Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's With One Hour Photo and My Date With Drew

This is probably my least favorite holiday of the year. I don't know why, but it is. I'm spending it by myself. Did a little cleaning, but not much. Working on my juice video right now, and watching One Hour Photo. It's a much better movie than the one I watched before, called My Date With Drew. The premise seemed interesting: an ordinary guy who has had a crush on Drew Barrymore since he was six or so decided to try and get a date with her and to film the experience. He gets a camera from Circuit City (and has to return it in 30 days) and sets out to make a film.

I guess I wasn't sure what to expect. He lives in Los Angeles, so he's actually close by to her. He takes the six degrees approach, and starts searching by who knows Drew's people: publicist, facialist, etc. He only has $1,100 to spend on the film, so he tries to get free stuff when he can. Some guy put together a website for him. He gets an interview on some radio station, and five minutes later, the server for the web page goes down.

He also gets into the Charlie's Angel's premiere party (with counterfeit passes) and is literally feet away from Barrymore, but just can't ask her for the date. He walks out, recreating the scene for his buddies, who of course couldn't go into the party filming it.

Not all is lost though. The website goes back up, and people are taking a look at it and word eventually gets back to Barrymore. A date is finally arranged in New York, at some place called the Miracle Cafe. He gets her a Snoopy Sno cone machine, and she buys him a video camera.

Maybe I'm hard-hearted, but I just couldn't find anything compelling about this film. It was okay. But will I watch it again? Probably not.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sweet Home Fresno--Another Guest Post By Elaine!

Elaine has written about where she lives; I wrote about Fort Wayne for her blog.

I'm not from Fresno. Really. I grew up in Southern California, and it's still home.

However, I've lived in and near Fresno for longer than I've lived anywhere else. A  lot longer. And, even before that, I spent several summers in the area when I was a kid and my dad was a produce inspector and got sent here to inspect the grapes and cataloupes.

I've always found Fresno to be...odd. It's a big city (over 500,000 population in the city limits as of last year), but in a lot of ways it seems like - and is run like - a small town. It's a very conservative place, both politically and religiously. Not so much as it was fifteen or twenty  years ago, but official Fresno still hasn't quite figure out that it's the 21st century as far as I can see.

Despite all that, Fresno is very diverse culturally. Last time I looked there were over 100 languages spoken by students in the local school district. The city has long had a large Armenian population, it has the second-largest Hmong population in the United States, and a growing Asian population. There are parts of town when more of the billboards are in Spanish than in English. All this diversity has enriched the city a lot.

All the diversity also means that although Fresno is the buckle of the California Bible Belt, there are significant Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and Sikh communities. Not that this necessarily sets well with some of the more conservative Christians in the area, but they are the type of people who don't really like anything or anyone different from themselves. And you find them everywhere, not just in Fresno.

I suspect that part of the reason that Fresno has remained so conservative politically has to do with the fact that it is right in the middle of the number one agricultural county in the United States, with its crops worth $5.3 billion dollars in 2007, the latest figures I could find. That's a lot of grapes (and raisins - Fresno County is the home of Sun-Maid raisins), stone fruit (things like peaches, nectarines, and plums), citrus (primarily oranges and lemons), almonds and walnuts, not to mention cotton, dairy products, and cattle. And those are only some of the biggest crops produced around the county. There's at least one advantage to living in an area with such a diverse agricultural economy - the Farmer's Markets here are fantastic.

The surrounding area probably has more to see and do than Fresno itself. Yosemite National Park is 60 miles pretty much due north of Fresno. El Capitan; Half Dome and Sentinel Dome; Yosemite Falls and Vernal Falls, among others; the three groves of Giant Sequoia trees - pretty much everyone knows about Yosemite, so I won't elaborate here. We've also got two other national parks, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, Kings Canyon about 60 miles east of Fresno and Sequoia just south of Kings Canyon and about 75 miles from Fresno. Sequoia is the home of of the General Sherman tree, which is the largest currently living tree by volume in the world. It's not the tallest tree, or the largest, or the oldest, but there is more of it overall. It is between 2,300 and 2,700 years old, 275 feet tall and has a circumfrence of 102.6 feet at ground level. Meanwhile, the third largest tree in the world, the General Grant tree, also known as the nation's Christmas Tree, so proclaimed in 1926 by President Calvin Coolidge. Later on, in 1956, the General Grant tree was proclaimed a national shrine to the nation's war dead by President Dwight Eisenhower. It is the only living thing to be declared a national shrine.

