Monday, October 31, 2016

"The Changing Seasons... More Or Less"

I walk down Fourth Street in late October.  Towering trees on both sides create a natural “Canopy of Green”, an arboreal “Honor Guard” blanketing the dappled thoroughfare below.  (You can’t imagine how much strain that slip of poetry required.  And I’m not crazy about “blanketing.”  I need to take a break.)    

Okay.  I’m back.

I look down on the sidewalk, clumps of desiccated leaves littering the terrain.  I am no stranger to this arrangement.  It’s autumn.  The trees lose their leaves, the fallen leaves turn brown and dry up.  And get dislodged by pedestrians, shuffling along without lifting up their feet. 

An awakening confusion.  Something appears to be out of whack.

I look up at the trees.  They are fully enleafed and sumptuously verdant.  I look down on the sidewalk:

Dead leaves.   

And I think to myself, “Huh?”

I look up.

I look down.

I look up.

I look down.

And I ask myself, figuratively scratching my head, or maybe literally if I am not wearing a hat…

If those branches are filled with leaves…

Where did these leaves lying on the ground come from?

They did not come from these trees.  Their leaves are still up there.  Since leaves cannot possibly be simultaneously in two states – alive on branches and dead and crunchy on the ground…

What the heck is going on?

And then I think, “Well it is Hollywood.  Who knows?”

Squadrons of pre-dawn trucks dispatched throughout the city, laborers jumping out of the vehicles filled with dead leaves flown in from New England or the Pacific Northwest, scattering them strategically over the landscape, supervised by studio set decorators seeking “Maximum Autumnal Effect.”

A possible, though unlikely explanation.  But it has to be something.  There are maple leaves lying on the ground and the overhanging trees are not maples.  (Or so it seems, though perhaps only in my imagination.)  (The truth is these trees lose a tiny fraction of their leaves.  They are never skeletal, like back home.  There is not even a “bald spot.”)

It’s inaccurate to say California lacks variations in its seasons; they’re just harder to delineate.  Unlike Toronto – and elsewhere – there is little help from the vegetation, all of which has been brought in. 

This place was originally a desert.  Or was it a beach?  It is difficult to make the distinction – they’re both sand.  I guess desert sand is hotter.  I don’t know.

The transplanted trees appear to have freakishly lost their bearings.  Drive down some Los Angeles streets in the summer, you’ll see dead leaves strewn across the sidewalks.  That doesn’t make sense – dead leaves in the summer?  Other trees – the kinds botanically scheduled to shed – the leaves remain up there all year. 

Uprooting and relocation seem to have mutated their genetic impulses.  The transplanted trees have forgotten what they are supposed to do.  And when exactly they are supposed to do it.

For me… yeah, I mean, it gets dark earlier so you get the hint something’s going on… but I could not easily distinguish fall from “darker summer” were it not for the annual seasonal ritual of “Jacket Selection.”

Let me dispense with the extremes.

Warm parts of the year, which is the majority of it – you don’t need to wear a jacket.  Winter?  We don’t have winter.  So you can forget about parkas.  (Note to Readers:  Remind me to tell you about “Rent-A-Coat”, a magnificent enterprise I conceived of, on which, to my everlasting regret, I neglected to follow through.  I was “this” close.  The idea was in place.  I just needed to do something.)

The Dynamics of “Jacket Selection”

You go outside and you check the temperature.  You do not want to be caught wearing the wrong jacket.  There’s the “Ridicule Factor” – “Really? That?  Today?” – Plus, you’ll be warm.  Or, if it is cooler than you anticipated, chilly.   

You go back inside and you proceed to coat rack.  There, if you are me, you see five available options:

The light silk windbreaker.  The lined cotton windbreaker.  The thin leather jacket.  The heavy “Bomber Jacket” with the fleece collar.   

(The fifth option is the “Multi-Purpose” flannel shirt.  It is uncertain where that belongs on the continuum.  “Conventional Wisdom” suggests between the “light silk” and the “lined cotton.”  But it’s a matter of personal judgment.  And what you decide to wear underneath.

It’s not easy, but over time, you develop a “touch” for making exactly right choice.  The rewards are demonstrable.  Pick right, and you are less likely to get a cold.  (Colds in Los Angeles can stay at while.)

A Personal Confession:  It is not your “shiningest moment” when the highlight of your “Seasonal Milestone” post is “Appropriate Jacket Selection.”  Though I am not delighted by the results, I take comfort knowing I am not the first to be defeated by this unpromising undertaking.

“Autumn in L.A.”?

Not a song.

Not a post card.

