Stan’s Obligatory Blog

12/10/2005

Bike Riding on Dicks Street

Filed under: — stan @ 11:30 pm
playing tourist
my bike decorated for the holidays
Dicks St
a plea for quiet
the view from Sunset Plaza
steel giraffe
an imposing gate
the flying saucer house
The Void: For Sale By Owner


Route map and photo locations

A couple of weeks ago, I read an item in the paper about Dicks Street in West Hollywood, and how the neighbors are lobbying to have the name changed. It turns out that Dicks St. is just off the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd which is commonly known as “Boys’ Town”, due to the large number of gay bars there. And of course, just like when I heard about Dork St., I started planning a ride to go and see it. I figured it would be a nice 50-mumble mile ride from Pasadena.

I met Matt at Victory Park at 7:30 and we set out on our pilgrimage. We went west on Orange Grove, intending to go across the Colorado Street Bridge. But when we got there, the bridge was closed off and a sheriff’s deputy indicated that we should take the other fork, which was the freeway entrance. We decided that we didn’t really want to try riding on the 134 freeway, so we took Grand Ave down into the Arroyo. A right turn on La Loma and a couple of hills later, we were in Eagle Rock.

After a turn on Fletcher, we crossed the L.A. River and headed into Silver Lake. A few turns and one small hill later, we were on Hollywood Boulevard. At this point, Matt pulled out his camera and played tourist a bit.

We rode down Hollywood Blvd all the way to the Chinese Theater. Then we headed south a bit to get on Fountain Ave. We took this all the way to its end at La Cienega.

A few quick turns later, we were at Dicks Street. I took a picture of the sign for my collection. Then we headed up the hill on Doheny up to the Sunset Strip.

Riding on the Sunset Strip is always a strange experience. We rode just a few blocks east to get to Sunset Plaza, then we turned left and headed up the hill.

On the way up the hill, we stopped to look at a sign that pleaded for quiet on the streets. We also stopped at the top to admire the view of Century City and West L.A., as well as to look at the steel giraffes and ostrich in front of one house. Also, we saw a house that had what has to be the single most imposing-looking front gate I’ve ever seen on a private residence.

Continuing down the other side, we went down towards Laurel Canyon. Then we turned left and headed up Laurel Pass Rd and Allenwood, coming out on Mulholland Drive at Fryman Canyon Park.

After a brief stop to refill our water bottles, we headed east on Mulholland. We stopped again for some more sightseeing at the Universal City overlook. I snapped a picture of the flying saucer house up on the hill above us. A little bit farther down the road, we saw a sign offering us the void, For Sale By Owner.

At the bottom of the hill in Cahuenga Pass, we crossed the freeway and headed up Wonder View toward Lake Hollywood. Coming down off the hill, we got on Barham Blvd and cruised down into Burbank. A quick right took us past Forest Lawn and into Griffith Park.

After the park, we went into Glendale, going up Sonora and Graynold to get to Kenneth and Mountain. We took Mountain over to Verdugo and headed up to Hospital Hill. From there, it was all downhill back to Pasadena and home.

56 miles
cycling

12/7/2005

More stupidity

Filed under: — stan @ 10:29 am

After the follies on Monday with the collection agency who was looking for someone who’s not me, here is some additional stupidity involving them.

On Monday when I called them, they said that they would take me out of their system. But that’s what they said the time before that. Then yesterday, they called again.

So I looked up some information about what to do in cases like this. I found this page at the California Attorney General’s Office:

http://ag.ca.gov/consumers/general/collection_agencies10.htm#bill

It says:

Not Your Bill. If you are not the person the agency is looking for, write and explain the mistake. You may be asked to provide a drivers’ license or social security number to prove that you are the wrong person.

So I called them back (800-227-4000 x3036) again this morning. Once again, I explained that I’m not the person they are looking for and they said that they will take my phone number out of their system. But that’s what they said the two times before. So I asked for their company address so I can send them a letter like the CAG advises. The guy became belligerent, refused to give me the address and then hung up on me.

