Stock Lumber

Stock Lumber, Los Angeles. November 2014

I love lumber yards and hardware stores. As an inveterate tool user, they are storehouses of the most wonderful inventions. Vice grips. Zip ties. Socket sets. Power tools. Bins full of nuts and bolts and screws and washers. The smell of a lumber yard, that resin-y pine-y aroma of freshly cut plywood, always makes me want to build something. Long ago, I was a woodworker, and the sight of a clear Douglas fir 1 x 12, or a nice piece of oak molding, brings back mostly fond memories.

I usually find myself in a hardware store about once a month, lumber yards less frequently now. Any home improvement project I undertake, be it a simple faucet repair, replacing a screen door roller, or anything more ambitious, always starts with a trip to Lincoln Hardware, Stock Lumber or the dreaded Home Depot. Most projects aren’t complete without at least three trips. One before and two during to secure a forgotten tool, part, or the correct size of whatever. It’s just one of those immutable laws of life.

I took a few pictures of this waiting line before the gentleman in the background pulled his pickup into the doorway. He is waiting for one of the yard rats to bring his purchase around. I was there shopping for windows, and I think I bought some small tool or other just because I can’t resist. I probably have 6 of those 4-way screwdrivers, one for every tool box I own. Can’t have too many tools. I didn’t buy any windows.



At the Accountant’s

Parking Garage, Hollywood. November 2014

I love my accountant. I know that may be an odd thing to say, but I love my accountant. He has been our CPA and financial advisor for more than 15 years and has saved me many tens of thousands of dollars. All totally legally. We went through three previous CPAs to find him; he was recommended by a bookkeeper we had for our dailies business. Once we found Al, we never looked back. He revamped our business structure and even though we had much the same revenue, we kept far, far more of it. That is the true measure of success – it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much you keep.

His office is in a building at the head of the Sunset Strip just east of Beverly Hills. I visit him once a year to meet with him about our taxes. I spend an hour in his office while he looks over the pile of documents I have collected. His fingers fly over his calculator, he makes hasty, cryptic notes on his pile of documents and ten minutes later, he gives me the good news. It’s always good news. The rest of the time, we visit, talk about future financial matters. You know, schmooze. Then he gives me even better news, he validates my parking. I head down to the garage to collect my car from the complimentary valet, feed my little collection of magnetic cards into the parcoa gate and I’m on my way home. Not sure what the little statues mean, but I know what the chairs are for.

Howard Industries

Howard Industries, Culver City. June 2014

Howard is a huge HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) supplier. They also have innumerable replacement parts, tools, and supplies for that industry. I was there getting a new thermocouple for our 30 year-old gas wall heater. The thermocouple, also called a pilot generator, is a little gizmo that sits in the flame of the pilot light in your furnace or heater and tells the main valve it is okay to open. If the pilot goes out, the main valve won’t open so you don’t die of asphyxiation or your house doesn’t accidentally blow up. Ours goes bad every 6 or 7 years and the pilot won’t stay lit. I have to trek to Culver City and take my place on one of these stools while I wait for my number to be called.

Our heaters are so old that they no longer manufacture the size of generator I need, but Howard, having been in business for so long, has a box full of the correct ones buried in the dim reaches of their warehouse. The last time I was there, I bought three of them just in case. Cheaper than having to replace the entire heater.

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?

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.

Pacific Sales

Pacific Sales, Torrance. December 2013

For many, many years we cooked on an antique gas stove, the Detroit Jewel. My dad gave me the pieces of this 100-year old bit of Americana he had bought at a swap meet way back in the 70’s, and once restored, I schlepped it back and forth across the country a couple of times.

The Detroit Jewel

When I settled in Venice, it took its place in the kitchen. We prepared thousands of wonderful meals on its 4 star-shaped burners. T. coaxed many marvelous cakes, pies, breads, and cookies out of its temperamental oven. Jake learned to cook on it; it became a part of our family.

Finally, it started to show its age and it was time for a new stove. My mom had started a ‘stove fund’ a few years ago, and instead of gifts for anniversaries, Hanukkah, etc., she made contributions to the fund. In December we began our search for a worthy replacement. We narrowed it down to Viking, Wolf and Thermador, Ultimately, we chose a beautiful Thermador Professional range. 6 blazing hot Star burners, reminiscent of the Jewel, huge oven with three racks and thermostat control, (something the Jewel lacked), and since Thermador was running a promotion at the time, a free matching dishwasher to boot. We wouldn’t actually buy it for a few months, but the photo of the floor was on the very first foray to explore the possibilities.

The New Thermador

We would come back several times to look at the contenders, and finally, we stood in that line, followed those arrows and came away with our new stove. We had to modify our kitchen to make space for it, added some new cabinets and counter tops, and once ensconced, it looked right at home. It didn’t take long to get used to the Thermador, but sometimes I miss the old Detroit Jewel. The Jewel ended up in Manila. Yes, the Philippines. But that’s another story.




Discount Shoes

DSW, Palm Springs. December 2013

We took Jake here for a new pair of gym shoes on December 16, after his haircut. He wanted to start working out, and the shoes I sent him via USPS got stolen from the front porch of where he was staying. Palm Springs I Love You? Not. Shopping with Jake was always an adventure. Not so much for shoes, but whenever he walked into a store, he had to look at nearly everything in the place. A trip to Home Depot was an hour minimum, even if we were only going for a package of screws, and forget about a trip to Frys. It was an all-day affair. He had impeccable taste in clothes, we both have a  penchant for all things Italian, and could unerringly pick out the finest and most expensive suit, shirt, shoes, tie, watch, wallet, you name it. Runs in the family. This shopping trip was fairly uneventful, we managed to find some shoes for him, and a photo of a long empty line for me.

Rite Aid Pharmacy

Two different stores. Two different cities. Two different dates. Same furniture. Rite Aid was Jake’s pharmacy of choice. He was staying in San Juan Capistrano in August, and moved to Palm Springs in September. I had the good fortune to accompany him in both locations for the med run. Not much else to say other than they were both clean, well-lit, gave you an opportunity to check your blood pressure while waiting, and both very un-crowded. By this time of the year, between all our family members, we had exceeded our out of pocket expense limit, so the meds were free for several months. Thanks Blue Shield, we got our money’s worth that year.

Beyond Bed and Bath

Bed Bath and Beyond, West LA. July 2013

This store is packed. Jammed with millions of things. Things for every room in your house.  It’s huge, two floors packed with every kind of gadget, linen, kitchen thing, bathroom thing, heaters, fans, rugs, food, cosmetics, towels, baby stuff, lightbulbs, pots and pans, dishes, wine, beer – it’s overwhelming. This is the customer service line and is usually jammed with folks returning some of the stuff they bought and don’t need or want. The thing that caught my eye about this photo is the complexity of the image, the fact that this “waiting area” is lined with impulse food buys, and the politeness of the sign. (Just in case you didn’t know what those black stanchions and fabric ropes were for.) So while you are waiting to return that throw rug that is absolutely the wrong color, you can snack on some chips or pistachios, or any of the other junk food available within arm’s reach. Just out of frame on the right side, on the top of one of those stanchions is a large plastic bowl filled with lollypops; in case you were going into a sudden hypoglycemic attack. We were there buying some sort of thing or other; I find myself in this store every couple of months or so. At least they have things to taste and a pretty good selection of beer.