Aspiring snow birds fly the coop

Obamamania. Inauguration fever. Last day of the Bush regime! Exit interviews? As one of the fortunate survivors of race riots, the LA riots of 92, which seem like only yesterday, this day is very meaningful. Like so many other people, I never thought I’d live to see it.

Josef and I had coffee poolside with my dear friend and fellow poet, SA Griffin before we left LA. We discussed Bush’s absurd farewell speeches, the things he wants people to believe he accomplished as opposed to what really happened. Certainly he is trying to hack the media, the way his legacy is portrayed. I’m more inclined to listen to Keith Olbermann’s Eight Years In Eight Minutes. I don’t understand how Bush got away with all the despicable things he did!


SA gave us several handsome posters of a poem he wrote commemorating Obama’s big day. We said we would be happy to distribute some in Canada and told him about the election night party we had on Bowen Island with its significant population of American expats. At one point, SA got up and gave a poster to a fellow who entered the lobby sporting an Obama-PROGRESS shirt. It seems the entire world is excited, hopeful at the shift in paradigm and it is my hope the world is able to stop hating America. Progress is being made, a characteristically American drive.

I was chatting with a friend this morning who has dual citizenship. Born in Montreal, adopted and raised in New York-Queens-I met Debby in Vancouver, then ran into her in Los Angeles after we had both relocated. We spent years painting the town red together and she is the inspiration for my poem, Three Blocks West Of Wonderland. I told her that I often miss my American friends and have so much fun when I’m down south. The people are generous, vigorous, expansive. After I hung up, I came across a funny article in the Vancouver Sun by Dan Gardner, called Get Over Yourself Canada, If this country were a teenage girl, she would be in for years of therapy which stated many of the things I had bitched to Debby about, including pettiness and parochialism. I am determined to buy a house in the California desert some day and winter there right about the time of year this place is at its darkest and coldest and it’s not just the climate that I am referring to. Perhaps geese aren’t such bird brains after all. Doesn’t it make sense to go where the food and good times are? Follow the sun? Screw borders. I’m a citizen of the world.

SA also has a son who is Aspergers so we share much empathy for one another. He has some interesting theories, about how heretics weren’t allowed to breed in the past but now we’re everywhere. Bill Gates, Einstein and Glen Gould came up as examples of people who would have been called eccentric but are now recognized as autistic. “Geeks shall inherit the earth,” as he said, quoting some other paraphraser of the bible.

Saw a falcon this morning, perched on the bird feeder. He was probably preying on the squirrels that are in abundance and getting fat on the seed I’ve been putting out on trays for the ground feeding towhees since they have a hard time foraging in the snow. He certainly was hawkish, the way he scrutinized his surroundings. He didn’t stay long though so I didn’t have a chance to photograph or identify him. He sported a lot of blue however so I think it was an American Kestrel—which used to be known as a Sparrow Hawk—and not a Peregrine falcon because apparently they are uncommon around Vancouver. Whatever he is, I hope he kills some rats.

Arrived home safe and sound though there was a threat of being diverted to Seattle because of heavy fog in Vancouver. Fortunately, it cleared up and we were able to land. I did not get homesick though I missed Junior and the dogs of course. I’ve been feeling fluey since our return, the same old aches and pains I usually feel. I am certain they disappeared while in California. What’s that about? I suppose my body goes on vacation too, gives me a break from the headaches and soreness or is there something in this environment, this rain forest that makes me feel like crap? Maybe I’m merely crashing/recovering from a week of holidaying. I know people with rheumatism and arthritis are prescribed the desert, and Josef’s psoriasis clears up in an arid climate. Well, if that is the case, then I have another good reason to make my snowbird dreams a reality. It’s not going to happen anytime soon though, Junior is doing well here.

I was already in a funk so finding out there was still snow on the ground, long stretches of ice and our driveway impassable, did not help lighten my mood. The house sitter did a good job, far as I can tell though I think Lucas’s behaviours baffled her. I was annoyed to find that she took all the garments out of my ironing basket, hung them on hangers and then draped them over the dining room chairs! I have no idea why. I had to take them off the hangers and put everything back. Pup SamIAm’s leg has healed and Junior is getting skinny, quite apparent after being gone for a week. Maybe I’ll finally get his weight-obsessed father off my case. For years he has been griping that the kid is too big, or “flabby” and for years I have been trying to reassure him that it’s a phase, an awkward stage, quite normal, something most kids go through, that his metabolism will naturally change and he will grow taller and thinner, meet his standards in other words. Yes, he is quite shallow—well perhaps it’s due to his neurosis—and more concerned with (good) looks than a person’s character.

