Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Some Folks Take Looting Very Seriously and Consider it a Cholera-Worthy Offense

Guess I offended Plains Feeder

To quote him, "Nobody deserves to die of cholera, but some cats have got it coming."

Walmart Arms New Orleans, Thank You So Much Mr. Walton

Isn't it handy? Walmart doesn't just sell baby formula, jeans and cheap crap from China, they also sell guns. So, when the not-quite-worse-case scenario hits New Orleans, you can snag a gun with ammunition. Handy that the ammo AND the guns are sold in the same big emporium. In a country that takes such good care of its poor and is so very concerned about all the guns on the street and cares so deeply about all the deaths from gunshot, how wise it is to just sell guns in third-tier, discount stores. Now, in N.O., you don't have to buy one, you can just snatch one and why the hell wouldn't you? You're dirt poor, remember, and what the hell else do you have?

And here's something else that is bugging me. All of you poised CNN reporters who are on camera, groomed and cool and NOT in New Orleans, shut the hell up about looting. When you are so desperately poor, hot, hungry, angry, confused and what tiny bit you owned is now lost, AND you're still in a city that has pretty much disappeared AND you're stealing a pair of Nike's, so fucking what...who cares? Who the fuck cares? That's NOT the story.

Besides the horror of these people's lives, the story is what was NOT done before this very predictable tragedy happened. They knew it was gonna happen. It's been written about for decades. What they didn't do was adequately prepare for it because you can't get funds from FEMA until after the fact. Digest that.

More later...I'm just so hopping sad and angry right now. Richest country on earth. Big, powerful superpower. Yeah, right.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

An Indirect Hit so Horrific that I Can't Even Imagine a Direct Hit

Before Katrina struck, residents of Southern Louisiana were told to get out. Hard enough to do even if you have a car, given the hundreds of thousands sitting in gridlock on I-10; harder to do, of course, if you're one of the walking poor. A direct hit by a hurricane has always been a worse-case scenario for New Orleans. For decades, scientists have said that if N.O. takes a direct hit, the devastation will be be catastrophic. Well, N.O. didn't take a direct hit, only a hard blow, and the city will not have wide-spread power for at least two months. Tens of thousands of people have no place to live. There is no commerce. There is no tourism. The largest search and rescue operation in America is now underway. There is no real idea, yet, of how many people have died and they didn't take a direct hit.

But it's not just New Orleans.
Baton Rouge is a mess of downed trees and demolished homes.
Collapsed buildings in Jefferson Parish.
Hundreds stranded on rooftops in St. Bernard Parish.
Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi, flooded and impassable. Hundreds of buildings damaged.
Mobile, Alabama under 12 feet of water.
And that's from places where they have actually been able to report the damage.

And freeways are under water, there is no food, no water, no ice and the very real potential for a bigger disaster from human and animal remains, levees that haven't already broken and rapidly breeding mosquitoes.

Remember the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Monday, August 29, 2005

There is Actually a Website "For Those Who Live to Eat"

It's a pretty embarrassing thing to admit to loving good food so much, but I feel fortunate in that a lot of my friends and family kind of feel the same way. My son sent me the link to Chowhound' and now I check in every evening. It's great before bed reading.

It's ridiculous. I've eaten a very satisfying evening meal followed by some fat free Greek yoghurt with fresh fruit and frozen blueberries and I am NOT hungry. But I can't stand it. Within seconds of opening this website I'm reading restaurant reviews by real foodies who are making me lust for all sorts of weird eats. One guy visited Los Angeles and decided to post reviews of every restaurant he'd eaten in. It was fabulous and so bizarre. He ate in about 15 different spots and wrote well over a long paragraph about each one. The only man I know who would do such a thing is my son and he's in New York. My son, Colin, is a true foodie. I love talking food with him. We'll be IMing each other and suddenly he's copied and pasted a rescipe for Pureed Bean Soup with Chorizo. Thanks, Colin, I type while copying and pasting the recipe to another bursting file on my computer. Then he thinks I'd like to see cats in sinks. Of course he's right. For the next 10 minutes I'm looking at cats in sinks.

There's a pause in our IMing and he tells me to grab his Dad so we both can watch a little political piece before dinner. We're always up for a little Bush humor as it momentarily takes the sting out of the horror of the current administration.

But back to Chowhound' If you just plain appreciate good food, this is a great website. Unfortunately, those not in major cities probably can't use this as a tool, but it sure makes for good reading, if you're a fan of, you know, food.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


It's nuts, but I can't stop watching the Weather Channel. When it switches to local weather, I switch to Fox. I HATE FOX, but I love the way they develop a hurricane story. They look for the dumbest I'M NOT LEAVIN' I'M GONNA RIDE IT OUT morons and interview them and that suits me just fine because if there's anything I like talking about, it's the weather.

