Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Pleasanton

It was a white Christmas at my parent's house (pictured below). Not only was there snow already on the ground, but another inch or so fell Christmas Day.

Our gathering for the day was small...just the immediate family. The little ones cleaned up on the gifts, of course. Both Lilly and Shayla received a little red wagon. The two of them took several spins around the house.

Lilly wasn't here chipper self. The combination of new teeth and some sort of virus had her a little down. She's looking a little drugged here with Dad.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The First December Vacation

The plan had been to watch the Nebraska women's volleyball team win their second national championship in a row at the tournament in Sacramento. Alas, they didn't make it that far, so neither did I. Instead, I took a scenic drive up the Pacific Coast Highway as far as the canyon drive seen below.

After zig-zagging through the mountains I ended up in Simi Valley and paid a visit to the Ronald Reagen Presidential Library.

From Simi Valley I headed through the mountains along Interstate 5. I saw snow...real the shady nooks of the mountains. (On the trip home I also saw weather below freezing...what a novelty!) My final destination the first day of my vacation was Bakersfield where Nebraska's women's basketball team was playing CSUB. It was close, but they won.

On Saturday, the women were in Long Beach. The game wasn't as interesting, but the venue was. The basketball court is in an 18 story tall blue pyramid (Walter Pyramid). They also had a band and a small video screen. Bakersfield was more like attending a high school game in central Nebraska. Long Beach was more like, well, more like a bigger high school in central Nebraska, but in a pyramid.

The rest of my vacation was filled with a little light Christmas shopping, some heavy eating and three movies from across the board - I Am Legend, The Savages and Enchanted.

Next week it's a new vacation. This time in "sunny" Nebraska.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My, They Grow Up Fast

It's been awhile since we last checked in on the family. By special request I give you Miss Lilly...

Dressed for tricks and treats.
With a bow in her hair and things to say.
Showing concern for an ill friend.
And doing the best impression of her mom I've ever seen (that look is directed at her dad, by the way).

Rule Number Nine

Rule Number Nine, The Hot Air Rule: Analyzing a principle is easier and often preferable to acting upon that principle.

Gossiping about others lives is better than living my own life. Talking about what I would do if I were such and such is more fun than actually doing it. The idea is superior to the implementation. This could also be ‘the couch potato rule’, ‘the living life vicariously rule’ or ‘the armchair quarterback rule’.

The second element of rule nine is the story. I have at my disposal an array of comic tales. Accompanying that is a vast collection of thoughts and observations buoyed by an archive of content taken from magazines and books I’ve read down the years. Meanwhile, for my own amusements I maintain a library of idle fantasy – general, wizard, Senator, President, lonely writer, corporate titan, speech writer, Oscar winner for best screenplay and the list goes on and on. I take pride in my capacity for this entire academic adventure. Unfortunately, man is judged by actions more than words and on that score I am deficient.

I am drawn to the idea of doing great things. I feel the tug of principled stands on the ideals I hold dear. In the face to true opposition; however, I tend to run and hide. My first instinct is to talk a big game and then leave the field of play. A great deal of that has to do with my other tendencies (see the Paxil rule, for instance). The remainder may be lack of desire or simple fear. Which, I cannot tell.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Rule Number Eight

Rule Number Eight, The One Isn’t the Loneliest Number Rule: Solitude is an essential circumstance for rejuvenation and well-being.

Solitude by Stefano Tessarin

Do not despair…no I haven’t answered the phone, I haven’t returned your pleading voicemail message, I haven’t replied to your emails and it’s been weeks since last you heard from me. I say again: do not despair. First, you don’t need my response to validate your own existence (but you already knew that). Second, chances are good I’m doing just fine. Maybe it was a rough week at work and I had to deal with the assorted drama of 40 people that should be old enough to know better. Maybe I’ve barricaded myself into my apartment for a movie marathon of romantic comedies and buddy road flicks and I’m afraid talking to real friends will destroy the fantasy of my fake friends. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for chatting.

We all need are alone time. I just wonder if I don’t need more than most.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rule Number Seven

Rule Number Seven, The Doesn’t Work Well Without Supervision Rule: Productivity is best achieved within a structured, orderly, controlled system that allows the freedom to manipulate experience within defined parameters.

Left to my own devices I won’t get much done. I’ll fritter away hours doing nothing much and find I’m okay with that. Even with a list of things to do if there isn’t a timeline attached I’ll do an amazing job misplacing the list. What's most odd about this rule is that I actually supervise people...lots of people. Of course, I still have a boss of my own and that helps.

