Category Archives: Life in Southern California

Driving Me Crazy

There were 50 people in line when the Department of Motor Vehicles in Santa Monica opened on Tuesday at 8AM. I know because I was there at 7AM.

It all started with the IRS. Getting ready for 2014 taxes, my assistant, Paula, went out to look at the car registrations to see how much we paid last year. Much to her surprise, the blue car had expired plates. She double checked to see if we paid it last year. Nope. Didn’t get a notice. Didn’t get a late notice. The insurance is up to date.  But I’ve been driving around with expired plates for six months. By the way, the back of my registration says that, if I haven’t gotten a renewal 10 days before expiration, it’s my responsibility to call the DMV or I’m responsible for any late fees. We tried to register the car online, got the message “Invalid plate.”

This is a problem in March, 2015.

This is a problem in March, 2015.

We called the Auto Club’s toll-free number. 800 Lady said the DMV had listed the car as “title surrendered, car moved out of state.” And there were $100 in late fees due on top of the $192 registration fee. We assured her we had both the title and the vehicle in possession. She asked if we had ever surrendered the car and moved it out of state. We assured her we had not. She advised us to visit our local AAA office, where they could be of more help. I got the title out of my safe deposit box, grabbed the expired registration and proof of insurance, and set out to fix things.

In the Auto section of AAA there were three customer service folks. One was a slow-moving woman with a heavy accent. One was a sassy tall lady who was expertly and patiently helping a confused customer. The third was an older gentlemen who never lifted his eyes from the floor and mumbled a lot. The customer before me got Slow Mover. I was pulling for Sassy. She walked right up to me (yes!), then turned right and walked out of the building. I got Mumblin’ Joe.

According to his name tag, Joe (not his real name) was been serving customers since 1927. OK, I might be exaggerating a little. I explained the situation to him and he blurted, “We can’t fix that!” He examined my title, then asked me if I had ever surrendered the title and moved the car out of state. Um, no, he was holding the title. He told me I had to go to the DMV. I asked if I could make an appointment. He said the first appointment was in 5 months. He suggested I get to the DMV before they opened and get in line. I thought that was just ridiculous. I don’t mind waiting a little, I could bring a book.

Less helpful than I had been led to believe

Less helpful than I had been led to believe

Monday I drove up to the DMV about 10AM. There was a line around the block to get into the parking lot. All nearby parking spaces were full. In that neighborhood the meters are good for two hours. Which means a lot of people are going to come out after a long wait and find a parking ticket.

Here’s the problem. In California, it became legal for undocumented people to get a driver’s license on January 1, 2015. I think this is a great idea. It will allow thousands (millions?) to get an ID that wasn’t available before. It also means more drivers will have to pass a test, have insurance, and pay a fee. That’s just good for all of us. Except for me on Monday.

So there I was at 7AM on Tuesday, standing in line. It was cold. There wasn’t a lot of chatting. Nobody was in a good mood. The DMV, bless ’em, had an excellent system to get us in the door with the right paperwork. After 15 minutes, they called my number.

After the sun came up and we all got inside.

After the sun came up and we all got inside.

I handed over my paperwork and explained the situation to the clerk. She looked up the file. She asked me if I had ever surrendered my title and moved the car out of state. I assured her I hadn’t. She asked me if I had brought the car. That one stumped me a little, since driving an unregistered car would be illegal.  She said I needed to prove I still owned the car. I showed a photo I had taken that morning. Nope. I explained that the DMV has never seen my car. They gave me a title (that one, there! In your hand!) based on the dealer’s paperwork. They’ve renewed the registration every year based on the previous year’s paperwork. I did nothing to change that process in any way. And if they were charging me $100 in late registration fees, they must believe there’s a car to register. She took my paperwork and said “someone” would decide what to do. I texted my assistant and asked if she wanted to buy a car. She replied that she only buys vehicles shipped out of state.

NOT proof that the blue car exists. In California. In the same garage where it's been for 13 years.

NOT proof that the blue car exists. In California. In the same garage where it’s been for 13 years.

The clerk called me back and had me write an account of what happened and request a waiver of late fees. She took my $192 (has to be cash or check. I had exact change). Now I was registered, right? Oh, no. I needed a smog check before she could register the car. She gave me a receipt, and a temporary registration, valid for 30 days, good only for driving the car to and from the smog check. I asked her if I could make an appointment to return with the smog certificate and pick up my registration and stickers. Yes, in four weeks. I asked her if I could do it at AAA. She said “Sure.”

Paula postponed the dogs’ baths (they don’t fit in that car) and drove it down to get the smog certificate. She used my other, legal car to take the paperwork to AAA. She bypassed Mumblin’ Joe and got the branch manager, who said, “Oh those people at the DMV are horrible.” We don’t disagree. The blue car is free to roam the streets of Southern California once again.





