Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

We watched the ball drop on Times Square on East Coast time while we ate Chocolate Cream Cake and had a couple of those little chocolate bottles filled with liquor. And, I have my Happy New Year tiarra on. I might actually make it to midnight. I hear revilers (or coyotes) in the distance, along with occasional sirens.

2006 begins. We'll pick up some tamales at the Caleya Panaderia in Echo Park. Will's mom is coming over with home made Hoppin' John, which I've never had, but is a traditional New Year's day dish that Casey carried west with her from her southern roots.

To those I love, all is well here at the end of the year. The future shines bright befor us and adventures await us.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Urban Wonders Spanning the L. A. River

Today Will suggested we hit the mean streets of Los Angeles and explore the urban wonders of the downtown bridges spanning the L. A. River at 1st, 4th, 6th and 7th Streets.A holiday gift from our friends, Cybele and Manny, was a book called "Down by the Los Angeles River" written and illustrated by Joe Linton of the "Friends of the Los Angeles River" non-prophet organization. The book includes walks, bikeways and historic bridges. We selected the Downtown Bridges Walk 15.But rather than park near the 1st Street bridge at the beginning of the tour, we parked at Alvera Street and snapped some shots of the nativity scene in the courtyard and took a look in the old fire station before heading over to Union Station.
The Bird of Paradise are in full bloom in the station's front gardens.We walked through the train station to get to the 1st Street bridge where we crossed and headed South on Mission Street on the east side of the river and back up North on Santa Fe Avenue on the west side of the river encountering a variety of urban wonders.In this very industrial area of town we found doorways sporting architectural elements that have remained in tact in spite of the graffiti and security doors affixed to them. And I love the painted sign remnants on the sides of these beautiful brick buildings of commerce: Wholesale Grocer, and Unclaimed Freight. There was plenty of graffiti.And wonderful architectural vistas.
A very overcast downtown in the background as Will wonders out onto the RR tracks and I take a shot at hese two sleeping giants. On the way back towards Union Station we came upon a lovely red maple with a blanket of leaves at her feet.Will then mentioned margaritas and since we were in the neighborhood we stopped at our favorite restaurant on Alvera Street and had us a couple of margaritas and some nachos before heading home for the day.
We saw very little traffic along Mission. There was a bit more on Santa Fe along with a fair share of homeless. We were aware of our surroundings and watched our backs as we walked through the streets. But we were never appraoched by anyone in a threatening or agressive way. For the most part I think they are becoming more acclimated to the residents who have moved into the areas. However, one of the stairways in particular seemed to have been designated the bathroom and was like walking through a pit toilet, even though there were several sani-huts lined up along a fence not too far away. Besides the tons of graffiti though, the streets and bridges seemed pretty well maintained. And there were signs for lofts and creative commercial buildings and a cool looking cafe that we talked about checking out another time.

The bridges were very interesting with thier ornate lamp posts,light fixtures and railings and graceful arches, and the book's history and facts about them and the architects who designed them made it even more so.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Christmas Eve was spent at our friend'’s home for dinner. Manny and Cybele put out the spread as they always do. The cheeses were excellent, as was the company and certainly the food. We feasted on beef tenderloin appropriately trussed with rosemary sprigs then cooked perfectly rare, with garlic and horseradish mashed potatoes, sausage lasagna, baked cauliflower and broccoli, spinach and candied pecan salad and a rustic French bread. All accompanied with a good burgundy, followed by coffee and a banquet of deserts.

It was a very, very enjoyable evening. A grown up evening.

Today, Christmas day, began in a childlike way. I woke up, and after about a minute, pushed my husband out of bed, because there are presents under the tree, and I am just a kid when it come to Christmas presents. Indulgee me.
That nice 6 quart programmable slow cooker is Will's gift to me. Even though I knew what he got me, because it's the only thing I asked for, and I printed out the one I wanted from the internet, I was still excited and saved it for last. The West African djembe drum is what I got him. Djembe's have become the hallmark drum played in drum circles. This one has a really nice tone, a strap woven into its rope and comes with a fabric carrying case.

