Wednesday, December 31, 2008

31 December, 2008.

It has been an eventful year, to say the least.

Personally, I've been through a lot. In the last year, I died, and somehow -- thanks in large part, I believe, to a good friend who stayed with me through the worst -- came back. Three of my clients (or their publications, to be precise) died, and they didn't come back.

I have reduced the size of the space I occupy on this planet to the absolute minimum. That's not so bad, but even so I am deeper in debt than I was at this moment 365 days ago.

My profession is, I fear, on its last legs. When it is gone, I have no idea what will come next.

I have seen the wealthy bailed out by the government, which intends to send the bill to me. And to you, too.

And, perhaps most unpleasant on a personal level, I remain alone.

The latter tends to take away enthusiasm for the continuing struggle. And a struggle it will be, as everything I can see suggests that 2009 will be no improvement, will in fact be worse. Not only for me, but for everyone who isn't in line for bailout money or "stimulus" payments.

As I write this, it is 2009 on the East Coast. I have heard that the revelers are out in force there. Some are even celebrating here: a few of my neighbors, well-lubricated as usual, are whooping it up.

Maybe they know something I don't. Or maybe, more likely in my view, they know nothing and blindly go on, thinking all will hold together as long as they can get their hands on Mr Cuervo's distilled cactus juice. I have long since realized that liquid stimulus may make you think things are better, but actually does nothing to make it so.

Tomorrow, I'll sit down to work again, doing work that no longer holds much pleasure for me, work that is not valued to any meaningful extent by those for whom I work. People will demand money from me; they will be disappointed, and will react in whatever way they choose.

I'll put on a front as much -- and as long -- as I can. I'll post cat pictures (because, after all, I love cats), and scenic photos, and whatever I think will interest people. I will try, whenever possible, to put the best face on things.

But, when you come right down to it, I can't work up much optimism for 2009, and fear that the entry that appears here one year from tonight will not be any more cheerful than this one.

I think it's time to go to bed. One can't be as depressed when one is asleep. I'll be sorry to miss Art Bell's year-end show, during which he takes predictions for the next year from his listeners, and discusses the results of last year's predictions. That's always seriously strange....

Tomorrow, they say, is another day. Then, I will look for the miracle that proves me wrong about the impending New Year.

If nothing else, I hope 2009 will at least be good for those whom I love, those I care about, and those I simply like.

I've said it before: in reality, misery does not love company.

So have a good New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pushing my buttons...

...though I suppose I should not admit that it's possible!

I've had a lousy day. A lousy two days, actually, as I have written two articles, neither of which exactly consumed me with the fiery passion of storytelling. Not because the subjects were so awful -- only one fit that description -- but because I'm sick of working for slow-paying companies, sick of agreeing to work for bottom-feeding publications that don't pay much (I've let myself be talked into a couple of those, at least one of which I'll write tomorrow, just to get it the hell over with and get the damn checks, which I need).

One thing I worry about in situations like this -- aside from the usual worries about paying bills, buying food and general survival -- is that I'm turning out crap. That adds to the frustration, and slows work way down.

Take the story I wrote yesterday as an example. At the beginning, I had no idea what I was going to say; that's actually unusual for me. It meant I had trouble coming up with a good lede, and without that I'm no better than the infinite number of monkeys who didn't write the works of Shakespeare.

Then I started to think about a biography of William Claude Dukinfield I read not long ago, and decided to try using some flowery verbiage for comedic effect. I figured I'd get a laugh out of the editor, even if she sent it back for a rewrite.

She sent me an email today: "Just got through not editing your wonderful piece...I wish you could write everything I edit, but that would surely put me out of a job, or at least reduce me to some sort of administrative role!"

Ahhh, praise! That always reduces me to the approximate state of a puppy having its belly rubbed...makes me forget all the other grief. Really.

Well, it almost makes me forget....

I'm still in a bad mood. But now I'm in a better bad mood.

Still, I wouldn't object if another selected individual or two tried a similar approach to coaxing me into a state of good cheer. Sugar is more attractive than vinegar, and all that....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

There will always be an England...

...but I'm not sure what they're putting in the water over there after reading This article in The Sun UK.

Excerpts below:

A RECORD number of Brits changed their names by deed poll in 2008...A staggering 46,000 people — 15 per cent more than last year — reinvented themselves.

...Aron Brown, 25, of Derby, changed his name to Aron Mufasa Columbo Fonzerelli Ball In A Cup Boogie Woogie Brown....

...Daniel Westfallen, 27, from Hornchurch, Essex, became Happy Adjustable Spanners after drawing names out of a hat.

...But stockbroker Chris Brewer, 25, of Leeds, had trouble convincing cops his name was Tintin Captain Haddock Confused Brewer...

There's a list of the "Top 10" weird new monikers the Sun reporter found, plus a photo of one of the re-named Brits, in the story. I think you should click on the link and see for yourself.

And I thought Americans were giving their kids nutball names these days....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mi casa es...

...the neighborhood cats' casa, too!

I opened my screen door yesterday to get a little fresh air in the pad. Honey came zooming in...

Followed by her daughter, Max...

PARENTHETICAL REAL-LIFE NOTE: The cap was already on the bed. It happened to be the one I was wearing yesterday. It was appropriate, so I left it....

Until yesterday, Max had been rather skittish around me. I was seldom able to pet her. But she's decided to be friendly. And, clearly, neither she nor Honey was particularly intimidated by going into a strange place...

Girl, the third member of the pack, tried the bed but decided my serape (which now lives on top of my improvised linen storage, an ex-bookcase) was more comfortable...

Of course after a while they heard their "mom" drive up, and left without so much as a thank-you for my hospitality*.

No matter. I love cats. And these three are exceptional neighbors....

* Yes, I was thinking about writing something to the effect that it has been a long time since I had one female, let alone two, inviting themselves in and getting comfortable on my bed. And I was going to say something about a third waiting by the clean sheets and towels...but I won't.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Now it can be told (part 36,739)...

...Santa Claus is a commie bastard. I was right all along.

Today started out cold, gloomy and rainy. Later, the rain stopped...

Now, it's cold and, of course, dark. Windy as hell, too.

Whatever local stops ol' St Nick made didn't include my pad. Maybe I should have left a shot of Jim Beam out for him after all. Or maybe he just didn't get my requests....

A friend suggested that we take in a movie this morning, which we did. My two-word review of "Marley and Me" follows: don't bother. I have nothing at all against movies with dogs in 'em, but neither the two leading human characters nor the dog give you much reason to like them. I hear the book from which the movie was made is excellent, though.

This afternoon, my musician friend R. called. That's always a real pleasure. I spent some time talking with him, and then talked with his dad, who is (*coughs*) more my age. It's good to talk to people who share your interests*, and happen to be nice, fun folks into the bargain.

