30
Oct

It happens almost daily. Mind you, my commute to work is really only five to ten minutes on average. Given the consistency with which this then occurs, those are some pretty amazing odds.

What the hell am I talking about you ask? Those damn illegal street-crossers, of course, the bane of my existence.

This never bothered me before I moved to California. However, for those of you who don’t live out here, guess what… Not only do they have jaywalking laws in Los Angeles, but also they actually enforce them. Really. I know four different people who have all received jaywalking tickets. It is completely L-A-M-E. That said, if I have to abide by this stupid law, then I invoke my right to have everyone else suffer right along with me. That’s exactly why those who defy said law make me want to exhibit serious road rage.

It’s not that I don’t understand why they choose to ignore the light and cross the street anyway. Just like when watching reruns of Everyone Loves Raymond, I know I am wasting away precious minutes of my life while waiting for the signal that allows me to cross the street. When there are no cars coming in either direction it’s especially torturous. But what’s holding me back you ask? Why don’t I just go for it – damn the man? Well, if you knew me, you would understand that I am the very definition of a goody-goody. I don’t smoke. I floss everyday. I pay my bills on time. In short, I am boring. But I digress…

It’s with equal parts envy and bitterness that I despise the street-crossers. On the one hand, I admire the abandon with which they declare to the world, “I wait for no one. I live life by my own rules.” On the other hand, the people who choose to laugh at the law are also the ones who laugh at everyone else. These aren’t polite citizens who give you a courtesy wave as they quickly jog to the other side of the street. No, these jackasses take their sweet time. They casually saunter across the road without a care in the world, no big deal if I just hit the brakes while going fifty to avoid killing them. They purposely ignore you, too, as if they really aren’t crossing a street at all. This isn’t rush hour on La Cienega. There aren’t a half- dozen cars waiting to make that left before the light turns. Please, take your time! But they know exactly what they’re doing. As they are mere steps away from the curb, their eyes slyly dart your way to make sure they have achieved their goal  – your compulsory obedience. It’s like you got bitch-slapped with just a look.

Needless to say, this little “perk” of living in LA has been hard on me. In Chicago, you just go – whether you’re on foot or behind the wheel. We Chicagoans walk anytime, anywhere. And believe me, no Chicago cop is going to waste his energy giving you a jaywalking ticket. He’s too busy not answering real emergencies. (Another story for another day.) At the same time, no Chicago driver is going to waste her time waiting for your lazy ass to make it to the sidewalk either, so you’d better get moving.

There’s an understanding between the two of you, though. It’s survival of the fittest. Man versus machine. Mono a mono. At the end of the day, no hard feelings if you ending up hitting me and I’m in traction for the next seven months. I shouldn’t have been such an idiot in the first place; how could I have ever beaten your sweet Ford Focus speeding down Wabash anyway? My bad. I’ll know better next time. If I ever walk again that is.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

29
Oct
Priest Parking

How did I miss this? I've been living next to this church for two years already.

28
Oct

Since my last entry was a bit on the – ahem – hostile side, I thought I would lighten things up a bit. Literally. I want to tell you about one of my favorite LA things – my kite guy. I don’t know his name. I don’t know where he lives. I don’t know anything in particular about him at all. What I do know is that he has the most incredible, most awesome kite I have ever seen.

It started last summer. I was walking toward the beach when I noticed this fantastic figure in the sky. It was a giant abstract display of fabric, like a massive stingray gliding through the air with multiple strips of white cloth trailing behind. That probably just confuses you more, but oh well. Consider it my best attempt at eloquently describing this thing. There are no words. It’s just the kind of spectacle you have to witness for yourself, and when you finally do… Instant happiness. Seeing that white flurry juxtaposed between the open sky and expanse of ocean is about as close as one can come to channeling immediate Zen.