The real heart of rule number seven is that I appreciate a good system. I like little benchmarks and deadlines. This is probably also the reason I think it's a shame that once you get into adulthood you stopped getting awards for your achievements. There aren't any of those little pins for getting an A in math class, no certificates for perfect attendance and certainly not a single trophy for successfully winning an appeal against the USDA. It's hard to judge whether your life is on track without someone tracking it for you, that's all I'm saying.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rule Number Six

Rule Number Six, The Applause Rule: Joy is most readily derived from the creation of tangible products resulting in the appreciation of others.

I like to make things a person can see and hold. I like to make graphs, for instance. It makes otherwise unruly data look neat and tidy. No one ever says, “Nice graph,” though. Also unheard: “Nice form,” “That’s a gorgeous database,” and “Have you ever seen such an elegant software package?”

At some point I gave up on drawing, painting, sculpting things from Popsicle sticks and making the neatest Valentine's boxes you have ever seen (I won awards, friends...I won awards). I fiddle around with it still, but mostly I make graphs, spreadsheets and forms. I get paid to do it. I rarely got paid for a watercolor of a any sort.

The picture below is of a bunch of kids I don't know. They attend Hyannis High School, in Hyannis, Nebraska (not Massachusetts) and they won the Sandhills Conference One Act Championship in 2007. Since they are from Hyannis I already know that they are a good group of kids, but that isn't why I've pasted them here for you to see. Look very closely at the plaque...yeah, it's small, but look anyway. Yep, I designed it when I was a freshman at Hyannis. People covet something I made! Okay, not because I made it, but they covet all the same.

Rule Number Five

Rule Number Five, The Paxil® Rule: Debilitating shyness prevents, reduces and delays normal, often commonplace, life experiences.

I could be the poster boy for Paxil®. Fortunately, I’m not pharmaceutically inclined. Instead, sometimes I just don’t do certain things – start conversations with strangers (and occasionally people I’ve known for years), invite people over to watch the game (or see a movie or see the Picasso exhibit, etc, etc.) and go on dates (which is sort of like inviting people over, but more intense).

Oddly enough, this doesn't stop me from sharing this with you on a blog that anyone can see. Go figure.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rule Number Four

Rule Number Four, The Shelf Life Rule: All people have a shelf life.

Maybe it's just me, but sooner or later people annoy me. Is it because I have no patience? Is it because I'm a elitist snob that thinks he's better than everyone else?

I don't know which it is but I do know that people have a shelf life - the amount of time I can spend with them (or the amount I can learn about them) before they spoil.

We've all been there. You decide to go on a road trip with your oldest friend and a couple days into stopping at every antique shop in the western states you jump from the car at highway speeds imagining that a few broken bones (or even death) might not be so bad as another story about Aunt Pearl's three legged dog Stewie.

With friends shelf life is renewable. With new acquaintances it can be devastating. I always like going somewhere new where I don't know any of the people. It is in those quiet first few days when you don't know that any of them are completely mad. That's really why I don't ask people too many questions. I'm afraid of the answers. I'm afraid to learn that they collect potato chips that look like the Catholic saints. I'm afraid that they harbor secret desires to shave kittens. I'm afraid they might try to suck me into their twisted little worlds and never let me go. As such, I say limit your contact to the same person for too long. Meet them often, but for short radiation.

The real problem is that I like people. I like their stories. I like their quirks. It's just that sometimes I wish they were on the other side of a thick set of bars.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rule Number Three

Rule Number Three, The Only Constant is Change Rule: An inevitable move, transition or wholesale change is never more than a couple years away making it a folly to plant roots and foster connections.

Argue the truth of this rule with a guy who has changed address, on average, once a year for his entire life. I’m excited just realizing that I don’t have to fill out multi-state income tax returns.

The funny thing about change is that without it we'd get bored, but when change does come to take the boredom away it has a tendency to go overboard about it. Change wouldn't be so bad if we could control its pace. The slow trickle of time laced with changes here and there isn't so bad.

For instance, in my office there are 8 desks. In the two years I've been sitting up there only 1 person has remained at the same desk the whole time. In fact, only three of us are left from the original group. We miss some of them and we don't miss others. The people came and went one or two at a time and though each time caused a ripple of change, it came at a pace easy enough to absorb. Had everyone picked up and moved on the same day, we'd have gone mad.

Anyway, change happens. I'm good with that. I've adapted to it. People come and go. Apartments are merely places to drop anchor for awhile. Empty fields are filled with buildings. Childhood homes are torn down and strip malls put in their place. That's why we take pictures. It's why we get together and tell stories. It's why I don't get too attached...I never know which desk will be empty tomorrow and, of course, it could be mine.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rule Number Two

Rule Number Two, The Dark Highway Rule: The future is impenetrable and unpredictable, but only enough to be maddeningly frustrating.

