Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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9/24/2007

Art in a vacant storefront

Filed under: — stan @ 6:27 pm

There’s a vacant former furniture store on Colorado Blvd here, and the windows have been given over to local artists. Cathy and I were walking by there recently, and we both liked this one. I can’t really explain why.

9/19/2007

The leopard in our living room

Filed under: — stan @ 8:46 pm

We got new carpet today. After 12 years in this house, the carpet was pretty well worn out. We went looking at the beginning of the summer, and nothing really impressed us. But then we saw a sample of leopard-print carpet. That one spoke to us. Everyone who knows us will say something like, “Stan and Cathy got leopard carpet? Yeah, that fits.” And Lucinda likes it, too. You know what they say about the fruit and the tree.

So here it is, in all its glory.

9/15/2007

Cones

Filed under: — stan @ 11:16 pm

Our afternoon art adventure was a trip out to Culver City to Bandini Art to see the “Cone Migration” show. This show is all art made from traffic cones. Lana Shuttleworth placed cones all over Los Angeles and let them get beat up by traffic. Then she collected them and made art out of them. It’s an interesting idea, and the art she made was very nice.

It’s also an interactive art in a way. They had a pile of cones in front of the gallery, and visitors are encouraged to take one and ‘release it’ somewhere. So of course, we had to do this. I thought it would make for an interesting piece of performance art to take the cone along on a bike ride and place it somewhere. When we were leaving, we picked out a cone to take along.

Since we were out on the West Side, I wanted to go see the Museum of Jurassic Technology. This is sort of an art project museum on Venice Blvd. It’s kind of like entering the world of “Eraserhead“, which I thought was amusing, but Cathy found somewhat disturbing. It’s filled with lots of strange things, including an entire room devoted to memorializing the dogs of the Soviet Space program. They had large oil portraits of the dogs, including a special shrine for Laika with a little candle and a quote from Tsiolkovsky.

We all enjoyed the cone exhibit. And I liked the Jurassic Technology. It was all very deeply weird, but I like stuff like that.

8/25/2007

Crown City Trainer

Filed under: — stan @ 7:51 pm

I did the Foothill Cycle Saturday ride today. The route was the “Crown City Trainer”, which was basically a ride to nowhere in particular, but going up and down every hill around. It was fun.

And I just learned that Google Maps has a nice new feature. In plotting a route, you can now grab the route line with the mouse to enter intermediate destinations. This has the effect of being able to force the route to go particular ways. So I did this to plot the route we took today:

The route as rendered in the new Google Maps

There wasn’t really anything remarkable on the ride, aside from two sets of abandoned couches just a short distance apart on Ave 66: 1 2

45 miles.
cycling

8/14/2007

Last-minute sightseeing

Filed under: — stan @ 11:48 pm

Tuesday was the last day of our trip, and I had one more thing on my list to see. Since I had to be in New Jersey, I couldn’t miss the chance to visit Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst and pay respects to Joey Ramone. I’ve been a big Ramones fan for almost 30 years, so it was a necessary stop.

Chelsea* directed us to the cemetery. Then I stopped in the office to get the exact directions. The woman working there was very helpful, and she said that Joey Ramone was probably the most famous and most-requested person buried there. She told me to go to the northernmost road through the Jewish section of the cemetery. Then look for the two pillars marked “New York Social Club”. Joey is buried three rows back in that section, right next to his mother.

After that, we went down to Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Since we’d missed the Statue of Liberty on Monday, I found out that we could just make it there if we made the 12:45 boat out to the island. So we got on the boat and rode out to the statue. We didn’t have time to stop off at Ellis Island, since we had to make our flight home at 6:00. But Lucinda got to see the statue close-up, which was the whole point.

When we got back to shore, we headed over to the airport. We got there early to check in our rental car, since we’d been told we’d have to fill out an accident report. The guy who checked us in looked at the car and just said something like, “it looks fine to me” and we were done.

So we had plenty of time to have lunch while we were waiting. Then we got on the plane for the trip home. Newark is apparently notorious for delays around that time of day, and today was no exception. We left the gate about 30 minutes late, and we actually took off 90 minutes late. There was a huge backlog of planes that apparently were all scheduled to take off at 6:00.

Once we got in the air, the trip home was just fine. When we were going over New Mexico and Arizona, there were some big electrical storms below us, and it was interesting to watch the lightning from above. I tried taking pictures of it, but it was hard to do it justice.

