Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Patriotism Swells in the Heart of the American Bear

Monday evening, I wandered to the back of the staging area and set our bag of Togo's sandwiches on a small table. A few other groups had arrived beforehand and staked out their small territories, setting up folding chairs and blankets while their kids ran around screaming themselves into exhaustion. I glanced up toward the movie screen hanging from three pulleys atop the OC Performing Arts Center but found it difficult to keep my eyes open in the warm, setting sun.

Groups of one to two people intermittently walked into the staging area from the left and right, scanning the concrete for the best view of the screen. CM phoned that he was in the parking structure across the street and would meet me soon so I wiped the table as best I could then removed the sandwiches, chips and plastic bottles of soda from the bag, arranging them on the small space in order to be able to eat and to watch the movie at the same time.
>For the past few Mondays, the OC Performing Arts Center had been screening movie musicals for free with huge tournouts for Easter Parade and Grease. This week, we decided to take advantage and watch The Muppet Movie, a film that I hadn't seen in at least 15 years. Silly, childish humor with a little bit of adult fun thrown in, I'd forgotten how great the music is and just how many old-time Hollywood celebrities had cameos. Bob Hope, Orson Welles, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Mel Brooks, Carole Kane ("That's a myth. Myth!" "Yeth?"), Madeline Kahn, Telly Savalas, Richard Pryor. (CM figured that more than half the people in the audience had no idea who those people were.) And all those memorable quotes!!

What fun it was to see it again!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

I'm on the phone with our New York office, learning about how the information fits into the spreadsheet before me on the computer screen, when the building begins rolling.

"Hey," I say into the phone, "can you hold on a sec? We're having an earthquake."

"Oh my goodness!' she yells into the New York end of the phone while I slink out of my chair and crouch beside the sturdy drawers of my desk. "Are you guys okay?"

"Yeah. You grow up in southern California, you become used to them." She can hear the building creaking the blinds rattling the windows through the phone. After 10, 15 seconds, the rolling slowly subsides. I climb back into my chair and ask some probing questions about the spreadsheet.

This, Too, Shall Pass

I think the stone passed on Thursday. A little reddish brown grain of -- something -- dropped into the strainer, and I've not felt any movement or pain since then. However, the urologist should be able to tell me more during my visit tomorrow. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and well-wishes!

UPDATE: No, the stone hasn't passed according to the urologist whom I saw yesterday. Damn! This means more waiting, thinking every little twitch or pull on my side is a potential stone. I meet with him again next Friday, this time sitting through an x-ray/CT scan in the early morning before the appointment. Why isn't there a pill that will just dissolve the damned thing?!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mamma Knight

Friday after work, we sat on the couch trying to figure out what to do for dinner. Make something at home (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Boca Burgers) or risk the Friday night crowds at a restaurant. We opted for the restaurant and were soon speeding along toward the Lone Star Steakhouse, but by the time we arrived, the parking lot was full. CM checked parking near all the restaurants in that center and finally pulled into a spot a bit farther away, near the movie theater. As we walked past the theater, CM asked if I wanted to see Mamma Mia after dinner, you know, kind of "spur of the moment". I said sure so we changed course for the box office, bought tickets for a late show, then followed our growling stomachs to the restaurant.
>Later, back in the theater, we quickly found seats just before the previews started. CM nudged me awake after they'd finished and soon we were off to the Greek Isles to watch and listen to the tale of a young bride trying to find out who her father is. All to the tunes of ABBA.

CM and I saw the stage version a few years ago and found it cute but not fantastic. We weren't jumping from our seats and dancing like all the ads on TV showed. So when it came time for the movie, I wasn't expecting much. I must say that I left the movie theater pleasantly surprised, smiling and laughing and with Thank You for the Music going through my head on a non-stop loop. The movie tells the story of a young bride named Sophia who lives with her mother Donna at a small hotel on a Greek island. Sophia would really like her father to be at the wedding; the only problem is that she has no idea who he is. She finds some clues, though, in the pages of her mother's journal so she mails invitations to the three -- unbeknownst to her mother -- with the hope that she will know him on sight. Hilarity and ABBA music ensues.

