on the mountains to the east.

From the comfort and safety of the 65º temps on Santa Monica and Cañon...

Image: My iPhone