Friday, February 26, 2010

Painting a Story

The lease on my Mustang runs out in May. I recently received a letter from Galpin Ford (allegedly the #1 volume Ford dealership in the U.S. for the last 20 years) that said they would pay off my lease early and put me in a 2010 Mustang, with no cash out of my pocket and monthly payments lower than what I'm paying now.

Sounded pretty good to me. So I called their Leasing Manager, and said I'd like to take them up on their offer. We discussed exactly what I was looking for. We set an appointment and he said he would run the numbers and call me if there was any problem.

I didn't hear back from the Leasing Manager so I made my way over the hill to Galpin. The Leasing Manager came out and told me -- surprise -- they wouldn't be able to live up to the offer in the letter.

He made a half-hearted attempt at an apology for not calling me because he was "so busy making other deals."

Fortunately, the letter also said if they couldn't make the deal they were promising they'd give me a $100 certificate towards future service.

I showed this paragraph to the Leasing Manager and watched as he went into an office and literally threw the letter around on a desk with another manager. They kept me waiting thirty minutes but there was no way I was walking out without that $100 certificate.

At one point Dealership Owner Bert Boeckmann walked by but he couldn't be bothered to ask why an obviously unhappy customer was stuck waiting by the Reception Desk for half an hour.

So Galpin may move a lot of metal for Ford but as far as I'm concerned THEY ARE A BUNCH OF LIARS!
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I spent last weekend in eastern Madera County to attend the Celebration of Life for my friend and colleague, Ethie Weaver Radanovich.

Obviously, it was a very sad occasion -- but it also was a beautiful celebration (as Ethie would have insisted). The turnout was huge, bringing together people from all aspects of Ethie's life.

After several speakers told many stories about Ethie -- sad stories, funny stories, touching stories, romantic stories -- the Celebration closed with a moving and devastating montage of photos of Ethie (including many adorable photos from her childhood in Bartlesville, Oklahoma).

I'll tell you what, that girl knew how to be photographed!
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Several of us spent Saturday night at the Best Western Yosemite Gateway Inn in Oakhurst. It's a comfortable hotel with a strong personality.

Each guest room features a mural of Yosemite Valley hand-painted by the hotel's co-owner, Dolores Ghyselinck.
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The walls of both the hotel and restaurant are covered with Ghyselinck's paintings.
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The hotel lobby had lots of displays of patriotism.
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I drove by the famous Talking Bear in Oakhurst but, unfortunately, didn't have time to stop for a chat.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Sweet Victory!

For the first time in 74 years, Unidos da Tijuca took the title of Best Samba School at this year's Carnival celebration in Rio. Founded in 1931, Unidos da Tijuca is Rio's third oldest Samba School. Five years ago the beauty of their second place performance (they trailed that year's winner's score by .2 percent) reduced me to tears. This year's performance sure looks like a real stunner!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Still Worth the Wait?

Langer's -- the deli where GeezBob and I have lunch most Saturdays -- recently started radio advertising and the result is a line of people out the door.

We used to meet at 11 a.m. because that was the most convenient time for us. Now we go at 11 because it's the only way to get in without waiting.
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Abra Cadabra

Sure wish I was in Rio de Janeiro for Carnival! Here's the opening portion of this year's performance by Unidos da Tijuca, my favorite Rio Samba School.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Final Curtain

The Pasadena Playhouse, founded in 1917, closed it's door on Sunday -- plagued by millions of dollars of debt.

I had been a season subscriber for more than ten years (though I didn't renew this year) so it was bittersweet to take in the last matinee performance of "Camelot" Sunday afternoon.

I feel especially bad for season ticket subscriber who paid for six shows this season but will only see one.

This isn't the first time the Pasadena Playhouse has closed it's door. It also closed in 1969 and was dark for 17 years.

This "stripped-down" version of "Camelot" seemed like a fitting farewell for the theater. Gone were elaborate sets and costumes and just about all that was left was an eight member cast and a small orchestra. So much of the script was stripped out that Act Two was incomprehensible to me.

A sad sign of the times.
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With the Pasadena Playhouse now closed I don't know how often I'll make it to my favorite Pasadena dive -- Pie 'n Burger. But I was glad to go there Sunday.

Here's the rule to remember when ordering here: everything on the menu may be good but they call it Pie 'n Burger for a reason.
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Saturday night I went to a professional dinner for attorneys in Hollywood where California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno was the keynote speaker.

It was fascinating to hear his take on the current state of the law.
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Star Search-winner Sam Harris was the entertainment for the evening. I was really impressed by his ability to walk onto a cold stage in a hotel banquet room in front of a bunch of lawyers and sing.

That's got to be a tough gig.
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Monday I finally had my chance to go before a Hearing Officer of the Los Angeles County Assessment Appeals Board.

Hooray! They reduced the assessed value of my condominium by $64,000 and I'm officially underwater on my mortgage. What a victory!

Monday's hearing (which I applied for last July) was surprising low-key. They had seven hearing officers at different tables in a Community Room in Marina del Rey. A representative of the Assessor's office was also stationed at each table. We were each called to a table one by one. Seemed like most hearing took less than ten minutes -- mine certainly did.