All the actors were very good -- from the venerable Meryl Streep, the charming Pierce Brosnan, the flustered Colin Firth and the cougar Christine Baranksi to the newbies Amanda Seyfried as the young bride Sophia and Dominic Cooper as her groom-to-be. Great singing, too, especially from Amanda Seyfried (wow!!) and Meryl Streep. (I knew she could sing from watching a few other films, but she carries many of the songs in Mamma Mia very well.) But what I felt really makes this a movie worth watching is how much fun everyone seems to be having with both the classic songs from ABBA and the story. And watching Meryl Streep writhe on a rooftop while singing Mamma Mia -- classic. I could tell that everyone enjoyed making this film, no matter how campy or silly the material, and I couldn't help but smile. A nice light film for the Summer.
Saturday night, we braved the crowds to see The Dark Knight, just $20.00 among the many hundreds of millions the film's already raked in during the past 10 days. Three words: worth. every. penny. The Dark Knight is perhaps the best movie of the year and the best superhero movie by far. I won't go into too many details, but Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker steals the movie. His psychotic villain is by far more human than the colorful comic book character in past versions of the film. And he proves to be the best antagonist to Batman. The Joker makes him question his ethics, his world view. How? He has no boundaries whereas Batman works within the confines of his own morality. The Joker does what he wants, to whomever he wants, whenever he wants. Without thinking or caring. His actions turn more into a statement about how our society operates, and situation after situation, he puts the question not only to Batman but to the citizens of Gotham City, as well. (The scenes with both the hospital and the ferries come to mind.)

But Heath Ledger isn't the only thing to make this a great movie. The story, the setting, the reality-based weapons that Batman uses, the special effects, the entire cast and crew -- fantastic. CM and I left the theater exhilarated and talking non-stop about the film. If you haven't seen it yet -- Go! Now!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kidney Stone Update
First, I wanted to thank everyone for the nice comments on Monday's post. I am feeling much, much better. But the stone has yet to pass. The pain has lessened considerably, more like a dull ache instead of the barbed spear in my side. I'm drinking glass after glass of water to help flush it through and swallowing the occasional ibuprofen if the ache intensifies.

And I'm straining my "flow": standing over the toilet with a mini sieve trying to catch any little particles. (TMI, I know.)

I scheduled an appointment with a urologist recommended by the doctor at Long Beach Memorial. Thankfully, he's on my insurance plan so I will be visiting him next Wednesday. I'm hoping the darned 5mm painbringer will pass before then, though.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hellboy, Too

No, it has nothing to do with my kidneys the past few days, though they might tell you a different story.

Saturday, CM and I decided to use a few of his birthday gift cards down at The Pike. First, lunch at Chili's -- a Buffalo Chicken Salad for me and an appetizer trio for him. Tasted wonderful, especially given the fact that we used a gift card -- and still have about $25 left to spend. Then, we walked over to Borders to waste some time before the movie started. I walked away with two more books to add to my continuously growing mound, and CM used his gift card for a magazine and the latest novel from Marc Acito. We still had about an hour to kill before the movie so we wandered to a bench near the fast-spinning ferris wheel and listened to it squeak horrifically whenever the brake was applied. And yet dozens of people lined up, money waving in their hands, to ride it.
After a quick nap in the sun, we rushed up the steps to the Cinemark and into the theater to find seats for Hellboy II: The Golden Army. The story in a nutshell: Hellboy needs to stop Prince Nuada from locating the three pieces of a crown which, when assembled, allows the wearer to control an indestructible army of 70 times 70 mechanical soldiers, known as The Golden Army. Prince Nuada wants to use the Golden Army to destroy the human population in order to allow the elves and goblins and creatures of legend to rule the Earth once more. A decent story, and Ron Pearlman is fantastic as Hellboy, giving him a lot of humor and charm -- especially when he and another character get drunk on Tecate and start singing Can't Smile Without You. But what really makes this movie are the visual effects, more specifically, the creatures created by director Guillermo del Toro. Cute little winged tooth fairies that are more than ready to shred a human to a pulp. The King of the Elves whose crown seems at one moment to be antlers, at another moment his hair twisted and hardened and melting into the paleness of his skin. A shovel-headed Angel of Death with no eyes, a skeletal, thin frame and enormous black wings -- eerily beautiful. The myriad creatures browsing the stalls in the Troll Market beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Theses creatures really make the movie and raise it from being just another comic book brought to the screen. That, and Ron Pearlman.

