IT’S BEEN a month, folks!
On January 1st, 2014, the “plastic bag ban” officially went into effect across the County of Los Angeles. Or was supposed to – compliance has been delightfully inconsistent.
As a good, rank-and-file LA County
Komradeeh, Citizen, this means that – if you didn’t already have them before the first of the year (Shame, shame, shame on you! Shame on you!) – you dutifully purchased your reusable shopping bags at the beginning of January, placed them in your car so they’re at the ready for your next trip to the market…and have forgotten them every goddamn time you’ve gone shopping until you’re already in line at the checkout.
The plastic bag ban is of course the work of our infamously idiotic LA City Council, and believe it or not, I’m not terribly against it. I mean, I’m against the LA City Council, but c’mon, everyone is. I’m talking about the plastic bag ban. There’s a floating sea of crap in the Pacific – and it’s not the diarrhea that the Caribbean Whosess cruise ship is currently leaving in her wake (wrong ocean). No, I’m referring to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is apparently full of plastic bags.
So you want to get rid of them? That’s (mostly) fine by me. The thing is, they’re perfect for use as a cushioning agent [industry term] for those of us who sell junk on eBay and are too cheap to buy bubblewrap. See – I’m reusing them so that’s good. I’ll certainly miss ’em after I deplete my enormous stockpile (Dr. Abramson calls it my ‘hoard’ – cute!) bursting out of the garage. But I’m willing to let go.
The biggest argument I’ve heard against the ban is that by using our municipal government-approved “reusable grocery bags” for the very purpose for which they were made, they’ll harbor dangerous amounts bacteria. Really? It’s the grocery bags that harbor bacteria?
Here’s a visual newsflash for those germaphobic geniuses:
(And I think we can presume the shopping carts are even worse.)
No, the reason the plastic bag ban is one of the 857 Reasons to Leave LA is that should you forget your reusable shopping bags – and if you live here, you will – the store will now sell you paper bags – for ten cents each. It’s not up to the stores – they’re required to do it. By LA City Council Law!
Gone are the days when grocery stores gave us complimentary bags to carry home the food we just purchased from them. What’s next? The end of green stamps?!
Is there a way to fight the Bag Ban? Yes and no. Thank Christ I live close enough to the edge of the border so I can slip into reasonable Ventura County and request, née, demand that every brick of ramen, every Mama Celeste pizza, every single 25¢ snack size bag of Utz pork rinds (and I buy a lot of them) that I purchase at Ralphs is placed in its own plastic bag. (If they give me trouble I just tell them it’s a religious thing, and then I start yelling a lot of throaty halalala gibberish.)
Conversely, when I’m feeling particularly persnickety, sometimes I’ll drive twenty miles out of my way – as you would – to Whole Foods in tony Santa Monica and when the cashier asks if I need to purchase a bag, I announce, loudly, “Nope, brought my own!” and – with a theatrical flourish worthy of the Great Ballantine himself – yank from my pocket one of these dolphin blow-hole clogging beauties:
And if I want to really stir the pot, I’ll make sure a pack of cigarettes and a mohel knife clatter to the floor when I pull out the bag.
Sometimes I’ll even get on my cell phone and say something like “Disoriented mountain lion in Palisades Park? Shoot it if you have to – I’m teaching a fitness boot camp there in twenty minutes.” It’s kind of overkill, sure, but you know these Santa Monicans! They’re not happy unless they’re outraged.
WHEN is an emergency not an emergency? When you live in Los Angeles.
Got a hangnail? A tummy ache? Ooh, the sniffles? Then head on over to your local hospital or as it might as well be known, the free clinic. Specifically, you’ll want to head to the part called the “ER.” Apparently at one point in time, this stood for “Emergency Room.” Not anymore, brother!
Wait times in some Southern California hospitals have gotten so notoriously bad that now we’ve been seeing these for the last few years:
…which I guess is great. “Honey, I’m thinking of heading out to the garage to have a few beers and fix the lawnmower. Can you text the hospital and find out what I’m up against?”
