24 Apr

This week I got nothing.  I worked through lunch a few days, and had a failed attempt to infiltrate a church.  More on that later when I have a more successful go at it.  I did have a meeting downtown one day, and on the way we got a little turned around because of construction.  We stumbled upon this guy mixing a giant tank full of chocolate like some kind of Wonka gondolier.  The air was thick with the smell of warm melty chocolate, and he confirmed that it was indeed a tanker full of chocolate.  Needless to say, I’ll be back and give a full on caper report.

Oompa Loompa

I also had some chicken milanese, meatball sliders, and melt in your mouth Earl grey macaroons from Bottega Louie.  Yum.

Lunch got cancelled on Thursday because I had to leave work early before they closed my street for Obama.  He’s always following me around.  He also shut down the Vatican when I went to Italy last summer.  We hung out a bunch on Thursday, but I couldn’t take pictures or talk about it because it was a top secret meeting.

I promise I’ll have a more exciting week next week.  Until then, the contest from the previous post is still on since the only two submissions were disqualified for going over the line limit (5 short sentences summarizing any event from the 20th century).  So have a go at it, because the surprise is still waiting.


The Cold War- Lunchbreak Edition!

17 Apr

I found a giant piece of the Berlin Wall the other day, in one of the nearly vacant business parks down the street from my office building, at the very end of the parking lot.  I looked it up on the internet, and saw that it was a Cold War museum, only open by appointment, except for a weekly guided tour of “the vault” on Fridays at three.  Sign me up!

I was especially excited because, I’m embarrassed to admit, I managed to graduate from high school, college, and graduate school, without a solid understanding of twentieth century history.  I simply wasn’t taught it.  I swear I got Columbus to the Industrial Revolution over and over and over again.  I mean, I definitely have a deep understanding of the history of the Blues, the Beat poets, The Civil Rights Movement, and early 90’s rap music.  However, mostly I just nod and say “mm, of course” “yes, yes, I know” or “I agree completely” when conversations migrate toward The New Deal, The Cold War, The Korean War, World War I, or parts of II, much of Vietnam (sorry, Dad), and I’m sure many other huge 20th century events most people just know about.

Here’s a poem about what I knew about the Cold War prior to my visit to the museum:

The Cold War

We hated the color Red

And from Communists we fled

Senator McCarthy brought back 1690’s Salem

If you’ve got spaceships, flail ’em

into space! And do it fast!

It’s a race! We can’t be last!

Something about pigs, missiles and Cuba,

Half of Germany couldn’t play tubas,

because where Communists ruled, there was no fun,

and everyone was cold, so they had to run,

(in the space race), and Orwell made Lenin & Stalin boars

people in Russia loved to do chores

Nadia Comeneci does the best gymnastics,

though I’m not supposed to, I think she’s fantastic.

And then the Berlin Wall came down

And everyone in the Red countries turned their frowns upsidedown.

The end.

Sadly, most of what I knew came from Animal Farm, The Crucibleimpressive floor routines, and the film Good Night & Good Luck. I was excited to find out more.  I invited Anne of GG to come with me, but I didn’t tell her about my sorry lack of knowledge about why we hated each other so much during the Cold War, and the whole psychology of it.  Unfortunately, we didn’t find out too much (although we did arrive to the tour about five minutes late).  I’m telling you, everyone assumes it’s all common knowledge, so then I feel stupid asking.  Like in third grade when I was out sick the day we learned to tell time, so I had to literally pretend to know for the next year and a half until my friend showed me.

An eager local college student led our tour, explaining the various busts and paintings we encountered.  Here are some pictures of what was revealed in the vault:

Baby Lenin

Box Contents

The Vault

It was just Anne of GG and I, along with a guy who grew up in East Germany, his girlfriend, and a random chick.  The guy, Stefan, was pretty amazed by all of the stuff.  When our tour guide asked him to describe his childhood in East Germany, he said he had a very happy childhood, and that everyone would build crazy antennas so they could get t.v. (which was illegal) from West Germany.

