Fiercely Unhuggable

It’s Hard to Be a Tree Hugger in the Desert

This Friday, I will be driving to Palm Desert in the Coachella Valley to visit my brother and sister-in-law. Consequently, I will probably not post here again until Monday January 30—and then only if I feel up to it.

This is supposed to be a nice weekend, except for the possibility of rain on Sunday and Monday. Fortunately, I noticed this week that my right front windshield wiper was starting to fall to pieces, so I had it replaced. The driver’s side windshield wiper (which on a Subaru Forester is two inches longer than the passenger side wiper) is on order.

Usually, most Southern Californians bet that whatever rain is predicted will spend itself in the mountains and leave us high and dry. Not this year, however.

It’s always fun to spend time with Dan and Lori, and I am looking forward to it.

So hasta la vista!

RIP P-22

Mountain Lion P-22 in Better Days

He could not express what he felt But when Mountain Lion P-22 was captured and euthanized a couple of days ago, Los Angeles suddenly woke up to the fact that it had lost a hero of sorts. He had survived for years on the fringes of urban civilization, feasting on kitties and obnoxious Yorkies. He had name recognition. In the end, though, it all caught up with him.

According to CNN:

The department said the “compassionate euthanasia” was unanimously recommended by the medical team at San Diego Zoo Safari Park and conducted under general anesthesia.

P-22 was given an “extensive evaluation” which “showed significant trauma to the mountain lion’s head, right eye and internal organs, confirming the suspicion of recent injury, such as a vehicle strike,” said the department. “The trauma to his internal organs would require invasive surgical repair.”

The 12-year-old mountain lion also had “significant pre-existing illnesses, including irreversible kidney disease, chronic weight loss, extensive parasitic skin infection over his entire body and localized arthritis,” according to the release.

He was in poor health overall and “may also have had additional underlying conditions not yet fully characterized by diagnostics,” said the department.

Over the years, we kept hearing about P-22’s exploits, how he was suddenly seen in somebody’s back yard or how he callously chomped on Fluffy. The point is: He survived under difficult circumstances. It’s a pity they felt they had to kill him: They should have put him out to stud.

The People Under the Bridge

The Homeless Encampment Under the I-10 Bridge Over Centinela Avenue in West L.A.

There is no monolithic group which falls under the term “homeless.” It includes a wide variety of people, some of whom are in transition to a better life, some of whom are out of their gourds, some of whom want to be able to take drugs and drink excessively without police interference, and some of whom are psychotic criminals.

In Los Angeles, they are begging for “spare change” by every freeway onramp and in front of virtually every convenience store. Many of them have sad stories to tell, some of which are partially true. They stretch out on bus seats and commuter trains and ride back and forth all day, occasionally hassling the other riders. The police are reluctant to deal with them because so many are vectors of communicable diseases. (I once worked with a secretary who was married to a U.S. Marshal who contracted tuberculosis from escorting a prisoner.)

Unlike the terminally Woke, my attitude toward the homeless is not: “Oh, the poor homeless!” In my mind, I separate the ones who are capable of being re-housed and following rules regarding behavior, booze, and drugs from those who actually prefer to live and die on the streets. It is my belief that most of the homeless fall into this latter category. I regard them as intractable bums who should be locked up.

Most bum encampments are surrounded by piles of trash of no earthly use to anyone. Martine and I have seen some bums emptying trash cans into the street or even setting fire to them. I am not inclined to be gentle with such rapscallions. Unless these sociopathic types are incarcerated, setting up a tent on the sidewalk will become an attractive alternative to anyone who is not interested in anything but destroying their minds and bodies.

Beware: Raindrops!

Rain Predicted for Los Angeles! Flee to the Hills!

The dire warnings have been appearing on the news for several days now: Rain is coming to Los Angeles. The city of brown lawns (watering of which is forbidden) is about to entertain a soaker. In a city unused to rain, the water that turns everything green and fills the reservoirs is also a present danger.

