LA impressions

Another week is done, and all of our stuff arrived in mostly one piece. After a few more days (or months) of rearranging, it will be business as usual here. Which brings me to thoughts about what I like, what is good, and what’s odd about this place. Rather than try to write some prose, I will start with a big bulleted list.

  • I am in awe anytime I drive past something and realize it was in movie XYZ or some recent TV show. I had this to the point of overload in NYC, especially with all of the Law and Order shows, but I think moving to Denver knocked that out of my head, and now it’s all amazing to me again.
  • I’m always reminded of Bukowski. There are old dive bars that still have their signs from the 60s, the styleized cursive words in neon, dull after 40 years of dirt and smog, and I always wonder if that was a bar where he hung out. This is further confused by the fact that a lot of brand new bars and restaurants have similar signs that were made to conform with the whole Swingers retro craze.
  • (As an aside, I want to make a google map of all Bukowski stuff. I have heard there is a bus trip that makes this route, so maybe I better get off my ass.)
  • I forget if I mentioned Fry’s, the electronics store. There’s one down in Manhattan beach, and I think I’ve been maybe once or twice. I don’t know how I missed out on this all of my geek life (probably because I didn’t live in California) but that place is off the hook in a very major way. Basically you start with a Best Buy or Circuit City, but instead of, say, only three types of computer keyboard in stock, they have an entire aisle, like three dozen types. And they aren’t all from one manufacturer, they hit all of the bases, and even have the el cheapo Taiwan junk you can only get in mail order. It’s the same way in every section. Like in Best Buy, if you need a USB cable, they have the Belkin 3-foot or the Belkin 9-foot, end of story. At Fry’s, they have 863 different USB cables, half of them things you’ve never heard of before. And the place even has resistors and oscilloscopes and soldering irons and computer parts at the level the big boxes would not. The customer service can be a little surly, and the ambience is Costco meets a room in the MIT computer science freshman dorm. But yeah, very dangerous to the wallet.
  • I’ve spent very little time in what most people would think of when they envision LA, because Playa Del Rey is isolated. With the ocean to the west, LAX to the south, the LMU campus west, and the Marina Del Rey channel and Ballona wetlands to the north, there’s a pretty decent buffer zone on all sides.
  • That buffer also includes smog, which seems to be broken up by the ocean. And the temps are about five degrees cooler here, which is weird, because I put forecasts for both here and LA in my dashboard.
  • When I drive to/from anything north, I have to drive on Culver (which just got repaved last weekend) and through the Ballona wetlands. It’s strange to be in LA and be driving down a road in which nothing but swamps are on either side of you. It sort of reminds me of the farming in the middle of Oahu, if you drive the back roads to the North Shore. And at night, you hear very loudly the sound of frogs out in the swamp.
  • (Yesterday I determined that the best song to listen to while driving there is Lynard Skynard’s “Swamp Music”.
  • I still hear and see the jets from LAX southeast of us. The jets aren’t that loud, and the sound is almost soothing. I am sure when I go on vacation and I’m not near an airport, I won’t be able to sleep.
  • We were driving around, and south of LAX (at Imperial and Main) is this little observation park, where you can see jets taking off and landing. There was a small group of dudes with gigantic camera lenses the size of tallboy beer cans taking pictures. I guess before 9/11, you could park and go inside the terminal to a roof-top restaurant and see the jets close up, but that ended quickly.
  • There are a ton of old cars on the road here. I always thought the draconian emissions laws kept cars older than a decade or two from geting plates. But with no salt and no rust, cars last forever here. There are fuckloads of old classic Beetles still rolling here, with perfect sheet metal. And at least once a trip, I see some completely cherry car from the 50s or 60s, like an ancient Packard or a topless GTO with three twos. And I’ve seen many classic Camaros, the early 70s models that are my favorite. For a fan of old cars, it’s a phenomenal place to be.
  • The best food in LA tends to be in strip malls. I don’t know if that’s because all of southern California is a strip mall, or if just one of those backward things, like that the best doctors don’t take insurance, or the best clubs in NYC don’t have signs outside. We went to this soul food restaurant, which was like next to a TCBY or Vons or Rite Aid or something, and it had been there forever. They had the signed photos on the wall, and I’m looking and there’s a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. – personally signed to the owner. Their fried chicken was also like the best I’ve ever had. I need to forget about that place if I want to make it to 40, though.
  • Hughes Aircraft had a huge facility just up the road in what’s now called Playa Vista. They built the Spruce Goose there, then disassembled it into chunks and trucked it to Long Beach for its maiden flight.
  • Prices of almost everything here is back to about what I was used to in New York, with a few odd exceptions. For some reason, the McDonald’s closest to me is very cheap. My usual (#2, no pickles, coke) cost $5.95 in Denver, and now it’s $4.84. Other cheaper things: car washes, housecleaning, lawn care and landscaping, and anything related to fresh fruits and vegetables. (See a pattern?)
  • And I am now in bachelor mode, as Sarah goes to Atlanta to visit Mitsubishi. This will largely consist of playing the now-connected PS3 and trying to write this game I am working on. So I better get to work on that.

