Travel Thursday: Culver City

So this one day my landlady tells me they’re going to throw a party in the driveway in front of my room in the rear house, and the music would be blaring from the garage underneath me, so I should probably plan to be out that afternoon and night. She knocked $100 off the rent, so I figured I could find something to do. I idly wondered if there might be enough parties each month for me to live there rent free, but didn’t say anything as I searched for someplace to go. Unfortunately all of the UCLA sports teams were either away or playing the next day, and I didn’t feel like shelling out all of that rebate on a theater or concert ticket. There were no movies I wanted to see either, so it took a while to figure out what to do.
What I finally decided on was a visit to a part of Los Angeles I hadn’t been to in years, Culver City. A number of factors took me to this decision, not the least being a station on the Expo line stopping right there, but the most important was the fact that soon I would have a doctor’s appointment out there and wanted to scope out the place so I wouldn’t be late when it finally arrived.
But of course I had plenty of time to waste, so once I got downtown I sat down at my favorite place on Olvera Street, Juanita’s, for my usual bean and cheese burrito, followed by the requisite vanilla soft serve at Miss Kitty’s. But since it was the weekend the usual guys I know weren’t on duty, so in the end I didn’t spend much time there before heading back to Union Station to catch the subway and then transfer to the Expo line.
Other than having to play undercover amongst a sea of Trojan fans—already heading to the tailgates six hours before the game!—it was a boring long trip to Culver City, with my headphones full of an audiobook, something I’ve recently tried again and liked a lot more than previous attempts, when it would put me to sleep. Remembering that the last time I was on this line was the same day I’d hurt my elbow while shooting beach volleyball at Santa Monica, I forced myself to think of brighter things, but none came to mind as the train arrived and spat me out.
Heading out of the train station, there’s construction going on, so it’s hard to get a sense for the street geography, and indeed I took a wrong turn. In my defense, it’s a very strange crossing of three thoroughfares at weird angles, and when I finally got to check the map on my phone I saw that it didn’t matter all that much, at least as far as my first goal, the doctor’s office. And I actually enjoyed this walk, finding a future place to eat—amongst many—as well as some interesting buildings and places I’d vaguely heard of.
Once I turned onto the street in question and located the building I needed, I kept going onto Venice, where I headed back in the direction I came, having seen a couple of things on the map I wanted to check out. Most importantly was the In ‘N’ Out, but that was for later. The first target was The Ripped Bodice, but before I got there I came across a beautiful curly-haired brunette wearing a floral dress and knee-high black boots. That combination shouldn’t work—I’m a photographer, I’m supposed to know these things—but she rocked it. I even made her dimple when I mentioned boots never go out of style. This was definitely a case of my friend Cheryl’s lyric of “I fall in love at least four times a day.”
But finally I did get to the romance bookstore, which was just as idiosyncratic as the mystery and sci-fi stores of the past. There was some funky though expected décor, quirky merchandise that was only peripherally book-related, and less books than I expected, since the place was pretty small. I had the most fun in the erotica section, of course, though I did find something from one of my fave authors. . . who writes hard sci-fi! And the Millennium Falcon made an appearance too. . . unlike the men’s books.
Catherine Asaro, romance, sci-fi, hard sci-fi, science fiction, bookstore, romance bookstore

romance bookstore, phone stand, Millennium Falcon, Star  Wars

romance bookstore, men's fiction, empty bookspace

Made a brief stop at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which was a low-key bucket list-type place, but didn’t get to do much because it was near closing time. Besides, they don’t allow photos. I’ll probably try again when I have that doctor’s appointment, and hopefully I’ll remember to take notes.
Next up, though I still wasn’t that hungry, was In ‘n’ Out. This was the smallest of the chain I’ve ever seen, particularly when you see the line for the drive-thru blocking cars trying to get out of their spaces in the parking lot, so I had to stand around looking awkward while holding up a wall until my special order finally showed up. As I exited I heard music coming from the park across the street, so I figured listening up close would be a fun way to spend the time eating, and boy was I right.
I ended up staying two hours there, listening to the band of congas—well, not so much a band as a weekly jam—before they called it quits, but long enough to catch a couple of videos.

