Just be yourself: My daughter and I attend Anime Expo 2013 (photos included)

Thousands sandwiched together . . .  costumes everywhere  . . . unusual odors . . . loud, dull hum of crowd . . . more shuffling than walking . . . mooooooo, says the cow . . . paper mache swords, knives, guns, sticks, and axes . . . short skirts and garter belts – lots of garter belts . . . a baker’s dozen of Spiderman costumes . . . Zelda and lots of her friends with elf ears . . . characters in action poses having their pictures taken . . . I’m in germ hell . . . some wear surgical masks, smart, should have worn my construction mask . . . men without shirts, men in maid costumes, men in dresses . . . woman wearing Lulumon yoga pants who didn’t hear about the recall, or chose to ignore  it . . . the old X-Men posing together . . . “Must be 18 with ID to enter” sign . . .  the Village People wearing costumes? ironic? . . . lots of wigs, lace and leather . . . more Marvel superheroes (Are they at the right convention?) . . . food truck heaven outside, all with long lines . . . fast-food loving male and female superheroes with muffin tops who should have worn Spanx under their spandex . . . Tip: Never wear wings to a crowded event if you don’t want to walk sideways all day – bad costume choice . . . hundreds of cartoon characters I’ve never seen before . . . more soft core porn . . . drawings of females with large breasts, tiny waists and big eyes (Japanese Barbie dolls?) . . . more weapons with red plastic ties to prove they were inspected upon entry and cannot shoot real bullets, rays, sunbeams or potatoes . . . creepy guy not attending expo talking to two young girls at lunch, started coming toward my daughter and her friend until I caught his eyes and he turned around . . . piles and racks of anime stuffed animals . . . skinny man in Wonder Woman costume looks out-of-place – how is that possible here? . . . attractive woman dressed as Electra with two spandex femme fatales, heads down, race quickly through the crowd – to avoid men asking to take their picture? . . . a lot of superheroes need smartphones to communicate . . . I should have worn a paper bag on my head, or at the very least a surgical mask, which makes me tell my daughter that I’m going as a surgeon next year . . . if this is what the expo looks like at 3 in the afternoon, what will it look like later tonight?

Whew, that was a mindful. Faulkner is turning over in his grave right now.

Little did I know what was coming my way when my daughter asked me to take her to Anime Expo 2013 in downtown Los Angeles.

And though the experience may have started with a shock to the system, surrounded by a convention hall full of costumed characters, it bloomed into a cool, hip experience at the second happiest place on Earth. We soon discovered, after we got our credentials, that we were surrounded by people being themselves and having a great time. Not a bad place to be on a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles.

Here are my three favorite moments from the day:

  1. When I had to use the bathroom upon arrival at the Expo, my daughter said: “You’re not going to leave me alone out here, are you?”
  2. Standing in the middle of the food court, my daughter sitting on the floor eating an ice cream cone, and surrounded by 100s of costumed individuals, my exact thought was this: it’s a great time for my daughter to grow up, as she can be anyone she wants to be. Anyone at all. This could not have happened when I was growing up.
  3. See the picture below of the characters posing on the stairs. I can’t explain it.

Here are some photos from our adventure (click to enlarge). We’re already planning our costumes for next year’s event. I may go as a surgeon or Plywood Man, with a costume made entirely from wood. It could happen.

Enjoy.

Cactus Man? Odd cucumber dude? Clearly, I'm not up to date on the latest characters.

Cactus Man? Odd cucumber dude? Clearly, I’m not up to date on the latest characters.

I'm thinking that after three or four Cokes and a large burrito from a food truck, this gentleman may rethink his costume choice for next year's event.

I’m thinking that after three or four Cokes and a large burrito from a food truck, this gentleman may regret his costume choice.

This was one of my favorite superheroes. He's spinning records - DJ Man? This could be the secret identity of my friend @onlyz.

This was one of my favorite superheroes. He’s spinning records – DJ Man? This could be the secret identity of my friend @onlyz.

