Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Guide Dogs

Filed under: — stan @ 9:09 pm

Last year, Cathy found a little article in the Auto Club magazine about a school near San Francisco that trains guide dogs for the blind. It said that they had an open house that we could visit. She loves dogs, and she wanted to take a trip up there to go to it. I thought that surely in a city the size of Los Angeles, there must be something comparable. So I went looking, and found Guide Dogs of America. It’s in Sylmar in the northeast corner of the San Fernando Valley.

They have a graduation and open house every three months there, so we made plans to go to one. And today was the day.

The graduation involved the class of dogs that are being given to their new masters, as well as the people who fostered the dogs as puppies. The puppy raisers do the basic training and socialization of the dogs, and then some specialized trainers teach the dog how to be a guide dog before they are matched up with blind people in need of dogs. It’s a pretty amazing process, and it was very obvious that the blind people were very happy to have the dogs to help them. Apparently, the entire service is free to the blind, and it’s largely supported by donations and volunteers.

We got to meet a lot of dogs in training. The foster families are encouraged to bring them to events like these so that they can get used to the environment. We also got some information about possibly having them do a presentation at Lucinda’s school, and also how to sign up to foster a puppy. We may or may not do that soon, but we probably will some day.


Why do birds suddenly appear…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:49 pm

Route map and photo locations

Today I took a sightseeing bike ride to go visit some Americana. There were three targets for the day: The 1953 McDonald’s, the “Close to You” and “Only Just Begun” apartments, and Johnie’s Broiler, all in beautiful Downey, California. It was a cool day, but forecast to warm up nicely. A perfect winter’s day in SoCal.

I started out heading south, through San Marino and San Gabriel. I rode down through Whittier Narrows and then turned south again on Rosemead. Then I just went straight, all the way to Downey.

At one light, there was a very shiny tanker truck in front of me, so I took my picture reflected in it. Then I continued on to the where Rosemead turned in to Lakewood, and the 1953 McDonald’s. We’d visited there before, so I didn’t go inside to see the Ray Kroc museum this time.

Continuing on down Lakewood, I took a right on 5th St. That was where I saw a house undergoing a fairly drastic remodel. Only the front wall was still standing. Then I rode a short distance farther and found the “Close to You” and “Only Just Begun” apartment buildings. They are a pair, right across the street from each other, and they were bought by Karen and Richard Carpenter with their earnings from their first big hit songs, back in 1970.

I went a bit farther on 5th St to get to Firestone Blvd and Johnie’s Broiler. This is a 1950s Googie-style coffee shop that was being used as a used-car lot promising “BAJO MILLAGE” cars. It was also being considered for historic status. Apparently, the owners weren’t too happy about this, because they hired a bulldozer to start knocking it down without a permit. So the building is still half-standing, but in ruins.

Leaving Johnie’s, I backtracked to get to Paramount Blvd and headed north. At Mines Ave, I went right and went back to Rosemead. That was where I saw it. Shangri-L… Oh. It said Shangri Lodge. Never mind. The place was kind of scary, with bars and bulletproof glass around the manager’s office.

I took a left on Beverly to take the scenic route back up through Montebello. That was where I saw yet another abandoned couch for the Abandoned Couches Blog.

At San Gabriel Blvd, I turned left, and immediately heard that telltale hissing sound. I had a flat. Since I was riding alone, I had to take the obligatory picture Myspace-style, with the camera held at arm’s length. I put on a spare tire, and continued on.

I went up Walnut Grove to get back up to San Gabriel, and then went west a bit on Longden to get back to Del Mar. Then it was straight up through San Marino and back to the park.

It was a pleasant ride.

Addendum: I fixed my flat tire this evening. I was riding my old racing bike today. So I was riding Old School. This is the first time in three years that I’ve fixed a sew-up tire. I’m out of practice. I used to do this all the time and didn’t think anything of it. But it was hard.

42 miles


Varla’s Anatomy

Filed under: — stan @ 11:38 pm

Tonight we went over to West Hollywood to see Varla Jean Merman’s latest show, “Varla Jean Merman is Anatomically Incorrect”. The show was at Ultra Suede, which gave us a strange sense of deja vu, since we went there to see a comic cabaret show with the Amazing Pink Things back in 1987. But the inside had been completely redone, and looked totally different.

We met another couple in line who were also big Varla fans, so we joined up to take one of the tables right up by the stage. They have been going to see Varla for longer than we have, and they even visited Jeffery in New Orleans, which puts them easily in the Varla-inner-circle. We were suitably in awe.

When the show started, Varla came out in fine form. She sang and danced, and also had video to go with the song. She sang “Tequila Make My Clothes Fall Off”, which was done with the special Varla touch.

The theme of the show was the human body and all its parts. Varla did a parody of “Hair” about feet. That was pretty hilarious.

The old-time Varla fans also got to enjoy a couple of her classics. She sang “Talk to the Genitals” as part of the show, and also did her “Schoolhouse Rock” medley as an encore. That was a treat, even though she didn’t do “Dream a Little Dream of Cheese” and eat the Cheez-Wiz.

The finale for the show found Varla in a giant squirrel costume and holding a pair of giant acorns. The song was about how memories are like nuts that we squirrel away in our heads. It was deliciously goofy and very funny.

After the show, Varla was selling her new video collection, so we got a copy, and she signed it for us. Overall, it was a very fun evening.

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