Friday, August 01, 2008

The Rocket Has Landed

This is the 978th and final post on Rocket Fever.

After more than three years, this blog has fulfilled its purpose. I started Rocket Fever to tell the story of my journey into the uncertain world of my life after Cleveland. RF followed me through my rehab assignment in Lansing, and on to my regeneration in Los Angeles. Then it became a chronicle of the wonders of living in such an amazing city.

And now that I know the difference between the 405 and the 105, why the Clippers aren’t worth anyone’s time, where the city’s best lunch can be had ... it’s time to retire this Web space. Residency and familiarity have taken away the wide-eyed tone that gave Rocket Fever its voice.

That isn’t to say that my L.A. story is over. For the first time in my adult life, I’ve reached three years in a city and have no immediate plans to leave. I’ve been a mover all my life, stretching back to the days when my sister and I would go back and forth between our parents’ houses every week. I’m honestly confused over how to proceed at this point: Will I try and build upon a life in one place, or will old habits rise up and push me to some other point on the map?

I have no clue, but I do know that answering that question will be my next great adventure. One, though, that won’t be chronicled online. This will be a more private endeavor.

I’d like to thank everyone everywhere — Los Angeles, the Midwest, down South, the East Coast, abroad — for reading and commenting. We’ve had some lively conversations on Rocket Fever (mustard vs. ketchup, the relative merits of the drunk dial, olive burgers), all because of you. And a special thanks to Hud, my co-contributor on the site all these years.

Which leads me to ask: When will Maggie start her blog?


And always remember you can catch me at Hudson & Gaines, The City Desk, The Dopp Kit, and my Flickr page.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

First Quake!

A 5.4 earthquake hit Southern California today. It lasted for no longer than five seconds.

As luck would have it, I was using the facilities when it started. First I thought one of the exhaust fans on top of the building was going too fast. Then, when the walls started to shake, I realized it was a quake. I quickly went to the doorway (luckily remembering to zip up), as did my cross-hall neighbor, Will. We exchanged "Whoa!"s, and then it was over in a flash.

No damage visible here in Los Feliz. As you can see, a few things fell off shelves, but that was the extent of the disruption here.

Mike reports things are fine up in Glendale, except that Maggie was disappointed her nap was interrupted.

UPDATE: Suddenly aware of my own mortality, I'm getting tacos from Yuca. You just never know when that carne asada may be your last.

UPDATE: Through the strife, Yuca still makes an amazing chili cheeseburger.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

If you don't get goose bumps watching this, you're not human.

Bigger version here.

Thanks to Rotan for passing it along!


So there’s not tons to add to this, and I don't want to ruin the effect by overstating things, but I just can't get this video out of my head. What a gorgeous thing to have this four-minute piece of unbridled celebration pop up on your screen. Dancing, as it's titled, isn't a joke at someone's expense, it's not a political message, and it's only kind-of sort-of just-barely an ad for something (kudos to the sponsor for staying largely out of the way).

What a fun thing to watch! A hundred viewings will reveal a hundred new details: the guy in Paris who bites it as the crowd rushes in (:54), the kid in Fiji who flips into the water (1:26), the guy in Sweden on the right who might be the best dancer in the whole thing (1:33), Matt stopping to laugh on the Solomon Islands (1:40), the people on the bridge in New York (2:56), the toddler living it up in the right corner in Mexico (3:24), the guy doing a John Carlos-inspired move on the left in Brazil (3:35).

And I'll be happy to engage in what The New York Times calls "one-world feel-goodism" in its piece on Dancing. All hail the genius of video editing for concentrating into a few short minutes the beauty and joy that exists everywhere. There's a lot of bad shit that goes down all over the world, and I understand why a lot of it is newsworthy. But a century of courageous international reporting on upheaval and destruction has left too many of us looking at the world with a skewed perspective. Karis, my globetrotting girlfriend, has taught me what this video shows: The world is dominated by benevolent people who go about their lives same as everyone else, and a few of them love dancing in a crowd.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Three Years of Independence in Los Angeles

It was around July 4, 2005, when my Ford Focus and I ended our cross-country journey to L.A. We had bested urban obstacle courses, endless plains, mountains in the clouds, violent storms, mechanical failure, Utah, and the searing desert heat. It most certainly doesn't seem like yesterday.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody. Rocket Fever loves you.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Introducing The Dopp Kit

For years, my good friend Brent and I have had a running conversation about male grooming in general and shaving in particular. We talk shop about products, technique, mystique. After so many evenings of such back and forth, we recently hit upon the idea to start a blog on the subject.

The Dopp Kitt, in its first couple weeks of existence, has already hit upon various creams and aftershaves, the unfortunate tinkering P&G has done to the beloved Old Spice brand, and, um, baby wipes. But the blog is going to be much more than just a litany of product reviews. As I write in the introduction:

The few square inches comprising a man’s cheeks and neck are his domain in total. They are his ever-changing canvas, a lifelong work that may be perfected but will never be finished. ...

