Browsed by
Month: August 2011

Thailand Day 5

Thailand Day 5

On our first morning in Phuket our driver picked us up and we drove about half an hour to a Rassada Harbor. We had purchased the 3 in 1 Phi Phi Islands tour.

We boarded the boat quickly but then had to wait another hour for some other tour members who showed up late.  The sky was overcast and we were worried that our “island paradise” would not be so picture perfect.  About twenty minutes out on the water our hopes were diminished further when it started to rain.  We were on the top of the boat, which was open, but with the heat and humidity a little rain felt nice.
An hour later as we circled Khai Nok Island the gods smiled on us and broke through the rain and clouds, shooting down bright rays of morning sunshine on our little island.  Of all the islands we would visit this remained my favorite.  The island seemed to be no longer than a football field with a small whitesand beach in the front.  Our guide explained that we would only have 45 minutes on the island instead of the original 90 thanks to the few tourists that had shown up late.

We bounced down the plastic floating pier, grabbed our snorkels and headed to the unpopulated area just past the edge of the beach.

On our way there a five-foot long Komodo dragon swam up and ran across the beach.  I didn’t have time to take a photo, but a minute later we were surprised with a visit from a baby dragon.

Although the water wasn’t crystal clear and the fish weren’t as colorful as “normal” due to our visit falling in the low season the snorkeling was still an amazing experience.  The only other time I can remember snorkeling is as a child in the community pool, this was certainly worlds apart from that!

I had bought an underwater casing thing for this trip so I could try to take underwater pictures.  The casing was more like a ziplock back with a lens cap.  It was made for larger lenses, so it was hard to get a photo where you couldn’t see the circle of the lens cap on the side of the photo.  The photo above and the next three were taken with Sam’s Fuji underwater camera.

The next two videos were shot with Sam’s underwater camera.

I wanted to stay all day, but our guide, “beer,” quickly rounded us up and we were soon on our long-tail boat again heading to the “big boat.”  the skies turned gray again as we left kai island and headed back into the open ocean.  “open ocean” is really a misnomer as for this day and thenext we’d be in oceanic national parks that had tons of islands in every direction, always no farther away than the horizon.  In fact, this often turned into a sort of mirage as we could see the tall islands from far away but never seemed to get closer. About an hour after leaving Kia island we realized this was actually true and we were sitting dead in the water.  Soon after we saw a long-tail boat heading for us and twenty minutes later two Italians who had boarded the wrong boat at Khai were back with us.  The designer shirt, watch and hat wearing little man sat in front of us and proceeded to smoke a pack of cigarettes, taking breaks to retrieve his silly hat when it often blew off in the wind.  His Italian girlfriend was clearly in a classic Italian-angry-woman rage, but kept largely in check as she was more conscious of her boyfriend/husband’s inconvenience to the rest of the tour.

lunch on the boat: fresh fried fish and other stuff.  I think Beer is the guy in the red cap.

It turns our foreigners like to smoke.  A lot.  On our group tours this would always be a constant annoyance.  No matter how small a a boat we were shoved into, no matter how many children (usually of their own) were around there was constantly secondhand cigarette smoke entering our lungs. The most brazen smokers seemed to be the persians and Europeans.  Also worth noting that Americans were few and far between, even on a large organized tour such as this.

90 minutes later we had arrived at the next group of islands.

We first passed the beach where many scenes from danny boyle’s “the island” werer shot.  Unfortunately we did not stop there and sam and myself were apparently the only poeple who had seen the film.

We circled around to the other side and sank anchor perhaps 100 yards from shore.

We hopped on another long-tail boat and went to the beach at Maya Bay where many monkeys were there to greet us.

The photo below is from Sam’s camera – proof that I took the above shot and not National Geographic 😉

After leaving the monkeys I had a few minutes to snorkel again behind the big boat.  The snorkeling there was actually better than earlier in the day because we were hovering over a coral reef with many more diverse types of fish.  I saw one fish that looked like eel but with a fish face and long nose.  Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera with me.  Soon beer was herding us back onto the big boat. As I was showering off apparently a European tried to break off and take a piece of coral with him.  The arrogant tourist protested and for a minute it almost seemed like beer was going to have to show him a demonstration of Thai kickboxing.

Next we headed past Ao Lohsama and A Bi-leh…..

Below is a photo of Viking Cave.  I forget what they told us about these, but Sam got it on video… maybe you can make out Beer’s description in the video?  Something about bamboo poles?  …or you can read about it here.

When we were back on the boat and headed to Phi Phi Island the sun decided to hide behind the clouds again and never really returned.

Because of the Italian our time on phi phi was cut short to about 45 minutes.  Sam and I walked to the other side of the island and waded out into the bay.  Along the way we encountered two different crabs that hid in the sand.  The first one just wanted to hide, but the second one wanted to fight and put up his claws, pinching me when I swooped in with my underwater camera.


After relaxing in Ton Sai Bay bay for about 25 minutes we walked through the little trinket and food village, buying some souvenirs and a nice yellow grilled chicken snack to eat on the boat.

It was around 8 by the time we were back in phuket and we were hungry again so we walked around until we found black canyon coffee, a restaurant chain in southeast Asia.  I hope they expand to the states one day.

Our crappy hotel was right around the corner from the Hard Rock Cafe, which had this cover band playing every night.

Thailand Day 4

Thailand Day 4

Day 4 started off like day 3, with pastries from the nearby Japanese market. After that Sam and I walked over to the nearby large public park.  Below are two shots of the new condos/hotels that are going up all over Bangkok.  The architecture is an interesting mix of modern contemporary and traditional Thai.

Like I said – construction everywhere…

The next batch of photos is from Benjasiri Park.

The game above looks like a more fun version of hackeysack – with a hollow wicker ball.  I wish we could have played this in high school instead.

Squirrels in Bangkok are better looking.  They are more monochrome and thinner than American squirrels.

In the middle of the above photo is the dermatology center where Sam and I got our faces stuck with needles on our first night in Bangkok.

On our walk back to the house we picked up food for lunch from street vendors.

Dr. Pornsak’s dental clinic is only a block away from Dr. Nut’s practice.  There was another laughing foreigner taking a photo of this sign at the same time.  Around 1pm we boarded our flight to Phuket.  Nok Airlines served us these little gummy pineapple cake things.

On the mini-bus to our hotel we pulled up alongside this “crazy horse” car.  I wonder why owner picked the phrase.  Surely there aren’t that many Neil Young fans in Phuket Thailand.

The hotel room we purchased online was supposed to be great and the description said it was “on the beach.”  It turns out this was probably the poorest quality hotel room either of us have ever stayed in.  The bathroom was basically a large shower stall.

Of course the hotel wasn’t “on the beach” but across the street.  That wouldn’t have been so bad if the “ocean view” had actually been the ocean and not the backside of another hotel.


However, even if it had been an ocean view – the beach (when we arrived) looked like this:

Blegh!  I’ve seen nicer beaches in Cleveland.  The front of the hotel barely exists, hidden behind other businesses.

We were instantly pissed off, as we had been promised a fantastic ocean front resort of the kind you see “in the movies.”  What we got was a dirty beach, shitty hotel room and a tourist trap area full of McDonalds’, Burger Kings, bars and tattoo parlors.  I did get to experience some good looks, though.

We walked along the street looking for a place to have dinner.  We settled on a decent looking hotel’s outdoor dining area.  Sam tried to order a root beer float and had to explain to the waiter what that was.  What she got was room temperature unfizzy coke (not even a full bottle) and a bit of ice cream sloppily shoved down in the glass.

oh, and that cherry on top… what you see there is all you get – they chopped off the bottom of the cherry!

I ordered a strawberry smoothie – clearly made from some prepackaged smoothie mix.

My dinner was a regular cheeseburger, which was fine except that I discovered Thai people don’t eat pickles.  Instead, they just cut up cucumbers to LOOK like pickles.

