Category Archives: places

Where the Streets Have No Names: Joshua Tree

A good friend of mine took a trip down to our neck of the woods to visit two Disneylands; the one in Anaheim for his kids, and the one in Joshua Tree for him.

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He climbs both cliffs and mountains. He climbs so much he built a climbing wall in his house. I also climb the walls of my home but only in a figurative suburban stagnation sort of way.IMG_0755

I do well when right in the middle of everything, or the middle of nowhere. It is those in between places that cause me trouble. Maybe it is because my mind and heart spend so much time in the middle ground that my body wants to be in a place my ideology refuses to go.

Joshua Tree National Park is beautifully nowhere.IMG_0719
Being nowhere doesn’t mean you do nothing. You always have to do something.

Maybe that is why the in between spaces give me trouble. Nothing there feels like you are really doing anything. It is all relative. When in New York, there is so much going on everywhere that you can just coast right along. Everything everywhere is something. The first time I saw Paris I unexpectedly fell in love because everywhere I looked was something. Not just something but something recognizable, something fantastic, something other places (Vegas) try to imitate. Something to see and do is everywhere.IMG_0796

When you are nowhere, doing anything, even just walking, becomes something in relation to your surroundings. The Bonneville Salt Flats, a giant stretch of flat nothingness, makes even the most insignificant person feel like a focal point; because while there, you are the focal point. There is nothing else.

In between, where strip malls live, nothing feels like anything. You have to get in your car and drive to go anywhere, and when you get there, you don’t feel like you have really travelled. If you don’t drive anywhere and decide to stay at home, or just in one place, there will be things all around you and still, nothing will happen.

 

Hence volition.

When in between one must do what none of us, at least not I, want to do. We must summon our own motivation, an inner compulsion. Like a rocket. A boat in a river doesn’t need someone to paddle; it will easily go with the current. A Rose in the desert doesn’t need to outshine anyone. It is the only thing shinning. A Rocket must have some inner propulsion to launch itself from a sedentary position into space and that is hard to do. Rocket scientists are a cliché for a reason.IMG_0716

While in Joshua Tree I did not launch into orbit but I did climb up a rock. I didn’t climb very far, but climbing at all was more than I had done the week before. I think my friend was the key. In fact maybe friends, or at least other people, are the key to volition. He called and invited me. I probably wouldn’t have gone otherwise. Even if I had gone I wouldn’t have climbed. You see I don’t have the equipment or the know-how.  Thanks to him calling I was able to do.

I wonder how many other things work that way?IMG_0707

 

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Mission San Jose’

In 1797 George Washington turned the Presidency of the United States over to John Adams who had just defeated Thomas Jefferson in the election. At the other side of the continent, which wouldn’t be duly “explored” by Lewis and Clark for another nine years, a bunch of Spanish folks were building stuff. The stuff they were building were churches and buildings called missions. Also, by “they” I should note the Spaniards weren’t the one’s doing the building. Indians were doing the work and in Fremont California the Ohlone people were hard at work building Mission San Jose’.IMG_6046

The Ohlone weren’t Catholic, but they were less hostile than the folks living over in the San Ramon Valley, so building began.

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By the time Andrew Jackson was president Mission San Jose’ was wealthy. It was also no longer Spanish but Mexican. Not longer after California became Mexico, the mission became state property.

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It remained state property till it became American, and Abraham Lincoln gave the mission back to the Catholic Church. So the place was first Ohlone, then Spanish Catholic, then Mexican, then American, then Catholic, and now… it belongs to tourists.

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Oh the Tacos at Guisados!

It’s just down the street from Dodger stadium, which I did not think about till I found myself in a string of stagnant cars filled with people wearing blue hats. I wasn’t there for the game, I was there for mole’.
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Standing in line with a bunch of hipsters I had plenty of time to check out the chalk board menu and its list of creatively named entrees, none of which looked familiar, I decided to do what all smart people do in new situations; order the sample platter. Now my not understanding the menu may have had more to do with my lack of Spanish than their creativity, but I tend to trust anyone who states on the menu that they don’t adjust the recipe. they know what they are doing and that is what you go there for.

From the menu: “Chiles Toreados-Habanero, serrano, jalapeno, thai, chiles blistered together over high heat. Served on top black beans. Adjustments kindly declined.”

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And horchata, always order horchata. Their’s was the most cinnamony I have ever had, in a good way. Good enough to make up a new word; like cinnamony.

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Repulsion vs. Propulsion: Knott’s Berry Farm

I like Roller Coaster’s. I like my family. I dislike lines but accept them as a part of civilized society. There are however, some lines that should never be crossed, or some lines, that stretch so long that you should cross them on your way somewhere else.IMG_7515

Despite proximity I have yet to venture on over to Disneyland. The price of admission is way past where I draw the line. Word on the street is that the lines at Knott’s Berry Farm are much, much shorter, and cheaper. Not riding roller coasters when roller coasters are available is a unacceptable in my wife’s mind so she drew a line in the sand. Not really in the sand, but rather on the calendar, and along with that line in the sand she declared, “Here marks the end of summer. Before this date, you (me), will join your family at Knott’s Berry Farm!”

So I did.IMG_7510

So did a lot of other people.

It had been nearly a decade since I had been strapped into an open air train that goes upside down and in my memory, it was fun.

I had a lot of time standing in line to reminisce and watch as screaming trains zipped over head. Hmmm. fun.IMG_7509

Having been lulled into a near coma while standing mostly motionless for 45 minutes I found my self unprepared for what was about to happen. I took a seat in a carriage built for someone half my size, buckled my seat belt, and was pleased when the pimply 16 year old double checked to make sure I was safe. So far so good.

