Thursday, October 07, 2010


Trader Joe's on a Monday morning. It's the best time to go. Nobody's there. Well, except for the staff and a few underemployed (a.k.a. freelance) folk like myself. Shelves are stocked, aisles are clear, it's time to get shoppin'!

I'm perusing the peaches when a Trader Joe's employee guy in Hawaiian shirt greets me by cheerily asking "Is there anything I can help you find today?" I smile back and say "Nope, I'm all good."

I make my way toward the bread past two moms with strollers speaking in French and I grab a loaf of white bread. As I pass the French moms, I grab some tortillas for my burgeoning quesadilla habit and I notice the jam. Which makes me remember that I don't need any jam. See I've got a subscription to this jam called INNA jam that's super tasty and it keeps coming in the mail, which is a very good thing. But the boy Judah tends to eat it all up if I don't have any substitute jam for his PB&J sandwiches. And the foodie in me doesn't believe that a four year old has the taste buds to appreciate such a culinary treat.

So I reached up and grabbed a jar of Trader Joe's raspberry jam - which is stacked on top of each other - in the process knocking about four other jars sideways and toppling off the shelf. I propped my burly-ass forearms sideways and prevented what could have been one of the biggest Monday morning Trader Joe's fruit jar disasters in the history of California. Maybe in the entire United States for that matter. The French moms gasped and stopped talking in French for a second, stopped talking altogether. Disaster averted, the TJ's employee who greeted me earlier came by and asked "Are you allright?" I replied with the calmness of Don Draper: "Nothing broken. It's my lucky day." To which the employee replied "Let's keep it that way". Which was said it in a friendly tone, not a snarky one as I've come to expect in my jaded little Los Angeles existence.

Moving down the grocery list, I meandered toward the cereal section and picked up some maple & brown sugar oatmeal for Judah. The same employee walked up to me and asked "Is there anything I can help you find today?" I smiled back and said "Nope, I'm all good." I wasn't sure if he was messing with me or not, because he had a perfectly straight face on. But I couldn't see how he could possibly mistake one of the maybe five customers in the store he'd asked that question already. Especially one who almost sent the entire jam section tumbling to the floor.

As I headed toward the meats, I could hear the employee in the next aisle asking the same question over and over. "Is there anything I can help you find today?" The voice came closer. I thought for sure he would pass me by this time. I mean, hell, I was wearing a somewhat distinctive hat and I was the jam disaster guy in his eyes. But here he came again, right up to me with a straight face asking "Is there anything I can help you find today?" I smiled back and said "Nope, I'm good."

I figured I'd change my reply next time to see if that jolted him out of his little loop, but I think by entering the frozen section I finally made it out of his sector. Can't wait for next Monday morning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Piece of Mind

For our recent vacation to New York, we had planned a visit to Mystic, CT. And because everyone from the East coast is always raving about how you can take a train here or there, take a train down to Philly, to DC, up to Boston, I looked into the cost of taking Amtrak. Soon thereafter I found myself reserving a rental car online. The price for the train was going to be a wash, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty of schlepping luggage and two kids and a stroller, we opted for the car.

I shopped around for the best rental price, and Hertz was it. Plus it was the closest walking distance to where we were staying in Park Slope in Brooklyn. So I hoofed it over there, and it was a fairly no-nonsense experience. Those New Yorkers know how to take care of business. The guy was talking so fast that he talked me into buying the infamous "Loss Damage Waiver" (aka LDW) which I NEVER opt in on.

If you're unfamiliar with renting cars from the major players, the LDW is basically coverage so that if anything happens to the vehicle - car stolen, wrecked, whatever - you don't worry about it. Your insurance doesn't even come into play. The Hertz man said (in New Yorker accent) "It's an extra 9 bucks a day, so it's like uh... 36 bucks for the rental. You want it?" Hmm. 36 bucks so I don't have to worry about anything that happens to this car and I don't have to deal with my insurance company? Done. Bye bye 36 bucks.

And soon I was driving out of their garage with a brand new Chevy HHR (or whatever it's called) which looks like a PT Cruiser but less flashy. 19 miles on the odometer. New car smell. All I cared about was getting the hell out of the city before traffic started piling up on the Friday before Labor Day weekend.

After pulling into a miracle of a parking spot right next to our friend's brownstone, I loaded up the car with luggage and family and away we went. A few hours later we were well on our way and driving directly into the remnants of Hurricane Earl, which had morphed into some nasty rain that made it difficult to see 50 feet ahead even with the wipers on full blast. Glad I bought that LDW.

The rain didn't last long, and we were able to enjoy plenty of sun and warm weather in Mystic. We even drove the HHR onto the ferry from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson in Long Island to see a friend from my high school days. And when that leg of the journey was done, yet another miracle of a parking spot appeared right next to our friend's brownstone, and I unloaded up the car with luggage and family and left it for the night.

Street cleaning was scheduled for the next morning, so I had to get the HHR on the road earlier than my rental return time. Lily was meeting a friend for breakfast, so she took Blaise with her and I took Judah with me to return the car. We were making great time, but as we were literally driving the last block to the Hertz rental location, traffic stopped. Gridlock like none I've seen even in Los Angeles. Nothing was moving. People were laying on their horns. Lights changed from green to red to green and back again. And we didn't move an inch.

I watched the minutes tick by, and I wondered if I was going to miss my return time. I couldn't really put the car in park and walk up to the place. And I sure as hell wasn't going to try my luck by driving around from the opposite direction. But if I was late on the return would they charge for an extra day on the car? And then I remembered the LDW. I already paid the 36 bucks, so why should I pay for another day of rental? I briefly considered parking the car nearby and telling Hertz it was stolen. I'd be in their office pointing at the LDW on my paperwork and walking out of there backwards saying "LDW, yo. Nahmean?"

Then traffic started moving again. And I discovered what the cause of the gridlock was: All the weekenders returning their Labor Day rental rides back to the motherland: The very same Hertz location I was trying to return the HHR to. The car in front of me was stopped in the driveway behind the last car that could fit into their crammed garage. A Hertz employee rushed out to greet me and told me to parallel park my car in front of the driveway. "You're the last car we're accepting right now" he said as he helped guide me into the spot.

I went in and finished up my paperwork and got the hell out of there. Cars lined up down the street. As I left, a renter was asking a Hertz employee "Where should I park the car?" and the Hertz employee replied "We're not accepting any cars right now". The renter shook his head then said "What exactly does that mean?" his voice turning to anger toward the end of his sentence. I wasn't about to stick around to find how that one turned out. It was hot. And humid. And I needed an iced coffee. I lifted Judah onto my shoulders and away we went.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Parental Discretion Iz Advised

"What the fuck." Can't say that anymore. Not in front of the kids. I find myself saying "What the fffff" a lot these days. Catching my indiscretion before it has a chance to be completely enunciated. Or "That's bullshhhhhh" which enables me to express myself a little more but doesn't open the door to hearing a two year old repeat the word "bullshit" over and over.

I often wonder what other parents do to combat the uttering of swear words. But what I'm finding is that they don't try at all. Like recently we were at a brunch spot in Hollywood. Quiet little rustic joint tucked away off the busy streets. And like most parents, we arrived earlier than the sleepy hipster crowd because the kids rarely let us sleep in past 8 am on weekends.

We ask for a table at the far end of the restaurant, next to another family, maybe to help keep the kid noise contained to one side of their establishment. The family next to us has three kids ranging in age from around 4 to 9 years old. Their table is more lively than ours for that very reason. Our kids looked like silent little angels in comparison.

Lily and I were perusing the menu trying to figure out what Judah and Blaise would eat, when one of the younger kids at the table next to us fell over in her chair and started wailing. I quickly turned to see if the kid was pinned under the chair or something (she wasn't), and her mom snapped out of her very animated conversation, and after what seemed like slow-motion eternity, she turned toward the kid and shouted "WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!!!" Yeah. Yelled that before making any semblance of a move to pick up the child.

