Posted by Elliot Steingart
I made a new friend. His name is Jose Luis. I knew he was my friend as soon as he said "Hello, my friend."
Jose Luis helped me move my bed, kitchen table and love seat into my new apartment down the hall from where I used to live. He also mounted my TV. My girlfriend led the moving process by performing laundry, cleaning, organizing closets, and putting away my seasoning salts. She was jealous that I gave Jose Luis all the credit on Twitter. It's no slight on her part, but he is my friend.
Jose Luis is a contractor and handy man for my building. He is 61 years old and has two boys. "I've worked here many years. Everyone I work with is for a long time. They trust me. I don't steal. I work hard." He told me.
Before moving in pink wall paper lined the walls, brown carpet touched the floors, and "Mad Men" era appliances occupied the kitchen.Then in came Jose Luis ripping the carpet, laying down hardwood floors, sanding cabinets, installing new tiles. The old apartment died along with the tenant who once called it home. Jose Luis was the executioner.
"I respect your talent," I told Jose Luis. "I don't have the skills you have."
"It comes easy," he said drilling his power tool into the wall. "I love what I do. I put my heart into it."
I visited my old apartment where I still needed to remove the mirrors that became stuck on my wall. I walked in and the mirrors sat on the floor.
"Jose Luis, how'd you do it?"
"I used a spatula." he said.
"That's amazing. I didn't think I would be able to get them down."
I told Jose Luis the story about when I first moved in and my mom stayed the night. The mirrors were not sticking and in the middle of the night one of the mirrors above the bed fell straight down and nearly sliced my mom's head open. Jose Luis recalled the time he almost fell into a fireplace during the Northridge earthquake.
Settling into the new apartment I made a list of small repairs for Jose Luis. I needed a deadbolt and new drain in the bathtub. Jose Luis installed a new ceiling fan and patched one of the tiles. He fixed things I didn't even think needed a fix. He's a fixer.
His wife, Ruth who is also a carpenter and did most of the work with him, does not speak as good of English. She came into my apartment when I was in the bathtub. My girlfriend told her to come back another time. When she came back I told her how impressed I was with the work of Jose Luis.
"How long have you been married?" I asked.
"We're not married." she said.
I wanted to see who makes the repairs in their house. Now I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to break the news to my friend that he is not married to his wife.
"He's my boyfriend," she said.
"Okay, good." I replied. I was glad because I saw him touch her butt.
I asked my girlfriend if I should write Jose Luis a thank you note for all his help. "It's his job," she explained.
It wasn't his job to be my amigo.
11.25.13 at 8:30 am | Learning code of conduct
10.28.13 at 9:09 am | Parents Meeting Girlfriend's Parents,and more
8.2.13 at 9:12 am | Guest blog written by my dad
7.24.13 at 9:38 am | Going home
6.25.13 at 9:36 am | The longest day of the year
5.24.13 at 11:43 am | Taking the Socks off
March 25, 2013 | 1:39 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
With each passing day my hair gets grayer and my jokes, cornier. I accept this transformation as an inevitable fact of life. I'm slowly turning into my father. Spending time with my dad is a study in who I will become.
I waited for my dad to come out of the bathroom at a local coffee shop. He was in there so long my coffee turned decafeinnated. All I could hear was the steady hum of the hand dryer.
“What took you so long?” I asked
“I had to dry my hands,” he said.
Most people can poop in less than time than it takes my dad to dry his hands. Forget if a line is formed to use the one stall bathroom. They will wait for my dad to blow dry his hands. Then they will wait for my dad to figure out where to return the bathroom key.
We sat on bench outside the coffee shop smiling at a Boston Terrier. My dad stood up and extended his espresso underneath the Boston Terrier's nose.
“Want some coffee?” he asked.
The dog's owner looked up at my dad. His eyes modeled his dog's, big and brown, nearly forming an underbite of his own. “Dogs don't need caffeine,” he barked at my dad.
Back home my mom and I sat watching “We Bought a Zoo.” During the film's emotional climax when Matt Damon's son pleads for his father's love, my dad interrupts the scene to share that “The peppermill was invented in 1842” along with other tidbits from a forwarded email.
“We are trying to watch the movie,” I told him politely.
When Matt Damon finally saved the zoo I learned that my dad earned 19 points in Words with Friends.
