Friday, August 11, 2017

Small Luxury

You know how you add something small to your life and later you wonder why you didn't do it sooner? Like a mat in front of the sink, to stand on while washing dishes. Or a doormat next to the bed, so you always get the dust off your bare feet right before bed (admittedly, this wasn't a big problem back East). Or changing sugary peanut butter for the real thing and wondering what took you so long.

Well, I recently decided I was tired of using a big colander for my morning berries. I went on Etsy and found this small berry bowl. Profits went to a foster care advocacy agency and my berries are housed in just the right bowl, so all is well in Burbank for now.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Dinner with Friends

I don't have many favorite things. Maybe reacting to problem after problem on the road in a remote part of a foreign country. Or sitting on a curb in Bangkok eating pad thai after a Thai massage.

My most favorite thing is enjoying a meal with friends who are smart and interesting. I got to do that last night in DTLA, and it's so rare for me to get around to this these days. A great reminder of how I prefer to spend my time.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Food from a Truck (Daily)

No, it hadn't ever occurred to me either. And I love to complain about having only food truck options for lunch daily here in Burbank.

But this turned out to be delicious.

Monday, July 10, 2017


Today I am wearing a shortish skirt with squirrels on it.

It's hot out and I read somewhere that people my age don't really age anymore, so I can wear all the squirrels I want. You should too.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

On Suddenly Understanding Selfies

Traveling alone and not taking photos of myself never seemed to be a problem to me, until I was asked for a photo of me in a specific shirt. I've written a recommendation for one of my favorite independent designers, for her website, but you know what I don't have? 

Photos of me overseas actually wearing the clothes she designed. 

I do, however, have a lot of photos of my feet, and occasionally, my hands. 

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Call It Homage. Bus Homage.

Finally, a bus you can sleep on! How novel!

Only...not to rain on anyone's parade, but this has been going on in China for years. I spotted my first sleeper bus in 2001, and I'm sure they'd been around a long time before I first saw one.

I actually took one in 2011. Comfy. 

I know we love to steal ideas and give them their own personal outlets and lamps, but...god, we're just ridiculous.

Will I be taking a sleeper bus? No, I'll stick with Spirit out of Burbank Airport, because I like a nice shower in the morning mixed with my cheap fare, but it's good we're finally beginning to catch up to China.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Slight Exaggeration

The trains must've gone faster in the late 1800s.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

A Step Up

I got some photos of the completed new stoop yesterday. It looks so great! Plus, now I can get mail for my own little downstairs studio instead of it all going into the mail slot on the main door.

I wish I could go to Jersey City and sit on it for a while. I could sit and contemplate just how far I plan to go with renovating this 1895 row house on Breadalbane Terrace.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Breadalbane Terrace

I stumbled over this while searching for info on why my house is on Breadalbane Terrace in Lafayette, Jersey City.

The fellow on the left was descended from the Scottish Highlander Breadalbane branch of the Campbell Clan. He was a huge figure in the development of the Lafayette area.

Which might explain why my house says BREADALBANE on the side of it, but what I don't know is why the carving is in perfect shape and if it was restored to match exactly what was there before. I assume so, but I'm going to need to do some more digging.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Remote Repairs

I have a new stoop!

Well, not completely new. More rebuilt than new. I haven't actually seen it yet, and might not see it until September given how high airfares are in the summer. Maybe if I weren't so busy spending all my money on fixing up my old house in JC and my new condo in Burbank, I'd be able to spend the money for airfare, but then there'd be no stoop to check out. Perplexing.

I'm told the old railings are back up and the steel grate over the downstairs entrance is back, along with the gate. I'm hoping the guys hung the new mailboxes I bought, and if they actually left the keys to the new mailboxes somewhere useful, that would be good too.

Jetco also fixed two spots where the stucco was cracking. They're the same guys who redid the stucco on the back of the house last year, and they've been nothing but charming and thorough. I initially had a hard time getting them on the phone, but once winter kicked in, it became easy. Of course, now I have their direct email address, so getting in touch is a cinch.

The best part about the new stoop is the kids who inhabit my house (I rent it out to a family, you didn't think I let it sit empty, did you?) love to sit on the stoop. And now they have an extra-special stoop for sitting. And stooping, I guess.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Stand In

I clicked on a link to learn more about what Basic Economy fare is on United. I guess it's just using your under-seat space instead of an overhead bin, but what I really wanted to know is what having silver status means for Basic Economy.