Talked to some of the musicians after—Señor Yum Yum, seriously?—but soon enough it was time to move on. Figuring there was nothing left for me there, I headed for the train station, only to be joined in my walk by a beautiful redhead who engaged me in small talk. Since this kind of thing doesn’t happen to me, I knew she had some ulterior motive, but as long as it didn’t require me reaching for my wallet I figured I’d indulge her, and myself, of course. Have I ever mentioned how much I love redheads? (Check the title of this blog site. . .)
So, after a long enough time for me to fall in love yet again—see above, about the song lyric—she saw we were close to the train station and pointed across the street, informing me brightly that it was a strip club full of girls as beautiful as her. I told her I doubted that, which seemed to make her blush, then patted her on the shoulder and moved on without a goodbye. I hoped I didn’t daydream too obviously on the train. . .

;o)

Heightened Senses

So, I have heightened senses.
The most famous person, even if he wasn’t real, to suffer from this was Usher. . . no, not the rapper, the character from Edgar Allan Poe’s story. That was fiction, of course, because no one could live like that; he would have killed himself a long time before. So yeah, I don’t have it anywhere near that bad, but I still had to grow up with everything being. . . too much.
Why does it suck most of the time?
As I age, my hearing and eyesight are fading, but unfortunately not my sense of smell. That’s as strong as ever. Every time I pass a dumpster, or even a trash can, I have to remember to internally close my nose, otherwise it feels like getting hit by a sledgehammer.
Taste is also hard to deal with. The way you feel when biting into the hottest pepper around is the way I feel with any small amount of any spice. . . except cinnamon. I have to order everything bland; my burgers consist of meat, cheese and bread, with the occasional bacon thrown in. Steaks have nothing on them. Waiters hate me, dates are embarrassed (only one of many reasons, apparently), and no one really understands.
Then there’s the last one: touch. This is the most difficult to explain, as there are two components: touching someone or something, and being touched.
My touching is as strong, or as sensitive, as ever. I’ve pleasured women just by rubbing their eyebrows. Being touched, however, is declining in a bad way.
In talking smack with guys and being honest with ladies—try it, it works—I’ve known that pleasurable sensations are off the scale for me, compared to most. The physical delight people achieve with orgasm, I can achieve with a lot less, so just imagine what a climax feels like. Unfortunately, with great pleasure comes great soreness. Even worse, as I age I’ve lost even more of this stamina, getting sore quicker, in some cases a lot quicker. It’s a bummer, though usually you don’t feel it until after. It does usually preclude an encore, though.
And regular pain? Please don’t pinch me. Getting a flu shot? More like a stab wound. And going to the dentist? No thanks, haven’t in 25 years. I’d rather have my teeth fall out.
Now imagine sunburn. . .
I’m writing this next section while eating at Juanita’s, my favorite place at Olvera Street, in downtown Los Angeles. I’m eating a bean and cheese burrito, just about the only thing on the menu I can have. Even with this relatively plain dish, I’m getting a slight buzz from the cheese. And right after, I go to Kitty’s for a soft serve. . . vanilla, of course.
So yeah, most of the time it doesn’t matter, but that just makes the times it does that much worse. Chronic pain is my closest friend. So for those who have asked me to go out with them, to nightclubs in particular but really anywhere loud, I hope you understand a little better why I always say no. If you invite me to a Cajun or Indian restaurant, I might have to shoot you. So don’t. Leave me alone and let me decide, okay?
;o)

cello, Cellogram

Lindsey Stirling Evanescence Concert, part 2

When last we tuned into this soap opera, I’d just left the Meet ‘n’ Greet tent to get into the actual Greek Theater through the VIP entrance. (By now the VIP “oooooh!” of it had vanished.) Had fun with the people at security, as I can always tell what kind of company it is by how loose the employees are. I thought they were going to run the magic. . . er, magnetic wand over me a few more times just to keep the fun going, which wouldn’t have been a bad idea, but instead I went in and climbed to the top of the seats, where I got this view:

