Tuesday, October 31, 2006


No pictures today, just a little something we call the TUESDAY TOP FIVE

So I'm fresh out of pics from my travels across this great land of ours, and it's just in time to weigh in on the good things in life this week. It's been a while since I've done one of these, and I will try to remain short and to the point in my descriptions.

You might have noticed, Our Man in LA tends to tell a long, involved story. It's just one of my quirks. Whatever. Onward.

5) THE ART OF INTRUSION by Kevin Mitnick. Ever since I saw the movie WAR GAMES with Matthew Broderick way back in the 5th or 6th grade, I've been fairly fascinated by computer hackers. Never had the patience, the computer knowledge, or hard wiring to be one (not to mention the desire to serve time at a federal prison), but I still find them interesting.

Mitnick, allegedly the inspiration for Broderick's character in WAR GAMES and an infamous hacker in his own heyday, writes this as a business book - showing companies how they can get taken by hackers and con artists through a combination of lax computer security, staff negligence and perseverence on the part of an enterprising person with a computer and a modem.

It's fairly chilling on the one hand, but a fascinating true crime read on the other.

4) The NFL stalling on its return to Los Angeles. You might have heard about this, if you read any of the coverage of the NFL Owners meetings in New Orleans last week. Basically, the LA area is on hold to ever get an NFL team again, mostly because the city of LA (and all the other cities around it), as well as the state of California, have no interest in putting up state money for a new team, stadium renovations, etc.

But Wieland, you'll say. You love football. You're against this, right?

Nope. Not for a second. In fact, not even no. Hell, no.


First of all, I'm liking things the way they are. I like seeing the best NFL games on Sunday. I like not being hemmed in by whatever the local guys are doing. And moreover, I'm calling the NFL's bluff. LA's still the second biggest market in this country. Every team with a stadium issue is still going to try and use us for leverage.

And ridiculous as it might sound, I still haven't counted out Al Davis bringing the Raiders back - just as a big middle finger to the league.

But my neighbors and I should have to pay more in taxes or whatever so that we can get the Saints, Jaguars, Vikings, Chargers or whoever to come here?

We can already see them on TV. When they play someone good. Which is not every week.

Does this make my new hometown of LA a bad sports town? Hell, I don't know. If coming to the game a little late and leaving a little early because you want to enjoy the day makes you a bad sports town, then I guess we are. But those teams I mentioned above aren't going to change that. So I might as well catch part of the best game of the week before I head to the beach.

I'm just saying.

3) THE DEPARTED. I realize I'm late to the party with reports that this movie's really, really good. But it is. So go see it if you haven't already. It's been years and years since Scorsese made a movie this powerful and tough.

Ditto the performances. For years, I'd wondered why people loved Jack Nicholson as much as they do. Sorry, but WITCHES OF EASTWICK and WOLF never did it for me. He was fun to watch, but great? Well, forget that. Here he's great.

And pretty much likewise everyone else. Damon hasn't been this good since GOOD WILL HUNTING, Leo since GILBERT GRAPE. And Wahlberg . . . well, has he ever been in anything this good? BOOGIE NIGHTS, maybe? Yeah, OK. He's better here.

The pace and writing are fantastic. You really are on the edge of your seat. It's worth it.

2) Hollywood Vegan on Hillhurst just south of Franklin. Or maybe it's called Green Leaves Vegan. We've got two menus from the place, each with a different name. Either way, it's one of my new favorite haunts in all of LA.

You see, Our Woman in LA likes her thai food, but we haven't been able to find a place that's just right since getting here. A few have been close (Natalee in Culver City's not bad), but this place just hits the spot. Great noodles, great curries, and probably the best veggie spring rolls I've ever had. And it's cheap. $20 for both of us, with a delivery fee included! Wow!

If you're in the neighborhood, you have to check this place out. If you're a tofu guy or gal, it's awesome. If you're a meat substitute kind of person, it's also mighty tasty.

If you're into big slabs of red meat or something, you might want to try something else . . . but if you'll expand your horizons, it's good eating.

1) OK, for this one, I'm going to the pictures . . .

Perched in the hills of Griffith Park, just above Our Home in LA, is the Griffith Observatory. It's a super cool building featured in a ton of films and TV shows. It's where James Dean first met Nathalie Wood in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. In the 50s Superman TV show, it was the home of Jor-El.

