Monthly Archives: April 2012

los angeles arboretum

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I use soap like I use water . For water I go to the faucet , move the handle , and out comes the water . For soap I go to the bathroom or kitchen and reach for the soap and there it it !

I don’t think about either one much . But if they weren’t there I’d freak . If all of a sudden no water came from any of the faucets ? There’d be panic , frustration . Maybe I could go to my stockpile of water that I have in anticipation of  the BIG ONE and use some of my emergency supply . If I had a stockpile of water . Water not working suddenly turns the world upside down .

Suddenly no soap ? Well, maybe not the same panic . Maybe frustration . Now someone  has to go to the store and buy some . I bought soap once in the last twenty or so years . Ada , the soap buyer , was in Poland and I saw a great deal on two bars of Irish Spring . I jumped on the opportunity .

Not that I needed to buy soap . Our bathroom is stuffed with soap , I think . We have an extensive collection of motel soaps , for example ,  the little bars . Some have fancy floral shapes and some are plain . They sit there year after year and most of them are probably so dried out by now that they are useless .

A note about useless soaps :  Ada likes to put the bar of soap to use right down to the end little flake that inevitably slips down the drain in an amorphous little clump . Meanwhile , she has put two or three used bars of soap together to , supposedly , make a full bar . There are at least a couple of problems with this idea . The first is that these left-over pieces of soap are so old by now and so dried up that they don’t  soften up  enough to be used . I could hold them under hot water for five minutes trying to make a lather , but it never works . The second problem is that when I attempt to use this multi-layered ” bar” of re-formed soap the pieces come apart . One little piece inevitably escapes . I try to put it together with its cohorts but that never works for me . Apparently it works for Ada because she chews me out for breaking up the bar . Those useless bars of hard soap last for months , even years , because they don’t soften up .  Ever .

We also have a supply of fancy soaps . Some came from friends who gifted us with  perfumed soap sculptures of roses or lilies or lion faces . One friend made us a few bars of bright green somewhat transparent soap . We put these special soaps away since they seem too nice to use . Eventually we use them , though , when our soap supply gets to be too much .

One soap we don’t use is the Jesus-on-a-rope  soap. I don’t remember where that one came from . Ada would know. Maybe someone gave it to us .  How does a person use a Jesus soap ? Wouldn’t that be a little wierd ? Soon it would lose it’s face and hands and melt into a phallic shape . Then , wouldn’t that be wierd , too ?  If your answer is NO , then someone should consider Obama soaps or Romney soaps or Brad Pitt soaps . Nicki Minaj  soaps ?  Ronald Reagan soaps ? Queen Elizabeth II soaps ?  Better stay away from Mohammed-on-a-rope soaps , though .

I like soaps not too hard and not too soft . The soft ones disappear too fast and the hard ones hang around too long . There is one in our bathtub soap holder now that is just about right , but it slips out of the porcelein holder if I don’t set it on it’s side . It’s oval -shaped and has a smooth curving edge and it seems counter-intuitive to have to avoid putting it down flat to keep it from sliding into the bath water . I have to put it on its edge or it escapes .  But , every soap has its idiosycrasies , I guess . And there are millions of soaps around .

I suspect that the Babylonians around 2800 B.C. had an easier time with soap . Or the ancient Egyptians . Or , later , the Romans . They probably didn’t have to make many decisions about soap . We are not so lucky ! Even the early American settlers didn’t have to wonder what type of soap to buy . They made their own soap . It had lye in it and it hurt to use it . Heaven forbid they should get it in their eyes !  Some of it was made in forms that gave the bars some decortive form . But it still hurt , at least until Andrew Pears made a kinder soap beginning in 1789 .

Nothern Europe didn’t get soap until the 13th Century . A world without soap ! Just imagine .


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south los feliz neighborhood council

I used to live in what they call east Hollywood . A neighbor of mine, Barnes ,   called the neighborhood South Los Feliz because Los Feliz was close and Los Feliz had the oldest neighborhood organization in L.A. . The influential rich guys up on the hill above Los Feliz Boulevard pushed their weight around and got places in neighborhood city politics . We were closeby , but light years away , also , living in the old bungalows and apartment houses between Los Feliz and Sunset .

Barnes would call me once in awhile when he needed some backup during City Council meetings . He’d call Virginia , too , who lived behind me , and a few others . We were what Barnes touted as the South Los Feliz Neighborhood Council . He was the chairman of the fantasy council . He was eloquent and forceful when he was standing up at meetings . He espoused what  he said were the positions of the South Los Feliz Neighborhood Council . ” Some of the members are here tonight , I think ,” he’d say , and Virginia and I  would rumble and stir . He’d say it like he didn’t know if we were there or not , as if there were a real  neighborhood organization . Barnes was a showman , a sleight-of-hand man , an amateur politician .