Just when I think I’ve got it figured out, the future changes. I only have to think one thought – slaughterhouse in Los Angeles. Tell me that was ever an option when I was growing up, going to college or sitting on my front porch in Iowa.

For some it may all be writ large for them. They grow up in the same town surrounded by the same people. They've known since birth that they'll inherit the family farm and settle down with their high school sweetheart to raise a small gaggle of adorable children. For most, though, I think the future sneaks up on them. They make their plans, they save for a rainy day and then suddenly their plans lie in ruins at their feet.

I had my plans. When I was 10 my cousin and I were going to buy a semi truck together and run a team over the road trucking operation. We were going to merrily criss cross the country with reckless abandon. Ah, the best made plans... Instead, I haven't seen my cousin in a decade and I work in a slaughterhouse in Los Angeles. Who knew?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Murphy Had His Laws...I Have My Rules

Murphy had his laws, and they were good. They were amusing and true. Why should he have all the fun, I asked myself. So it was that on the occasion of my thirtieth birthday, I set upon a project to lay out what life had taught me. If I could boil those down to some generalized rules I’d be well on my way having a guide book to life that I had been so callously denied at birth.

The number and variety of little rules involved in categorizing my life’s patterns was transient, but a year ago I settled upon eight original rules. (This excluded important lessons I learned from movies like "never start a land war in Asia".) It was only upon organizing the eight rules that I realized the act of making rules, pondering the machinery of living and constantly and unsuccessfully battling back the urge to write it all down was an important pattern to also note. In the end, there were nine rules.

In the name of suspense and to get my few, dedicated (and may I add beautiful, brilliant and enlightened) readers to keep coming back for more I will reveal these nine rules slowly over the next couple weeks. Oh, I know you are excited. You can't hide it!

Rule Number One, The Grass is Greener Rule: The present situation is always secondary to the possibility of something better elsewhere, though it’s impossible to know what that better thing might be.

So I keep on looking for that better thing just around the corner: better toothpaste, better way to work, better place to live, better job to have. I’m not necessarily out there buying every tube of toothpaste in the world, but I’m thinking about it and wondering if maybe, just maybe, my life wouldn’t be better using Aquafresh®.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


One of the hardest questions I'm asked is: Where are you from?

I generally answer that I'm from Nebraska. Because I am...originally. I then follow up that I was raised mostly in Texas. Of course, it's at that point that I need to make some clarifications on what qualifies as being raised. Only after I start telling stories (as I like to do) that I really confuse people. You see, my dad starts most stories with what sort of car he owned at the time. That's how he frames the story. I start my stories with where I lived. Those are our references.

Anyway, I've always wanted to satisfy my nerdish desire to actually make a map of all the places of lived. Lo and behold there's a web site where I can do just such a thing. God bless the Internet! I spent the weekend making little waypoints and attaching them.

The map so far can be found at the Wayfaring web site:

My sister tells me that when Dad and she counted up all the times she's moved (she was moving again last weekend) they arrived at 37. I may need more waypoint markers. I have a couple years on her after all.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

In Walt's World

I don't know how it happened, but I've gone to Disneyland twice in the last month...three times this year...four times in 2 years. And this from a guy that never had any interest in going but here I am thinking if this keeps up I need to buy annual passes.

Also notable...I've never gone with children...not once...unless you count Thaddeus I.

My October trip was with Steve and Becky. One last hurrah before Steve went back to New York and Becky back to Oregon.

This one is for you mom - a Tigger sighting near Splash Mountain.

Okay, one more Steve and Becky shot. So Disney.

My November trip, undertaken yesterday, was with a couple old friends from Iowa that now live in Bakersfield. Next time...Magic Mountain!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Movie Review...of sorts.

There is a magic to movies that allows them to be something more than they are. A movie needn’t be artistically pure. It need not be well acted or scripted by the gods. It needn’t be inspirational or transformational. All a movie need be is the right movie at the right time. That is when the magic happens.

You and I, we can sit side by side watching the same movie and one of us may hate it and the other may love it. We may agree on almost every other movie we’ve ever seen, but at that moment we disagree. I find this especially true with art films, those quiet and character driven flicks that almost no one sees, but win all the awards and praise of the critics. I hate almost all of those movies. They just never seem to be the right movie and the right time. The magic doesn’t happen. In fact, no matter what the movie the magic doesn’t happen nearly as often as it once did.

Maybe I’ve become jaded. Maybe I’ve just seen too many films. Maybe I think I’m more sophisticated than I really am so that the movies I think I should fall in love with are the movies I hate the most. And just when I think I’m done with movie magic altogether along comes one that isn’t the perfect movie, isn’t going to change the world and most assuredly won’t be winning awards. It’s the film for this moment, though, and that makes all the difference.