For one thing, drivers don’t seem to be able to modify their motoring to accommodate wet roads and flooded street corners. (What, I wonder, would they do in the icy streets of Cleveland?) I always slow down when it rains. It helps that my vehicle is an all-wheel-drive Subaru Forester.

Weather forecasting in a region of mountain ranges, valleys, and dry rivers with concrete banks is a chancy thing. Undoubtedly, some areas will get several inches of rain—mostly in the mountains; but in our neck of the woods, we rarely get as much as the news forecasts. At least in the last several decades, there is been a palpable drying trend. I remember some rainstorms of the 1970s and 1980s that did significant damage and dumped large amounts of precipitation.

I actually like the rain—even when it tends to fall on the weekends. Now that I’m retired, that’s no longer an issue.

Here Kitty, Kitty

David Letterman had it right about Thanksgiving when he said, “Thanksgiving is the day when you turn to another family member and say, ‘How long has Mom been drinking like this?’’ My Mom, after six Bloody Marys looks at the turkey and goes, ‘Here, kitty, kitty.’”

I am not a great fan of Thanksgiving, nor of any holiday. I find that Americans use holidays to increase tension and kowtow to complicated and unnecessary pressures. And I don’t generally care for turkey, certainly not as it is cooked in the United States. In Yucatán, I love Sopa de Lima and Pavo en Relleno Negro.

What I do like about holidays is getting together with our friends. This year it was not in the cards, because my friend who invited us was hospitalized for a stroke. (Fortunately, she is recovering nicely.)

The main event for us this holiday will be attendance at the Three Stooges film festival at the Alex Theater in Glendale. Martine loves the Stooges, and we have been in attendance about a dozen times over the last few years. What makes it particularly special for Martine is that we usually have lunch at Sevan Chicken, an Armenian rotisserie chicken restaurant in Glendale, and dinner at Elena’s Greek and Armenian Restaurant. (Not being a bird eater, I go vegetarian at the Sevan and get lamb at Elena’s.)

For this reason, I will probably not post a blog on Saturday.

Among the Dead

Day of the Dead Participants

This is kind of a coda to yesterday’s post entitled “Dia de los Muertos.” Many of the attendees at the Day of the Dead Festival in Canoga park wore nifty costumes and frequently had very professional face painting jobs. There was a booth at the festival where most of the work was probably done.

As much as Martine felt intimidated by the size of the crowd, I wound up enjoying the artistry of the costumes and makeup, and the obvious sincerity of the ofrendas (the little altars to a family’s dead).

A Gathering of Skeletons

I will probably have to go by myself, but I wouldn’t mind traveling to other Day of the Dead observances next year. As much as I like Halloween, I also admire the Mexicans’ celebratory confrontation of their own future demise.

Dia de los Muertos

Although the Mexican Day of the Dead actually occurred on November 2, All Souls Day in the Catholic liturgy, the neighborhood of Canoga Park decided to hold their festival today. Martine and I were to meet a friend at the festival, but there was the usual problem with cell phones: It was too loud to here the telephone ring.

That was the first thing that set Martine off. Second was the size of the crowd. Neither of us positively like crowds, but her dislike of them approaches the realm of phobia. Thirdly, she abhors skeletons and costumes that suggest death. Finally, there were a lot of classical cars on display; but they were all tricked out as Mexican low-riders.

Only the first two things set me off, but I was interested in the costumes people wore and the cars. Many of the cars had ofrendas, little memorials to loved ones who have passed on.

An Ofrenda Occupying the Trunk of a Low-Rider

Where Martine did not particularly like Mexican customs, I, on the other hand, have many years of traveling in the Republic and admiring from afar these same customs. I remember one bus ride I had back in the 1980s on the Dia de los Muertos between Mazatlán and Durango. The bus was filled with Mexican families on their way to have a picnic at the cemetery by the grave of their loved ones. I thought it was a splendid custom, and I helped out by holding a baby for a few miles while the young mother who sat next to me was otherwise occupied.

