Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wha' Hoppin?!??!?

Boy, did the stock market do a tail spin on Monday! I had a screen of my stocks plus ones I had been watching open on my monitor at the office and was amazed to see everything going down and downer.

What I decided to do was to sell off some bozo stocks that hadn't done very well this year and use the losses from them to offset gains from earlier in the year so as not to have to pay taxes on those gains with money I didn't have because it all went back into stocks that lately have gone into a free fall.

With the proceeds from those bozo stocks, I bought shares of other ones today: Amazon.com, Apple Computer, Yahoo and Hansen's (the soda company). I'm betting the market is gonna jump back up once the bailout plan is approved (and it will; they can't afford to keep delaying it) and these are the ones that people are going to jump on quickly and drive up the prices. Or so I think.. well, either they will or they won't, that's for sure.

I bought 288 shares of Yahoo. Why 288 - such an odd number? Because it's a good luck, high prosperity number, that's why! Haha, actually, that is the max number of shares I could buy and still have money left in my account It just happened to end with an "88." Here's a screen shot of the money balance that remains after buying those shares:


Notice I still have 22 cents left to buy something else. Maybe in a couple of days that will buy a ten or twenty shares of the next bank that's in trouble.

You know, I was thinking today about one of my pet peeves regarding our nation's educational system. We spend an awful lot on egghead academics, the facts of which few people are ever going to use in their lifetimes after getting out of school, things that will never come up at a social gathering. Yet, we give short shrift to practical things such as managing one's personal finances.

I graduated from high school not knowing the first thing about financial matters. Maybe that explains my poor state. Now, I was in the "college prep" track, but it seems to me that those who weren't so "fortunate" actually took courses that were useful - stuff like cooking, auto shop and other things that you could really put to use in real life. Probably a lot of those "vocational track" students became entrepreneurs and laughed all the way to the bank.

I'm not saying academics are useless, but there ought to be a balance. Kids should be taught the things they need in order to handle what comes their way in the course of ordinary living, as well as appreciating the arts and music, staying fit, and paying attention to the egghead stuff, too. There's nothing wrong with using Personal Finance for Dummies or Rich Dad Poor Dad (that's me, the latter) as a textbook along with Quantum Calculus.

Neither should basics like spelling and grammar be ignored. We're raising a generation of kids used to text messaging and instant messaging who only know how to abbreviate words. Today I was looking at the prescription bottle below. Now suppose your kid had to call in for a prescription refill on this. What would they say?


"Yes, uh, I would like to order a refill of Proprano Laugh Out Loud, please.

Before ending today's rambling blog entry, here's a screen shot of the tracking info for my last delivery from Amazon.com:

It's kind of small, I know, but you can click for a larger version. What you'll see is that the package came into the Baldwin Park station, then went to Vernon, then came back to Baldwin Park. Hey, my house is sort of on the way so why didn't they just stop by and drop it off at my house instead of taking it to Vernon and then returning it again? And the crazy thing is there's another package due tomorrow that is taking the same circuitous route.

See? Another argument for practical school curriculum - like a Directions Class.

Well today sure wasn't pleasant for the stock market. In the movie It's a Wonderful Life, the evil Mr. Potter tells our hero George Bailey that the way he and other folks got rich was when everyone else was selling, he was buying. I surely don't admire Mr. Potter but I think he's got a point there.

We shall see what Tuesday will bring for the stock market.. meanwhile, in honor of Monday's results:




Did you ever try and sing along with that song? lol..





Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday Ramblings

I hope you aren't counting on this blog to tell you what day it is..

This was one of the more relaxing Sundays in recent times. After church and choir practice, we had an early authentic Chinese lunch at Panda Express then walked across the street to Wal Mart to pick up a few sundries.

A giant panda posted on the wall at Panda Express proudly informed patrons that Panda food has no MSG, is prepared in 100% soybean oil (is that good? - better than Crisco I suppose) and the veggies are fresh. What they don't tell you is some of those entrees have so much oil in them you could probably strain it out and run your car on it, and make a salt lick for horses with the sodium. I checked the Panda website and noted that Julie and I happened to choose two of the lower-calorie items, mushroom chicken (her) and string bean chicken (me). Just when you think you did yourself good on the calories, however, then comes the chow mein and/or rice that accompanies the entree with about triple the calories.

Oh, well - you could do far worse. At least there were veggies in the entrees.

After Panda and after exiting a relatively uncrowded Wal Mart, we came home and had an uneventful and peaceful remainder of the day. By the way, for dinner we tried that lemon pepper sole I bought from Costco on Saturday (see yesterday's post for a picture) and it was quite good. Delicately seasoned just like the box said, and so easy to prepare. Just throw it in the oven, no need to defrost.

I spent the afternoon doing computer stuff. First, installing and configuring Acronis True Image 11, software for doing file backups. It's really easy to use. I backed up the entire computer and scheduled daily backups to run, something I've been remiss in doing for a long time. I've been thinking about switching from Microsoft XP to Vista and want to make sure I've got my whole drive backed up in case Vista goes haywire, which is likely, and has me wondering why I am even considering the change. But if we listen to our presidential hopefuls, change is good, right?

One time two men and a woman in highly professional attire visited our office trying to get us to switch the administration of our 401(k) plan to their company. After listening to their spiel, I told them that every single advantage they mentioned was something we already had. We were very happy with the current company so why should we trade the known for the unknown?

The woman paused to ponder this and then brightly chirped, "Well, sometimes it's good just to make a change!" She tossed her hands in the air to emphasize the point. We all stared at her. Despite how stupid that sounds, that's pretty much the only reason I can think of for making this change of operating systems I'm contemplating.

A little program Microsoft has that I downloaded tells me that my computer is ready for Vista; only three items were questionable but from consulting the website of the manufacturers of those three things, all have Vista-compatible drivers so I should be good to go. I'm not going to attempt anything until next weekend so I will have time to fix whatever goes awry, but if you tune in next Sunday and have a blank page where this blog used to be, you'll know what happened.

Then I decided to try Outlook 2007 for my e-mail program so that took more time configuring all my various e-mail accounts since I have so many aliases, haha. All the test messages went through okay but I haven't received any new e-mails other than those test ones so now I'm getting paranoid.

Treasury Secretary Paulson appeared on a segment of 60 Minutes tonight, discussing the recent financial crisis and associated $700 billion bailout. According to a website I just checked, there are an estimated 305 million people living in this country. That means each person is on the hook for about $2,295. After paring the population down to exclude non-taxpayers, such as underage and overage folks as well as illegal aliens, the burden on taxpayers is outrageous.

Did we not see this coming? Any fool could tell you house prices couldn't keep spiraling up forever, and that when mortgage rates began adjusting and property tax bills showed up in the mailbox, lots of people wouldn't have the money to pay for this. But yet, greed ruled the day - not just on the side of big business, but among the people who imprudently stretched themselves to buy a house they couldn't afford.