I’ve seen my kite guy probably about five or six times now, and I’ve been tempted more than once to tell him just how giddy it makes me to see that odd creature thrashing through the air. Instead, I wuss out like a punk every time. And I never know when kite guy is going to be there, I can only hope he’ll show up when I take my weekly sabbatical to the shore. Really, though, kite guy is just part of why I love living coastal – and it all comes down to the wind, waves and that warm sun beating down on my body. I can tune out for a precious few hours until once again I’m forced to face a new week that undoubtedly will bring equal parts pleasure and pain.

Summer’s over now. I haven’t seen kite guy for a couple of weeks, but I know he’s still out there. I just have to wait a few more months until I see that magnificent beast roaming the shoreline once more, giving me – and hopefully others – that natural high we all desire and deserve.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

26
Oct

DISCLAIMER: To those of you in my life who have children, please don’t get bent out of shape by the following rant. On the other hand, all parents assume their children are perfect anyway, so you probably don’t think I’m writing about your precious little ones in the first place. Carry on.

Now that that’s out of the way… I feel the need to bring this issue up if only so that others don’t have to suffer like I did. It begins on a warm, summer night. My friend, Deanna, is in town from Chicago and we’re having dinner, trying to cram months of news into two hours of time.

So although there are plenty of empty tables at this café, these two women stroll in with tot in tow and decide to sit directly behind me. Fine. In this country, we pride ourselves on being able to sit wherever we want. I can deal. What I cannot deal with is this little girl, whom I will admit was freakin’ adorable, promptly being allowed to walk around the joint to bother everyone else eating. Yes, I said bother. If I wanted the company of a two-year old, I would have had dinner at a day care center.

Of course the two women thought this was just completely charming. The little girl comes up to me, I mean right up to me and proudly shows off her two fingers that are stuck together. Stuck together with what? I don’t know. Juice. Snot. I don’t care – I just don’t want those fingers inches from the delicious meal I’m trying to eat.

However, I guess I wasn’t giving this little one the attention to which she was obviously accustomed, so she moved on. Uneasy smiles on their faces, this couple graciously humored the child, who continually looked back to her own table, only to be encouraged by her caretakers. Finally, she made her way back to their table, but not before giving me one last look at her apparently fascinating fingers.

Um, is there some kind of babysitting service offered by this café of which I am unaware? Did I get some kind of discount on my dinner for watching this kid? If so, let me assure you that I will gladly pay full price for a meal enjoyed in peace.

Now you’re thinking that I’m just a heartless wench… You would be wrong. I’m not saying there aren’t cute kids out there. I’m not saying I don’t get a kick out of their precocious behavior from time to time. But what I am saying is that to assume someone wants your toddler to waddle up to them during dinner, only to interrupt their meal, is both wrong and flat-out rude. I know you can’t just keep the kiddies locked up in the cellar while you have a night on the town (only in a perfect world). Yet that doesn’t mean everyone who happened to have the unfortunate luck of coming to the same restaurant that night is now your nanny by proxy. And I’m not just talking about eating out either. That goes for watching concerts, going to movies, waiting in line at the grocery store, picking up dry cleaning, grabbing a Starbucks, checking out books at the library, waiting to get a root canal… You understand, don’t you?

Wow, it felt really good to get that off my chest. Next up, those peeps that don’t say thank you when you hold open the door for them. Jerks.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

22
Oct

Here we go… The first of what will be many odes to my favorite place in the world – Chicago. Whoa, I see you about to click off my page – hold on! I have really good reasons why my hometown rocks and not just because “It rocks!” Let’s begin with the obvious – the sport fans bleed for their teams. Literally. I once heard a story about a Sox fan that stupidly walked in a “known” Cubs establishment and promptly got a beer bottle to the forehead. He deserved it… but I digress. Do you realize that the Cubs, a team that hasn’t won the World Series in over a hundred years, were just bought for almost a billion dollars? For a club that had historically sucked, that’s pretty damn impressive. Or have you ever pondered why exactly anyone would sit through a Bears game at Soldier Field in December? Here’s the thing – I love my limbs, but I love my Bears. When having to choose between the two, the possibility of frostbite and subsequent amputation somehow doesn’t seem so bad, especially if I have the chance to watch my boys kick Green Bay’s ass.

