Metamorphosis Diario

Monday, March 26, 2007 - My Left Foot

 I've been playing football with the same bunch of guys now for about 10 years. It's just a pick up game, people come and go but every Sunday we are out there huffing and puffing away. I've noticed the last year or so has become a little more difficult, I'm not sure if it's my age ( I will be 43 in September) , the recent addition of some younger African players to the game, these guys are from Cameroon and Senegal and are in their late 20's to mid 30's and started playing with us about a year ago, but it's probably a combination of both.

I've recently picked up some niggling injuries, the first was my groin which is not painful but hurts every time I kick the ball for the last 4 weeks or so, next came my right hamstring which is very tight just under my right buttock and then the long muscle in my middle back (Latissimus dorsi). Yesterday was the piece d' resistance. I was running toward goal passed the ball by the defender and got a beautiful return pass to put me through on goal with only the goal keeper to beat...................... then CRACK!!!

I had stepped in a pothole and my ankle gave a large crunch which was heard by 2 other players. I've always prided myself that I've never broken a bone despite playing rugby, football, boxing, weight training, working construction not to mention the odd fight or two in my younger days. Usually I bounce straight up but this time I rolled around in pain for a few minutes wondering if my luck had ran out and I had finally broken a bone, after a few minutes I got to my feet and could no longer play on, returning home to ice the  sore ankle instead.

This morning I can hardly put weight on it and there is quite a fat band of swelling around the ankle and calf........................ Daniel Day Lewis eat your heart out, we'll see how long this keeps me out for?!?! 

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Thursday, March 1, 2007 - Not so Evil, Evel Knievel

 

When I was a little boy growing up in early 1970's England, there was a lot of Americana around. It was kind of cool being American, everything looked bigger and better. Many of the TV shows were American, we had all the American detective TV shows such as Starsky & Hutch. Kojak, Columbo. The Six Million Dollar man was cool, as was Star Trek, back when William Shatner had more hair and less beergut.  CW McCall's Convoy record was high on the charts, which just sounds silly 30 years later.

 

With the influx of American TV shows and comic book superheroes came associated toys. I had a six miilion dollar man action figure but looked on in envy at the TV ads for the Evel Knievel motorcycle which I longed for but never got, I always remembered how cool Evel looked and imagined my own back garden stunts which would surpass his London Wembley stadium bus jumping stunt, I think it was 18 if memory serves?

 

30 years later and I now have 2 sons of my own, James is 3 and just yesterday I came across the Evel Knievel stunt cycle with wind up power booster ( or whatever the correct marketing terminology is) from my boyhood dreams. Excitedly I forked out the $29.99 and rushed home anticipating the countless hours of adventures me and my boy would have with Evel. Wheelies, headstands, trick jumps the sky was the limit........... even though the recommeded age is 5 years old.

After getting him out of the box and struglling to put his little plastic hands on the bike, thinking to myself how the hell would a 5 year old manage this. Off James and I went to the park.................... for a whole 10 minutes. Even with the brute force of a stocky 42 year old winding the booster hell for leather, little plastic Evel can only manage to go 5 to 6 feet before pathetically tumbling and falling on the floor. Seems I've fell victim to the ghost of some slick TV ads from my childhood.

 

Along with platform shoes, 3 star jumpers, 10 button wasteband Oxford bags, Gary Glitter and The Bay City Rollers some things are better left as nostalgia............................................................

 

 

 

 

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Monday, February 26, 2007 - Sammy G gets his first haircut

I've written a lot on my blog lately as I've been in the mood to put some stuff on it.  Apart from the downtown LA walking tour most is thoughts, observations and personal stuff  that is probably of little interest to most people. Much of the content has been a little heavy lately, reflecting my current feelings and thoughts I suppose.

 

This post is of my youngest son getting his first haircut. A simple series of photos. Before, during and after. Co-starring Elina in a tacky leopard print hairdressers smock as she had to hold Samuel during his first haircut. Just recording this event for posterity.

 

Buh-buh buh buh buh..................... that's all folks.

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Monday, February 26, 2007 - For Robert Part II

Today is the funeral services for my friend Robert, it's been over a month since his death however the V.A took time to find a slot for him and his earthly remains have been long cremated. In talking with his sister yesterday I learned that Robert did not die from a conventional heart attack as was first suspected. Robert had been drinking with one of his 'buddies', he had also been taking some pain killers or muscle relaxants. The combinataion of excessive alcohol and pain killers may have led to overdose and/or cardiac arrest. Obviously I'm upset and also a little angry that Robert could have been so irresponsible. I thought my little corner of the internet would be an appropriate place to keep the memories of Robert. I will look at them from time to time and think of our escapades together.