I didn't figure that part out from watching the United video, but I did see an actor strolling down a street in "New York City." And I had to laugh. That's not NYC. That's Eighth Street between Coles and Monmouth, in Jersey City, right up from Hamilton Park.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dark Skies and Giant Serpents

Three-and-a-half hours from Los Angeles, there's a town completely surrounded by a California state park.

Borrego Springs is a Dark Sky Community, which means it's a good place to look at the night sky. I dunno...I don't mean to be a skeptic, but I'm pretty sure I've spent nights out in national parks in Uganda and Zimbabwe where I could see a lot less light. Or in Turbo's yard out in the middle of nowhere, Australia. But I applaud the effort, and I didn't happen to carry a giant telescope with me out into any of those places without cities nearby, but there are telescope options in Borrego Springs, so off I went in a rental car from Burbank Airport.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Bit Warm Here

I drove up over the hill from the coast, winding down the mountain roads to Anzo-Borrego State Park.

No wonder all the campgrounds shut at the end of May.

En Route to the Desert

I read about seeing the Milky Way out in the desert, and the best place for it in this part of the country turns out to be the same place as some tremendous iron sculptures. I booked a rental car and a hotel room.

After driving my rental car an hour and a half into the desert, I pulled over at an outlet mall I'd never heard of.

At least half the storefronts were empty and shuttered. I went into a few shoe stores. The only customers in the whole mall were in the brew pub, the plus size shop, or in Hot Topic.

I got back in the car and drove on into the desert. I glanced in the rear view mirror.

There was no outlet mall. Just a shimmering haze.

I'd just time traveled into the future of American retail.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


The longer I work at a day job, the harder it is to remember my life pre-routine. Well, not remember, exactly. More like inhabit my identity. I recall the mechanics of it just fine—traipsing around the world with my laptop, researching where to find hotels or coffee shops with the best wifi. My office was my immediate line-of-sight. This I know intellectually. I just don't feel like that person at the moment.

I put little reminders of the other me up on my walls, both in Burbank and Jersey City. One of my Otomi textiles from my extended stay in San Miguel de Allende is too big for anywhere I live right now, and so it is in a box in storage, but the other one is tall and thin—perfect for my Burbank condo.

How to hang it was trickier, and I struggled with options, finally deciding I needed to go downtown to the mega-crafts store in DTLA. It's a bit like a low-rent super-Michael's, and I reasoned it might have a tapestry hanger. I caught the #222 bus over the hill to Hollywood and Argyle—which is, according to Metro signs, Hollywood and Vine—and took the Red Line down to Pershing Square.

After lunch at my favorite crepe place, I walked over to the crafts shop.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Hitting Home

Today's baseball field shooting took place where I grew up.

I don't mean in the same town (Alexandria) or the same neighborhood (Del Ray). I mean it was 3/4 of a block away from the row house I lived in from when I was four years old to when I went off to college.

I played in that field. The neighbor kids and I sang Monkees songs (we loved the TV repeats of the show) while swinging on the swingsets next to that field. I used to go to the YMCA across the parking lot. It's where I learned to swim as an after-school latchkey kid. (Not very well. I had to relearn in college.) We would take our dog for walks in that field. A small plane once crashed into that field. I slept through it, which is how I learned I am a skilled sleeper.

I broke my left arm on the monkey bars at that baseball park. My dad went to a turkey shoot and the neighbor took me and my mother to the hospital. We didn't think it was broken, because I could still move my fingers. Of course, we weren't exactly medical professionals. Lots of people can still move their fingers when they have a fracture or break. What did we know? We didn't have online reference yet.

My mother was mugged walking along that baseball field, and another time, my sister and mother were ambushed by drunk rednecks there (not coincidentally, the drunk rednecks were our next-door neighbors).

I have conflicted emotions about the area, since my childhood wasn't exactly idyllic, and I associate that area with a lot I'd prefer to forget, even as I strive to remember elusive but important traumatic moments.

I understand the area is gentrified and a lot safer now than it was then, but I guess it didn't feel that way today.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Bit More Like Home

Home is still an 1895 row house in Lafayette, Jersey City, but I'm trying to make my Burbank condo a little more personalized.