I'm giving my favorite Christmas recordings one last listen before they go back on the shelf for another year.

And then it will be December 26, and all I will have to do is make it through New Year's before returning to the usual routine.

I hope your Christmases were far more rewarding!

I gotta tell you, though, if I leave a snack out for Santa (that commie bastard!) next year, he better bring someone along to taste it first to make sure I haven't laced it with anything, Jim.

* I have long since learned not to be bitterly jealous of the musical talent both display. It must be genetic; when I first heard R.'s father perform, it was apparent where the kid got his phenomenal chops. But I forgive them for being so accomplished musically, while I am -- and always will be -- a hack. I usually forgive them, that is....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Christmas tradition...

...presented with a photo of Santa's 21st-Century sleigh leaving Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea ("Mommy, why are all of Santy's helpers Chinese?")...

Actually this post is strictly for kids. Also big people who know kids, have kids, or never stopped being kids....

It's time for NORAD Tracks Santa!

This has gotten progressively cooler over the years, never more so than when NORAD hooked up with Google Earth. I suppose the "official" idea is to make this an Educational Experience for the Yoots of the world, but I persist in thinking it simply makes the whole thing more fun.

At this very moment, the Big Guy is rapidly approaching Aqtobe, Kazakhstan. He'll have been there and moved on by the time you read these words.

This will be even more of a groove when Santa moves into areas for which Google Earth has the ultra high-definition imagery. Might even see him as he scoots down your chimney!

I'll be watching when he hits a few select spots, you can be sure. Including mine. Not having a chimney's a bit of a drag, though. But he can drop then lumps of coal right in the mailbox.

I kid, Santa, I kid....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve Eve...

...and it has been a cloudy and cool one...

A friend -- a superb photographer -- did some cloud shots here the other day. One in particular looked, as I told her, "like a herd of poodles." The clouds I saw and photographed just look like clouds, alas.

But I did run across an interesting new take on the life of Jesus that, if generally adopted as fact, might have profound effects on Christmas displays and those who take the role of Jesus in plays, movies and various church pageants....

Monday, December 22, 2008

I thought I'd seen damn near everything...

...but something I laid peepers on today really threw me for a loop.

PARENTHETICAL YOU-CAN'T-HAVE-EVERYTHING NOTE: Nope, didn't get a photo. There was no place to stop to get one. If I can con someone into driving me past the scene tomorrow, I will, and will of course put up any shots I get.

I happened to be driving past the local marble orchard. I don't usually spare it a second glance. But I had to stare this time.

PARENTHETICAL IT'S-DIFFERENT-IN-CALIFORNIA NOTE: This is not the traditional kind of dirt-nappery those of you who live in more civilized places would expect. Rather than monuments and other signs of individuality, every resident gets a simple, identical, flat, the-lawn-mower-passes-right-over-it plaque. It's not even a "cemetery;" rather, it's a memorial park. If I hadn't already willed my body to the local dog-food cannery, I would definitely not want to be in one of these places, where lawn sprinklers stand out as much as the Dear Departeds do....

Okay, so this place is on a long hill, and you can see quite a bit of it from the street. And what I saw was: Christmas decorations.


That's right. Little forests of candy canes surrounding some of the markers, tiny trees with Christmas ornaments on 'em, even -- I think -- a few Christmas stockings.

I dig weirdness, but that's a little too bizarre even for me, Jim.

I'm pretty certain that place is one Santa will not have on his itinerary on the 25th. And I doubt that anyone there is eagerly awaiting presents.

Flowers on appropriate days, yes. That's cool. I've even left a few posies at appropriate grave-sites myself in the past. Maybe, in places where the local beliefs tend that way, an offering or two to speed the Loved One to the Hereafter. Maybe -- and I know nothing about this -- some kind of Voodoo trinket to take the heat off the soul making its Final Journey.

But Christmas decorations? Presents? Stockings? Nuh-uh.

That really wigs me out.

California. Sheesh.

Hubert Eaton, the man who created Forest Lawn, would be freaked out by it, too....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's that time again...

...when I link to my favorite music-and-animation tribute to the season...

The performance is by the Drifters, with the great Clyde McPhatter singing lead, and the cartoon is by Joshua Held...

Every year, I watch this, over and over. It always makes me feel good.

I'm not really feelin' the emotion this year. I don't have a TV, so I can't watch "It's a Wonderful Life" (which would either make me want to look for a bridge over an icy river or push my fist through the TV screen I don't have) or any of those "classic" holiday movies (Bing Crosby was not a member of my damn family, and I have never lugged a tree home through the snow). But seeing this warms me, every time.

There are certain people I wish I could share the watching experience with in person,, let's not go there. This is second-best, anyway.

I hope you enjoy it.

So far, it's been a day for...

...cats on porches...

Across the street from each other, no less!

I've been going out for lots of short walks, hoping to get a photo of something I've seen twice, but never when I had my camera. When you don't have the opportunity to pose things, you have to take pot luck....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A lovely day...

...if you like cold, rainy days during which the electricity goes out for three straight hours, that is.

Right now, the thermometer is showing 42 degrees. Well, it was; I brought it in because it was shivering. It's a California thermometer, you know. I suspect it'll get a bit colder tonight.

My 1923-vintage building is not a paragon of good insulation, so the heater gets more of a workout than I'd like. During the blackout this evening, I was relieved to have a gas heater, as it kept on working. I'd definitely have propane service if I lived in the boonies.

And I may be forced boonie-ward by the shenanigans the state government is trying to pull: since tax increases require a two-thirds "yes" vote in the State Assembly for approval, the shitweasels in the majority (numerical majority, but not up to two-thirds) have decided to pass a huge package of "fee" increases on everything from gasoline to sales taxes to income taxes. In the meantime, they are whining about the service cuts they'll still have to make. Oddly enough, the reductions all seem to involve children, the elderly and police officers.

Funny thing: the rest of us generally have to stop spending when we run out of money. What a concept; wonder if it'll ever occur to them?

A lot of people are going to have a crappy Christmas season, it seems. Three people I know have lost their jobs in the last few days as a result of the economic meltdown. More will follow.

But while they look for nonexistent replacement jobs, they'll get to pay more for basic necessities so the government can go on funding graft-ridden junk like "anti-gang" programs (all, without exception, failures), big pay increases for unionized government workers and, of course, ever-increasing perks for the "public servants" themselves.

Don't let me get started on this crap with the economy and the government's responses to it. Makes me angrier than I can say.

I am at least glad I'm not traveling tonight. Several freeways leading out of town are closed tonight due to heavy snowfall. Hell, it even snowed in Vegas today, though 95% of the people there probably didn't notice. No windows in the casinos, you know.

I hope it snows here tonight. That'd not only be historic, but it would keep me focused on local stresses.

