Testing, 1, 2, 3

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St. John’s Medical Center, Santa Monica. July 2014

I have a couple of health issues that require regular blood tests every year or so. Nothing serious, just routine monitoring. I usually just have the blood drawn at the doctor who is requesting the test, but for some reason, I had to go to St. John’s for this particular test. I don’t exactly recall what it was, but I found myself in the well-lit waiting room and discovered this photo. Yes, that’s the tip of my finger sneaking in the top left corner; darn iPhone and its microscopic camera. Some might say it ruins what would otherwise be a splendid work of art, a commentary on the philosophical aspect of waiting. I could spend an hour trying to Photoshop it out, or just leave it as an organic part of the image, a bit of authenticity. More a commentary on my fat fingers. I’ve been taking pictures for more than 50 years and still can’t keep my damn fingers away from the lens. So much to remember.

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?

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?

Dumpling Quest

 

When Empress Pavilion closed, we were distraught. We embarked on a quest to find a replacement for our beloved Dim Sum lunch. Fortunately, there is a multitude of dim sum restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area, and our search took us from Redondo Beach to Monterey Park, from West Los Angeles to Glendale. NBC in Monterey park was high on the list for a while, but they have a limited number of chicken dumplings, and when they changed the recipe of T’s favorite purple sweet potato dumpling, that was the final nail. Din Tai Fung is famous for it’s soup dumplings, the xiao long bao, but they are made with pork, so we couldn’t eat them. There is a place in West LA we tried, ROC (via a Groupon) which makes a chicken Xiao Long Bao. It was good at first, they have a stir-fried rice noodle dish that is delicious, but faded after the first few visits. We tried a couple of venerable places in Chinatown, one in Redondo Beach that had gotten good review by Jonathan Gold, but time and again we returned to Ocean Seafood, another Chinatown institution.

These photos show the difference in energy between an empty waiting area and the same room filled with people. In both, the first shot is while we were waiting, the second one of vacant chairs is after lunch, as we were leaving.

SnipSnipBuzz

These are photos of the barber shop in which Jake got his last haircut – Monday, December 16, 2013. T and I were visiting him in Palm Springs. We took him for the haircut and dinner. It was the last time we visited. I snapped these pictures while I waited for him. You can see him through the window in the upper left and lower right photos getting one of the worst haircuts ever. I could never make up my mind which of the pictures I should select, so I am including all of them. We had a lovely visit. He was living in his own apartment with a roommate, had a job prospect lined up at a local restaurant, seemed like he was doing well. Less than two weeks later, we got the dreadful news of his passing.

I think I like the large one in the upper left. It has all the elements. Empty chairs, inside and out waiting places, someone waiting, Jake, and a slightly skewed perspective. Little did I know that this is one of the last photographs I would take of my son. I have taken thousands of them throughout his life, but none as poignant. We returned home the next day. I would speak with him during the ensuing weeks, would text, but I would never see him again.

Costco

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Costco, Palm Springs. November 2013

I love Costco – The home of the $600 toothbrush. What I mean is, when you go to buy the electric toothbrush that is on sale for $79, full ADD kicks in even if you don’t have it.

“Oh look at these storage boxes, we need some of those. And some ink for the printer. In fact, we need a new printer. And some new towels. This is a great bottle of wine for the price. And a brick of Parmesan. And a package of lox. And some mushrooms. And a chicken. Oooh, Calvin Klein polo shirts for $19.95. I’ll get the purple one, the blue one, and the grey one. And a 3-pack of reading glasses. And some cans of tuna.”

And, and, and and. Suddenly your cart is brimming with items and $600 later, you have a new toothbrush.

Jake was living in Palm Springs and we went to Costco to get him a new phone. His old one had gotten lost or broken or died, I can’t remember exactly which, and Verizon was having some kind of promotion. He ended up with a Samsung Galaxy for a ridiculously low price, a modest increase to my bill, and a bunch of free accessories. No toothbrush.

On the way out, I noticed that in Palm Springs, the food court is inside the air conditioned building, unlike our Marina del Rey Costco where it is outside. Probably because of the heat. But it’s a dry heat.

