In the Battlefields

October 5, 2004

At the Film Festival we saw Danielle Arbid's In the Battlefields. This film exemplifies what the NY Film festival is all about--a showcase of brutal honest filmmaking by a first time director from a country most people in the US know little about. The movie is an autobiographical coming of age tale of a young girl struggling with her disintegrating family in wartime Beirut. The story is told almost without sentiment from a completely interior/personal point of view. While it will probably not get distribution in the US, if you see it listed at upcoming festivals, try to catch it.

Ms. Arbid spoke afterwards. Jenn and I both noted she seemed super cool. The type of person you'd like to meet for dinner, drinks, and a long discussion about life...

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We like riding in empty subway cars at night:

Sunday Morning

October 3, 2004

I'm hanging our retablo/ex-voto collection in the bedroom. After years of flack for mixing antlers and retablos, I take it as a minor victory that Jenn walked in, studied the wall and said, "Needs horns."

NY Film Festival Day 1

October 3, 2004

Roger Ebert called Undertow (by David Gordon Green) a masterpiece. Ebert's getting soft I think. We just saw the film at the New York Film Festival. I found it badly miscast (is Dermot Mulroney always the kiss of death?), but watchable with a few nice moments. Despite being muddled, it feels original with a deep sense of place an a feel for a region rarely seen except as parody or caricature on screen.

Jenn gave it a 3 out of 10 (I think she was overly negative because of the cheesy Philip Glass score and the looking-back-to-the-70's freeze frames which she didn't get). The problem I think is that David Gordon Green was overpraised for George Washington (which was a beautiful little film), was quickly a declared genius, and was allowed to run free without adult supervision. Now everyone expects each of his films to be some sort of revelation. A tall order for anyone. The result in this case is a minor southern gothic mess that most audiences won't put up with, but that critics will praise because because of it dares to aspire to that great tradition of auteur filmmaking almost gone from the American scene.

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We walked over the bridge today... I got Jenn to do one of the silly jumping pictures we like to do. This is Jenn landing:

60 days and counting

October 2, 2004

In the great pantheon of annoyance, lathering up to shave with a 3 week beard and not having a razor is certainly just a minor cubbyhole. But lathering up, not having a razor, unlathering, discovering you actually do have a razor, relathering, and accidentally knocking your one razor in the toilet... that has to merit a broom closet at least.

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I hung about 50 paintings today. The house is starting to feel like home.

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We are 2 months from the expected due date and have lots of baby stuff already. Stroller. Crib. Too many clothes. I was looking at the stroller sitting empty in the hall this morning and was haunted by Hemingway's shortest story: "Baby shoes. Never worn. For sale."

music & mallets

October 1, 2004

My friend Julien turned me on to this website by The Hound. It features radio show highlights from one of WFMU's most interesting DJs. The mp3s are literally recorded from the radio show (often with lead ins) so most are not worth saving for your ipod, but there are some top notch tracks here...

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Example of how pregnant ladies use their condition like a mallet:

Jenn: Let's go into town and get a laundry hamper.

me: Let's order online so we don't have to carry it on the subway.

Jenn: No we need it.

me: But I don't want to carry it all the way here in the rain... if we order now, it will be here by Monday.

Jenn: I want to get one today. I'll carry it if you don't want to... but then everyone who sees us together will start booing you. "Boo on the husband making his wife carry the heavy package. Fie, fie on the husband. Boo. Bad man." (pause) So let's go.

got to admit it's getting better...

September 29, 2004

Today was a complete turnaround from yesterday. The weather has turned autumnal. Workmen showed up on time. Things got fixed. We now have sisal stairs and phones that work. DSL is still down, but happily I have several neighbors wireless connections with easily guessed default passwords. Note to everyone out there. If you don't want people using your bandwidth, don't use the password, "password" or "secret" or "1234".

We are discovering a good collection of local restaurants. Today we had lunch at Teresa's a Polish place at 80 Montague. The cabbage soup and kielbasa as was the pumpernickel. I've eaten more good bread in the last week than I did in my last year in LA.

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I've been taking tons of photos but haven't imported or scanned anything yet.

