Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A creepy musical mystery chills the heart of suburbia

In disaster movies, often you open your front door and a tsunami hits you in the face. Last weekend, something very similar happened to me, except drier. As I stepped out onto the porch I heard music. Horror movie music. The kind of music you hear when a guy is about to pop out of your roses with a machete. It was thin, reedy, electronic. Super creepy. It seemed to be coming from my neighbor's hedge. 

The tune...wait for it...was "Happy Birthday."

If you have ever seen a horror movie, you know better than to approach a hedge, so I took precautions. I set my phone on "video" and hit record. In the clip, the crunch of my neighbor's parched lawn under my feet is clearly audible, the drought a constant reminder of my own inevitable death.

My neighbor's car was parked in his driveway. Black. Not a good sign. I thought maybe he had left his phone in the car and his ringtone was on endless repeat, but what kind of jackmope uses "Happy Birthday" as a ringtone? 

No. As I got closer I could tell that my first impulse was right—the creepazoid tune was coming from inside the hedge!

I turned to my daughter, who is a college student and full of ideas. She was on her phone, googling "enchanted hedge cures," I hoped. No. Turns out she was just trying to capture Pokemon characters in the street, which is a thing you can do now with an app, apparently. 

I went around the hedge and trespassed on my other neighbor's lawn. Yes. Music. Up high in the hedge, loud. But why? How?

We decided to walk the dog and ponder some options. As I stood across the street watching my dog foul a third neighbor's dying lawn, the lady at the second house poked her head out her front door and looked incredulously at her hedge, then disappeared back inside. She just moved in. Paid a fortune too. Right about now she was thinking "That !!#%&$! realtor."

I came back with a stepladder and zoned in on the tune. After fondling foliage for a minute, I found the culprit—the little device that goes in singing birthday cards. No card. Just the circuit and batteries. Did a bird drop it there, or did some teenager think it would be funny to mess with our suburban chill? I will never know, but I did save it. Halloween is not that far away.

. . .

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Wa Pic - Mothra is partial to DKNY

 Once Godzilla started carrying one, everybody was suddenly cool with carrying one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Trip to Colorado brings insights new and strange

I took a trip to Colorado last week, where strolling into a pot dispensary does not garner you any funny looks, but publicly carrying an umbrella does. We get so little rain in California, when the forecast says there is an 80% chance, we carry umbrellas.

The same forecast in Colorado, accompanied by a sky as black as a Senator's soul, is ignored. An umbrella-carrier in Denver is marked instantly, and derisively, as a "Californian." They look at you like you are carrying a half-eaten marmot. And not in a good way.

It is jarring to see pot openly for sale. We have it in California, of course, but you have to pretend a doctor sent you. As long as you are carrying a Dr. Pepper can, I think that is considered medical enough.

Outside Denver I saw a big purple house, being used as a store, called "Granny's Hash." Another place advertised its "hand-trimmed bud." I guess that machine-trimmed bud is just not worth my time.

Fun fact: I am a geocacher, and I went to Denver for a big gathering of my kind. Geocaching is a game where people hide containers in public, post the GPS coordinates, and you try to find them. These "caches" are all around you, especially in the city, under bus benches, in bushes, on fences. A cache can look just like a rusty bolt on a fence, but it's hollow. The seeker must sign the log sheet inside.

Anyway, it was a hoot to see about 2,000 of these hobbyists in one spot, trading tips, buying sneaky caches from vendors who specialize in fake hollow rocks, fake snail shells and the like. My local L.A. geo group took a side trip up to Pike's Peak. Many of us did not have a word for what it is like up there at 14,000 feet. We had to ask somebody. "Cold" is the word they used, I think. I do not like this word.

Denver is a civilized city. It is full of those pedal taxis, which makes you feel good as a Californian, because you know that your vehicle is getting its exercise. The restaurant where I ate tacked a 1% "historic preservation" fee on my bill because it was in an old building.

And you thought L.A. was Scam Central. Don't turn your back on a Coloradan. He might machine-trim your bud.

. . .


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday Wa Pic - Nutty

 Some pics write their own caption.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Getting high in downtown Los Angeles a tad pricey

Los Angeles is trying to attract people to its resurgent downtown, and it has settled on the idea of a thrilling outdoor slide ride in an entirely glass tube 70 floors high. This probably beat out other ideas like a zip line from the top of Disney Hall to the Grand Central Market or gator wrestling in the Biltmore lobby.

Height-novelties are a mainstay of tourist-seeking cities around the world. New Zealand has "Skywalk," where you don a jump suit, latch on to a safety line, and teeter along the edge of the open air rooftop 630 feet above Auckland.

At Toronto's "Edgewalk," you can do the same at 1168 feet. You can even get married up there, although I'm not sure of the symbolism that evokes.

Chicago has a couple of attractions, evidently because being windy has ceased to be a draw. You can stand in a glass box and look straight down at your doom 1353 feet above the ground. They call it "The Ledge."

Just across town there is "TILT," on the 94th floor of another building. You face the glass, hold onto handrails, and your window slowly tilts you out 30 degrees so you are facing...well, again, your doom, or at least the air conditioners of a lot of shorter buildings.

L.A.'s "Skyslide" is atop the 70th floor of the U.S. Bank building, is glass on all sides, and is mounted outside so that your trip takes you down to the rooftop of the 69th floor. Yes, you could take the elevator and save yourself $33, but then you would not be able to say you conquered your fear of spending.

The ride (based on my watching several YouTube videos of people sliding) lasts about four seconds, which comes out to roughly $8.25 a second. If you watched a 90 minute movie at that rate, it would cost you $44,550.

For that kind of money I would insist on being launched via catapult off the U.S. Bank building in a wing suit, with my destination the Hollywood sign. Maybe a cadre of unemployed actors could break my fall.

Proclaiming its safety, one spokesman said you could hang two blue whales from the Skyslide and it would not budge. Now that is something I would actually pay $33 to see. But for four cheaper seconds of thrill, may I suggest you just try crossing Figueroa against the light?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday Wa Pic - Cubism or condiment?

 When your pepper looks back at you, it's time to lay off the spice.