Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Recycling update!

The greatest thing ever has happened to the corner of Olympic and Robertson. I never have to visit the crappy recycling center at Vons ever again!

But let me start at the beginning.

Several months ago, a rundown crappy gas station I never went to was closed and the area was totally curtained off from the street, hidden from view! For months, they worked on this mystery construction on the southeast corner of Olympic and Robertson. I had to pass by it everyday, wondering: What new neighborhood jewel will I be greeted with when this is done? Will it sell macaroni and cheese? Will it delight me with that frozen yogurt from Japan am I so inexplicably addicted to? Or will it just be a refurbished gas emporium? Then, after months of speculation, they unveiled THIS:


What is this monstrosity, you ask?

It's a gas station. But, as their billboards tout, "a little better". I will admit, upon my first drive-by, I was indifferent. What's the big deal? It's still a gas station, just with cute buttons and green glowing lights. It looks like LAX had a baby with the Disney Concert Hall. Where's my mac and cheese?

I mean, I "got it". It was meant to be like, an eco-station, environmentally beneficial, and all that. But as far as I could tell, it was still selling regular petrol at regular prices. Still bored.

Last night, as my gas light reminded me it had been glowing for 20-odd miles, I relented. FINE, I thought, I will go to your farce of an earth-friendly gas station, but only because I have to buy fuel anyway.

So I filled up Loretta with some 87 (I'm not made of money, people) and as I did, a handsome, articulate BP employee was graciously giving a couple of people a tour of the facilities.

I'm sorry, did I say handsome? Like, probably the best looking person to ever grace the full-service side of the pump.

So he is giving them a tour, and he tells them, oh, and you can bring all your recyclables here too: and indicates a recycling center right there (mind you, two blocks from my front door) for plastics and bottles, paper, etc. And then he looks up at me and says, hey, and you can too!

I certainly can!

I also did a little more investigation, and they also recycle cell phones there, the roof is made with solar panels, they have irrigation systems in place to channel rainwater for use (like we get rain in LA, but still, nice idea), the paint has reduced toxins, and the whole place is made up with lots of recyclable and sustainable materials. Still a ways off from improving the nature of what they are actually selling, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction as far as getting people to be environmentally conscious and a major improvement over what was there before.

Did I mention the gas attendant was not only well-spoken but highly attractive?

Needless to say, I will be returning to the Helios House.

Find out more here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Heart The Train!

Whenever I go visit friends in San Diego, my preferred method of transportation is via train.

Specifically, the Pacific Surfliner, pictured above pulling into sunny downtown San Diego. I love the train for so many reasons, I wonder if just one blog entry can even do it justice. But I can try. For the train, I will try.

First, there is the beautiful Union Station in downtown Los Angeles: In the midst of the accountants, crackheads, and rats (yes, folks, LA has rats - I've seen them) that populate downtown Los Angeles, there is this magnificent building. Which is only more support for my burgeoning love for/obsession with downtown LA. Look at it! It's gorgeous!

I like looking at the board with the arrivals and departures as if I am a foreign backpacker making my way around the country. I usually sit in one of the old leather chairs and read while waiting for my call for departure.

Which brings me to my next point: productivity! I am all about maximizing my limited free time, and the train fits that mandate wonderfully. If I was driving on the 405, my supplementary activities would be limited to listening to the radio and/or talking on the celly. There would also be the threat of debilitating traffic. However, while I am on the train, I can do whatever I want! I can read, write correspondence, eat, drink (folks: they sell beer and wine on board! Not that I am at liberty to indulge at the moment...), sleep, work on my needlepoint (if I knew how or was so inclined) - really, there are limitless possibilities. And if you want to do NOTHING - there is always the beautiful Pacific Ocean right outside your window so you can sit and stare and contemplate the nature of Man.

Here's another brilliant point - one more person on the train (me) equals one less car on the road (Loretta). The passengers on the train are effectively working to save the environment! Mass transit works! And unlike the airport, where you have to get there all early, check your baggage, get your liquids confiscated, traverse across terminals, blah blah blah, there is none of that at the train station! You get there, you check in, and you are on your train. For this you require maybe 10 minutes. The train gets me to San Diego in about the same amount of time it would take me to drive.

The train does not come without it's drawbacks, however, outlined below:

  • Prohibitive cost. A roundtrip ticket from LA to Solana Beach (north SD) will run you about $46. Add to that parking at Union Station, which is about $6 per day. Sadly, gas is more economical.
  • Train's getting popular. Fridays and Sundays are especially crowded. This weekend I had to sit backwards from LA, and I sat with a "new companion" on the way back. Not ideal train-riding conditions for me, but still not enough to put me off the idea either. Business class is always an option to ensure greater comfort and exclusivity, but that brings us back to the first bullet.

So, for now, the train remains a "special treat" that I like to indulge in when I know I have the extra cash, and when I can ride at non-peak times to avoid the masses. I love it! The adventures you can have on the train! You can meet new friends (I met some Heineken-drinking 19-year old Marines on this last trip - Hi Tony). On my birthday, the conductor gave me a FREE upgrade to business class, where I kicked up my feet with a complimentary bottle of the finest in twist-off-cap wine. Thank you, Pacific Surfliner, Amtrak, and locomotive lovers everywhere - and long live the train!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Hump

What an incredibly suggestive title! How I would love to increasingly pepper my everyday speech with "clever" sexual innuendo like this, and then react with puritanical shock when called out on said innnuendo. "NO! I am not talking about humping, you dirty blog readers!" But the disappointing reality is I am probably just too inhibited to talk even referentially about such things anyway. I do get fretfully giggly when people talk overtly about (SEX)! My own hangup, I suppose... So the title of the blog actually just refers to the fact that I am over halfway done with my Lenten sobriety quest. "Over the hump", as they say. Which makes this camel photo all the more appropriate. Not only does he have a hump, you see, but he is also traversing across a dry, arid desert. Like me! He's dry. And not drinking. You see?

So, not that I am counting, per se, but I do believe I am somewhere around Day 20/21... fabulous, no? This weekend should be an especially challenging one. There are a myriad of drinking events all centered around the celebration of dear St. Patrick.

Last year, I spent St. Patty's in Savannah, Georgia, which boasts the 2nd largest celebration in the U.S. outside of Boston. It's true - google it! Legions of green-clad, would-be Leprechauns all drinking unhealthy amounts of green beer on River Street. I went to visit my cousin and spent a long weekend amongst the mainly Southern revelers. Lots of fun. This year, it's even on a Saturday, adding to the potential mayhem.

I think the good thing is it's not like I have felt tempted so far, or even like I need to be drinking... which is good. And I have been going out, to various funtime events at which I would normally have a drink or 7. Like, last weekend, I went out till all hours at some fun bars, a downtown warehouse party, and danced around like a drunken fool - only not drunken! Which... I suppose just makes me a fool. But, I still had a blast.

Point being, I expect this weekend should be no different. Me - still being foolish, wearing green, dancing around, and all that. Maybe the only thing I WILL strive for is more spicy allusions and sexual overtones...

Like: "I'd sure like to find HIS pot of gold..."

Eh? Eh??

I'll work on it.