Monday, March 29, 2010

Back to L.A.:

Did you know about the giant windmill farm?

The next day, we did one of my favorite things this trip--a drive we took up Western Ave, which basically runs from the South Bay all the way to the Hollywood Hills. We were heading to Griffith Park, and we could have taken a series of freeways, but this was better. You can see a lot of different demographics and neighborhoods that make up greater Los Angeles. Did I tell you about last trip, when we got a little bit lost in Compton/Watts, trying to find the Watts Towers? That didn't happen this time:

Unfortunately, Monday is the day that the Griffith Park Observatory is closed. What? No, you heard that right: Monday. However, it was still good. We also stopped in a Target in, I believe, West Hollywood. Targets are not all created equal, but they are all good.

On our way home:

Sunday, March 28, 2010


In the spirit of transparency, I would like to ask for a full reporting of all the data on the following trend I have recently observed in my household:
We are currently suffering a dearth of treats.
We have butter. We have sugar of many kinds. We have chocolate and eggs. We have almonds and various types of flour.

But can we scare up a cookie around here? No.
A piece of cake? No.
Pie? Forget about it.

The people, there is not even a gum drop.

This cannot stand.

Friday, March 26, 2010

And now I will inundate you with further desert pictures.

I don't know whether to apologize or say, you're welcome! but if you want to see some pictures of how beautiful Joshua Tree National Park is, hello, you're here:

Somebody oughta market this place like crazy. Or . . . not.

[note to Facebook viewers: you have to click on the original link--no pics otherwise. On the other hand, maybe that's what you're after in which case, here you go.]

tags: Joshua Tree, national park, kind of remote

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some more desert.

When we're out and about in foreign environs, such as the desert almost directly south of Barstow, we like to pick up all the free ephemera floating around in the racks at the Seven-Eleven, or in this case, at the Stater Bros. grocery store in Twenty-Nine Palms (this might be the all-time greatest name for a town in the history of the universe, and I am including Constantinople and Timbuktu).

In this little rag, we found an article about a brand new book that was having its brand new book party that very weekend. The book is called Jackrabbit Homestead, which is all about the little homesteads that sprang up in the Morongo Basin near Twenty-Nine Palms as a result of the federal government's (hows you spell that, son? I said: g-u-v-m-i-n-t. God Bless America.) Small Tract Act of 1938.

Turns out that our little piece of heaven in the desert is right there in the middle (or on the verge, anyway), of the remains of these homesteads, which are basically mostly abandoned shacks. Some of them are being reclaimed by all sorts--artists included.

Shack architecture, is what we started calling it:

tags: shack

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

L.A. Report.

This chapter of the Los Angeles Project started in the Moronga Valley, which is west of the San Bernardino Mountains. The reason for this fact is a slightly not well written book that I read in my book group, which was all about the marriage of Raymond Chandler to an older woman, and their peripatetic house-moving, through parts of Los Angeles, Pasadena, La Jolla, and--here's the relevant part--Cathedral City, which is just next door to Palm Springs, which is not too far from the Twenty-Nine Palms Highway, which is where Joshua Tree (the town) and Joshua Tree (the National Park) is, which are all in the Moronga Valley. (Which, also a few years ago, I read a true crime book about a murder that occurred in Twenty-Nine Palms.) All of which led me to figure out if there was a place to stay in Cathedral City or Palm Springs or . . . what's this? a little house right next to Joshua Tree National Park? A little house called Quail Mountain House?

And, the people, this beautiful little place had no television, no internet, no phone. Let me reiterate, and this time with bullet points:
  • no television
  • no internet
  • no phone.
Which, honestly, usually would not be recommending points. But here's a novel fact: both nights we stayed there, I fell asleep at 9:30 p.m.

NINE THIRTY in the evening.

Which I frankly did not think was possible. Literally, as in, I could not go to bed that early unless I was at death's door, and also if I took a Nyquil. At death's door. Woozy and on the verge of death: that was the only way I believed I could fall asleep at nine thirty. I don't think I've fallen asleep like that, at nine thirty, since I was like five years old.

Sorry, it still stuns me.

The better thing was that I woke up with the sun--the desert sun, which is somehow sunnier than all other sun. At six in the morning. And it was glorious.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Translation: go on a trip, come back to your actual life. With a job and all.

