Monthly Archives: November 2004

The “H” on the Hollywood sign

My blog has a more personalized look thanks to P. who made and installed this wonderful roll-over banner. He made it on Fireworks using a photo I’d taken with my very cheap digital camera while we were driving on the 101 between downtown LA and Hollywood. I think it’s cool and am very pleased and proud of it. And grateful too as I think my page looks even better than his own (very attractive) blog now. The text “el tercer ojo / the third eye does not weep. / it knows” isn’t original. I’ve borrowed it from a poem by Chicana writer Cherríe Moraga whose work I love and admire.

beachwoodThe real sign obviously doesn’t say “el tercer ojo” but rather “Beachwood Drive Next Exit.” I’ve got sentimental feeling about this exit (no really) and my heart tugs a bit when I drive past it. For years it was where I got off — first when I was driving home and then for more years when I was driving between USC and downtown to visit my parents. My parents moved away from Lake Hollywood and Beachwood Canyon and Los Angeles and California two and a half years ago when business took my dad to Portland Oregon. Telling people where I was from was easy — my parents lived right under the “H” on the Hollywood sign. But until this summer I still passed the exit a few times a month and thought about stopping and visiting my mom before remembering that they were gone. Now that I’ve moved from ‘SC to Santa Monica, my trips to Beachwood are rare, though I still go to visit the Village Coffee Shop and shop at Beachwood Market. It’s way out of the way for P and me, but there’s something to be said about a grocery store in Los Angeles that still takes customers’ personal checks without asking for ID. Everyone knows my name there (or at least my family’s name) and that reminds me of a time when we didn’t need long distance plans to reach out and touch each other. When I see the Hollywood sign, rather than thinking of “home.” I remember that my family has moved away and I’m now a thirty-something orphan.

Odd to think, I’m sure, but though I’ve lived away from Los Angeles and missed it terribly, my parents took part of the city with them when they left. They both carry the history of the last century of Los Angeles in their heads. No, they’re not that old, but they were born here as were their parents. They known an LA before and after the freeways. They understood the riots and why they happened, both in 1960s and in the 1990s. My parents can get anywhere and find anything in this city. And they both had a real love for it as well–loved showing it to people who’d just arrived. Or just driving around, looking at things and finding new places.

I think they miss In-N-Out and good carnitas, but my parents like Portland — moving has been an adventure. And, even though I’d love to have them back in Los Angeles (or even California), their being in Portland means I get to visit Powell’s Bookstore a few times a year. It’s quite possibly the best bookstore in the world (I’d know too, really). And that’s something to look forward to.

About Al

I’ve started a few blog posts (and diary entries on DailyKos) trying to get a handle on my thoughts and feelings about this nomination and then deleted them.  Thinking about Alberto Gonzales makes me clench my teeth together until my jaw aches.

Everything in my heart wants to feel good, proud even, about the elevation of Gonzales.  His story is the American dream — right down to the huge family and the burning desire to make good.  He’s Mexican American (I would say Chicano, but doubt he’d agree), the child of farmworkers, the only one in his family to attend college.  And he looks like my father; they could be brothers.  No one who looks like him (or me) has ever been nominated for so high an office before by any president from either party.

Gonzales also wrote that the Geneva Convention is “quaint,” that torture can be justified.  He’s got to go down. Though, of course given the composition of the Senate, he probably won’t go down. But he’ll most likely be raked over the coals. With justification.  

But I won’t enjoy watching.  Democrats who oppose him  are going to look ugly — a group of white or mostly white men pilloring a latino man.  Damn Gonzales.  Damn Bush.  

But most of all, damn the democratic party.  It makes me angry that my own party hasn’t seen fit to reward Mexican American loyalty and achievment.  Maybe this would be easier for me to take if Gonzales wasn’t the first.  

You knew it wasn’t earth

I was definitely one of those kids who got asked “what planet are you from” and was sometimes paged into conversations with the oh-so-funny line “Earth to Annie.” Today I took a quiz that confirmed I’m really not from around here and even gave my planet of origin.


I’m from Neptune

You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability.
You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea.
Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion.
You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone.
If you don’t get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.

I’ve got to question the whole “music and dance” thing as I’m a truly terrible dancer with no sense of rhythm. But, as I said yesterday, I do like to watch. And listen.

And hey, if you find out where you’re from, leave a comment letting me know. Maybe we can conspire on sending letters home.

