Category Archives: Los Angeles

Darkness Is Coming But Spears Of Sunlight Linger

The hills of Southern California are covered with houses.

(And the streets are lined with billboards for cannabis dispensaries, but that’s a rant for another day.)

As the sun sets in the west, the hillsides to the east often find that ONE house that’s lined up perfectly, its windows acting like mirrors to reflect the fading rays of the sun right into my office window.

Like a one-day beacon, this particular house shines. Tomorrow, perhaps a different one.

A week later, that first house is just another semi-illuminated dot on the hillside.

But another house has stepped in, while the first house is no doubt shining bright in another office to my left or right a few windows or a few blocks away.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this change from day to day is proof that the Earth and Sun are moving in relation to each other. No doubt a careful measurement of the changes from day to day across a tall office building would allow you to calculate that movement and predict the Sun’s position.

If you don’t have a handy twelve-story, steel and glass edifice handy, you could always just use large stone monuments. What’s that sort of thing called again? A “henge”?

And so the darkness comes again. But as has been noted, “We love the stars too dearly to be fearful of the dark.”

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography

Punk Roots (Part Two)

(Note – I link to a bunch of videos here. Take your time. Watch them. Let me take you on a little musical trip. Enjoy!)

It’s 1978. Maybe early 1979.

I’m in college at UC Irvine. No scholarships for me, and no assistance from parents or anyone else, so I’m working full time to get through school. With classes during the day, I needed something that gave me the ability to work around that schedule. Which is why I worked for Marriott, first with swing shifts (some real shitty, entry level, minimum wage jobs, “moving up” to room service at about $3.10/hour) and then ended up on graveyard shift.

The graveyard job was night audit. This was not the computerized, automated, “babysit the front desk and check in people in the middle of the night” job that it is now. No computers at all, everything done on paper, by hand, with nothing fancier than a desk calculator. For a hotel with several hundred rooms plus lots of banquet space plus four restaurants, this meant at least three of us most nights.

It was work that taught me how to do the accounting equivalent of “M*A*S*H”‘s “meatball surgery.” I was a physics major with some computer programming (FORTRAN, LISP, assembly) thrown in, not business or accounting. (For the record, this proved invaluable after graduation and for the forty years since. I started writing computer programs for accounting, then ended up as a corporate Controller and now a Director of Finance. Physics, on the other hand – not so much.)

But it was truly drudge work. Boring. Slow. Boring. Tedious. Boring. Methodical. Boring. Routine. Detailed. And did I mention “boring?” Needless to say, “boring” is not necessarily a good thing when you’re working graveyard shift. Especially when you’ve had classes all day, crammed in a couple of hours of homework and studying, and only gotten four or five hours of sleep. (Ah, youth!) They also usually turned off the air conditioning, so it was always warm and stuffy.

Warm. Bored. Exhausted.

Anything that could help keep us from falling asleep at work was welcome.

There was some relief. They allowed us to have a radio in the office behind the front desk where we worked. But in the late 70’s, there were very limited options for late-night radio, even in Los Angeles. (Pre CDs, pre digitial, pre iPhone [hell, over ten years pre cell phone, period!] – does anyone have a cassette?) If you’re trying to stay awake, K-RTH 101 playing the Beach Boys doesn’t do much for you.

Then one night…

One night one of the guys (it was all guys except for a brief stint with a woman, which was led to a completely different nightmare) came in, very excited about a radio station he had found. It was called KROQ and we could just about pick it up on FM if conditions were right. It had a weak signal, low power, and they either kept losing their license and going off the air for a while or they were being threatened with losing it).

They were playing the most bizarre music any of us had ever heard.

Something called “punk.”

X. The B-52s. The Knack. Tonio K. (“Life In The Foodchain” is still an all-time favorite album!) Joe Jackson. The Clash. Boomtown Rats. Buzzcocks. Joy Division. Talking Heads. Public Image, Ltd. Elvis Costello. The Buggles. The Police. Blondie. Ian Drury. The Ramones. Devo. Morrisey.

Songs with titles like “Beat On The Brat,” “Hatred,” “Psycho Killer,” “I Want To Be Sedated,” “Warm Leatherette,” and “T.V.O.D.” (Go ahead, watch those last two from The Normal. Heads up – they’re anything but normal.)

THAT’s music that will keep you up at 3AM while reconciling restaurant sales in 90°F temps on four hours sleep!!

A lot of what they were playing was actually banned, which is why they kept having their license threatened. There were obscenities in it. There was sex. (Remember that I mentioned “88 Lines About 44 Women” by The Nails? They played the unedited version.) There were taboo subjects.

I’ll never forget that the Boomtown Rats had a song called “I Don’t Like Mondays” about the 1979 Cleveland Elementary School shooting in San Diego. (For those of you not familiar with ancient history, this was long ago enough so that people were actually shocked and horrified by a schoolyard being shot up and kids and teachers killed.) It had been banned everywhere – but KROQ played it.

It was glorious. I loved it.