And now we're left to clean up the mess. It's like being hit by an uninsured motorist - the damage is done, they can't pay for it, so we have to pay for the damage ourselves. Or being the victim of a hit and run - like all those faceless people who got rich off the subprime situation and left us holding the bag.

I don't want to politicize this blog or turn it into my soapbox but recent events can't be ignored and it really is like all of us taxpayers got blindsided by an uninsured motorist. Whoever becomes president is going to have a mess on his hands and hopefully, there will be change for the better that comes from all of this.

Okay, down from the soapbox.. I will try to refrain in future editions of this blog but I just had to throw in my devalued two cents. And that's my Sunday..









Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday This and That

I was back to my normal Saturday morning Costco routine but that wasn't the first stop. The first stop was Kaiser Permanente to pick up this thing:


Yes, those of you who recognize it probably cringe on sight. The dreaded colyte solution inside the giant jug, aka the preparation mix for a colonoscopy. Not a pleasant topic! For those of you who don't recognize what's in the picture above, don't worry, your time will come! Anyway, mine is scheduled early next month so I figured I would pick it up before heading to Costco.

Most of what I bought at Costco were repeat items so you're spared having to look at their pictures again. I did run across a couple of previously unpurchased items, so here they are:

This is the first time I've seen this in the freezer cases so curiosity got the better of me and I put one in the cart to give it a try. Notice the box informs you that it is "delicately seasoned." Next week I'll see if I can find anything that says it is "aggressively seasoned."


And there's always room for chopped onions. Costco's spices and seasonings are ridiculously cheap compared to the grocery stores.


The below didn't come from Costco, it came from CVS. My dad asked me to get this and he insisted that it be the CVS brand and no other. He said he's tried all the other ones and they don't work, only this one works so don't get anything else. I bought two!


This evening we went to a concert where my mom and dad are now. It was free for the residents and $15.00 for guests. For that, we got the entertainment plus a bento box.

Canopies were set up in the parking lot to shield us from the sun; while the event officially began at 5:00, they were already herding the residents out to the parking lot when we arrived prior to 4:30, so that everyone would be out there in time.

First came a fruit cup, then the bento, water or tea, coffee, then dessert. There was also a bag of fortune cookies for each place at the table. I forgot to take a picture of the bento! It held a nice assortment of healthy food and was really colorful: salmon, teriyaki chicken, onigiri, umeboshi, tsukemono, spinach, gobo, a rectangle of fried egg, mushroom, kamaboko and some roots I'd seen before - like on New Years when I was little, and I refused to eat it - and couldn't remember their names.


I was thinking, this is sooo different from fast food or your typical chain eatery. Can you imagine them serving the residents takeout boxes from Claim Jumper? Man, we really stuff ourselves silly in this country. Those bento boxes were just right (said the baby bear, that being me), portion and health-wise.

Then the entertainment began. First up was Grateful Crane, a vocal ensemble that performed songs from the 30's and 40's. Accompanied by only an electric keyboard, they sounded very fine.


After them came the L.A. Matsuri Taiko group. They did a fine job, as well. I like the mix of different sizes of drums, the interplay of rhythms and the gut-shaking power of the thuds on the huge drums. They invited a couple of the residents to come up and play; the first woman was really rocking out and probably would have kept playing longer had they not stopped her, lol.




At 6:30 the festivities came to a close and everyone headed back to their rooms. The long lines of people moving along the walkway using their walkers with two green tennis balls on the legs was a sight - like a human freeway. I have to hand it to the staff and volunteers at the event - they really did a bang up job coordinating the whole thing - from getting the canopies and tables set up, to traffic control both coming and going, distributing the food and keeping everything orderly - it was amazing.

During the show, I thought about my name.. I've always felt my name sounded so 'sing-song' because everyone rhymes the first and last names even though the last syllable of the last name should be pronounced eh instead of ee. Instead, I should do what some Deborahs of the world do (when they say, uh, excuse me but it is pronounced 'Dee-bore-uh' not 'De-bur-ah') and insist on saying it the way it would be said in Japanese: 'Ree-kee-eh.' I guess sitting among all those Japanese folks today is what made me think about that. So if you should tell anyone about this blog, make sure to tell them righteously: The Ree-kee-eh Mee-yah-keh blog, lol..

And there goes another chapter in the book of Saturdays.





Saturday, September 27, 2008

Growin' Up in the Hood

Before there was Crenshaw there was Western Avenue. That was my original 'hood, on 36th Street a few blocks north of the corner of Western and Exposition.

I always thought our neighborhood looked pretty typical. We lived in a white house with a front porch painted a brick red color - a covered area that you could actually put chairs in and sit down. The milkman would bring milk from Adohr farms in big glass bottles and leave them on the porch in the morning; the mailman used to come twice a day -there was the morning mail and the afternoon mail. If we were expecting something and it didn't show up that morning, well, we'd hope that it would be with the afternoon delivery.

Each day mid-afternoon, the Helms Man made his appearance in his yellow and blue Helms Truck; the fish man would make his rounds once a week in his big green truck; and the watermelon man would be here now, announcing his arrival through the bullhorn attached to his pickup truck carrying a bed full of watermelons.

None of my classmates lived on my street or anywhere nearby. What few kids did live on our block were older than me. I used to hang out with Edwin Kasakawa, five years older than me and mentally retarded, who lived in a back house across the street.

Also across the street were the Tashimas and Hiramas, and next door to us were the Taninos. That formed our mini-Japanese community.

Go west on our street to Western Avenue and on the corner was the Signal gas station that later became an Enco station. Jimmy Toji owned it and he had an assistant, a young Chinese guy named Dick who was studying electrical classes at Pacific University. Edwin and I would hang around the garage when Jimmy was gone and talk to Dick. He kept telling us we weren't supposed to be there but we kept coming back anyway.

Hanging inside the gas station office/cashier area was a Schwinn Sting Ray. Enco
was giving it away in a drawing. My dad bought gas there and so every time he did so, that meant more entries into the fishbowl. Dick would also give us free cards to put into the bowl. I felt sure I was going to win that bicycle; I imagined myself riding it around with its gooseneck handlebars and the long tuck-and-roll seat. The bike was mine and it was a mere formality for the drawing to take place.

When the drawing did take place I was sorely disappointed when another lucky kid about my age happily and proudly came with his dad one day to pick it up and put it in their car. Oh, well..

One afternoon while Dick worked on a car in the garage area, Edwin and I were goofing off next to the office. I pushed him and he fell back against the window - a large window - and it shattered in its entirety. Dick ran out and we all stood there staring at pieces of glass lying all over the ground and inside the office. Talk about wishing you could turn back time..