Eventually she did lift her child from the floor and give her a big hug, scolding the girl for playing around in the chair, but in a soft tone without any phrases like "Honey, why the fuck did you do that shit?" And later the mom apologized to Lily for swearing in front of the kids. Only to open up the four-letter vocabulary once again in her animated conversation with her adult friend.

Luckily I haven't heard Blase or Judah repeat the F-word since that day. But I have to wonder why I bother trying to clean up my language if the rest of the world isn't doing the same. What the fuck.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Losing My Religion

Sur La Table was calling my name. Not to buy new kitchen gear, but because Lily had taken possession of a mandoline purchased a year ago as a birthday present for a friend of mine. Last year I gave the mandoline to this friend (who shall remain unnamed), but in the drunken stupor that ensued that night, I wound up with the unwrapped mandoline at my house for the next 12 months. And Lily, seeing that the mandoline wasn't moving from its hiding place in the closet, decided to put it to good use, slicing all sorts of vegetables perfectly.

I wasn't about to call her out on it, especially with a mouth full of perfectly sliced vegetables. But I knew the mandoline had to be replaced and given to its rightful owner. Which is where the trip to Sur La Table comes in.

I walked into the store carrying the same shopping bag which held the same shredded birthday wrapping paper and a few spices we gave last year. I quickly found the mandoline section, and the identical make and model. I walked over to the cash register, where I was next in line. I waited.

As is the case with most every Sur La Table, the registers sit in an island in the middle of the store. On the other side of the island from where I was standing, I noticed a white woman wearing a white turban following her toddler around the island, probably to keep the child from breaking everything in sight.

Something metal fell and made a crashing sound. But it wasn't the child who caused the crash, it was a man who I assumed was her husband: A white male wearing a white turban. He sported a huge red beard that would put the ZZ Top guitarists to shame. And the guy was NFL lineman size, as in freakishly humongous.

The man slowly made his way around the island clumsily knocking things over. A can of spatulas here, a wooden bowl there. As he made his way toward me, he reached for a green plastic cutting board and knocked that to the floor. Seeing's how I'm closer to the ground than he was, I decided to pick it up for him. He said "thanks" and proceeded to stand in line as impossibly close to me without knocking me over.

As he turned and joked about something to his lady friend, I felt myself leaning away from him at what felt like a 45 degree angle. I thought "Why the hell am I leaning over like this" so I straightened myself up, holding my ground and waiting to be smacked in the head with the next thing he knocked over.

Finally it was my turn at the register, so I stepped up and handed over the mandoline and my credit card. "I don't need a bag" I told the cashier, hoping to get out of there possibly three seconds sooner. As I was being rung up, NFL lineman guy asked if he could put his stuff on the counter, and I said yes. He put a tiny cutting board and a whisk on the counter in front of me. I couldn't help but wonder why such a large person would need to set a couple tiny things down. Too heavy for him?

The cashier handed over the new mandoline and the receipt. As I walked out of the store, I heard the crash of yet another kitchen item being knocked over. Clumsy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Running mundane errands like going into the bank makes me feel all old-timey and stuff. No direct or ATM deposits for this guy. Just walking up to the teller, handing over a check and getting a robotic human response and a receipt. That way I can rest assured my money isn't getting lost in some electronic garbage can.

But Chase Bank (my new bank that bought Washington Mutual which took over from Great Western which was the bank I went to when I closed my Washington Mutual account after I left the state of Washington) wanted to take this human interaction one step further.

I walked into a Santa Monica branch which is usually busy but was currently a ghost town. As in five tellers standing behind bulletproof glass with zero customers. I shoulda used my stopwatch to see how quickly I'd get out of there, because it might have broken a world record.

As I stood at the little island with the deposit slips, filling out a deposit slip, a man in a suit adorned with a piece of flair that read "Chase Bank" came up to me, said hello and asked if I was making a deposit. I looked up from my deposit slip and was about to say "uh, duh..." but instead told him that yeah I was about to make a deposit with these checks right here next to my deposit slip. Or something like that. He said "I'd be happy to help you with that, please come with me."

I have no recollection of why I didn't just say "No thanks" and walk up to the bulletproof glass and the tellers with nothing to do. Something about his spaced out gaze and his metered uneasy delivery was overriding my usually uncooperative nature.

This trip to his desk obviously wasn't going to put me in the Guinness Book of Fastest Checking Deposit World Records, but I went anyway. I sat down and handed him my deposit slip, check, and ID. Of course he didn't have any cash at his desk, so he had to have another employee fetch some. In the meantime, he asked me what I did for a living, which conveniently led us into a discussion of why I needed a business checking account.

Employee #2 came back and said "Here's your cash, sir" and set an envelope down on the desk. I continued telling employee #1 about why I didn't want or need a business checking account, but he interrupted me and asked "Aren't you going to count it? You should count it." His insistence made me nervous that there would be zero cash in there, so I opened it, and yes there was indeed the correct amount of money inside. But in 50s, not 20s like they do at the teller window. I knew it was a bad idea not to go to the teller. I told him "I really have to be getting back to work, so if you have any literature...."

A few more questions along the lines of "How much do you spend on groceries per month, how much on gas, how much on dining out, etc" and I knew the only way out was to politely leave. I told the employee "I have a meeting I have to get to, so if you have some literature, that would be great." He replied, "We can just do the application right now". He obviously had lost his mind somewhere, so I stood up from my seat and said "I really do have to get going now."

He pulled out a business checking pamphlet and his business card, which left a trail of white powder on his desk as he slid them across. We said our niceties, and as I left the bank, I deposited the pamphlet and his business card in the recycling bin. I saw a hand sanitizer dispenser and slathered some on. I pushed my way through the exit, leaving the tellers standing behind bulletproof glass still waiting for a customer. Perhaps I should reconsider depositing at the ATM.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Extra Width

The day had arrived. The day that would be mixed with unbelievable giddiness and unfathomable oldness. The giddiness was heading out to Palm Springs for my birthday. The oldness would be traveling there driving a minivan. When you get old, you drive a minivan. Fortunately it was only a rental.

My oldest friend in the world (not old meaning age, but old meaning how long we've known each other - since we were 10), Rob, had arrived from New York a few days earlier. Now it was time to pick up a car that could fit the two kids, Lily, Rob, myself, plus the luggage. That's where the minivan comes in.

We had decided just the night before to rent a minivan. Lily wanted to skip the added expense of a rental car, but all of us couldn't fit in our Passat wagon with the child safety seats. So we made a plan to drive both the Passat and my Golf to the desert. It sounded like it could work. But there was also the possibility that one or both cars could break down in the desert, in weather forecast to be above 100 degrees. So I made a car rental reservation online, and we were all set.

At around 10 am, Rob, Judah and I drove the Golf to the car rental site to pick up our minivan. We didn't see any minivans in the lot. Only a few cargo vans. We went inside and I started the rental process with Brandé, handing over my driver's license and credit card. I started having visions of jumping into the swimming pool in Palm Springs. Brandé told me they didn't have any minivans.

This is the part of the story where, if I were Bruce Banner I'd be turning into The Hulk and smashing the crap out of the car rental place. Instead, I opted for questioning why they didn't call me, why they couldn't find a minivan by late morning, etc. Brandé asked if I could wait a few hours until they found one, and I told her to cancel the reservation.

She handed me back my cards, and then asked if I wanted the Escalade instead. Rob and I turned to look out the window and saw a huge black Cadillac Escalade being washed in the carport. "It's being washed now, but it'll be ready in a few minutes" Brandé told us. Rob and I chuckled. "Big Pimpin" said Rob. "It's the perfect birthday mobile, so what the hell, we'll take it" I said to Brandé.

Moments later we were standing around the Escalade going over every inch of the monstrosity looking for scratches and dings. Brandé changed from facilitator to hardened businesswoman in an instant. We knew that she wasn't going to let any scratches through when we got back, so we had to find as many as we could. If there were a magnifying glass there to scan the car, we'd use it. The scratches we did find turned out to be just smudges that would wipe off easily. And soon I was signing the papers to be responsible for the Escalade and driving off the lot.

