Tuesday, September 26, 2006


If I’m sticking around, I might as well bring you the TUESDAY TOP FIVE

Sorry for the late post, everyone. It’s been a long, crazy, not-so-fun kind of day. Right now, at about 8:30 CST, I’m just finishing up a day of deadlines and insanity from the world of my day job. But I know you need to take a little time away from work and Internet shopping, so I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t return to form.

So here goes. Five things Our Man in LA is vibing on this week in Southern California:

5) BANGKOK EIGHT by John Burdett. No, it’s not a reference to the recent coup in Thailand. It’s a murder mystery, a hard-boiled detective novel in the tradition of Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and James Lee Burke – if any of those guys wanted to write about a detective who was part cop, part Buddhist monk, and 100 percent son of a Thai prostitute. Our hero, Sonchai Jitpleecheep (a name that doesn’t make it through spell check) is hot on the trail of a band of killers, motivated by that old detective story chestnut: “When a man’s partner is killed, you do something about it.”

Bottom line, I’d been seeing this in airports for months and finally picked it up. Great, fast read about a world I don’t know. Check it out.

4) STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. Look, I know everyone and his cousin have already anointed this show, the new one from Aaron Sorkin and featuring a whole load of stars, as the best new show of the television season. Well, sue me. I’m not a real critic, and so I didn’t get to see it until it made it on the air last week. And everyone’s right. Period. It’s just great.

I love the dialogue, I love the acting and the casting and the pace. I love how it doesn’t take itself too seriously – more SPORTS NIGHT than THE WEST WING, and not just because of the subject matter. More to the point, Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford are made for this kind of show. It’s fantastic.

3) FOOTBALL, BOTH THE COLLEGE AND PRO KIND. You might have heard. It’s back. Halleluiah. We’re three or so weeks into the season (the best time of any year), and already there are just so many highlights. Maybe the best season ever . . . at least so far.

Consider just a few of these moments. If you’re not a fan of these teams, pick your own moments. If you don’t like football, skip ahead.

Back to the moments:

• #1 Ohio State taking on #2 Texas in Austin in front of a gazillion fans. You can’t ask for much more than two great, historic teams taking playing each other in a classic environment. The fact that these are two of my teams is a bonus.
• The Cincinnati Bengals, showing that Carson Palmer is more than just back from his injury, and taking apart the hated Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend. “Man, I hate Pittsburgh. I hate them more than UCLA.” Strong words from a USC grad. We don’t hold that against Carson, now that he’s with the Bengals. And led them to the playoffs.
• Michigan – a team I usually can’t abide – taking apart Notre Dame with surgical precision and some serious anger. On that day, we were all Wolverines.
• The Mighty Mighty Longhorns deciding on their first QB of the post-Vince Young era, and deciding on a boy named Colt McCoy.

I’m just so glad it’s back.

2) THE WIRE. I’ve been hearing about this show for years. I’d heard it’s the best thing going. I’d heard it’s like Dickens on TV. I’d heard that it was better than my favorite show of the 1990s, the brilliant and undervalued HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS.

All true.

Our Woman in LA and I started watching this season, at the behest of old pal Rick Porter. He’s been swearing by this program forever, and my only excuse was that it was too far along for me to take part. I promised that one day I’d rent the DVDs. That day is coming sooner and sooner.

Because I’ve never seen a show that captures a place so well. The Baltimore of THE WIRE does a better job of capturing rich and poor, cop and criminal, and showing us how they’re all – how we’re all – connected.

In my first job, I raised money for a mid-sized homeless relief agency in a Chicago neighborhood that’s since gentrified. At the time, it wasn’t so good. THE WIRE reminds me of those days, when I watched cops shake down the guys who hung out on the corner, watched crack deals go down near the el station, and then headed to some rich guy’s house or office so I could ask him for money.

I’m enjoying remembering those times.