Sam ordered some shrimp thing that wasn’t half bad.  After dinner we decided we wanted to try to make it to either Big Buddha or Promthep Cape to catch the sunset.  A driver we approached said that Promthep was closer.  We later looked at the map and found that Promthep was twice as far away as Big Buddha.

Since our driver had taken us to a farther destination the sun had already set by the time we arrived.

I saw a path down to the actual tip of the cape and was determined to get there. Sam in her thin sandals – not so much.

It got dark very quickly, so I only spent a minute or two down at the tip of the cape and then ran back up in almost complete darkness.  It turns out they don’t have any lights at the lighthouse and public park at the cape.  So, unfortunately Sam was up there all alone in the dark for a few minutes while I struggled through the rocks and trees in the dark.

After we got back to town we decided to try the “fish spa” before going to our hotel and going to bed (our tour would start early the next morning).  If you’ve never tried the fish spa – it is a unique experience.  It is very disconcerting at first, but you get used to it eventually.  It feels like a mild electric shock or advanced tickling.  We only paid for ten minutes, but the shop owners weren’t paying attention and actually left us there for over twenty – at which point we asked them if we could leave.

Thailand Day 3

Thailand Day 3

On Monday we ate more of the pastries we purchased the day before for breakfast.

Sam’s sister and brother-in-law then picked us up for lunch at their favorite family restaurant.

I drank a pineapple drink.

We shared a lot of food.  The above crab nuggets were probably the best dish served.

The restaurant is famous in Bangkok for their BBQ chicken.  Their chicken is fine, but my mom’s home-made sweet BBQ sauce over chicken on the backyard grill is still the best.

Their crab fried rice was good.

The above green dish was described as a “local vegetable.”  It didn’t have a very strong taste, which is good, but was also a little rubbery, which is bad.

I like fried fish much more than steamed.  I think the frying brings out the sweet taste in the fish meat and the hard fried skin is a good contrast with the soft meat.  Steamed fish don’t have any of that.  They retain a sort of limpid milky taste which, although not something abhorrent to my tongue, doesn’t make me want a second helping.

These were the first whole tiger prawns I think I’ve had.  They are like mini-lobsters, except the meat has a more fishy taste to it.  They taste closer to shrimp than lobster for obvious reasons.

I snapped the above shot after leaving the restaurant.  All over Thailand people travel a bit less securely than in America.  Speed limits mean nothing.  Lanes mean nothing.  Safety means nothing (unless you’re a tourist, then they don’t want you to get hurt).  It wasn’t uncommon to see small children riding with their parents on motorcycles with no helmets and/or standing up in a sidecar.  In Bangkok of course this is hardly dangerous since Bangkok’s reputation for horrible traffic congestion is well deserved.

After eating lunch we were dropped off at Sam’s friend’s house in a different part of town that is more suburban.  Her friend is a very successful television personality and producer in Thailand and her house was befittingly beautiful and modern.  It reminded me of Dave Bowman’s “cosmic hotel” in 2001.

Which, of course, was the inspiration for the latter day Flynn’s home in Tron Legacy:

below are some shots of her house (just the living room) and garden:

Since this was our third day in Thailand and all I’d basically seen so far were the inside of restaurants and traffic, Sam’s friend agreed to drive us around Bangkok to see some sites (although mostly from inside the car).  Our first destination was their old high school, which is now the largest school in southeast asia.  It was like a small city for kids and it seemed like a nice place to go to school as they had a lot of amenities (olympic swimming pool, badmitton courts, volleyball courts, etc.) that certainly were never available at my high school.

A lot of Bangkok’s “downtown” stretches out in every direction.  Unlike in Los Angeles, where there are clusters of “nice” tall buildings with a clean break from smaller older dwellings and neighborhoods, Bangkok has new tall buildings going up all over the place, often straddling shantytowns made of untreated wood and metal siding.  From the freeway much of Bangkok looks like this:

After that we headed back into the regular Bangkok (tall buildings, etc.) and some temples were pointed out.  We stopped at one temple and walked half a block to Kaosarin Road.  There were a lot of the feet eating fish there, but Sam’s friend warned us that she heard a news report that many of them were the wrong kind of fish and they might eat the healthy skin off your feet – best we wait till we’re in Phuket to try that.

yes, even in Thailand.. you can’t escape Subway…

The Subway was next to Khaosan Road, which made sense since that road is a famous little tourist trap.  Probably the highest concentration of farang in Thailand.

Next we drove along the King’s residence until we got to the  monument of the fifth king of the current dynasty, which was relatively quiet.

After that we drove around on the freeway to an upscale restaurant district and had dinner at SpringSummer restaurant.

It is a minimalist fusion (I had tandori quesedillas) restaurant.  Like many of the upper class eateries the prices here were on par with any upscale similar place in Los Angeles.  I tried a $4 mixed drink with lychee, raspberry and carbonated water.

Thailand Vacation first 2 days

Thailand Vacation first 2 days

On Thursday the 25th I woke up at 6am and went to work.  After work I took a quick shower and packed a few last items before Victor picked me up to take me to Sam’s apartment.  That week was a particularly hot week in Los Angeles.  That means that in the SFV it is even hotter.  As we rolled down Sherman Way I saw that the temperature at nearly 6pm was still 98 degrees.  Victor had borrowed an old Accord as his new car wasn’t ready yet.  This older car didn’t have working AC.  I was sweating profusely in clothes I would be wearing for at least the next 20 hours.  I ended up having time to shower again at Sam’s before we’d leave for the airport.  Before that, though, on our way down Winnetka to the 101, Victor and I passed a big tour bus with a pink trailer hitched to it.  The trailer had “pornstartweets” written all over it.  This was interesting enough – but when we saw the trailer we read “AVN road trip.”  AVN, of course, stands for Adult Video Network.

Victor dropped me off at Sam’s apartment and went to dinner with another friend while Sam and I rearranged our suitcases to make sure nothing was over fifty pounds.  Sam had quite a few United States gifts to bring to her family and friends.  Before Victor arrived around 8 to take us to the airport we shot over to Whole Foods for one last meal.

Our China Southern flight was delayed, of course, by about 25-30 minutes.  So, our actual take-off didn’t occur till about midnight.  I tried desperately to sleep on the flight, with no luck.  I took a sleeping pill, but it seemed to have little or no effect.  It isn’t that I wasn’t tired – I was plenty tired – but sitting in an aisle seat with no cushioning (not to mention the opposite of lower back support) left me too uncomfortable to do much but just sit there with my eyes closed.  I may have got 45 minutes of sleep or so after 3am.  After being on the plane for fifteen hours and 30 minutes we trudged off into China’s Guangzhou airport.  The first thing I noticed was a vague sewer smell that permeated every inch of the airport.  Sam told me that is just “China’s smell.”  Yuck, not a good first impression.  Once we got through transfer security (which took way longer than it should have for 5am local time) I tried to sleep on the benches at our gate- but they were, of course, the benches with metal armrests on every chair that couldn’t be moved.  So, like so many other travellors across the globe, I did that weird scrunched-up-on-the-edge-of-the-bench-trying-to-sleep-but-not-really thing.  I either slept for a few minutes or got close – as I remember suddenly becoming very aware of where I was and how silly I must look and sat upright.  Our layover was about two hours and we still had an hour to wait.

Our China Southern flight to Bangkok was smaller (a 737 instead of 747), but still had the same horrible seats.  However, these seats had more familiarly made seat back tables – which, if they had been on the 15 hour flight, would have allowed me to lean forward and sleep.  This 2.5 hour flight felt like a short little hop after that rigorous 15 hour one.  Before long we were in Bangkok’s new airport.  The design is nice, sort of like a giant glass caterpillar, or wave.  Sam had warned me that the air would smell similar to China’s, but I couldn’t smell anything.  The first thing I noticed was, unlike Guangzhou, Thailand actually turns the air conditioning on at it’s airports.  As soon as we found Sam’s friend and stepped outside the humidity hit me like a wave.   The bad smell was absent though.

