Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Traffic legs

While it had only been a little over a year since I was back in LA for more than a short weekend visit, it surprised me how long it took me to get my rush hour "traffic legs" back under my feet.

Staying road-rage mellow was a bit easier, however, given the looks Wife and I would exchange with every bumper-to-bumper jam we found ourselves in.

A sly smile and raised eyebrow was all it took to remind each other that we were only visiting. This wasn't our life anymore and distance, rather than number of cars and time of day, now dictated our prairie land drive time allocation.

Course, beauty can be found just about everywhere, even on the 10 Freeway.

I always smiled when I found myself behind one of these highly polished beauties while hightailing it along the freeways and byways of SoCal. In my mind, only LA trucking companies care enough to ensure their trucks (for the most part) are not muddy, road dirt soaked eyes sores.

Keep on Truckin'...and smiling.

Monday, March 30, 2009

At least helicopters don't poop

There's a classic frenetic montage sequence in Scorsese's GoodFellas, wherein Ray Liotta's character is constantly watching the skies for law enforcement helicopters who are tracking his every move - "All day long the poor guy's been watching helicopters and tomato sauce."

Our recent trip back to my pre-OK stomping grounds in So Cal had me chopper scanning as well.

It was a lovely spring day in Century City. The daytime temps were in the low-70's, traffic was light (we were heading west at 10 a.m. when most commuters were heading east), and the smog level was just light enough to make locals sound convincing when they stated, "that's not smog, that's low lying haze..."

The family unit and I were visiting my B-i-L at his office in the Die Hard Building aka the Nakatomi Building, in reality known as the Fox Plaza. After a quick tour around the building we jumped into a golf cart and trucked on over to the Fox Studios lot for lunch at the lot cafe, aptly named Moe's Grill.

The inside dining area was abuzz with studio folk watching one of the dozen or so giant wall mounted monitors spewing forth any number of Fox channels, Fox programs, Fox movies, or Fox commercials for Fox channels, Fox programs and Fox movies.

We chose to eat outside.

As the girls snarffed on their grilled cheese sandwiches, danced around the grassy areas, and begged us to go exploring among the back lot buildings and fake street facades, B-i-L, S and I had a pleasant lunch.

Until the choppers came. Three of them. Circling our position like turkey buzzards over a family of freshly roadkilled opossums on a county road.

While we spouted out guesses for the myriad of reasons so many helicopters would be converging on such a small chunk of flyover real estate (one vote for high speed pursuit, one vote for bank robbery, one vote for nearby filming -- after all, we were on a movie lot) the girls excitedly watched the whirlybirds pass over head, probably wondering where the tractor accident was that caused the mediflight chopper to come into town to take the wounded Farmer to the hospital in the city.

Okay, I'm theorizing on that last part, but since the only helicopters the girls get to see in the skies above our small town are usually one-way flights to the OU medical center with some unfortunate victim of a heinous tractor accident onboard, you can see why my mind drifted in that direction.

The choppers finally left, we finished our lunch, the girls got to peek inside a few sound stages and act out imaginary scenes on the backlot, while S and I counted about 358 Prius hybrids in the parking lot.

Our next encounter with a flight of choppers occurred during an early evening patio dinner atop the Mount Washington home of some good friends. Same scenario. We're eating, talking, drinking, and theorizing why a bevy of the rotored beasts are circling overhead.

Home invasion robbery, chasing a suspect through a neighborhood, high speed pursuit ending, Keanu Reeves sighting at the Baskin Robbins. Take your pick.

During the week the girls became pretty good at spotting the whoop-whoop-whooping copters overhead. Once at the cemetary, once at Disneyland, once at Knott's, and several times over my Mom's San Gabriel valley based condo.

Who knew there were so many tractor accidents in LA.

Friday, March 27, 2009


One of the benefits (yes, my fellow small town hovelians --just made that word up...like it-- there are benefits) of living in an area the size of SoCal is the cultural diversity that can be viewed on local television.