Friday, October 28, 2016

"Location Approval"

I have mentioned in the past our enthusiasm for televised English murder mysteries (Foyle’s War, Inspector Morse, Vera, New Tricks.)  Even the less distinguished entries, like Father Brown, we still tune in for the magnificent manor houses and manicured landscapes.  There was actually one murder mystery, Rosemary and Thyme, featuring two female, crime-solving landscapers.  Dead bodies and beds of radiant rhododendrons in the same episode – Oh, happy day!

The most recent arrival to the genre is Shetland, set in a group of islands located northeast of mainland Scotland.  (Characters in Shetland fly off to Glasgow to break loose.)  The dialects on Shetland are so difficult of us to decipher we use “Closed Captioning” for understandable English.

The unusual locale for this series got me considering the issues involved in getting the show on the air.

And here we go.


The Shetland Public Relations Director sits behind a desk, an English television producer, in a chair in front of it.


ENGLISH TELEVISION PRODUCER:  It’s a beautiful venue.  At the risk of being overly inquisitive, is this your only job here?

I see.  Because we’re so small. 

I mean if it is, that’s… I’m sorry…

No, no, it’s a reasonable question.  In truth, this is not my only job here.  I sell assorted “wrigglies” to the fishermen.

You sell bait.

Live bait and Public Relations – my two official Shetland “hats.”  And since we are not discussing appropriate worm selection by the dock you must be here for the Public Relations.

Indeed I am. 

And how exactly may I be of service?

I think you are really going to like this.

It sounds intriguing.  Unless you are “buttering me up.”


I unquestionably am not.  My production company is planning to make a national television series in your community.  And I want to make sure you and your fellow Shetlanders are totally on board.

A television series, is it? 

Shows have shot in other municipalities – Oxford, Hastings – triggering windfalls for local businesses.  Lodging.  Catering.  Transportation.  Plus a generous contribution to the local coffers, covering inconvenience and possible “wear and tear.”  We may even employ local actors. 

Oh, Tom and Jenny will enjoy that.

You have two local actors?

Just pulling your leg.  “Small place.  Two local actors.” 


We’re exploding with talent.  We put on Oklahoma! last summer.  (BURSTING INTO SONG)  “We know we belong to the land… and the land we belong to is grand…”

That’s great.

“And when we say-ay-ay-ay….”

I’m sorry, but I don’t have much time.  The seaplane leaves in a quarter of an hour.

You’ll forgive me.  I get carried away sometimes.  I understudied Ali Hakim.

Well, it is great to see you appreciate entertainment.

It rains two-hundred-and-fifty days a year here – we need a lot of cheering up.  By the way, our funereal skies won’t be a detriment to your program, will they?  Can’t be helped, I’m afraid.  They’re the only skies we get.    

We’re just fine with the skies.

I saw the sun once.  I was eleven.


So, what kind of a TV show is it, may I ask?

It’s a murder mystery.

A what then?

Every episode, the Shetland constabulary takes on a grisly homicide.


Excuse me.  Why are you laughing?

(TRYING TO CONTROL HIS HYSTERICS)  A murder in Shetland!  Every week!

Not every week.  The shows are structured as “two-parters”.

A murder in Shetland!  Every two weeks!

Sometimes, one murder inevitably leads to another.

Multiple murders in Shetland!  Every two weeks!

And you find that hilarious.

It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard!  (FINALLY UNDER CONTROL)  You know how many murders we’ve had in Shetland?  In the past forty-three years – one.  And there are suspicions that was an accident.

We are not doing a documentary.  It’s fiction.  The first story’s based on a book set in Shetland.  Raven Black.

Raven Black’s shelved in the “Humor” department down at the bookstore.   We all laugh ourselves silly.  “Don’t to outside!  You’ll get muhr-duhred!  

Be that as it may.  We are planning to shoot here.

Not without my approval.  And sorry to tell you, I say no. 

Why would you do that?

Wrong kind of publicity.  People are ignorant.  You make us “The Murder Capital of Scotland” and they won’t come here for the fishing and the wee ponies.  Tourists love the wee ponies.  But they’re not worth dying to look at. 

No one will die looking at ponies!

But they’ll think that they might.  Look, we’re not New York City or Chicago, and we’ll have no one imagining we are.  You like the environment?  Try the Orkneys.  Orkney Islanders don’t mind what people think about them.  We do.  (REACHING INTO HIS POCKET) Here.  So your trip won’t be a complete bust.

It’s a “Wee Pony” key chain.  Compliments of the good people of Shetland.  Underscoring the word “Good.”


Well, that’s too bad.  You’re missing a great opportunity here.  No money for the community.  No free travel destination attention for those who can distinguish between pure fiction and spectacular natural beauty.  (HEADING FOR THE DOOR.)  Plus no chance of personal participation.  Word gets out and Orkney actors will be pestering their agents.  But if you don’t want to do it…

Hold on a moment… 


Are we talking leading roles here?  Or just ‘bits and extras’? 


