Sunday, February 22, 2009

One-Hit Wonders: February 2009

  • pictures of lactating breasts and men

  • pictures of me fucking our dog

  • hospital patient was given a morphine drip after consuming vodka

  • fitting a wheelbarrow in a car

  • halloween sex

  • things that sell in depression times

  • good headline for online dating

  • goddess milla peachy

  • how to disinfect my bed

  • ionic breeze metallic taste

  • sneezing eye twitch brain tumour

  • let's take a look at mila and how she is spending her free time. nice face, nice body, but does her lifestyle good enough?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Year in Highland Park

i can barely believe that at this time last year i was deep in the throes of The Escrow From Hell, a painfully disorienting six weeks that would turn me into a broke but happy homeowner in Highland Park, California. to be honest, i hadn’t spent extended amounts of time in the area save for a few parties and meetups with friends. i liked the area well enough every time i did visit, probably because it reminded me of Van Nuys, the little neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley where i grew up, which was also full of taco trucks, carnicerias and cute little houses.

when it came time to buy my cute little house, i wanted to move to Silver Lake but knew i could never afford it so i set my sights farther east. i had heard rumblings that Highland Park was supposed to be the next “it” neighborhood as other aging hipsters, also priced out of Silver Lake, were moving in and gentrifying, lured by its affordable houses and proximity to the Gold Line.

i had also heard about problems in the area, particularly with the Avenues Gang, with some people even advising me to “stay out of that ghetto.” it made me wonder whether Highland Park really was a ghetto, whether i would be shot at daily when stepping out to gather my mail. i knew that it didn’t seem ghetto during the many weekends i spent house hunting in the area. i didn’t see anyone brandishing a gun or shooting up in the street, nor did i see any homeless people. i saw working-class families mostly, having cookouts and birthday parties for the kids with those inflatable ball pits in their front yards.

sure, i did notice the graffiti and an unsavory-looking character or two, but didn’t think much of that as i see graffiti and unsavory characters everywhere in Los Angeles. to be safe, i drove through the area at night several times, waiting for bullets to whiz by my head. but all that whizzed was ranchera music. definitely not my favorite but after having spent four years living in west hollywood, where techno is blasted out of every apartment, i figured ranchera might be a nice change. still, i saw no chalk marks in the street, not even a panhandler or a prostitute.

but of course living in an area is the only way to know it, and now, after having lived here for almost a year, i’d like to say i understand why people would think Highland Park is a ghetto, but the truth is i don’t understand. i’m sure there are headlines people can point to, but it’s easy (and lazy) to find a headline that can damn pretty much every part of Los Angeles because bad shit happens all over the city, even in the “good” parts where people are quick to tell you that “these things don’t happen in this neighborhood” when they are interviewed on the evening news about the fucked up shit that just happened in their neighborhood.

i saw these people countless times in the coverage of my friend Alexander Merman’s murder in his (north of Montana) Santa Monica condo last year. and in the supposedly nice part of West Hollywood where i last lived, a man was stabbed to death at the park i took my dogs to every weekend. and Highland Park is not without its problems. indeed, there are nights when i see the ghetto bird circling overhead and copper cabs whizzing down the boulevard, presumably after the unsavory characters, whom i still see. but i accept this as the reality of living in a metropolis like Los Angeles, where safety just isn’t a guarantee.

as far as i can figure, the people who badmouth Highland Park and drive through it nervously with windows rolled up and doors locked are just petrified of Mexicans, which is stupid considering that LA is half Latino. personally, i’d rather live in an all Mexican neighborhood than all anything else, including white. my Mexican neighbors don’t knock on my door asking me to turn down my music, nor do they hassle me whenever a leaf from my tree falls into their yard. as a homeowner, the thing i want most from my neighbors is this type of healthy distance, where we respect each other’s space and stay out of each other’s business. here, i have that.

but Highland Park is more than Mexicans and taco trucks. in fact, most of the homeowners on my block are white. there’s a married couple the same age as Mo and i, middle-aged hippies who host barbecues and blast Jefferson Airplane, a retired UCLA professor and the widow of novelist Hubert Selby Jr. (she rocks). and in the blocks surrounding my house, i see black families, asian families and even gays.

it’s this kind of diversity that attracted me to the area. there is a real sense of community here, with folks looking out for one another, looking after one of another in a way i had never experienced as a renter. there are neighborhood councils and clubs, local weeklies devoted to covering the happenings in just Northeast LA, and cool events like monthly art walks and annual festivals.

plus, it’s populated by cozy mom-and-pop eateries, which means better food and no ugly strip malls full of Red Lobsters, Gaps and Applebee’s. (though the cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster are pretty good.) and for those times when i do need to pop into the Gap to buy some tank tops or hit up Crate & Barrel to buy a proper patio set, Old Town Pasadena shops are just a hop and skip away.

