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Month: November 2007

which bearded old man…darwin, or god?

which bearded old man…darwin, or god?

and also this sad news

Gee, does anybody see the connection here? America is getting left behind in economic, educational and technological progress and SURPRISE! we all still think a magical bearded man in the sky is going to solve our problems. Historians will one day look back on our society and wonder how we could have by and large remained so primitive after progressing so much.

A very long time ago religion was necessary to organize the masses for progress… now it is used to keep us stupid while a very few profit and advance, although I suppose the “very few profit” was always true – but I don’t think society as a whole is getting any benefit at all (unlike in the past).

Old Getty Road

Old Getty Road

On Monday I took my parents to the Getty Villa in Malibu. I never knew I lived a 15 mile jaunt down the mountain away from the ocean. I’ll have to take advantage of that in the future.

I don’t know what my parents’ impression of the Villa was – but I was a bit bored. After visiting the “main” Getty Center a few times this miniature Roman Centric version didn’t push my buttons. It was very well done, very relaxing and so on – but it felt a little awkward – a giant property made up like an authentic Roman Villa – to house a few small sculptures and pieces of pottery. The entire collection could have been shoved into one medium size room, but was instead spread out over a two level museum.

We left earlier than anticipated and so ate ice cream in Burbank before I dropped them off for their flight back to Ohio.

okay philosophers….is she taking the pillowcase off…or putting it on…?

Japamerican Tough Guys

Japamerican Tough Guys

Sunday morning started with a trip to the Japanese Garden. I had already been rebuffed on two separate occasions by the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant and so I was ready to be wowed. I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Most of the vegetation was struggling to keep it’s green, and there didn’t seem to be much variation – but then nothing was in bloom.

The only cool thing was the concrete main building contrasting with the greenery. The main building was suspended over the water and had open parts of the floor so you could see (from several feet above) the plentiful (although drably colored) fish swimming about.

I thought next we would tackle the “rough” way up to the top of Mt. Hollywood. When we arrived at Griffith Park it became clear that some things had changed since my last visit. Instead of driving right up to the base of the trail we had to park a good three quarters of a mile back down the mountain. Apparently the Observatory is now open to walk-in general public (previously you had to take a metro bus from the LA Zoo), leading to a massive glut of cars piling up on the drive up to Mt. Hollywood Trail.

Once on the trial things didn’t get better. A massive fire had burnt down 99% of the vegetation (although it actually improved the view) and everything was covered in a yellow mulch/seed combination. Further dissapointment came when I saw hazard markers by the “rough” trail that I planned to climb. So, we took the 1.38 mile fire road to the top (and back). The top was strange, completely obliterated – like a yellow desert on top of Los Angeles. The view was not as muddled by the remnants of the Malibu Thanksgiving Fires as I feared – but the day was still very overcast.

Since the climb had taken much longer than I’d anticipated we were all now very hungry and lunch slid into dinner. We went to Don Cucos. Afterwards Beverly joined with my father and myself to watch American Gangster.

The Pumpkin Charmer

The Pumpkin Charmer

Beverly came around noon with nice flowers for my mom. It was then that my weakness was exposed for all the world to see. We went to Target and found a vase to put the flowers in. Yaw and Justin rolled in before 4pm.

And then – the feast (that mom, almost exclusively mom, had slaved over for days in my kitchen) was on!

The spread was thus: (all completely manufactured from scratch – except the drinks)

Individual stuffed Cornish Hens

Green bean casserole

cream corn casserole

fresh cranberry sauce



mashed potatoes

Pumpkin PIe

Peach Derazno

White Zinfandel

Yellow Tail Sheraz

From my point of view

From my counter’s point of view (no photoshopping required…and where did Justin go?)

After the massive feast those with room in their bellies tried the pumpkin pie with cool whip. Justin prepared his projector and we watched Star Wars The Phantom Menace on my living room wall.

locked and loaded

locked and loaded

My thanksgiving weekend started on Thanksgiving morning with a heaping helping of Beverly’s veal Parmesan. I had to leave in a hurry though to go home and prepare for the imminent of arrival of some special guests.

