Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pole-toberfest: Doin' The Dozynki

It is a strange sensation wandering around a nearby community yet somehow getting the feeling that you are a complete outsider.  Going to the Orange County Dozynki (Polish Harvest Festival) at the Pope John Paul II Polish Center in Yorba Linda, CA, I felt very much like a foreigner in my own country.  Yes, it was a strange sensation indeed...but not completely unpleasant.

As guests of Cynthia, my brother's girlfriend and a first-generation American of Polish descent, we were expecting a truly-authentic experience from truly-authentic Poles (trust me, her family was there and their last name is at least eight syllables long and ends in "ski").  As much as she might try to convince us, we were pretty sure that there would NOT be inflatable dart tournaments, nor screendoor-building contests for submarines, nor any rousing games of "hide the kielbasa," nor any other Polish-perjorative hijinks.  Who does she think we are, Yugoslavians?!?!*  

A children's choir performed folk songs while a bubble containing a
mannequin family in traditional Polish garb floated above.

Recognizing it as a scene straight out of It's A Small World, I wanted to do my best to assimilate and join in on the fun as soon as possible.

"You bet your Pierogi I'm Polish!"

I would have started with gastronomically-appropriate attire but I know that 
if I wore this t-shirt, I would immediately be recognized as a complete fraud.

If we couldn't wear the food, we could certainly eat it!

Delicately draped in mosquito netting, the Paczki, prune-filled Polish donuts,
were a sweet treat that were obviously concerned with my digestive health..

Our pal, Lisa, holds a plate of potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce.
That totally counts as a serving of fruits and vegetables, right???  There were
peirogis too but we ate them so quickly that I didn't get a photo.

Meanwhile, we thought we could have eaten all of those kielbasa but the true Polish
among us made it clear that we got served!  But don't think we gave up;
Cynthia's mom kept bringing more and more to the table and we did NOT want to be rude...

Since we were clearly getting schooled, we figured the best place to go was the Polska Szkola (Polish School).
Knowing that "Polish for Dummies" was two steps above our skill level, we were sent to the remedial class and
given coloring books and buttons that translate to "Somebody Loves Me."

Clothing, food, and school were fine but to get a true taste of Dozynki, dancing was the name of the game!

In the afternoon, we were treated to the terpsichorean stylings of Piast, Las Vegas' preeminent Polish dance troupe.

After dark, the church's multi-purpose room and the outdoor tents transformed into "diskoteks."
Mr. Tiny got seriously funky under the dance lights.

Mary was invited to dance with a fellow who, unsatisfied with just one dance partner,
recruited me and three other people into some kind of ring-around-the-rosy arrangement.
You can tell by Mary's face that she didn't want us horning in on her dancing fun..or maybe that's her "Save Me" face.

My favorite, however, was Poland's answer to Marty and Elayne; they played
everything from standard polkas, to cha-chas, to power pop for the enthusiastic couples.

The Dozynki was a hoot and gave me the opportunity to live out a childhood fantasy.  Growing up, I was so jealous of friends who spoke another language or identified with some sort of ethnic/cultural group.  Wanting the same but lacking ancestors who practiced cultural customs derived from anything more exotic than those seen on The Andy Griffith Show, I was thrilled to be, if only for one day, Polish.


Mr. Tiny

*Our surname is Yugoslavian; seeing as that is no longer a country, the only t-shirt I could honestly wear without feeling like a total poseur would feature the slogan, "Be Proud Of Where You're From," (from what I understand, it's okay to use a preposition at the end of a Slavic sentence) and an amorphous shape with a question mark in the middle.

p.s.  This will be the last post until we return from Japan.  We will catch you on the other side with all kinds of wacky tacky adventures!  BONZAI!!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Signs of the Times: Donahoo's Golden Chicken

I count it as a great advantage to be fluent in sign language.  In today's world it is not only useful, it is downright necessary to be able to communicate in more than one language.  My abilities have made it possible for me to work as a volunteer interpreter; I, for example, can quickly spot the the happy-chef-in-prairie-schooner silhouette and let those around me (who might think that the amorphous shape was a tragic sign-making accident) know that while it may read, "China King," this sign's previous life was lived as the marquee of what was once Southern California's most-popular fried chicken franchise, Pioneer Chicken.