Every man shaves. The organization man shaves every day. The independent shaves as he pleases. Even the most pious Muslim must have shaved once. Splash warm water, apply lather, scrape with a blade. This is the ritual that each of us share.

Brent and I invite you -- all of ya, women included -- to submit your own posts on the vagaries of grooming. Especially about the best way to get at the area directly underneath the chin, my personal Bermuda Triangle of shaving.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Big Uno

One of the joys of my life for the past year has been watching Margaret June Hudson grow up. This is the most time I've ever spent with an infant, so I never appreciated how new humans change almost every day. In 12 months she’s gone from a kitten-size package with closed eyes to a Buckley-size little girl with eyes that melt your heart. I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next with Mike and Becky’s daughter, and I'm already in line for tickets to her Nobel/Pulitzer/MVP acceptance ceremony years from now.




Friday, June 13, 2008

The Long, Satirical Arm of the Law

R.J. White and I have cooked up a new occasional feature for The City Desk: a police blotter highlighting some of the more notable acts of law-breakage in the city. Check it!

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Micah Muzio Sonic Attack

Micah Muzio*, producer extraordinaire of Hudson & Gaines and all-around autodidactic polymath, has an audio blog. Ya got yer rock tunes, yer film scores, yer experimental interludes. Check him out, and send him notes.

(And if you’re wondering, yes he told me about this audio blog a month ago but I’m only getting around to posting about it now. It’s called Rocket Fever because I opened a Ray Bradbury book, not because I’m fast.)

*I spent a long time searching for the dorkiest possible photo.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Great Thing About This Shot ...

Get Him!
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
... is that Margaret only has about four teeth at this point. Just wait until she has a full arsenal!


Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Just what Los Feliz needs: ANOTHER hell-themed pizza maker. Click the image for more!

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

This here is one of the better burgs I've had in a long while. Click the image for more details.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust Jacket

Got some bummer news from O.G. Lansing friend B. Shiels yesterday: Lansing's Community Newscenter has finally closed. I can't believe it lasted this long. Shiels and I were reminiscing yesterday about how the porn mags were right next to the sports pubs, so we always found ourselves standing next to the greasies who commonly came in to get their adult fix. The bookstore was maybe the last remaining link with the old, weird Frandor shopping center just across from Ma's house. Frandor is still there, but it long ago lost its spooky, musty charm to the vagaries of renovation.

The Newscenter was preceded in death by Grand Gourmet, the Spartan Theater, the Odeon, that Native American gift store no one ever shopped at, Frandor Barber (right?), and an ATM that gave money in $5 denominations. It's survived by (the new) Marshall Music, Kroger's, Video to Go, Tripper's, Frandor Deli, and Gumby's Pizza (I hope!).

Here's to the inevitable ...

Welcome: Alden M. Kirby

22 May
Originally uploaded by The Kolorado Kirbys
Rocket Fever is proud to announce the birth of the family's first boy, Alden Kirby. He was born in Colorado on May 22 to Meghan and Michael Kirby. My Ma reports he's a handsome guy, and that he instantly has some very recognizable facial features.

My parents are out there right now doing their grandparental duties, helping Meghan as they can and having tons of fun with granddaughters Ivie and Elly. Mike, as you can see from the photo, got to come home for the birth. He shipped back out to Iraq yesterday.

Please join me in offering the Kirbys that time-honored Rocket Fever salute: HUZZAH!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

frequent posting and capital letters will take a back seat for the next few days as i recover from a devastating (not really) elbow injury suffered after wiping out during street football this past weekend. this is the price i pay for running a good route; hairpin turns on gravel are inadvisable.

but in case you were wondering, the weekend up at bodega bay was once again incredible. more details to follow.

until then, make rocketboom a regular part of your internetting, join the fracas on 90 percent, and buy scott mcclellan's book.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I didn't bring my camera to the Dirtbombs show because I knew Rena would. Check it out!

Another Memorial Day Tradition

My yearly trip to wine country for Memorial Day Weekend means that I always have to miss the Valley Greek Festival. I'm going to talk to Alethia Calagias, the marketing queen behind this Olympian-size event, about moving it to Labor Day next year. C'mon, Alethia, just for me? Huh?

That said, if I can't be there, it means I'm leaving a spot for you to fill. If you're in L.A. this weekend and love the Mediterranean (and its food — I mean, seriously!) as much as I do, the Valley is the place to be.

This Is What Happens When You Live and Work Alone:

The wind just blew open my windows, and I said, “It’s like Neverending Story in here!”

And there was no one around to make fun of me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Best May Ever?

  • Traveling through Turkey, which stands as the coolest thing I’ve ever done.
  • Seeing the Dirtbombs — finally! — play live, which stands as one of the greatest rock shows I’ve ever attended.
  • Making a well-received Turkish breakfast for L.A. friends, just to give them a taste of Anatolian greatness.
  • Watching the Dodgers grind out a come-from-behind victory over the Reds at Maggie June’s first baseball game.
  • Planning a return trip to Sonoma and Bodega Bay in keeping with what’s becoming a legendary family Memorial Day tradition.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fun with Eggs

I bought two of these ... what do you call them? They're not pots or pans, but you put them on the stove. They're not bowls or plates, but you can serve food in them. One of you clowns must know what you call these things. Anyone?