Question: was it a "trip," aka a vacation? or was it a "project"? And all that that entails.

Question: will I ever organize my photos?

For now:

Friday, March 19, 2010

. . . and we're back.

We pulled into our driveway at about 9:15 p.m., making our trip from the coast to the mountains in about 10 hours and 45 minutes. Not bad. I'll be posting pictures and commentary from the trip over the next few days. I know, you can't wait.

Let me just say that, in L.A., the weather was perfect, we didn't get lost in Compton, I learned ever more fascinating facts about the geography and history of Los Angeles and environs, and also this, the people: from St. George to Nephi, roughly from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., as beautiful, clear light shone across the faces of the bluffs and cliffs and mountains and into the hollows of the valleys, I thought, oh my God, so beautiful. Over and over and over again.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Overpacking: a manifesto.

hen in the course of the semester it happens to be spring break, and therefore it becomes necessary to go to Los Angeles so that the people do not have their heads explode from The Teaching, and to drive therefore first to St. George, and then to California, from thence to parts hither and thither across the great Los Angeles basin, a decent respect to the possible activities and outings of this vacation requires that the people assemble many many many items for the journey:

Therefore, I hold these clothes to be self-evident, that the people should be able to have an orange skirt and also a denim skirt and also two gray skirts, that people are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable shoes, that among these are platform sandals and also two different pairs of sneakers and two pairs of ballet flats.

To secure these clothes (and accessories), large suitcases are instituted, deriving their just mobility from tiny little wheels and also collapsible handles. And when any suitcase becomes inadequate to the inalienable clothing, it is the right of the people to get a bigger suitcase, and lay the shoes upon the bottom of it so they don't dirty the clothes, and pile the clothes willy-nilly upon the shoes, never mind, there will be time to sort that out later. In the motel.

For while economy of packing is admirable and not a trivial thing, all experience has shown that the people, when the long train of usurpations of clothing rights occurs, the people suffer, for what if there is not a good outfit for going out to dinner? And do you really expect me to wear the same pants two days in a row? Such a design is absolute despotism, and under such, it is the right, it is the duty of the people to thrown off this despotic design and bring way more outfits and possible parts of possible outfits, such as ten different tee shirts, you never know.

Let facts be submitted to a candid world: you might need a shopping outfit, a going to the beach outfit, a laying around the room ensemble. And what about museums? and a possible hike? and Palm Springs, what do people wear there anyway?

What I'm saying is, I am going to bring all these clothes, and with a firm reliance on a big trunk and an empty back seat, no one is going to stop me.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

All the Mormons in Beijing.

Sundry updates:

1. I put my clothes away today. Again.
2. I just started a load of laundry. 90% of the items were gray.
3. We just ate the last of the cookies. They were seriously some of the best cookies I have ever made in my life.
4. I have a lot of responding to students drafts to do, which I am doing at this very moment. Or shortly, whichever comes first.
5. We are driving to L.A. in two days, and I literally cannot wait to blow this town.
6. What is the weather like in L.A.?
7. Running son is having a hard time finding the Mormons in Beijing. I am having a hard time helping him. Beijing is far, far away. And they speak a different language, and it's written in a different alphabet.
8. But he will figure it out.
9. Is it winter? is it spring? who can tell?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The silence.

There are times when a bunch of new music and a bunch of old music, a loaded iPod, a car, a day with a lot of festive cooking ahead in it, some rejuvenating housecleaning--times when such conditions call for music, lots of it, for a heady, raucous blast of sound is the ne plus ultra. Is the very-much-to-be-desired. Is exactly what I want.

Those times, the people, are not now.

I remember sometimes when the kids were growing and had soundtracks of their own to play, whenever I had a moment when the sounds could be my own, those sounds would be silence. Such silence would be cleansing. The silence was spaciousness in the form of the absence of something that, when there was no silence, crowded me till sometimes I thought my brain was made of nothing but noise.

I wonder if it's that, after more than a year of no one at home but me and the historian, we had a hit of what it used to be like: our house the guy-crossroad again, with their music and movies and video games, their talk and jokes, their fast food and their late hours. A hit of their beautiful noise, which is now gone. In the clear, quiet space here, just a few faint echoes remaining.