Jan 15, 2009

Day of departure, we met up with Teresa and Ava at the Griffith Observatory for lunch on the cafe terrace—which didn’t exist the last time I was there—overlooking the LA basin. I bought a souvenir glow-in-the-dark Phases of the Moon tee shirt for Junior and we strolled through the exhibits. It’s amazing that Colonel Griffith left all this land to the city when he died. At the time, the city council thought it was “too far away for the citizenry.” Of course now it’s surrounded by city and citizens and incredible gift to them all. We had to leave in a hurry and it’s a good thing we did, because we managed to mis-direct the GPS again on the way to the airport. I don’t understand, it worked like a charm for me when I used it on my September trip. Perhaps there is more second-guessing with two people. Josef complained that he didn’t understand directives like “in .02 miles stay left,” or “in 0.5 miles,” which to me suggests, soon! Well, we made it to the airport in a timely fashion, because I insisted on leaving. Josef likes to leave everything to the last nano second, with no window for error or unforeseen delays which drives me nuts.

Here we sit on our balcony, savoring our last few hours in the sun. We have stayed at the Magic Castle/Hollywood Hills hotel many times and this time finally took in a magic show. The food wasn’t great but better than I thought though the service was horrendous. I had to wave at our waiter more than once to get my drink or dessert or the bill. Old school Hollywood. Male guests are required to wear a jacket and tie and Josef borrowed one from the club for the evening. I told him he should wear suits more often, he looks very distinguished. He always buys ill-fitting jeans, doesn’t’ occur to him to make sure he buys ones that fit well, they’re always too short and, or baggy in the seat. Women are required to wear cocktail dresses, to look “elegant.” Not a problem, I just wore my new toreador pants and flouncy blouse with fishnets and heels. The Magic Castle is a maze inside, with warrens of rooms—parlours, lounges, theatres like the Hat & Hare pub, the Houdini Séance Room, the Palace of Mystery, the Parlour of Prestidigitation and the W.C. Fields Bar and the Inner Circle. As we entered, I turned around to find Josef had disappeared on the way to the maitre d. I sat there for a few minutes, fuming, and then we went to look for him. He had seated himself! I guess it hadn’t occurred to him that I was missing. Duh. We saw two magicians, the last guy 97 years old! Larry Chaffers, the first show after dinner, did some classic tricks, like the hat pin through the balloon, Mongolian rope knot trick, dollar bill in eggplant with serial matching serial # from spectator, invisible card deck, conjuring a bird, handkerchief sleight of hand and then he passed around an invisible deck of cards, asking two audience members to select a number and suit. Then he held up a real deck of cards and pulled out the correct one. He was charming, self-deprecating and funny. Old John Calvert was a classic magician, performing sleight of hand conjuring many cigarettes, a guiltiness/off with his head routine, dancing handkerchief, lazy magician rope trick, stacking boxes (putting handkerchief in one box, conjuring out of another set of boxes). I don’t know, he didn’t impress me much. The production values were lame. He performed to decidedly schmaltzy-recorded music, fine, but the tape was ancient, skipping in places and distracted from the show. How hard can it be to replace it?

Jan 14, 2009

Our last day. Boo hoo. Sitting on the balcony of the Hollywood Hills Hotel, listening to wild green parrots, yappy lap dogs, gardeners, helicopters and Harleys, basking in 80-degree weather before heading north tomorrow. Man, do I need a manicure, or at least, a nail file. I don’t pack them anymore, not since 9/11. Enough said? I miss the days when I could pack my Swiss Army knife too. I bought a Coke the other day, realized it didn’t have a screw off top and I had no way of opening it. I’m feeling rather brain dead, been avoiding the computer and blogging and indulging in magazines and the crime TV channel. At home, it’s a fight to watch The Daily Show for half an hour, Junior monopolizing the set for gaming. I spoke with Susan, the house sitter we hired who confirmed my Volvo is still stuck in a snow bank. We don’t want to leave. We get into Vancouver late tomorrow so will have to overnight in a hotel before heading back to the island Friday morning. Logistics.