The road atlas was something I bought for both of us. It will accompany us on our future road trips, the first of which will be to Montana come July. I've wanted to go there for a while and now that Grandma has moved there and I no longer see my family during the Thanksgiving holiday, my plan is to make 4th of July in Troy, Montana a yearly pilgrimage.

The holiday card was hand made by Mom and features a photo taken at Grandma's house when she visited her last month. That wintry scene is the main reason we won't be going to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving anymore. I want to go when the weather is more hospitable and we can take advantage of the area's natural beauty and landscape, and 14 degrees makes that tough to do.

Mom also made the hand stamped tin napkin rings embellished with African animal figures
and silver beads and baubless. The calico cat was in my rockin' stockin' and is filled with Silly Putty.

I cought Jiggy
in a festive mood as he traversed the open shelving, then amused himself by wrestling with his own tail.

We also went to see The Chronicless of Narnia at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Front row seats. I'm not familiar with the story and haven't read the books so other than the little bit that Will told me about the wardrobe closet being the portal to this fantasy world, I knew nothing. The movie was great. the animated animals were wonderful and real-like and the lion, well, he was beautiful.

The day was capped off with Will's Mom taking us to the Pacific Dining Car for Christmas dinner, which we toasted
with Champagne. We shared a crab starter, had a great Caesar salad and I had the Filet Mignon and Sea Scallop combo with broccoli and hollandaises sauce. Crowned that meal with a single espresso.

Another year alomst at an end. I am so looking forward to the next and all that may come our way. Merry Christams. It's a wonderful life.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Prophets, Fiddlers and Fools

Got out of work today at about 2:10 pm with a yen for Old Navy. I thought I’d give it a go, and if the traffic was a breeze I’d do a little shopping for myself, if it got too congested and crazy I’d turn around and head home. So as I’m driving along 3rd Street towards the Beverly Connection the traffic’s not too bad and I’m listening to KCRW, playing Yiddish songs. And this really lovely old 40’s song is playing, sung in Yiddish, I turn up the volume.

I’m told by the host that I just heard The Barry Sisters and that I’m listening to the “Prophets, Fiddlers and Fools” program.
I never did make it to Old Navy. The traffic got way too crazy the further west I travelled on 3rd, so around I turned and made it home just at 3 p.m. when the show had ended. I went to KCRW's website and I discovered that the radio program host is Ruth Seymour and this was the 27th Annual 3-hour Chanukah salute to Yiddish music.

In my quest to find out more about this music and The Barry Sisters I discover that evidently there was a Yiddish radio program broadcast out of New York that ran for nearly two decades from 1938 to 1955 called "Yiddish Melodies in Swing." This is real New York, Lower East Side-in-the-40's stuff and it's fascinating to me. Not being the least bit Jewish this is of course all new to me. Ruth also tells me there’s a record store across the street from Cantor’s on Fairfax (that is apparently being forced out of business by mid-January. Have to try and find out more about that) called Hatikvah Music International that is a treasure trove of Yiddish music. The Barry Sisters, pictured above, (Photo from the site) performed a mixture of traditional Yiddish klezmer music and popular American swing of the 40’s and 50’s. Here’s a sample of the transcripts from the "Yiddish Melodies of Swing" show:

Ms. MERNA "PERT" BARRY (Daughters of the Downbeat): We take a tune that's sweet and low...
Ms. C. BARRY: ...and we rock it solid and make it gold.

Ms. C. BARRY: The song was written for an obscure 1932 Yiddish musical, which just opened and closed. Fast forward a few years. Composer Sammy Cahn was catching a show at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. A pair of black performers took the stage and started singing "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" in Yiddish. The crowd went wild. Cahn couldn't believe his ears. The tune got some new English lyrics, and in November 1937, three sisters, just in town from Minnesota, recorded it: Patti, Laverne and Maxine, The Andrews Sisters.