And remember, I’m the one who decides.



Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Say 'Hello'"

I have regularly been vilified – that’s “mildly criticized”, for the highly sensitive – for my unacceptable phone etiquette.

(Note: This post will be a litany of excuses, followed by regret.  Just in case you roll your eyes at the excuses – rest easy.  I get my comeuppance in the end.)

Some famous writer long ago said… something like,

“I hate the idea that anyone with a nickel is his pocket can make a bell ring in your house.”

That’s how I feel about telephones. 

Throw in the quote from the Walter Brennan character in Red River:

“I never liked strangers.  Because no stranger ever ‘good-newsed’ me.”

That’s how I feel about strangers calling me on telephones.

(Just offering a contextual underpinning before we proceed.)

I’m a traditionalist.  The phone rings, I answer it.  (Don’t talk to me about “Caller I.D.”  It is not in the mix.)  Who knows?  It could be a family member in need of assistance.  Though that emergency situation has been fortunately rare, the possibility thereof lays me open to the world. 

A world that, in pursuit of personal objectives, never considers my inconvenience.

(Note to Myself:  Write an acceptable post about “self-interest”… in a culture that believes that “self-interest” benefits the “common interest.”  Remember the musical Li’l Abner:  “What’s good for General Motors is good for the U.S.A.”?  Self-interest is the engine of capitalism.  Good luck trying to harpoon that sacred… whale.)

Moving right along…

Ten times a day – and some days, substantially more often – even on Sundays – you are sitting at the table, or heading contentedly to the “facilities”, or dropping dreamily off to sleep, and


I pick up the receiver and in a voice of guarded apprehension say,


(OBVIOUSLY READING FROM A SCRIPT)  “Hello, Mr. Po…Poner... Po… mer…an….”


Frequently followed by an appropriate expletive.

I have heard telemarketers have the ability to call clusters of people at the same time and whoever answers the phone first, that’s who they talk to.  Sometimes, I wait them out.  Best-case scenario:  I pick up the phone after three rings and there’s nobody there, because some other “Unfortunate” picked up before I did.  But sometimes, my response is compulsively Pavlovian.  The phone rings once.


“Hello, Mr. Pom… Pominatz…”

And they got me again!

Sometimes – more frequently than any other kind of call – it’s the family member of a building contractor – “My husband’s a contractor” or “My Dad is a contractor” – I guess the actual contractor is too shy or embarrassed to speak on the phone – informing me that they are currently in my neighborhood, offering free estimates on home repair.  (After a thorough inspection:  “Doesn’t look like you need anything.”  How often do you think that happens?)

Sometimes, it’s a “Clean Air” operation, informing me about government rebates on solar panels.  Sometimes, it’s the Santa Monica “Canine Patrol”, soliciting money for police dogs.  Sometimes… I don’t know who it is because I hang up when they pronounce my name wrong.

Sometimes, it’s not people – it’s prerecorded “Robo-calls.”  A bank, promoting new, excitingly low interest rates.  During the political season:  “This is Bernie Sanders.”  I go, “Really?”  It’s not Bernie Sanders.  It is prerecorded Bernie Sanders.  I wonder if they’ve ever estimated how “personal disappointment” affects voter turnout. 

And of course there is the recorded message announcing the IRS is about to sue me.

Is there any surprise I am impatient whenever the phone rings? 

No really.  Is there?

Okay, so yesterday morning, I am immersed in my blog writing.  The phone rings.  I pick it up to make it stop ringing.  And I hear a pre-recorded woman’s voice say,

“I am the mother of a child with severe allergies who needs EpiPen to save his life…”

Hearing it’s a “Robo-call”, I reflexively hang up.

I then feel immediate regret. 

A mother whose child desperately needs medicine, and I slam down the phone before hearing how I can help.  Was I not listening?  Or was I too busy feeling “justifiably aggrieved”?

I attempt to salvage the debacle, retrieving the 2016 “General Election Sample Ballot.”  Maybe her call was to ask me to vote for one of the (seventeen) California initiatives.  (Which I unquestionably would have.)

I assiduously go down the list:

The “Firearms Ammunition Sales” initiative?

I don’t think that’s it.

The Marijuana Legalization” initiative?

“EpiPen” is about allergies, not “Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”

“Condoms for Porn Stars”?

That’s not the one.  Though truth be told, I would be less likely to hang up on an Adult Film star’s mother.

The solicitation is probably related to the “Prescription Drugs” initiative, but I do not know for sure.   I feel terrible.

“Hair Trigger” responses:  Bad for presidents.  Bad for Pomerantz.

But you see, we get all these calls…

It is always helpful to have somebody to blame.  Still, somewhere, a little boy is having trouble with allergies…

And I, impulsively, hung up the phone.