Smokey & the Firefighters

Smokey at the Los Angeles County Fire Museum

This morning, Martine and I trekked all the way to the southeastern City of Bellflower to visit the Los Angeles County Fire Museum. This is one of three firefighters’ museums in the L.A. area. (The others are the L.A. City Fire Museum on Cahuenga in Hollywood and the African-American Firefighters’ Museum on Central downtown.)

Martine brought along her 50th Anniversary Smokey Bear to show the museum staff. Smokey was a big hit to the retired firefighters who served as docents. Martine collects Smokey memorabilia, has a Smokey zipper pull on her jacket, and regularly receives a catalog from Woodland Enterprises in Moscow, Idaho of Smokey Bear goodies.

Many of the fire engines and other equipment on display were used in the television series Emergency! which aired on NBC from 1972 to 1979. That accounts for the Number 51 on many of the vehicles, as they belonged to fictional Squad 51 on the series.

The docents were all retired firefighters themselves who knew a great deal not only about the series, but how the firefighting equipment was used. Our guide was Javier Torres who patiently walked us through the exhibits.

Our Guide, Javier Torres

The Los Angeles County Fire Department covers fires outside of Los Angeles City, especially the sparsely populated areas to the north of the county where most of the wildfires happen.

I have always admired firefighters, as it is one of the few careers which create heroes. When a visitor to the museum asked me if I was a retired fireman, I quickly answered, “No, I’m not quite good enough for the job.”

The Bureaucratic Run-Around

The above picture shows a steady water leak under a parking sign at Amherst and Ohio in West Los Angeles The area around the parking sign sometimes looks to be wet (but today it looked as if it had evaporated), and there is a steady runoff over the curb and on to the storm drain.

We are currently in the middle of a drought. Governor Newsom is perennially on the verge of dictating mandatory water cuts but this, being an election year, makes it unlikely.

The leak looks as if the sign had somehow pierced a water main. If that’s true, the leakage could cause problems to the multistory apartment building adjoining, especially as they have an underground garage.

The View from the Curb

Being a conscientious citizen, Martine did her best to inform the proper authorities. Instead of appreciating her efforts, the bureaucrats merely brushed her off. First, she called the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who promised two weeks ago to look into the matter. Next, she tried the Los Angeles City Hall where there was a help desk; but it seems it no longer exists. The Police suggested that she try the Department of Water and Power on Hope Street. There, she met with a security officer who brazenly lied about the employees working at home. What gave the lie to his assertion was the arrival of several employees while she was talking to him and the fact that the building’s outdoor parking lot was full of cars.

On a number of occasions, Martine has made several trips to Santa Monica’s City Hall over on a number of issues, and she was happy to see that they acted quickly to resolve them. Los Angeles, being ever so much larger, apparently is too large to be efficient or even respectful toward a citizen who is trying to help them.

Martine has read this post and suggested that a copy be sent to Mayor Eric Garcetti showing him how badly he is served by the bureaucrats under his control.

Hawaiian Pidgin

In Hawaii, there are two official languages—English and Hawaiian—and one unofficial one. I am speaking about the Hawaiian version of Pidgin English. Although it is thought of as being lower in status than the two official languages, it is becoming ever more prevalent as a kind of native slang. It contains bits of English, Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, and Japanese. According to one website:

The local patois (Hawaiian slang) was originally developed by Chinese immigrants to make business transactions easier. They created an easy-to-understand lingo and named it “pidgin,” which literally translates to “business.” These days, natives on the islands have adopted this as a means of short-hand speak, as well as a way to mess with tourists.

I can vouch for Pidgin as a way of messing with tourists. Consider the following expressions:

  • Broke Da Mouth – What delicious food does
  • Your Kokua Is Appreciated – Your assistance, compliance, or contribution is appreciated
  • This Buggah is Pau – Your car is finito
  • Da Kine – Watchamacallit, Thingamajig
  • B-52 Bombah – Giant flying cockroach
  • Grinds or Grindz – Food
  • Hamajang – Something that is messed up, out of whack, disorderly, or needs tending
  • Kanak Attack – The feeling you’ve eaten way too much
  • ’Ono – Tasty, delicious
  • Slippas – Flip-fops or sandals

There is an amusing (and very detailed) YouTube video illustrating how Hawaiian Pidgin is pronounced:

Have fun! And don’t be lolo!

