Monday, May 30, 2011

Observations on the West's landscape from a plane

Sitting in the airplane, peering out the window, taking in the huge stretches of desert below. Gritty, sandy, hilly desert. Clouds are sparse below the plane and the disappearing sunlight makes the hills and mountains more dramatic. I grew up in PA and spent much of my younger life on the east coast, where green vegetation sprouts up with every chance it gets, there are many chances. I still find the vast desert regions of the west surprising.

The Grand Canyon appeared below us as we flew into Phoenix from Boise.

Photo courtesy of Bill

After flying into Phoenix, from Boise, where we attended a wedding for Bill's grad school friend, we got on a smaller plane to Burbank. Still! Even in California! There are lots of desert-like regions. I knew this, seeing it is something else. More real. More this cup of coffee in my hands is really hot, less I'm thinking about how coffee can be hot.

I also noticed a dry river bed as we got closer to Burbank, well maybe we were 125 miles out yet. This river bed had a lighter color than the surrounding desert. Small, scrubby plants dotted sections of the bed. I think the bed is associated with the Mojave River which flows underground most of the time. I welcome corrections to that assessment. The landscape turned greener as the plane approached Burbank. More welcoming. LA's climate is classified as subtropical-Mediterranean, similar to Italy. It just gets enough rain to get this classification though!

There are tons of water sculptures in Los Angeles which is something of a joke. We've taken enough water from our neighbors to even make art out of it! Yet I find them soothing to observe.

There's lots more I could say... one is that I'm thinking of a song by Death Cab for Cutie called Why You'd Want to Live Here. The title of this song and the lyrics are a bit contradictory. Here's a part of it:

I'm in Los Angeles today: It smells like an airport runway.
Jet fuel stenches in the cabin and lights flickering at random.
I'm in Los Angeles today:
Garbage cans comprise the medians of freeways always creeping
even when the population's sleeping.
And I can't see why you'd want to live here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Los Angeles is oddly devoid of bugs in my experience. Ants, cockroaches, silverfish, I have grown accustomed to visits from these creatures in nearly every other place I've lived.

A few weeks ago, while eating dinner at a friends house I said, "I counted the number of room mates I've had, including family members. Anyone I've lived with for more than a month."

"I've lived with just about 30 people."

This started a flurry of calculations and musings from everyone else in the group. The largest number of room mates was 30 and change.

Lately, with the windows open all the time, I have seen some little flies in our apartment. Bill says to "kill on sight." These flies will get into grains and flour, mate, and destroy any interest in using that item as a food source again. For human consumption anyway.

I'm reading a short story now by Miranda July named "Something That Needs Nothing." In it this woman describes her relationship with another woman who she has had a few sexual encounters with in the past ten years - they are now living together. In it this woman, the narrator, discusses how she was once friends with another woman, a classmate of hers when she was a teenager. She describes this friend, Tammy, as a friend who "Everyday she told me everything she was thinking, and I guessed that this was what most girls did together."

I feel I've weaned myself off this experience, I want to try getting back to it a bit more. While writing this I squashed a little red bug walking across my computer. Narratives rule.

Library visit

Yesterday morning I spent some time wandering about the Los Angeles Central Library in downtown Los Angeles - this building is several stories high, crowned with a pyramid, and contains millions of books. It feels like something of an event when I go in there.

I had actually intended to go straight to the gym when I left my apartment yesterday morning. I bike right by the library in transit to the gym, as well as to my job, rarely do I stop in. Yesterday proved an exception.

Biking up 5th on my way to the gym, I saw that the street was closed off for a few blocks. Think security people, barricades, and also two strips of rectangular hay bales. It was soap box derby day.

I had felt some interest in checking the derby out when I heard about it a few weeks ago. Until I dismounted by bike, too many people and barriers around to ride, and took in all the advertising on every tent and stand set up. Such a turn-off. The library was a block away though, and I was already off my bike!

Aside from millions of books, the Central Library also contains several appreciable works of art, including several groupings of objects hanging down from the highest ceiling of the library. The areas where these pieces hang down is open on all the floors. These objects, such as giant bird and book sculptures, aren't so unusual but mounting them on poles coming down from the ceiling, and making them giant, gives them a new feel. I wonder what material was used to create them. You can gaze at this art while cruising up and down the escalators to the different floors.

When I entered the library yesterday I took the escalators up two flights and cruised into the fictional books section. I stopped at a computer, which contains an electronic card catalog, to look up the location of a book I've been meaning to read. I couldn't remember the exact name of the book I was interested in so I decide to just wander the aisles, just as well.

I've got an unfashionable backpack that I take with me whenever I ride my bike. It's with me much of the time. Bike lock, gym clothes, notepad, water bottle, lunch... many or all of these articles are regularly situated in my bag.

I had my backpack with me at the library and I start feeling worrisome about the noise the bag makes as I walk about at the library. The... attachments let's say, to the zipper make clicking noises as I walk about. I never notice it anywhere but at the library!

Click. Click. Click.

While at the library I interpret that sometimes people glance up at me with a bothered expression on their face as I approach the cubicle or table where they are sitting, studying difficult concepts I'm sure. As I walked the aisles yesterday I did not notice any of that annoyance though.