Did Disneyland with Ava and Teresa yesterday. I was pretty tired starting out, Ava cranky but things improved with each hour and by the end, we were all pretty happy. Fortunately being Tuesday, in January, the queues were short, the grounds uncrowded. That really helped. Ava was so cute, pushing her dolly along in the stroller. Little Miss Spitfire. We went to California Adventure, started out in Bear Country with its live birds living in plastic trees. I joked that it was resembled home and invited Ava to come explore our property soon. The plan is for them to visit in spring. Then we did Soarin’ Over California, sat in the front row for the full-on experience, seeing the Golden Gate and the other California icons up close and personal. Teresa talked with Ava about her name meaning little bird and being related to the words, aviation and aviary after she asked what the word aviator meant. She is getting so tall and at that age of acute curiosity, asking a lot of questions though thankfully she doesn’t trill “Why?” every two minutes like a lot of kids. We went on more Ava-favoured rides—Monsters Inc, and the new Mr. Potato Head a kind of rolling sharp shooter game. I shocked myself by beating skeet-shooter Josef. The Ferris wheel was shut down for some reason and we sailed through Pirates of Penzance twice. More nostalgia. I recall playing Dead At Disneyland with friends from the LA Weekly, who would throw himself or herself down in front of a cast member just to see what would happen. Their expressions were inscrutable of course but one time, one of the big vested bears from Country Bear Jamboree sat on Jim as he lied prone on the ground. We found some edible sandwiches and watched an enthralling light and fireworks show which capped off the day nicely. I realize it’s not cool to like Disneyland either, and Teresa and I have talked about that. You know what, I don’t give a shit. I was raised on it, and like to think I turned out okay. In fact, it probably provided a respite from a pair of abusive hillbillies called parents. My sisters and I loved Bugs Bunny too, another spawn of Hollywood.

January 12

Driving out to Malibu, weather fantastic. Hollywood certainly has a lot of psychic readers. What’s up with that? Are people looking for warnings? Seeking help I suppose, not surprising in these trying times. Need to buy some sunglasses. Stopped for some authentic tacos and a shrimp burrito at a stand, then drove up to Leo Carrillo state park. There was a dead squirrel on the road in the parking lot and another, it’s mate I presume, frantically trying to revive it. Poor thing. Do squirrels mate for life? Surely some do. I watched a National Geographic documentary recently about viruses, and behaviour. These behaviourists were studying voles. The monogamous voles had more receptors than the promiscuous ones, suggesting that love is programmed Back to Mailbu, we walked under the overpass; saw a pelican standing still, like a totem, at the entrance to the beach. Josef had never seen one before, was intrigued and took a photo. We saw another one a little later. I thought it looked human from a distance. The beach was nearly deserted and we enjoyed a lovely walk with cormorants, snowy egrets and sand pipers, keeping a lookout for grey whales migrating this time of year.

Later we went to Brentwood for dinner with Zuade and Mark and Gretl. Zuade’s house is still being built and we carefully walked through a hillside grid of rebar. She said the cement was to be laid the next day, the stuff already laid, beautiful and smooth as a baby’s butt. Josef has cement on the brain lately, having just made a floor for a storage room and a base for our hot tub. Zuade’s house is fantastic! Sleek, modern design, walnut cabinets, high ceilings, tall windows, lap pool, Jacuzzi, water feature/fountain that wraps around three sides of the building. Bob Moss was there too and gave me a cd of music Peter had been recording before he died. Mark, a chef, cooked a great meal of broiled tuna steaks, salad, frittata and we ate oranges from the yard. We had lovely conversations over good wine until 2 in the morning. ‘Tis sad we’ve been reunited through tragedy but I’m so happy to have re-connected with Mark and Gretl and Ann and become friends with Zuade (Kaufman, of the award winning online journal, Truth Dig.)

