Friday, May 30, 2008

More Prey

I am a fan of Lucas Davenport, around whom John Sandford's Prey mysteries revolve. Davenport is a classy cop/investigator working, in the later novels out of the Governor's office in Minnesota. The latest Sandford opus, that I just read, is Invisible Prey, a multi-layered murder mystery that draws in the art community and, as a common denominator, some quilts that have taken on enormous value.

Davenport works closely with St. Paul police after a "wealthy woman and her maid" are found murdered. But the case ranges widely, involving other murders, one as far away as Des Moines, Iowa. Added to all the confusion is an attempt by the perpetrators to throw Lucas off the trail by trying to complicate another case he is working on; an investigation and possible prosecution of a state senator who is suspected of being involved with a 15 year old girl.

As the cases rushed to their resolution and I could not put down the book, I was reminded again of why I enjoy following Lucas Davenport through the Prey novels. In fact, my reading in the near future will be dominated by 3 older Sandford Prey mysteries I found at the local Costco. Oh, yes, they were also featuring a collection of David Baldacci thrillers and I have 2 more of those, from his earlier work, to read. That sort of defines my "literary summer", . . . along with everything else that's going on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Summer of '84

I haven't written much about family lately and then I came across this picture:

The time: 1984. The place: Our first home in Palos Verdes. The people: A young version of our family. (After all it was 24 years ago). That's The Ancient One during his "bearded era" holding Alicia (age 3). A very young Donna, the happy mother, has Seth (age 1) in her lap. In back is 17 year old Bill who was with us for the summer from his home with his mother in Honolulu. This picture brings back a flood of memories; there is a lot of "back story," as they say.

The careful observer, for example, might ask why teenager Bill is wearing a white shirt and tie in the middle of the summer in southern California. He was in uniform! He had a summer job at the nearby Thrifty Drug Store as a "hand dip." That means he spent his working hours scooping out Thrifty ice cream for cones that sold at a nickel a scoop. He didn't get a lot of pay for this but he had to look good. By the way, this is also the summer Bill got his California driver's license (but that is another story).

It was also the summer of the 1984 Olympic Games here in L.A. Ah yes, that was the best driving I ever had in the area. It seems that all local folks went on vacation during the games to avoid the traffic. Local factories closed down so they would avoid contributing to the expected gridlock. The result: extremely light traffic during the Olympics. It was glorious.

Just prior to the games, the Olympic torch had been carried around the world, ending up in the L.A. area where some lucky people were selected to run/jog a short leg with the torch. It was scheduled to pass a half-block from our house, coming by on Hawthorne Boulevard. Donna and I took Alicia and Seth to see the torch as it passed. (Bill was at work hand dipping at the time.) Well, you could hear it coming long before you could see it; sirens, loud music, all sorts of noise. And there it was. Donna, Alicia, and the then not so Ancient One jumped up and down and cheered as it passed. Seth; well there he was in his stroller. . .fast asleep. The torch passed and he never stirred; he never saw it. (It probably didn't matter because it is unlikely that, being only one, he would have remembered the event.

Also, it turned out that even though he was working, Bill was not left out of the festivities. It seems that all the runners were given a replica of the torch after they finished their leg. The fellow we saw ended his portion of the run right near the Thrifty's where Bill worked. He carried it into the store and he let the hand dips (and others, I am sure) each hold it for a few seconds. Bill had his Olympic moment.

Those are just a few of the memories of the summer of '84 evoked by an old photograph sitting on a kitchen counter.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

12 Innings and Just 1 Run

The early Father's Day gift from Seth came even earlier than expected. The Detroit Tigers arrived in town to play the Angels in Anaheim and the original plan was to go to a game tonight or tomorrow. But Seth went on eBay yesterday morning and had the winning bid on a pair of tickets to the Memorial Day game. So we went last night and had a full view from the right field pavilion seats.

It was a wonderful game if you like fine pitching and fielding. For those who like to see lots of runs, this was not an exciting night. I'm in the "like a close game" group but admit to a good deal of disappointment and frustration when the only run scored in the entire game was scored in the bottom of the 12th inning on a bases-loaded walk.

Thanks again to Seth for a great evening. It was wonderful seeing the Tigers again. And it's turning into quite a baseball year. I can't believe that I've actually seen 4 regular season Major League games before the end of May .

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Back at Dodger Stadium Again

Seth had extra tickets to last night's L.A. Dodgers game against the St. Louis Cardinals and he offered them up. Donna couldn't go but urged me to join Seth for my 3rd journey to Chavez Ravine in the still young season. The seats were in the Left Field Pavilion, an area where I had never sat before. And so I am able to visually offer a new view of the Dodger Stadium field In addition to those I showed from the 2 visits earlier this month (here and here).

