1. Shame On You, Del Taco! ¡Que Lástima!

    AS regular readers of this blog know, the other night it got late, I didn’t have anything in the house to eat and so I went to Del Taco for dinner.

    For those of you who aren’t from the Southern California area or wherever the hell else they don’t have Del Taco, what happens is that there’s a “quick-serve” chain out here called “Del Taco” and they’re famous for co-opting the Disneyland Haunted Mansion typeface for most of their moronic little catchphrases and stupid logos what they print on cups, window slicks and “tray-liners,” to wit:

    Anyway, what sears my carnitas is that when you go in and order one of their “combos” (that is, combinations; literally a “combination” of various foods constituting a meal and consisting of an entreé, a side dish – often French fries – and a beverage – all for a single price, as opposed to purchasing the items à la carte) the fellow, or in some cases, gal, at the register will immediately counter with “Medium or Macho Size?” (“Macho” being large; evidently in the hispanic community, great size is respected and equated with masculinity.)

    And not being any sort of glutton, not needing the “Macho” size, not wanting the doctor to tell me I’m going to lose any more toes, my natural reaction, and now yours, would be to respond with “Medium.”

    Ah, but that’s where they get you! Because, brother, you don’t even know it yet but you’ve just been up-sold!

    Del Taco, literally “of the taco.”

    See, what they should be doing (if they should morally be doing this at all!) is saying “Would you like to upgrade your order to  medium size or macho size?” but oh no, they conveniently leave out the whole first part of that phrase! So you naturally think that, given the seemingly casual, matter-of-fact way they deliver it, you think that you’re already getting the medium size and the up-sell is merely to the “Macho” size option.

    So by replying in good faith, “Oh, good heavens no, but thank you for asking. You see, I’m watching my figure – please, the medium size will be plenty,” bam! they’ve just up-sold you, you poor bastard – and you don’t even realize it!

    They ought to be ashamed is what!

    And don’t try to tell me that it’s something that happens at just one particular Del Taco – because like you, I regularly eat at no less than five different Del Tacos, and no less than twice a week at each one, and they all pull this same crap every-single-goddamn-time!  Shame!  

    So I’ve decided that this is the month when I pay attention and catch them before they’ve tricked me yet again – or may a plague of Morlock Spurlocks descend upon them like so many goateed locusts!

    Posted by on June 15, 2012, 12:01 AM.

  2. A Most Tricky Worm Indeed!

    HEY, here’s something that brought a smile to my face when I saw it on a rack at my local Dollar Tree the other day!

    Now you might enjoy seeing this because you remember these things from when you were a kid.

    But me, I got a kick out of it because “tricky worm” is how my gastroenterologist refers to the stubborn parasite that took up residence in my lower intestine when I swam in the Canoga Park Municipal Pool last summer.

    Ooh! Pardon me! That rumbling means someone’s about finished with his jalapeño & goat cheese frittata!

    Gotta go – literally!

    Posted by on June 14, 2012, 2:46 AM.

  3. Da Na-Na-Na, Na Na-Na-Na-Na-Na BONANZA!

    SOME TIME AGO I was visiting lovely Simi Valley (always a delight!) and at a certain thrift store therein, I happened across this fun little number:

    The place where I found it is my favorite thrift store far and wide for a reason – they don’t rake you over the coals, price-wise. They don’t Goodwill you, if you know what I mean, and brother, if you read this blog with any regularity, you know what I mean! This booklet cost me a measly quarter. As well it should!

    I didn’t buy it with any thought of putting it on eBay and retiring to the gated Simi Valley community of “Parklane” with the profits. (If only, right?!) No, I just wanted a little something to read while I ate my #1 at Wienerschnitzel (two chili dogs, fries, and a bottomless Pepsi – foods I can feel good about eating).

    Anyway, like you, I’m too young to have watched “Bonanza” in its original run, probably!, but I’ve caught a few snippets of it on TV Land amounting to the time it takes me to find the remote and change the channel to find something, anything!, else.

