Yesterday, I tried out a new whole wheat bread recipe, and the loaves turned out great. My best so far. I'm trying to become a really good bread baker, but it is very difficult. There are so many variables, so many different recipes, and so many types of flour. It like a science, it really is, and I'm trying to learn it. It similar to working with clay, very hands on, and that's what I like about making bread. I love kneading it, and I like the smooth, elasticy way it feels. And the way bread smells when it's baking. Mmmm, I could live on bread. Anyway, I really like this recipe, and I going to use it again. The thing that is super cool about it is you can substitute ingredients, add things, etc., and it supposed still turn out great. It's like a fail proof bread, it really is. I froze two of the loaves for later, and saved our Miser family some money. Bread is expensive. So I am going to try to master this bread making thing. After all, nothing beats a good, freshly baked loaf of bread.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
It's that time of year - the Misers are thinking about getting away from it all. There are some seriously good travel deals out there right now, and we've been toying with the idea of going somewhere exotic and far away. But then reality sets in, and the idea of charging a trip on our credit card just doesn't sit well with this Miser. Maybe we could take Bee out of town for a few days, someplace not too far away. Then in dawns on us. Let's go to one of the most beautiful places on earth that is right here in California. Yosemite! Sparky and I were there about eight years ago right at the height of Spring, and it was achingly beautiful. We camped outside of the park on the Tulmae River, and spent a day riding rented bikes around the National Park. We were on our way to a wedding so we didn't have the time to really see Yosemite, but we always wanted to go back someday. And it looks like that someday is now! Bee would love it there, we can rent bikes again with a toddler tow, and pedal all around. We'll stay inside the Park, bring our own food to cook, and stay for a couple of nights. That won't break the bank, we'll go during some weekdays in early May, right before it gets insanely crowded. We'll take route 395, which is one of our favorite drives. I cannot wait, it's good to have vacation plans. And maybe next year we'll be able to afford that trip to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, or maybe Hawaii. Wish You Were Here!
Monday, March 30, 2009
The other day, Sparky and I were talking about our garden and how great it was to grow food, and I was trying to describe our new reality. How we are now eating mostly locally grown (from our backyard) organic produce, and how cool it was. Sparky said, "We've accidentally become hippies." It's true, we have. Because of the New Depression, we have become so much more aware of the cost of everything. For example, we've cut back on our water and electricity usage and have seen a difference in our utility bills. We are eating better and for less money (we have started our third week of the Food Stamp Challenge.) We put another sweater on when we're cold, and an extra blanket on the bed. We take shorter showers, and water plants with Bee's bath water. There are many worse things to be than hippies, so I'm good with it and so is Sparky.
When Sparky was young, he was a hippie, even though he is a little too young for the true hippie era. He's from a small town of 5000 Hooisers, and Rushville was about 10 years or so behind the times when Sparky dropped out. He did all the typical hippie things: grew his hair long, wore bell bottoms, smoked weed, dropped LSD, played the guitar, hitchhiked across the country, rebelled against society, avoided the "Man" at all cost, etc. He even flirted with living in a commune - Steven's Farm, but decided not to join when he was told that he wouldn't be allowed to paint. Apparently they didn't encourage individual art there, it was all about group activities.
Our dear Sleeford became a hippie after he ditched The Army. He lived in a commune in Berkeley, worked at the White Panther Food Co-op, drove around in a VW Beetle, grew his hair long, and rebelled against the whole corporate thing. Sleeford was the right age for Hippiedom, and he lived in the exact center of the Hippieworld.
When I was about four or five years old I wanted to be a hippie when I grew up. I actually thought it was a viable occupation. Seattle was lousy with hippies at the time, and we saw them everywhere. All these hippies seemed to be constantly hitchhiking. Our family rode around town in a VW Bus, and every time we saw hippie hitchhikers my dad would tell us to give them the peace sign. All of us kids would comply. I guess I thought that it was a happy thing to be a hippie, plus I loved the fashion. All of the boldly colored love beads; the long, straight hair parted in the middle; embroidered jeans; army jackets; neon miniskirts; crazy psychedelic patterned materials; and fringe, fringe, and more fringe. It all seemed so glamorous and groovy to me. I remember sitting cross legged in the summer grass with my friends, making daisy chains to wear around our necks, imaging myself as a hippie.