Just heard a radio commercial: "Pepper spray makes a wonderful stocking stuffer!"

I give up. At least for tonight.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clamping down...

...yeah, I'm feeling as if someone clamped one of those "Oregon Boots" on my noggin...

Even aspirin can't do much for that.

I can think of various libations that might help, but I don't do that these days when I can avoid it....

Guess I'll just go back to work. Two articles in a row that have me scrambling for something -- anything -- to say, and will likely not end up in my "favorite clips" file.

Even the most definitely non-mighty can fall, Jim.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Does this look like...

...the leading edge of a "fierce winter storm" to you?

No? I didn't think so....

Yet that's what the newspeople are yammering about: cold temps (they got that right, at least by local standards: it's 49 here right now) and maybe a half-inch of rain tonight, plus another inch possible tomorrow.

When it happens, I'll believe it.

It hasn't been a particularly swell day. I've been working on an article for a client I dislike. No, it's not that I have anything personally against the editor*. It's the small -- and very slow-to-arrive -- checks.

But I'm not turning any client down these days. My time of being pursued by quality publications, brief as it was, is now over, probably for good. I'm officially a hack-for-hire now....

If nothing else made me realize I'm in no position to say "no" to even the grungiest assignments -- and plenty of things do that I'm not talking about, believe me -- it was coming across my Christmas gift list today. Not that I was ever thinking in terms of high-end stuff for those I wanted to send a little tangible love and appreciation this season; now, I'm looking at a bad case of nothin'. For anyone.

That really hurts, Jim.

It's what I get for having called Santa a commie bastard, I guess.

* PARENTHETICAL FULL-DISCLOSURE FOOTNOTE: Okay, so that's a bit of a fib. He doesn't know damn-all about the subjects his magazine covers, and he can be an arrogant little so-and-so when questioned about some of his unsupportable statements. At least he is being nice now, when he apparently has a shortage of good copy coming in. Won't make his boss pay any more, or any quicker, though.

A gray Sunday...

...and a chilly one, too. It's 52 degrees here, windy (which makes it feel colder) and the rain the weather-clowns have been predicting looks to be on its way.

So what better thing to take a picture of than a gray cat in front of a gray house? A gray cat in front of a gray cat in front of a gray house, that is...

I'm feeling severely beaten right now, and seem to have become invisible to those I'd love to hear from.

Maybe I'll be able to write later....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another one bites the dust... an email, sent out a half-hour ago, informed me that another magazine I write for has abruptly closed down.

That's the third one this year.

Once again, I get to eat a lot of time spent on dealing with them -- and, probably, a sum of money owed to me for work already done or in progress.


What now?

I start selling myself again tomorrow. It gets more difficult every time I have to start clawing my way back up in the pile.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Between sunrise and sunset...

...I have absolutely no idea of what happened during this day.

I clearly remember this...

...and, much later, this...

Oh, I got some necessary things done, but all more-or-less on automatic pilot And there were things I couldn't do, which may be why I'm drawing a blank when I think back on the past hours.

I know the sun will rise again tomorrow. Right now, that simply means I'll have to start the whole damnable endless chain of frustration again.

Right now, I don't want to think about today or tomorrow.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Legends rolled into town today...

...the Legends car club, that is!

They parked along one of our major streets to collect Christmas toys for kids who might otherwise have to do without, as they do every year...

And they brought Señor y Señora Santa Claus with them to take requests and hand out candy canes to all the good little niños and niñas...

Of course their main goal was to collect toys. As usual, I didn't have a new, unwrapped toy with me while I was out for a walk*, but they also took cash donations, so I was able to chip in. Not as much as I'd like, but the budget is severely strained this year.

Most of their firme coches were, naturally, Chevrolets -- "Chebbies" as we say Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea...

Including this most excellent Corvair, a car that will always live in my heart as the first car I ever spun out (yes, that's a '40 Ford behind it, but don't tell anyone, okay?)...

I'll take it, Santa! Don't even need the bow...

Ever since I've been living here, I've wanted to join the Legends. Gotta have the right ride, though. Oh, well, maybe someday. And I hope it's in time to join in on the toy drive, which is very cool, indeed....

* PARENTHETICAL NOT-SUITABLE-FOR-CHILDREN FOOTNOTE: In fact, I possess only one new, unwrapped in-its-original-box toy of any kind. It's a very unusual "Hello Kitty" toy and I am saving it for the moment when the right woman tells me (or wordlessly suggests) that's she's ready for both a laugh and a different kind of, shall we say, "buzz"....

The sun never sets on the British...

...MP3 Player?"

That sentence was written with the help of the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary, which throws out a sheaf -- no, "sheaf" is one of the words excised, as is "empire" -- of words considered obsolete, unnecessary or, horror of horrors, not "multicultural" enough for the yoots of today.

There is a great outcry among Christians that many of the words now relegated to the dustbin of history (or at least restricted to larger dictionaries for larger people) are associated with their religion. That does seem odd, as England has historically been a rather overtly Christian nation. That has changed somewhat in recent years with an influx of Muslim immigrants, and the Brits seem almost suicidal in their desire to make sure they are an "inclusive" and "tolerant" nation.

It is that Euro-centric insistence on throwing away your own culture to make different cultures feel "at home" that will, in time, sap the last energy out of Western Civilization.

PARENTHETICAL I-LOVE-MELTING-POTS THOUGHT: There is nothing wrong with making a place for people of different backgrounds. But what we have lost is the "melting" aspect of the "pot." As we coexist with different and interesting people, all must make allowances for differing customs, languages and beliefs. When one -- particularly one not part of local traditions -- demands preferential treatment, that is simply wrong.

But I digress (slightly).

From the Telegraph (UK) article: "Vineeta Gupta [that's a name that, for an arbiter of what is proper English vocabulary, makes my white-boy resentful reactions surface], the head of children's dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: "...When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. We are also much more multicultural. People don't go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as "Pentecost" or "Whitsun" would have been in 20 years ago but not now."

So kids don't need to know about flowers? Per Vineeta Gupta and the Oxford people, they also don't need to know about altars, saints, sins, devils or coronations.

Oh, hell. Here's the list of excised words. Decide for yourself: Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe

Dwarf, elf, goblin

Abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar

Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren.

Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

I think life would be damn dull without poodles, spaniels and budgerigars, but what do I know?

I am only one who has, for many years, made a living stringing words together. One of the things that has worked in my favor is that I tend to place interesting words in those strings.

And where did I begin to learn them? From children's books. No, not modern ones, but the children's readers and stories of a century or more ago. They contained words that would send the kids of today -- and many younger adults -- scurrying for their dictionaries. Where they would find no help, by the way.

