Monday, November 23, 2009

My Guide to L.A. vol. 3 -- Lameness

So I've been counting off some things I'm going to miss about Los Angeles. The posts have been few and far between. I've often thought about how it would be easier to blog about things I will NOT miss about this city, but I wanted to part amicably. But then I came out to my car this morning and saw this...

Ever heard of a window seat? Ever come out to your car to find that someone has put your window in your seat? Chances are, if you live in L.A., you have.

The fools who did this hit me and two other cars in my complex last night. Apparently in no hurry whatsoever, they appear to have put their grubby hands all over every CD and slip of paper to be found in the car. The stuff on the passenger seat used to be in the glove box.

Here is what they took:
1. My security access card to the building I work in downtown. Alas, I only have two days of work left so... one less thing to turn in.
2. A bag of old clothing destined for charitable contribution.

Here is a sampling of what they touched but did not take:
1. Gift cards, mostly to In-N-Out
2. CDs
3. Identifying paperwork
4. A second bag of old clothing, including my ugly Christmas sweater vest from an ugly Christmas sweater-themed party I went to last year
5. A nice compressed air pump for tires
6. Garage door opener
7. Loose change
8. Brand new art supplies
9. A large plaque I did at a church craft day with the following inspirational quote emblazoned in vinyl lettering: "Try a little harder to be a little better."

Here is what they left behind in my car:
All of their handmade break-in tools--mostly regular tools (including the largest flat-head screwdriver I have ever seen) wrapped in black electrical tape.

(If you are reading this and think those tools may be yours and you want them back, you can inquire about them at the West L.A. Police Station, where they now reside. I.D. is required to pick up all discarded break-in tools, so be sure to bring it. Also, I hate you.)

So after what was supposed to be a long, wrap-it-up workday, but just turned out to be a long long day, I have a new window and a new windshield (it had some cracks in it from a road trip, so I had it replaced at the same time) and another L.A.-inspired chip on my shoulder. Blech.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Guide to Los Angeles vol. 2--Downtown Dentistry

So, another thing I'm going to majorly miss about Los Angeles upon my upcoming departure is...

My dentist. I went for my last cleaning at his office today.

Those who know me are well-aware of my phobias of all things medical. On the upside, my denial that I am ever in need of serious medical attention means I am whatever the opposite of a hypochondriac is (A hyperchondriac? No. But in researching that, I learned of a condition called cyberchondria—a term for individuals who compulsively research medical conditions on the Internet. I know more than one person with this problem. I am sure they are all researching it online right now to figure out if I am talking about them. Yes.) On the downside, it means that my car is more regularly maintained than my body. And for those of you who have seen my car, well….

So why then do I love my dentist? I used to hate dentists due to their propensity for sticking sharp needles and small power tools in my mouth. Then one morning in early 2007 I was innocently attending to my own oral care with a water pick (I’m a big fan) when I accidentally flushed out half a molar. I was horrified. And in a great deal of pain. Still, I went to work because we were having a particularly crazy week and, once there, several of the staff members recommended a dentist with a downtown office a few blocks away. I went in sans appointment and he sat me down, explained that it wasn’t my tooth that washed away so much as a childhood filling that had become useless, and proceeded to give me my one and only root canal. It was not as bad as I was expecting. And he and his staff seemed like super-nice people, not dental drones. Also, they have good magazines and fun pictures in their office of somebody’s children with Tye Pennington. Over the next few weeks they took my X-rays, replaced my other bad fillings, and worked out a master plan for giving me a gleaming new smile that was going to cost as much as two Vespas because insurance refuses to cover a thing.

I do not yet have that gleaming smile. Why not? I assure you it is not because I bought two Vespas instead. Rather, it is because my new dentist was like the general contractor of my mouth remodel and he was subcontracting some of the heavy work (i.e., oral surgery) to specialists. I went and “consulted” with the specialists. They were nice but not as nice. They didn’t have any fun pictures or magazines—mostly brochures about how to get gleaming smiles that included vomit-inducing “before” pictures. Also, their office smelled like old people. Probably because the thing they specialize in is most attractive to the older crowd. And okay, to prevent you from thinking the worst, I will just say that thing is dental implants. I’m upgrading from an old-school bridge. It’s not my fault, I have a congenital defect in that I was born without a full set of teeth—hence, my utter horror at losing another one to the water pick. On the plus side, my desire to hang on to all the natural teeth I do have has prevented me from ever doing meth.