So culturally diverse in fact that I actually witnessed a pop-cultural reference to a fellow small town Oklahoman via a Japanese language drama series broadcast over local Los Angeles tv.

It's a small world folks.

It all starts with one of our family's newest favorite people, LB. Her career path enables her to intersect and interact with many of the gentle folk who were elected to run our state government. One such person being State Senator Randy Bass of Lawton. She recently relayed the story of Senator Bass to Wifey and what a story it is.

In a nutshell, Randy Bass was a major league ball player from Oklahoma who went on to achieve superstar status as a member of the Hanshin Tigers pro baseball team in Japan. He is now a public servant for District 32 in our state, but still enjoys cult-like status in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The curse associated with Bass and the Tigers is the stuff of sports legend and you owe it to yourself to bone up on the details of the story here.

When Wifey relayed the background of Randy Bass to me via LB's anecdote, I thought it was interesting but didn't pursue any further research into the matter. After all, I'm not all that huge of a baseball fan (unless you're holding a two-fer of Dodger Dog's in my face), and while the image of a bunch of crazed Japanese baseball fans tossing a statue of Colonel Sanders (read the story) over a bridge into a river makes me shiver with anachronistic delight, the relevance to my life was lost.

Until the other evening, sitting with my Mom watching a subtitled Japanese language program on local SoCal tv. The dramady we were watching centered around a group of misfit high-schoolers who were attempting to form a baseball team at their school to help keep them out of detention.

I had minutes ago finished telling my Mom about the whole "Randy Bass" cult and the Curse of the Colonel in Japan, when one of the characters on the show hits an unexpected home run, drops his bat, tosses him arms triumphantly in the air and jubilantly screams out loud, "RAHN-DEE BAAH-SUU!"**

So there it was, in digitized living color. A pop-cultural reference to what I thought was a relatively obscure Oklahoma character, that I had only recently been made aware of, and was now being shoved in my apathetic consciousness by the wonders of a subtitled J-tv program.

Face it, if your name makes it into a tv show as a pop culture reference, you must be something big.

I give you State Senator Randy Bass, public servant, Baseball god, Colonel Sanders look-a-like (I don't get that one, but okay), and proud Okie.

**This was my phonetically spelled version of how the non-English/Japanese speaking actor pronounced the name, Randy Bass. Here's another one for you to translate...Maku-do-na-du-do's" -- think fast food and the golden arches.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The de-EVO-lution of my senses

Meeting gearheads in my small town is a relatively easy exercise. You alley walk.

For a three block radius from the main drag in town, situated behind the houses that line the residential streets are driveway alleys. They provide convenient rear entry access for the homeowners, relatively unfettered gathering right-of-way for our bi-weekly trash pick up (you heard me, twice a week my refuse is swept away), and the perfect p.o.v. ingress for garage voyeur opportunities.

On more than one happy occasion I've struck up friendly conversations with folks both under hood and under chassis while walking the family hound up and down the alleys.

Once I clearly identify myself as not being affiliated in any way with one of the many religious organizations who prey, um I mean, witness their messages of peace and love via doorbell rings or driveway interventions, my small town neighbors have shown 100% favorable reaction to my alleywalk impromptu gearhead visitations.

And while the temptation to join my new found motorhead mates in synergistic internal combustion bonding has been great at times ("If you have another ratchet, I'll change the left bank plugs while you do the right..."), I generally scoot on my way content with the knowledge that the fine art of shade tree mechanicking is still alive and running at 8000 rpms in my small town.

Fast Rewind to last week and my family's brief Spring Break-o-rama at my Mom's So Cal condo digs.

I spotted this spanking Evo poking it's perky nose out the front of it's garage while taking out the trash one morning. Walking by I noticed a pair of feet sticking out from under the tail of the ramped up rear-end, alongside a shiny new cat-back aftermarket exhaust setup sitting on the floor. Ah-hah, I exclaimed, as my brain signaled some performance modding occurring in the general vicinity.