As I turned onto my street, I noticed stares from the neighbors and got a few jabs about the ridiculous factor. We loaded up the rig and got onto the freeway. It was fun figuring out all the bells and whistles: the navigation system, the USB hookup for music, and the seats with air conditioning inside. It was a comfy ride, albeit a tad unwieldy.

When we arrived at the Viceroy Hotel in Palm Springs, handing keys over to a valet seemed a lot more dicey than usual. The act made me regret not paying for the loss/damage protection at the rental place. But each time we needed the car, the Escalade came back unblemished. I made sure to tip the valet well.

And after the birthday shenanigans were over and we arrived home safely from Palm Springs, we drove the Escalade and the Golf back to the car rental place. As I attempted to make the corner to enter the lot, another renter was driving out. The driver saw me and my huge car and drove very slowly and very closely to make it around the Escalade. "This is where the car gets dinged, right outside the rental joint" I thought. But the other car made it around. I carefully steered around the other cars and found a clearing for the behemoth. I put it in park and breathed a sigh of relief.

Brandé helped us again, and she thoroughly scanned the car for any new damage, but there was none. She asked if the trip was fun. She handed over the completed rental agreement and told me "Happy Birthday".

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I remember my days as a lad, when I was young enough to act like a kid, yet big enough to inflict some real pain on my dad. Nothing too major, just jumping down onto him from the top of the sofa while he watched M.A.S.H. or some similar TV show. Paybacks are a bitch.

I should have seen it coming when my sister had her son Josh. When he was about 4 years old, we were sitting in a hammock and my nephew just wound up and clocked me right in the jaw. For no apparent reason.

And then when he was 7, he had one of those yo-yo type toys that isn't really a yo-yo, but it's more like elastic plastic in a string with a squishy thing on the end that looks like a mace. We were playing tug of war with the thing and I was holding the squishy mace end. Josh let go of the other end, the smaller end that goes around your finger, and it snapped back from at least 8 feet across the room directly into my eyeball. Ouch. I had to go to an opthamologist to make sure the blurryness would go away at some point.

And now that my own son is big enough to bring the pain, I'm getting doses of it all the time. He's been into doing some variant of the pro wrestler body slam, and he's into tackling me as soon as I walk in the door from work.

But usually the damage involves some type of swordplay. I bought him a toy lightsaber a while back. One that has sections that expand into full lightsaber glory, and then retracts for ease of using the force by some other means. I got clipped on more than one occasion as he flicked it forward to expand it. Needless to say, the lightsaber has spent many days on the shelf where the boy is unable to reach.

Judah got creative and found a cardboard tube from the middle of a gift wrap roll to use as a sword. I didn't see any harm in that, and getting hit by some cardboard was no big deal. He modified the ends of the cardboard sword with some medium-sized Legos, so it would have a flashy factor to it. I grabbed the lightsaber down from the shelf and we got into our stances, ready to duel. With one good clash of the swords, the Legos flew off the end of his sword, smacking me directly on the lips. Drew blood and everything. I'll never learn.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Paper Cuts

My inner Martha Stewart got a chance to come out and play the other week when I attempted to build a satellite dish out of paper. The impetus for the arts and crafts session was to remedy my home wireless reception. Which was turning out to be not much reception at all.

Upon finding out that I'd somehow landed a project to be edited at home, I cleared out the storage room behind our garage to use as my studio. Bought shelves for the boxes that would need to move elsewhere. Bought some decent speakers, a desk and a chair. And because the garage isn't connected to the house, but is not too far away, I assumed that the wireless signal would have no problem reaching me back there. Wrong.

I spent a few days with erratic wifi signal before I started looking online for a solution. I didn't want to spend the money on a wifi booster, but even more I didn't want to deal with Best Buy or wait for a shipment, so I searched the internet until I found a homemade solution: A satellite dish made out of paper.

The website contained detailed instructions for printing the satellite pieces from your home printer, cutting on the lines and folding specific areas together, pasting some aluminum foil on the back, and dropping it onto the antenna of the router. Simple.

Except I neglected to read the part about printing it on card stock. So I thought of the next best thing and attempted to paste the pieces onto card stock. Nevermind the fact that I could have just printed it over again onto some card stock, my inertia was rolling too fast to do the sensible thing.

I got out the x-acto knife and cutting board and started cutting the cardstock along the lines of the paper. So far so good. Slice along this line, slice along that. Along one of the longer lines, the slicing was going pretty fast, and the knife ran off the cutting board, off the table, and into my leg. Stabbed me right in the upper thigh.

Because the kiddies and the wife were already asleep, I had to keep the pain noises to a minimum. And because of the ridiculousness of the situation - me sitting in the kitchen bleeding while executing an arts and crafts wifi satellite - I had to keep the laughing to a muffled chuckle. I found a bandage, and soon I found the wifi reception bars in my studio at full strength. Success.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Caught, Can We Get A Witness?

Shabu-shabu night was finally here. Double date with a couple who were parents of a girl at Judah's preschool. We had plotted it out for over a month. After the trip to Mexico, after their trip to Virginia. After the Dino Fair. Then it would be our time to swish.

The new babysitter from down the block showed up early. The couple and their daughter showed up early. We practically raced each other driving to the Shabu Shabu place. And when we arrived, I realized that I had lost the race, but was pleasantly surprised to find that they had seated us at a quiet, private table. Perfect.

We enjoyed an actual real live adult conversation, without the interruptions of children crying, tantruming, etc. And of course with any good Japanese restaurant experience, we had our share of sake, and a couple large bottles of Sapporo. It kind of reminded us of life before parenthood. Except we had to get back to the sitter, because with three kids on her hands, I could only imagine the mess that might be waiting for us.

On our drive back we pulled up to a stoplight where probably six cars waited. One of those cars was black and white and had a strip of lights on the top. The police car was waiting in the left turn lane. We were situated in the middle lane. I glanced over to my right and noticed a woman in a sedan typing like mad on her Blackberry propped against the steering wheel. I wondered if it was an offense to be texting while stopped at a light. That couldn't really be considered texting while driving if the car isn't moving. Or could it?

I looked over to my left and saw that the officer in the passenger seat of the police car had noticed the texting action too. He rolled down his window and shined his flashlight past my car and into the woman's window. No response. The flickering light didn't divert her attention from the phone one bit. I looked back over to the officer. He tried more intently to get her attention, waving the flashlight back and forth. Nothing.

The light turned green. I began to pull forward, but the officer held his hand out to stop us from going. The police car rerouted into our lane, allowed the woman to go ahead of him, and they turned on the colored lights and pulled her over. I guess that answered my question about texting at a stoplight.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Message

Recently I went back to the old stomping grounds, my last place of full-time employment, to bid adieu to yet another former co-worker. I figured that because I didn't want to leave Lily with both kids while I drank beer and ate bbq, I'd take the boy with me. I picked him up from school and we drove to the office. First time back to the old workplace since getting handed my walking papers back in '08. I hardly know anyone there anymore.

My parking karma was functioning and I found a spot right across the street. But Judah wasn't ready to exit the car until "Bulls on Parade" was finished on the stereo. While we sat in the car, I noticed a former co-worker walking up the sidewalk. I rolled down the window and shouted "Linda!" She looked around and spotted us. She was headed to Ralphs to pick up some grub for the bbq, so I offered her a ride so she wouldn't have to carry all the bags back. She hopped in, and we drove around the corner to the market.

Once inside, Judah went nuts grabbing every goodie in sight and saying "I want this candy bar", "I want some ice cream", "I want this can of beans!" I told him we were getting hot dogs and burgers and that was it.

We searched high and low for the dogs, but none could be found. You'd think they'd be next to the burgers, but no dice. Finally we found them next to the over the counter drugs. Good place for them. A woman in a sun hat, not much older than 30 walked right up to us and said "Jesus is coming back! And we're making a video."