So I went to the specialist but I never went back. My inaction was the result of a cosmic collision of all of my worst psychological disorders, including medical phobias and mass procrastination and poor time management and denial and fear of looking deformed like I did after I got my wisdom teeth pulled and fear of asking people, even dear friends who owe me favors, to drive me clear across town and wait around during the procedure. And every six months I would show up at the regular dentist for my cleaning and he would lovingly chide me for putting it off yet again and offer to mail postcard reminders or check in on me and then send me on my way with a new toothbrush and the cutest little container of floss that looks kind of like a bottle cap.

So today at my final appointment I had to promise to get all that work done once I relocated. And I’m blogging about it here to solidify that promise. Still, I’m already wringing my hands at the thought of adjusting to a new dentist. If you are in L.A. and want to know who he is, just send me an email.

By the way, I still use my water pick. But now I hold my teeth in while I do it. The whole process pretty much floods my bathroom. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Guide to Los Angeles vol. 1: the Garment District

As my days as an Angeleno are officially numbered, I am starting to get a little wistful about the local things I love but generally take for granted. First on my list, and the topic of today’s post, is L.A.’s Garment District.

In my humble, unchecked opinion, the Garment District is the downtown area roughly bordered by 7th, San Julian, Pico and Los Angeles Streets. Tourists beware: if you read the street banners in the Garment District, they would have you believe it is called the Fashion District. Calling the Garment District “the Fashion District” of the same metropolitan area that includes the Melrose shops and Beverly Hills and so forth is like calling Tijuana “the Cultural Center” of Mexico or calling the armpit “the heart” of the human body. While fashion may be manufactured, bought and sold in the Garment District, there is nothing remotely fashionable about it.

So why would you go to the unfashionable Garment District? To buy lots of cheap stuff with which to make your own fashions, which you can then wear elsewhere. There are hundreds of fabric shops in the Garment District, most of them small and family-owned and catering to resellers. You can find plenty of shops where you can haggle on the price and get things for $1 per yard, but you will still leave feeling like you’ve been had by the nine-year-old granddaughter of the store’s proprietors who conducted the entire sale. Also, you will get home and unfold your fabric and discover it has fade marks or embedded dust or other defects that you didn’t notice in the store. For this reason, I have learned to stick with Michael Levine, a warehouse of a fabric store at the heart of the district. Michael Levine doesn’t sell the cheapest fabric, but it has the largest variety and the highest quality. I’ve never tried haggling at Michael Levine’s but the prices are clearly marked and I’m pretty sure you can’t.

Another GD fave is United Bead. They only sell like ten things at United Bead, but one of them is grosgrain ribbon in a variety of colors that you buy in 50-yard spools for about $5 total. Compare that to the ribbon you get at mainstream craft stores and you’ll see what a deal it is. United Bead recently moved to a larger location that is on the outskirts of the Garment District, but they have their own parking lot which is free for customers.

Which brings me to parking: my favorite place to park in the Garment District is at Moskatel’s. Moskatel’s is now part of the Michael’s chain, but I like that it has refused to gentrify the name. It’s about three times as big as your average suburban Michael’s location and I regularly get lost there. The parking is free for a couple of hours so long as you buy something at Moskatel’s—and if you already bought fabric or craft supplies to start a new project, then surely you can think of something you need at Moskatel’s to finish it. The only downside is that you have to drive on one of the craziest streets in downtown to access the lot—San Julian. I have seen people dealing crack and smoking crack and being crazed on crack and sleeping in tents and sleeping in the street and walking around like zombies in broad daylight on San Julian. It is good to go there if you are feeling like your life is hard, because you will realize it most certainly is not. But, you know, maybe leave the kids at home.

The Garment District is also chock full of shops selling rhinestones and beads and jewelry made of rhinestones and beads, including gaudy tiaras and other wedding / quinceaƱera / drag queens’ ball accoutrements. And for whatever reason, the gaudy tiara will have a price tag of, say, $245 and you will tell the clerk it’s too much and soon you’re talking $100 and just as soon you are talking $12 and she’s offering to throw in a strand of Buddhist prayer beads that in no way go with the tiara. It is artificial markup at its finest.

