Sunday, November 4, 2012

Historical Fiction at Its Finest

Recently I have picked up some really good books.  Two of them I happened to get for my Kindle.  I always select available copies when downloading to my Kindle because I don't check my e-mail enough to successfully download during the notification window and I am more of an instant gratification sort of girl rather than a delayed anticipator.   I want it and I want it now.  Might be one of the reasons I am having a hard time with wait control.  Hmmm... a thought for another time.  Back on track here.  The other title, I found when looking for possible book club selections.  At the end of each year, I compile a list of possible titles that the LA County Library System can support.  I have about 30 people reading the monthly selection although I only have about 10-15 at any one discussion.  Not every book that would make a good selection is eligible for the list and indeed one of the books that I am going to discuss below fell into that category. 

The Lost Wife was Allison Richman opens with a rehersal dinner for Josef and Lenka's grandchildren.  A time when family members that might not have met before do.  Josef looks across the room and studies Lenka.  Eventually he approaches Lenka at the end of the evening to introduce himself.  He says, "I think I am your husband."  Thus starts the book and a tale of sadness, heartbreak and love.  Lovers separated by the Nazi invastion of the fairytale city of Prague after one night of nuptial bliss.  This is a story of escape and survival of rebuilding what world events tore apart and the enduring love of a lifetime.  I checked this book out on my Kindle and immidately ordered a copy of it for the library.  I haven't seen it in the library since.  Well worth the read.
The second title I checked out on my Kindle and will make an appearance in the Book Club next year.  Again a story of survival, loss and being able to find love in midst of heartache.  This compelling story is listed as a Young Adult novel but is worth the older audiences attention.  This book opens in Riga during the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.  Riga is one of my all time favorite cities and would love to return but the tragedy of the Soviet impact on these countries remains reatively untold to a wider audience.  I am glad t hat Ruta Sepetys felt compelled to tell the story of her family's history in novel.  If this doesn't become a movie, I will be sorely disappointed.
I read about The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman on Good Reads while I was researching Book Club selections for the members to vote on.  There was not enough copies to support the Book Club but I felt compelled to request the book.  Within a few words I knew I was in for a good story.  The story begin on the day of the great stock market crash that marked the beginning of the Depression in the United States.  Set in the hallows of West Virginia coal country, we met Patience Murphy who found her midwife apprentenceship cut short by the death of her beloved mentor.  But babies will be born despite and Patience must summon the courage to rise to the challenge of bringing new life into a world that has lost hope while confronting her own fears and past for Patience does have a past.  This is a story of finding rays of hope in a bleak landscape darkened with coal dust, poverty, unfair labor practices, and the growing economic tragedies that threaten to tear the fabric of a nation. 
Patricia Harman is a retired midwife and writes from experience.  She lived on communes and was an activist during the sixties and writes from experience.  Her storytelling is flawless and compelling.  This is a story of the strength of human spirit and the flaws of human characters. 
Once again I ordered a copy of this title for the library.  I have recommended it to several people and had to request it for a couple of them.  Everyone that has read it has enjoyed the story.  I also plan ot give a copy to my mom when I go home.  My mom is very descrimmating in what she is willing to read and it is only the very best that converge in her and my interests.

And one more while I am thinking of it.  I picked up Moloka'i by Alan Brennert at Target two years ago to read while I was at home for Thanksgiving them.  It is a compelling haunting story that will stay with you.  I have been thinking about it quite a bit recently for two reasons, I am going home again for Thanksgiving this year and I was searching for titles to put on the Book Club voting list.  Alas, there are not enough copies to support the Book Club.  When I finished this book, I added to our collection and it hasn't graced my library shelves once in the past two years.  It is always off to the next person that wants to read it.  If that isn't recommendation enough, then I don't quite know what is. 
Set in old Hawaii, a Hawaii that is now lost but yet still remembered, this is the story of a young leper torn from her family and sent to Moloka'i to live in the leper colony there.  It is beautifully told that recounts decades spent in captivity, I found that within the first few pages, I needed to make sure that I had a box of tissues with me at all times.  There is laughter, too.  This is another story of the strength of the human spirit and the tragedy of human shortcomings.  