Rainy night

P and I are really tight this month — basically out of cash with a while until payday. I’m glad my parents will be feeding us for Thanksgiving. This “paying rent” thing really cuts into our monthly funds.

We have a change jar that we’ve basically been putting change in for the past couple of years. Not all our change; quarters are for laundry and so they have their own very attractive jar. Change (dimes mostly) goes out too when we need to raid vending machines. Still, the jar was good sized and more than half full. It seemed to me that today was our rainy day. So we each guessed how much would be in it, took out the UK change and set off with the goal of finding a Coinstar machine and using the voucher to buy Coke (P) and diet 7Up (me).

Finding a machine we could use was something of an adventure. Walgreens doesn’t have a change machine. The two Vons near us have change machines but they were broken. Rite Aid doesn’t have them. Sav-on does but they were already closed. Finally, Albertson’s came through and the moment of counting arrived.

We worked through the demo and made it clear we weren’t donating this money. Right now we qualify as our own charity. The counting was slower than I expected. The coins get pushed into the machine in little batches. A screen keeps a running total of all the coins and their denominations. At the end, a voucher for our total (less 10%) came out that we could cash in at the store.

We had enough for soda and a few other things. Nothing’s so much fun as found money.

I like to watch

san-andreasP is playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for the PS2, as are many others apparently in the US and UK. The game is rated “Mature” and for good reason.
GTA is everything we’re told we should fear in video games for teens: violent, sexual, with strong language. And violent (yes, it should be said twice). The game exists in an alternate reality LA, SF and Vegas. Carl Johnson (CJ) is the primary actor and he’s a gang member and a “stone” killer who car jacks, transports drugs and kills lots of people, including cops. He dates and has sex (off camera, but still). If you doubt it has a UK as well as US sensibility, check out the school-master’s cane hidden behind the “Hollywood” / “Vinewood” sign.

In getting links and pictures together for this blog, I came across a lot of mothers and educators worrying about the effect playing this game (the cite it specifically) would have on their 11 year olds. Excuse me? Why would you let your 11 year old play with this? The game costs $50 — they can’t buy it with their lunch money. This is an old rant for me, but it bothers me when parents think the world needs to be made kid-proof. My mom and dad decided I wouldn’t see any R rated movies, even on cable, until I was 13. Even then, until I was 16 I had to check with them and they usually prescreened. GTA isn’t written to target 11 year-olds. The game is written for those of us who were teens in the 1980s and early 1990s — people who are now in their twenties and thirties. I’m basing this the music and sense of humor. Please, parents, I beg you to keep track of what games your kids are playing. Me? I’d like to see adult movies, books and games safe from the daycare crowd.

Anyway, my guilty confession? I’m watching GTA as P. plays and I love it. The narrative is good, the graphics are rich and the world is just fun to watch P/CJ roam around in and get shot at.

I’m not a quiet spectator. I spend a lot of time pointing, squeaking and yelling suggestions (that’s annoying btw, but P’s gotten pretty used to it, execpt for the occasional plea to “let me play myself”).

controller-frontSo why am I a spectator? We have two controllers. And P frequently encourages me to try my hand. We had an Atari when I was a kid and I spent hours playing “Breakout.” And then there was Nintendo and “Zelda.” I remember spending so long on Tetris that the music invaded my dreams. But then I stopped knowing what was going on for about 10 years. When P and I moved in together two and a half years ago, I rediscovered video games. They sure have come miles. In fact, they’ve come so far I can’t play them. Everytime I try and use the PS2 controller (except for a game like Final Fantasy X where there’s no pressure for quick control) my mind seizes. My Atari controller had one button and a single knob. The controller for the play station has 2 joysticks and 10 buttons in the front of it. And an additional 4 buttons on the back. When I tried to play last night, CJ ended up driving over people until finally the cops shot him down. It’s humiliating.

controller-backSo I’ve been spending evenings playing second hand. Watching and offering P mostly unneeded advice from my side of the couch.

[Update: I lost the first version of this post when my browser window shut down (GRR!). But since then I discovered a part of the game I can do. I can use the controller well enough to have CJ run around on foot and shop. He now has $1000 worth of clothes and a $500 haircut. What a virtual hottie!]

Red fish, blue fish

A friend of mine who lives in a southern state wrote a frustrated blog entry Red State Blue State Schmoo State. This entry is my reply which was too long winded for her comment section.

red-state-blue-stateHere’s my favorite election map. It’s from it’s from Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman at the University of Michigan. The map is a cartogram using a color scale that ranges from red for 70% Republican or more, to blue for 70% Democrat or more. Also, it looks like a fish (hence the title of the blog entry), well, it does to me anyway.