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Question: My lovely wife wants to have a baby shower for the both of us. I have no problem attending a shower for her but I think it's weird to officially have the shower for both husband and wife. I also think it's weird to invite couples. Baby showers seem like a ladies only thing. Am I crazy old fashioned or is Jenn trying to bully me into something odd.

fate loop

September 28, 2004

Today has been an exercise in frustration. Verizon has managed to completely screw up our phones/DSL (our number was changed without our permission, Only one jack out of 20 works and our DSL is just dead).

It's steamy. And the mugginess is made worse by the smell of cleaning solution throughout the house.

Our ibook drive will cost $380! to replace.

The subways are screwed up because of the Penn Station fire.

Our furniture doesn't fit.

&

I saw a mail truck run over a dog.

Right now I'm sitting at Tekserve, the computer place. I have ticket #88. They are on #54.

archaeology

September 27, 2004

We discovered this groovy fragment of wallpaper behind the toilet:

Our handyman, Dave, says that he often discovers odd anachronisms in the neighborhood, like the 90 year old woman who still uses gas lights a few blocks away on Boerum Hill.

Our stairway awaits sisal carpet. Over the years the stairway has been covered in wood, linoleum and a spectrum of carpet colors...

I am once again mobile:

sea snakes

September 26, 2004

I'm trying to take it easy today and have, so far at least, not left the bed (happily today's Sunday Times--especially the magazine--is full of good reading). Hard not to get up and deal with the chaos all around though. Boxes everywhere. We have yet to unearth even our sheets. Jenn has been working double duty getting the kitchen in order. She has forbidden me from doing anything today, so here I will remain.

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When we were in Chicago a month or so ago I woke up with an inelegant scream, in a cold sweat, and all discombobulated. Jenn now unphased my my noctural distress calmly asked what was wrong. Apparently I looked at her with frightened eyes, shuddered, and whispered "sea snakes". Afterwards I fell promptly back to sleep.

Today I realized I might have been having one of my fish dreams. I have had these aquatic dreams all my life. In them I am a fish, not a human who thinks he's a fish, but an acutal fish. I think simple thoughts, wiggle through the water, and admire the concave world around. Normally I wake up feeling pleasantly refreshed by my osteichthyesian adventures... But if I were a fish, what would be more frightening than sea snakes? See where I'm going with this...

acupuncture round II

September 25, 2004

I went in for another round of acupuncture and I came out feeling like a new man. Dr. Zhuang can't speak a word of English, but the guy seems to know exactly how to fix me. He even fixed my big toe which has been numb and pins/needlesy for weeks. Today's treatment involved pins both in my back and my legs. The latter had a very slight sting... Amazing how quickly you feel better. I wonder if the pins stimulate adrenaline production which numbs pain? Whatever...it works.

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Weird day out there.

We kept breaking things in the house (including Jenn's ibook which we dropped).

There were cops in random places for no apparent reason (these guys were on Baxter):

And the encounters I had with people were kind of out there.

Example: This is a conversation I had with a young Korean deli guy (with a SF/Bay area accent):

deli guy (apropos of nothing): Do you believe in ghosts?

me: It depends.

deli guy: What do you mean by that?

me: I think I believe in ghosts in Mexico, but not so much in New York City.

deli guy: Mexican ghosts. Oooh. Very interesting. What kind?

me: Well for starters there would be the ghosts of the dead, and the ghosts of those not yet born.

deli guy: So many souls.... (picks up a guitar) Do you play guitar? Mexicans are musical people.

me: no

deli guy: Is it ok if I write a song about Mexican ghosts?

me: Knock yourself out.

flat

September 25, 2004

I managed to throw my back again yesterday... probably while hauling 20 or so boxes up the steep attic steps. Today I'll be in the prone position all day. It's days like today that I'm happy my work requires only healthy fingers and mind.

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There are 8 Dominican guys in the house replacing the hall/stairway rugs. These guys work super fast. It has taken then less than 30 minutes to remove 4 floors of heavy carpet.

Lamaze Class  

September 24, 2004

We attended our first lamaze class tonight. It was pretty much what you would expect... a bunch of crunchy couples sitting on tumbling mats asking sincere questions. All the various types were there... the couple that wants a super scientific birth, the couple that wants a totally natural childbirth at home, the geeky couple (where the woman kept worrying her husband would pass out) and the good looking dumb couple (who kept calling each other "sugar baby" during the break). I kept thinking if we were in an episode of Fear Factor with these people we would clean up.