 

In loving memory of Robert 58 years old, born June 4, 1948, died January 18, 2007

Robert 'Bobby' was born on June 4, 1948 in New York City, New York. He moved to California in 1954, with his mother and brother. He lived most of his childhood in the Ocean Park area of Los Angeles. As a child, Bob would earn money by collecting soda bottles. He then would spend his savings on his collection of military figurines. He was very interested in historic battles and collected military figures. His collection included hundreds of Roman soldiers, catapults and warships and he also had multiple sets of figures from the Alamo, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the modern day army.

Bobby was a very caring and protective older brother to Jimmy. Although he was only 4 years older than Jim, Bob frequently had care for his little brother. Jimmy recalls two instances where Bobby acted selflessly to insure Jim’s safety. Jim cut his foot severely one day, when Jimmy was 6 and Bobby was 10. Bobby carried Jim home, which was over 5 miles away. Another time, when Jimmy was 7, they were both exiting a bus and Jimmy’s leg got caught in the bus door. Bobby lifted Jimmy and ran along side of the bus until it reached the next bus stop. When it came to family and friends Bobby would always give of himself with out hesitation.

As a youth, Bobby spent summer days with his brother body surfing and belly boarding at Muscle Beach. When they could afford it they would hop on the tram, and go to Pacific Ocean Park, the local amusement park, where they spent many fun and memorable hours in the house of mirrors and on the roller coaster.

As a teenager Bob enjoyed skateboarding, playing tennis and surfing. He was the Vice President of a Santa Monica High School social club called the “LTD“. After graduating high school, Bob enrolled in Jr. College but was not able to complete his education due to the escalation of the Vietnam Conflict.

Bobby served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. After his military service, Bobby returned to California, met, fell in love with and married Janet  and became a father. Although the marriage ended and they parted on difficult terms, Bobby always kept David in his heart.

Bobby was intelligent and articulate. He was socially gifted, making friends easily. Bob had many interests and strong moral values. He was especially passionate about the American political process. He loved to discuss and debate politics with anyone, at any time, at anyplace and for as long as he felt he might make a difference. Bob volunteered to work for many aspiring and prominent politicians. He worked on their campaigns, canvassed door-to-door, wrote commentaries to the newspapers, and attended rallies and fundraisers.

Bobby moved to Henderson Nevada, in 1996, so he could be closer to his ailing Mother, and his sister Mary and her family. Bobby was responsible, loving and considerate son to his Mother and a caring brother and uncle. Family and friends were very important to Bobby. He didn’t have much materially, but he was always generous and willing to share what he did have.

Although Bob was raised as a Roman Catholic, he often attended churches of other denominations. During his residence in Henderson, he often attended St Timothy’s Episcopal church. His belief in the Lord was without question.

Bobby died unexpectedly on Thursday, January 18, 2007. He left behind his son David Matthew , his grandson Caleb, his mother Carrie , his brother Jim  his sister Mary , his nephews Jeff  and Matthew , his nieces Stephanie and Michelle and his great-nephew Ryan .

Bob will always be loved and missed by his family and will remain in their hearts and memories forever!

 

Until we meet again. We love you Bobby.

 

When I first came to the US in 1987 I found myself an apartment to live in and a job, the job wasn't a very good one and I had to work Sundays.  I didn't have any friends and knew no one. Early one Sunday morning I was stopped by a guy that lived in my apartment building who expressed genuine interest in where I was from, that person was Robert DeSouza and it typified Robert’s friendly and curious nature.

That was the start of a 20-year friendship with what would turn out to be my first and best American friend.

Back in those days everything was still new and fresh to me; the sun and sand were a novelty to a young man from the UK. Conversely, having grown up in the 60’s surfing scene Robert knew Santa Monica well, and took the time to show a new immigrant the California and Santa Monica beach scene. On my days off Robert and I would spend our days at the beach. Robert and I had some hilarious escapades back in those early days of our friendship, usually fuelled by the long hot days of summer……… and a drink or two.

.

As I got to know Robert I got to know quite a bit about who Robert was, and what shaped him as a person.  A Vietnam veteran who amongst various achievements had a career at Merrill Lynch, in addition to being actively involved in numerous democratic party presidential campaigns for over 25 years, not for personal gain but to attempt to make the world and his country a better place.