And now it seems we have accomplished, without trying to, my one time childhood dream.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Last night, Sparky, Bee and I observed Earth Hour. We let Bee stay up and she loved it, it was like a mini holiday to her. I knew she would enjoy it as she is always up for a party atmosphere. She usually goes to bed at about 8:30pm or so, but after giving her a bath and putting on her pajamas, I lit the candles and Sparky turned off the electricity. Bee oohed and ahhed over the darkness and the candles, and settled into my lap to listen as Sparky played the guitar and sang for us. After awhile, Bee could no longer sit and she got up and danced and ran around as though she was on a sugar high, only she wasn't. We looked out the window and noticed that many houses in the hills of Echo Park were dark, so apparently many of our neighbors also turned off their lights. Earth Hour was such a hit over at Miser Headquarters that we have decided to do it every Saturday. Why not? Bee loved it, it saves electricity, and it's good for the planet. As Sparky and I depend more on our garden and being self sufficient, and as we cut back our carbon footstep, we find that we are enjoying the simple things in life more. Our values have changed as a side effect of this New Depression, and we are yearning to get back to nature and to leave the annoying things that come with living in modern society behind us. Who knows, we may even become Amish...
Friday, March 27, 2009
Today Bee and I went to the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena with our friend Cupcake Murphy to see the new Ganesha exhibit. Not only was the show excellent, but unbeknown to us, it was also their free day! (Every fourth Friday of the month is free admission, and parking is always free there. A Miser has got to like that.) I'm a lover of Ganesha, the elephant headed god who is the destroyer of obstacles; The Misers could really use him right now. Probably most people in the country could use him right about now. I enjoyed the museum's collection of ceramics from different Asian countries as well. It's always amazing to see pottery that was made centuries ago, and it always inspires me as I make things with clay myself. Right now I'm incorporating animal motifs into my work, and I saw a lot of pieces today that were adorned with various animals such as fish, birds, elephants, butterflies, dogs, and dragons. Also inspiring were the Chinese porcelain pieces from the Qing dynasty. The glazes are amazingly vibrant, and the pieces themselves so thin and delicate. Porcelain is my main clay of choice right now, but it is the most temperamental clay - it's difficult to throw, and it cracks and breaks more easily than other clay bodies. It is challenging to say the least, but I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. I figure that if I can master working with porcelain, then I will be able to work with anything. Today, I came out of the museum with a head full of ideas, and the hankering to go to more museums more often. Especially on free days.
P.S. Tommorow ( Saturday, March 28, 2009) is Earth Hour. The Misers plan on turning off all of our lights from 8:30pm to 9:30pm. The goal is to have 1 billion people from around the globe participate in this. Sparky thinks that there should be an Earth Day - no electricity for a whole day. How cool would that be?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Sparky and I cannot stop talking about our garden. We are seriously addicted. Yesterday, Sparky and Bee went to the nursery once again and bought cucumbers and spinach seeds! And today, Sparky built a little Bee proof bamboo fence around the garden plot containing our young seedlings. Besides the cucumbers and spinach, we are also going to plant onions, garlic, fennel, and a plethora of peppers and chilies. I'm planning already all the dishes I'm going to make with our cornucopia of produce. In a way, I'm glad for this New Depression; I know that sounds weird to say, but without it we never would have grown all of this food. And it's something that we'll most likely always do, no matter how much our economy improves. Sparky and I feel so luck to have a yard where we can grow things and are happy to live in a climate where we can garden year round. Despite these tough times, we are very fortunate indeed.
Some of the things I'm planning on making with our bounty are: eggplant Parmesan, ratatouille, cucumber and yogurt salad, pasta with fresh tomatoes, various soups (I have some great cookbooks from the Moosehead Collective that contain awesome vegetarian soups and salad recipes from a variety of vegetables), limoncello made from vodka and Meyer lemons, pickled peppers, hot sauce, etc. The one bad thing about the seasons changing is that pretty soon it'll be too warm for lettuce since it's a winter crop. We've grown so use to our nightly fresh salads that I'm not sure what we'll do. Maybe there are some other greens we can grow here in the summer, we'll just have to do some research. Or just make salads with other vegetables. It shouldn't be too hard, we'll have lots to choose from. Garden Galore!