That was my world. For the first five grades plus kindergarten I went to the elementary school that was just on the other side of Western - literally it was a block away from our house. My mom would walk me to school and when I got older, I'd walk from school to Western Avenue and my mom would be waiting for me on the other side of the street. Then we'd both proceed a block south to 36th Place, where there was a signal, and I'd cross the street and then we would walk home while I told her about my day at school. Getting a little older, I'd then walk home by myself. She told me to always walk to 36th Place and cross at the signal, which I did. For awhile..

When I visualize those days in the old 'hood, the days are sunny. They're sunny and the lawns on our street are green and spacious, and the block is lined with well-kept houses and everything is neat and clean. It's a model neighborhood.

One afternoon a car pulled into our driveway very quickly and zoomed into our backyard. Someone knocked frantically on the back door. It turned out to be a huge black woman with a very loud voice and my mom stood there explaining to her that whoever she was looking for didn't live here until finally the woman apologized and drove back out.

Shortly thereafter my dad built a green gate for the driveway that had a wheel on one end so you could push and roll it open or pull and roll it closed, like a door. You know, I still dream of being in that driveway and opening and closing the gate?

One day our teacher explained to us about America's lower, middle and upper classes in our country. She described each of them, and told us there were also the inbetween classes, the lower-middle and upper-middle. While she talked about them I debated in my mind whether our neighborhood was middle or upper-middle. Finally I decided it was more an upper-middle class than straight middle class neighborhood.


What was my basis for comparison? In my limited perspective, not much. I knew mansions meant upper class. But below the mansion level, our neighborhood looked nice; I had everything I wanted; this had to be upper-middle living as far as I was concerned.

Haha, dollar-wise we were miles from the middle class, and on the far side of the moon away from upper middle class but how would I know? I sure felt rich.





Friday, September 26, 2008

Memorabilia

Well I think this will be the last entry about the stuff I found while rummaging through the items that were still in the closet in my old room at my parents house. There's really not a whole lot. But I saved the best for last..

Here it is, a genuine, hand-written Easy Livin' playlist from some unspecified date back in the heyday! (click to enlarge)


That's Michael Kosaka's handwriting. Most of the lists were made either by him or me, mainly because no one else wanted to do them. Plus no one else wanted to hear the inevitable, "..why'd you put that song right there?" Since I was a stubborn blockhead, I put the songs where I thought they should be put, and that was that, haha.

And would you believe, that's the only Easy Livin' memorabilia I have. There's no pictures, no tapes, no bids, no nothing that mentions us. Well I think I may have an old business card somewhere but I don't know where it is. How sad.

I guess I won't list it on E-Bay, then.

On the list you will see Horse With No Name. Kind of an unusual song for a "dance band" or "garage band" to play but we liked the song. It seemed the criteria for us to learn a song had more to do with if we liked it or not, rather than its danceability.

Back then we'd have vocal practice on a weekday night at Dennis Yokotake's house. Teri Kusumoto, Dennis and I would practice the harmonies accompanied by his piano. I must thank his patient parents for putting up with the noise.

Weekdays meant school the next day but when our practice was over, I never wanted to go home right away. Dennis lived only five blocks from me but often I'd take the long way home - the night was just too inviting to pass up. I would take a drive for as long as I thought I could get away with and still manage to get my homework done. Or not... Actually, I'd just as soon practice the whole time - I really loved our practice sessions, be it with the whole band or just for the vocals.

Can you tell I enjoyed those days?

Earlier this year, perhaps in response to my whining about how much I missed the Easy Livin' days and playing the drums, Julie encouraged me to get a set of drums.

"Really?" I said.

"Life is too short, you need to enjoy it," she replied. She knew how much I missed them, having sold them shortly after Easy Livin' disbanded. Perhaps she also felt guilty since she was getting a new piano for herself. Well that's okay, her guilt worked for me so before she could come to her senses the purchase was made.


My old set was made by the now defunct Camco company, and they were beautiful. Courtesy of Betty Norup, owner of Betty's Music, I got them at a great price, too. Natural maple shells, none of that metalflake covering for me - I liked the natural look. But alas, I sold the entire set, including the covers at a great price for the buyer. I hope they took care of them.

The new ones aren't as fun as as the old, since they are electronic, but they're a whole lot more neighbor friendly because you can use them with headphones. That way no one can hear how bad I am. I guess I should apologize to my old neighbors as well for the noise they had to endure, even though both sides of my parents house are long gone. Maybe the drums contributed to that. Unlike real drums, these can be played at any time and they actually sound realistic. They are way above my capabilities, that's for sure!

So now the old fogie has something to bang on, although I don't get to play them nearly as much as I'd like. There just isn't enough time!

You won't be surprised to know that one of my big fantasies is an Easy Livin' reunion. One where we could '..play some of the old songs, Sam.' I know Dennis still plays so he would have his keyboards, but I wonder if Duane still has his guitar and Michael his bass? And would Teri remember how to play the cowbell and tambourine? Haha.. what a sight and sound we would be.

Here's looking at you, kid..








Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Stuff From the Closet

I finished examining all the items I had stuffed into a shopping bag that were sitting in my parents closet. I showed you some of the things from the 1st half of the bag yesterday, and today is about the 2nd half of the bag.

In 1967 KHJ counted down their second annual Top 300 Songs of All Time as voted by their listeners. I missed the first one in 1966 because I hadn't yet gone crazy over music.

What's your guess for the #1 slot back then? If you're curious about what got into the top 300, I uploaded pictures of the official list I received gratis from KHJ when stations still spent money to give away freebies to their fans. Here it is (and just click on each picture to see a larger version with more legible print):





Did you see the Boss Jocks on the last page? I bet that was one of the hottest, most prestigious jobs you could have in radio at that time - to say you worked in the Los Angeles market as a KHJ Boss Jock. Sam Riddle was my favorite. If I recall correctly, he also hosted a music/dance show on local TV called 9th Street West.

My memory is faint but I seem to remember Robert W. Morgan and The Real Don Steele also hosted shows of their own. The latter's show had a regular dance segment when they played Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels' Devil With a Blue Dress and dancers would take the spotlight one by one until they got pushed off the floor by Steele (and pushed pretty hard in some cases, the camera capturing them as they stumbled back into the crowd).

Somehow I connect Robert W. Morgan with the Groovy Show, although I seem to recall Mike Blodgett as the host, too. Two featured characters I can't forget from that show were Doozer, the towering black dancer with legs longer than I'm tall, and Kam Nelson, the "dumb blonde" who hypnotized everyone with her miniskirts. Well she hypnotized me, anyway, haha...

A few years later, Humble Harve would be arrested and charged with murdering his wife. That event inspired Rob Karatsu and I to conduct a mock "Free Humble Harve" rally, putting up announcements on the wall in Mr. Soloff's chemistry class calling for supporters to meet in Dorsey's Circle on a specified date and time. Silly, I know, but we had nothing better to do and it was fun doing it. Mr. Soloff was cool, letting us keep it on the wall in his room.

Did you check out the 300 songs? There's some great ones in there that really call up the memories.

