Making a List a List a List and Checking It Twice

•November 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Tick tock

My impulse to make lists has suddenly returned with a vengeance. Maybe it has to do with being a day away from December and realizing that the end of the year is fast approaching. New Year’s is always a deadline for me. Is always about this time of year that I start asking myself what I want to be carrying into the new year, and, frankly, I have quite a few things that have been hanging over my head much too long. 

And then, of course, the holidays happen and I completely lose focus.

So I made a to do list for the coming month. Then I made a to do list for the coming weekend. Then I realized there were things that I’d need to accomplish on a weekday and created a to do list for tomorrow… So I made five lists in one day. This after not making any lists at all for weeks and weeks. I wish I could get back into some kind of habit about this kind of thing again. Maybe that will be a goal for 2018: become more rigorous about goal setting and progress tracking. 

On the other hand, I’ve been pretty productive, considering that I didn’t really plan most of the things that I accomplished. I was making up a list of highlights from the year in order to put together a Christmas letter and realized that I had a lot to brag about. I’ve been kinda struggling with the tone of the letter, as a result: I’m either crowing about my accomplishments like I’m preparing a presidential tweet, or lamenting my moments of cynicism and existential dread about an unknown and unknowable future. So it’s likely to be an exciting letter when it’s finally finished: lots of ups and downs. 

At any rate, December may be busy and may go by at the speed of light, but at least I feel like I’m going into it armed with a plan. 


Construction Observation

•November 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Ketchup and Mustard hard at work, hardly working.

The train took its time arriving at the platform, so I decided to use the time wisely: by testing my observation skills. Down below the train platform was a construction site. Over the months, I’ve watched it transform from a derelict building, to a pile of rubble, to an empty lot, to a hole in the ground, and, at present, the footer for some impressive new structure that will feature a lot of columns. There are two massive cranes that I’ve come to think of as Ketchup (the red one) and Mustard (the yellow one). On various days there is a revolving collection of backhoes, bulldozers, pile drivers, cement trucks, dump trucks, and a food truck called Josies. 
Usually, the routine follows a predictable pattern: I watch as a single worker in a golf cart lays down a line of cones to block off the turn lane on the street below. Josie’s arrives in the middle of this and turns into one of two entrances and is immediately approached for business. A team of workers with walkies direct traffic as larger vehicles pull wide in order to make the entrance. Ketchup and Mustard make slow revolutions this way and that. One low man on the totem pole sweeps the sidewalk. 

There was something different today. The site was active, but the usual clockwork of the daily routine was missing. The turn pp lame remained unconed. Josie’s was already entrenched and doing a lively business. The entrance gate was closed. Instead of the usual team of sidewalk-sweeper and traffic-directors, the entrance was occupied by two men engaged in a detailed discussion. The subject wasn’t clear. The tone was amicable, but formal. Something about it caught my eye. 

The more I watched, the more I became aware of telling details: both men were in a position of some kind of power, based on the cleanliness of their clothes. They were both clean cut. One of them wore heavy sneakers instead of work boots. His sleeves were short. His helmet was white and bore a single sticker on the front, which turned out to be the Los Angeles city seal. When he turned away, the back of his high viz vest read  INSPECTOR.


A third man joined the pair and shook hands with the inspector. Not part of his team, then. Not one of the normal construction workers either: his clothes were likewise too clean to mark him as a laborer. His helmet was cammo. He wrote a walkie on his shoulder, but arrived with his iphone in hand and earbuds plugged into both ears. Some kind of site representative, then? 

The discussion involved a lot of gestures, but none of them were particularly enlightening without context. It seemed to be some conversation about logistics involving the nearest intersection- perhaps something to do with the way the traffic was being managed. There was a lot of significant looks aimed at the curb where a makeshift ramp had been lumped out of concrete (?) to allow the bigger vehicles to make it across the sidewalk more easily. Perhaps it was not to code.

I realized, in the course of this, that no one was working. The usual workers drifted around the site, mostly patronizing Josie’s and picnicking anywhere that it was comfortable to sit. It wasn’t clear whether this was an official shut down, or just a hesitation until the Inspector man took his judgy eyes elsewhere. 