Before dropping us off at Sam’s other friend’s house in a residential area of Bangkok (Sukhumvit 39, the “Beverly Hills of Thailand”), we went to meet up with her other friend (and her friend’s mother and friend) at a restaurant called Coffee Bean.  This was the first food I’d eaten in Thailand.  Sam had warned me that Thai cooking uses a lot of fish sauce and coconut milk – but I couldn’t detect any of that in the delicious food we ordered at Coffee Bean.  The first thing we ordered was a cold chocolate drink.

I soon discovered that due to the relative cost of food (perhaps two to three times cheaper than in America at most “nice” restaurants) it was common to order more than you’d actually eat just so you could try many things.  This was, of course, to my benefit as I’d never had any of these dishes before anyway.  The below dish was some kind of local vegetable fried and with a side dish of spicy shrimp in a tomato based sauce.

My pick off of the menu was the fried soft-shell crab salad.  Delicious.  It came with a white cream sauce to pour on the top.  I was the only one that ate any of it, as all the women agreed that they grew up on crab so it was a rather boring dish for them.  I certainly didn’t grow up on seafood and had never seen anything like this.

Next we drove around Bangkok looking for Sam’s friend’s place.  The traffic was horrible, as advertised.  One of the first things I noticed about Bangkok was the lack of attention paid to wiring.  Everywhere there are electrical (and tv I’m sure) wires just strung up and hanging around.  I saw a lot of clipped wires just hanging loose above people’s heads on the street.  How the workers make sense of all of it I have no idea.  I should have taken a photo that day – but I did not.

Another thing I noticed was that all construction is done in the open, with minimal “guarding” unlike in America.  Here there are rarely cones.  The only time I saw cones around the construction was in the photo below when someone was actually using a blowtorch in the street (we drove right next to this as the lane wasn’t closed).  I’m not sure what they’re even doing here – hardening the blacktop?

As we sat in the traffic we heard the plop plop of thick raindrops on the cabin.  The truck that we’d been picked up in was a pick-up truck and our luggage was sitting in the bed.  Before long the plops turned into what reminded me of a regular Ohio thunderstorm.  Complete with thunder and lightning (although not as much of that as in Ohio).  Suddenly we skirted out of traffic and raced down back alleys (I would later learn that most “normal” residential streets in Bangkok are about the same width as alleyways in America).  Within fifteen minutes we were backing into a parking space of a tri-level upscale home.

Sam’s friend had just had a baby boy about a year ago, and she was generous enough to let us stay in her nursery room (which has a real bed) for our stay in Bangkok.  After we showered and got situated it was about 6pm local time (which would be 4am Saturday in Los Angeles) and Sam wanted to get dermatological treatment at a nearby clinic.  I was dead tired, having been up for almost 48 hours with no “real” sleep.  However, I agreed to go with Sam and experience this thing for myself.  The treatment was in a very clean upscale clinic.  We were lead upstairs into separate rooms and told to lay down on a bed.  A dentist’s light was hovered over my face in the dark room.  Soon a woman started sticking a needle in my face and started injecting my zits with something (Sam said this was some kind of antibiotic).  I won’t say it was painful, but it was extremely uncomfortable.  They must have stuck me at least 12 times, and I would have liked to stop after the fifth, but my “doctor” didn’t speak (much) English so it soon became apparent I’d have to sit there and take it until she was done.

Before long we were back in a cab on our way back to the house.  When we got back we said we were kind of hungry and wondered if Sam’s friend and her husband would like to eat.  They took us to dinner, but because of traffic it ended up being a two hour affair.  I was too tired to grab my camera and take any photos of the food at the restaurant.  When we finally got home around 10pm local time (8am in Los Angeles) I’d been awake for a full 50 hours.  Probably the longest amount of time without sleep in my entire life.  I shut down as soon as I hit the bed and didn’t wake up for ten hours.  Because I stayed awake so long I completely adjusted to the time difference and really didn’t feel any jet-lag the next day.

Sunday, August 28th

In the mid morning we went with Sam’s friend to the local supermarket and checked out the interesting food at the bakery.  We bought a bunch of stuff to bring home just to try out.

We bought four of the other kinds of bread things from this shop, but not the Tuna.

The above was described as “pizza”, but didn’t resemble anything close to a pizza to me.  The dough was kind of like pizza dough, but the filling was ham, pineapple and some other things, topped with what the store described as “margarine” but I swear reminded me of Kewpie.  It was still good, though.

This was a local version of cheesiebread, that has all the stateside pizza parlor cheesiebread beat.

We also bought fresh flavored soymilk for dipping the pastries in.  I would have liked this better cold I think.  I was expecting a different taste (I drink soymilk at home now instead of regular milk), but Sam’s friend explained that all the “sweets” in Thailand are bland compared to in America.  I suddenly felt a tinge of shame, it only tasted “bland” because, as a fat American, I’m so used to having everything injected with 3 days worth of sugar in one serving and a ton of artificial flavoring.

The above thing was a bread piece with ham inside and cheese and “margarine” on top.

The above pastries are where we really noticed the blandness of sweets.  These were supposed to be chocolate banana and maple syrup flavored, but they really just tasted like bread with a hint of the above flavors.  In America the chocolate flavor would have been overwhelming I’m sure.

In an hour or so we left the house again to meet Sam’s friend’s husband for lunch at a very upscale sushi restaurant called Isao.  Apparently, this place is the best Sushi in Bangkok.  It was very good, unfortunatley I didn’t get more than one photo of the sushi as they have a strict no-photos policy.  The prices were actually on-par with better sushi restaurants in America (and the quality just as good).

Above is a shot of the overcast sky and exterior street sign of the restaurant.  You can see some of the electrical work I mentioned earlier – although what you see in this photo is extremely well kept compared to what you’ll see on a normal street in the city.  Below is a sly shot I snuck of the Caterpillar sushi.

After lunch we were dropped off at Health Land Spa for massages.  I’ve never got a massage in the states, so I’m not sure if this is normal – but they wanted me to wear a teeny tiny fishnet speedo/g-string type of thing.  I tried to just put on my regular underwear, but my massage therapist took a look and said “no no no” and left until I put on the little black thing.  After the massage I took a photo of it, so you can see what I mean.

After the massage we went back and prepared for the wedding reception we were to attend later that night.  Sam’s friend (a new one I hadn’t met yet) drove us to the reception.  It was held at Audrey’s, an Audrey Hepburn themed restaurant (very upscale).  I didn’t bring my camera – so the two photos below are stolen from on of Sam’s friends that has already started putting some photos up on Facebook.  I still don’t have a “camera ready smile”… which sucks…

Griffith Park + LLL

Griffith Park + LLL

On Saturday afternoon Sam and I filled our stomachs with food from Whole Foods’ salad bar and headed to Griffith Park to burn it off before watching the Independent Shakespeare Company’s performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost.  I thought we’d just wander up and down a few familiar trails and then pick our place on the lawn for the show.  The performers are very clear about there being no photography allowed.  I’d already taken photos of the set-up last time we went, so I decided (uncharacteristically) to not bring my camera.  As it turned out I would need my camera several times that day, so Sam let me use her cell phone to take all the shots below.

We decided to go up a trail to the right of the parking lot.  This trail turned out to go nowhere but right back down into the same parking lot about twenty yards away.  We at first were going to walk up the familiar trail behind the old zoo (where the later performance would take place).  At the last moment we decided to walk straight through the hispanic BBQ birthday parties instead and follow the wide horse trail by the continuance of Griffith Park drive heading north.

After walking about half an hour Sam mentioned she had to pee.  This was quite ironic given my propensity for regular bathroom breaks.  We had two choices; turn back and walk half an hour to the bathrooms by the carousel or wander on and see what we’d come to ahead.  This wasn’t a familiar trail.  Sam agreed to hold it and see what we could find if we forged ahead.  As it turned out, over the next hill was the parking lot to the Griffith Park Golf Course, which, of course, would contain a clubhouse and bathroom.  Before getting to the golf course we had to go up one more hill and come down.  At the top of the hill I looked at the mountain in front of us and saw… wooden steps leading to a wooded area at the top!  I knew we’d found the staircase leading to the garden that I’d sought for a long time.  In the photo below you can see the garden (where all the trees are) and the steps just below if you look closely.