    In doing so I have managed to acquire enough knowledge of the show to be able to competently answer whatever questions come up about it in Trivial Pursuit. (And the answers are either “Hop Sing” or “Ponderosa.” But usually “Hop Sing.”)

    My point is that like you, I’m sick of seeing, for the last twenty-five years, these things…

    …in every single antique and collectibles store – each with a sticker on the bottom or a little paper tag tied to the handle that reads “RARE vintage 1960s Bonanza tin cup – $40.”

    Pfft!  “Rare!”  Rare indeed!

    Because, folks, while enjoying a leisurely lunch there, cramming a couple of chili dogs into my face, I finally found proof to the contrary. Oh, I always knew – but to be able to prove it?! More delicious than the chili cheese fries I treated myself to for dessert. Finally, I had the ammunition to blow this whole “RARE vintage 1960s Bonanza tin cup” racket wide open!

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

    A little history, first!

    “Bonanza” debuted in 1959 on NBC.  It ran for 14 seasons, for a total of 430 episodes. That means today you could watch one episode a day for three weeks before choosing to end your life rather than endure another 409 days of this torture.

    The show somehow takes place in 19th century Nevada yet near 1800s Lake Tahoe.

    Around 1965, Bill and Joyce Anderson, who owned a small ranch near where the fictional Ponderosa would have existed, struck a deal with NBC. The result, the “Ponderosa Ranch” – a “Bonanza” theme park – opened in 1967. Occasionally, the “Bonanza” people would shoot scenes and sometimes entire episodes up there! Oh boy!

    Here’s what’s amazing: It only closed in 2004! Who in hell was visiting this place after about 1975? I mean, like you, I’m entirely charmed that it outlived the show by thirty-one years. I just can’t for the life of me figure out how.

    Back to the cup: The last page of “The Ponderosa Ranch of ‘Bonanza’ TV Fame – A Pictorial Guide” features an article titled “The Tin Cup Story.” It mentions that ranch owner Bill Anderson was so inspired by Lorne Greene’s recording of “An Old Tin Cup”…

    …that he found a company in St. Louis that could make new tin cups, and ordered them up in enormous lots to be sold as souvenirs.

    These were available throughout the park’s entire thirty-seven year existence.

    So let’s do the math here:

    We all clear on this now, gang?  They’re about as rare as the hairs on my Slovak grandmother’s back. They’re about as rare as flies on a Chickahominy prostitute.

    So I have no alternative but to advise every one of you to print out this entire post and carry it with you each weekend as you go antiquing, which I presume you do each weekend.

    And when you see one of these cups, and you will – hoo boy, you will! – you pull out these goddamn pages and you wave ‘em around in the face of the crook who’s trying to sell it to you for whatever insane price he’s dreamed up. Roll up these pages and smack ‘em in the face with it if you need to!  You have my permission! My attorney here has chimed in here with “please don’t do any of that.”

    Or better yet: Instead, why not carry with you the official souvenir guide itself which has the proof right there on the last page?

    Hey, I’m finished reading it. What the hell do I need it for anymore?

    It’s even got some dried chili stuck to a few of the pages – for all we know dribbled on there by Dan Blocker himself during a break from filming the 1973 fan favorite “Hoss and the Lonesome  Sasquatch!” (One of Kathleen Freeman’s three appearances on the show!)

    First one of you who gets sixty bucks to me, it’s yours.

    Posted by on June 13, 2012, 6:24 AM.

  4. A Disturbing Double Standard!

    Oh, sure, you go to Burger King with a few pals for lunch, where you use a spatula – a tool! – to open the door and everyone thinks it’s clever.

    Yet the next day, you meet up with this same group at the Four Seasons for cocktails – handing the valet your trusty pliers with the broken-off nub of the one key you own to your 1991 Honda Prelude  – and now everyone acts like they don’t know you.

    Posted by on June 11, 2012, 8:58 PM.