Feeling Fragile

Woke up this morning feeling fragile.  Not sure why but maybe because Pop visited me in my dreams.  Not a bad one, just me needing to ask the police and realizing that my dad was there and I could consult with him so I talked to him. Dreams of him are few and far between and some of them are dreading up old issues.  I guess that fragments of them remain on my psyche and still demand working out, but this wasn't one of them.  I think that today, I am just sad that Pop is gone.  When the cats finally convinced me it was cuddle time, I realized that I was having a hard time seeing the glass as half full and feeling as it was rather more than half empty.   I try to focus on all the positives in my life most of the time, but this morning all the negatives seems to be knocking at my conscious demanding attention be paid. 

I was going to go up to Chumash with Mary et al, but I think that I am not fit for company and need to spend time getting myself together.  Might go see a movie to distract me.  Will post about recent good reads in a few to distract me. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Hiatus Has Ended

Here I am back again.  I was gone for a long while trying to sort things out and get priorities in order.  Let's see what has happened.  Most recently I moved to Montrose--a downgrade in my apartment but nearer work and a nice community.  The apartment is older and I no longer have a laundry room in the apartment and kitchen is smaller and lacking in the marble counters, stainless steel appliances and flagstone floors but  what the hey.  I have gained in time and a fatter pocketbook--no more gas fillups twice a week for commuting.  I also have a farmer's market on Sundays within walking distance.

I think I have kitted the apartment out nicely, all of my furniture fits so that is a bonus.
This is my dining area.  I have stackable chairs available but the daily dining experience is very posh with my arm chairs and the daybed serving as seating.  I've tucked a shoe box under the table to put shoes in when I come home.  The entry way is very small.

This is the living room.  I also have my bar area to the side of the sofa.  On the wall across from the sofa is the TV, cat tree and Japanese art arrangement. 
Here you can see Misha jumping down from the cat tree and my view from the balcony, you can just make out my parking space and I have a free entrance about 50 feet from my the apartment entrance.  One exit to work.  I would take cross streets but to the right is the free way entrance and the left means crossing traffic coming off the freeway and trying to get on it.
The kitchen is basic and sort of small but completely serviceable.  I have given up brewed coffee for instant because the tea kettle takes up less space and is multipurpose. 
 Here is my Japanese art arrangement.  I have three framed pages from antique books featuring woodblock illustrations.  There is also my Kagura mask of a jealous woman, a fan, a photo I took of Maiko in Kyoto and a scroll of the famous Buddhist chant.  I think this arrangement turned out nicely.

 Here is the bedroom featuring the shell-back chairs that I brought back with me from Oklahoma.  The one nearest the window used to be blue damask and I remember curling up in the chair to read as a child.  I would like to eventually re-upholster them in a peacock blue damask again. 

 Sasha is about to go into the closet.  I have to keep the doors open, note open door to the bathroom sink as well for the boys to make a hasty retreat.  Sasha likes to sleep on my Japanese mink blanket in the closet.  Misha seems to prefer under the bathroom sink.

 The bathroom is much smaller than my old one and the litter box is in the bathroom.  I had to get a smaller one than they are used to.  The cats are not happy with this turn of events for them.  One morning, I found litter pushed out onto the rug and a nice pile of poop on it.  I guess the message is if I refuse to get them a bigger box, then they will creatively make a bigger one.

 One of the nice features of this apartment is the pantry--which I use as dish/appliance storage.  I put in a bookshelf on the other side to store all my craft supplies, books, etc.  This area still needs a little bit of organization but everything is coming along nicely. 