The representative of the Assessor's office presented three comparable sales to defend the assessment level they set. I presented three comparable sales that justified a lower assessment. The hearing officer asked a couple of questions. The Assessor's representative had a couple of questions and then the hearing officer set the new assessment level.

Since I've already paid last year's property taxes I'm now due a refund, which I was told to expect in six months to a year! I didn't ask about interest. They probably would have just said I don't owe any.
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Though I'm not gearing up this year to see every movie nominated for an Academy Award, I did go see a couple of movies this week.

First up was "A Single Man," Tom Ford's beautifully photographed movie about a man grieving over the loss of his partner. I doubt that life in Santa Monica in 1962 was ever that beautiful but I enjoyed seeing the world through Tom Ford's eyes and his obvious obsession with accessories.

Last night I saw Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" starring the stunning Penelope Cruz. Almodovar is one of my favorite film-makers/story-tellers. Here he tells a great story about a film-maker determined to finish his picture. Not as over-the-top as some other PA movies, but absolutely worth seeing.
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My friend and colleague, Ethie Weaver Radanovich, passed away last Thursday following a three-year battle with ovarian cancer. Ethie was such a vibrant force it's hard to imagine her gone, especially at the way-too-young age of 50.

Ethie was the person who found me when Woodward & McDowell was potentially hiring campaign staff in 1988. It didn't work out that time but I started working with Ethie in 1990 and we worked together for 18 years until a couple of years ago when she left to focus on her health.

W&M has lots of strong personalities, but Ethie's was indomitable. She was the bright center of every room she walked into -- but at the same time she always made sure no one at a party was ignored. She treated being a hostess as a real responsibility.

In 1996 Ethie married Rep. George Radanovich (R-Mariposa) and began a new phase of her life as a political spouse. (Dolly Madison would have been impressed, I'm sure.)

Here are two quick stories to illustrate what Ethie was like:

Somewhere around 10 years ago I was in Washington, DC for work and my friend, Jim Brown, and I made plans to see the Stephen Sondheim musical "Bounce" at the Kennedy Center. It turns out Ethie and George had tickets to the same performance. When Ethie found that out she insisted that Jim and I meet up with her and George in the "Bird Room" at the Kennedy Center during intermission. I didn't know what that was, but I said, "OK."

Turns out the Bird Room is the super-VIP Lounge at the Kennedy Center reserved for Members of Congress, Cabinet Secretaries, Supreme Court Justices, etc. Jim and I approached the door with some trepidation. I gave the receptionist my name and she replied, "Oh yes, Ethie is waiting for you," and we were whisked inside. We spent intermission examining the porcelain birds that line the shelves of the Bird Room giving it it's name. I remember Ethie introduced Jim and me to the Director of the National Parks Service. Just another night at the theater with Ethie.

In 1998 Ethie gave birth to her son, King Radanovich. It just so happens I was in Washington, DC for work that day. Ethie and I had made prior plans to meet up but when I learned she was going into labor I certainly understood if our plans were cancelled. But Ethie insisted we keep our scheduled visit and suggested I come visit her at the hospital. We had a lovely chat, in between her contractions. As they got stronger and more frequent it clearly was time for me to go. But before she would let me go Ethie made sure I knew about the latest restaurants in DC and that I was all set for dinner that night. Talk about making the other person feel taken care of, even when no one would expect it!
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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Unwelcoming Lobby

Went to the AMC 15 in Century City one night this past week to see "Up in the Air." It's an interesting movie about isolating yourself emotionally in the middle of a crowd. I certainly liked the idea of making a fetish out of frequent flyer points. And it was fascinating to see how George Clooney packed his clothes. But I spent most of my time trying to see if I could recognize different hotel lobbies.

The AMC 15 used to have a great policy of allowing customers to bring in food purchased from other vendors at the mall. I'm sure the businesses in the food court appreciated the increased sales. But the dawn of a new decade brought an end to that policy -- so now AMC 15 customers are stuck with over-priced and over-cooked hot dogs and stale pizza slices. Way to improve the customer experience, AMC!
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Monday, February 01, 2010

Personal Milestone

Today marks 20 years since I started working at Woodward & McDowell.

On February 1, 1990 -- five months after returning to Los Angeles from a five-year stint in Washington, DC -- I reported for work at a Statewide Staff Meeting in Burlingame for the Yes on 111 & 108 campaign (a transportation measure on the June, 1990 ballot). I was hired as the Central Coast Field Director for the campaign.

I still remember flying up to San Francisco that morning wondering who else on the airplane was also working on the campaign. I remember taking the Embassy Suites shuttle from the airport to across the street from the office. I remember walking into Dick Woodward's big office which was lined with chairs for the meeting. I remember Dick giving me a very warm greeting. And I remember thinking "this is going to be an interesting adventure for the next four months."

Sadly, I don't think my ability to foresee the future has improved much in the intervening years. But it has been an interesting adventure!