We've read too many books so most of the info seemed sort of basic to us. Jenn asked a couple of questions about exact physiological processes which seemed to throw the teacher a bit...

We'll see how it goes, but my sense is that these classes are good if for no other reason to remind you of all the steps involved and to help you ask informed questions when the baby is ready to make it's appearance.

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Unpacking is going to take at least a week... it's been s l o w going.

In at last

September 22, 2004

The 18 wheeler arrived in Brooklyn Heights this morning just as Wednesday alternate side of the street parking rules went into effect. This did not please the local commuters who gave my truck driver a big New York welcome (it almost came to blows). But after about a half hour of dramatics the driver managed to park in a fire zone and the move was on.

The crew here consisted of 4 preternaturally happy Ecuadorians who didn't seem to mind hauling almost 9 tons of stuff up 2 to 5 flights of stairs. We tipped them well. The job was done by 6. Tomorrow the unpacking begins.

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My dad stopped by.

Concert before the storm

September 22, 2004

Just got back from seeing David Byrne and Gilberto Gil at Town Hall (it was a benefit for the Creative Commons License). David Byrne was amazing as usual. He played a strong set of old and new and was just stone cold hip. Gilberto Gil sort of phoned it in. Maybe I'm a terrible snob but any time a guy starts covering Bob Marley and John Lennon, you know you're in trouble. That type of cover should be the exclusive domain of cheesy Philippino wedding bands and bad karaoke. Byrne, by way of comparison covered Hugo Ball (the dada poet!) and Hendrix.

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How many people could the US military possibly recruit from their Times Square kiosk? I mean I understand how they might have grabbed folks back when Times Square was Times Square, but now it's Disneyland....

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Does Alec Baldwin have his photograph in every single New York deli?

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Tomorrow, Wednesday, the moving truck arrives!

Acupuncture

September 20, 2004

The final 2 days drive left me all pretzeled up and dealing with serious back pain. Jenn and I had a Vietnamese lunch in Chinatown and she suggested I try acupuncture. The office was above a Chinese medicine shop and the doctor barely spoke English, but his assistant translated. After much nudging and poking, he seemed to understand exactly where I was hurting. The pins went in almost painlessly. In fact I had no idea there were so many until I peeked over my shoulder. I looked like San Sebastian down there. He used pins in my back, behind, legs and feet and then left me under a heat lamp. The lamp started out pleasantly warm but eventually turned really really hot. After about 20 minutes the doctor returned, removed the pins, stretched me in a bunch of different ways and we were done. I felt 80% better. My sciatic pain was totally gone, and most of the back pain was gone. Today, a day later I woke up feeling much better. Good stuff and cheap.

Lin Sister Herb Shop
4 Bowery
(212) 962-5417

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At the townhouse we checked out the paint job. The best color is the one we were most worried about, the bedroom aquamarine. We were less happy with the colors that came as a result of negotiation. The living room for example is a very standard seafoam green, nothing exciting and the red in the TV room is probably too bright. Both colors were the result of compromises. This all reconfirms my belief that good design is rarely democratic.

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I found cool graffiti in the attic, my future office. Some of it dates back to the the late 1900's. Most are simply names with dates. My guess is that over the years the attic was where kids would hang out to get away from their folks. The faded skull and crossbones painted on the wall would seem to confirm this.

Can't wait to move in. The movers arrive Wednesday.

East Aurora-New York City

September 20, 2004

I spent the night with my friends Tbone and Lisa otherwise known as 'the Bones'. My question, why does their son Harry's chalkboard say "Smoke the Bear, Superman, Crying Indian"?

This leg of the trip was unexpectedly grueling due to my back pain (my back decided to fail spectacularly yesterday and has left me a human pretzel), flooding detours, and grisly accidents. I didn't take out my camera much (any movement was causing me serious pain). But when I finally hit the Triborough bridge I knew I was home and would soon be hanging out with my wife and my dad, so everything felt better...

Jenn had delicious tacos, flautas, soup, and rice warm and waiting... ahhh..

Iowa-Buffalo

September 17, 2004

Since California the skies have been remarkably clear and cloud free. Then today over Ohio I spotted my first bit of cumulus. Soon the sky was full... and I'll admit I went a bit cloud mad.

Nebraska->Iowa

September 16, 2004

I hate interstate highways, but I've been on them all day long trying to make some time.