My boss – not so much. He allowed it, but on nights I wasn’t there they listened to something else. But turnover in that job was high, it was tough getting good help, it was really tough getting anyone who wouldn’t be gone in six months (or less), so I got to listen to punk on KROQ and get his, “What is this crap you’re listening to?!” comments.

Until 1980 when he heard “The Wait” by The Pretenders. (See, you knew that eventually I would get back to this, which I got reminded of last night.) That angry, in-your-face chanting and ranting, borderline gibberish just cracked him up for some reason. It was the funniest thing he had ever heard in his life. He truly had no idea what crap he was listening to, but he liked it.

It didn’t hurt that he had seen a picture of Chrissie Hynde at some point and was deeply in lust with her. (I was a bit obsessed at the time with Debbie Harry of Blondie and would have crossed oceans and climbed mountains to be with Pat Benatar, so who am I to judge? Damn, those eyes… plus ça change…)

So that’s where my head goes when I find a new Sirius/XM channel of punk/alternative/new wave music and they smack me in the face with great music from forty years ago. I’ll be listening to my music of my early twenties to ease the stress of today in my early sixties.

At least, until the next time I go off on a “Hamilton” binge. Or Jean Michel Jarre. Or The Eagles. Or…

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Filed under Los Angeles, Music

Frost Redux

For the first time since they started keeping records, there wasn’t a single day in February when it got to 70°F in downtown Los Angeles. The last day it reached 70°F was January 29th – current forecast says it won’t get there anytime soon. The forecast through March 13th doesn’t show it getting above 67°F.

If you think this somehow is a bit of evidence that disproves climate change, you’re an idiot.

 

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography, Weather

Tonight’s Motorized Moron

From last evening as I was leaving the office we have all of the necessary elements – a cozy parking garage, a visitor with a huge vehicle and a tiny brain (or something tiny that he’s overcompensating for), an inability to bother reading directions, and enough Dunning-Kruger to make it into a nightmare for everyone else.

First, the cozy parking garage. There’s only one entrance and upon entering you immediately turn right. The main exit is next to the entrance, but once you’ve turned right after coming in, you really, really need to go around the loop and approach the exit head on. You need to be small and zippy to try to come back out the way you came in and make that turn into the exit lane.

Second, that huge vehicle. A full-sized Hummer. I don’t even see how he got it in to begin with. Not small. Not zippy.

Third, if you’re a visitor you need to pay in advance to exit and get your ticket processed as paid. This is particularly true if you are having your parking validated by whoever you’re visiting – if you’re at the exit you can only pay with a credit card, not the little validation stickers.

Fourth, this freakin’ moron figured NONE of those rules applied to him. The universe would bend to his will…just because!

Wrong.

I had the poor luck to be the one just leaving when Mr. Wonderful roared the wrong way out of that right turn only lane at the entrance. I wanted to get home and realized that standing on principle and getting T-boned by a Hummer wouldn’t expedite that, so I let the asshole cut me off and try to get out that exit.

And try. And try. And back up and try again. And again. Until he finally got those monstrously huge off-road tires up onto the curb and muscled it around to drop down into the exit lane somehow.

Forgive me. I saw what was coming next, as clearly as Cassandra ever did. I looked into my rear-view mirror hoping that I would be lucky and be able to flee toward the other exit that I was quite sure this clown didn’t know about. I looked…and saw three cars already backed up behind me.

Trapped.

Of course, Mr. Wonderful hadn’t bothered to get his ticket validated before he got in. Yet another silly rule that didn’t apply to HIM.

Then the real fun starts. After a good three or four minutes he finally decides he’ll bite the bullet and pay for the parking himself. Of course, his credit card gets declined by the machine. Or he’s such a moron that he’s putting it in wrong. It could have gone either way.

The honking has now started behind me. I look in my rear-view and now see close to a dozen cars behind me, all the way to the back end of the parking garage, with more coming down from the top level and more coming up from the bottom level. God alone knows where security is to punt this asshole out into the night and clear the way for the rest of us to go home.

Of course, now he wants to back up. But he can’t because I’m there. And I can’t back up because the guy behind me is just six inches back. And he can’t back up…

Mr. Wonderful is leaning out of his window and yelling at me now. I spread my arms and shrug, the universal symbol for, “WTF is your problem?”

Mr. Wonderful would now like to get out of his car, no doubt to scream in my face or take a punch at me, but his Urban Assault Vehicle is so tightly jammed into that exit slot that only the Jaws of Life are cutting him out of there. He can’t open the driver’s door because the payment/validation machine is blocking it and he can’t open the passenger side door because there’s a concrete wall there. His Hummer’s tough, but not punching-through-six-inches-of-rebar-enforced-load-bearing-concrete-wall tough.

Mr. Wonderful now decides he’s just going to put it into reverse anyway. No doubt he thinks he can just crush my van like an old beer can. (This may or may not be true – the Big Blue Max does have 198,000 miles, but it didn’t get there by being poorly designed or built.) Except that those monstrous tires are jammed into the slot now between the concrete curb, not quite straight, and he can’t get any torque or movement. He’s jammed.