Here is today's addition. Three plates I bought in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, in 2001, on the original MariesWorldTour.  I probably sent the plates home from Zambia, then I would've had Kraiger help me hang them at 350 Eighth Street before packing them into storage while I was off in Cairo, then unpacking into my rental on Hamilton Park, and packing up again in May 2015, leaving them in my First Street garage until a few weeks ago.

They didn't fit into my mini-kitchen in my Lafayette studio, but they fit just right here in Burbank. And they remind me that once upon a time, I did more with my life than work all the time.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

On Location

I've been meaning to go to the Batcave since I first realized it was here, just a few minutes away in the Hollywood Hills, but I didn't get around to it until today.

Adam West was 88 years old--he lived a long life. Today we acknowledge his passing not because we're surprised at the death of an 88-year-old, and not solely because another part of our childhoods has moved on. (Most of us watched Batman in repeats, anyway.)

We mention it because of his iconic status in the industry many of us live and work in, our brushes with celebrity, standing next to him at functions, in elevators, at bars. My own Adam West story is pretty brief--he gave out a Harvey Award at a Dallas convention in 1993, and I presented for Marvel either right before him or right after him. I've forgotten, but we did shake hands.

Today signals an end to us accumulating silly stories about Adam West interactions and near-misses, so I headed up to Bronson Caves because today was not just as good a day as any, but a better day than most.

I caught the #222 bus over the hill to Hollywood, disembarking at Yucca and Vine. I walked up to Argyle and Franklin, where the DASH Hollywood was driving by, so I jumped on that to Franklin and Bronson, where I stopped by the Oaks for a quick lunch. I tried getting a Lyft up to the trailhead, but my phone reported a five-minute wait, so I just walked the 1.4 miles to the fire road to Bronson Caves.

Once you get to the trailhead, it's pretty much the world's easiest hike up to the caves. I could've done without walking back to Franklin, but I couldn't get a signal in Griffith Park. Oh well, walking is good for me, plus there's a decent Gelson's at Franklin and Bronson, so I picked up a few things on my way back to the #222 stop to go back over the hill to Burbank.

Look at this list of productions shot at the Batcave. It's tremendous, including even on of my favorite films, The Searchers. Even Little House on the Prairie ended up here.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Time Travel

The Other Marie was in town last week--I was back East for most of it (at BookExpo, formerly BEA), but I returned to spend some time with her before she flew home.

She'd rented an apartment in DTLA. It had two beds, so I stayed with her instead of dragging her back and forth to Burbank.

We went to LA Confidential at the Orpheum, wandered the streets where I had sublet when I first arrived in Los Angeles, ate at the Nickel Diner, and enjoyed briefly feeling like we had other lives.

"Downtown is so much like our old neighborhood," Marie marveled, referring to our Avenue B places back in the nineties. (There's even a Two Boots, which was a thing before it was a thing.)

On Sunday morning, we walked to the metro. We were heading to Culver City to meet our friend Steve—formerly of East 10th Street in Manhattan, among other places.

Two men approached us, walking the other way.

They glanced over.

"The ladies of 7th Street are pretty," said one.

The comment hung in the air, as we thought about the old days in the East Village, when men said strange things and young women (which we were then) smiled nervously or looked the other way.

"Yeah, but a lot of them are hookers," said the other, as he looked us up and down.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Small Victories

BBF sometimes gets pretty tired of me saying "Let's fix this today." Most people relax by watching television, I guess.

Here's what I made him do with me today. We fetched Burmese puppets from my garage, went to the DIY store and found some anchors, and put these up in my little JC studio.

I love my Burmese puppets. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bike to Work Day

Burbank hosted its annual Bike and Walk to Work Day today. For me, that's just "going to work," but one of the three pit stops was in front of my office building, so I stopped in and browsed the public information tables set up by the police department, fire department, cycle advocacy groups, local hospital, and public transit info center.

I politely took flyers about buses I already know well, entered the drawing for a folding bike, and got some good swag--a little light clip for bike handlebars and a flashing reflector.

Then, at the far end of the gallery of tents, I saw a row of used bicycles.

A local nonprofit called Burbank Bike Angels had set these bikes up, and was accepting donations in exchange for them.

I studied the bikes carefully--a men's Specialized, several Schwinn bikes, lots of one-speeds.

