Left Coast Re-Cap (Day 2)

Sarah woke up early Friday morning, and I did too. It was 6am California time, but we were still on East Coast time, so it felt like 9. She planned to go jogging along the beach and I decided to walk with her to show her the way and make sure she didn’t get turned around.

Our hotel was only about 2-1/2 blocks from the beach and on the way we had to walk through a small park/playground. There was a really cool-looking building that at first reminded me of The Alamo.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered this amazing structure is the Redondo Beach Public Library.

The sky was a perfect blue, the grass was green, and the early-morning temperature was perfect. Sarah exclaimed, “We’re in Heaven!” I didn’t argue.

Sarah took off jogging and I went down to the beach to film and capture the calm serenity of the area. I made my way onto the Redondo Beach Pier and sat on a bench overlooking the ocean (making sure to clear off the morning dew before I settled in).

I heard a far-off sound that I initially mis-took for some weird birds, but as I listened I realized they were actually seals hanging out on a distant buoy, barking and barking. You know, like a bunch of seals.

After Sarah finished with her run we met on the pier and then walked back together. We met Ryan, Alyssa, and Ashlea in the hotel for their complimentary continental breakfast. We then piled in the car and headed south for a tour of Palos Verdes and Rancho Palos Verdes, one of the most expensive places to live in Southern California.

We left the cliffs and headed down the winding road a bit to Wayfarer’s Chapel, a small church that is pretty much made entirely of glass. Every other time I’ve been there a wedding was in progress so I wasn’t allowed to get very close to the church and see inside.

This day was my lucky day, as the grounds were pretty much deserted and we had the place to ourselves. I was excited to get my first glimpse inside and I wondered what it was like to go to church and get a tan at the same time.

We returned back to the hotel and Sarah and I were excited to show the rest of the gang the park, the library, the beach, and the pier. While we were there we stopped in at El Cinco De Mayo, a small Mexican restaurant on the pier. A friendly woman took our order and then turned around and began to cook everything. It smelled delicious and it tasted just as good.

From there we went down to the end of the pier, found a bench, and let the food digest. We also saw a pirate pigeon. That’s right. He had a peg leg. It was turning out to indeed be a great day.

We went back to the hotel to rest up from all of the eating and basking in the sun and decided to re-convene in a couple of hours. We had a date at Medieval Times and, what was even more exciting, we were meeting my pal JT and his girlfriend there. I met JT when I was living in New York City and performing improv at the National Comedy Theatre. He moved out to California a few months ago and I hadn’t seen him in about a year. I hadn’t met his girlfriend Kim before and it was good to get to finally get to meet her and be assured she wasn’t a figment of JT’s wild imagination.

Because we headed out to Buena Park on a Friday afternoon, traffic was pretty intense. Ryan and Alyssa were both pretty taken back by the amount of cars:

“This is ridiculous!”
“Who are these people?”
“Where did these people come from?”

We finally arrived at the castle, met JT and Kim, and  settled in to enjoy a night of medieval…times.

Afterward we hung out in the parking lot and talked and said goodbye to JT and Kim six or seven times. We made the drive back to the hotel (which, at 10:30 at night, was considerably shorter), and went to bed.

It was a great day indeed. That 1-legged pigeon brought us good luck for sure.

Books, books, books

My friend Trish gave me the heads up on a huge book sale going on this week and as someone who likes to read but doesn’t like to spend a lot of money, I was really grateful. Twice a year the Lancaster library system holds this huge book sale to get some of the books off their shelves and raise some money at the same time. The sale has gotten so big they now have to hold it in a huge skating rink. It began yesterday morning at 9am. I got there about a quarter after the hour and COULDN’T BELIEVE how jam-packed it was. I had to park in the fourth overflow parking area. I was excited to see so many people there and at the same time really shocked at how many people there were.