At first the boys were very unhappy about the move.  They hid out for the first two days in the closet only coming out at night.  Then on the 3rd night, Misha and Sasha took to tag teaming in their unhappiness from 11:00 to 3:00 in the morning.  I told everyone that if I said I was going to the Angeles National Forest, know that I was carrying the body of a dead cat that I needed to dispose of.  But since then they have calmed down and even let me sleep until 5:30 this morning.  Progress.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bane Shock Artist

Recouping where I left off last, last month I showed Bane the Shock Artist who uses recycled materials like cardboard and styrofoam was the canvas. I had a hard time getting his art up on the wall with my usual glue gun, tape and hemp but in the end, I was able to get it all up with a prayer.
End the end I liked how the exhibit looked in the space. My Meeting Room is spacious. I went to a new library opening and commented to the Library Manager that his Meeting Room appeared smalled than I would have expected. He corrected me, his room was not small but rather mine is excessively large. After looking at my Meeting Room again and thinking about all the other Meeting Rooms I know about, I had to conceed that he was right--my meeting room is huge which means that small decorations get swallowed up and I don't know that it would be possible to over decorate.
But back to Bane, here is his exhibit.  As usual I tried to group things together so that they have a nautral flow.  This wall was decidated to his very colorful alien scene.

Here was have some portraits.  Bane uses the artist pictures with the eye holes for a performance peace he does.  His self portait is at the end.  One the far left is Mona Lisa converted into the Mona Leecha.  One of pieces that I like the best the Aliens out for a walk on the right. 

Bane had several pieces that were primarily white with the eye-pyramid, so I group these together with the orange piece in the center to highlight the arrangement.
Here is a grouping of some of Bane's totems.  These are really fun.  I have a can that I keep candy in, that I really like. 

Here are a couple of attendees of the art reception.  Obviously they found that it was a transforming experience.

I can't remember what he called these there is a Maxi, Mini, and Micro in the title.  I just thought of them as the Modern Family--not the TV show of course.
I really like his swandwich board promoting his work.  I got a real kick out of this piece. 
The reception was a success.  Bane brought soda and pizza to the opening in addition to the snacks the library provided.  People throughout the following week, were able to see his work and I got a lot of positive comments from people, a few people voiced that it wasn't reall their cup of tea, but hey that is art and everyone is entitled to their opinion.  I enjoyed working with Bane and I liked being able to see a lot of his work.  I particularly like his masks and totems.  I also like that he utilizes recyclables.    This month, photography.  I will get everything up next week.  I have an additional artist so there will be 4 people including me which means that we should have an attractive display in the Meeting Room. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Still Catching Up with March

March was cruising along just fine and then the Ides of March got me and the rest of the month ended in a whirlwind of me playing catch up. Geez.
First, I had to request the release of one of my part-time staff. I hate being the big meaney and the thing I enjoy least about managing is discipline. I want everyone to be a strong link in the chain and we sail along merrily in a happy boat. But the real job of management whether I like it or not is making suring that behaviors that affect the ship are monitored and corrected and if not corrected then they are removed from the boat. I can't state enough times how much I dislike displining and/or requesting the release of an employee so that event threw me into a tailspin emotionall. Our work shedules were impacted even further with this event. Earlier in the month a staff was promoted to a postion in another library--happy events are easier to bare than unhappy ones. But nevertheless we were down two positions totaling 40 hours each week. All said, for a variety of reasons, I had a hole of about 100 staff hours per week. Needless to say, I was very tired and had a hard time scheduling time off to see my brother Dave and his family who were out visiting.
On Friday, I had 3rd Friday Art Reception featuring Bane. Bane is a shock artist--I had to look that one up. Essentially shock art is designed to be incongrous so that it shocks you into thinking. Bane uses recycled materials, cardboard and styrofoam as is canvas, primary colors and an alien motif to create the shock. He also has a number of scultures, totems and masks as well. Visually it is very interesting, it really livened up the meeting room.
But I had a hard time getting his art to stay up without falling down. I try to do as little harm as possible to the back of the art if there are no hangers and I perfer what I am doing to be reversible if possible. My tools for art that has no hangers are my glue gun, hemp string, and tape.
I had hoped to get the artwork up before Town Council but because it kept falling down I had to repeat the process again and again each time getting more agressive with adding the hangers hoping that Bane wouldn't take offense. I wasn't but about a quarter finished when the Town Council arrived early for a land use meeting, so I was busy getting the pieces up. One of the Town Council Members asked if I was always the busy bee buzzing around from one place to another. Sadly I affirmed his observation, and he said that I needed to change my name to Busy Bee.
In the end I got everything up. Once again I was pleased with the result.
It seems that I am having trouble uploading photos and have a lot of stuff to get done yet. So I will come back later and post the photos of Bane's Art Reception.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cat Toys