There's a bike parking area in my new building's parking garage, but I'd barely ever ridden the last bike I'd had and was unlikely to ride one here. There aren't many bike lanes and this is car country.

"How much are the bikes?" I asked.

"Whatever you donate," was the response.

I took a flyer and went upstairs, where I spoke to one of the other group editors who had bought a bike six months ago and then never used it.

"That's exactly what would happen to me," I said.

But about five minutes later, I changed my mind, went downstairs, and gave the sixty dollars I had in my pocket over in exchange for a purple Schwinn.

I parked it on the bike rack in the office garage, and it was still there at the end of the day. Only now it had a note admonishing me to buy a lock. Ha. Okay. Thanks, anonymous person.

I rode the bike home at twilight down back streets, balancing on my inappropriately tall clogs while trying to stop my handbag from sliding down onto the handlebars.

Here is Red the purple bike, currently residing in my living room while awaiting a lock. I don't know how long I'll manage to keep this until it is stolen even WITH a lock, but at least I know where to get a new one for cheap.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Don't Ask Unless You Really Want an Answer

I sometimes get carried away with instructions.

In my defense, the electrician did ask where I wanted the lights to go.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Draw, Write, Color, and Edit Like a Girl

I wondered if maybe I was too heartbroken to ever post again after giving up my 1990 Ford Taurus.

But then I picked up Yancey at Burbank Bob Hope Airport yesterday morning, drove him around to signings for Free Comic Book Day, and now I feel a little better.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Farewell Old Friend

My car, Henry the Ford Taurus (1990), was running perfectly on the 15th anniversary of my acquisition of him.

I picked him up from my Jersey City garage late last night, directly from Newark Airport. I cleaned out my stuff this morning. Rocks Turbo dragged up from the bottom of canyons as we drove across the US in 2002. An old Haynes manual. The peace sign air freshener my sister left in the car in...2004? 2005? My E-Z Pass. Half a wooden kookaburra keychain. Fuzzy dice.

My car was waiting on Mr. Recycler to come and take him away to be smashed into steel. People said "Why don't you give him to someone," but it's worrying to hand off a 27-year-old car. Who would trust it? Others said "Why don't you donate it?" But you can only get Blue Book value on the donation, not even enough to worry about. The rear bumper alone could be sold for twice what the car is worth. Whatever...I didn't have time to fuss around, so I sold it outright to a recycling company.

I've had this car since April 23, 2002, and I bought it because it's a Taurus and I'm a Taurus, and buying a used car is such a crapshoot, you may as well use the zodiac.

The Aussie ex and I drove this car from Torrance to the East Village, and I've had it ever since. Henry the Ford stayed in my garage while I was in Kuwait, Egypt, Australia, Uganda, and spending ten months on the bus around the world. He went tent camping all over the US and visited every campground in NJ and VA for two separate books. I'd slept in the backseat a few times when I'd gotten too tired to keep driving.

I almost called the recycling company to cancel about 20 times. My car represents eras of my life. But then I'd remind myself that NJ insurance is $150 a month, and that's money I am spending to garage my car in Jersey City even though I live in California at the moment. I'd thought I'd drive it to LA, but after 23 months of living car-free, I knew I didn't need to spend a week driving 8-10 hours a day to get the car out West.

I felt guilty as hell for recycling him, and I kept reminding myself this is a hunk of steel, not a living being. But I didn't entirely believe it.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

New Bamboo

Here are my new floors!

Getting them was crazy expensive, way beyond anything I had to pay back home just for refinishing hundred-year-old heart pine floors. If I had to do it again, I'd just go to Lumber Liquidators, get what's on sale and unlikely to last that long, and buy a table saw. How hard can it be? They can snap together if you buy the right kind.

I hired a professional off Yelp. It took me a few weeks to get there. I got an estimate from him initially and it was far too expensive, so I asked a guy working on a floor in a different unit in my complex. He was way more reasonable as he wasn't a company but rather the guy who did the actual work, but as I dug in and learned I needed to provide documentation including insurance to my HOA, and realized I couldn't take delivery of the floor personally without hiring some guys who stand near Home Depot looking for day labor, I came around to seeing the value of paying someone to run the whole thing. This isn't like when I worked at home. I can't hang around the house all day when managing a group in a deadline industry.