For the last five years, every time we’ve wandered up and down trails north of the carousel in Griffith Park what I’ve really been doing is looking for a trail of steps that I hiked with a group in 2006.  I’d seen the steps at the top of the mountain, but now I wondered if the steps would come down to the trail we were on just somewhere up ahead. When we came to the break in the trail which lead to the golf course parking on the right, I looked up ahead and saw, just before the next hill – what looked like the opening to the steps.  When we exited the golf course area we did so to the north of where we had been previously.  Because of the variation in the landscape we weren’t sure if we were back on the trail at the same spot (just farther down) or far ahead of where we were.  We kept walking for a while and didn’t see any steps.  We began to wonder if we should turn around.  We decided to keep going and very soon we came upon a group of wooden steps heading straight up the hill through the brush.  After a ten minute real-world version of the Stairmaster we found ourselves in a large garden on top of the mountain filled with many green benches and thousands upon thousands of succulent plants and ferns.  At the very top was a hitching post area for horses and a large sign that said Amir’s Garden.

We discovered upon leaving that the trail I’d seen before we walked into the golfing parking lot was in fact the first of two step trails going up the hill to the garden.  We took the southern steps (visible from the other trail) back down.   In the photo below you can see the steps that are (hard to see) in the first photo on this entry.

Back on the trail parallel to Griffith Park Drive we spotted a bunny.

And then Sam spotted a quick moving baby praying mantis.

When we’d originally arrived we had seen a wayward fox wandering around.  When we returned to get our food/blankets/etc. for shakespeare watching we spotted him again.

This was the third time we’d come to see ISC’s griffith park shakespeare performance, but the first time that there was an opening act.  The opening acts were separate performances put on by a local dance company.  The first of which was a belly dancing display.

The second act was a terrible judgement call by the dance instructor (easily seen, although not in my photos,  at the side of the stage beaming in approval at the dancers).  Two young girls in hip hop attire came on the stage and a rap song started blaring.  They proceeded to do all the vulgar “sex” imitation hip hop moves that you’d see in a rap club.

Keep in mind the crowd at these outtings is generally 20-40 year old liberal NPR listeners.  Often with young children.  Imagine, if you will, this crowd listening to these lyrics blaring out at them:

If you’re not drunk ladies and gentleman
Get ready to get fucked up
All of the alcoholics, Where you at?
Shots shots shots shots shots
Shots shots shots shots shots
Shots shots shots shots shots shots
The ladies love us When we bring shots
They need an excuse To suck our cocks (suck my cock)
If you aint gettin’ drunk get the fuck out the club
If you aint takin’ shots get the fuck out the club
If you aint come to party get the fuck out the club
Now where my alcoholics let me see your hands up
The women come around
Every time I’m pouring shots
Their panties hit the ground every time i give ’em shots
Now say I’m fucked up
(I’m fucked up)
I’m fucked up
(I’m fucked up)
I’m trying to fuck
(I’m trying to fuck)
I’m tryin’ to fuck
(I’m tryin’ to fuck)


Right.  Totally appropriate for a family outing.  I felt sorry for the two girls on the stage, they had no idea what their idiotic dance instructor had done.  But it was eventually over and the moms could uncover their childrens’ ears again.  The next act was a traditional…

After this the wayward dance instructor tried to test our patience again and put out three little girls, who couldn’t have been any older than seven or eight, in what would be described as “slutty club outfits” by their older sisters.  The little girls were not sure what they were supposed to be doing most of the time and followed each other around.  It would have been “cute” had they not been trying to remember just how exactly you’re supposed to “shake your rump” at the crowd.

Not wanting to look like a pedophile I decided not to take any photos of this particular travesty.

The last act – back to it again – was another rap song and “rump shaking” display.  About 30 seconds into the performance all of these girls ripped off their shirts to reveal glittery tube tops.  They proceeded to to do more practice sex in front of the crowd – including that hip hop dance where you pretend to squat and … well… I’m more embarrassed to write about it than these girls were to do it in front of the crowd….

The whole thing was bizarre.  I don’t imagine the ISC will be having them back again.  Of course the girls filed off the stage and into the adoring arms of their instructor and (some) family members.  Only to walk down to the parking lot and never return.  Well, ladies, we were no more interested in your lewd act than you were interested in what we came to see.

The actual shakespeare performance was probably the best one we’ve seen so far.  As you can see from the photos we were only a few feet from the stage.  However, this came at a price of having perhaps twenty children run back and forth in front and behind us during the entire performance.  By the time we were packing up to go home Sam’s white bedsheet looked like it’d been laid out on the sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles for the day.  There was grass of course in front and behind our sheet – but I don’t think these kids took any notice of where their feet landed.  At one point a boy just sat down next to Sam and leaned against her.   We weren’t aware that there was a “children’s” section, but we’ll definitely not be sitting on the left side again.

In between the rugrats’ constant sprinting the performance we saw on stage was pretty good.  The costumes were certainly better done than we’d seen in the past.  For some reason it was harder to find images of this performance online than the others, but I’ll post below the single shot I found so you can get an idea of the costumes:

Art Walk August

Art Walk August

One of my coworkers has been bragging all week about how he is going to get everyone at the office sick, because he is sick.  By Thursday night I was starting to feel his prediction come true.  My throat was starting to feel funny – and by midnight I would have a beginner’s grade sore throat.

This, however, cannot be the entire cause of the August art walk being a downer.  As we’ve known for some time, the actual quality of the art on the art walk is poorer than other art walks like the Culver City Art Walk.  This is due in part to the crowd that the event generates, but in larger part to the types of galleries open for perusal.  The downtown area is a hodgepodge of little shops and galleries, hardly any of which have the focused “real art” dedication of galleries like ThinkSpace in Culver City (to name one of many).  That isn’t to say none exist, there are a few.  Ironically some of these are CLOSED on art walk nights (I’m sure to avoid rowdy kids).

As such, when we walked around I didn’t really find any “art” to report back to you about.   The crowd seems different and smaller than previous events.  The police were out in a much larger force (motorcycle cops, at least six cops on horses, etc.) than every before due to the death that occurred last month at the event.  The food trucks were also almost all moved out of the area.  Not only were the food trucks moved out, but the little art fairs that were huddled around the trucks were destroyed.  According the Art Walk officials this was due to a “usage” policy not being followed before that actually didn’t allow these parking lots to be used for other means.  So, this time there was one arts and crafts fair in the building causeway on the north side of the 600 block of Spring, and an alleyway food truck parking lot at 710 Spring.  Street performers were also told to scram apparently as the drum circles were moved to the periphery and the hare krishnas were nowhere to be seen.

In response to last month’s great BlueCanvas show, something called “LA Canvas” snapped up the same space and put on a pathetic graffiti influenced show.  The night club upstairs was roped off and reserved for an “art walk after party” – whatever that is.

We stopped in to the regular spots like the upstairs gallery, but, as usual, there wasn’t much art worth writing about.

The Temple of Visions had some interesting pieces, but I think they were there the last month.  We actually didn’t walk all the way through because the Temple had transformed its floor space into a clothing/accessories show for hippy stuff.

Branch of life had a corner table (the closest to the sidewalk) at the only arts and crafts space available.  I have a feeling that because the space was in a building causeway and not a parking lot the Art Walk was able to skirt the laws that forced them to keep all the parking lots filled with cars and not vendors.  Apparently the Art Walk also set up new rules that vendors can’t even begin to set up until 6:30, so when we arrived first the table for Branch was not set up completely.  We had to come back later (after visiting the Hive and eating) to see all the plants, that’s why some of the shots below are at night and some are not.

