September 1, 2004
We saw Ju-on tonight. The first half was genuinely terrifying. Shimizu has a way of capturing creepy quiet fears and visualizing them in ways that kept sending chills up my spine-- empty houses in disarray, crazy old people, scary cats, evil children, etc. Ultimately the scares wear off as the movie starts to drag with the lack of a protagonist or strong narrative. But there are a couple of scenes that will stay will you in the dark of night.
A few nights ago we enjoyed Hero. Visually speaking it is a worthy successor to Crouching Tiger and it has the Zhang Yimou touch of greatness, but it didn't quite add up for me. I just didn't care enough. But in this case I just turned off the left brain and and enjoyed it as a right brain experience.
We finally got around to watching The Manchurian Candidate last week. I almost walked . The film was so bad I felt embarrassed to be watching (and to have once worked for the producer!). The remake seemed to suck any suspense out of the original (one of my favorite films). There is nothing so silly as pretentious self-important fluff packaged as serious commentary on our times.
September 1, 2004
If I am set up with fast DSL, I always try to leave open at least one wireless connection for those who pass by. Apparently in some cities people can now get in trouble for this.
September 2, 2004
The city was eerily quiet today. Some parts of town were almost deserted. I witnessed a few Repbulican/Protester clashes, but nothing more exiting than a few insults being thrown back and forth. The army of police around is unsettling. As respite we watched the Ramones documentary which was excellent.
September 2, 2004
I finished work early and went downtown with Jenn.
We did baby stuff and then went to see To Have or Have Not. When we emerged it was a different world. The police had barricaded the streets. Helicopters were buzzing overhead.
The streets were empty but you could hear people shouting in the distance and small groups of people with signs kept passing us going downtown.
Large groups of protesters passed by (as well as a few bands of Bush supporters). It felt like New Years Eve or Halloween, but the massive police presence (and the people yelling at the police) gave it an edge. Scores of cops on motorcycles, in cars, and on horseback kept zipping down the empty streets.
On 6th Avenue I was yelled at and told to move on... I would have liked to go further but Jenn was with me. So we hiked over to Madison and took a cab home.
September 4, 2004
I am lucky to have a wife who enjoys going to Godzilla movies with me. Tonight we saw Godzilla vs. Ghidra the Three-Headed Monster (1964 version). Splendid. Too bad it was dubbed in English (and subtitled in Spanish). As cool as it is to see these films on the big screen (well big-ish screen, we were at film forum), they are even better undubbed.
September 5, 2004
We're heading to Pennsylvania for the holiday. The last time we went down Jenn’s evangelical aunts hired a Korean prayer lady to speak in tongues over us. This did not freak me out. When I was a kid I spent my summers in Mexico and in our neighborhood there was an old woman said to have a third eye. As she was missing one of the eyes on her face I always wondered if this meant she had 2 hidden elsewhere. She had a thick brush of mustache, too many moles to count, and occasionally she would shout things that would make my blood run cold like, "Don Jose, Jose Flores, dead man, stop scratching me". I used to buy firecrackers and popsicles from her. It was said she had a death finger and if she pointed it at you for more than three seconds your days were numbered, so after doing business on her porch (always with exact change counted beforehand), I tended to run for my life. Anyway the point is that after that experience having some cute Korean harmoni (with both eyes intact) yim-yam over me was no big deal.
If you travel back and forth between NY, Boston, and Philadelphia, you should know about the Chinatown bus which goes between all the cities. $20 roundtrip between NY and Philly and this is not some crappy bus...
September 6, 2004
Our friends Amy and Travis have just set up a new blog from Kazakhstan. I've been through Almaty twice and have to say I'm jealous. While the city itself is a bit Soviet, it is surrounded by spectacular mountains and villages. Should be an interesting year for them.