He fought the city of L.A. , for example ,  on the Los Feliz library relocation issue . We had a cramped little library on leased property on Hillhurst Ave . and the city was ready to build a new library. Barnes got word that the city plan was to build the new library at the base of  Barnesdall Park , way over on Sunset, where the soon-to-be-built metro station would be . The trouble was that this put the library out of the neighborhood .

Barnes gave me a call . Show up at the meeting with So-and-So , our  city councilman . Virginia and I did . Barnes asked So-and-So about the city plans for the new library . He said that he had heard rumors that the city planned to build the library out of the neighborhood .

” I am unaware of any such plans , ” So-and-So said .

Barnes named the city arts commisioner . ” He wants to put the library near the metro station near Barnsdall Park . The South Los Feliz Neighborhood Council is very concerned about this ,” he said . ” Some of our constituency is here tonight . ”   Virginia and I  mumbled and we grumbled . ” We want to know that we would have your support in our effort , and by the way , we are coordinating with the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council  to keep our library in our neighborhood , ” Barnes said .

” Barnesdall Park would still be in the neighborhood , ” So-and-So suggested . This statement didn’t go over at all well with the assembled group . Everyone in the room  suddenly seemed to mumble and grumble . Virginia and I looked at one another , surprised and pleased . Barnes had the entire crowd on his side . Councilman So-and-So tried to mend his error . ” Of course I am on your side ,” he said . ” I’m committed to supporting what the neighborhood councils want .”

Barnes seemed to absorb the burst of energy in the room . ” I have an e-mail I’d like to read ,” he said .” It was written by you on April thirteenth to the L.A. arts commissioner who is pushing for the library to be over on Sunset . ” Barnes read from the paper in his hand . In the e-mail , So-and-So was clearly supporting the plan to build the library near Barnsdall Park and the metro station .  “You wrote this two days  ago ,” Barnes pointed out . ” But tonight you’re telling us that you support us .” The room was quiet .

” I don’t want to accuse you of lying ,” Barnes said . As he said it he turned to survey the group of assembled neighbors . The expression on his face was sad , as if he were sorry to have had to so bluntly expose the lying councilman . So-an-So was silent . His mouth was moving like a fish’s , as if he were hunting for the right words to say .

” We still want your support ,” Barnes told him . ” But , as you can understand , from this point on we don’t believe anything you might say . What you do to support us is all that matters .”  It was a smooth dressing down , and to the point . If you want a career in this District , Bud , Barnes had communicated to him , then you better support the neighborhood plan and oppose the city plan . It was a clear message and everyone in the room got it .

Much of it was bluff , but it worked . Long story short : the new library was built on a corner two blocks from the old library .

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ideas ?

This is a fungus growing on an oak tree out in the backyard .

Bill says it sucks the life out of the tree , that there must be something wrong inside the tree .There’s the wisteria in bloom just outside the back door .

This is Ada with the lemon tree and roses .

This is the mineshaft out in the backyard where I go to get my ideas for this blog .

Here I am getting ready to go into the idea mine .

Here I have gone too deep into the mine and/or been in there too long .

There have to be more ideas deeper into the pit . 

It bugs me sometimes . Ideas must be right out there in the open . Wouldn’t you think ?

There’s an idea ! [ Not mine ] .

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i must have missed something

There’s a kid in east L.A. who made a cardboard arcade . No one much cared ( except the kid ) until a film maker posted something on You Tube . Then the kid became famous on the web . At last count people sent $140 K to the kid for his college fund . It was sort of a cash mob situation . Flash mobs were suddenly showing up in person , too , to play the kid’s cardboard games .

I was reading today about people who organize cash mobs to descend on small struggling businesses . The mob all show up together and buy merchandise , thereby infusing cash into the business to help it keep on keeping on .

I saw a documentary about a woman who won a million dollars in a lottery . People were coming out of the woodwork to get some of it from her . One day she gave a beggar a hundred dollars and a lottery ticket which  she had just bought . The ticket turned out to be a three-hundred thousand dollar winner . When she found that out she claimed that she had not intended to give it to the man, but  that it was hers . She was rushed , she said , and didn’t know that she was handing him the ticket . Too bad for her the liquor store video clearly showed her handing him the ticket . Then she tried to negotiate with him . How about giving her half of the winnings ? No , he wasn’t going for that either .

I won a half pound of bacon , once , at a parish fair when I was a kid . It was at the fishing booth . You paid a dime , or a quarter , or whatever it was , and you were given a fishing pole . You put the hook and line over a curtain and took your chances . Something you couldn’t see behind the curtain would be connected to the hook . I got a half-pound of bacon .

