Wednesday, August 31, 2005


The Fambly came in to visit via the train, and I picked them up at a desolate Northwest side station called Grayland.*

There's a very scary-looking bar next door and new townhomes across the street; typical Chicago juxtaposition. We got out of there fast and headed to Gridlife's to pick up my new digital camera. It's a Canon PowerShot A510 recommended by the Hex. Apprently it works. (see plates below).

We ate salad and falafel sandwiches al fresco at Andie's in Andersonville (they have the same name, sort of, but the former is Lebanese, while the latter is Swedish) before visiting the Middle Eastern Bakery and the Swedish deli. Then we drove to the Golden Pacific Market --- where among the other Asian items they sell a Japanese can of soda with an aluminum top and clear plastic body.

We also stopped at Lake Michigan -- which boasted whitecaps and seagulls. We were also entertained watching the men cruise each other in the Montrose Harbor parking lot.

On the way home we drove past Joan Cusack's house. We stopped and stalked a bit -- saw two girls get out of a minivan and ring the bell.

Even more fun, though, was waiting for the train back to the Outlying Area. Many express trains were passing by, so we placed a quarter on the track to see what would happen (this is something we'd all seen in movies but never experienced first hand -- in my case because I've never been a 10-year-old boy... not that I know of anyway). We jumped as the first metal wheel ran over the coin and made a loud clang.

When the train was gone, we could see the round mark where the quarter had been. We searched and searched through the rocks. And then I found it. The quarter was now a smooth oval with copper-colored edges. We held it up to the light and saw, very faintly, the words "live free or die." Leave it to us to smash a New Hampshire coin on the tracks (now *there's* a Bob Dylan album).


*"Grayland, which was opened for settlement in 1874, extended West from Kostner to Cicero Avenue, between Irving Park and Addison. Subdivided by John Gray, the first Republican sheriff of Cook County, on a portion of his extensive farm, it grew around the Grayland station of the Milwaukee Road Railroad, which is still in active use today. Gray’s first home built in 1856 at 4362 W. Grace survives today in a remarkable state of preservation and is the oldest house in Irving Park. Gray later built a lavish mansion on the northwest corner of Milwaukee and Lowell to reflect his newfound wealth and it was a community showplace. Indoor plumbing with gold fixtures, exotic woods and expensive marbles highlighted his home. It was razed around the year 1915." (From Wikipedia)

Friday, August 26, 2005


When taking an aeroplane, even if you are not checking luggage, you must check in at least 32 minutes prior to takeoff. Not 31 minutes, and definitely not 22.

If you check in late, you do not have to pay $100 to be booked on the next flight. You can fly standby for free. But first you must find out if there are empty seats.

If they offer you a free ticket in exchange for giving up your seat / flying later, and you are alone and aren't on a schedule and don't have anyone waiting for you and there's a good DVD in your laptop, calculate the value of the ticket vs. the amount of time you'll be delayed (for example, 3 hours for a $300 ticket comes out to $100/hour). Do this before automatically hitting the "no" button.

To get an aisle seat on a full flight, state your case and give your ticket to the agent at the gate. If in India, complain of "loose motions."

The airlines are strictly enforcing weight limits for checked baggage; each piece must not weigh more than 50 pounds. At O'Hare bags must be checked at least 45 minutes prior to departure.

The secret to cheap and plentiful sangria is this: Use Carlo Rossi sangria-flavored gallon wine. Chill in a pitcher overnight with in-season fruit (plums, peaches, strawberries, mangos, etc.) + one orange + one cinnamon stick. You may also add brandy, rum, sugar or fruit juice. Lemons, however, leave a bad aftertaste.

No matter how many ferrous sulfate tablets you take and kidney beans you heat up in the iron skillet, drinking caffeine before giving blood can lower your hemoglobin level to the point where you flunk the iron test and are ineligible to donate (12.5 is the cutoff).

If you always pay your credit card bill on time and in full and get assessed a late fee ($39) and finance charge ($28.84) and revolving finance charge ($15.68), it will take two phone calls to get the fees removed from your bill.