1) RUNNER HANGOVER. All right, so two weekends back, Our Woman in LA and I completed the Disneyland Half Marathon. Actually, not just completed it. We rocked it. Both of us cut a bunch of time off our previous 13+ mile race – I came in at 2 hours, 33 minutes; my bride came in at 2 hours, 58.

It was a terrific ending to an amazing period. We loved the training, we loved the fund raising for an amazing cause – helping people who live with HIV and AIDS in Los Angeles. And we loved being a part of a running team, working together week after week and finally finishing the big race in tandem.

What’s more, I’m already jonesing to get back out there, start running again. On Saturday – the first time in months that I didn’t have to get up and run a few miles – I did it anyway. I needed the feel of the pavement against my shoes, the rhythm of it, and the feeling of accomplishment knowing that I can run as far and as fast as I want.

I don’t know how else to explain it. Our Woman in LA and I are runners now. Some mornings, there’s no better way to get started than to head over to Griffith Park, to run past the zoo and the horse trails, and take a good look at the day.

Also, I’ve got this crazy cheer that goes through my head. You see, every week as we trained for Disneyland, our trainer Jared would lead the team in a chant. First he’d yell, and then we would. It went like this:


Yeah. I could probably go for a run right now.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Not such a proper Viking funeral

“Seriously, when are you going to post again on the blog?” Our Woman in LA asked me the other night at dinner. I didn’t know, I told her. Things had been busy out here in LA. Besides the heat wave just completed, besides all the travel for work, besides running a half marathon and cutting a whopping 40 minutes off my previous time (that’s right – 40 minutes!), I’ve just been busy.

“Well, if you’re not going to do it anymore, you really should just sign off,” she said. “Just tell folks you’re done.”

Better yet, I told her, why don’t I make it a proper Viking funeral – just set the blog ablaze or at least go out in an epic firestorm of storytelling.

“Yeah,” she said. “That could work.”

But I couldn’t think of anything properly legendary. There’s been no ring cycle of ridiculous stories to tell around here, and seriously, if I can’t go out strong – if I won’t be sent straight to Valhalla, where the Valkyries and greatest warriors of all time are waiting for me with a frosty mug of mead, then seriously, why end this thing at all?

So, naturally, I’m back at the blog. Nothing against the Vikings, you understand. It’s just nobody should get set ablaze before they’ve had their finest moment, and Our Man in LA feels like that time has yet to come.

But we might be on the right track. Especially after the work function I attended last night – something that I’m sure you Midwestern types out there will call an “Only in LA” kind of moment. I like to believe that ridiculous folly and poor taste aren’t limited geographically, so I cling to the hope that this kind of thing could have happened somewhere else. Not sure I buy it, either, but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So OK, picture this. I can’t get much into the specifics because that’d be indiscreet (and probably land me in the land of unemployment). Suffice it to say that there was an event held for a retiring foreign dignitary associated in some way with my employer.

That’s all you’re getting. There’s no code in this, so you can forget about me leaking the names of those involved. I have my pride. What’s left of it.

The party was held in a good sized house perched on a hill in the San Gabriel Valley. Sort of Tudor meets Craftsman style. Jaguars in the driveway. Screening room and full bar in the basement. USC decals on the cars. You get the picture.

So you’re saying, that doesn’t sound too bad. Typical Wieland, bitching about nothing in particular.

And OK, I’ll grant you, it wasn’t all bad. Met with a couple of prospects for work, did all that sort of thing.

But I didn’t count on . . . the entertainment portion of the evening. Oh yeah, that’s right.

The meal ends, and we’re escorted down to the screening room. Folks mill about. We all get comfy. The host re-arranges us to make sure we get the best view in the house.

And it begins.

With one of the party guests doing magic tricks. See, he used to be an amateur magician. And the host has a deck of cards. He tells us he’s got five minutes. He shows us a couple of card tricks. He flubs one badly enough that he actually just says, “Sorry, I’m not even going to try that again.”

Then there’s something with a pair of plastic bunnies. It’d be depressing if not for what came next.