The Inspector eventually did walk away, but the train finally arrived and I didn’t get to see how the story ended. 

Malibu Dreamhouse

•November 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A view I could get used to

When the opportunity arises to spend the day in a Malibu beachfront condo, there’s really only one answer. 

Since the Curmudgeonly Lion and I hosted Thanksgiving for my sister, Bean, and her husband, Steadfast, (and the Nugget, of course), they returned the favor in the form of an invitation to join them for a day in Malibu. 

We said yes. Because we are not idiots. 

Steadfast’s former boss was a reality television producer of some measurable success and renown- whom I shall refer to as The Mensch. The Mensch was between personal assistants and Steadfast had been filling in as a way to pick up some work between gigs as a television editor. In the course of this help-meet work, The Mensch offered Steadfast the use of his Malibu condo. So I emphasize that I, personally, did nothing to earn this privilege. But I also wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see how the fancy folk live. 

The condo itself was tasteful and modest: tidy, well appointed, and judiciously placed with a patio that overlooked both the Malibu beach and a sparkling pool. And by “overlooked” I mean: was a mere ten yards from the water line. 

Location, location, location.

It was a very pleasant day. We walked on the beach. We swam in the pool. We lounged in the hottub. We ate enormous pastrami sandwiches and watched the sun set. (Not at the same time) and generally spent the day living the sweet life. 

As pleasant as it was to enjoy such rarified air for a day, it also dredged up some feelings of restlessness that I haven’t felt for a while. If this was the kind of life that I aspired to have for myself: enough wealth and success to have tastefully well appointed beachfront property on the Malibu coast, then I had a long way to go. Was I still working towards it with the kind of rigor that type of success deserved? Were my prospects bright enough that I should be hopeful or weak enough that I should despair? I tried to remind myself to appreciate the moment- and I did- but when the day was over and we were backat home to clutter and chores, I found myself once again wrestling with the question of the direction of my life. 

So lately I’ve been a bit more motivated to stay on task with my daily to do lists. At the risk of sounding like I’ve gone full Southern California native, I suppose it helps to have a vision for the future that I hope to have. Whether vision alone will be enough to manifest this desire into reality remains to be seen, but I suppose there’s no harm in trying. 

So I’m giving some thought to the kind of life that I’d like to have, and trying to backwards engineer a plan to turn it into reality. But for now, tonight’s plan is to get a good night’s sleep.


•November 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The double edged blessing of Thanksgiving weekend, is having twice as much time to get half as much accomplished. It was a lovely break, but after four days of leisure, I’m appropriately relieved to be back to my regularly scheduled routine. I suppose, it probably says something about the complacency of my character that I would rather be at work in my regular routine than to continue to be on vacation. I’m beginning to wonder whether this is a character flaw that I need to fight back against. 

Thursday, of course, was Thanksgiving. I made an effort to give some thought to the things that I am thankful for, but failed to cultivate a really satisfying sense of gratitude. Ungrateful wretch. Why couldn’t I just be happy with what I had? I recognised my good fortune: enough, and plenty of the necessities, a good home, a happy family, a feast of delicious food, a reliable job, etc. Why wasn’t I warmed by the thought of them? Perhaps this too is a flaw in my character, but somewhat on the opposite end: my dissatisfaction with the gifts that good fortune has seen fit to bestow upon me. 

If this mindset seems infuriating contradictory, welcome to the particular brand of insanity that has been dogging me all weekend.

Extra Run

•November 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

After working late yesterday, I decided to drive into work today. We were slated to close at one, but there was some debate about whether that would actually happen with the volume of work we needed to finish. If we did get out early (which, like getting out late, means that there’s no express bus), I didn’t want to spend my afternoon commuting home on the slow route. 

We did close early. I made good time driving home. 

I got home early enough to go for a run. Considering the heavy duty eating that is likely to be in my future, I was glad for the opportunity. I’ve been feeling very sedentary lately. It doesn’t help that I’ve put on weight. 

