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Month: December 2009

christmas day 8

christmas day 8

Wednesday morning it was time to leave our desert hotel behind.  We headed to the airport at the ungodly hour of 4:30am PST.  (of course, my mother gets up this early to go to work every day)

My journey was just beginning when I got on the plane though.  At our LAX gate we had to wait because the previous flight hadn’t even left yet.  I was supposed to ride the FlyAway bus back to Van Nuys, where a coworker who lives nearby could pick me up.  I chased a flyaway bus to its stop.  The stop was labeled “flyaway and transportation” (or something like that).  The bus was unmistakable as it was painted blue and white with a big “flyaway” on the side.  The LED sign at the front said nothing.  There were a few of us standing outside that hesitated for a moment not knowing if this was the right one or if we had to pay now or what – and the bus driver (loading bags under the bus) just motioned to us and said “get on!”  After we got moving I noticed the bus wasn’t taking the same route I would have.  first we headed towards the 105.  I thought “well, okay, the 405 crosses the 105, maybe he’s just taking that way.”  Then when we stayed in the left lane and let the 405 ramps pass us I by I knew I was in trouble.

Half an hour later I got off the bus at Union Station to wait in the rain in a line to pay for a bus ride to the wrong location.  I knew, though, that Union Station was the last/first stop on the Red Line subway track that runs all the way to North Hollywood on the other end.  So, I hopped on the next Red Line.  I’d convinced my friend to drive to North Hollywood from Van Nuys before I hopped on the Red Line.  However, I’d still have to wait for his arrival for half an hour once I got to NoHo.  Anyone familiar with the NoHo metro stop knows there are few places to hide from the rain, and nowhere “indoors” where one might put down their 50 pound rucksack on their back (there was standing water in many places). 

Going back downstairs into the underground metro facility won’t work as cell coverage is completely blocked down there, so I would have no idea when my friend was there.  At first I waited at the bus stop – then a woman started smoking.  Second, I stood under a tree with a bunch of birds (see photo above).  Then a guy walked over to our group and started asking if he could bum a cigarette from someone.  Of course, someone obliged, so I decided it would be better to stand out directly in the rain for another twenty minutes until my friend arrived.

After he arrived we went back to my place and ate pumpkin pie.  (thanks, mom)

christmas day 7

christmas day 7

Today I got up earlier than I even would to get up for work on a normal day.  Tomorrow I’ll be getting up around 5am to catch the plane back – so knew I had to “adjust” accordingly.  The weather today was a little better than yesterday, but we made our plans without knowing that it would turn out that way.

We headed straight for Ventana Canyon.  The first mile or so of the trail has been sold to private owners, so an easement (think “public beach access”) was created to let people still get to the canyon.  This was often lame, as the first half mile was spent hiking next to condominium parking lots.  For another mile each side of the trail had a fence.

After that came a concentration camp style twisty fence intended to keep bicycles and animals out out of the canyon.    The trail twisted back and forth over the dry creek.  The creek at this point was the most interesting part and I wished I could just hike it instead of the dirt trail as it was full of interesting boulders.  As we slowly climbed in elevation we ran into more and more rocks of interesting varieties, (quartz, mica, granite, etc.)

Next the trail took us on a zig-zag all the way up the mountain.  There were many little “vistas” to stop and take a breather and look down on the valley.  At various points the sun would make an appearance and then quickly disappear again.  Looking out on this rippling pattern over the flat valley and lower canyon reminded me of the waves of light on a dusty shallow sea floor.

Zen parents:

After hiking for two hours we reached the top of the first hill/mountain in the canyon.  There are many trails that branch off two more miles up, but we decided to turn back as there would be no way we could get back to the car before 2pm, and we hadn’t eaten since 7am.  Here is the view from the top (or at least the “first” top – the trail kept on going up after turning back down for a bit):

I stopped on a flat rock on my way back down and did some meditating of my own.  My parents were already far far down the trail.  My dad used his super zoom lens and took this photo:

Here is how far away he really was (look for the little black dot near the middle of the photo):

I took the creek bed back as far as I could – hopping back and forth down massive boulders.  I suppose on a hot day it would be fantastic to go UP the creek, cooling off in the water while climbing up through.

looking back at the dry creek bed boulders:

For a late lunch we went back to an Italian place called Caruso’s on 4th street.  Dad and I then went up to the Park Place mall to watch Avatar.  After our minds were blown my mom took us to Jamba Juice before going home to pack and get to bed early for the long day ahead tomorrow (my plane ticket says “seat: N/A” .. should I be worried?).

christmas day 6

christmas day 6

After a quicker breakfast at the hotel restaurant we headed to the PIMA air and space museum.  We spent most of our time outside in the bitter cold.  Dad served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, so he was very familiar with many of the planes, and even had stories about riding in a few of them.

Here is dad first showing us the entrance that he (and everyone on board) had to use to hoist themselves up into one of the bombers.  A few seconds later he changed his mind and determined that the real entrance portal had been sealed up and the hatch you can see here is actually the bottom ejection port.