Moving forward ten years, I found a class picture of the 2nd grade class in which I student taught. The school was Nora Sterry Elementary right in the heart of the Sawtelle District, and my master teacher was Mrs. Ng. Check out the picture below, and click on it for a larger view.. I'll let you guess which one is me.


I didn't even remember that picture and I laughed when I saw myself. All I needed was to have Jack Albertson next to me instead of Karen (can't remember her last name), the other student teacher in the class.. can you say Chico and the Man? That's Mrs. Ng across the aisle and on her right is the teacher's aide for the room, whose name I forgot. But I remembered most of the students!

Before all the trendy eateries and boutiques opened on Sawtelle, when such places were outnumbered by lawn mower shops, it was a Japanese-American enclave and a much quieter community. All the kids told me the place to eat was Ketchies, a hamburger stand so tiny that the owners could barely fit inside of it. Their tacos were pretty good - and unique. They were no Tito's, but tasty in their own way.

That just reminded me - do you remember Walt's Cafe in the little green building on Crenshaw? The place where the little old Japanese lady defied the laws of physics, turning out Japanese home cooking to hungry folks at the counter at blurring speeds. That has nothing to do with anything else in this entry but writing about Ketchies made me think about her.

And finally, here's the last thing I'll mention, a relic sitting in a small envelope between other papers. My original pass to freedom:


For obvious reasons I crossed out some of the data on the card but while the signature is now different, it was funny to see the weight listed on that license is the same as it is now.

And in honor of that picture from Mrs. Ng's class:




The best part of the show - what you just saw, the opening shots and Jose Feliciano singing the theme song. I love the feeling of community that comes across in that brief minute. In the 11th grade I was very dark from playing tennis all the time - like crispy brown. One day Keith Honda brought a newspaper clipping to school that talked about the "Merry Mexican," which he said was me because of my dark color. In front of Kurtis, he then promptly christened me the Merry Mexican, much to my chagrin. After that whenever those two wanted to get my goat, that's what they called me. Haha.. those days..

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Out of the Closet

Don't go expecting some wild revelation about me based on the title; I'm talking about some of my old stuff I found in my parents closet the other day while cleaning up their house. It hadn't seen daylight in a long time.

A while back I mentioned how we used to frequent Chris and Pitts BBQ. It was good and it was cheap. Dennis, Teri and I ran across the place one evening after returning from a Yototake West L.A. Accordian Band playout up in Fresno. As we got into town we looked for a place to eat and lucked out by running into this restaurant on Sawtelle in West L.A. before it was a trendy street.

I found a menu, which I uploaded so you can wax nostalgic about how much lower food prices were back in 1972 or 1973. Click on the pictures to see a larger version that is easier to read.


Look at that.. 15 cents for a soda! 95 cents for a sandwich with fries! $1.45 for a merchant bbq rib lunch with fries and a salad and garlic bread..


I was always confused by their "merchant lunches." Did you have to be a merchant to order them? What kind of merchant? Chris and Pitts was a place to get a good square bbq meal at a decent price.

Many of you - well, I shouldn't say 'many of you' since probably hardly anyone reads this so I'll change it to 'a good proportion of you' (which could be 2 of 3 or 3 of 4.. something like that) will remember the place below.


We'd go to either the one in Torrance or Woodland Hills. Do you remember the commotion when someone ordered the Zoo? Same thing for that Gastronomical..sandwich. David and I splurged and ordered it one time, suffering through the clanging bells and sirens and the attention it brought us. We wound up taking most of it home as it was way too big. $4.95 was a steep sum for us back then.

I always thought Farrells was overpriced. I never cared for it much anyway. Most of the times we went there was with a big group of people, such as a club outing and being that I wasn't Mr. Social, I generally was just one of the onlookers. What kind of memories came back to you when you saw the menu picture?



Oh, and along with those menus I found a lot of short, stupid things I had written in high school and I do mean stoopid. Yesterday I told you how I found a story of mine from 1978 and how much the thought process and style still resembled the way I am now. Well, go back six or seven years from that point to high school and it was completely different! The stuff I wrote was terrible! You might be saying, so what has really changed? True.. but it was even more terribler back then.

You will not be seeing any reprints thereof.

I can tell you, though, that there seemed to be common themes interwoven through most of that amateurish assortment of scribblings - a slant towards the irreverant and unconventional, as well as an underlying longing to be unconfined, or free. Free of what? School is the obvious answer, but deeper down it was that same longing feeling I wrote about here a few days ago, the one that would come to me while sitting in my room getting lost in my records every night.


These were just some of the things I stuffed into a bag while going through the closet. I still have to pull out the other half and look through it so stay tuned. I thought most of them had been thrown away long ago.




Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Old Friends

Julie and I went to visit my mom and dad on Sunday in their new surroundings at the retirement place. First we went to my dad's room, but he wasn't there. So we went down a floor to see my mom. As we passed by the "Day Room," Julie looked in and said they were in there.

We walked in and there they were, sitting side by side on dining-type chairs watching a Japanese language television program, keeping each other company. Old friends. They looked so much happier than just a couple of weeks ago.

I mentioned in a previous entry that while going through my old belongings at my parents house, I ran across a story I wrote thirty years ago. All handwritten; no typewriter and of course, no computer. I just finished reading it; some parts I remembered better than others but as I sat there reading, I compared the "me" when I was writing it to the present-day "me."

I looked at the handwriting. Yup, that was my handwriting. When I take the time to write neatly and my hand doesn't get all cramped up, it still looks like that. I looked at my handwriting in the story and I could feel myself in it. Does that make sense? I don't know how else to say it.

I also still seem to think the same way, or think in the same patterns of words now as back then. I'd like to think that I have evolved, but I still see a great deal of myself in my writings of thirty years ago, using a lot of the same writing style.

One thing that has changed is I refrain from profanity these days, whereas I notice the old story was peppered with plenty of it. Since it was about my buddies and I on an "adventure," I suppose that reflects the actual language we used then, although I have to say I shocked myself by reading it again. I wouldn't have expected to have used so many four-letter words.

The last I heard from my friend Misa, she was up to page 1,481 of a story she had begun writing in July of 2007. That's a boggling number of pages! And she won't tell me what it is about or let me read parts of it, nor will she let anyone else see it. That's how I feel about my thirty-year-old story. I made myself the protagonist and many of my feelings back then are still my feelings today and, well, the story just says too much so I plan to keep it to myself. I still see a lot of "me" in that story.

I wonder what it would be like to sit down on a park bench with me but thirty years junior. What would we talk about? What would my junior me ask, and what advice would I give my junior me? Would he listen? I'm thinking he wouldn't.

Or round us all up in decades. Me now, and then me in increments of ten years back, all sitting around the table discussing ourself.




Monday, September 22, 2008

A Dows House

We did our share of TP'ing (toilet-papering) houses back in high school. Most of the time it was done under night's dark protection although I did write an entry a while ago about Cindy and I doing this to Rick's house one summer's dawn.