No matter. What's important is that I bought two of them from a stall near the Egyptian Spice Bazaar in Istanbul, and they are handy little pieces of hardware. I'm sure they have many kitchen applications, but as of now I'm using them primarily for egg dishes. The Gaines kitchen will produce many variations on the scrambled-eggs-with-X theme during the coming months, so long as the summer heat doesn't shut me down.

Above is my first go, and I'm proud to say it's a hit. What we got here are two eggs, mixed with a bit of water and thrashed before pouring into a hot ... thing. Then, after letting the eggs cook for just a bit, in goes chicken basil sausage (sautéed beforehand), sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese. Toss in pinches of kosher salt and top-secret Turkish red pepper, and let the family slowly coalesce over medium-low heat. Next time I'll chop the sausage a bit smaller, but other than that, I'm happy as hell with dinner tonight.


Istanbul is overrun with stray dogs. I believe the city neuters/spays and tags them, and they're harmless, from what I've seen. (Although they don't fare too well on an F1 track.) So here's my question: How come I saw dog poo only once during my three weeks in Turkey, but I hop over it daily in Los Feliz?


I think I've finally readapted to citywide use of areas dedicated solely to pedestrian traffic. I think we call them sidewalks. Istanbul is lined with miles and miles of side streets that serve walkers and drivers. They're narrow and hilly, and the drivers couldn't care less if they hit you: caveat pedestrian. Every day, Karis, blessed with 180-degree vision, sensed cars coming up behind her and smoothly moved to the side. I, on the other hand, narrowly escaped death by Peugeot or Renault on an hourly basis.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rube Goldberg Lives

The City Desk has a dandy piece about a junk hoarder's house ruined by fire. Well worth your time.

(The fire's intricate line of causation reminds of me of the classic, if I do say so myself, Hudson & Gaines episode about the meek nerd who was injured after an impossible series of events started by a surprise scorpion.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Final Post Card

We visited three towns on our week of travel throughout Turkey, and thoroughly enjoyed two of them. Bodrum, where we flew in to, confirmed for me that junky coastal towns exist everywhere, not just in the U.S. The chintz factor, and the rain, chased us out of the city the next day up to Izmir, also on the Mediterranean coast.

This is a bit of a stretch, but Izmir is the Cleveland of Turkey. It's gritty, and lacks the immediate beauty of the other Turkish towns I visited. But it is home to some of the nicest people I've ever met. The merchants are friendly and not pushy in the least. The restaurateurs are helpful and smiling. Even the seedy hotel proprietors invite you to drink tea with them.

After a few days in Izmir, we hit the road for Ayvalik, where I fell in love. It's the most beautiful town I've ever seen. I had a moment the first time I walked onto the patio and took in the view. As the picture in my previous post shows, the view is built around the church that was converted to a mosque after the Greeks were deported early in the 20th century. (Long story.) I wonder if Ayvalik is one of the few places on Earth where you hear church bells at the bottom and top of every hour and the call to prayer five times a day.

We were in Ayvalik for only four days, but it seems like we did so much: spells on two deserted stretches of water, a memorable walk down a country road, gorgeous archaeological sites in the nearby town of Bergama, olive oil procurement, market browsing, not nearly enough lounging around. It occurs to me that I've never missed a place. I miss Ayvalik.

There are some thoughts rattling around my head regarding life in Turkey and a changed perspective on life in the U.S. But those haven't composed themselves yet, but I'll be sure to relay them when they have. 

The Flickr set, almost complete, is here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Let's Get to the Happies

Happy birthdays to Michael C. Hudson (today), and Nazanin X. Arandi (tomorrow)!

And Happy Mother's Days to: my dear, sweet Ma; family matriarch Joan "Nana" Mellinger; Grandma Ida Gaines; new mama Rebecca A. Hudson; the highly esteemed Mrs. Ruth Eklund; Grandma Diane Baird; my sister-in-law (and soon to be mother-a-third-time) Meghan Kirby; other sister-in-law and bird lover Sarah Kirby; O.G. S'news mom Katie Rexrode; Cleveland's own Christine "Flash" Moran; the pride of Greenville, Erin Davis; Valley queen Mary Glarum; Guy's favorite au pair, Andrea; the pride of Izmir, Turkey, and expectant mother Yasamin; and Bay Village's own Kelly Zawacki!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Back in Istanbul

Ayvalik. Sigh.
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Holy moly and jeeze Louise: We had an amazing trip throughout Turkey. Bodrum, Izmir, and beautiful Ayvalik.

But now it's on to a mad rush during my last two full days in Istanbul. Don't quite believe this visit is coming to a close. Certainly wouldn't mind if my flight were delayed a week.