September 7, 2004
Every time I visit Jenn's family, I realize that at some point I will have to do a detailed photographic study of the homes of Koreans of a certain age. The homes tend to be in planned developments, and they tend to be both super Korean and unmistakably American in ways that are weird and wonderful. Framed jigsaw puzzles of the Last Supper. Poo bear merchandise and koo-koo clocks feature prominently.
Also it seems that every house must have a Jesus calendar (usually a year or two out of date) with almost surrealistic imagery. These calendars are usually found on the back doors of bathrooms. My Mexican family has similar calendars although they tend to feature saints and tend to be five to ten years out of date.
September 7, 2004
Our Venezuelan landlady in Brooklyn seems to be using the six months of rent we paid her to dig a very large hole in the back yard. You can't tell from this image, but the hole is now almost seven feet deep in some places. One theory is that since she has a basement room, she decided to dig out the back yard so that it is on level with the basement. Another theory is that she is going to build a room down there. A third theory is that she is insane.
All the work is being done by three underage kids from the Mexican state of Tabasco using buckets picks and shovels.
September 8, 2004
I woke up this morning to a phone call from the painters telling me that some water from last nights downpour had come into our new place because he had left the windows open last night. I hung up and as I blinked my eyes open I saw water streaming through the terrace door of the apartment I'm staying in here in the city. The room was soaked. Terrace drain problems apparently. The floor was already warping and the fancy (ugly) European carpet had to be pulled out and dried before it shrinks and gets mouldy. I wet-vacced up almost 7 gallons of water. Not good. I've spent all day dealing with mess. Later I will go down to Brooklyn and see what the situation is there.
Tomorrow I fly back to LA to collect my car and get the movers rolling.
I'm glad Jenn is at her Mom's house and was spared dealing with all of this.
I think this random image was taken as I fiddled with the camera. It captures my mood.
September 9, 2004
I've pulled all-nighters the last four or five times I've flown. Jenn hates this behavior and I don't like it myself, but there is always so much to be done.... The last couple of times I was in hell, but last night zipped by... and I'm sitting here at LaGuardia at 5:36am feeling fine, even kind of awake. I'm sure this won't last and I'll drool all the way to Burbank.
I'm sitting in an airport lounge in front of the windows under a TV screen. There are about 30 people here and most are watching the set. Two rows in front of me sit four young Marines headed to a base in San Antonio and then Iraq. Until a few minutes ago they were joking loudly about the awful conditions over there. They are just kids. I am facing them and they are now watching a long CNN report on the 1000 servicemen and women killed in Iraq. One of the Marines is choked up and his emotion is rubbing off on everyone else here. One woman had to leave and an older gentleman has tears on his face. The marines have gone quiet I expect they will stay quiet for some time.
September 10, 2004
I arrived early into Burbank having slept virtually the entire flight. As I took a cab to a friend's house I noticed this liquor store. Years ago I spent three nights in the parking lot. We were shooting the scene in Clueless where Alicia Silverstone gets mugged. Back then I thought this was a "bad" part of town. It's in Burbank for god's sake.
After collecting my car I made the mistake of driving back to the old house out of morbid curiosity. I shouldn't have gone. The new owner has done some very depressing things to the back yard. He's building an ugly modern looking wall and has cut all the lush trees way back. I'm sure it will look better when it's all done, but it will be years before the cypress trees recover.
Most sad for me: The plum tree was chopped down. More on this after I've had some sleep.
As I said I shouldn't have gone. Afterwards I went to In & Out and had a #3 to recover. From there I headed to Pasedena to run a few errands and then to Silverlake to look at a baby store and finally to Little Tokyo. I love Little Tokyo and wish there was something analogous in New York. It's small scale, friendly and has all sorts of neat shops and restaurants (including a new Marukai Forum 98 cent store). But one thing I don't understand. What's the deal with the Colonel Ellison Shoji Onizuka obsession? There are no less than 7 plaques and memorials scattered around as well as a 2 streets named for him.
