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Okay, let’s cast our memories back. Back, back, back. Farther than that. Okay, are you to 1978 yet? If not, we’ll wait.

Are we all here? Jimmy Carter is in the White House (I’m a big fan). David Berkowitz is tried and sentenced (I am a bit of a true crime geek). We had three popes, including the eerily prophetically named John Paul I, who really did put the “I” on his name (also a religion geek). And the top-grossing movie for the year? Grease.

If you’ve seen Grease, you’ll probably remember the drag racing scene. Remember the street they’re racing on? That’s not a street. It’s a river. The Los Angeles River, specifically.

There was catastrophic flooding along the Los Angeles River in 1938 and to fix the problem, they completely destroyed the river’s ecosystem. They dug the river deeper and widened it and covered the whole damn thing with concrete, as if that doesn’t add insult to injury.

In past visits, I’d seen the river occasionally, and it was just as heartbreaking an eyesore as you’d expect. I couldn’t believe that there ever had been a healthy river there.

In recent years, however, I’d been hearing that they’d been working on restoring the ecosystem. I’d heard rumors that there was enough water in some places that people were actually kayaking. This, I wanted to see with my own eyes. I spent quite some time trying to figure out exactly where the improvements had been made and how to get there. Finally I found an article in the Los Angeles Times giving directions that involved parking by the tennis courts in Griffith Park and walking behind the soccer fields. There, you’ll find a bridge over the Golden State Freeway which will lead you to the river. So, we did just that. It certainly was an experience, and on an early Monday afternoon in late July there aren’t a whole lot of people out and about, which made Alex very nervous. We got some fantastic pictures and got to watch an actual blue heron in the water of the river.

After a few blocks, Alex had enough. So we took what turned out to be the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge back to Los Feliz, took Los Feliz back across the 5 and returned to our car. I’m glad I got the chance to see the revitalization of the river, even if it was kind of creepy and deserted, and I hope to get a chance to explore more (maybe on a weekend when there will hopefully be more people there) on future visits.

Also, coming back on the bridge is why I began my 24 Hours of Happy project. I was watching the video for Happy and noticed that Pharrell is on the Alex Baum Bicycle Bridge at one point. The end of the video directed me to the 24 Hours of Happy site and then I found the individual hours on Pharrell’s iamOTHER channel at YouTube, and it was all downhill from there.

Los Angeles River between Glendale and Los Feliz, 2017

Look at that. From this angle it almost looks like nature. And someday it will hopefully look completely like nature from all angles.

But back to our final day. Traditionally when someone from our pharmacy goes on a trip, they bring something back for everyone else in the pharmacy — magnets, food, pens, whatever. I hadn’t found anything yet, so I looked up souvenir shops and found that most of the best ones are in Hollywood. We hadn’t been to Hollywood yet on this trip, so we figured why not?

We found a parking lot not too far from Hollywood Boulevard and hiked for maybe a quarter or a third of a mile. But what a quarter or a third of a mile! We walked down the Walk of Fame looking at all of the names and watching the people looking at all of the names. I noticed, by the way, that Betty White’s star and that of her late husband, Allen Ludden, face each other, which I thought was sweet. We also went past the establishment formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater. You may be familiar with Grauman’s. It’s the place where all of the actors’ hand- and footprints are in the squares of the sidewalk. I dragged Alex from actor to singer to director just agog and I managed to restrain myself and only take one (not very well framed) picture of Bette Davis’s square. Finally Alex dragged my attention to the task at hand and we continued to the souvenir store. I resisted the temptation to stop by again on our way back to the car, but we needed to get on our way to the airport to return to Texas.

We got our souvenirs and made it back to the airport in plenty of time for our flight. Unfortunately we were seated on the “wrong” side of the plane, by which I mean the side that faced out onto the ocean. As it took off, the plane circled around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and from that side of the plane I could have maybe gotten one last picture of Cabrillo Beach, the lighthouses, Seal Beach Pier and the Queen Mary. Well, now I know. We need to be on the left side of the plane on our flight back next time.

And there will be a next time. Not in 2018, and maybe not even in 2019, but someday.