And it's been closed for four years for repairs. Until now.

That's right. The Observatory is open, and once again LA has one of its landmarks back. Our Woman in LA and I are heading up there very soon, so there'll be much more to report.

In the meantime, here are a few more images from one of the most majestic places in the western United States.

A view of downtown LA from the observatory.

If that's not Top Five worthy, then I got nothing else. See you later.

Monday, October 30, 2006


It might not be the Great Pumpkin . . .

But at least it's from an extremely sincere Pumpkin Patch!

Happy Halloween to friends, family, and folks. Hope you're having a good night, away from the ghouls and goblins. And, to make a few more Charlie Brown references: 1) I hope you didn't have any trouble with the scissors . . .

2) That nobody got a rock; and 3) That nobody spent all night in a pumpkin patch with some blockhead . . .

Here in LA, Our Woman and I are spending a fairly chill All Hallow's Eve, not dressing up and funning with the hipsters in West Hollywood, or making the yearly pilgrimage to the Hollywood Forever Cemetary to catch a flick or a glimpse of a long dead stare.

Mostly, being folks who have to get up for work, we're sticking around the house, watching DVDs and having dinner.

But that doesn't mean that we can't entertain our friends with a few more pics.

See, before we left North Carolina, the wife and her dad and stepmom took a little time to decorate pumpkins and make some righteous Jack O'Lanterns.

In the spirit of the holiday, here's a few of them . . .

Sure, they don't look so tough right now, but the sun is going down. Mwah ha ha.

First there's this spider, courtesy of Our Father in Law in Carolina.

Seriously, if you wake up in the middle of the night and see this, you'll have two thoughts: 1) Why did I drink like that at Schumann's wedding? and 2) What the hell's a glowing spider doing in my bedroom?

And then, if you're living in a horror movie, you run. And maybe you die.

And then there's the bat, courtesy of Our Woman in LA . . .

And then it gets scarier at night . . .

And then there's the scary face, also courtesy of Our Woman in LA . . .

What can I tell you? I can hear Vincent Price's voice right now. Brrrr.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Destination #3: Almost there at the fair

Even after the wedding weekend, the travels weren't over. Oh no! There were still miles to go before we slept. But don't worry your heads about us - because, you see, we would not be without provisions on the final leg of our journey.

Nope. We'd have all the corn dogs, funnel cake, fried dough, turkey legs, and deep-fried candy bars that we could ingest.

That's because the last stop on the "Where in the World is Our Man in LA?" itinerary featured a stopover at the North Carolina State Fair in Our Woman's hometown of Raleigh, N.C.

Steph and I first started dating nearly seven years ago, and through virtually the entire relationship, she's been talking about her dream trip. I know what you're thinking. Paris, right? Or Rome? London? Hong Kong or Sydney?

Not even the Grand Canyon, folks. No sir, my bride wanted a trip to the NC State Fair, and what my baby wants, my baby gets.

Now the Fair is kind of a cult thing for the people living in or raised in North Carolina. A colleague of mine raised in Fayetteville reacted to the news that we were going by saying, "I'm so jealous."

Friends from Raleigh who relocated to Chicago, and who we saw over the Schumann wedding weekend, got a glazed look in their faces when we mentioned the Fair. "The best," was all they could say. "The best."

What's so great, I'd ask.

"The best," they'd say.

I'd been to the State Fair in Texas, and it was big and not too shabby. I'd been to County Fairs in Ohio, seen statues made out of butter, and the like. So what made this one any different from any other?

Well, it is big . . .

And it is pretty fun. Have to say that Our Woman in LA and I had a pretty good time heading out there. But don't just believe me.

Let's take a look at the tape.

Here's Our Woman in LA and I trying a candy apple. I'd never had one of these bad boys before. Carmel apples, sure. And to be honest, when I heard the phrase "candy apple," that's what I thought people meant. Carmel is, after all, a candy.

Man, was I wrong.

Candy apples cover the fruit with a hard candy shell, sort of the consistency of a candy cane, only more red and closer to apple-flavored. It's really, really bad for your teeth. I mean, really bad. And it's really hard to bite into.

Our Woman in LA and I shared this one, and good though it was, we didn't quite finish the thing.