Linda, Judah and I turned back to decide what kinds of hot dogs to buy, and the woman kept on ranting. "He's coming for people like you. You'll see. We're making a video for people like you to see." We grabbed a pack of regular dogs and as we walked away, I turned to the Jesus lady and said "and I hope I get to edit the video!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Joyce and I left just enough time to drop off our rented VW bug near the Cozumel ferry station and catch the 7pm boat to Playa del Carmen. We had loaded all our luggage and food into the old bug, drove to the ferry terminal and dropped Joyce and the bags off, then I drove to the nearby car rental shop to return it. I walked back to meet Joyce. She was feeling peckish, so she went in search of nibbles while I stood watch over our pile of stuff.

One of the bags held our traditional mini-keg of Heineken, and we'd remembered to bring paper cups, so I poured myself a beer. I lit a Cohiba cigarillo. It started to rain again. The wind picked up. I glanced at the time and started to wonder if Joyce would make it back in time for the ferry. I poured myself another beer, and an elderly man riding a bike with a wooden homemade luggage cart pointed at it and said something in Spanish. I asked him "how much" in Spanish (one of the few Spanish words I can use with any sort of command) and he replied "only tips". Sold.

The man and I began loading the luggage and bags of food onto his cart. Joyce arrived just in time to start boarding the ferry. We walked past the gate, but the man on the bike had to go a separate path to get to the ferry. I wondered if we'd ever see our stuff again, but there he was waiting by the ferry to help unload our bags.

We took a seat near the front of the ferry. I poured another beer out of the Heinekeg for myself and one for Joyce. Shortly thereafter the ferry boat backed out of the terminal and headed west toward Playa del Carmen. And then the swaying started.

I don't get seasick. Never have. But this boat ride was the rockiest I've ever been on, so my stomach would be tested. Apparently the crew knew that too, because one of the crew members walked down the aisle to pass out barf bags. Not really walking down the aisle, more like being thrown from seat to seat in the aisle path while clutching the handles to stay upright.

It was insane. I could hear several people coughing up barf. Passengers were saying "woaaaaahhhaooohhh" as the ship surged over another huge wave. It started to smell like vomit. But the rolling didn't affect me. When the undulation died down enough, I poured myself another beer from the keg. Somehow, Joyce had the focus to be able to read a book.

I texted my friend Jesse to tell him how crazy the boat ride was. Jesse had originally told me about the ferry from Cozumel, and how the party doesn't have to stop when you get on the ferry. Clearly his party was a much different affair than mine.

The swaying started up again. Luckily I'd finished my beer. The rocking got worse. I could hear more people puking. The crew member lady was thrown in my direction and she offered me a barf bag. I took it. I started to understand how people could get seasick. But now I had more pressing matters to deal with. I had to pee.

Getting to the bathroom would be no easy task. I timed my movements to the lulls in the waves. I got up out of my seat, stood in the aisle holding the handgrips and steadied myself. I waited for another wave to go by. I lurched toward the restroom. There were seats across from the door to the restroom, so I took a seat. Or more like the boat sat my ass down with another sideways swerve.

After another wave, I got up and grabbed the handle to the restroom and opened it. A woman was inside, standing at the sink. I said "sorry" and slammed the door shut as another wave threw me back into the waiting seat. There was another restroom to the left of this one. A crew member was sitting in another waiting seat. He gestured with his arm toward the other restroom. "Would you like to use the restroom?" he asked. I laughed. I didn't have the composure to tell him "How the hell do you expect me to get over to that door right now?!?!??!!" I was too busy trying to counteract the forces of the sea.

At the best point in the wave, I stood up and reached for the door and opened it. Nobody inside this time. The next boat pitch threw me into the bathroom, slamming the door behind me and seating me onto the toilet. I briefly thought about standing up to pee, but I knew that wasn't going to be possible without pissing all over myself.

The bathroom visit completed, the boat jerked me back into my seat next to Joyce. I thought about filling another cup of beer, but my stomach told me that wasn't such a good idea. I gripped the barf bag tightly, hoping I wouldn't have to use it. And then we docked. Passengers couldn't get off the ferry fast enough. We exited the boat into more torrential rain. And to our delight, another man with a bike and a homemade luggage rack waited to carry our bags to the next hotel.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Round and Round

Despite the torrential rain and forecast of thunder and lightning, Mexicana flight 345 to Cancun landed on time and without incident. And being the optimist that I am, I had left exactly 20 minutes breathing room between landing and takeoff for the last leg of my journey: Puddle-jumping to Cozumel on AeroMexico flight 9713 operated by Maya Air.

When I was originally scheduling flights, I imagined myself darting from the gate in Cancun to the puddle-jumper. I would only have a carry-on bag. And because I would have already flown from LAX to Mexico City, I would've gone through immigration. It would be a quick hop-skip-jump to the next gate. I mean really, how big could the Cancun airport be?

But when I reached the end of the jetway in Cancun, the airport personnel were leading us through a series of barriers to a shuttle in the rain. I briefly considered making a break for it, but seeing's how one of my travel companions had already been detained by the Policia Federal de Mexico and subsequently deported back to the U.S. of A., I stayed with the rest of the herd.

As soon as the shuttle doors opened, I speed-walked to the nearest info booth and said in my best broken Spanish "I'm missing my flight". The nice info people pointed me toward the airport security, where the guy asked for my passport. Flashing before my eyes were scenes from Midnight Express and visions of what my deported friend might have experienced, but the security guy calmly told me to go through the doors and to the left to get to the gates.

I started running toward an unknown destination. I was eventually re-routed back toward ticketing, where I squeezed past the line and up to an AeroMexico ticket agent. I showed her my printed receipt. She quickly looked up the flight on her screen, and then she told me that the flight was operated not by AeroMexico but Maya Air, and that I'd have to go to Terminal 3 instead of Terminal 2, where I was standing. She pointed toward the exits and instructed me to take a shuttle to the correct terminal.

Luckily the shuttle was waiting right outside. I hopped on board and asked the driver if he was going to Terminal 3 and he said "sí". The shuttle rambled around in reverse and slowly wound its way into traffic. The hope of making my flight was sinking. And it hit rock bottom when I arrived inside Terminal 3 and discovered that no flights from AeroMexico or Maya Air depart there. An airport employee instructed me to go to Terminal 1 by using the shuttle outside.

The same shuttle was outisde, so I hopped on. There are only 3 terminals at the Cancun airport, so logically the next one was Terminal 1. The shuttle rambled around in reverse and slowly wound its way into traffic. It drove around for a longer period of time than the last shuttle ride, which I assumed was because it had to start all over again by driving around from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1. I looked out the window and wondered how long the rain would last.

I got off the shuttle, went inside, and saw that we were again at Terminal 2. My flight was most certainly speeding down the runway by this point, so at least the need to rush was over. I got back on the shuttle and specifically asked the driver for Terminal 1. One other guy got on and asked for Terminal 1 as well, so I wondered if the shuttle only went to Terminal 1 when asked for.

The shuttle pulled up to Terminal 1, which was markedly less active than the other two. The other guy and I stepped down from the shuttle and wandered in a direction we assumed was correct, stepping over puddles the whole time. I found the sliding doors, which were stuck in the open position with a soaked piece of cardboard lying in the gap. I couldn't decide whether that was intended as a doormat or just a piece of wet cardboard.

Stepping into the terminal, I was greeted by a scene straight out of I Am Legend. It was dim and there was nobody in sight. The escalator wasn't moving. And it looked as if nobody had been in there in years. The other guy following me seemed to have the same reaction I did, because we both turned and got the hell out of there in a hurry. But we had a bit of a nervous laugh when we tried to make sense of the situation. We walked in the only logical direction, which was along the outside toward three men hanging out smoking.

As we approached the three men, all wearing yellow raincoats, one of them looked up and said something in the fastest Spanish I've ever heard. When he realized neither of us could comprehend what he said, he blurted out "Cozumel?" I knew I'd found my savior. I held up my damp ticket receipt and said "I missed my flight". He tossed his cigarette into a puddle and said "come with me".