By the time we left the Pike to meet CS for dinner -- and to see his new car! -- it was already 6:30 pm. 5 hours at a shopping center! I haven't done that in years!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ureteral Lithiasis

A jolt of pain woke me around 3:30 this morning. Focused on the right side of my abdomen, I thought perhaps last night's dinner decided to fight against my stomach so I stumbled to the bathroom, did my duty, and returned to sleep almost immediately.

The next, much stronger jolt forced me from bed close to 6:00 am, and I followed the same routine, but since my alarm would sound any minute, I also showered and dressed for work. The pain had subsided while I brushed my teeth. Standing in front of the mirror, I dragged my electric razor across two days worth of stubble and nearly dropped the razor into the sink when a red-hot and barbed spear skewered my right side. I gripped the sink, breathing heavily hoping the pain would lessen, and finally managed to drag myself to the bedroom, asking in a thick whisper for CM to call 9-1-1.

I sat on the bed, more short quick breaths to keep my mind from the pain, until the paramedics arrived. (Good thing they're only a few houses down from our apartment.) Diesel scrambled beneath the bed as they tromped into the room. The first paramedic asked a few questions, which I answered while another wrote all the information on a clipboard. A third strapped a blood pressure sleeve around my arm and took my vitals, checked for fever. Luckily everything seemed normal -- no fever, stable blood pressure and pulse -- so the first paramedic said that they could transport me to a hospital if I wanted them to, but CM could also drive me as it didn't appear to be life-threatening. I told him that I felt okay enough for CM to take me so they packed up and marched down the stairs.

The pain had lessened. I carefully managed the back stairs while CM fetched his car. While leaving a voicemail for my Area Manager, the sharpness quickly returned, and I walked in circles, breathing heavy, until CM appeared and eased me into the passenger's seat. Unfortunately we couldn't reach the hopsital fast enough. Each and every turn or stop or bit of uneven pavement increased the pain. By the time we pulled into a space at the hospital, I wanted to throw up. CM ran to the emergency room and returned with a wheelchair, helping me to sit with my weight on my left side, rolling me up to the registration desk where I relayed my personal info through gritted teeth.

From that point on, it was a series of pauses -- to be called back to a room, to have the nurse hook up the IV, to meet the doctor. Yet, by the time I was discharged at 11:00 am, I'd undergone a CT scan, had blood drawn from the same IV line into which the nurse administered Fentanyl and Toradol, and learned that I was in the midst of passing a 5mm kidney stone. The doctor said it was just barely small enough to pass on its own so he was prescribing a mild painkiller and a stronger one -- Vicodin, in case the pain becmae intolerable -- and another medication to dilate the ureter so the stone could pass more easily. While a kidney stone is bad enough, what raced through my mind was appendicitis or my diverticulosis acting up or even an obstruction in my colon that would require an operation. So the painful kidney stone turned out to be a relief.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Eyes Have It

Well, not my eyes. According to the ophthalmalogist, my vision hasn't changed in the two years since I started seeing him. Which is good as the points where my retinas meet the optic nerves in both eyes are cupped. A possible early warning sign of glaucoma, but in my case, it may just be heredity. (Fingers crossed!)

And I apologize to Sage for not making it to the concert at the Marine Stadium. I left work at 5, and it took almost two freakin' hours to drive from Irvine (where I work) to Long Beach (where I live). 20 miles in two hours!! I was hot, cranky and in a very foul mood so me at a concert among people would not have been the best place for anyone.