So I called back to their main number and asked to talk with his supervisor. They connected me with a woman who also refused to give me their address. She insisted that I don’t need to write them a letter and she flatly refused to give me their address. Then she hung up on me.

So, through the magic of Google, I put in their phone number and found:

NCO Financial Services
507 Prudential Road
Horsham, PA 19044
800-220-2274

NCO Financial Systems Inc
150 Crosspoint Parkway
Crosspoint Business Park
Getzville NY 14068
800 227-4000

NCO FINANCIAL SYSTEMS INC
3850 NORTH CAUSEWAY BLVD 3RD FLOOR
METAIRIE, LA United States 70002
(800)227-4000

I don’t know which of those is the actual office that’s harassing me, or if it’s yet another offce, since they seem to be just about everywhere.

I also found that they apparently have a lot of people unhappy with their business practices, and a lot of unsatisfied complaints against them with the BBB. I can’t imagine why, what with the obviously professional crew they have working there…

So just for grins, I filled out the online form to file a complaint about them with the Federal Trade Commission and another with the BBB.

Addendum: I got back a response from the FTC. They also said that I should write to NCO and tell them to stop bothering me. They pointed me to USC 1692, which is the relevant law governing this sort of thing. Offhand, I’d guess that this may be why they didn’t want to give out their address. And perhaps this also implies that their refusal to give out their address is a violation of the law. Maybe I can find a lawyer to file suit and we can split the $1000 punitive damages…

12/6/2005

Something stupid

Filed under: — stan @ 6:43 am

I got a very insistent message on my answering machine yesterday. It sounded like it was from a collection agency. This has happened before, and they are always looking for somebody else with the same name as me. So I called them back. They said I have a Bank of America Visa, which I don’t. They said I was born in 1958, which I wasn’t. They said I live in Los Angeles, which I don’t.

Then the stupid part: After establishing that I’m not the guy they’re looking for, he asks me, “Do you know how I can contact him?” Like I keep a list of contact information about people who just happen to have the same name as me. Right.

12/4/2005

Sunday ride with one hill

Filed under: — stan @ 8:07 pm


Route map and photo locations

Today’s ride was one we haven’t done since last year. One of the roads on the route washed out in the rains last winter, so we’ve been avoiding it. But Gene recently heard that the road was closed to cars but passable by bike, so we went to do it today.

We started out going east to Arcadia and then south to Temple City. This was just to pad the ride out a bit, since it would have been very short if we just went and rode up the hill.

We made a loop back through San Marino and South Pasadena and then headed up into the San Rafael Hills. We rode past the burned-out mansion there. The mansion that burned is next door to the house that was used as “Bruce Wayne’s house” in the old “Batman” TV series. Original reports said that the Batman house had burned, but it later turned out to be the house next door.

Next, we headed down Linda Vista and passed the Rose Bowl. Then we turned up Inverness and started climbing. Right about here, we met up with Ben Bertiger, who was out riding with his parents. The decided to join us for the hill portion of the ride. Ben is the Southern California Junior 10-12 Track Omnium Champion. Track racers are not generally known for being good hill climbers, but he gave us all a run for our money. He may have been the first to the top, but I don’t know. He was well ahead of me.

On the way up the hill, we had to stop to portage the bikes past the fence where the road was closed. Then we stopped to admire the washed-out road. It was impressive. After that, there was one more fence to cross, and the the rest of the climb to the top.

At the top of the hill, we went down the other side and took Lida back down to the Rose Bowl. We passed the Bowl and then went into Old Town for a snack at Il Fornaio.

After the snack stop, we went past the Rose Bowl yet again, this time on Prospect St. Then we took Arroyo and Windsor Road up to Altadena Drive. From there it was a nice three-mile downhill back to the park.

46 miles
cycling

12/3/2005

Over the river and through the woods…

Filed under: — stan @ 11:53 pm
flying grocery bag
surfliner train at night

Today we rode the Amtrak Surfliner down to San Diego to visit Grandpa Schwarz.