I ended the day watching Warriors of Heaven and Earth. Give it a miss. This film is horrible. One thing I've been noticing: If a director keeps using fades instead of cuts, it's because he doesn't have something to cut to. Amateurish.
September 10, 2004
A recent issue of Harpers turned me on to a book titled Sebastian's Arrows: Letters and Mementos of Salvador Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca. I happened to find an advance copy. While Surrealist writings don't usually do it for me, Lorca's lecture "Imagination, Inspiration, Evasion" alone is worth the cost of admission.
September 11, 2004
In my 10 years in LA I lived in 7 houses from Santa Monica to Silverlake. Today in Santa Monica I happened to drive past house #3, my little cottage on 12th and Idaho. It was tiny but was smartly designed and strangely soothing. Even twelve blocks away from the beach I could always smell the sea air in the morning. I have nothing but fond memories of the place. Today I was pleased to discover the plants I put in have virtually taken over the façade and the tree is a decent size. When I moved in there were no plantings whatsoever.
I try to plant trees wherever I live. I like seeing how the trees I've planted along the way have grown. It gives me a yardstick with which to measure my life. The first tree I planted was in Houston at the age of 5, a red oak. In a picture I wear a NASA jumpsuit and am proudly holding a shovel. I went back and visited a few years ago. That tree dwarfs the house and shades the entire lawn.
This mornings house visit made me feel like I should visit all the houses before I go, so tonight I visited house #4 which I shared with several friends up on Lincoln Terrace. It was owned by Rick Rubin and featured incredible views (and an attic filled with perfectly aged rock & roll t-shirts). From my desk I looked out over the Chateau Marmont, the Marlboro Man, and the city itself. I am about as anti-smoker as a man can be (I'm not proud of it, and know it's not rational, but I judge most all smokers harshly and think they are weak.), but I miss that Marlboro Man sign. Sunset just isn't Sunset without it.
This is what the place looked like tonight:
And this is what the little street looked like when we were there:
LA is full of secret places hard for someone outside to see.
September 11, 2004
The first picture was taken on the day I moved to LA. Feb 94 I think. The second was taken today.
September 12, 2004
Has anyone noticed LA has more than it's fair share of scary dentists?
The moving van arrives at the storage facility today and then I'll start driving... The phone call this morning was less than encouraging.
The moving guy: "Leon and Tiny, well you know, they were partying last night, so we'll be late man."
me: "How late."
The moving guy: "Maybe 4 hours maybe 6. I'll call your cell."
me: "4 to 6 hours?!"
The moving guy: "Tiny, man, he's an animal. Good guy though. Don't worry man."
September 12, 2004
Neither Leon nor Tiny materialized. Instead I got recently-released-from-the-state-pen Dennis "Big Bad D" and Norman who went by "Quiet Norm". A third guy known only as "Sloppy" showed up, decided it was too hot and left. The temperature was hovering just over 100. Work started 8 hours late and the 18 wheeler only was half loaded. So tomorrow we start over at 7am. I wonder if Quiet Norm will again don a USPS uniform and combat boots. I just want to hit the road.
September 13, 2004
Jenn reports that her belly button is on the verge of flipping. The inversion has been a hotly anticipated event in our household... missing the show is a minor tragedy. Jenn if you are reading this today, I want pictures!
September 13, 2004
September 13, 2004
Our stuff hits the road.
This guy was talking about living 'off the grid' in the Angeles National Forest.
I always stop for roadside memorials.
If you need a lighted fish lamp. The truck stop in the Mojave is a good bet.
The roads were virtually empty. From 5-7 I passed a single car. I chased mountain shadows across the desert and watched the sky fade to black. After sunset on roads this empty I like to drive with the headlights off just using the sky glow which is plenty bright. The windows were open...the dry 90 degree air felt nice across my face. The hotel here in Furnace Creek is empty except for a couple of Germans. Lousy restaurant. Depressing bar. The road up into the mountains has washed out so tomorrow I'll have to backtrack. Finding nothing to do here at the hotel, I drove down the a road and turned off onto an unpaved path up a hill. Up on a little ridge I parked the Mini and hung out on the roof with a pillow stargazing. The milky way stands out in high relief in this kind of dark. The Pleides stand out to the naked eye. I was out there for a good long time and got a nice shower of shooting stars just as I was getting ready to drive back. Invariably my inner transcendentalist comes out on these drives.
