Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hike/Run - T'was Fun!

My timing was a little wacky, but I had wanted to do this hike/run that starts near Castaways Restaurant by the Burbank, "De Belle Muncipal Golf Course."  I ran over to Wildwood Canyon, then up a long, steep trail to some transmitter towers, then north on a fire road that skirts those mountain tops, and down Stough Canyon back to my car.

I started at 11:30am today, so it was 81 degrees for much of the hike/run, and it took me some time to do the whole loop.  But I enjoyed it.  When I got to the transmitter towers, which I've indicated by the most upper right part of the blue trail between miles 3 and 4 on the enclosed map, I could see to Palos Verdes, to downtown, and well past the 210 freeway.  I was up above the hazy smog that you'll notice is lingering today.

The sky was a darker blue once I got up there.  My ascent from lowest to highest point was 1400 feet to 2800 feet. A nice 1400 foot gain.  So it was definitely a good workout.

Here is the enclosed topographic map of what I did.  You'll notice the green dot where I parked.  Only, I went counter clockwise, rather than clockwise as is indicated on the map.  i chose to do this so that I'd get the larger ascent out the way first.  Glad I did. It only got hotter as I went.   I just kind of created this loop myself after looking at some street and fire road maps on the internet.

Just to give you a reference point, I parked my car at the intersection of Stough Canyon and De Bell Drive, in the city of Burbank.  It's kind of right smack in the middle of the golf course greens.  See the second map for a closer up street map.

I'm tired!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Abe Lincoln

I remember being brought into the judges chambers and noting that he was a kind, middle-aged man.  I looked around his office at his wood furniture and his large desk, and what seemed like serious surroundings.

I asked the judge if the painting on the wall was of him.  I was later told that it was a painting of Abe Lincoln, and that the judge found this flattering.  

After the attorneys made their cases for who I should go live with, the judge wanted to hear what I had to say about it all.  He brought to his chambers privately to talk with me.  He was clever in asking about my life with Nancy Davenport, and my life with Marcia and Bill; what I would do at their houses, what I would talk about with them, the friends I had.  This way, I would not feel I was betraying any of the people who had cared for me during the transitional interim, yet he could extrapolate from my dialogue the quality of my surroundings in each situation.

All in all, I don't think I said very much, and I am not sure that my limited conversation with him, quiet as I was, had any great impact on his final decision, but I think I said enough.

In answering the judge's questions, I was much more excited about my time with the Herrmans than with Nancy.  Within minutes after this visit in the judges chambers, the judge made his ruling; I would become Marcia and Bill’s son.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I think it's just a shame that the judge isn't allowing Arizona to enforce a key part of federal law in their own state.  I don't see how people are missing the fact that illegal aliens, for any reason, should not be here and not be coming into the United States.  There are so many people trying to enter the USA legally, waiting patiently for their turn to come up.  And the US is the nation that lets the largest number of legal immigrants in annually of any country in the world.  Legal immigration is what our country was made of.

And for a cavalcade of California protestors to be heading over to Arizona to make a scene….and for the City of Los Angeles to boycott companies in that state for something that the sovereign state feels is important to keep their communities and residents safe….ridiculous, ridiculous!

Having worked for Walt Disney Feature Animation for all of those years, I always use the, admittedly somewhat myopic example, of imagining people sneaking over the walls of Disneyland.  And Disneyland's response let's say, being, "Hey, since you're in here already, just go ahead and ride our rides, eat our food and use our other services on our dime."

Disneyland would be out of business in about three days.

It's too bad that people let their emotions get in the way of what's good for our nation.  This country is ultimately all that we have.  And to boot, I say, why can't all people from countries who are faced with unlikable interior conditions make a unified effort to change their environment.  There are more citizens than corrupt government officials, so with unification, the citizens ultimately have an advantage. Fear, laziness?  I don't know.

But Americans have done it several times in our own nation and have gotten things back on the right track (Independence from England, Civil War to name a couple small examples). But again, that's ultimately the concern of other nations, not ours.

