For some reason this afternoon I’ve been thinking a lot about our temporary digs when Kim and I first hit California in 1996: the city of Brea in Orange County.
The things that stand out are cultural adjustment-type moments:
We've been living in a fugue for the last couple of weeks... the prospect of packing/selling/throwing away all of our earthly possessions (Which are significantly greater in number than the U-haul trailerful we brought out here with us) is sufficiently daunting that we've put it off in favor of laying around, complaining about the heat, and playing Grand Theft Auto instead of doing serious packing. I put in a few hours at work over the last week, but with the move laying so heavily on my mind I don't want to do the hospital the disservice of wasting my time or theirs if I can't concentrate on the more involved tasks at hand; since I'll be continuing my work once we arrive in Massachusetts, some of those tasks can wait.
Kim and I have both been sleeping funny hours... she's been on an overnight schedule lately anyway, but we've both found ourselves sleeping in half shifts, or getting up for an hour or two here and there only to get back into bed. It's probably the weird sleep patterns contributing to that pervasive sense of unreality more than anything .
We finally started packing in earnest yesterday, starting with the books. We have a number of shelves' worth to pack yet, but we filled enough boxes to feel that we have actually accomplished something. As the saying goes, 'Well begun is half done,' and I think we're in good shape with the seven days we have left to pack. Our worst problem at this point will likely be keeping ourselves supplied with empty boxes, but I think we have enough sources that we won't need to pay somebody for them.
Thinking back six years to the last couple of weeks before we left Rochester, New York for the smoggy climes of southern California, I remember a similar malaise but I don't remember it being nearly this strong. I'm not sure why that is, especially since I hate Los Angeles with a burning passion, and I can't wait until the San Fernando Valley is in the rearview mirror for good. I've tried to be civil and politic for a long time; I know plenty of natives and transplants alike who call greater Los Angeles their home, and there are certainly things I'll miss about Los Angeles, but now that we're really, finally getting out of here I want to shout it from the Hollywood sign. I hate this place. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I hate the smog-brown horizon, I hate the triple digit temperatures, I hate the fact that all $250,000 will get you in the shitty parts of town is a run-down, poorly built two bedroom ranch house from the fifties with no attic, no basement, and a lot the size of a postage stamp, and I hate being looked at like I'm some kind of a-hole when we tell people we're moving to Massachusetts. "Why would you want to move there? It's so coooooooold! It snows all year round up there, doesn't it?" People take it personally, almost as though they're annoyed with you for reminding them that there is a whole, giant country east of Las Vegas and north of Santa Barbara that couldn't care less about their Luxury SUV or their Beverly Hills-adjacent condo... and all the only defense they can muster for Los Angeles is the weather.
I had no similar ill will for Rochester, and that's why I'm puzzled at my greater uneasiness. I guess I can chalk it up to six years' experience in "The Real World," and the added responsibility of making sure all of our animals get back with us safely. When all is said and done I know we'll be fine, but I do wish there was a way to bypass the whole packing, loading, and driving part of of the move.
02/09/2002 - San Fernando Road (Near Sheldon) ? Sun Valley, California
The Pink Motel 'motor court'.
02/09/2002 - Pink Motel
San Fernando Road (Near Sheldon) Sun Valley, California
As you drive north into the San Fernando Valley, the grimy suburban sprawl gives way to an industrial wasteland... instead of tract housing the streets are lined with small businesses; foundries, auto shops, special effects shops.
It's a peculiar place, and when I went back there for the first time in a couple of years I was reminded of why I used to hate the Valley so much; I used to work up there, and I grew to hate the drive from the relatively green and shady Sherman Oaks to the sun-baked, dusty Sun Valley.
Even more peculiar is the Pink Motel, which sits on the edge of the most industrial zone. There's nothing up there worth staying in a hotel for (I mean, a hotel that doesn't have hourly rates :P), yet the Pink Motel looks clean and well-maintained, and by the looks of all the cars in the parking lot, well-occupied.
02/09/2002 - Heart's Coffee Shop
16918 Saticoy St (at Balboa) Van Nuys, California
An even sadder place than Johnie's was before it closed, Heart's looks as though it hasn't seen any maintenance at all to its exterior or sign since it opened.
Photographing the sign in its entirety was made difficult due to a couple of factors:
16918 Saticoy St (at Balboa)
Van Nuys, California
As soon as I crossed the threshold, I began to feel a curious burning sensation coming from my back pocket.This past Sunday I took the Metro from Universal City down to Hollywood, to checkout the Shag exhibit at the La Luz de Jesus gallery.
I had never been to the gallery, so I wasn’t sure what to expect; their web site has timely information about current and upcoming shows, but the “Store” section wasn’t working last time I checked and I didn’t look at the “Virtual Tour” link… so I was thinking there would be a small gallery housing the exhibit and a smaller selection of other works, and maybe a bookshelf with a few things for sale by the door; Shag books, Shag t-shirts, whatever.
Holy Crap, La Luz de Jesus was right there near the corner of Hollywood and Vermont all those times I went down to volunteer at Hollyhock House and the Ennis-Brown House? What have I been missing?