In the end, I knew I had to make it up to Martine. I could have made a scene and called her too thin-skinned, but instead I bought her her first cotton candy in sixty years. Then, on the way home, we stopped at Bea’s Bakery in Reseda for some of their first class pastries.So, in the end, she had some good things to remember.

Cold Nights

Fall Has Finally Begun in Southern California

Even with global warming, there are cold nights in Southern California, usually beginning in October or November. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any torrid days during the winter: It’s just that they may be bookended between nights when the mercury descends into the 50s or even the 40s.

This presents a problem for Martine and me, because due to rent control, we are persona non grata to the owners of the apartment building in which we live. The owners would love to charge between $3,000 and $5,000 a month for our two-bedroom apartment, but by law they can’t unless they can convince us to move. Under “vacancy decontrol,” they can charge whatever they want from the next tenants.

As part of their policy, they do not readily respond to requests for building repairs. For instance, the wire connecting our thermostat to our gas heater is the original post World War II wire, so that sometimes our heater goes on, and sometimes we freeze. I am no electrician, so I would not venture to make the repairs myself.

This morning I called the apartment management company but have not heard back from them. This is very typical of our interaction with them. They can be counted on to do as little as possible, preferably nothing at all if they can get away with it. So I have to do a little dance, making sure that the wiring is replaced without giving the owners an excuse to get us out of here.

Calcutta on the Pacific

Bus Stop at Bundy and Santa Monica

When I first arrived in Southern California at the tail end of 1966, I was pleasantly surprised by how crisp and clean it looked. Coming from grungy red-brick Cleveland, coated with decades of industrial grime, I really felt I was making a new beginning.

Cut to today. The city is crawling with bums (excuse me, “the homeless”) who think nothing of spreading garbage all around. The trash cans are all filled to overflowing, and alleyways are festooned with human excrement.

It seems that every year there are more men living in tents and ratty looking old Winnebago RVs parked up and down the streets. There has been a bum encampment now for upwards of ten years right across the street from my apartment. When I go to the local Seven-Eleven, there are scruffy men asking for “spare change.”

There are also a few women in these encampments, but their appearance usually begins a new round of competition for their favors, marked with nights of cursing and violence.

I still love L.A., but am dismayed that politicians don’t seem to want to face the problems that confront them. On one side, they face opposition from woke liberals who think they should be left alone, and the majority of the population, which would rather see them housed somewhere else. Considering that most bums are not into following rules regarding alcohol and recreational drugs, or any kind of personal hygiene, the latter is not a viable option.

Times are tough when vagrancy is considered the norm.

My Lizard Life

Gecko and Opuntia Cactus

As the heat dome over the Western US continues, I continue to make like a lizard. Unlike a lizard, however, I seek shady cool places rather than sunny rocks or cacti for my perch. Today, I even went to see a movie: Bullet Train with Brad Pitt was no winner—but at least I sat for three hours in air-conditioned comfort while the people outside the theater looked decidedly wilted.

My dinners lately were very appropriate to a desert dweller. Several days ago, I went to the Persian market across the street and purchased Persian lavash flatbread, French feta cheese, and Turkish pickled vegetables (2 varieties). For breakfast today, I made two quesadillas with flour tortillas, Monterey Jack cheese, and pickled rajas de jalapeño. Despite the hot morning, I had my usual cup of hot Indian black tea with honey and a squeeze of lime.

Tomorrow, while Martine braves the dead hot air of downtown LA, I will probably make my way once again to Burton W. Chace Park in Marina Del Rey to catch stray breezes while reading O. A. Bushnell’s 1963 novel Molokai, about the Hawaiian leper colony. During that time I will constantly hydrate myself with mineral water to keep from getting dehydrated.

This weather is no fun.