Why I Dread Elections

On Tuesday, June 7, California will hold a primary election. It used to be that primary elections were relatively boring affairs. No more! It seems that every candidate, every proposition is fought à l’outrance (to the death). Now that it seems that Trumpism is at war with reasonable governance, it seems that all of civilization is at stake, even in elections of judges, school board members, and dog catchers.

Every day for the last six weeks, my mailbox has been stuffed with four-color political puff pieces printed on card stock. The biggest offender is billionaire developer Rick Caruso, who is running to replace termed-out mayor Eric Garcetti, who is currently in limbo regarding Biden’s selection of him as ambassador to India. Not that I liked Garcetti, who was much too comfortable with real estate interests. And if I didn’t like Garcetti, I should vote to replace him with a real estate developer. Gack!! Ptttui!

If the onslaught were limited to my mailbox, it would be half tolerable. But now my phone rings several times a day with a SPAM RISK indicator, mostly either politicians, political groups, or so-called opinion surveys—none of which I answer.

If American politics winds up being a months-long assault on the patience of voters, no wonder I feel a sense of dread when elections are in the offing.

Naturally, the 24/7 news media are also affected by this intense combativeness. In addition, there are all the negative political TV and radio ads, which succeed only at increasing the sense of malaise. I know that we spend an inordinate amount of money on our elections. I would propose adding another expense: mailing every voter a supply of barf bags.

The Last Mexican Governor of Alta California

Pio Pico and His Wife Ignacia

Pio Pico lived in California under three flags: Spanish, Mexican, and the Stars and Stripes of the United States. One would think that he would not have fared well under the last of these. Actually, he had many friends among the American settlers who had moved to California earlier and adopted Mexican citizenship.

That did not prevent Pio Pico from being swindled. But then it seems that swindles were more the rule than the exception in early Southern Cal. Even his friends, the Workmans and Temples lurched from prosperity to disaster and back again. It seems everyone was in court suing one another. And justice did not always come out ahead.

As one who has lost his pituitary gland to a tumor, I feel for Pico, who also had a pituitary disorder: in his case, acromegaly. In the picture above, note the fleshy lips and the enlarged ears and nose. Acromegaly results when the pituitary gland produces too much human growth hormone during the adult years. Exactly the opposite of what I had.

When Pico died in 1894 at the age of 93, he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in the Elysian Hills. When several years later, the tomb of him and his wife was vandalized, Walter Temple, the grandson of William Workman, obtained permission from Pico’s family to re-inter the remains in a mausoleum he built on the grounds of the Workman-Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry. If you are interested in learning more on the subject, consult Museum Director Paul R. Spitzzeri’s blog on the ties between the Workmans, Temples, and Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of Alta California.

Excruciating Pain

It all started in September 1966, when I had brain surgery in Cleveland to remove a benign tumor (chromophobe adenoma) that was threatening my life. I was just coming out of a coma caused by extreme pain of the tumor pressing on my optic nerve. Unfortunately, when an ill-trained orderly was assigned to give me a catheter, my woozy brain thought that I was under physical attack, and I struggled with him. That only caused him to try all the harder, which resulted in a scarred urethra which is still with me.

Tomorrow, I visit my urologist for a procedure known as a dilation or a cystogram tray. The doctor sends a catheter with a tiny camera up my urethra all the way to the bladder. The only pain which I think is comparable is a spinal tap.

After I recovered from my brain surgery, I found I had trouble urinating. It reached a crescendo several months later, when during a film screening I was putting on at UCLA, I found I had to urinate—but nothing was coming out. A friend drove me across campus to the UCLA Hospital, where the urologist on duty was sent for, and the passage was widened.

For the next several years, into the 1970s, I had a problem with gradual shutdown of my urethra. Fortunately, in recent years, it isn’t quite so bad. However, my urologist wants me to be dilated every six months. Tomorrow at 11 AM, I go in for my semi-annual torture.