It began shortly after ten p.m. last night.
A Los Angeles Police Department helicopter started circling above my neighborhood. It happens from time to time, and usually it doesn’t go on for too long.
By 3:15 a.m., however, the constant noise and erratic spotlight shining down from above as the chopper made its endless loops became a bit tiresome even for someone as famously calm, good-natured and even-tempered as myself.
There has to be a reason for this, I figured. They’re after someone.
But after five straight hours of window-rattling, house-shaking whup-whup-whup-whup and unnatural shafts of light shooting through trees and onto rooftops, cars and driveways, my patience had worn thin. I picked up the phone and called the LAPD’s Topanga Station to hopefully find out what the hell was going on.
The officer who answered was, to his credit, friendly and apologetic as he explained.
Someone reported seeing a man with a gun, he told me, so they set up a perimeter. [“Set up a perimeter” – that’s law enforcement talk.]
A man with a gun?! I wondered, confused.
Given the supposed gang presence just east and northeast of me, I was both surprised that ‘a man with a gun’ was such an unusual occurrence that it warrants five hours of searching by air and a little unsure whether this was a good or a bad thing.
But it turns out, the officer added, it was just two juveniles with BB guns, and the whole operation should be wrapping up now, and sorry it woke you up.
I didn’t mention to him that I nor probably anyone in the less than four-block radius below the helicopter’s continuous orbits had been “woken up;” more likely no one had been able to go to sleep in the first place. (Nor did I speak for the entire community and suggest that the LAPD have carte blanche in administering any kind of street justice on these two dumbasses and their Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifles for causing all of this. Because that would be presumptuous on my part and insulting to the professional men and women of the LAPD.)
No, I just thanked him for the information and said good night, relieved that the end was nigh.
…And then the circling and noise and lights continued for another half-hour.
“THANK YOU, Paris Hilton.”
That’s what a pal mutters when he sees someone with a dog in grocery store. Lately he’s been muttering it with increasing frequency.
Like you, he remembers a time not so long ago when people did not feel compelled to bring their pets into businesses that sell and/or serve food. He places the blame squarely on the bony shoulders of the heiress/socialite who turned the annoying rat-dog from a yapping backyard nuisance into a fashion accessory before she eventually disappeared back into wealthy oblivion.
Sure, California Retail Food Code section 114259.5 prohibits live animals in a food facility (i.e., any place that sells food for human consumption).
But c’mon, irresponsible dog owners argue. This is L.A.! We’re both laid back and progressive here! So what if little Fido lifts his leg on a display of casaba melons? Relax! It’s not like you’re going to eat the rind, right? So wash it and quit complaining! Or if Fifi can’t hold it any longer and lets loose a steaming pile of Tootsie Rolls by the Frosted Flakes? Clean up in Aisle 3! Get the new kid over there with a broom and dustpan and maybe a paper towel – problem solved!
I love dogs. But they don’t belong in food stores. Or restaurants.
(Wendy’s in the Platt Village Shopping Center in West Hills, I’m talking to you.)
Of course, seeing-eye dogs or other legitimate service animals are the exception.
It’s the pets that are the problem – and it’s a slippery slope. Not long ago it was a tiny, yipping ball of fur in a hand bag. Today it’s a pit bull with no leash stalking through Ralphs on Ventura in Woodland Hills while his thug owner tries to hold onto the collar.
(Ralphs seems to be particularly dog-friendly: Aside from that incident, I’ve seen dogs in their stores in Sherman Way in Canoga Park and on Devonshire in Chatsworth. Shh! Don’t tell the Los Angeles County Department of Health!)
Unlike my pal, I don’t blame Paris Hilton, who I imagine is an idiot. And I don’t blame the self-absorbed pet owners who, too, are morons. The fault lies with the stores.
It’s not like the employees are afraid to say something when they see a customer walk in with a pet. Often they do.
Unfortunately, what they usually say is “Oh! How adorable! Can I pet him?”