CM treated me to some retail therapy, and I feel much better now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead



Sunday evening, after dinner at our usual place in West Hollywood, we hurried to the Hudson Backstage Theater for that night's performance of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. A good thing we arrived early, allowing us to find seats near the center of the small theater. The latecomers scanned the seats, faces changing from smiles to frowns as they realized they would be forced into the side seats, turning almost sideways to see the stage. The lights dimmed a short time after 8PM....

Dog Sees God re-visits some favorite childhood comic strip characters as they wend their way through the tortures of high school. CB tries to cope with the death of his beloved beagle and wonders what happens to pets after they die. He asks his overly dramatic sister who's gone goth, his best friend Van who still remains phliosophical through a haze of pot smoke, Tricia and Marcy who've given up the birkenstocks, brains and glasses to become the popular (and drunk) mean girls, his friend Matt with a disturbing aversion to germs and all things dirty, and finally Van's sister who's been committed to a psychiatric ward for setting the little red-haired girl's curls on fire. Not satisfied with their lack of interest, he wanders the halls of school until a Chopin tune carries him to Beethoven, once a great friend but now that he's perceived to be gay, everyone's turned against him. From that encounter, CB begins a life-changing journey that will affect everyone close to him.

Director Nick DeGruccio and his amazing cast managed to wrestle every laugh and tear from the audience. Christine Lakin (Tricia) and Lauren Boyne (Marcy) almost stole the show as the mean girl duo, and Joseph Porter's CB captured the teen angst and the blockheadedness of his character. For myself, I could relate to Bert V. Royal's writing about the awkwardness of high school and the loneliness that being perceived as an outcast can cause. More than once, tears welled in my eyes. A fantastic piece of theater, and if you're in the Los Angeles area this weekend, check it out before it closes!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Celluloid Kim Chee

A lazy Saturday morning. The only pressing engagement in the near future was a birthday dinner in Koreatown so while CM washed a load or two of laundry, I scoured the dishes and sink, then scanned the movies times online. The nearest AMC offered a matinee showing of WALL-E, which we both wanted to see, and within a few minutes, we'd cleaned up and drove to the theater.
>Set on an Earth in the distant future, all humans have left the planet due in part to an environmental catastrophe. Thousands of man-made satellites shroud the planet while the seas dried up, vegetation died, and the atmosphere thinned. Left to clean up their mess was a series of robots known as Waste Allocation Load Lifter-Earth-Class, or WALL-E, but in the 700 years since the humans left, most of the robots ceased to function. With the exception of one lone robot and his pet cockroach, still creating cubes of smashed refuse around an abandoned, New-Yorkish city, collecting tidbits (like rubber duckies and Zippo lighters), and whistling show tunes from Hello, Dolly! One day, a spaceship lands near WALL-E, leaving behind a white, ovoid which morphs into a robot and zips around the abandoned city. WALL-E follows and finds himself falling for this new robot, named EVE. But a gift he presents to EVE sets in motion a chain of events that will draw him deep into space and a meeting with the survivors of the human race.

A very charming film, with great animation and a fine story. I enjoyed that the first 30 - 45 minutes of the film contained little or no dialogue, relying on the actions of the characters to spin the tale of love and environmental care. And for a kid-oriented film, it was surprisingly political but palatable with its presentation of what life might be like if we continue wreaking havoc on the planet. WALL-E presented a sense of hope about the future. Definitely one of the must-see films of the Summer.
We still had some time to kill after the movie so we also saw Get Smart, another film we both wanted to see -- me moreso than CM. Steve Carell plays Maxwell Smart, an analyst with CONTROL, who desperately wants to become a full-fledged secret agent. He gets his chance when CHAOS somehow breaks into CONTROL headquarters, stealing information from their computers and unmasking all their secret agents. Max is teamed with Agent 99, who recently went through plastic surgery, to locate a CHAOS agent in Russia selling uranium to terrorist groups.

A so-so film, not as funny as it could should have been. Only a few jokes/gags made us laugh, feeling as though much of the humor and charm of the TV show was somehow left behind. Smart is supposed to be a bumbling clutz, but only one time is that shown to the audience: while he's trying to undo a wrist restraint in an airplane bathroom and continually harpoons himself. Carell's Maxwell Smart was stiff as a board with almost know emotion, more like the Hymie android. And I didn't think Carell and Hathaway shared any screen chemistry. Wait for the DVD unless you absolutely must see this in the theater.