I spent a while going up and down, up and down, the aisles, before deciding on two books to borrow. One of the books is set in Mumbai/Bombay, the other, in New York city. After gathering up the books, I head to the entrance to check them out.

There are these terribly appealing tables and chairs in some areas of the library, I enjoy seeing them, although I never actually sat at these tables. They are made of some sort of light colored wood, heavy, and over-sized.

I like to picture myself sitting at one of these tables, no all of them, I would rotate about, for a day. Reading and learning, enjoying the beautiful building. Yesterday was not the day though, I had the gym to visit.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My first celebrity sighting in Los Angeles

I watched the movie Thor a week or two ago, with the 3-D glasses, thank you, at a theater in Hollywood. This is the first movie I've seen in a theater in 2011 so it was kinda a big deal, mostly because Marcos, one of my friends, had his names in the credits! He's a grip.

Bill has this way-of-being of never wanting to be late for anything. "As soon as you get home we'll need to leave," he texted me mid-afternoon - the day of which we were going to see Thor in the evening.

"I will need to eat beforehand," I texted back - I'm always hungry.

I biked home after work, entered the apartment and Bill deposited a container of quesadillas he had made me in my hands (so great!) - I scarfed them down in the car on the way to Hollywood. After arriving we parked and walk around to the front of the theater. To wait! Of course we're the first ones there! Unbeknownst to us Kirstin and Aaron were getting a drink at a bar nearby, so they might've been in the area sooner. A few minutes later Marcos and Crystal walk up, with Marcos' mom who was visiting for a couple days. Marcos texts Aaron to find out his whereabouts.

"He's at a bar behind the theater," Marcos tells us as we are chatting on the sidewalk, "he's going to pay and then they'll be here."

True to his word, Aaron and Kirstin arrive a few minutes later, through the front door of the theater. Kirstin had an alert look on her face.

"I just saw Kristin Bell," she says as we hug hello, "she's with someone, they held the door open for us."

"What! Oh my gosh," I exclaim and probably started doing some contortions. Kristin Bell is the blonde-haired woman from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I love that movie!

We enter the movie theater and some people from our group get in the concessions line for snacks. Kristin Bell and her fiance (I stalked out who he was on Wikipedia the next day) is in line for snacks too! I walk over and stand next to Bill who is in line, probably start breathing loudly or something, but he seems rather oblivious to the celebrity, who's really pretty and looks really nice! Quite close to him.

No, I did not get a pic with Kristin. And yes this event wasn't as major as say, a rapture, in the grand scheme of things. It happened though and was fun. Oh and Thor was a very entertaining movie. Our group broke into applause and cheers when we saw Marcos' name at the end.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Coin project

From April 2010 to April 2011 I made a project of picking up coins I found on the ground. I collected these coins in a jar. Here's what I found.

1..... 319
5.... 11
10...... 42
25..... 14
100....... 1

In total I found and picked up $12.44 off the ground. Bill collected coins a few years ago. He got close to $25 and found somewhere around a 1,000 pennies? Not bad. On the last day of my project I found 80 cents. It was a thoughtful send-off from the ground. Speaking of the ground, I'm currently enjoying not staring at it everywhere I walk. Oh to look at the sky! Or the person I am walking next to!

The 100 cents in the chart above is a 1 dollar coin, in case you missed it. Metro stations in Los Angeles will return one dollar coins at machines rather than paper money. I'm thinking one of those machines was part of this coin's journey. I found that coin on the ground at LAX when I was flying back to PA after interviewing for my current job. I took it as an auspicious sign.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Clutch purse carcinogens

It's Mothers Day in a few days and I purchased a gift for my mom off the internet today. I got her a smallish purse, often called a clutch purse. Her bags are always so big and bulky. I follow fashion trends, not full time, it's a some-of-the-time thing - I notice these things. A clutch purse seems like a good alternative for her.

My sister and I are going in on this purse together. The part of the clutch purse buying I want to focus on here is the little phrase "California Residents: Proposition 65 Warning" found under the product specifications section of the purse descriptions. It's found in every description I looked at! Here's (part of) what it says:

California Proposition 65

Attention California Residents:

California's Proposition 65 entitles California consumers to special warnings for products that contain chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm if those products expose consumers to such chemicals above certain threshold levels.
We hope that the information below helps with your purchasing decisions.

The general Proposition 65 notice is as follows:

WARNING: Products in the categories below may contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

* Products made with Fabric, Leather, Vinyl, Foam, Synthetic and Non-woven Material
* Batteries and/or Products that contain batteries
* Beauty Products (including first-aid kits and lotions)

In addition, there are specific warnings for products in the following categories:

Electrical Cords (may be found on some travel accessories)

Products made of fabric??? Vinyl, leather and foam? Why not instead state if a specific product contains this material? And possibly! Just how carcinogenic it is! Further the products listed seem to cover most categories of.. Stuff! that people tend to buy. Shouldn't first aid kits like not be carcinogenic?

Ok I'm not really hysterical, now anyway. If California is going to be clearly more awesome than many other states why not do something really specific and useful, instead of producing vague alarming propositions.

Mom I hope you don't read this! Before mothers day at least!