Monday, September 29, 2008

The Home-Improvement Chronicles: The Tree Trimming

not a euphemism: i got my tree trimmed the other week. as you can see, it was overgrown and long overdue for a trimming. the neighbor directly north of me complained that it obstructed his view and offered to pay to have the whole thing chopped down, but given that it’s the only mature tree on the property, shading the house from the sun with its strategic westward location, i declined his kind offer and opted to give the lovely Chinese Elm just a little haircut.

low hangers: some of the tree’s spider branches hung so low and so far into the street that SUVs driving down the road routinely got their roofs scratched up.

Mike fixed all that: he’s the tree trimmer extraordinaire recommended by all my neighbors, who sang his praises with glee. i will now add to their chorus and recommend super Mike for all your tree-trimming needs. but don’t bother him with your messy trees in the SFV or Westside as Mike only works the Glendora to Pasadena loop. call him at 626.353.3186.

i hope they’re insured: Mike brought his lovely crew who surprised me with their bladder control by never once asking to use the bathroom inside the house.

a little off the top: the guys spent all day hanging off the tree like wild monkeys, but thankfully never threw poop at me like wild monkeys.

better than pine sol: the best part of the trimming had to be the delicious smell it produced as the branches and leaves were shredded. it smelled like a thousand christmas trees, a lovely alternative to the intense skunk from hell smell that usually permeates the neighborhood.

and then they got sucked into the shredder: it’s a shame, too, because they seemed like really nice guys.

grass, please: i almost asked Mike and crew to distribute some of the shredded leaves all over the front yard to cover up the sad dirt pile that’s currently there.

Pinko on the case: she spent the day supervising from the deck and barking like a rabid animal whenever a branch fell to the ground.

thinning out: i spent the day holding my breath and expecting some kind of disaster, like a branch crashing through the roof or a guy falling out of the tree with chainsaw still ablaze, dismembering his own limbs.

the after shot: the only real disaster was how hot the house became in the afternoon without the overgrown tree to shade it from the setting sun.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When CNN Called

late last week, i received an email from my buddy Pete Viles, who writes that awful blog LA Land on the LA Times website. the email mentioned that a buddy of his, a CNN producer named Chuck, was looking to do a story on folks who’ve benefited from the foreclosure crisis by getting a foreclosed house at a discount. naturally, he thought i might be good for the story, which would run on the weekend newscast as a profile piece and would need me to appear on camera alongside my house, and would i be interested because they’re working under deadline and need to begin taping immediately because the piece would have to run the following day.

after about a millisecond of consideration, i agreed and within moments was on the phone with Chuck the producer, telling him about my heroic story, in which i endured a hellish escrow to take a foreclosed off the market while still engaging in my weekend hobby of saving pets from burning buildings. Chuck, of course, was impressed and said that he’d be at the house with a film crew the following morning at 9 am, a saturday, to get the full scoop on video for broadcast that night.

we hung up and i sat bewildered for a moment, knots forming in my stomach, wondering what the hell i just did. then i called Mo in a panic and yelled, “CNN is coming to our house tomorrow morning! CNN is going to tape us for a story!!” after five minutes of convincing him that it wasn’t a joke, he began a panic of his own that centered on everything that still needed to be done to the house before it was ready for its closeup, which got me wondering about what outfit to wear and would they have a hair-and-makeup crew on hand, which got Mo thinking he should get a haircut and finally add the backsplash to the kitchen counters, and would people be able to tell our kitchen came from Ikea and what about adding doors to the bedroom closets, and the house could use a coat of paint and maybe some sod in the front yard, which we could give it if we worked through the night without breaks.

we hung up and i immediately called my salon to schedule a brow and lip wax for that afternoon. then i headed to the flower shop in the lobby of my building to buy a bouquet of bright flowers for the house. at that point, i had decided i would wear my dark skinny jeans with my white-toe wedge heels, though i was still uncertain about a top. i had also started to rehearse answers to the questions i figured the interviewer would ask me, stringing together sound bytes for easy editing: “i fell in love with the house immediately. i knew it was the right house right away. being a homeowner has been fantastic.”