A flurry of reports will come when I'm back in the States.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

90 Percent: A Great Day in Title Town

Check out our awesome mostly-baseball blog here for good times...but especially today, where we relive the Glory Days of the Tigs historic sweep at Yankee Stadium, the Pistons advancing...but most importantly, the Avs/Wings rivalry...

Sure, hockey is not all that interesting...but the late 90s were in the D. And it's worth revisiting now that the Wings swept the hated ones out of the Cup Playoffs with an 8-2 win last night. Plus, lots more...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 5

One vs. Many
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Cloudy happy days in Istanbul. Yesterday Karis and I, admittedly exhausted from taking in so much of this city during the past week, stayed in and watched "Children of Men" and Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief," which I was mildly disappointed by. Not nearly enough suspense.

Today was maybe our best culinary day, punctuated by yogurt, potatoes, and waffles (see the Flickr page for more details). Istanbul is the only city I know where certain neighborhoods are closely identified with certain culinary delights. Kumpir in Ortakoy, yogurt in Kanlica, borek in Sariyer, ice cream in Moda, boza in Vefa. Can you imagine L.A. having only one neighborhood known for its tacos?


OK, so don't freak out, but our cruise was canceled. We were deeply bummed out by this a few days ago, but now look at it as a blessing in disguise: We've received a full refund AND a free cruise anytime between now and 2009. Score.

So instead of taking the cruise, tomorrow Karis and I will fly to the resort town of Bodrum (what was to be our port of call) and then make our way back up to Istanbul over land. Our rough itinerary includes stops at classical sites, coastal towns, and cultural areas. We won't have regular Internet access during this time, but something tells me you guys will have no problem repeatedly watching the video of Maggie June crawling. I certainly don't.

OK. I want everyone on their best behavior while we're gone, got that? And if the Tigers could continue straightening out their season, that'd be great. Am I reading right that the bullpen is doing better than the starters? I can't tell what's crazier: baseball or international travel.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 4

Best Food in Istanbul
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
After a grand time in Sultanahmet, the historic district that counts as Old Istanbul, Karis and I returned to her apartment, where we broke bread for two consecutive nights with her neighbors Gem and Yasmin. On the second night, the Upstairs Turks put on an amazing spread consisting of about a dozen dishes, few of which I know the name for: a sweet bean dish in a light tomato broth eaten with yogurt, a mountain of bulgur with parsley and other herbs drizzled with pomegranate sauce, salads, olives and white cheeses (there are always, always olives and white cheeses), the most excellent almonds I've ever munched, and more than enough raki.

Raki is the Turkish national drink. The anise-flavored liquor, which has an angrily high alcohol content, is served in narrow cylindrical glasses — three parts water to one part raki. Raki is clear in the bottle, but turns milky opaque with the water. It's meant to be drunk slowly, so it's Turkish custom to always have food on the plate during a raki session. This was an impossible custom to follow, as every time my plate was replenished, I cleaned it in short order.

Dig the Flickr page for an explanation of this nice man with the mussels and for shots of me and raki, the fishermen of Istanbul, and more images from this consistently amazing trip.

Tonight: a ballet preceded by ayron and lahmacun.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 3

Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
We've traveled a few miles and thousands of years in the past few days. Karis and I have been in the historic district of Sultanahmet for the past couple days. We've toured the Hagia Sofia, part of the Blue Mosque, a mosaic museum, the Archeology Museum, and the Basilica Cistern. And the food we've eaten! Kebap, various forms of fish, street food, stuffed mussels (my new favorite), mezze (small plates), raki (the black licorice flavored national drink), Turkish coffee, tea, killer baklava. Holy Toledo. Today we're off to more of the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and an art museum. Tonight some neighbors are hosting us for fish and raki.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 2

Brain 2
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Karis's friend Audrey is in town doing art research. She's also doing some culinary research, and I agreed to join her on an expedition last night: eating sheep's brain. How'd it taste? Go poke around the Flickr page to find out. Yesterday was spent checking out an art museum, walking around bazaars, sitting in the courtyard of a mosque listening to the call to prayer, and eating with gusto. Today it's off to a historic district (which sounds funny to me, because this whole city hits me as a historic district).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Istanbul Post Card 1

First Breakfast
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Mer habba! Karis whipped up an amazing breakfast today. Not sure why all meals aren't like this. The trip in was butter smooth, even through the feared Heathrow T5. Heading out in a bit to take in the river and visit the Istanbul Modern.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Today I mark another notch in the stick that measures the transformation in my life since leaving Cleveland. I’ve made quite a few since 2005: departing from Ohio, moving to Los Angeles, helping create Hudson & Gaines, working at the L.A. Weekly, quitting the Weekly for my freelance business. I consider each of these events seminal moments in that Buddha path that my uncle wisely described for me a few years ago. Collect them all, and they help describe the point I’m at: the happiest, most creative time in my life. Never have I been so excited to learn what happens next.

And so it is that in a few hours I’ll begin a flight that will end in Turkey. Along with great chapters of mystery, awaiting me in Istanbul will be my very own breathtaking girl. The thought of seeing her for the first time in months conjures only images, no words.