We went inside and around a corner to what I assume was the offices of Maya Air. He went behind a desk and stood while typing something onto a laptop. "How many bags to check?" he asked. I pointed at my backpack and told him I didn't have anything to check. He finished his typing and said "We'll be boarding in about 5 minutes. Please have a seat over there."

I couldn't believe it. After all the terminal madness, I was getting on a flight straight away. I sat down opposite a man wearing a suit and reading a newspaper. A few minutes later, a hot young thing in flight gear asked me if I spoke Spanish. She led me and the other man through security, onto the soaked tarmac, and eventually to an airplane suited for 1973. The flight was quick, the view was decent, and we landed without too many bumps.

It was more sunny in Cozumel than it was in Cancun, which wasn't saying much. I wandered away from the airplane and searched for the nearest taxi to take me to the hotel. I rounded a corner and saw a few people cozying up to a mini-cart with a sign that said Margaritaville on it. It was then that I realized I was on vacation.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Always Something There to Remind Me (part 2)


I raced over to the nearest Big 5 location, the Brentwood area, cursing every red light along the way. The clock was ticking louder and louder, because I knew that once the children went back outside to play, it was only a matter of time before some kid found my ring and there'd be no telling if they'd be telling.

I arrived at Big 5 and as I passed the cashier saying "can I help you?" I asked "where's the metal detectors". She pointed toward the back and I made a beeline to the goods. For some reason they were situated next to the guns. And nobody was behind the register where the guns and metal detectors were kept, so I briefly considered opening the gate to get to the other side of the counter and grab the metal detector.

It was a good thing I didn't because an employee arrived and opened the gate and it made a loud buzzing noise. I suppose to keep random people like myself from grabbing things like metal detectors or guns. I might as well have been jumping up and down pointing and saying " that one! that one", and the guy handed me the metal detector that happened to be on sale that week for 100 bucks. I practically ran to the front register to buy the thing, but as I made my way, I read on the box that the metal detector needed a 9V battery. Good thing I checked.

My memory of what a 9V battery was or looked like escaped me, but the Big 5 salesperson was on the case. He found the nearest battery display and found a 9V. Those are the batteries that have both the + and - on one end and gives a shock when you press it on your tongue. I brought the metal detector and the batteries to the register, handed over my credit card. I scanned the return policy sign to see if they didn't take metal detectors.

Soon I was out the door, into my car, and racing back to the preschool. But I pulled over after having a vision of getting to school, turning the metal detector on and it not working. I parked in some residential neighborhood in the northwest part of Santa Monica. The only people around were guys with lawnmowers and the elderly. I pulled the metal detector out of the box, half-assedly assembled it and ripped the 9V batteries out of the package.

Upon inserting the 9V into the designated slot in the metal detector, it wouldn't fit. I tried to cram it in more. Nope. I found some random plastic toy in my car to attempt to pry it in more. At that point I knew I'd break the damn thing, so I figured I'd just try to hold the battery in place with my vice-grip of a hand and see if it worked.

Out of the car flew me and my new metal detector. I stumbled over to the nearest lawn and threw my keys on the ground and turned on the metal detector. I didn't know what setting to choose, but I kept pushing buttons until it looked right. I passed the metal detector over the keys. "Beep!" said the detector, and that's all I needed to get back into the car and hurry to the preschool.

When I arrived at the school, I saw that the staff had arranged a bunch of orange safety cones at the perimeter of the sand area around the swings. Most, if not all of the kids were outside playing, but they were respecting the cone area and not playing by the swings. I carried the metal detector in through the gates and children immediately took notice. I mean, as a 3 to 5 year old, how could you not notice a strange contraption like that? So of course the kids started gathering around me, walking with me toward the swings.

And immediately the questions began: "Where did you get that?", "What is that thing?" "What are you gonna do with that?" "Why did you lose your ring?" I explained that it was a metal detector that I bought at the store, and I would use it to find in the sand the hunk of metal buried that was my wedding ring. As soon as I started waving the contraption around over the sand and it beeped a few times, even more children came by to find out what was going on.

A few of the kids started ignoring the safety cone perimeter for a closer look. It beeped so I put the detector down and dug around with my hands a bit only to find a penny. I waved the metal detector around some more and found more change. One of the teachers told the kids to keep their bodies away from the sand so I could search without interference. The children generally listened, but kids can only be expected to keep away from something as exciting as a metal detector for so long. And they started to dig around in the other corners of the sand area.

One kid grabbed a pint-sized plastic shovel and started digging, sending sand everywhere. The thought crossed my mind that sand flinging could potentially be flinging my ring in a direction that I'd already scanned with the detector. So I gently told the kid to scram.

After holding the 9V battery in place for a while, my hand started to feel the burn. I switched the hold of the detector to my other hand and arm. I must have passed over the same area at least 30 times. Things started looking bleak. It was approaching lunch time, and today was "hot lunch" day for the kids. So several of the parents were there to help out. And to witness the sand sweeper action. I received countless more questions from the parents like "What did you lose?" "How did it fall off your finger?" "Are you sure it didn't go over there?" I tried my best to be polite as I showed my re-enactment of the ring flying off my finger, and where the ring would have logically fallen off. The sun beating down on me in the sand area didn't help with the politeness part.

One parent named Basil, the father of a good friend of Judah, came by wearing a suit. He didn't ask questions. Maybe one of the other parents already filled him in. Or maybe he had been in the same situation. Whatever the case, he got down to the business of digging through sand without saying a word. Finally he asked if I had already scanned this area or that, and we narrowed the search down to only the area where the ring always fell off in my re-enactment. I found a metal spike like a nail in the sand, and I was glad that no kid had found it first.

A short while later his wife Jennifer came by and started digging as well. Luckily it wasn't a big week for the local cats to be pooping in the sand area. Jennifer asked if I had dug around by the poles at all. I told her that the metal detector would always beep around the poles, because they're metal, but I had dug around them anyway and didn't find anything. Basil grabbed a large plastic milk crate type container and started sifting sand. We did a few large crates full, and I was about ready to give up. I turned around and Jennifer had a huge smile on her face and she was holding my wedding ring .

I exclaimed "where was it?" and she said "Right here next to the pole". Of course. Exactly where the metal detector was beeping the most. I said a million thank you's, and informed the entire school that my ring was found by Jennifer. I showed them the ring to prove it.

The next day I went back to Big 5 and returned the metal detector without as much interrogation as I expected. I can only imagine that people who buy those things have a specific purpose, and once that purpose is completed, back goes the metal detector.

After that little exercise in sand digging, I decided to keep my wedding ring where it could always be found: Inside the confines of my home. In the ring's place on my finger, I'm considering a ring-sized tatoo that says "Lily". For sure that would never fly off.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Always Something There to Remind Me

Possibly one of my biggest fears is losing my wedding ring. Not being eaten by a crocodile. Not falling from a skyscraper. But having the symbol of my marriage disappear from my sight, never to be found again. Lily doesn't inspire that fear. Yes, she'd be upset. She'd be more than upset, she'd be really pissed. But she'd forgive me at some point. But I don't think I'd ever forgive myself.

And I know that somewhere in the archives of Lee Lee the Musical Bee, I've written at least once about losing my wedding ring. And one would think that I'd be more careful. And from now on I'm going to be more careful. But in the meantime, I lost my wedding ring.

It was a slightly cool morning at the preschool swings in Santa Monica. Judah and I were doing the daily routine with the rest of his friends: Judah's dad pushes all his friends on the swings. I love it. I'm legendary in their minds. The boys see me and Judah enter through the gate, and they run toward the swings and wait for their turn for a "blast off". Which entails me pulling each of them in a swing back as high as I can, then pushing as hard as is considered safe. It usually sends them high enough to make them think they're going to be launched, but not really.

