Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   heels, helipads, and hardware
Saturday, November 16 2013

location: northeast 16th floor, Hotel Palomar, Westwood, Los Angeles, California

Gretchen headed off this morning to tour some dismal animal rights museum in Pasadena. It turned out to be two or three unpleasant-smelling rooms in Pasadena presided over by a curator with permanently-misdirected eyes. Meanwhile I went off in search of things necessitated by the chain of events that began when I spilled coffee-vodka on my laptop's keyboard. The keyboard I'd bought yesterday evening needed two AA batteries, and I also wanted some sort of toolkit to open my laptop so I could remove its keyboard and soak it in water. Unfortunately, my Compaq 2510p requires both a small Phillps screwdriver and some sort of Torx point to disassemble. As I was soon to discover, Torx tools are not easy to find in general-purpose stores such as the CVS drugstore in Westwood. After checking all the possible retail options in central Westwood, I ranged out more widely, walking west on Wilshire nearly to I-405 and then turning south and then back west to Westwood Blvd., where I went south once more. The neighborhood south of Wilshire is more like how I remember this part of Los Angeles: a little bit run-down and heavily populated with ethnic Iranians (or, as they prefer, Persians). Along Westwood Blvd., there are enough signs in Farsi in some places for it to be mistaken for a crappy suburb of Tehran. After all this trudging, it came as a relief to eventually come upon a hardware store, Boulevard Hardware. It was a traditional establishment from the days before big box retail, full of yellowed dog-eared blister packs swinging with each minor earthquake from metal pins in the perforated masonite. There was a single wall of tools up near the front, where they could be easily watched from the cash register. While there were a number of Torx points for sale, their price was something like $2.99 each, and I wasn't going to spend that much without knowing what size to buy. I never even got around to pricing the tool necessary to rotate such a point.
Down on Santa Monica, I wandered into a Staples, a store whose slogan was once "Yeah, we've got that." Though they sell lots of things that cannot be maintained without tools, they don't sell any tools at all (unless you consider a computer or a label printer a tool).
Further east on Santa Monica is a large, seemingly-windowless concrete building capped by a golden angel tooting a horn. I'd seen it from our hotel's elevator and assumed it was some sort of movie studio, but once I saw the horn blowing angel, I knew it was a Mormon temple. It was surrounded by a fantastically large multi-block lawn of supernaturally-green grass tilting southward toward Santa Monica. The idea there must be that non-Mormons motoring past will see the grass and assume that God has blessed this place as being the local outlet for the one true religion, failing to consider what a lawn can look like when no cost is spared on chemicals, irrigation, and the labor of Mexican immigrants.
After returning briefly to the hotel, I set out again on foot for "downtown" Westwood, having failed to even get batteries for the Radio Shack keyboard. At least I could get those at the CVS, along with a can of mixed nuts (which, unfortunately, did not include any Brazil nuts).
Until yesterday, I hadn't been to Los Angeles since 2006, but some things never change. There's a look, particularly among the women, that is very Los Angeles. It's mostly manifested in footwear: very high high heels worn at all times as a sort of foot uniform, though there's also the big mane of hair and the complete absence of any indication of body fat. Older women look like this as much as younger women do, though the older women usually try to eliminate evidence of aging by having the tension of their facial skin surgically increased, often giving their eyes a highly unnatural (but very Los Angeles) ovoid appearance.
Back in the hotel, I looked out across Wilshire at the other tall buildings and saw special red lights and wind socks on the roofs of all of them. Evidently they all featured helicopter pads. But why? Apparently there is a law.

