Sunday, October 28, 2007


Yesterday was the quintessential Saturday in El-Lay Day for me.

10am. We're at the Santa Monica Recycle Center with our recycling. Our condo doesn't separate garbage, so when we're here, we have to take our recycling to the Center. Which happens to be right behind West LA's Cheapest Place For Gas.
"$3.09!" I shout to Big Dog.
"Ha HA!"
"Glad we filled up at Victory (Victory Blvd exit off the 405 has another Cheap Place For Gas.)"
"Yeah, how much was it there? $2.99?"
We get thrills from saving a few cents. In this case, it was 10 cents to the gallon, so we might have made a whopping $1.50 or so.

"You take the bottles to The Man while I deal with the rest," Big Dog tells me. I hate being TOLD what to do.
"I'm always taking the bottles. Why don't YOU do it sometimes?"
It's really not a big deal at all, but I hate waiting and on Saturdays, the Recycle Center is buzzing with the Shopping Cart Crowd. There's a long line waiting at the Weigh Station and I only have 24 bottles. I want to give them to one of the Shopping Cart Guys.

"There's a humongous line!" I shout to Big Dog who's flinging magazines into the Recycle Paper Dumpsters. "You still want to get money for these things?"
Are you kidding? Of course he does.

After the long wait at the Weight Station, there's another long wait at the Reimbursement Stand. The scruffy plastic palm trees on either side give it a beach shack ambiance.

"Hey, how do you say that thing on your shirt?" asks one of the Regulars. He's talking to a guy in a Pattaya, Thailand T-shirt.
"What thing?"
"That name that starts with a P."
"Dunno," he shrugs and walks away, cash in hand.
"It's PA-ta-ya," I say.
The Regular looks at me and says, "Oh, yeah. Shoulda asked you. You ever been there?"
"Yeah, years ago."
He eyeballs me some more. "You Thailanese?"
"No," I smile. "I was just visiting."

More Regulars show up and they all get into a lively discussion about how they get stopped by the police, how the carts attract attention but is the only way to haul huge loads, how one guy got cited for picking out ONE can out of a trash can… (read another related story here .)

It's finally my turn and I get my $1.31. It makes Big Dog happy.

10:45am and we're shopping for a few groceries at Trader Joe's. It's been a while since I had their Two Buck Chuck, so I get a bottle of $1.99 shiraz. The problem with Charles Shaw wines (and nobody calls them by that name -- they are 2-buck Chucks forever more) is that they are okay the first time around and some people may even go "Hey! Not bad for $2!" but every subsequent bottle tastes worse and worse. Then again, it's only $1.99, and it's been a while...

11:45am. Big Dog and I are sharing a giant Machaca Burrito from Benito's, our favorite taco stand. We are not burrito people, preferring tacos and taquitos, but their breakfast burritos are quite good…and cheap. Which makes it the perfect choice for us in this town that no longer has $1.99 breakfast specials. And neither Big Dog nor I think it's at all bizarre that we are perusing real estate magazines with multi-million dollar homes while we share a 3 dollar burrito.

12:30pm. It's busy at the library, too! Big Dog wanted to get some info on Costa Rica and the library is only a few blocks from Benito's. Someone's hogging the men's room so Big Dog has to use the Ladies' after I come out. Maybe it's some guy like our friend, C., in Lancaster who has no functioning plumbing in his house. C. goes to the nearby donut shop in the mornings for coffee, donuts and a dump. I often wonder how he showers. Or IF he does. We know he pees in his backyard. His whole neighborhood is going to hell, but he's right there in the conductor's seat with the rest of them!

7:30pm. Big Dog is driving around and around the La Brea Park apartment complex. It's a maze of townhouses and towers. There is no parking anywhere. After our third go-around, we spot a space and pull in. It's behind Tower 33. Dreamy Jeanie, our friend, lives in Tower 40. Will we ever find our truck again?

8:30pm. We are wandering through the exhibits at the Ace Gallery in mid-Wilshire. Dreamy Jeanie's niece works there and tonight is opening night for Lauren Bon's "Bees and Meat." There are installations of hundreds of honey jars stacked on giant shelves; honey pots hanging from the ceiling with lightbulbs, some of them filled with honey; a mountain of irrigation hose flowing down from the corner of a room; a dead animal covered in wax and honey dripping from a perpetual waterfall (honeyfall?); plexiglass cases of bees busily making their honey combs; a room with hive-like haystacks; another room filled with corn; a couple of bronze boxes; a tv monitor displaying a very grainy and badly shot video of a tractor going through a field…

Big Dog doesn't much like contemporary art so he's snickering throughout, but I think the video pisses him off. Dreamy Jeanie keeps saying, "Am I missing something here?" She doesn't like the dead animals. Her Pro Tennis Player friend doesn't say much.

9:30pm. We already walked the few blocks from Dreamy Jeanie's apartment to the gallery and now we're walking to a Mexican restaurant a few blocks from the gallery. It's SO not LA, but Tennis Pro grew up on the east coast, Jeanie is from Texas/Tokyo/Munich and we just like walking. Plus, it's the weekend before Halloween and there are a few costumers out on the town.

"I didn't get it," Jeanie drawls in that lovely Texan drawl that melts men's hearts. "I guess it's from growing up where there's so much grain."
We were talking about the Corn Room. Even I found it the most "bogus" of the installations -- I mean, what skill or even imagination does it require to fill a room with corn kernels? Sure it feels good but just go to the countryside -- anyone can swim through a silo of grain.
"You should make art videos," I tell Big Dog. "We can do a collaboration. You just shoot some video and I'll do an installation with it."

10:00pm. The Mexican restaurant Jeanie takes us to is a super-hip little joint in mid-Wilshire. It's the kind of place where you would never find a Mexican laborer dining. How could he afford the 4-6 dollar tacos? And how stupid are we for eating here? We don't need to "see" or "be seen." I figure there must be a surcharge for the beautifully funky/arty ceiling fans and the hip Hispanic waiters and waitresses because these are pretty sorry little tacos. Big Dog had two shredded beef tacos and I had a mahi mahi and a shrimp taco. I think Baja Fresh (fast food chain) serves better seafood tacos and they are a fraction of the price. But you don't look as cool with your taco at Baja Fresh, either.

From one spectrum of Los Angeles to the other -- all in 12 hours! Now, that's one fine day.


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