Like all mothers who spoil their kids, I have invested in a number of cat toys for the boys.
When I vacuum, I have to pick up toys around the house. I haven't been able to teach the cats to put their toys back in the box when they are finished. But I have found is that I really didn't have to spend a lot of money on their toys, they are just as happy with pieces of string, ribbon and pipe cleaners.
Here is Sasha playing with one of their pipe cleaners. A while back, I was working on a craft and had a bag of pipe cleaners sitting out. Next thing I knew the pipe cleaners were all over the floor. I picked them up wondering if I could have dropped that many but then I spied a pesky Balinese nosing round the bag and pulling them out for his brother waiting down on the floor for it to fall.
Something that the boys really enjoy playing is Bug in the Rug. I found that they prefer the non-toy end of the toy and enjoy it hiding under the rug.
Here is Misha having a ball with the Bug
He spots the Bug but then he has to obliterate it.
The mat was originally bought as a mat for their food bowls but I realized right away that the mat was much more to them than something to hold their bowls. It is a magic mat that has no limit to what it can do in the imagination.
But their favorite treat are their catnip mice.
About once a week, I load up the mice' bellies with fresh catnip, boy oh boy do they love their mice. This is Sasha with his.
And this is Misha with his.
And here is their first mouse which usually Sasha takes as his. I'll probably have to invest in another one soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Day of Training

Today was my day off. Thank goodness because I felt more detective yesterday than Librarian. A kid stuck gum in one of our electrical outlets. I had three of the four in my office for quite a while. Of course, getting information out of them was an exercise in geeting past the I don't know's and wuddn't me's. Finally after about an hour, and phone calls to the parents, the kids came back wanting to make a clean breast of it all. The told me the other kid did it. Of course, so the first part of my day off was spent at our regional office filling our paperwork and calling the school. Fortunately, the school is very responsive and because the kids haven't made it home from school when they are in the library, anything that happens at the library is a school problem, their councellors deal with problem and can met out a pushiment. My bark is really and truly worse than my bite, but I keep this little fact a deeply guarded secret around the pre-teens and teens. Sometimes, I get tired to being bad cop. When I worked at IIE, I used to tell the Assistant Director, that I wanted to be good cop for a change, he could be bad cop.
After I got back, I made breakfast--a breakfast burrito--and then walked to the mall to get a Dr. Pepper and then I stopped by Target to buy some tape for my feet. I tape my arches to help prevent orthopedic program. I came back home, changed into the my running clothes, grabbed by iPod and then headed out for a two hours out on the Santa Clara River trail. I ran some. I'm not sure how far I went, I certainly hope that I covered more than 6 miles which is what I should be able to cover if I were only walking. Sigh, I may have only gone 6 miles.
I came home, changed into my swimsuit and went to the gym for a quick swim to release my back and shoulders from the run/walk. After the swim, I sat in the wet sauna for 10 minutes.
Oh, I know that I am going to be sore tomorrow. But I needed to know that I can at least do 9.30 miles without keeling over. A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for the a 15K run in San Diego on Sunday, March 25. This will the the first run, I have done since before leaving Hawaii. I was looking on the internet to see if I could find a run that might inspire me and when I spotted the Hot Chocolate 15k I gave out a bark of ironic laughter and then clicked on the sign up.
With the run on the horizon and with me feel much more focused, this past Sunday, I started the training. I took a very easy pace on the treadmill and was able to sustain an hour and 4 miles. But running outside is a very different from running on the treadmill.
If I enjoy this run, I can sign up for the October 13th run in Denver and the November 10th run in San Francisco. I would have the opportunity to visit friends in both places and retain focus on getting my life back.
I'm looking forward to going down to San Diego. I have been here for almost 6 years and I still have been down there. I'm going to go down on Saturday to pick up my race packet and to check out the logistics of the getting to the race on Sunday morning. Sunday morning will be spent at the race. I only hope that they don't pack up the after party before I get there. After the race, I plan to go back to the hotel for a shower, change and recovery. Then I would like to just check out San Diego. I have taken Monday off so that I can take my time driving back.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