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House with no furniture

First off, some announcements:

John Sheppard has posted a second video for his book Tales of the Peacetime Army. It’s on YouTube here. If you didn’t catch the first video, I think it’s linked on there. And if you didn’t catch the book, get off your ass and check it out..

Santi: The Lives of Modern Saints is out. This is a collection of stories and CD with stories by me, John, Erin O’Brien, Grant Bailie, Timothy Gager, and a ton of other people. It is the best looking/best designed book you will read all year. So go check that out on Amazon, too..

I have been spending all of my time writing a game in Ruby on Rails, partly because it would be fun to play, but mostly so I can get a good project under my belt. At some point in the future, I will be looking for players, so drop me a line if you’re interested. It’s a turn-based strategy game, somewhat like Risk, but with nukes. Fun for the whole family.

I am still typing in a house with no furniture, which will change tomorrow apparently. The view from my new desk isn’t as scenic as my floor-to-ceiling windows in Denver, but it the start of March and 79 degrees out, so I’ll deal.

I’m finding it’s not as easy as it once was to eat and type in here at the same time, so I will get back to my Trader Joe salad now.

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2200 Market postscript

This is all very weird. I’m sitting in a hotel room about a mile west of our apartment in Denver, after a long day of, well, weirdness. I left LAX with a temp of 75 out, flew over the ocean and saw my apartment before we did the big arc to the east and headed into the mountains. We landed two hours later, I got a Chevy HHR, basically a ripoff of the PT Cruiser but shittier. Then the long drive to I-70 and into town and back to the place at 2200 Market.

I can’t emphasize enough how strange it was to pull into our building and go up to our place on the third floor. In some sense, it was like being dead, gone for a week and suddenly being back to normal. Or maybe like all of LA was a detailed dream, and then I woke up and there was Denver again. And the feeling of opening the apartment and being there myself, everything shut down, everything silent – it felt like opening up an Egyptian tomb and looking at all of the gold and food they buried with the king’s corpse. I ate some Taco Bell and watched part of a DVD, but most of my night was spent throwing things out, hauling junk to the trash room, and wondering why the fuck it was so quiet. (Answer: I’m already used to the distant plane sounds from LAX.)

I thought this all was a freak occurrence, but it happened once before. In spring of 1993, the second year of my two years at the Mitchell House in Bloomington, I went back home for the summer. This involved taking a station wagon full of stuff up north in May, and leaving everything else behind until later in the summer. I returned over the 4th of July holiday to trash or haul back the remainder, and staying in the room was also a bizarre headtrip. I didn’t have half my stuff – like I slept on a mattress with an open sleeping bag and no sheets because all the bedding was gone. But it was also that return to a tiny space full of so many memories that screwed with my head. And now, I’ve only been in Denver a year, and my capacity for generating highly nostalgic memories is probably much more limited. But the whole thing did fuck with me.

I woke up early today, and the packing crew showed up at 8:00 and started wrapping, boxing, and tagging. I did up two suitcases that will go back with me on the plane, and got a lot more garbage out of the place. When that got old, I got a few hours of work done on some contract tech writing I needed to finish. By 3:00, they finished up, and I had the place to myself, aside from the strange ghosts in the air.

I checked in to the hotel, but it got bored fast – lots of Brett Favre retirement crap on ESPN, not much happening online. So I got some dinner and headed back to the house to finish up a few more things. It’s still dead quiet, and filled with boxes from wall to wall. Still, lots of memories, looking out at the parking lot across the street that I watched every day as I worked on the computer. I kept thinking how I’d watch the crowd that shuffled in on game days last summer, trying to measure how good or bad the game would be based on the traffic (and the price they charged for parking.) Maybe working from home fucked with my head, like maybe I have twice as many hours in the apartment, so twice as much nostalgia. Who knows.

