Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ew That Smell 2

This time it's not my neighbor, it's me.

It's that strange mineral salt smell I noticed last year when starting my fitness initiative. Now that I'm back on track I smell it after working out. Like I said before, not sweat but something different.

Yeah, so, I'm at it again. The visit to the new doctor's office a week ago really did have an impact. I saw Ben, the practice's P.A. and his amiable, folksy and honest demeanor struck a chord. This is what I was hoping would happen and the main reason I left my previous doctor. Despite several years of visits with her, I just felt like a number to her. I would mention important things about my health situation to her and she had to look at her file on me before she could respond. In other words, she didn't remember anything. I caught her contradicting herself many times and as mentioned most fervently here, she often neglected to inform me of side effects of my meds, especially in light of other existing conditions I have.

So she's out, the new place is in. Haven't been told which of the three doctors at the place will be my practitioner but frankly I'd be just as satisfied to have Ben full time. My experiences at RIGHA, a million years ago in Rhode Island, were mainly visits with PAs and I loved that coverage/treatment HMO. Are one-stop shops like that still around anymore? $5 co-pays, $5 drugs, walk-in's being seen in ten minutes, all under one roof? Man I miss the old days.

So with my first week back under my belt, on the Phen, working out, lovin' my salads, not even thinking about beer, I, of course, feel great. But we've been on this ride before. We known it doesn't last forever. Well, I guess the same can be said for life in general, but we strive on. And try to make the best of each day we've got. So that's what I'm doing.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

SIMS CREATION: TV Memories Series: "Breaking Bad"

After Monday night's final well-deserved sweep at the Emmy's, I thought it'd be appropriate if I honored the multi-winning show with a SIMS portrait.

In case you've been under a rock, allow me to introduce you to (from left to right) Hank, Jessie, Walter (aka Mr. White, aka Heisenberg), Gus Fring, Walt's wife Skyler and their son Junior. Notice the background is, appropriately, a meth lab. 

I miss Breakin Bad so much.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ew That Smell!

And it ain't the smell of MY death around me. My neighbor though...

Remember the Steak Mutilators? Well there must be some magical lure that the stove in that apartment has that incites people to blaze up some pungent shit on or in it. Same apartment, just as cloying odor.

But these guys are deep-fry freaks. I actually have grease streaks running down the back splash area under my stove vent. The wafting oil smoke billows up through their stove vent and over to mine. The smell is absolutely ghastly! It's not chicken, and at least, thankfully, it's not fish (yet), but it smells like some offal meats or pigs feet or something disgusting like that. Makes me literally want to puke.

And it's lately EVERY DAY!

I saw the guy over there (I don't know how many are in there) and he looked like he stepped right off the boat from DR, PR or some Spanish place like that. May even be Mexican as I think a lot of these apartments are occupied by them since they find easy employment as landscapers and day-laborers. The music he was playing on his tinny-sounding, old-fashioned transistor radio was very old skool shit like the stuff they play in Tropico. I always associated that style of music with the older Spanish folks but I guess it's popular with the young too since he looked only in his early twenties.

Had a bit of a gut, shirtless, some tattoos (couldn't make out if they were gang tats since I was spying on him through my dusty peephole) slicked back hair, smoking a cigarette in the breezeway looking like he was waiting for someone to come by. Thankfully, they can smoke in the breezeway and it doesn't come into my apartment but the minute they crank up that ole fryolator, watch out.

Just two more months. Two more months. Two more months.

Like a mantra I have to keep repeating it to myself. This place has been quite the roller coaster experience between times of quiet and pleasant surroundings to times of cacophony and ugliness. Ah the community dwelling woes of an impoverished person.

Years ago, a viewer of this blog wrote a comment on one of my posts during my really financially strapped periods between call center jobs. They said: $ = FREEDOM. Though at the time, my idea of freedom was having the ability to cut loose from anything or anybody I felt was "holding me back," I also knew and certainly still know that without commitment, endurance and a lot of hard work, you can't have the money needed to enable the freedom that I yearn for. My non-committal, devil-may-care version of 2009-2010 "freedom" puts you in places like I am now.

So I bitch and complain about rude, low-end neighbors and the everyday lives of the struggling masses. And I chant my mantra. But in reality, unless I put nose-to-the-grindstone, utilize my full potential and stop being a lazy-ass fuck, even in the next low-cost place, I'll be waking up everyday freakin' day to the noxious smells, slamming doors, crying babies, shrieking toddlers, crawling bugs and honking car alarms (oh, why do they have alarms on rusted, early-nineties Dodge Neons?).

