Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Heppy Renewed Year

As we prepare to welcome a brand new year, we tend to reflect on the year we had and look forward to the year to come. There are those who celebrate this time to start anew: "Out with the old, in with the new."

I'm devoting the last day of this year to do just that...of sorts. I am in the process of converting old t-shirts into yarn.

I had the idea to make some t-shirt yarn for some time, but I haven't really made the effort to try until now.

After a helpful tip of a Goodwill that sells clothing by the pound in Long Beach, I figured getting a big bunch of test shirts and make a lot of yarn, so I grabbed my roommate and called up a local friend and went on a little field trip and found the "Last Chance" warehouse behind a proper Goodwill store.

After a lot of digging through piles and piles of sometimes very smelly clothes, I managed to get a sizable pile with which to work, and for $1.99 a pound, I (think I) got a pretty good deal.

After a good washing, I tried a few methods to cut the yarn, and found the spiral cut method works the best for me, particularly in getting most out of the shirt.

So now I have this little pile that I can power through and make some yarn.

We'll see if I can salvage these last chance finds and make good with their new purpose...once I figure out what to make with all that I've got. One of my resolutions is to try to make more handmade things, and another to be a little greener; take up more sustainable practices. Doing this kills two birds with one stone, so we'll see how this goes!



Monday, December 29, 2008

Resolutions Better than Yours

How many of you commit to resolutions every year? I never have and never will—except this once. My life’s been uneventful these last twenty years, so to spice things up I decided to include only heroic feats in my one and only new year’s resolutions list.

  • Tame horse to rescue damsel in distress and flee by jumping over canyon.

  • Enter burning building, exit with soot-faced baby.

  • Utilize martial arts to apprehend head of criminal organization.

  • Protect honor of shy woman by smashing a bottle of vodka and holding shard to offender’s neck.

  • Infiltrate compound to thwart weapons smuggling by using weapons in question to dispatch enemies.

  • Remove shoes, jump into pool, emerge with coughing baby.

  • Ram tank into helicopter.

  • Sacrifice self to help friends escape dungeon by using body to hold open stone slab only to reappear later to surprise sullen friends.

  • Stalk, capture renegade circus elephant. Gut, extract living human baby.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Taco Holder

I am a lightweight when it comes to drinking. One watered down mai tai and I'll be dialing the big white telephone all night. A second drink renders me so drunk that I no longer care if I am sickeningly dizzy. Well, what the heck? It's the holidays! Sure, I'll have another... After perusing a long list of fancy cocktails I ordered the prettiest one, because well, I am a sucker for cute. "I'll have the Rainbow!," I happily proclaimed. "Hmmm, really?" The waiter warned. "Yes!," I uncharacteristically raised my voice, "I want to taste the Rainbow! Ha Ha!". The waiter warned me again, my friends cautioned me, I contemplated offers of other fruity drinks (the appletini, the lycheetini...), but I still had my heart set on those colorful, layered swirls.

I tasted that rainbow. And then I tasted it again on the way out. Since I am a skilled vomiter, I was fully equipped with a barf bag. I gracefully (yeah, right) fell outside for some cool air and privacy while a friend held my hair back. Yes, I carry barf bags on my person at all times. It's what an expert does. It's not like I have many accomplishments to be proud of, so I like to point out all my various profeciencies and tout them as remarkable achievements. I have a wall map littered with tacks, pin pointing all the various places I've vomited. Sometimes supplementary maps are needed to add specific detail for bigger cities. A shiny red tack marks the corner of Westwood Blvd. & Broxton in honor of this event.

On the ride back home in my friend's car, I demanded a pit stop for snacks. Armed with enough burritos and tacos to start my own Taco Bell franchise, I finally arrived home. After covering my bed with various wrappers and hot sauces, I immediately felt the need to bathe. I grabbed a taco and headed for the shower. That's when I discovered it. The soap dish/taco holder. I've always wondered what that little dowel was for! The way that taco fit so perfectly in its holder was shockingly beautiful to me. Being able to eat a taco while washing my vaguely pukey-smelling hair was exquisite! I had to call everyone that night to apprise them of my exciting discovery.