My library owns 13 copies of this book and we haven't seen more than 1 copy for more than 1 day in the library for over a year now. I expect that when I do start seeing them come in, they may be worse for wear and I'll want to remove many of them from my collection. However, I'll want to keep some of them on tap because when the next movie comes out, I can imagine another run.
I've read the book and I've seen both the Swedish and American versions of the movie. The book was pretty good. I think it is probably the best of the three books with the Girl Who Kicked a Hornets Nest being better than The Girl Who Played with Fire. Larsson's books are pretty hardcore and the rape scene was particularly disturbing. Many of my customers told me it was too much for them and they had to stop reading the book.
What I think is really interesting is to see both versions of the film compared against the book. Both movies are really good. Both movies follow the main plot line of the book but they omit or change details from the book. What you end up with is three engaging stories that are similar but also different.
What I liked about the Swedish version of the movie was the grainy reality of the filming. I really felt cold and bleak. I thought the Swedish actor, Micheal Nyqvist was a better Michael Blomkvist than Daniel Craig. The Swedish version made much more of Blomkvist's name being similar to a famous Swedish detective character--for obvious reasons this would work better with a Swedish audience than an American one. The Swedish version had Blomkvist going to Australia locate Harriet Vanger just as Larrson has Blomkvist do. But the movie glosses over the buying and selling of magazine. It also glosses over the way that Lisbeth feels about Blomkvist.
In the American version I feel that Rooney Mara does a much better job of capturing Lisbeth than Naomi Rapace. Mara made us feel that Lisbeth was on somewhere on the autistic savant spectrum that Larsson portrayed in the book. Rapace, on the other hand, I didn't quite pick that up--she seemed just too bloody normal for the Lisbeth that I got to know in the books. I also like how they handled the metamorphosis scene in the American version, the Swedish version really just alluded to it. It was a fun fast paced part of the book and the American version captured this quite well. With the overall darkness of movie, this respite was welcome and needed. In the American movie completely rewrites where Blomkvist finds Harriet. In my mind this is minor because I view it as a way to streamline the story to make it more manageable for the movie theater. I also liked that the American version really dealt with how delicate Lisbeth really is in her emotional handling of her guardian--the good one--and how she deals with what she sees as Blomkvist callous betrayal of their relationship.
In both of the movies, the rape scene is equally disturbing and much longer than I really wanted it to be.
I almost hate to say this but if I were going to recommend one version over the other, I would recommend the American version as being more true to the Larsson's intentions in storytelling. But I think it is better to see both of them. Both are good stories and they are different enough from each other and each is different enough from the book that I was able find each intriguing in its own right.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Secret Ambition