A Pioneer Family

Fountain Incorporating Two Millstones from the Family Mill

For the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak, Martine and I paid a visit to one of the historic Los Angeles area homesteads, the Workman & Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry. The museum includes two houses in their original location:

  • The Workman House, originally built in 1842 by William Workman while California was still a part of Mexico
  • La Casa Nueva, built by the related Temple family between 1922 and 1927

Below is a picture of the Temple family:

Unfortunately, the mother in the above picture did not live to see the completion of La Casa Nueva. As is not unusual in the story of many of the pioneer families of Southern California, there were alternating periods of boom and bust, which included two bank failures, droughts, and other misfortunes. Not long after it was finished, La Casa Nueva was turned into a boarding school and later became a nursing home. It has been a museum only since May 1981.

Also part of the museum is a family mausoleum, in which Pio Pico and his wife Ygnacia Alvarado were buried. William Workman and his family had become Mexican citizens and were friends of the Pico family.

The museum is open for free guided tours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. For more information, consult the museum’s website.

Blue Hawai’i

Waimanalo Beach on the Windward Side of O’ahu

Martine and I are planning a trip to Hawaii this September, after all the kids are back in school. We plan to visit only the island of O’ahu, as that’s where all the museums and special attractions that Martine wants to see are located. This won’t be our first trip: We were there in 1996, staying at what then was called the Pacific Beach Hotel.

We plan to revisit some of the sights we saw then, including:

Some sights I would like to add to what we’ve already seen: Waimanalo Beach, Honolulu’s Chinatown, and the Ala Moana Shopping Center.

Some things have changed for the worse since our last visit. Not only are automobile rentals more expensive than ever, but some hotels charge as much as $50 a night just for parking. Then, too, many hotels now charge up to $50 a day for “resort fees,” whether or not you use their resort services. Since I am now on a fixed income, I will be particularly interested in saving money.

Before September, I would like to read some of O. A. Bushnell’s novels about Hawaiian history and see some movies set in Hawaii, such as Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii and several movies featuring the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (Tora Tora Tora and From Here to Eternity).

(Non) Motion Picture

Scene from Chris Marker’s La Jetée

One of the greatest of all science fiction films is a short consisting of nothing but black and white stills accompanied by a voice-over narration. I am referring to Chris Marker’s La Jetée, which is all of 28 minutes long. And yet for all its uniqueness, the film holds the viewer in its grasp until the last shot (shown above). Following is the film’s plot summary from Wikipedia:

A man (Davos Hanich) is a prisoner in the aftermath of World War III in post-apocalyptic Paris, where survivors live underground in the Palais de Chaillot galleries. Scientists research time travel, hoping to send test subjects to different time periods “to call past and future to the rescue of the present”…. They eventually settle upon the protagonist; his key to the past is a vague but obsessive memory from his pre-war childhood of a woman (Hélène Châtelain) he had seen on the observation platform (“the jetty”) at Orly Airport shortly before witnessing a startling incident there. He did not understand exactly what happened but knew he had seen a man die.

Apparently, motion is not necessary for a successful motion picture. As long as the images grab you, and as long as the story is well crafted, the result can be more than good. It can even be great.

See for yourself. The film is available in its full length on YouTube in French with English subtitles:

“The Best Is Yet To Be”

I never thought I would be alive at the age of 77. My father died at 74 years old; and my mother, at 79. When I was a student at St. Henry Elementary School, I thought, “Gosh, I’ll be 55 years old when we get to the year 2000.” I passed that milestone at a run.

In the illustration above, I am somewhere between the third and fourth figure. Thankfully, my health is good. I can get about without a cane, though I find going down a flight of stairs to be painful. Kneeling on a hard surface is out of the question.

When I think about aging, I call to mind the first stanza of Robert Browning’s poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra”:

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!” 

I see some of my friends fall by the wayside, some dying, some suffering personality disorders as they age, and some just isolating themselves.

This is not a subject anyone likes to think about. There are, however, dangers inherent in suppressing any important subject.

The times are always bad—and always have been. Yes, what is happening in Ukraine is terrible. But so was ducking under my school desk at St. Henry to practice for a Communist H-Bomb attack. So was World War Two. So was … oh … Genghis Khan.

I always wanted to be a writer. And in a manner of speaking, I am one. I don’t care about compensation or fame. Just sitting down around 9 o’clock most evenings and writing this blog is a worthwhile effort. It makes me feel good about myself.