Yesterday Hud and I drank the city’s best coffee under blue skies. A musician casually plucked a Django Reinhardt tune. My sister called to wish me a happy trip. Kids and dogs and cars went by. The surrounding particles arranged to give me a clear view of the trail already walked, and a bright light on what awaits.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

H&G: THE BIG 2-3

The media barons of WBFK are back! Near-defunct social-networking sites ... a drunken radio producer ... fantasy role-playing games ... small-town fear of the unknown ... a very special Shakerbrau spot ... Jeffrey "The Starchild" Starmichael ... Saladtron ... swords and maces ... a Hudsonian attack on dorkism ... geek jambaroos ...

Or search "Hudson & Gaines" on your very own iTunes machine!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

When Bad Coffee Happens to Good People Who Love Great Coffee

If you're like me, and you subscribe to the Los Angeles Times and live in Los Feliz, you were subject to a marketing assault by Starbucks yesterday. That is, if you consider a billboard across the street and a card for a free cuppa Joe included in your morning paper a marketing assault. And I do. The subject of this awareness attack was the 'Buck's new brew, Pike Place Roast. As the advertisement notes, it's the coffee for people who love coffee.

I love coffee, so I figured I'd try a free cup of black gold designed especially for me. Card in hand, I walked down to the neighborhood shop and obtained a "tall" order of this Pike Place Roast. After a few sips, I thought I had made up my mind. But I downed a good three-quarters of the stuff before making my pronouncement:

It's terrible.

Pike Place Roast has overpowering notes of chemical and Styrofoam. It lacks the rich complexity good java is known for. It in fact lacks any complexity. It leaves a wet, bland, vaguely burned aftertaste. It smells like the coffee you'd get in a diner or at a banquet, but withholds the contextual charm: I'll gladly drink a bad cup of coffee with a good slice of pie in a bustling restaurant. But none of that is present with Pike Place Roast. It's just bad (expensive) coffee, on the go.

That said, I encourage you to get a free cup of your own. Tell Rocket Fever if you agree with this review. And while you're at the 'Buck, dig the new old naughty-mermaid logo. Cross your tails, you hussy!


In less than a week, I'll be flying to Istanbul. That is, if the plane actually gets off the ground. How perfect that I'm planning the trip of a lifetime just as the global airline industry is in full meltdown. Oy.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

RF Roll Call

Dad wasn't the only notable guest in town lately. The First Family of Greenville, Mich., the Steve Davises were present, along with the Sultans of Saginaw, Bill and Diane Baird.

Steve and Erin were in town to serve as Maggie June's godparents at the baptism and, I guess, henceforth. No word on if this makes Annie and Will Davis godsiblings. What I do know is that Will is tough enough to bounce back from a spill on stone pavers one day and a high-speed inflated ball to the head the next, and that Annie kinda sorta likes animals. But just a little bit.

And there honestly are no two better folks on this planet than the Bairds. Bill is always good for talking sports and other manly topics, and Diane wears the name “Grandma” as gracefully as she wore that smashing blouse the day of the baptism. And they both are crazy about their granddaughter.

This post can’t end without special mention of Sparrow Hospital’s Employee of the Year, Oscar Dan Mazariegos, another Greenvillian in for the weekend. Dan hit the road for a drive up the West Coast right after the baptism, but it was still good to see him for a couple days.

Steve, sporting the ’stache, and Erin, loving every bit of it

Grandma Baird, finishing one of the best cakes I’ve had in ages

Bill, showing off his new appreciation for Jamaican beer

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

March Dad-ness

I have now had two consecutive perfect parental visits. After Ma's bravura performance last month, Dad came in and knocked it out of the park. Pop said he wanted to eat tons of good food on this trip, and I think we accomplished that: Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Vermont, Farfalla pizza, Thai food, Neptune's Net, Allegria, Grandma Baird's cheesy potatoes, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.


On Wednesday, as we were about to begin our perfect drive up to Ventura County, an elderly lady with a flower in her hair knocked on the passenger's side window as we sat at the stop light at Hillhurst and Franklin. "Are you going straight?" she asked. I was about to inform the nosy frau that the gentleman sitting next to me was only my father when I realized she was referring to the direction of our travels. "Uh, yeah," I said. "Could you give me ride, at least up to Vermont?" she said.

I thought about it for about three seconds, which is all the time one needs to decide whether it's advisable to allow a strange woman into one's car in the middle of Los Angeles, when I said, "Hop on in!" She did, just as the light turned green. I asked her where she was going, and she said she was catching a bus in Hollywood, so I agreed to drive her up to Highland, since this is where we were heading anyway.