I understand why you’re frustrated. This as a terrible time to live in the US and, imo, a hard time to be American. But as someone who’s from California (blue, though red under Reagan) and has lived in both Louisiana (was blue then but barely) and Ohio (lived in a very red part), I think your anger is really being mis-directed. And wonder is screaming in caps at democrats who live in the “blue” states really more constructive?

What you’re seeing as an intellectual elite bashing “red states” I see as people who live in urban areas and in “liberal” parts of the US realizing (maybe later than we should have) that there’s a huge value divide right now in the US. Because I lived in Lima 10 years ago, I knew it already, but even I was shocked by this election — maybe I had gotten lulled by Clinton. What we’re seeing now is the religious right reaping their reward for 20 years of organization. I’ve got to say that religious fundimentalism came as a huge shock to me when I moved to Lima — both the political power of it and the (what to me seemed) extreme nature of some of the beliefs (ie not allowing kids to read Dr. Suess because the books promote humanism, women’s shelters being opposed because they were “destroying” families, white people accepting as fact and explaining to me that there’s “blacks” and then there’s “ni**ers”). I used to write letters home saying “you won’t believe this, but…”

And friends and family didn’t believe me. Well, except for my sister who fell in love there and lives there still.

I had a hard time finding anything in common with a lot of the people I lived around. There was no single value we seemed to share — even ones we seemed to agree on came from such different bases that if we talked for too long about those we’d still end up arguing (I must have seemed like I was from Mars). And I had it easy because the university where my ex-husband taught had faculty that operated as a sort of democratic party cell for Allen County.

But most people who live in very blue cities inside blue states (like CA and NY) have never lived in Allen County Ohio. They assume that even Republicans are mostly the same as them (except on taxes) because that’s how most Republicans are that live around them. The re-election of GWB over the corpse of gay marriage seems obscene and incomprehensible. The only reason most people can come up with is that people in states / counties that went 50% or more for Bush are either being willfully unaware, are so prejudiced against anyone from the urban northeast or west coast that they’d rather see Bush re-elected than vote for them, are terribly mean-spirited and xenophobic or that they are stupid enough to have fallen for the crap that Rove and his ilk have been shoveling. Add to that all the transplants from the rural midwest and south to NY and CA who are very quick to say “they’re just backwards and biggoted back home” (if they’d liked it there, they wouldn’t have moved here, right?). And, of course, sites like SorryEverybody.Com have a lot of photos from people in Repubican states calling the majority of voters in their states “stupid” or worse.

It’s made people here recoil over the past 4 years, both in horror and fear, from something they don’t understand and have no experience to use to help understand it.

Because I’ve lived in Lima, I don’t think that. Because I know people in the midwest and south, I know there’s a lot of democrats there. But think of the news we’re seeing. We don’t see democrats struggling in Utah or Alabama to GOTV. We see lots of Bush/Cheney people arguing against abortion and gay marriage. It doesn’t make them look like any place you’d want to spend a lot of time.

I know it must be frustrating for you in different ways. But try, for a moment to imagine what it would be like to live in an area that went 85% for Kerry and be trying to make sense of this election. I could go days without seeing a single Bush-Cheney sign or bumpers sticker in Los Angeles. Kerry ones were everywhere because so many people had ordered them (at a pretty high price too, helping pay to make them cheaper in “swing” states). I suspect the reverse is true in much of Utah. Being angry and calling other democrats liberal or elitist makes hearing the rest of what you have to say hard, especially given the number of people from “blue” states who gave up weeks or months of work or vacation time in their own states to GOTV and help Kerry in states that ended up going red.

You are right that name calling and accusations in each direction don’t help. But the divide is real. I know that even in the reddest county (like Allen, OH) there’s people who worked really really hard for Kerry. For my part I really do support democrats living in what have become “safe” Republican states. I’m just not sure what you (collective here) think I should be doing that I’m not.

I guess another problem is I couldn’t live there — when I did I felt afraid, belittled and smothered. And so, much as I love them, it’s hard to identify with progressives (even my own sister) who can and do. My impulse is to just try and get all of you out of there.

That probably sounded condesending to someone like yourself who grew-up and has family there. But I don’t mean it to be. Like you, I guess I’m just frustrated. Why not at least give me until all the votes are counted in this election to get over it and start planning for midterm 2006?