i started imagining the filler shots they would likely need and thought that Mo and i should plan a few natural shots of us putzing around the house, maybe making coffee in the kitchen while the dogs lounged nearby. they could film us on the deck, enjoying the view while looking effortlessly fabulous, the image of good fortune in a great house, and “yes, the foreclosure crisis has been very good to us. without it, we would be in a condo!”

cue the reporter voiceover: “Milla blogged about her house-hunting and house-remodeling experience on her personal blog,” then shots of this bloggy would appear on the screen interspersed with Mo and i throwing back our heads and laughing at something cute the puppies did. Mo would be wearing the crisp white collared shirt he looks so hot in. i still couldn’t decide on a top but was leaning toward something blue.

i could see it perfectly and figured i would leave work early to get started with the house cleaning and also hit up the store for some teeth-whitening trays. i still had my wax appointment to make and needed to practice acting natural for the cameras while getting my story locked down. i knew i had a long night ahead of me, but i was looking forward to it. after all, CNN was coming to my house to film me for a story about my house. this wasn’t public access, baby. THIS WAS CNN. coming to my house to film me for a story about me. dreams do come true!

then the email came — the email that should have been a phone call. that was the least Chuck could do for me after all we had been through. but no, i get an email at 3pm that friday before CNN was supposed to come to my house the following morning. it read: “I’m sorry but I am going to have to cancel out on our plans for tomorrow morning. We were able to find a homeowner in the process of moving in…and that action will enhance the story we are putting together.”

a homeowner in the process of moving in? hell, i could easily hire some of the day laborers who loiter outside Home Depot to carry the junk stored in the garage around the property. i mean, if they just need action shots, i got it covered, Chucky baby. i don’t understand why you’re doing this to me. we can make it work. i got what you need.

i read the email again very slowly in case i missed something. i almost wrote him back with “hahaha, good one, Chucky! see you tomorrow at 9!” but i decided against it and instead called Mo, who was busy pulling weeds out of the front yard, to break the news. “CNN is not coming to our house tomorrow because we suck. they found some homeowner moving in who can give them ‘action.’” i think i made air quotes when i said the word to him on the phone.

ACTION? the word hit me like a baseball to the face. i have a view and cute dogs and i think i finally have my top picked out (definitely blue), and they wanted “action.” puh-lease. i got action, Chucky, though you’ll never see it now.

if you care to see what they ended up running, it’s here. it features some dude unpacking a box of books — that was the action shot? — and a couple that is clearly less telegenic than Mo and i. sure, they have a cute kid ambling around an empty house but my dogs are way cuter.

whatever, CNN. i have one four-letter word for you: LAME.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Ads

i’d like to apologize to my six readers — zee, germy, wade, courtney, gitella and mo — for the annoying ads i’ve placed on my website. (notice how my mom no longer reads this.) feel free to either ignore them or click them 1,000 times so i can make a nickel.

i put the ads on the site precisely to make some nickels. i’ve been meaning to make BIG CHANGES to this site for a long while, and after swearing to myself that they would happen this year, i woke up and realized that october was nigh and i hadn’t done a thing. the ads are the first in many changes that should be rolling out here. (yeah right, hahahaha.)

i also added google analytics to this site’s back-end earlier in the year to see where readers were coming from. don’t worry, i can’t see your name, email address, home phone number or bank account login, but i do see that most readers reside in california (duh), with oregon coming in second (hi, cousins!!!), and that most regular readers have the site either bookmarked or enter the URL manually into their browsers.

for those who do happen to find the site via googling, search terms often involve my namesake, the lovely Milla Jovovich, whom i sadly look nothing like. to the folks looking for her, the new ads are for you. if i could control the content of the ads — which are generated by google, based on keywords — i would make every single ad read Milla Jovovich XXX Pix HERE!

the other most popular keyword search (of course) involves the famed psychic in hawaii, Lan Vo, whom i had my own encounter with in 2003. but the most interesting thing about these analytics are the seemingly random searches that will pull up my blog, like “38dd tit videos” or my personal favorite, “my boss is causing me to lose sleep and shake uncontrolably,” which pulled up this page.

