Category Archives: Personal Interest

things that interest me in the off- and on-hours

Los Angeles Gay Pride #ResistMarch 2017

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I need a new phone!

I was going to bring my camera to this event but I forgot it, what with the sign and all. So, my apologies, the phone ran out of juice about halfway through. I couldn’t even call a Lyft to go back to the subway once it was over. Yes, I know, #Firstworldproblems. I have failed today.

I did love that the Pride Celebration in LA returned to its protest roots. Energizing and energetic, it was great to see the 100,000 people come out to march in the streets in resistance to the “not normal in any way” times we find ourselves in, to reaffirm our equal rights as gay, lesbian, trans, bi, queer, unsure, whatever. We’ve fought very hard for a very long time and honey, we’re not giving an inch. Not. one. inch.

Enjoy the photos and the one video I did manage to take.

And a video snippet:

Tax Day Protest: April 15, 2017

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Never got a chance to post these to the blog, since I left on the month-long train trip just a week after this event. (hint – I have lots of photos and video of the trip, coming in subsequent posts).

What this was: Trying to keep Trump honest. A task in and of itself, to be sure. I’m not certain that’s even possible, but we Angelenos, and thousands of our compatriots around the country, the Resistance to this Pompous Ass, tried to remind him of his promises to release tax returns. So far, bupkis. Anyway, enjoy the photos and the one video. DTLA, April 15. See me in my red ITMFA hat (Impeach the Motherfucker Already)? Normally red’s not my color but I made an exception.

Trump Lies feature and “I am not a Bro” Rant

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‘splaining the anti-bro

OK, well sometimes you just try things that don’t work. Like the “Trump Lies” feature I had going for a few weeks here on the blog. Honestly. I can’t keep up with the consummate lying professional. That, plus there are many many people whose job it is is to keep track of what the President says and decide on the truthfulness (or lack of it) and then write it up.

So I’m gonna bail on that idea. I’ll leave the posts already done up; pretty much you can read any newspaper in the country to catch Trump’s lie of the day. Pretty much everything he says 24/7.

The other part of this post is my “I am not a bro” rant, which I wrote the other day and thought to put at the head of my LinkedIn bio. But I haven’t as yet. I wrote this after reading this article about bro culture at startup companies.

I am not a bro. Far from it; you could call me the anti-bro. In fact, I am a 62-year-old single gay male with 50 years in the workforce, if you count my first paper route at 12—and why wouldn’t you—as it was work (so there, you have answers to those nagging questions that came up when you saw my head shot).

            I have many skills from those 50 years no one puts on their resume which include: knowing how to talk on the phone, knowing how to write a memo, knowing how to spell (and knowing how to look a word up that I’m not sure about), knowing how to show up to work on time and behave in a corporate or small business environment, knowing how to accept a task and complete it within the required time frame.

            I’m just really sick of ageism; hence the rant before the qualifications. I do believe, however, there are companies out there that value the experience, competence and wisdom a lifetime of work will give to someone.

            I don’t want to retire; I like being busy and I’m most like my aunt, who died at 92 still an active employee of a huge bookstore chain. Would consider relocation. Now on to the qualifications:

But, I didn’t post it. Wonder if I should. Too petulant? Or is it funny?

 

My Obamacare Experience, or Why is it that Republicans Hate Small Business/Entrepreneurs?

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Obamacare, the ACA (Affordable Care Act) has been a godsend to me.

Republicans Hate Entrepreneurs. Sad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alas, the Republicans think it’s bad (even though it was their plan) and so they’re going to replace it with something cheaper and much better (according to their new leader). I can only think this will be Medicare for All. Yeah, I wish, and don’t we all?

Just looked up some old stats: In 2007, when I was freelancing full time, I was paying a $502 per month premium for Kaiser HMO coverage. I was (and am) a single man in Los Angeles, aged 52 in 2007.

This past year, I had an ACA (Obamacare) policy through Covered California, again it was a Kaiser HMO plan, and I paid $180 per month. I got a significant subsidy because of my income level. The actual monthly premium was $663. For this year (2017) the premium is $734/month, of which I’ll pay $200. (The same plan — it went up 11%.) The subsidy goes directly to Kaiser Permanente. I never see a penny of it. So for those who hate the subsidy idea, please be reminded that the funds go to overpriced insurance companies, big Pharma, medical device companies, and doctors. The subsidies don’t go to the patients. Your tax dollars are going to support those megaindustries, not for actual healthcare for Americans.

So I’ll be 62 this year.

