Surreal Panhandle

“Got any change?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t carry money any more these days. Plastic.”

“Buy me a Pepsi?”


(I buy a soda and hand it to him.)

“Here ya go. Good luck.”

“I wrote this book.”


[garbled] “…it’s how to live like a millionaire.”

(Hands me paper.)

“That’s my name. White King. There’s my website.”

“Buy my book? Help me feed my family?”

“I don’t have any cash, sorry.”

I think I misunderstood, but I was sure until I checked it out that Mr. King was panhandling, trying to get me to buy a book on being a millionaire. (But, I reasoned, being a millionaire is a different skill than becoming a millionaire. So, in a riches-to-rags possibility, he could have a product there.)

Well, here are the websites this guy points to, and it turns out that he claims to be a millionaire “celibrity” (heh), and he was trying to sell me Volume 1 of his three-volume autobiography “Cuban-American Millionaire Celebrity.”

He’s also written some suspense novels which, hey, have sold better than any of my books on Amazon (though, in fairness to myself, my books were all written and out-of-date before anyone had heard of

The guy who stopped me may not have been the guy who wrote the book, though he did look a lot like the pictures on those sites. It was hard to tell, since this millionaire celebrity panhandler wasn’t wearing a suit like the guy in the picture. (He was barely wearing a shirt.)

So if a guy claims to run a half-billion dollar institute, how much change do you give him?

Just another day in the city.

Lies, Damn Lies and Internet Cheese

Victoria has taken the daredevil plunge and gone ahead with an Internet Cheese order. Sure, we’ve all dreamed of it, but she was the only one with the guts to actually do it.

Stilton. From Amazon.


Not so hot.

Meanwhile, it’s been close to 100 degrees here (at the highest) for the past four days. is pitching the following lies:
































So, I’m supposed to believe that the high is going to drop 20 degrees tomorrow and 40 degrees by Saturday? Weatherbug seems the most reasonable, and Wunderground is pretty close except they’re angling for a potentially even colder Saturday.

I’m going to update this daily with the actual high, just for giggles.

Plus, I’m going to install freakin’ central air. Global coldening ain’t comin’ fast enough.

UPDATE #1: Interesting. I was going to rag on for being wildly inaccurate. And they were for the first day. Note all the guesses–er, scientific predictions–are off. Today was markedly cooler (hallelujah!) and right in the middle of the predictions. Intriguingly enough, while was closer for today, they actually changed their predictions yesterday to match those on Weatherbug and Wunderground, so if you went looking Monday for the temps on Tuesday, they would have been farther off than the Sunday predictions!

UPDATE #2: It was warmer today than all three predicted, but not by much. And it got warmer. This makes the 60-degree target for Saturday seem unlikely.

UPDATE #3: Well, this wasn’t particularly enlightening. It’s interesting, I guess, that had the cold starting a day early than it did and peaking a day later than it did. The other two sort of played it conservative, which worked all right until the sudden drop on the weekend.

CONCLUSION: I guess I’ll probably stick with poking my head out the window and guessing.

Sumer Is Icumen In

Lhude sing cuccu!

Actually, this is one of those pre-summer weekends where Summer comes up, grabs you by the lapels, slaps you across the sweat glands and reminds you that you’re his bitch.

Mid-to-high 90s both days, and still over 70 degrees, even though it’s 1AM here. (The only thing that saves you in the So Cal summer is the nights getting cold.) During last summer’s heat wave, I used to watch the temperature slowly drop from 100 to 90 overnight.

Global coldening can’t come soon enough. (Sorry, Canada!)

Rachel Ray in L.A.

An episode of “Tasty Travels”–where Rachel Ray goes around to various cities and eats all kinds of awesome looking food, while you nurse the tater tots on your TV Dinner–is airing tonight on Los Angeles.

The segment on Krav Maga is interesting. The instructor is actually suggesting you should strike with your rear hand way back, to get velocity and, uh, distance. Holy crap, they’ll let anyone teach self-defense.

Anyway, the only place we’ve eaten on her list is the Paradise Cove Café, which we found “snooty”.

A couple of places are not too far from here. I’ll have to check ‘em out. Mostly the show is wallowing in clichés (of course, c’mon, what else are they going to do?) but I still wish I had her job. Heh.

‘course, she ain’t gonna come out to the west end of the valley. (Or north. Or the South Bay. Or downtown. Basically, L.A. is everything west of Fairfax.)

I like Rachel Ray, though. I never quite understand the intensity of hatred these domestic TV personalities generate.

I Scoff!

…at your puny earthquakes.

During my high school years, I once was woken up by an earthquake. It was about 8:30AM and I had been up late, but reflexively I leapt from bed and positioned myself under the door frame for a second, when I said out loud, to no one in particular, “Aw, man, it’s not even a 4.0.” At which point I stagged back into bed, ground still shaking, and went back to sleep.

Later, I learned it was a 3.8.

True story.

EDIT: I should say that CA earthquakes are not equivalent to those elsewhere for a number of reasons. We’re well set up to absorb them, and we have mild ones frequently. Quakes elsewhere, for geological and architectural reasons, are nothing to scoff at.