AH, the vaunted “Orange Line” bus extension which opened up near me last summer and has been a thorn in my side ever since.
The Los Angeles Metro bus system is certainly deserving of its own entry in a future edition of this wildly popular feature of my blog, but today, we’ll focus specifically on the Orange Line Extension.
From the Metro website:
I am, thank dear God in Heaven, not a bus rider. I have been a bus rider in the past, and I pray to dear God in Heaven never to be a bus rider again. Los Angeles is a car city and that’s just the way it is, despite how all the ninnies and nannies are trying to convince us it can be otherwise.
It’s too spread out. It’s laid out for exhaust-belching automobiles. It’s not a public transportation-friendly place. Just ask our maid, Ildefonsa, who mutters in angry German under her breath when, on a whim, I send her over to the Westside or to Hollywood for a few sprigs of fresh cilantro at one of those ridiculous farmer’s markets. She knows her entire day is shot – she’ll be stuck on one hot, stuffy, stinky overcrowded bus after another instead of her usual practice of disappearing for eight hours in the nursery flipping through “Goodnight Moon” and “Corduroy” while sneaking sips of the Sambuca we use to get little Dillon to sleep when he’s over-excited.
My daily busy, busy, busy ant-like comings and goings frequently take me across Canoga Avenue. Used to be that what I’d do, see, is wait for the light to turn green to cross Canoga, and then I’d cross Canoga. If I was on Canoga, and heading east, I’d turn at whichever light I was at…and head east.
Now that the busway runs parallel to Canoga on a sliver of land previously occupied by used car dealerships, storage facilities, long-abandoned train tracks and unmarked graves of any local politicians who dared make a move against the labor unions – probably! – what I do is basically the same thing, only it takes me roughly eight times as long.
There’s now two sets of lights at all the intersections crossing Canoga from the east – the light for bus lane traffic and the light for street traffic. And despite how infrequently the buses seem to rumble by, these lights are usually red, if only to keep stupid drivers from stopping on the bus lane.
Add to this the frequent and disturbing flashing of red light cameras (which we were told were being disabled throughout all of LA over a year ago) as well as the fact that the busiest thoroughfare it crosses – Sherman Way at Canoga – is now a complete clusterf– …you know, and, brother, you’ll be arguing that the Orange Line Extension needs to be #1 on my list!
And then I remind you that the numbers on this ongoing list are arbitrarily assigned, and we all calm down a bit. Here, have some Sambuca.
Ah, that’s better, right?
Still, I hate the Orange Line Extension, and now, so do you.
It’s one of the 857 Reasons to Get Out of the Filthy Toilet That Is Los Angeles!™
By the way, I haven’t even touched on the damn bike path running alongside it! I haven’t even touched on that thing yet!
That, friends, is what is known in the business as “dramatic foreshadowing.”
HEY, I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: This is not a political blog!
But one thing that all Los Angelenos everywhere can agree on is that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a complete and utter scu—
—Actually, my attorney’s on vacation this week, sure, and his paralegal is frantically waving her arms and telling me that the laws regarding elected officials and libel are, eh, difficult to interpret, so we’ll just say, for now, that, in my First Amendment-protected opinion, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is #118 on a completely non-sequentially numbered list of an arbitrary total number of 857 reasons to get the hell out of the filthy toilet that is Los Angeles or not move here in the first place. If it weren’t completely non-sequential, he’d be closer to number one. In my opinion.
Voted Most Likely To Be LA’s Worst Mayor
There’s no particular heinous or disgusting or stupid thing he’s done or said lately*, it’s just that I was at the ol’ post office the other day to pick up my mail and I was distressed to see that it’s happening again…
…My mailbox is filling up almost quicker than I can empty it. That’s four days worth of political flyers, and we’re only getting started.