But to criminals, the thrill of the crime comes not just from the results, but also taking a daring risk and getting away with it. That fateful one day, we decided to forgo the mundane, cliched modus operandi of plastering a house at night; we would do the job in the stark daylight of the afternoon.

Duane, David and Rick knew Janet Dows from their Audubon days. After graduating junior high, she'd moved to Culver City from the Crenshaw area. Apparently from inside her house, the front yard was obscured from view. She would be the target.

With a healthy supply of inventory, the four of us drove up the hill in Duane's gray Chevy Nova and parked across the street several houses down the hill from Janet's residence. Duane and David would pay her a visit while Rick and I played exterior decorators.

"Twenty minutes, that's all we need," Rick told them. "If we get done any earlier we'll honk the horn."

"We'll be done sooner than twenty," Duane assured us. "You be ready."

We watched from the car while Duane and David went up the steps, were greeted by Janet, and went inside. Rick and I went to work.

Like calm, seasoned professionals, we carried bags of toilet paper from the car to the house, set it down, tore open the plastic and boldly proceeded to unravel the rolls all over Janet's yard. Double-ply in shades of blue, green, yellow and white festooned the trees, bushes and ivy of the house. This wasn't the cheap stuff that people used to sneak out of Holiday Bowl's bathroom - this was high grade supermarket mansion-quality paper.

A little boy had been watching us from a neighbor's yard and walked over.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"We're decorating the house for a party," I told him.

"Are you supposed to be doing that?"

"Yes, I told you there's going to be a party here later and we're getting things ready. Doesn't it look like a party?"

"Do they know you're here?" The boy was persistent.

"Of course they know," said Rick. "It's their party. Why don't you go home and watch TV?"

"I watched Adam 12 last night," responded the boy upon hearing Rick mention TV. "That's my favorite show. Last night, they.." And he continued providing us with a synopsis of the episode. Meanwhile Rick and I paid little attention to him as we used up lots of footage going back and forth across the yard, and up and down on the tree. When the last roll had been unraveled, we headed back to the car.

"You're finished?" the boy asked.

"Yes, we're all done. Goodbye!" Rick waved at him.

The boy waved back and I looked at Rick. "What's with that little punk asking all those questions and talking so much about Adam 12?" We laughed and climbed in the car. There was still no sign of Duane or David, so Rick honked the horn.

Duane and David had heard the horn. But they were having so much fun catching up on things with Janet that they figured there was no harm in making Rick and I wait a while longer. After all, they hadn't seen each other in a while and to leave abruptly after fifteen or twenty minutes didn't seem like the right thing to do.

Rick and I sat in the car and waited, and we also admired our work of art. "Where the hell are they?" I was gettig impatient. "Honk the horn again."

"Get down!" Rick shouted all of a sudden. "The cops are here!"

"What???!!?"

"The Culver City police just pulled in front of Janet's house and that little punk is out there talking to them!" Rick whispered. "He must have called them! If he points over here, we're dead!"

"Him and his stupid Adam 12!"

When the cops walked further onto the yard to examine our job, Rick and I slid out of Duane's car and ran down the hill, out of their view. We kept running until we came to the bottom where we rested and caught our breath. "What's the matter with those two?" I asked angrily. "Didn't they hear the horn? Now what are we gonna do?"

"I'm going to kill them," declared Rick.

"Hey, do you know Janet's number?" He didn't. "Is it in the phone book?"

There was a store not far from where we had run, and we headed over there to use the pay phone. Thankfully, Janet's number was listed. Rick gave her a call. I heard Rick's end of the conversation and was curious to know the other end after he hung up.

It turns out the police had rang Janet's bell and asked her about the toilet paper strewn across her yard. Thankfully she had been cool and told them that yes, she was having a party and she knew about this so there was no need to proceed any further with the matter. She thought it was hilarious. Duane and David were on their way to pick us up.

"Didn't you hear the horn?" we asked when they arrived. "Why the hell didn't you hurry up and come outside?" The two who had been on the inside began accusing each other of delay tactics.

"We almost got ourselves arrested and there you were sitting there laughing and having a good time," Rick said. "Next time, WE go in and you do the dirty work!"

"What 'next time?'" I asked.





Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saturday With the Fishies

Our good friends Ross and Kay had four tickets to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and were nice enough to invite us to use half of them yesterday. I even forsook my regular Saturday morning visit to Costco for this outing!

Here's some pictures. Click on them to see a larger version.

They chose a gorgeous day to go.


Now I know this is an aquarium but I had to include some shots of the very tame lorikeets.



Hmm.. this one sort of resembles Mr. Schuwarger, my high school algebra teacher. I can just hear him.. "Randy, Randy, why must you disrupt the class?"


And this is like my folks in their new surroundings at the senior facility.


Here's a couple of tourists, especially the one on the right with that fobish camera-around-the-neck look.


This looks like a tank at one of the SGV Chinese restaurants.


Some incredible jellyfish.



Again, another tank at a Chinese restaurant.


Here's Hoppity Hooper, indignant that I was invading his privacy.


The array of colors and shapes of the lifeforms under the sea is absolutely amazing. So brilliant and beautiful.


Here's a seahorse. It's a little blurry.


And here's Ross and Kay. After our tour we headed across the street to Bubba Gump's and ate some of the things we saw in the tanks. I forgot to take pictures of the food so you could have "before" and "after" shots.. haha.. It was such a nice day out by the ocean - not too hot, a nice breeze, and pretty good food. We had a relaxing lunch and a nice chat al fresco.


Well you know I can't tolerate a Saturday without Costco. Previously I had downloaded all the Costco locations in the nation onto my GPS. As we headed out of the parking lot, Voila, it told me where the nearest Costco was: Signal Hill. So off we went to check out unknown territory.

The Signal Hill Costco looks like one of the older ones. Costco's web site says it opened in 1986 and it looks it. This one didn't seem to have as much variety as the one I normally go to in Azusa (or the push-push shove-shove Alhambra one), but it had everything I needed to get this week so I'm happy. And of course I have pictures.

My dad needed some socks. The ones he has now are too ventilated. I saw the Kirkland name and didn't hesitate to throw these in the cart.


The asparagus looked good - long, thin spears. I didn't think it was in season but the package says it's from Peru so I guess it is asparagus season down there.


Not too long ago I could never imagine buying two green vegetables at the same time, but here I got both asparagus and brussel sprouts. Did you ever see When Harry Met Sally? Remember how there are interviews with couples interspersed throughout the movie? There's one with an elderly Chinese couple and I always thought the woman's head looked like a giant brussel sprout. The next time you watch that movie check it out and see if there isn't a startling resemblance.


It was a long, full and enjoyable day. I can't believe I stayed off the computer that long, either, lol..