But after that it was more waiting around. I don’t know at what time was the Meet ‘n’ Greet at other venues, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was earlier here so that Lindsey could spend time with her El Lay peeps. I didn’t know till the next day that iJustine and Superwoman were there, which would have gone a long way in my quest to take photos with all the princesses from Cassie’s Disney video. (Got Cassie’s a month ago, and obviously Lindsey. Where you at, Ro?) Also in attendance was Whitney Avalon, whom I regret missing even more, speaking of princesses and their rap battles.
Having seen the set schedule from a cheerful security guard, I knew how much time I had to kill before heading to my seat. The burrito was still doing its job of holding hunger at bay, but I was thirsty, so I got a $5 bottle of Sprite. . . the worst decision I’ve ever made, but more on that later. In addition to security guards and actual police, I spent a while chatting with the Mercedes-Benz guy, who once he learned I didn’t drive took off his salesman persona. As always I find it interesting what people visiting El Lay want to see while they’re in town; his choice was Malibu and Universal Studios. We talked about several other cities we’d both been to, but that didn’t waste nearly as much time as I’d hoped.
Eventually I could stall no longer and made it to my seat, but not before showing my ticket to prove I belonged in that section; apparently the VIP laminate on my chest wasn’t enough. The good news was obviously the view from the second row, but the bad news was that these weren’t permanent comfortable seats, but rather basically folding chairs. Hello, here I come, backache! To my amusement I found myself seated next to the boisterous guys from Utah whom I’d shared a table with at the Meet ‘n’ Greet, but any hilarity that might have ensued quickly vanished when I took that ($5) bottle of Sprite out of my backpack and twisted the cap. . .
Yep, you guessed it: the soda exploded. The sugary liquid did not get into my hair, but most of my arms, the bag, and especially my left boot got drenched. By the end I might have gotten $2 worth of that damned stuff. And it took a solid hour for janitorial staff to come over and help with the sticky floor, by which time it had all dried, of course.
Luckily the opening act, Cellogram, made me forget all that, at least for a while. My initial thought was that these musicians were a variation of The Piano Guys, but this cellist is even more crazy! (In a good way, of course.) And it was a wild man banging on the cajon rather than a sophisticated-looking individual behind a piano.

I hate spotlights.
I can’t remember a duo ever having this much energy, and fun. The highlight had to be the finale, part of which featured Zeppelin’s Kashmir, where they were joined by a lady I quickly figured out was the Evanescence guitarist. She was a bit of a ham but always willing to play along with the shenanigans, especially lying on her back along with Dave Eggar—the cellist—for some final jamming. Those of you who saw my blog about my favorite guitarists—yeah right, check that out in the archives—might remember I had a bunch of female shredders on the list, and just like that here’s another one.
So, what to do in between acts, other than cleaning up my seat, my arms, and my shorts? Wander around to see if I could spot anyone I knew. And did I ever! Hey, Phelba in the house! Luckily she’s a lot calmer and nicer when Lindsey’s not around.

Didn’t take long for Evanescence to come out, and I can’t describe much here because I was in the moment. I remember my faves—Bring Me To Life, My Heart Is Broken, My Immortal—but otherwise I just let Amy’s voice wash over me. Of course I couldn’t let the moment of Lindsey joining in for Hi-Lo pass by, though I was expecting her from the other side, so she managed to surprise me anyway.

Those of you who know me would not be surprised to find I instantly fell in love with Jen the guitarist. I found myself looking at her rather than Amy a lot of the time—hey, I already know how beautiful Amy is—and was really surprised to find her with her hands in the air, almost like she was conducting, but I knew better. Was she actually playing a Theremin? I couldn’t really hear it, but what else could she be doing? (Since then I’ve seen a video where she shows off her Theremin-playing skills, so yeah, although I’d never seen such a modern-looking instrument.)
So this was the best I could do as far as Amy is concerned. In case you didn’t see it the first time, I REALLY hate spotlights!

Eventually it was time for the encore, and I had the phone at the ready, because I knew that in the past Lindsey had joined in here. Not this time; instead Dave Eggar came down from the orchestra with his highly maneuverable cello to play the lead string part. Since I’d enjoyed his set, I did not stop recording.

So even though I came for Lindsey, and Evanescence was more of the cream icing on the cream cake, I still felt wrung out after that set. Hopefully the break in between would be bigger this time. Ended up talking to the guy at the VIP entrance, who remembered me because of the shirt I had on. . . remember that from the photo in the previous blog? As I said, you get a good feeling for a venue by the way the employees act with you; felt like we were long-time buds, and he didn’t laugh at my exploding soda too much.
Okay, finally we get to what you’ve all been waiting for. . . or rather, it’ll be on the next installment. I’m not really that cruel, but then Lindsey’s concert figures to have the most to write about, so it makes sense. . . really, I’m not cackling and evilly twiddling fingers or anything like that. . . swear!

;o)

Lindsey Stirling Evanescence Concert, part 1

As I’m on the bus heading for downtown Los Angeles, I realize how different I feel this time as opposed to my first Lindsey Stirling concert, when I was basically a nervous wreck knowing I was going to meet her, even though I’d only known about her for approximately six months. Now, a full two years after that, my fifth time seeing her live, and having spoken to her in a more casual setting a few months ago, I figured things would be far different. . . or at least I hoped. I wasn’t sure at all.
First stop: Juanita’s of Olvera Street for a giant bean and cheese burrito, fueling up for a long day and night. Also, I knew I wouldn’t get hungry till late, and I was right; I didn’t eat again till I got home at two in the morning. . . and that was cereal. The owner’s son is a Lindsey fan, but he wasn’t there, so I couldn’t boast about my second row seats (not that I would have). From there it was a quick stop at Kitty’s for the usual post-burrito vanilla soft serve before heading back to Union Station and the subway ride to East Hollywood.
Second stop: Vermont/Sunset, waiting for the DASH observatory bus to take me to the venue, along with a bunch of people who worked there at the Greek Theater, tonight’s venue. Amazing they had to be there a good five hours before the show! Other people were going to that beautiful lump of white up on the horizon. . .