I've never been so drunk and I hope I never am again, but there was something special about that night. That magical night in which I discovered just because you want something doesn't mean that you should have it, and that my shower sports an excellent taco holder. Should you find yourself in a similar predicament this holiday season (or place of bliss depending on how you see things), I hope you too are fortunate enough to have a friend who will hold your hair back and a revelation so profound that you need to call me at 3am to let me know all about it. Have a festive and safe new year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

I've Got Spirit, How About You?

Last night, on Christmas evening, I caught an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun, the sitcom from the late 90’s starring John Lithgow as the high commander of four aliens who settle in a small city in Ohio to observe the human race. They were happy to celebrate their one year anniversary being on earth which also happened to be around the time of Christmas. They were very excited about the holiday until one thing or another extinguished their Christmas spirit, only for it to be rekindled before the end of the episode. That episode basically summarized in 28 minutes what I’ve gone through with my sentiment over the holiday season in the 28 years of my life.

This time of year used to be my favorite ‘twas the season to sing Christmas carols, watch A Christmas Story, eat candy canes and get presents. As a kid, I would do as any other kid would, get excited about getting presents, and tried to sneak peeks into what I would get. As I got older, the obligations and responsibilities of getting older, like taking tests and writing papers, along with the pressure of getting presents for the people “who counted” and making sure that I gave the right present – something that’s nice, but not TOO nice as to imply you were trying too hard for the particular person. Then came combing the malls and battling for parking spaces during the holiday shopping crunch, trying to find that “perfect” present for anyone and everyone. I sang few carols during that time, I didn’t get as many candy canes, and I cared less and less about getting presents, and even if I had any, I was more conscious of the beautiful wrapping that someone paid for just for it to be torn apart and discarded without much thought.

That’s not to say that I’ve become a regular Scrooge when it comes to this time of year; it just didn’t have that same kind of magic that it once held in my heart. Thankfully, my most recent trip to Europe reminded me what the Christmas spirit was all about. In fact, being there seemed more like Christmas than I’ve felt in a long time.

It helps that Munich and Salzburg are both very Catholic, and with Christmas just around the corner, holiday decorations, ice skating rinks, and if they weren’t up yet, Advents/Christkindl/etc. market stands were going up and running, selling Nativity scene figures and sets, Christmas tree ornaments, handmade toys, etc.

The highlight of these markets were the food stands that would sell things like Heisse Marroni (Roasted chestnuts), Gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds), candied fruits, various types of Wurst, and the highlight of the trip, having Glüwein (mulled wine served hot) to warm up during the cold, winter-like days.

Aside from the fact that this was my first time being in a snowy place for the longest period of time, particularly during the Christmas season, being surrounded by Christmas without the pressure of having to buy something or get something for someone else.

I came back from the trip charged with Christmas spirit, ready to face the mall and whatever holiday season frustration I may have to face. That included being flipped off by a well-manicured hand that came out from under a window of a minivan while my roommate and I were driving on the 5 Freeway the day of Christmas Eve.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Short Story (part 5 of 5)

[Here's the conclusion to the critically acclaimed comedy I wrote last year. Peter Travers of Rolling Stones wrote, "it is an explosive tour de force magnum opus the likes of which we have not seen since Shakespeare himself trolled the internet." Here are parts one through four.]

“To great fucking friends!” Pablo said. I sat and the world spun like a carousel. My icy gin was like icy water. I lit a cigarette and gave one to Kent who slid it above his ear like a pencil.

“Lemme have one, Frank.” Had I not been so drunk I would’ve declined Vin’s drunken request. His girlfriend looked at me the way a gangster looks at a rival gang member. It wasn’t annoyance anymore. She looked as though she was going to maul me. I laughed.

“Hey, guys, hey, who in the hell goes to the beach, applies sunscreen on their body and neglects her face? Seriously, why would anybody do that?” Vin’s girlfriend had been guilty of this on an excursion we took to Mexico several years back. Her face became bloated, red, and her skin molted off. I laughed harder.

Kent lit his cigarette and I threw mine into the fire. I kept going about her folly at the beach and the smoke from Vin’s cigarette was blowing into her face in bursts through his chuckles. She was furious and trembling. I’d never seen her so angry.