And the professional didn't do the work. His guys did the work. And he kept texting me "We" are doing this or that, and what he meant was "They" but I went along with it, because it seemed important to him that I believe he was somehow doing the actual work. He also asked me for a Yelp review at the end, as does everyone for everything now. I guess money isn't enough anymore.

He was incredibly keen to get paid--I can only imagine he's been stiffed in the past. Anyway, it made me nervous, like "What is he trying to hide about this floor?"

I liked the other guy a lot, but we had a communication issue. He texted me to call S&S Flooring for prices, because he couldn't speak English and I couldn't speak Spanish. That led me to a break-of-day trip to S&S Flooring on the LA side of the mountain, but that wasn't particularly promising, so I called the Valley one. The Valley one had a close-out of solid, real 5/8" bamboo (not the kind where it's on top of plywood or particle board) for $3.19 a square foot, so I jumped on that. Even the floor guy was surprised when the flooring showed up. I did real good.

Of course, I didn't really want bamboo. I'm worried about the fumes and I'd rather have proper hardwood, but a sale's a sale, and I have no plans to stay on this coast any longer than I have to, so bamboo it is.

The slate tile in the kitchen and dining area

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ask Me How I Know

Here's what 22 boxes of solid bamboo flooring looks like.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Not to Buy a Ceiling Fan

1) Spend a week occasionally browsing online.

2) Spend a few days really digging around online.

3) Friday: make an appointment with an electrician to run the ceiling fan wiring on Wednesday morning. Realize you need a ceiling fan in a hurry. Dig around when you should be working, keep having to work instead, finally give up and decide to do it at home later.

4) Spend about half an hour looking online after getting home from buying a pendant ceiling light from IKEA. (Because I know how to party on Friday nights.)

5) Wake up Saturday morning and realize now that the floors will be bamboo, it would be nice to have bamboo ceiling fan blades. Quickly learn few of these exist, and after deciding it might be worth it to buy an expensive ceiling fan with bamboo blades, learn there is no way to have it by Wednesday morning.

6) Finally leave apartment when the agent trying to rent the place keeps bugging me to get in. Catch the La Brea bus to Lighting Expo. Be disappointed by the selection.

7) Stop at Orchard Hardware. Be disappointed by their selection.

8) Catch the next La Brea bus down to Pico. Walk to Lowe's. Decide maybe some of the Lowe's ceiling fans would be okay. Buy some WD-40 for the stiff mailbox lock.

9) Catch the La Brea bus to another disappointing light store. This one has a no photos policy, probably because they don't want word to get out their ceiling fan selection blows.

10) Stop for lunch.

11) Walk to Lamps Plus. See one you like--it's not in stock. But wait, there's one at the North Hollywood Lamps Plus, where you were last week!

12) Catch the La Brea bus to Sunset. Catch the Sunset bus to Home Depot. Nix all their ceiling fans.

13) Walk up to the Hollywood/Western Red Line. Take Red Line metro to North Hollywood.

14) Use some of the 18% left on your phone to learn the next bus from North Hollywood metro to North Hollywood Lamps Plus is not for 50 minutes.

15) Use some of the 17% left on your phone to get a Lyft to North Hollywood Lamps Plus.

16) Pick a ceiling fan that is not the one from La Brea, but is a completely different one, which is quite simple and you could have bought 40 times already.

17) Use some of the 12% left on your phone to catch a Lyft to Burbank.

18) Carry the ceiling fan from the Lyft to your condo, and then look at your phone, and learn from the 10% that if you leave RIGHT NOW, you can get the 155 bus to the Red Line.

19) Catch the 155 bus to the Universal Red Line.

 20) Catch the Red Line back over the mountain to Hollywood. Stop by Trader Joe's on the way home and glance at your phone--made it with 5% to go.

21) Later, wonder if maybe you should've just delayed the electrician and ordered the ceiling fan you wanted. It matches the new bamboo flooring you're getting delivered on Tuesday. Convinced yourself this is the right approach, and plan to return the one your purchased. Look up the one you wanted, click on options. Realize it's $500.

Maybe this was the right way to buy a ceiling fan after all. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Tonight, I went by the hotel around the corner from my new condo and picked up the keys.

From the bartender. Also the seller's real estate agent. 

Of course. And of course the co-publisher knows him. Why not? 

The seller was there at the bar, talking with her neighbors and her brother. She hugged me and asked me to take care of her plant.