THE BARRY SISTERS: (Singing) Ooh, Mamma, am I in love? Ooh, Mamma, heaven's above. He's the third assistant to the guy who says yes to the boss. Ah, but when it comes to making love, he gets the point across. YIDDISH SUNG

Ms. C. BARRY: "Yiddish Melodies in Swing" ran for almost 20 years, one of the longest-running shows ever on Jewish radio. We outlived the swing era, the heyday of radio and practically Yiddish culture itself. When we premiered the show in 1938, we had a huge orchestra and a live audience of more than a thousand. By the end of the run, it was just me, my sister, Merna, and a little, four-piece band in a tiny studio on West 44th Street; forgotten.
Now Merna is gone, and everyone else involved with the program, too. But you know what? I'm not going to think about that. I'm going to think about those couple of years when Old World and New World smashed together and we created a beautiful sound that washed over New York; those years when a couple of sisters from the Bronx had the time of their lives, singing their hearts out on "Yiddish Melodies in Swing."

Will might laugh and roll his eyes as I tell him that I’m looking for CDs of Yiddish music from the 40’s and that we might have to make a trip over to Hatikvah’s on Fairfax (before mid-January), but this is some great stuff.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I'm not a Resolution Maker

2006 is quickly approaching. I’ve thought about some resolutions I’d like to make, and keep. I don’t like to say them out loud though. ‘Cause if I don’t say them out loud then no one will be disappointed in me when I don’t keep them, right? Including myself. I’m a firm believer in “don’t say you’re going to do it if your not”. If some one tells me they’re going to do something then I expect them to do it. And if they can’t do it I’d like them to tell me they aren’t so I don’t keep waiting, and then on top of being disappointed I’m hurt and angry.

I’m not typically a resolution maker. I like to live my life honestly and forthright, while still allowing myself the freedom to experiment and make mistakes. And I don’t like to beat myself up. Right now though I really need to get my weight under control. And I’m the only one who can do that. I know what I’m supposed to do. I know. So what keeps me from succeeding? That is deep rooted, and my body doesn’t make it easy for me. But it’s not impossible, and it can be done. It’s about choices and making the right decisions. It’s about motivation to be healthier. Controlling it before something irreversible sets in. I owe it to myself and those I love and care about.
I did quit smoking this year. That’s a huge accomplishment. And if it weren’t for Will I’d probably still be smoking. He never pressured me to quit. But he surely facilitated my decision to stop by taking over the grocery shopping. At some point when I ran out of cigarettes I just didn’t feel like making the trip to the market or the 7-Eleven to pick some up. So I had to stop buying them. I hardly ever think about smoking anymore. Occasionally when I get in my car to run some errand or something I’ll think about it. Even think about stopping at the 7-Eleven to pick up a pack of smokes while I’m out, but that thought soon passes and is gone.
And when I first started dating Will I lost 30 pounds. But have since gained it back. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life. I’ve never felt slim, although I was considered to be a normal weight I always felt chubby, and now when I see pictures of me then, I wasn’t chubby at all. I was certainly curvy, which was fine. But now I’m more than curvy. I’m fat.
And I don’t like to say that word. I’ll usually say I’m carrying a lot of weight. Or I’m heavy. Those things are true, but I’m also fat.

So, now that I’ve done more than say it. I’ll have to make an effort, because it is a huge effort for me, I’ll have to make an effort to make better choices and suitable decisions and control my portion size, and exercise more. I won’t beat myself up about this. I know it can be done, but do I have the will to do it? I believe I do.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Bounty and Other Landmarks

Fast week. Friday night was our company holiday dinner. At the H. M. S. Bounty which, along with my office building, is right across the street from the Ambassador Hotel.

It was very comfortable and cozy. Ramon set up our party of 28 in the back dining room with its red velvet walls and deeply tufted crescent booths. The Chilean Merlot was good and while I had the Salmon, Will had the Fish and Chips. Salmon was excellent; Will wasn'’t as thrilled with his Fish and Chips.

The Bounty'’s a really cool place. Unpretentious, nice and dark, and the drinks are strong. In the 8 years I'’ve worked on the next block we'’ve had a few get togethers there after work. Get about 6 people at a table and Ramon starts bringing out the good snacks (egg rolls and chicken wings), on the house. The last time I was in there for drinks after work, Kiefer Sutherland walked in. Hey, it'’s L. A. Nothing new.

The old timer’s still go there. Jeopardy on the T. V. behind the bar. The regulars and the hip. Great place to hang out.