Saturday, September 20, 2008

Believe

I believed some weird things when I was little. Like the time I told my sister that I had insomnia. That's a big word for a little kid, but I had heard her use it and told her that's what I had. I had trouble falling asleep at night. Did I really have trouble or was it just that when I wanted to fall asleep I thought about it so much that I wasn't able to do so?

I got excited when she told me matter-of-factly that she had the cure. If I wanted to fall asleep, all I had to do was hold onto her big toe.

"That's all I have to do?" I asked.

"That's it."

It sounded so easy. Why had she never told me this before? I reached out and grasped her big toe, closed my eyes, and expected to be dozing within seconds.

After a minute or two, I felt no different than before. I was told to be patient and give it time. Meanwhile my sister went back to reading her book. After five minutes I still didn't feel sleepy in the least, so I asked her what was taking so long. She couldn't contain her laughter any more and then I knew I'd been rooked. And I'd been holding her dirty old toe all that time! I got up and ran to the bathroom to wash my hands of all her toe cooties, while she continued to sit there and laugh.

Our kitchen wall had two small holes in it. My mom had always told me that God and Santa Claus were watching me to see if I was being a good boy. I was pretty clever because I figured out that they were watching me through those two holes in the wall. I was more clever than they were, because they didn't know that I knew that.

When I walked through the kitchen, past that wall, I was a little angel, one who was very careful not to look directly at those holes while being on his best behavior. Once out of sight range, I relaxed.

On the other side of the kitchen wall was a closet. I figured God sat on one stool and Santa on the other, next to each other, peering through the wall while comparing notes about my behavior. Now, that was my own closet in my own room and I'd certainly been inside of it before; why I never managed to see them was a mystery, but then I never saw the holes that looked out into the kitchen, either. There must have been a hidden room within the closet.

Since our house had no chimney, I asked my mom how Santa was able to get inside of our house to leave presents. Never mind that according to my own deductions, he was already inside of our house looking at me through the kitchen wall; I suppose this must have been another time before or after the period during which I was convinced of my belief.

"I leave the door unlocked so he can get in," she informed me.

"But I thought you said to never, ever leave the door unlocked," I couldn't figure out why she told me to do one thing and did another herself.

"For Santa it's different. That's just the way it is. The rest of the time it's locked," my mom assured me.

The biggest mystery of all was how a tooth was able to transform itself into a coin. And what exactly was the criteria for if a tooth would become a nickel, or a dime, or sometimes a nickel and a dime together? Sometimes bigger teeth resulted in a larger denomination coin and sometimes it didn't. How the Tooth Fairy managed to enter our house was something I never thought about because I was too preoccupied pondering such a miraculous change in molecular structure. I was very disappointed to learn that upon reaching a certain age, the Tooth Fairy crossed me off her list.

Yeah, I know the above is pretty strange and you already think I'm stupid but the most bizarre belief I had was that my own mom was trying to kill me.

I loved avocados and still do. But you know, once in a while you run across a stringy one. Or one that doesn't taste quite right, not buttery and creamy. That's the one I had at dinner one night that triggered my Sherlock mind to deduce that my mom was trying to poison me.

The avocado definitely didn't taste right. I eyed my mom and was impressed, and perhaps a bit unnerved that she appeared cool as a cucumber acting as though she knew nothing of this evil endeavor of hers. She didn't so much as look at me from the corner of her eye as she ate her dinner.

I left the rest of the avocado on my plate.

"What's the matter? I thought you liked avocados?"

"This one tastes funny."

"It does?" My mom examined it and left it on the plate. I wondered if I had ingested enough of the poison. I wondered if I would wake up the next day.

Now let me say that never did my mom ever say or do anything that would make me think she meant me any harm. She was the most important person in the world to me but yet I put the subpar avocado together with the thought in my head that it was poisoned, and was convinced my days were numbered. I figured each day I woke up, there would be more poison in my food that day to get the job done.

And yet I ate. I ate and waited to have x's for eyes - it's true! Why did I continue eating food that would kill me? Because she was my mom and I had to do what she wanted me to do and if she wanted me to eat poisoned food, it was my duty to do so. For however long that lasted, I honestly went to sleep each night fearing that I would never wake up again. I accepted my fate.

Morning after morning I continued to rise, however. One day I finally told my mom something was bothering me, and I confessed my suspicions to her. She stared at me and when my expression told her I was serious, she gave me a big hug and said plainly, "of course I'm not trying to poison you. Where did you ever get an idea like that?"

I told her about the avocado. She kept hugging me and assured me that she would never ever think of such a thing. Now of course, would anyone ever admit it if they were trying to kill someone? But I believed her. I've never been so relieved in my life and immediately all was right in the world.

My mom told me and I believed her.

I laugh about the silly things I believed as a kid, but you know, even when we grow up we still believe silly things. I think we want to believe - we want to be able to open our eyes and find that all is well just because we believed it so.





Friday, September 19, 2008

In My Room

Continuing with yesterday's entry..

I was in the middle bedroom of a three bedroom house when my fascination with pop/rock and roll began; my sister occupied the front bedroom facing the street. When her husband returned from Vietnam, she moved out and I moved into her old room - after all, things were nicer with a view, even if it was only overlooking 36th Street and the houses across from us.

Then a couple of wonderful things happened. One, my parents were generous enough to buy me a Magnavox stereo record player/radio. I'd been using an old RCA monophonic record player that originally belonged to my grandfather, which didn't have the best fidelity.

The new Magnavox had speakers made of genuine walnut; the combo turntable/receiver was also housed in luxurious walnut as well. The sound from this marvel was way above what I was used to from the old RCA. That stereo, by the way, is still sitting at my parents house.

My buddy Michael Jones and I used to ride our bikes a lot. We'd visit this cool store on Montclair Street near Adams Boulevard called Creator's Playhouse. They had all sort of unusual items there, the coolest of which was this:


That was my first encounter with a lava lamp.

The second wonderful thing that happened was that my parents were generous enough to get me my very own lava lamp. I know, I was spoiled, but I really really appreciate what they did. They don't have a computer so they will never read this, but thanks anyway!

The lava lamp in the picture above is one that I have now. A couple of coworkers gave this to me on my 40th birthday; a most appropriate gift for someone entering mid-life crisis. My original lava lamp had bluish-green liquid and lava inside; stupid me couldn't resist shaking it one day and it never functioned properly after that (ask me if you want to know what happens). It's still keeping the Magnavox company at my parents place.

Changing bedrooms coincided with a change from mainly 45 rpm records to 33 1/3 albums. The lava lamp subtly illumined the room while I sat listening to my music, letting it carry me away into the night that was in view outside the windows.

The most frequently played album back then? Blood Sweat and Tears' first album with David Clayton Thomas as the lead vocalist (technically their second album).

One night I hooked up a speaker to my tape recorder. I had recorded myself laughing at 3 3/4 speed on the tape. I put the speaker on the window sill facing the street and then played back the tape at 1 7/8 speed, resulting in a deep, loud laugh that filled the neighborhood. Immediately my mom came running into the room asking what I was up to, and didn't I realize everyone in the neighborhood could hear that, and what was wrong with me!!??