Inside the city limits of Fresno, we don't have that much in the way of tourist attractions. We do have the old Fresno Water Tower, which is downtown and kind of neat. In the county, but just about 7 miles from downtown, there is Sierra Sky Park, which was built in 1946 and was the first community in the United States where you can fly your plane in and then drive it to your house. Inside the city limits, there is Forestiere Underground Gardens, built - or rather dug out - over 40 years (1906 - 1946) by Baldasare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant who was looking for a way to avoid the hot summers here in Fresno. He not only dug out rooms but planted trees throught the dwelling and tress and vines above ground. It's really something to see.

We do have culture in Frenso, with a few theater companies, a couple of ballet companies - for a number of years, I was the props handler for Central California Ballet - and an opera company. There are more big-name concerts that come to town now that the Save Mart Center arean was built on the campus of California State University, Fresno in 2003. My favorite venue in town, though, is the Tower Theater. The Tower opened as a first-run movie theater in 1939, spent the 1980s as a repertory theater, showing old classic and new art films, and then, after a rennovation, reopened as the Tower Theatre for the Performing Arts. Most of the ballet productions I worked on were held in the Tower, and I love working there, despite the almost nonexistent wings and tiny dressing rooms.

Fresno has produced some famous people. Perhaps the most famous is William Saroyan, who was both born and died here. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, an Academy Award (for Best Story, for his adaptation of his novel "The Human Comedy"). And, he co wrote one song (that I know of) - "Come On-a My House", which was a hit for Rosemary Clooney in 1951. Saroyan wrote the song with his cousin, Ross Bagdasarian, Sr, also a Fresno native. Bagdasarian was also an actor, with probably his most noted role as the songwriter/piano player in Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window". You might know Bagdasarian better as David Seville, under which name he created Alvin and the Chipmunks. Bagdasarian won two Grammy awards for "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" in 1959.

Film director Sam Peckinpah was also a Fresno native. He graduated from Fresno High School and Fresno State and went on to a successful, if quite controversial, career in film. He directed "The Wild Bunch" in 1969, which caused a huge stir for the amount and depiction of violence. He also directed such films as "Ride the High Country" (1962) and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973). My favorite of his films is "Junior Bonner" (1972). It was probably his most unsuccessful film, and also likely his least violent. It follows the return home of an veteran rodeo rider (played by Steve McQueen) to ride in a rodeo there and to try to reconnect with his family, from which he has been estragnged for years. It's a good movie; you should see it if you get the chance.

More recently, singer and actress Audra McDonald grew up in Fresno. McDonald holds, along with Julie Harris and Angela Lansbury - the record for most Tony Awards won by any actor for their Broadway work. She has won five of the awards. She is also a recording artist and has done a good deal of film and television work. Another non-native but long time resident of Fresno is poet and professor Philip Levine, who taught at Fresno State for more than 30 years and was named Poet Laureate of the United States for 2010 - 2011.

Fresno and the surrounding area has produced a number of professional athletes, too many to list, but outstanding  is Fresno native and baseball pitcuer Tom Seaver. He was active from 1967 through 1986 and pitched for several major league teams but is best known for his time with the New York Mets. Seaver was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992, elected by the highest percent of votes of any member of the Hall, with 98.84 percent fo the votes. He is considered by many experts to be one of the best starting pitchers in the history of the sport.

Another Fresno native of slightly less importance but some fame is Kevin Federaline, a dancer who was married for a time to Britney Spears (which is probably the main reason for his fame). I think it is interesting that while he has gotten so much bad press, I know some people in the local dance community who know him, and none of them has a bad word to say about him. There have been other famous folks who have spent some time in Fresno before moving on to other, bigger things. These include Cher and Warren Zevon.