Thank Christ my dear friend in Apalachicola, FL (Kate) has FINALLY gotten a cell phone with a million minutes because she can update me continually on Katrina. When we both lived in Wisconsin, the weather gave us countless hours of enjoyment and now that we're several thousand miles apart, it still is worthy of a call.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Prescient said Betsy...Perfect Screamed I

Go to Google and type in 'failure.' Out of 74,700,000 entries, he comes in Number One!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dejeuner en Venice...California

Today my good friend Barbie and I had lunch at Lilly's and while any meal with Barbie is always a good time, this flippin' French bitch waitress at LILLY'S (Venice Beach, CA) really, really pissed me off today. I like all things French except bitches (chiennes). I like brie and baguettes and batards and brioche and bon temps and bon bons and, well, I could go on for a long time, but what I don't like (and don't throw it at me because I will react) is bitchy, petulant behavior, whatever your nationality.

So I wrote a letter to the manager/owner/whoever and here are some bits from it, edited, because god damnit I'm wordy sometimes and I don't want to lose you.

I yada yada yada'd on about how I frequently dine at Lilly's and how much I yada yada normally love it, but...
Today, though, lunch was a pretty miserable experience. You'll appreciate (hmmm, I wonder if they really will appreciate it) that it's a minimum of a half-hour drive for me from Topanga and that when I choose to meet a friend at your restaurant for lunch it's because I like the place. My friend drove in from Brentwood, looking forward to her first meal chez vous. Between our two homes, we obviously have more than a few good options for lunch, but we chose Lilly's. Our server was French. I don't know her name, I just know that her attitude was almost immediately unacceptable and here's what she did or didn't do that made me close to crazy:

Our iced tea was served. It had obviously been poured a while earlier because there were only a couple of small bits of ice floating on the surface. I asked for a glass of ice. The waitress raised her eyebrows and in a style that I well remember from my own children's teenage years , sighed and said "Yes, Madame." I wanted to slug her but resisted. Our server was closer to 30 than 13...and while I can just about tolerate a too-cool-for-school attitude from a 13-year old, I have no time for it in adults. The ice came and I thanked her. I knew my food was yet to come and I didn't want her spitting in it.

We placed our orders. I ordered my favorite grilled veggie sandwich and mushroom soup. Barbie ordered the steak sandwich and soup. We asked the waitress, since my friend and I were splitting the sandwiches, if she would put one half on each plate. She replied, "Absolutely not. The kitchen is far too busy to do that." At this point there were four occupied tables. We said okay but meant fuck you. Barbie then related to me how she'd eaten at Literati Cafe twice in the last week and in both instances, at her request, the kitchen had split sandwiches. No comment, no attitude, just decent service.

The soup arrived and it was delish. Shortly after the soup was served, and well before it was finished, the sandwiches arrived. We're at a tiny table and there's no room for all the plates but we cope while she glares. Again I'm thinking "Fuck you, chienne" while we try and reorganize the petit table.

The steak sandwich was top drawer as were the pomme frites. Then we started on the grilled veggie sandwich. I commented that it tasted pretty bland compared to usual and that the goat cheese seemed to be missing. I called our server over and asked if we could have a little goat cheese, that it seemed there was very little or none in the sandwich. She grabbed my plate. Uh huh, she grabbed my plate, and said, "I will take this to the chef and he will tell me if there is goat cheese in it." Poof, she was gone and so was my food. Again I'm on a "Fuck you, chienne" kinda rant. Minutes later she returns and she honest-t0-god says to me in that petulant, pursed-lip way she had, "The chef put cheese in it." She roughly put the plate in front of me and gave me a look. That's when I said, "Follow me, we need to talk." I led her to a quiet part of the restaurant and pretty much said, "I asked you for more cheese, not for an argument. I'm the client yada yada yada..." Everything I said, she contested. I am proud to say I did not hit her. After a few minutes of going back and forth, something I have never done in a restaurant before in my life, an English waitress intervened and basically took over and with one withering look, sent the French one on her way.

Lunch was almost over, anyway, but it left a sour taste. I'm writing a long, involved, pissed-0ff letter to the owner/manager of Lilly's. Maybe they'll at least comp me a cup of coffee next time.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Some Days I Don't Feel Quite So Old

In the Calendar section of today's Los Angeles Times, Mick Jagger is shown sweating. and no doubt feeling pretty damned good, after a performance...still skinny, fit and hip. There's also a picture of Keith Richards, almost impossibly thin and cadaverous looking, pulling himself and his aging knees down low while deep dipping his guitar. That he's still alive is a credit to good genes, nothing more. His face is etched deep and almost geographic looking...some main rivers and a million tributaries. He can still deep dip, though..