Miles driven: I've stopped counting but around 700
Pieces of pie eaten: 1
Discovery of the day: Iowa rest stops have free wireless internet
Goal: to Arrive in NY by Sunday
Biggest scare: Almost being driven off the road by an out of control big rig

Utah->Nebraska

September 15, 2004

I woke up at 5, drove out into the Valley of the Gods and watched the sun rise. If you are driving across country, make this stop. This area has all the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, sans the crowds. My only regret is that I experienced this without Jenn. Last time we were driving through, we had just hit some large roadkill screwing up the car didn't travel the 17 mile dirt road through the valley for fear of breaking down.

Later I ran into a military funeral for a young soldier killed in Iraq. The entire town was out. I stopped for a while and watched the coffin, carried by soldiers, go by.

The put me in a melancholy mood... which was reinforced by the many memorials along the way.

Miles driven: 712
Pieces of pie eaten: 1 (pear)
Things that scared me: white trash woman at the hotel yelling at her little girl
Number of clouds seen: 0
Number of people seen in 4 hours in the Valley of the Gods: 1 (a German backpacker)

Death Valley->Nevada->Utah

September 14, 2004

Day 2: 630 miles stopping place Mexican Hat

Pieces of pie eaten: 2 (both apple)
Burgers eaten: 1
number of clouds seen: 0
things that scared me: pack of vultures tearing apart a coyote

Once again a day of straight empty roads. While I had to take a detour to get over the mountains, the detour took me past Yucca mountain and through several desert basins. I love desert & mountain scenery. I love empty roads. Don't know why. Maybe it's the Mexican in me. I'm listening to all sorts of college history lectures on my ipod. So far I've covered about a thousand years of Egyptian history and Byzantium. Later I will do 10 hours of geology. Maybe I'll arrive back home super smart. Oddly enough all these scenes reminded me of places I had seen in China (Death Valley looks like Xinjiang, the Yucca Mountain area looks like Gansu, northern Nevada looks like Qinhai...etc). I arrived to Mexican Hat/ Monument Valley right at sunset.

Finally

September 13, 2004

Our stuff hits the road.

This guy was talking about living 'off the grid' in the Angeles National Forest.

I always stop for roadside memorials.

If you need a lighted fish lamp. The truck stop in the Mojave is a good bet.

The roads were virtually empty. From 5-7 I passed a single car. I chased mountain shadows across the desert and watched the sky fade to black. After sunset on roads this empty I like to drive with the headlights off just using the sky glow which is plenty bright. The windows were open...the dry 90 degree air felt nice across my face. The hotel here in Furnace Creek is empty except for a couple of Germans. Lousy restaurant. Depressing bar. The road up into the mountains has washed out so tomorrow I'll have to backtrack. Finding nothing to do here at the hotel, I drove down the a road and turned off onto an unpaved path up a hill. Up on a little ridge I parked the Mini and hung out on the roof with a pillow stargazing. The milky way stands out in high relief in this kind of dark. The Pleides stand out to the naked eye. I was out there for a good long time and got a nice shower of shooting stars just as I was getting ready to drive back. Invariably my inner transcendentalist comes out on these drives.

Tomorrow I hope to get an early start out of here.

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Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 59.

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Day 1:
miles driven: 300
scariest thing seen: burnt volcanic landscape around Cinder Road
best road candy: all chocolate Nekko Wafers

Bellybutton

September 13, 2004

Jenn reports that her belly button is on the verge of flipping. The inversion has been a hotly anticipated event in our household... missing the show is a minor tragedy. Jenn if you are reading this today, I want pictures!

Tired

September 12, 2004

Neither Leon nor Tiny materialized. Instead I got recently-released-from-the-state-pen Dennis "Big Bad D" and Norman who went by "Quiet Norm". A third guy known only as "Sloppy" showed up, decided it was too hot and left. The temperature was hovering just over 100. Work started 8 hours late and the 18 wheeler only was half loaded. So tomorrow we start over at 7am. I wonder if Quiet Norm will again don a USPS uniform and combat boots. I just want to hit the road.

Gental Dental

September 12, 2004

Has anyone noticed LA has more than it's fair share of scary dentists?

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The moving van arrives at the storage facility today and then I'll start driving... The phone call this morning was less than encouraging.