“You stupid shit! You stupid, lazy shit! Why won’t you get a job! What the hell must your parents think!” She yelled and I laughed harder. She stood over the fire to look me in the eye. “You’re old, when are you going to start working!” Kent tossed the log into the fire. “Why haven’t you started wor--“ an ember flew into her face and she squealed as she slapped it off. Another flew onto her peasant dress as she sat down rubbing her face. The ember stuck and Vin attempted to bat it away, but in his drunken stupor, he only batted it deeper into her dress. A small flame caught and she panicked and attempted to get up but was unable due to Vin’s swatting at her legs. I stood and poured my watered down cup of gin onto her dress and the fire extinguished.

“Kent, shut it! Shut it, okay? You guys are making way too much noise!” Kent’s mother yelled half asleep and annoyed from the door of their house. Vin’s girlfriend was sobbing into his shoulder as they leaned into each other from their seats. Both of their faces were hidden behind the fire.

“Are you okay,” I asked her.

“Let’s go, Vin.” She stood and half supported him on her shoulder as she led him down the steps. We waited until we heard Vin’s car’s engine start before we began speaking.

“That was weird.” I said.

“You don’t remember last night, huh,” Kent asked me.

“What happened?”

“Vin called Pablo back. You asked to speak with him and asked that they join us. He said no and you pleaded that they join us next week. You said you wouldn’t tempt him with anything, and they agreed to visit on that condition.”

“Oh.” I felt a flicker of guilt. “Let’s take another shot.”

“To Vin?”

“To Vin,” I said and we drank.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Gender Issues in Illness

Apparently it’s common for women to complain about men being sick. Apparently, all that women do in their spare time is talk about how men are such babies. Babies!

My girlfriend and I were getting a ride home from my friend, let’s call her Raimee, when all of a sudden, as though unleashing a decade’s worth of repressed fury, Raimee explains to my girlfriend how men are such babies when they’re sick. My girlfriend reciprocated with the fervor of a priest belying the evils of satan to his parishioners. I was dumbstruck.

Waking with a fever of 105 and a migraine, I told my girlfriend that morning I had only a minor case of the sniffles, nothing to worry about, shall be fine with half an aspirin. She scoffed, turned and rolled herself in the blanket. I tugged at the blanket, but the fever’d sapped my strength. I tried to fall asleep but my shivering woke her.

“Oh, does the baby need his bwanket?”

“Please? It’s cold.”

“Here, you go. Da baby needs his bwanket!”

I was still deathly ill when I went out that night, but I doubt the women saw through my poker face. They carried on with their girl talk:

“When I get sick, nobody helps me out with anything! I do the laundry, the dishes without asking for a thing!”

“Haha, yeah! And when men get sick, all they do is complain! ‘Wah, my head hurts. Wah, my throat is sore!’ Nothing but complaining.”

“This morning my boyfriend—oh, is it too cold fo’ da baby? Does da baby need his window up cuz da baby is sick?”

“It’s a bit chilly, yes.” It was just above freezing, I’d given my jacket and sweater to my girlfriend and Raimee, and for some reason only my window was down. “I’m just glad we’re almost home! I’m really thirsty and could go for some chamomile and something sweet.”

“Wook, Waimee, da baby needs noo-twee-ents fo’ his body!”

“Aw, po’ baby needs his glucose monito’! Is his bwood-sugaw levoh too low?”

“Aw, da baby has hypoglycemia!”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m feeling faint and very nauseous. Any sweet will help me feel better actually.” At that point they started playing cat and mouse, tossing a Snickers bar over my head. After a minute or so they unwrapped it and ate it.

I’m not sure where all this hatred came from. Maybe all women are innately misandrists, and men being ill somehow disables what I like to call the Misandry Filter. Maybe I just don’t understand women. Maybe that’s why I’m still a virgin.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Chillin' in Los Angeles

When I was walking in a winter wonderland a little under a month ago in München and Salzburg, I figured that time spent in the freezing cold would be an excellent primer for the cold Los Angeles is experiencing now. Boy, was I wrong.

I suppose 10 days walking around dressed up like Randy in A Christmas Story wasn't quite long enough to thicken my Angelino-raised blood to this kind of chill. I feel somewhat defeated, for I think it was a big deal that I survived being in that kind of cold for the first time in my life, and can't seem to handle the weather when it's double the temperature when I'm at home.

In my own defense, there was a time in my life when I was slowly growing a thicker skin when I spent a few weeks in the New York City area, where I experienced freezing temperatures completely unprepared, and then spent the rest of the trip running around in a windbreaker and short sleeves in 50 degree weather. But that time is not now, and even though Jack Frost nipped at my nose in Europe, I am for sure not having it here in Los Angeles, of all places.