I thought about taking a drive to see what I would see. But here’s the thing: there’s not as much in the way of cool hangouts or neato routes I would take that deserved one last visit. I remember the night before I left Bloomington, I put on the walkman and took this insanely long walk around campus. Every little bit I passed, I would think “here’s where I met so-and-so” or “here’s where me and so-and-so bought sandwiches from Dagwoods and ate on the lawn” or “here’s where this-and-that car died” or whatever. But in Denver, there’s a McDonald’s, a Walgreens, a Target, and Coors Field. It’s not to say I won’t miss Denver, and it’s not to say that Denver’s a shithole town that should be avoided at all costs. It is what it is.

Now I’m in this shithole La Quinta, right by a railroad switching yard, with the typical snuff film decor. Our bed and all of the bedding are packed up, and so are the bath towels. So, I bunk here, drive back tomorrow (all of like a mile), then watch the next crew fill up a truck with our junk. I hopefully then get the fuck out of there by 3:00 and dump this garbage rental car and get on a plane to LA with two suitcases full of kitchen gadgets and washrags and whatever other odd crap we forgot to pack in the first two carloads.

And remember how I said it was 75 back in LA when I left? Current temp here: 30. Overnight low: 15. With windchill: -4938.

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The Sopranos were not the dream of an autistic kid in a coma

The ocean isn’t two miles away, as I previously thought. I went for a walk yesterday, heading west, and up this huge hill. At the top of it were all strangely shaped houses of the sort you’d only see on a shoreline, with impossibly-sized windows and turrets and none of the right angles you find on a straight-up ranch house in the suburbs. And just past that, the ocean. And it’s the full-on ocean, not a canal connected to a sound connected to an inlet that eventually dumps into a sea. I walked around a bit, trudged through the sand, watched the sailboats in the distance and the huge planes jetting off from LAX to all points west (i.e. Asia) It’s not a bad walk at all, although the hill part really taxes out my fucked up knee, but maybe doing it more will help.

In a couple of hours, I get into one of those big tin cans at LAX and head east, back to Denver, to rescue the furniture. This will be a weird trip – in today, back Wednesday night. The weird stuff has to do with driving a rental car into the space where I’d normally park a car; having to stay in a hotel for a night because all of my stuff will be boxed or shrinkwrapped; said hotel is less than a mile from my old place, and I used to pass it every day on my way to work. Basically all of the tourist in my own town stuff will be in effect. Not to mention that I will have but a few hours to somehow condense down my Denver experience and eat my last three or four meals at places I will probably never see again. (And in reality, all of those will probably end up at McDonald’s.)

I think the one thing that I will truly, truly miss is Coors Field and the Rockies. I was thinking about this last night, about how I am not one who has ever had some great belonging, especially one full of rituals. Some people have religion, and I tried that and it didn’t work out. But the closest I came to religion was getting to Coors Field an hour and a half before a game, watching the opposing team take batting practice, getting a hot dog, looking out at the field in front of me and the mountains in the distance, hearing the same soundtrack of crappy music they play before every game, hearing Reed Saunders read off the same safety information and where you can buy food and all of that other crap the PA announcers read before the game. I guess having Coors Field right next door was like having a major league ball park in my family room, where I could go down there any time I wanted and catch a game. So I’ll miss that, a lot. I can get stuck in traffic for two hours and go to a Dodgers game, but it won’t be the same. No matter how much you hate some place, there’s always one thing you miss. Seattle: mountains. New York: best subways ever. Elkhart: you always have a new car stereo, because yours gets stolen every month.

I went to a movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood on Saturday. We went out with four of Sarah’s old friends, and it’s really damn nice to finally have friends to go out with. (And one was a baseball guy who said we have to go to a game in Anaheim, so there you go.) We saw Jumper, which was forgettable, but it was hilarious to be down in Hollywood on a Saturday night. There was some kind of cheerleading contest that night, so there were all of these 14-year-old girls in cheerleader costumes running around, which was a pedo’s wet dream. There was also a very large hoochie mama contingent bussed in from Orange County or something, and all of the clubber types going to clubs in that area. And Grauman’s is completely over the top, with all of the handprints in concrete out front, and all of the hollywood stars in the sidewalk, and the people dressed up as various famous iconic stars. The vibe of the place was very Times Square, which means don’t act like a fucking tourist, but it was pretty overwhelming.

I finished the last episode of The Sopranos, and that has to be the stupidest fucking ending ever for a TV series, aside from making the whole thing a dream of an autistic kid in a coma or whatever the fuck. Bleh.

Gotta shower, eat lunch, pack, get to the airport. This will be a fun one.

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