"This is my brother. He found the condo nine years ago, when they first went on sale. I got first choice. I said, do I want a condo over an alley? He said...yeah, but it's a Burbank alley."

Everyone laughed. Burbank is so tame compared to its big sibling to the south.

The seller's got ten years on me, so she'd decided to buy a Winnebago and leave her job. She's off to a park in Alaska where she'll be a campground host for the summer, then who knows. 

I know a bit about that sort of life, and it seems both like a distant memory and like something scary and strange. It's funny how I can switch from wandering the back roads of Cameroon and Borneo to trudging to work every day without too much angst.

Well, maybe a little. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

In Contract

I'm sorry I've been neglecting you, but I have news.

I'm in contract to buy a condo in Burbank. I wish I could buy a 1920s vintage place in Hollywood, but those are rentals, not condos, so I was left with choosing between a DTLA loft (bad commute), a tiny bungalow out in Sunland (too far from non-work stuff), and a lot of beige apartments with low ceilings, vertical blinds, and stucco. I chose the best of those on offer and somehow, my ability to pass as a normal human got me past the gatekeepers.

It's too expensive and I will need to pull up carpeting and get a floor installed. I kind of wish I'd held out for a value place by the metro. I'm trying to convince BBF to come out and change all the light fixtures and replace all the hanging things on walls with new hanging things. I'm going to have to pull up the tile and replace it in the half bath.

But this really seems to be happening. And I'll be able to walk to work.

I may be getting carried away with my dedication to my job. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Snacks and Avoidance

"I read your book proposal," my colleague said this afternoon.

She is working on a book, and I sent her a few book proposals so she could learn the structure of a book proposal.

I knew which one she meant. She meant the Curse of the Hippo book proposal. The book I haven't written yet. The book I don't know if I'll ever write. The book about the complicated break-up in Uganda, the long recovery across Kuwait and Cairo over two or three years.

I chirped something about hoping she'd sorted out how to write a book proposal, because my assistant was in the room, and she hadn't read the book proposal, and it seemed unfair for us to discuss something my assistant wasn't familiar with.

But really, I was avoiding talking about the topic. What's there left to say? In time, you forget. You lose interest in the other person, his attempts to cover up his digital footprint, his path through life. When you stumble over the photo of him ten years later, you don't wince. You just snicker a bit about aging, something happening to you as well.

I got off the train at Hollywood and Highland tonight, so I could go to the shoe store by the Chinese Theater. When I was trying on Pumas, I suddenly realized I was ravenous. Desperate for food, I quickly walked down Hollywood Boulevard toward home, mentally digging through my larder as I walked.

Cooking would take too long. I'd stop by the Indian carry-out at the bottom of my street.

That's where it hit me again.

In the summer of 2005, H.M. and I would head from Murchison Falls into the nearest town, Masindi. I'd set my laptop up in the Internet cafe, launch Fetch, and start uploading my color files to Marvel or Gemstone. The connection was so slow we'd leave the iBook running and go to the cafe next door for lunch.

The cafe didn't offer much aside from fried eggs and burgers, but they did have samosas. So once a week in the summer of 2005, I'd have samosas while uploading files. And now, I can't look at a samosa without remembering that summer in Uganda, switching back and forth between Murchison Falls National Park and my apartment in Bbunga, near Kabalagala on the Ggaba Road from Kampala.

Tonight, as I ordered the Bombay Plate to go, I thought about Uganda, those samosas (which were too spicy to be honest), and Herr Marlboro, and how time heals nothing, but it dulls it to where you are almost a little embarrassed you ever talked so much about it to your friends.

The cashier at the Indian carry-out interrupted my thoughts. "Anything to drink with that?"

"No," I said. "But do you have a samosa for me tonight?"

"Yes, of course."

He fetched two samosas. Just like in Masindi, you couldn't get one. You had to get two.

I took the samosa home, sat down in front of my laptop, and bit into it.

Too spicy, I thought with a laugh.

Friday, January 13, 2017


Friday. At the Universal City bus stop.
  • A woman of about 60, with long black hair and a cowboy hat, reciting a list of all the people who won't go to heaven. Seems the list includes people who drink coffee, dye their hair, and someone who made Marie Osmond cry.
Sunday. On the Sunset Boulevard bus.
  • Man: People think New York has weirdos. New York's got nothing on L.A. 
  • Woman: It's because this is a sanctuary city. All the illegal aliens take all the jobs.
Monday. On the bus I call the WB express, because it goes over the hill from the metro to Warner Bros in Burbank. 
  • Woman on cell phone: There's no deliverance ministry. Who's gonna get the demons out of the congregation?
And then there was that time a possum was stuck in the middle of Sunset Boulevard. See the sort of things you miss by not taking public transportation? 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Housing Update

That's it, I can hold back no more.