Here are some interesting stats of performers whose L.A. area shows are just on the horizon:

The Rolling Stones: Average age (61). Last big hit, "Start me Up" (1981). Top ticket price in L.A. $454

Paul McCartney: Age (63). Last big hit, "Say, Say Say" (1983). Top ticket price in L.A. $259

The Eagles: Average age (57). Last big hit, "The Long Run" (1979). Top ticket price in L.A. $175

U2: Average age (57). Last big hit "Vertigo" (2004). Top ticket price in L.A. $171

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Average age (54). Last big hit "Free Fallin'" (1989). Top ticket price in L.A. $68.50

John Mellencamp: Age (53). Last big hit "Wild Night" (1994). Top ticket price $130.

John Fogerty: Age (60). Last big hit, "Centerfield" (1985). Top ticket price in L.A. $130.

Neil Diamond: Age (64). Last big hit, "America" (1981). Top ticket price $95.

James Taylor: Age (57). Last big hit, "Handy Man" (1977), Top ticket price $158

The only reason Dylan and Springsteen aren't on this list is because they're not playing any big concerts around here this summer.

In 1965, I drove to Baltimore, Maryland (from DC so no great distance) to see Dylan play his first electric tour, solo. The audience went ballistic and acted all betrayed and hurt by Dylan's perceived sell-out to electricity. Curious, I thought. A year later I saw him perform with The Band. There was a raw, exciting energy to that show.

And he's still an original. Of all these older performers, only Dylan, U2, Springsteen and Neil Young don't rely on their old standards in concert. They may throw one in to get the audience stirred, but they're still primarily creating, not recreating...good role models for me.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Take a Picture of My Feet, Nana and My Dolls, Nana

So I took a picture of her dolls and then of her feet, summertime painted and then I said, "Can I take a picture of you now?"

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan only wants to talks to President Bush and if my moronic president and his equally moronic spin doctors had any sense, they would have done just that when she began her vigil on August 6. He could have asked his motorcade to slow down and told his secret service agents that he'd be just five minutes, but that he needed to talk to Cindy Sheehan, a mother in pain. He needed to hear her and he needed to express his sorrow at her loss. He didn't need to say he agreed with her. Hell, he goes close to 365 days per year without saying anything of substance...he just needed to listen to her and now it's too late. Now, a Bush neighbor is firing a rifle in the air and another is running over crosses in the ground: crosses with dead soldiers' names on them.

Her vigil is snowballing and gaining more and more attention and even if Americans can't make it to that armpit of America, Crawford, TX, they need to talk to people and the most important people they can talk to are those who somehow believe this war is justified. That's the hard part, because anyone who truly believes this war is justified only reads what he wants to read and only hears what he wants to hear.

Fred Mattlage is a decent man, a distant cousin of the anti-protestor who fired his rifle, and an Army veteran who sympathizes with the demonstrators. He knows that most local residents are angry with the demonstrators and think they should go home. You see, it's no longer just supporters of Cindy Sheehan, but crowds of pro-Bush and, I guess, pro-war folks who are on the opposite side to the Sheehan camp, shouting and waving their signs. Mr. Mattlage feels the group will be safer on his corner one-acre lot so today they are moving camp. He is a brave man, and he has made his views very clear to the mostly Bush-supporters in his town. He's saying very little and nothing personal about the President, but he is letting the world [and more importantly the people he lives next to in Crawford, Texas] know what he believes is wrong.

So this week, while the right-wing propagandists spin their pro-war, anti-Cindy Sheehan web, keep a close eye on just how low these anti-truth weavers can go. Now, they're tackling a mother's grief. An easy target? Hardly, and you get a true idea of just how out of touch these people are. What moron (or in the case of those anti-Sheehan demonstrators in Crawford, morons) in his right mind would go up against a mother who has lost her child?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Summer's Bounty

So sweet, so beautiful and so plentiful. Over most of America, August is a month when a garden produces and produces and produces. In many areas of the country, gardeners can't find enough takers for their courgettes (zucchini) and before long these young veggies have turned into monster marrows. Here in Southern California, I keep being given tomatoes. Some small and still hugging the vine, others larger with fancy pedigrees and all of them just perfection.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Do I Have an Ant on the Back of my Arm?