Monday, March 23, 2009
It's been a week since The Misers started their Food Stamp Challenge, and so far, so good. We have $12.50 leftover from the original $100, and we'll carry it over to this week if need be. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Since we are home a lot more these days, we have to time to cook and bake, and have become more creative in putting together meals. We are eating healthy, wholesome food for the most part, and the fresh salads from the garden have been helping to save $$$ at the market. We are going shopping today in order to restock our coffers, but we will only buy what we need. I'm curious to see how long we can maintain our new grocery budget.
I read an article in the Los Angeles Times this morning on stress, and how more people right now are feeling the burden of living in the New Depression, and how it's taking a toll on their health. They aren't sleeping well, drinking more, eating worse, and stressing out about our gloomy economy. I asked Sparky how he was feeling these days and he said he's not stressed at all. I'm not either, really. I mean, I sleep like a baby these days and feel pretty happy and content most of the time. We've been having fun hanging out with Bee, who always up for having a good time (when she's not having a toddler melt down, that is. These toddler melt downs can happen at a drop of a hat, but they can also stop at the drop of a hat. You just have to get her attention on to something else, which is not hard to do if your are clever about it.) It seems to me that the L.A. Times is a little bit behind the curve. They should have written this article last year as it seems dated already. Sparky and I were stressed out months and months ago, but are now just dealing with things and planning for the future. People who are stressing out now must have been in denial for a while. Maybe its the old adage that it's a rescession when your neighbor loses their job, a depression when you lose yours. Or maybe they were living in a cave or something, away from any news outlets. Its like the stages of grief, and Sparky and I are in the full on acceptance mode, just dealing with things and moving on with our lives. We are busy planning on what we are going to do and make with all of our great herbs and vegetables in our garden, and maybe we'll even go on vacation, take Bee someplace warm and tropical. Why not? There are amazing flight and cruise deals out there right now and The Misers just may take advantage of it. It's now finally Spring and the days are getting warmer and longer. We have moved way beyond stressing out over our situation, we have fully embraced it, and are just busy living our lives to the fullest, albeit on a budget, but still managing to have some fun.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Today Bee and I ran some errands. It being a Saturday, there were a lot of people out and about. I try to run my errands on off days in order to not run into traffic, plus I find it less annoying when there are fewer people waiting in line ahead of you. But as we were busy all week and I had some things that I needed to buy sooner then later (i.e. toilet paper, shampoo, etc.), today was the day. Things went pretty smoothly, and Bee was in a silly, happy mood. She loves to shop, so it's all good to her. We went to Target where I was very careful to comparison shop and only buy the things that we absolutely needed, which is completely opposite of my mindset a year ago. But I digress. I paid for my items with cash, and when the clerk handed me my change, he just sort of shoved it into my hand all mixed up and mumbled the amount. I hate that! Pet Peeve #1! Have you noticed that clerks don't even count your change back to you anymore? I think it's because they don't know how to. They just punch some numbers into a register and it tells them what they owe you, they count it out to themselves and then just sort of heave in it your direction.
I used to be a cashier at a movie theatre, and I must say I really liked that job. My sister got me on there, as it was a summer job for her during her break from college. As I was going to school in town, I was hired year round. Our manager was a cool guy named Joe I think, who had dyed blond hair. On slow night when he had plans he would talk customers into coming back some another night by enticing them with free movies tickets and snack coupons. It always worked, no one ever turned him down, and then we all got to leave early. Other perks of the job were free movies for any theatre in town for you and your friends, and all the popcorn you could eat, which got old pretty fast. It paid a little over minimum wage, but the perks evened it out, at least to us at the time. I didn't mind working there until Joe quit and we got a new boss named Miss Stickler. She was a crazy mass of neurosis, but that is another story. The point I want to make is that I sold movie tickets, and worked the candy counter, working without a cash register. We weren't even allowed to use calculators; instead we had to add up everything either in our heads or on a pad of paper if it was a really big order. I got pretty good at adding things up in my head and counting out change back to customers. I always counted their money back to them, and kept it in order: all the money facing the same way, with the largest domination on the bottom and smallest on top. It's not that hard to do, and I just wish that all clerks and cashiers would do that these days. I like having my money organized, especially in this New Depression, and I expect people to have respect for my money and not mumble as they shove a wad of change into my outstretched hand. Surely that's not too much to ask.