Strangely enough, my recent running has been surprisingly encouraging. I’ve been completing my usual distance faster than I used to, and have been feeling stronger every step of the way. So maybe I can blame the weight gain on muscle mass, which is probably a fantasy, but I’ll take what I can get. I wish I could find a way to get out running more than once or twice a week. 

So, anyway, it felt good to get some fresh air, even if temperatures were back up in the eighties and nineties. Things cooled off as the sun went down. Hopefully I’ll get out and about a few more times over the long weekend. 

•November 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It’s a short week at work due to the Thanksgiving holiday. For other companies, this might mean a lightening of the volume of work that needs to be accomplished before settling in for a turkey dinner, but payroll is payroll, and right now it means that five days of work are being shoehorned into three days. 

Mid afternoon, an email arrived in my inbox asking if I could stay an extra hour. It was ‘completely optional’, I was assured, but the work was still going to have to get done whether I did it tonight or I did it tomorrow. And tomorrow was a day we *might* have the opportunity to leave early if we got everything done. 

So I elected to stay. 

I wish I could say that the extra hour made an obvious difference, but even working diligently for the whole time, I didn’t actually finish much. Progress, yes. Accomplishment, no. 

I’d hoped that leaving an hour later might shorten my commute time by allowing me to miss some of the rush hour traffic. These hopes were dashed when I discovered that the last Express bus departed at 6:50. There was no way I was going to make it: I’d have to take the Local and wend my around the entire perimeter of Westwood before slogging up the Sepulveda pass, hitting every stop along the way. It’s currently 8:45 and I’m still not home yet. 

So I’m hungry and annoyed and I’m not going to get much of an evening, but I’m learning an important lesson: it is worth driving to work on days when it is likely that I’ll need to stay late. Unfortunately, there’s not really any way to know what days those are likely to be in advance. It is almost certain that I’ll need to work late during the first quarter when the payroll for awards season all hits at once, so I’m considering this to be a useful dry run to brainstorm some ways to handle this on those days in the future. 

It might be time to join Lyft.

Inward Facing

•November 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Photo is unrelated.

I went into my studio with the vague plan of tidying up enough to be able to get some actual work done. This noble intention lasted about five minutes. My eyes settled on a box of old photographs and curiosity got the better of me so I started going through them. Then I realized that the box of photo sleeves was within arms reach. Two hours later, the only thing I’d managed to accomplish was a long walk down memory lane and about seventy pages of photo sleeves in no particular order. 

Oh well.

Looking back on the photos from the year that we first moved to Los Angeles made me realize how far I’ve come since then. They seem like a lifetime ago, even though it was probably only five years. Ahh, so young and thin. Ahh such glowing skin. I looked so calm and happy then, although I know for a fact that many of those same photos were taken during a phase of severe depression, so as much as I might look back and wish for youth, I’d never want to go back in time and live it all over again.

I just finally finished reading a book that was given to me as a birthday gift called “Theft by Finding” by David Sedaris. It is a book of collected diary entries from the 1970s through the end of 2002, and considering that it was written by a humorist I expected it to be funny. The dust jacket blurb was quick to tout the fact that other diary books were boring because they deal with the inner lives of the writer, where as this diary book was ‘outward facing’ which made it much more interesting. It was outward facing, alright, but frankly I could have stood to have had a little bit more of that boring old internal world to give me some sense of context. Mostly I felt like each entry was the punchline of some joke that I would have understood if, you know, I was in in the secret. 

So it was a rather mystifying read, and since there wasn’t much through line from entry to entry I had trouble feeling compelled to crack it open except over breakfast.  It ended suddenly and rather pointlessly sometime in mid December 2002 (as promised) as if the publisher had decided that they’d reached their page/word count and didn’t really need to bother wrapping anything up. I mean, yes, it was a diary, so it was under no obligation to follow any kind of act structure, but even in the course of everyday life there are beginnings and endings and rising and fallings that might’ve lent some cue to the fact that I was approaching the final page. 

But then, what do I know. My journals are all inward facing. Heck, half these posts are inward facing. How dull.

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