Below is a photo of my piece from the Hive for this month.  The show has an erotica theme.  Anybody that knows me well knows that I’m rather tight lipped about “taboo” subjects like this – so I certainly wasn’t going to put up anything openly pornographic (as many other artists had no trouble doing).  My piece is in the photo in the middle above the black chair.  I actually painted it for a portrait orientation – but I didn’t specify this and when hanging it the proprietor assumed the subject must have been laying down.  I suppose that is appropriate for an “erotic” show, so I didn’t bother to correct it.  As you’ll see in the full size image I also didn’t “polish” this up as much as I usually do.  This was partially on purpose and partially not.  I somewhat like it in this rougher stage, it actually feels more like “the moment” it is meant to capture.  Humans don’t see well at night, and for most of our history our copulation was performed in the dark – so choppy colors and rough edges make sense here I believe.

I also just plain ran out of time to finish as I normally would have because of all the home repairs I had to do in July.

(I think the photo below – from the gallery site – was taken without removing the panel from the glass frame – as you can see the flash glare)

So, unfortunately, I’d have to say that this art walk  was a dud.  Kind of sad considering the summer Walks are usually the best.  Maybe it’ll be back and better next month, but we’ll never know as Sam and I will be in Thailand at that time.

one fishy corny dry weekend

one fishy corny dry weekend

One of the more difficult parts of preparing for going to Thailand later this month was figuring out how to get rid of my goldfish.  I didn’t want to ask anyone to feed it because I’d really been meaning to get rid of it anyway; I just don’t have the time to take care of it and I’m gone too much to feed it with regularity.

As anyone who has visited my home knows, I have a 25 gallon (or so) goldfish tank built into the wall.  I didn’t create the hole in the wall or the frame, that was done by the previous owner of my home so he could put a CRT television in the wall in (I’m guessing) the 1990s.  Obviously I had no use for a CRT in the wall – so I had a guy from a local fish store build a tank custom to the dimensions of the opening.

In the photo below from 2007 you can see my mother standing next to the tank.

After trying to sell the tank and/or fish on craigslist for about a month with no solid leads (a lot of people wanted the tank without the fish) I decided to ask around at work.  On Saturday a coworker came and bought the entire set-up.

After the tank was out and the brace/shelf removed I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the space.  I quickly decided that I’d hang a painting over the hole.  However, when I started looking at the dimensions I realized that the frame was sticking out of the wall too far and was too wide to hang anything with any degree of aesthetic appeal.  So, I decided to rip off the frame and take it from there.  The black frame was nailed into another frame that had been screwed in with long wood screws into the actual studs in the wall.  The below photos are of me taking the white frame off.

Since the guy had put putty and paint over the screws half of them were stripped, so I had to use a chisel to break the wood around the screws and then use vice-grips to twist them the rest of the way out (these were the LONG wood screws).

The back side didn’t have the black frame – but it also had a white frame with stripped screws, so everything I found on the front I had to do again on the other wall behind.  Fun fun fun!

After looking at the mess the previous owner made of the wall when putting all of this in I decided it would be best to put in new drywall rather than try to do anything else with the space.  I at first had thought about just making the edges smooth – but the uneven application of putty by the previous owner and other mishaps (sideways screws, etc.) meant it would probably not be worth it to make a smooth hole or a shelf (drywall in the back, but not front).  So, that meant I had to strip down another inch on the top and bottom so I could screw drywall into the studs.

And below is the opening once I was done cutting away the drywall:

At this point it was time for dinner.  Sam was staying at my place this weekend so we’d bought corn at the market the day before.  For dinner she made roasted Parmesan corn on the cob.

Delicious!  I used almost an entire stick of “butter” (mostly canola oil) on these.  I would pay for it the next day with hours of “upset stomach” – but it was worth it… look at that…

The rest of the night was spent sanding and cutting excess drywall from the openings, cutting the drywall sheets and screwing them in.

The next morning it was putty time!  I’m letting the putty dry for 24 hours before I start sanding and then painting, so here is how it looked Monday morning:

Note, I used the majority of the putty on the front and spent more time there because obviously the front will be far more visible.  The hole in the back can be less “pretty” of a repair job because it will be covered by clothes.  The way the previous owner had treated the wall in the back was far more….. difficult… to repair as well, so even though the above photo looks pretty nasty I think it is more than adequate given that when I took the frame off there were several chunks of the wall missing beyond the actual hole where the tank had been.

So – that was my first time installing drywall; easier than I thought.

The paint all over my home has this dimpled effect to it.  Not sure how that was acheived and how I’ll get the paint on the front to match.  Sponge?

UPDATE: not sponge – spray texture.

One Hell of a Month

One Hell of a Month

Anyone who calculates buying vs. renting knows that it is necessary to include maintenance costs into the expense of buying.  What one can’t account for is the “gotcha!” nature of the pratfalls of ownership.  You never know what might be hidden in the walls of your home.  If you’re a renter, you don’t care; that’s someone else’s problem.

Often these problems start as a trickle and end up a river.  I’ve dealt with problems like this in the past.  It must have been my time up at bat in this game again because thanks to my home I’ve had the week month from hell.

FRIDAY – July 1st

It started with a trickle.  Not one, but two.  I noticed the emergency drainage pipe from (what I assumed was) my air conditioner was flooding the pan in my washer and dryer closet.  Around the same time I was made aware that my second bathroom had a trickle of water constantly running from the tub faucet.

SATURDAY – July 2nd

Like celebrity deaths, home problems must come in threes and on July 1st my clothes washer simply stopped working.  No power. Nothing.

A plumber was scheduled to come the following weekend for the bathroom and I had a technician come look at the washer immediately.  The technician charged me $24 to look at the machine and said it would be “maybe” $400 to fix it during the following week (this was July 4th weekend, after all – a perfect time for things to break).  I thanked him and decided to do some research.  I ended up getting sold a Sears repair deal for a $319 flat fee that seemed to be better.  The repairs and the entire machine would be covered under a year warranty.  The only catch was that I’d have to wait until July 12th for anyone to come out.

I thought I’d get my plumbing problem fixed in the interim.  I let my tenants/roommates know that I’d have a plumber come the next Saturday.  When the plumber cancelled that morning one of my roommates said he knew how to fix the leaky faucet.

SUNDAY – July 10th

The previous owner of my home had made some wacky “improvements” behind the scenes to the kitchen faucet (among other things) that made it much more difficult to replace a year and half ago.  On Sunday we spent over six hours, one trip to lowes, one trip to sears and two trips to home depot trying to find the right tools to get the bathroom faucet handles off, trying different things every time and believing we just “didn’t have the right ratchet set” etc.

Yes, I’m talking about those handles – the ones that you’re supposed to be able to twist off with your hands.  At one point my tenant managed to yank the stem/handle assembly out of the wall.  We discovered that the previous owner had (either himself or someone he hired) put pipe sealer all over the place – and most generously in places where one shouldn’t put sealant at all – effectively sealing the stem assembly to the wall.  We replaced the washer at the end and put the stem back in.  However, when it was back in I noticed that a washer from a different part of the stem assembly was still sitting on the counter.  Bad news.  We knew we had to take the stem back out.  Hours later it still wasn’t coming out.  I called a plumbing service and scheduled an appointment for Tuesday.   However, I could hear (and feel the vibration of) water in the line, which should have only happened if someone downstairs was taking a shower.  Nobody downstairs was home.   That was worse news.  I could NOT wait until Tuesday taking the risk that water was leaking out of the pipes that whole time in the wall.  I called an emergency plumber who came to examine the situation within 90 minutes (for $156).

As we already knew, the stems were cemented to the wall, making a piece that is supposed to be taken off by simple hand turning into mangled metal.  However, by 9pm he had taken both stems out and chipped off as much of the sealant as possible before changing the washers and putting them back in.  The evidence can be seen if you look closely at the handles.  That gold line is where the silver was scraped off by the wrench.  The rest of that handle is mangled, but luckily that part is mostly covered up by the removable part of the handle.

Little did I know – that fix would be the EASIEST of all the things that were breaking down around the house that month.