So, I appreciated this one, but my daughter didn't. It shows what you can do with an old pair of shower shoes, some black stockings and a dress. However, as my wife pointed out, even Death needs a convention goodie bag.

So, I appreciated this one, but my daughter didn’t. It shows what you can do with an old pair of shower shoes, black stockings and a dress. However, as my wife pointed out, even Death needs a convention goodie bag.

"What a blockhead," I said as I spotted this guy before my daughter did. She just looked at me the way 11-year-olds do.

“What a blockhead,” I said as I spotted this guy before my daughter did. She just looked at me the way 11-year-olds do.

There's a pause in the action as Wreck It Ralph takes a phone call.

There was a pause in the action as Wreck It Ralph took a phone call.

There's something I really like about this photo. All of a sudden the sea of humanity parted and this couple was standing there. I can only guess what they were thinking and that's why I like it so much.

There’s something I really like about this photo. All of a sudden the sea of humanity parted and this couple was standing there. I can only guess what they were thinking and that’s why I like it so much.

This was my daughter's favorite photograph, which impressed me when she told me why: it looks like an every day photo of someone getting lunch in LA. Hard to argue with that.

This was my daughter’s favorite photograph, which impressed me when she told me why: it looks like an every-day photo of someone getting lunch in LA, but not. Hard to argue with that.

We think the guy on the left wormed his way into the photo. He seems out of place, if that's possible.

We think the guy on the left wormed his way into the photo. He seems out of place, if that’s possible.

Here's what an action pose looks like and the photographers taking pictures. If I had to bet one character winning this fight, I wouldn't bet on the woman in 14-inch plexiglass high heels.

Here’s what an action pose looks like with photographers taking pictures. If I had to bet on one character winning this fight, I wouldn’t bet on the woman in 14-inch plexiglass high heels.

I was tempted.

I was tempted.

Action pose by the X-Men. What you can't see here is that Wolverine is wearing a Wolverine back-pack.

Action pose by the X-Men. What you can’t see here is that Wolverine is wearing a Wolverine backpack.

Have wings and a wheelie travel bag and you're set for adventure.

Have wings and a wheelie travel bag and you’re set for adventure.

This was my favorite moment of the day. The characters below are photographing the characters on the stairs.

This was my favorite moment of the day. The characters below are photographing the characters on the stairs.

As we were leaving, we saw this beauty, which made me think that leaving before the sun went down was a good idea.

As we were leaving, we saw this beauty, which made me think that leaving before the sun went down was a good idea.

Advertisements

We are not granite people

Zion, Aurora Borealis, Orion, Cosmos, Golden Sun, Copper Canyon, Golden Crystal, Espírito Santo, Purple Dunes, Emerald Green, Kashmir Cream, and Lapidus.

This was one of the most interesting granites we found. But even we don’t have the courage to go with a style choice like this. Fear of looking outdated overruled this choice and the fact we’re going with browns, oranges, yellows, etc. But still, this is one cool-looking slab of rock.

We spent Saturday walking granite yards.

It was dirty work and in areas of Los Angeles my daughter has never seen before. Areas with large power-line transformer towers, graffiti, murals on the sides of buildings, railroad tracks, and apartment buildings with cool-sounding names leftover from the 1950s and 60s.

I tossed  in a teaching moment and reminded her how good we have it compared to others. But it was a really a reminder for me, as I’ve been feeling envy of others in Los Angeles lately – the million-dollar home owners and those who can afford exotic granites with names like some of the ones I started this post with.

I should have no complaints about what we have and our good fortune. Driving through LA yesterday reminded me of this. We are lucky to have what we have, despite life  in Los Angeles and advertising constantly screaming that we don’t.

Another thing I realized yesterday is that I don’t like granite. Or, more accurately, I don’t like granite in kitchens.

Looking at large slabs of it is like looking at nature’s artwork. Beautiful, complex, deep – I love a 6 x 10 feet piece of rock. And if we had a kitchen island the size of a slab, we’d have granite. But we don’t even have a kitchen island. And granite when it’s cut into pieces looks busy to me, which makes me an oddball here in LA where granite countertops are ubiquitous.