Of course the multicultural, keep-it-modern lexicographers have added new words: Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue

Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro

Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph

Never mind that some of those don't, in my view, qualify as words....

My poor language is dying. In another century, people will be communicating with grunts and pictographs.

I don't care. I won't be here to see it. But it bugs me right now.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Took a walk today...

...partly because some things happening right now have me somewhat crazed, but also because it's a beautiful day Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea...

Tonight is the local Christmas boat parade, and some people were out getting the decorations ready...

I haven't done the four-mile walk for over a month. Had no problem with it, and was happy to see my favorite, well, "Boat" was still in its slip...

Why does "Boat" crack me up? Couldn't tell you, but it gets a smile from me every time I see it.

No fishing boats working today, so only one pelican. Had to take his photo, though...

There are a few things -- very few, really, and very specific they are, too -- that could cheer me up as much as I'd like, but the walk certainly helped!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Yesterday's sunset...

...looked like this...

But I didn't post it, simply because I didn't feel like writing.

I don't feel like writing tonight.

The high spot of my day? Meeting two large -- and not totally unfriendly -- raccoons while I was out walking a while ago. They trailed me for half a block or so, never getting too close but not running away, either.

I suppose I should be grateful I'm alone tonight. After all, there are only three places to sit in my miniature pad (if you don't count two spots in the bathroom and the front stoop): my office chair, kitchen chair, and the bed. Not ideal for hospitality.

And I'm mad at myself: some notes I need to complete a couple of articles are either in boxes at the storage unit (where it would take a long time to find them) or got thrown away during the worst parts of the move. They are not here, and I will have to improvise and fake my way through my writing without them. I can do it, but it bugs me.

Why, you may ask, don't I pick up the phone and reach out to friends?

Having been raised to be polite is what you might call a mixed blessing. I don't want to interrupt anyone who is having a good time, or is busy, or whatever. On the other hand, my reticence about intruding makes me invisible to people who might talk to me.

The grim feeling of isolation, of sensing that you don't exist as far as most people are concerned, of thinking you need others more than they need you, is a real downer, Jim.

Be glad you're not here tonight!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Letting sleeping cats lie...

...or, according to little Honey, "my 'mom' gave you this blanket; who says I'm not supposed to snooze on it?"

Monday, December 01, 2008

Only 24 more days...

...and you know the rest.

Christmas lights are beginning to appear Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea. This display probably gives its owner an electricity bill higher than my rent...

And even the International Order of Red Men's lodge got some lights this year...

I wrote a letter to Santa. I'm betting the old commie bastard's gonna ignore me again this year. I didn't ask for much. At least it wasn't exactly large, and would fit nicely in his sleigh. But ol' Santa will probably want to keep my gift for himself....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

To the Max...

...whose owner thinks she should be a movie star...

Of my neighbor's three cats, she is the least friendly -- at least to me. But she does know how to pose prettily for the camera.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Playing host...

...yes, I had my first guest tonight!

It was "Girl," the black-and-white cat seen looking through my screen in this photo from yesterday*...

My neighbor went out this evening without closing her cats' access hatch and, while enjoying her freedom, Girl wandered up to my door and sauntered in, bold as, well, a cat. She checked the place out, jumped up on my bed for a quick snooze, came over for a chin-rub, then went back out.

Maybe she would have stayed longer if I offered her some leftover turkey....

It's the story of my life with females, Jim: they stop by, look cute and purr for a while, then split.

* The other cat in the photo is called "Honey." Her daughter, also seen here before (and no doubt to be pictured again), is "Max."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Now that Thanksgiving's over...

...the Christmas displays are starting to pop up here and there. Especially here, where a neighbor actually put up the lights a few days ago, but forbore to turn 'em on until tonight...

Yes, That's an angelic trumpeter -- call it St Satchmo -- standing above the rest. I thought for a moment of digging out some vintage Louis and blasting it through concealed speakers, but decided that might not be the ticket for the season.

As this is the start of getting-Mr-S-through-the-holidays-with-sanity-intact time, I'll be looking for other lights in the nabe and posting pics. Might even go out hunting for the big street displays, too.

Can't put up any of my own. Not enough space.

I thought about tacking a sprig of mistletoe in some strategic spot, but it would be a cruel joke on me to do that....

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A turkey of a day...

...even though it's sunny and shirt-sleeve warm with an almost cloudless sky overhead.

Hard to believe it was like this just a few hours ago...

Holidays depress the hell out of me. They really do.

I've been trying to work on getting the last of my crap necessities stashed in their proper places, but can't work up any enthusiasm for the task. The place doesn't look too bad except for the big pile in the middle of the floor. Maybe by the end of the day I'll have it dispensed with.

And maybe I won't.

It's a consolation to know that those I care most about -- and those who are friends -- are enjoying the "family & friends" bit with their nearests and dearests.... Me? I got a call from a guy who bought a car -- more or less in pieces -- from me something like 15 years ago. He managed to track me down, and wanted me to know it is almost done. He thinks it'll be road-worthy next year.

Do you know how difficult it is to work up enthusiasm to listen to that?

Ah, memories.

That wasn't the call I hoped to get. Hell, it wasn't any one of the several calls I hoped to get. I'm shy about dialing up people who may just be settling down to their Thanksgiving feast, or who might (make that should) be celebrating in some way.

I should go do some laundry. No, the Happy Hindu market is open. Maybe I'll walk over and buy a package of turkey slices so I can join in the holiday spirit.

Thanksgiving Day...

...which is essentially another day here, minus mail delivery and open stores. I have no plans (except to pare down the list of chores yet to be done) and no invitations. Maybe if the Chinese takeaway has turkey chow mein on the menu tonight, I'll indulge....

It was a beautiful morning here. Some rain must have fallen in the night, but the clouds, which look so menacing at first glance, are heading East fairly quickly; the stragglers are being evaporated by the sun's heat. It will end up being a warm day, and probably muggy as well.

Still, the clouds made quite a show at 7:30 a.m....

Hope everyone has a relaxing and enjoyable day.

UPDATE, 9:12 a.m.: Now it's raining...and coming down pretty briskly (for this area), too....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Imperfect Storm...

...blew into town today. "Areas burned last week being evacuated due to mudslide danger!" "Heaviest rain since last February!" (as if that's a big deal) blared the newsreaders on radio and TV. We were warned to be prepared for rainfall of Biblical proportions.

So much for that. I haven't been around the region, but I have been in places where more rain fell in five minutes that we got Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea from this storm in roughly 20 hours. Still, it was a beautiful day...

There is more rain. I could see bands of it out over the ocean a few minutes ago. It will probably sweep past us, as it always does, keeping our little spit of land drier than surrounding areas.

I hope we get more. We need it, and I like it.

I also realized today that I haven't posted a cat picture for a while. I saw this kitty-under-glass when I was out walking this morning. There are scads of black-and-white cats around here; this one lives about a block from me...