Now, I hold the opinion that if someone invites herself into my car, many of the normal rules of civil conversation fail to apply. So for five minutes I peppered this sweet woman with question after question about her life. Pop mostly looked out the window, quietly mortified at what his firstborn had wrought. Here's what I learned:

She was heading to an Armenian church near Universal Studios to see about selling some paintings either by her mother or once owned by her mother. She moved to New York from her native Lebanon in the mid-1960s and then to L.A. in the 1980s after her business was robbed. She has no one anymore, except for her church, her city, and her God. Every morning when she wakes up, she has a new perspective on life. There's nothing that she doesn't feel in her skin. When I told her that I let her into the car because she seemed trustworthy, she said it was evidence of a strong spiritual force inside of me. She wishes Dad were her dad; she misses her father very much. She has a strong handshake. She didn't steal anything out of the back of the car.


Dad and I are avid fans of synchronicity, so we had a good laugh when we heard Chris Webber was retiring. We were at the NBA draft on the day Orlando selected Webber and then immediately traded him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway. Fitting that the Gaines boys were together again when news of Timeout's departure from the game hit.


The rest of Pop's visit was anchored by the basketball tournament, which was largely disappointing save for that wonderful Davidson-Kansas game. We banged around Hollywood one day, helping his co-worker's son with a homework assignment, which had us taking pictures of a paper doll of the kid next to landmarks. Another day, we returned to the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, which we had visited two years ago but had to leave early because we had Dodgers tickets. If you've never been to the museum, you must go, and make yourself sit through the entire presentation on Geoffrey Sonnabend's Obliscence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.

The last day was a first for the both of us: We attended Margaret June Hudson's baptism. Maggie performed like a champ among a group of about 10 babes on the first baptism held at the immense Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in downtown L.A.

Afterward, we partied down at the Hudson compound in Glendale, snacking on ham rolls, meat balls, cheesy potatoes, cake, and fruit salad, all lovingly prepared by Diane Baird (and don't forget the barbecue chicken served up by Red Stripe beer's newest fan, Bill Baird).
After we said our goodbyes, Dad and I headed back to room 309 of the Best Western Hollywood Hills, where we finished the trip by eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and watching basketball highlights.

Monday, March 31, 2008

One Pop-ular Guy

Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
Just got done spending a week with the old man. We had a great time. A full report will come soon. Thanks for coming out, Dad. I'll see you and Pearl Bailey on the lanai.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Mustache Is Back in Town

Dad Gaines is here for a visit. Yesterday we hit up Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, browsed at Skylight Books, watched a couple episodes of The Office, and ate a stupendous meal at Vermont, where I introduced him to burrata. Today we’re motoring up to Neptune’s Net for piles of fried and steamed seafood by the ocean and then having some kids over for drinks tonight. After that? All basketball, all the time ...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sign of the Times

Sign of the Times
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever
I'm sure this ad on the front of the LAT was greeted with good cheer by millions of Angelenos this Sunday morning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Read Joe Rexrode, Redux

Joey Ballgame is back writing for Yahoo during the Tournament!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Internet in Turkey

Karis has found that more than a few Web sites aren't accessible in Turkey. Ever wonder what government censorship looks like? Check it:

SXSW Recap

Chad Swiatecki saw every band in the known universe last weekend in Austin. His impressive list, with exclamation points denoting awesomer shows:

The Headlights
Shapes Have Fangs
Phil and the Ospers
Call Me Lightning (!)
Fatal Flying Guilloteens (!)
The Mae Shi (!)
Sons & Daughters
The Grand Archive
The Pity Party
The Raveonettes (three times)
Great Lakes Myth Society (!)
The Hard Lessons (three times) (!)
Vivian Girls
The Heavy
Samulnori drummers
Fucked Up (!)
Jay Reatard
Dark Meat (!)
Portugal The Man
Ben Jelen
The Whigs
Vampire Weekend
Crystal Castles
Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Flosstradamus (!)
The Cool Kids (!)
A-Trak (!)
Kid Sister (!)
Chromeo (!)
John Doe
Duffy (!)
Okkervil River (!)
Justin Townes Earle (!)
DJ Eleven

Monday, March 17, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Pat Muir has a strong piece on backyard fight clubs in last weekend's Yakima Herald Republic. Pat, a long-time appreciator of the friendly brawl, leads off the story with this:

The thing that stands out is the blood.

It's not the friendly banter between Vengeance and Nasty Rob as they exchange blows. It's not the assorted characters cheering the fight, although little Ricky with the mohawk is probably worth his own story. It's not the thud, the deep, hollow sound of 450 pounds of two bodies hitting a dead lawn.

It's the blood, pouring down Nasty Rob's face and clogging his nose. Blood dripping onto the grass and the walkway. Blood stifling his breath to the point where he has to quit. That's what everyone is here for. That's why people will watch this fight when it's posted on YouTube.

It's the blood.

The piece continues with quotes from some experts trying to explain why in God's name anyone would take up such a habit, and some beautiful narrative by Pat detailing the day's fight. Well worth your time.

Story here and audio/video here.