I've started looking at properties in LA.

How can we know if it's the right thing to do? In uncertain times, what happens to real estate? What's next for property when all is unpredictable?

I've read articles claiming some ability to see the future. Some are bearish, while others are bullish. I'm bearish--I see nowhere for interest rates to go but up, up, up. But there is a lack of clarity on what this means. When credit tightens, don't fewer people buy? Will that result in falling prices?

I can't foresee prices going down in Los Angeles, simply because there is a shortage of housing. LA has so many houses and not enough apartments--it just wasn't a thing here for many years. People stuck to suburban-style living in the middle of the city. The area has a long way to go before supply catches up with demand. Short of an earthquake or continuing drought, at least. And there's been a lot of rain lately.

There are really not enough condos in LA, and I'm no economist, but I'm sure this is because rents are so high right now. Why should a developer produce condos instead of rentals when rentals are such cash cows? Though I'm told there were financial incentives to developers to create rental properties, and these may eventually be converted to condo.

I went to look at a condo in North Hollywood right before the Christmas break. It was depressing--tiny, expensive at $299k, in a building that needed a lot of cheering up. But it's the best value I've seen around town, because it was by the metro. There's a supermarket, post office, movies, shops, buses to all over, metro two stops from the farmers market, a Y, a diner, and the prices seem likely to continue to go up as the movement now is to walkable areas with public transit.

I waffled due to its dowdiness, and it was gone by the time I decided to bid. But that's good, because I needed to do more research anyway.

It's been a month now, and I've learned a tremendous amount about the local market. I've looked at tiny houses, which they call "bungalows" here, and some of them were up on hills. I've studied Redfin and Trulia and Realtor sites obsessively, and I even sat down and worked out the point at which the cheapest condo costs as much as the least-pricey house, assuming they are both a reasonable commuting distance from my office. (FYI, it's between $325k and $350k, depending on the condo fees.)

I even rented a car and went out to Sunland, to La Crescenta, and to El Sereno, to Montecito Heights, to see what the commutes would be like from those spots.

Too much. The cost of the car overcomes the bargains to be had, and the sprawl of the Sunland area was a bit too much for me, though there is a bus to my office from Sunland.

The only houses that really make sense for me are between 400-700 square feet. You read that right. Crazy, isn't it? My first condo in Manhattan was 463 square feet. I can't imagine fitting a house into it.

It took me years to find my JC house, and I still can't believe I got it. I hope to nail this down sooner, while interest rates are still at historic lows, rather than later. I have to live here for work anyway. I might as well be building equity. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

We Win Again!

My vote put it over the edge!

Of course, the same day this happened, I concluded I could get a $500k house in Burbank for the same as a $300k house back home, due to property taxes, but hey, it's either going to the bank or the municipality. (shrugs.) 

Things You Don't Need


Sunday, January 01, 2017

A Perfect Afternoon

Just off the plane at LAX.

We now begin the part of the year when I stop complaining about living in Los Angeles.

Don't worry. I'll complain extra in the spring to make it up to you.

Top of Class

It is said that getting upgraded on the first day of the new year means good luck. 

Building Bridges

I was upgraded (yay!) on first day of the year, which is always great, even though it only seems to happen when I don't desperately need it.

I kicked up my feet and watched out the window as the plane left Newark.

Good-bye to 2016

My first act of the new year was—again—to get on a plane from Newark to LA.

2016 offered us a glimpse of distant mortality, creeping closer over the coming years, if we can get through the immediate problem of our naive media and tech unsophistication having left us susceptible to economic or nuclear collapse.

I've  had a good run in my adult life, followed every dream and then some, metaphorically seen the fire off the shoulder of Orion, and yet here I am, same spot we're all in.

Only mine is at the airport, so has a plastic knife.

May we get smarter as a species, grieve in segments rather than in a giant wave as in 2016, as icons left us in a herd.

Happy 2017. The bar is low. We can do this.