Fresno is a more interesting place to live than it used to be. It's still not my favorite place in the world, but it's less expensive to live here than in most of California's big cities. The worst part of it right now is the unemployment rate, which is still significantly above the national average. That, and the weather, which is abysmal most of the year - too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Which would be fine if those seasons lasted the usual amount of time each year. However, here in Fresno, we have about two weeks of spring and two weeks of autumn - if we're lucky - and the rest is either summer or winter. I still haven't figured out how that works.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve, 2013

So here it is, Christmas Eve. I checked the mail and found out two books I ordered from Amazon came. That makes three total. All of them are books that I remember from childhood that were thrown away, or disappeared for some reason.

I think I'm getting sick. I woke up yesterday with a cough. My throat feels scratchy. Usually colds start in my throat, which becomes sore. This time, I'm coughing. So I spent the entire day in bed, almost. I got up at 7 p.m. or so to feed my pets and to get something for myself. I bought a ton of food the other night, so I'm good for a while. I really didn't need to go anywhere today anyway. I could have gone and got some toothpaste, and some cleaning supplies, but a couple days won't matter. I have enough to brush my teeth, and I have enough Pine Sol Sparkling Wave to mop if I feel like it.

But I do feel a bit under the weather. I will probably read my books and watch movies and daydream. I have nowhere I have to be and no one to see. It's an odd way to spend Christmas, but if my parents hadn't died, I wouldn't have this problem.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Stay safe.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Going Five Below at The Container Store During My Juice Fast

Holy shit, what an awesome day. A Facebook friend asked me for coffee. I am on the sixth day of a seven day juice fast (I've lost a little over 10 pounds) so I had hot chocolate. The friend wanted to go to Indy, and I said we should sometime, and she said, "today?" And I said, "why not?" I didn't have to work, I had some money, and we were off.

Discovered a great store in Castleton called Five Below. It's like a dollar store, except some of the stuff is nicer and well worth it, for $5. I spent $62 there. I even found some retro toys I've had back in the day, got pet beds, a couple of cool tin boxes, headphones, and a few cellphone cases.

Eighty-second street was bumper-to-bumper, but we persevered and found The Container Store. I'd never been to this place either, and I just about fainted. Lots of boxes and cool gadgets and shelf organizers and shelves and geez Louise. LOVE it. Also loved Five Below, and both stores need to open up in Fort Wayne, along with a Dave and Busters.

And what about my juice fast? I've lost a little over 10 pounds in six days. I didn't cave in at the dinner I went to Friday night at Flanagan's (although the garlic bread smelled fantastic) and I didn't cave while in Indy. This is part of my journal entry from Monday, and this is the scale from when I got home from my road trip. I couldn't believe it. I weighed myself five times, because I couldn't believe the scale. Yeah, baby!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Juice Fast (Thank You, Joe Cross)

After seeing Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead about a dozen times, I decided to get a juicer and start juicing. I had my heart set on a Breville juicer, but the one I wanted cost $300. I gave it some thought, and realized if Joe Cross could talk to me, I think he'd say, "doesn't matter what kind of juicer you get, mate, just start juicing!" I started out juicing every other day, then decided to juice every day. Now, I'm on day two of a seven-day juice fast.

For the most part, the juices I've been making taste really good. Even the "mean green," which is what Cross drank a lot of in the movie, isn't too bad. I've mainly been using Granny Smith apples and Clementines as a base, then throwing in whatever else I had. Cranberries, celery, cherries, carrots, even cucumber. I can't even taste the cucumber when I put it in the juice.

The juice I made this evening though, was a bit of a disappointment. It consisted of carrots, red kale, celery, cranberries, and cherries. I thought pure peppermint extract might help, but it didn't. I think I used too much. Then, I put three Clementines in. That helped a little, but I put in some Stevia to sweeten it up. It's still not very good. I'm determined to gulp it down though.

The fast isn't bad, so far. I figure if few foods sound good, I might as well go on a juice fast anyway, right? Because I veer back and forth between veggies and junk food. I don't know why that is, but that's what's been going on. I barely eat, then when I do eat, sometimes it's not very healthy.

Now, to ramp up the exercising. I can't seem to get eating right and exercising coordinated. Hopefully, my schedule for the next few months will allow for more exercising.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fuck the Snow, I Went Shopping

I was born in northern Indiana, and this is the only place I've ever lived. We have the four seasons here. We have snow. People who live here, and who were born here, should realize this.