Upon entering, you can’t even really see the gallery proper; much of the building is occupied by a sprawling and eclectic bookstore/gift/pop culture store.
In a nutshell, this store is Archie McPhee meets every book on my Amazon wishlist, plus more cool crap than I ever imagined could be found for sale under one roof. As soon as I crossed the threshold, I began to feel a curious burning sensation coming from my back pocket. I soon realized this was caused by my wallet slowly smoldering its way through my jeans.
It’s one thing to poke around on a website and look at all the things you’d like to buy when the threat of immediate gratification is removed and shipping charges added, but it’s quite another when all those cool things you’ve looked at online are all there right in front of you, ready to be carried to the cash register and then home. That Amazon wishlist comment was no joke; they really do have pretty much all of the art/design/pop culture books I’ve been adding to my list for the past couple of years, and even some of the lounge CDs. Add all the tiki paraphernalia (more than I’ve ever seen in one place - not that I’ve spent a lot of time looking - yet), action figures, and stupid toys, and you’ve got a store that feels like it was stocked exclusively for this late-20’s post-pop wanna-be geek.
I was proud of myself - I managed to leave only about $5.00 poorer than when I went in. $1.00 got me an oversized postcard of one of the Shag paintings in the exhibit, and $3.95 got me the most recent copy of Tiki News, which to date I only knew as a website; I didn’t know they published the occaisional ‘Zine as well.
If it sounds like I’m tiki-fixated, it’s because I am, and I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It started when I began to get more familiar with Shag’s work last fall, and then some idle web surfing turned up a surprising volume of pages and sites devoted to all things tiki.
My first visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland last November didn’t help, either. (I’d been to Disneyland numerous times before, but the Enchanted Tiki Room is one of those attractions that everyone else never wants to do.)
Now that I’ve found a store which could pretty much turn our already retro-flavored apartment into a full-blown tiki paradise, there’s no telling where this could lead. Just last night I discovered that there’s a place in Ventura called Tiki Trader, and of course I still need to visit Oceanic Arts in Whittier.
This is also partly a result of my determination to make the most of the time we spend living in SoCal; I’m not likely to find as much of this stuff in New England.
As detached as I try to remain from the show biz currents that run so strongly through greater L.A., I’m still something of a tourist when it comes to celebrities.I stopped at Robbie Mac’s in Sherman Oaks to pick up a pizza on my way home from work tonight (well, last night, since it’s after midnight now). On my way in I had noticed a beautiful, big old car parked by the new stand at the corner of Ventura and Van Nuys boulevards. I parked behind the building, but walked back around to the news stand to get a closer look, and when I saw Jay Leno (known automobile collector/enthusiast) I cleverly deduced that the car belonged to him.
As I walked by him I said something to the effect of,
“I was wondering who that car belonged to! It’s gorgeous!”
to which Jay replied “Thanks, thanks.”
As detached as I try to remain from the show biz currents that run so strongly through greater L.A., I’m still something of a tourist when it comes to celebrities. I find that it’s a lot easier to talk to one if the context is something other than them being famous and you recognizing them; I didn’t want to bug Jay Leno, but I did genuinely want to compliment him on his car, so it was no big deal.
Similarly, I had a nice conversation with David Caruso a few years ago when he came through the Ennis House for a tour… I was a docent there at the time, and my job that day was to follow along behind the tour groups, making sure nobody wandered off into the house. David Caruso stuck to the rear of the group, and asked me some questions about the house - contrary to public perception and/or reputation, he was a really nice guy. Claire Forlani was also in the group, but I didn’t talk to her.
I’ve seen Gary Collins and R.D. Call at our nearby Ralph’s supermarket multiple times, and once we saw Brian Setzer messing with a hotrod at a gas station in Santa Monica. I’m sure there have been others, but those are the ones that pop into mind at the moment.
Probably my dorkiest celebrity moment was when I approached Joey Ramone at the House of Guitars in Rochester, but he was nice despite my fumbling compliments and thanks for his music. In the four years I spent in Rochester, I only went to H.O.G. once, and that just happened to be the day the Ramones had a show in town - and apparently everybody who’s anybody in the music biz stops by H.O.G. when they’re in town. I’m glad to have met him; it was a shame when he died so relatively young last spring.
12/31/2001 - I was walking the dog last night when I noticed the moon positioned perfectly among a cluster of palm trees - exactly the sort of tableau that Matthew Sweet's song Smog Moon has always conjured up in my mind. Smog Moon is on the 100% Fun album.
I've found that my Olympus D450-Zoom performs admirably in low light, as long as I use a tripod or some other stabilizing device. Still, the moon was shrouded by some light clouds and pretty much the only light source; I had to do some heavy tweaking and the overall image is still pretty grainy. But I like the mood it captures, and it seemed a fitting sort of a photo to take at the end of the year.
From the song:
There's a smog moon coming I can always feel it
The cartoon trees cannot conceal it
When it's high up in the sky, it almost looks like it is white
When it's high up in the sky, it almost looks like...
Lyrics are of course © copyright Matthew Sweet's publishing company, whatever it is. Please don't sue me.