Buns for the Whole Family

Who doesn’t love Ikea? I mean when you go there, the escalator whisks you to the very top of the store, and no matter what you are there to buy, you have to walk through the entire store to get what you want. And everything has a name. Like Omlopp or Yddingen or Iggsjön. And once you have that giant flat box home you get to spend hours assembling your TV table named Hasselvika with that tiny crappy allen wrench they give you. And what do you do with the three extra weird screws you are left with? And the food, that wonderful cafeteria with the Swedish meatballs and the Swedish hot dogs and the Swedish potato chips. Yummy. And if you have to return something, they have that swell waiting area with the cool interactive display to keep your kids occupied while you lie on those super comfy couches waiting for them to call your number. What’s not to love?

We were there buying a convertible couch named Balkarp and kitchen cabinet handles named Tyda for our guest house on one of these occasions, and knobs named Möllarp for our own kitchen cabinets on the other. Nifty brushed stainless steel handles with screws just a tiny bit too long for the doors so I had to go to the hardware store and get all new metric screws to fit. What’s not to love?


Waiting for the Optician (or someone like him)

Friedman Optical, Culver City. March 2014

When I was working full time for a major post-production facility, one of the benefits was full medical insurance including optical. The photo is of the last time I visited this optician with my insurance for my free eye exam and pair of glasses. With the loss of my ‘vision’ insurance, I now see an ophthalmologist for my eye-care needs which is covered by my current medical insurance. I buy the glasses and the packs of contacts at Costco.

I began wearing glasses at age 10 when I realized that by squinting, the writing on the blackboard at school became clearer. In high school I sported old fashioned wire rimmed spectacles with rose-tinted lenses. I looked like a cross between Jerry Garcia and John Lenon. Later I graduated to soft contact lenses which gave me my peripheral vision back, it was nearly as much a revelation as when I put on glasses for the first time and the world snapped into clear focus.

For the past many years I have worn “disposable” lenses which advertise the ability to sleep with them in. One of the things I hated about contact lenses, in fact the only downside, is having to take them out and fuss with them. In the early days, we would have to remove them nightly, put them into a special appliance and disinfect them by heating. What a royal pain.

Now, with this latest breakthrough in optical science, I could go for weeks without having to touch them; my ophthalmologist was horrified to learn that. She has gradually convinced me to take them out every couple of days to clean and disinfect with a new all-in-one solution. No heat necessary.


Scottsdale Medical Care

We visited my cousin in Phoenix, well, actually Scottsdale a few times during 2014. Both she and her mother had some medical challenges and we found ourselves spending a bit of time in hospitals. Fortunately, nothing serious. Mostly testing.  As I have observed, hospitals are rich sources of material for the Waiting Room Project. From cavernous waiting arenas, to a couple of chairs and a plant, you can find plenty of variety, with and without people. There is a lot of waiting going on all over the building. My favorite of this series is the first one in the upper left. Which one do you like?

Off to the Laundromat

Laundromat, Venice. March 2014

One of the great benefits of home ownership is having a washing machine and dryer in the garage. No trips to the laundromat with a carload of dirty clothes. No feeding quarters into a Speed Queen industrial washer. No negotiating with other patrons over dryer space. No watching the clothes spin through the glass door counting the minutes until you can fold them and get the heck out of there. Gee, I sure don’t miss it.

I had the idea of incorporating a laundromat with a pub so people would have something to do for the hour or so it took to complete the wash and dry cycle. I wonder why no one has opened one here in LA yet. (I’ve checked.) Might be some permit conflicts or some other bureaucratic impediment. I mean, Suds and Duds? It’s a natural.

For those who do not have unfettered access to a clothes washer, it is off to the laundromat. This one is two blocks from my house next to a 24-hour liquor store, a low-rent version of Suds and Duds. It is a very informal place, and the “waiting area” reflects this. One can see the most eclectic collection of folks there, many of whom have nothing to do with clean clothes. The liquor store and the nearby McDonald’s form a little axis of attraction to an ever-changing transient population. Not that I hang out here, or even patronize the liquor store regularly but on rare occasions we need a pint of milk for pancakes or an emergency 6-pack. It was on one such foray that I snapped this photo.