Friday, March 20, 2009
I just noticed that I've written a lot of blogs with birds in the titles. Why? I'm not sure, I'm not a bird owner or anything. In fact, that is one creature I would never want as a pet. My mother has told me about when she was young and her little brother had a pet canary. She was the one who always had to clean the cage (I have no idea why, it wasn't even her bird - it was probably because she was the oldest.) She said the bird was messy and she hated cleaning up after it. Because of that, to this day she is not that fond of birds. My mother-in-law is also a bird despiser. She has, over the years, had multiple incident where birds have flown into her house or screened-in porch, flown around over her head, and refused to leave. She's had to chase them out with a broom, probably hollering at them the whole time.
Birds are dirty and disease prone, at least that's what comes to mind when you think of pigeons. And they poop on things, like your freshly washed car, and sometimes on people. I remember once in high school when it was a beautiful spring day, a bunch of us decided to have lunch outside. This one person whom I couldn't stand, Theresa Nichols, (good god she was such an evil person), was sitting with us because she was friends with my friends, and a bird flew overhead and shit on her head. That was the best! She really deserved it. And I must say, I was actually nice enough not to laugh out loud.
I also remember about ten years ago when a pigeon flew into our house, sat on one of Sparky's paintings and pooped on it, and then flew over to his cowboy boots and pooped into one of them for good measure. The bird's critique of his work was not in his best interest though, as Sparky whacked him down with a tennis raquet, and then Earl the cat jumped on the poor pigeon and did what cats do best. Not very subtle but certainly very direct. I remember that Sparky decided to incorporate the bird shit into his painting. I can't recall if his attempt was successful or not.
I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull once when I was a kid. My father's sister gave it to him, and I remember he wasn't impressed with it - I don't even think he read it because it had the label of being a spiritual self-help type of book, not his cup of tea to say the least. It was also vastly trendy at the time. But I picked it up and read it and actually quite enjoyed it. That Jonathan L. Seagull sure loved to fly. Which is the cool thing about birds - they can fly! I used to have lucid flying dreams all the time, which supposedly means that you are in control of things. In my dreams I would look down on my surroundings and it was a very cool sensation. One could see forever! I haven't had one of those dreams in a very long while; I kind of miss them.
Once not too long ago, Sparky and I watched from our window as a red tailed-hawk dove down from the sky out of nowhere, plucked up a pigeon who was pecking around in our yard, and proceeded to kill it and eat it. I wouldn't let our cat Lila outside for a little while after witnessing that, I have to say it was pretty impressive. We used to have a lot of pigeons around our neighborhood, but not so much anymore. The hawks, which are most likely from Elysian Park, have found a new hunting ground.
We also have a flock of wild parrots that like to frequent our Eucalyptus trees, and they are a sight to behold. Word on the street is that years ago in Burbank a pet store caught on fire, and the owners released all of the birds in order to save their lives. This flock is supposedly their descendants. Anyway, they are noisy, colorful, and fun to watch.
And that is the one thing that is funny about both my mother and my mother-in-law. These two bird haters both have bird feeders in their yards. And when a bird stops by the feeder to eat they'll say, "Look at that beautiful cardinal/hummingbird/red-throated warbler," or something along those lines. So they don't really hate all birds. Just the ones that mess with them. Or maybe they just like them in their natural habitats and not inside their homes. That makes sense to me. Birds have wings, so they should be outside flying all around. If I could fly like in my dreams I certainly wouldn't want to be caged up either.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Guest blogger: Sparky McManus
Some days are shitty, some just involve a lot of it. Today was the latter. First thing in the morning little Bee treated me to a diaper full that had been festering for a good two hours, and Poo can travel quite a ways in two hours. In fact, it loves traveling. If Poo were a Gen Y world traveler it would wear a rasta knit cap and have stickers from Iceland to Morocco covering its rucksack. Poo's passport would have more stamps than the Rampart Police blotter. Good morning, indeed!