When size matters...

...which is not when some of you are thinking!

One thing I've learned in relocating: most of the stuff I have or had is simply too big for my new economy-sized quarters.

Cases in point: My kitchen wastebin needs to go, and so does my desk, which is a foot wider than it needs to be; I could (given the space and tools) shave at least a half-inch out of the depth of each of my bookcases, and only two books would protrude past their respective shelf spaces; I'd be just as happy -- happier, even -- if there was a size of bed roughly six inches narrower (and, let it be said, up to a foot longer) than my standard queen-size unit.

I know none of those things sound especially significant. They would add up, believe me. It is the visual equivalent of a comment once made by (I think) Henry Kissinger, when asked about excesses in government spending: "A billion here, a billion there...pretty soon you're talking about real money!"

But I'm not here to rant about politics or government spending. Not today.

Similarly, the dresser I considered too small at the old place (thus relegating it to towels-and-sheets-holding duties) is the perfect size here. Its matching bookshelf, with a slight aesthetic modification, holds the linens.

This whole miniaturization thing is new to me. When I first moved out on my own, I had nothing: a couch rescued from a dumpster, a dining table (crappy) and a bed (used, donated). And that was it. I added, from thrift stores and friends, as I went along. Things were pretty easy back then....

My two efforts to do serious upgrading over the years ended in failure: once when my ex-wife copped a bunch of nice stuff we acquired on her way out, again when a cohabitational girlfriend did the same. The latter was more painful: I/we had accumulated some nice (and useful) antique and modern furniture that actually looked good.

I'm now feeling similar urges, but they are based as much on available space as setting up a snazzy pad. With the resources, I could build new furniture to my own designs. I've done that -- in fact, the last two pieces of my "craft" were jettisoned during this last move -- and wouldn't mind doing it again.

The reason is not so much ego as making best use of the minimal space available. I still have a pile of stuff on the floor; all of it will be in assigned nooks and crannies by tomorrow, but said spaces aren't ideal. As I did before, I'd craft spaces around those essential things I have.

I'm neither complaining nor mourning the current situation. Even a largish person like me can get along pretty happily in a minimal space. However, I daresay it could feel a bit less minimal with a little clever design work. Absent a chance to do it myself, I guess I'll place my faith in IKEA over the next few months.

And yeah, a coating of pizzaz over the whole thing would not go amiss, just in case anyone is ever brave enough to accept my hinted invitations and drop by for a visit....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The big green-and-yellow Western Waste truck just went down the alley by my building and emptied the two big dumpsters at the former residence.

What a relief!

I threw out a frightening amount of stuff. Old press materials, magazines I never read, knicknacks, "mementoes," things I thought I'd one day need and never did.

A whole lot of memories are on their way to the landfill. But if I'm honest, would I have ever tested anyone's patience by making them look at old name badges from events I attended, passes from long-ago races, faded photos of faded friendships?

I think not.

It wasn't so difficult once I started. I just needed a long time -- and more than a few deep breaths -- before I consigned the first such item to the bin. After that, I let it all out, and was pretty ruthless about what got dumped and what was saved.

I still have far too much stuff. In a few months, I can start pruning the boxes in storage.

PARENTHETICAL ONE-MAN'S-JUNK-IS-ANOTHER'S-TREASURE-NOTE: There's a young geek (I'm certain he works with computers) in the old building. He jumped at the chance to take my ratty old couch and a dining-room set I was planning to dump. Even gave me $10. I would have left 'em for the cleaning crew to dispense with. I couldn't shift them on my own.

In a way, I feel a little sad about it all. Those things were, after all, part of me and whatever life I've had. Some represented events that won't be repeated.

But when you get right down to it, no one else gives a happy damn about that stuff. And, given the choices I've had to make lately, neither do I.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Still depresses me just a little....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alpine adventure... I took yesterday off from all my various woes to fly South for a day with my friend Juan.

Of course there are lots of people named "Juan" who live not too many miles from him. I had directions (though I didn't need to look at them; I've been there once before) so wasn't concerned about confusing one Juan with the other Juans.

I knew I was on the right route as soon as I got off the freeway: there was a guy walking along the roadside with a chainsaw slung over his shoulder. I don't think it was running.

It being a beautiful day, we sat on his back porch and talked. Our places are similar in size -- his is slightly larger -- but I have to give his maximum points for ambiance and view. It is a separate little cabin, while mine is in what used to be called an "apartment court." The actual view out any of my windows is no more than 50 feet; his stretches for miles....

After a while we made our way toward the ocean and spent the afternoon with his "family." They are the kind of people who make you feel genuinely welcome; it was relaxing and fun. Snack-laden, too.

Then it was back to Alpine, where we solved all the world's problems -- or could have, if only everyone else thought the way we do -- and generally babbled away at matters of lesser import.

It got dark fairly early, and the lights of bustling Alpine could be seen in the West...

That area meets one of my prime requisites (alas, I have never found it for myself) which is: isolation, yet a Big City is maybe 20 minutes away. The best of both worlds, say I.

Eventually, the howls of coyotes out in the brush reminded me I still had a long drive ahead and, fueled by strong coffee and facing roving packs of hungry chupacabras and other creatures worthy of calling into George Noory's radio show about, I hit the trail. I neither saw nor participated in any alien abductions, of either kind....

Juan is a good friend and good host. I -- and I hope we -- had a good time. There are rare people out there who, despite the few times you see them in person, simply fit into one's life like a long-time friend, and he's one of them.

The four hours spent dodging tour buses filled with Asians heading for the Indian gambling casinos nearby, Mexican truckers and the general run of dimwitted and drunk drivers (I didn't get home 'til 0200 this morning, by which time the bars were closed) were well worth it. The recent substantial drop in gas prices helped, too.

I need to get out more.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This hurts me more than it does you...

...I zapped my back again. Filled them pesky moving boxes too full and paid the price. Am paying the price, in fact. I'm guessing I strained a muscle, as the pain is in the far corner of my back and not, apparently, a direct hit on the spine.

Aspirin helps. A little.

Tomorrow I have to do more moving & trash-dumping, as well as completing a couple of interviews for an article due ASAP.

There are so many big things in the world to whine about right now, and I'm reduced to whining about me.

Boy, am I dull.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The kind of day it has been... a single word: terrible.

Everyone has probably heard about the fires that are devastating Southern California. None are anywhere close to me, and yet smoke and ash from the local fires have filled the sky, making breathing difficult. That's what winds blowing from the north can do when you live essentially south of the burning areas.

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed; more will be. None of the three (or four) fires in this region are close to being controlled, and all are in heavily built-up areas.

There was also a small fire roughly four miles from here, in an area ripe to go up in smoke. That one was put down quickly and did no damage.