Thanks to concise instructions in the email, I knew exactly where to go for the VIP Meet ‘n’ Greet tent. Had to take a photo, because the background of brown hills and shady trees made the setting look like anything but Los Angeles.

After a wait, then a security search, we were allowed into the tent, where people lined up for free food and drink—which was mostly bags of popcorn and lemonade, so typical Lindsey—and getting their faces painted. (I saw a video where the Evanescence Meet ‘n’ Greet featured champagne, so I definitely made the right choice, despite not getting to meet Jen the guitarist.) Having been through such events before, I grabbed a seat at a table near the stage first, which might have been the best move I made all day. Besides, I’d just eaten a giant bean and cheese burrito, so it’s not like I was hungry. On the other hand, free popcorn. . .
At a couple of tables there were giant versions of Connect 4 and Jenga, which nobody was playing, probably a good thing, as I dropped a circle in the Connect 4 later and it was LOUD! Instead there was really small talk as we waited to get in line to get our photos take with the diva of the hour. When that finally occurred, we were herded back outside for a small security speech: no lifting, no heavy squeezing, don’t even take your cell phones out. That was disappointing, as I’d wanted to do a Dancing With the Stars pose with her, but couldn’t show the photo to her. It probably wouldn’t have mattered, though, as there was no cell service in this canyon of Griffith Park! WHAT?
I jumped out of line to say Hi to Kit and show him some photos I’d taken of him at his show a few months before—more on that later. Also there was Andy, who’s the lighting guy on tour. Managed to talk to him about some lighting stuff I’d seen at a few Rush concerts, which was fun for a while until I could see he was getting bored. Yeah, I frequently overstay my welcome, but then we guys don’t understand hints, right, ladies?
So remember how at the start I said this time was going to be different? It wasn’t. I don’t remember what I said to Lindsey; I don’t even remember if there was a hug. If they hadn’t sent me a link to the photo I probably would have forgotten that happened too. It was different in that it was much shorter, as in hello photo next. Part of it was due to her having signed the posters beforehand, but there was no time for conversation here, which would have been a bummer had I been able to remember what I’d hypothetically said.


Like my shirt?
Then it was back into the tent for a wheel of fortune-type game and a two-song concert; I can’t even remember which order they took place in. A couple of people won selfies, but mostly it was ask Lindsey questions. Since I was seated so close to the stage I tried to get a photo of Lindsey, but I’m a professional photographer, not a cellphone one. Oddly enough, I got a decent shot of Kit, whom at this pace I’ll be shooting a lot more times than Lindsey. (See previous blog of Moonlit Kit concert photos.)

Lindsey, Kit, and Andy the Lighting Guy on cajon played “Something Wild” and the mashup of “Roundtable Rival/Don’t Let This Feeling Fade.” I very much want a full instrumental version of the latter song, which I am simply putting here on the one in a billion chance Lindsey reads this.

Once that was done and Lindsey paid off the selfies, the party broke up and we were invited to stick around or go into the venue. I did a little of both, talking to a few people, especially the guy I was supposed to go to the Holocaust museum with last week, but who was so late I had to leave for another appointment. He had a huge brag book of his photos, and luckily he grew a bigger audience, allowing me to slip away.
In the tent were some posters from Lindsey’s past shows, including an image I love: Steve-o carrying her around on his shoulder during Master of Tides. Since he’s playing a pirate here, and she’s on his shoulder. . . doesn’t that make her the parrot?

After a while I got bored and went into the venue, where I would be bored even more, but that’s for next time. . .