Then , in the 1990s , a teacher friend of mine gave me a lottery ticket . I checked it at one of the two liquor stores in Sierra Madre , the Bottle Shoppe ( not Happy’s ) , and I won seventy-five dollars ! I don’t buy lottery tickets myself .

For my 60th birthday my friend Tom gave me sixty dollars-worth of lottery tickets . That was the week that the grand total was 245 million , I think . I took them over to CVS and checked my tickets out on the lottery machine . I won a total of six bucks . Six bucks out of sixty . Six bucks out of 245 million .

A few years ago Ada asked me to buy some scratcher tickets for her sister , who was visiting us at the time . I tried to beg off , at first . I don’t know how to buy lottery tickets , I explained . I was told to just ask the cashier . Everything was machine -centered by then , and the cashier sent me to the lottery machine . I read the instructions and then  put in the first dollar and the machine jammed . I mentioned this to the cashier , who pointed out the window . ” Good timing !” she said , ” The lottery guy is out there now , just getting out of his car .”

Sure enough , I saw a man emerging from a car marked California Lottery . He opened up the machine for me and fixed the problem . It took him three or four minutes . ” I’ll give you some tickets for your trouble , ” he said . He gave me eleven tickets .

If I had won the mega millions I wonder if he would have claimed that he had not meant to give me the tickets . He would say that he was rushed , flustered , that he hadn’t intended to give me tickets . Anyway , giving tickets away like he did  must be illegal and the State of California Lottery Commission would probably have denied me my millions on that basis .

But I didn’t win millions , as it turned out .  I put each ticket into the machine , one by one , after the lottery guy left . I won two dollars . So , getting into the gambling thing , I did what gamblers do and I put the two remaining dollars into the machine  . Let it ride ! They were bound to be winners !

Nothing .

I reported my little adventure to Ada and her sister . They shot each other  skeptical glances , like I was making the whole thing up . Or maybe I just imagined that .

One time I got a fortune cookie in a restaurant in Chinatown and there was no fortune in the cookie . I called the waiter over and told him about it . Without skipping a beat he told me , as I was signing the check , ” Fortune is with owner of restaurant .” He was right . He should have been a fortune cookie fortune author .

” You can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket ,” someone said .

Well , you can’t win the lottery , at least .

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grand canyon

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Gentlemen , start your engines !

Be a gentleman and get my coat .

The police chief said , ” The gentleman was apprehended by officers within an hour of shooting seven people and wounding ten more in a vicious shooting spree . ”   Gentleman ?

Eyewitness account : ” I saw the gentlemen come out of the door with a gun . Then the gentlemen pushed the woman to the ground and  started kicking her .”  Gentlemen ?

I’ve got The American Heritage Dictionary beside me here . It defines gentleman as :

1.a man of high or noble birth  ,  2. a polite or well-bred man   , 3. any man spoken of in a polite way

So we have   gentlemen  these days roaming around doing despicable deeds like murder and mayhem  ? Really ? It must be an old dictionary I have .

This is a case of language usage changing , of course . Anyone , now , is a gentleman , I guess .  The word gentleman just means a guy . The gentleman can be a crook ; can be a crazed murderer . The police spokesperson tells the news media ” We have the gentleman under arrest  ” .  He’s a gentleman ? Really ?

Can’t we come up with a more appropriate term in some cases . O.K , the police don’t say ” We’ve got this disgusting thug under arrest ” or  ” We’ve got this reprobate cornered ” , but they used to use the terms ‘suspect’ or  ‘ alleged robber ‘ . Now it’s , more often , ” the gentleman was caught…….”

O.K. , I know , the police agencies bend over backwards to be polite , not to prejudice the case . Wouldn’t  alleged perpetrator  work ?  But the ‘man-on-the-street’ has begun to use the term , too , for criminals ( sorry , alleged criminals ) caught in the act . So now , if you open the door for someone you could  be a gentleman , and if you murder seven people you also could be a gentleman. So , what’s the meaning of gentleman ?

I know , I know , it’s not the first time the meaning of the word gentleman changed . Long , long ago , you weren’t a gentleman unless you were rich , well-educated , and owned property . Just because you happened to be polite , especially to women , you were not necessarily a gentleman . O.K. , you were chivalrous , but weren’t  gentry  ?

Unless , maybe , you were a gentleman’s gentleman .

Can’t hold back progress , I suppose . Language evolves . But , come on !  Does : “………..the gentleman who murdered the seven people , mostly women , at the college in Oakland ……….” really sound like an appropriate use of the word ?

What , then , are the connotions of the word gentleman !  ?

I think that we are using and abusing the word  gentleman to death . If it doesn’t mean anything more than a guy , then I say throw  the gentleman out !


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