January 10, 2009

Trip has been a whirlwind so far though Friday was rather low key. We spent the afternoon visiting with our godchild Ava and her mother Teresa, one of my BFFs. Ava has sprouted up since I saw her only a few months ago. Then we went out for dinner, to a steak house called the Grill and pigged out on MEAT, or at least Josef did. I had the grilled seafood platter and gorged on lobster tail, scallops, salmon and grilled veggies, couldn’t finish it all, took a big doggie bag with us.

Ah, what a treat, to rise in the morning and not have to rush downstairs to attend to everyone’s needs. The skies cleared, the temperature rose and we drove to the Getty Center. Josef had never been so we spent some time strolling the grounds after a quick lunch to admire the gardens and architecture. There is such an incredible view up there and a feeling of wonder being so removed from the city below. It’s quiet, green, buzzing with bees, butterflies and birdsong. There are numerous galleries and exhibits so we decided to focus on Dialogue Among Giants, the photography of Carleton Watkins exhibit. From the program: “In 1850, at the age of 20, Carleton Watkins is believed to have arrived in California from New York via South America. He embarked on a life in photography that began auspiciously during the gold rush (which started in 1849) and ended abruptly with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire that destroyed his negatives. In between those historic moments, Watkins witnessed an era in which a recurring theme was the enormity of all things in the West. He photographed the expansive western landscape with its miles of coastline, vast natural resources, colossal trees, and the monoliths of the Yosemite Valley using an oversize mammoth-plate camera.” We walked around that camera, at least seven feet tall and marveled at the tenacity it must have taken to haul that thing around. Next was and the Russian avant-garde book art show, Tango With Cows. “The show takes its title from a book and poem by the Russian avant-garde poet Vasily Kamensky. The absurd image of farm animals dancing the tango evokes the clash in Russia between a primarily rural culture and a growing urban life. During the years spanning the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, Russia was in spiritual, social, and cultural crisis. The moral devastation of the failed 1905 revolution, the famines of 1911, the rapid influx of new technologies, and the outbreak of World War I led to disillusionment with modernity and a presentiment of apocalypse.” The chap books were reproduced with the originals on display. They were also digitized with the text translated. I find it reassuring that like-minded poets have been around a long while and imagined our Ratttler zines under glass some day. In the meantime, I am planning an online archive.

I am such a worrywart, was really anxious about the party, about where new and old friends would park and as it turned out there was nothing to worry about. It all worked out well and everyone had a good time far as I could tell. Peter’s cohort from Baltimore Susan MacAdams arrived first, with her husband Douglas from Seattle. I just realized there were two men named Douglas that night, both from Seattle! Candye’s new boyfriend is also named Douglas. Susan kindly brought a tray of lasagna and we chatted about her daughters, both models. Doug Knott came with his girlfriend Janet, whom I hadn’t seen since she survived breast cancer. Spirited as ever, she looked great. Dear friends came Jhim and Byron showed up with Steve Lock who I haven’t seen in, forever. Candye had booked a room in the same hotel and when she came over to our room, proceeded to charm everyone, naturally. I haven’t seen her since she survived pancreatic cancer and surgery in April. What is going on around here? Guess I have to admit it’s aging, our bohemian lifestyles catching up with us? Teresa came! out, said it was the first time she’d been out in eons. Maritiza came! Teresa did the math and said it’s been 19 years since we girls had been together. I don’t think I wanted to think about it. Too scary. Happy times. Greg Burk whom I used to work with at the LA Weekly and my HHZ drummer/band mate, Mark Francis White and his wife Lucy attended with Jim Zink as well, so it was like a reunion as well as a lovely party. People were impressed with Josef and happy to meet him. I’m so glad we found a house sitter and he was able to come with me this time. We have been needing a break for quite a while. The next day, despite my fatigue, hangover, we went to Canters to lunch with Candye and Douglas, Teresa and Ava and Maritza and we met her adorable daughter Gisella, or Gigi, for the first time. More intense nostalgia as I recalled the many times we went to the Open 24-hours Canters after a show and pastrami on rye, which I ordered for old times sake. Candye took a little taste as she has dramatically altered her diet since being diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago. She has amazed us all, with her fierce determination and courage. I have suffered many losses in 2008, am so very grateful that she is still here, belting her way into our hearts and minds.