When we moved to our new surroundings in the Crenshaw district, my bedroom was at the back of the house and the view pretty much non-existent. I continued my practice of listening to music at night by light of the lava lamp, with Crosby Stills and Nash becoming the most frequently played album. Songs like Guinnevere, Wooden Ships, Helplessly Hoping.. everything on that disc fit the night perfectly. No view was needed; I saw plenty with my eyes closed!

In my pre-driving days, I'd listen and long to get out into the night, especially on the weekends. I'd rarely been anywhere at night; it held something magical, just out of reach for me. I don't know how to describe that longing feeling but it was as if everything were happening out there but I was inside, detached, far away from it.

In the eighth grade, my sister had to go to Century City for something, and she took me along that night in her '67 Camaro. The lights I saw along the way and at Century City itself were fascinating and exciting - such a difference from the whitewashed, smoggy daylight.

All the music I'd listen to while sitting in my room took me somewhere out there, away from the confines of that room. Sometimes I'd imagine being part of the band performing the song in front of the crowds; other times it would be the soundtrack for fantasy adventures; and other times I'd simply relax, eyes closed and let the music shape the way I felt inside with no particular thoughts going through my mind.

My MPA's (most-played-albums) from that pre-wheels time:

Crosby Stills and Nash
Blood Sweat and Tears 3
Sweet Baby James
Stephen Stills
Elton John
Deja Vu
Three Dog Night Live at the Forum
Chicago II

My old room at my folks house looks way different now - different furniture is in there and my Keep on Truckin' and blacklight posters are no longer on the walls. Nevertheless I can still picture exactly what it looked like back in those days and nights of more time.

For this guy it was the surf instead of the night..

1966



2005






Thursday, September 18, 2008

Soundtrack

It was at the beginning of the 7th grade that I began to spend a lot of time listening to music. That's when I consider the soundtrack to really begin.

Prior to that I'd hear what my sister was playing, or records my mom listened to, but that was their music, not mine. When the Beatles became a sensation, my sister bought me an itchy, cheap Beatles wig that I would wear while I bopped and sang along to She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand while sweating profusely because that wig had no ventilation. Those were sort of my songs but I hadn't yet gotten hooked on rock and roll - just the Beatles.

In discovered KRLA and KHJ in the fall of '66 and became hard-core. My clock radio had sleep button and every night it would be set to play for a set amount of time - as long as I could get away with - before shutting off. The radio always shut down before I did. Dick Biondi was KRLA's night shift DJ and it was him I'd listen to as he spun the best-selling records of that period.

Was the music truly good back then or is it just because of the memories and feelings it evokes? Both, I think. I can still remember the first five records I bought in that "new era":

Cherish - The Association
Poor Side of Town - Johnny Rivers
Walk Away Renee - The Left Banke
Dandy - Hermans Hermits
Little Man - Sonny and Cher

I thought Cherish was the most beautiful song I'd ever heard and I would play it over and over as it got scratchier and scratchier. Everything about that song was simply perfect. For a long time, it was my favorite song. Small wonder I dedicated it to my first real crush..

Poor Side of Town was a close second. I'd wear down the grooves on that one, too.

For a while I wasn't sure who sang Walk Away Renee. Even though the label said "The Left Banke," that seemed like such a weird name to me that I didn't think that could be the name of a group. It must have been referring to something else? It wasn't the label name, though. That was "Smash." A group was supposed to be named after something, like The Animals, or The Rolling Stones, but what was a Left Banke? You can tell I was not very geographical or worldly.

Walk Away Renee reminds me of Rene Sunabe, mainly because of the shared names - except she spelled hers with one instead of two e's at the end. Rene was one of the few people who was shorter than me, haha.

The 7th grade was when I really began to notice girls, so naturally I put myself in the place of the singers on these recordings. Since I had no car at the time, I would close the doors and sing along to these songs in my room. My poor parents.

As for Dandy and Little Man, I liked these for their melodies, rather than point of view. I bet you don't even remember these two songs, do you? I just played Little Man on my Rhapsody music service since it's been ages since I last heard it. Yup, sounds exactly like I remembered! And it made me wonder why I liked it so much.

Takeo Hirai said the Supremes were boss. Stop in the Name of Love was his favorite; he'd walk around singing the title, putting one hand up in the air when he sang "stop," while the rest of us either ignored or threatened him. Takeo, or Taco as we called him, was my good buddy in Mrs. Capps' 6th grade class, and in the 7th grade as well but then he moved away and I never saw him again.

I have fond memories of junior high - maybe that's why the songs seemed so good, or maybe it was vice versa. There was the Beach Boy's Good Vibrations, a song that brings to mind slot car racing at Revell Raceway on La Tijera in Inglewood, as well as drooling over the slot car items behind the counter at Karl's Toys and Hobbies in the Crenshaw Shopping Center. Us slot car nuts all wondered, was the Globe motor that was advertised in the slot car magazines really as good as the ad said? It cost as much or more than a complete car. It was available only via mail-order from some place in Georgia. It was so expensive none of us could afford to find out. Good Vibrations was also the song for thinking about girls on the beach, except I hardly went to the beach so my visions of this were mainly from the tv.

The Lovin' Spoonfuls Rain on the Roof, Good Vibrations, Cherish, Poor Side of Town and Walk Away Renee comprised my special suite of songs that I'd sing all serious and everything, and dedicate to that special crush I had back then. I sure must have looked dopey. Thankfully no videos or hidden recording devices were around!

From Look Through My Window to Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies to Snoopy Versus the Red Baron to Reach Out I'll Be There to Hazy Shade of Winter (I could go on and on but I'll stop here) - I loved them all and they took me to another world far away from everything else.

That was just the beginning. The soundtrack just kept getting better and better.




Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The 'Hood

Monday I took a drive out to the Westside, specifically to my old 'hood, the Crenshaw area, to pick up my dad for his move to his new home at the care facility.

Traffic was parking lot style on the Santa Monica Freeway and I was still a little early so I exited at Western and drove south, down to my original 'hood, the one we lived in before moving to the Crenshaw area back in 1969.

The Golden State Mutual building was still standing at the northeast corner of Adams and Western, no longer modern, majestic and business-like but instead showing the wear accumulated over the years. Back in elementary school days, white people actually worked in the neighborhood!

Heading south on Western, I passed the intersection at Jefferson and thought about Flash records, the place where my sister used to buy her 45 rpm records, a place where they would let you listen to the record before you bought it. That's where I purchased Ferrante and Teicher's melodramatic rendition of "Exodus" and got a funny stare from the clerk. A little kid buying Exodus?? Flash and that tradition of listen before buying had departed long ago.

I guess I had weird musical tastes. David Rose's The Stripper had also appealed to me; I talked my parents into buying it for me from the record store in J-Town when I was around five years old. I had no idea what a stripper was; the clerk laughed at my choice but I was innocent (at least then).