Bye Bye CBC

It may not surprise you that at one time I had a bit of an eBay problem. Well, “problem” is a strong word. Then again, maybe not. I decided to buy a few vintage Basset Hound collectibles.

Lotta CrapTurns out eBay has all kinds of Cheap Basset Crap, I mean Cherished Basset Collectibles. There are planters, cookie jars, banks, bottles, just about anything you can imagine. And a few you probably can’t. Continue reading

My Dinner at the Beach with John

Seasons 52

    OK, I admit I stole the pen from the restaurant. I think they’re meant to be given away as advertising. Plus, either way, I earned it.

It was my friend Tom’s birthday. We decided to go to Seasons 52 for dinner. This location used to be a pretty good Italian restaurant across from Santa Monica Pier. Great location, especially if you want to valet park your car for an evening event at the Pier. I made my reservation on Open Table with a note “It’s Tom’s birthday! No singing please!” We arrived at the restaurant in the Santa Monica summer fog, and were promptly seated. The hostess assured us there would be no singing. Dessert would be free. There was a birthday card for Tom from the restaurant. Very nice touch. Continue reading

Way Back in the Closet

Sandy asked me how I organize my closet. I can’t take all the credit. First I had the amazing Maxine Ordesky, of Organized Designs in Beverly Hills, design my closet. Maxine has years of experience and an extraordinary eye for detail. Her first two questions when designing a closet are, “How tall are you?” and “Are you left- or right-handed?”

Maxine divided the closet into two sections, casual and fancier. I can stand in the middle of either section and reach everything I need to put together an outfit. Here’s where my additional help comes in: the fabulous Tom Nevermann, the Moving Doctor.  Tom and his team organized the closet when I moved in, and everything is in the perfect place.

In each section, clothes are grouped by type and color. All items face the same direction (in my case left, because I’m right handed) , and all hangers the same direction (away from you, so you can easily pull them out).

Sorted by ColorNotice how thin the hangers are, maximizing the closet space. These are Joy Mangano’s original Huggable Hangers, though there are similar products available. They’re waterproof for hanging wet clothes. They’re textured so clothes don’t slip off. The ends are gently rounded, so they don’t make bumps in sleeves. They do not swivel, which means they don’t get tangled with each other. I won’t use any other kind of hanger. Continue reading

Why I Love Technology

So far the thieves have ordered on my American Express card:
Mac computer(s)
Car stereo
Night vision goggles
Home stereo
Custom engraving (don’t know on what)
Auto anti-burglary service (don’t know what that even means)
Random electronics

By the time we shut it down this morning, the total was about $20,000. I’ll have a new card tomorrow.

It was the home stereo guys who thought it was odd that someone in Ohio would buy stuff and send it to LA, and they called me. Go, Woofers Etc! American Express explained that the thieves wait till UPS has the package, then call UPS and change the destination.

Too bad. I would actually like some night vision goggles. Probably not $2000 worth, though. Continue reading

An Inspirational Rescue

Julie Klam asked me for a rescue story for her blog. This story originally appeared there.

It was August 25, 2001. I was hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains with my Basset, Hennessy, and my Golden, Bailey. At the top of the hill, at Inspiration Point, a huge Chow mix without a collar approached me. I was a little nervous, but he politely accepted some water and let me put a leash on him. Back at the ranger station was a note that some hikers had seen the dog put out of a car in the parking lot the night before. The rangers were busy, so I volunteered to take him down to the shelter. Halfway down the hill, he put his elbow on my shoulder, and I headed to the pet store to buy him a collar. Surely one of my friends would take him. He’s a redhead and I met him hiking, so I called him Johnnie Walker Red (yes, there’s a theme to my dogs’ names. The first two were Moet and Chandon). Continue reading

2011 blows into LA

It’s snowing in Southern California! Not at my house, where we’ve had heavy rain all winter. We need the water, but could do without the mudslides and fallen trees.

The big dog and I spent a week in Santa Barbara before Christmas. It rained every day, so he never got to go to the beach. However, he found a coonskin cap in Fess Parker’s hotel gift shop. (Fake) dead animals for sale in a hotel!

New Year’s Eve I went up to Malibu and took a little hike in Solstice Canyon. Gorgeous sunny day. The porpoises were leaping in the Pacific off the beach at Topanga. That’s how I like my winters, hiking at the beach with the snow-capped mountains far off in the distance. Continue reading

Shopping Cart Christmas Tree

Just what it sounds like. Anthony Schmitt has been creating holiday trees for 14 years at the Edgemar Complex on Main Street in Santa Monica. This year he used 86 carts, it’s 33 feet tall. Probably a comment on holiday consumerism, or perhaps the area’s homeless population. Either way, it’s pretty darn festive.