Tomorrow I hope to get an early start out of here.
Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 59.
miles driven: 300
scariest thing seen: burnt volcanic landscape around Cinder Road
best road candy: all chocolate Nekko Wafers
September 14, 2004
Day 2: 630 miles stopping place Mexican Hat
Pieces of pie eaten: 2 (both apple)
Burgers eaten: 1
number of clouds seen: 0
things that scared me: pack of vultures tearing apart a coyote
Once again a day of straight empty roads. While I had to take a detour to get over the mountains, the detour took me past Yucca mountain and through several desert basins. I love desert & mountain scenery. I love empty roads. Don't know why. Maybe it's the Mexican in me. I'm listening to all sorts of college history lectures on my ipod. So far I've covered about a thousand years of Egyptian history and Byzantium. Later I will do 10 hours of geology. Maybe I'll arrive back home super smart. Oddly enough all these scenes reminded me of places I had seen in China (Death Valley looks like Xinjiang, the Yucca Mountain area looks like Gansu, northern Nevada looks like Qinhai...etc). I arrived to Mexican Hat/ Monument Valley right at sunset.
September 15, 2004
I woke up at 5, drove out into the Valley of the Gods and watched the sun rise. If you are driving across country, make this stop. This area has all the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, sans the crowds. My only regret is that I experienced this without Jenn. Last time we were driving through, we had just hit some large roadkill screwing up the car didn't travel the 17 mile dirt road through the valley for fear of breaking down.
Later I ran into a military funeral for a young soldier killed in Iraq. The entire town was out. I stopped for a while and watched the coffin, carried by soldiers, go by.
The put me in a melancholy mood... which was reinforced by the many memorials along the way.
Miles driven: 712
Pieces of pie eaten: 1 (pear)
Things that scared me: white trash woman at the hotel yelling at her little girl
Number of clouds seen: 0
Number of people seen in 4 hours in the Valley of the Gods: 1 (a German backpacker)
September 16, 2004
I hate interstate highways, but I've been on them all day long trying to make some time.
Miles driven: I've stopped counting but around 700
Pieces of pie eaten: 1
Discovery of the day: Iowa rest stops have free wireless internet
Goal: to Arrive in NY by Sunday
Biggest scare: Almost being driven off the road by an out of control big rig
September 17, 2004
Since California the skies have been remarkably clear and cloud free. Then today over Ohio I spotted my first bit of cumulus. Soon the sky was full... and I'll admit I went a bit cloud mad.
September 20, 2004
I spent the night with my friends Tbone and Lisa otherwise known as 'the Bones'. My question, why does their son Harry's chalkboard say "Smoke the Bear, Superman, Crying Indian"?
This leg of the trip was unexpectedly grueling due to my back pain (my back decided to fail spectacularly yesterday and has left me a human pretzel), flooding detours, and grisly accidents. I didn't take out my camera much (any movement was causing me serious pain). But when I finally hit the Triborough bridge I knew I was home and would soon be hanging out with my wife and my dad, so everything felt better...
Jenn had delicious tacos, flautas, soup, and rice warm and waiting... ahhh..
September 20, 2004
The final 2 days drive left me all pretzeled up and dealing with serious back pain. Jenn and I had a Vietnamese lunch in Chinatown and she suggested I try acupuncture. The office was above a Chinese medicine shop and the doctor barely spoke English, but his assistant translated. After much nudging and poking, he seemed to understand exactly where I was hurting. The pins went in almost painlessly. In fact I had no idea there were so many until I peeked over my shoulder. I looked like San Sebastian down there. He used pins in my back, behind, legs and feet and then left me under a heat lamp. The lamp started out pleasantly warm but eventually turned really really hot. After about 20 minutes the doctor returned, removed the pins, stretched me in a bunch of different ways and we were done. I felt 80% better. My sciatic pain was totally gone, and most of the back pain was gone. Today, a day later I woke up feeling much better. Good stuff and cheap.