I am not one of those people who don the Uggs and the scarves when the temperature drops below 70, but when the temperature drops to the 40's at night and I'm hanging out at a place where heating isn't equally distributed around the place(For example, my house, my parents' house, some friends' homes, work), I get a little disgruntled that I almost have to wear the same clothes I wore outside in Europe when I'm indoors.

It's a little scary to think that it's not officially winter, but I do have to take into account that we're in between arctic storms, so that may have an effect on the current temperature. I'm sure with time, I, along with the rest of the frozen Angelinos, will eventually build a tolerance to this cold (even after heat spells in November), and in the meantime, American Apparel is once again very punctual with new products and can be stylin' wearing their new Unisex Ear Muffs

I may hold off on getting those, but I have to say earmuffs are definitely lifesavers out in the cold (I personally like this type myself), but in the meantime, I should maybe put on some socks and my brand new fleece fingerless gloves, because, Jiminy Christmas, it's COLD!

Me and My Gloves
Me modeling my new gloves made for me by the lovely Sofia!

Do note the above photo is taken indoors, and yes, that's a little neckwarmer I'm wearing along with my coat and new gloves, which I didn't take off until I used the toilet this morning. It's THAT kind of cold.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yelpy Holidays

If you're like me, unless you can't because of religious, health or personal reasons, you like drinking. And quite possibly, you'd be willing to do interesting things for booze. I have stories of helping a good friend clean up after the peak of her housewarming party and refusing to dump all the abandoned alcohol and kicked off the second part of the party disposing of the under-appreciated drinks. I've drank reclaimed Maß (German for their famous one-liter glass mug) after another when a best friend took a Stein or two from the vacated table of the group we joined in München's famed Hofbraühaus. I wasn't raised in the church, but if I was, I would have gladly ensured the tasteless and watered-down sacramental wine from mass would not go to waste.

Sadly (Perhaps fortunately...for everyone else), I didn't have that an exciting (Rather, drunken and cheap) night at this year's L.A. Yelp's Holiday Party. Sure, I had a blast, listening to the perfectly spun setlist by the night's DJ, trying to pretend my feet weren't killing me in my sassy gold Nicole Miller shoes (I am still waiting for all of the feeling in my third and fourth left toes to come back from that night) while I mixed and mingled and kind of tried moving as if to imply I was dancing without aggravating my aforementioned foot pain situation.

This is not to say that I'm not able to have a good time without being inebriated, for I really wasn't about to wait in the unbearable line to even pay for a drink. It was a nice opportunity to say hi to friends whom I haven't seen in ages, but made it really difficult to avoid those who I'd rather not see (like...that person I slyly cut in front of the line thanks to saying hi to a friend whom I haven't seen in ages).

It wasn't until my blog buddy, Frank, had the smart idea to accompany myself and some others and step out for a drink to take a swig o' the ol' Santa Anita Race Track water bottle (AKA Flask Pro Tempore). We were doing fine until we realized that there wasn't much in FPT to really get a good buzz going.

"No!" Frank yelled at us. "NO!!!"

"Frank, we can do a run to Trader Joe's around the corner." I told him. Without a word, Frank left the car and made his way back to the party.

Fortunately (for him), Frank managed to quaff a good volume of alcohol that night, while I stayed relatively dry until I was taught where to get the "Secret Wine."

All in all, the party was a great night, seeing old friends, rubbing elbows with the dressed up and cleaned up Yelpers and friends who aren't always looking as shiny and glammed up as most were that night...


...and of course, I along with those closest to him, needed to make sure Frank was eventually cut off as he started talking like a mad man, and wanted to prevent him from harming himself and others.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Party '08

If you’re like me, and I know you are, all of you, you like drinking. In fact, you like drinking so much that you’d be willing to kill for booze. Don’t deny it, there’s murderosity in each and every one of you. People are happy at parties until the booze runs out when free-for-all melees consume everyone in individual fight clouds.

This is how it was at Yelp’s annual holiday party. I was having a blast, enjoying an awesome mix of music, and dancing my ass off. I waltzed, did the twist, and tangoed all at once making women within eyeshot swoon. I was the life of the party, cracking jokes and making crowds explode with hearty laughs!