Today's ruling is just ridiculous.  The citizens of Arizona deserve to have the federal government enforce already existing laws.  And Arizonians deserve to have some safety, peace and quiet in their neighborhoods.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pres Romanillos - A Kind and Phenomenally Talented Friend


Now that I have had 24 hours to absorb the news I discovered yesterday, I can start to put a few thoughts together.  I found out on that my friend, a star animator at Disney and DreamWorks, passed away this last weekend.

This young man, Priscillano Romanillos, or Pres and everyone knew him, was one of the first people to befriend me when I arrived on “Pocahontas.”  I think part of our early kinship was due to the fact that we shared Filipino heritage in our backgrounds. He was kind, full of energy, and always took an interest in others’ lives and well-being.

Pres had a rugged way about him; blue jeans with boots, swaggered a bit when he walked, and a voice full of confidence.  He had everything to be confident about.  This was one of the most naturally talented and artistic people I have ever met. 

When I came from “Boy Meets World,” and joined the Disney Feature Animation crew, Pres was already an unofficial protégé of the legendary Glen Keane.  Pres just ‘got’ animation.  To me, there are few things as beautiful as rough animation drawings.  That is, animation just out of an animator’s hands, before the lines have been simplified by the Clean Up department.

During my frequent stops to animators’ rooms, I used to gaze at Pres’ rough drawings as he was working them.  Fluid, charcoal-like pencil lines that had a brilliant energy to them.  I know Pres was aware of how much I enjoyed watching him animate.  He never shooed me away.  He was very generous.

Pres also always seemed to have a contingent of female fans that loved his work.  He toured them around our Hart-Dannon building in Glendale selflessly and somehow got all of his work done.  He loved animating.  One could see this in his passion and energy as he did his craft.

And the most alluring thing about him; with all of this confidence, talent, good looks and responsibility he took on, he was simply a good, sweet-hearted, authentic guy who was a warm spirit to talk to.  I will think of him always.

Charles Solomon of the LA Times wrote a very touching and informative article about Pres.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

An Unconventional Education

This is a cool NPR story that was played on KPCC today about a woman who had an unconventional education.  Play Audio Clip

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Great Vowel Shift

 Courtesy of

I was listening to NPR while driving at lunch today, and they were talking about the various versions of the song, "Molly Malone," set in Dublin, Ireland, that have been published over the years in an effort to identify if there was a real Molly Malone in the 18th or 19th Centuries...."Selling Cockles and Muscles, Alive, Alive, Oh."

A little digging around on Wikipedia, and I happened on the term, "The Great Vowel Shift," which describes a major change in how words were pronounced which occured in the south of England during a 300 year span.  I'd never heard of this before.  Have you?  Here is the Wikipedia Article.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Roof Hopping at Four in the Morning Rediscovering The Nighttime

My love of the night, which was reawakened when I was fourteen years old, happened due more to circumstance, rather than any deliberate attempt to reconnect with it.  I say reawakened because when I was very small, I had a tendency to wander around when it was dark out.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story!

Most of my friends’ upbringings were not unlike mine during Junior High School.  Growing up in a pretty safe part of the San Fernando Valley, we were all allowed some freedoms at that age, which inner city kids probably weren’t.  We could walk around our neighborhoods without much worry about too many terrible things happening to us. 

Although, once, when I was age twelve and walking home on Valley Vista Blvd in Studio City, which was generally considered a safe area, a middle aged man pulled up beside me in a convertible and told me that I was well-built, and asked if I needed a ride.  I said “no,” of course; I wasn’t completely stupid thank goodness.  When I told my mom this had happened, she was frantic.  And although at the time, I took the man’s comment as rather a compliment in some way, I later realized why she was close to hysterical, and am glad I didn’t end up in some quarry pit.  But that aside, this part of the Valley was a safe environment. 

Most of my friends’ parents required a bedtime of around 10pm, and we generally adhered to this with just a few innocent phone conversations under blankets to muffle the sound of talking  One close friend, Nick, had a situation that seemed vastly different to me though.  My parents were always happy when I stayed over there because he was a very close friend of mine who they knew well, and as a result, they could have a night or two of privacy without worrying about me.  Ha!

I always enjoyed staying over at Nick's because we could be up late.  And more specifically, we had control of how late we wanted to stay up.  That’s the real key anyways, isn’t it?  It wasn’t because of any major difference in parenting between Nick’s folks and my parents.  It was really due, I think, to the architecture of his house.  It’s funny how something like this can make all the difference in the world.