The afternoon got off to an inauspicious start when planting corn seeds in my freshly turned garden I came across a clutch of cat turds from the night before. Cats don't care for any aspect of gardening, and are not shy about letting you know. At least the dog didn't eat it...
And then it was off to the park with Bee and Glenn the Dog, and of course, more Poo. Bee found a dried chunk of dog crap, and as I tried to stop her Glenn came racing up to us, his face wracked with anxiety. He kept sitting and squirming like crazy. I'd seen this act before and knew the score. "No way, dude. I've had enough shit for one day." But then his agitation went over the top and I noticed an 18" piece of grass covered in ... hanging out of his bum. Jesus Christ! He sat down, I pinned the leaf of Poo to the trail with my walking stick, Glenn jumped up and was free of this awful burden. I said to Bee, "I think that's enough for one day, eh?" She just said, "Oh my." Get thee behind me Poo - and stay there, please.
Be a guest blogger here at Miser Family Los Angeles! Let us know how the New Depression is treating you, and you it. Send an image as well!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
When I moved to Los Angeles and heard a mockingbird for the first time I thought it was the most exotic thing ever. Now I equate mockingbirds to Spring because that's when they come back to Los Angeles to find a mate. I love all of their songs, the variety is awesome, and I remember one year especially when this one little bird sang his heart out for weeks on end - it took him forever to find a mate. I have no idea why, because he had the largest repertoire of any mockingbird I've heard before. Heck, I wanted to date him he was that good. But maybe most girl mockingbirds are looking for some bird a little bit more ordinary, some bird who is average instead of one who is obviously well traveled and well versed. Maybe mocking girl birds don't want to rock the boat, but just find some bird who is common and ordinary instead of spectacular. Anyway, I remember feeling kind of sorry for the little guy, and I was really rooting for him. But he must have finally found his bird soul mate because suddenly he was gone and our yard was a little bit more quiet and a little bit more dull without his winning personality around anymore. The good new is that the mockingbirds have returned, Spring is in the air and love is all around us. It's just that these new birds aren't as vociferous as my old friend, but the season is still young.
Monday, March 16, 2009
The Misers started their Food Stamp Challenge today. We went to the market and bought a lot of staples: a big bag of rice; dried beans; pastas; dairy items; fruit; breakfast supplies; coffee; etc. Sparky also bought some chicken and sausage for himself and Bee, which should last them all week. I'm a vegetarian which makes me a cheap date. It cost less to feed me than it does carnivores and omnivores, so we are saving some money right there. Anyway, I'll probably make a big pot of rice and beans, a meat and a vegetarian lasagna, and maybe I'll bake some bread. I can use the rice and beans in several dishes and freeze any leftover lasagna. It'll be interesting to see how we are doing by the end of the week. We have $18.50 left after today's shopping trip, which is not a lot of money. But the good news is we have a full refrigerator and very full cupboards, so we should be a-okay.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Bee has taken to coloring on everything and anything she can get her little hands on such as the refrigerator, the bathtub, books, table tops, toys, the front door, etc. Basically, any and all surfaces are her canvas. She is driving me bonkers because every time I turn around I find one her new masterpieces. Her medium of choice is crayon, but a couple of times she has gotten a hold of pens which makes removing her artwork from various surfaces difficult at best. I remember when we were small and my little sister drew a life size stick figure girl on the inside of our closet door. I think she used a purple crayon. She must have been about three or four at the time, and I remember that her portrait remained on our closet door so it must have been impossible to remove. What is it about little kids and drawing on stuff that they aren't supposed to draw on? I mean we've supplied Bee with coloring books and paper but she'd rather make her mark on forbidden items. Kind of like taggers. I've never realized how similar taggers are to toddlers, but they really have a lot in common. Except toddlers don't willfully deface public property, it's more of an accidental side effect of their brilliant artistry.