Because after the magician sat down, the lights dimmed. The curtains opened. Music started to swell. The host talked about the next entertainer lovingly – she had played to numerous venues across greater southern California, but what he liked best was her time in the USC glee club.

Sitting there, on a bar stool with a microphone, center stage, in a revealing sequin dress and holding a microphone, was the host’s wife. The music grew louder, and she began to croon some late 50s torch song, something sort of Sinatra light. She shimmied down the stage and nearly sat on the retired foreign dignitary’s lap, cupping and rubbing his face, smiling at his wife, who sat there watching.

Really, really uncomfortable. Confronted by this, the mind races. “OK, wise guy,” you say to yourself. “You’re in the back corner of the room. Do you run for it? Do you just keep smiling to keep from laughing or screaming? What will you do if a nuclear bomb goes off while she sings? Will you run outside and let the radiation’s sweet death embrace you, or will you suffer through this until the food runs out?”

Five minutes later, the song’s over. No nuclear warhead. Bullet dodged.

So I figure I’m done, right. Back upstairs for coffee and dessert, right? Nope.

The next entertainer is the host’s son – a thirtysomething, self-styled “comedian” who gives us a 15-minute routine around the theme of “This is your life, Mr. Retired Foreign Dignitary.” The less said about this, the better. But what the hell, I had to go through it.

Suffice it to say, there were a lot of bits. Quite a few celebrity imitations – he did Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, and three presidents of the United States. He pretended to be Chinese at one point (wearing a robe and talking like Charlie Chan from a 1940s movie). He pretended to be Indian at another point (talking like Apu from the Simpsons and standing on the stage naked but for a pair of white boxer briefs).

Let me tell you, folks, you just plain haven’t lived till you’ve seen a chunky guy in his mid-30s making hunger strike jokes in a pair of tight boxer briefs AT A DINNER PARTY. And after that, you don’t want to. Live, that is.

After that, there’s a whole sequence of the entertainment that’s a blur. There were some videos of Sinatra singing, presumably because Mr. Retired Foreign Dignitary likes Sinatra. I do, too, but I couldn’t really see the connection. Then there were a couple of laudatory speeches, sort of like toasts, but there was no food or drink allowed in the screening room.

But it seemed to be winding down. I’m figuring to be out any minute now.

And then the host gets up again.

“Well, you know, as we wind down this evening,” he begins. “We’re proud to welcome Mr. Retired Foreign Dignitary to our community. We’re glad to have him with us, and we all understand that to know and love Mr. Foreign Dignitary is ONE SINGULAR SENSATION . . .”

Which is when the music started again. “Oh, Sweet God, no!” I think.

The host pushes a button on his console.

The curtains open. The bars of A CHORUS LINE start to fill the room.

Standing on stage in white leotards, with gold tux jackets, top hats, canes, gloves, and bow ties, are the host’s wife and three of (I presume) her friends. Four middle-aged women, in full gilded costume.

And they danced. And kicked. Not in unison, mind you. But they danced and kicked. No singing, no lip synching. Just dancing and kicking to no particular beat or rhythm.

Now I know what you’re thinking. One of my friends at work voiced it when I recounted the story this morning: “But they were all MILFs, right? Four MILFs?!”

No, I told him. No MILFs at all. Just dancing and kicking. In leotards. For the whole song. Which, by the way, apparently has several verses.

After it was all over, well, it’s a blur again. I remember having part of a cup of coffee. I remember saying good night to Mr. Retired Foreign Dignitary and the host. I got someone else’s business card. I remember mumbling something about “nice work” to the host’s wife and four gilded ladies.

And I remember that once I walked out the door, I practically sprinted to my car. It should have taken me 20 minutes on a Sunday evening to get from the party to our place in Los Feliz. Thanks to my new best friends – the 2 and the 5 freeways – I made it in 10.

Nobody has ever been so happy to see a stretch of freeway. Or even traffic. It’s a singular sensation, you might say.