Ah, this is the life. Someone to clean up after you. I’m a little annoyed there is no Internet up here in our rooms, we have to walk down the hill to the Magic lobby but oh well, I’m not supposed to be working anyway. I keep obsessing about my little party tomorrow night, about where people will park with only one Visitor parking spot in the lot. Well, as Josef says, they’re Angelenos, used to dealing with shit like this. Cranes everywhere, not the birds, but the constructions type cranes. the city, still being built. Kodak Theatre has brought the Oscars back to Hollywood. Teresa says it has secret tunnels and passageways so the actors and starlets can avoid the plebeians.

The skies are hazy with fog. We were going to go up to the Getty but there is not much point if visibility is bad as that is one of the main reasons for going up there, the panoramic view. I’ve heard it’s going to improve tomorrow.

Jan. 8, 2009

Sick of myself, glad to be going away. On our way to the airport, for a week in Los Angeles. So looking forward to some sunshine, Vit D and visiting with friends, including Peter’s bother Mark and sister Gretl, whom I haven’t seen in an incredibly long time. She is coming from New York to retrieve Peter’s things from storage. Difficult. I will get to see our godchild Ava so there will be some opportunity for fun. We’re hosting a get-together at our hotel on Saturday and I’m hoping some of the old LA friends I’ve reconnected with on Facebook will attend.

Got lost with a GPS! Headed toward San Bernardino, taking the scenic route Shut up and play Urban Scout Experience Dream Center Rampart Division, white trunks of the eucalyptus trees. Ended up in an industrial wasteland, Miller brewery. I think we must have typed in the wrong city/destination.

I didn’t like the room they gave us, complained and they relocated us a floor above. It was much nicer and had the city view we enjoy so much. After the situation was sorted out, we went out for dinner at Yamashiro. Heaps of ginger, which I adore; ginger margarita, ginger beer, ginger root, ginger tea, ginger snaps.

On the 105 in LA, headed to Hollywood. Yippee! Weather is not great though, hazy and cool. Radio playing Radiohead/Jigsaw Falling Into Place. One of the things I miss most about this city is the great selection of radio stations. This one, 103 FM plays Indie Rock and it’s not a college station. Driving under a huge sign that says PLAZA Mexico. Ad for the Getty. Admission is free! Now listening to small, local station, discussing the Holocaust/Israel. “After the holocaust, the worse thing to happen to Jews is Israel.” Provocative statement, the kind of protest I am hearing more since the recent attacks on Gaza.

Michael is on his the-sky-is-falling trip again. He called Josef to warm him about the US currency collapsing and that we’d better be careful because there could be riots and he only called because he knew I had been through the 92 riots. “I’ve survived worse.” I said; my childhood, my parents, and him. We just heard a news story on the radio about a TV show filming in Burnaby, a controlled explosion, how they’re going to flip a car into the air. I told Josef, I hope it’s not near Michael’s place, he’ll think it’s the end of the world. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to explain to him that Junior suffers from anxiety, that talking this way about such things exacerbates the boy’s anxieties. He doesn’t get it! Each time he returns from his father’s, we spend days in damage control mode, reassuring him that everything is okay.

Dreamed I was in the back seat of a car, looking out the window at a menacing fellow brandishing a crowbar at me. Each time he moved toward me, I jumped over to the other side of the rear seat, next to the door, terrified all the while that he was going to catch me and kill me. I was crying “Help!” kept screaming for Josef, wondering where he was, when, if he would save me.

Facebook friend Sam Phillips asked why people are more concerned about John Travolta’s kid than the kids in Gaza? Is it really a matter of either, or? The media here is definitely biased toward Israel. As Jon Stewart said, God gave the land to both, the Jews and the Muslims, and that’s the name of that tune.

Hollywood. It’s not cool to love it. Certainly not if you’re a Canadian but from the time I first landed there in 1980 and discovered that there was community, that it was not just a concept, I have enjoyed many adventures and enriching experiences.

Jan 6, 2009

I don’t think it’s contagious but apparently I am not the only south coast BC resident disgusted and feeling oppressed by this horrendous snow job. Two weeks and 90 cm. We’re lucky, get to fly away in a few days, can hardly wait. There is no end in sight either. My poor birds! I’ve been putting seed out on a pan for them, for the ground feeders, but it gets covered with snow pretty quickly.

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