also notice that i put a link to my flickr account at the right, which was recently upgraded and made public after years of being private. all shots are organized into sets and feature photos that you’ve likely seen here in blog posts, though there are some never-before-seen ones too. if you’re on flickr and wanna be photo contacts, hit me up.

beyond that, i have hired (bribed?) a web designer friend of mine to help with the redecorating of the rest of this space. i would try to do it myself with my limited HTML and CSS skills, but i’d rather that it not suck so i’ve asked a professional. i am also going to make a real effort to post more often, even if the posts are shorter and just feature my dumb observations or snippets of conversations i’ve had or heard. if you have ideas on what kind of content you’d like to see more of, please let me know.

i know you’re probably wondering why i’m bothering with all this when only six people read my drivel on a regular basis. basically, it’s because my day job is boring. it’s a good job and all, one that i plan to keep for the foreseeable future, but it’s not very creative or stimulating. for me, maintaining this blog is creative and stimulating. it’s fun, and i want to invest more time into making it funner — for me, for you and for those who stumble upon it accidentally while searching for naked pictures of milla jovovich.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Friend Sasha

i’m not sure how i missed the news earlier this year that my friend, Alexander Merman, had died. can i still call him my friend? i hadn’t talked to him or seen him in many years but on those rare occasions when the thought of him did pop into my head, i remembered him warmly — and will continue to remember him warmly.

though right now i’m sad. crushed even. i could barely sleep last night, my mind flooded with his memory. he wasn’t supposed to die so young and he certainly wasn’t supposed to be murdered — with not a single suspect in custody, warrant issued or arrest made. seems like Santa Monica has been safe for so long that the local cops have forgotten how to conduct an investigation. it’s been six months and still nothing.

i read every google entry i could find on the murder as a way to convince myself that it actually happened. but each one left me with a greater sense of disbelief as i searched for the punchline that never came — that it was all a big joke, that none of it actually happened.

but it did happen. my friend alex was murdered in such a random, violent way that doesn’t fit with the life i knew him to lead. when i knew him and saw him regularly, about eight years ago, he was decent and funny and driven. he was a talented artist who produced beautiful work, some of which he gave me. i still have a piece in my parents’ garage signed “love, sasha.”

we dated for a few months, long-distance dating as i was living in SF at the time, he in LA. we managed to see each other every other weekend, with his visits to SF always accompanied by a dozen roses. he was sweet like that, and faultlessly polite, raised well by a single mother, the only russian i’ve ever dated. things were going well until we spent a week vacationing in Acapulco, where we realized that we were completely wrong for each other. we split up soon after.

still, i’d see him around. we stayed friendly and kept in touch. he even came out to a few parties i hosted once i moved back to LA and entered a new relationship. all the while he kept working on his art, and with the students at the Watts middle school where he taught — the students who gave him an endless supply of funny stories to share. he loved those kids, and judging by the message boards that erupted after his murder, they loved him back.

about five years ago, i saw him walking down Santa Monica with his mother as i was walking out of the Whole Foods in West Hollywood. i had moved into the neighborhood a few weeks earlier following a big breakup and couldn’t handle running into an ex-boyfriend, a reminder of another failed relationship. so i crossed the street to avoid them while feeling embarrassed and sorry for myself. now i just feel immature. i could have at least said hello. it was the last time i saw him.

i figured i’d run into him again at some point, randomly and unexpectedly, or that i would open up an LA Weekly and see his name attached to a local gallery show. instead, i see him on the internet, the word “murder” attached to his picture, with a story on how he died painfully and alone. stabbed to death.

i keep trying to chase those images out of my head by flipping through the small photo album i have of our time together in mexico. i keep trying to remember the way he looked the last time i saw him, smiling with his mother on his arm. i keep trying to remember the conversations we had so i don’t imagine the sound of his voice yelling for help and then being silenced forever as he bled to death in his apartment. i keep trying to be ok with this.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Sightseeing (Part II)

what the hell: our hotel in Albuquerque, once an artists colony, was an adobe compound with 21 casitas, each of them decorated with the art of its former residents. this painting was in the bedroom Mo and i shared during our stay — for about five seconds before i made him move it to the living room for fear that it would give me nightmares.