  5. Tarzana’s Non-Pedestrian Pedestrian Bridge!

    SOME TIME AGO, I went on and on and on about Peanuts fruit snacks. Read it, or read it again!, it’s a fascinating study of what happens when I don’t have an editor to rein me in and keep me from going on and on and on and on, and then on top of that, I go off on absurd tangents that seem important when I’m writing about it, but in fact just diminish the overall wallop I was looking to deliver until the whole thing is some novel-length disjointed mish-mash that few have the patience to stay with past the first paragraph and then if there’s anyone still reading after that, it’s not likely that whoever’s left will be able to follow my incoherent ramblings through the second paragraph let alone the end – like what’s already happening with this one; also something about never-ending, run-on sentences!

    But oh brother, try and talk me out of including half of the nonsense I insist on putting in posts like that – just try and talk me out of it!  It’s a fool’s errand, you better believe it!

    Where was I going with that?

    Oh!  Yes!  Peanuts!

    My point was that I saw those Peanuts fruit snacks at the 99¢ Only Store on Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills, and not more than a mile away (Or maybe a little more than a mile away; what do I look like, an odometer?) over in Tarzana there’s something just cluttered with Peanuts! Crammed with more Peanuts than an elephant’s stool.

    That’s not what I meant.

    What I’m talking about here is Peanuts! Vintage Peanuts!

    Not only vintage Peanuts, but vintage, largely unvandalized Peanuts.

    They’re on a pedestrian overpass.  Yes, you heard me right – on a pedestrian overpass.  Or for you folks east of the Mississippi, a “foot bridge!”

    I’ve passed beneath the walkway in my car dozens of times over the years, and I’m as amazed by this display today as much as I was the first time I saw it.

    If you’re a fan of classic Peanuts – and you are unless you’re a monster – you’ll recognize these images as being from, arguably, the strip’s heyday – the early to mid 1960s. I’m pretty sure I recognize images from specific strips I’d seen. You probably do, too.

    Here Snoopy irritates an unnamed bird back when birds in Peanuts looked a little more avian – not much, mind you, but a little bit. And it’s before Woodstock’s debut. It’s the slimmer, better Snoopy, too.

    And look who’s in the pool with Schroeder: Violet, Shermy, and Patty  – three characters  who all but disappeared by the late 60s.

    There’s no Peppermint Patty, no Marcie, no Thibault – oh no – these images predate all that nonsense! (However, conspicuous by his absence among all this unique Peanuts artwork? “Pig-Pen.”)

    I’ve wondered for years exactly what the deal was with these twelve images. Did Schulz draw them himself?  What were they painted on? And why the hell were they here, in the Valley, the armpit of the filthy toilet that is Los Angeles?!

    Finally, I stopped one Sunday and walked on, around and across the overpass to check them out reeeal up-close-like.

    I thought maybe I’d learn they were on fiberglas boards or plywood but no! They’re on sturdy sheet metal panels – and unfortunately for you, you crooked thief who’d like one in your living room above your couch (and who can blame you?), they’re bolted securely in place.

    You’d need a lot of room over that couch, anyway: Each of the dozen panels is five feet tall.  They range from about three to eight feet in width.

    Since they do seem to represent images from particular strips, my guess is Charles Schulz didn’t design these images specifically for the panels, but rather they were enlargements of artwork he liked.  But I can’t say for sure – I’m no Peanuts expert!

    Just a few have been hit by taggers – but don’t worry – they’ve been cleaned up as best they could be cleaned up – and more important, the awful, awful people who did this will burn in hell for all eternity. Oh, I’ll see to that.

    Seeing them up close, touching them, feeling them, tasting them a little bit where the bars of the overpass’s railing permitted my tongue to roam along the panels’ edges only resulted in more questions and a canker sore the size of a ping-pong ball. I wanted answers.  And now you, too, want answers.  So on behalf of both of us, I called the school the bridge is next to.

    “Tarzana Elementary.”

    “Ted Parsnips, Parsnips Post-Press!*  Say, what’s all this about Peanuts pictures on the pedestrian foot bridge? The public has a right to know! C’mon, lady, gimme me something good for the front page!”

    (*The daily print edition of this blog.)