Well, okay. It’s late at night on April 4*, but today was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and so far no one I know has so much as mentioned it. I was expecting to be up to my eyeballs in King tributes and . . . nada.

I actually went and looked up the date on Google just to make sure that I was remembering it correctly.

So, to get this out of my system (since I’ve had this song stuck in my head all day for obvious reasons), even though posting videos that aren’t my work isn’t my style at all (and to keep the boys of U2 happy, here’s a link to (a remastered version of) the album the song came from at Amazon: The Unforgettable Fire )

 

 

*And actually closer to the time of King’s assassination than in the song. King was pronounced dead at 6:05 pm Central Time and it’s now 10:39 pm.

P.S. Oh, My God. Bono was such a *baby* 34 years ago!

When we first moved down here, Thomas and I drove downtown and then paid to park. We really wouldn’t have considered any other way, despite the fact that almost every time we went into downtown Chicago, we took the train.

In the last month, I’ve been downtown four times and I haven’t had to pay for parking even once.

We start on February 10. When trying to figure out how we’d get to the Howard Jones concert (which was awesome), I drove to the Pearl and walked downtown down the River Walk. I was both trying to figure out how to get to the concert and also trying to figure out how many tries it would take to get Foxy into shape so that we can take her downtown before we reach the end of her life. I measured our walk with her on February 4 and then decided to increase our range by half that amount every two weeks. I finally came to the conclusion that it would take us nine tries, which would get us to downtown the last week of May (we have since missed one two-week period of walking with her, so it will now take us until early June).

I explored a bit, because I wanted to get all the way into downtown.  I checked out the Southwest Center for Art, which was originally the old Ursuline Academy. I went on a tour of the Southwest Center in 2001, and Thomas has those pictures. So I decided to take some of my own pictures while I was in the neighborhood. I also checked out the Central Library (and got my library card renewed until 2020).

Once I got to the Tobin Center, I checked out a few parking lots and a parking garage, but while I was walking, I passed a bus stop which was less than a block from the Tobin Center and was a route that runs close to my home. I called the number on the sign and discovered that we could realistically take the bus down and maybe take the bus back as well (turns out that we were just a tiny bit too late for the first of the late buses, so we took a cab home).

The clock on top of the Ursuline Academy building only has faces on three of its four sides. The north side has no face because the school was built in what was then the far north part of the city. From what I’ve read, the only people farther north were Native Americans, who had their own methods of keeping track of the time.

After discovering that we could take the bus, I explored a bit more. I walked through to Travis Park, which used to be home to our Confederate Memorial. They took the monument down in September of 2017 and I hadn’t had a chance to check it out yet. Then, while I was there, I remembered a statue in the parking garage of the St. Anthony hotel, so I asked the concierge about it. The concierge said that a previous owner of the hotel (Ralph Morrison, I guess) had bought a lot of art from Europe and put it in the hotel and that statue was probably one of the pieces he bought.

February 15 was the concert, and we took the bus. We caught the bus about half a mile from our house then got off a couple of blocks from the Tobin Center.

February 17 was the Asian New Year Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures. Alex and I took the bus again, but this time it was our usual bus, which leaves one of the transit centers and goes directly downtown. We drove to the transit center and took the bus from there.

Then today was his and/or my fourth trip since February 10, which was another walking trip. This time, rather than starting from the Pearl, we started from the Blue Star Arts Complex and walked north to downtown.

So there you have it. Walking south, walking to the bus, driving to a different bus, and walking north. That’s four different ways I got downtown and I didn’t have to pay for parking even once. If you want to get picky, of course, there are five directions here, because of the cab.

And I intend to get downtown one more way in the not-too-distant future. It’ll technically be back to driving, but still won’t involve paying for parking

We’re almost out the door. I just have to get dressed and we need to put our suitcases and provisions in the car (we’ll be driving for about 14 straight hours, so we’ll need to be able to eat on the run) and we’re out of here.

So one last thing before I go. Our eldest furbaby, Alex’s diabetic cat with IBD, may very well now be Alex’s cat with IBD. When we were in California, his glucose was normal all week, despite not being given any insulin. And then, for the weeks since, we also didn’t give him any insulin. For those playing at home, that means that as of today he’s gone exactly one month without insulin.

black domestic medium hair cat with burgundy knitting on couch

Alex’s baby, circa 2003, with some of my knitting. I need to get back to knitting someday.