Overall, it was a pretty fun trip.

* The GPS navigator unit offered a choice of several different voices. But Lucinda didn’t like the ‘American English’ one, since when it said ‘left’, it always sounded like ‘bleft’. So we switched it to ‘British English’, which sounded much more cultured and mannered. And that was when Lucinda decided to call it ‘Chelsea’.

8/13/2007

Sightseeing New York City

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 pm

Monday was our day for sightseeing New York City. We rode the train in and met Cathy’s cousin Michelle and her family at Penn Station. Then we all rode the F train up to 63rd St and Lexingon, and then walked over to Central Park.

When we got to the park, Lucinda wanted to climb the big outcrops of Manhattan Schist there.

Since we had only limited time, I wanted to go to the model boat pond to show Lucinda the statue of Alice in Wonderland there. I used to like climbing on that when I was a kid, so I thought she might like it, too. Lucinda figured this out. When we were going there, when I told her about the statue and how I liked to climb on it, she said, “So you want me to climb it so you can take a picture, right?” Our child is very perceptive.

After seeing the pond, Lucinda and Christina wanted to go to one of the playgrounds for a while. Then we walked back to Lexington Ave and got on the #6 train downtown to Grand Central. Then we took the shuttle train over to Times Square and then the #1 down to South Ferry. That’s the station that is built on a sharp curve, so there are little hydraulically-activated metal platforms that move out to meet the train doors.

When we got up to Battery Park, we found that we were too late for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. So we just walked around the park a bit. We saw a wild turkey there. Apparently, there is a population of wild turkeys living in Manhattan now. We thought that this was kind of strange, but after seeing the bear in New Jersey, we were ready to believe just about anything. Since turkeys are not good fliers, the speculation is that they walked in over one of the bridges, which is a funny mental image.

The final stop for the day was the East Village to visit with my old friend Thaddeus. I’ve known him for about 35 years now, ever since my mother was his high-school guidance counselor. And somehow, we’ve kept in touch all these years. This was the first time I’ve seen him in many years, so we got to meet his wife and daughter for the first time. We all went out to dinner at a little Latin American restaurant across the street from their house. I was amazed at how the neighborhood along Houston St has changed over the years. I always remember it as being a place where there were groups of homeless huddled for warmth around flaming trash cans. Now it’s really quite nice there.

So, aside from missing the Statue of Liberty, we had a nice day.

Finally, I have a photo from the pond in Central Park. It’s my latest Canon commercial. Have I mentioned recently that my camera rocks?

8/10/2007

New Jersey Wildlife

Filed under: — stan @ 10:45 pm

Did you know that there are wild bears in New Jersey? I didn’t. We were going out to visit my old high school friend Steve on Friday afternoon. He and his family live in the far suburbs of Sussex County. We were going down a semi-rural road when Cathy said, “I just saw a bear.” I didn’t believe her, since seeing a bear in New Jersey seemed about as likely as seeing Bigfoot or Elvis. But she insisted that it was really a bear. So we went back to look. And there it was, just ambling across someone’s front lawn. I grabbed the camera and got a quick photo before it strolled off into the woods.

When we got to Steve’s house, his wife Kris told us that the bears are common knowledge around there. But they are not particularly abundant. She said that she’s seen them on just a few occasions in the 16 years they have been living there. So we were lucky to have seen it. With the bear we saw last year at Lake Tahoe, we’ve now seen a wild bear while on vacation for two years in a row.

We had a nice time visiting, and Lucinda had fun playing with their kids. Pictures are in our photo album.

8/8/2007

Worst. Day. Ever.

Filed under: — stan @ 11:55 pm

Months ago, when Cathy told me she wanted to do this trip to New Jersey, I told her that there were two things that I absolutely had to do while we were there:

So Wednesday was our day for these things.

The plan was to drive the car out to Queens and park it for the afternoon at a garage in Forest Hills, which is near the velodrome. Then we could take the E train into Manhattan and go to the museum. This way we could go to the bike races at 6:30 without having to drive very far in NYC traffic.

Wednesday morning, a storm moved through the area and it rained. By the time we were ready to go, it was clear, and a reasonably nice day, so we didn’t really think that much of it. But it turned out that the storm dumped about three inches of rain in two hours, which is a remarkable amount by New York standards.