If you listen to our real estate agent, everyone wants granite and that’s the only thing to put in for the best resale values. But we’re not going to because both my wife and I came to the same conclusion yesterday: we’re not granite people.

We don’t live in a house fancy enough for granite countertops. It’s not us. And we want a clean white kitchen, which is going against the grain of stained cabinets. Busy granite needs a mellow or white subway tile backsplash. We’re more backsplash people. And we want one that looks mind-blowing and is as colorful as an Andy Warhol painting or English garden in spring.

We want something fun. Not something serious and maybe a bit too proper or adult.

This slab is more in line with the colors we’re thinking. Goldfinger (completely random reference to James Bond who probably wouldn’t give a sh** about granite countertops, as he lived he life on the road away from home and ate in restaurants all the time.)

So, we going with quartz,  the number one choice of Consumer Reports for countertops. A nice neutral shade and solid color. And it will be nice and smooth like granite, which we don’t have right now with a crumbling-grout tile countertop.

If I had any courage at all, the quartz countertop would be colorful – orange or red. Or we’d paint our cabinets a color. But that’s not going to happen. We’re still adult enough to realize we will have to sell the house one day, which could be tomorrow knowing how much I want to move every time I deal with some of our neighbors and their demons.  We need to create a kitchen that appeals to a wider range of buyers. Or so conventional wisdom goes.

So, white it is with quartz countertops and an eye-catching backsplash. And though I’m not enjoying the remodeling process this time, I’m doing my best not to sweat it because I know how lucky we are and how many others are not. Kitchens are, after all, just kitchen cabinets and stone. They are not life.

And we want to become adults because?

It would have been nice had someone explained to me when I was young how difficult it is to be an adult. It’s not a cakewalk. Nor is every day a day at the beach. I probably wouldn’t have listened, or cared, but it still would have been nice. All those milestones we dream of as children, 16, 18, and 21, blow by. Then we become adults and can do anything we want, including wishing we were 16 again, but smarter.

Okay, moaning over. It’s just one of those days. Let me explain.

So many questions, so little time. © kbuntu – Fotolia.com

I spent two days writing a post about what happened over Memorial Day weekend with a neighbor. I would love to publish it, but I don’t know if I can make it plain enough to avoid all legal scrutiny and not get in hot water. In a nutshell, a neighbor who has caused the neighborhood and my family great stress went to jail this weekend. I and another neighbor followed the instructions of the police the last time they were here: call if she shows up again. We just wanted her out of the neighborhood. The going to jail part was a surprise and not intended. Now I know why some people don’t get involved. It’s easier and requires less effort and stress.

And if you do get involved, it’s easy to muck it up and experience more stress (I know this firsthand).

I’ve been on the phone with a lawyer about my options to sue since then, and I’ve spoken to a police officer about everything happening in the neighborhood for the past year. My wife and I have had stressful conversations about the situation. Unfortunately, there’s no manual on how to protect your family from people with drug habits.

But there should be.

I went to clinic today and my PFTs haven’t gone back to baseline. Not looking good. So, maybe it’s time for IVs to see if we can nudge them back.

When the nurse was reviewing my records, the conversation went like this: Have you made an appointment with the sinus doctor? No. Have you scheduled a sleep study? No. Have you scheduled a bone scan? No. An oral glucose test? No. And so on.

Working 50 hours a week makes it difficult to spend my weeks enduring medical tests.

A new doctor untrained in the mysteries of CF walked in and surprised me. I’m picky about my doctors and my time. I knew in the initial 30 seconds based on the way she entered, spoke, her mannerisms, and plopping herself on the first chair she could find that I had nothing to say to her. And I told her that, then asked for the regular doc. Nothing personal, I said, as she left. One of the regular doctors I like entered the room and it rained happiness and Skittles. I only had to use a third of the words and effort with her compared to the doctor I booted.

A similar situation happened with a temporary member of the staff. I answered her questions as quickly as I could and got her out of the room as fast as possible. But the visit wore me out, as the longer I’m there, the more the work feels like it’s piling up.