But then this train took off like a rocket. No slow climb up a mountain, no click-click-click-pause before the rush, just explosive speed right from the start.IMG_7457

I screamed. Out loud.

I don’t normally do that sort of thing. But when that contraption slammed me back inn my seat, spun me upside down, then swirled in a corkscrew, I felt like expressing my joy out loud. I loved it. All 20 seconds of it.IMG_7458

I had forgotten how fun physical motion can be. All day I sit at a desk, then I walk around a little, maybe drive my car in a straight line at a reasonable speed for a little while, and then, when I find the time, I exercise a little. This had fooled me into thinking my life included motion. I was wrong.IMG_7511

Commuting to work is not the same as rocketing from 0-80 mph in 3 seconds and rocketing, in any form, is exciting. I like rocketing. It was worth standing in line. But, and this is a big but, I was also reminded of what is not worth standing in line and paying a lot of money: cotton candy, pretend cowboys, medleys of Broadway show tunes performed by 18 year olds, and interacting with humans dressed up like cartoon characters. Somewhere between the age of three and now I have lost my appreciation for all of those things.IMG_7501

But my kids haven’t, and I love my kids.IMG_7502

So while I contemplate where the lines of reason lie, regarding fun, magic, money, and facilitating childhood wonder as proscribed by the corporation of Mickey Mouse, I realize I may have to bend. MAY have to bend. Eventually.

And I also realize I need to find a way to get in the passenger seat of a jet fighter. Maybe a race car… or a spaceship. Anything more exciting than a desk.IMG_7895

 

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Hollywoodland: Because no one calls it that anymore

The sign used to say Hollywoodland and one of the major reasons movie companies moved there back in the day was to avoid being sued by Thomas Edison. Neither of those little details really matter to anyone today, which makes them just like all of Hollywood in the mind of this author. IMG_7083That isn’t really true, the part about me not thinking Hollywood matters. I love movies. I also hate movies. It all depends on the movie. But for the most part, movies are imaginary, and by extension most of the reasons to admire actors are equally fictitious. Except for maybe Indiana Jones. Dr. Jones, who was also Han Solo, is just a little too admirable in my imagination to be squashed by reality. I refuse to think that Indiana Jones does not in some place or in some time, exist.IMG_7089

What surely exists is the industry that has grown up around moving pictures and the very real dollars produced thereby. Lots of dollars. Billions of dollars. Lots of billions.

But Hollywood has also created art. Art and money each wield influence inn the world. Together they can move the societal needle, forward or back, left or right, true influence.IMG_7085

Moved to tears, moved to the streets, moved to the penthouse, or maybe movements in the outhouse. Hollywood has done all of those things. No matter how you feel about the place or what it produces, it is above all else, a spectacle.IMG_7088

Spectacle is what it is. It isn’t necessarily good or bad. It can be either. It just is. I have opinions… but really, I’m fine just spectating.IMG_7084

 

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Where Your Fortune is Created:Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

It wasn’t till after we left that it occurred to me that for a couple bucks they probably would have let me write my own fortune to have stuffed inside a cookie. Tip to anyone considering a proposal of marriage; visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory located in a tiny alley in San Francisco’s Chinatown.IMG_5998

In Ross alley is a little shop about the size of my living room, where dreams are created. Well, maybe not dreams, but rather the little cookies you get with your sweet and sour chicken. I had never considered how these little treats are made, just as I have never really considered how my iPhone or a kazoo are constructed, but when confronted with an opportunity, why not?IMG_5991

There ya go. That’s pretty much it. A circular conveyor belt with a hundred Forman Grill like hot plates spins around spitting out hot pancakes that are peeled off the press and the folded around a slip of pre printed paper  into the shape of a croissant. You walk in, go “huh.” Then buy a bulk bag of cookies and go on your way. That is my style of learning.IMG_5736Going there is worth the trip and being there is even better. I find it incredibly American. American in that it is very much IN America, but in a place where a large number of people have come from somewhere else in hope of a better life. That is American.IMG_5990

What is also very American is gawking at the the culture of others without any real back story or true cultural understanding. That was my part in the whole visit. I played my part well and I am through and through American. Below I present exhibit A:IMG_5993

I appreciate drying your laundry the cheapest way possible and I don’t mind dried fish, but combining the two displeases me. I would guess that were it otherwise I would displease most of the people who might sit next to me on a bus.

But that is my opinion and this is America where we are each entitled to our own opinions… and smells.IMG_5997

 

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How Can You Look at Stars When the Building is So Cool? Griffith Observatory

Just a note, don’t go when it is even close to convenient, you are in a hurry, don’t want to walk a million miles, or don’t want to be with other people, because this place is popular. It is also worth it.IMG_6869

The observatory is built on Mt. Hollywood, the same one that has the big Hollywood sign, in 1935. From its inception it was open to the public for free. It was meant to make astronomy approachable and accessible to the masses and the masses show up en masse.IMG_6873

The copper domes really do house legit telescopes that aid real-life science (see what I did there?). Smart people doing smart things that I don’t understand, work there. I didn’t work there, I just looked there.IMG_6878The city, the sky, and the building. The art deco scalloped smooth lined solid colored building, the pastel fading multicolored shapeless sky, and the staccato jumbled lit up city.

You can only go there when you have some time.IMG_6870

Only go there when all those crowds and lack of parking and walking don’t matter. Because despite all that, you have to go.IMG_6875

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