My parents friends Suzie and Steve came over for a drink before dinner. My dad prepared his signature dirty martinis with a splash of lime juice and poured Steve a shot of Patron Silver. Earlier in the day I gave the bottle to my dad.
“Is Patron Silver any good?” I asked.
“It's shit,” he said. “Anejo is the good one.”
“You're welcome,” I said.
Steve enjoyed the Patron, at least. We finished our drinks, and put on our coats to walk outside. “I'm going to pull out,” shared my dad. “I should have done that 30 years ago,” he added.
At the African restaurant my dad ordered the appetizers. All at the table expressed interest in the Samosas.
“How big are the somosas?” I asked.
The waiter signaled with his hands the same signal that is used to describe someone with a small penis. “Only this big,” he said.
“Ok, let's order two for the table,” my dad told the waiter.
In this scenario the five of us would each get one corner of a three inch somosa. Even the waiter laughed. We finished all ten somosas that we ordered.
At breakfast I asked my dad about which of his new friends he likes the best. He likes Steve because he likes to drink and he likes Richard because he likes opera and computers. I wonder what Steve and Richard say about my dad.
"I like Marc because he feeds Boston Terriers espresso."
March 8, 2013 | 3:59 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
I am moving down the hall into the apartment of a 91 year old woman who recently passed away. I am sad she died, but it was for a good cause.
My landlord told me she lived in the unit for 30 years.
"She had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital,” my landlord told me.
“Oh,” I said. “I’m sorry to hear that. I used to see her in the hall.”
I would hold the door open for her and she would glare at me. One time a Mercedes filled with old ladies dropped her off. She looked happy as she waved goodbye. When she saw me she made a face because I took too long to find my key to open the door.
“Yes, life happens,” said my landlord. “What can ya do?”
What could I do, but ask about a dishwasher.
“Yes, all new appliances,” she said.
She was not ready to show me the unit because her family needed time to clear out her belongings. I know it was hard for my mom and my aunt to clear out my grandma’s apartment after she died. It was nice of management to allow the extra time. More time for them to clean.
I haven’t told the guy who lives next door that I am moving in. I saw him in the elevator on New Year’s Eve bundled up in warm clothes.
“What do you have planned for the big night?” I asked holding my girlfriend’s hand.
“I’m going to the beach and taking some time to reflect.”
I still don't know what to say to him. I'll think of something once I move in. With my neighbors, I usually go with "shhh."
Moving into a one bedroom will make a difference in my relationship. A studio apartment gets hard for us. When we get in a fight there are barely enough doors to slam.
It's a little weird for me to know the person who lived there probably died there. I guess you have to die somewhere. It's also weird someone will move into my apartment. Yes, it's small, but it's a good unit with lots of nice memories over the past year--the time my mom wanted to know why I was hanging mirrors over my bed, the time the mirror almost fell on my mom, etc.
Though it would be fun to see how the next tenant redecorates my old place, I'm not going to be the guy who knocks on the door, like a cocky sophomore visiting his freshman dorm. Let's hope the same goes for the dead lady. May her spirit rid itself quickly. Spirit Clear.
March 1, 2013 | 2:25 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
I am obsessed with names. Since 8th grade I have kept a Great Name List; a partial list is here: http://greatnamelist.wordpress.com/
Most of the names on the list are hockey stars like Alex Pietrengelo, Marty St. Louis, Corey Conacher, the Canisius College, Golden Griffin. I enjoy repeating names and using various intonations when I pronounce a great name like Jason POMINville, or Pat LAAAAFontaine!
Most of the time it is obvious why a name is great. Take Gil Garcetti, for example. There is a bold, alliterative power to the name Gil Garcetti. He sounds like someone who would put you behind bars which he did a lot of as Los Angeles’ 40th District Attorney. Gil has a son named Eric Garcetti who is running for mayor of Los Angeles.
To go along with his great name, Mr. Garcetti has the clean cut Danny Tanner like image well suited for a mayoral candidate. For the last twelve years Eric Garcetti has served on the LA City Council, spending six of those years as city council president. Representing District 13, Garcetti has helped clean up parts of Hollywood and revitalize East Side neighborhoods like Echo Park and Atwater Village.