PARENTHETICAL DODGING-A-BULLET THOUGHT: Two homes ago, I lived in what now may be the path of one of today's fires. I didn't like the area, and worried about brush fires throughout the two years I lived there....

The smoke made a pretty picture out on the ocean, as if that's any consolation...

And what did I, who should have been over at the old place boxing up -- and throwing out -- my crap, do today?


Strangely enough, as reports of burned-out homes, apartment buildings and house trailers came in, I found myself imagining, wistfully, that my former building had been in the line of one of the fires. Yeah, there are things I would miss...briefly. Some toys that have much sentimental (and a fair amount of monetary) value; copies of much of my published work during that past 22-plus years; some irreplaceable phonograph records...and if they were consumed by flames, I might force myself to shed a tear. Maybe two.

A change has come over me in the time -- less than a week -- that I've occupied my new digs. I have divorced myself from almost seven years of living in a fairly spacious pad, and have adjusted to my tiny cubicle.

In fact I've adjusted too quickly, in the way my cat Hobbes adjusted almost instantly from having outdoor access and a big yard to play in to being confined indoors when I moved into the previous place. I simply don't feel like going back over to finish up the clean-up and removal process. It's a part of my life that is now over.

Am I what is sometimes called "an institutional man?" Would I rather be confined? Or am I simply adjusting to a new -- and not entirely awful -- reality in which everything vital to me is enclosed in a 300 square-foot space?

Maybe tomorrow I can get back to what I need to do. I'd better.

Tonight, I will simply vegetate, sitting in my small rectangle and occasionally going out to see which way the smoke is blowing.

People with major catastrophes to deal with are, I fervently hope, being helped tonight.

I, with only a small catastrophe affecting my world, will just have to muddle through. Alone, as usual.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting to know the neighbors... least the non-human ones. This is Max, more accurately Maxine...

I already knew the human denizens before I moved in. And, for that matter, the cats. The various living beings make this a nice place.

It's still tiny, of course.

Work is on my mind tonight. I'm already beginning to feel a small sense of relief that the monthly nut has lowered considerably. What I was having to come up for in rent now covers everything -- the place, storage unit, utilities, food -- with a few coins left over.

Trash is on my mind, too. As in all the stuff coming out of the old pad. More of it will go straight in the dumpster, as I am already finding I can do what I do without it.

It's strange that we invest even small, insignificant items with a value well beyond their actual worth, simply because we got them under special circumstances or in interesting places. They rest in boxes or in the back of drawers, and contribute nothing to life except on those rare occasions when they come out (usually inadvertently) into the light.

And yet I hate to give them all up. My legacy for all these years is slim enough; taking away the trinkets seems to diminish me a little more.

Never mind. A lot of that is probably loneliness talking. I feel the lack of companionship acutely tonight.

At least this place is bustling with life. And strange new sounds, most of which have already become background noise.

Raccoons have returned to the neighborhood. So have opossums. They all seem to get along with the cats. And with the people.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The 'net's back on...

...after ten freekin' days, most of which featured at least two -- and more often three or more -- increasingly angry phone calls from me to AT&T. And to think my irritation began when someone from New Delhi (or Mumbai, or wherever in India) informed me that no, I could not transfer my phone and internet service to the new digs simultaneously, and would have to wait as long as five days after the phone service was moved to get DSL service.

Silly me.

Today, however, calm has been temporarily restored, at least on that score. My new modem arrived, I hooked it up, and lo and behold! things worked. After 378 emails (and 115 or so spam messages) had been read and dealt with, I was good to go.

This is the courtyard of the new place...

I don't have the nerve to show the inside. Maybe later. But then, maybe not, as it's jam-packed with bookcases, bed and desk. I don't feel bad about that, but it doesn't look so swell. Could be when the boxes and general litter are dealt with, it'll feel a little better.

Still moving stuff from the old place to either storage or the dumpster. It will probably take another four days or so, part-time. I just don't have the will (or pain-free back) necessary to do it all in one frenzied rush.

Anyway, I'm here, in case anyone cares. It could be worse....

Things have gotten to a state where it seems totally pointless to think they could be better.

In time, maybe.

Don't really feel like getting into all that right now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted early today...

...and I'm glad I did.

But this is not a political rant: not much later, I banged the bejeebers out of my hand moving furniture, and right now it hurts so much that I'd have trouble gripping the little dot-maker gadget in the voting machine.

It'll heal, of course.

One thing that can make you feel really lonely is trying to move a big, heavy bookcase down a flight of stairs and then on to a new place all by yourself. Only four more of them -- they'll all fit -- and boxes of what goes in 'em left to do.

Thanks to AT&T, I now have no phone service at either place. Some time tomorrow, I have to move desk and computer, and will be internet-free until Thursday. Not the way I wanted it, but what is?

I will have to talk to the new manager about the bathtub there. It is really scungy; I tried cleaning it with my favorite Toxic Avenger Bathroom-destroying Fluid, to no avail. I don't much enjoy a grimy shower....

At any rate things are beginning to fall into place. Slowly, too slowly, but they progress.

I only wish someone was here to bandage my hand, coo sympathetically, and drag me kicking and screaming out of my dark mood.

I'm a wimp. I admit it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Break time...

...from working on The Move.

So far, it's gone about as things go around here these days. The landlord and manager at the new place were a little late handing me the keys. No biggy.

Then, I had to spend two-plus hours on the phone with AT&T (mostly on hold, of course) getting my phone and ISP services changed. It turns out I had one with the "old AT&T," the other with the "new" version, which meant I couldn't change them both with one phone call.

After a long discussion with India, I was in a rage. "Oh, no, sir, we cannot change your service until your new phone line is activated." I understood that, but the fact that I'd have to wait until then to even place an order -- and then wait three to five days to get the change made -- led me to ask "Tom" to connect me with his supervisor, which he refused to do, saying it would make no difference.

In frustration, I made a second call to the "new" AT&T. A woman only 100 miles away helped me change my service, and signed me up for their ISP, which will save me $20.00 per month. I'll have everything up and running Thursday. Still a bit awkward -- there will be communications lapses in the meantime -- but better than waiting until next week.

And I keep my current phone number, too. All that changes is my email address. No big deal; the new one is easier to remember.

PARENTHETICAL PENNY-PINCHING POINT: I only have to pay water and electricity at the new place; gas is paid. Another $25 or so saved every month. This is looking good....

So now, it's on to dragging stuff over there. Two days, maybe three, will see that done. The rest goes to storage or the landfill. It'll take longer than most moves I've made, because I'm not sure how much I can cram into the space available. So it's a one-piece-at-a-time deal until I look around, say "too much stuff!" and quit.