Highland Park is also super duper old — 123 years and counting — so it’s not uncommon to find 100-year-old craftsman houses that are just stunning. Edwardian, Victorian, Queen Anne and Eastlake styles are all represented here. this is a historic district after all, so it’s full of landmarks galore: Judson Studios, the Lummis House, the Southwest Museum (the first museum in Los Angeles), the oldest freeway in California (the 110), even soda-pop stop Galco’s (founded in 1897), which sells such hard-to-find, novelty sodas as Fukola Cola.

not as old, but equally as cool is the Audobon Center in gorgeous 400-acre Debs Park, which is the only building in Los Angeles to function fully off the grid. Mo and i took a tour of it after we first moved and i must say that their countertops, crafted entirely from sunflower seeds, were quite cool. and of course there’s the wonderful Gold Line that stops in Highland Park — a farmers market held in its parking lot every tuesday — which has changed my entire outlook on being a commuter in Los Angeles.

there are plenty of things to love about this area, and each day i live here i am thankful that i do. it’s a neighborhood that suits my sensibilities perfectly, unlike a gross place such as Brentwood, which still tops my list of LA neighborhoods i would never want to live in. (beverly hills is pretty ungodly, too.) i suppose those towns suit some people — the type who would call Highland Park a ghetto? — but for me, they are just vapid capitals with zero culture that give LA its ugly reputation as a city full of plastic and pretense, a reputation any local will tell you is unfair and untrue, simply because of the existence of neighborhoods like mine, where you'll see street vendors selling hot dogs and fresh fruit instead of anorexic pill poppers with fake tits and inflated lips.

so when an opportunity to document my beloved area arose, courtesy of a local blogger (Walter) who conducts a Highland Park photo survey each year, which he kindly opened to readers like me, i jumped at the chance and spent the last week of 2008 armed with my trusty G10, snapping away at everything i saw. the result can be seen in the flickr slideshow below. or you can view it with captions and commentary via my flickr photostream.

also worth checking out are the 555 photos Walter took for the survey. his informative captions provide insight into the area that is unmatched. reading them will make you smarter.

for me, doing this survey was fantastic, not only because it gave me a great reason to shove my camera into people’s faces and blind them with my flash, but also because it allowed me to explore my new community in a more thorough way. after doing so, i can conclusively say that Highland Park is where i plan to live for many more years, if not forever. it possesses just the right blend of flavor, quirks and grit that, when taken together, are the very definition of what Los Angeles means (to me). plus, the tacos are kick-ass. (hullo, La Estrella!)

the graffiti i can do without, but i hear it used to be far worse and that the whole area has been turning cleaner, kinder and gentler over the years. a stronger police presence is helping it move away from being the gang and graffiti stronghold that gave it its ghetto reputation. everyone who’s lived here longer than i have has confirmed that Highland Park is changing. it’s gentrifying. cute shops and bars are starting to pepper the main boulevards, with more slated to open in the coming year. i feel like i’ve moved here at just the right time — after the first starbucks but before the first yoga studio.

i see great potential in this neighborhood and only hope that i can contribute to its growth in some small way, even if it’s just by standing on the sidelines, beaming with pride, my heart at ease with the knowledge that i’ve found the right home for it. but if the day comes that i step onto the boulevard and see street vendors with fake tits and inflated lips, i will move in a heartbeat.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chatty Pinko

behold february's first cute dog video! this time we abandoned the beaten-to-death phenomenon of Juice chasing her tail to check in with her younger sister Pinko, the amazing talking dog.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hail to the Hail

LA has been acting a lot like Seattle this past week with rain nonstop and hailstorms that have covered my deck in slushy ice. it was the closest i had come to snow in many years so i got excited and took a picture of it. then i called my parents and friends to ask them what they thought about all that crazy hail. “it’s crazy, right? it’s almost like snow, but wetter like rain!”

this was met with many what-the-hell-are-you-talking abouts, which leads me to believe that the hail only landed on my house because i couldn’t find a single other person to agree that a hailstorm happened. but it happened, and it lasted for a good half hour and sounded like popcorn in the microwave. the ice took its sweet time melting, and i stared at it for a long while, pretending it was snow and marveling at the idea of Los Angeles having a winter that actually felt wintery.

as cold as it was the night of the hail — in the 40s, brrrrr! — snow seemed like a real possibility, and i imagined making snow angels in the mornings like i’ve seen people do in the movies. then i’d put on my wool socks and have a cup of cocoa, even though i don’t like cocoa so it would taste more like coffee, while the fireplace snapped and crackled. then Mo and i would play board games and make s’mores.