As a freelancer (I write B2B copy and am an author) with pre-existing conditions (including glaucoma and a history of cancer) I could not get insurance with the system we had before. Or, if I could (like the example above, from 2007), it was a catastrophic plan with high premiums and high deductibles and co-pays, which means basically that I was just insuring my assets against a catastrophic health care loss. Those assets were a condo (since sold) and an IRA retirement account. I wasn’t getting any actual health care for the insurance premiums.

That catastrophic plan also did not cover any prescriptions, which I paid for out-of-pocket.

My current Obamacare Silver-level plan does cover prescriptions, and the co-pays for visits and lab work are affordable (I think I pay about $8-10 per a visit to either; scripts are $10-20 for a 90 day supply.)

If the Republican zeal to roll back things like pre-existing conditions becomes reality, I will again be unable to find insurance. Who, at age 50 or better, does not have a pre-existing condition? Life is a pre-existing condition. This is absurd.

There’s a couple of other issues that I want to touch on. One is Ageism – and the near impossibility of finding an appropriate full time job with health insurance at my age. I haven’t been able to find a full time job in my field since 2010, hence the part-time work and freelancing. Also, employers are moving away from providing benefits in large part due to the ACA and the ability for an individual to buy a policy on the exchange. Decoupling health care from employment, isn’t that the direction we wanted to go? Do we really want to go back to that?

Which brings me to my last point —

Why do Republicans hate small business and entrepreneurs? I always thought they were the party of personal responsibility and commerce. Keeping health insurance tied to employment is 1) arbitrary, and 2) stupid. How many people keep their jobs JUST because they get their healthcare insurance through that job? How many Apples or Facebooks or Starbucks never come into being because people can’t afford to gamble with their health coverage to become entrepreneurs?

So, no, Paul Ryan, you’re wrong, again. Obamacare isn’t a nightmare or a disaster. It’s a lifesaver. It has problems, easily fixed. Why don’t you just do the easy thing and try to fix it instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Oh, right, it’s named after that black president, isn’t it, and we certainly can’t have that. That is the real issue, the whole country knows it.

So This Happened: Car Free to Car Lite, and Why

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About three and 1/2 years ago (June 7, 2013), I sold my car and decided (after much thought and research) to live a life that was car free. I lost some weight and saw a different side of my city. I saved a lot of money. My stress level became palpably lower. I proved that despite all the cliches (which are class-based cliches, by the way), one does not need a car to survive in L.A.

Yes, I found that it’s possible to get anywhere in the L.A. area by bus, train, bike, walking, Uber, Lyft, taxi, Amtrak and the kindness of strangers. But here’s the thing: possible does not always mean convenient.

So this happened:

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Blogger in front of the red Chevy Spark.

I moved to L.A. originally in 1981, and this is the lifestyle we led: Say I lived in Pasadena, which was true for awhile. A friend a few miles away would suggest how nice it would be to go to Hollywood for a few drinks and then later on go down to the beach for a while, play in the dark waves, etc, or go bar-hopping out in Santa Monica. Or have a bite to eat there. We’d often do things like this — which actually involve a 40 or 50 mile round trip in a car. It was common then and it was nothing, really. Gas cheap. We were young and energetic. Traffic was not in any way as bad as it is now, especially at night. This is part of that Southern California Car Culture you hear about, ski in the morning, surf in the afternoon (which I suppose somebody did, not that this kind of activity was EVER anything you would call convenient).

Anyway, my point is, some of this lives on. At least in our minds, at least we’d like to think this is our coastal “lifestyle,” though age and especially traffic has made this all but impossible. I do think there is a bona fide Millennial movement to embrace an L.A. car free existence. But here’s the thing: I’m not a Millennial. Not even close. And I guess although it’s great to be a pioneer or a trailblazer in some way, it’s kind of lonely if you’re the only one.

I was the only one (in my age and class cohorts) who habitually rode the bus or the train and it was honestly getting a bit old and lonely.

Another thing is isolation. While my facility navigating L.A. without a car grew tremendously the longer I did it, my desire to be out and about actually diminished. While I could take an Uber to a hotspot at 10 at night from my home location in the Valley, say to somewhere “over the hill” in Silver Lake or West Hollywood, my desire to do that plummeted. My desire to do that on the bus plummeted even further. And this was not just hotspots, but things like events and other gatherings where the distance and inconvenience just made it too difficult. I didn’t want to be a hermit.

There’s something different about having your own transportation that’s about more than getting to point B from point A, and it has to do with comfort and safety and the ability to be totally spontaneous. I realized that I was willing to pay again for this occasional luxury.