China King/Hefty Burgers nee Pioneer Chicken
(Source: A, BC, D)

What?  This doesn't make me a sign language interpreter???

Okay, okay, so maybe I'm not fluent in the type of sign language that is "certified," "recognized," or "endorsed" by the ASLTA, but I know a good sign when I see one.  A good chicken sign always speaks to me and dadgum if I don't start speaking right back!

Donahoo's Golden Chicken - Pomona, CA

Such was the case when we happened upon the glory of Donahoo's Golden Chicken in Pomona, CA.  The giant fiberglass rooster roosting atop the stacked, light boxes pierced by a faded-red boomerang had me shouting, "Cocka-doodle-doo!"

It's a good thing one of our foursome was a vegetarian; we
couldn't leave Donahoo's without splitting a three-piece
chicken strip meal - chicken, coleslaw, french fries, and a
house-made dinner roll that comes with a mystery "butter"
spot melted in the cleft.
Do you speak in signs?  Is there a fried chicken restaurant in your town with a beautiful sign?

In the absence of a Donahoo's ad, here is 
one from Pioneer Chicken circa 1979.

Donahoo's Golden Chicken
1074 N Garey Ave
Pomona, CA


Mr. Tiny

Monday, September 16, 2013

Crazy Crafty: Beaver's Sweatshirt Monsters

I have many friends who don't watch TV.  Honestly, I never knew that was an option (both not watching television and befriending those who do not watch television).  I'll freely admit that I get more than a little annoyed when those friends wear their television-impoverishment like a badge of honor. "I don't waaaaatch TV," I hear them saying smugly - the obvious subtext being, "My pursuits are inherently superior to your own," or "Every moment you mindlessly spend in front of the television, I am writing the next great American novel, or feeding the poor, or solving the problems in the Middle East," or "Mr. Tiny, you are lazy, undisciplined, and fat perhaps just very-slightly overweight."  Or maybe I am just internalizing the guilt I feel for watching so much TV...including Leave It to Beaver.  Leave It to Beaver was such a corny, cornfed, cornball sit-com that it never occurs to me what a groundbreaking example it was of television's ability to address serious familial issues including inappropriate dress and teenage rebellion.

Did you ever have a rebellious faze?  Did you do everything you could to make your mother worry?  Did you exhibit serious attitude?  Did you smoke in the school bathroom?  Did you actually live out that the iconic sit-com moment where you took your real outfit in your backpack or hid your "unacceptable" clothing under a jacket so you wouldn't be stopped by your parents with, "You're not leaving the house wearing that," as you quietly tried to sneak out the front door?  I never thought I had a rebellious faze because aside from the occasional need for a minor attitude adjustment, I never exhibited any of those behaviors.  Recently, however, the looks I receive from my mom make me think that my whole life is a rebellion to her carefully-laid plans* - especially when she saw the product of my most recent "Crazy Crafty" endeavor.

Talk about inappropriate dress and teenage rebellion!!!!

Did you ever see the "Sweatshirt Monsters" episode of Leave It to Beaver?
In it, Beaver and his school pals all buy the cool monster sweatshirts that
they see in the shop window.  They make a pact to all wear their sweatshirts
to school but when the Beave is the only one to show up in his sweatshirt,
well, let's just say, hijinks ensue.

Serious hijinks!
Crawling in search of blood, to "terrorize y'all's neighborhood."

The "Sweatshirt Monsters" episode appeared on television just the other day and immediately I was inspired to see how well I could make my own monster sweatshirt.  Still unsure about what to pack for our trip to Japan, I decided that the incredible monster sweatshirts I was about to create would be the ideal garments for dealing with Japan's unpredictable, autumn weather patterns and for distracting an unsuspecting Japanese public from the horrors of my own monster face.  Didn't they suffer enough from Godzilla's attacks?