i’m sure my friends who live in places where snow is real and not imaginary will be quick to advise me (as they have before) to put away my tomahawk and headdress and quit embarrassing myself with the Appalachian snow dance i seem to do every winter, because snow is actually more pain than pleasure, especially when it lasts for months and requires constant shoveling of the driveway. and i’ll admit that i only want snow if it matches my romanticized notion of it being all about puppies, rainbows and sugar sprinkles on cookies. the icy roads and frozen limbs do not enter the fantasy.

yet each winter, like clockwork, i find myself buying way more jackets than i need and getting excited whenever rain is predicted in the five-day forecast. i find myself imagining that my coffee with half-and-half is really cocoa with marshmallows and that the central heat at home is really a fireplace in the ceiling. at work, i find myself gazing at the snow-capped mountains i can see from my window, wondering at how cold it is over there and thinking i should drive there immediately to find out and test the warmth of my new jacket.

i’m sure my fixation on snow is a lame case of the grass being greener — snow being whiter? — as i would never entertain the idea of moving away from sunny LA, precisely because the weather here is so damn good. and i’m sure it does not go beyond wanting to play in the snow for maybe a week or two every year, provided i don’t have to dig my car out of it each morning to get to work. still, it would be nice to melt a snowflake on my tongue or build a snowman with a carrot for its nose. it would be nice to experience a season the rest of the planet understands.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


if this blog is good for anything, it’s good for keeping a tally of when i’m actually right about things. and right there in my Annual entry, immortalized in 10-point arial font is my prediction that 2009 will be a shitty year. granted, it’s not living-on-the-streets-in-a-cardboard-box-eating-out-of-trash-cans shitty, but allow me some creative license here and rest assured that each time i enter into woe-is-me mode i do remind myself that i could be stuck in Ukraine, growing a tail from the Chernobyl explosion.

despite the fact that i have no such gangly tail growing — which seems sorta cool the more i think about it — 2009 has started rough. admittedly, the roughness has hit others more than it has hit me, but because i am a sensitive soul who feels every discomfort in the universe, i’m bummed about it, too.

it all began when my mom got laid off from her job as a mechanical engineer. technically, it was a forced leave of absence (unpaid), so she may be rehired, though i think that’s doubtful considering her company has not invited back the first group that was forced out. needless to say, she’s been sad beyond sad, as she’s spent 15 years with her company, loving on her work and her colleagues. plus, my superstar mom was always the primary moneymaker for the family, so the elimination of her paycheck sucks harder than it would if my pops were laid off.

a week and a half later, my pops was laid off. shit squared. this was a surprise as his company still seemed busy while my mom’s had all but shut down operations. so now both mom and dad are out of work, just years shy of retiring, their savings eroded by last year’s market implosion, their hopes dashed for a comfortable retirement.

i visited them as soon as i found out, took them to lunch and helped with their resumes like a good daughter would have, all the while feeling guilty as shit for the money i owe them, money they could use right about now, money i cannot yet repay. to assuage my guilt, i brought them some food, some flowers and did all i could to cheer them up while they sat sullen, shocked and unamused. finally, i offered to give them all the money i had in my account, but they refused like the good parents they are, reminding me that their 40 years in the workplace has made their account slightly more robust than mine. “hang onto your cash, Meel,” my mom said as she clipped coupons at the kitchen table. “you might need it this year.”

two weeks later, my company had its own round of layoffs, which wasn’t a huge surprise as there were hints galore that cuts were on their way. the day of the layoff felt like an eight-hour funeral, with people huddled in corners, speaking in hushed tones, and wearing darker colors despite the 80-degree weather outside. the good news is that i escaped unscathed (this time), though 500 of my coworkers did not.

there were large meetings held, where the big cheeses sat at the head of a very long conference table, promising nothing about the future. i’ve already been told not to expect much of a raise this year, nor is the profit-sharing bonus my company doles out each June likely considering we made no profits last year.

sorry, Mom and Dad. that raise and bonus were earmarked for your pocket. i guess we’ll all be clipping coupons together at the kitchen table this year. sorry, laid-off coworkers. that totally sucks. i know i’m the lucky one in all this and i don’t take that fact for granted, not even for one second. and i still have hope for 2009. with 11 months to go, it has plenty of time to make up for the shit storm of the past five weeks.

(p.s. i’ve been hustling like a whore in church to find extra freelance work, so if anyone knows/needs help with proofreading/copyediting/copywriting, email me asap! reasonable rates! fast turnaround! references provided! thanks!)