Everyone has a secret ambition. Some people want to don a cape and be as fast as a speeding bullet. Others might want to don that latest fashions and walk down the catwalk. When I lived in San Francisco, I used to go art receptions at galleries down near Union Square. I enjoyed, the atmosphere, the little glasses of wine and tidbits of cheese. I not only enjoyed looking at the art but also took note to how it was presented. As a teacher, I would often try to draw what I was trying to explain, this ended up being more of an exercise in humor and imagination than anything else. After the students figured out what I was trying to draw, they would ask...really that's a ..... (fill in the object I was drawing) up there? I would come back, "hey, take note someday this might be worth a lot of money--this is quality stuff here, not everyone got what Picasso was trying to represent either." I would love to be an artist but that is not where my talent lays.
But being an artist is not my secret amibition. What I really want to be is a gallery owner. I am not patting myself too hard on the back, when I say that I think I have more talent in display and event planning. As a librarian, I have found that I can indulge in some of my secret ambitions--because there are more than one--through my programming. Remembering how much I enjoyed going to the art receptions in San Francisco, I decided that I would like to try to create art receptions at the library. Fortunately for me there are a lot of artists in the nearby area and my library was the first library designed with the new mandate to include civic art. So building on these facts, I designed the Community Art Contest at the library and then segued into a 3rd Friday Art Reception where I feature the work of local artists.
In February, I featured some artists in the acrylics class from the nearby McGroatry Arts Center. . I had 10 students from the class exhbiting. I told them they could bring between between 5 and 8 pieces each which meant I was looking at hanging up to 8 pieces in the Community Room. Earlier in the week so of the artists dropped off their art but I didn't really have a chance to really think about any of it until Wednesday afternoon before the Friday reception. Some of the students wanted to come help me with putting up the art, so on Wednesday afternoon, I have arrayed on the floor about 50 pieces of art. At first I wondered how in the world I would get all this up on the walls, but then I took a deep breath, centered myself, and reminded myself that as always the right way would present itself. I wanted to keep the artists works together as much as possible, but with the number of pieces and the limited space that wasn't completely possible. Also sense different artists had different styles, I wanted to put complimentary pieces next to each other. Here is what I came up with. I started with the big pieces brightly colored pieces of one artist.

William is a retired engineer and clearly his art is dominated by clearly lines add extreme detail. At the reception he brought photos of his portfolio, what a treat. I was amazed at the detail went into his work.
His work carried on to the next wall so I placed the Montrose street scene on the other side of the window from his other pieces.
The Montrose street scene was darker than the other pieces and was primarily blue rather than yellow like the other pieces. So that left only one picture on this wall, I stopped there and decided I would get back to it later. Next I saw that there were two artists work that were very vivid in their use of colors. Although their styles and subjects were quite different, I felt that they would compliment each other.
This grouping actually ended up being the focal point of the exhibit. A number of were in awe with the execution of these work. Next, I realized that two artists had works that dealt more with nature. They also had a number of smaller works so I began to get them up on the wall letting the works present their natural flow to me.
At this point I started to get a little nervous, I still had a lot of art and only one big wall and part of a small wall to fill. Survey the works, I noticed that there were several dark pieces most of them having blue as the dominate color. I decided that they would work best next to the Montrose street scene.
Still with a number of pieces, I determined that many of the remaining artworks depicted water in various forms and seasons. So the next stage was putting these pieces together.
Nearing the end, I realized that most of the remaining smaller works had outdoor themes, so up on the wall they went.
All that was left now was about 8 very large canvas pieces. I had easles that would support these lightweight peices in the corner but I had to pick and choose which ones to display. From these, I felt that four of them moved well together with the colors.
As I was work with the art to determine the order to display it, I try to create back stories for them in my head. This time a couple of back stories presented themselves.
In this series, I started with the dog, who I imagined lived in the house with the man below, who in turn I imagined was waiting for his wife to return from the field in the work below it.
With these two I imagined that the spirit that manifested over the city in the first one moved across the sky and in the second piece we see the tail of the same spirit.
Now I know probably neither of these back stories were the artists real intentions but for me it helps me to find the flow in the display so that the eye can move from one piece to another.
One of the reasons, I like to have the receptions where people can meet the artists is because we can hear the real backstory from the artist. As I was hanging the art, the piece with two elephants was slight confusing to me, one elephant was clear and the other was very faint. But then when the artist told me the title and explained the meaning, this piece quickly became my absolute favorit. the title is Fighting for Survival. I found out that the two elephants represent elephants of today and elphants in the future. The future elephant is dispearing but the present and the future elephants have their trunks locked with the present elephant trying keep the future elephant from disappearing. What a powerful piece.
Letting out a big sigh of relief that I was able to represent all of the artists and ony had a handful of works that I couldn't display. I stepped back and surveys my work and found that I was pleased. The meeting room had come to life with color and was visually appealing. The artists assisting me told me they were amazed that I was able to get it organized and ready for display so quickly. I was thankful for them being their because they were able to make sure everything was straight. The hanging system is great and very versatile as a result of this positive feature, it is sometimes take tedious patience to get the art of hand straight. And since I am more of a global thinker rather than a detailer, I find this second step almost painful. But an hour and half later everything that I could hand was hung and ready for viewing which was good because just as we were finishing up people were arriving for the movie that I planned to show that evening.
The reception was a resounding success with over 100 people in attendance. The artists, most of which are retirees who have picked art back up after their careers came to a close and their families were raised, felt their efforts validated and that someone other than family and friends are able to appreciate their work. While the art was on display we had numerous compliments on how vibrant the meeting room looked and how much they appreciated being able to see the artwork. And my secret ambition of having a gallery is statisfied. Everyone wins here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Out and About Town: Part 2