Then there’s the food… but I ain’t gonna lie, Chicago does not make it easy on vegetarians. That’s probably why I finally quit eating meat on the very same day I moved to California. Chicago has made a name for itself with the abundance of high-end restaurants, but nothing can beat the out and out yumminess (it’s a word!) of the familiar favorites: Portillo’s, Uno’s, Giordano’s. In short, any place that ends with “o’s.”

And how about that awesome Chicago weather, eh? Okay, our weather totally blows nine months of the year, but oh those summer nights… I long for those wonderfully warm, humid nights when everything seems alive and the scent of blossoms and gunpowder fill the air. I’m not talking Cabrini Green; if Chicago is good for anything, though, it’s for taking Independence Day to a whole ‘nother level and using every available parking lot, empty playground and backyard for shooting off illegal fireworks. Even more awesome – the cops don’t care. Take that, LAPD!

Which leads me to my final gush… The best thing about Chicago is that it’s not New York or Los Angeles. Now before you coastal snobs – yeah I said it, what of it? – come after me, lemme explain. I’m not saying that NY and LA suck, they have their own distinctive qualities, blah, blah, blah… Chicago just happens to be the perfect alternative to each of them. Quite frankly, New York makes me claustrophobic. Maybe it has something to do with Manhattan being an island and there are only two ways to get off it or something. What if aliens actually did land in NY? The majority of its residents would be screwed ala Cloverfield. LA has the opposite problem – it never ends. Dude, I could start at Santa Monica, drive east for three hours, and still not reach downtown. Hello, urban sprawl. On the other hand, Chicago is the perfect fit. It’s a major city with all the usual “major city” attractions – first class museums, amazing restaurants, big name concerts, innovative architecture – but when aliens finally do attack, you can be secure in the knowledge that you will escape before they find you and start eating your brain. Wait, that’s zombies. Either way, that would never happen in Chicago.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

21
Oct

I had to end the longest relationship of my life this past summer – with my car. Goldenrod, my beloved Saturn, had been my one and only for the entirety of my driving life. She was there through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the peaks and the valleys…

I still remember the moment we met. It was the day before my senior year of high school. I instantly fell in love. Sure, maybe she wasn’t as glamorous as my best friend’s Civic or my sister’s Escort, but she was all mine.

From that moment on, Goldenrod was there to see me through the next major events of my life. The college years. Those endless trips back and forth between home and school that saved me the suffering of waiting for the bus during those miserable Chicago winters (not environmentally friendly but unless you’ve experienced a January morning in Chicago, don’t judge). Then the agonizing cross-country journey that finally unloaded me in California. Not to mention the dozen or so times that I packed and unpacked her as I moved from city to city, apartment to apartment. Granted, she had her moments when she would let me down – the occasional dead battery, the oil leaks, the other random system failures. But what relationship doesn’t have its tests of strength? No matter what the problem, Goldenrod and I could always see it through and our relationship would come out of the storm stronger than ever.

But then I began to notice it – those nearly imperceptible jitters that began to grow in size and frequency over the next several months. The chronic RPM fluctuations. Signs that perhaps she wasn’t as healthy as I had thought. True, we both were getting older, but I guess I just assumed that she would pull through again like she always did. Then the mechanic confirmed my worst fears – yes, there really was a problem. A problem that would not just fix itself, a problem that needed attention, a problem that would cost me more than Goldenrod was worth by Kelley Blue Book standards.

I was ashamed. How could I even think of money at a time like this? Goldenrod had been with me through so much, how could I possibly consider forsaking her during her time of need? I swear I didn’t want to do it. When I would look over at her lazily parked on the street, it was like the good old days, fun and carefree. But when I would take her out onto the road, the anxiety in me would build once again. Would this be it? Would she break down on me at this very light? Would she embarrass me in front of total strangers?