Why people totally fucking freak out when we get a MILD snowstorm, is beyond me. A prediction of five to eight inches of snow has people panicking. They stock up on Doritos, soda, beer, wings, pizza, and other kinds of crap in the case they get snowed in for oh, a whole whopping 24 hours. Then, we end up with three inches of snow. Ha ha, joke's on you.

I've driven semi-trucks in really bad winter weather. I've lived through the Blizzard of 1978. So dire predictions of snowstorms really don't scare me. And it pisses me off how everyone is terrified of a few inches of snow. It's INCHES, not feet.

So I went out shopping. Hyde Bros. had a thing last night. Shopping from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., and I went to it. By myself. I had to work, so I was out anyway, and book shopping after work sounded totally excellent. I bought over $40 worth of books. I got some guilty pleasures. I stayed for a couple of hours, then went home.

The next day, I felt in the mood to shop. I actually had money and motivation, so I went out in the snow (OMG!) and hit up a couple of thrift stores. Goodwill had the temerity to close at four, because of the "weather." What.Fucking.Ever. I didn't spend as much as I thought, because I didn't have time to go to any more thrift stores, except for The Salvation Army on Lima Road. Didn't find anything that I liked there. Before that, I went to Target and picked up some stuff that I wanted. I felt really, really good about getting out there.

But jeez Louise. We've become such pussies. Thank God I still have my balls.
Hyde Bros., about 1:20 a.m.

Yours for only 95 cents at the Lima Road Salvation Army.

Brewers Art Supply, Wells Street. With my cameraphone set on green point. Taken approximately 1:20 a.m.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Happy 91st Birthday, Dad

My dad would have been 91 years old today. I wonder what he would think of all that has happened in his lifetime, if he'd still been alive. He would probably marvel at smartphones, and he'd probably get a kick out of looking up facts. Maybe he'd be on YouTube, seeing who has uploaded big band music, or his favorite Latin performers from the early 1950s. They're up there, dad. Back when music was good, LOL.

Maybe he'd be making his own music. He might have a music editing program and be messing around with it.

Who knows where I'd be if he were still alive. Probably here in this house. I miss him. There are so many things I wish I could ask him. Like what scared him the most? How did he get through it? What could he change if he could? And did he ever regret not moving back to Puerto Rico?

We make choices in life, and hope that things turn out for the best. Because time can't be rewound. Some things cannot be undone. And I hope there's a Heaven. And I hope my dad is happy there. I love you dad.

Dad and Mom at my brother's house. Probably sometime in the 1990s.

Dad and I at my brother's wedding. August 24, 1984.

Dad in one of his sillier moments. There's some sort of vibrating toy he stuck under his shirt.

Dad always had plenty of jokes, but usually looked very serious.

Of course he was a Yankees fan!

Dad and I at the Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne. Probably late 1980s/1990s.

Another silly shot of dad at Fox Island, sometime in the 1980s.

Dad was a hipster! Who knew?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Today, at The Bookmark ...

I will be signing books and chatting about my new projects from 2 to 5 p.m. The Bookmark is at 3420 North Anthony Boulevard in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I just checked the stats for my erotic fiction, and I'm at over 97,000 views on www.short-fiction.co.uk. I will be giving away FREE samples of the erotic romance I'm working on. It's three chapters of hot goodness, so come and check it out. I also have other projects I'm working on, and I hope to make headway on those during the Christmas break.

P.S. My pen name for the erotic fiction is Janell Elizabeth Meyer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Six Degrees of Manson, Dahmer, Van Houten, Atkins and Wesson

Here is another guest post from Elaine of Littlemissattitude.blogspot.com. She's had some proximity to some famous killers. Whereas I've just worked with Ben Blauvelt, one of three men who murdered Chinese professor Maurice Lam at IPFW, Elaine has had invites to the Spahn Ranch and known people who've interacted with some notorious men. Enjoy!