But the good news is that among the offices we’ll be voting for is that of mayor of Los Angeles. Villaraigosa is thankfully termed out and so his reign of embarrassing douchebaggery is near an end. But before he’s hopefully irrelevant**, I wanted to note what an awful mayor this former gang member has been, and thus has been a perfect fit for L.A. Considering he’s served two terms – that the city saw how much of an opportunistic, preening jackass he was during the first four years, and yet he was voted in again – this city deserved him.
So I won’t go into great detail about his extra-marital affair, his silly promise to plant “one million trees,” his other silly promise to fill one million potholes (which he achieved by labeling virtually any road repair work as X number of potholes), his legendary narcissism and vanity, or the number of hours the man actually spends doing his job. (Or, hell, the much longer LA Weekly piece that is a delight to read.)
Have I written anything considered libelous? I hope not; I don’t want Tony suing me. Not him directly, of course – an attorney working for him, I mean. For him to sue me by himself, he would have had to have passed the California State Bar on one of his four attempts.
But what better man to represent the filthy toilet that is Los Angeles, than Antonio “We Clean Your Toilets” Villaraigosa holding court wielding a toilet brush as a scepter?
…which would have been an awesome way to end this post if I knew how to Photoshop a toilet brush in his hand.
But, aaah, I don’t.
*Well, aside from partying with Charlie Sheen or giving LA a final F-You by supporting another increase to our ridiculously high sales tax.
**That is, if Obama doesn’t see the irony in naming the mayor of a city with notoriously bad traffic the Secretary of Transportation.
Terrible news: Huell Howser is retiring!
Could I offer any better tribute to the man who has celebrated Los Angeles (and all of California) for over a quarter century – covering places and people and events that often make me think (however fleetingly) “Maybe this city isn’t such a bad place after all” – than to label his retirement as #632 in a non-sequential list of reasons to get the hell out of LA?
If Huell ain’t doing new shows, brother, that’s one less reason to stick around.
For those of you outside of California, for more than twenty-five years, a friendly fellow name of Huell Howser hosted a series of informal travelogue-y shows on public television in California. They’re nearly each and every one a delight. Earlier this week came the sad and very unexpected news that he has retired from making new shows.
Every so often, there’d be a story in the paper about Huell and his enduring appeal. After reading a number of them over the years, I realized that when writing about Huell Howser, nearly all California newspaper style guides (or editors) apparently require the reporter to specifically point out the following things:
• He says “Amazing!” a lot. Yes, well, I suppose he does.
• Many people do an impression of him and/or make fun of him. And most of those impressions begin and end at the word “amazing” delivered in a poor approximation of a Tennesseean drawl, the same way when back in the mid-80s it seems all impressions of Billy Crystal’s impression of Fernando Lamas were limited to a cringe-inducing “You look mahvelous.”
• He has a folksy, unpolished, unsophisticated, unpretentious charm. The man is guilty as charged. As such, all articles must describe him or his style as at least “folksy,” but most articles manage to cram in all four adjectives.
• He brings an unbridled “gee-whiz” enthusiasm to his shows. It’s absolutely mandatory to employ the phrase “gee-whiz” as an adjective when penning articles about Huell. Close second and third: “my-gosh” and “aw-shucks.” Though of the three, Huell only actually says “Oh my gosh!” with any regularity.
• The author genuinely – not ironically! – likes watching his shows. It’s unfortunate that we live in an age where one feels the need to point out that one’s enjoyment of Huell Howser’s programs is sincere. Why the hell else would you tune in? You can chuckle at his occasional overt goofiness – and yes, you’re laughing at him, not with him – but his approach is honest and straightforward. It’s doubtful anyone’s watching because they appreciate him on some, eugh, “meta” level inaccessible to the rest of us.
That said, it’s quite a different thing to take Huell’s stuff out of context and edit it or whittle it down for comic effect. Two of my, and now your, favorites:
For me, there’s no such thing as a single favorite episode because there are too many gems, especially when you include the old “Videolog” segments (with their glorious 80s intro).