If you have a check made out to you in pounds sterling (versus dollars) you must make the deposit in person.

When you stare at the four dots for 90 seconds and then look up with your eyes closed you will see nothing. The second time you try it you will see Cartman from South Park. Then Jeebus will appear.

Dunkin' Donuts' "Get $10 off a $20 purchase at Office Depot" coupon really works and is good through the end of August. All you need is the coupon and a receipt for any DD item. If you pay cash at OD, you can do it again and again.

No matter how many times you tell them not to, your impatient neighbors will persist in putting your wet laundry in the dryer and shrinking all your clothes beyond recognition.

Ray and Charles Eames were not brothers but wife and husband (in the famous photo, Ray drives the motorcycle; Charles was the passenger).

41 is better than 40 (so far).

The maid of honor's duties include planning the shower and bachelorette party.

Home Depot has a gift registry. PetSmart does not.

One day the Bad Men will rifle through your car and steal all the change from your ashtray. Two weeks later they will find an empty ashtray and instead steal your gum.

Sometimes a massage works better than a chiropractic adjustment

Just because the Wassily chair is half-price doesn't mean you should buy it.

Big waves can crush and hurt you -- even if you're on a boogie board.

It is indeed 10 degrees hotter in the valley.

Yogaworks is a chain. So is Exhale.

Produce is better in Cali, yet it's somehow more expensive.

Santa Monica has more tolerant homeless laws than Venice, which is part of LA. If you must sleep rough on the beach, head north towards SM. Sleep under a lifeguard station so the sand groomers don't run you over (apparently this is a sport in Venice).

Getty Center architect Richard Meier and Getty Center garden designer Robert Irwin loathe each other (their designs are at odds; Meier wanted to maximize the institution's stunning view, which Irwin essentially blocked in order to draw more attention to his gardens). It's all documented in the video Concert of Wills: The Making of the Getty Center.

Use blue ink when signing important documents (so you can tell which is the original and which is the copy).

Occasionally your first human contact of the day will take place after you run through a stop sign on your bicycle at 5:45AM. You will hear a Chicago cop sneer in that thick Chicago snarl, "You better get outta here, quick."

The Venice (CA) canals do exist.

Holidays end.

Monday, August 22, 2005


And apparently no one wants to drive Inland when they live near the water (ie Santa Monica/Venice). Or vice-versa. Nonetheless we took a drive and got to drink the best iced coffee ever and eat figs right off the tree at the Studio City (ie; THE VALLEY) home of LoTus, Allen and Sunny Rae, who happen to live right down the street from the Brady Bunch House. They also live near avid (annoying?) environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr, whose Begley's Best household cleaner is sold at the local Food Whole and was gifted to me by LoTus. I'd take a picture of it, but camera seems to have expired. 'Twas a lovely visit with them, but far too short indeed.

My trip started and ended at the beach of course. The one in Santa Monica (at right) was deserted; Venice was another story (Why is it that the Europeans must locate their encampments ON TOP OF the nearest 'mericans? And why are the British SO EFFING LOUD?). The Hex surfed and I got to ride the longboard on my belly. Lots of fun; you feel like you're flying. I had less luck with the 70's boogie board on my last day, when I got crushed by a wave and was *not* sittin' on top of the world. The neck still hurts from that.

Near Venice Beach, where Gruff Tay-mus lives, and near the Santa Monica Beach where we stayed, it was in the 70's during the day and 60's at night. That meant hot tea, socks and comforter were in order each evening. NOW I get why people live there. Apparently you don't have to suffer the summer if you live near the water. And yet you're attached to a big city. DUH. If only one had $100 for each time someone said, "You have to move here," one would have a down payment. Instead one had a drink, and one's yoga practice has gone to hell (one nearly fainted after teaching, practicing and giving blood today. Borderline anaemics cannot have coffee before donating or they flunk the iron test, so when I finally made it to Dunkin' Donuts for a coconut iced coffee after my 1PM donation, I was extremely exhausted and lightheaded. I started to lose it, and had to put my head between my legs).