Other than the fact that Dodgers lost 4-0, it was an excellent game. Brad Penny pitched his best game of the season with the exception of 5 batters in the 3rd inning. He retired the first 2 batters, falling down on the grounder past him that was scooped up by the shortstop who threw to 1st in ample time for the 2nd out. Then, it seemed as if the fall dissipated Penny's concentration as he walked the next 2 batters and then gave up 3 consecutive hits before recording the final out of the inning. And that was the scoring for the night. Good pitching, good fielding. . .just the wrong outcome for the hometown folks.

All in all it was a pleasant evening with youngest son and his friends. The ambiance of the outfield pavilions is quite different than sitting in some of the loftier levels of stadium seating. It sure is a lively crowd out there and most of them stay until the end of the game which is not true of many Dodger fans in the pricier environs. And last night there also was plenty of walking to and from the distant (for me) parking lot. Oh, that exercise is so good for The Ancient One.

The next baseball outing, if it works out, will be Tuesday or Wednesday at Angels Stadium in Anaheim. My beloved Detroit Tigers will be in town and Seth is angling for tickets as an early Father's Day gift to me. It's been several years since I was able to see them play in Anaheim.

Thank you Seth! You are good to The Ancient One!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Six Unremarkable Quirks Meme

I was recently tagged over at Sidney Williams Journal for the "Six Unremarkable Quirks" meme. These are the rules:

  • Link the person who tagged you. (See above)
  • Mention the rules in your blog. (as I am doing here)
  • Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours. (They're down below)
  • Tag six bloggers by linking them. (Sorry folks, it's your turn)
  • Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs letting them know they've been tagged. (I hope I don't forget to do this.)

And here we go:

  1. I often drift off into what my family calls "leonland." If I am focused on what I am reading or watching on TV or just daydreaming, I am totally oblivious to anything going on around me and I hear nothing anybody is saying to me. (I am pretty sure this is not senility because it has been happening for many decades. And it goes beyond selective listening.)

  2. I am obsessive about getting my daily exercise, whether it be my thrice weekly visit to the cardiac rehab center, my twice weekly "strength training" with 8 pound weights, or just my daily walk in the neighborhood. It includes adhering to a 10,000+ step per day regimen. (I even found an accurate pedometer.)

  3. I enjoy doing TV and film background ("extra") work. I don't really mind the long, sometimes boring days. It's fun watching the filming process and seeing how different "name" actors work on the set.

  4. I left my hometown of Detroit 47 years ago. To this day I remain an avid Detroit Tigers (baseball), Lions (football) and Red Wings (hockey) fan. I like the Pistons (basketball) but I remember them as the Fort Wayne Pistons before Fred Zollner moved his team to Detroit.

  5. I have dimples. As a little boy I blushed when people mentioned them. As a young man, I liked it when attractive young women commented on them. As a septuagenarian, I am puzzled when anyone still notices (as happened once last week).

  6. I spend way too much time on the computer (including responding to memes like this one!

And now to select six others to tag:

  1. BillyBlog of course. Eldest son never escapes my tags (since he started it by tagging me a year ago).

  2. Judith at Remembering Matters. I enjoy her blog so very much and hope she is willing to respond.

  3. Bonnie at frogma. Last time I tagged her, she apologized for taking too long to respond. Maybe she will be a good sport again.

  4. Kristin at An Actor's Musings. How can I resist tagging a fellow actor?

  5. Betty at A Piece of My Mind (formerly known as Old Dog, New Trick). As an old dog myself, this is such an easy choice.

  6. Rex Hoss. Rex is another acting friend; we performed in 2 plays together last year. Haven't seen him in a while and I'm interested in what he has to say.

Okay, that's it! I have not only survived another meme but I'm willing to risk the ire of others by tagging them. Thanks for drawing me in Sidney. I owe you one!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Middle of May Musings

It seems like more than just 4 days since my last post. The middle 1/3 of the month of May has been a potpourri of events, activities and happenings that have kept The Ancient One very busy indeed.

There have been the CCPT auditions and callbacks. In addition to a hoped for role in To Kill a Mockingbird, I am taking on a first-ever theater task for me this summer as I assist Director Heidi Dotson as a Producer for the Children's Popcorn Theatre production of Sluefoot Sue and Pecos Bill. It should be interesting.

