Sunday, August 16, 2009

Watermelon Festival

Yesterday, The Misers joined some friends at The Sunland-Tujunga Watermelon Festival. It cost $1 each for Sparky and I to get in, and Bee was free. Plus, there was free watermelon for everyone! What a festival! Sparky and his friend partnered up for the watermelon race, where they had to run carrying a greased watermelon. They came in third and won a pair of chessy sunglasses. The highlights for Bee were going down the Super Side with Sparky on a gunny sack and playing in the playground with her little friends. It was very hot at the festival, and when we left we were covered in sweat, dirt, and watermelon juice. Overall it was some cheap, dusty fun in the sun for The Misers. 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Soylent Green Is People!"

I've never seen the movie "Soylent Green" but I've always wanted to. It's probably a better movie in my head, though: Sparky has seen it and says it's not very good. The main plot of this 1973 movie is that it's the year 2022 and the world is in horrible shape: it's overpopulated, almost everyone is unemployed, all the oceans are fished out, and there is no more arable land, thus no more food supply for the masses, plus it's hot as hell due to climate change. The world is so sucky, that people often opt for voluntary euthanasia or "going home" as it's euphemistically known. Soylent Green are these nutritional food wafers made from plankton that is rationed out to the population to keep them from starving. Anyway, a bunch of stuff apparently happens in the movie, which ends with Charlton Heston's character delivering the line: "Soylent Green is people! We've got to stop them somehow!" All the people who opted for assisted suicide were ground up and made into food! How scary is that?
It's almost as scary as Sarah Palin. She is actually out there inciting near riots from her idiot supporters (who are all those people? And where do they come from?) She is actually telling them that the government wants to take away health insurance from her and her baby with Down syndrome. What a liar. Plus, she doesn't ever have to worry about health care, not with her multi million dollar book deal. Rush Limbaugh doesn't have to worry about health insurance either, yet he won't stop inciting people to get out there and protest at these town hall meetings, based on a bunch of lies that he won't stop spouting. The Misers are very angry at these ridiculously uninformed people who call this "Nazi Health Care" and  claim that the government is going to kill the elderly and infirm instead of take care of them. WTF? It makes me embarrassed to be an American. It's as though the ditto heads and Palin supporters are working for the insurance companies.
And it also reminds me of the hideous scenario in the novel, "Wicked World", where in 2067 the downtrodden of America with no other options line up outside of dog food factories, their heads hanging low. Soon they will ride giant conveyor belts set to drop them howling into giant blending machines. They do this knowingly, their lives are that bad. These machines then empty onto another conveyor belt where salt and seasoning is added before sending their pulverized remains into the cooking ovens. The final trip from there is onto the packing line where the finished product is stuffed into dog food cans. Sadly, many of these people's last meals had been dog food...
Palin and Limbaugh and their ilk, wealthy and insured with top quality care for them and their families into perpetuity, are doing nothing less obscene to the poor and middle class of America today with their sick tirades of nightmarish distortion and vehemence against health insurance reform. What are they really afraid of? Americans eating dog food? Already happens. Really, would Universal Care be all that bad, Ms. Palin? Our child would love to be covered by it, you can take care of your own quite nicely, thank you very much.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