Everyone was having fun, even those waiting in the unending line for booze. I shook hands with my friends and glad handed my enemies. There were many.

Yes, everything was dandy until I stepped out for a drink. I invited a handful of my friends and we drank from a water bottle filled with vodka. We were doing fine until we left the car and were confronted by a couple bitter and very sober partygoers desperately in need of a drink.

“No!” I yelled at them. “No!”

“frank, there’s plenty left, just let them have some,” my colleague, Corazon, told me. They took a step closer and eyed me with despair and aggravation (desperation I think is the word). I pushed the guy and shoved his girlfriend. It was unfortunate that I did this as two police officers were driving up the street behind me.

“Shit, the fuzz!” yelled my colleague. She stashed the bottle in her purse and ran. I tried to keep up but my legs aren’t what they used to be in fifth grade and I was eventually tackled and beaten by the officers.

I spent the night in jail. All in all, the party was pretty fun. I'm happy to have seen my friends, I'm just glad the bitter couple's murderosity was far from surpassing Corazon and my murderosities.


Friday, December 12, 2008

It's a Little Easier Being Green

In the excitement of the giving season...rather, in the excitement of getting them in the mail, my sister gave me my Christmas present early, which was this awesome bamboo utensil kit from To-Go Ware I was jazzed (pictured is the design I got). Even though she kind of hinted that I'll be getting it, I was stoked to actually have it in my possession for me to use!

It's a one-stop container for one's utensil needs: a knife, fork, spoon and even swirly-ended chopsticks made of bamboo all in a container made of repurposed plastic shopping bags. The case is made by employing ragpickers in India to find discarded bags and create these cases, which gives them a job to do, and the utensils are made of bamboo, which is a very durable, sturdy and sustainable product; bamboo is a grass that grows quickly and is sustainably grown for this purpose.

After having it for two weeks now, I've had several opportunities to use my utensils that come with me wherever I go, and it's great. The spoon is a good size and its bowl is deep enough to get a nice bit of soup to sip. The fork's three wide set prongs work pretty well, but since the prongs widen quickly, it's sometimes hard to get a good grasp on some things like a piece of sliced carrot. The chopsticks have a cool spiral design on its top, and I really wouldn't know how a pair of chopsticks could be dysfunctional, and I have yet to try the knife. It isn't serrated, but it's not sharp per se, but it should be good enough a blade to cut through most things - I don't think it could get through a steak, but if you're eating a steak, I wouldn't think you'd be eating it at a to-go setting.

Even though I usually keep my plastic utensils once I've used them, using these utensils in lieu of their plastic cohorts will reduce the demand for them, and even though they'll still keep some in stock, using these reuseable option will reduce their need to restock the supplies, and one has more incentive to take home one's used utensil if there's a washable carrying case for one to take home and wash to use again another day.

I was at a meeting this week that provided lunch, and I got a big thumbs up when I busted out my bamboo fork for my pasta salad, and as all the other plastic forks were being tossed away after their one use, I wiped mine down, wrapped it in a bit of my old napkin to take home and wash for another day. Of course, the fork that came with my lunch came home with me to go with the other accumulated plastic forks, along with the Styrofoam containers my pasta salad and hot coffee came in so I can wash them and put them in my (now full) container full of old toilet paper/paper towel rolls, sauce cups, microwave dinner trays, foil, magazines, tissue paper, etc. so I can take them all to the Armory Center for the Arts so kids in their art classes can use them for their art projects.

It may take a little more work and effort to actually take these steps to make sure that waste isn't quite real waste until all its uses have been exhausted, and sure, sometimes I get funny looks or comments when people see me carrying around something I could just toss but keep knowing I can find another purpose for it. In the end, all these little steps may make a big difference, and thanks to this little kit, I'm better able to do my part in reducing my footprint on the earth.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Short Story (part 4 of 5)

[Don't worry, folks, this story's almost done. Here are the first three parts in case you need a nap.]

“So why haven’t you called?” I asked with a smile while throwing my pack of cigarettes to Kent.

“Oh, I’ve been busy with school,” he fumbled, obviously lying.

