Thursday, July 23, 2009

Baby Baby

At the risk of making my mom mad for my posting first, here is my newest little person to love (a.k.a. the daughter of my retired uberblogging sister, Mrs. Dub, and lil' sister to my niece, Miss Dub), who just arrived today.

Nowhere Plains

500 Days of Summer: It's been a while since I've seen a movie I loved as much as this one. Warning No. 1: It is on the 13 end of PG-13 for those of you who care about that sort of thing. Warning No. 2: If you are of the female gender, you will walk away believing your entire wardrobe is a joke compared to that of the main character, Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel). Warning No. 3: You will not be able to get the Pixies classic from which the title of this post is culled out of your head for days after seeing it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Angelheaded Hipsters Burning

Last weekend, my friend and I squeezed a week's vacation in San Francisco into 36 hours. By the time I boarded the plane home, my skin was burned, my feet were bloody and I had essentially drunk-dialed my own mother without consuming a drop of alcohol (i.e., it was really exhaustion-dialing, but that phrase doesn't have the same snap), but it was all worth it. A few highlights from the 400+ pictures (seriously) I took in the process:

Lots of bridges, this one shot from a harbor cruise. Not getting seasick on the harbor cruise was a lifechanging moment for me, one I'll cherish forever. I think I'll form a lobbyist group whose aim is to get more bridges built in Los Angeles. We will bribe senators and make annoying commercials to air incessently during your favorite basic cable programs during prime election periods.

Ample scooter parking, also lacking in Los Angeles. I only have time for one lobbyist group, though.

We walked up every hill in town. Twice. We only walked down half of them. I'm not sure how that worked. Something about city planning.

Dozens of cool boutiques, bakeries, stationery stores, etc. that have NOT fallen prey to the instant fame/hottest thing/old news cycle that all such stores fall victim to in Los Angeles the minute a C-lister barges in for change for the parking meter.

Mission district murals. They were so beautiful, I hardly noticed the overwhelming odor of urine.

A few other thoughts:

My iPhone 3Gs paid for itself on this trip in saved cab fare and/or rental car costs. The GPS combined with the Google Maps App public transit directions were always spot-on. Riding the Muni, the BART and a single cable car also added to the cultural experience, and the Muni drivers kept letting us on for free even though our transfers had expired.

If you stay at the Union Square Marriott, be sure to ask for Nan at the front desk. She will hook you up with a killer suite as compensation for minor mixing of signals regarding your reservation.

The views from Coit Tower are worth the hike up there.

Bringing a large, leaking bag of crushed ice onto a city bus will make you very unpopular with the other passengers (it wasn't me, I swear).

Lunch in Fisherman's Wharf--meh. Dinner at Dragon Well on Chestnut--still dreaming about it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We taught the brat

What does the title of this post have to do with the actual post? Not much, except for the fact that I am the author of this post and the title is a snippet of one of my favorite refrains ever. But trust me, the story you are about to read would have been a LOT more exciting if baseball bats had been involved.

So I'm going to San Francisco this weekend! (Pause for applause). And I'm going with a friend who is in a different time zone and we kept putting off finalizing our plans until one early morning eastern time last week when she checked the flight we were planning on taking from LAX to SFO and realized there were but six seats left on said flight. Friend immediately texted me but I was still in bed during what was a much earlier morning pacific time and I didn't respond. Fortunately, friend made the right decision and booked both of our tickets.

As has been previously discussed on this blog, sometimes I am Riley but most of the time I am Not Riley. Friend most appropriately booked the ticket for my Not Riley persona. The problem, however, is that, as Not Riley, I actually use two different first names--one is for friends and family while the other is reserved for more mundane things such as driver's licenses, tax returns and business cards for use in the stodgy profession. In other words, my legal name might be Not Riley, but those in the know call me Nori for short, including my flight-booking Friend. Unfortunately (yet most understandably), Friend booked the ticket in Nori's name.