50 Cents

Los Angeles is such a familiar place to me now that I'm jolted when the disparate, alienated reality of it strikes me from time to time. It's the usual cliches: cars are soulless boxes with soulless people locked inside of them talking on their phones to other soulless shut-ins. Talk to someone on the street? Are you kidding me? Conversation when walking the dog with other dog walkers? Typically hostile, put your dog on a leash type stuff. Talk to your next door neighbor? A rare occurrence, but possible, especially after a big earthquake when the power is out, the city smothered in darkness, and all desperate to know what the hell is going on. But more often than not you're on your own.
But at the confluence of Glendale and Alvarado, where two relentless rivers of asphalt are overrun by every possible vehicle, a pan handler works the crowd. He's a white guy, early 30's, skinny and not too tall. He is, of course, a little ragged around the edges, but that comes with the territory. His sign has seen better days. The beat down scrap of cardboard reads, "Hungry. Need Food. Thanks!" He's been living the dream at this intersection for the last five years. 
One day, feeling no more prosperous or sympathetic than usual, I gave him some change while waiting for the light to change. Glenn The Dog was with me, and he's a large Dobberman mix. My feelings toward this exchange were equal parts hoping for good karma, altruism, and that sense of "there but for the grace of God go I..." And so I said as I put 50 cents in his hand, "It's all I got." He said, "It's all good!" And then he pulled the ill advised move of putting his hand just inside the dog's window. That could have gone two ways: he's now got a hook for a left hand; or Glenn would let himself be petted. That morning dog abided. "He's a good boy, man. Take care of that dog. I used to have one a lot like him." And then the light changed and I moved on with the river.
That was six weeks ago. This afternoon The Misers were rolling through the hood when the light went red at Panhandlers Gulch. We were three cars from the front, but I recognized my guy. I fished out the last of my parking change. He was wading through the cars rubbing his stomach and miming spoonfuls of porridge into his mouth as the windows slid shut leaving nothing but black tinting for the hungry man. I gestured to him. "It's all I got." "No problem, man. I appreciate it." And then, "Hey. I remember this guy." And he petted the dog once again. "You think he remembers me?" "I think dogs remember the smell of people. I think they have a rolodex of thousands of smells to remember people by." "Huh. That's something. Anyway, thanks again." Even with his back turned to the light he could sense a change of colors and jumped out of the way. The traffic he waded through daily would just as soon run him down and then flatten him car after car until he was nothing more than another mysterious stain on the road. 
Peanut looked at me funny. Weren't The Misers supposed to be watching every nickel? I mean, The New Depression hasn't even gone into the fourth inning. "I just realized that I like to give that guy change because he talks to me. I know it's kind of pathetic, but for 50 cents, I get just enough conversation with the outside world to last me all day." And it was then that I had one of those previously mentioned moments of clarity involving the distance we all share in the Los Angeles megapolis. But to bust out of that for a few moments is easily worth 50 cents, even if you're a Miser.
(Guest Blogger Sparky)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Atheists United

This morning when I was walking home after my run around Echo Park Lake, some guy flashed me the peace sign and said "god bless you." I hadn't sneezed or anything so I wasn't really sure why he said it and I think I must have mumbled "thank you," or "whatever," or "fuck you very much," in reply. The guy was with a gang of  Christians on their way to the Dream Center at the Aimee Semple McPherson Angelus Temple a.k.a The Foursquare Heritage Center, which is on Park Avenue across the street from Echo Park Lake. (Marilyn Monroe was baptized there, which is it's big claim to fame.) Since I've been exercising at the lake for years now I'm used to getting accosted by the Christians from this church. I guess it's in one of their bylaws that they have to go out and proselytize. I am an atheist, but I never tell them. I'm always polite and smile at them. But still I get annoyed that they look at me and assume I need or want to be "saved". Even if I were Christian I would most likely be a Catholic because that is what I was raised as. And if I were still a Catholic I would be annoyed that they were attempting to convert me. I don't really mind religious folk as long as they keep it to themselves. I do mind when people tell me that my life must be empty, shallow, and without purpose because I don't believe in god.  