I'm pushing Judah and his friend Aris, and I've got them going in perfect alternating harmony. I push Aris with the left hand, and Judah on the right swings back in time for another push. As I'm doing this, the thought crosses my mind that my wedding ring is a little loose due to the shrinking of my flesh due to the cool weather, and I think I should probably take it off. But do I listen to this voice of reason? No.

It was getting close to the time when the kids need to get inside for school, and after one good push of Aris, I felt my ring fly off. I immediately stopped pushing the kids and said "nobody move". I did a quick scan of the area where it felt like it may have landed, but no dice. It's sand everywhere, and my ring is made of platinum, and rather heavy as far as rings go. So it could be mere centimeters below the surface of the sand, but out of sight.

I started digging around in the sand, and another dad came up and said "did you lose something?" I replied "my wedding ring". He didn't say anything, but he immediately started digging next to me because I'm pretty sure he knew the gravity of the situation. The school office manager came up and asked the same thing, and next thing you know there were three adults clawing around in the sand digging for treasure.

Luckily the kids had to go inside or it would have made the whole search a lot tougher. One by one the school staff came by asking "did you lose something?" to which I replied "my wedding ring" and they'd be speechless. After a while I started getting the next logical round of questions:

- "Did you see where it flew off?
- "Are you sure it's in the sand and it didn't fly off over there someplace?"
- "How did it fly off your finger?"

As much as one can expect, given the same line of questioning, my answers became more and more curt with every reply. I eventually had to call my work and tell them I lost my wedding ring in the sand at my kid's preschool, and I wouldn't be in until it was found. Luckily it was one of those days where I didn't need to be in first thing.

My digging dad compadre had to leave for work, and as he left he shot me a look that could only say "it was nice knowing you" or "you're a dead man walking" or something to that effect. And the staff person and I were left with those little plastic sand sifting toys that weren't going to do the trick. Finally someone came along and said "you know what might work? a metal detector!"

Because my ring is made of platinum, I wasn't even sure that would work, but the day was starting to get away from me. One of the teachers recommended I call a hardware store to see if I could rent one. I sat down in the teacher's lobby and started my online search on their iMac for nearby hardware stores. I called a few, and each one told me that they didn't rent metal detectors, nor did they know where to find one. I got so desperate that I even called Home Depot, but after the first round of getting shifted from department to department, I hung up.

I Googled "metal detector west los angeles" and found one place near UCLA that sold surveillance gear, so I called. The guy on the phone said that yes he had one, but he wasn't at the store currently. I looked at the clock, which read 10:15 or so, and he said "I might be able to get there around 11." I guess surveillance doesn't need to get going very early in the morning. He told me it would cost around 35 bucks to rent the metal detector for the day, plus deposit, but he wouldn't say what the deposit was. I didn't want to waste any more of my work day, so I decided to bail on the rental idea and just go ahead and buy a metal detector outright at Big 5 Sporting Goods.

to be continued...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Double Nickels on the Dime

First a shout-out to Mr. Matthew Hegarty, who I met in AZ at Spring Training last week. He came over and asked if I was Lee Lee the Musical Bee, and said he reads the column regularly. I appreciate that, Mr. Hegarty, and it's nice to know that there are people I don't know out there tuning in each week. Makes it all worthwhile.

So on said Spring Training trip to AZ last weekend, we had a nearly unsurmountable task ahead of us: Driving the 400 miles or whatever from LA to Scottsdale to get there in time to see a baseball game. 400 miles. With kids. The online maps said it should take about 6.5 hours. I figured in the kids + my accelerated driving pace = 7.5.

We were making stellar time. We even stopped in the Palm Springs area for a bit of breakfast and to let the kids run around a bit. Driving about an hour out of Phoenix, it appeared that we'd prolly reach the stadium around 12:50. Just in time for the first pitch.

But no, that would be too perfect, now wouldn't it? I heard from the back seat "I have to go potty." Being in the western part of Arizona doesn't leave many restroom options, so I pulled off at the nearest exit to let the boy whiz on the side of the road. But no, that would be too quick and easy, now wouldn't it? He had to go #2. And that wasn't going to be possible on the side of the road.

We found some economy chain motel to stop at, and as I carried the boy in, the guy at the counter said "bathroom? to your left." I guess dad hurriedly carrying child is universal language for bathroom emergency. He took care of his business, and we also changed the baby girl's diaper. An efficient pitstop, but at that point I knew we were cutting it close.

I did what any man on a mission would do: I picked up the pace. Funny thing about AZ that they don't tell you in the visitor guide: There are "photo enforcement" stations all over the friggin' place. At least they have the courtesy to post warning signs before the cameras start snapping unwanted photos. Which is ridiculous, but I wish they'd do that for all speed traps. Like signs on the road saying "cops up ahead" would be great.

However if you miss the "photo enforcement" signs, then you're kinda busted the old fashioned way, without a courtesy notice to slow down. So I'm following this truck who's doing 75 in a 65, and I figure I'd do the same. I must have been distracted by some kid activities/nonsense in the back of the car, because I didn't see any sign but I did notice a couple of flashes go off next to some radar guns mounted on the side of the freeway. Great. I just hope it was for the truck and not me. Or if it was for me, I hope that my mug was obscured by the speeding truck.

At approximately 1:10 we drove up next to the stadium to find zero parking nearby. After driving around for what felt like an eternity, Lily was so kind as to take the wheel and use her parking karma to get us a spot nearby. In typical Angelino fashion, we walked through the ballpark turnstiles just in time for Inning 3. And there I met Mr. Hegarty, and was handed a cold beer by Mr. Alan Chimenti. Best Coors Light I've ever tasted.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Breakfast in America

Last weekend I took the boy Judah up to the mountains for his first skiing lesson. Because he is a direct descendant of mine, of course he picked it up naturally and schussed past many a fallen skier. One of my many proud moments in fatherhood.

And because I wanted him to get a double dose of ski lessons, I made a plan for us to stay at the nearby cabin owned by our neighbor, so we wouldn't have to make the drive from LA twice. We had a fun time watching "The Jungle Book 2", making a fire in the fireplace, and generally chilling out after a long day on the slopes.

The next morning we lounged around in pajamas, but Judah was getting antsy to explore the outside of the cabin. The sliding glass door leading to the balcony was calling his name, and he was calling back by pounding on the glass. Not wanting to contain the lad any longer, or have him break the glass, I clicked the door lock and attempted to slide open the door. No go. It was being held shut by a security pin at the bottom of the door. I slid the pin up, slid the door open, and we walked out to the deck. I closed the door behind us to keep the heat where it belonged - inside.

Judah had a good time taking fallen branches and scraping chunks from the pile of snow on the balcony, then throwing said snow at his dad. It was sunny and probably 45 degrees, so it was bearable in our jammies. But I was running out of coffee and starting to get chilly, so I told Judah we better head back inside. I grabbed the sliding door and pulled on it, but it didn't budge. I pulled again. The door only moved a few centimeters and stopped. The pin. The pin at the bottom of the door fell into the hole when I closed it. Brilliant.

When I informed Judah of our situation, he basically ordered me to open the door. At least he appeared to think the situation wasn't as dire as I thought. I looked at him in his little Paul Frank pajamas and wondered how long it would be before he was crying because it was too cold. I tried a few times to pull the door open that few centimeters and poke a stick in the gap in hopes that I could lift the pin. But there was no way I could even see the pin.

I rocked the door back and forth a few times to see if the pin would lift up. I guess my brute strength got away from me, my attempts intensifying until finally the door made a pop sound and slid open. I grabbed Judah by the hand and went inside and closed the door. I looked down at the pin area and saw that the sheath holding the pin in place was bent all to hell. But lucky for me I'd brought my Leatherman along for the trip and I was able to bend it back into place. Good as new. Sorta. I put the cabin keys into one pocket and my phone into the other. Another one of my many proud moments in fatherhood.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

It was a St. Patrick's Day party, one with adults drinking Guinness and kids drinking juice boxes. My kid ran over to me saying "Dada, dada! Let's play baseball!" He had a gray plastic kid-sized bat in one hand and a fluorescent green tennis ball in the other. I put down my bottle of beer and grabbed the ball from Judah. I threw a slow, underhand pitch to him and he hit it fairly well, knocking it to the tree on my left.