The moving guy: "Leon and Tiny, well you know, they were partying last night, so we'll be late man."

me: "How late."

The moving guy: "Maybe 4 hours maybe 6. I'll call your cell."

me: "4 to 6 hours?!"

The moving guy: "Tiny, man, he's an animal. Good guy though. Don't worry man."

10 years

September 11, 2004

The first picture was taken on the day I moved to LA. Feb 94 I think. The second was taken today.

Come a long way

September 11, 2004

In my 10 years in LA I lived in 7 houses from Santa Monica to Silverlake. Today in Santa Monica I happened to drive past house #3, my little cottage on 12th and Idaho. It was tiny but was smartly designed and strangely soothing. Even twelve blocks away from the beach I could always smell the sea air in the morning. I have nothing but fond memories of the place. Today I was pleased to discover the plants I put in have virtually taken over the façade and the tree is a decent size. When I moved in there were no plantings whatsoever.

I try to plant trees wherever I live. I like seeing how the trees I've planted along the way have grown. It gives me a yardstick with which to measure my life. The first tree I planted was in Houston at the age of 5, a red oak. In a picture I wear a NASA jumpsuit and am proudly holding a shovel. I went back and visited a few years ago. That tree dwarfs the house and shades the entire lawn.

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This mornings house visit made me feel like I should visit all the houses before I go, so tonight I visited house #4 which I shared with several friends up on Lincoln Terrace. It was owned by Rick Rubin and featured incredible views (and an attic filled with perfectly aged rock & roll t-shirts). From my desk I looked out over the Chateau Marmont, the Marlboro Man, and the city itself. I am about as anti-smoker as a man can be (I'm not proud of it, and know it's not rational, but I judge most all smokers harshly and think they are weak.), but I miss that Marlboro Man sign. Sunset just isn't Sunset without it.

This is what the place looked like tonight:

And this is what the little street looked like when we were there:

LA is full of secret places hard for someone outside to see.

The same but different...

September 10, 2004

I arrived early into Burbank having slept virtually the entire flight. As I took a cab to a friend's house I noticed this liquor store. Years ago I spent three nights in the parking lot. We were shooting the scene in Clueless where Alicia Silverstone gets mugged. Back then I thought this was a "bad" part of town. It's in Burbank for god's sake.

After collecting my car I made the mistake of driving back to the old house out of morbid curiosity. I shouldn't have gone. The new owner has done some very depressing things to the back yard. He's building an ugly modern looking wall and has cut all the lush trees way back. I'm sure it will look better when it's all done, but it will be years before the cypress trees recover.

Most sad for me: The plum tree was chopped down. More on this after I've had some sleep.

As I said I shouldn't have gone. Afterwards I went to In & Out and had a #3 to recover. From there I headed to Pasedena to run a few errands and then to Silverlake to look at a baby store and finally to Little Tokyo. I love Little Tokyo and wish there was something analogous in New York. It's small scale, friendly and has all sorts of neat shops and restaurants (including a new Marukai Forum 98 cent store). But one thing I don't understand. What's the deal with the Colonel Ellison Shoji Onizuka obsession? There are no less than 7 plaques and memorials scattered around as well as a 2 streets named for him.

I ended the day watching Warriors of Heaven and Earth. Give it a miss. This film is horrible. One thing I've been noticing: If a director keeps using fades instead of cuts, it's because he doesn't have something to cut to. Amateurish.

All nighters

September 9, 2004

I've pulled all-nighters the last four or five times I've flown. Jenn hates this behavior and I don't like it myself, but there is always so much to be done.... The last couple of times I was in hell, but last night zipped by... and I'm sitting here at LaGuardia at 5:36am feeling fine, even kind of awake. I'm sure this won't last and I'll drool all the way to Burbank.

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I'm sitting in an airport lounge in front of the windows under a TV screen. There are about 30 people here and most are watching the set. Two rows in front of me sit four young Marines headed to a base in San Antonio and then Iraq. Until a few minutes ago they were joking loudly about the awful conditions over there. They are just kids. I am facing them and they are now watching a long CNN report on the 1000 servicemen and women killed in Iraq. One of the Marines is choked up and his emotion is rubbing off on everyone else here. One woman had to leave and an older gentleman has tears on his face. The marines have gone quiet I expect they will stay quiet for some time.

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