I must be getting to be a softie after living in Los Angeles because I was dying walking around in 45 degree weather with blistering winds.  We were out there about an hour and it turned my core into an ice cube and made my nose run for the next seven hours.

Dad and I got onto a bus and took the tour of the “boneyard” on the grounds of the Davis Monthon Air Force Base.  The tour was kind of interesting, but it would have been much cooler to be able to walk through the acres of “dead” planes.  Since it was a base though we weren’t allowed off the bus. 

After we came back we decided not to brave the cold to see the rest of the planes on display in the outdoors at the museum.  We’d seen most of them the first time around though.  We decided to head back into town to eat lunch at East Coast Super Subs.

The sub ingredients were good as cherry peppers were sprinkled on, but the bread was cookie cutter.  We also ordered onion rings, which were decent. 

After lunch we weren’t sure what to do, so we headed to Saguro National Park and drove around the nine mile loop.  We got off at one point and walked across a few rocks, but nobody was up for doing much more as the wind was still blowing and the sun, covered by clouds, was starting to hang lower and lower.

We then drove a few miles up Mt. Lemmon and turned around as the sun went down.  After about the second mile of going up the hill the rocks looked fantastic for climbing, big and chunky, very solid with little vegetation and great variations of color from gray to yellow to green to stark white.  There were many small streams that would normally run down the mountain, but in the winter go dry and would make for a great craggy climb up the mountain.  However, the wind was blowing even fiercer on the mountain and the light was starting to fade.  Cars behind us coming down the mountain that had gone farther up were covered in snow.  We didn’t bother to step outside.

After returning to the hotel I tried to warm up my core with a dip in the strange bathtub/spa thing in our bathroom. To finish the day mom and I walked around the college hangout, 4th street, looking for something to eat.  We walked past a plethora of bong and hydroponics shops and settled on a wrap and smoothie place.

christmas day 5

christmas day 5

Our first full day in Tucson started off with “free” breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  High school cafeteria pancakes (or scrambled eggs) were served up with little sausages and a drink.  The hotel wasn’t properly staffed for a full house, with only one cook and two waitresses waiting for a whole hungry hotel of guests.  It took 45 minutes to get my “free” (it’s built into the cost of your room, “free” is a marketing gimmick) McDonald’s imitation pancakes and sausage and the most watered down orange juice I’ve ever had. 

The whole problem could have been averted by turning the situation into a buffet line (they had space behind the counter to rig it), but I’m sure some cost cutting executive noted that folks would “take advantage” of that.  Trust me, three tasteless pancakes are right about my limit.

Our plans had to change as the Air Force base is closed on Sundays.  We decided to swap our plans for today with Monday’s.  Our first stop was the Sonora Desert Museum.  Not much was happening as we were “out of season” to see any plants in bloom or most animals running around.  Most of the critters we saw were hibernating.  We didn’t spot a single lizard the entire time (lie! we saw one clinging to the top of the netting above the hummingbird room).

We did see a herd of Javalina’s (what? – a pig with black hair).

Because of the scarcity of anything with color (other than beige) I found this part of the day kind of a let-down.  The desert museum takes about two and a half hours to walk all the way through – but I wouldn’t recommend it in winter.

We decided to stop at Old Town Tucson for lunch, but when we discovered the admission was $17 (more than the museum, by the way), we collectively said “F – that!” and got back on the road.  We changed our original plans of going to El Charro for dinner and upped it to lunch.  Of course the portions were so big we ended up not even eating dinner anyway.

After eating we headed back out Speedway to Gates’ Pass to watch the sunset.  I convinced my parents to hike up the rocks on the smaller hill.

For the sunset we came back down and started up the mountain on the other side of the parking lot.  My parents wandered half the way up and decided to call it a day.  I kept going and watched the sun go down from a high cliff, alone in the quiet of the vast valley below my feet (or, below the rock below my feet).

christmas day 4

christmas day 4

Today was the travel day.  Our gracious chauffeur (Sam) dropped us off at LAX with complimentary chocolate milk.   Good thing too – because we wouldn’t eat again for about eight hours. 

When we got to our hotel and tried to get in our cards wouldn’t work.  The attendant placed us in an adjacent room with new cards.  Here is dad looking sour after travelling all morning and not being able to get into our room:

After getting into the adjacent room we headed off to the nearest Mexican restaurant – Las Fuentes. 

While dad watched the Emerald Bowl I tried to drive mom to some christmas light community event.  It turned out that the traffic was so terrible we turned around.  On the way back we bought some Ben & Jerry’s to watch the second half of the game with.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get back in the door.  Dad let us in but then had to go to the front office yet again to exchange cards.  Stay tuned to see if our cards work tomorrow…..

christmas day 3

christmas day 3

After mom made french toast we headed to Point Dume.

After taking these pictures we got out mom’s binoculars and saw a school of dolphins to the west.

We then went down to the beach on the other side of the dome.