God, I’ll never get that song out of my head.

Friday, September 08, 2006


The time has come.....

Thanks for reading this week! My time as blog writer has come to an end. It’s been fun, but I know y’all can’t wait for Our Man in L.A. to come back. So, stay tuned for his return…………

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Things that make me happy.......

When I was young I used to make these lists of things that made me happy. Kind of lame, I know, but I always felt better after I had made the lists. So, in celebration of those early days, here is a current list from Our Woman in L.A. (in no particular order):

Los Angeles weather
The ocean (Pacific or Atlantic, I love them both)
Buy one get one free sales
The high I get after a long run
Santa Barbara Wine Country
My brother’s homemade pizza
Days without lists
One of my teens (in CAP) making a discovery that makes them think or act differently
Downward facing dog
Coffee Bean ice cubes (they are so good!)
House (the television show)
Otis (my dad and Pamela’s dog)
Family BBQ’s
The N.C. State Fair (I am going this year!!)
Fresh Lavender
Chris Wieland
Homemade Matzo Ball Soup
Birthday parties
Dinner with friends
Hikes in Griffith Park
Writing wishes in the sand
Bob Dylan songs
Laughing until my stomach hurts
Planting flowers

So, what’s on your list?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s….a life size replica of Octopus Man!

Hey Y’all. It’s still me, Our Woman in L.A. Like I said, Our Man in L.A. is taking the week off from blog writing, and he asked me to log in for the week to make sure people knew we were still alive. We are. Things are good. It’s really hot here, as September usually is, and I can’t wait for October.

So, on Labor Day, I took Chris to the California Science Center. They were having an exhibit on the science of superheroes, and Monday was the last day. He really wanted to go. Really, really wanted to go. So, we went.

Now, I’m no stranger to comics and superhero stuff. I’ve memorized the names of all the members of the Justice League. I have watched my fair share of Batman Beyond shows. I have even been to a comics convention, Wizard World. I love my husband. Clearly.

Well, on Monday, we went to see this exhibit on the science of superheroes. There was a gigantic Octopus Man (or as I am told, he’s called “Doctor Octopus”). Under the big sea creature super villain were a series of shoes with their laces untied. The exhibit asked you to tie the shoes. The catch? You had to use gigantic scissor-hands to do it. Wow, I had no idea how hard it was for Octopus Dude to tie his shoes. Maybe he should think about some penny loafers. Or Docksiders? Might help him catch his prey a bit quicker.

There was the Spider-man portion. You could test the strength of life size web lines, to show the strength all spiders have. They are strong.

One of my favorite parts was the Daredevil exhibit. This superhero is blind. Didn’t you see the movie with Ben Affleck? I had to. It was not good. But the exhibit was pretty interesting. They had you smell a bunch of different scents to determine what the smell was. I got them all right!! Plus, you had to put your hand through this tube and feel the object on the other side to determine what they were. I got all those right too! Yay!

Of course, the highlight of the day was Chris standing in line with a bunch of 8-year-old boys for the Iron Man exhibit. If you waited, you got to lift a car! That’s right, folks, lift a real, life-sized car. Just the shear excitement on my hubby’s face as he did this was worth the price of admission.

All in all, the exhibit was neat. Watching my husband’s face light up as he went from exhibit to exhibit was the best part. Superheroes may be able to lift cars, and walk on walls and fly and turn invisible. But it’s the qualities in my everyday superhero - my husband - that make me feel protected. From, you know, the forces of evil.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Tuesday Bottom One

Okay, I’m back. Our Woman in L.A. is here to provide you readers with some good ol’ procrastination reading. Heck, that’s what I’m doing right now. I’ve got lists up to the ceiling, and yet, I find myself writing this.