So, all of this and more have added up to remind me why some must turn to drugs in life. The future overwhelms. How much of what we worry about will or won’t happen? I wish I knew.

I’m looking through you, where did you go?

Thanks to the Beatles for the title of this post. I can’t say for sure if I’ll finish writing it, though if you’re reading it now it’s a good sign I did.

You see, I’ve written – or started to write – many posts over the past month, only to let them live out their lives with the scarlet D on them for “draft.” Yes, I’m having trouble getting motivated to write posts and anything else requiring effort in my life. I caught a bad case of “disconnection.” And maybe that’s a fancy way of saying I’ve been a lazy sod.

So, I’ve started a lot of posts. And each of them sounded great in my head before the act of typing away at the keyboard. But my fingers touch the keys and I lose the inertia to continue. A pin pops my motivation balloon and that usually leads to saving the draft and escaping to an episode of Mad Men.

But I’ve run out of episodes, having caught up to the current season. This means I have lost the perfect distraction when posts go south. Though I’m not sure dreaming I’m Don Draper is a healthy thing either when I’m feeling dissatisfied with life, which to some degree I am these days.

Looking forward to living in the sand this summer. © Dmytro Smaglov - Fotolia.com

There is, however, some good news: We escaped to Ventura for a couple of days last week and found a beach house to rent for a month this summer (deposit given). If I had a bucket list, this would be in the top five things to do in my life. The three of us are pretty excited about the thought of beach life for a month and living a couple hundred feet from the sand and ocean. No loading the car up with food, dogs, towels, and a cooler, then driving 35 minutes. Nope. This summer will be opening a door with two dogs on leashes in tow and arriving at the beach in less than a minute. Yes, this may define “heaven” for me.

And I must say that having things to look forward to makes a big difference in my life. And our upcoming time at the beach is just enough to help me wade through the muck of mundane days, doctor appointments, and the uncertainty of life. I think of the beach air and my life feels a little bit better and easier to manage.

[p.s. I owe my friends who’ve left comments a huge apology for not replying. I’ve been consuming more than creating for the past month. Thank you for leaving them. I have read all of them, and appreciate your words and thoughts.]

We are “paint-grade” people

We’re done with our kitchen. After 16 years of Home Depot cabinets with sagging shelves and broken drawers, a tile countertop with missing grout and a stove fan that circulates air into the kitchen, we are ready to upgrade – to experience the good life of smooth granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and glass-tile backsplashes.

Nothing like standing in front of the stove while it blows the fumes right at your face. Great design. I am personally going to smash this with a sledge-hammer when we demo the kitchen.

We are ready to stop lying to friends who visit: “we’re planning on re-doing this whole thing soon.”

We are ready for an adult kitchen.

Or we thought we were.

What we believed would be a fun and exciting transformation has a been a self-esteem roller-coaster. And it has to do with living in Los Angeles, where it’s damn easy to feel poor every day.

Yes, interviewing contractors delivered the harsh message: we are “paint-grade” people.

Paint-grade people.

We are the people who don’t choose the stained, hand-picked maple cabinets or the stone mined in a remote area of Brazil, polished with coca leaves, and hauled by donkey to the United States.

We are the people who don’t have the unlimited funds to give the contractor a platinum American Express card and instructions to “go wild.”

Could we afford the maply-goodness of stained cabinets? Probably, it’s all home equity. But it’s still our money, the money we worked for. And we elect to save it for a rainy day. Four-thousand dollars to us is not a trivial amount. We’d like our daughter to get a good education. And 4K in her college fund today may be a big deal to her in eight years. Or we hope it will.

So the contractors have come and left their bids and stories of larger, better jobs in larger, better cities – Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Encino. “We’re doing a 30-million dollar remodel in Century City. Some computer-guy and his wife. You’re much happier than they are though. They agonize over every detail. They love to micro-manage.”

(Translation: Money will buy you a great kitchen, but it won’t make you happy? I have my doubts.)