There have been numerous events surrounding Alicia's completion of her 2 Masters Degrees including a Saturday evening reception/ceremony and Monday's graduation at Hebrew Union College's Los Angeles campus. To celebrate her accomplishments as well as Seth's new teaching credential and "permanent substitute for the rest of this school year" as drama teacher at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, we hosted a party on Sunday evening. It seemed like at least a 100 people were here at the house (and in the yard) drawn from family, friend and the worlds of both Alicia and Seth as well as older brother Bill (even though he could not get here from New York). Then yesterday, Alicia left on a 2 week trip to Germany.

It's also been an intense "medical" period for the family. Back on March 28, I posted about my brother Andy's quadruple bypass surgery and his wife Sandy's hospitalization with MRSA. Fortunately, they found the right anti-biotic to which her infection responded a few days later. But it was 7 weeks before Andy was able to be awake and breathing on his own for any length of time. Finally, he is doing well in rehabilitation and late last week I was able to talk with him for the first time since the surgery. A great weight was lifted from my heart when I heard his voice.

Two weeks ago, my older sister Bobby, who lives in the Detroit area, had shoulder replacement surgery (a relatively new procedure). She is now doing very well in rehabilitation and is delighted with the near disappearance of what had been years of incessant pain. She can't wait to reach the point of having full use of both arms again.

And then today; Donna went in to have arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. It went well and quickly and the entire time at the hospital was only about 5 hours. She is home and resting. Hopefully it will be many years before she will have to go back for knee replacement surgery.

Our two visits to Dodger Stadium were discussed earlier here and here. And there were even a couple of other events I may talk about later. Well, I guess that's it for our Middle-of-the-Month-of-May-Madness. Soon to bed; after all, I was up at 4:00 a.m. today and it could take days for this old body to recover.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bright Colors by the Door

Whenever I visit my good friend and client Ronnie Silverstone of Bubble Rock Productions, I marvel at the colors displayed outside her front door. What else would I expect from a producer of concerts for young children? Finally, I remembered to bring my camera the other day so I could share with you what visitors see as they approach the main entry to the house.

I smile whenever I visit. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Real Live Crow's Nest

I often heard reference to a crow's nest on ships. Wikipedia tells us that, "A crow's nest is a structure in the upper part of the mainmast of a ship that is used as a lookout point." They go on to give a bit of the reason for use of this term. However, over the past month or so, I have been able to observe a real live crow's nest while walking on the treadmill at Cardiac Rehab Center where I work out 3 times a week.

The Center is on the 5th floor of the West Tower at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Normally, we have a good view of the runways of the Torrance Municipal Airport and I like to tell others that I am responsible for monitoring the takeoffs and "touch and go" maneuvers of the small planes residing there. Sometimes, depending on which treadmill I was on, the view was partially blocked by a very tall evergreen tree of some sort. Its top is at eye level from our 5th floor location.

A month or so ago, we observed activity near the very top of the tree; a pair of crows were coming and going. Ah, that where the term Crow's Nest comes from; the location in the tree at which they build their nest. Soon one of the crows settled on top of the nest and the other brought food. Then they both would come and go, apparently bringing food to the new little ones settled at the bottom of the nest. We debated on how many baby crows were there as they grew and became visible. Most of us settled on the number 2 although occasionally I thought I saw a third head pop up. Then one day about a week ago, Neal Patterson, who was often on the treadmill nest to the one I was using, brought his camera and settled the discussion with the following picture:

Clearly, there are three open mouths thrust upward seeking the food proffered by mom (or is it dad). Thanks for clearing that up Neal.

Now we are waiting to see the little ones take off on their own. They have been testing their wings but have yet to venture forth from the nest in flight. When they do, we will have to go back to watching the planes again.


Note added, March 16, 2008: As I started my workout on the treadmill this morning, it was clear that the nest was empty. Three young crows were seen flying about and then gathering at the top of a nearby tree between their short flights. But they did not go back to the nest. Interesting!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nothing Simple Here. . .

I just finished the latest of David Baldacci's thrillers to come out in paperback. There is nothing simple about Simple Genius. It is a finely woven tale with plenty of opportunities to head off in the wrong direction.

The heroes once again are ex-secret service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. The main story is sandwiched between an opening that displays the manifestation of some serious psychological issues of Michelle's and closes with a revelation of the early childhood source of those issues. Along the way, Sean brings in a psychologist friend, Horatio Barnes to help Michelle; he does but he is also around to participate in the main story involving an "unusual laboratory" and a CIA installation lying across the river from each other in Virginia.

