city life

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It’s a cool 62 degrees outside here in LA, although the outlook is anything but the typical sunny vista Los Angelinos are accustomed to. It’s raining like a mofo right now. There have been evacuations in some counties, as torrential mud slides are expected before the weekend is over. Coming from Baltimore, following blizzards, thunder snow, ice storms, tornado warnings and–yes–a few perfectly sunny days, I suppose mud slides are just another thing. If a wrinkled old mystic had warned me in recent days to avoid mountains, then I would have done well to listen.

Rainy downtown LA.

Rainy downtown LA.


Christine is off at a conference, some small gathering of academics trading discussions on the indigenous peoples of the Pacific. That’s how we ended up here, but we’re extending our stay to explore and visit with friends. It is for both of us a much needed break.

I’m in my pj’s in the hotel, trying to figure out how I can work in two lunches today, so that I can cross multiple food explorations off my list. Local institution Philippe’s is a few blocks away, and Roy Choi’s Chego a few blocks from that. Dinner is already planned at new local darling Alma. We made the reservations a month ago, and I expect to be impressed. I am quite disappointed that we were not able to fit in a trip to animal. Next time, LA, next time.

This excessive meal planning is par for the course for a food nerd like myself, and as you might imagine Christine is no different. Before I said a word, she already had a list of LA restaurants not dissimilar from my own. I really have no idea what to think about LA yet (I’m trying to reserve judgment), but at least when I come to town here I know there’s food of every kind to be explored.

I did get my first real sense of LA’s sheer scale yesterday. It was during a long $75(!!!) cab ride from the airport. I had understood LAX to be in LA, and I guess it is, but if you set the needle of your compass at downtown and extend the arm to the airport and it’s a sheer hour away… are we really in the same town? Or at some point did someone just say fuck it and decide the whole county was itself the city?

It seems to me almost immediately that when so many Americans say they don’t like LA, what they really mean is that they’re exhausted by LA. The town exacts a toll of mental fortitude, and payment is expected immediately upon receipt. No skipping out on this check. I haven’t had much time to socialize here, but the social aspect seems little different from what I know of it. Rigid pretentions and expectations about carved out personal identities. We’re a little less interested in that on the East Coast. Or maybe we just pursue it differently. A number of our personal rivalries are fought by proxy of our sports teams, for example, not by the make of our clothes or who we might know.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in here, and there’s been a lot going on. I’ve actually had some health issues going on lately, though I’m not sure that’s anything I need to get into here. But my doctor has advised me to make some adjustments, and I think that journaling might prove an appropriate outlet yet again.

More posts this weekend, maybe. But they’ll need to be short. Typing at length on this tablet without my keyboard (that I left at home) is akin to squeezing the toothpaste back into the tube. Not exactly fun.

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Dear, Asshole Who Rifled through my Car Last Night,

Thank you.  Thank you, well first, for not taking anything.  Yes, you found nothing of value in the car.  I could, perhaps should, stand upon my soapbox here and upbraid you for not even taking a moment to look through the mound of CDRs, the absolute wealth of music, days and days of it if played end to end–I could lambast you for the ignorant musical taste that lead you to so quickly pass up a horde of treasures.  You had your pick.  No one (apparently) was watching.  I could not even have found myself angry if a thief had broken into my car only to purloin the most choice album in the deck.  The CD might as well be a loaf of bread, in my mind.

But no, you took nothing.  Because, of course as a city boy, I keep nothing of value in an unattended car.  But I shouldn’t really be thanking you for not taking what was not yours.  And I’m not even going to thank you for putting most of my stuff back after you’d pawed through it.

My thank you is a little more nuanced than that.

You see, asshole thief man, sometimes I feel paranoid.  Well, not literally paranoid, but I feel like I’m acting paranoid.  I check the lock on that car door often.  Very often.  More often than I do most things, when you consider it.  If I come and go from the car two to three times a day, that’s four to six times (or more) that I’ve double checked the lock.  That’s more than I floss or brush my teeth.  I have one of the little clickers, like most people, and I “click click” “click click” until I am beyond certain that the car is secure.

But last night, oh last night.  I don’t have to tell you, my asshole thief man friend.  You know.  I even remember, as I was walking in, my arms draped with empty boxes, I remember asking myself, “did I lock the door?”  The keys were in my pocket, I’d have to put everything down again to check it.

“No, of course you locked the door. ” I said to myself, “You always lock the door.”

As you discovered, this was a mistake.

But as mad as I am at you–and I am fucking mad at you–I can only take it so far.  Because you, by finding my humble unlocked car the one time I left it unlocked, you have reminded me that I am not paranoid after all.  I am not some crazy person, fearful of the unruly hordes waiting in the shadows for me to turn my back, if only momentarily.

No, I am merely engaging in what my computer nerd friends would call “best practices.”

So thank you for that, Mr Asshole Thief Man Who Rifled through my Car Last Night.  I needed the reminder.


PS: I hope you got ran over by a car as you were fleeing my neighborhood after your spree.

PPS: And not just run over, but run over by a half asleep truck driver who didn’t hear the bump, and who dragged you for two miles before you flopped off of the fender into some ditch.