MONDAY – July 11th

On Monday I made contact with an AC repairman to come out the next morning.  I called my HOA and arranged for pick up (I have to leave a $100 deposit check) of a roof key that night.

TUESDAY – July 12th

A sears technician arrived around 8:30am on Tuesday the 12th and almost immediately said he couldn’t do anything because he needed another man to get the dryer off of the washer. Sears installed this set-up in the first place, so they should have known these were stacked or at least asked when they took the service appointment.  He leaves with an ambiguous statement that he’ll call me either later today or in a few days.

Shortly after that my AC man arrives to fix the AC leak.  He flushes the lines, takes $50 and leaves.  This is still morning and the AC isn’t running.

9:30am – I haven’t heard from Sears so I call and complain.  I get nowhere with their customer service, they tell me I’ll have to wait a few days or till next week till they can reschedule two technicians to come out.  I go to work after returning the roof key that the AC man didn’t end up using.

12:30pm – Original sears technician calls me from his personal phone and says he has located another technician to meet us at the house.  I drive home and meet them.

1:30pm – The technicians conclude they’ve found the faulty part, the control board, but they don’t have one with them.  They have to order the part from a shop in Van Nuys and have it couriered.  Their dispatcher tells them to go on other service calls and come back when the part is delivered.

While waiting for the delivery I throw out some water damaged items from the AC leak like this folding table:

When I try to vacuum up the mess my vacuum cleaner motor dies almost instantly.  I put it on the porch as it was literally puffing out some noxious smoke.

2:45pm – I take delivery of the part from the courier and call the technician.  No idea when they’ll arrive.

3pm – I notice the AC is still leaking/dripping.  I call the AC man and he says the soonest he can come is Thursday morning, but he’ll call to confirm on Wednesday.  I call him back later and ask if I’ll need the roof key – he says no.  The pipe that is leaking can be seen in the photo below.


5:15pm – Two sears technicians finally arrive.  After 45 minutes or so they realize the new part does nothing to fix the problem.

6:30pm – The technicians say that the new part they need is not available and has to be done on “emergency” order.  They do not know when it will arrive, but the earliest they could come back is Friday (but they won’t know till tomorrow if the part would be here by then anyway).  I inform them I will not be home Friday.  They say that a scheduler will call me tomorrow (Wednesday) to set a new repair time for next week.

The technicians slide the washer back into the closet and close the top.  They move my dryer more out of the way – but my living room is still unusable (they had to remove the closet door as well).  It isn’t that I’m angry that my dryer is going to sit in the living room – it’s that it is now going to be inoperable for two weeks.  Where before I at least could wash my clothes myself and dry them in the dryer – now I have neither appliance available…

WEDNESDAY – July 13th

9:00am – nobody from Sears has called so I call in.  The first person tells me that the part should arrive at my house in the next two days.  I inform him that I work – and I won’t be home during the day to accept it.  He takes my work address and puts me on hold to attempt to reroute the package.  After being on hold for a while a new customer service agent answers the phone – with no idea that I’d talked to a previous agent.  I have to explain the whole situation again – giving all my info again. This time she says that she can’t change the routing of the package and that I’ll have to call back “later today or tomorrow” to find out the tracking number to request the package rerouted.  She also says that the technician scheduled the next visit to install the part for July 28th.  This is not good news and she says they “may be able to schedule sooner once you have the part.”  I am told to call back later.

11am – AC repairman calls to confirm that he can come around 8am Thursday morning.  This time he says he may need the roof key though.
11:30am – I call HOA to once again arrange for roof key pickup later in the day.

2pm – Called Sears again – still no tracking # so I asked them to call me when they have it.  Rep said they would call “later today”

5pm – missed call from Sears technician (the one who was at my house Tuesday) telling me he is sure the part will arrive over the weekend and I should “go ahead and schedule an appointment for Monday.”

6:30pm – another customer service agent tells me no matter what my technician said they can’t schedule my appointment before I have the parts.  They now have a UPS tracking number but “it is wrong” and I’ll have to call again the next day to get the “right” one.

THURSDAY – July 14th

8:30am – AC repairman does a more thorough flush of AC drainage system and believes the problem fixed, never using the roof key.

9am –  I call Sears and I’m given the UPS tracking number and told the soonest appointment I can get is July 25th between 1 and 5pm.  I ask the person on the phone to check the delivery status as I’m not in front of a computer (the AC guys were actually still working at this point and were making too much noise for me to go to my room to get online).  The Sears agent says she can’t access UPS’ web site from her work station so I’ll have to check the status on my own later.

9:15am – The AC repair guys leave.  I try the UPS number and it doesn’t work… call back to sears… new agent puts me on hold – comes back says there isn’t a tracking # at all… puts me on hold again… for NINE MINUTES…then told me the tracking number was a “mistake” and they’ll call me later today with a real tracking number.  I then asked if there was a complaint department.  Yesterday they said no when I asked that same question, but this agent said they “do all that through email.” I asked for the email address and was put on hold again.  After a few minutes a new customer service rep came on and started asking questions.  She then put me on hold to “see what she could do.”  After five minutes I was HUNG UP ON!  I immediately called back and was told by a new agent that I should “call back in an hour because all the managers are in a meeting.”  She also said the Sears phone lines automatically drop calls after they’ve been on hold for more than two and a half minutes.  I’m speechless….

9:30am – I return the roof key and head to work.
12pm – My roommate sees the original Sears repairman in our building going to a unit 4 doors down.  He tells my roommate the same thing he told me in the voicemail yesterday.
5pm – my roommate sends me a snapshot of the UPS infonotice by our mailbox and calls UPS to see if he can pick up the package but UPS says no because the driver never scanned in the infonotice number.
FRIDAY – July 15th

9am – Sears calls with tracking #.
2pm – I call UPS to see if I can reroute package.  UPS says it will cost $6 for me to reroute it since I’m not the sender.  They say that their driver will probably come around 6:30 on (Friday and) Monday – so maybe I should try and catch him then.  Otherwise I’ll have to pick it up in Van Nuys on Tuesday.  I have to be out of town Friday night so I won’t be able to take the package if he comes Friday.
MONDAY – July 18th

The AC is still leaking into my condo.  I try to go a different route and contact the HOA about a building plumber.  It would be another two days before they could give me the name of a plumber that knows our building.
TUESDAY – July 19th

The UPS delivery man never bothered to call me, and when I arrived home on Monday he had already come and gone.  So I had to make the 14 mile round-trip to the Van Nuys UPS warehouse after work.  Once the part was in my possession Sears refused to give me a sooner repair appointment.  I set an appointment with the plumber to come the same morning as Sears on July 25th.
SUNDAY – July 24th

10pm – on my way home from West Los Angeles my check engine light comes on. Audible expletives can be heard inside my automobile.  I have an appointment on Tuesday in Thousand Oaks (about 30 miles away) to get all my immunizations for my upcoming Thailand trip.  That appointment may now be in jeopardy.  The shots for Hep A/B need to be taken 30 days apart and if I don’t get the first shot by Tuesday I won’t have time to get the second before the trip.  I cross my fingers that both the washer and the AC drain can be fixed in the morning on Monday and I can drop my car off on the way to work.
MONDAY- July 25th