They tested his glucose today, and it was picture perfect. We’ll need to test his glucose again in another month and then every two or three months for a while, but it sure looks like he may no longer be diabetic.

So apparently there was an abscess in my tooth, but it was too small to see on February 20 when I went to my regular dentist. A week later, when I went to the endodontist, it was clearly visible.

So, yesterday (March 2, 2017), I had a root canal. My mouth is still a little sore. It’s more or less like a bruise, where it only hurts when I bite down on it. I’m mostly treating it with ibuprofen and soft foods. It looks like it could hurt for another few days. Maybe a week.

Apparently, if you hurt before you get the root canal, it increases the possibility that you’ll have pain afterwards, because it takes a while for the area around the tooth to adjust to the new status quo.

I’m still going to be visiting parks and things while I convalesce because moderate exercise can help wounds heal faster and I have a doozy right now. Someone just scraped out the entire contents of my tooth and filled it with porcelain, after all.

Also, I’m out of eggs in Pokemon Go and I need to replenish my supply.

I was about a hundred words into my next My Travel Memories post (on Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta) when I, well, let’s start at the beginning.

In July of 2016, I had pain in one of my molars (#19, for those who care about such things). I had just gotten dental insurance for the first time since 2009 but I didn’t have a relationship with a dentist yet. After this, I got a dentist. She x-rayed the tooth and didn’t see any kind of infection or anything like that, so she decided that it was probably referred pain from tension in the masseter.  She recommended that I take 800 mg of ibuprofen and see if that helped. It did.

Fast forward to his past Saturday (February 18). I was eating apples and almonds for lunch when the pain came back. This time, though, the ibuprofen didn’t help. Sunday night the pain interfered with my sleep.

So I called my dentist to see if she could fit me in for a quick exam. There still wasn’t any sign of an infection, so she concluded that I probably have a cracked tooth and gave me a prescription for painkillers and the phone number of an endodontist so that he can pull off the crown on that tooth and examine the tooth for cracks. She also gave me a prescription for antibiotics, because sometimes a crack can have bacteria in it and the bacteria can cause pain. I discussed it with one of my pharmacists because I didn’t want to take it if I didn’t need to.

The next appointment they had was a full week later. So I got more painkillers and, when on Wednesday night the pain spread up to my ear and was just excruciating. I decided that perhaps the time had come to fill that antibiotic prescription. I took my first antibiotic on Wednesday night and by Thursday morning I was feeling 500% better.

Then I noticed a small swollen area on my gum on that side. So apparently there were bacteria in there, but not enough to show up as an abscess on the x-ray.

I’m feeling much better now, so hopefully I can go back and finish that blog post.  I haven’t decided if I am going to leave those first hundred or so words, or if I’ll rewrite it. Let’s see what it looks like when I tackle it tomorrow.

As an aside, in my paying myself to study foreign languages project, I hit the $100 mark this week. I’m going to add that money to the next CD that I purchase, so that I can continue keeping track of my income from this project. If I were to put it on the stock market it wouldn’t increase at an easy-to-track pace.

Rain Forest for Sale, by Scott Wallace photographs by Tim Laman, Ivan Kashinsky, Karla Gachet, David Liittschwager, and Steve Winter

Wow! That’s quite the listing of photographers. Each photographer was assigned a particular subject area to photograph. Laman photographed primates and birds, Kashinsky and Gachet photographed people, Liitschwager photographed the “microfauna” (which apparently means bugs and things in this case; microfauna usually means things like protozoans and tardigrades) and Winter photographed the people.

Rain Forest for Sale is about the exploitation for oil of the national parks of Ecuador. Wallace and the team of photographers traveled to Ecuador to capture the lives of the people and fauna of the region so as to bring awareness of the plight that the indigenous peoples of the region are in.

