Sunday, March 30, 2014

Final thoughts on Los Angeles

This post will end my California quintet, five posts about life and travels in L-A. Here are a few things  I wanted to mention.

  • The Getty Center. It is really bigger than life. On the top of a mountain, you have to take a train from the parking garage to get there. It is huge, several buildings and the walkway has beautiful views of the surrounding area. It is hard to describe but it has a very large collection and is totally different than any museum I have ever seen. Since I was there on a Saturday, I missed the sacrifices, but otherwise it was a fascinating visit.

  • Most American bars will have a few craft beers but the places I went to in L-A were almost entirely dominated by craft beers. Also a lot of bars are beer and wine only. A few meat items on the menu, but lots of vegetarian dishes. I have never ate a quinoa dish in a bar before my trip to California. As expected, there are Asian and Mexican restaurants of infinite variety.

  • Roads are actually quite good in L-A. Having a GPS makes a big difference though. Just because I said the roads are good does not mean they are not overcrowded. There is free parking on most of the side streets, but they limit you by hours. I did see a lot of buses and even a train line so it is possible, though not necessarily convenient, to get around without a car. Lots of bicycle riders and they seem to be of all ages.

  • The beaches are beautiful, have surfers and thousands of young people, and are crowded. Nice trip but not cheap. The only thing that is free are the beaches (but not beach parking).  Bring your wallet if you go.

Editor's note: On my last day I was woken up by an earthquake. I guess somebody wanted to make sure I didn't miss out on anything.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cassette tapes

Yes, admittedly records are hip again. I will probably never be able to get rid of my record collection. Now, my eyes have wandered over to my tape cassettes. Perhaps they can be given the heave-ho. No, now cassette tapes are hip again. I can understand, old cassette tapes, especially the home made ones, can be full of untapped mysteries. Who knows what is on them? Yes the label may say the Kinks, but how do we know the cassette is nothing but the Kinks? How do we know I didn't talk into the microphone at the end? Perhaps Aunt Lizzie sneezes at the end. The only recording of Aunt Lizzie still extant.

It can be fun to play old cassettes. Most of them are still playable. It was the first medium where average people could make their own mixes. The more adventurous of us also used the microphone to tape voices, our cars and our pets. Tapes from the radio. Tapes from our singles collection. Tapes from television shows.  I just discovered I had a tape of a radio show dedicated to the life of Ernest Hemingway which featured Lil Abner's Al Capp giving a critique on the man. Theoretically I could transfer them all to CD but the amount of work for a non-retired man is too great. Cassette tapes are part of  the flotsam and jetsam sum of our lives. They may be irrelevant but they are our flotsam and jetsam. 

Editor's note: I just found the Hemingway show on YouTube. Maybe I can give some of my cassettes the heave-ho after all. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Neville Chamberlain

I guess I'm a Neville Chamberlain. Accommodate people. Live and let live. Let Russia have the Crimea. We don't want it. Can we do anything with Crimea? No. Do we want to pay more for gasoline because of Crimea? No. Do we want to pay more taxes for the sake of Crimea? No. Let them have it. 

Yes, if you haven't seen it yet, Broad City is worth a look. Good fast paced fun.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Actually it's great to be home. Home in the ice and snow, away from all the warm weather and surfboards and bicycle paths that is Southern California. It's great to be back home in my own bed and dirty sheets. Making my  own coffee and gulping it down because I'm late for work. Yes it's great to be your own man in your own unkempt  home.

The thing about hotel rooms is you have maids. Before you leave the room you have to clean up so the maid won't think you're a slob. Then you come home at noon and the room still isn't made up. You leave again at three and by four the maid has cleaned the room. I remember I had an aunt once as a kid who had a maid. She complained to my mother that on the day the maid came she had to wake up early and clean the house so the maid wouldn't know how sloppy her family was.

I think the thing with servants:  ie gardeners, maids, chauffeurs, valets, etc. is that to pull it off you have to grow up with "help". If you grow up in a house with "help" you learn not to worry about what the servants think of you. You don't care, they are there to serve you, not the other way around. When my mother got older she had a maid and a gardener. I was visiting once and made a mess in the bathroom. I got yelled at because the maid had to pick up my towels and mop up the water I spilled on the floor. I left a bad impression on the maid.