I picked up my parents at 6:30 from Bob Hope airport. They wanted to eat dinner, but our options were quite slim since it was thanksgiving evening. We ended up stopping at Mel’s Diner. Dad’s burger looked really good, but my salad was pretty bad. I wasn’t hungry after all the food Beverly had made earlier – but the waiter still took the salad off (mom’s) bill when I complained.

On Friday morning we were off to Will Rogers state park. After finding the proper trail we hiked to Inspiration point. It was a very foggy morning – but you could still see to westwood in the east and the ocean to the west.

We ate lunch at Monsoon Cafe(remember that place?). Everything was delicious – I managed to burn my tongue by chewing on a hot pepper in my orange glazed chicken.

After lunch we strolled a few blocks down to the beach. Mom didn’t take her shoes off and get wet this time.

We drove back to my place where dad watched Full Metal Jacket while mom cooked after we all made a grocery run to prepare for the feast to come on the morrow. Mom and Dad decided that they wanted to have pizza and beer for dinner. This gave me an excellent excuse to check out Valentino’s Pizza which was literally down the block. It turned out to be great pizza and within walking distance… and cheap too! I managed to turn my father on to the joys of Ranch sauce on pizza.

the friendliest airport in America

the friendliest airport in America

On Sunday we checked out of the hotel and headed straight back to the spot we’d left the night before. We headed east around Bell Rock and quickly noted that with the amount of photo-stoppage time that would be applied to our game – we’d never finish before the buzzer (our park pass from Saturday only lasted until noon). We said goodbye to the rocks, agreed we’d come back again with four healthy ankles, and ate lunch at a breakfast shop along highway 179.

Beverly noted it was the best omelet she’d ever eaten – although they managed to give her the wrong cheese and wrong peppers.

We arrived in Phoenix a few hours early. After being rebuffed by the Southwest folks (it costs more to change flights than buy a new ticket) we decided to wander around downtown Phoenix, which turned out to be a terribly lonely place on a Sunday afternoon. We spotted what looked like a rotating bar atop the Hyat hotel. After climbing the glass elevator we were stopped at the 21st floor because the restaurant wouldn’t open until 5:30pm.

After spending more time than originally planned at the rental car return (apparently Beverly’s embassy discount is more myth than fact – existing in the system with over ten descriptions but with no rates listed anywhere) we made it to the airport with just over an hour to spare. Beverly had assured me (based on her LAX experience) that we’d be picked up at the curb with disabled flyer’s services and whisked through check-in and security. No such luck. The disabled check-in was stymied by a line of twenty disabled college girls fresh from a special Olympics style competition (they all had their special red trikes). The regular check-in was quick enough and the attendant pointed us in the direction of the “black shirt guys” that would get Beverly a wheel-chair to go to our terminal. The black shirt guy was clueless, so we walked to one end of the place to ask a security guard what to do. He informed us we had to walk to the other end to get a wheelchair. This lack of concern left us a little frazzled, but we got the wheelchair and proceeded to the security checkpoint post-haste.

Upon reaching security we were rebuffed again, informed with no fanfare that the wheelchair would have to be abandoned at the beginning of the line. When Beverly went through the metal detector they asked her to take off her (special doctor prescribed ankle) boot. When she went over to take it off the screener looking at the rubber tubs said “they made you take it off? Don’t take it off”… The metal detector man once again told her to take it off – which caused the rubber tub man to holler for the hand-wanding expert. It was a few minutes of waiting in the quarantine area before the wanding woman arrived. Of course when she did arrive she was totally oblivious to the reason Beverly was in it, asking her to STAND UP to be wanded several times. Everything considered it took us at least ten minutes more to get through security than a normal person (or if she’d have hopped on one foot). However, once that ordeal was done with – we were still without a wheelchair to get her to the gate (which was the last gate in the terminal of course).

Luckily we found one nearby unaccounted for and “stole” it. We arrived at the gate just as preboarding was beginning.