It's such a shame that the Ambassador couldn'’t be saved. I hope the H. M. S. Bounty doesn'’t someday meet the same end. But then again, inevitably, landmarks come and go. The Brown Derby on the same block is gone. Well, there is something left of it. The restaurant was torn down and the dome is all that remains sitting atop a Korean cafe or nightclub in the strip mall that was built on its former site.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

'Tis the Season

The things I have experienced this past year, the places I have been, the man who has been there with me, now I know that most anything is a possibility. I got married this year. For the first time. At 44. Wait a minute. Just how old am I? 46? How did that happen? Oh well. 46 it is.

It was a long time coming. And worth the wait. All I went through to get me here was worth it. Every failure, every disappointment, every day spent on my own. And I did fine there. On my own. I'’ve always been very independent, but man, there'’s nothing like having someone as wonderful as Will by my side to share my life. Nothing.
Yesterday we went and picked out a tree at the local Delancy Street tree lot. This morning Will brought out the ornaments from the basement and with football on the TV we trimmed the tree. Now it'’s gleaming and twinkling and all aglow.With the tree aptly trimmed we headed out over to Silver Lake Boulevard to take a 4 mile jaunt around the reservoir, stopping in to take a lookyloo at an open house along the way.
Beautiful December day today with the late afternoon sun dropping behind the hills surrounding the lake, casting it'’s warm light along the path. I love these days when we'’ve got nowhere to be. Nothing pressing to do.

The New Year will too be filled with possibilities and adventures, I can be certain of that.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The "2 by 2" Answer Game

Got this from Nate's blog, who got it fromPashe, who got it from E

2 names I go by:

2 things that scare me:
Fire; not the warm and comforting fire of a fireplace or a cozy campfire, but wild fire and electrical fire, fires that incinerate everything in their path.
Growing old alone

2 of my everyday essentials:
A hot shower
My husbands arms around me

2 things I am wearing right now:
Small silver hoop earrings from Death Valley, November 2004, when my now-husband also bought me a silver ring and was verrrrry interested in the ring size as I tried them on.

2 favorite songs:
Pale September by Fiona Apple
Distractions by Zero 7

2 things I am looking for in a relationship (other than real love):

2 truths:
Life is an adventure
Without love there is nothing, nothing at all

2 physical traits in the opposite sex that appeal to me:
A brawny build
Touchable hair

2 of my favorite hobbies:
Reading, if I don'’t have a book to read I'’ll go nuts

2 things I want really badly:
To lose weight and feel normal and in control
To maintain balance in my life

2 places I want to go on Vacation:
Back to Africa
Italy; metropolis, back country, coastal, island, mountain, off the beaten path

2 things I want to do before you die:
Travel and see more of the world
Fulfill the dream of owning a little shop of my own where I can be creative and sell my crafts, old books, and lamps and stuff

2 ways that I am stereotypically a dude or chick:
I like soft, pretty things and I have to touch everything
I love getting flowers sent to my office on my birthday

2 things I am thinking about right now:
Is there any chocolate in the house
Tomorrow is Friday, and this weekend I get to hang out with Will and we'll go pick out a Christmas tree

2 people I want to play:
My husband, Will
And anyone else who visits my blog

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Good Night and Good Luck *the movie

This was the era before I was born, 1958. But even so, I watched with awe. The film certainly did justice to the man as I understand him, as well as the time period. Visually I thought it was stunning. And you can tell instantly that Murrow was a man with a great ability to communicate reason when unreasonable accusations of communism were being made by McCarthy. Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly got the job done, exposed the lies and championed the underdog.

The film was cast perfectly. Although whenever I see David Strathairn I think of a wonderful TV show from the late eighties called ‚“The Life and Times of Molly Dodd‚”. I loved that show.
I found a sight about Murrow recounting the same time frame involved in the movie. It‚’s written by Joseph Wershba, who I believe first worked with Murrow during the Korean War sometime in the 1950‚’s then went on to work with him through the CBS ‚“See It Now‚” days and who eventually went on to produce 60 Minutes for 20 years, from 1968-1988.
It was Wershba and his camera man who dispatched Murrow the footage on Lieutenant Ragulovich who was being accused of communist activities resulting in him being labeled a threat to security and ultimately relieved of his post in the military. McCarthy then aimed his sights squarely at Murrow. Murrow beat it down, but paid the career price.