One Sunday, I decided to make use of the $10 Weekend Metrolink Pass and make a trip downtown. I arrived at Union Station at about 11:40 and then walked to Little Tokyo. Here I had lunch at one of the Plaza restaurants. The restaurant offered a lunch special which included two dishes and a drink for $8.99. I chose udon, rice bowl with eel and a beer. It was very tasty. I really like eel a lot and hadn't had it in a while, so I particularly enjoyed this lunch. The udon noodles came with a Chinese spoon. I'm always a bit confused by finding these spoons in my miso soup bowls and this time my noodle bowl. You can't find these spoons anywhere in Japan. For Western food you get forks, knives, and teaspoons and for curry rice and fried rice you get tablespoons. Everything else is eaten with chopsticks. Soups are drank. This was one habit I was happy to adopt for the rest of my life. I am the girl dumps a load of milk in her cereal, eats the cereal out and then drinks the milk from the bowl. I'm also the girl that puts twice as much water and milk into her oatmeal and malt-o-meal and then drinks it out of the cup. I never really understood the concept of ladling up spoonfuls of liquid into your mouth, it seems like just wasting energy. Chinese spoons don't seem like much of an improvement on the regular spoon, they are harder to fill up and the liquid sloshes around in the bowl of the spoon too much between the bowl and your mouth. But I guess that when Japanese restaurants in LA started being frequented by non-Japanese, that they tried to come up with some concessions the the Western reluctance to drink soup from a bowl. Personally I love lifting up the big noodle bowl to my face and feeling the hot steam open my sinuses. It's very gratifying.
After lunch I walked over the bakery and bought a shu-cream or cream puff.
After lunch, I walked downtown, up Angel's Flight and then rested and relaxed for a bit at the Biltmore.
I couldn't decided what to do next, I didn't have enough time to board the metro to Hollywood, besides, it was going to be a mad house down there since the Academy Awards were that evening. I considered it might be interesting to experience all the madness but then I saw a sign for the contemporary art museum. Althought I am not the biggest fan of modern art there is quiet a bit of it find interesting and since I hadn't been to the MOCA before, I decided that this was as good of a way to pass the afternoon as any.
The main exhibit was on Weegee who first made his name in New York as a crime photog, but later came to LA and documented the often contradictory images of Los Angeles and published the Naked City which in turn inspired the movie the Naked City. I found the exhibit fascinating and inspiring. But just as I expected, I decided that that most of the permenant collection made little sense or moved me. I was pleased with myself that I was able to identify the Jackson Pollock for what it was before I confirmed it with the label.
Inspired by WeeGee's photos, I took these photos. I don't know if it was staged or not but I found the tricycle chained up whimsicle. I also took a quick snap of the people standing in line at the MOCA ticket office. I think that this is a pretty good representation of the people downtown and not homeless on a Sunday afternoon.
I wanted to go back to Little Tokyo to the supermarket to pick up some of my favorite goodies. I know that I can get most of these items at the Korean Market in Santa Clarita, but shopping in a Korean market is a different experience than shopping in a Japanese market. I wanted the experience as much as the anything else.
I snapped a couple of photos of LAPD, I thought my brother would appreicate these, and then in the new Parker Center mirrored windows I noticed the traditional building from across the street. Yes, this part of My LA, the clashing of modern and tradition, the juxtaposition of styles.
At the Japanese market, I bought pickled daikon, a bag of short grain rice, rice sprinkles, somen noodles and soup base, and fish paste. All this week, I have been eating steamed rice with rice sprinkles. The left over rice became curry friend rice. I have been crunching on pickled diakon as well.
After picking up my groceries, I stopped at a gift shop and found M daughter a saftey driving charm. Her daughter commutes from the Antelope Valley all the way down the San Fernando Valley for work and she has had some pretty odd and expensive traffic problems. A rock punctured her gas tank, debris sheered off her OnStar are just a few. The clerk and I went through the charms trying to find the best one for her. We decided that the Maneki Neko scooping in good luck into her car along with the safety driving fortune was maybe the best one for her. Not that I overly superstitious but her very bad fortune with these freak accidents leads me to believe that it couldn't hurt.
After a little bit more wondering, I gathered my heavy bundles and walked back to Union Station to board the train back to Santa Clarita. On the train, I relaxed and read A Vintage Affair on my Kindle.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Out and About Town: Part I