Back to Western Avenue, I kept an eye out for the old familiar Watanabe Nursery on the left, but alas, that was gone as well. That's where Edwin, my neighbor across the street, and I used to frequent in our quest for insects. "The Lot," where my old math teacher Mr. Mitchell and his son Luther lived, was also replaced by structures.

I almost passed 36th Street; I didn't recognize it at all. Making a left turn, I headed slowly down the block searching for the old house. The whole neighborhood was unrecognizable; it seriously felt like I was in a third-world country. The houses were a hodgepodge, hiding behind all types of makeshift, inconsistent fences, with windows and doors safeguarded behind bars. The old house at 1640 was totally different. This was one scared, sad neighborhood. I would have liked to have stopped for a closer look but feared someone would mistake me for a gang banger casing the block and fire on me, so I kept moving.

Denker Avenue was the street east. I turned right, then made another right on 36th Place and headed back to Western. There was no Speedy's on the corner of 36th Street and Western, no El Taco further north of there, and what used to be Gene's Market on the other corner was still a market but now someone else's. No more dry cleaners, and no more factory. I say factory because I have no idea what they made there but we always just called it "the factory." Stocky white guys carrying lunch pails used to park their cars down our block.

Heading south on Western, Ho Sai Kai appeared to my right. Oh my, it looked like a fort, sitting there protected behind a steel fence all around except for the very doorway of the place. What I had once thought was a contemporary, fancy building was just another run down piece of stucco. My alma mater Foshay Jr. High was on the left side, full of kids clad in white t-shirts and blue shorts having their P.E. time on the yard and looking way too young. Back in my day it was red shorts, not blue. Did their gang affiliation change since then?

So much for Western Avenue. I turned right and headed west on Exposition. The railroad tracks weren't there anymore; in their place was an excavation down the middle of the street, which I assume is in preparation for Metro Rail or some other form of mass transit.

One other detour I decided to make - I turned on Westside Avenue and drove past Amy's old house. Again, I had trouble recognizing it - I remembered the address but the house didn't match the memory. The color was totally different and it looked like the subsequent owner(s) had altered the front, as well. At least the neighborhood looked clean, with open lawns and a wide street. No third-world on that side of Arlington!

So much for nostalgia. I kept going down to 39th Street, turned right and headed west again. I passed Grayburn and thought of Shelby Minamide. I used to like her for a while in high school but again, that shyness of mine prevented anything from happening. Silly me used to think of her as "Grayburn Girl," as in the CSN&Y song "Country Girl" from their Deja Vu album.

Past Grayburn was Norton Avenue, where the Nakai twins, Suzanne and Joanne, lived. That block was supposedly a bit more expensive because of the newer houses, but I always thought it was sterile. It still looks that way - even now there's a lack of greenery there. Then I passed the post office, turned right on Crenshaw to go a block north to Coliseum, and saw how Crenshaw Square had changed. A lot of it still bore a resemblance to what I remembered; the big sign is still up and Tag's Liquor is still there, but most everything else is different.

Holiday Bowl gave up the ghost long ago, as did Rudy's Restaurant. Was Der Wienerschnitzel still there? I didn't see it but then, I didn't have time to look left and right. I turned on Coliseum and went to pick up my dad. Argh, he was in the garage standing on a box trying to reach a light fixture when I drove up. I told him to let me do it.

We packed everything in the car, and then he said he wanted to lock up the house one last time. He got in the car, and we headed to his new home. On Crenshaw we passed what used to be the Kokusai Theatre, long ago. And the Arco that used to be Al's Arco where Rob used to work, dispensing full serve gas at 28.9 cents per gallon. My parents had a happy reunion; they'd been apart for four days but you would think it was four years or four decades the way they acted.

And that was my Monday.

Many years ago, 31 to be exact, I strolled down that same Western Avenue in a fit of nostalgia while a mechanic tuned up my car. I had started out at Foshay, going to the office in hopes of perhaps saying hello to former teachers and was met with suspicion by the staff. I thought, man, things have really changed in those few years since I had graduated, with the much tighter security. I can just imagine what it's like now. All I could do was to mention specific names of teachers and get a 'yes' or 'no' as to whether or not they were still there. Most weren't.

The old house still looked like the old house back then, white with a red porch. Nothing was hidden behind fences. What used to be the Signal gas station was still on the corner of 36th and Western but Jimmy Toji was no longer the owner (you may know his son, Randy). Watanabe Nursery was still in business, next door to the Shell station where my car was being serviced. It was just a lazy day and I was taking it all in, enjoying myself, all of five years after graduating from high school and eight from junior high, thinking it had been such a long time.

I still dream about the old neighborhood once in a while. I don't dream about living at the house in the Crenshaw area, nor any other residence since then, including the current one. Just that first one on 36th Street, along with going up and down the street and turning the corner onto Western Avenue, things looking like they used to look way back when.

Am I ever going back? I don't see why. There's nothing familiar about the 'hood any more.





Tuesday, September 16, 2008

High School ADD

I think I had a severe case of high school attention deficit disorder. I spent Sunday helping to clear up my parents place, which included going through some old papers and notebooks from my school days.

I found a notebook from the 11th grade but I am not sure what subject it was for because most of what is in it are scribblings and drawings and song lyrics and anything else that has nothing to do with school.

When I got home I took pictures of a few pages to share with you. First off is a scientific study I conducted during one of my classes, which you can see in the next two pictures below. If you click on them, you can see a larger image in which the words are more legible.



Haha, so I wasn't the only goof off in class. But see, I was actually doing a survey and tabulating the results so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

Are you familiar with the National Lampoon? Do you remember the special publication they did called "National Lampoon High School Yearbook?" Well, I should sue them because a few years earlier I had the same idea and so I spent valuable class time not paying attention and instead did my own yearbook autograph parody in my notebook (again, click the pictures to see a much larger image):



Now you see what sort of student I was. There really wasn't that much left over from my school days as much of it had been tossed out long ago. I did bring home a few things, though, which I plan on perusing soon. If I come across anything else as dopey as the above, I'll take a picture of it as well, and post it.

I also came across a story I wrote after graduating from college. What surprised me is that I wrote it all by hand since there were no personal computers back then, in ink on both sides of lined paper and used up 60 sheets. What is even more surprising is that I actually rewrote it, too. I'm looking forward to reading it again; I read just a few pages and I didn't remember writing any of it. But it's in my handwriting!

Actually, I remember the general idea of the story but have completely forgotten the details.

I also brought home about 500 rolls of toilet paper. My sister and I split it up. Why my parents bought so much is beyond me but now we don't have to buy toilet paper for a long, long time.

From my limited review of the school papers and other memorabilia I brought home today, I notice a progression (regression?) from academic awards received in elementary and junior high, to the pages in the above pictures. Hmm..