In this case the movie was a sneak preview of Dan in Real Life starring Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche. It may have been a little too sweet. It may have struck only one note, but it was the right note.

When it comes to movies I’m the biggest sucker for any movie that casts a quirky family or tight knit group of friends. While You Were Sleeping – sure Sandra Bullock for whom I’m also a sucker helped, but oh, that sweet, adorable family. The Family Stone – that one snuck up on me but has stayed with me. The Goonies – it’s all about that strange clan of miscreant friends.

So there I was, on a Saturday night in Los Angeles, sitting alone in my favorite theatre. My college roommate has left after a busy 3 month stay. My brother has disappeared into a 12 week stint at Army basic training. I’ve already talked to my sister and my best friend back home a couple times this week. The holidays are coming up rapidly and once again the southern California autumn is disappointingly similar to the summer and the spring and even the winter and none if it is at all like autumn in Nebraska (or anywhere else I’ve lived).

This is the hardest time of the year for me. When January comes and the weather is blistering cold in the Great Plains and the Christmas trees are stowed away for another year, then I’m fine. I’m happy to sit on my balcony watching the palm trees sway in the breeze, but here in this three month stretch before then, that’s when I realize how far from home I really am.

When the Burns family of Rhode Island appeared on the screen I felt that old longing for family and home. Then there was Dan Burns who seemed to be a man not all that unlike me – especially when he was dancing. The movie probably could have been about anything at that point. The magic had happened. These were people I wanted to know. This was a story I wanted to hear.

Like any movie that grabs hold of me the images keep swimming up to the surface of my thoughts today. That’s another sign of the magic. Suddenly I want to be home sitting around the kitchen table playing a game of Scrabble with all the cousins. And since even when Christmas rolls around in the real world that may not happen, I’m ready to go back to the theatre and watch the fictional Burns family playing football along the Rhode Island shore. It’s why I watch the movies in the first place. It’s why every time the lights dim and the screen lights up I hope for the magic – to be transported to places I’ve never been or to places I always want to be.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

My Cat's True Identity

Former Incarnation: Al Capone

Aliases: Biggie, Mugsy, Vinny, Chunko, Bunto, Killer,Claws, The Predator, Meanie, Feathers

Description: Subject is known murderer, and has taste for the blood of birds and small rodents. Although known for rough behavior, subject always remains well groomed and wearing immaculately tailored coat. Fur may be illegally imported from Italy. Probably has scars. Runs catnip ring, and extorts cat food from others. May meow with slight Brooklyn accent. Prefers to stay in its own neighborhood, but strays into other areas at night. Fearless defender of the homestead from all invading squirrels or mice. Does not give a hoot about other cats, and will attack just for kicks. Good for a quick cuddle, but do not push this cat too far. Protective eyewear suggested. Ankle injury likely upon meeting subject. Has earned a degree in creative shredding of valuables. Loves gangster movies.

My TV Family

Take this test!

Cue the finger snaps and haunted mansion scenes — your family is most like everyone's favorite creepy, kooky, fun-loving clan, The Addamses! Yup, that's right. Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, and Uncle Fester (and even Grandma, Lurch, and Thing) are your family's TV soulmates. Trust us, that's a good thing. Because even though they're as nutty as fruitcakes, the Addamses are close and loving in their own special way. How many other families can boast of a mom and dad who can't keep their hands off each other after several years of marriage? Okay, so maybe that's not exactly where your family's similarities with the spooky, mysterious crew come in — maybe your family just likes dressing in black. But we stand by our argument that it's good to be The Addams Family. Just don't ask what's cooking for dinner...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Vegas Weekend

We'd never been there. We'd heard about it. We'd seen it on TV. We'd seen it in movies. Friends talked about going there. They also talked of drunkenness and debauchery and...well...we don't do drunken and debaucher all that well. Steve's a gambler though and I'm a sucker for a buffet, especially a 24 hour all you can eat buffet so we packed our bags and hit the road on a Friday afternoon.

Had the entire trip been based solely on the 8 hours from the time we left my apartment it would have been a catastrophe. First, it took 2 hours to go the first 50 miles. Second, there was a lightning storm and torrential rains for the last 50 miles (in the night). Finally, there was the Tropicana and the Island Buffet.

These were not our rooms. No...we were on the garden the original 1957 section...the section built before there was really a Las Vegas at all. You could tell. We had air conditioning, though. It was also simple to use. Off or on - those were the choices. Later this would prove for interesting nights in which Steve and I would, unknown to the other, get up and either turn on or turn off the air conditioning. We did not let our accommodations deter us though.