9:30am – the plumber arrives and discovers that there has been vandalism in the garage.  A piece of copper pipe was stolen – thus kinking the line and preventing any condensation from dripping to the garage (where it was intended to empty out).  He says he’ll bill the HOA directly and that should do it.  In the photo below you can see a pipe ending before it’s holster.  The section that should have gone through that holster was stolen and crimped off.  
In a stroke of genius, the original architects for the building just had the AC condensation come down (for both units) and drain into the garage.  This is a lovely pool of mosquito prone water sitting next to my car.  Not to mention how it is dripping onto the tracks for the electric garage door opener.
Here is a shot of the crimped pipe that the plumber snipped.  The clean end is his cut, and the crimped end is where the vandals tore off the rest.
Well – at least the problem is solved, right?
(you know where this is going, don’t you?)
9:45am – I return to my condo (after taking a look at the vandalized pipe in the garage) to find the pipe in the ceiling still dripping!  The plumber has already moved on to a sewage pipe problem downstairs in another unit – but he says he’ll come back when he is done down there.
11am – Sears still hasn’t showed up.  Time is running out for me to fix all the home problems and get my car to the Mazda shop in order to have it returned the same day.
11:40am – Sears automated service calls and says they are “experiencing service delays and may not be able to come by 12pm.”
1pm – Sears has not come yet.  I wander downstairs looking for the plumber.  He tells me the only option left is to open up the lines in the garage and blow air in.  There are two lines and they don’t know which one is mine – so they have to cut the pipe and cap it to do each one individually.  They tell me they can do this without me being there and they will call me after they’ve done it either today or tomorrow.  He also says this is something that should be done anyway since the crimped pipe may have backed up the lines.
1:15pm – Sears has not come yet – I call their customer service and I’m told “the technicians are on their way with an estimated arrival of 1:30pm – they will call you.”
1:45pm – Sears has not arrived or called.
2:30pm – Sears’ driver calls and says he is on his way…arrives a few minutes later and gets to work.
3:30pm – plumber blows C02 through drainage pipe and discovers the pipe that was vandalized is the floor drain for the washer – nothing to do with the AC.
3:45pm – Sears finally puts washer back together, tests and leaves.
4pm – Plumber throws hands up in the air and says he can’t do anything more – the drain is capped somewhere in the wall and to get to it you’d have to rip out drywall with a contractor.  He charges me $85 (apparently for the c02 pipe flush) and tells me I’ll have to install a tube myself taking the drainage to the washer drain or rip out the wall and fix the piping – my choice.  Of course, in his opinion, the only way this would even happen is if the previous owner did some illegal piping changes during a renovation.  Great.
TUESDAY – July 26th

8pm After picking up my car and dropping $100 for a “cracked evap tube” I drive to Thousand Oaks for my Thailand trip immunizations.  The immunizations will cost me about $700.  My insurance is fantastic so of course it doesn’t cover any of this.  I have an HSA for this purpose though and try to use the credit card for that account.  The card is denied.  I am embarrassed.  After it is denied several times I call the bank.  I am informed that the card is deactivated if it isn’t used for six months.  Let me repeat that.  A card that you ONLY use for health purchases is deactivated if you don’t use it for six months.  So unless I get sick all the time… I’m punished with a deactivation.  That makes sense, right?  The card is reactivated and after over three hours at the immunization clinic I’m finally on my way.
8pm – I pick up a tube for the AC drain at Home Depot and drop off my prescriptions for Malaria and “asia stomach virus” antibiotics at the pharmacy.
8:30pm – Now that the washer and dryer are back in place in front of the dryer drain, getting a rubber tube into the drainage pipe is no easy task. There was only about four inches clearance behind the washer and dryer to wiggle the tube into the drainage pipe.  The pipe already had the washer pipe in it – which was NOT pliable, a harder thicker plastic.  That black vertical line in the photo below – that’s the tube.
After ten minutes I had it in there good enough (I hope) and proceeded to climb on a chair and try to clamp down the other end of the tube onto the pipe coming out of the ceiling.  With the dryer giving maybe seven inches of clearance from the top of the closet door – and the sliding door pushing in from the side, this was also a difficult maneuver.
10pm – this day would not be finished without another refused credit card charge though.  At 9pm Sam and I tried to finalize our trip to Phuket while in Thailand.  When I tried to purchase our flights around 10pm I filled out everything and when it was supposed to charge me I was brought to an error page.  When we went back through to try again the special price promotion was over and the return ticket was now twice the price!  Half an hour later I would get an email from American Express saying they had blocked a charge from Thailand for possible fraudulent activity.  If they hadn’t done that we’d have saved over 1,400 on our tickets.  Sounds like a lot, right?  That number is in BHT – so it really only comes out to about $50.  We ended up having Sam buy the flights from another airline and book our beachfront rooms for $15 a night.  Yes, $15 a night.  For $15 a night we’ll walk out of our room into this (hopefully sans the old man):
Speaking of old men; every time Boner “walks away” (dumb phrase because it takes place over the phone after he refuses to take the President’s calls) from the President my trip to Thailand gets more expensive.  Over the weekend we watched the exchange rate get lower and lower.  The dollar is now the weakest it has been all year against the Baht.  Just in the last week (depending on where you look) the dollar is worth over 5 BHT less than before.  Perfect timing to hold the US credit rating hostage, fellows, thanks a lot!
WEDNESDAY – July 27th

This morning there was no water in my cup in the closet.  There didn’t appear to be any water on the outside of the pipe and/or tube, so apparently my solution worked (for now).  I’ll have to do a test and put a cloth under the drainage pipe in the wall and see if all the water is really draining out.
As a kind of final proof of bumbling corporate ineptitude Sears sent me an email this morning asking me to take a survey about my opinion of their service.  When I clicked on the survey link I came to this:
Sorry, service is temporarily unavailable. Please, try later!
Oh sure!  I’ll try again all day so I can tell you how your service was the most horrible service experience in my life! Why not?  I already took two full days off of work and drove to Van Nuys (a 90 minute drive in rush hour traffic) for a 60 minute part repair, I might as well take another day off to keep trying your survey link.
Sears’ mission statement reads in part: “Sears Holdings is committed to . . . providing quality services.”  None of the cases we reviewed in business school had a business that was this bad at its primary mission.  If this were a textbook case we would expect the company to be out of business very quickly.
I don’t expect to receive anything, but I plan on sending Sears a bill for my time lost from work as well as my trouble (waiting for parts, driving to Van Nuys, having an unusable living room for two weeks, being on hold, hung up on,  etc.).  With all the complaints I see online about their service I doubt contacting them (the same phone number that hung up on me on my first attempt) would do much.
I’ve also sent an email to the HOA for my condo building asking them for reimbursement of the money I spent on services rendered for the AC.  It OUGHT to come out of their insurance since the drainage pipe in the garage was vandalized.  I also need to know the piping schematics of my unit so I can decide whether to tear out the drywall and possibly sue the previous owner for the illegal piping (if discovered).
Since the updates to those two actions won’t come for a while I’m going to finally post this blog about all this nonsense that happened this month.
NOTE: I know that probably only my mom and dad would want to read all this – but blogging about it is a convenient way for me to keep track of it for my complaints with Sears and the HOA.
UPDATE: Of course my home improvement problems for July aren’t over, the month isn’t over yet – something had to happen!  Minutes after first publishing this blog post I received the following youtube video from my tenant/roommate:


THURSDAY – July 28

Of course this only required five minutes and a new (fairly inexpensive) showerhead to fix.  I thought was done for the month finally.  Then, when I tried to brush my teeth before going to bed I discovered that….   The cold water in my bathroom is turned off.  Now, the water lines going to my master bathroom are separate from the rest of the condo.  Why the plumbing was arranged this way was for contractor convenience I’m sure as my shower shares the wall with my next door nieghbors’.  However, now I’m in the difficult position of running around asking these people if they shut off the water for some reason before I call a plumber.  Of course, noticing this at 11pm at night and not planning on being home again until late Sunday night makes this a problem.

FRIDAY – July 29

After knocking on my neighbor’s door after work I discovered that, yes, they had been the ones to shut off my cold water.  They said they didn’t know which valves were their own and must have turned off mine by mistake when they had some plumbing done on Thursday.  We had a lengthy bitching session about our crappy HOA management company.  The building management refuses to give me any information on WHERE the exact plumbing valves are for my unit in the garage.  This is a bit of a problem with a large building of nearly 100 units.  Of course, if the building manager was going to take care of all the issues themselves this wouldn’t matter, but they have repeatedly stated that nothing (apparently anywhere at all in the building except for the swimming pool) is their responsibility.  They also refused to file an insurance claim for my stolen drainage pipe nor refund the money I had to pay THEIR plumber to fix it.