The rink  was divided into two basic sections. In one half were the newer books (for 1-3 dollars apiece) and the other books were all a dollar each for hardcover and 50 cents for paperbacks. There were so many people there it was often times hard to move and, I’m sorry, the Amish guys in attendance gave me a really bad headache with their overpowering body odor. I’m not even trying to be funny. For real. They smelled really bad. So bad that I left earlier than I had intended. That’s not right and the smell coming off of them was anything but godly. Come on, Amish. You ride in cars. You often use cell phones. You shop at Wal-Mart. Do you honestly think God’s going to be upset if you grab some Speed Stick? (It’s not like I’m asking you to undergo the Axe effect or anything)

I returned this afternoon for a bit and there were significantly fewer books. And also significantly fewer people. I was able to browse freely and a little more comfortably. Tomorrow (the last day of the sale) everything is half off but I don’t think I’m going to brave the crowds again. I ended up spending about 20 bucks for 30 books so all in all I feel like I did well. I mostly bought some classics I never read but felt I probably should have (such as Melville, Haley, Shelley, Orwell, and Dumas).

 I’ve been seriously slacking off in my reading habits this year so far and this was just the jump start I needed to get my nose back in some books.

The Library Is For Stupid People

This week Rich and I were working at the Garrett Public Library. On the west side of the library is a side entrance door and three adjoining windows that are in pretty bad shape; we spent the week stripping the old varnish off of the wood, steel wool-ing them smooth, sanding them, applying a coat of Cover Stain, and then a coat of paint (we’ll be putting on the final coat of paint on next week). Although the side door is closest to the parking lot, the front entrance is only about 25 paces away.

As we worked, we encountered some local citizens that had questions and/or comments that on more than one occasion forced me to turn to Rich and say I thought only smart people went to the library. I would now like to share some of these brilliant insights with you.

* I am on a stepladder, dropcloth splayed out below me, in front of the side door, applying a coat of stripper. Approximately 435 people asked Can I get in this door? Either that, or they would just walk up behind me and stand there silently, apparently waiting for me to finish my work for the day, so they could go in. On all occasions, I would politely let them know the front door is open. Then I would make a sarcastic comment to Rich about their pink stretch pants.

* Rich and I were scrubbing the paint stripper off with steel wool. Scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing. Toiling away like good little Mexicans, not bothering anyone, and we are approached by an old man who asked us, Are you doing that by hand? No, genius, we’re using solar-powered heat-seeking monkey-guided lasers.

*Rich was sanding the windows and was approached by a man he guesstimated was around 50 years old. The man asked him, Are you sanding them? I told Rich the proper response was No, I’m checking my email.

* A fat guy sitting on a scooter stared at us and watched us work while he ate a bag of Krispy Kreme donuts. He didn’t say anything stupid to annoy me, but the fact that there was a fat guy parked on a scooter eating a bag of Krispy Kreme donuts made me want to laugh out loud. It was a picture like you wouldn’t believe. I was impressed with my ability to keep a straight face.

* A skinhead in a pickup truck slowed down, drove by us, and yelled Are you ready for the rinse cycle? This didn’t annoy us as much as it just confused us. Apparently the thing to do in Garrett is to yell out random phrases about household appliances. Next time I see him I’m going to shout out Are you ready to cook it on high for 3 minutes, rotate it 1/4 turn, stir it, and cook it for an additional minute-and-a-half?

Even though the hillbilly geniuses were out in full effect, it was still a fun week and Rich and I had a good time laughing at our predicament. It was Rich’s last week working with us. He’ll be heading off to Arizona in the Phoenix/Tempe area to go to school for sound engineering. I was glad for the chance to get to work with him this summer. His little section of our family always lived far away from us and they moved back to Garrett while I was living in California, so I never got a chance to hang out with them a lot in the past. I am definitely grateful for the chance to get to work with my cousin and get to know him a little better. I made him promise to be the sound man on all of my films from now on, and he conceded.