Passing Lives

In the great big city, or the burbs nearby at least, you get ideas and impressions of people you never actually see just by driving by their houses. You speculate on who people are based on how they do (or don’t do) their lawn, holiday decorations, and so on.

For years we passed a little house on the corner of Lurline and Saticoy, both small streets, though Saticoy has over the years become a lot heavier trafficked. (There are really no streets any more that are unbroken over any distance that haven’t become wall-to-wall cars at some point during the day.) Though a modest house (as most are around here, with the glaring exception of a few McMansions put up during the height of the craze), it was very well cared for, with a white picket fence, and a white lattice work archway over the gate, always adorned with roses.

You know that the owners of the house were the original buyers, a young post-war couple who had settled in the land of milk & honey & aerospace during the ‘50s. And when the house went up for sale, you knew that there was no chance the next owner was going to love it like the original owner had over four decades, and that the those roses would go away (they did) and maybe even the lattice work would be deemed too hard to keep up (it wasn’t).

On the other hand, there’s a fellow we affectionately refer to as The Machine. This fellow puts up decorations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas–short-break–Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day and Easter–then things slow down a bit until Memorial Day and Independence Day are upon us. Then the guy takes a breather for a few months until October starts the cycle up again.

And not just a few decorations. His lawn, his windows, his roof–all plastered with seasonal trappings. His neighbor gives him a run for his money around Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but there’s no contest otherwise.

Except last year, he missed the 4th. There were a lot of cars and somber looking folk milling about.

It was natural to assume that he had died. Right?

Halloween rolled around and nothing.

But then…bam! Pumpkins, ghosts, inflatable Frankenstein monsters…

So was there some other serious occasion that deflected him? Or maybe not serious; people can look pretty grim around weddings and baby showers, too. Maybe he did die and someone is carrying on the tradition.

These are things you don’t know when you’re driving by someone’s life at 35 mph.

“Real” Wealth

As a native Southern Californian, I know more about real estate than any normal person should. But I’ve seen three boom-bust cycles in my life and lived in five different houses before I was 20. Real estate prices have always gone up over time–though I’ve read enough Megan McArdle to know that she thinks the prices are going to go down as the boomers move into retirement homes. (I suspect we’ll open the borders pretty wide before anything like that happens.)

Those who have been around longer than I have assured me that the boom-bust recycle predates my corporeal presence.

The first time it really hit home for me was when I was looking to get out of the renting game. I was fairly young and making good money, considering my age and financial footprint. But there was nothing on the market for less than $200,000 except for a few meager condos. Out of the question. I wasn’t going to pay that for an apartment that somehow fit a legal definition that allowed it to be called something else.

Well, then came the bust part of the cycle, and an earthquake, and a few years later, houses are going in the mid-to-low-100s and, and you could even get a castle with some nice land for $600K. This coincided pretty nicely with the tech bubble, allowing me to purchase a modest home at a reasonable price.

Now, the cycle always leaves prices higher than before so, just as with the stock market, if you’re in it for the long haul, you can always come out ahead. A buddy of mine bought a house recently at near peak prices–just as the market was falling–and it will be years before the market returns his value but he didn’t buy it as an investment, he bought it as a home. (Even so, there will be another spike that pushes the house up past what he paid for it long before it’s, you know, actually worth that.)

So, watching my own house quadruple in value, something like this doesn’t surprise me. In fact, I basically expect prices to drop to something higher than what I paid ten years ago. Maybe 40-50% higher. Which is still 40% of what it was going for at its height.

I have been expecting this to happen no sooner than early next year, after the next Pres takes office, barring an earthquake, but it might happen sooner. Right now I’ve been trying to refinance to a ridiculously low interest rate, but I’m racing against falling housing prices.

I’m guessing they’ll stay bottomed out for 2-3 years. Now all I need is another tech bubble.

Gray In L.A.

When it’s gray in L.A.
I sure like it that way
‘cause there’s way too much sun around here

I don’t know about you
But I’m so sick of blue skies
Whenever they always appear

That’s Loudon Wainwright III singing from the Knocked Up soundtrack. Not his best work, but I cut the guy some slack. He’s written over 200 songs by now and there’s very little duplication. (I’ve seen him respond to fans who point out that one song is like another by saying “Yes, all of my songs are the same.” Still, how should one respond to something like that? I suppose I’d say, “It’s good enough for Vivaldi, it’s good enough for me.”)


It’s gray today here in the city, which is sort of a relief. The heat here has been almost summery (in the ’90s!) and it was unbearable to think we were going to go the next six months with nothing but blue skies and heat.

Thank you, Global Cooling!

Looks like another perfect day….

I got myself a convertible in December. In what is a remarkably “me” set of circumstances, the guy selling me the car totally ripped me off, yet I only paid $940 for the car.

More on that later. I actually just decided I needed a small car, so I grabbed this one and have been quite happy with it. It’s just a coincidence that it’s a convertible.

Since the weather has been inclement, I’ve had the top up since I got it. But yesterday, with temperatures hovering around 80, I decided to put the top down.

And it was fun.

I have, of course, ridden in convertibles before. And there’s no doubting that this car is a piece of, uh, a piece of Geo, but it was a blast. A clichéd blast.

If the car lasts to the end of the year, it will have saved me money. Then, if it breaks down, I can just find another one….