This is a question I posed in a quite normal voice when I was in the bank yesterday. The man behind me replied in a quite normal voice that he didn't see any. If I had asked that question in Milwaukee, well...I wouldn't have asked that question in Milwaukee so I don't need to go into any detail about how I would have been looked at in a hard, Germanic "Are you flippin' crazy?" kind of way.

It is obviously ANT SEASON in Southern California. Exterminators are gleefully extolling the virtues of their various toxic services while tidy housewives frantically call with tales of how their homes are crawling with various forms of insect life. We are dealing with our annual ant infestation and are still unwilling to commit to the over-poisoning and big bucks that the bug killers want.

No, Himself wanders the house with a roll of paper towels, a bucket of water and some rags. He is determined to not use poison inside and it is one of the thousands of reasons why I love him. So, the big gun sprays stay outdoors and he doesn't spray wildly. The Argentinian Ants that have overtaken the ants that are supposed to live here are allowed to live and play around our property in Topanga UNTIL they start snaking their way into our house. The minute they try to breach our defenses, Himself is out there with his poison, determined to find their nest and do them serious damage.

This is the time of year when you don't feel quite as relaxed in your own skin as you do in the winter. This is the time of year when you always wear shoes and put your hands over your ears and sing loudly when Himself is trying to tell you that the gardener found a rattlesnake in the oleander hedge and whacked it with his machete so don't be surprised when you open the garbage bin if there are snake bits among the coffee grounds.

Yesterday afternoon when Himself was doing his new daily swim of half a mile (I do it, too!), he stopped just short of his wall touch in the deep end. Why? Because there was a two and a half inch tarantula who'd stopped by for a drink. They're not really dangerous...just shocking. I guess that's really like much of Southern California.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Critters

I know I'm supposed to be slightly more comfortable than I am about the critters who live alongside me and I understand that they were here first and that we all need to live in harmony but they're starting to piss me off...big time. I now plant lots of geraniums because they're a form of poison and therefore unappealing to the average ground squirrel or rabbit. What I don't plant is anything that I really, really want to plant. It's trial and error, of course, since I don't have a flippin' clue what ground squirrels eat; thus far it just seems to be anything I'm really crazy about. I thought I was safe with portulaca (moss rose), but they love it. I've stood pot upon pot, trying to get them out of the greedy reach of the little bastards, but it's still not high enough. Ground squirrels look benign enough. They are even actually fed by certain groups of morons who think that native, wild animals need feeding. I would like to send this group all my ground squirrels and show the pure goodness of my heart and my completely generous nature.

So we bought a pellet gun to take care of certain of the problem animals, but we can't use it. Not because of laws but because it just makes us feel sick to kill an animal. Even though we quite happily eat animals, we just don't feel good about killing them and then not eating them. So there you solution in sight...yet. I hear rumblings about dried coyote blood scattered along the periphery of one's property. That seems wrong, too. Does a coyote have to die to keep the rabbits and ground squirrels away? The coyote is the natural predator of these smaller animals so why don't I just let nature take its course? Because it's TOO FLIPPIN' SLOW, that's why.

So, we're going to buy some traps.
That's our answer. Some friendly traps where we can trap and release. It won't work for the ground squirrels. There are just too damn many of them, and I'll focus on just trying to outfox them...a laughable goal, to be sure. It should help with the rabbit population explosion. I'm not quite sure where we'll take them. Offhand, I'm thinking Beverly Hills or Bel Aire.

Saturday night my daughter and son-in-law saw a bobcat.
That's pretty exciting. They're considered shy and reclusive, but this one seemed completely comfortable wandering past the house. Matt saw a form moving past one of the windows and turned on the outside lights and they had a perfect view as it ambled along. Unfortunately, it didn't have a rabbit in its mouth.

And then Himself saw this critter...just hanging out on the back patio area. This was a first sighting for us and I'm hoping we don't see too many more.

It's a scorpion and while it looks lethal, its sting is not much worse than a beesting. It would bother me a lot more though due to its absolute ugliness factor. The black widows (which I've harped on before) are always going to be here, we just need to do our best to reduce any obviously comfy spots near the house. Two weeks ago I found several nested under the eaves and near the exterior doors. Not good and they were promptly dispatched to a better place (ahem...for the believers among us).

Now it's all out warfare against the Argentinian ants. They've taken over California and are as annoying a little pest as anything I've ever seen. Scouts are sent out on reconnaisance missions and if they find something worthy, they call in the troops. Within seconds, there are MILLIONS. Thus far we've avoided the exterminator route for ecological and financial reasons, but I'm thinking it's only a matter of time.