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Stair Master

Since I can't run everyday as it's way too hard on my old body, I've been looking around for some other exercise to do on my off days. I think I found it. And it's free! I obviously can't afford to join a gym, and even though I do like yoga, the cost of classes are a bit too prohibitive for me these days, so I've decided to run up and down stairs. We are fortunate to live in hilly Echo Park, which is lousy with public stairways. There are more than a dozen of these gems scattered throughout our neighborhood. I even found a website that has a listing of  The Echo Park Stairways, their condition and location, and the number of steps they contain. This morning, I ran up the Bellevue Stairways, which contains 55 steps and is marred by graffiti and a hideous mural of the L.A. Marathon. I went up and down these three times, and at the top was awarded with a beautiful view of Echo Park Lake. I'm just trying to ease my way into this new exercise of mine, I don't want to kill myself at this point so I've decided to start off slowly. Still, when I got home and walked up the stairs in our house, my legs felt like spaghetti. This new exercise routine is the poor man's equivalent of cross training. Kind of like Rocky but without the frozen sides of beef. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Today I received a letter in the mail for the first time in ages. Nobody writes letters anymore. It's all about e-mail, MySpace, Facebook, and other online social networks. It's really too bad, because getting a letter is one of the great little things in life. When I first moved to Los Angeles years ago, I used to get letter all the time from family and friends. That was before computers took over the world. I miss getting letters. Anyway, I found a bona fide letter addressed to me (Mrs. Sparky McManus) in our old, shot up mailbox. Our mailbox has five bullet holes in it, which happened to it before we moved in. Why would anyone shoot up a mailbox? For some reason it's always intrigued both Sparky and I, which is probably why we've never replaced it. The letter was from my mother-in-law. Nanny does not have an e-mail account nor a computer, so she still writes the old fashioned way.  She owns stationary! It was a great letter, especially because it contained a recipe for fudge. A FOOL PROOF recipe for fudge. You see, I am a fool when it comes to making fudge. I can bake a perfect loaf of bread that rises beautifully but I can't make a pan of fudge to save my life. And for some reason, I try to make some every year at Christmas. Last year, I made two different kinds of fudge and neither one of them turned out worth a hoot. One pan of fudge never got hard at all, and the other hardened but had a weird grainy texture. Last Spring when we were back in the Heartland visiting Sparky's family, Nanny and I got to talking about fudge (I have no idea why) and I told her about my fudge making delimma. She told me that she had a FOOL PROOF recipe for fudge that she's been using for years and years and she would give it to me. Only she couldn't find it. She said she'd look for it and give it to me later. Well, she found it and mailed it to me, thus the letter. I'm not really in a fudge making mood right now as it's the middle of Summer, but this Christmas I'll make it for sure.  I admit that I'm a little bit scared to try it because I'm sure I'll muck it up somehow. The recipe seems so simple, too simple if you ask me. Here it is: 1 package Nestles chocolate chips (already I'm starting to panic - milk chocolate or semi-sweet?); 1 can Eagles Brand sweetened milk (that's condensed milk, right?); 1/4 teaspoon vanilla - if you want (if you want? What does that mean? Is is better with it or without it? Also, 1/4 of a teaspoon doesn't sound like much. I'd be inclined to add more); Nuts - also if you want (I'm calming down a bit because nuts I get.) Melt chocolate and milk, mix thoroughly, spread in pan (oh god, what sized pan? Does it matter? And what about the vanilla and nuts if you want? When do you add those?) and refrigerate. FOOL PROOF! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

View Out Our Kitchen Window

I've always liked this view out our kitchen window at sunset when there are clouds in the sky. It makes our neighbor's pathetic garage look somehow romantic. I also like it when the clouds turn all pink. I've always heard that smoggy cities have some of the best sunsets.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dog Days

The Misers have been enjoying summer as much as humanly possible. We've been going on picnics, hanging out at our friend's pool, going to the beach, and basically just being lazy and not spending any money. It's the dog days and the living is easy. We've been keeping it simple, eating a lot of food from our garden (tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes), and enjoying the heat like a gang of lizards. Bee's is growing like a weed and talking like the little chatterbox that she has become. I've been running and not falling down (thank god), baking, knitting, making my ceramic pots, and working here and there. I've also been drinking iced green tea instead of Diet Coke, and I've stopped saying "You know what?" (Instead I've been saying "You know what I think?" Which is just as annoying. I probably need help.) Sparky's been gardening, working, and playing baseball whenever he gets the chance. It's funny, this is the most miserly summer we've ever had, but overall I can't recall a better summer.