We went instead to the Island Buffet. Oh, the buffet...the sweet nourishment...the promise of succulent prime rib and various fattening desserts. Oh, the Islands Buffet...the rotting ruins of the late night foodstuffs...the dried and pasty prime rib...the flat soda...the mealy, floury bread...the simple pasty pastries...the indigestion.

Fortunately, Saturday was better. We started with the MGM Grand breakfast buffet...excellent. We finished with the Tournament of Kings cornish hen meal at the Excalibur. There were some tense moments as Steve realized the wait staff would not be bringing him silverware. There was also the moment when our knight, the King of Ireland, had his throat slit by the Dark Knight, but then again he did jump up and throw himself in the way of King Arthur's son, oh, and the soup was good.

Sunday morning was the buffet at the far the best...highly recommended, especially the champagne brunch also they served bacon that tasted mysteriously like the Farmer John brand. Steve and I bet on our first pro football games...both of us did this successfully and feel that now we are ready to make it a full time occupation.

We ended our night at New York New York Casino and the Cirque du Soleil show called Zumanity. Actually we ended the night at a food court eating Wendy's triple burgers and Del Taco burritos, but before that we went to the show. There we saw topless women, cod piece wearing men and a series of performances that oscillated between funny and strange. I preferred the funny (the at-home breast augmentation kit that consisted of two ziploc bags, a bottle of scotch and tape) to the strange (a naked women apparently undertaken a little erotic asphyxiation while dangling from the ceiling).

Between all of that we gambled. I am not a gambler. I like to watch Kenny Rogers in The Gambler and I like to watch the World Series of Poker on ESPN, but I spent three days trying to talk myself into at least one game of blackjack and I couldn't do it. I just couldn't put $10 down on one roll of the dice, flip of the cards or whatever else it was. I preferred penny slots. With $20 and a Super Jackpot Party penny slot machine in front of me I'm a happy man for an hour.

I also liked Monopoly and Jackpot Deluxe but it was usually 25 cents every time I pushed that button and I just can't handle that kind of expense. At 5 cents I started sweating and getting twitchy.

Following the penny slot strategy I barely lost any money. In fact, I broke even on Sunday and made $2 on Monday. Unfortunately, it took me about $100 and two days to figure out the beauty of the penny slot machine.

Now we know. We've been there. We know which places are nice and which are not. We know that there are hundreds of men handing out pictures of naked women that want to meet us (at $49 a meeting it would seem). We've picked out our favorite hotel casinos (The Luxor for me and New York New York for Steve).

The Tropicana grew on us and the traffic going home was easy. I don't know that I'm in any hurry to go back, but there it is, just over the mountains and a few hours away.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Big Red Heartache

One thing we Nebraska fans have learned about in the last decade is heartache. And so it was that on Saturday night we were humbled once more.

Fortunately it's just a game. Sure, I attach some of my own pride to the outcome of the games and the season but that's what tribalism is all about. Football is tribalism at it's most sophisticated and that's why I love it.

Anyway, it was always just the hope of the faithful that led me to believe we could win. USC came to prove a point and prove it they did. I am buoyed by one thing. USC and Oklahoma wallowed in obscurity for years before they returned to 1 and 3 in the national polls. Our time will come.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's almost football Saturday in Lincoln...and there's no place like Nebraska!

The big day has almost arrived. Those of us loyal to the Big Red are crossing our fingers, praying to the football gods and hoping against hope that this will be the one.

The masses have already started flocking to Lincoln by car, truck and plane. Not long ago I was on the phone directing some wayward USC fans to the nearest fine dining establishment in the Haymarket.

Tomorrow, all across the land, Husker fans that can't make into the stadium will gather around televisions in living rooms and bars to cheer and curse, perhaps to exult in football joy or perhaps to wallow in the long darkness of mediocrity. Regardless, we'll be there. (I'll be at The Port in Valley Village with a dozen or more of the faithful, if you must know.)

I have a couple lunches riding on the game, but moreover I have the unfortunate fate of being a Husker fan in the middle of a USC world. I ask the football gods for victory not because I need a free lunch and not because our team is long overdue for a big ask for victory so that for a short while I can walk around Los Angeles and especially around work with a smug, quiet satisfaction. I will not gloat openly. I will not heckle and bring shame. I will sit silently in my righteousness and be content.

Though I grant the USC faithful that in all regards they probably have the better team, for me it's still all about the beloved scarlet and cream and so I predict, rather boldly, that the final score will be 28-24 with Nebraska the victors. Go Big Red!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Blog Happy

So I'm feeling a little blog happy all the sudden, but I gained access to all of Steve's hundreds of photos so I felt I needed to share.