So — I’m not abandoning public transport or my bike or my beloved walks, especially those in the quiet of the near dawn. I really liked contributing to a less polluted city in a really small way and will continue. But I will occasionally use the new car, for things like:

  • Socializing at night, i.e., seeing friends, dating and other activities
  • Road trips – Palm Springs and local places like that, especially where trains don’t go.
  • Camping! I still want to find a partner in crime for this.
  • The occasional event or possibly a job opportunity, like an interview, like tutoring, like background acting on a location (think Santa Clarita, where I used to have frequent gigs). Although for commuting to work, I’ll still use public transport.
  • Going to the Gym – sometimes that’s just easier to drive and I would work out more, quite frankly ,if it was easier to get there.
  • Shopping, sometimes. Sometimes you just want to do that Target run and get your own 30 roll packs of TP rather than have Amazon deliver them.

So there you have it. I’m grateful to have the luxury of the occasional car at my disposal again. I realize how lucky I am to have it. And I know, should it turn out that I really don’t use the car for much, I can always turn around and sell it. Again!

Car Free in L.A. for Three Years – and counting

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Three years ago on June 7, 2013, I drove into CarMax in Burbank, California, and sold them my car. They gave me a check for $6000.

The Blogger at an Orange Line stop, waiting patiently.

The Blogger at an Orange Line stop, waiting patiently.

I walked back to my apartment via Magnolia Boulevard. It took more than an hour. During the early summer walk, I had numerous moments of “oh my god, what have you done?” but I did not fall into the earth, wailing or otherwise.

I’d planned to go car free, and had been thinking about it, reading about it for years. There were lots of reasons, from wanting to be more environmentally conscious to wanting to save money to frustration with driving and especially with parking.

I made lots of dry runs with LA’s Metro system, did lots of bike riding on streets with bike lanes (and others without them, but rarely) and started figuring out places I could walk to in my neighborhood of Valley Village.

Still, it was very strange to arrive back at my apartment and leave my parking space empty. That voice in my head would say, well, you’re crazy, you’ve finally done it buddy, what are you thinking, Jim? You can’t live in L.A. without a car, everybody says so!

But then I have lived in L.A. without a car, and for three years now.

Benefits:

  • more money for me (I save about $5K a year on car costs)
  • easier for me to keep weight stabilized, as I get so much aerobic exercise
  • stress level is lower, and blood pressure readings are more in the normal range
  • I see the city on a more human, sidewalk level. I notice people and buildings and plants and . . . that I would have missed before, speeding by.
  • I don’t get road rage.
  • I don’t have to deal with road ragers.
  • I don’t fret over the price of gas or car insurance or car repairs or any of that.
  • I can still be spontaneous — hello car sharing services, Uber and Lyft. That’s one of the missing pieces to this puzzle, and it’s been filled in.
  • I love just showing up at a venue and walking through the front door, shaking my head when someone asks if I need to be validated.
The donut stand on Magnolia and Keystone in Burbank. That's my bike, but the guy is someone else.

The donut stand on Magnolia and Keystone in Burbank. That’s my bike, but the guy is someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are really no cons to being car free, but I have learned some things about myself and the whole idea of “car free” from a white, middle class perspective.

Some of these things are:

  • Public transport is really a class thing in L.A., still. Regardless of the new Expo line, which everyone wants to ride, because it goes to Santa Monica and the beach, most people ride the Metro because they can’t afford cars. A decision like the one I made to be “car free” was born of privilege (similar to Voluntary Simplicity or New Frugality movements) — because I can afford a car if I want one, if I wanted to return myself to that misery. I imagine that most of the people who have no choice but to take the trains or buses would consider me a silly old fool. I hope that perception will change and we’re making headway, but we’re not there yet.
  • Speaking of that Expo line or the Wilshire 720 Rapid or any of the other public transport ways to get to the Pacific Ocean from the San Fernando Valley: There’s no quick way to get to the beach, other than a car, and even that’s relative. At like, 4 am. On a Tuesday. It would probably take about half an hour at that date/time. But at any other time, rail makes the journey a lot more palatable, i.e. there are no potholes on the rails. And you can read, you can access WiFi or a cell tower (Expo is above ground). You shouldn’t read while driving.
  • When you have a car, you go to lots of places just because you have a car to get there, whether it makes any sense to go there or not. It SEEMS purposeful, but I think that might be an illusion. Because I’ve found that with just a little bit of resistance (the resistance being not having an easy transport option at the ready 24/7) you make lots of different choices.
  • Driving also serves to mask boredom and loneliness. You’re part of this stream of humanity, all GOING somewhere, or at least seeming to, if really not. Listening to the radio is part of it, too, feeling connected to the music or the DJ or the newscaster makes it all a little less lonely.