Speaking of tails between legs.... there were two chihuahuas, Louie and Ray, at the place where we stayed. One afternoon, while the Hex was picking up Tay-mus at the hospital (back surgery) I did some yoga. Partway through the primary series I left the mat for a moment (distracted? I'd say so) and saw both dogs hovering near my setup. Two seconds later Ray was sitting down, paws up by his ears, dragging his dirty anus across my mat. "Scooting," as they call it. "Streaking," as I call it. He left a foot-long brown streak (slightly crooked) RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF MY MAT, and seemed to think nothing of it. I WAS HORRIFIED. Too horrified to take a photo. Thankfully the house was stocked with disinfectant cleaner. I told Munkin the story last night, and she hit it on the head: "He needs to have his anal sacs popped."

Each night the dogs, the Hex and I wound down by watching part of Motown and B-Boys, or, as the rest of the world calls it, Dogtown and Z-Boys. That's the documentary about the scrappy 70's skateboarders who hung out near where we were staying and pioneered half-pipe, bowl and pool riding (gettin' vertical) etc. They were all over the magazines I used to devour while growing up in flat McHenry and on the posters on my walls. (I had a letter published in Skateboarder back in jr. high...Mr. Peralta should have interviewed ME instead of fat-neck poseur Henry Rollins, who went on and on about the impact it had on him growing up in DC. They also interviewed DC straight-edge scenester and Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye. Something tells me those kids were just not that into eschewing meat, booze and drugs).

And on Saturday we walked up the hill (with the dogs) to see the Eames case study house, which the Eames' designed and lived in until they died (in 1978 and 1988, on the exact same day). While trying to find the place, we saw another case study home that was being restored to its former glory. Can I just say -- NONE of the neighbors knew they were in the midst of architectural treasures. Maybe what they say about them Angelinos being shallow/vapid has some truth to it after all.

In any case, we had no appointment, no money, and no poo-bag. The nice lady let us have a look around anyway, and even gave the Hex a souvenir plastic turd-bag. (I hope to post photos one of these days -- had to use the Hex's camera, as mine had expired by then). Among the Eames' books was a copy of Gunter Grass' The Tin Drum, plus there were lots of things from India and Indonesia (apparently one's instinct to mix Subcontinental textiles with the ultramodern* is not the novel new idea one had thought). The house and studio were stunning (you could look in but not go in), as was their view of the ocean. I also learned, afterwords, that Charles and Ray were not brothers as I had assumed all these years, but husband and wife. Oops. NO WONDER they shared sleeping quarters.... Perhaps what they say about dem Chicagoans being unsophisticated has some truth to it after all....


*One's living room is in keeping with the style of one's original (not reissued) fiberglass Eames rocking chair from childhood, which may be beat up but is still quite a looker.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


The camera is on the fritz so 41 photos will not be televised, at least not for awhile. Suffice to say I am Out of Town. The sea and the sun and temperatures in the evening so cool that one needs a sweater *and* a jacket. Nothing wrong with that in August. The Venice canals under a full moon, the man with the signs and roller skaters at Venice Beach, live unannoying big band music at Santa Monica Pier (again under a full moon). But very little topped yesterday, when The Hex and I ate fresh-picked figs with Lotus and Sunny Rae and Allen (apparently Jack Nicholson is reading his script) and later had a Scotch and listened to FYC with Tae-mus and San-D. A day that included seeing the Rembrandts at the Getty Center, gaping at the Brady Bunch house in Studio City, and driving past the Chateu Marmont and Viper Room.

Welcome to LA indeed.

Now, if only the endless loop of Beach Boys songs would stop playing in my head.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I received exactly two birthday cards this year (Plate One, left).

Apparently I am straddling the thin line between one of Tom Wolfe's smirking puberteens and perimenopausal scary lady with crazy hair and lopsided breasts. As with that whole virgin/whore dichotomy thrust on us by The Man, it seems there is no middle ground.

This makes me want to fall on my sword.