I've always been fascinated by the whole Six Degrees of Separation phenomenon, ever since I first read about it back in, oh, must have been in the Eighties sometimes, in an article in the old Omni magazine (which I miss horribly, by the way).
I'm sure you're familiar with the idea, even if only through the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" meme, that any individual in the world can link to any other individual person in the world through six other people or less. It's an interesting idea, but one that I didn't believe when I first read about it. It just didn't seem a likely proposition. How would I link to someone in Africa, say, or Australia, or Asia? I couldn't think of anyone I knew who lived on any of those continents and didn't really expect that I ever would.
At any rate, I started thinking about this kind of linking, especially after I remembered that when we visited with my mother's cousins in Texas on a vacation one time, one of them mentioned that she lived down the street from John Young, who had walked on the moon as part of the crew of Apollo 16. Which meant that I knew someone who knew someone who had walked on the Moon. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, so that was pretty cool.
But still...
What about presidents? But that one was too easy. I only had to look as far as my friend Debbie's mother, who had hosted Ronald Reagan for a campaign event in her home when Reagan was first running for Governor of California. True, this had been before he  had actually been president, but nevertheless Debbie's mom had met him, and I certainly knew her.
Okay, then. Movie stars. And that wasn't a difficult lift either, since I had grown up in Southern California and lived across the road from a movie director (and a fairly famous one) until I was six and a half years old. I had talked to him, and he was friends with all sorts of old-Hollywood celebrities. Peope like Clark Gable and Errol Flynn. Not to mention the fact that there were a lot of old western stars who had settled around the area where I grew up, which was still semi-rural when I was growing up, and my dad knew most of them - people like Walter Brennan and Joel McCrea and James Arness.
One way and another, I realized, I didn't have to go anywhere near six links to connect to the greater part of Hollywood. I probably even have a Bacon number (look that up if you don't know what it is), although I've never bothered to figure out what it might be.
But that's all still mostly here in the US. What about connecting to folks around the rest of the world?
Turns out that despite my reservations when I first read about the Six Degrees game, it isn't all that difficult to link to people in other parts of the world, either. I've got friends, or at least acquaintances on most continents now, so even leaving out people I just know through the Internet (those folks my friend Jolene calls "Imaginary friends"), I don't find it out of the realm of possibility that I can connect with the greater part of the world within the six degrees of separation.
On the other hand, the whole idea of connecting fairly closely with any given individual can turn a bit creepy, something I realized when I figured out that I can connect with at least five mass or serial killers with just one intervening individual, and that the ones I can connect with are not just flash-in-the-pan killers. Most of them are ones you've probably heard of.
Take Charlie Manson, for example. I can connect with him through only one intervening individual two different ways. First of all, having lived near the Spahn Ranch when Charlie and his gang were doing the awful things they became so famous for, I had a friend (I was in junior high at the time) who went up there all the time to go horseback riding. She really liked the folks who lived up there and occasionally tried to talk me into going up there with her. I declined, of course, since everyone knew there were weird things going on up there. We just didn't know how weird. So, that's one connection, from when Charlie was still out and running around free. The other connection is an adopted cousin of mine who was (maybe still is; we've lost contact) a prison guard, and part of whose job was to guard Charlie.
I can also link to two of Charlie's followers in one link each, separate from the paths to Charlie himself. When I was still living in Southern California, I was taking a night class. One of the other students in the class was a deputy sheriff who worked in the county jail system. At the time, Leslie Van Houten was getting her retrial separate from Charlie, and the guy in my class was the one who was in charge of coordinating her transportation back and forth from jail to court every day. And then, a few years later I was taking some classes at another community college, and got to be friends with a woman in some of my classes who had done time with another of Charlie's pet killers, Susan Atkins.
So, that's three killers I can link to with just one intermediary. There are two more.
One, you might not have heard of, although his case did get some national attention at the time. This was the case of Marcus Wesson, who killed nine of his children and grandchildren (and some of them were both; it was an exceedingly creepy case) one day in Fresno. Although I know two people who were living in the neighborhood where this happened at the time it happened, those aren't the links. The link is that one of my instructors when I was learning to be a paralegal was the first lawyer Wesson hired after he was arrested for the killings.
That's four.
You've definitely heard of number five, Jeffrey Dahmer. It turns out that his mother lived in Fresno. A friend of mine's old roommate had lived next door to her, and had picutres of herself and Dahmer in her living room. I've seen the photos, so I know she wasn't making it up. She showed them to me one time when I was visiting my friend while they were roommates.

That makes five. You know, it really makes me wonder about the people I hang out with sometimes.