Thursday, August 31, 2006

Smoke Two Joints

My family and I (that sounds like an odd way to say "Lily, Judah, and me") were strolling down the Venice boardwalk the other day and we stopped to get some fries. Not the regular stick-fries. Not those wedge fries. But fries that were discs, like the potatoes were sliced then fried. Damn good.

While we were waiting in line for the fries, the drone of a man speaking loudly boomed behind us.
"Smoke marijuana. It will bring you health and vitaility."
The man's cadence was like a preacher's. Preachin' to the choir out on Venice beach apparently. Between every verse, the man played a few notes on a cheap plastic flute.
"Smoke marijuana. Through bong, pipe or blunt."
A few more flute notes.
"I know I'm not the only chronic smoker out here..."
He stood on a green milk crate while addressing the passers by. None of them seemed to pay attention, but some guys in line next to me were riveted by what the preacher said. As if they'd never heard of this magical marijuana before. The milk crate preacher continued:
"Before I smoked marijuana, I was sick. Now I smoke marijuana daily and I feel better than I have in my entire life."
A few more flute notes.

My fries finally arrived in the pick-up window, and I doused a little corner of the plate with ketchup.
"Smoke marijuana."
I wondered what this guy was hoping to gain by wasting his breath preaching instead of taking major bong loads. Shut up and smoke marijuana, dude!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Can you hear me now? Good.

Hopefully this is the final installment of "LA move bitch-fest 2006". I thought I'd share with you the love that I've received from just about every service vendor in Los Angeles since I've arrived here. If it weren't for the LADWP (utilities), the City of Angles would be 0-fer my move. So hopefully (please hopefully) I won't be writing any more rants about this fucked up situation.

Verizon phone service working when we get here? Nope. Check.
Time Warner Cable working when the technician hooks it up? Nope. Check.
Verizon DSL working when they say it will? Nope. Check.

Well, the latest on the move from hell is that Verizon DSL promised I'd be up and running on August 17th, a speedy 7 days after I ordered. They ship you your DSL modem via UPS, so Brown can do something for you. Well the Verizon phone rep forgot to put my apartment number down, so Brown just turned around and took my modem back down to lovely Gardena california. A little hop, skip and jump down the 405 on a Friday. Yippee. At least the supervisor on the phone was nice enough to give me a month free DSL for my trouble.

I go pick up the modem from UPS, come home and open the box like a 5-year-old on Xmas morning. Since there are no paper instructions and only an installation CD, I pop the CD in. I'm being talked to like a 5-year-old by the voices on the CD about how to install a splitter into my phone jack, then the CD doesn't allow me to progress to the next item: How to install DSL filters. Nice. I know how to do this. I know I can. I've worked with technical stuff once or twice before. Piece of cake.

The phone splitter goes into the outlet. The DSL filter goes on one side, the other side gets plugged into the DSL modem. The ethernet cable gets plugged from the modem into the compter and VOILA! Nada. Well not exactly. There was a flashing light next to the part that said DSL. Probably not a good sign.

Onto call #2 with Verizon DSL, and the tech support guy starts talking to me like a 5-year-old. I cut to the chase and tell him I installed the wiring like I did on my last DSL modem, but the DSL light is flashing and my web browser is telling me I'm not connected to the internet. Long story even longer, I finally get to talk to the supervisor and he tells me that my DSL isn't hooked up yet. Brilliant. Now how the hell did he figure that out? Oh yeah, I called and told him that. Thank god for stellar customer service.

When we finally get our DSL working 3 days later, it seems slow. So slow that I decide to run CNET's speed test on it. Not the 3 MB / sec I ordered, not even 1.5 MB they offer: A snail-like 613 K at best. I should have known better than to order Verizon DSL after LLMB reader #2 told me he tried 'em and got slow speed DSL too. I'd try to get cable internet, but ah shit... I won't go back there again.

Now I'm switching to Earthlink. FUCK VERIZON. Can you hear me now? Good.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rage Against the Machine

Update on the cable situation from last week:

The supervisor comes out on Friday and looks at the box outside and tells me we CAN get cable, but it's a weak signal so we can't get cable internet. I say I don't want cable internet now anyway. He says somebody will come out Saturday to install.

On Saturday two guys come in and plug the set-top boxes in and it sorta works, but channel 2 (CBS) doesn't work. The guy then tells me it's not working and they're gonna have to drill a hole through the wall in Judah's room and run a line of cable throughout the inside of the apartment (real pretty) so we can get a strong signal. I tell him we don't need channel 2 and we'll think about having the pretty inside wiring done later. He leaves, Lily and I are checking out the channels, and then he calls back about 10 minutes later saying he's gotta come back and take the box because his supervisor said he couldn't leave a cable box unless it's fully functioning. I tell him no and that I'm calling his supervisor. The supervisor tells me a bunch of crap about how it's a routing thing and they can't leave an install like that. I tell him we won't make a complaint and I ask him to let us keep it. Lily gets on the phone and sweet talks him into letting us have the cable as-is, and now we get channel 2 and everything works fine with the same wiring we had in the first place. Fucking A.

Okay, enough with the bitching about the cable, phone and internet companies. At least until next week anyway.

Shortly after we moved in, our apartment manager informed us that there's no recycling for the building. So we set out to get some recycling for the building. We called the number on the side of the neighbors' recycling bins. The people on the phone told us they were gonna find out how much it costs and call us back. We still haven't received a call.