So does the aftermath of the weird dream I had about a brilliant professor I had (classes with) some 20-plus years ago (by the time I was a senior he'd fled our stuffy liberal arts school, where the professors were far more radical than the students; one time in class it was apparent that no one had done their work and he said "You've all been drinking and fucking all weekend" and told us to leave. They weren't really ready for that in Lake-not-Wake Forest, were they?). In any case, I awakened and remembered what promise I once had --yes, perhaps I couldda been a contenda -- and what a moron** and underacheiver*** I've become. So much for that dream of making groundbreaking films about youth subcultures. Maybe next lifetime.

Yes, time to fall on the sword.

Or at least try to learn how to wield the thing and become the castrating crone (in sensible shoes) I'm meant to be.


In Hinduism, the last of the four yugas (ages) that make up one cycle of creation is the one we're in right now -- The Kali-Yuga. It's characterized by wickedness and disaster, and leads up to the destruction of this world (usually by men, at the expense of women) in preparation for a new creation and new cycle of yugas. Apparently The Man is going to get his soon, once Kali comes.**** She's the angry naked blue goddess with the crazy hair, sword, Gene Simmons tongue and string of skulls, who is usually depicted stomping her husband to death (oops!).

**I really did take great pleasure in watching Kristin-the-Famous-Bugeyed-Yoga-Teacher say "shit" and "fuck" (bleeped out of course) and drink, at one sitting: red wine, a martini and coffee -- on tonight's final episode of Hooking Up.

***No insurance, no mortgage, no Relationship, no five-year Plan, not a single lux-ur-ee. Footloose and fancy-free. No wonder I keep attracting guys like me.

****My mother, who was always ahead of her time and subscribed to Ms. from day one (I'm more of a Bitch girl myself, if you hadn't guessed), loved that bumper sticker; "God is Coming -- and is She Pissed!" NOW I finally get it.

Friday, August 05, 2005


...are the legions who endlessly extoll the mildly entertaining antics of their children/cats/rice cookers, talk excitedly about Amy from Hooking Up as if she's a close friend, and/or post amateurish E-photos of sunsets, for cryin out loud, on their largely unread blogs. Kind of like how they let anyone who can, have kids.


Not that you can actually see the sun or anything. But this is a rare site indeed, snapped from the dismal grey back porch of a noisy* courtyard building located on a gritty four-lane speedway where they get really, really mad and sometimes even rear-end you if you dare slow down to park.


*Have I not mentioned Neck Tattoo? Suffice to say I now have a neighbor with a neck tattoo that may or may not have something to do with Folks / People**. He lives below Jenny Whatever, whom I've not seen since that cool June morn when I went onto the dismal grey back porch to snatch some yoga bottoms off the clothesline, wearing just a t-shirt and (matching) thong, and ran into J-Whatever, who was just trying to have a nice quiet smoke here thankyouverymuch, and shrieked, and ran inside, and slammed the door. Hard.

**A Latin King tried to pick me up at a party I attended with AWOL Jack last winter. He was impressed by my knowledge that the down-pitchfork*** he sported meant "people." He even showed me their hand-signal.

***Apparently Grant Wood's famous American Gothic, on display at the Art Institute of Chicago since 1930, continues to inspire the locals.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


In which The Author chronicles her triumphant return to Chowdaville

The "T" (the sign for which makes me think of a big ol' blowdryer). "S" (for Slow) would be more apt. But you have to love a city that names a major train station "Alewife."

The Holocaust Memorial (someone has been very busy scraping the words off the stone and glass)

Looking up @ Holocaust Memorial, which is engraved with all the numbers of the dead.

Geriatric tug conference at Boston Harbor

Boston Habba II (crooked version)as seen from our tour boat

Some intrepid frigate. Sposed to be good for ya.

An unworthy depiction of Beantown's stunning new bridge (part of the frightful ongoing nightmare called The Big Dig, it's built to resemble Bunker Hill -- which is out of frame, to the right)

A view from the Charles River bike path (which we rode all the way down to the Science Museum, after stopping in Cambridge for the Vegan Pizza)

What Indian sweets look like after 1.5 hours on an aeroplane. Imagine how they must look when they're on drugs.

My gracious hosts + our new friend Sangria

Wickey catching casuals from Paul Revere's mysterious mount