Works in progress
Because I have absolutely no experience in the art of monster portraiture,
I decided that my best bet was to imitate the monster faces from the show.
Using stills from the episode, I drew the faces freehand on tracing paper and
then I transferred them directly onto the sweatshirts with a ballpoint pen.

I am not often plagued by undue confidence, especially when it comes to painting/crafting, but for whatever reason, I felt like I would have no problem painting weird faces on polyester-blend sweatshirts.  Whatever misplaced confidence I had in my ability to execute the painting, I lacked in my ability to choose a suitable location to document my "art;" I settled on a local park because of its brilliant, life-size, cement sculpture of a jet fighter.

For this piece I took elements of a few of the sweatshirts
and combined them in one.  I am probably over-thinking
it, but I like the imagery created by a dagger stabbing
through the oozing, worm-infested brain of a devilish heart.

While some folks think that the Leave It to Beaver sweatshirts were products
of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Studios, I couldn't find any substantiation to that claim.
Nevertheless, they are  kool, kustom, 60's-inspired designs and now I have some
duds for the Halloween season and beyond!

For this piece, I tried to get as close to Beaver's sweatshirt monster as possible.

As an aspiring underwear model, I wish I could say that I managed to find this pose on purpose.
Instead, my not-so-graceful dismount/slide onto the wing of the jet contorted
my body into this position; I guess I am what you would call a "natural"...

Well, what do you think?
It was a conscious choice to leave off the squiggles and waves.
Feeling pretty good about the outcome, I didn't want to ruin the
whole thing by messing up on a few squiggly lines - ever a rebel!

For those who choose to abandon the glories of television, I say, "To each his own."  For me, TV has been a consistent source of inspiration and education for my entire life.  Then again, I don't really watch reality TV...

Leave It to Beaver - "Sweatshirt Monsters"
Original air date: June 2, 1962


Mr. Tiny

*p.s.  Obviously, she needn't be worried.  If you noticed, I didn't make a single improper reference to beavers throughout the entire post.  She better be proud!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Holy Rollin': Central Baptist Church - Pomona, CA

It has been said that God works in mysterious ways, perhaps none so mysterious as the amazing,  midcentury, architectural marvels, standing like modern incarnations of the ancient temples of Jerusalem along Southern California's sprawling web of freeways.  It has been my long-held desire to explore some of these churches and determine if they are just as amazing on the inside as they are on the out.  

The first entry into this series is Central Baptist Church in Pomona, CA.  Pomona is a transitional area of Los Angeles.  On the precipice of the region Southern Californian's sometimes derisively refer to as the "Inland Empire," Pomona is home to the Los Angeles County Fair.  It has a large historic district that includes many antique and vintage shops.  It was even a primary filming location for Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat movie.  It is also kind of weird.  A block of beautiful, craftsman homes is surrounded by great stretches of transmission shops, strip clubs, and check-cashing outlets.  Some people might be a little turned off, but I was delighted to see ferile roosters and hens wandering the main drag.  Honestly, I felt completely at home within Pomona city limits as it gave me a sense of old California; Central Baptist just upped Pomona's ante.

Central Baptist Church - Pomona, CA

Like a great, white monolith beckoning world-weary sinners, Central Baptist looks like a Greek Orthodox church mated with the It's A Small World attraction from Disneyland.

There was some debate among our group as to the exact year when the church was built.
I couldn't find the information online but I think the church's van might have been a clue.

The outside of the church had us practically ready to be baptized on the spot.
The semi-sunken chapel had a series of incredible stained-glass, demilune
windows and the textured rock walls looked freshly whitewashed

We arrived at Central Baptist late in the day; seeing that the doors were chained, bolted, AND barred, we were beginning to resign ourselves to the fact that we would merely be enjoying the beauty of the church's exterior.  Nevertheless, I was wearing a good luck charm that I had a feeling would get us in good with The Man Upstairs...

A lapel pin I picked up at a garage sale for ten cents earlier that day!
Coincidence?  I think not!