Robert had a son David Matthew that he dearly loved and was very proud of, whom he mentioned numerous times over the years. Robert was especially close to his sister Mary and her family, he left his beloved Santa Monica a few years ago to be closer to them in Henderson, but we kept in touch through phone calls, Christmas cards and a visit or two.

 

In addition to art and politics Robert loved music and was a big fan of the Beatles, especially John Lennon. One of the Beatles songs on the Revolver album is entitled ‘Doctor Robert’. Given Robert’s love of The Beatles I nicknamed him Doctor Robert, and the name stuck over the years. I would address him as Doctor Robert or when he would call my house on the telephone my wife Elina would announce its Doctor Robert.

‘Doctor Robert’ would of course play along, proudly using the moniker himself when I spoke with him, as if he were almost convinced he actually was a doctor.

 

This is part of the lyrics from the Beatles song Doctor Robert. It should be obvious to anyone that knew Robert why it was such an appropriate nickname;

 

Doctor Robert
You're a new and better man
He helps you to understand
He does everything he can
If you're down he'll pick you up 
Take a drink from his special cup
 He's a man you must believe
Helping anyone in need
No one can succeed like
Doctor Robert

 

 

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Sunday, February 25, 2007 - How did you get here?

During the course of my week I invariably see numerous homeless people that litter the streets.  When I first came to the US I had never seen so many homeless people especially in the city of Santa Monica where I live. During my 20 years here in the US my actions towards them have varied. I used to give them money and food more often than I do now.  I guess I could say that I have become less sympatheic towards them in many ways.

Since having my sons my thoughts have changed somewhat. I was present at the birth of my first son and it was quite an emotional experience. When he finally emerged from his Mom's womb it struck me how perfect he was, a clean fresh new life, no physical or mental scars. Lately when I see a homeless person I think back to the birth of my sons. What happened to you? Someone must have cared for you, fed you, loved you, cleaned your diaper. How exactly did you go from that little piece of perfection to the fetid, dirty, troubled piece of human decay that sits there in your own filth. What damaged you so much, what abuse, illness and/or neglect led you here to the pavement, unloved and destroyed?!?!

 Emotional empathy have now replaced the ambivalence I previosly felt after my initial outpouring of generosity.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007 - Downtown Los Angeles walking tour in pictures

Downtown Los Angeles has long been maligned with a bad reputation for nothing to do and a refuge for homeless with homeless areas such as skid row. Recently downtown has undergone a renaissance with multi-million dollar construction projects such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Staples center. The planned Bunker Hill and LA live projects plan to breathe more life into downtown, it is fast becoming the in place to live with the addition of lofts, condos and multi-use businesses and dwellings.

Yesterday I had a friend visiting and we decided to do the Downtown walking tour. I would recommend it for anyone that plans to visit as a change to the already familiar Disneyland, Universal Studios and Rodeo Drive circuit. Downtown Los Angeles holds many treasures that  even many 'Angelinos' are not aware of.

There is an excellent site with various tours that you can conduct on foot, at your own pace. One of the features is numerous 'podcasts', where one can download a guided tour and save it to the MP3 player of your choice in order to play it during your walk;

http://www.laconservancy.org/tours/downtown/index.php4

http://www.downtownlawalks.com/

I've decided to let the pictures speak for themselves and added some brief descriptions, but I am sure with the help of the links above and a little research you can find out a lot of detailed information about the jewels that downtown holds.  These are just some of the spots that I visited yesterday, there are many more fountains, museums, statues and old movie theatres that I have not even mentioned.

 I hope this is helpful to anyone that would  like to discover the history behind the city with an undiserved repuatation for little to no culture or history. Enjoy!!.............................

Downtown skyscrapers

On a clear day one can actually see snow capped mountains behind the enormous skyscrapers.  Problem is that with the smoggy haze that usually envelops Los Angeles, these days per year can probably be counted on one hand.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Frank Gehry's latest masterpiece. In addition to the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper forum one of the many places in Los Angeles to catch a philharmonic orchestra, opera or play in downtown. Yesterday was a relatively mild day and the sun reflected off the stainless steel panels was still quite scorching. The heat reflected must be quite severe in the summer months.

Angels Flight

Recently restored and renovated after  a passenger fatality in 2001. It is slated to reopen in 2007 and will carry passengers for the short ride up Bunker Hill, which was previously a fashionable resedential area at the turn of the late 19th Century.