Finally, one cannot mention the Garment District without speaking of Santee Alley, which truly feels like a back alley—in a Third World country, that is. You would specifically go to Santee Alley if you were in the market for any of the following:
*stripper shoes
* “designer” handbags, watches, athletic jerseys, luggage, wallets and
sunglasses of questionable authenticity at low prices
* DVDs of American movies in Chinese packaging
* contact lenses that make you look like you have cat eyes
* live tree frogs in little plastic habitat containers
* cheap clothing made out of the same cheap fabric you saw a few blocks
* booty-licious mannequins
* bubble machines
* really, really, really cheap jewelry
* souvenir t-shirts for non-L.A. locations

I don’t know why this particular menagerie of goods is available in Santee Alley, but it is—in every single store! If you venture into Santee Alley, be sure to bring your best bargaining voice but leave all valuables, personal space requirements and sensitivity to body odors at home.

One of my fondest L.A. memories is from a few years ago, when a group of about 15 friends had a Saturday Morning Santee Alley Scavenger Hunt. We split up into several teams and each had a paltry amount (like $10) with which to find and buy something in predetermined categories for the entire team. It was a mad dash, and at the end we reconvened on a street corner to compare our loot. A few of the teams got overly ambitious with their bargaining and were able to buy extra stuff, so we held a good old fashioned crap shoot to determine who took it home. As it turns out, a bunch of girls rolling dice on the sidewalk and screaming attracts quite a crowd downtown, and soon half the Alley was gathered round, choosing sides and commenting on who got the best stuff. Good times.

So, unfashionable Garment District, I will miss you dearly. I know every major city has its area zoned for the selling of cheap wares, but none of them have your selection of wholesale-priced fabric and gaudy tiaras. Having never been a beauty queen, I don’t think I would have ever owned a tiara were it not for you (much less three).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

the good, the sad and the busy

It's been a while, I know, but I have no apologies and much to report on past, present and future. Also, is anybody blogging anymore? My experience is that most of you are doing worse than me, and my misery is loving your company...

As for the recent past, I must admit it had its highs and lows and they were all interrelated. I've spent ample time in my home state of Arizona since my last detailed post, most of it on the weekends to hang out with my family but especially my Dad, who has provided numerous comments on this and my prior blog under the avatar Pdaddy. I spent the majority of my remaining time complaining about the drive between Phoenix and Los Angeles, which I am now able to complete in 5.25 hours so long as I leave at 6 a.m. and only drink 16 oz. of Diet Coke on the way and therefore take no bathroom breaks. But I digress...

As many of you have already heard, Pdaddy lost his battle with esophageal cancer on October 13. It goes without saying how much we all miss him. But two things must be said. First, thanks again to everyone who sent kind emails, cards and/or traveled to Arizona for the funeral. I am so far behind on personally acknowledging all these kind acts. Second, I feel a little weird blogging about this and, at the same time, not blogging bigger about it. Emily Post has nothing on the topic. So I decided to take my cues from a similar post by a classy friend that I recall but cannot find on her blog and my super-strong-amazing Mom's own simple announcement to her hoards of e-quilting-friends that would otherwise have no way of knowing: just post it. People want to know. And now you do.

And seriously, how lucky am I to have such internet-savvy parents? And awesome siblings and sibs-in-law and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and cousins and would-be cousins, and friends and so on? Such are the highs I spoke of.

Moving on...

No, literally, as far as the future is concerned, I'm really moving on. As in, I've only got three weeks left at my job. After which I am leaving Los Angeles for a six-week stay in Arizona with my Mom that will hopefully produce the rough draft of my next novel. And after that... San Francisco. Details to follow as they occur. For those of you who are well-acquainted with my nomadic tendencies and career-related ADD, you probably already realized that, having spent four years in Los Angeles this go around, I was well past my expiration date. I am more nervous yet more excited than I have been in a looooong time.

Which brings me to the present... Somehow in the middle of everything else, I'm still not quite sure how, I managed to run a personal printmaking sweatshop and create enough original prints, bags and so forth to start an Etsy shop. I must confess, churning out those prints was a real stress-reliever. How many people can say that about starting a new business? Anyhow, please look at my Esty shop. But if I know you, please do not buy anything there.

Here's why: (1) Most of you already bought my book, so I have exhausted my "support Riley" goodwill for the next several years. (2) Before my own shop was even a twinkle in my eye, I had so many friends that opened Etsy shops that I had to decide that I simply could not buy something from everyone, and I would never expect anyone to do that for me. (3) I am trying to stay on the "fine art" side of the Etsy line and have therefore employed quality materials and priced my goods accordingly. That is to say, I know they're more expensive than many things on Etsy. I am okay with that and realize it may result in slower sales in the beginning. It is not your burden to bear.

If, however, you are not my friend but rather a retailer or gallery-owner or fine art agent or collector or just independently weathly (forget independent, old money counts too), then, by all means, BUY AWAY.