It worked!  From another building on the campus of the Central Baptist Church/School, came Travis, a genial young man who offered to tell us a little bit about the church and its ministry AND give us a guided tour of the chapel.  Yahoo!!!

"He's got the whole world in his hands."
Mr. Tiny was stoked!!!

To tell you that the chapel was awe inspiring would be an understatement; from soaring, buttressed ceilings of purest white hung giant, gold, midcentury chandeliers.  This was a modernist cathedral!

I learned from Travis that the approximate size of the congregation is between 80-100 people.
I am not a Baptist but I encourage all who are of the Baptist persuasion and live in the
greater Pomona area to find themselves here on Sunday mornings; there is room for a lot more!!!

Bathed in the glow of the afternoon sun, the chapel becomes an atrium.
A little landscaping and TLC could only make the planters that
 run the entire length of the church even more beautiful!

I'm pretty sure Jesse and Emily were rethinking their whole "Catholic wedding" of last year.

What appeared to be simply odd, little rectangular windows on the outside of the building
were actually primary-colored (plus green) glass blocks that must give
congregants the feeling that they are sitting in God's very own jewel box!

I love this place!

An inside view of the stained-glass

With a little encouragement (Jesse might have told Travis that his mom used to go to church at Central Baptist), Travis happily showed us the rest of the building.

The foyer - enrobed in gorgeous lattice work


The scary, dungeon-like storage rooms that could only be entered
into via a tiny half-door in a dimly-lit stairwell through which I
refused to pass just in case that was where he was taking us to kill us.
Only kidding Trav...

As much as I wanted to, we didn't get to go up on the roof.

But we did get to see the sea-foam green changing rooms
with their multi-colored, mosiac tile floor and...

The gargantuan baptismal font!
It is a BAPTIST church, after all.

It is easy to see that the awesome woodland/waterfall 
mural was painted more with love than with training.

We had the greatest time walking through Central Baptist Church; after our visit, I have an entirely renewed perspective on the heritage of Southern California religious architecture.  Paris can have its Notre Dame.  Barcelona can keep La Sagrada Familia.  Las Vegas can take comfort in The Little White Wedding Chapel.  In the Central Baptist Church, the people of Pomona have a true architectural gem that I believe is inspired both by midcentury madness and maybe, just maybe, the Divine.  

A huge THANK YOU to our new pal, and intrepid tour 
guide, Travis (pictured with Nick, Emily, and Mr. Tiny - 
Jesse was the cameraman)

Are there any cool churches in your neighborhood?  Did you grow up going to a church that inspired a love of architecture or interiors?  Tell us about it!

"He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" - Nina Simone

Central Baptist Church
395 San Bernardino Ave
Pomona, CA


Mr. Tiny

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Die So Over DAISO!

My name is Mr. Tiny and I am a dollar-store junkie.  When funds are low and options limited, I have been known to dance stride through, with the maturity fitting a well-adjusted, adult man, the aisles of the 99 Cents Only Store (becoming more and more of a misnomer with each passing day) and/or the Dollar Tree for hours.  Within those hallowed walls I find the wildest, coolest, and most (im)practical items - items that make functioning as a human being much more pleasant.

Who doesn't need a Super Stars doll, with its feminine
form, not-to-scale masculine head, molded-plastic boots,
and violently-violet hair?

When the end of days comes, will you be prepared?
Mr. Tiny will be living off this smorgasbord of junk food
replicated in marshmallow...this stuff never spoils, folks!

By the way, I can stop any time I want to...I just don't want to right now.

The real reason I love a good dollar store is that I know I can afford anything in the whole joint; nothing is beyond the limits of my meager bank balance.  Like a French millionaire strolling past the luxury shops of the Champs-Elysees, I strut through the dollar store with a mild air of faux disdain, looking down my nose to examine some piece of merchandise, with the confidence that at any moment I could say, "I'll take everything you've got," knowing that even then, I would still only be out thirty-four dollars...plus tax.