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Return Of Happy Pills

Well, here I go again!

New initiative, reboot, or another Sisiphysian struggle? Call it what you will, but having just popped one of my new happy pills, I'm all for it.

New doctor, new commitments. This one's not a robot so I may be in better hands but he's definitely not a placator either. He tells it like it is and challenges me to do what's needed. Like a personal trainer, he says he'll not let up on me either. I think that's a good thing, but it's gonna mean a lot of work. Starting at 308 now (no surprise there) and since he's an osteopathic trained professional, this guy doesn't believe in a pill as a solution...he's allowing me only one month on the Phen.

So the countdown begins anew.

Wish me luck. I think I'll need it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Griffith Park Fitness Challenge?

On a map, it looks so goddamned easy. An inch. Not even. Just a short leisurely walk up a wide, median-split, bucolic-looking, suburban-like street called North Vermont Avenue into Griffith Park. There's a bus route on nearby Los Feliz Boulevard. I'd be able to take a bus to just a tad south of the park entrance, then hike up Vermont as it segues into North Vermont Canyon Road. It winds past the Greek Theater and twists a bit but then, wha la, you're at the observatory.

Well that's sounds like a piece of cake. Just one thing. It's all uphill. And, especially as you get nearer the observatory itself, REALLY, I mean REALLY fuckin' uphill.

I scoped it out in Street View. Yes, it's a "short" walk, especially when you compare it in length with the trek I made through half of Manhattan on last year's vacation. But that hike was flat. This one's literally a mountain! (Literally. I mean, I'm not doing the common thing of misusing the word "literally," the observatory is on a promontory of Mount Hollywood.) There's also a small tunnel which doesn't look safe to walk through. It's a narrow passage encompassing a two-way traffic road and though it's short, I'd feel really queasy even "running" through it.

But of course, all this is moot with my body in its present shape. Currently, I get winded walking around our tiny campus each night here at work. A flat stroll of about five hundred yards.

I really would prefer to walk up to this attraction rather than spring for a cab when I'm out there in three weeks so I've gotta get crackin'.

Time to cut back on the carbs (especially that pesky liquid one), pick up those dusty dumbbells and recharge my iPod Shuffle. I gots me a mountain to climb!

And, c'mon, with an edifice like this greeting me, what a joy reaching the peak will be.

Not to mention views like this:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dazed And Confused

It's been a couple of days since the world first learned of the tragic news but it took until now for me to be able to coherently express my feelings about the loss of Robin Williams.

Remember my dismay over the death of John Pinette back in April? It affected me quite a lot. Not only because I'd loved his humor but mainly because I saw myself in him. I too was (and still am) morbidly obese and, probably like him, since all comedians are assumed to be, loving the ability to laugh at oneself but unable to find a meaningful connection with people who truly know our internal pain.

While this may sound on the surface totally contradictory, I will attest that in fact, it's totally true. The inner pain one feels, at least for me and perhaps many well known comedians, is expressed easily on the stage as fodder for the amusement of the audience. But, inside, the pain exists on. And festers, year after year.

Robin Williams was an idol to me. Perhaps to many of my generation. I thought his energetic portrayal of Mork when I first laid eyes on him as a minor character on "Happy Days" was exactly what I would assume an alien would do if immersed in 20th century America. It would be utterly confused and super-excited at the same time, just like Mork. He nailed it and it was hilarious because of it.

Of his many movies afterwards I personally felt "Good Morning, America!", "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Good Will Hunting", as many news memorials in the past few days have been mentioning, to be some of his best. But I also loved some of my personal favorites which don't always make the list of bests for him, namely: "One Hour Photo", "Hook", "Toys", "Cadillac Man", "The Birdcage", "Awakenings" and "Bicentennial Man."

"Bicentennial Man" is most interesting in light of this week's events. In it, as you may remember, he plays a robot that "evolves" via technological advancement through time into a "human." Even though he is fully aware that this transformation will turn him from an essentially immortal being into a very mortal one. He chooses this since he wants to experience the emotional life of a human, with all its ups and downs, as opposed to the unemotional existence of a robot. He gives up immortality and embraces the reality of unavoidable and eventual death in order to simply feel.