PPPS: And not just any ditch, but a rat and were-dog infested ditch, where you were slowly eaten alive by vile rats and were-dogs, which as you know, resemble dogs but eat their prey like a fly does, by vomiting corrosive bile upon your face and licking it up.

PPPPS: But as you know vile rats and were-dogs will not consume everything, so you were of course still alive come daybreak.  With just enough left in you to see the crows and gizzard necked vultures swoop down to pluck out your beady eyes.

PPPPPS: And also your testicles.

PPPPPPS: And then I hope you got run over again.

PPPPPPPS:  Asshole.

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Future Notes for the Ultimate Vegetarian Chili

– the Boca brand ground round was perfect. use again.
– must incorporate Melinda’s hot sauce next time, even if as a garnish.
– the mirepoix (heavy on onions, light on celery) was solid. addition of leeks good. did not make it taste too much like “chili’d up veggie soup” as feared.
– consider mushrooms. unsure of which or in what form. to be used lightly. not sure if standard umami kickers such as soy sauce will work quite the same here as in regular chili.
– for chili powder, exploration of such dried peppers as anaheim and ancho necessary. much experimentation there. must achieve a well rounded and bright spicy, tangy flavor (this chili cannot and will not go as “deep” in flavor as regular chili). consider the technique for reconstitution of dried peppers read about.
– the sour cream as a topping brought it together. consider whether this will be necessary or if other methods of increasing the richness can be achieved.
– make the beans yourself next time, instead of canned.

Scheme for Revenge

Do not vandalize this person’s car. Though the rage may burn white and hot. Though you might have been forced to not only dig, but hack through ice to uncover another spot. Though you may have hurt your arm hacking said ice. Though your space was marked in the Baltimore tradition. Though, not only was the space marked, but there were other free unmarked spaces, making the theft of this space complete asshole bullshit. Though the superb job you did of shoveling this space was rewarded only in theft. Do not vandalize this property.

Instead dig. Rise early. Well before the light of dawn. Ready your shovel. And dig. Every bit of snow you spent hours and hours excavating from the road will be returned to it. You shoveled it out, and you can shovel it back. It may be everyone’s street, but it’s your fucking snow. Pile it high around the car. At least two feet, all around, with extra in the front. Do not touch the car whatsoever. Pack the wall along the side of the snow bank smooth. Extend your gloved finger, and carve boldly: “ASSHOLE!”

The Train

It reminds me of New York and DC. Manhattan mostly, but only because Manhattan is the most pleasant of these public transit memories. Nights spent cruising from the East Village to Greenwich Village. Old friends and family and the good parts of my 20s. But this train looks more like a DC train than a New York train. There is little about it that says Baltimore, aside from the names of the stops and the faces of its passengers. 

Riding with them I feel myself a part of my city in a way that is uncommon for me.  It’s strange that I avoid public transportation because I so prefer my own four-wheeled independance, and yet sitting in this crowd makes me feel isolated in a way that being alone never will.  It’s not a bad feeling.  I enjoy the bustle of a thousand microcosms shuffling together into and out of downtown.  I wear my earbuids the same as everyone else, but I don’t get my book out.  Instead I people watch.

Taking the train forces me to rise an hour early and trek the entire length of Hampden. This is not colossal, but it is certainly not what anyone should want at 6:00 a.m. on a cold morning. Somehow it doesn’t bother me though. I enjoy walking through my part of town as it is awakening. People bundled tight walking excited, wagging dogs and muttering sleepy hellos. Cars whizzing by. The line practically out the door at both the Dunkin Donuts and the Royal Farms. The birds. Even in the dead of winter, this nestled town within town wakes to song.

Finally stretching the last length of Union on my first morning I heard the clarion “BRAM BRAM” of the train’s horn and the urgent dinging of bells as the gates lowered. I was all the way down the street. Furiously I started running. Thanking Fate that I’d worn casual clothes. Holding my messenger bag to prevent a disastrous spill. Thud, thud, thud, thud. The train skidded into view. The northbound train. Whew! I slowed down and caught my breath.

Then, “BRAM BRAM!” the southbound train whizzed into the station. Shit! I took off, sprinting as fast as I could.

Rounding the tracks, the doors were already open. People were filing into the train. One, two, three, another, another. In moments they were all gone, and I was still at the other end of the platform. My breath starting to give way, the doors closed, and I came to an exasperated halt. Feet from the train. This is it, I thought, this is how my week is going to go!

But it waited. I stepped up to the train, pushed the “open door” button, and–panting–stepped onto the train. The last passenger.

Freelance Whales

My new love in life and my most listened to artist of the week. Hearing this album, I already know that it will remind of this snowy month in 2010. Blizzards, and cozy nights, and triumph over the elements. It’s the perfect music for these days.


I’m dead tired. Dead on my feet tired. I still have a hike to make to and from the train, and already I’m almost gone. Struggling to lead my students through the end of this lesson. Fighting to stay awake each time I sit down. But I must do something. Sit down. Write.  We finished early, and if anything, I must keep awake until the end of our workday. If only I could sort a single cohesive thing out of this fog that is my brain.

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