I walk down Los Feliz streets like Commonwealth and Talmadge and see the light blue “Eric Garcetti for Mayor” lawn signs. People with lawns support Eric Garcetti as do many others, like the Armenian National Committee of America—Western Region, the Honorable, Dikran Tevrizian, and Jimmy Kimmel. Despite these ringing endorsements and the support of the LA Times, Garcetti has his detractors.
Garcetti is embroiled in allegations that his family’s financial connections in a Beverly Hills oil drilling scandal have jeopardized the well being of neighborhood children. Others say the council president is partially to blame for Los Angeles’s current fiscal troubles. My own Aunt Janice in a recent email told me to vote for Wendy Greuel. HATERS!!
As the LA Times points out, Garcetti might not be the perfect candidate, but his political experience and suave deal making position him as the front runner. I stand with Garcetti in support for extending Metro rails to the West Side, building a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles and creating new tech jobs in Silicon Beach.
I am endorsing Eric Garcetti so the name Garcetti remains relevant long after his time as mayor. If Tom Bradley has his own terminal at LAX, Eric Garcetti needs a terminal at Burbank. We could easily transform The Getty Center into the Garcetti Center. First, let's elect Eric Garcetti mayor.
February 22, 2013 | 3:36 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Due to stress, I can’t fall asleep. I don’t want to use Ambien, Melatonin, or alcohol to put me out. I’m counting on a mantra.
Repeating a mantra is a helpful way to gain inner peace. I use a mantra when running up a challenging hill in the neighborhood. Battling exhaustion I repeat to myself, “Los, Los Feliz. Los, Los Feliz. Los, Los Feliz.”
I repeat this over and over again until conquering the hill. It’s also helpful other times. I whistle the mantra on the way to Coffee Bean. I try to stay loyal to this mantra, but occasionally during sex I repeat “Go, Go, Go.” When that doesn’t work I revert back to “Los, Los Feliz. Los, Los Feliz.”
Strangely, my Los Feliz mantra does not work for sleep even though I sleep in Los Feliz. Not knowing where to turn I asked my father for advice who imparted the following nugget: “Whenever you want to stop thinking say to yourself ‘STOP THOUGHT’.”
“STOP THOUGHT” works if you have only one thought. I have too many thoughts to stop. Once one thought is stopped another appears.
I told him, “STOP THOUGHT” doesn’t work. I could sense his disappointment.
“Turn off the TV before bed. Don’t play on your cell phone. Don’t eat before bed.” He advised.
That eliminates my entire pre-bedtime routine. I need a mantra that is more forgiving.
I was up late thinking about work. I heard rumblings that my job would change. I considered every scenario and how my new role would impact my day to day. I visualized my outlook calendar and thought about how I could better delete my junk mail. “STOP THOUGHT” I shouted in my head, to no avail. With nowhere else to turn I tossed and turned, pulling half the sheets away from my girlfriend.
“MIND CLEAR!” I demanded.
More thoughts entered my mind. Why can’t I sleep? I’ve been doing this for 28 years. Shouldn’t I have this down?
“MIND CLEAR!” I demanded again. Because all my thoughts were focused elsewhere I didn’t quite realize what had happened. It struck me. I developed a new mantra. It didn’t work, but I was that much closer.
I asked my mom if she ever used a mantra. “I have one,” she said.
I was relieved to hear. “Great.” I said. “What is it?”
“I’m not telling. It’s personal.”
Even my own mother doesn’t care if I sleep at night. I don’t need her mantra, whatever it is. I’m guessing “QUINOA. ”It’s only a matter of time before “MIND CLEAR” works. When it does it would be great if this mantra could remove other things I don’t like student loans and Chris Brown.
Taking a hot bath at night and cutting out pretzels in bed is helping. There is no need to think about work in bed. I'm there 40 hours a week. I don't need to be there another 40. I will find a mantra. I'll let you know when I do.
February 13, 2013 | 2:03 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Sometimes I feel like people are out to get me. My courage was tested this week, not once but twice. The first time involved dropping off shirts at Celebrity Cleaners.
“Is this your first time here?” asked the Persian girl behind the desk.
“I've been here once before.” I said. “Last name is Steingart.”
“How you spell?” she asked.
“S-T-E-I-N-G-A—R—T as in Timmy,” I announced.