My flip-flopped steps combined with the thunderous sound the dumpster lid barked as it slammed shut onto my deposited trash caused the Evo mechanic to look out and around his project. The sight of me smiling like a garage-snooping-small-town-alley-walker must have freaked him out some, as he just kinda scowled, checked around his immediate area to see if something had gone missing, and called (in Chinese, I'm guessing) to an unseen person in the kitchen area located adjacent to the garage.

I was about to utter, "nice car..." but the survival instincts ingrained in my brain as a born and bred Los Angeleno finally awoke from it's small town slumber. As my gray matter database of city living accessed how my actions could be interpreted and misconstrued as an invasion of privacy, my casing a joint for future theft, or even challenging in an aggressive manner, my feet carried me quickly away.

Out of the corner of my eye two additional fellows emerged from the kitchen area. I knew better than to turn around for a looksee, but my gut told me that all three sets of eyes followed me on my hasty retreat to "my side of the condo complex."

So now I'll be on the lookout for any Evo owners on my alley walks in my small town to see if they're all that cranky or paranoid.

Keeping my distance of course.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1000 words or more, "What I did over Spring Break" essay

So, how'd your first day back at school after Spring Break go?

I figured it was an innocent enough question. My 9-year old hasn't yet developed the swarmy sarcasm of a text-crazed teenager, so I expected a fairly straightforward answer to my probing query.

Not to be.

As C launched into her retelling of her day, and how she...(taking a deep breath)

...told about a "zillion" kids how the entire family flew to California for Spring Break, stayed with my Mom, went to visit our old house, ate sushi till we barfed, watched Mommy's eyes glaze over at her favorite Thai restaurant as they brought out dish-after-dish of her "deserted-island meal," watched my Mom's treasured dvd of Mamma Mia about a "zillion" times, went to visit several old friends - one of which was C's pre-school heartthrob (she was capital N-ervous), spent a mid-week/hardly-any-crowds day at the OG House of Mouse, spent another where-the-heck-are-the-crowd's day at Knott's, shopped, learned to play Do-Re-Mi on my Mom's piano, ate pastrami dips at The Hat, Hawaiian soul food at Bob's Okazuya, some home cookin' at my Mom's, dim sum from a hole-in-the-wall dive on Garfield Blvd, and along with easily a "zillion" other satisfied customers since 1920, snarffed on the absolutely best fried chicken west of the Rockies at Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

There was more, but I'm paraphrasing.

Really, I am.

"So, did any of your other friends do something fun over the break?" was my follow-up question, overly confident that C's description of our whirlwind week in my old stomping grounds was enough to make even the most jaded 3rd grader take notice.

"Well, Madolyn told everyone she got a new heifer and they all thought that was the coolest."

A heifer. Really.

Sorry Gover-nator Schwarzenegger, your golden state may be cool, but in the eyes of my small town's 3rd grader's, a young female cow is the b-o-m-b.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Locker room secrets

"I never thought I'd ever see all of my friends totally naked...it was so, so weird!"Those were the first words out of my 9-year old's mouth as she climbed into the back of my two-toned ricer after school the other day.

The auspicious occasion wherein she was placed in the "so-so weird" situation of seeing her fem-school budkins sans clothing was the community pool locker room. Her entire grade was getting a few hours of away-from-school-and-into-the-pool time courtesy of the principals deep pockets as a reward for passing their 0-9 times tables tests.

When the note came home indicating the requirements for participation being 1)bring swimsuit and towel, 2)plastic bag to keep wet items in and 3)do not wear swimsuit underneath regular clothing, I knew we'd have to have a talk about the pre-swimming activities.

And we did.

However, the reality of disrobing out of her drysuit and into her wetsuit in front of others must not have sunk in, judging by her opening statement upon days end pick up.

C started going into detail on the events of the locker room tomfoolery, who ducked into a toilet stall to change, who chose to utilize the privacy of the showers, and who was small enough to actually fit into the full-length lockers for a bit of isolation.