Of course, eating is a big part of the fair, and Fair Food Professionals go out of their way to make sure that anything represented in the major food groups can be deep fried. For example, here you'll see fried vegetables prominently displayed. Not quite as ground-breaking as the fried coca-cola (still the most disgusting idea I've ever heard), but it gets the job done.

Among the foods I had never seen before were a "hush puppy claw." For the uninitiated, that's a crab claw dipped in cornmeal batter and fried. And the deep-fried candy bar, of course. Which is pretty much like it sounds.

If you're going to a fair, you have to go to the agriculture section. Now, living in LA, we don't get to see this kind of thing very much. No matter how many commercials I might see from the California Dairy Commission proclaiming that "Happy Cows make good milk, and Happy Cows are warm and live in California," I honestly haven't seen a farm animal of any kind since I left the Midwest two years ago.

So there we were at the ag tent, and we thought we'd record our experience. Look at the big pumpkins. Yup, they're big.

We would have spent more time looking at the animals in the ag center, but if you're an animal lover, it's hard to appreciate the champion, blue ribbon cattle when it's standing in a cage below a sign that reads:

"Bessie, the blue ribbon heifer, has been purchased by Harris Teeter Supermarket for $17,000!"

So you get a picture of the pumpkins.

So what's got Our Man in LA a little worried? Is he afraid that he'll never eat a corn dog again? Is he nervous at the sight of the world's largest pig (recently purchased by Kroger for $20K)?

Nope. He's standing next to a case full of bees.

Ah, enough of my protests about animal cruelty. Back to the food. Here's Steph enjoying the healthiest food we had all day (and actually my favorite).

What, the corn is slathered in butter? Yup, still the healthiest thing we had all day.

When you're going to go to the fair, folks, you have to win a big stuffed animal for your lady. It's like a law. So I won this stuffed monkey for Steph at a game that involved throwing darts at balloons.

And when I say I won it, what I mean is that I paid the guy behind the counter more than $30 to give me enough darts to earn the monkey, or any other stuffed animal in the place.

Two things about the monkey bear mentioning. First, like a real monkey, it sheds. You see, when you win big at the dart balloon, you get a stuffed animal with an unmatched degree of realism.

Second, when we left the Fair that night, we got into my father-in-law's pickup truck (used for his business, but it was a spare vehicle for us), turned on the radio, and pulled onto the gravel and mud road leading from Fair Parking to the main thoroughfares.

Mellencamp played on the radio. I looked at my wife. I looked at the monkey on the seat between us. I listened to a few bars of "Hurts So Good." Outside the truck, I watched as a young mother walked hand in hand with her toddler daughter toward the family truck. Mom had a cigarette in one hand, her daughter's tiny fist in another.

Mom dropped the cigarette in a huge mud puddle and kept walking. Then she stopped. She went back, still holding onto her baby girl.

She picked up the mud-spotted cigarette. She began smoking it again.

I looked at my wife, who saw the whole thing.

"Steph," I said. "Here we are. We just saw that. We're in a pickup, in Fair traffic, there's a stuffed monkey that I won in between us, and we're listening to Mellencamp. How much more country could we get?"

None much more, she agreed.

Ah, but there's beauty to be found there, at the Fair. This is a shot of the Ferris Wheel, all lit up for the night. Before we left (and before we saw the mud smoking mom), we took a ride on this wheel. Stretched out before us, we saw the Midway and all the people, we felt the crisp night air.

And I'll be damned. There was something just a little special about it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Destination #2: Windy City nuptials

A couple of weeks ago, Steph and I returned to Chicago, where we each lived for a long, long time. For Our Woman in LA, it was the first time back in town after two years of living in the warmth and splendor of sunny Southern California.

To be honest, Our Man in LA found himself a bit a-feared about his lovely bride's reaction. I wondered if being around all our old friends would make her miss it. Would she long for the days of commuting on the el? Would she pine for fall clothing, and winter clothing? For talk about the '85 Bears (and God help us all, the '06 Bears)?

The answer, it appears, is no. No, she doesn't pine for the Big Windy at all. It's cold, she tells me. People smoke in bars and restaurants. The smell of fried lard wafts its way outside the restaurants. And the plays at the Steppenwolf are just as self-important as they ever were.