Back in Los Angeles safe and sound we were met at the plane by an LAX service person who put Beverly in a wheelchair and escorted us all the way out to the WallyPark pick-up point. It was a world of difference from our experience at PHX. So much for “the friendliest airport in the world.”

We rented Flags of our Fathers (not as good as Saving Pvt. Ryan) and ate Ono Hawaiian BBQ.

for whom the bell rocks

for whom the bell rocks

Saturday morning we awoke to sounds of ducks outside our window providing pre-game entertainment.

After The Game we at lunch at the Red Chopstick. Best Chinese cuisine in town – of course it was also the only Chinese cuisine in town.

After filling our bellies we went a few hundred feet north and turned into Red Rock State Park. We chose the Bell Rock Loop. We made it only halfway around before the sun started to drop low in the sky. When Beverly took a siesta on a flat rock in the shade I took a detour up the rock face. I thought I’d climbed quite high – but upon looking later I was only at best halfway up the mesa.

Photo taken on the South side of the mesa (looking north).

Looking north from halfway up the mesa

Looking south from halfway up the mesa

We quickly determined that we’d never be able to hobble back to the parking lot before the park closed at 5pm, so I ran back along highway 179, which I found out has no berm but cacti and brier patches.

On our drive back towards Sedona we stopped at (and were summarily tossed out of) the church of the rocks.

Our pimp ride for the weekend posing with a fan in front of the church of the rocks

We ate dinner at the Red Planet Diner. The only truly quaint “themed” restaurant we could find in the tiny town. After dinner we stopped at the “festival of lights,” which turned out to be nothing more than a few blocks of houses with elaborate Christmas lights (anyone who spent a Christmas on the east coast would be familiar -and unimpressed – with this, especially since they don’t charge a $6 admission fee on the east coast).

We finished the night with a dip in the hot tub – Beverly deftly dodging a pitch from the pyramid schemer sharing the bubbles with us. I noted that I have a hot tub in my condo complex – and perhaps I should get in it before a whole year goes by without taking full advantage of my HOA fees’ perks.

hop skip and hobble

hop skip and hobble

After a short hop across highway 10 east I landed at the Phoenix airport around 11am. 45 minutes later I was in a rental car and on my way to the Valley Ho hotel to pick up Beverly from her conference. The hotel was totally remodelled to be straight out of a 60s late night talk show. Everything was made of circles and wavy patterns, translucent plastic, chunky ornaments with thin legs. Ironically the disabled room they had put Beverly in was all the way at the end of the complex (does that make any sense?). As we drove away from the hotel we noticed a swath of art galleries. We decided to get out and take a look since we didn’t have any set time-table for getting to Sedona. After we wandered around for a bit and revelled in our mutual disdain for “authentic southwestern themed” artwork we hopped back in the car to an immediate phone call from one of Beverly’s colleagues. Beverly had forgot her hat in the hotel lobby.

We picked up the hat and noted the eerily perfect timing. Then it was on to Sedona through a desolate yellow wasteland; but only after slipping through the heavy Friday afternoon traffic. Phoenix is growing by leaps and bounds – and doesn’t have the infrastructure in place yet. The rental agency had given me a free “upgrade” to a PT Cruiser. The Cruiser is woefully underpowered ( i.e. we were getting passed by various trucks on a 2% grade as I slammed the gas pedal to the floor). Beverly spent a few minutes looking through the owner’s manual for horsepower information, there was none. The Internet later told me it was 150.

For the vast majority of the drive we were treated to a subtle rise in elevation and increasing count of sand and cactus. Suddenly in “red rock country” the landscape changes to mars with pine trees. We stopped a few times to snap photos before even reaching our hotel. By the time we checked in it was dusk so we decided to eat dinner and then grab groceries. For dinner we ate at the hotel restaurant – which was completely deserted. We remarked to our waiter that the mushroom ragu was excellent but the calamari was dismal. He was so happy to have a customer that he took the calamari and our drinks off the bill.

We ended the evening with a trip to the supermarket – Beverly taking a stab at driving the disabled cart, and then pouring some liqour into glasses for a trip to the hot tub.