;o)

Government Office Bliss

Friday morning found me walking up desolate and weed-edged Rosemead Blvd. in El Monte toward the complex of federal buildings tucked next to the freeway, across from the outdoor mall anchored by a giant Target. I had to fix some errors that had cropped up in my mom’s benefits, so that she wouldn’t lose all that lovely health care she’s getting now and make my financial burdens even worse than they already are.
Knowing the drill, I put all the stuff from my pockets into my backpack, especially the coins, and then sent it through the x-ray machine; that way when I passed through the metal detector I only had to remove my hat, my glasses, and my phone. And my belt. Have I mentioned I’ve lost 60 pounds? Luckily my shorts did not slide off. The security guard was jovial enough to joke around, so that was fun.
Having been there before, I managed to pass by the info desk this time and go to the next help person further inside. She sent me to a line that I thought was wrong, where the guy quickly told me to go back to her for a number and enter the waiting area where I’d been before and knew I was heading. Luckily that didn’t take long, especially when I saw so few people there, including no one at the no-number line; it got pretty full by the time I left. And the guy with the baby was there with someone already being served, so it was hardly a wait before I was sitting down on one side of the giant circular desk in the middle of the room holding five workers.
It felt similar to the DMV, though not as harried.
And then the worker I got, a pleasant Hispanic gentleman in his forties in glasses and tie—the only downside was the Raiders lanyard holding his ID—proceeded to take care of everything I needed, glancing between the paperwork I’d gotten in the mail and his computer. It felt like it went by so quickly, even though it was a solid half hour, and part of that was when he was searching for his staple remover. (I realized what he wanted without him saying, which surprised him tremendously. When he asked how I knew, I told him, “They don’t call me Sherlock for nothing!”)
It was such a pleasant experience—I felt like I’d made a new friend—that I stayed to fill out a survey card, giving Ernest as high praise as I could come up with on the spot. And even though the supervisor was helping someone else, when she saw me holding the yellow card she took it with a smile and a genuine thank you.
I’d budgeted two to three hours, depending when I got there, for the experience, and much like my times at the DMV, I was out quickly. As always I gazed longingly at the ice cream factory across the street, which I blame for the brain fart I had at not boarding the bus pulling to a stop in front of me, which would have left me in the same place I needed to go, and instead walking half a mile in already-warm temperatures to the other bus stop. On the other hand, that heat and sweat, along with the feelings of triumph and relief, led me to drop into the Carl’s Jr. and get my first Oreo milkshake in years.
So props to one government employee who doesn’t fit the cliché. . .

;o)

For My 50th Birthday, I lost 50 Pounds

In ten months. It might actually be sixty-four pounds, according to my doctor, but who’s counting?
Here’s the big thing. I did it without basically changing my diet. Yes, I gave up peanut M&Ms, golden Oreos, and a lot of 7-up. I even cut down on ice cream, though with this weather that’s already changed. But I still have sugary cereal every morning, and a lot of days feature bacon and eggs, ham and cheese, potatoes of some kind, waffles, bean and cheese burritos, burgers, and country fried steak.
Not so funny story: I actually haven’t had cereal in five days. At first it’s because I ran out of milk, but on Friday I bought a gallon, along with a huge container of ice cream, and managed to stuff them into my backpack. It was 108 degrees that day, so I walked as fast as I could toward home after getting off the bus. Somehow the milk jug managed to open the zipper on the backpack and suicidally plunge to the sidewalk! Argh!
But back to it. I’m sure people are going to ask how I lost the weight, so here goes. The first thing to mention is that I have a fast metabolism. I gain weight quickly, but I lose it too. There were days when I lost five pounds in about three hours, and no, I don’t know how that happens, it just does. But that’s not the most important point.
I’ve lived with chronic pain since my spinal injury in my early twenties. Since then I’ve picked up numerous other injuries, especially to my knees. Recently I’ve had a torn rotator cuff, which I decided not to have surgically repaired (best decision ever, physical therapy took the pain away!). Most importantly, I have arthritis in my knees, hips, and every part of my spine.
Last October I found myself having to change domiciles. That meant three weeks of packing, and seemingly hundreds of trips to the dumpster. Worse—biggest of all—was the hundreds of trips back up the stairs to the apartment, stairs being the worst thing for my knees. While there was pain from using muscles that had been dormant for a long time, I quickly realized that my chronic pain did not get worse.
That was the key. In those three weeks, I was shocked to discover I’d lost twelve pounds.
Now knowing I could do things without pain, or without more pain, I joined an aqua arthritis class at the Y, did a lot of treadmill, and managed to get some pretty cheap equipment for a home gym. I’m talking some small dumbbells and resistance bands, rollers, a yoga mat, things like that, not actual giant machines you’d find at the gym. Most of the exercises are courtesy of the people at Bleu Physical Therapy in Alhambra, a place I highly recommend.
So that’s it. The big 5-0. Here’s hoping I manage to get through the day without anyone surprising me with some stupid party. . .

;o)