Tricked Out Caddies

Last Saturday, Martine and I stopped in at the Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum (newly re-named) to see a show of Cadillacs.on display from private collectors. I am not generally interested in Caddies, but what caught my eye were the cars tricked out with hydraulics and fancy paint jobs.

To me, there was a lot of humor in this, as if the car owners were sharing a joke. I liked them more than the Cadillacs that were, so to speak, mint in box.

I was rather surprised to see so many Caddies on view and so many visitors. I guess they have maintained a level of popularity with aficionados that I never suspected.

A Weekend in Palm Desert

No, I Do Not Plan to Visit Any Golf Courses

It looks kind of idyllic, doesn’t it? The damned thing is it can be idyllic, or it can be hellacious. Fortunately, the weather in the desert is cooling somewhat, and I don’t have to worry about losing any skin if I touch any of the metal surfaces on my car.

On Saturday, I will drive to Palm Springs for a mini-family-reunion, staying in a cheap motel in the area. I am primarily interested in spending time with my brother and sister-in-law, and I hope to take some pictures of the weekend. Martine will stay behind in L.A., as she is not feeling well.

Monday is Columbus Day. Although it has become something of a bogus holiday, it is still observed by governments, banks, and some school districts; so I will stay on until Tuesday morning, when I drive back to Los Angeles.

I may or may not post on Friday of this week.

Uh! I’ve Been Shot!

Two Vaccinations in Two Days!

Yesterday, I got the Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine at my local Walgreen’s. I would also have gotten the Covid-19 booster shot the same day, but I had to make an appointment on the Internet because their system was down. So today I returned and got a jab in my other arm.

I have a difficult time understanding anti-vaxxers with their silly reasons for not getting their shots. It is a strange time in history when people would rather be dead or kill their friends, neighbors, and acquaintances rather than submit to a simple shot. Perhaps, at bottom they’re cowards about a little pain. And in both cases for me, there was very little pain, and it was short-lived.

East Los

Mural on East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue

Drive East across the bridge over the concrete-walled Los Angeles River and you will find yourself in a reasonable simulacrum of a Mexican city. Boyle Heights used to be the city’s Jewish neighborhood, and there is the massive Breed Street Shul still remaining. If you have a hankering for some tacos muy sabrosos, you are in the right place.

East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue is the heart of “East Los,” short for East Los Angeles. Of course, over time, the Mexican population has scattered all over the county, but there are still some special places around the Avenue. Like La Parrilla, at Chavez and Detroit, probably my favorite Mexican restaurant in Southern California. Like the Anthony Quinn Library (I’ll bet you didn’t know that Quinn was Mexican). Like ELAC, East Los Angeles College, with some 35,000 students.

We tend to treat American Hispanics as if they were a cohesive voting bloc. The 2020 election gave the lie to the Democrat assumption that Hispanic voters were all for Biden. Not so. Their votes were all over the place. I learned that when I fell for a Chilean cutie named Valentina Palacios back in the 1970s, only to find that she was a supporter of tyrannical dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.

And what is a Hispanic anyway? They could include Mexicans, Cubans, Spanish, South Americans, Central Americans, Puerto Ricans, and even some Filipinos. I remember being in an anti-Viet Nam war demonstration back in the 1960s and being attacked by rightist anti-Castro Cuban immigrants. We have to get used to seeing the Hispanic population as a broad spectrum.

And whatever we do, me must stop using terms like LatinX, which leaves a stench in the nostrils of most Hispanics.

Cherrapunji

Photo by Manish Jaishree of the Wettest Place on Earth

Here I am, reading about massive rainstorms in India circa 1990 while living iat the edge of a desert—and one in an increasing cycle of drought. I imagine, someone in Cherrapunji, India, might have dreams of living in a dry country in which, for all intents and purposes, there is no rainfall for six months of the year.

For your information, Cherrapunji is considered the wettest place on earth. It holds the record for the most rainfall in a calendar month and in a year: it received 9,300 millimeters (370 inches; 30.5 feet) in July 1861 and 26,461 millimeters (1,041.8 inches; 86.814 feet) between 1 August 1860 and 31 July 1861. in Alexander Frater’s book Chasing the Monsoon, the author talks of a friend of his father experiencing rainfall for several consecutive days in which between 30 and 40 inches of precipitation fell.

I miss rain. In Los Angeles, we only had one day of persistent rain in the last twelve months. There have been numerous instances of what I call a dirty drizzle, in which the windshield of my car is muddy as the result of an insufficient drizzle. To form a raindrop, there must be a bit of dust in every drop. But when not enough rain falls to operate the windshield wiper, then the dust predominates.

California and the American Southwest looks to be one of the big losers in climate change. The Colorado River is drying up, the Sierra snowpack is insufficient to fill the reservoirs the state needs, and horrible wildfires are destroying our forests.

There is not too much one can do about it except wait it out. Climate change has happened before. Up until the 13th century, Greenland was actually a fairly prosperous place, but then a little ice age set in and the colonists appear to have vanished from the pages of history. The town of Garðar was actually a bishopric, but nothing remains of its past glory.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind another “little ice age,” but who knows what will happen in the years to come?