Part of the enjoyment I found in reading this Baldacci work is that almost everything that happened was beyond easy explanation and there were plenty of interesting and unexpected twists and turns. Sean and Michelle are given clues by a girl described as autistic who is also labeled as having "extraordinary genius." The main story starts a bit slowly and then gathers momentum as it races to its wild conclusion. I found Simple Genius to be another fine Baldacci volume. As I finished this book, I was already anticipating his next offering.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mothers Day at Dodger Stadium

We were back at Dodger Stadium yesterday afternoon as Alicia and Seth took Donna to see the Dodgers play the Houston Astros. They let The Ancient One tag along. The seats were wonderful, upper deck reserved, Section 10, Row A with this view as the game began:

The Dodgers took an early lead on a home run by 1st Baseman James Loney who is seen here approaching home plate after his blast into the right field stands:

All was well until there were 2 outs in the top of the 7th when Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda yielded his first hit. He seemed to tire and was having trouble throwing strikes after that hit. The Dodgers went to the bullpen and the rest is history; 6 Houston runs that inning. The Dodgers went down to their 4th straight defeat.

But it was still a wonderful day; the sun was shining and we all had a great time at the stadium followed by a wonderful dinner at El Cholo, a Mexican restaurant near downtown L.A. that dates back to 1923. What more could I ask for; the family together for baseball and good food on Mother's Day. Well, it would have been better if the Dodgers had won.

Thanks to Alicia and Seth for a great day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's An eWaste Day

Today was the annual roundup of hazardous waste and electronics in our community; a day when we can feel like we are acting just a bit responsibly in relation to the environment.

Following up on last week' garage sale, I loaded our old, inoperable, obsolete computer and other electronic equipment into the car (back seat and trunk) to take to City Hall where the collection was taking place.

Once there, the line and unloading worked with assembly line efficiency.

Then I headed back home knowing that all that equipment was no longer in our garage and would not end up in a landfill. While I was impressed with how efficiently the process went today, I wish the line of cars had been much longer.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Peacock Silhouette

It's not a great photo but I couldn't resist. Driving up the street at dusk and there sitting on a rooftop was a peacock in silhouette. This is the best the cell phone camera would allow:

An Unusual Night at the Stadium

Our good friends Barbara and Jerry Schiff invited us to join them at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday evening to see a game against the visiting N.Y Mets. The seats were wonderful; they were on the Club Level along the left field line and offered a fine view of the whole field as plays developed.

Our beloved L.A. Dodgers came from behind for a 5-4 victory in a game with fine fielding and timely hitting. As it happened, we were witness to two plays rarely seen in major league games. One of those was a double steal pulled off by the Mets that included a steal of home by seasoned veteran Moises Alou. The other was an inside-the-park Home Run hit by Dodger rookie 3rd Baseman Blake Dewitt. His blast that caromed off of the top of the right field fence turned out to be the winning run. An unusual night indeed!

It was our first visit to Dodger Stadium of the season and was truly an enjoyable and memorable evening. We'll be back out there Sunday as Alicia and Seth are taking Donna to see the Dodgers play the Houston Astros on Mothers' Day. They're letting The Ancient One tag along although I think I am expected to pay for my own ticket. I'll try to remember to take my camera and not have to rely on taking pictures with the cell phone.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Good Ole American Garage Sale

There's nothing quite like a garage sale! Donna's a big advocate of holding one every year or so. The Ancient One? Let's just say that he isn't quite as enthusiastic about preparing for them as is his bride.

Along with 2 of our neighbors, we had a big garage sale last Saturday. It was several months in the making as Donna decided to clear out, and hopefully sell, many years accumulation of all those things in our garage which we previously could not bring ourselves to throw out. On Saturday morning our driveway was filled with children's toys (our kids are almost 25 and 27); hundreds of old vinyl LP phonograph records (when did you last even see a turntable?); books gathered and kept by 3 generations of our families; pieces of furniture that had seen better decades; old fans and humidifiers; a 20 year old 15 speed trail bike; and all sorts of glass, plastic and metal ware. I could go on and on.

The ads and signs were placed and the people came. I am convinced that the purpose of a garage sale has nothing to do with selling things. If one applied a "labor theory of value" to the event, the gross revenue would probably equal about 10 cents for every hour of preparation. But, I do confess, it was Donna's labor, not mine. And she kept the proceeds to add to a "trip to Italy" fund she has started. For The Ancient One, the main enjoyment of the day was meeting all sorts of interesting people.