After lighting his cigarette, Kent tossed the burning log back into the fire. The embers were like fireflies popping out of the fire pit and disappearing as they slowed through the air. Sometimes they wouldn’t go out and we’d have to move our legs to dodge them. We took another shot while Vin’s girlfriend sat next to him playing on her cell phone. At first it was annoying as we felt we had to accommodate her, but it didn’t matter after our third drink. The nostalgia was powerful and all that mattered was contained within the light of the fire. Then, jealous and unable to handle her boyfriend having fun:

“So, have you gotten a job yet,” she asked me.

“No.” The smile on my face disappeared and everything was quiet except the popping fire.

“When do you plan to look for one?” She gave me an insidious smirk and looked back to her phone, thumbing it quickly.

“I will soon.” My face was hot with embarrassment.

“Really? That’s what you said last time. Why haven’t you gotten a job yet?”

“Well, I’m an anxiety prone alcoholic. Remind you of anyone?” I thought I’d gone too far with that last comment but it didn’t even phase her. I filled my cup of gin with tonic, began sipping it and said to her with the most spiteful sarcasm I could muster, “How’s your acting going? I heard you had an audition, for a commercial was it?” Her face lifted and her gaze turned from her phone to me. “I mean, that is going strong, right? You’ve been actively looking for and attending auditions, haven’t you? That was, after all, your intention. That’s why you abandoned everything up north and moved to LA, right? For your acting?”

“She’s actually been going to a few auditions lately. Will you pour me another?” Vin said trying to defuse the situation.

“I’m sure you’ve landed several lead roles in a couple future blockbusters! How’s your job going, then,” I continued while pouring Vin another drink, “still hate it?”

“Frank,” Han told me in the way an older brother advises his younger sibling to shut his mouth.

Kent dropped another log into the fire and embers began popping violently into the air. The fire grew and I wasn’t able to see her face through it.

“Frank, pour me another shot, yeah?” Han decided to break the silent tension. I decided to pour everyone a shot. My face was red with heat and embarrassment and my pouring hand was trembling a bit and I stumbled as I handed the cup to Vin, spilling a bit of gin onto his pants. I apologized and Vin said it was no problem. His girlfriend said something in an antagonizing tone under her breath but I couldn’t make it out.

“Let’s drink to good friends this time. We rarely do that,” I offered.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Adventures in Therapy!

I’ve been introverted, anxious, and timid all my life. I’m afraid of stepping out of the house unless accompanied by another. My therapist said I should take baby steps and make a conscious effort to notice how irrational my anxiety is. He said a good starting point would be my complimenting a stranger.

“Try complimenting the first person you see as soon as you step onto the street. If you misspeak, or you think you did something wrong, remember your safe word. I know you can do this.”

“Thank you, doctor.” I stepped out of his office feeling invigorated and excited like when you first drink coffee and it doesn’t make you jittery. I visualized the encounter and I pictured myself making eye contact with a woman, smiling, waiting for her to walk by before walking back to her and telling her she’d lovely perfume. I stepped outside and caught the eye of a beautiful blond professional in high heels. I smiled and walked by her and attempted to take in her scent. Instead my nose was assaulted by the most potent musk I’d ever smelled. I decided to keep walking as I felt her eyes burrowing into the back of my head.

I walked by a coffee shop and noticed a stroller with a baby inside. I’ll do this one, I thought to myself. I’ll tell this lady she has an adorable baby. I neared the stroller and smiled to the lady who was drinking espresso. I figured I’d say she had an adorable baby, see that it made her happy and walk away. I bent over the stroller and noticed the stroller was empty.

I decided I needed a drink to soothe my frayed nerves. I walked into an Olive Garden and asked the hostess if I could have a seat at the bar.

“This way, sir.” I followed her and she led me to a table. “Your server will be with you in a second, sir. Enjoy your meal,” she said and handed me a menu. I decided to make the best of it and tried to compliment the server when she arrived. I’ll tell her I like her makeup, I thought to myself. I flipped through the menu and decided only to get a drink. I began getting anxious and sweaty when I realized I’d been waiting for twenty minutes.

I was relieved when my server finally made eye contact with me. She walked towards me and told me that they were closing. I was very embarrassed and my eyes watered up because of it. “I like your makeup,” I told her meekly. She said she wasn’t wearing any.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Misadventures in Driving in LA: Parking Edition

I'm happy that my commute to my new job is only 4 miles long. What I'm not happy about is that in the grand spirit of working in an office in Los Angeles proper, FREE parking is not that easy to find.