One of the things that is highlighted and that particularly appalled me (so obviously their highlighting of the issue worked the way it was intended) is that the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, offered not to exploit the oil in part of this sensitive area if the people of other countries would give Ecuador $3.6 Billion. My initial response was, “Nice park we have here. Shame if something were to happen to it.” I don’t think that’s how a protection racket is supposed to work. I think you’re supposed to protect your own natural areas, not threaten to destroy them if others won’t pay you off.

It didn’t work, by the way. In September 2016, they started drilling for oil in that area of the park.

Into the Unknown, by David Roberts, photographs by Frank Hurley

In 1912, an explorer, Douglas Mawson, sent out eight teams of three men to explore Antarctica. They weren’t trying to get to the South Pole, they just wanted to find out as much as they could about our southernmost continent.

Mawson’s team fell into trouble about a month into their part of the expedition. A sinkhole opened up behind Mawson’s sledge and one of their team members, half of their dogs, their tent, all of the food for the sled dogs, and most of the food for the humans. So, of course, the remaining two members of the team, headed immediately back to their home base.

As they traveled, they lost their dogs one by one (they euthanized each dog with a bullet and then ate the dogs to preserve the remainder of their food). Then Mawson’s human companion died. Mawson buried him in the snow and kept going. As Mawson’s body began to fail, he began to despair, but he kept moving. Finally, he returned to the base camp and found that, while their ship had left without them, some men had stayed behind to look for Mawson’s team. It would take another ten months for the ship to return.

Mawson and Mertz had to get rid of any unnecessary equipment that they carried, which included their camera.

Mawson died in 1958. Frank Hurley, the photographer for this article, was also on the 1912 expedition and, near as I can tell, these are his photos from that expedition.

London Down Under, by Roff Smith, photographs by Simon Norfolk

Okay, so cities build on top of the remains of previous generations.  In London Down Under (more on my reaction to that title later), we are told that the old layers of London go down 30 feet.  I would assume that the materials the higher levels are built from came from outside the city and thus the city itself is getting more prominent. If this happens in all cities, would the planet actually kind of start getting bigger?  You can tell I didn’t sleep well last night.  I’m still a little loopy.

London was always one of the places I’ve wanted to visit, and when I had my cancer, I didn’t want to die without having been to the UK, London in particular, so we went.  It took a toll on our credit cards, but it was worth it.  I loved London and would love to go back someday.

London Down Under is about the archaeological digs that they are doing in London, the things they are finding, and how, contrary to what you might have expected, the dampness of London is actually protecting the artifacts. One of the archaeologists that Smith interviews, Sadie Watson, says that items that would have rotted away centuries ago. I’m trying to figure out how that would even work. I can find references to how salt water preserves artifacts, but not fresh water, like that of the Thames and the underground rivers such as the Walbrook. The water would make an anaerobic environment, but that would still leave anaerobic organisms, and anaerobic organisms can break things down.  That is the source of fermentation, after all — fungi breaking down carbohydrates in an anaerobic environment.

Now to my issue with the title.  “Down Under” generally means “Australia,” or, rarely “New Zealand” or, even more rarely, someplace like Chile, Argentina. I haven’t been able to find one dictionary that defines the term as “subterranean.”

The Changing Face of Saudi Women, by Cynthia Gorney photographs by Lynsey Addaria

Gorney and Addaria travel into the world of the women of Saudia Arabia. And I use the term “world” intentionally. Saudi Arabia is one of the most, if not the most, sexually segregated countries in the world.  Women have different places to sit in restaurants, different lines at the grocery store, and entirely separate areas of the shopping mall.  Not that men are forbidden entirely in some of these places but the only men who are allowed there are husbands or immediate family members of the women in question.

Apparently, some of the women of Saudi Arabia, at least, don’t see their segregation as creating a female ghetto but rather as a safe space rather like women-only colleges and universities.  Women got the right to vote in 2015, the same year that women were first allowed to be members of the Consultative Assembly, which is, from what I can tell, more or less like a combination of Congress (in that they draft laws) and the President’s Cabinet (in that they are merely advisory and don’t make the actual decisions) in the United States. But Saudi women still cannot drive in Saudi Arabia.  Some women drive outside the country, and it apparently is pretty common for cars to stop just over the border into Bahrain and for the woman to take over driving.  So, when women do get the ability to drive legally in Saudi Arabia, at least some won’t need to be taught.