not much better: Mo swapped the freaky watermelon painting with this one, which caused me to spend the next four days transfixed by the (lady’s?) nipples. we found out later that both paintings represent traditional clown dancers from the local Keres tribes of New Mexico.

interchanged: i had never been to the american southwest before, so i wasn’t sure what to except from New Mexico. i had some vague ideas gleaned from movies and books about mud houses and desert landscapes, and Albuquerque was certainly filled with both. it wasn’t as hot as i thought it would be, with the temperature rarely cracking 90 degrees, but the sun did seem to shine brighter here, with the shortage of trees making it hard to find shade to hide under. i did appreciate Albuquerque’s rich blue skies, which are a stark contrast to LA’s perpetually grayish, cancer-tinged air.

go bruins: Mo and i spent some time wandering around the University of New Mexico campus and its surrounding college town, which had some good eats. the university seems to be a huge employer and central part of Albuquerque’s culture, with lobo stuff plastered everywhere.

weak: the statue of the lobo itself (“wolf” in spanish) seemed a little sad. i’m probably just used to the oversized bruin i spent four years looking at when i attended UCLA, but come on, guys, couldn’t you dramatize the wolf a bit, making it bigger and more ferocious? as it stands now, the statue is about as frightening as Pinko.

this one time at band camp: we followed tuba players around campus as they practiced marching and playing at the same time while wearing outfits straight out of Hot Dog on a Stick.

craftsman detail: we also found this wooden canopy on campus that had some feature Mo was certain would work well for the house’s exterior. i just smiled, nodded and took the picture.

scarier than the lobo: these two “dancing” statues were smack in the middle of the quad.

Marble Brewery: after spending the day among college students, we decided to hit up a local brewery to drink like them.

IPA, please: i didn’t find the Marble beers as extraordinary as the ones i sampled at the Stone Brewery, but there was some yum in there. Mo became enamored with the IPA, bringing home a six-pack and a T-shirt from the brewery.

where trees are plentiful: our next adventure took us to the Rio Grande Nature Center, one of Albuquerque’s state parks. Mo wanted to see the Center’s main building, designed by local architect Antoine Predock, who also did the American Heritage Center Mo featured in his architecture travel series.

major vertigo: the building looked like a bomb shelter to me and was basically built into the rocky landscape with no discernible facade. walking toward the front door made me dizzy as hell, and i was convinced that on the other side of the door would be some carnival fun house with distorted mirrors and midget clowns running amuck.

the tubes of the internets: i didn’t see any midgets inside, only Predock’s sexy passive cooling system, which keeps the interior cool with giant containers filled with fluid to absorb the sun’s heat through skylights.

the vista: the backside of the building was all glass and provided a perfect view of the river. one room even had a library with cozy theater seats facing the glass, where i sat mesmerized for an hour, watching turtles sunbathe.

Sandia Peak: Albuquerque is home to the world’s longest aerial tramway, which took Mo and i to the highest peak in the Cibola National Forest, where we ate a terrific steak dinner at the local restaurant while watching the sun set and playing footsy under the table.

the scenery: although the Cibola forest looked like a proper forest full of lush greenery, the view of Albuquerque from atop the peak looked like a burnt sienna crayon melted all through the canyon. if each city has its own color, Albuquerque’s is definitely brown.

we can barely breathe: i made the mistake of running toward the tram after dinner (missing it by 10 seconds) and then spent the following 10 minutes gasping for air like a dying guppy.

cool at 10,000 feet: Mo knew better than to quicken his pace while we were at Sandia Peak, and he seemed to enjoy smoking his American Spirits, which he said gave him quite a head rush.

little fluffy clouds: while i enjoyed my time in New Mexico, i was definitely in a rush to get back to Cali. i didn’t particularly like or dislike Albuquerque. it was a decent enough city that was fun for a vacation — albeit a bit sleepy — but i don’t think i’ll be going back there anytime soon, despite its gorgeous blue skies.