“Not in system.” She said suspiciously.
I was surprised since my old dry cleaner recognized me in the system as someone who brought in dirty shirts and pants.
“Can I pick up tomorrow?” I asked.
She gave it some thought. “Yes, fine.” She agreed as she handed me a pink receipt.
When I came back to pick up my laundry I presented her a coupon.
“I can't accept this,” she said. “Must be $20 or more.”
I don't know why it’s called "fine" print when it always screws you. I sighed as I looked at my pink receipt. I looked up at the girl whose back was turned. I noticed the name on the pink receipt I held in my hand wasn't mine.
The name printed on the receipt was STEINFART. The FART jumped off the receipt. There was no GART, but a giant bold faced FART. STEINFART, ELLIOT. This seemed like a steep price to pay to pick up my dry cleaning the next day.
It finally registered that STEINFART was the name they had in their system. Too embarrassed to correct her, I paid for my dry cleaning as STEINFART. The name that tormented me throughout childhood is now on file at Celebrity Cleaners forever. I said nothing. I left as STEINFART. While STEINFART is a celebrity, STEINGART is some shmuck that needs to learn how to iron.
The worry of finding a new dry cleaner was offset when my girlfriend invited me on a romantic movie date to see Zero Dark Thirty. Walking into the theatre I noticed an armed security guard. I gave him a head nod once I saw he was strapped. While my girlfriend stood in line for popcorn I found our seats towards the top in an empty row. Checking my phone I heard a hacking cough coming from an elderly man in the row behind me. I took that as a sign and moved a few rows down. My girlfriend returned with the popcorn and the movie began.
During the opening sequence frantic 911 calls are heard from people still inside the Twin Towers. A few new audience members shuffled into the theatre arguing in Farsi or Arabic. They pointed toward the seats next to me and filed in. In the darkness of the theatre both men resembled the Al Quada detainee on screen. My girlfriend squeezed my arm during the first water boarding sequence. The man seated next to me kept looking over at us, tapping his foot and fidgeting as thought he couldn't remove a wedgie.
Watching suicide bombings on screen did not calm my nerves. The tension grew palpable as the armed security guard from the lobby entered the theatre. The security guard surveyed the audience and left. After the next torture scene the person sitting next to me began scratching his chest, and blurting out words I could not understand.
I feared a bomb was strapped to his ankle like the one I saw on screen. I had my chance to alert the security guard. I could have saved the lives of everyone in the theatre, but I did not want to break the rule of talking during the movie. Finally, my girlfriend leaned over and shushed the suspected terrorist. He stopped talking.
In hindsight I probably sound like a pretty big chicken. Not everyone with brown skin is out to get me, just the dry cleaner.
February 1, 2013 | 1:38 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Every couple of years it’s nice to go back to the institution that now refers to me as “Borrower.” I owe it to my alma mater, UC Santa Cruz. Stepping foot on a college campus now that I’m 28 makes me appreciate how far I have come.
On a recent visit my girlfriend and I traversed through a large chunk of the 2,000 acre campus. I acted as tour guide pointing out my dorm and the health clinic that gives away free condoms. We admired the redwoods and the sensational views of Monterrey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. I felt very nostalgic but the more I looked at the students whizzing by us, the more I felt out of place. Between the sweats and pajama bottoms, I felt like I was staring at a sea of Lena Dunhams. The student body changed as well. I started our tour trying to spot the Jews. I left the tour trying to spot the whites. At one of the colleges I noticed two white guys throwing a football. At that moment I felt like I was truly back on campus, especially when one overthrew the other by a good five yards. I hearkened back to the time I accidentally tossed a football that grazed a pregnant woman in the back. College...
Because we would soon leave to visit my girlfriend’s sister at Stanford, I decided to play a game of "Which Campus has the Hottest Student Body." I noticed a striking brunette with red lip stick. “She’s hot.” I told my girlfriend. My girlfriend shot me a look of disgust. And that was the end of that game.
In an effort to stay true to my college experience we saw more of my smoke spots than we saw of lecture halls. After walking across wooden bridges through the forest my girlfriend seemed to have a favorable impression of UC Santa Cruz. I waited for her return from the bathroom before we would drive up to see her sister at Stanford. “There’s poo on the toilet seat,” she cried.