At first when I inquired about the possible illegal piping in my walls I received a taciturn response that the property management company doesn’t keep track of any renovation records.  I cc’d the association president and he told me I’d be receiving a different and more information filled email soon.

MONDAY – August 1st

I receive a new email from the property management company that, golly gee, they actually DID keep renovation records but don’t show any regarding piping in my unit.  They still claim to not have any idea where any of the pipes GO, and told me to talk to the city of Los Angeles about that.

When I came home I checked the tube I installed for that drainage pipe.  The tube apparently isn’t clamped on tight enough, as a small drip was still escaping and coming down next to the washer.

I give up.

Copro Nason and the USS Abraham Lincoln

Copro Nason and the USS Abraham Lincoln

After having a lengthy conversation of commiseration about our HOA with my next-door neighbor I found out that they had been the ones that turned off my cold water (by accident) the night before.  I found the valve (no thanks to the HOA, which refuses to divulge this information to owners even though we’re expected to pay for the repairs), turned my water back on, took a shower and headed south to Bergamot Station.  Bergamot was surprisingly empty. Usually when Copro has an opening many other galleries follow and stay open as well.  On this Friday no other gallery was open.  I started to think maybe I had come on the wrong date as the Copro is way at the back and there were no food trucks and few people around.

And then I heard a band setting up, so I knew the show must still be on.

Unfortunately the main show, a split show between two female artists was rather lackluster.  The artists had plenty of technical skill, but not much imagination.  Paintings alternated between things like a collage of My Little Pony dolls and a nude chubby woman on a throne with a snake bite on a boob and a coiled snake in her arms.  The execution was there, but the subject matter was all “shocking” or “whimsical” stuff that I’ve seen a million times before.  In case you think I’m joking about the content – here are the two pieces I referenced a few sentences ago:

However, the “Back Room” at the show had a group showing for more interesting artists called From Genesis to Revelation. Some pieces followed the biblical theme more than others.  The best piece there (in either show) was definitely Crystal Chan‘s piece below.

Some other notable pieces were:

Chris Peters, who does nothing but skeletons in “normal” (usually religious) environments, had a mini-show there as well.

The next morning Sam and I set out for Carson to try and see the USS Abraham Lincoln.  We’d gone to see the USS Iwo Jima in NYC in May and had a good time.  That ship was less than half the size of the Lincoln, so we expected this one to blow our minds.  When we got down to the area the 110 freeway was backed up.  We checked the map and took a shortcut from Channel Street (I think) to Harbor Blvd.  The map for the event online had shown the parking to be at the intersection of 1st street and Harbor Blvd.  However, once we got to Harbor there was an overflow of traffic coming off the freeway going up and down both sides of the street.  When we finally got to 1st street we discovered that the parking entrance was closed and they were routing all the cars south for many blocks and u-turning them around to come right back up and enter the parking lot a few blocks north of 1st.   Of course there were little signs noting that this northern entrance we’d driven by before was the one for the Navy ships. Those signs were facing SOUTH (we were driving south).  We cut out of the southward bound traffic, made some quick right turns and came across the street into the parking entrance, bypassing the freeway overflow.

The parking lot wasn’t full, so we thought we’d made it there in good time.  By 10:30am we were at the end of a line that looked like it was maybe 100 yards long.  A security guard zoomed by and said that this was the line to get in the “real” line.  The expected wait once in the “real” line was three to four hours.  As I said, the line we were in only looked like it was a hundred yards at the most as it curved between cars in the parking lot, so we decided to wait.

It turned out that the pre-line line actually wound back and forth between the rows of parked cars and every time we went around a bend we discovered the line was at least three times as long as we thought.  Sometimes we could see a line of people in almost every direction, confusing us as to how long the line was and where it really ended.  The line kept trudging along, though, and so in an hour we had finally snaked around to the front.  Here is a photo taken from maybe 200 yards from the front of the line:

Grandma there with the blue umbrella would end up poking me in the head at least 20 times over the next three hours.  I turned around and took a shot of the “real” line.  The “real” line looped at least five times in the space in the photo below next to that big gray building.  The beginning of the line is almost all the way to the left edge of the photo, and the back is further out to the right than I could get in one photo.  Clearly the organizers thought every attendee would fit under those two tents, but, just in the “real” line there were easily 7 or 8 times that many people that showed up.  By the end of the “Navy Days” on Sunday afternoon over 42,000 people showed up, most for the Lincoln, and most on Saturday.

But, like lemmings, we decided to keep waiting.  We figured the tour of the ship must be glorious, and later a sailor would assure us as much.  We imagined going up to the command deck and looking out upon rows of fighter jets.  We imagined hopping up into the canopy of a Tomcat or F-16.  With all the equipment they packed into the inside of the Iwo Jima for us to explore there must be tons of stuff in the Lincoln!

While we waited we could barely hear a Navy band doing covers of Led Zeppelin.  The band was placed by the main Port building maybe 50 yards from the end of the front of the looping “real” line.  From most points in the line they couldn’t be heard at all.  It little mattered though, as the show was over at noon.  A full 3.5 hours before we’d get to the front.

After a while we noticed that there were no more people waiting in the parking lot.  A few hours more and we noticed the line in the tent area was getting shorter (at the back).  We surmised that the event must have been closed to new entry shortly after we arrived.

Around 3:30 we finally boarded the charter bus to go to the southern tip of San Pedro where the Lincoln was docked.  The Lincoln is an enormous boat.  As we left later I tried to fit the entire thing in one photo.  We had to keep on walking farther and farther away to fit it in one shot.

After going through another line for security checks (nobody ever asked to see any ID, by the way) we walked up into the interior of the ship.  As we started to walk through we got worried.  There was plenty of space in here, but nothing more to see than some odds and ends (life-vests) and Navy t-shirts for sale.  After walking to the other end of the space, from the forward plane elevator to the back we got to ride the elevator up to the flight deck.


As we heard the big “aaioooogah!” we thought we were going to be in for a treat when we got up-top.  However, up top there was simply a wide roped off path going from one elevator back to the other one.  On the sides of the path were a few planes and helicopters.  Some had pilots answering questions and some did not.  Nowhere was there a tour guide of any kind.  Frowns began forming on our faces.  The equipment on display was nothing of the sort we’d seen in NYC.  Of course, these actually may have been more expensive/deadly planes and helicopters, but in NYC we got to walk through them, touch them, interact and receive a rehearsed explanation from the pilots.  There was nothing like that here.  The first plane, on the left and to the back of the deck was clearly some sort of radar plane.  Not exactly something Maverick (or even Bush) would be jumping out of on the flight deck…

They did have a tomcat, but upon closer (which I use ironically as the plane was a good thirty feet behind the ropes) inspection one could see this one had a broken canopy and wouldn’t be flying any time soon anyway.

There were no tours inside the tower.  Another disappointment.

That above shot look familiar?

Mission Accomplished.  Wait… what?!  Are those… (no…it CAN’T BE)…. Teleprompters?!!!!  I thought Obama was the first president ever to need teleprompters when giving a speech…  Wait… if…the … Teapublican Party lied about that… then…

anyway…. We didn’t want our photo taken on such a spot of national disgrace, so we moved to the left.

We walked across the deck and were ready to go back down in ten minutes (or less).

Below is the spot on the boat where they throw the bombs overboard to sink submarines.

I made that up.  Makes an interesting photo though, doesn’t it?

Down below there were sailors milling about, apparently waiting their turn to leave the boat.

But, thankfully, we beat them to it.

I know it LOOKS like we’re smiling here (that’s a plastic water bottle in my pocket, by the way), but inside we were both screaming “we got sunburns and waited SIX HOURS… for this?!”

As we were winding our way back to the tour buses two old fashioned fighter planes flew overhead.

We were too tired to go to the latest Shakespeare in the Park performance after standing in the sun all day, so we headed home and rented The Adjustment Bureau.  Also disappointing.