Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cowards, all!

Amanda deserves flowers
A woman just came into our office reception area from the park. "Do you hear that?" she asked. "Do you hear that high pitched whine out there?"

Amanda sits at the front cubicle in the main room, and she is charged with reception duties. "Um, do you mean the lawn mower?"

"Of course I mean the lawn mower! What do you think I mean? It's going on and on and on. No matter what time or what day of the week I come to this park, there's always some machine running around making noise and spewing out fumes. Can't they do it in the early morning, when nobody's here?"

She went on and on, alternately running her mouth and challenging poor Amanda to do something about it. Whenever Amanda opened her mouth to speak, hoping to explain that our unit does not have control over the landscaping contractors and their schedule, but that she would pass along the complaint and even give the woman the name of someone to contact - the woman charged onward, drowning her out.

She started telling stories about her grandfather, who loved landscaping, and invoked his holy name as someone who would be appalled at the fact that a person like Amanda could sit at her desk and not immediately reschedule the lawnmowers.

My office is a separate little room down the hall from the main area. I can't see the reception area. I was wondering whether Amanda was all alone in the room. I was biting my tongue, wanting to say
"Hey lady, give her a break already! Do you think an Administrative Assistant is going to be able to intervene in another department's business?"

In my previous job, we often got some eccentric members of the public wandering in our reception area, and my office staff was pretty good and handling them. If I heard it start to spiral out of control, though, I'd go in and intervene, sometimes bringing one of the guys with me. What usually works is a kind of tag-team effort, offering a business card or a phone number, and promising to pass along their concerns right away.

"The Recreation Department, eh? Well, I'd like to be able to recreate maybe, but who can recreate with those mowers going all day. And those sprinklers! It's all wet out there, who can sit down? You're supposed to be able to sit down in the park!"

I thought about intervening, but realized at that point that another Administrative Assistant - me - jumping into the fray would probably not help things along.

So I waited until the woman ran out of steam, and I heard the front door close behind her before I stepped out the hallway to Amanda, who was laughing a little. "Wow, Amanda! I'm so sorry! I thought about rescuing you, but it seemed like it would have made it worse, so I stayed put!"

And then, my colleague next door, who manages the athletic fields, opened the door of her separate office. My boss's voice came from her office, just next to Amanda, but also invisible from the reception desk. Beyond her, the City's arborist poked his head out of his office, and at the very back of the main room, the financial administrator and manager of the Park Maintenance unit, came out of their offices, praising Amanda for her customer service skills. They are the ones who actually oversee the landscaping contract.

So we were cowards, every one of us!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Fire burn and cauldron bubble

I think I first had soon tofu in a modest little joint in a college town, years ago. It was a hot soupy stew with chunks of tofu in it. It was okay, I guess, but nothing special.

So when I began my exploration of the food and culture of Los Angeles' Koreatown, I didn't pay much attention to the restaurants that specialized in soon tofu.

But I didn't realize until recently that soon tofu, a dish that is popular throughout the Korean diaspora and even in South Korea itself, may have actually been invented in Koreatown.  Similar to the great Los Angeles French-dip sandwich debate, there are two established restaurants vying for the name of being the first to sell soon tofu.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Getting comfortable

A little too comfortable. I came into the living room to find Jack curled up comfortably on the couch, a pillow behind his head.

He felt so entitled to be there, he didn't move at my command, and I had to push him off physically. Chagrined, he sat blinking at me while I scolded him.

Then I led him to his dog bed, across the room, and he snuggled into it while I told him he was a good boy.

We have to put a footstool on the couch when we go out to prevent dog-napping on the couch, but he did this while I was home!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Under the fog

Click to "embiggen"

This morning the coastal fog fills our canyon, but the sun breaks through - it's like the whole green valley glows with sunlight beneath the fog.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sprung spring

Finally! Some spring flowers!

This has been a weird spring; a weird year. Drought, seemingly endless. Hot days in January. Cold days in April. Fog and off shore winds.

But finally, April 15, my Pacific Coast hybrid irises are blooming in the front yard. They are a good two weeks later than 2012!

And oddly, too, milkweed, which is a summer bloomer, is blooming in the backyard.  Oh well. The Monarch butterflies like it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cheese it!

Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup at Coles, downtown L.A.

April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Day!

Who doesn't love a grilled cheese sandwich?  Whether it's artisanal cheddar melted on sourdough with locally sourced fresh organic tomatoes, or a slice of processed American melted under the broiler on white sandwich bread, a grilled cheese sandwich is both a comfort and nourishment.

What are you having for lunch?

Friday, April 11, 2014

The cat's away

All of the cats, actually. It's Friday, and my supervisor is on vacation; her supervisor is on vacation. Even our former manager, who got promoted to an at-large special-projects position, is on vacation.

A rush job came in yesterday afternoon, and although I am usually required to have every official document I produce proof read and approved before I dispatch it, there is no one in to do it. Since this job must be finished today, I'm on my own.

I had a co-worker proof read my work just for typos and misspellings, and now, secure and contented with my own authority, I've sent it off.

The phone hasn't rung. It's quiet. I am reading essays and watching the dappled sun move across my desk as the clock ticks.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Today's phone call

While I'm on the other line, I get a message on my office voice mail from a man whose name is unintelligible.  I call the number he leaves.

He's got a large collection of bags, he says, and he wants to know whether he needs a permit of some kind to lay them all out in a public space so he can take photographs of them.

I start asking questions, partly to figure out what he wants to do, and to determine whether I need to refer him to the Film Permit office, for a still photography permit.

But no, he's not a professional photographer doing a photo shoot. He's an artist and he wants a space large enough to lay out these bags - I'm still not sure what he is talking about - because he has so many of them. And maybe he wants this to be an art project.

I'm looking out my office window at the park with kids on their scooters and playing on the swings, and I say, "Well, you could do it in a park, but you'd want to be careful about foot traffic, I guess."

He says, "Yeah, that's why I don't want to do it on the Promenade or someplace like that. What I was thinking was the Civic Auditorium lawn."

"That would be a great place for it."

"Say whatever happened to that place, that was a great place, all kinds of great shows. Why'd the city shut it down, anyway?"

And I feel, unexpectedly, a spur of anger again, at the way things had gone. But I reel it in and I relate the story to him objectively - the plan created through years of community outreach and consultation, the partnership negotiated, the renovation planned, the lost funding, the shutdown.

"Such a shame, that was such a good place," he says. "How could they do that?"

It sounds almost like he's accusing me too, and I just blurt out, "Well, I lost my job!" I'm horrified at losing my composure. He murmurs something kind, and we return to discuss his project.

"The funny thing is," I tell him, "that space is kind of unregulated now. It's public property so anyone has access to it, but it's not a park so there's no rules for it."

I encourage him to do his art project  there, and ask him what he's going to do with it when it's done. He starts to tell me that back in the '80s he was a musician with his brother, who went on to be a success with some big name bands. But he worked with more arty groups on project that they hoped would be a big hit. He named a name I recognized.

"That must have been fun, working with him," I say.

"It didn't work out, it broke up over money," and I hear in his voice an echo of my own blurted out anger and disappointment. Like mine, a distant grievance brought back into sharp remembrance and pain.

I listen as he goes on to tell me how the world changed, the record business died, and 9/11 happened. He got into marketing, which resulted in the collection of what I now learn are gift bags distributed to guests at celebrity special events. He's written a song about them. He wants to photograph and make an art piece about them.

I listen and he talks, and then as I take a breath, I can feel another shift; it's like we both remember the context we're in again. I tell him I think his idea sounds interesting, and it should be fine for him to use that open lawn for photography. He thanks me for my time.