Cholula

It’s Not a Hill: It’s the World’s Largest Pyramid

Where is the world’s largest pyramid located? You’re looking at it, in this photograph of the pyramid at Cholula near Puebla, Mexico. You can walk up to the pyramid, and it just looks like a hill, on top of which the Spanish built the church of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. The base is four times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Cholula is just a few minutes west of Puebla and is famous for the number of churches in a city of its size. The legend is that there are 365 churches in the city of approximately 100,000, one for each day of the year. Actually, there are about 37, which is quite enough.

As I recall, there are some very claustrophobia-inducing tunnels that cut through the pyramid, which I decided to skip. They were used by archeologists to determine how many layers of pyramid there were on the inside.

The Death of a Bookstore

Sam Johnson’s Bookstore in Mar Vista in Happier Times

This is the story of a bookstore which I frequented for more than forty years before it went belly up two and a half years ago. I started spending time and money there back in the 1970s, when it was located on Santa Monica Boulevard between Colby and Federal. At that point, I was working at Santa Monica and Barry, and the bookstore was on my way to the post office, where I did a daily noontime mail pickup.

Later, the two partners, Bob and Larry, purchased a building on Venice Boulevard near Centinela (see above photo)—and I continued to patronize the store.

But there is something inherently problematical about partnerships. Sooner or later, one of the partners goes off the rails, and their business venture goes to the demnition bow-wows. That’s what happened to Sam Johnson’s. Larry Klein published three books, all of which were excellent, but as he aged, his life took a darker turn. He complained about his health; and he no longer went on strenuous weekend hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains. His worsening health also had an effect on his mind.

The upshot was that his partner Larry Myers somehow received the short end of the stick. And suddenly his milk also soured. When Bob suddenly died, it seems the bookstore was to be put up for sale, with Bob’s estate getting the store. The bookstore had good friends, chief among them David Benesty, who manned the desk when Bob was gone and Larry was beginning to fade away.

Well, Sam Johnson’s is no more, leaving me with nowhere to turn for top condition used books but the Internet. Don’t feel sorry for me: I have some 6,000 books. But the West Los Angeles area is now poorer. And the bookstore is shuttered, with no one taking over the premises. I saw it just the day before yesterday, when I went to Santouka at the Mitsuwa Marketplace for some Japanese ramen soup.

Sam Johnson’s had a formative part to play in my literary tastes. That’s where I became a die-hard fan of the works of G. K. Chesterton,

In East Los

Downtown L.A. as Seen from East Los Angeles

Today, I drove Martine to her ophthalmologist in East Los Angeles. As she is on MediCal, her doctors are not always conveniently located. I don’t mind, however, partly because I find East L.A. (colloquially: East Los) to be a fascinating neighborhood. And the Adventist Health Care Center on Cesar Chavez Avenue seems to be well run. (It is a far cry from the Budapest Hospital I visited in 1977, where patients and staff smoked incessantly and dogs roamed the corridors.)

First I took Martine out for lunch at Philippe’s French Dip Sandwiches on Alameda, just at the fringe of Chinatown. The place has been in business since 1908 and is still very much a going concern. In fact, we had to wait in a 30-minute line to place our order. But my beef stew and Martine’s French dip beef sandwich were both winners.

It turned out to be a hot afternoon: 93º Fahrenheit, 34º Celsius. I set in the Adventist Health Center’s ground floor waiting room, enjoying the air conditioning while waiting for Martine’s tests to be performed. In the meantime, I read Ted Lewis’s British noir classic Jack’s Return Home, on which the 1971 film by Mike Hodges called Get Carter was based.

Helicopterum

Burton W. Chace County Park in Marina Del Rey

delightful It was another warm day, though nowhere near as blistering as those inland areas euphemistically referred to as valleys. Whenever I’m feeling too hot, I always know that it will be miraculous cool and breezy in that park at the west end of Mindanao Way.

So I stopped in at Trader Joe’s for a picnic lunch of a Mexican chicken salad, watermelon chunks, and watermelon juice and found myself a picnic table in one of the three covered picnic pavilions in the park (shown above). Then I moved closer to Stone Point, at the tip of the peninsula, and took out a copy of Roberto Bolaño’s short story collection entitled Last Evenings on Earth and began reading.

Wouldn’t you know it? There are in big cities three things that militate against enjoying a book (or even a good night’s rest): motorcycles, rap music, and helicopters; and I got a 30-minute dose of the latter as it lazily and raucously circled the park without any clear end in mind. I kept thinking to myself how opportune a shoulder-mounted Stinger missile would have been.

But then, one of the drawbacks to big city life is that your neighbor gets all het up and doesn’t give a damn about your need for a modicum of silence. One fantasizes about a gruesome conclusion to each incident, but that never seems to happen. Tant pis!

Vee Dub

Another Show at El Segundo’s Automobile Driving Museum

On Saturday morning, Martine and I drove down to the Automobile Driving Museum for their Air-Cooled Volkswagen Car Show. I was frankly surprised that so many entries and visitors showed up. It reminded me that around 1969 I consider buying a VW Beetle—and that was even before I learned to drive. Because of medical reasons, I was not to get my driver’s license until age 40. I never did get a VW. My first car was a 4-cylinder Mitsubishi Montero, followed by a Nissan Pathfinder, and now a 2018 Subaru Forester.

The Poster for the V Dub Show

In the late 1960s through the 1970s, I knew a lot of people who had Beetles, VW Microbuses (which I always thought looked cool), and Karmann-Ghias.

From the museum, we drove down to Captain Kidd’s Fish Market and Restaurant in Redondo Beach and had a great seafood lunch.