You've left behind a befuddled and depressed fan world, stuck here in the land of the living, Robin. I know this wasn't your intent. But I can only hope that whatever horrific cobwebs were making your life a terror have finally subsided. I totally "get-it". Addiction is a bitch. Believe me, I know. I just hope I don't find the only way out is the way you chose. Ya, in a way, this is a bittersweet goodbye. You've left more scary questions than warm, heartfelt humor-filled answers. We know, in reality, it's not all fun and games, but for people like you, we expected an opposing viewpoint, right to the end. Sorry to sound bitter, but you probably have caused thousands of people, if not millions who suffer with addiction and depression to think your solution may actually be the only logical one after all.

Monday, August 11, 2014

FLASHBACK: Sunday, August 10, 2014

What?! My first true FLASHBACK post in over two years and I stretch my mind way back to the long-lost memories of...yesterday?! Meh. I've had the chance to catch a little more sleep since the events of yesterday afternoon and I'm rethinking my initial analysis of it by use of a timeline ticking off the actual conversation points, food and drink orders and other assorted occurrences of the day. Much like I do in many FLASHBACK posts.

12:32 pm:  Per our phone conversations and texts beginning some twelve hours before at the start of my work night, I arrive at Ric's house to pick him up for our lunch date at a nearby sports pub, Tilted Kilt.

Though the front door is open and the entrance to his condo is barred only by the closed screen door, I jokingly text "Ding dong" to him. He doesn't respond though I can tell he's upstairs in his room so I call out to him. He shouts "It's open!" and I tell him the screen door is locked. He says it just sticks and I should pull hard on it. I do and as I enter his house I jokingly call up to him that I've accidentally pulled it off the hinges. Two lame jokes in less than five minutes. He knows I'm kidding and as he comes down from his room I make a snide remark about a spot of grey dust collecting on his popcorn ceiling in his galley kitchen, the accumulated discharge of an air conditioning duct.

12:40 pm:  Ric starts talking about the various topics of the day that are of paramount interest to Ric: Biking and the cost of bike repairs, his weight loss efforts and how they are retarded by his love of Pepsi's, the freedom from roommates but the strain that freedom puts on his budget. Pretty much same old same, same old but with a bit more emphasis on his biking as he's now a social biker with membership in a biking club.

12:50 pm:  As I drive us over to Tilted Kilt, we confirm our payment arrangements for the lunch. Ric would pay for his Fish and Chips and his initial pitcher of Coors Light (yes, he already knew exactly what he wanted to order) and I would pick up "the rest" including an appetizer of soft pretzels and beer cheese. We chat a bit about his finances and how he's under the thumb of debt mainly due to a recent medical bill in the hundreds and expensive bike repairs. I try to sound empathetic and I really am to a certain extent.

I may have remarked (and I certainly thought it) that this situation reminds me so much of my early Koyaanisqatsi years when the roles were reversed; when I needed Ric's help in footing the bills for our nights on the town.

(By the way, I wouldn't have said the word "Koyaanisqatsi" to him since he wouldn't know of the reference. I've told him about this blog on several occasions but Ric isn't much for remembering details like that. In other words, I'm pretty sure he's never read this blog.)

1:00 pm: Despite the sultry weather we agree to sit at the outside bar. We give our order to the flirty, young, overly made-up, cleavage-prominent barmaid (her "look" is a theme of this bar chain which no-doubt strives to pair the styles of a fun-lovin' Irish sports pub with the straight-guy-appeasing sexual overtones of a Hooter's). Within seconds she picks up on our "Friends of Dorothy" affiliation and tones down her pursing lips and batting eyelashes. Yes girl, chill it the fuck have no power here!

2:00 pm: I had initially been sipping on my drink of Diet Coke but it was slightly flat and Ric was constantly pressuring me to help him drink his beer as he dutifully and methodically made his pitcher disappear. He hates it if he doesn't have an eager accomplice to join him on his mission towards drunkenness. I took a few sips of his warm, flat Coors Light and decided I could do much better so I ordered a Guinness draught. Ric took on a thoroughly satisfied look of accomplishment.

The burger I'd ordered was really sub par. It reminded me of a McDonald's burger with a fancier (though not tastier) bun. The bar wench comped me for it. Ric eagerly took this as a cue that I now had a freed up budget to go ahead and order his second pitcher.