Just as I started this post I saw that yet another bicyclist had been killed in the LA area, this one in Compton, today, June 6, 2016. RIP.

Be careful out there.

How the blogger lights up his ride

How the blogger lights up his ride

Expo Line This Much Closer to an Opening

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Really, time for a post on something other than “Kept.”

Here is the latest I’ve seen about the imminent opening of the extension of the Expo Line light rail to Santa Monica. As the tweet says, not today but soon. It’s done. It’s just testing now.

The Blogger at an Orange Line stop, waiting patiently.

The Blogger at an Orange Line stop, waiting patiently.

So this is pretty exciting, right?  We have that Orange Line connection to the Van Nuys Flyaway, we’ve got the Gold Line extension to Azusa opening March 5, and now light rail to the true end of the line (blocks from the beach) in Santa Monica, should be open in time for summer, if not before (come on guys, it’s done, let’s open it up by April).

I realize it’s a transport nerd post and not much more. But the truth is, for a city that has long been defined by the automobile, Los Angeles is continually making great strides toward being transit-friendly.

It makes me happy.

The Number One Factor that Allows for a Car-Free Life*

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*in the contemporary United States. I don’t know about other places; I suppose this is a worldwide “law.”

The Blogger at CicLAvia in the valley, outside of OCH's.

The Blogger at CicLAvia in the valley, outside of OCH’s.

I found this post on the Internet. I often look for stories or articles that validate my own car free choice, just so I can feel some camaraderie and not think I’m the only person in the world who has done this and also thinks it’s a doable idea. (I don’t have many friends in L.A. who are car free; some, but usually it’s not been a choice for them and they’re not particularly happy about it and hope to change this circumstance ASAP).

One of the things that Zachary Shahan talks about in his post is the pleasurability of his car free decision. That is key, isn’t it — if it’s not a good and pleasurable way to live, then why do it? I’ve had enough martyrdom in my life already, I don’t really want any more.

I admit that feeling the pleasure is sometimes hard, living in the midst of the most intense car culture on the planet. Also, the writer of this great post is obviously younger than me by decades, and there’s something to be said about youthful optimism in any situation. Isn’t there?

If you haven’t guessed the factor or read the article, I can tell you it’s location. The same old real estate cliche, location location location.

And I think that’s true. The very definition of doable transportation depends on where you are and where you need to go. For myself, I commute to a part time job using a bicycle and public transportation (I take my bike on a subway). For all other daily life activities and shopping, I can walk or ride a bike. For social activities, I usually take public transport or if that’s not really practical, a cab or an Uber or a Lyft, which are always practical in Los Angeles. I happen to live around the corner from a major stop along a major rapid busway. This really does help. It’s a good location.

And We Went to Guadalajara

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Who? Oh, my brother David and I. To see it. Because I wanted to go to Mexico. Because it was his birthday. Because I was interested in seeing Lake Chapala, where large numbers of U.S. expatriates go. It’s pretty there, not sure it would be too stimulating. Chapala, that is. Perhaps you bring your own stimulation. Affordable most definitely.

So, to answer the question, is it safe to go to Guadalajara? I can answer that. Yes, it was fine. The scariest thing that happened to me over the course of our short, 4 night stay was that one night I had trouble sleeping. I have insomnia sometimes; I can hardly blame that on Mexico. (That damn Obama!)

The people we met there were lovely and they were POLITE. They had MANNERS. I’m not talking just about service people at hotels or restaurants, but people on the street. Imagine that, what a concept! Someone’s mama raised that country right. OK, there were dark alleys, I wouldn’t rush to venture down. There were lots of insanely armed police and security guards all over. I wouldn’t confront them. If you have a modicum of the usual street sense that you’d need in any place like L.A., NY, Chicago, New Orleans, etc., you’d feel pretty safe in Guadalajara. Don’t let the scaredy cat warnings you find on social media and from the state department frighten you. If you’re not going to confront the government of Mexico or the drug cartels, my opinion is, it’s as safe or safer than living in a place like I do, Los Angeles, where really bad things happen to people every day.

OK, end rant. Now for the pictures. I like taking pictures of buildings and parts of buildings, always wondering what is behind the walls, who built the building, who lives there or works there, what their lives are like, etc. So some of these are likely moody that way. Since I live in a place where everything is always new and very dry, old and weathered and moldy (as in lots of humidity) always fascinates me. So enjoy. I will comment on some of the photos directly.

UPDATE October 16 2015 – I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Guadalajara area can be dangerous to your health if you’re a member of a cartel or the military or the police. Less than a week after our return, this article on an arrest appeared in the L.A. Times.