Tanks cause sig alert?

tankI had to create a new category called “surreal” for this blog entry. (This photo was mailed to me, so I’m not sure where it came from. If it’s yours, please let me know so I can credit you.)

Apparently two tanks came to last night’s anti-war protest at the Federal Building on Wilshire near Westwood Villiage. They didn’t stay long and, from watching the video, weren’t threatening or firing on people, but WTF? It appears they were just trying to get through traffic and decided to stop in front of a war protest. Did the soldiers want to see? Participate even?

My first thought (after wondering what effect this had on traffic), being from Los Angeles, was that they were heading to a night-time filmshoot. Then I wondered if they had something to do with the VA hospital (also near there). Someone else on my department listserve suggested that maybe it had to do with the kidnapping yesterday at the Mexican consulate.

Whatever it was, the confrontation between tanks and anti-war protesters isn’t something I want to see.

Let’s hope this was part of a movie.

Update

This just gets funnier.

According to a friend who talked to someone in Congressman Waxman’s office, the tanks (there were two) were visiting Los Angeles from Camp Pendleton for Veteran’s Day (they’d taken the 405, of course). They got off the freeway and headed up Wilshire — which means they were going the wrong way — being “lost”, they quite naturally stopped at the anti-war demostration to “ask for directions.”

Who knew the army would have the first men to break the final gender taboo?

lo siento

totally-sorryRemember when I say I was going to try and lay off politics? I promise I will, but this site is way too cool not to write about. Basically it gives all of us who are really sorry Shurb got re-elected a place to give apologies to the world. It also gives the world a place to accept them. Here’s the photo I submitted.

Clicking through the photos in this site made me feel really good. A lot of them are funny, plus it’s great not to feel so alone in our sadness. Misery loves company, right?

And on a more upbeat note, Ashcroft resigned today.

Faith and despair

Inscribed in bronze on UCSD’s campus is a memorial plaque with the text, "In honor of George Winne Jr. who immolated himself in Revelle Plaza in protest of the Vietnam War in 1970. He held a sign that read, In the name of God, end the war."

When I woke today, P gave me the news that a 25 year old researcher from Georgia named Andrew Veal had committed suicide at the World Trade Center site, apparently an act of despair over the outcome of the election. Any other election of my lifetime I’d have thought this reaction was incomprehensible. But the odd thing is, I do comprehend it. It’s a powerful gesture of powerlessness that demands the audience ask themselves how strong their own convictions are. Although I understand why, I wish Andrew Veal hadn’t climbed that fence, hadn’t been taken by despair. There’ll be another election in less than four years and I have faith that things can change, even though I don’t exactly know how to make them. I’m hanging on until I can find another way. My thoughts and prayers go out to Andrew’s friends and family.

Guns, god and gays

On the usenet group I read someone commented that the DNC needs to get it together if they want to ever win an election. Specifically on the issues of “guns, god and gays” the Democratic party is apparently out of touch.

I shudder at the thought he’s right. I prefer to think that Bush won because most Americans are afraid and for whatever reason he made them feel less so. That they’re voting for him out of bigotry against gays and lesbians is a terrible thought.

gregory-deanHave I mentioned my nephew before? His name is “Gregory Dean,” after his grandfathers and he’s very cute. This is an old picture — he’s gotten even cuter and has more hair. I mention him because he’s the son of my sister and her wife. That’s right, wife.

They got married a while ago now — back when Clinton was President and the world was younger. I say married because I stood up for my sister, signed a marriage certificate. A Methodist minister married them in a ceremony with my family and my sister’s wife’s standing side-by-side under a big tent. My own marriage ended in divorce; my parents still stands strong after 38 years.

The bigotted wing of the republican party would have you believe that my sister’s marriage (but not my divorce) is a threat to heterosexual marriage — insulting even to use the term “marriage” to talk about their union. Odd, my parents who were married by both the Catholic church and the state of California seem fine. No bolts of lightening on the wedding day. They’ve always been happy my sister found someone to spend her life with. And they adore my nephew. He’s their grandson, even though my sister can’t legally be called his mother.

I believe in God. I believe he wants my sister to be happy and for her and her wife to raise this child to be a healthy, strong and ethical man. And a Democrat who’ll vote to make sure his moms have the same rights as his aunt.

Guns, gods and gays. Right.

Who would Jesus shoot?