The collection was really impressive– rows and rows of boxes of everything from postcards, to uniforms, toys, furniture, photographs, paintings, wall hangings, libraries, busts, and medals.

I really, really, want to know what the deal is with the guy who started this museum.  Is he just some rich guy with an obsession with Cold War artifacts?  Why isn’t it displayed in a more prominent location, where more people could see the collection?  It seems to be in a secret location, run by secret interns.  It’s a huge collection, meticulously maintained, in (not shockingly) perfect order.  But why?  I get that it’s great for scholarly research, but why isn’t it at a university? Why is it hidden?  Why is it only open on Fridays at three?  Who is this guy?  Or lady?

Mystery Cold War Machine With Clothes On It

Anyway, I feel like there is still more to find out.  I am officially hosting my first ever lunchbreakcapers.wordpress.com CONTEST!  I’d like my followers (all three of you, and yes, that includes you) to teach me some 20th century history.  Remember, if you don’t participate, I’ll know! Pick a topic (the Cold War is still up for grabs) and explain it to me as best you can in five sentences or less.  And no Henry James style sentences, stick to Hemingway style, please.

The winner will get a spectacular surprise.

More Green Space!

14 Apr

Holy Moly!  On Thursday best friend at work, Anne of Green Gables, showed me another park I never knew existed!  When we got to the park, we were so excited to fly our model airplanes and play hardball.  We laughed and skipped up the path to the park, but as we rounded a corner our hearts sunk when we saw this sign:

Really?  As we strolled along, we almost made two friends.  The first guy was a retired Sumo wrestler who ran away when we tried to be his friend. “Hey!” We shouted after him, “Get back here! We’ve got questions!”  He never came back though.

Then we tried to be friends with this lady, who just ignored us and did her fascinating exercises.  Anne of Green Gables tried shaking her, but she wouldn’t wake up, so we kept walking.

Some boys yelled “Hey Lady, get our ball!” at one of us, so Anne of Green Gables ran and got their ball and threw it at them.  Just afterward, she told me she thought she should have thrown it in the street so we could have had a more exciting caper.  Anne is always getting into all kinds of mischief.  Instead, Anne decided to force a flower to be our friend, so she ripped a branch off a coral tree and played with the flower..

until she screamed and threw it on the ground because she imagined a spider on it.  “It was huge and the color of sand!” she squealed.  Anne’s always making things up.  It wasn’t a thrilling lunch break caper, and we failed to make new friends, but it was still pretty exciting to see a brand new grassy place.

Oil Field Park

11 Apr

Guess what? For the past seven months, I thought the only green space near my office was the cemetery down the street, but today, I discovered a huge park just a mile and a half away!  I grabbed a book and a grilled cheese sandwich, and excitedly snuck off to this green sanctuary.  When I arrived, I sat at a picnic table and ate my sandwich.

It was lovely, really.  Birds were chirping, a family enjoyed a picnic next to a babbling brook, and I read a page of Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence before taking a stroll through the park.


I took about three steps before noticing something moving through the trees.  As I got closer, I saw that literally twenty feet from my table, just through a few trees, was a sprawling oil field that looked like another planet.

Seriously?  Oil fields in the middle of a city?  I started to take a closer look and noticed there were cancer wires all over the hills..

Yuck.  And who the heck is Janice? Suddenly my secret eden revealed itself to be just like everything else in this town.. a fake, ultra-beautiful exterior covering up a pillaged, polluted core.

As I walked back toward my car, I stopped on an idyllic foot bridge to ponder all I’d just taken in.  An older gentleman was on the bridge with me and we started talking.  He told me about how he grew up nearby, and how the whole park was strewn with oil rigs when he was a kid.  He said that in a few years, the wells across the way should be dried up, and they’ll likely extend the park further.