A great story, excellently portrayed and realized in this cinematic endeavor by George Clooney.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


I was thinking about Tanzania a few days ago. For the rest of my life I hope these images slip into my thoughts and linger there for days. This time it was the 3 boys we came upon towards the end of a nature walk we took with our massai escort, Malunga, at Kirurumu Tented Lodge, which is positioned along the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley overlooking Lake Manyara.

We almost passed on the nature walk as it was a long day down in Lake Manyara National Park.
But we showered and changed and met Malunga at the reception as the day unwound. We walked through the bush as Malunga pointed out trees and shrubs, birds and small ground animals. He told us what plants were used to create boundaries (fences) to keep predators out, away from their goats, hens and dogs. Also what plants, leaves, or berries, were used for medicinal brew or libation.

When we came upon the edge of the escarpment, overlooking the Great Rift Valley, the magnificent and vast geological formation spanning from Syria in Southeast Asia to Mozambique in East Africa, we snapped many photos and were so glad we didn'’t bail on this.

As the sun lowered in the sky we headed back to camp. We passed huts and goats and held hands as we walked with content smiles on our faces and talked quietly along the way.

I looked up as we turned a bend and saw three young men perched on large stones sitting under a tree. I held Will'’s hand tightly and thought for a second it was a trap, they stood as we approached. Malunga led us towards them and from upon their knees the drew up to their chests what we learned was a two stringed instrument called a zeze (zay zay) and began to play the most lyrical piece. The boy on the left then began to sing and his voice was so clear and beautiful, I wiped the tears from my eyes for the joy of it.
The boy in the middle had a very serious look on his face and a scowl on his brow, but when Malunga motioned for him to sing, his face changed from scowl to coy and with a little trepidation he began to sing and the boy on the left joined him and their combined voices rose into the air. The boy on the right did not sing. Maybe his voice wasn'’t as good as the others, maybe he was too shy.

We thanked them, gave them some shillings for their song, and continued the trek back to camp. Such memories will be with me for the rest of my days.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Sticks and Stones...

Shadow (The Cat) Pfffft

Well, this is not the way I'd usually spend a Saturday, but it's bothering me and I might as well get it out so I can move on. And the sooner the better.

Am I actually being ridiculed because of my
blog? Am I also the object of contempt because I participated in an article about blogging in the Los Angeles Times that omitted worthier bloggers?

The biggest part of me says don’t give in to the obvious goading. That’s what they want you to do. They do it indirectly knowing you’ll read it and that under the guise of relating it to the L. A. Times’ article they sucker punch you.

Nancy Remmelmann comments: “Kind, perhaps; forgiving, I have my limits: that is a truly terrible article, with the requisite Timesian nut-graph. And what writer ignores Huffington Port, Mickey Kaus, LGF et al in favor of... cinnamonthoughts? Who, despite being cited in one of the country's largest papers, currently has this posted, front and center:"Still eating leftover ham. This morning I scrambled it up with spinach, baby bella mushrooms, onion and cheese. This won'’t last much longer and I think by tomorrow Shadow [the cat] will be getting some ham tossed in with her grub."Tell me it's parody...”

Jeez, there are people out there that I just don’t want clogging up my life. Not that it matters what the Nancy's of the world think of me or my blog, or anyone I love, but I’m not doing this to be anything other than what I am. So, Nancy, if your intent in life is to despise me by association to my husband, and show just how cruel people can be, if that’s what makes you proud then you’ve accomplished your life’s goal. What an utterly self indulgent, juvenile, and narrow minded thing to do.

What you find so ludicrous in my life is indicative of how bitter and shallow yours must be. I know I shouldn’t take it personally, but I do, because it was. Moving on.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Blogging in L.A.

I'm crunched for time at the moment but I really wanted to get this out. Thanks Scott Martelle for including me in your thoughtful piece and Ken Hively for your patience (The city looks great and the faces are beautiful). I'll have more to come as soon as I can.

To all who visit, and the new contacts this opportunity will provide me, welcome to my blog life.

With warm regards,
Susan Campbell