Sunday, January 31, 2010

Paved Over Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot

Went with GeezBob Saturday night to see "Avatar." Everyone else in America has already seen it so I guess it was time for us to catch up.

Frankly I don't get what all the fuss is about. The story is a manipulative and stupid formula. (Am I supposed to join in the cheering when American soldiers are killed by the Space Critters?) The special effects were good but didn't seem all that revolutionary to me.

Naturally, it wasn't enough to just see the movie -- we saw it in 3-D on an IMAX screen. I thought the 3-D effect was blurry and bothersome. For some of the movie I tried watching it without the special glasses. That didn't really work either.

So go ahead America, leave me behind in your pop culture dust. I just don't get it.
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The movie theater is displaying some props from the movie including the wheelchair used by actor Sam Worthington.
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GeezBob models the latest in 3-D eye ware.
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Spent Wednesday night at the W Silicon Valley Hotel. Doesn't that sound like it would be a happening hotel in downtown Palo Alto or something?

Turns out it's not. It's located in a parking lot in a marsh on the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay. There's nothing around it. The building looks like they built a Four Points by Sheraton and at the last minute decided to decorate it as a W by adding throw pillows and some dark curtains.

Having written all that, my room was comfortable and quiet.

Actually the front desk clerk cracked me up when I checked in. As is my custom, I asked if there were any room upgrades available. The clerk said, "yes," in fact they had already upgraded me from an "awesome" room to a "spectacular" one. I don't speak "W" so I don't know what the difference in the categories are -- but he did successfully shut me up.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Small World

Thursday night I flew up to San Francisco in the midst of all of last week's rainstorm. You know it's a bumpy flight when the Purser's in-flight welcome announcement is interrupted by her shouting "wham" and "hello" in the middle of her sentences. It was funny and disconcerting at the same time.

Safely on the ground, I headed to Max's in Burlingame for dinner. What a delight to recognize my waiter, Richard, from many years ago at Original Joe's in San Francisco.

Original Joe's, which used to be on Taylor Street, was one of my longtime favorite San Francisco restaurants. Sadly, a serious kitchen fire a few years ago closed the restaurant and they've never managed to re-open.

Richard had been my Original Joe's waiter many times and he has a friendly personality that is hard to forget. He seemed genuinely pleased that I remembered him.

Side note on Original Joe's: My late boss, Jack McDowell, was a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist prior to becoming a well-regarded political consultant. The article that won him the prize was about blood donations during WWII. Prior to WWII, the technology didn't exist to transport blood over long distances. Soldiers were about the only source of blood available for donation on the front lines.

That changed during WWII and for the first time civilians were called upon to donate blood as part of the war effort. For many at the time, donating blood was a scary concept. Jack followed donated blood, including his own, from the Bay Area to near the battle lines in the South Pacific. His reporting, for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin, was widely credited with giving the Bay Area the highest blood donation rate in the nation.

Jack interviewed soldiers, including many from the Bay Area, who had received donated blood and asked them what was the first thing they were going to do once they got home after the war. One soldier told Jack he couldn't wait to get home to have a hamburger at Original Joe's on Taylor Street.

What a treat to have found this restaurant on my own some 50 years after Jack included it in his article. And I can tell you, that many decades later, the hamburgers were still terrific.
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On Thursday I had lunch with Rochelle Lewis at the exciting, new Westside Tavern located beneath the Landmark Theaters in the Westside Pavilion Shopping Mall in West Los Angeles.

This restaurant manages the rarely accomplished feat of feeling both modern and comfortable at the same time.

Great menu and service at affordable prices. Can't wait to go there again!
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Out and About

Spent Tuesday in Pomona, staying again at the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel overlooking the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds. I like this photo of a pavilion in the foreground, the racetrack in the background and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.

Celebrity Sighting: Pass through a security line at LAX on Wednesday behind William T. Macy.
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On my way home I stopped off at Donut Man in Glendora, which is considered by some to have the best doughnuts in the Southland.

I haven't tried them all, but I'd have to say Donut Man's are pretty darn good.

They're famous for their fresh-fruit filled doughnuts, most notably strawberry and peach. Unfortunately, both are out of season right now so I didn't have one.

Instead I had a Tigertail -- a twisted krueller with chocolate mixed in. Excellent!
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Monday, January 04, 2010

Lost in Translation

Perhaps the building next to where I live shouldn't buy their Doggie Dootie sign from China. It's a nicer neighborhood than that!
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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Activate the Gift Cards

The weather in Los Angeles today was absolutely beautiful!

A couple of weeks ago I received an offer in the mail from Hornberg Jaguar to receive a $100 gift card in exchange for test driving a new Jaguar. I'm not in the market to buy a Jaguar but the offer of a gift card was too hard to resist.

I was expecting a hard-pressure sales job and was pleasantly surprised by the experience. But when they told me they'd "mail" me the gift card instead of just giving it to my I figured I'd never see. But lo and behold, two days later I received a gift card good for any store in the Beverly Center in the mail.

And though I'm not in the market for a Jaguar, I have to say driving a Jaguar convertible past the mansions of Beverly Hills was quite an experience. I found myself thinking, "if I drove this car then all this could be mine." It didn't hurt that the weather was perfect last week as well.

Not wanting the gift card to gather any dust I decided to use part of it today. So I went to the movie theater in the Beverly Center and saw "Me and Orson Welles."

Loosely based on the adventures of Orson Welles' Mercury Theater Company's attempts to mount "Julius Caesar" in 1937, this is a movie any fan of the theatah would enjoy. Welles comes across as both despicable and lovable. Genius earns much forgiveness.
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While at the Beverly Center I used my gift card for lunch at the Grand Luxe Cafe.

I don't know why I don't go to this restaurant more often -- it's really good. Owned by the company that runs the Cheesecake Factory, Grand Luxe has a huge menu with great food, excellent service and moderate prices.

I think I have a bias against this restaurant because it's located in a shopping center (and one that I don't really like) but after enjoying myself there today I'm reconsidering my views.

Next I was off to the Costco in Culver City to buy some gasoline with the Costco gift card my Uncle Skip and Aunt Janeen Fliegner gave me.

Some sad news: My Great Aunt Eula Thompson of Winnfield, Louisiana passed away on Christmas Eve. Aunt Eula was one of Grandmother Green's younger sisters.

Political side note: Winnfield, Lousiana was the hometown of Huey P. Long.

Eula's family posted a touching Obituary and Tribute Video which you can see by clicking on this link: and searching "Eula Thompson."

Near the beginning of the video there's a lovely photo of my Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother Dover (Maxie Green and Eula Thompson's parents). I'm guessing the photo was taken in the 50s after the Dovers sold their farm in Russellville, Arkansas and followed many of their adult children to live in Glendora, California.

And that reminds me of my favorite New Years story: At the end of the year they moved to California someone in the family suggested they all go to Pasadena to watch the Rose Parade. The "boys" in the family (probably in their 30s and 40s) offered to go the night before and stake out a piece of curb along the parade route.

It was recommended that Great Grandfather Dover spend New Year's Eve at home and come to the parade in the morning with the "girls." Well, he wouldn't hear of it. He was tickled by the idea of now living somewhere where you could reasonably sleep outside on December 31 and not freeze to death. So he and his "boys" spent the night camping along Colorado Boulevard and the entire family enjoyed the parade in the morning.

How's that for a welcome to California?
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