    “Um…Nobody has been here long enough to know the history about them. Someone else called once a while ago. I think you can do a Google search on them.”

    [No joke: That’s what she said. Yep, that’s the Los Angeles Unified School District for you…!]

    With that I slammed down the receiver and ran out of the phone booth, wetting the nub of my reporter’s pencil with my mouth (producing another canker sore) as I flew across my bedroom. I leapt on the bed, pulled my laptop onto the very top of my lap and began Googling like there was no tomorrow.  They don’t call me “Scoop” Parsnips for nothing: No one was going to beat me to the punch on this story.  (Well, except for whoever had already covered it, which is what I was looking up.)

    So here’s what I found out:

    The pedestrian overpass was built in either 1969 or 1971 (two articles list different dates) and apparently the artwork went up once it was built (or shortly thereafter).

    According to an Los Angeles Times story from 1994 “the bridge received its cartoon embellishments when a member of the school’s PTA convinced cartoonist Charles Schultz [sic], an acquaintance, to donate drawings of Charlie Brown and his friends.”

    Which makes me wonder all the more about the making of the panels.  They’re nicely done and fairly on-model (though some of them do have a sloppy, traced look in certain areas – look at Snoopy’s front paws and belly above). My theory:  This was something Schulz had had other similar requests for and it was just a matter of using whatever blown-up designs he’d used before. But again: I don’t know – I’m no Peanuts expert!

    This might explain, though, why these panels were erected on the bridge right around 1970 but the images have a mid-60s Peanuts look, and why he included characters he had just about phased out of the strip.

    (I suppose it is possible that ol’ Sparky actually sketched these out personally for the school, but I doubt it. His workload would have been enormous around 1970 and I can’t imagine him taking on such a big, in multiple senses of the word, project.)

    Interesting, though, something about the above image of Lucy has a slightly more recent look to it.  The other images of her on the bridge have that mid-60s look; this has a slightly later look – late 60s…?  Yes, yes, you know, “But I’m no Peanuts expert.”

    I didn’t notice any brush strokes on the images, and seeing small areas where colors have chipped off, exposing metal beneath, I’m guessing maybe these were painted with enamel and then fired in an enormous, monstrous kiln. However, in addition to not being an expert on Peanuts, neither am I an expert on the creation processes of any sort of large art installments so frankly, in case you haven’t figured it out already, I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. Also, I’m no Peanuts expert.

    Schulz’s name is signed within each of the images, rather than on the edge of the panels. In the lower right corner of each panel is © BY UNITED FEATURES SYNDICATE, INC.  For those of you interested in that sort of detail.

    I think and now you too think that it’s neat that these have been up there for the better part of 40 years (though they’ve come down at least once – in the early eighties while the bridge was repainted and repaired) and they remain in particularly good shape. (Perhaps giving further credence that they are enameled?)

    They’re not without some damage, and yes, in a few areas, you can see some assholes have tagged them.

    This one’s been hit by a tagger on the left side, near Chuck’s ear. You can see other damage – missing paint – on his neck and dings on his hat and Lucy’s glove. Charles Schulz’s signature appears twice here: On Charlie Brown’s shirt and on Lucy’s glove.

    Some jackass with no future tagged this panel of Snoopy dancing. According to a very short piece in Los Angeles Magazine (coincidentally very recent as of this writing) “The City of Los Angeles” is responsible for the panels’ upkeep. I guess that means it was someone from the Office of Community Beautification/Graffiti Removal who scrubbed the hell out of that and made it virtually invisible unless you’re up  close and looking at it at an angle. Good job, sir!

    Sally is walking away from the school, no doubt a subtle commentary by Schulz on the character’s well-documented troubles embracing a formal elementary school education.

    I hesitate to even mention this for fear of jinxing it, but I’m slightly encouraged that none of these dumbasses have tagged the actual characters. Could it be that to these otherwise soulless morons, Peanuts is actually sacred?  It’s a nice thought, but given the ongoing de-evolution of society, especially in this horrible city, it’s probably only a matter of time before they’re defaced. Indeed: I first visited the bridge two weeks ago and came back yesterday to snap additional photos. In that time, the bridge has been hit again in half a dozen places…

    …including on the back of two of the panels. The back of the panels. This time.