Fortunately for me, I'm cheap enough and have the wherewithal to make sure I don't have to resort to such things.

Sure, I could pay for parking at the 2 hour max. meters around, or pay $5 flat rate at the indoor and pretty secure apartment parking structure a block away, but why do something like that when a little bit of effort nabs you a spot for $0? Also by looking for free places to park, you get a better sense of your surroundings and possible shortcuts you may one day have to take.

I now have a "system" to find myself some parking. I take my usual route, and when I'm getting kind of close, I start scoping out my last resort spots. They're relatively close, but kind of not in a safe area, and even though it's supposed to be in a 1 hour only zone, it doesn't seem that most of the cars on the street actually move from their spots. When I'm closer to my work, I look for some Golden Spots, and if there aren't spaces, I'll go down more and around the corner to a street that has poles for meters, but no meters on them, so you don't have to pay, but they sometimes enforce the 1 or 2 hour parking limit, but I've been lucky so far.

Of course, the ideal place to park are these aforementioned Golden Spots. For some strange reason, there is a strip of curb long enough for 6-8 cars and has no meter, no parking or street sweeping restrictions, and is directly across the street from my office. By the time I come in, most of the spots are taken, but there is a bit of curb that's after a driveway and right before a fire hydrant at the corner that can hold two cars; sometimes someone parks like a jerk and it becomes one space, but sometimes, that place is completely empty.

Today, was one of those days.

I was happy when I saw the entire spot completely free, which allowed me to park the way I want, so that someone else could park behind me (good parking karma). The only thing is that I work in a rather busy area, and that intersection gets pretty congested, so when I was going for the space, I was able to squeeze past the last parked car and the car in queue at the light so I can pull over and park. The only problem with that was several cars followed suit, but they were planning on squeezing through so they could get into the non-official lane to turn right, so when I parked, I essentially blocked their way.

When the light turned green, people were baffled and honking as to why I was just sitting there, gathering my stuff, and I tried to mime in the best and most polite way possible, "I'm staying here. I am parked."

Yes, some people were pissed. When I got out of the car, the woman who was behind me the entire time looked angry and started talking to me.

"Why did you park there? You're blocking the way."
"This is a parking space."
"You can't park there."
"Yes, I can. This is a parking space...there's no red here."
"Well, this isn't a good parking space."

I do have to agree with her in a way, but still, it's right across the street, free and unrestricted, so I'm staying.

After seeing several cars were behind her and honking, I didn't want to risk crossing right there and took the 10 steps to the crosswalk, where a man who got backed up because of me rolled down the window at the light as I was waiting to cross.

"You have to make a right turn! You were blocking the way!"
"I'm sorry, but I signaled, and that is a parking space."
"You can't park there! There's a hydrant!"
"No, I can park there, sir. There's no red on the curb."

As he continued to try yelling at me, I got the go to cross, and I swiftly went behind his car and crossed the street.

Free parking isn't always the nicest and easiest thing to do. But if you've got the fortitude and the belief that parking should be free, it can be found.

Here's a quick and dirty tip on free parking:

FIND THE BROKEN METERS. Sure, it does say sometimes that you're not supposed to park there, but the trick for these is that you should take a minute to call the number listed on the parking meter and report that failed meter, and make sure to get that person's name. Sometimes failed meters reset on their own, or get fixed while you're gone, and if that happens and you get a ticket, you can say you're the one who reported the broken meter and can contest the ticket. If you do this, make sure to get the location and time you're there. Also make sure to obey any other parking rules of that space, including if there are time limits at certain times of day or street sweeping the day and time you're there.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thankful to be Home, but...

My last post from last week was actually written one week prior to its publishing, to give myself yet another reason to come home to LA (next to the fact I'd want to come back to mild weather and my life), and treated myself to a bacon-wrapped hot dog. Sure, I was going to Germany, the land of Wurst, and a silly Street Dog may not be up to scratch to what they have there, but I thought, "Hey...this is what they've got here, and that should be good enough for me..."

I kinda want to take that back.