I figure this is the point where he’s going to just floor it going forward and snap off the bar that’s down at the exit. When suddenly, I see movement in the rear-view.

Somewhere four or five cars back, someone got enough maneuvering room to finally wiggle out of line and cut off into the empty parking spaces. They’re headed toward the downstairs exit. The car behind him promptly backed up and followed, and the car behind me has started to follow as well. Like lightning, before anyone else can pull back behind me, I’m in reverse until I can maneuver and I’m following the line of cars down to the other exit.

First in, last out, so I’m about the fifteenth or seventeenth or twentieth car waiting in line downstairs at the side street exit, but we all have parking cards. With traffic coming out of the Trader Joe’s interfering with the smooth flow of exiting cars it takes at least another five or six minutes, but I’m finally free.

I swing around the side of the building and check as I’m driving by the main exit. There’s Mr. Wonderful in his humongous bright blue Hummer, still stuck like a cork, still with no way to get out of his car, now with a new line of cars honking behind him (what’s the problem with those folks, did they not see the mess that I was escaping from??), still with no sign of security to let him out.

Almost fifteen minutes of my life I’ll never get back just because one asshole has a huge car in order to prove something, can’t read directions, can’t drive, and is too freaking stupid and incompetent to do something as simple as validate a parking ticket (or pay for it) and drive out of the garage.

All I know is wasn’t still stuck there when I got in this morning.

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Filed under Freakin' Idiots!, Los Angeles

Spoiler Alert

There’s a white Porsche 911 that I see a couple of times a month when I’m headed to work. I always see it within a couple blocks of home so I’m assuming he lives and/or works in the area. The car is noticeable because the spoiler is always deployed.

Not a big deal – but I always loved seeing the spoiler deploy at speed and then come back down when the vehicle slowed. That’s cool!

So when I see it stopped at a light and the spoiler’s up, I figure it’s broken. When I see it stopped at a light (a couple times a month) and the spoiler’s up (every single freakin’ time, a couple times a month), I’m about 99.999% sure it’s broken.

Before I go jumping to conclusions, I checked. Yep, it varies a bit by model, but the spoiler’s supposed to deploy when you go above about 75 mph and come back down when you slow below about 50 mph.

If you’re at a stop light and it’s up, it’s broken.

So then I went and checked the second question I was interested in. It’s a newer model, probably no more than two or three years old based on the license plate numbering, so new it was worth well more than $150,000. And all Porsche models apparently come with a four year warranty.

So here’s my question – if you have a car that’s worth more than I make in a year and it’s under warranty for repairs (or even if somehow it’s not), why do you drive around for months with something obviously broken?

Really! If you care that little, I’ll tell you what – I’ll relieve you of that horrible burden! I’ll trade you straight up, my nineteen year old minivan with 198,000 miles on it for your late model Porsche 911 turbo with the one broken part. I guarantee that I’ll have that sucker fixed inside of a week and you and your slacker attitude will feel right at home in the Blue Bomber MomMobile.

I’m a giver!

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Who Says We Don’t Get Snow In Los Angeles

Part of it’s the definition of “Los Angeles” – for those not familiar with the area, the “Los Angeles Metro Area” is bigger than some US states. In addition, there’s a lot of variety in the geography of the area. “Los Angeles County” has everything from beaches (at sea level, obviously) to mountains that go up over 10,000 feet. Those mountain peaks get snow quite often in the winter, and there are multiple ski resorts up there within an 90 minute or so drive from downtown LA.

But in the actual city limits of “Los Angeles” it’s a bit odd to see actual snow. Most of the city limits are below 3,000 and we only get cold storms that dust those low peaks every few years. But they make for fantastic picture postcard photos.

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Filed under Los Angeles, Photography, Weather

If I Were Her…

On the way home tonight I was deeply saddened to see how far the quality standards for BMW manufacturing have fallen.

A good chunk of my drive home coincided with a similar route by a woman driving a brand new (still has the paper plates!) BMW X6 M. It was deplorable how shoddy the construction was!

First of all, the vehicle was obviously built with no turn signals whatsoever. How can they get away with that? Aren’t there Department of Transportation standards that they have to adhere to?

Apparently not. Block after block she drove, weaving through traffic like Dale Earnhardt at Daytona, and no matter what, those turn signals never blinked.

And that’s not all! Being stuck behind her at a couple of red lights, I was horrified to see that her brand new, shiny, $100,000+ vehicle apparently also came without a gas pedal! The light would turn green and we would just sit there, waiting, going nowhere! She was obviously aware of the problem since she appeared to be texting a BMW service agent about the problem.

It’s sad that such a prestigious, luxury automobile could have such defects. But what other explanation could there possibly be?

Let’s just hope that the airbags aren’t defective when that freakin’ moron with the ten-cent brain driving the $100,000+ SUV wraps it around a bridge abutment…

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Filed under Distracted Driving, Los Angeles