At least it now seems I can have one more bookcase than originally thought. I might be able to include a few of my books that aren't for work! Maybe a toy or two from my collection? Naaah, that's too much to ask....

And the pad has a nicely finished hardwood floor. Damn, I hate carpet! Of course that means a different cleaning mode -- the manager suggested I talk to my friend H. about that: she lives there, too, and keeps the cleanest place in the building, if not in the whole freekin' neighborhood.

Oh, well. Tomorrow will be busy: lugging stuff from here to there, cleaning (everything gets cleaned before I take it over to the new space), shopping (minimum of a new shower curtain and a soap dish for the tub) and dealing with whatever comes up.

And, yes, voting. For John McCain. My hope is that you who have fallen under Barack Obama's spell will do some research and learn -- as I believe is inevitable unless you buy the slanted (and untruthful) crap that's being peddled by the media these days -- that Obama, despite whatever cred he has racially, is totally unfit to be a member of a small-town city council, much less President.

But you'll do what you do. After I vote, it's back to lugging boxes and small furniture items the short distance to Casa Nueva.

I so want this over....

PARENTHETICAL WANTING-TO-TELL-IT-ALL NOTE: Time permitting, I'll have one more entry tonight, before I disappear temporarily from internet-land. I actually had a fun and interesting weekend carved out of what should have been preparation for the move....


I'll be in new digs sometime within the next few days.

I've known for several weeks that this move was necessary, and have known where I thought I'd go for a while, but only was able to pay my deposit and get keys today. Until that happened, I neither wanted to say anything nor make any real efforts toward moving.

Maybe that shows how much I have come to distrust people. I don't know. But it means a hectic period begins now, one in which I have to move stuff to the new pad and take a lot of things to a storage unit.

Storage? Yep. The new place is tiny. As in itty-bitty. As in bed, desk, chair and a few bookcases tiny. There's ample closet space, though.

I will do just fine there, after a period of readjustment during which I'll feel like a tiger penned in a small cage.

And it's a nice place, attractive, in excellent condition. Owner and manager are both good people. Excellent neighbors there, as well.

Mainly, I'm doing this for the obvious reason: money. Even with the added cost of a storage unit, I'll be paying some $500 less per month in rent. I'm betting utilities will go down, too.

It's not far. Hell, it's in the same zip code. Still Where The Ghetto Meets The Sea. In fact, I can look out my window and see it right now.

Forgive me for not being particularly Pollyanna-ish about the move. For one thing, it appears I'll have to lug all the crap out of here on my own. A couple of people said they'd help, but the chances don't seem good they'll come through. Likewise, the two local people on whom I can count for many things have bad backs, and I wouldn't accept their help with this if they offered.

And I am not dealing well with the prospect of putting a lot of things out of sight, or of sending things I might otherwise keep to the dumpster, or giving them away. That's not entirely rational, but it's how I feel.

Still, when you come right down to it, a part of me thinks this is a positive move. In some ways that's very clear -- such as the financial bit -- and perhaps, once I've socked enough loot away to buy some furnishings appropriate in size to the new cubicle, it will feel more home-like. That'd be very good; this place never reached that level of physical or mental comfort.

A few weeks from now, maybe a month at most, I'll be certain this is a move I needed, both to help my bank balance and my mental health.

For now, it means I'll probably be out of touch with all y'all for a while. A few days almost certainly; depending on how well things go, could be longer.

I'll be whining and complaining a lot, but you won't know that.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The dead pool... more than 6 1/2 years here, I have not once been in the building's pool. Partly because it's unheated and partly because it has not always appeared particularly sanitary. Recent visits from city inspectors have, I believe, induced the owner to get someone in to service it who knows what the hell they're doing.

Now, it looks like I'll never use it.

But on Halloween night, you never know what will go for a dip....

The annual Halloween cat photo...


She's still around, this spooky feline, and is the sweetest cat in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I wasn't going to post this...

...but the best antidote to absurdity is laughter, and I find this damn funny.

Pretty sharp on the satire front, too. Good symbolism all around.

I'm not a Glenn Beck fan (not sure he's even on here in L.A.), but he nailed this.

Barack Obama needs to lighten up on the "Messiah" act, and since he won't, people will zing him for it.

Besides, I know this little piece really irritates the hell out of the True Believers in his campaign....

I'm voting for...

...John McCain.

To be very honest, it wasn't exactly a difficult decision.

I supported McCain when he ran against George Bush in 2000, urged him -- as did many others -- to oppose Bush in 2004.

I thought he was a good choice then. I believe he is the only choice now.

Part of the reason is very simple: at heart, I'm what you'd call an old-fashioned American patriot. I believe in this country, in its Constitution and the essential goodness of its people.

The same is true of McCain, and he has given the country more than I (or most people) ever could. He has served its best interests for many years, helping to defend it at fearful cost to himself.

His instincts are good; he is honest and decent. The latter is a vanishing characteristic among the political class.

And he understands the need to defend the United States, knows that peaceful resolutions of conflict are best, but not always possible. If -- when -- we are attacked again, I trust him him to put our safety and security ahead of all else.

I support most of his ideas and positions. I disagree with him -- strongly -- on what should be done about illegal immigrants, those already here and those to come; I disagree with him on the monumentally stupid financial bailout.

And yet, I trust him to do what's right.

What of Barack Obama? I do not trust him at all. He has spent the last two years or more running for president; in that time, thanks to his own evasiveness and the subservient willingness of the media to support him without question, we know very little about his life and achievements. We do not even know for certain that he is legally qualified to assume the office he seeks.

The latter I consider unimportant, except that he chose to obscure the truth, whatever it may be, rather than to produce a genuine birth certificate attesting to his U.S. birth (as the Constitution demands). I would take him at his word if he didn't, in my view, follow a pattern of withholding much information that would be sought from any other presidential candidate.

I find his policies abhorrent. "Spreading the wealth?" Taking money from the rich to give to the poor? Government-run health care? Making Washington the central source of aid for the people, and the master of how businesses are run?

Those are the policies of -- to use the kindest word -- a socialist. And I do not believe in socialism.

Obama has no idea of what he's talking about when it comes to national defense. He will talk endlessly to our enemies, and has already made it clear he plans to weaken our military. His policies are naive at best.

But there is one overriding issue that makes Obama unsuitable in my view, and that is his lifelong pattern of associating with (and being influenced by) people who do not have America's best interests at heart.

A few of the worst: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Antoin "Tony" Rezko. Rashid Khalid. Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Research them.

Of them -- and others -- Ayers, Dohrn and Wright bother me most. Ayers and Dohrn because they are admitted Communists and inactive domestic terrorists; innocent people died because they and their Weather Underground made bombs; children continue to be indoctrinated through Ayers's efforts.