In five days we will be driving to L.A. There is music galore to be listened to, and I am thinking that we'll find ourselves--maybe about the time we hit Vegas, and maybe before--in the mood, ready for the music that will inflect our good time and be a part of our consciousness and imbue these new memories with sounds. Music for the desert, for the freeway, for the ocean and pier, for driving and for arriving.

tags: noise, travel

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Paper, a love story.

Today I was in the Publication Center at my place of work, where there was an open ream of paper called Long Grain Cockle Finish something or other. It reminded me of the typing paper of my youth. It was beautiful: ivory colored, crisp and yet redolent of textile. Reader, I stole a sheet or two. Or three.

Who among us does not love paper? Lo, even those of us who spend far too much time in the glare of the digital simulacrum have been known to melt, verily even to swoon, at the odd notebook. I myself have notebooks in many many forms: composition books, handmade notebooks, the ubiquitous and yet still very sexy Moleskine (it is shocking how many kinds of these I have), sketchbooks. All these and more, and I'm not even trying very hard to enumerate.

Also, random paper: I love sheets of art paper, handmade or otherwise. There is an arts and crafts store in the general vicinity of Sonoma County where my bff lives that has the certifiably most awesome collection of awesome art papers in the entire universe. Or so I'm told. Or maybe I just surmise it, because I have bought beautiful lacy Japanese rice paper there, and paper made of leaves, and paper with flowers, actual flowers, built into it. What do I do with this paper? Well, sometimes I make things out of it, and sometimes I just keep it. And sometimes I unroll it to admire it, then roll it back up. This paper lines the drawers, walls, and bookcovers of my dreams.

And what about the school notebook? School's true beauty, if ever there were any, is entirely imbued within the covers of a fresh notebook, either three-ring and filled with college-ruled paper, or spiral-bound, likewise ruled, that has yet to be written upon. Blank and still promising.

Well, I have not decided what I will do with the sheets of cockle-finished ivory paper I pilfered. Maybe I will write something on it. Maybe a love letter, perhaps with the beautiful new fountain pen (the Pelikan junior fountain pen--awesome, colorful, and cheap, which is my personal motto) that recently arrived in the mail. Who ordered it? I, paper- and pen-loving and acquisitive, did. I ordered that pen for myself.

tags: paper

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A few announcements, and an elegy.

A few announcements.

1. I am so. far. behind. I want to cry.
2. I am, in a perhaps not unrelated development, sick.
3. There are certain themes in my life:
  • too many magazines accumulate beside my bed
  • I need to reduce the amount of clothes, shoes, etc. by one-third
  • I screen out the same callers on my caller ID (SLVFA, Stage Attractions, Banker's Life, Deluxe Carpet Cleaners, &c. & c.) pretty much every day
--but I am not sure if the magazines, extra 33 1/3 % clothes/shoes, recurrent callers are an enlightened boddhisatva, sent to me to teach me a lesson, or whether I am just a wreck of a human being.
4. Work is making me anxious.
5. My daughter and grandson are in Scotland. Not that daughter, the other one. Actually, both of them. But there's still one daughter here at home. Also, my son is in China.
6. Over spring break, come hell or high water, the historian and I are going to L.A. for The L.A. Project, Part 2. We will be near Joshua Tree for a couple of days, then back to the coast. I am hoping for some beach, some Griffith Park, some historic L.A. I am hoping not to think about work at all.

An Elegy to my Sabbatical

I know: an elegy is not to,

rather on, but I am not Keats,
nor was meant to be: yet once more,

o ye unfettered hours, I think
upon you and--hear my plaint,

o ye unfettered hours: you
have skedaddled and with you,
every last flouret of a thousand hues

&c &c, but O the heavy change,
now thou art gon,

damn straight, thou art gon
and never must return: seriously,

o ye unfettered hours, I
hella miss you, and now I am sick
and pining for you a full-on pine.

Sabbatical, you were worth it,
but coming back to work was

a bitch: thus sang the uncouth
swaine to her sabbatical,
which hath dissolved into a mist:

is that a sabbatical I see
behind me? Come, let me

grasp thee. I have thee not,
and yet I see thee still--

tags: elegy, pastiche


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