The Misers have been inspired by a Los Angeles Times Food article about a couple who lived on $67 worth of food per week, which is a little bit less than what a needy family of two receives in food stamps in California. We've decided that starting Monday, we are going to budget ourselves to $100 a week for groceries for the three of us. Can we do it? We are pretty thrifty, but we haven't really put ourselves on a strict budget so this should be an interesting experiment. Back in 2007, some members of congress held an official Congressional Food Stamp Challenge in order to bring awareness to hunger and poverty in America. Each participant was allowed to spend only $21 on food and beverages for one week. There were certain rules they had to follow such as no free food from friends or family, and no eating food that they already owned (excluding spices and condiments.) We are not going to be that strict since we are mainly doing this to see if we can do it, and to see if we can save ourselves a couple of bucks. That means that all food we already have is fair game, and we will gladly, as always, accept meal invitations. I just wish that more of our vegetables were ready because that would really help, but I think we can do this. Go, Misers!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Today The Misers visited their favorite nursery once again. You see, we just can't stop growing things - it has become addictive. Sparky will be clearing out more of our non-edible plants tomorrow in order to plant our brand new seeds, which include: snap peas, radishes, zucchini, green beans, corn, Buttercup squash, and Edamame! We are going to have such an excellent crop of vegetables, and we're also planting herbs such as: chives, basil, Italian parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. We already have oregano and mint growing, so it looks like most of our spicing needs will be met. The woman at the nursery told Sparky that a lot more of her customers are planting vegetable gardens; this is a Los Angeles trend that we are 100% behind. It's so good for the environment and one's health, I can't say enough good things about it. Also today, while at the nursery, Bee came face to face with a naked male statue, a copy of Michelangelo's "David." Or face to penis, I should say. She laughed when she saw it, pointing at the concrete penis. "That's a boy's pee-pee," I told her. She chuckled, pointed again and gleefully said, "Pee-pee!" At least we've gotten that out of the way, Bee's first glimpse of a male's nether region. The Miser's have decided that nursery's are a good, educational place to go where one can learn all about plants, nature, and human anatomy.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I swear that little Bee has turned into a Magpie. She finds things that are small and shiny and puts them places only known to her. I have several lip glosses that have gone missing recently - I have no idea where they are, but I have to tell you, I am suspecting Bee. I do have some proof, if you want to call it that. The other morning after I finished my cup of coffee I set it down on the table, and went to the bathroom. When I came out my cup was gone. Bee was in the same spot as she was when I went into the bathroom - playing with her blocks on the living room floor. I asked her if she knew where my cup was. "No, Mommy, I no know," she replied. Hmm, I thought it was very odd, and I went around looking for the cup, thinking maybe I had set it down somewhere else. I use the same cup everyday. Sleeford gave it to me so it is very dear, and makes my morning coffee taste that much better. I could not find it anywhere. Our house is pretty small, so there weren't a lot of places to look. I ended up just using another cup for my second helping of Joe, and read the paper while I sipped and Bee continued playing with her blocks. Then she noticed that my cup was different and came over to look at it. She toddled off to the kitchen, and came back with my missing cup! "Where was it?" I asked her, and followed her back into the kitchen as she pointed to the garbage can. She told me, in a combination of English and her own language, that she had taken it and put it there.
I can understand why she did it, it's really very simple. Bee is at that great "almost two years old" age where she learns new words everyday and understands everything you tell her. She also likes helping Mommy and Daddy, so we ask her to do things for us such as "Here, throw this away in the garbage can." Sometimes she doesn't want to do something and she says, "No, Mommy, no." And I understand that she is too busy working on her coloring to be disturbed at the moment. Anyway, sometimes she puts other things into the garbage can, recycling can, etc that don't really belong there. So far we've been lucky that she hasn't flushed anything down the toilet, but I won't be that surprised the day when that finally happens. I have to admit that Bee is very entertaining - she is constantly cracking me up, and she has a great sense of humor. If I only knew where she put those lip glosses...Duh, it's finally dawned on me that they may, or may not have been thrown away and/or recycled. Magpie!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Misers love this time of year because of Daylight Savings Time. It was tough losing an hour though, and all of us (including Bee) were thrown for a loop and dragging our butts on Sunday and little bit on Monday as well. It was as though we were jet lagged, and it took us a couple of days to get back into our regular routine. (But that is the only downside, which is pretty minor if you ask me.) Daylight Savings Time always makes me and Sparky cheerful and a bit giddy, that extra hour of daylight seems healthy and just plain good for you. Plus, The Vernal Equinox is right around the corner. So this is a great time of year for The Misers, and we can't help but feel happily optimistic regarding the uncertain future. The economy is melting down around us, but Sparky said last night that he had a hunch things were going to get better sooner than he once had thought. Having a positive outlook definitely helps ease the difficulty of living through the New Depression.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Guest blogger: Sparky
Last week's perfectly mild weather suited my unemployment just fine. Having just received a $9.50 gasoline coupon for being a loyal customer at Vons (I will now be the last one in the neighborhood to ransack the place during the upcoming food riots) I texted my buddy, Mark Ramano, to see if he wanted to whack the old baseball around up at Scholl Canyon. He's a part-time Poly-Sci teacher, and a full-time musician so he usually has holes in his schedule. He is also a full-time baseball fanatic. He wrote back, "It's on."
