The L.A. Report Part 13



Time for another update - my last one was over a year ago.  Warning: this one's another long one!


First, and foremost, is my new girlfriend.  Her name is Joyce and she's from Little Rock, Arkansas (in fact, she's back there now visiting her parents).  We met contra dancing (where else?) and have been going out for 10 months (and 4 days, but who's counting?).  She was an attorney in Arkansas and Washington state but is not licensed here in California yet.  The bar is very difficult to pass in this state - the San Francisco Board of Supervisors President, who was nominated national trial lawyer of the year two years in a row, failed several times before passing it; the dean of Stanford Law School flunked it, the L.A. mayor flunked it four times and never did pass it, two former governors, an eminent legal scholar and a former state Supreme Court justice all failed it.  Joyce has tried three or four times and is taking a little breather from it right now.  In the meantime, she's working as an administrative aide (secretary) at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont.  Where the heck is Claremont?  It's almost 50 miles east of L.A.  Isn't that a long commute for her?  No, because she lives in Montclair, the next suburb to the east.  The Hinterlands, as she calls it.  So dating her is a bit of a challenge, with a 50-mile drive to see her.  Luckily, it's a pretty clear freeway (except during rush hour) so you can drive 80 miles an hour and we can each usually make it in 45 minutes.  So why doesn't she move here?  She has one son in college but the other one still has three years of high school left.  Why don't I move there?  It's the Hinterlands.


I've attached a picture of us at The Magic Castle in Hollywood.


The next big news is that I'm not working for Crystal Cruises anymore.  I really liked the job and everybody there EXCEPT my boss was a real a__hole.  Really bad.  It got to the point that every time I received an email from him, my heart would start to pound.  Well, you can't live like that for very long so I quit and went to work for Princess Cruises, one of their biggest competitors.  It's more than twice as far away (22 miles) but it's what they call a "reverse commute", i.e., you are going the opposite direction (away from downtown, etc.) from most of the other drivers.  So I can drive 75 or 80 miles per hour and get there in 35 to 45 minutes, even less than my old 10-mile drive.  I started there on a 6-month contract (which ends in just a few weeks) and then I become a permanent employee.  Then I'll get cruise benefits after a year.


Princess Cruises uses a lot of Indian contractors, both here and in India.  All the Indian contractors I've worked with have been really sharp and really good people.  One of them trained me in when I first started at Princess, then his company transferred him back to India after my second month.  A few months later, he had a heart attack and died.  And he was only 27 years old.  Really sad.


And while I'm on that subject, one of the women I met contra dancing when I first moved out here was stricken with ovarian cancer last year.  She died this year.  I hadn't done anything with her in a few years but we had a few casual dates before so she was a pretty good friend.


Never take life for granted.  It can be over so unexpectedly.


Speaking of cancer, I've recently learned a little about pancreatic cancer.  Most cancer these days is quite curable, especially if caught early.  That's not the case with pancreatic cancer, however.  It has an extremely high mortality rate - something like 99%.  There just isn't an effective treatment for it.  So I'm running a race at the end of the month that is a fundraiser for pancreatic cancer research.  If you're interested in pledging money for it, go to, click on Make a Donation, Sponsor a Participant, type in my name and click on Search.  When my name comes up, clicking on it will bring up my donation page.


After running the race, I have to race home and take a shower and try to get to the annual meeting of the M.S. Society.  Fortunately, the meeting is in Sherman Oaks this year, only a couple miles from my home.


Speaking of M.S., how's mine?  Thanks for asking.  It's still pretty mild but it's definitely getting worse.  My biggest problem has gotten to be my handwriting and pretty much any activity with my right hand.  Good thing I can do these reports by typing; you'd have a hard time reading my writing.


Speaking of running, I'm still doing my 18 miles a week, 4 days a week but I only ran one race this year.  It was a 5K and I ran it one full minute slower than last year but I still finished 4th in my age group and the top 17% overall.  Can't complain. 


I've now been in my condo for a year and four months.  The housing market has gotten a little soft lately but the value of it has gone from $319,000 when I bought it to $362,000 when I had it appraised last month.  I finally got around to taking some pictures of it and my neighborhood.  I didn't tidy up much for the photos so please excuse any messes.  As you can see I still haven't unpacked all my boxes yet (I finally did my kitchen boxes, though, thanks to Joyce).  The outdoor photos show Chandler Boulevard.  It's about a block from my condo and the street I do most of my running on.  You can see it has a nice wide shoulder because of the bike path, but the whoosh of cars going by at 35 or 40 mph can still be a little annoying.  It's a nice street but like a lot of L.A. it's a neighborhood of contrasts.  The little house (sorry for the blurry photo) is right across the street from the bigger house.


As you can see from my bedroom photo, Spooky is still hangin' in there despite his diabetes and a tumor on his liver.  I still have to give him insulin injections twice a day.  He's the last of the bunch; Ebony and Emma both died in the last year.


I haven't done any acting lately.  I was in a Madlife music video last November.  You can see it on YouTube but they really did a hatchet job on it and I didn't get much screen time at all.  I've had five auditions this year (one for Untold Stories of the E.R., one for a commercial advertising an instructional DVD and three for independent films), but I didn't get any of the roles.


It's still fun to be in entertainment land.  I saw Pavarotti and John Williams (composer of Star Wars, Olympics theme, Shindlers List, etc.) at the Hollywood Bowl last year.  There are lots of movie screenings, both new and classic, where people from the cast or crew show up and give talks, etc.  This summer there was a week of screenings of Olivia De Havelland movies, including Gone With the Wind.  She's 90 years old and gave a talk before a screening of The Heiress.


I just found out that NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena has an open house twice a year so Joyce and I went to it this summer.  What a privilege to be able to see the place they develop and control the Mars Rovers, Deep Impact, etc.  Some of what they do is way over the head of mere mortals but it's all fascinating.


Gas prices are finally coming down.  We were paying well over $3.00 a gallon this summer but now it's down to about $2.50.  They're supposed to fall at least a little further, too.  Hard to believe I was complaining when they went up to $1.55 in 1999.


Like much of the rest of the country, we had a really hot summer, much hotter than usual.  We had twenty-some consecutive days of 100-degree highs.  It got up to 119 degrees one day in Woodland Hills, where I used to work.  One Saturday it was 113 degrees on my deck, but I still managed to run that day.  I usually do six miles on Saturdays but I shortened it to four and slowed it down.  Even then, I damn near died.  I probably shouldn't even try to run when it's that hot, ESPECIALLY with M.S; it's bad enough for normal people but people with M.S. are very sensitive to heat.


Besides the mudslides and wildfires (we haven't had an earthquake in awhile, knock on wood), Southern California is still a nice place to live.


Congratulations!  You've survived reading another one of Jay's rambling L.A. Reports!


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