The trip down was pretty uneventful. We rode the Metro Gold Line to Union Station and then got the Surfliner southbound. Lucinda played with her Game Boy and also did some games in Highlights. The train stopped a few times on the way down. At one of the stops I saw a campaign sign for an upcoming election. There are few things more forlorn-looking than a campaign sign for a Democrat in Orange County.

When we got to San Diego, Grandpa picked us up at the station and we went to lunch at the dining room at his place. The dining room where he lives is actually quite good. The place is run by Hyatt, so the dining room is equivalent to a hotel restaurant. We had a nice lunch, and then we went down to his apartment.

Lucinda played piano with Grandpa for quite a while. She played with the animal puppets he has. We also marveled at the miraculous flying grocery bag we saw out of his window. Our grocery bags are usually flightless, but this was was swooping up and down outside the tower for a long time.

When it was time to go home, we went to dinner before going to the train. Then we got on and rode the train home. It was a nice day. It was long, but it was nice.

Everything old…

Filed under: — stan @ 8:37 am

Two weeks ago, we bought a new car. One of the little things it came with is a subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio. They have hundreds of channels for every taste. Cathy likes the Classic Disco channel.

When I was younger, I never understood the appeal of oldies radio. It seemed that they played stuff that was either so old it didn’t mean anything to me, or it reminded me of times I would rather have forgotten. Most ’70s music falls into this category for me.

And then I was playing with the satellite radio in the new car and I found 1st Wave, where it’s always 1985. They even have Richard Blade, Freddy Snakeskin, Dusty Street, and Swedish Egil, who were part of the KROQ crew back in the ’80s. It’s just like old times. I can put that on and just slump over the wheel, weeping for my lost youth…

12/2/2005

And we’re all gonna die!!!

Filed under: — stan @ 2:04 pm

we're all gonna die!!!
I went to Caltech last night to hear a talk by Ken Deffeyes: “The Peak of World Oil Production: Thanksgiving Day, 2005″. He talked about the late M. King Hubbert and his analysis of oil production curves and such. It sounds dry, but he was a very engaging and entertaining speaker. And his main point is that the coming oil crisis is starting now.

He showed us a copy of a little article from two years ago about how Saudi Arabia has no more spare production capacity. He said, “This is the biggest story since the Industrial Revolution, so why is nobody paying any attention to it?” It used to be that Saudi Arabia was the regulator of the global oil economy. They held the price stable by opening or closing the taps on their wells. But now they have all the taps open all the way just to keep up with demand.

The last part of the talk was about what could be done about this. He thinks that from where we are now, the best thing we can hope for will be a global recession like the Great Depression. There will be oil rationing, although it’s not determined if it will be rationed by price, coupons, or by the inconvenience of having to wait in line for hours to buy it.

On the other hand, I kind of enjoyed riding my bike past long gas lines back in ‘74. And maybe I’ll even have some company when I’m riding my bike to work.

I think I’m in love with Camille Paglia…

Filed under: — stan @ 1:26 pm

Reading her article in Salon today:

www.salon.com/ent/feature/2005/12/02/madonna/index.html

On the second page she says:

Is Madonna suffering Mick Jagger syndrome? Jagger, like Madonna, has tremendous managerial and business aptitude. It is he who single-handedly saved the Rolling Stones during Keith Richards’ reclusive period of heroin addiction in the 1970s. But the end result was that the once-Dionysian Jagger became trapped in the crisp, precise Apollonian realm and was no longer capable of producing lyrics that match Richards’ thunderous, blues-based inventions.

“Dionysian” and “Apollonian”. <swoon> I just love reading Camille Paglia. She just has so much fun with the language.