Lin Sister Herb Shop
At the townhouse we checked out the paint job. The best color is the one we were most worried about, the bedroom aquamarine. We were less happy with the colors that came as a result of negotiation. The living room for example is a very standard seafoam green, nothing exciting and the red in the TV room is probably too bright. Both colors were the result of compromises. This all reconfirms my belief that good design is rarely democratic.
I found cool graffiti in the attic, my future office. Some of it dates back to the the late 1900's. Most are simply names with dates. My guess is that over the years the attic was where kids would hang out to get away from their folks. The faded skull and crossbones painted on the wall would seem to confirm this.
Can't wait to move in. The movers arrive Wednesday.
September 22, 2004
Just got back from seeing David Byrne and Gilberto Gil at Town Hall (it was a benefit for the Creative Commons License). David Byrne was amazing as usual. He played a strong set of old and new and was just stone cold hip. Gilberto Gil sort of phoned it in. Maybe I'm a terrible snob but any time a guy starts covering Bob Marley and John Lennon, you know you're in trouble. That type of cover should be the exclusive domain of cheesy Philippino wedding bands and bad karaoke. Byrne, by way of comparison covered Hugo Ball (the dada poet!) and Hendrix.
How many people could the US military possibly recruit from their Times Square kiosk? I mean I understand how they might have grabbed folks back when Times Square was Times Square, but now it's Disneyland....
Does Alec Baldwin have his photograph in every single New York deli?
Tomorrow, Wednesday, the moving truck arrives!
September 22, 2004
The 18 wheeler arrived in Brooklyn Heights this morning just as Wednesday alternate side of the street parking rules went into effect. This did not please the local commuters who gave my truck driver a big New York welcome (it almost came to blows). But after about a half hour of dramatics the driver managed to park in a fire zone and the move was on.
The crew here consisted of 4 preternaturally happy Ecuadorians who didn't seem to mind hauling almost 9 tons of stuff up 2 to 5 flights of stairs. We tipped them well. The job was done by 6. Tomorrow the unpacking begins.
My dad stopped by.
September 24, 2004
We attended our first lamaze class tonight. It was pretty much what you would expect... a bunch of crunchy couples sitting on tumbling mats asking sincere questions. All the various types were there... the couple that wants a super scientific birth, the couple that wants a totally natural childbirth at home, the geeky couple (where the woman kept worrying her husband would pass out) and the good looking dumb couple (who kept calling each other "sugar baby" during the break). I kept thinking if we were in an episode of Fear Factor with these people we would clean up.
We've read too many books so most of the info seemed sort of basic to us. Jenn asked a couple of questions about exact physiological processes which seemed to throw the teacher a bit...
We'll see how it goes, but my sense is that these classes are good if for no other reason to remind you of all the steps involved and to help you ask informed questions when the baby is ready to make it's appearance.
Unpacking is going to take at least a week... it's been s l o w going.
September 25, 2004
I managed to throw my back again yesterday... probably while hauling 20 or so boxes up the steep attic steps. Today I'll be in the prone position all day. It's days like today that I'm happy my work requires only healthy fingers and mind.
There are 8 Dominican guys in the house replacing the hall/stairway rugs. These guys work super fast. It has taken then less than 30 minutes to remove 4 floors of heavy carpet.
September 25, 2004
I went in for another round of acupuncture and I came out feeling like a new man. Dr. Zhuang can't speak a word of English, but the guy seems to know exactly how to fix me. He even fixed my big toe which has been numb and pins/needlesy for weeks. Today's treatment involved pins both in my back and my legs. The latter had a very slight sting... Amazing how quickly you feel better. I wonder if the pins stimulate adrenaline production which numbs pain? Whatever...it works.