Ric notices I'm somewhat distracted by a couple of customers behind him at the bar. After they leave, I tell him that I thought there was going to be a fight. They were a middle-aged couple, he a burly bald guy sporting a black sleeveless t-shirt and wrap-around sunglasses; she, a plump lady in a too-tight purple sundress and floppy straw hat. The barmaid comes to them, hands the guy a small condiment cup of some white creamy stuff (tartar sauce?) and apologizes for it being late. He's obviously pissed off and tosses the cup forcefully into the now empty, napkin-filled basket which had held their food (fried fish?). A glob of the sauce splatters out onto the lady's handbag and now she's pissed at him. She loudly berates him for his temper tantrum. He's having none of it and within minutes he pays up and abandons his companion. She had just ordered another wine and it had just been brought to her. She takes a furtive sip, gathers her pocketbook and walks rapidly off to join her mate.

3:00 pm:  Ric's getting louder now and starts what he regards as his "being social" mode. He morphs into a happy-go-lucky straight-guy, flirting with the waitresses, yelling out to one who was smilingly greeting some other patrons. The look she briefly flashed to him, for a second, spoke volumes of her disapproval of his rude interruption and, perhaps, her memory of his past drunken behavior...until she professionally masked it, of course.

Like many others in this bar, we become entranced by our phones when conversation lags. He taking a stream of self-critiqued selfies while I took a snapshot of my beer.

4:30 pm:  Ric's on his third pitcher and though he's now clearly slurring his words, he's holding up amazingly well. I have a feeling he's really in a mood to kick back quite a few more. Since I'm footing the bill for all this (including his first pitcher since they put it on my tab and I didn't fuss about it) I'm starting to drop hints that I wanted to move on. But with Ric in this state, the "hints" are more like me saying "Ric, let's move on." Subtlety was rendered a language lost to Ric over a pitcher ago.

Costs aside, I'm also worried about driving after drinking. I've only had four but I don't want to push my luck even though the bar is literally "just down the road" from his house. (Back in the day, we used to regularly walk to and from here when it was Uno's, remember?)

5:00 pm:  After parking my car at his house and walking across the street to Jax, we begin again. First with beers (no pitchers here for Ric to order) and within a half hour more food. He has chicken fingers and I get onion rings.

The bar is dead, I'm getting really tired and Ric decides he wants more participants to join our dimming soiree. He tries calling up acquaintance after acquaintance. Even former one-night stands and somewhat hostile estranged former friends like Zach. None take him up on his offer. I get the feeling he's really scraping the bottom of his social barrel. The bartender here is unknown by him and I get the impression he hasn't been here in many months. It's a favorite hangout of Zach's and he implies he's been trying to avoid him. Ric's had over nine years to mold his reputation at these nearby bars and in the last couple of years I know he prefers to go to a bar twice as far away from home as these. Methinks he's had some,er, incidents.

5:45 pm:  After his attempts to rustle up more "friends" fails, he starts slowly but surely to try to get under my skin. I can see him struggle with the dichotomy of the fact that I'm supplying him with his food and drinks but he wants, no, he NEEDS to feel superior. And the easiest way to that is to point out the flaws in others that he feels he doesn't share.

But just as the first passive aggressive opinions about me start to spew from his mouth, I cut him off at the pass. I turn the tables on him and start to chuckle about his lack of credit and out right laugh when he admits he is $2 away from his tiny credit limit on his only active credit card. I boastfully remind him of the tens of thousands of dollars of available credit I have on my seven major credit cards. I even took a couple of 20-dollar bills from my wallet and threw them in his face like he was a bitch. He knew I was joking, but in a small way, I wasn't.

He was particularly moochy this afternoon and with my upcoming Cali vacation and the move in a few more months, I'm feeling a little overextended. Nevertheless my derisiveness was uncalled for and though it may be a subtle payback for the times he'd done as much to me ten years ago, I should be better than that. Plus, as we know, karma's a bitch. I was were I am now just before 2002 and look what happened.

6:45 pm:  As twilight made the cave-like Jax seem even more cave-like, we trudged our way over to his house where I made a beeline for his guest room. I'd been up now for over 24 hours straight and though having only 6 beers in all, I was ready to pass out. He went up to his room and after a couple hours nap I could hear he was in his tub running the water, a classic Ric hangover ritual.

His guest room bed, the same one I slept on when I'd lived there, has really not fared well these past few years and it was horribly lumpy. I was happy to get back into my own bed by 9:45 pm.

End Days Of Beer And Bar Foods

"I walked by Union Square Bar. I was going to go in. Then I saw myself, my reflection in the window, and I thought, 'I wonder who that bum is.' And then I saw it was me. Now look at me. I'm a bum. Look at me! Look at you. You're a bum. Look at you. And look at us. Look at us. C'mon, look at us! See? A couple of bums."