There were folks from the neighborhood, some of whom I would wave on my morning walk but had never met before. There were families with wee little one who brought all my grandfatherly instincts. There was the mother trying to help her 10 year old daughter understand how music could come out of those old vinyl disks. There was a delightful fellow of my own age wearing the classiest pair of red western boots I had ever seen. There were people representing all the hues and colors one sees in the population of the greater Los Angeles area and conversations in more than a few languages in which I have little or no literacy. It was just a wonderful day that even this curmudgeonly soul enjoyed immensely. A few items and a bit of cash actually changed hands.

After it was over, all that remained from each of the houses holding sales was piled in our driveway to be carted off by The Salvation Army yesterday afternoon, as prearranged. Except, when we got home last night, most of the stuff was still there. It seems that The Salvation Army is a bit more picky about what makes it on to their trucks than they used to be. Now we have to devise plan B to rid our driveway and household of that which took years for us to decide was disposable. But that too shall happen.

As I look back on the personal feelings generated last Saturday, I guess I would add garage sales to "mom, baseball and apple pie" as one of those things that are truly American!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

CCPT’S 10th Anniversary Season

We are ready to start up with Culver City Public Theatre's 10th anniversary season. Our plays and directors have been selected. Auditions start May 14, rehearsals 3 weeks later and the plays go up for the annual 6 week run in Paul Carlson Park on July 19. Admission is free and performing outdoors is an incredible experience.

Main Stage Plays:

  • Oscar Wilde's The Ideal Husband, directed by: Gregg Brevoort (Saturdays and Sundays @ 2:00 p.m., July 19 – August 3)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by John Glass & Maria Turnmeyer
    (Saturdays and Sundays @ 2:00 p.m., August 9 - 24)

Children's Popcorn Theatre:

  • Slue-Foot Sue and Pecos Bill: An American Tall Tale, written & directed by Heidi Dotson (Saturdays and Sundays @ 12:00 noon, July 19 – August 24)

Auditions begin May 14 at the Veterans' Memorial Building in Culver City, as shown in the below flyer: [Clicker on image for larger view]

I hope that any L.A. area actors who see this will come on down and audition.

#5000 Stopped By

According to my sitemeter, The Ancient One received hit #5000 on Friday, May 2 at 7:13 p.m. It appeared to have come from a Salisbury, NC domain. But based on time at the visitor's location, I suspect it originated here in the Los Angeles area. That conclusion also comes from the Google search that led #5000 to sites related to "ccpt 2008 season." [Note: a later post today will display the flyer for the upcoming CCPT auditions.]

While I feel pretty good about reaching this milestone, I also have come to the conclusion that Sitemeter does not catch all visits to the site. Unless I am mistaken, it misses most of those that bring people who have clicked on a BlogRush widget. And I have noticed several times that people have left comments on posts at times when Sitemeter does not record visits.

Yet questioning the accuracy of the meter is a bit like picking nits. I simply appreciate visits from all who stop by and appreciate the comments that you leave. And now back to more meaningful, less self-serving posts.

Friday, May 2, 2008

What Did He Really Mean?

A couple of weeks ago an e-mail arrived from son Bill over at BillyBlog to let me know that a package of "belated" holiday gifts had finally been mailed. He then went on to say that part of the delay was because he wasn't sure how I would react to the gift designated for me. Last week when the package arrived and was opened, I understood his concern. Donna was obviously pleased with the piece of Lenox china which has been added to her collection. But, partly because of what Bill said in the e-mail, I wasn't sure how to react to receiving the book Clear Blogging by Bob Walsh.

Now, I am relatively new to blogging, having recently passed the one year mark. Bill had a significant head start on me. I thought I was doing okay. I should actually reach the 5,000 hit mark later today according to my site meter. But how was I to react to my oldest son sending me a book on "clear blogging?" Are my posts unclear? Is my amateur blogging status that obvious despite being a bit long in the tooth as they say? Bill and I have always had a very close, open relationship and he knows he can just come right out and say what he means.

Then I skimmed very quickly through the book and discovered that Walsh seems to have a lot to say that would help me improve on what I write as The Ancient One. While I have not delved very deeply into the contents, I can see where I might learn ways to alleviate some of the frustrations that comes with learning how to maintain a blog. I really should not have been suspicious of Bill's motives. I generally pride myself on saying what I mean without hidden agendas. I'd like to think that my children learned at least that much from me.

So. . .THANK YOU Bill, Mel, Jolee and Shayna. This is a gift that, while arriving late which seems to be a family tradition, will be put to good use. Who knows, this book might turn The Ancient One into a blogging monster! Just check back regularly to see if it is having a positive impact.