Now, I know from past experience that I have no hope of getting through airport security with a ticket that says Nori and photo identification that says Not Riley. Thank you, terrorists. And so, only a few hours after Friend booked the ticket, I set upon the arduous task of calling the airline to change the name on the ticket to Not Riley. Calling airlines, banks, insurance companies, what have you is perhaps one of my least favorite things to do. I never understand it when I hear people complain that they didn't get to talk to a "real person." In my opinion, the services of real people are completely overvalued. I will exhaust every website, FAQ sheet, "contact us" email, and automated telephone system I can find before I will resort to explaining a predicament--often caused by the company itself--to a real person working for said company. Yet this is exactly what I had to do with the airline in order to change the name on my ticket.

The real person I reached was certainly pleasant but not particularly helpful. She didn't seem to believe that Nori was a valid nickname for Not Riley and so she kept threatening to charge me a fee for transferring the ticket to another individual. Thus, she forced me to turn to the only strategy proven effective in dealing with such a real person: WEAR HER DOWN. That is, outlast her. To hang up the phone in exasperation is to concede defeat. Talk in circles for hours if you have to--eventually she will want to take a lunch break (note to companies: FAQ sheets don't take lunch breaks) and will give in just to get you off the phone. And so I told her the story about how Friend calls me Nori and Friend booked the ticket over and over and over and over and over again. Finally, she agreed to "attempt to make the change" without incurring the fees because I had called within 24 hours of booking the ticket.

This process took about 10 years. I nearly lost it when she asked me how to spell "Not Riley" in an agonizingly slow manner. This wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the fact that, in the real world, "Not Riley" is an incredibly common proper noun. And even that wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the fact that the name of the very airline she works for is "Not Ril." I kid you not. She asked me to spell a word that incorporates the name of her own employer in its entirety with a five-second pause between each letter.

At the end of the day, the reservation got changed and I avoided yet another mark next to my name on TSA's watch list. Regardless, there's a point in there somewhere. It might have to do with my apparent addiction to using multiple names. On the other hand, it might have to do with baseball bats.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


HOORAY! I'm going to the Renegade Craft Fair in downtown LA this weekend and can't wait. Let me know of any must-see vendors.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pen name? I prefer the term "alias," thank you very much

Riley Noehren is a bad blogger.

I have no problem writing that, you see, because (1) it is absolutely true, and (2) Riley Noehren is not my real name but a name I put on my novel because I work in a stodgy profession where they want you to read and write all the day long without ever reading or writing anything remotely entertaining or enjoyable. Rather, the more your reading material and writing output lulls a layman to sleep, the more successful your day has been. And so Riley Noehren was born of necessity--that is, a need to protect my true identity (hereinafter, "Not Riley"), and therefore my career, from being associated with the type of person who would read or write a novel.

Now, I know what you are thinking--Isn't it true that a lot of people who once shared your same stodgy profession are now successful novelists? Yes, that is true, but the key word here is "successful." That is, these novelists, who are generally regarded as traitors and/or weaklings within the stodgy profession, no longer have an economic need to maintain any credibility or position within it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Not Riley.

However, once Riley was in play, Not Riley began to realize there were several unforeseen advantages to having an alternate identity, among them:
  • getting to invent a new signature without worrying that all your financial transactions will be rejected as a result
  • upping your own friend count on Facebook
  • receiving double the junk mail, including Macy's coupons and CB2 catalogs (one for the coffee table and another for the bedroom)
  • betting with oneself as to whether Riley or Not Riley will be the Mr. Hyde to the other's Dr. Jekyll
  • enjoying the movie Sybil for the first time
  • referring to oneself in the third person and thereby joining the lofty ranks of Bob Dole and Elmo

Of course, if you happen to know both Riley and Not Riley, I would appreciate it if you would not mention Not Riley's name on this blog, lest the members of the stodgy profession hear of it or, even worse, CB2 knocks us back down to a single catalog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My children, which I will later eat

From my humble balcony garden:

I'm trying out three tomato plants this year. All of them are in pots only slightly bigger than the ones holding the peppers below, yet they have grown to be about 5 feet tall each. Who knew? All were started from seed indoors in late January.

I didn't include full pics of the tomato plants because they are looking a little sad right now. All three had grown into a single codependent clump and about a week ago I took an hour to carefully separate them and reinforce their cages with stakes. Immediately they got very, very sad and droopy. So yeah, even my tomatoes have issues--namely, separation anxiety. But now the sad parts are dying and the rest are flourishing. Feel free to be inspired by this "cycle of life" analogy if you want.