We made it back to the apartment in time for a quick shower and change before heading north to Koreatown. Neither of us had visited that part of Los Angeles before so we neglected to notice the restaurant stuck in the middle of a strip mall (between a carniceria and a 7-11). We circled the block a few times and paralleled into a spot beneath a tree, just a few feet from the restaurant. Dozens of groups and families milled about the parking lot, all waiting for a table in The Corner Place, our friend Mimi's choice for her birthday bash. She spotted us as CM was asking the hostess about a large birthday party and ushered us outside to wait for the others to arrive. Between 7 PM and 8:30 PM when our number was finally called, our little group had grown to 11 with many of her friends from AMBI, the bi-sexual/fluid group she organized about two years ago.

We crammed into two booths and settled into our first experience at a Korean BBQ. The table itself was unusual, with a large, circular grill at its center. Around it were placed various bowls and dishes filled with shredded and spiced carrots, chilled turnip slices and cabbage, various incarnations of kim chee, plates of onion greens, sprouts and other assorted veggies. Mimi ordered the meat entrées for both tables, and soon we were grilling beef tips and shreds, piling them onto our individual rice bowls and mixing in the veggies. I must say that I LOVED the shredded and spiced carrots. Almost a cayenne-vinegar mix but not overpowering or too spicy. Mix it with beef and rice and I devoured it like candy. Surprisingly, the conversation never lagged. Those awkward silences while waiting for a dish to be brought from the kitchen seemed thrown to the wayside as we each took turns checking the meat, passing around the different vegetables, chatting like a family.

By 10PM, we all waddled from the restaurant, hugging our goodbyes, and headed home.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bookwhore Chronicles: Books in Brief

During all the hustle and bustle of work, of dinners with family and friends, of numerous hours trying to fight my way through a bizarre insane asylum on my Nintendo DS, I managed to read quite a few books. And instead of my long-winded reviews, a brief synopsis should suffice.
The Horla by Guy de Maupasant

A young Frenchman living near Rouen along the Seine describes in his journal his encounter with an invisible, vampiric creature, and his subsequent descent into madness. A great twist on the vampire genre, but what I enjoyed most about this particular copy of the novella is the inclusion of the first two versions -- a letter written by the young man to a newspaper, and the telling of the bizarre tale from the confines of a mental ward.
The Actor's Guide To Greed by Rick Copp

Former child star Jarrod Jarvis finds himself acting in a West End production opposite some heavyweights in the British acting world. But when the female star of the show is murdered and her Oscar stolen, all fingers point to him, and he must struggle against bad press, the star's jealous boyfriend and a terrible play to figure out who the real culprit is. Oh, and his boyfriend - an LA policeman - has disappeared, possibly run off with one of the actors. Catty and fun to read, this is the third installment of Rick Copp's Actor's Guide series.
Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee

An aging and well-known author hires a beautiful young woman form his apartment building to assist with the typing of a manuscript for a German publisher. As she settles into the role, she discovers that her boyfriend is scheming to rob the author of the hundreds of thousands he has gathering dust in the bank. Does she help the author whom she knows didn't hire her for her typing, or does she side with her boyfriend? A novel with a gimmick, the story unfolds in three parts, each told on the same page. The upper third gives the "Strong Opinion" that the author has been asked to contribute to the manuscript, on topics ranging from God to Brahms to politics. The middle third is told from the viewpoint of the author, how he meets his neighbor, how they interact, how he learns to re-think his views of the world. The final third speaks from the woman's point of view, as she navigates her way through her growing distrust of her boyfriend and the gentle feelings from the aging author.
The Fuck-Up by Arthur Nersesian