Last year the City of Glendale tore out all three ballparks at Scholl, and the future of ever playing there was bleak indeed. We suffered through sub-standard conditions at Glorieta Park awaiting the results. Ten months later the fields were re-opened. Wow. Grass infields for the Little league and Pony fields. It looked amazing. Unfortunately, the infield dirt was mixed wrong and turned into a beach volleyball pit. Any hard hit grounder just made you want to curl up and hide. The infield grass was so high it grabbed at the balls like a sheet of Velcro. And although the lumps had been removed from the outfield, the grass was soon demolished by the soccer playing heathen who insist on fouling the baseball fields with their unspeakably tedious and pointless kicking of the ball. We were depressed.
But they shut it down for another six weeks and readjusted. When we returned the infield was a perfectly manicured hardball surface. The groundskeeper who we've come to know, told us from the perch of his digitally adjustable mower that, "The infield is at 3/4 of an inch now, but this summer I'm going to bring down to 5/8. That oughta speed things up." He also mows the new outfield in matching diagonal stripes. Man alive, is that dude ever into his work. He can hit, too. The 290' outfield is no challenge for him. When he bats I play on the other side of the fence just to have a chance.
And so last Friday, I used my Von's gas card and headed out to play ball. The last four times we've rendezvoused at Scholl, the infield raking and mowing was just being finished. We were guessing that if you had a private service manicuring your own field every time you wanted to take some grounders and BP, it would cost $1200-$1500 per session. For us, our tax dollars are finally working for something we like... In the late winter sunshine of So Cal, Scholl is now so heavenly looking that I tip toe in my cleats across the infield so as not to violate the surface. But then the groundskeeper just yells at us to "Go ahead. Knock yourselves out. This is what they pay me for." Nice work if you can get it, eh?
And so the bat did crack, the ball did hop and skip truly through the finely raked dirt; and more than a few flew deep into the right field corner where their spinning white spheres came dropping out of the late afternoon sky with a three quarter moon hanging in the balance.
PS: We're always looking for more players. It's hard ball, wood bats. Come on down and play ball already!
Friday, March 6, 2009
Back in olden times, back when The Misers had a social life, the weekend was a big deal. We always seemed to have multiple plans: art openings, dinner parties, shows, parties, bars, restaurants, movies, etc. Now The Misers basically stay in, with occasional outings here and there. Quite the opposite of our past lives. I remember that we always even went out on Sunday night, it was the capper to the weekend, but we always had fun. These days, Friday night consists of a bubble bath for Bee, and a Netflex for Sparky and Peanut to watch after Bee is in bed. It's not so bad though; we pretty much feel like we've already been there, done that. Jaded, you could say. And when you are underemployed like we are, everyday is a weekend. Really, there isn't much difference anymore. We are not Weekend Warriors, and I'm glad of it, because it's just too crowded out there.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Every night for the past couple of weeks, Sparky and I have been having salads from the greens in our garden. The spinach is to die for, and Sparky claims that he can feel a vitamin boost after dining on this fresh produce. Everything has been growing like gang busters, and the broccoli is almost ready to go. Sparky keeps adding to the garden (no complaints here) and has also planted celery and strawberries. Now he wants to expand the garden even more by tearing out some agave plants, which are pretty huge. It would be cool if we could dig them up and give them away to somebody who'll love them and give them a good home. Pretty soon we may be growing most of our food, and I'll have to start canning to get us through the winter months. Oh wait a minute, it is winter. That's the good thing about living in a warm climate - gardens year round. Still, it would be a good idea to do some canning. My mother used to can fruits from our trees when we were little, and I hated helping her - washing, peeling, pitting, sterilizing jars, the work just went on and on. But now as an adult, I think that I could get into it. I like the idea of it, and it appeals to The Miser in me. And since there are no more jobs out there, I may as well try and stay busy by doing something useful.