So, instead of one big Tuesday Bottom One item, I thought I would salute a variety of recent bottom one moments. And . . . we’re off:

1. Getting your ears irrigated at the doctor’s office. Had to do this recently. I’ll spare the details. Let’s just say, yuck!
2. Buying groceries and getting home to unpack them to realize the produce you bought is all moldy. Contemplating getting back in the car to drive to the grocery store to return said moldy items, and realizing that the gas money you’ll spend getting to the store will be more than the reimbursement for the food.
3. Overheating. It’s been happening to me at night. In my sleep. Wake up in sweats. I know, it’s not good. I got it checked out, at the same appointment as the ear plunging incident. I’ll keep you posted. But if Chris says one more time, “You’re like a furnace! Move over! Don’t touch me or I’ll start sweating,” I will be sad.
4. Work drama. Yep, it exists. Hard not to when you work primarily with teens. I love them, but recently had to set up the “can’t call after 8 p.m.” rule (unless, of course, it’s an extreme emergency). It worked for a while. Until one of them got a hold of my home phone line (damn caller ID!). Loved that call at 11pm to tell me, “Hey, Steph! Just wanted to let you know I got that release form you emailed me. My dad is signing it tonight, okay?.” Yeah dude, it’s fine. It’s also 11 p.m. And I’m tired. Call me tomorrow. Oy!
5. Allergies. Yep, I have them. I am allergic to cats (and most dogs). This makes me sad, mostly because I think cats are cute. And I want to be able to play with them. But I can’t. It makes my eyes all gross and itchy and I get red hives on my face. Now I have to ask my friends to lock their animals up before I come over to hang out. Sucks.
6. Waxing. I won’t elaborate too much here. Let’s just say, Steve Carrell was not over-dramatizing it in 40 Year Old Virgin. “OOWWW! Kelly Clarkson!”
7. The recent death of Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin. I loved him and his crazy animal adventure shows. He will for sure be missed.
8. The Bush Administration. Yes, that’s been a bottom one for a while now.
9. My unhealthy addiction to wasabi peas. I am working on it. Chris had an intervention recently and now we don’t keep them in the house. Your support is appreciated.
10. The song London Bridge by Fergie. Have you heard it? Okay, then I don’t need to explain. Buh!

Monday, September 04, 2006


Hemingway's No Dummy....

Hey Everyone, it's Our Woman in L.A. here.

So, Our Man in L.A. decided to give me total artistic license this week. He handed over the blog to me. I guess he thought he needed a break. Wanted to give you readers something to chew on, although, I gotta say, not sure if this will really satisfy your appetite.

Hemingway once said that “good artists borrow and great artists steal.” Taking my lead from this smart man, I will begin my first ever full blog entry….stealing the famous “top five” from one of the most talented people I know - my husband. To add my own twist, I will bring you the first–ever (drum roll, please) OUR WOMAN IN L.A.’S MONDAY TOP FIVE LIST!!! (get it, instead of Tuesday, it’s Monday).

Okay, here goes:

5. Crystal Light Sugar Free On the Go Packets
So, I have been trying to drink more water lately. Six glasses a day or more. Yeah, I know, it’s good for your skin, good for your body, so I should just drink the stuff. And trust me, I try. I have been trying to drink less diet soda, trying to get my green tea in. Sigh. It’s so L.A. But it has been a struggle. That is, until I discovered the Crystal Light sugar free “On the Go” packets. These tiny little packets go straight into your water bottle and transform your water into peach tea, or raspberry lemonade, or fruit punch. Yum. Who knows, maybe these packets will kill me. Some random ingredient that causes a variety of diseases may slowly eat away at my nervous system. But, until it is proven, I am in water heaven.