In the eight full days that I was traveling through Bavaria and Salzburg, I cannot begin to count how many Würste I actually had, but I sure had A LOT. Being based out of Munich, the traditional Weißwurst made of veal and pork was a common breakfast staple and those come in pairs, much like many other traditional Würste. Whether they were served on a plate or in/with a Semmel (bun), a Brezn (pretzel), currysauce or Senf (mustard), etc., I don't think there was a sausage I had that I didn't like (Though it seemed I offended a few Salzburger Wurststand workers when I tried ordering the city's popular "Bosna" and didn't have any ready and actually served me a pair of regular Frankfurters instead, and I just walked away from it).

I'm not that big on meat, which is funny to write after all this talk about meat and meat-wrapped meat...but it seems that I'm not fond of the texture of solid a lot of the times, so having the muscle fibers finely ground, made with quality ingredients like I've had on this trip kind of makes things easier for me to take down. And really, who can blame me? I'm not really sure if there are other places that could make better sausages than I had on this trip, and quite honestly, when it comes down to it, the cheap and greasiness of the bacon-wrapped hot dog just doesn't compare...not even the All-American hot dog with some onions and ketchup that I had today doesn't stack up to the taste and snap of the casing of a perfectly made sausage.

This isn't the first time I've come back from Germania and the amazing selections of Würste only to come home to be sad that it's pretty hard to come by some sausages of that caliber. That said, that doesn't mean that I can't and won't ever have a hot dog, bacon-wrapped or not ever again. I enjoyed the one I had earlier today, and I look forward to the talks of having yet another bacon-wrapped hot dog night at some friends' very soon. I'll be happy with what I have here, and the thought of making a Germanic version of the Dirty Dog makes me shudder. Will I crave for another "Bosna" from the Salzburger Adventsmarkt? Oh yeah. Am I kind of wishing I didn't declare my package of Weißwürste to only see it confiscated? You betcha. Did I miss the bacon-wrapped hot dog I so lovingly missed before I even went on this trip? OH HELL NO.

But that's the beauty of gives you something to which to return...right?

FYI - for those international travelers who would like to take meats home with them back to the States, do know that beef and pork are prohibited unless the product has been prepared for shelf life (IE, canned or jarred) in order to kill the certain pathogens that the meat may or may not contain. I have brought Weißwürste home in the past, but I had to subject myself to a lot of scorn from the locals when they were hand-inspecting my backpack and found a giant can of the stuff, laughing at it and me and showing it to their co-workers saying what an abomination I had. At least I was able to take it home to my sister...vacuum-sealed packs and smoked/cured meats are not acceptable. Of course, you could take the gamble and try to sneak the stuff in without declaring it, hoping they wouldn't find it and fine you $300+ and get your meats taken away...which is something that we could have done...IF we weren't law-abiding citizens! Yes...*tear*


Monday, December 1, 2008

Short Story (part 3 of 5)

[Here's part three. Here are parts one and two.]

I woke the next morning in my bed shaking with anxiety. No headache, no nausea, just shaking, anxiety, and a fear of I don’t know what. I stood dizzily and staggered to the aspirin and chased it with a shot of rum and in a minute I was able to enjoy my own company again. The highlight of my day was the cigarette I had with my coffee on the balcony after the rum while reading in the shade of a flapping blue tarp attached to a tree that swayed with the wind.

The sun was setting when the wind picked up. The sun lit the roofs of the houses that led up the hills like golden steps into the horizon when my phone rang.

“Let’s go get fucked up!”

“All right,” I said.

“Han will pick you up in--”

“An hour. Needa get ready.” I flicked my cigarette onto the barren property next door and went inside and showered.

At Kent’s house Vin was sitting opposite Han with a beer in his hand. Through the fire, I caught the face of his girlfriend who looked despondent and shy at the same time. I smiled at both of them and they smiled back, but Vin’s was genuine. It was nice to see him again and it was as though no time had passed at all. All the resentment I harbored over the last year or so had dissipated. I took the bottle of gin and filled halfway six plastic cups.

“To Vin,” I said and we took it in two mouthfuls. It was a great feeling sitting there in the dark around a warm fire with my friends. “Cigarette?” I mumbled to Vin, cupping my hand over my cigarette to light it.

“I haven’t yet picked up the habit,” he said jokingly and his girlfriend glared at me. She was still angry at me for dropping him off that one night leaving him smelling of vomit, cigarette smoke, and liquor. She decided that night that she would leave Vin if he didn’t stop drinking or going out with his friends--not all of his friends, just us.