Nick lived in a castle-like home.  It literally looked like a Swiss or German storybook castle in North Hollywood, now designated as Valley Village, and was just a short bike’s ride from my house.  His home was comprised of two stories, and his folks’ bedroom was way up in the back of the upper story.  Nick, whose room moved a couple of times during our childhood, was always on the ground floor. 

His first room was way back toward the garage.  We could have been blasting Deep Purple at 1am, and his parents wouldn’t have been able to hear us.  In fact, I think we did just that a few times.  His bedroom was insulated by a large kitchen, then a breakfast nook, then stairs to a mid-level living room, from which the stairs led upwards.  Of all the times I was there, I literally never remember either of his parents coming down and telling us we were making a racket.  So we had the run of the ground floor.

This first bedroom of his had a window to the back yard and also had access to a side outdoor area from which we could go out to the front yard and on to the rest of the planet if we desired.  We could make ourselves snacks at whatever time we wanted in his very long kitchen.  The windowsill had one of those glass birds filled with red fluid that would dip its beak into water, then rise up, then dip down again, which had mesmerizing effects on me.  I was easily entertained in those days.

If this logistical independence of Nick’s weren’t enough, he somehow later earned, bargained or kicked his dad out of a rather large, wood paneled and wood floored den where he set up camp as his second bedroom.  His dad, who was an inventor, was apportioned Nick’s old bedroom as his new study den and gadget room.  I remember looking at his dad's diodes and electric graph-o-meters, wondering if they were medical or aeronautical in nature.

Nick’s new digs were slightly recessed from the ground level and looked onto the back yard, but he now had the additional direct access to a family room with a huge television (huge for those days).  This family room was closer to the stairs that led up to Nick’s parents’ floor, but to my amazement, was still buffered from disturbing them.

This was Nick’s pad during most of our teenage years.  Rock posters like the Queen naked bicycle poster, and The Beatles adorned his mahogany wood walls.  His crackling, slightly tin-sounding turntable spun deep Zeppelin tracks a lot of the time.  This new room felt like a netherworld for me; a pacifying stopover to throw out philosophical ideas about the world, as well as Silly Putty, and see if they’d stick to the walls.

It was a place and time of experimentation, and of starting to get a feel for doing things our own way  This was the bedroom in which Nick rented a bass guitar from Baxter Northup, took a few lessons and taught himself the bass lick to “Smoke on the Water,” and then, as far as I know, never picked the thing up again.  The same room where he would do anything but study for his school tests, until the very last night, and then cram and absolutely ace his exams.  (I'm tempted to place an expletive here!).  Wish I could have done that 'version' of studying.  It seemed like a more spontaneous and efficient use of one’s time.

With his move to this new room, and with the help of Nick, I began to rediscover the night.  There was a certain excitement I had about browsing through TV Guide and planning a schedule of late night TV.  Saturday Night Live repeats, (I remember being “slightly” inebriated and watching an SNL bumble bee sketch with John Belushi and enjoying it IMMENSELY!), Twilight Zone, Outer Limits; whatever the broadcasters were planning for us.  It was all there for us to enjoy late into the night without any interaction from the parental units.  Nick’s folks were rocks in their beds, and the black-inked night, calling, was continuing to unfold before us with no boundaries.

During one of these fabulous nights, which is the point of this story, Nick and I finished hours of watching television and then decided to wander on foot out into the neighborhood. Nick showed me that we could get to some neighboring streets via a barely visible sidewalk due to overgrowth, nestled next to the 101 freeway embankment. We probably had some goal in mind; a visit to Gelson’s Market, or a quick stop into a local liquor store.  But being that it was 3:30am, absolutely nothing was open.  We were urchins of the dark, softly floating through the neighboring streets of North Hollywood.  The houses were quiet and illuminated by the occasional lamppost on a lawn.  We heard the sound of a leaf falling here and there, enveloped by silence.

Nick, who loved to climb, led the way, and so we scaled some fences and gates and ended up jumping from rooftop to rooftop of some neighboring multi-family homes and carports.  The darkness of the night was starting to illuminate it's deep pre-dawn cobalt blue; our silhouettes quietly trespassing on the flat, sandpaper-like composition roofs, while people were sleeping heavily all around and below us.