We tried to find the sea lions but all we saw were birds.  Mom and dad turned back, but I kept going and found 25 sea lions resting lower down near the water.  They were so lazy they didn’t mind me getting up close.

This is me hiking over the rocks to get to the lions:

Instead of hiking up the hill I hiked all the way around the base of the volcano back to the main beach.  There I met up with my parents again and convinced them to follow me a tiny bit of the way back around (in the direction of the sea lions) to see the rocks.

After coming back from Malibu mom fixed a christmas feast and Sam joined us…

Stuffed cornish hens, green bean casserole, mashed potatos, pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies and a little wine.

christmas day 2

christmas day 2

The original plan for December 24th was to start the day off at Miceli’s for lots of Italian carbs before going on a long hike.  However, Miceli’s wouldn’t open until noon, which would be 3pm parents’ time, so that was a little too late for a brunch.  Instead we went to More than Waffles in Encino before heading to Runyon Canyon. 

On Wednesday the air (at least in the valley) was clear of smog, which meant the view from Runyon the next morning would be great.  However, there were apparently a lot of morning travellers as there was already a blanket of smog (see photo) settling over Los Angeles by the time we got to the trailhead (around 11am). After hiking for three hours up and down the canyon (some paths more than once) we headed to Silverlake to visit the Soap Factory/Wacko/Luz De La Jesus Gallery.  The bookstore was packed, apparently a lot of goths and hipsters needed some last minute christmas gifts.  There weren’t a lot of new pieces in the gallery – and most of it was dedicated to some sort of holiday poster show.

We left the hipsters and headed back on Hollywood Blvd. to Thai town, first to Out of the Closet so my mom could buy me a special pot for the christmas cactus she brought with her, and then to dinner at Ord Noodles.  I frequent Ord withSam because I like the soup with angel hair pasta.  Our waitress however wasn’t so hot on the little nuances of the Englishlanguage, and so even after stressing that we’d like the “small/tiny/angel hair noodles” she brought out three piping hot bowls of duck soup with regular sized noodles.  Oh well, guess I learned I can’t go to Thai town without an interpreter and expect to get what I want.

To finish things off we headed southeast to Robertson Blvd. to be the last customers of the day at Al Gelato Llc., which, in my limited experience, has the best gelato (better than ice cream) anywhere.

christmas day 1

christmas day 1

After working nearly a full (stressful) day I picked up my parents at the Burbank airport.  We took Vanowen to Sepulveda and went to the 99 Ranch Market for some live crabs. 

Afterwards I replaced the vacuum band and discovered it still wasn’t working.  After much consternation from all three of us, my dad took off the attachment hose and asked me if I had a broom handle.  Sure enough we discovered a blockage in the artery like a cheeseburger in Dom Deluise.

This of course used only a portion of my dad’s brain; another part was examining my entranceway light, which has worked poorly for a while.  I wanted to make sure it was really truly burnt out before I took the next step. My father’s electrical know-how, being an engineer, is far beyond mine, and live electricity is something I don’t mess with – plumbing, sure, but anything measured in volts, I don’t think so.  Best to leave that to the retired expert.

 Sure thing, dad confirmed that two of the light sockets were completely burnt out (and one of the wires too).  So, we capped the night off with a trip to Home Depot for a new light fixture (because they didn’t have replacement sockets).

My mom actually swept my condo while we were at Home Depot, so unfortunately today ended up being more work than fun for them – hopefully it’ll be all fun tomorrow.

apparently I CAN get a break

apparently I CAN get a break

A break in my vacuum cleaner rubber band.  Because that is the break I got when I tried to clean my home preparing for my parents’ visit last night.

Also of note, as I drove to work this morning I noticed no fewer than eight patrol cars parked across the street by the house that always has a yard sale every weekend.

Note:  there are a lot of yards that have items for sale every weekend in LA.  This is how naive hipsters fund the drug addictions of the middle aged in our city.

new design

new design

Today I put up the new design for the site.  Total time from original design to final fixes was probably something between 15 and 20 hours.

This version is much easier for me to update with new artwork – something I needed to do because I’ve done a ton of new stuff since the last design – and the only place you could see it is by scrolling back through the blog.  Now it’s all there – plus some stuff that never even made it to the blog.  In the future I’ll be able to add each piece as they’re finished.  I realize this design probably doesn’t seem as “slick” as the last one, but it is WAY more functional on my end.  I stopped selling myself as a “web designer” a long time ago.  Obviously my next goal is to get together enough decent paintings to get into a gallery.  The goal for the new website design is to showcase my fine art portfolio – not my friends’ sites (although those can be found in the blogroll, by the way), my “autobiography” or my resume.

Also – all the paintings were photographed the weekend before last in natural lighting and photoshopped back into shape, so the images you’ll find there are NOT the same crappy process photos you’ve seen on the blog and are a much truer (although you can never really approximate what a painting looks like in real life) representation of the work.  This is also true of all the (newer) drawings and sketches which have now been scanned instead of photographed.

Let me know what you think….