To be polite, I complimented his city, and as I did, while hearing him talk with such awe about the his ever-changing, but continually striking town, I began to believe my words.  I thought of how I’d hiked eight miles this weekend, smack in the middle of the city, and then went to see a play and ate at a fine restaurant.  What was my problem?  Wasn’t this enough? Donald talked about the old hotels downtown, and the beaches, and the fish ponds a few feet away.

After talking to him, I felt a bit better, and as I walked away, he shouted after me, “California’s Gold! California is GOLD!” Thanks, Donald.

Farewell Lunch

9 Apr

Today we had a farewell lunch for a co-worker.  We exchanged stories about him and everyone laughed.  At one point, everybody joined in singing Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer.  Everybody thought about what a shame it was that we didn’t do this more often, and how we waited until someone’s very last day to tell special stories about him.

But then, it’s unrealistic.  Most days, people can’t get away from their desks at the same time, and many run errands on their lunch hour, and it feels a little weird to sit around and tell special stories about somebody right in front of their face. Unless it’s a wedding.  Or a funeral, in which case, they aren’t really there (at least scientifically speaking).  I swear, people spend half their lives sitting around imagining what people will say about them at their wedding or at their funeral.  We should all just throw each other work farewell parties every once in a while.

I ate a bbq pulled pork sandwich and some asian slaw.  The sandwich was delicious. The slaw was alright, too.  Asian slaw is a terrible name for a dish.

Here is a picture of my sandwich:

The restaurant was in the middle of a business park with no businesses in it.. except the restaurant.  So it feels either top secret, or abandoned.  It’s on top of a wetland where an old Indian burial ground once was.  When I walked to my car I looked up and saw a cloud with a hole in it, and then I went back to work.

Here is a picture of it:

Grey Poupon?

8 Apr

Today, I got hungry early.  Or late.  Typically, I eat cereal with skim milk before work at 7:30, and then around 10:15, I either have a yogurt, a green juice, a sesame bagel toasted dark with cream cheese and tomato, or avocado toast from the snack bar downstairs.  I am almost never satisfied.  Today I waited until eleven o’clock to eat, at which point, I was famished.

I reheated leftover homemade tagliatelle bolognese from Bottega Louie downtown and ate it at my desk.  It was delicious, but eating food that good in the harsh florescent light of that drab office felt like eating my grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner on the bathroom floor in Grand Central Station.  I felt dirty, gluttonous, and as though I had ruined the meal by stripping it of the setting it deserved.

Around three, I was hungry again, and had to escape those florescent lights.  As I was driving to pick up the peanut slaw from The Cabbage Patch, the driver next to me at a red light motioned for me to roll down my window.  He for real looked like he just might ask for some Grey Poupon.  Instead, he asked in broken English with a thick French accent “Le Marina? Is Where?” I instinctively responded in French, telling him how to get to the boat-filled body of water not so terribly far away.

The man looked shocked– perhaps by my ugly accent, or perhaps because he didn’t expect to hear French, in any case, he started to respond in French when the light turned.  He touched the base of his window as I pulled away, staring longingly as though, were we not both in our respective cars, in a busy intersection, on one of the ugliest roads in the city, we just might have been pals.  He wasn’t creepy or anything, in fact, I thought I’d like to be friends with him, too.  And his wife, and the old lady in the back seat.

I imagined them coming on their dream trip to Los Angeles..  Glitz! Celebrity! Sun! Sand! Excitement! Movie stars! Only to find that the Four Points by the airport left them with the option of a leisurely walk to the run-down mall across the street, the strip joint, or the Target.

Heartbroken, the elderly concierge with bad plastic surgery told them about the wax museum downtown, and instead, they pulled out the map and saw the marina.  The dad packed everyone in the car, and reassured his family they would find the beautiful inlet with the boats. His wife was not impressed by his plan to drive aimlessly, occasionally rolling down his window to inquire so hopefully, “Le Marina? Is Where?”

I hope he found it.  And I hope he put his family on a boat.  And as I clocked back in on my computer, I pictured them sailing far away from this town.  The sea wind in their hair, consuming oysters and champagne in the soft setting sunlight.