11/28/2005

It’s time for mistletoe and holly…

Filed under: — stan @ 10:44 pm

Cathy and Lucinda went and picked out a tree today. I put it up after dinner. Then we all decorated it. Christmas is an odd holiday for us. We enjoy it a lot, even though we’re not the least bit religious. It’s just a fun time to eat and get and give presents. And after it’s over, the days start getting longer again.

This is our 20th Christmas together, which is also just a bit odd. Both Cathy and I are shocked to realize that we’re old enough to to say, “this is our 20th Christmas”.

So I had to go up into the attic to get down all our decorations. Every year I’m astounded at how many boxes of stuff we have. There were at least ten of them, so I had to schlep up and down the ladder many times, even with Lucinda helping.

We have an odd collection of stuff to put on our tree. But this year we got a new decoration. It’s the dog-turd ornament. We found it at a Wiskers, which is a little pet gift shop in Long Beach. They had a holiday display there with a tree decorated with these little snow-crusted turds. So we had to have one. I also got the “Monthly Doos” dog poop calendar (”amazingly gross” raves Stupid.com) for my office.

So it’s just a big dog-shit holiday festival here. And our tree is officially ready for the holidays.

11/27/2005

A Sunday bike ride and some racing nostalgia

Filed under: — stan @ 3:44 pm

Today’s ride was just over to Glendale to see the Turkey Trot cyclocross race. I had suggested this to Gene a few weeks ago because I thought I might see Jonathan Livesay there. I used to race on the east coast back in the late ’70s, and Jonathan was one of the good racers in New York at the time. We didn’t really know each other then, but we were in lots of breakaways together at the Tuesday and Thursday evening races at Westbury on Long Island. Also, my mom was friends with his girlfriend’s mom, and our two moms would bring their bikes out to the races and just ride around the campus there and talk about mom stuff. So I thought it was quite remarkable that Jonathan is not only living near here now, but is still racing and doing quite well at it.

We started out heading west across Pasadena. Then we turned and went up through La Cañada, passing Descanso Gardens. Then we went down Hospital Hill and into Montrose. We rode around through there, up and down the hills a bit before coming down a very steep hill and arriving at Verdugo Park on Cañada Blvd.

When we got there, the Masters 50+ race was almost over. Jonathan was there, and he won the race with a commanding lead of at least a minute over the next rider. It was impressive. When he went by, I immediately recognized his ‘race face’. I’d seen it many times before, and even though it’s been 25 years, he still had the same look of concentration.

After the race I went and found him. He didn’t remember me, which wasn’t all that surprising, since it’s been so long and I only raced for about five years. Still, we talked about the old days there and some of the ‘cast of characters’ who used to race around New York in those days. It was fun.

Continuing on from the park, we rode a bit through Glendale to a bakery in Kenneth Village. We had pastries and such. I had a chocolate eclair, which was quite good.

After the snack stop, we continued on a bit and then got on Glenoaks Blvd to come back. We took Glenoaks all the way to Chevy Chase, climbing up and over a small, but steep hill at the end. Then we had the long climb up Chevy Chase.

The route was to go up Chevy Chase to Figueroa, but Gene decided to take a ’shortcut’ up Linda Vista. I put quotes around ’shortcut’, since it’s not like it was substantially easier. We still had to climb the same hill. At the top, we regrouped and then headed down Lida towards the Rose Bowl. When we got to the bottom, someone said, “Hey, what happened to Scott?” So Gene and I headed back up the hill to look for him.

At the top of the hill, there was still no sign of Scott. So I volunteered to go down the other side to look for him. I rode all the way back down to the last place we’d seen him. But he had vanished. So I figured he must have taken a different way back. So I started for home, which involved riding back up and over the hill that I’d ridden over twice already.

When I got back down on the Pasadena side, a truck pulled up next to me. It was Scott. He said that he’d taken a wrong turn, so he just rode back to the park where we started. So the mystery was solved, and I’d gotten to ride up two extra hills in the deal. Yay.

From the bottom of the hill, I rode around the south end of the Rose Bowl and then back across Pasadena to home.

47 miles.
cycling

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