I retrieved my other SD card that had the photos I wanted to add here. Recently, I have taken the MetroLink from Santa Clarita to downtown twice. The first time was for Chinese New Year's with my California family. The second time was a couple of Sundays ago, I walked around downtown, went to the Contemporary Art Museum and grocery shopping in Little Tokyo. I guess you can take the girl out of Japan but you can't take Japan out of the girl. After all I spent my formative adult years in the Land of the Rising Sun--which by the way in the summer would make it's debut at about 4:30 in the morning. More than once I would leave the darkness of Mac Bar and emerge into the brightness of morning. Anyway, on the first trip down during Chinese New Year, I met the family on board at the Santa Clarita Station, they had all boarded up the road at Canyon Country. There were about 15 of us and it made for a jovial ride downtown. The goal was to pick up some decorations for the family birthday party with a Chinese New Year theme. All parties must have a theme! We arrived at Union Station in due course and then boarded the Metro Gold Line for one stop to get to Chinatown. As usual Chinatown was hustling, we ducked into one of the markets and winded our way through the stalls. We popped out and ran immediately into a Lion Dance.
I almost didn't get a photo because I hadn't expected the dance. Later, I got a better photo of the dance we ran into back to the Metro.
Up close and personal on this one. I didn't think I was going to get that one either. A couple of the previous have only partial heads.
We crossed the street from the market to check out a couple of stores along the way to the square. I found some artificial roses that I thought were pretty, I purchased them and then realized that I would have to carry them around all day. But I got a lot of compliments on them. Here they are with a couple from the group waiting for the Metro back to Union Station.
We continued to walk around and I stopped for a little bit to watch the show on the stage. It was pretty amazing, I love Chinese acrobats.
Once back at Union Station we crossed over the Olvera Street and into the Pueblo of Los Angeles. I lagged behind to watch the Indian Dances in the square. It's amazing to go from the sights, colors and sounds of one culture and then 15 minutes later find an entirely different set from another culture.
We had lunch at El Paseo Inn which was established in the 1930s and is located in one of the oldest building in the Pueblo. Very good eats, atmosphere and yummy margaritas. During lunch the Mariachi's came over to our table to sing a couple of songs. I love Mariachi's, I love the sound, the costumes, and the fun that surrounds them. I had a hard time getting a photo of the band due to lighting, movement and me not really knowing which settings to get the right photo. Here is one that came out OK.
Completely sated and a little tipsy, we shopped for a little bit at the stalls. M showed me all the Mexican toys that they played with when they were kids. One is a gambling game sort of like dreidles. M, explained "Yes, we learned how to gamble from a very early age." Now, I understand why half the family events are in Vegas and not just because one sister lives there.
After a while, M and I wonder over to the square and relax on the benches while we wait for everyone else to join us. Little by little everyone came. J and K arrived with J carrying his brand new marionette. Here is him providing us with a little entertainment.
Eventually everyone arrived, we gathered our belongings, headed back to Union Station to catch our train. Happy, still full but tired I got off at Santa Clarita and waved good-bye to everyone.