Or this gem, “It’s good to see construction here in the Valley picking up. That’s a good sign for the economy. It never went away in Brentwood and Beverly Hills. You couldn’t drive down a street there without construction.”

(Translation: The 1% did okay while the rest of the country was hurting, but they weren’t enough to create the jobs for the many. The middle class is needed for that.)

The paint-grade people are needed to get the party started.

So, the search continues for the right contractor, the one who walks into our kitchen and doesn’t tell me romantic stories of past million-dollar remodels and 30K custom-built dining-room tables. Who doesn’t feel the best jobs are in high-income zip codes. A contractor who doesn’t frown when you tell him you want painted white cabinets.

Yep, when I find that guy or gal, I’ll write the check. Until then, life in our paint-grade world goes on. And it’s a good, happy world to be in.*

[*Exception: when remodeling a kitchen.]

One reason to live in Los Angeles: Sunsets

It’s the last day of the year. Another one in the books. Yeah, baby.

To all of my friends and readers, thank you for reading my warped thoughts, and for your support and comments this year.

I wish all of you a Happy New Year. And may you achieve all of your goals this year and do it in the best of health.

I took these Los Angeles sunset photos this week. They seem appropriate for an end-of-year post. I know the sunsets here are influenced by the air pollution, but at least there is a visual feast in return.

Here’s to a great 2012.

This was my favorite of the dozen I took on my cheapo iPod camera. It says "L.A." to me with the two palm trees in the distance.

Hello, Moon.

My wife didn't like this one because of the trees, but I did for exactly that reason.

Odds and ends and odds

Work

I’ve been doing it. A lot lately.

My life would be so much better if I didn’t have to work and was rich. Actually, I like working. If I could just trim some of the mundane, mind-numbing tasks from my job and keep the good parts, I would be happier.

I like work that doesn’t feel like work. And sometimes I have that type of work. Just not as often as I used to.

***

Robert Frost, my man, you were wrong about fences. Wrong, so wrong.

Good fences don’t make good neighbors

I feel like I’m playing a real-life game of Risk in my neighborhood. My argumentative neighbor hasn’t said anything to me since the day we disagreed on how he should speak to my wife. And he hasn’t said anything to my wife since then, which is even better. But times are tense here in the land of palm trees, cement and brown lawns.

I do, however, feel better about loading up my house with security cameras and the soon to be built Berlin Wall II. I have East German-like clandestine meetings with my neighbors on the side of my house in the dark, where we whisper about what we’re going to do about the country so intent on causing pain and suffering to its neighbors.

We’ll see how it plays out, but it makes me wish I was a renter right now and could give my 30-days notice and move.

It’s amazing how much stuff my wife and I have accumulated over the years. I long for the days when I moved to California and all of my possessions fit in a brown Camaro with a 1-inch round hole in the driver’s door where someone shot it with a slingshot one night.

My advice to my daughter – don’t buy s**t you don’t need and live light.

***

Now we’re cooking – or not

Holy crap, kitchens are expensive. If my wife and I don’t move, we’re going to remodel our kitchen. We’ve lived with the current one for over 15 years. The grout is chipping away. One drawer won’t shut and points upward when you close it. The giant fluorescent light fixture covers the area with nasty light and fills up with dead bugs and debris. Our stove is black; our stove hood white. The face of the dishwasher falls off sometimes.

Yes, we are the most frugal people in the world. But even we don’t feel like being pigs anymore and would like something nicer – a smooth countertop, no grout. Handles on the cabinets. Ah, to dream.

***

Grind away

I’m going to the dentist every week these days. All because I chewed through my bite guard a few years ago and was too lazy and busy being sick to replace it.

I’ve eaten my own teeth – cracked and polished them like river rocks made of glass.

I blame the stress of CF and going to bed many nights not 100 percent positive I’d wake up in the morning.

So, my public service announcement tonight is . . . see a dentist and get a hard plastic bite guard if you grind your teeth. You’ll save your teeth, thousands of dollars, and more importantly, you’ll avoid annoying lectures from dental hygienists who can’t wait to tell you “would have, should have, could have.”

Yes, I am an idiot.