The Auto Club

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Auto Club, Santa Monica. August 2013

I love the Auto Club. The people who work there are always pleasant and courteous. They will help plan your trip. They have the coolest maps, and as an inveterate reader of maps, I always take them on my journeys. You can buy Mexican auto insurance. They will bring you a new battery for your car if it dies on the street. They will come and tow your car if it breaks down on the road. You get a swell magazine every month. And most importantly, you can do your Department of Motor Vehicles business there in comfort and convenience. That alone is worth the cost of membership. That doesn’t mean you won’t wait. In fact, you usually have to wait twice. Once in the line to check in and once at your designated area like DMV, Insurance, Travel. etc.

In this photo you can see three distinct waiting areas beginning with the chair in the foreground and stretching back to the check-in line. I was there getting auto insurance for a trip to Ensenada, Mexico. We have been going to Las Rosas, a lovely little resort on the coast just north of that city, for 25 years. Jake accompanied us on many of our trips from an early age on up to teenagehood. He wasn’t coming with us this time, just a little getaway for the two of us. We have never needed the insurance, but always feel better about having it. We haven’t been back to Las Rosas since.

Cedars Sinai Emergency Room

Late in July, while we were having lunch, Jake complained about pain in his legs and  back. It became so severe we ended up in the emergency room late that afternoon and into the evening. Once he was seen, tests proved inconclusive, and in the interest of caution, they admitted him to the hospital pending more tests by the neurosurgeon. After a couple of days, they couldn’t find anything specifically wrong with him other than his chronic disk issues, and discharged him. But during his brief sojourn we had ample time to explore the vast and varied waiting areas in the hospital. The top three are of the emergency room proper and an adjoining area. The bottom two are late the next night as we were leaving the hospital. The photograph at the bottom right pretty much sums up the entire hospital waiting experience. A long lonely dimly lit corridor stretching into the distance, a solitary figure hunched over his phone waiting for …

Waiting for Wine

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Rideau Winery Tasting Room, Solvang. April 2013

We bought a Groupon for this winery that included a special tour, tasting and a bottle of wine to take home. Solvang is a little “Danish” hamlet north and inland of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley – the region made famous by the movie “Sideways”. The exit off the highway, US 101, is Buellton, home of Pea Soup Anderson’s, a requisite stop for travelers from LA to San Francisco. It is a nice day trip from LA, and we had taken Jake there on a few occasions, notably to check out the Solvang bakeries (they have great Danish there) and to eat at the Hitchin’ Post restaurant, featured in the movie. This time, it was just T and I making the journey.  To spend the time before our afternoon appointment we visited a new distillery, checked out another winery, and sampled some of the noteworthy baked goods in town.

Once at the winery, we sat in this room with other wine aficionados awaiting our tour time, the last of the day. Our guide led us through the pressing and aging room, filled with oak barrels, and finally into the tasting room. He was very funny, sharing bits of wine lore, anecdotes about the winery, and the do’s and don’t’s of tasting. Do hold the glass by the stem, never by the bowl, and serve it at the proper temperature to name two. The wine was passable, the company was lively, and the afternoon mostly enjoyable.

We dined at the Hitchin’ Post which, due to its massive popularity fueled by exposure in Sideways, had lost much of the original intimate feel. It seemed more touristy, less local and the food just wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it. Still, all in all, it was a pretty good steak and a very pleasant day.

Stanley Kubrick at LACMA

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LACMA, Los Angeles. June 2013

Jake, Terry, and I want to the L.A. County Museum of Art one fine June day to see the Stanley Kubrick exhibit. We were sitting at one of the cafe tables having coffee waiting for our alloted time when I snapped this photo. The exhibit was fabulous. Memorabilia, equipment, scripts, letters, props, production sketches, stills, and notes from every film he directed, some projects that never came to fruition, and photos from the beginning of his career as a young photographer for Life magazine. We spent an engaging couple of hours exploring the intricacies of his thought process and visual style. I learned about a  his early films, read letters he wrote to some self-righteous clergymen about Lolita, saw a wonderful miniature model of the War Room from Dr. Strangelove, special lenses he used, and a wealth of other fascinating exhibits.

I  took this photo of Jake through one of the lenses Kubrick used during the filming of LensJake2001: A Space Odyssey, that ended up on Jake’s Facebook page as his profile picture. It is still there as his page has been “memorialized” by FB which means existing friends can still post to it – no new people can be added – and presumably will be up for as long as Facebook exists. His friends post messages to him from time to time and I occasionally put up  things I think he would have enjoyed. Somehow it helps keep his spirit alive. For whatever reasons, I haven’t been back to LACMA since that day.