And then I met her. Mazy Star. Others may know her by her proper name – Mazda3 – but the nickname just seemed appropriate and so it stuck. It was love at first sight. What can I say? Mazy had power locks, power windows, a CD player and working AC. It’s not fair to compare one car with another, but Mazy made me feel alive again. It had been so long. With Goldenrod, it was just worry after worry. With Mazy, everything was fun and carefree once more.

So I did it. I broke it off with Goldenrod. I knew she would be hurt and confused. I knew she would never understand. It was one of the hardest days of my life. I just cried and cried… Until I sat inside Mazy and inhaled that intoxicating new car smell. And somehow, the hurt slowly began to fade away as I blasted the AC and cranked my new Santigold CD.

Image: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

20
Oct

Lemme give you an example of the important work I do at the office…

Me: Please take the petty cash bag.

Him: But I can’t stand that bag. Can’t I just take a twenty?

Me: No, because I have a ton of change and I want you to use it.

Him: But I just wanna take a twenty. What’s the big deal?

Me: The big deal is that you just want to do it because it’s easier for you, but when you do that, you make it harder on me. I need you to get a separate receipt for George, too.

Him: Well, what if I take the bag? Then can I just put George’s lunch on the other order?

Me: No, because it’s Arsonal’s order. They need to be kept separate.

Him: How much change is in the bag?

Me: About two dollars’ worth.

Him: I’ll just give you two dollars for the change. How ‘bout that?

Me: But it’s not exactly two dollars, so that’ll screw up my petty cash total. Is it really that much of a hardship for you to just take the bag?

Him: Okay, fine. I’ll take the bag. Give it to me.

Me: And don’t forget to keep George’s order separate! (As he storms out the door.)

Just saving the world, one day at a time.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

19
Oct

I sympathize with those who have experienced embarrassing moments in public. I don’t mean PUBLIC like Paris’ sex tape or Janet’s “wardrobe malfunction,” though I doubt either of those incidents was particularly embarrassing for those involved. Stay classy, ladies. What I mean are those personally torturous moments like walking straight into a glass door at a party or realizing five minutes too late that you had something very noticeable and very disgusting lodged in your teeth while flirting with that Starbucks barista.

Such was the case the other night as I was jogging along, daydreaming about what to binge on once I got back to my apartment. So here I am, heaving down the sidewalk when this kid, probably about fifteen or sixteen, runs out his front door and across the street to where his friends are waiting in a parked car. As he skips along the grass, hopping from the curb onto the street pavement, his sneaker tread catches the blacktop at just the right angle and then flat out refuses to go any further. His foot stays put, but the rest of this kid’s body goes sprawling, S-P-R-A-W-L-I-N-G, across the street. Arms out ala the chick from Titanic, he does the most perfect belly flop onto the concrete. It is awesome.

The kid’s friends instantly start to roar with laughter. And I really, really wanted to join them. There is nothing funnier than watching someone else hurt himself. Tripping down stairs. Slipping on ice. A good toe stub or funny bone bump. When it’s you, it sucks. When it’s someone else, it’s hilarious.

Yet during that moment of weakness, flashing through my mind were all the many times that I myself had done the exact same thing… or far worse. Fainting as I gave my seventh grade science fair speech. Getting my hair caught in someone else’s headgear in junior high. Busting out my two front teeth at pompon camp. Aside from the general misery that accompanies those fond memories, I still clearly recall the acute agony felt when realizing that not only were my peers laughing at me, but also the adults. They’re the ones who are supposed to protect you and yell at those bratty punks to shut the hell up when you slip down the rain-soaked hallway. When instead they just chuckle, you are clearly a total loser.

So I took the high road. I just kept jogging like I had witnessed absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. The kid dragged himself over to his friends, examining his bloody and bruised body while they kept laughing. And I just kept silent… until I was definitely out of earshot.

Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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