When Gretchen got back from her adventures, we walked into "downtown" Westwood and tried out the other big vegan chain: Veggie Grill. It's doing pretty much the same thing as Native Foods, though the decor is a bit more hip and modern (reminding me of the Pan-Asian restaurants). The woman in front of us in line had ordered a wrap and was non-plussed to find it had been prepared as sandwich. No problem, said the cashier, chucking into the trash. "No, give that to me!" shouted Gretchen 250 milliseconds too late. With some convincing, the cashier fished it out of the trash, wrapped it in a new paper wrap, and gave it to Gretchen. That was just one of about three different items we somehow got for free this particular lunch. I didn't like whatever I'd ordered quite as much as whatever I'd had for dinner last night at Native Foods, but the vegan hot wings Gretchen and I shared were absolutely spectacular. The resemblance to actual boneless chicken wings in a spicy sauce made popular by restaurants in Buffalo, New York, was uncanny.
Back at the hotel, we decided to take advantage of their pool even though temperatures hovered in the mid-60s. The pool was heated and perhaps there was a hot tub. Unfortunately, there was no hot tub and the pool wasn't warm enough to counteract the chill in the air. We were amused, however, by a sign posted with the other boring rules and regulations: "Persons having currently active diarrhea or who have had active diarrhea within the previous 14 days shall not be allowed to enter the pool water." The wording was such that someone with highly-active diarrhea could justify being in a pool simply by saying no one had "not allowed" him to enter. Despite the conditions, Gretchen and I used the pool for about 15 minutes. It wasn't a big pool, but she even managed to swim a few laps.
After some lying around and napping, Gretchen decided we should go down to the lobby and try out the Hotel Palomar's free-wine happy hour. I'm usually a sucker for free alcohol, but for some reason I wasn't enthusiastic. Down in the lobby, a member of the hotel staff was filling glasses with generous pours of two different wines that were only described down to type (Pinot Grigio and Cabernet). We got our glasses and found a place to sit with three other couples, all complete strangers. One couple was black, another was Asian, and the other Caucasian couple was gay guys from Arizona. There wasn't much to talk about, either among ourselves or with the other couples, but somehow Gretchen broke the ice with the gay guys, who then ended up having an bone-reabsorbingly dull conversation with the black couple about their experiences in various large chain hotels throughout the United States. Gretchen whispered to me that this was how people talk when they don't want to ruffle each others' feathers. Slowly but surely, though, the conversation somehow turned to Obamacare. Everybody there seemed to agree that it was a good thing.
For her part, Gretchen was more interested in the dogs, one of which eventually was led into the lobby by a guy bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sideshow Bob. Despite its faults, the Hotel Palomar is a dog-friendly hotel, and the names of the dogs staying there are featured on a special dogbone-shaped blackboard out in front (where the valets run their racket; the hotel doesn't allow people to park their own cars). Unfortunately, as with most of the dogs in Westwood and Los Angeles generally, the dogs staying at the Palomar tend to be small, ugly purebreds with unnatural coat patterns. On this trip, Gretchen and I referred to such dogs as "designer dogs."

For dinner tonight, Gretchen drove us down into West Hollywood so we could do dinner at Crossroads, a fancy vegan restaurant run by a celebrity chef. After a day spent in Westwood, it was nice to be in a human-scale neighborhood with an organic patina of grunge. But it was still no Portland, Oregon. There was, for example, a dog supply store catering to people with tiny designer dogs. It was the kind of store that people (perhaps for more homophobic than animal advocacy reasons) would make fun of in Portland (or any of the other places we like). Unlike Portland, West Hollywood doesn't, for example, appear to have any pool parlors that open out to the sidewalk, though it's possible there are stores that only sell lightbulbs or salt.
In Crossroads, we met up with Dan P. and his new girlfriend Christine. Dan is the author of a nationally-syndicated one-frame newspaper comic (no, not Family Circus; it's more like The Far Side). We know him through New York vegan scene; he was a frequent attendee at farm animal sanctuary functions in Willow. Dan has only been living in Los Angeles for about two years.
The meal at Crossroads went like this: waiting for a table, we went to the bar and ordered drinks. Eventually we were seated at a D-shaped booth. The food was presented as something like a dozen or more tiny courses, each fussily prepared and often tasting exquisite. As we ate these things, we were aggressively attended to by numerous employees, including two older white male "pit bosses" (what Dan called them), two young attractive white waitresses, and at least one Hispanic restaurant attendant. According to Dan, the guy behind Crossroads believes in service and likes to put a lot of faux leather boots on the ground. I found the experience conversationally disruptive; I like good food, but I don't want food to be the main topic of dinner conversation. When your food is being delivered by the teaspoon and then divided four ways, it's really hard to focus on anything else. Somehow, though, we talked about how Dan and Christine met and Gretchen told the story of how we got back together after a 12 year hiatus.
After the meal, Dan suggested we go back to his place for a bit of a nightcap. He lives in a converted garage behind a multi-million dollar house in a beautiful Hollywood neighborhood. Dan recently adopted a non-designer puppy named Jemima who looks like a small (25 pound) version of Ramona (though the splash of white on Jemima's chest looks like a palm tree instead of a moth with an eagle's head). Dan lives surrounded by his huge politically-symbolic photorealist paintings and a pungency that comes from what appears to be a 19th-century-style cigar habit. I kind of zoned out over by glass of single-malt Scotch. Meanwhile Christine was telling Gretchen about her crappy executive assistant job, her unsatisfied desire to have kids during her last marriage, and her time in Landmark Forum. Dan and her met in their yoga class only two or three weeks ago (she's a tall, slender woman who looks good in high heels). Dan has discovered that yoga is a fundamental connector in the Los Angeles social scene; in addition to his girlfriend, he also got his dog and his latest vintage BMW motorcycle through his various yoga-forged connections.

At Crossroads: Dan wearing all three of our chunky-framed glasses at once (Gretchen still doesn't wear glasses). To the right is Christine.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next