YouTube clips here (with Pat in the background). Warning: very violent.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pamela Rasmussen: the Oracle of Ornithology

Trey Rogers now faces stiff competition for biggest star on the Michigan State faculty. The Lawn Geek, renowned for his turf-care prowess, has long been my most beloved MSU expert. But he might have to share that top spot with Dr. Pamela Rasmussen, the Oracle of Ornithology

Dr. Rasmussen was featured in a New Yorker piece in 2006 for revealing famed birdist Col. Richard Meinertzhagen to be the biggest fraud in all of ornithology, if not taxonomy. The Oracle of O proved that the Bad Colonel stole thousands of bird specimens from the British Museum and claimed them as his own, which in the bird world is, like, really the wrong thing to do.

But Powerful Pamela hasn't rested on her laurels since then. The Lansing State Journal today reports that she has discovered a new bird species in Indonesia, called the Togian white-eye (although I'd have named it the ruffled Rasmussen, or the peaked Pamela). The craziest thing about it is that, while we're all going nuts over the discovery, this is old hat to the Oracle of O: It's her sixth discovery! Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New-Economy Day Laborers

Check out my latest story on The City Desk, written in conjunction with Ilya Perchikovsky of New York, New York.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008

90 Percent Back at 100 Percent

Mike “Mike” Hudson has been burning up the base paths on our baseball blog, 90% Mental. He’s installed something called a tag cloud and thrown up a poll, and is providing near daily spring training reports, aided by his trusty TiVo. This will be a historic baseball season, folks, coming after the Long Clemens Winter and featuring the best lineup in Detroit Tigers history. Time to start paying attention.

(Hey! Are you a fan of the pastime and live in one of baseball’s key markets? Wanna join the blog? E-mail us at

Friday, March 07, 2008

Turkey and the White People Blog

Yesterday I e-mailed Karis in Istanbul a post from the new sensation in the blog world, Stuff White People Like. She e-mailed me back today that when she tried to read it, a screen came up telling her it was “restricted by court order.”

True freedom won’t exist until all people — Americans, Turks, and everyone else — are free to make fun of white people. Let the revolution begin.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Two Men and a Truck YouTube Contest

TWO MEN AND A TRUCK, the successful mid-Michigan moving franchise that was intelligent enough to hire Katie Rexrode as its media relations and communications manager a few years ago, is hosting a YouTube contest to see who can come up with the best ways to reuse TWO MEN's boxes. Rocket Fever unofficially recommends:

  • Using them to fill Michigan's potholes
  • Taping them together to make a hang glider for a James Bond-inspired escape from the top of the Michigan National tower
  • Cutting them into millions of round pieces, coloring them gold, and pouring them into a vault so that I may swim about them a la Scrooge McDuck
Check out TWO MEN's main YouTube page, and peep the hip-hop-flavored submission below.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Los Feliz Pub Crawl II: This Time, It’s Personal

Image courtesy

NOTE TO READERS: I make no claims as to the veracity of any of the facts contained within this blog post. If we were to graph my inebriation during the evening, and then overlay that with a graph of important/blog-worthy moments, the lines would follow the same upward path. Except that at about 2:30 a.m., the important events would tail off and my inebriation would hit a steady plateau for the next few hours. In summation, reader beware.

Los Feliz Pub Crawl Winter 2008 began badly, which is to say exactly as it should. When Matt Fleischer, my former L.A. Weekly colleague and eternal pub crawl co-conspirator, and I showed up at the Tiki-Ti at 4 p.m. and saw that it wouldn’t open till 6, we knew everything was going to be all right. But first we needed a bar, and fast. We were shut out at Akbar, so we turned back up Sunset to El Chavo, which looked even less promising than the Tiki: Portions of its exterior was ripped away because of ongoing renovation, and all three doors to the building seemed either locked or strictly ornamental. But then I did what any pub crawl organizer desperate for a launch bar would do: I knocked on a door. After a tense moment, a smiling, mustachioed waiter opened the door, and LFPC II was officially under way.

I ordered a Jameson’s on the rocks, duh, and Matt ordered a margarita and the ceremonial beef tongue. He noted that during LFPC I he ordered it with the mole; this time he went with the Spanish sauce. Fleischer persuaded me to take a taste, and I instantly remembered my bite from last time. This was the second time in my life I had chewed on something with taste buds. Just as I was complimenting Matt on his African T-shirt, replete with an antelope and pockets, Katie Byrne walked in with half a dozen Michiganders. I refuse to even attempt to remember any of their names, but will venture to say they were all welcome additions to the crawl. They also win special recognition for being the first kids to the party, a distinction won last year by Kat Berger and Andrea Bricco (who were prevented, sadly, from imbibing this time by Milwaukee and the flu, respectively).

After a second whiskey and some conversational catchup with Katie, Matt the crawlmeister announced it was time for the first crawl. Since our route was thrown off from the get-go by our Tiki-Ti miscalculation, we boldly decided to head up to the Dresden Room. While going to the Dresden at 5:30 might seem odd, we figured it was the only time on a Saturday when a large group could get into Los Feliz’s most crowded bar. After I assured one of my new Michigan friends that it wouldn't be feminine to order a Stella, I started work on the Tom Collins that Matt recommended to me. It was fizzy and ginny, and most assuredly feminine. I loved it.