I threw it to Judah again and again, and his batting average was starting to blow my mind. Probably somewhere around .400. Not bad for a four-year-old who doesn't visit the batting cages very often, or at all. I thought it was time to stop when he hit the ball toward the windows of the garage and knocked over some decorative bamboo poles. But some of the other kids saw how much fun he was having, so they started to congregate next to him.

I told Judah we'd better put the baseball bat down so we don't break anything, but he wanted one more swing of the bat before handing it over to the others. I threw it to him and he hit the ball solidly and it nailed me right in the crotch. One other kid ran over yelling "My turn! my turn!" Yeah, right. Like I was gonna allow that to happen again. I was taking my ball and going home.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wait a Minute, Mister Postman

A few weeks ago on a Saturday I was out running errands with the boy Judah. Most of the time that involves either going to the bank or going to the post office. Sometimes it's both.

I've got a stack of envelopes and I pull up to the drive-up mail deposit box and throw a bunch of envelopes into the slot. Easy enough. Then I run some other errands like buying coffee beans, and so on. Exciting stuff.

Then we drive to the bank and get out and walk over to the area where you fill out the deposit slips. I've got a few checks, so I start filling out the deposit slip, and then I notice that one of the larger checks is missing. And then it hits me: The check went into the mail slot with the rest of the envelopes.

By this time, it was getting close to Judah's soccer practice, and he loves his soccer practice. And after soccer practice the post office would surely be closing early for the weekend. So I called Lily to tell her that I dropped the check in the mailbox, and hopefully she'd be able to pick it up.

Out of the goodness of her heart, she went to the post office as soon as she could, with the baby girl in tow, and the nice people at the post office were so kind as to open the box up and find the check for us. Hooray!

That little lesson was short-lived because I did it again yesterday. At least this time I realized I dropped the check in the mailbox as soon as I drove off. I did a u-turn and pulled back into the green-strip 30 minute street parking area in front of the Culver City post office, after being yelled at by an elderly man getting out of his SUV that had a handicapped placard hanging from the rearview mirror.

Luckily the standard 20-person line wasn't happening, so I only had to wait through two people before it was my turn. I went up to the counter and told the dreadlocked postal worker that I accidentally dropped my check in the box outside. His already deadpan face went more deadpan as he swiveled his chair around without saying a word. He disappeared from sight for a bit and I wondered if he just decided to leave. I probably would if I were him. But he reappeared with the key and made his way from behind the counter to go outside.

As he walked by, the smell of pachouli invaded my nostrils. "Which one?" he asked. "The middle one" I replied. He opened the bottom of the box and pulled out a white bin that the mail falls into. I always imagined those mailboxes crammed full of mail, but this one wasn't even half full. Or was it half empty? Anyway, he started flipping through envelopes and I reached out to flip through some too. He stopped, looked me in the eye and said "You CAN'T touch the mail" in a very serious, commanding tone. I folded my hands behind my back, as if to show him I understood the seriousness.

It appeared that hunching over for 10 seconds and flipping through envelopes was hurting his back, because he muttered "I can't do this" and stormed back inside the post office. I followed, keeping my hands folded behind my back. He put the bin onto a table and started flipping through again. He muttered "gah, another bin" and went behind the counter to get another bin.

When he returned, he started tossing groups of envelopes into the 2nd bin. "Did the check have a stamp on it?" he asked. "No" I replied, thinking he meant "did you intend to mail this check?" He dumped more envelopes into the 2nd bin. "I'm only gonna look for envelopes without a stamp" he stated as I wondered how the hell he was going to see anything through the blur of envelopes descending before us.

I told him "Okay, it's around here, cuz those are my wife's stamps." And next to those was my check, which was stamped from the employer mailing it to me. I pointed at it, so's not to touch any mail. His face went even more deadpan. "So it DID have a stamp on it" he said as he handed me the check. He dumped the rest of the mail into the 2nd bin. "Thanks" I said while hurrying out of there in what was probably one notch below actual running.

If there's one lesson learned, a rule of thumb, that would be: Go to the bank first, then the mailbox.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Talk Talk

A while back I was editing a music video for a new director. He wanted me to edit at his studio, so I'd go there at night after my day job. On a nightly basis I'd meet some random new person I hadn't met before, all of them young fashionable kids who seemed fresh out of art school. 25 years old, maybe 27 tops, but nobody appeared to be anywhere close to my age.

Then one night I went in and saw one guy sitting at a computer who looked like he could have been 60 years old. More telling than his age, he seemed out of place with his level of cleanliness. He was disheveled in a way that looked like he might not have showered in a week, and his clothes probably hadn't seen a washer in a while either. Luckily he didn't stink.

Being the polite and friendly guy I am, I went over and introduced myself. Mainly to find out what his role at the studio was, because my noodle was having a hard time making sense of his presence in the studio. He turned around and shook my hand (which I kept away from everything until I could get to some sanitizing gel) and he told me his deal.

He launched into stories about how he used to be into computers and how he had a real estate business, and that's when I noticed at least 3 of his front teeth were missing. I couldn't get a word in edgewise as he told me about his furniture making companies and how his wife left him and finally we got to the place I knew we were heading: He was homeless.

Apparently the director had just met him on the street that night, and the director hired him to make silkscreens and tatoo logos all over Venice. I figured I had enough info to make sense of the situation and to get back on track with trying to get work done. But the guy never took a pause long enough to escape politely. It's then that I put two and two together and figured the guy was probably a lot younger than he looked because he was a meth burnout.

Finally I was rescued by the director, who had been giving instructions to one of the art school graduates. He turned around and said "Hey could you guys keep the conversation down? I can't even hear what I'm saying here." Yeah. You guys. Plural. I don't think I'd voiced a single word since "Hi, I'm Lee". It was all meth beast from that point on.

I said "Excuse me, I think I better get to work" and I went upstairs. While I was editing, all I could hear was the homeless guy rattling on about this and that, and when somebody played a new wave tune from the 80s he said "Right on man, is that Pink Floyd or somethin?" The director shouted downstairs to the guy that he was going to have to stop talking or he'd be kicked out of the studio. He was booted shortly thereafter. Surprise surprise.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


A few weeks ago at my last gig, I noticed that something was amiss in my little edit room. Generally I like to keep a tidy workspace. No extra clutter cluttering the room. No empty coffee mugs lying around. Pens and papers in their proper places. But on this day something didn't feel quite right.

I took a step back from the console and I finally saw the problem. There were two extra chairs in the room. Two extra chairs making my little edit room littler. So I did what any borderline obsessive compulsive editor would do: I walked out of the room and began searching for a place to put these extra chairs.

The answer lay right next door in the adjacent little edit room, which had only the editor's chair inside. Plenty of room to house the two extra chairs. So I rolled each chair into the other room. As I went to close the door, my attention was diverted from the closure of closing the door. My hand slipped off the door handle and into the area where the door latches into the doorframe. Bang. Ouch. My middle finger was smashed and gashed and immediately started bleeding profusely.

As I went searching for the medical cabinet, I couldn't help but think "Why did I do that? My room was fine with the extra chairs. I could have kept on working without this smashed bleeding finger which impedes using the tools I use for working. Why?" I found the healing gel and some bandages and kept the bleeding to a minimum.

In the following days, I made the extra effort to heal the wound as quickly as possible. I made sure to keep a fresh bandage and ointment on the finger at all times. And in a week, the finger was almost completely healed.