Active Barbers

Active Barbers, Santa Monica. April 2014

In one of my first posts, I mentioned Steven the Barber. I met him at Lincoln Barbers in 2012. He gave a great haircut, and when I wanted to splurge a little, an old-fashioned hot towel shave. A month after Jake’s passing, with the conclusion of the shloshim, the 30 day mourning period, I went to see Steven. During that 30 days it is customary not to shave or cut your hair, so by that time, I had a full beard. While we were talking he asked about Jake, who he knew and whose hair he had cut on a few occasions. When I told him what had happened and that Jake was 24 years old, he got very quiet and murmured, “that’s how old I am.” We spent the rest of the time in near silence other than him mumbling, “We’re gonna make Ed Colman look like a million bucks.” He took great care while shaving me, and when I went to pay him, he refused to take any money. “This one’s on me”, he said. It was a small kindness that had a great impact at the time.

A few months later, Steven left Lincoln and with a partner, opened his own shop on Wilshire, Active Barbers. As soon as he opened, I went for a haircut to support him. I guess I could be called a charter customer. I wouldn’t get my hair cut any where else. We always talk about his business, his progress, how he is doing. He has an interesting history, not the most sterling from what I can surmise, and he has made a successful life for himself in spite of a difficult beginning. If you look closely, you can see him in the mirror. The shop rarely looks like this now, it is always busy.

On the Boardwalk

Ocean Front Walk, Venice. March 2014

In February I began volunteering at Venice Arts, a local media arts program for youth. I needed to get out of the house, out of my head, and my mom suggested I check it out. They offer a variety of programs – photography, filmmaking, graphic art, animation – to primarily low income middle and high schoolers. I became a volunteer mentor in an intermediate photography class. The theme of the class was “youth culture”, and the students worked in groups illuminating the various aspects of that culture through photography. Ultimate they produced a series of photo cards with  text that commented on the 6 areas chosen at the beginning of the class: Music, Consumerism, Drugs, Sports, Fashion, and Culture, as well as individual photographs for a fold-up paper box to hold the cards. Ironic isn’t it? Youth culture in a box.

The work was fabulous, these kids have such a fresh unencumbered viewpoint that even after a lifetime in photography I learned as much as they did. Maybe more. Additionally, being able to give a little back of my own photographic knowledge allowed me to be a bit closer to Jake. He was an accomplished photographer and began his photographic journey in earnest at just about the same age as my students. It was bittersweet to be sure, and since my emotions were still so raw and ragged, I had to walk away from the group once in a while to compose myself.

One of our field trips took us to the Ocean Front Walk in Venice. If there ever was a hotbed of youth culture, this is it. A stretch of souvenir shops, pizza stands and tattoo parlors along with an array of street vendors, musicians, performers, beggars, homeless, tourists, residents hanging out on balconies, sidewalk cafes; it really must be experienced to appreciate. No trip to Venice is complete without a visit.

I couldn’t resist this photo. The bright red couch served as waiting area for two establishments – tattoo parlor and marijuana dispensary. You could get inked and baked all at once.

Oil Change

Right next to the WLA carwash is a Jiffy Lube. I had a coupon for both so I dedicated the afternoon to car care. Located on Sepulveda Blvd., this is outside my normal rounds. I think I was out and about doing errands and decided to pull in for a wash and a change.

What struck me about this particular waiting room was the utter bleakness. No frills, just a blank TV and a soda machine. Dimly lit, smelling faintly of used motor oil, it is one of the least attractive places I have waited. The patio wasn’t much better – dusty and reeking of cigarette smoke. I usually go elsewhere for both wash and oil change, but the lure of the coupon was irresistible.

As is often the case, I couldn’t decide which photo to post; which one do you like?

Kaiser Medical Center, WLA

I had taken my mom to Kaiser for some tests before a minor procedure she was having. While she waited, I prowled the halls looking for some of the multitude of waiting areas found in any hospital. These are two of the most interesting photos.

The West LA medical center is huge. Several buildings cluster around a central courtyard: the main hospital, medical offices, gift shop, cafeteria, parking structure – all the usual suspects. More buildings lurk behind the main wing. It serves thousands of people daily many of whom will wait in these rooms, or ones just like them.