This time in our lives, and this specific moment for me, when we were out on our own, not knowing where the depths of the night would take us, began in me a new love affair with that time during which only the stars and a hanging moon are out; a relationship that has never since ended.

As the sky began to lighten, Nick and I walked back to his house, fell asleep for a few hours, and then, meaning not to be too obvious to his parents that we had been up all through the night, we arose around 10:30am.  We rode our bikes the few miles to my parents’ house, and then went to my room, me in my bed, Nick on the floor, completely unconscious, and proceeded to sleep until 2:00 in the afternoon.  My parents must have sensed that we had been busy the night before.  Then again, maybe they knew that we were young adolescents.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons and Cereal

A friend of mine sent me an image of a cereal box this morning in an email with amusement, the vision of which shot me back into my childhood years, when I looked ever so forward to waking up early on a Saturday morning, turning on our big, new RCA color television, and immersing myself into a good three hours of cartoons.

This was such a habit each Saturdays that my parents, who I once too often woke up by blasting the TV sound, eventually made a rule that I was to stay in my bed until 8:00am, after which time I was free to indulge my animated addictions.  I generally woke up at 6:30am, and then had to lie there waiting for the arms of my clock to crawl to 8:00am straight up.

And while in bed counting the hours and minutes, I routinely thought to myself, “Boy, when I’m old enough to live on my own, I’ll watch hours and hours of cartoons!  Who wouldn’t?”  Ah, how naïve I was not to realize that this was to be one of many passing phases in life, along with skateboarding, motocross bikes, and muscle cars (I still may not have gotten over that last one yet....and actually, seeing Coyote left holding a stick of dynamite about to explode with a dead-pan look at the camera will always make me laugh out I guess I really haven't changed much).

As the early morning clock struck 8:00am, into the our big living room overlooking the Hollywood Hills I would go, turn on the TV and, while it warmed up to Christopher Glenn's, "In The News" segment, I would choose my cereal and milk.  Once armed, I would get myself settled well on the cushy white shag carpet and climb on top of our two over-sized gold room pillows with orange tassels on each corner; tassels that my dog Willie loved to pull out with her teeth to my mom’s dismay, and I would begin the day with friendly voices; companions unobtrusive, to put it into Geddy Lee lingo.

The interesting thing is that my parents allowed me to get myself pretty much any kind of cereal I wanted.   I was not much of a sugar junkie as a lot of the kids around me were.  I was definitely a child of moderation in that department.  Whether this was because my parents kept a candy bowl near the front door and I knew that sweets were always available for the taking, or because I had been so neglected of…well everything…before my adoption, that I never built up the appetite for sugary things to any great degree.  I don’t know the answer. 

But I do recall for instance that my family had a breadbox where I kept some of my smack items..  On one occasion during a trip, my parents bought me a very large gingerbread man cookie which I brought home to the breadbox.  Each afternoon, I opened the breadbox and ate just a little bit of it to conserve the cookie as long as I could.  So incrementally small were my daily gnaws on it in fact, that my mother finally one day just threw it out thinking that I hadn’t been eating any of it.  So much for what self-control gets you. 

The cereals I ate were mostly Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, Cheerios and on occasion Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes.   So clearly, I was not a junk food junkie; just a television cartoon junkie.  However, I LOVED the designs on the cereal boxes that were advertised on television and always enjoyed looking at the boxes in the supermarket isles when I was dragged with my mom shopping.

My favorites to look at were Frankenberry, Freakies, Count Chocula, and Lucky Charms.  I liked how graphic and colorful these designs were.  They were bold!  It’s like; all of the energy in the cereal had to be drawn in that one character on the front of the box, and then often splashed with a rainbow of colors.

And to me, cereal represented a one-stop energy meal.  That along with a few hours to myself of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, The Roadrunner, Foghorn Leghorn, Droopy, Snagglepuss ("Heavens to Murgatroyd!  Put'em up!  Put'em uuuup!  Exit, stage left even!") and plenty of other syndicated repeats before my parents were up.  Well, this was just childhood bliss!