We left for Stanford soon after. For a school filled with geniuses you would think they also would know how to flush a toilet. Older and seemingly wiser, I flushed a genius’ pee. Like Santa Cruz, it was difficult to find many white people until we reached frat row, the surprising location of my girlfriend sister’s vegetarian cooperative. Walking to greet her sister, we noticed a student hanging upside down from a tire tied to a tree. A few others wearing tie-dye gathered around picnic tables drinking beer. Conversation centered around the line up for Coachella. The majority of acts like Stone Roses, Grizzly Bear, and Bingo Players sounded like names of other vegetarian coops.
After seeing my girlfriend’s sister’s debut as director/playwright of “Terminus 2 Terminus” set aboard the Paris Metro, we found ourselves invited to a wine tasting in our honor at the coop. My girlfriend and I sat Indian style in a 10 x 13 dorm room with 30 others waiting to taste $5 merlots.
“Where do you guys go to school?” I was asked by a freshman girl sitting next to me.
“We go to work,” I explained nicely.
Sampling the wines was different this time. This was the first time I poured wine not in my mouth, but out the window. By no fault of my own, a half a bottle of red spilled on the carpet and onto my girlfriend’s leggings. One of the stars of “Terminus 2 Terminus” sat in the wine puddle, not seeming to mind at all.
In college it’s fine and acceptable to glide around in pajama bottoms, not flush toilets, and sit in wine. It’s this kind of attitude that most seems to exemplify college. I’m just not in college anymore, but it's good to remember I once was....(cue: sound of toilet flushing).
January 23, 2013 | 9:52 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Last week was like any other except it was the week I was going to stay at my boyfriend's parents house for the weekend. It wasn't the first meeting.They had visited us in Los Angeles a few months prior and we had had a great day of activities (please see Meet the Steingarts).
However, this was the week that the boyfriend decided to fall so ill that he could not move from his bed or talk besides to utter dramatic questions like “Liv, my throat hurts so bad. Do you think I will ever feel better again?” and “How do I get rid of this headache? Please tell me.” I made him dinner one night and got a hint of a smile but in general I felt like I was dating a zombie. By Friday my anxiety was through the roof. How would I get along with his parents without his good humor?
On Friday at work he was semi-concious and managed to infuriate me around lunchtime because instead of eating lunch he wanted to shop for CDs.
“That is it I am done, I am not going.” I yelled via Gchat.
He called my bluff and we headed down the five freeway.
The moment we arrived at the Steingarts I felt at home. Elliot's mom, Judy the Foodie had prepared a delicious vegetarian meal and the wine flowed freely. The only awkward moment was when Elliot ripped off his shirt prior to dinner to show off the hard work of the past few months at LA Fitness (please see Heroic Effort blog). I knew that if I was at a home where nudity was accepted at the table the weekend would be exciting.
After the meal, Elliot's mom presented me with the Christmas gift of a gorgeuous scarf. This was to be a wonderful weekend.
Saturday brought a long and fun walk and chat with Judy and beer tasting at San Diego's finest microbrewery establishments. Little did I know that each time I went to the bathroom Elliot was asking what his parents thought of me. Similarly, each time they were going to the counter for popcorn or more beer tastes I was doing the same. My boyfriend was the liason between parties gathering information.
At one point after six tasters and one of the most delicious spicy habenero pepper beers I had ever tasted I jolted up to go to the bathroom. Upon my return I complained that there was no toilet paper. Judy said that she had tried to warn me but I had gotten up too fast. I liked knowing that Elliot's mom had my back and didn't want me to have to wipe with seat covers. I felt truly at home.
The only thing that bothered me all weekend was Elliot being lazy while his mom worked. Judy loves making great food and hosting people but I wanted to make sure I wasn't being a loaf just sitting on the couch. My boyfriend wouldn't lift a finger. In fact, his mother had to wash a load of his clothes and find a razor so he could shave his hairy neck. I gave him a look of disgust and he finally managed to get himself his own glass of water.
All in all it was a wonderful weekend with Elliot's parents and I hope to see them again soon. I am pleased to be dating someone whose family is so fun and generous. While the sweet dulcet tones of Chris Botti soothed us on the twilight drive back I realized I was very glad I didn't stay home.