This handsome trio includes me, Scott and Steve. They are twins...really...twins. I knew Scott before I knew Steve. Scott and I have more in common than Steve and I. It's odd, okay. But what we all do have in common is that one Thursday night not too long ago we ate at Buster's Beach House Grill and Longboard Bar in Long Beach. Their sign is mounted on a VW minibus. Need I say more.

Just Joan

I like to think of myself as a subversive supporter of the arts. For example, I once bought a meal for a bunch of theatre grad students at Famous Dave's. I've lent out furniture and helped haul things to and from the stage for a production of House of Yes. I'm even letting an actor friend from New York live with me for a few months even though he always parks behind me in the garage and I have to move the cars around each morning. Sure, other people endow theatres and scholarship programs. Other people sit on committees to build concert halls. Me - I feed starving actors occasionally. Really, it's all in hopes that one day they become famous and I can say I knew them before they were stars.

None of the grad student pals of my college roommate have broken out into fame yet, but Erinn is showing up in soap operas, Tim has been in some commercials, actually a lot of them have been in commercials. And then there is Joan whose a finalist to cohost a show. Joan was my favorite grad student - I know, I know - I shouldn't have favorites, but there's a lot of things I shouldn't do.

Here's her video submission (it's funny, really it is):

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Superhero Quiz

You are a wanderer with
amazing strength.

Your results:
You are Hulk

Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

The Trouble With Blogging...and Nursing Homes

My problems with blogging are that I've never really felt that I had anything to say, that which I might want to share wouldn't be that interesting and well, really, I don't necessarily like to share all that much anyway. Bloggers, as a generalized group, aren't much in the mode of self editing their remarks. Obviously, this is what makes them fun and makes me not so good at it. I approach blogging as more of a medium for embarrassing people with funny pictures.

With that, I'll tell a story of absolutely no relevance to myself or my feeling, emotions, habits or vices. It is, in fact, a story about my grandmother.

About a month ago, my grandmother, 85, had a stroke. This left her with great swaths of empty memories but otherwise well. This was followed by another stroke which neither helped her memory nor her ability swallow without making a thoughtful effort to do so. While in itself tragic, at her age it seemed to be the start of a long road downhill. Grandma surprised us all though.

When last I saw grandma she went on a rather blunt tirade about how she would not be going into a nursing home...ever...under any circumstances. I'm guessing that being put into a nursing home only months later made her cranky, in fact, I know it did. Grandma's roommate at the nursing home would also argue that it made her crazy. Grandma's roommate would actually prefer not to have a roommate at all. So it was that on a Friday night things got interesting when grandma's roommate chose to go to bed and grandma chose to stay up and watch television.

Apparently, the roommate had reached her last nerve...not only was grandma crazy, not only had she stubbornly not moved out, but now she was watching television in a volume that was way too loud. Grandma's roommate crossed the room and hit grandma in the head.

Blows were exchanged. I imagine there was swearing, nightgowns rumpled and skinny, age spot marked arms arcing in jabs and roundhouses punches. Nurses came running and broke up the mayhem.

I also like to imagine the phone call from the nursing home. "Sir, there's been a problem at the nursing home...with your mother. I'm going to need you to come down to my office so we can discuss her behavior. If this continues, we will have to send her home with you."

At least grandma is not going down without a fight. She should probably mix it up more often.

Monday, August 6, 2007

My mom and aunt came for a visit last week. We covered most of the west side of Los Angeles County in 4 days leaving no out of the way, narrow, homeless infested alleyway unexplored.

There was dim sum in Chinatown, bagels at Union Station, cheesecake in Marina Del Rey, assorted goodies in Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica. We saw the ports, Venice Beach, a couple piers, the pig murals of Farmer John (how could we not) and the Getty Museum (including the infamous Evidence of Movement exhibit which includes a man licking broken glass, two people dancing with a dead chicken in their teeth, a naked woman in an unseemly pose with goat entrails and our favorite, the talking light bulb).

Here are a few of the highlights. Below you'll see my mother and aunt in the ocean. Moments before this they had never been in the ocean (nor seen it, I should imagine).

Moments later, mom lost her shoe.

Moments after that, she saw her shoe and scurried out to rescue it.

Mere moments after that the ocean reaped its revenge and doused her in its salty waves.

Next there is Steve with his favorite star, Bette. Steve says I have no good pictures of him. That's not true. I have plenty of good pictures of him. I prefer naturalist photography catching people doing ordinary things...eating, wandering aimlessly, yawning and darting out of frame. Steve doesn't care for naturalist's a shame because I have a very extensive collection of photos with him eating, yawning, wandering aimlessly and completely unaware I was taking his picture at all.