By the time we had rolled home and were jumping into afternoon snack/homework doing time, she started going down the list of who she actually saw sans clothing -- at which point I grew uncomfortable and stopped her flaming lips.

What followed was an unusual conversation between myself and my 9-year old about the theories behind locker room gossip, the complicated concept of personal space, and the unwritten codes of behavior and privacy that both girls and boys share.

Truth be told, I was pretty vague on that last point, especially the girls part.

Okay, I was vague on the boys part too, since, I didn't think it was the appropriate time to explain to her why men tend to favor looking straight ahead, or straight down when we pee or shower in group situations.

At which point I made a mental note to make sure Wifey brought the topic up at their nightly tuck-in talk.

Heavens to Murgatroyd. Exit, stage left.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tastes as good as it looks...a bad thing

Wifey brought home something called Cain's Ultra Select Green Tea (Japanese style) last night and almost choked up her upper GI track this morning as she was drinking a cup on her daily commute.

During the phone call wherein she poetically espoused the negative aspects of the green tea, I took a gander at the packaging wherein the most heinous of warm tea-like beverage was contained. Here is what I saw.

Now, I'm no advertising exec.,nor am I a paid art critic, but c'mon, this is substandard even by my substandard's of packaged artwork.

However, since the taste of the tea apparently accurately reflects the cheesiness of the packaging, perhaps the artist who created the masterpiece can be forgiven if he was wholly motivated by what lie beneath the folded boxes contents.

Hard to be creative when you gagging I suppose.

I'm not blaming Cain's here. Apparently the Cain's Coffee company has ceased to exist for some time now, having been sold to Nestle in 1960, Chock Full O Nuts in 1992, and Sara Lee in 1999.

Why stymies me is that Sara Lee's coffee and tea division apparently makes some decent selling hot beverage products.

Yet nowhere on their Brands website can the Cain's logo or product line be found.

In '03 Cain's Oklahoma coffee and production plant was closed and even though the grocery story shelves throughout the panhandle state still devote an enormous amount of shelf space to the perceived "Made in Oklahoma" line of Cain's products, they only thing remotely "Cain's" about it is the name on the label.

Another fine Oklahoma institutional product, relegated to ugly stepchild status.

At least the ultra-cool Cain's Ballroom is still rockin' and rollin' and swingin' and swayin'.

Wonder what kind of tea they serve there? Hope it's not green.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Buttoned up

The deal was, we'd take the girls to see Coraline, if and when C finished reading the book on which the movie was based.

That same deal worked out pretty well for The Tale of Despereax, the author of which my 9-year old is now listing as one of her favorite writers.

She buzzed through Coraline far faster than even I had anticipated and no sooner than we had said "my other mother," the family unit was chowing down on multiplex popcorn and watching the credits roll.

It was a typical movie going experience, at least for us. S was nonplussed (she can't seem to get past animated flicks), PK complained about her feet falling asleep when she forgot to rotate her sitting position, and C and I had a lively discussion as soon as the house lights came up comparing the differences between the book and movie versions (I read the book one night after she finished it...really enjoyed it).

The next morning I woke up early, scrounged around our sewing kit, got Wifey to play along and we both quickly lay back in bed, our eyes shut tightly and covered with a pair of these....

PK came downstairs first. Our eyes "buttoned" shut, Wifey and I could only hear what was transpiring, but it was enough to paint a picture.

Our youngest saw us in bed, eyes buttoned up.
She pauses, not saying a word.
She tears off upstairs, heads down the hall and into her big sisters bedroom.
They talk. They pause. They think. They head downstairs, whispering along the way.

Upon spying our practical joke, C gave a knowing chuckle out loud and the jig was up. PK later told her that she first thought we were giving ourselves "spa treatments with cucumbers, but then she realized they were buttons on our eyes and that the movie had come true."

If none of this makes any sense, go check out Coraline at a theater or in the young adult section in a library near you.