I guess we all want outsiders to think we are better than we really are. It's like sampling the wine in front of the waiter in a fancy restaurant. As if we could really tell if the wine was lousy.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hollywood thoughts

Just being a tourist on what was my first real stay in L-A I got to go to Hollywood, saw Grauman's Chinese Theatre and took a tour of Paramount. It actually was fun and I learned a few things along the way. Paramount Studios is huge and was the sight of many memorable films, including Sunset Boulevard and some of the Crosby Hope pictures.  Each sound stage has a number and a list of all the television and movies filmed there. Sadly, a lot of the glamour is gone as it is mostly used for television today. As a treat I got to see where they tape the Doctor Phil Show. 

I always thought they filmed beach scenes on the Pacific Ocean. Now I know many beach and water scenes were filmed in a blue parking lot at Paramount after the water tower was emptied. Nice to see Lucy's cabana. 

Grauman's Chinese theatre is on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame" in a neighborhood that reminded me of Times Square. Sort of seedy, with a mixture of pan handlers and Chinese tourists. I wonder if Sid Grauman realized how many real Chinese people would visit his faux Chinese movie palace. Seeing the real footprints was a treat, though. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What it's like to be in a studio audience

About two months ago I was checking my email and I got a notice from my regular airline saying I had until June to redeem my frequent flyer miles. Turns out that after some searching, I figured out I had sufficient miles to go practically anywhere in the good old USA as long as I was real flexible about dates and times. Well, trigger warning, I decided to go to L-A. I've always wanted to see Groman's Chinese theatre and thought it would be fun to warm up after all the New Jersey winter warning. After more Internet browsing I thought, "maybe I could see a tv show". Soon I was signed up to see the Maggie Waggie show. I was real excited now.

Truth to be told, I did see a tv show once in the sixties. I was walking with my mother on Broadway one school holiday after seeing a Radio City movie with the Rockettes. Out of the blue, this man came up to my mother and said, "Would you like to watch the Merv Griffin show? We are starting in a few minutes." The next thing I knew we were in the Little Theatre and Arthur Treacher walked out onto the stage and told a few jokes and explained that the laugh sign meant you had permission to laugh if you thought the joke merited a chuckle or too. Soon Merv came out. I seem to remember Tony Randall was the guest.

Forward forty eight years and I was going to see a real tv show from L-A. It was very specific about what I could wear. Dark clothes, "casual hip" I think it said. No hats. No writing on your tees.

On the big day I got there early, having checked out of the hotel. It was quite hot out and I was a bit worried about the no hats rule. Luckily when I got to the Maggie Waggie wait line there were nice benches, awning to protect us from the sun and a fan blowing into our faces. I guess they didn't want an audience that had heat prostration. A few very tall and beautiful damsels talked to us we were marched to the door and told to go to the bathroom.

After a long wait, (there were a lot of long waits that day) the doors opened and literally where you would expect a lobby to be was the set of the show. There were lights and loud pop music and we were directed to our seats. After a while I realized the pretty people had been separated from the older, fat grumpy looking people. I did not sit with the pretty, young women and their boyfriends. For another very long wait the set was decorated with shamrocks and pots of gold. Apparently there were three consultants whose job was "set dressing" (I've become so L-A) and they put coins around the stage. Then somebody took a picture and walked backstage. After a few minutes (I suspect Maggie Waggie had some suggestions) they re-dressed the set and put gold coins on the stage floor. I guess they had trouble filling seats because people kept strolling into the audience well past the allotted time. Apparently due to this shortage of bodies the dress code was rather lax. Well it was St. Patrick's Day.

Finally the audience pumper came to motivate us into laughing our heads off and applauding like we were on Benzedrine.   Apparently TV show directors have never heard the expression, "I'll laugh when I hear something funny".

Finally, the show began. I noticed there were no speakers in the studio so you had to listen to the show real closely. The audience all laughed and applauded shamelessly. I almost had a sore throat as  I had laughed so hard during audience rehearsal. Now I know why jokes that aren't that funny get such a great response from studio audiences. After the show they did some promotions. One bit was funnier than the show had been.

Well that was about it. Having a plane to catch I missed the meet and greet with Fernando but that's life.

Editor's note: When they blip a word on tv it's the one you imagine it is.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I can't believe it's product placement

Watching the Oscar's I thought it was fun to watch something completely spontaneous, with stars getting into the fun. I'm talking about the pictures Ellen took from the audience. It made me feel warm to watch a genuine "moment" in live coverage of the Oscars.

Turns out I was bamboozled.  It was all payed for and planned by Samsung to sell cell phones. It wasn't just Ellen taking pictures on a whim. I was so naive.