For the sake of completion here are a couple pictures that include me. Here I am with mom on Olvera Street.
And here's the three of us on Santa Monica pier. I don't know, but I think we're a handsome group, I really do.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hollywood Forever

Last night was a reunion of sorts in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Steve has come from New York to spend a few months here in LA and for his first Saturday on the other coast we met up with a couple of his grad school buddies, Joan and Tim, had pizza in Echo Park and then went to see One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest projected on the side of a marble building in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The company was as fun as I remembered it being in college and watching a movie sitting in a cemetery was as surreal as I hoped it would be.

I'm thinking the first weekend in August I'm back for Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. Pee-Wee Herman, headstones and a couple thousand people trying not to trample the dead - you simply can't pass that up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter is Everywhere

The sorting hat says that I belong in Ravenclaw!


Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those whose intelligence is surest."

Ravenclaw students tend to be clever, witty, intelligent, and knowledgeable.
Notable residents include Cho Chang and Padma Patil (objects of Harry and Ron's affections), and Luna Lovegood (daughter of The Quibbler magazine's editor).

Take the most scientific Harry Potter
ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Monday, July 9, 2007

How Much is That Cat in the Window?

I was told it was unforgivable not to share this story, so here goes:

This weekend I went to Petsmart. I was there looking for a mat for under the cat’s litter box. I was moving it downstairs to free up the bathroom upstairs and if the fool thing was going to be in my bedroom it needed to look nice (and be easy to clean).

As an unfortunate side story, the litter box didn’t make it downstairs. I had one of those electric, automatic boxes. A little mechanical rake would pass through the litter placing everything into a handy tray. I used to love that machine. Lately, it has started to be offensively odoriferous even after being emptied so I took the risky step of hosing it down a bit.

When I was done it looked good. It even turned on and the little rake moved along the track. It never moved back. Well, I say never, but that would be an exaggeration. I realize now that the water caused a short in two impact switches that told the rake to reverse. I also learned later that the impact switch didn’t hold up well to either the constant pressure of a rake that wouldn’t reverse or, it would seem, to the pressure of a man prying on things with a screwdriver. In my defense, first I let it all dry out, then I took apart some panels and played with some wiring. Then I got a screwdriver and did some prying. This was followed by some light cursing and then gentle tapping with an anger management tool, also called a hammer.

There would later be more aggressive use of the anger management tool but this occurred only after I realized the litter box suffered from something people in my line of work call an unsanitary design. The litter box was covered with little panels and endless nooks and crannies that even after a good hose down still retained, well, stuff. The stuff smelled like cat urine.

Oreo had figured out how to jam the thing up anyway. She liked to pile all the sand up in one corner and then watch as the rake got stuck in the mess and reversed until the little motor overheated. This is what she does. This is her happiness.

Not all cats are like Oreo and that was really the intent of my story. I was at Petsmart doing some shopping for my ungrateful cats when I walked past the cat adoption station. I shouldn’t walk past the cat adoption station. I have a weak heart and anyone who has met my cats knows I must love them or I would have killed them long ago.

The cats at Petsmart usually don’t do much in their little plexiglass cubes. They may be drugged. I don’t know. This time, they were up and around. First, were the kittens. Barely old enough to be left on their own they bounced around their little box as kittens are want to do. So cute.

Then there was a young black cat that jumped up and put his paws on the glass as I walked by. Also cute.

But there in the last box was the adorable old man of a cat. He spotted me and scurried up to the glass trying to poke his head through a hole smaller than my pinky finger. A little piece of me died inside when I could scratch his head. But then just when I could hardly take anymore, he put his head down, picked up the blanket on the bottom of his cube with his mouth and started to massage the blanket with his front paws. SO DAMN CUTE!

I thank my lucky stars that the adoption people weren’t there yet. Oh yes I thought about going back. I thought I could take in another cat. I could deal with that much more hair. Besides, didn’t I just lose a cat off the roof of my apartment?

I was strong though. I told myself a cat that adorable would be adopted in the blink of an eye. I also told myself he’s better off. Oreo beat the living daylights out of poor Homer right up until his death and I remain suspicious that Oreo pushed Nermal off the apartment roof, so he might be better off with someone else.

But the cuteness remains. Oh, the cruel cuteness!

Thursday, July 5, 2007


There's nothing like a couple hours of reacquiring your childhood. The only thing that makes it better is doing it while watching fast cars, faster jets, a couple helicopters, a semi tractor with an amazing paint job and lots of things blowing up. Oh, and it's funny.

I'm not saying that it's worthy of an Oscar, but it's worth the ticket price...maybe even twice.

The Visiting July

July has become the months of visitors and guests. Not that long ago I got off the phone with Steve, my roommate from college. He's making his final arrangements...actually he's packing...for a short layover in Kansas with his brother and then in a week a three month hiatus here in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, my mother and aunt are just this side of buying tickets for a long weekend cruising the streets of LA. Me and the grandmas hitting the Hollywood hot spots! Watch out Paris Hilton!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another New Addition

The baby making craziness continues!