    So what have we learned from all this?

    • According to the ’94 Los Angeles Times piece, this bridge and its artwork was a source of pride for Tarzana Elementary, at least back in the mid-90s (and earlier). So the school needs to get on the ball and embrace this unique Peanuts art once again, and put something about it on their website. It’ll prevent freaks like me from calling them up and wasting the front office’s time.

    • If Los Angeles Magazine is going to do a short piece on this thing, like they did, maybe use an actual freakin’ photo of the bridge or a closeup of one of the pieces of art, and not an awful 1990s publicity drawing of the characters that was just lifted off someone else’s website!

    • The same Los Angeles Magazine piece notes that thirteen panels were installed on the bridge. I counted twelve. I think it’s safe to assume some lucky bastard from the LA Department of Public Works has the missing one hanging over his couch.

    • Most importantly, as much as I go on and on and on about how much contempt I have for the very city in which I live, how I  routinely grouse (yes, grouse) about Los Angeles, the fact that these wonderful and quaint Peanuts characters exist outside a local public elementary school on a pedestrian walkway has succeeded in melting my heart and actually given me a feeling of  affection for this city.

    Oh, wait…waaaait…     …It’s passed. 

    Posted by on June 7, 2012, 7:02 AM.

  6. Rock On A Stick!

    LIKE AN IDIOT, I haven’t done one of these in a while – despite the fact that each night when I obsessively log into Google Analytics to see just what every single one of you, what, six regulars who visit this blog look at when you’re here, it tells me that the Goodwill posts get the most hits.

    So while it’s possible you people enjoy my Goodwill posts…it’s more likely that this traffic is from Goodwill’s attorneys who are slowly and methodically building an enormous lawsuit against me.

    Anyway, while we all wait for that, here’s something fun!

    There’s a Goodwill thrift store near me and apparently they get a lot of  merchandise from Target that’s either been discontinued, marked for clearance, or returned.

    I’ve gotten a few reasonable deals among this stuff, but unfortunately, in a lot of cases, these items are still priced too high for my meager pocketbook.

    But this one – oh, this one’s a delight:

    What you’re seeing there are geodes, each impaled on a rod jutting up from a base.

    Except they’re fake geodes, made out of (I’m guessing) resin. Or maybe plaster. And the part where the rock is split open, so you can see its wondrous insides…?

    It’s a photograph.

    The photo is printed on very thin material and attached to the flat surface with some sort of adhesive…and each one of these identical fake geodes’ photo surface is dinged and scratched, revealing the white resin (or plaster) beneath.

    Now for some reason – either because they’d become damaged or because they were the most ridiculous thing anyone’s ever seen at Target next to little tiny sleeping bags – for some reason, brother, they weren’t exactly flying off the shelves.

    Solution? Lower the price! In a bold and brilliant move, Target then attached big red “clearance” stickers right on the delicate photo surface.

    Surprise! Still no takers.

    After that they were bundled up together with packing tape (presumably to keep them from banging against one another in transit and thus minimize any further damage…!) and sent to Goodwill…

    …where someone attempted to pull off the clearance stickers (and with it, more of the geode photo), and seeing what they had wrought in doing so, wisely left most of the packing tape intact so as not to damage them any further.

    And then this exact same person, I reckon, this exact same person, wielding a price gun, slapped a Goodwill price sticker right there on the front amid the packing tape and below the other sticker that they were unsuccessful in removing!

    For $4.99 yet!

    So in short, what have we learned? Well, mainly, Target has probably joined Goodwill as a co-plaintiff in that presumed action against me as a result of this post.

    Hey, I don’t care! I’m like Erin Brocklewitz here! I will not be silenced!

    By reading this, you’re all witnesses for the defense now. My attorney will be along presently to take down your deposition.

    Posted by on June 4, 2012, 1:35 AM.

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