The Bradbury Building

 

Science Fiction fans may recognize this building from one of my favorite movies Bladerunner. This building was the location shoot for  J.F. Sebastian's apartment building housing numerous creations and replicants. I've included some still shots from Bladerunner in addition to the photo I took yesterday. 

Central Market

If you like ethnic food a good place to stop for lunch is the Central Market just opposite the Bradbury building. Chinese, Thai, El Salvadorian, Argentinain and Mexican is just some of the faire available. The bustling market with sawdust on the floor also contains a tortilla factory in addition to numerous meat and seafood stands.

Cathedral of our Lady of the angels

The recently completed catholic cathedral is interesting for it's minimalistic and even austere feel, note the lack of stained glass windows and almost monchromatic interior.

Chinatown

Twin dragons guard the entrance to LA's chinatown, turtles, jade, tea, t-shirts  whole peking duck and dimsum are on offer. Downtown also contains Little Tokyo for fresh sushi, sake and delicious bento boxes.

Olvera Street

                          

Olvera Street is the traditional Mexican style market place and plaza area. Aztec dancers, strolling Mariachi bands, enjoy some tacos, mole, enchilades and tamales. Numerous fiestas throughout the year, this place has a lot of history.
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Monday, January 22, 2007 - What undies not to wear

 

I usually buy my own underwear and bought some Bill Blass briefs that are very comfortable and have served my boys well over the past few years. So I just got back from Las Vegas and found Elina had replaced the underwear she bought me for Christmas with some Old Navy Y front undies. I never wear Y fronts as I consider them old mans knickers, but at $3.99 a 3 pack Elina said at least you can use them to work out or whatever. So I've had a prototype test pair on today and hate them, the problem is my balls fall through the Y which is really uncomfortable and annoying.  I've also tried boxer shorts in the past but found that felt weird just having ones tackle just sort of hanging down the side of your leg without the support offered by briefs.

So it's back to the drawing board in my quest for a comfortable pair of briefs, obviously not a thong or bikini brief but not old man baggy Y's or tighty whiteys either.

Any helpful comments or suggestions would be appreciated for my unmentionables.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007 - Doctor Robert

 

When I first came to the US in 1987 like most other people I found myself an apartment to live in and a job, the job wasn't a very good one and I had to work Sundays.  I didn't have any freinds and knew no-one. Early one Sunday morning I was stopped by a guy that lived in my apartment building who asked me for a ride, I obliged and noticed he was somewhat drunk but didn't think much of it as I like a tipple myself.

A couple of days later the neighbor I had given the ride to thanked me, introduced himself and gave me what he claimed to be an original Kennedy Presidential candidate bumper sticker as a thank-you. I had the bumper sticker framed only to be asked for it back by the neighbor who was now sober, as he really wanted to keep it for a gift for his son.

That was the start of my friendship with what would turn out to be my first American friend since arriving in the country.

 Robert was a Vietnam veteran who had one time worked for Merrill Lynch and had been married with a small son, for one reason or another, mostly his drinking I suspected, he was estranged from his wife and son and worked sporadically at best over the 20 years I knew him.

Personal issues and a 17 year age difference aside Robert was a perfect friend for someone who had just arrived in Los Angeles, having grown up in the 60’s surfing scene he knew Santa Monica well, my days off were on a Tuesday & Wednesday which Robert and I would spend at the beach.

On these days off, everything was still new and fresh to me; the sun and sand were a novelty to a kid from Birmingham. Robert would usually wander off and come back with a girl or two to introduce to his ‘English buddy’, so he would do all the hard work while I usually sat drinking beer in the sun hoping to get laid by the girls Robert would present to me, being a lot more shy in those days the arrangement worked perfectly and we had a lot of fun.

Robert was a big fan of the Beatles and especially John Lennon, one of the Beatles songs is entitled ‘Doctor Robert’, one of the lines exclaims that “no-one can succeed like Doctor Robert”. Given Robert’s love of The Beatles, his dire financial circumstances and love of booze, not to mention my sarcastic British humor I nicknamed him Doctor Robert as 'no one could succeed like' him, and the name stuck over the years. I would address him as Doctor Robert or when he would call on the telephone Elina would announce, it’s Doctor Robert. Doctor Robert would proudly use the moniker himself when I spoke with him, as if he were almost convinced he actually was a doctor.