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Today, The Misers set out to vote at their local polling place only to find the church empty and quiet as a mouse. Where was everybody? Where were the booths? It was only four o'clock, did they shut down the polls at three? What was going on? We didn't have a voting pamphlet on us as it got tossed out and/or lost by Bee weeks ago. But we've always voted at the Methodist church in the 20 plus years we've lived here, except for that one time when we voted in someone's living room, but what street was that on? How on earth would we ever find it if that was indeed where we were supposed to go? We decided to head down to Logan Street Elementary, because they had voting booths there, and surely that they would know where we were to go. I waited in the car with Bee and Glenn The Dog as Sparky ran inside to see what was what. He was gone for a long time. Two Led Zeppelin songs played on the classic rock station he had the radio set to (Bee loves classic rock) before he finally returned, and everybody knows how long Zep songs are. And guess what? He knew even less then he did before. Apparently nobody working the polls in there spoke English, except for one ancient Filipino lady, and she had no clue as to where we were to go to vote. We were not on the their list and they couldn't help us, so Sparky looked on their map and ascertained that we should go to Duane Elementary off of Allesandro Street to see if they knew were we should go. All of this just to vote in some mamby-pampy election. But The Misers feel that it's important to get out there and vote, so onward we went. We also were not on the sheets at Duane Elementary, but they said we could fill out provisional ballots. Great! The poll workers were very nice, we voted, and they even gave Bee an "I Voted" sticker. Why didn't they know about provisional voting at Logan Street? What sort of glue are they sniffing over there? Were they trying to disenfranchise us? And where on earth were we really suppose to vote? Were we just supposed to drive around side streets aimlessly, searching for someone's living room? We'll probably never know, but at least The Misers fulfilled their civic duty and got out there and rocked the vote!
Monday, March 2, 2009
I've always heard the government of California runs like a Kafka novel, but now I'm a character in it. My god, it took 13 months to obtain a birth certificate for Bee - 13 long months! When I called a few months back to see what was taking so long, the person who answered the phone actually laughed at me. He said it takes as long as it takes, and he had no idea how long that would be because of all the layoffs they've been having due to our Govenator and state budget. Bee was almost a year old before we were even able to meet with the judge who legalized her adoption, and then we had to wait more than a year after that to get this little piece of paper. You see, we need to obtain her Social Security Number for tax purposes but cannot do so without an Official Birth Certificate. Because of this lack of documentation we lost out on obtaining "stimulus" money for her from W. I-Can't-Believe-He-Was-Our-President Bush last year, which was cruel and unusual. Although her tax I.D. number was sufficient for the IRS for her first year of life, it was not good enough to be counted for the Bush "stimulus'. But there was nothing we could do about it but wait, and wait. And then wait some more. And today, it finally came! You could say it was a good mail day, a very good one indeed. So now we need to take that precious piece of paper, along with another form of I.D., downtown to the Social Security office in order to get that nine digit number which will be assigned to her for life. Of course the only other form of I.D. that little Bee has is her health insurance card. She's too young for a driver's license, and you can't obtain a passport without a birth certificate. I remember that I didn't even need to get a S.S.N. until I got my first job at the age of fifteen, at the local car wash. But now babies need them, just in case they get jobs. I'm not really sure what Bee could do, maybe work at a toy store or something, but she wouldn't be very focused, and would probably take all the toys out of their boxes and play with them. Things surely would get lost and/or broken. And I think that there are also some child labor laws that we would have to contend with, so maybe getting Bee a job is really not such a good idea. I guess you need a S.S.N. for all of your children in order to claim them as little tax deductions. Apparently, some scofflaws used to make children up in order to have more deductions, so now actual proof is demanded of you. Of course, once again, it's the few bad seeds that have to make it more difficult for all of the rest of us law abiding citizens. But at least we have her Official Birth Certificate. Bee is now bona fide. The Misers are so excited, I swear we would throw a party if we weren't so miserly. Happy days are here again!