So we headed out. The trip over to Queens was fine, and we got the car stowed. But when we got to the subway, they said that the tunnel was flooded, and there were no trains into Manhattan. Instead, we had to take a train out to Jamaica and then transfer to the J train to Broadway in Brooklyn. Then we had to take the A train into Manhattan. So what should have been about a 30-minute subway ride turned into almost two hours of riding in stifling hot and crowded trains.

But we finally made it there. We met my old friend Gordon there, and we had a fun time looking at the dinosaurs.

When it was time to go, I decided to assume that the flooded tunnel was fixed in time for the evening rush. We rode the C train down to 42nd St to get the E out to Queens. But they said that the tunnel was still flooded. So instead, we had to walk over to 7th Ave and take the #7 train. The train was crowded, and the air conditioner was broken, so it was very unpleasant. We had to ride it out to 74th St in Queens, and then transfer downstairs to a shuttle train out to Forest Hills. This took a bit over an hour.

We finally made it to the car, and we drove out to Kissena Park. The velodrome has been repaved, and it looks pretty nice. It’s much better than it was back in the ’70s. There we no cracks in the pavement with weeds growing out of them, and they’d even shaved off the big hump in the last turn.

I talked to some of the racers, and I took lots of pictures. It was a fun time.

Then we headed home. We were all in agreement that the day had been quite the trying ordeal. And then it got worse. We got rear-ended on the Cross Bronx Expressway. The car in front of us had to stop. I hit the brakes hard enough to feel the anti-lock take over, but we managed to stop in time. The guy behind us stopped in time, and we thought we were all right. But then a fourth guy in a Toyota minivan plowed into all three of us.

And this was where the real ordeal began.

There was no visible damage to our car or the one in front of us. The Pathfinder behind us had minimal damage, and the front of the minivan was destroyed. A tow truck and the fire department arrived almost immediately. They set out flares and told us to stay there until the NYPD arrived to make a report.

So there we were, standing in the left land on the Cross Bronx Expressway, in stifling heat, with irate New York drivers screaming at us as they passed. I’ve mentioned before that I think that standing on the train station platforms in the middle of the freeway in L.A. is hellish, but this was far, far worse. Yup, just the way I wanted to spend my vacation time.

Nobody was hurt, so the paramedics left. But while we were waiting for the police to arrive, there was a second accident about 50 yards back up the road from us. A driver had been hit sideways by a truck. So the paramedics came back, and they ended up treating the driver on the scene.

When the police arrived, they noted the positions of everything and then stopped traffic so we could drive off the road and so the tow trucks could tow the damaged van off the road. Then we all sat on the side of road for another 45 minutes while they took down all the information for the report.

You can see the scene in Google Maps. We were in the left lane on the westbound side of the road. When we moved off the road, we were standing on the triangle of bare dirt next to the Jerome Ave exit:

maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=40.845285,-73.912612&spn=0.001234,0.002097&t=k&z=19&om=1

We ended up having to be there for almost two hours before we could leave. By this time, we all agreed that it had been the Worst. Day. Ever.

All of the pictures from that day are here in our photo album.

8/6/2007

Garden State

Filed under: — stan @ 4:58 pm

Some years ago, we saw the movie “Garden State“. I remember thinking that it seemed very true-to-life. As a New Jersey expatriate, it seemed to pretty much sum up my experience every time I went back to visit. I don’t have any family there any more, but Cathy does, and I still have a few friends who live there. So Monday was the beginning of our trip to New Jersey to visit the friends and relatives.

Pictures are in our photo album.

7/26/2007

Once upon a time…

Filed under: — stan @ 5:53 pm

With all the excitement about the new “Simpsons” movie, we are seeing Matt Groening everywhere. He was on “The Daily Show”, he was in last week’s L.A. Weekly, and he’s in today’s Los Angeles Times. And we had to marvel about how he’s really hit it big. Back before “The Simpsons“, he drew “Life in Hell“, which ran in the L.A. Reader and later in the L.A. Weekly. We were big fans of “Life in Hell”, and we went to several of his signings for the “Life in Hell” books. We have all the early books signed by him, complete with a drawing of a rabbit in each one.

I recently found this calendar that he’d signed for us back in 1988. This was when he was doing the animations for “The Tracy Ullman Show”, but just before the debut of “The Simpsons”. So for once, maybe my pack-rat tendencies paid off.

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