Yuppies Can’t Wait

Today I went to the library to return the last of the books/DVDs I borrowed. As usual, there was a small line to return things, but it usually moves fairly fast and I wasn’t there more than 5 minutes. As I was leaving I saw this guy get in line, shake his head, and then head for the exit.

He was your basic snooty-looking yuppie type (think James Spader in any movie from the 80s). You have to go through security on your way out of the library to ensure you’re not stealing books. You give them the books you checked out, they check your receipt, look in your backpack, and that’s it.

This guy started to walk through the detector things and then held up a plastic bag and said, “I have CDs.”

“Did you get them from here?” the guard asked.

“Well,” said Yuppie, “I was going to return them, but I’m not going to wait in that line.”

“Do you have your receipts with you that you check them out?”

The yuppie got really mad and took his You-Don’t-Know-Who-You’re-Dealing-With stance. “No.”

“Then you’ll have to return the books. I can’t let you leave with them without a receipt.”

“I’m not waiting in line.”

“Sir, you need your receipt, otherwise anyone could give me a story and just walk out with anything.”

The Yuppie now took his How-Dare-You-Suggest-I-Wait-In-Line pose and said the most awesome line ever:

“This is preposterous.”

What made it awesome was the fact that he didn’t say it loudly or like he was upset. There was no exclamation point at the end of his sentence. He said it softly like he was giving someone the time or asking for a slice of cheese.

“This is preposterous. You know, but not preposterous enough for me to do anything about it.”

The Yuppie was then made to go back into the library and return his CDs. Two points for the good guys.

Coffee Idiots

Coming home from the library today I passed the corner of 7th and 42nd. At that corner is one of the smallest Starbucks I’ve ever seen. I never go there because there’s always a line and nowhere to sit. It’s very wee.

As I approached I saw a long line of people stretching out the door and around the corner. Bear in mind there were no special promotions going on, people just wanted coffee. And also bear in mind I am in New York city, not back home in Garrett where the nearest starbucks is like 20 minutes away. In the city the nearest Starbucks is like 20 paces away.

On the way home I passed 4 (count ’em, four) other Starbucks locations. And it only took me about 6 or 7 minutes to get home. I can’t imagine needing coffee so bad that I’d wait in a 30-minute line but also being so lazy that I won’t walk across the street to get it.

But wait Ed, you might think, maybe they were tourists and didn’t know where the nearest Starbucks was.

Maybe they were tourists. In that case, let them stand in line. The longer we can keep them diverted in Starbucks instead of standing in the middle of the sidewalk blocking traffic the better.

“The Ha-Ha”

Back in July I blogged about a little bookstore back in Indiana that was giving away free books; they were advance copies and I loaded up on a few of them and felt like a bandit. I just finished reading one of those books, The Ha-Ha by Dave King and let me tell you, I really feel like a bandit now.

This book was amazing. Incredible. And I’ve heard nothing about it at all. Pity, really.

Ha-Ha tells the story of Howard, a man who returned home from the Army scarred (literally and figuratively) and unable to speak, read, or write. Besides that, he is a man of “regular intelligence” who has carved out a regular routine in life…until his close friend and former love interest Sylvia goes into rehab and leaves him to care for her son Ryan while she is in recovery.

It’s hard enough adapting to life with an 8-year-old boy; you can imagine how much harder it would be when you have no way of communicating with him except for gestures. With the help of his three roommates, Howard is more than willing to accept the task (mostly because he is still in love with Sylvia and despite his handicap, dreams of spending his life with her and Ryan).

What unfolds is a story that draws you in and has you rooting for Howard the entire time. You understand his wants, his longings, and his frustrations. His highs are invigorating and his heartbreaks are truly heartbreaking.

The time spent with Ryan changes the lives of everyone involved in a variety of ways and when I got to the end of the book, I was sad to have to say goodbye.

The Ha-Ha gets my highest recommendation. Check it out at a local library or bookstore near you. Thumbs up!