Of course, that's not the point. The point was seeing friends and catching up with the people that we both miss quite a bit. The even bigger point was watching Rob "Bachelor Party Guy" Schumann walk down the aisle and get married to Dr. Heather Eyrich (aka, One of the Toughest Women in the World), in what might be the last great wedding of my generation.

And of course, the biggest point of all was decimating the free bar at Schumann's reception.

Folks, mission accomplished. But don't take my word for it. Let's go to the tape.

Here's Our Woman in LA and me at the Rehearsal Dinner. At this point, we've only had a couple of drinks and some wine with dinner.

This here's the man of the hour - Robert Theodore Schumann, this season's groom. How did he win the title of this season's groom? Well, the baseball cap he's wearing actually says "Groom" on it. Stay with the program.

Oh, and this is what Rob looks like when he's sober. The mind reels, doesn't it?

Reggie Newton, newly minted lawyer. He learned just a few short weeks ago that he passed the Illinois bar exam, and now he's working for the State's Attorney's Office in Chicago, busting crooks and absentee fathers left and right.

Reggie's not intoxicated here, FYI. But it does bear mentioning that all new lawyers in Illinois are required to wear a suit at all times. Seriously, all times. Even when swimming.

Reggie is in full compliance.

Greg "Professor Evenkeel" Rolnick, new dad, advertising genius, and writer of a great blog about parenthood at rolnick.net. Like Our Man in LA, a proud usher of the Schumann-Eyrich nuptials.

Also, there's a bee in that beer. That renders the thing almost undrinkable. Almost.

A lot of Chicago friends and Schumann well-wishers. Basically, it's the usual suspects. Someday, these people might run the world, or even a Dairy Queen. Tomorrow, they'll mostly be hung over.

Our Man and Woman in LA. We clean up all right. I'm in my ushing gear, courtesy of After Hours Formal Wear. The wife is just plain gussied up.

Reggie and Sarah, post-wedding. Also cleaned and gussied up.

And note, Reggie is wearing a suit. Full compliance, people. Full compliance.

Now we're into the reception. Sadly, being neophyte photographers, Our Woman in LA and I only have a couple of photos of the bride and groom together, which, of course, is the whole point of the day.

Here they are, schmoozing with the party guests.

Here are the ladies. Kerry, Heather, Sarah, Our Woman in LA, Jennifer, and MJ.

No jokes here. As the night would go on, there would be drinking and dancing for this crew. Alas, I'm not allowed to show all the pictures. So use the imagination, folks. Fun times.

Me with Reggie and Grant Blair, an old buddy and newly minted teacher recently returned to Chicago from a sojourn to North Carolina that lasted five or six years. Grant's also got a blog worth checking out, about life working for the Chicago Public Schools. It's at grantblair.blogspot.com.

The three of us have been pals for more than 15 years now. As a result, there are dozens of photos of us over the years in roughly this pose, only with changes in age. Except for Grant, who somehow has escaped aging altogether.

This is the groom, on his happiest day. And yes, he's licking an ice sculpture.

How'd this happen?

Well, as you might guess, the drinks were flowing. And Steph turns to Greg Rolnick, and the following conversation begins:

Steph: See that ice sculpture? How much would it take for you to lick that ice sculpture?

Greg: I'm not doing that!

Steph: A hundred dollars!

Greg: OK, I'll do it.

Steph: I don't have a hundred dollars.

Greg: How much you got on you?

Steph: Twenty.

Greg: I'll do it.

He licks it. Takes the money. Chris walks up.

Chris: What's up?

Greg: I just licked the ice sculpture.

Steph: I paid him $20 to do it.

Chris: You should have asked Schumann to do it. He would have done it for free.

Schumann walks up.

Schumann: What's up?

Chris: Steph wants to know if you'd lick that ice sculpture for free.

Schumann: Has she met me? Let me at that thing!

And there you have it. One shudders at what he might have done, given $20.

After that, the evening began to wind down. Folks began to head back. We took a few "cute couple" picks. And, of course, the bar closed.

On the way back, Steph decided to make a few calls on the house phone at the Pheasant Run Resort. I'm not sure anyone answered.

But Wieland, you're asking, how do we know that you had a really good time. Where's the proof?

The proof, my friends, is in the day after picture. Witness my lovely bride . . .

That says it all, doesn't it? I think the room's still spinning.