The party started to warm up at the Dresden with the additions of Ryan Colditz, two of his friends, and Matt’s friend Margaret, who is from Maine and has an accent that suggests she was born stateside but has lived abroad extensively. Then, just as I was getting comfortable, Matt called for a crawl: We were heading for Ye Rustic Inn. (A note about Ye Rustic: During my first months in Los Angeles, the Rustic served as my personal mental-health clinic. My damaged psyche was rehabilitated by hundreds of dollars of Miller Lite, sultry bar maidens, Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing,” Myrtle Burgers, the Hudsons, and Irish car bombs. It is an old friend, and I love it dearly.)

The previous pub crawl kicked into high gear at the Rustic, and the same was true on Saturday. Matt and I downed Irish car bombs and then listened to one of the Rustic-ettes passionately explain what Steelers football means to Pittsburgh (this wasn’t the first football conversation I’ve had with the YR staff). Long story short, the logo is really important. If you want to find her and ask the girl yourself, just stick your head in the door and yell “Go Browns!” The raven-haired woman who decks you will tell you the rest of the details.

After getting our NFL history for the evening, Matt and I, insufficiently bombed, downed two quick Jaeger bombs with some of the other pub crawlers. Or did we have one of the Jaeger bombs earlier? Ah, my friends. Here we go: This is the point in the story where things get much more fuzzy and exciting. After all the bombing, there was conversation at various tables and then, under the cover of night, we slipped out of the Rustic and across the street to the Drawing Room, the finest neighborhood bar in Los Feliz.

I believe this is where I had my last Jameson’s for the evening. This is also where Chris Sapardanis, neighbors Abby and Andy, and I think new friend Diliana showed up. Diliana deserves special recognition: She found the Facebook page I threw together for the crawl, RSVP’ed, and showed up. All on her own. And instantly became part of the group and a total trooper. Look! Social networking is a success! Huzzah! Other Drawing Room add-ons included Weekly intern Erika and a friend of hers. (Not to mention that one of the Michigan guys chatted up Sarah Silverman’s sister and Mr. Show’s Jay Johnston. It also needs to be put on the record that, while I wouldn’t be able to remember this guy’s name if you were shoving bamboo shoots under my nails, I do remember that he studies fire science at Lake Superior State University, located in one of the coldest, snowiest cities in these United States. Fire and ice indeed.)

Just as I was settling in to a red-vinyl seat at the DR, that bastard Fleischer announced it was time to crawl again. So we broke camp and formed a drunken, drunken caravan down Hillhurst Avenue, careening to a happy halt at the beautifully named (and similarly red-vinyl-and-Chinese-dragon-themed) Good Luck Bar. Now at this point, honestly, do any of you expect me to have any sharp memories? I’m pretty sure I ordered a Miller Lite — or was it a Red Stripe? — and that I babbled for quite a while to Abby and Andy about God knows what.

Drink, sit, talk, crawl! Back out into the L.A. evening we went, farther south down Hillhurst and then a speculative turn east onto Sunset. But our frontal assault on the now-open Tiki-Ti was rebuffed immediately: The Tiki, just barely bigger than my studio apartment, was predictably packed to the palm fronds. Which called for bold measures, calculated risk, manly leaps into the dark unknown: We headed for Cheetah’s. This would be my third time in an adult-themed establishment, and it was by far the most fun. Cheetah’s is way less scuzzy than I anticipated. The staff was friendly, and the air was pleasantly free of desperation and sadness. Then again, my image of the joint might be colored by the fact that this is where my boon pal Alice Johnson and her Chilean dude Sebastian showed up (and I shouldn’t forget to mention Abby and Andy’s two friends, although I will proudly forget their names). So here we sat for a while, drinking beers, puzzling over the presence of a Phil Collins song, applauding one lady’s yogic headstand. 

Like a confident football team holding up four fingers at the start of the last quarter, the Los Feliz Pub Crawl crew daringly tore down Hollywood Boulevard toward our last stop of the evening: The Stone, whose Web site declares it neither gay nor straight but fun, and I’d have to agree. Our glorious night ended soaked in Thai beer, narrated by Sebastian’s distinctions between Argentines and Chileans, and celebrated with manic dancing to a stomping country duo. Alice, Sebastian and I shared a cab ride back to the neighborhood, where we downed one last drink and a bowlful of almonds and pistachios at the Gaines pad. (And the evening went from perfect to golden when I got a cross-continental call from Karis, who had just taken a jog and laughed her head off at my sloppy diction.)

So that, fellow sinners, is how you do a pub crawl: 2.19 miles of movable, drinkable revelry. I don’t mind saying that Matt and I are two for two so far on these suckers, and we’re now emboldened even more to continue these events on a roughly seasonal basis. I’ve already fielded a suggestion for another crawl in July, and I’m wide open that month. Here’s to friends and Los Feliz!

(Photos to follow soon. If anyone else took pix, please lemme know.)