A young slacker in New York loses his girlfriend and his job all in the same day. With nowhere to go and nothing but the clothes on his back, he spends the next few nights on a friends couch, trying to piece together what he needs to do to survive. This novel narrates his ever-increasing downward spiral through the darker world of New York and his eventual escape into normalcy. A very engaging dark comedy, and the perfect choice to read while sitting in the juror room at the Superior Court.
Kiss the Girls and Make Them Spy by Mabel Maney

Agent 007 has been institutionalized and N. needs to find a replacement quickly as the Queen wants to award him a medal. The only person who could possible fit the bill: his lesbian sister Jane. But Jane has problems of her own, having just split with her girlfriend who took her for almost everything she had. Plus, she doesn't know that her brother James is a secret agent. Told with much charm and tongue-in-cheek humor, Maney's parody of the James Bond series is a great read.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

O69

We hooked up with our friend CS last night at The Paradise for their bi-monthly Drag Bingo Night. The tiny bar area was stuffed with dozens of gay men and lesbians, but we squeezed through to a very small table next to the dining room and almost immediately dove into our first round of bingo action. We didn't win, of course, and neither did we win the next two games. But we weren't there to win, really. (It would have been nice, though.) We wanted to see Beth Grant who stopped by to promote the Sordid Lives TV series as well as to help raise money for The Trevor Project by calling numbers. She was truly a class act, very personable and gracious, and even put up with the drunken shenanigans from the Sordid Lives fans at the front table, one of whom would not stop quoting lines from the movie. Loudly.

Monday, July 07, 2008

What I Did on the 4th....

CM and I visited his folks in Pico Rivera, stopping beforehand at a fireworks stand to buy a few fountains for the nieces and nephews to enjoy later in the evening. Most of Orange County banished them long ago, but I do remember buying them the last time with my Dad, how large my eyes grew seeing all the sparklers, ash snakes, powder kegs, fountains, piccolo petes, spinning flowers and pagodas, all stockpiled behind a thick wire grate, coming home with a jampacked box and not waiting until dusk to light the sparklers. The giddiness returned as CM and I picked out a few powder kegs, a Laser Dragon and a 4-pack called the "Soda Fountain" with four bottles of red, green, orange and purple. We almost bought a few tanks -- small fountains in the shape of military tanks, the fuses sprouting from the front gun turrets -- but weren't sure what others were bringing so we held back.

At his folks' house, we gorged on corn roasted still in the husk, beef ribs, carne asada, hamburgers, hot gods, sausage, and roasted peppers. I think I ate at least three ribs, a chunk of asada and managed an entire ear of corn. And still had room enough for a slice of French apple pie and 3 or 4 chocolate chip cookies. Needless to say, I sat in my chair the rest of the evening, inwardly groaning at my overstuffed stomach, while someone else lit the fireworks.

And, while the fountains spewed their sparks and colors, a few cities away at the hospital, one of CM's nieces gave birth to a 9 lb. baby boy.

Meanwhile, at my parents in Laguna Niguel, the city set off its annual fireworks display at the lake behind my parents' house. As my Dad told me, about 10 minutes into the show, a fire started in the brush on the hillside opposite the lake, where all the spectators and their cars lined the only road around the lake and which slopes almost directly behind my parents' house. The fire crew was unable to reach the spot for almost an hour due to the rush of people trying to flee the scene. My Uncle managed to snap a few pictures before the flames were extinguished. Word spread fast that the fire started thanks to someone setting off illegal fireworks near the dry hillside.

My Dad gave me an earful Saturday morning about the Homeowners Association and how little they maintain the hillsides. Supposedly, they send crews out once every 9 months to clear and trim the brush, but in the 20 years my parents have lived there, the only time anyone from the Homeowners Association does anything is when a phone call is made by a resident. maybe this will scare the Association into some kind of action.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th of July!