Jack Lemmon - Days of Wine and Roses

I've never been much of a barfly drunk. Never saw the social or economic benefit in it. I don't feel comfortable striking up conversations with strangers so I don't use the venue as a place to make new friends. And, until recent retail price hikes have made beer costs closer in parity to it at a bar, it didn't seem at all affordable. Not at the volume I've become accustomed to.

But when hanging out with Ric, who is very comfortable in his favorite sports bars, I see the true face of alcoholism in the harsh glow of neon signs and ESPN-fixed TV screens.

The title of this post is a subtle reference to the penultimate alcoholic co-dependency film of probably all time, "Days of Wine and Roses." In it, a young couple spiral into the hazy life of escalating mutual drunkenness until it eventually destroys their relationship. At the end of the movie, one of the main characters played by Jack Lemmon who's found his way to sobriety via an arduous journey is unable to rescue his wife Lee Remick and they, perhaps for good, split ways to continue in their now incompatible lifestyles.

Yesterday, Ric and I went "out to lunch" to have "a couple." In planning the get-together, Ric was particularly keen on stressing he didn't want an ad hoc Beer-Fest where we guzzle brews from neighborhood bar to neighborhood bar until we can barely stand. But of course, we've had our decades-long, oft-repeated history of benders just like this and, like muscle memory, an afternoon bar food lunch oh-so-easily segues into an evening of credit card burning booze mania.

Because I was pulling essentially an "all-dayer" (the night shift workers' equivalent of an "all-nighter") I was pacing myself. This allowed me to stay sober enough to watch Ric decay, rather rapidly, from a polite, logical and amicable buddy into a bitter, grudge-holding, instigating drunkard. Yet again. Like the old saying goes, "some things never change."

We didn't get into any out-right fights. Probably because I let his passive-aggressive salvos bounce impotently off my well-worn broadsides. This sure ain't my first time at this rodeo, as you know. (Me and my mixed metaphors again, ugh.)

By the onset of twilight, I was well ready to disembark from this crazy train (Yup, another mixed metaphor) and I made us walk back to his house where I crashed in his guest room until hours later when I was sure I could drive home.

So yet again, like so many times before, I think I'll back-burner our friendship. I have too many personal issues with solo drinking, never mind lumping the added physical, mental and financial devastation of weekend bar hopping to the mix.

Friday, August 01, 2014

SCRAPBOOK: Still Down Yonder

I was flipping through some old posts of this blog and stumbled across this SCRAPBOOK post from six years ago. In it, I featured Google Maps Street View snapshots of old haunts of mine from when I'd lived in New Orleans back in 2003 and 2004. But the pictures were from a then recent Street View capture from 2008, three years after Katrina had changed the landscape of that city in so many ways.

It got me thinking... How does it all look now? Well let's see. Pull up the link above in a second tab and flip between this tab and that to get a comparison (saves me the hassle of having to copy all those pics from the old post, TVM).

We'll compare them in order.

Here again is Regan and Jay's. Hmm. Looks pretty much the same.

Here's the Grants place. Very similar too.

Ah, the Magazine Discount Market. No change. Sensing a pattern here.

The boarding house on Dorgenois. New version even has an beater in front like the prior pic.

Spain St. Well this looks a little improved. And to think, this was one of the hardest hit by Katrina.

And here, Albert has refurbished his little blue house. Looks almost exactly like it did pre-Katrina.

This is a big change. The desolate lot where that neighborhood supermarket stood is now a brand-new Wendy's.

But alas. No improvement for Six Flags. Pictures available online show that it has really become an eerie deserted park replete with weed covered roller coaster remains, dank, empty concession stands and graffiti-tagged ride and attraction buildings crumbling not-so-gracefully back to nature.

All in all, almost a decade later we can see that the impact of Katrina on the Big Easy has had varying long-term effects depending on where something was in the city and the perseverance of their owners. Some like the houses and stores in Gentilly have risen back to their former "glory," as it were, and appear to have undergone a complete recovery of sorts. Most, like the first few locales, mainly in the Garden District which underwent only comparatively minor damage due to the 2005 storm and flood, look almost exactly the same. And then there's Six Flags. Deemed "too expensive" to repair or re-purpose by its greedy owners, it will inevitably rot away to the elements.