After having unpacked about 2/3 of our boxes, we found ourselves swimming in a sea of crumpled newspaper (for the dishes), scraps of cardboard (from the flimsy boxes we used for clothing), and broken down boxes. This pile of paper products was taking over our apartment and wasn't allowing us any room to unpack more.

So we called the number on the side of our garbage dumpster, and they said it would cost 30 bucks a month to get recycling. Until we get on the phone and ask our landlord to foot the bill to save a tree or three, we decided to throw our mountain of paper into our neighbors recycling bins. The apartment manager assured us that the neighbors like that sort of thing, because it's good to see people recycling. Yeah. Our neighbors across the street have a house that belongs in Architectural Digest. I'm sure they want random people throwing their crap/recycling into their bins.

After missing last Tuesday morning's recycling collection, I informed Lily that this Monday night was the night for stealth guerilla recycling mode. I grabbed 6 paper grocery bags filled with crumpled SF Weeklies and Guardians (for the dishes) and headed down the steps onto Grand Boulevard. Luckily at that time of night, there isn't much traffic so I had no problem walking across the street and finding some space to cram the bags in.

I came back home to get another load of bags. Then another load of cardboard. I put our stuff in about 8 different bins that all had just enough space to include our recycling. I couldn't help but feel like I was doing something wrong by using the neighbors recycling bins, but Lily convinced me that we're trying to do the right thing. That kept me going for the last big haul: A clear plastic bag about the size of Santa's Xmas gift bag, but full of crumpled newspaper instead of toys. Ho ho ho.

On the way back from my fourth trip, I found a large blue bin that was nearly empty. I slung the huge plastic bag full of crumpled newspaper over my shoulder and headed for the empty bin. I walked down the sidewalk feeling pretty good about being done with this stealth guerilla recycling mission until I saw a Volvo station wagon heading down the street pull a u-turn and come back toward me. The criminal feeling came back and I propped the bag against a nearby bush. I walked away from it and stood on the curb, tapping my foot like I was waiting for somebody.

A woman got out of the car with her dog. They were right across the street from the empty bin. I acted like I knew nothing about the bag and waited. The dog sniffed around the sidewalk and grass, then peed. I was ready to bust them if the dog pooped. But they jogged across the street and out of sight into the darkness. I quickly made my way to the blue bin and crammed the papers in. Man, if it's gonna take that kind of covert action every week to recycle, I'm gonna pay the 30 bucks myself.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Power of You

Well it's day 10 of no internet or cable TV in my new SoCal home. I can just hear it now: "Cry me a fuckin river, Lee" or "Holy shit! How have you survived, Lee?" Let me tell you, if it weren't for Project Runway (Lily) and SportsCenter (me), I think we could do without the TV part for a while longer. But when football season starts, I'm gonna be climbing on the roof installing a satellite dish.

In our last apartment, I plugged the cable into the TV and it worked. Free cable for four years. In fact, the cable worked just by plugging it in (for a short while anyway) in 3 out of the last 5 places I lived. I highly recommend trying it out before calling your local cable company, so's to avoid any experiences like the one had by yours truly.

The Time Warner cable guy came over on Tuesday, arriving an astonishing 1 hour into the 1/2 day window they gave me over the phone. I pointed him at the outlet nearest to the TV and started him moving forward on getting the hell out of my apartment. After about 15 minutes, he asked for another outlet, and being that there are 4 outlets in my little living room, I pointed him at the next one. He drilled and poked and prodded, went outside and did something at the box outside, came back in and poked and prodded at the outlet some more.

He came back in and asked for another outlet. I asked "What seems to be the problem?" The cable guy said "I'm not getting enough signal. There's nothing strong enough to give you both cable and internet, so I'm looking for the main outlet." I showed him the outlet in our room. He drilled and poked and prodded some more. It was at this point that I began to wonder if he knew what the hell he was doing.

10 minutes later he asked if there was an outlet in Judah's room. Judah was taking a much needed nap in there. I reluctantly said yes and we went in. In accordance with Murphy's Law, the outlet was behind a dresser. We move the dresser and Judah wakes up and starts crying. The cable guy drills and pokes and prods at the outlet. Nothing but a "weak signal".

He asked me if there was a splitter box or a panel inside the apartment. "Like this one?" I ask as I point to the electric switchbox. He told me yeah but not really. Judah was still crying and I was really getting tired of his making me do more work than he was doing, so I said I don't know where the box was, nor did we have any more outlets for him to play around with. I stood there like a dipshit and he soon realized he had to do more than just stick a cable into an outlet and check for a signal. He went outside to call his supervisor, and I could hear every word of his ineptitude.

A few more minutes later he comes into my living room with his gear slung over his shoulder and he tells me I have to get the cable company to come back another time. Right. I tell him he needs to hook up my cable and not just give me an hour of his time and then bail. That seemed to get his attention because his line of bullshit turned to the questioning line of bullshit: "What you want me to do?" "You think I'm not doing my job?" "How am I supposed to hook your cable up if I can't find a strong signal?" Um, I've slung a few cables in my day and I think it's pretty basic: If you can't find the signal - you trace the goddman line back to its source. He told me that was impossible and left.

I called his supervisor and basically got the same line of bullshit. I'll spare you the details.
Now I'm in the market for a satellite dish. If you can't beat 'em, ...go climb on the roof.