Anyway, that's the wedding weekend in a nutshell, folks. Tune in tomorrow for part three of "Where in the World is Our Man in LA?"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Destination #1: Racing through the happiest place on Earth

Actually, it's the second happiest place on Earth. Disneyland, that is. The park in Florida's a little bigger. It's got that Epcot thing that everyone's all gaga about. And it got there first.

So Disneyland, right here in Southern California, is the happiest place with no mosquitos. And no humidity. And . . .

Wait a minute. Maybe it IS the happiest place on Earth, after all.

Just ask this woman here:

That's one of the organizers of the First Annual Disneyland Half Marathon, run last month by more than 10,000 people, including Our Woman in LA and me. She's at a pep rally held the night before the big race. I don't want anyone to get the idea that this woman runs around with pom-poms all the time.

She might. I really don't know. Haven't done the research. And that's not really what this post is about.

What is the subject of this post? Fine, cut to the chase.

As most of you know, last month, Steph and I went down to Anaheim, which we've established is at least one of the happiest places on Earth, to run in this race. We did really well - both of us cutting a lot of time off our first race speed, and more importantly, both of us raising a good deal of money for people in LA with HIV/AIDS.

Sure, you all knew this before. But you hadn't seen the . . . photos!

For the uninitiated, Anaheim is south of LA, in Orange County. It's home to Disneyland, the California Disney Adventure, the Pond hockey arena, Angel Stadium, and Knott's Berry Farm.

I have no idea if anyone actually lives there.

For all I know, it might just be where stadium and theme park employees go to work. If there are residents, the good news is that I imagine that they never have trouble finding parking. There are always spots in the Goofy Garage and Dopey lot at the Magic Kingdom.

I'm just saying.

Anyway, on with the photos.

Here's Our Man in LA and his lovely bride, the day before the race. We're not sweating, our muscles aren't sore, and we're eating carbohydrates. What could be better?

Here I am with my running team. We did our entire training together, averaging between 11:00 and 11:30 per mile. We finished the race together, too. But when this was taken, it was 4 a.m. and we were crowded into a corral in the streets of Downtown Disney, waiting for the first gun to go off.

Our Man and Woman in Disneyland, moments before the race. In two hours and change, this'll be over for both of us.

Running on the field at Angel Stadium, a self-portrait. When we completed the race through the stadium, we had finished ten miles. I am not exaggerating when I say that miles 11 and 12 were the least fun.

Why? Well, it's not just that your body has come to the conclusion that you're really going to run more than 13 miles. That's part of it, sure.

But it also has to do with the scenery. By this point, we'd run through Disneyland, the California Adventure, the streets of Anaheim, past the Pond, and through one of the coolest baseball stadiums in the country (and home to the Rally Monkey!). What was left?

Freeway overpasses, low-rent stripmalls, and hotel parking lots in miles 11 and 12.

Mile 13 was cool. Don't get me wrong. We were back in Downtown Disney, almost to the finish line. But oh, that 11 and 12.

But in the end, was it worth it?

I'd say it was. Good cause, good run, nice day in the Magic Kingdom.

And yeah, those are medals around our necks, dude. Medals.

Can't beat that with a stick.

That's all for now. Tune in tomorrow for another day of "Where in the World is Our Man in LA?"


Where in the World is Our Man in LA??

Pretty much anywhere but LA, the past few weeks.

I know, I know. It doesn't seem right. There I was, talking about how the blog wouldn't and couldn't die, bringing back Tuesday Top Fives and all that, and then deserting the blog again for weeks at a time.

Basically, Our Man in LA went on Walkabout. Our Woman in LA and I have been all over - to Chicago; to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; to Anaheim . . .

OK, I know that most of you probably think Anaheim's just a part of LA. The Angels play there, after all. And they're the Los Angeles Angels of . . . somewhere else, right? It's not the same. Trust me.

Any way you want to look at it, we've traveled far and wide. Now normally, that wouldn't be enough to excuse our absence. But I brought you guys a gift. Really good one. Seriously. I mean I can take it back if you don't want it . . .

All right, read on. It's . . . PICTURES WITH MILDLY AMUSING CAPTIONS! I'll try to make one or two of them funny. Seriously I will. But you have to read them all to find the one or two that are chuckle-worthy.

So read on . . .

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