Weird day out there.
We kept breaking things in the house (including Jenn's ibook which we dropped).
There were cops in random places for no apparent reason (these guys were on Baxter):
And the encounters I had with people were kind of out there.
Example: This is a conversation I had with a young Korean deli guy (with a SF/Bay area accent):
deli guy (apropos of nothing): Do you believe in ghosts?
me: It depends.
deli guy: What do you mean by that?
me: I think I believe in ghosts in Mexico, but not so much in New York City.
deli guy: Mexican ghosts. Oooh. Very interesting. What kind?
me: Well for starters there would be the ghosts of the dead, and the ghosts of those not yet born.
deli guy: So many souls.... (picks up a guitar) Do you play guitar? Mexicans are musical people.
deli guy: Is it ok if I write a song about Mexican ghosts?
me: Knock yourself out.
September 26, 2004
I'm trying to take it easy today and have, so far at least, not left the bed (happily today's Sunday Times--especially the magazine--is full of good reading). Hard not to get up and deal with the chaos all around though. Boxes everywhere. We have yet to unearth even our sheets. Jenn has been working double duty getting the kitchen in order. She has forbidden me from doing anything today, so here I will remain.
When we were in Chicago a month or so ago I woke up with an inelegant scream, in a cold sweat, and all discombobulated. Jenn now unphased my my noctural distress calmly asked what was wrong. Apparently I looked at her with frightened eyes, shuddered, and whispered "sea snakes". Afterwards I fell promptly back to sleep.
Today I realized I might have been having one of my fish dreams. I have had these aquatic dreams all my life. In them I am a fish, not a human who thinks he's a fish, but an acutal fish. I think simple thoughts, wiggle through the water, and admire the concave world around. Normally I wake up feeling pleasantly refreshed by my osteichthyesian adventures... But if I were a fish, what would be more frightening than sea snakes? See where I'm going with this...
September 27, 2004
We discovered this groovy fragment of wallpaper behind the toilet:
Our handyman, Dave, says that he often discovers odd anachronisms in the neighborhood, like the 90 year old woman who still uses gas lights a few blocks away on Boerum Hill.
Our stairway awaits sisal carpet. Over the years the stairway has been covered in wood, linoleum and a spectrum of carpet colors...
I am once again mobile:
September 28, 2004
Today has been an exercise in frustration. Verizon has managed to completely screw up our phones/DSL (our number was changed without our permission, Only one jack out of 20 works and our DSL is just dead).
It's steamy. And the mugginess is made worse by the smell of cleaning solution throughout the house.
Our ibook drive will cost $380! to replace.
The subways are screwed up because of the Penn Station fire.
Our furniture doesn't fit.
I saw a mail truck run over a dog.
Right now I'm sitting at Tekserve, the computer place. I have ticket #88. They are on #54.
September 29, 2004
Today was a complete turnaround from yesterday. The weather has turned autumnal. Workmen showed up on time. Things got fixed. We now have sisal stairs and phones that work. DSL is still down, but happily I have several neighbors wireless connections with easily guessed default passwords. Note to everyone out there. If you don't want people using your bandwidth, don't use the password, "password" or "secret" or "1234".
We are discovering a good collection of local restaurants. Today we had lunch at Teresa's a Polish place at 80 Montague. The cabbage soup and kielbasa as was the pumpernickel. I've eaten more good bread in the last week than I did in my last year in LA.
I've been taking tons of photos but haven't imported or scanned anything yet.
Question: My lovely wife wants to have a baby shower for the both of us. I have no problem attending a shower for her but I think it's weird to officially have the shower for both husband and wife. I also think it's weird to invite couples. Baby showers seem like a ladies only thing. Am I crazy old fashioned or is Jenn trying to bully me into something odd.