Tell me Ayers is "respected" today, was even named Chicago Man of the Year, and I will answer you with a word I wouldn't use here. Tell me Obama did not have a close relationship with Ayers because he says so, and I will tell you, based on research, that he lies.

Rev. Wright? In my view, no man who preaches racial hatred, who claims the CIA created AIDS to kill black people, who calls upon God to damn America, is fit to occupy a pulpit. Tell me, as he claims, that Obama didn't hear Wright's scurrilous rantings, though he attended Wright's church for 20 years and once called him a "mentor," and I will tell you Obama lies.

I lived through the time when the Weather Underground was in full operation, and I lived through times of racial unrest in this country. Neither are tolerable here in the 21st Century.

I do not want to live through a time when Communist terrorists and racist agitators are welcome anywhere near the White House. In an Obama Presidency, I fear we will see them there.

Inevitably, the question of race comes up. While Obama's origins should not matter, his character does. So does his lack of qualifications. In fact, I believe that if it weren't for his race, Obama wouldn't even have made it as far as he did in Illinois, and certainly would not have been chosen as a presidential candidate by any major political party.

(Yes, I -- and many others -- have been branded "racist" for opposing him, for questioning his suitability for high office. I can't help that. The label has been applied to the point of absurdity, and much of the invective has come directly from Obama and his campaign.)

Beyond that, I find the quasi-religious frenzy that surrounds Obama deeply disturbing. Worse, the venom his most ardent supporters spew, the very irrationality of their responses when challenged has nothing to do with what is good for the nation; they would follow him without hesitation into the abyss, I fear.

Not all of them, of course. I know some extremely intelligent and decent people who support Obama. And I respect them and their views. They are, however, in the minority.

For all these reasons and more, I have chosen the way I will vote. My hope is that enough Americans will see things as I do to defeat a man who, in many ways, would be a dangerous choice and vote instead for a man of patriotism, honor and principle.

A FINAL NOTE: If you're going to disagree, and I'm sure some of you will, it'd be nice if you did so in a civil way. I've already been called all the names the rabid Obama supporters like to use...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Not a bird...

...but it is a crane! Or, rather, a whole mess of cranes, lifting cargo containers off the ships that bring 'em here from China....

This, however, is a bird. It didn't seem to like me...

See, Doug, it's not all pelicans around here....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Today at the harbor...

...the Sea Angler's crew and passengers (some of whom tagged along without buying tickets) were getting ready to go on a fishing expedition...

One enterprising pelican grabbed a last-minute snack from the bait well before the crew took in the lines lines and the boat set out...

Pelicans fascinate me...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tonight's conflict... simple: on one hand, I need to be working. On the other, I'd much rather be drinking.

And I don't mean the hot tea I'm currently contenting myself with, oh, no. We're talking serious bourbon (or scotch) whiskeyage here, friends. One nice stiff shot, followed by as many others as are required to achieve the desired state of numbness.

It's not that anything truly awful happened today. Rather, I'm feeling the weight of accumulated problems, and we're just one or two straws from snapping the pachyderm's spine.

To know that difficult times lie ahead, particularly when I've been dealing with difficult times for some good long stretch already, is disheartening, to put it very mildly. So is the knowledge -- which I should be used to by now, but never am or have been -- that the work I do tonight (and next week, comes to that) will pay off in three months. Or four months. Or six.

If there was some way to ensure that what must happen in the next month happens without me while I curl up, unconscious, in some dark corner, I'd take it. You can bet on that.

And I don't need the countless minor irritations and disappointments that are my current daily fare to continue, thank you very much.

Part -- a small part, but definitely there -- of my problem is that at times like this, having no one to whine to directly (as opposed to whining here) allows everything to build up. Some things seem worse than they are, maybe, while others that might be solved if I had someone to discuss them with just go on and on.

What the hell. I'm bringing me down just by writing this. I'll shut up and go away now.

But I won't drink. I've been damn good about that since last February.*

And no, so-called virtuous behavior -- such as it is -- doesn't make me feel better.

Back to work. The perfect occupation for a Saturday night. Not.

* Not that I have totally abandoned adult beverages. I find it enough to avoid them when I'm alone. The occasional martini or shot of tequila on social occasions stops where it is, and I'm grateful for that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I had to get away today...

...and so I did, hopping into the car and heading off with no direction in mind.

I have spent so much time recently with my head and mind buried in each moment's new problems that, frankly, I couldn't take any more.

After a couple hours' driving, I ended up in the High Desert (as opposed, I guess, to the nearby Low Desert). Might seem strange that someone who has been feeling frighteningly lonely would crave a solitary road trip, looking through a windshield at miles and miles of, well, miles and miles, but it felt good...

The best part, I think, was that I was totally unreachable. No bad news could be heard. No good news, either, but as there was none of the latter, that didn't matter.

At one point, I saw a sign noting that I was only 250 or so miles away from one of my favorite areas. For a moment, the thought that I had just deposited a check and could actually afford to drive up there and survive for maybe a month in what is to me one of the most beautiful regions within reasonable distance tempted me.

Then, of course, I realized that the money in my account is more than spoken for. Ten times as much would be. So the fear of what might come after those lovely thirty days kept me on my more-or-less chosen path.

All was pretty much okay until I got back to the city. Traffic being what it was, I ditched the freeway and headed for some short-cuts I've learned over the years.

The route took me past several places I worked in the dim past. The first was a shack of a building less than a block from the Samuel Goldwyn Studios (at least it was called that then) and the mildly famous Formosa Cafe. Not much later, I passed another former workplace, a couple of blocks away from the last place where Edward D. Wood lived. I might even have seen him a time or two as I walked from work to the Pla-Boy liquor store (his source for cheap booze) to get a Coke during breaks. Finally, I drove by a place just down the street from Pink's Hot Dogs. I survived many a long night shift on the heartburn generated by their chili dogs....

I also drove past neighborhoods that held good memories of short but intense relationships (in days when any affliction one might pick up in the process could be cured by pills or, at worst, shots) and other kinds of exuberant behavior that just don't fit with the program these days.

Today, I am on a maximum-austerity program, which means no social life of any kind.

My mind filled with memories during this last part of the drive. I grew steadily more depressed, and remain so tonight.

Would I go back to those days? You damn betcha I would. I wasn't as nice a guy then; nor was I particularly concerned with much more than what Raymond Chandler and other writers of gritty detective fiction back in the 1930s sometimes referred to as booze and broads.

But that seemed enough. And, with hindsight, I sometimes wonder if, in fact, it really was more enough than I knew.

What I have now, what I do now, certainly isn't.

At this moment, I wish I had given in to the urge to keep on driving North today, not stopping until I got to Bridgeport, where I could eat at the Sportsman Cafe and stay in a dingy room at what used to be called "Slick's Court" until the money ran out.

Seems pointless to worry about what the day after that would bring....