4. Friendly Neighbors
I don’t think I have ever had neighbors like in the black and white television shows that would bake pies and come over to welcome you to the neighborhood. I am not really sure if that exists, since most people these days just want to be left the heck alone. However, when Chris and I moved into our apartment building, I was surprised to be greeted by a series of friendly folks. One year later, these neighbors still surprise me with their friendliness. I’ll give a few examples:
1. My neighbor Nina (about 80 years old and from eastern Europe) still knocks on my door to tell me she’s cleaned the washers and dryers, so I better wash a load quick before the other neighbors get to the machines. She also checks our mail when we are out of town. I love her.
2. Nina’s husband knocked on my door when the cable man came to install our system. When I answered the door, the conversation was as follows:
Nina’s husband: Are you okay in there?
Me: Uh, yeah. Is everything okay in the building?
NH: Oh yes. I just saw that the cable man had come in, and I know your husband is at work. Just checking in to see if everything is okay.
Me: Oh, yes. He’s just installing the cable. All’s well.
NH: Okay. Have a good day.
Then there’s Nelly. She’s in her seventies. She wakes up really early to take bread and nuts and feeds the squirrels. She’s a bit strange, but also really nice. When we moved in, she knocked on our door and brought us a brochure on cool things to do in the neighborhood.

There’s John, who’s a fan of the L.A. Sparks (the WNBA team here). He is always trying to get us to go to the games with him. We haven’t so far, busy schedules and whatnot, but are going to take him up on it in the upcoming year.

Oh, and finally, there’s James. He’s probably in his late sixties, and in good shape. He kind of reminds me of a modern day Count Dracula, except, without the teeth and whole drinking blood thing (well, as far as I know). He is always giving us tips about the building, and how to deal with our landlords. Cause, you know, he’s lived in this building for 19 years.

3. Think MTV
So, I know what you might say, MTV? Really? At your age? Come on, Steph, get a grip, and stop killing those brain cells. Well, that’s what Our Man in L.A. says every time he catches me watching the network. However, the folks over at MTV are on to something with their ThinkMTV shows. Recently, they aired a show about people under the age of 24 living with HIV/AIDS. It was amazing. A series of personal videos shot by individuals living with the disease, and pieced together to create a powerful study of what life is like as a young person in America dealing with HIV, the stereotypes, and the challenges. ThinkMTV is geared to create awareness about important issues like AIDS and the environment and poverty and violence. I think it is a wonderful way to inform youth in America. Gotta do whatever it takes to get people aware and concerned and then active. Kudos MTV. Maybe y’all could spend more money making those types of shows. I think we’d be cool with a few less dating shows or reality shows about wealthy socialites.

2. City at Peace CD Release (Shameless Plug!!)
So, as many of you know, I have made a career shift recently. I am now the Artistic Director of City at Peace Los Angeles, a non-profit organization that uses the performing arts with a diverse group of teens to teach the principles and skills of cross-cultural understanding, non-violent conflict resolution, and leadership. During the program, participating teens create an original musical based on their lives and their ideas for transforming the city in which they live into a city at peace. Then, through advocacy projects, the teens act on their vision to make it a reality. City at Peace has programs across the United States, as well as in South Africa and in Israel. I really believe in this organization and I am incredibly proud to be leading the program in L.A.
Recently, the organization released a CD, and I think it ROCKS! The CD was recorded at Sony in NYC this past year with teens from CAP programs from across the country. The songs come straight from their lives and experiences. You can order the CD and listen to pieces of it at www.cpnational.org. Don’t hesitate—order one - you’ll love it.

1. Days Without Lists
Okay, so this one is short and sweet. I recently had the thought that heaven is a place with no “to do” lists. I also made the discovery that rare is the day when I don’t make one. They can vary in length and in task. They have been known to be color-coded. If you have had had the pleasure of seeing one of mine, you would be impressed. But, enough is enough. Last weekend, I dared to go where I have rarely gone before - a day without a “to do” list. Wow. It was liberating! I woke up and Chris said, “What do you want to do today”? “Hmm”, I thought. “Let’s just see where the weekend takes us”. It was so wonderful. The weekend included a run, yoga, a wonderful bottle of wine, and some good old television watching. The good life!

Okay, please stay tuned for more Our Woman in L.A. entries this week. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll even consider a Weekly Bottom One. Oh, and feel free to make suggestions. I am not above feedback. Just no throwing cyberspace peanuts at me. Please.

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