This afternoon, we're heading to CM's folks to light fireworks with his great nieces and nephews and eat too much barbecue. We wish everyone a safe and happy 4th of July!!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Civic Duty

CM dropped me off across the street from the courthouse Tuesday morning. I quickly crossed Ocean once the light changed and followed a few other prospective jurors to the end of the long line waiting to pass through the metal detector. A security office shouted directions to those of us in line: remove everything from your pockets; pocket knives, mace, any kind of wepon, even if meant to protect you, will be confiscated until the end of the day; remove watches and belts. Belts?! Scanning the line I noticed quite a few men gripping their strips of leather as if afraid they may be stolen so I quickly reached under my shirt, unbuckled the belt and pulled it through the loops trying to hold it, my wallet, keys, watch, a novel and the summons in one hand while holding up my inching down pants with the other.

When the line finally moved and I set dropped my items into the x-ray tray, I still managed to set off the metal detector. A bored female security guard waved a spatula-like wand in front of and around me, couldn't make the alarm sound and ushered me through. I stuffed my pockets, carefully belted my pants before following a small group toward the elevators. None of us glanced at each other or spoke during the ride to the 5th floor. On the escalator to the 6th, one man fiddling with the latch on his briefcase mumbled something about missing his flight thanks to the summons, another joked that this was his second visit in the past three years, even I mentioned having to be on call for District Court, but all the openings lead only to more quiet. We solemnly followed the corridor past windows overlooking a semi-hazy view of downtown Long Beach, Signal Hill and the 710 freeway, then filed into the juror room and selected random seats away from one another.

By 8:15, the room was full, and a secretary of the court explained, in a nasally monotone, how the selection process was to work. We completed our forms along with her, then watched a boring '90s video about the wonders of the juror system. Cell phones rang, people chastted, someone snored, but nothing seemed to phase her as she plowed to the end.

And then the waiting began. I opened the novel I'd consdieratley brought (The Fuck-Up by Arthur Nersesian) and read. And read.

And read.

And read some more until finally, around 11:00AM -- and almost 180 pages read -- the secretary monotoned over the p.a. system that she would be calling a list of names at random. Those lucky few were to report to Court __ at 1:30PM. As she read the names, my stomach butterflies spasmed into overdrive. My face flushed. I riffled the pages of my book with my thumb as a charm. The last name was called, and I heaved a sigh of relief, as did many in the room. Spared, for the moment. The secretary also announced that we were free for lunch until 1:30PM.

Prospective jurors fled that room through every concevilable exit, as quickly as they could. I joined them, heading to the cafeteria because to leave the building would mean having to return through the metal detector again with my belt in one hand and hiking up the pants with the other.

The cafeteria didn't offer a huge selection -- a few sandwiches, pre-packaged salads, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit -- so I chose a chicken caesar with a Snapple and lunched on the rooftop. The salad wasn't too bad but could have used a little bit of dressing. And maybe a crouton or 10 for flavor. I read only a few pages while I ate, instead enjoying the mixture of warm sun and cool breeze coming from the harbor. And, yes, I managed a slight sunburn while on jury duty. But it was worth it for that view: the Pike, the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose Dome, barges slowly docking at the Port of Long Beach, cars and trucks winding up the Vincent Thomas Bridge, the dark blue of the Pacific Ocean. A huge crane twirled about, hefting metal for the new condos to be built near the Pike. I pulled a chair near the edge and watched a man painting a railing on the rooftop of the Sovereign; another man step onto the balcony of his apartment at One Ocean West, maybe 7 or 8 stories up, and chatting into a cell phone. I closed my eyes, listening to the wind rush through the rooftops, the muffled cars and buses passing along he boulevard, faint saxophone notes drifting from some concert, the nasally secretry calling us back inside.

Drat.

The few of us outside ambled back to our seats. I continued and finished the Fuck-Up, and was 20 pages into another book I found in the room when the first group of jurors returned. The case had been moved to another day so they were all told to return to the juror room. But before they had a chance to rest, the secretary called another list of names, many of which belonged to those just returned. Once again, the butterflies emerged, but were soothed away as my name was not mentioned. This time, the entire group triumphantly re-entered the juropr room within 5 minutes. The bailiff sent them back because, as with the previous case, the date had been changed.

With that, the monotone picked up her microphone and released us from duty, thanking us for our service. One by one our names were called, we exchanged our badges for a green "Proof of Jury Service" slip, and noisily left the building.