As great as our American dollar stores have proven themselves to be, an exciting Japanese counterpart has recently graced our golden shores and vies for superiority.  This store is proof of a modern-day, discount diaspora and I refuse to be the last lay cultural anthropologist to document it!

The goal is to get to all of Southern California's
Daiso locations (for research/comparison purposes, of
course).  For this post we chose the Daiso in Torrance, CA.

I am actually taking my life into my hands by bringing you the information in this post.  I swore a blood oath (well a smoothie oath, anyway) that this little piece of Heaven on Earth would be the secret shopping spot of the original Three Musketeers who found it (we're operating on the premise that we "discovered" Daiso).  In fact, the oath was my idea but in light of our forthcoming trip to Japan, this is just too good to remain a secret for very long.  So, here I am letting the Hello Kitty out of the bag with the brilliance of DAISO!!!

That's right, this place has an entire department dedicated to "SURPRISE & FUN!"

Daiso elicits a lot of complicated feelings.  Immediately overjoyed at the Japanese wonderland of kitchen utensils in every pastel color, sponges with smiley faces, and panda-shaped cookies filled with strawberry confection, one quickly gets a sense of dread realizing that something is a little bit different in Daiso; instead of one dollar, everything (unless otherwise marked) is priced at $1.50!  Once one gets past the who-do-they-think-I-am-Nelson-Rockefeller stage, it becomes easy to forget the extra fifty cents and fill a basket full of imported goodness!

I love the Japanese because they are always creating charming solutions
to problems that you never knew you had.  Like the time you said, "Could
there please, please be a reflective, umbrella receptacle that attaches to the
handle bars of my bike?"  Or the time you were bemoaning your utter lack of
"chocolate scented soft strap animals," or your mother's shock the first time she
came to see your new apartment and was repulsed by the gross immodesty of
your completely-naked chair legs.  Daiso of Japan has the answer - gingham! 

What I want to know is, how have I been making homemade,
microwave corn dogs without a pink, plastic mold/stick set for
all of these years?  Now I can't make them any other way.

Much of Daiso's inventory has a face and nearly everything is happy to
serve the customer.  The trash cans are eerily eager for your waste. 

Even the cotton swabs are pleased to assist in ear-gunk removal.

 There is a lot to be said for good packaging and America could take a few notes from Daiso.

Twine to truss a pork roast actually binds a cartoon pig.
This little piggy seems to like it...wink!

I have often wondered if I could subsist entirely on only what I could find at dollar stores; Daiso has me thinking that I most definitely could.

They carry everything for your top...

Down to your bottom!

Harmless household items or something else entirely?
Daiso seems to have a bit of an odd side too.
Blonde "Party Wigs," Massagers for parts of your body that you didn't know
 you had, and "Banana Keepers"....I don't know Daiso, I just don't know...  

Don't worry, it gets weirder!!!  Tucked amongst the noisemakers, Jacob's ladders, and squirt guns of Daiso's toy section, hung two of the strangest "toys" I have ever seen.  But don't take my word for it...

"Instant Boobs"
Working in a similar fashion to a glowstick, a chemical reaction is produced by a
vigorous massage (see step 2), creating inflated, stick-on, latex bosoms.  Of course,
we couldn't leave the store without them...they're only $1.50!!!  Imagine all of
the worthwhile things we could buy if we didn't buy so much dollar store junk!

Not to be outdone, there is an adhesive appendage for girls with swan envy.
Do you see the bald man in the nude body suit....CREEPY!!!!
From what I understand it was this prima ballerina's final performance,
making this her "Swan Schlong."  Why does it look like a swan?!?!?!  

The greatest part about frequenting dollar stores is the fun - trying on masks, creating full dance routines in the aisles, testing products, wearing children's sun hats, getting other shoppers to sing along with the muzak, filling your lonely Saturday nights.  But don't get it twisted; I graduated from picking up items and asking the nearest employee, "How much is this," a long time ago...child's play.

The greatest part about Daiso is that very little is lost in translation...

"Special Presents.  With the delicious cake
which I made heartily, have happy time."

Daiso of Japan
Multiple Locations


Mr. Tiny