Congratulations to my cousin Trevor and Misty...and Grandma Nancy. This is their new little boy, Titus Dean. I have it from a reliable source that he's cute as a button.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Top Movies of the 90's

I don't think it's enough to stop at 1989. I think it is time to unveil the top movies of the 90's.

This is an old list. My college roommate Steve and I compiled this list one day when we should have been doing something more productive...homework, studying, cleaning, making the world better for humanity, but no we decided it would be more fun to make a list of movies and then debate with each other for hours (or days) about it. I have not gone back to revise this list since then, but I may and you'll be the first to know when I have.

Again, I will only reveal the top 10. The other 15 I'll save for some other day. Without further ado, here they are:

1. The Shawshank Redemption - Stephen King...Morgan Freeman narrating...hope is a good thing...I hope the ocean is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I almost cry just thinking about it.

2. Schindler's List - I've only watched it once. Remember, this isn't a favorites list. This is about merit in filmmaking...merit, I say.

3. Leaving Las Vegas - You know what, I've only seen this one once also, but my was it good that one time.

4. Unforgiven - Morgan Freeman returns to the list again. Oh, and Clint Eastwood is there too, but really it is all about Morgan. (I have a cousin with the same name, you know, but the cousin is white and a girl...same name, though.)

5. Good Will Hunting - A math genius that gets the girl in the could I not like this?

6. The American President - This list is also about favorites and I have most of this movie memorized so I guess that counts.

7. Philadelphia - Merit in film making, people...that's what this list is all about. Oscar nominees aplenty right here. (Or was this list about favorites...both...I don't know anymore.)

8. Braveheart - There was blood. There were epic battles. There was love. There were men in kilts mooning the Brits. And don't forget a man was disemboweled for his efforts...that's doesn't happen in every movie, only the very special ones.

9. Seven - I watched this in a frigid movie theater in Lincoln. When the sloth guy wakes up, everyone in the room left their seats briefly. After the giggling subsided, all that could be heard was the faint sound a water trickling to the front of the theater. (Okay, okay...I made that last bit up, but it could have been true.)

10. American Beauty - I watched this one in Salt Lake City. I may have been the only person leaving the theater that wasn't completely disgusted. That says something profound. When I realize what it is, I'll let you know.

Hmmm...the 90's must have been a less happy decade than the 80's. That or there is something to be said about the subtle difference between "top movie" and "favorite movie".

Friday, June 15, 2007

Favorite 80's Movies

Though the derision of my coworkers was in full flower when I mentioned that I had compiled a list of my favorite movies from the 80's, I am undaunted in my nerdy pursuits.

These sorts of lists are nearly impossible to compile without some study (and really what could be more fun than studying movies). The problems are one part coming up with all those movie titles, one part putting them in an order that isn't embarrasing but not Roger Ebert, and the largest part is knowing what was truly an 80's film (don't let The Wedding Singer fool you). I saw none of these films in a theatre. Most of these films weren't even rentals. The bulk of all my 80's movie moments came at home dialed into some UHF station out of Dallas.

As an illustration of the previous statement and a confession of sorts, I was out of college and contently sitting in the 21st century the first time I watched The Princess Bride. That shapes the experience and contorts the list.

The following is a list of my ten favorite 80's movies (don't worry the complete list goes up to fifty, but more on that later). The list has little to do with merit in film making. These are the movies I watch to be sent back in time and removed from the world around me just as I was transported the first time I watched them (in other words because they make me happy for 2 hours).

The Goonies

And who wouldn't want to be a Goonie? I ask you again...who?

Uncle Buck

And what if you could be a Goonie and have an uncle like Buck? Small slice of heaven, that's what.

Return of the Jedi

It's maybe not as good as Empire Strikes Back, but it has a happier ending...and Ewoks.

Empire Strikes Back

Yoda...need I say more?

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Was is Sean Connery that made it great or was it the blonde Nazi? Maybe both.


They had me at Slimer.


Micheal Keaton was in the movie for only 17.5 minutes, but what wonderful minutes they were. (And you have to be impressed with that bit of trivia, don't you?)

The Abyss

Honestly, I hold my breath through most of the movie. The lack of oxygen may enhance the movie watching experience.

The Last Starfighter

The Last Starfighter fulfills the fantasy of every video gaming boy in the world.

The Explorers

Oh the things I would have given to build my own spaceship and meet aliens that do stand up. Seriously, there is no number of things.

And with that I've let my inner nerd free to wander out in the world. I hope he comes back. I'm not much without him.