 Robert and I had some hilarious escapades, usually fuelled by booze and sunny days on the beach, like the time he offered to ‘race me home’ after one of our beach days. Neither of us were fit to drive, I drove home very carefully aware that I would be at fault for any accident. Doctor Robert showed up a couple of hours later after crashing his car, he asked me to return him to his car, which I did. He then approached a police officer slurring that he had an accident, the cop dismissed him as an idiot and I had to literally drag him away before the cop found out it was actually true.

 The time I flicked the bottle cap of a beer and knocked his new tooth veneer off, leaving him with half a tooth after he only got the veneer to repair his tooth, less than a week before.

Happy Hour at the Sheraton Hotel, we had just walked in after one of our beach days, in the 5 minutes I had left him alone in the bar while I went to the gents, I came back to find him being literally carried out by 3 security guards, one had his feet, one had him around the chest and one was carrying his boom box which he had been playing The Beatles on at maximum volume much to the annoyance of hotel staff and patrons alike.

 Robert moved to Henderson, a small suburb just outside Las Vegas a few years ago, to be close to his sister. Still not working, living in section 8 housing, attending AA meetings and longing to see his only son from his estranged wife. Robert had shown me photographs of their wedding years earlier a few blocks away in Saint Monica’s church, where I live now, a younger Robert in happier days. Robert longed to return to Santa Monica for a visit where he had spent long, summer days at the beach in his teenage surfing years, during his marriage and of course showing a new English immigrant around in the late 1980’s. I had offered to fly him out here for a visit having not seen him for 4 years and so that he could have a look around his beloved Santa Monica, not to mention a few drinks. He could never find the time to take me up on my offer due to his 'busy schedule'.

Today I received a call from Las Vegas coroners office, at 58 years old Robert had had a heart attack in the early hours of the morning and had passed away. One of the items in Robert’s wallet was a piece of paper with my telephone number on it…………………………………..

 

 

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - What a load of crap

 

 

I just got around to setting up the new combo DVD/VCR Elina got me for Christmas, I was going to get a digital HD Tivo but I don't record that much TV.
This post is not meant as a 'look at all the toys I've got blog entry' more of a 'how did our lives get this complicated' entry after looking at all the electronic crap I now have in my living room and the out of control arrangement of spaghetti wires I have at the back of my furniture.
 If you look closely in the photo you can see;
A printer, wireless router, i-pod, webcam, PC and surround sound speakers, DVD burner, laptop, DVD/VCR combo, X-box, AV receiver, HD tuner, small DVD ( hacked to play foreign movies), LCD TV, inra-red wireless headphones, and various remote controls.

 I have not even included the Bose surround sound speakers and bass woofer unit, 2 cell phones, video camera and numerous power outlets hidden away from sight............. 

 Nothing seems to be compatible and everytime I buy something there is a better more expensive cable you have to buy, HDI, SCSI, firewire, Pictbridge, a new orange digital RCA jack on the DVD that I've never even seen.
Then there's regular, HD and blue-ray DVD, it's a conspiracy by the movie and electronics companies, so that you never, ever have the latest movie format being watched on the best definition and sound quality video or sound component. 5.1 surround sound, became 6.1 and now the latest 7.1 outdates all our expensive speaker systems.

 It's crazy while all the glossy ad's say " It's so easy and convenient"............. no it's bloody not.
I'm just wondering how long it will be before I succumb to the generation gap and have a flashing, unworkable expensive piece of electronics that I can't even tell the time on or know how to adjust.......... just like our Grandparents and the first VCR they bought........

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Saturday, January 13, 2007 - Pour on Water

 

So Elina invited friends around this evening for dinner, she decided to make Coq au vin and flambe the chicken in brandy this morning.
My contribution??.................. putting the fire out and calling Santa Monica Fire Dept.

Elina flambed the chicken with brandy, when she did so a mesh filter in the extractor hood caught fire, which I tried to smother with a towel, meantime this spread upwards into the cupboards and I did not realize at first that the flames had set fire to some cereal boxes in the cupboards.
I opened the cupboards and a pretty large fire had engulfed the cupboards and cabinets setting fire to the varnish on them etc.
I threw water on the cereal boxes while Elina got the kids out, the fan mesh and electronics were plastic and created a lot of black smoke. I opened the windows and turned a fan on to get rid of the smoke, then the fire dept came and checked the fire had not spread through any ventilation or onto the roof.

All in all a quick reminder of how quickly you can go from a normal morning to being minutes away from losing your possesions or even worse.

 

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The Protagonist

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