For the entertainment value, I went to look at the King Fahd Causeway, which links Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, on Google Earth to see if I could see any cars doing this, and there definitely appears to be a car on the shoulder just past Bahrain Passport Control. Maybe that car wasn’t switching drivers, but just maybe it was.

Midnight Slalom, by Jeremy Berlin, photographs by Oskar Enander

Midnight Slalom is a short piece with accompanying photographs about a 2014 nighttime shoot of skiers on the slopes of mountains in Alaska and British Columbia. The pictures are breathtaking.

I know that getting a consistent 10,000 steps per day is not really likely to happen in my life at the moment.  I walk a lot, but I just stand still for even longer and standing is exhausting in itself.  So, when I first started using the SHealth app on my phone, I counted my steps for a couple of days and then added a couple hundred more to push me a bit harder.  The total I came up with for the day was 8,200.  And, over the first year and a half that I used the app, I got so that having an average of 8,200 steps per day for an entire month got to be pretty easy. I didn’t necessarily make it every day, but I did more days than not, and was able to make up the excess so that I got the average nearly every month.

Then May 2016 happened.

I got off to a kind of weak start because May 1 was a Sunday and I generally don’t work Sundays.  Alex and I went to see a movie and then walked for about 20 minutes, which works out to about 2,000 steps.  So that’s an average of 2,000 steps per day for the month of May.  Then I was off on May 4 and didn’t get an early enough start to do much walking.  By the time I got my act together, it was starting to get too warm to walk.  On May 7, I worked the municipal election, so I didn’t get my full steps that day, either.  Then I came down with some kind of virus on May 16.  For the next week, it took a Herculean effort to even hit my goal for the day, much less start on the shortage.

So now it’s about bedtime on May 25 and I only have six days left in the month.  I also am still 47,000 steps short for the month, which means that I need to average 7,800 steps per day for the next six days.  Two of these days are my days off, though.  If I don’t do any walking on either of those days,  I need 12,000 steps per day on the four days that I’m working.

Will I make it?  If I remember to do so, I will post on June 1 and let you know.

Sea Wolves, by Susan McGrath, photographs by Paul Nicklen

Sea Wolves is about, well, wolves that live near the sea. Apparently, scientists generally considered the wolves that they saw on the beach of the coast of British Columbia to be ordinary forest-dwelling wolves that were searching for food at the beach.  But recently, scientists have begun studying the wolves that they see near the shores and they have discovered that the wolves never really leave the shoreline. They live on barnacles and dead whales, but during spawning season, salmon can make up to 25% of their diet. The shore-dwelling wolves also mate pretty much exclusively with other shore-dwelling wolves, so the populations are totally distinct from one another and are likely to become more so.

Of course, the local residents had known most of this for years.  It just took a little longer for the scientists to catch up, apparently.

Abstraction Finds Beauty in Beasts, story and photographs by Michael D. Kern

Yep, that’s the title.  Don’t ask me.

Kern is a photographer who has always has liked reptiles and invertebrates and other “icky” animals.  He first takes a photograph of said animal and looks for patterns, colors, shapes, and so forth.  Then he uses that to build an abstract photograph of the animal in order to show off the beauty of the animal.

In this article, we see Kern’s original photographs and his abstract art based on those photographs for a bird, a snake, a tarantula, a millipede, a mantis, and two different species of chameleon. I think the millipede is my favorite.  The original animal has red legs and black-and-white stripes on its shell.

I have a very high tolerance for bugs and things.  I’m the only person I know who, when asked, “Would you like to (hold/touch) (name of “icky” creature)?” almost always says “yes.”  I’ve been able to hold, touch, and/or pet several species of snake, a tarantula, and a bat, among others.  For anyone reading this who is worried about my rabies status, the bat had been confiscated from traffickers and it was impossible to repatriate it, so it was given into custody of a trained professional bat-handler.  She had had custody of it for several years by then, so I knew that it wasn’t infected with rabies or ebola or anything. The fur was, by the way, incredibly soft.