But among the contenders, in my book: The lint lady. Vincent Price and his art collection. A visit to the Ackermansion. Musso & Frank Grill (where Vic “Theme Song” Mizzy wanders into the shot and introduces himself as a chief surgeon). Rubel Castle in Glendora. Swimming in the Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle. The Salton Sea. The batty woman in Ventura with all the crap in her front yard overflowing onto the street that she considered art. (A particularly delightful rarity because Huell actually glances sidelong at the camera at one point with raised eyebrows.) The trip to Cuba. The amphicar. And a few dozen others at least.
Is there anyone who saw the episodes about the teardrop trailers and the peanut butter donuts in Westwood and didn’t immediately want to buy one of the former and fill them up with the latter? Answer: No.
Huell would often re-introduce specific old segments as “Classics.” Why bother? They’re all classics. Well, except for the one about the guy and his jalapeño pepper plants. I always fall asleep during that one.
A 1997 episode saw Huell visiting with the cameraman of “The Happy Wanderers” – a California road-tripping program with a good-natured and slightly goofy host – which Huell seemed to realize was very much a 60s and 70s precursor to his own shows. All but forgotten today with very little about it online, not a single clip of the show even exists on YouTube – all the more sad because the “Happy Wanderers” cameraman mentioned he had 16mm prints of the episodes in his garage and was hoping to transfer them to a more modern format and make them available. Who knows what happened?
With clips galore on YouTube, Huell’s own website, and KCET announcing they’ll continue to air his shows (for a while, anyway), we should all of us be thankful, is what, that Huell Howser’s body of work won’t suffer a similar fate.
Enjoy your retirement, Huell! I’ll raise a forkful of turkey sandwich at the Tallyrand in your honor.
REGULAR readers to this blog know that I often refer to Los Angeles as a filthy toilet. “Ha ha,” you might laugh. “Oh, that Ted…!”
Here’s the thing though: No, it is. I really do loathe this city. And to quickly deflect and/or ignore the obvious question of “Then why the hell do you live there?!” I hereby offer up something new – a fun little bit I call…
Why “857”…? Well, I’m not going to write these all at once, and I didn’t want to go with something ridiculously low like “500” because then what happens when I reach 501, right?
I’d been hoping to launch [industry term] this feature for a while, but I needed just the right reason to get started. Something that really set me off.
Thank you City of Los Angeles Parking Enforcement Officer Dickwad for giving me that inspiration.
So what happened exactly?
Eh…I, uh, didn’t put money in a parking meter and I got a ticket.
Now listen: I’ve parked on this street dozens of times and always fed the meter. Last night, however, it just didn’t occur to me that I had to worry about it. It was way past six o’clock on a Saturday. I just assumed we were beyond ticketing time.
Turns out metered parking is enforced on this particular street six days a week, Saturday included, until 8pm. Oops.
Hey, now I know, right?
Here in the Valley – not in the middle of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard where street parking is almost always impossible – here in the Valley, in Canoga Freaking Park, where I pulled up in front of – yes, folks, have a good laugh! – a Goodwill in a low-income part of town (in what is largely a lower-income community itself), on a block with plenty of empty metered spaces, it seems to me that perhaps – just perhaps! – sixty-expletive-deleted-three dollars is a tad on the high side.
Ah, City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation, still stinging over the “Gold Card” scandal of last year. Most cities count on some money generated by parking ticket penalties. Our mismanaged, misgoverned city is doing its best to stave off bankruptcy and apparently generate its entire bloated annual budget by robbing its citizens via crazy parking violation fees.
So while I certainly don’t agree with the ludicrously high cost of a parking ticket that I’d have avoided by dropping a damn quarter in the meter, at least I do understand it.
And so I’m proud to debut this new feature and announce #219 – Ridiculously Expensive Parking Tickets as the first in our non-sequential, arbitrarily-numbered 857 Reasons to Get The Hell Out of the Filthy Toilet That Is Los Angeles.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check the Dumpster behind Sizzler for a few unwashed gallon ranch dressing jugs and start counting out 6,300 of these guys.