Did I learn to accept the fact that sometimes people leave their chairs and junk in my little edit room? Did I learn to accept clutter? Hell no. I learned that, with just the right amount of obsessiveness, I can do anything.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


It was inevitable. Simply by having a goddamn e-mail address it was inevitable. I received some nude pictures via e-mail today. Nude pictures of some random person, inadvertently sent to my e-mail address. And it couldn't possibly be pictures of a nude hot woman. No. Women probably don't send nude pics nearly as often as men. It had to be pictures of a dude. And not just nude pictures of him. But up close and HELLO yes very very personal pictures of his junk. Rightfully so these pictures landed in the "Junk" mailbox.

I don't know why, but for some stupid reason I always need to know what the unread junk mailbox count is all about. Usually it's about choosing the right contractor to upgrade my house. Or it's spam for flowers this Valentine's Day. But today it was two innocent looking mails from what looked like a personal e-mail address.

I clicked on the first one and was exposed to two shirtless upper torso pics of a guy, photographed in a mirror, who looks like he's frequenting the clubs. I clicked on the second link and within less than a second it was HOLY CRAP RIP MY EYES OUT NOW!!!! This while I was at work, with no NSFW warning from this pornographer. Before that second deadly click, I vaguely remember having some thought shoot across my mind about "don't click on that second one". And then the ick bomb landed. I've heard of people sending nude pics, but for everyone's sake please verify the address first before hitting the send button. Can't we just get rid of e-mail altogether? Ick.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Word Up

Lily sent me an e-mail the other day with the subject line: Note to self - Don't enter this film fest.

She found the following posting on a parents online forum in LA. Posted by the founder and producer of the film fest which shall remain unnamed, because... well, just because. And the film fest is here in LA, the capital of like all the movies in the entire universe!

The Microsoft Word program driving me crazy. It shows me a kind of q
looking character with an extra line every time I hit return.

I cannot figure out what to turn off to make it stop.

Please help.

What year is it? 1993? Yeah, Word has been making the "q looking thing" every time you hit return for decades now. And to make it go away you hit the very same "q looking" button on the toolbar to do what Microsoft calls "hide". No more wacky q thing everywhere. Or any of the other formatting that you may or may not want to see.

Thankfully most films don't have words on the screen. Or q-looking characters. Otherwise she might have a real problem getting films into her fest. Note to self: Don't enter that film fest.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I've Been Tired

Every day we drag our asses out of bed for one reason or another. I do it because I need drag the boy Judah's ass out of bed for one reason only: to get his ass to preschool.

Part of getting him ready involves making him breakfast. In my half-awake stupor, the best thing is always pre-prepared food. I'm not talking microwaveable McMuffins or unhealthy junk like that. It's more like food that I can pull out of the fridge or cupboard, tear it open, and put it in front of the little tyke. Mainly it's yogurt squeezers and oatmeal. Those are pretty easy to make when your brain is only saturated with half a cup of coffee.

Grab tube o' yogurt from fridge. Tear open. Hand to child.

It's that simple. And the boy is cool with that for now. But just one yogurt squeezer isn't going to fuel his four-year-old activities until snack time at preschool. So I generally try to give him something else like a bowl of oatmeal to round out the half-asleep breakfast prep. And the oatmeal prep is just about as easy as the yogurt.

Grab packet 'o oatmeal from cupboard. Tear open. Pour into bowl. Add hot water. Stir and let cool. Hand bowl to child.

It's a few steps more complicated than the yogurt squeezer routine, but not much more complicated. Or so I thought. Last week during the oatmeal prep, I did the steps: Grab packet 'o oatmeal from cupboard. Tear open. Pour into trash can.

Wait, pour into trash can? Yep. Opened the packet of oatmeal and just poured it right into the trash can. Judah witnessed this and shouted "WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!?!?!?!!" Apparently he's a lot more awake than I am first thing in the morning. And a lot more hungry. I could only chuckle as I grabbed another packet of oatmeal to try again. Maybe I need a more simple breakfast routine.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


As has been well documented, I have a fairly decent coffee addiction. Luckily my current workplace has a coffee making system that requires no more than grabbing a filter, opening a packet of grounds, pouring grounds into filter, and pushing the "brew" button. Monkey push button.

I've made more than my fair share of coffee at the office. For some strange reason, almost every time I go to grab the steel pot of coffee, there's none left. I have no idea how an empty pot of coffee happens, because nobody in their right mind would ever walk away from the coffee machine empty handed.

The office coffee setup has two types of Starbucks packets:
1. Sumatra - a dark roast
2. House Blend - a medium roast
The steel pots even have velcro affixed little tags with the Starbucks logo that say "Sumatra" or "House Blend", so you know what kind of java to pour.

When I first started working at this office, I just grabbed whichever was available. But now that I'm off the cream and sugar, my taste buds are much more in tune with the differences between the two. I never realized how burnt and bitter the Sumatra tasted until I tried it black. The House Blend actually has a pleasant flavor, so I only drink that, and I avoid Sumatra like the plague. Even in the deepest darkest throes of the morning coffee jones, if only Sumatra is ready, I'll wait until I've had a chance to brew some House Blend.

This morning when I went to the office kitchen, I saw that the Sumatra pot was in the brewing station, not the warming station. Not a good sign for the likelihood of the House Blend availability. I picked up the pot and did a little swirling motion to feel if there was anything left, and I was in luck. As I was pouring the coffee of choice into my favorite black mug, a lady who was apparently in full coffee fix mode walked over toward the machine.

"Thank God for Sumatra." she proclaimed while staring blankly at the coffee machine.
I set down the House Blend pot and started walking back toward the edit room.
"Thank God for coffee" I replied as I brought the mug up to my lips to take a sip.
As I walked away, I heard her say "It's better than that weak House Blend shit that some people drink."

I didn't know what to make of that comment, but I chuckled as I took a sip and kept on walkin. I guess some people's brains don't turn on until they get their first cup o joe too. Just like mine.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Guest writer Mrs. Linkey-Loo relayed a story this week too good to pass up:

Standing in line to buy Spring Training Tix:

Behind me was an old grouchy guy followed by a SF Police Captain and a Highway Patrol. A minute after 10am (tix went on sale at 10), a guy comes running up, panting,
"There's a guy down the block. I think he's hurt. He's laying face down on the sidewalk, not moving."
The officials just stand there.
Cop: "Is he homeless?"
Guy: "No, no - his definitely not homeless. His bike is on the ground, he looks hurt!"
CHP: Sure he's not homeless, huh?
Guy: "NO! NO! He needs help."
Then a woman runs up, sharing the same info. Finally the cop calls in for help. Neither of these guys was going to lose their place in line.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

High Fidelity

Ever since we got our HDTV for the living room about a year ago, I'd been jonesing for an HDTV in the bedroom. And to give myself a kick in the rear to get the TV purchase moving, I swapped out our SD bedroom cable box for an HD one. Months went by and I was still watching the HD to SD downconvert in the bedroom.

On a routine Costco mission, I spent more time in the TV section than usual, and I finally settled on a nice 26" Vizio box. I showed the missuz, and she didn't like it. What did I expect? She didn't think we needed another HDTV in the house. This coming from the person who gets to watch her Bravo network addiction in full SD glory on an HDTV, while my viewings of SportsCenter have dwindled to maybe an hour total a week.

But Lily eventually came around while we were still in the Costco, and she thought that the new, thinner Vizio LED 23" TV would be a welcome addition. Being the research freak I am, I couldn't bear to bite the $299 bullet without finding out every last detail of what this LED TV was made of.

Days later I still couldn't decide. Suddenly I remembered the HD LCD computer monitor that I had purchased a few months back for editing. It was HD. It had 1080p capability. And I'd only paid 150 bucks for it. I pulled it out of its hiding spot in the closet and hooked it up HDMI style, and bingo! Glorious High Definition Television in the bedroom! Needless to say that sucker stays fixed on pictures coming from ESPN.

But the sound. Oh the sound. That little computer monitor was never meant to pipe out decent audio, now was it. Besides that, I had no way of controlling the volume through the remote. That would be so pre-1980 to have to walk over three steps to the monitor to turn the sound up or down. Besides, I'd have to get off my lazy horizontal ass in the bed to do it as well. Time to research some speakers...