“And so she woke up
Woke up from where she was
Said I gotta do something
About where we’re going . . .”
~ U2 Running To Stand Still
When the first American social rejects set foot upon this continent, they took the time to assimilate: to eat the bounty, to migrate and move up and down the seaboard, to spread out and kick their feet up in the coastal lazy boy, living off the land (and taking it as they saw fit.) Then they had to fight for the right to hang out here, to separate from the MotherLand whose MotherTongue we’ve butchered and bastardized some, giving it much twang and Tabasco and Barbeque Sauce and Ranch Dressing and Salsa until it tastes completely different everywhere you go, but not so much in a bad way.
And after some time, those who didn’t want to sit in squalor, or dine in parlors or live in the chilly northeast or bake in the south and live off the labors of others in both places, decided they would take covered wagons and hit the prairies and brave certain death in search of a plot of land, a wide horizon, and the riches of gold and silver mining. Mostly, they went out dancing on the ever-unraveling hem of destiny naming their tune the “divine task” and kept on dancing so they could reach the Pacific and “subdue the continent.” With two left feet, they subdued it all to hell in the name of In God We Trust, trodding on the toes of Native Cultures as they went, broke the backs of animals and men and women and children and laid down rickety tracks for the rest of the tortured hopefuls.
Years later, the Wild West is still unsettled and so people continue to go, set out to mine their hearts and fortunes. Somehow, impossibly, the world is self-contained; a slow, glitter fallout, a dream-laden rosebud of a snowglobe from permanent vacationland. And even if the plane is overbooked, they are still selling tickets to the greatest show on, well, at least that side of the continent. The souvenirs are innumerable. You should at least get a fridge magnet, a bottle opener and a shot glass to put it in.
With this rich, mottled history in mind i do not have illusions of California. i do not plan my escape from the East Coast with preposterous dreams of fame, or mere brushing with it or flossing, or even fucking it. But i do hope to be near my sister, to be nearer to some idea of a creative, mosaic life, full of similar people with radiant mindsets.
Having grown up in the largely less-than-employed and often partially-educated Midwest, i can say the people may not all be bright and open-minded, but they are sometimes simple in the best ways and friendlier than most and often polite enough to hide their deep prejudices if they so choose to harbor them. Now having lived on the east coast and finding myself a bit put off by the aloofness and general chill and total peacocking of people here, i still note how long it took me to connect with the few friends i have. Sure i’ve “networked.” Of course, i am recognizable in this small town and that brings me to the part where i realize, in some ways, this town is TOO small for me. There are still clothes in my closet i can’t WEAR about and that is a delicate statement about the stodgy, conservative front i seem to sense in the streets.
Perhaps it’s the sailboat masts crowding the skyline and the deck shoes and khakis padding the sidewalks and docksides. Or the ultra-pasteurized, mega-homogenized whitebread conclave pushing strollers with better tires than my car and better fabric than my couch. Maybe it’s the local government under the current administration. i don’t know what it is specifically, and i expect to see similar, maybe even more grotesque people elsewhere, and perhaps it is only a local phenomenon, but i am just not sure i want to live or love in such a climate. i have no children, no husband, no boyfriend, not even a steady lay (if you will) . . . and no mortgage to tie me here. Don’t even get me started on the price of real estate and my complete lack of desire to be shackled to a house in this area or any. And sure, i have a job – but i can get that anywhere.
So what am i saying? Well i suppose my formal announcement is that i plan to put operation “California Dreamin'” in full effect. It may be time to initiate the “Move-Andrea-to-CA-Fund.” Like Make-A-Wish foundation, except that what i wish is that the men in this town weren’t Flakesville or Frigidaire lovers without a clue and that if love brought me here in the first place, it should’ve damn well been able to keep me here, but it hasn’t proven able to do so; i am so tired of half-notions and false starts. i also wish that i had about $3-5,000 and i would totally evaporate from this alien landscape already. i want to look left at the ocean and right at the mountains and down into the green valley and up into a blue sky. And so to be practical, i will work like a Hebrew slave over the summer and build a meager nest egg that will give me moving money, first/last month/security deposit / rent money, and a little cushion for the bills during the employment start up phase until the money is steady. i hope to garner a few extra photo jobs or sell some prints or accept donations and make use of my PayPal account ANYTHING to help get me gone. Sadly, the disenchantment grows as i ready (steady, go!) myself to check the hell out of Mary-Go-Fuck-Yourself-Land.
So hey – buy a print! Or if you like something i don’t have available as a print, magnet, or postcard, either HERE on deviantART or any of my photos on HERE on Flickr, ask me be message or email, and i will have it put up here or have it printed personally and send it to you myself. You get a photo, i get money to plan my escape. And if you don’t want anything, i’ll just flat out, shamelessly beg! Grandma doesn’t need an operation, kitty isn’t ailing, i’ve no need to create an elaborate scam, but if i’ve ever encouraged, inspired, helped, or brought you anything useful or meaningful on this big-assed site through my meager photos or words – just send me a donation of a dollar or two – i won’t even hold a bunny hostage or sell you pixels. i just want to get to somewhere that i’ll have more opportunity to create and succeed at doing something i truly love.
So let me tell you about all the weird & wonderful happenings that came to pass while i visited my sister in Los Angeles (Echo Park, specifically during mid-February) and why i’d like to move and get a fresh start on life . . .
Ever since the U2 album, The Joshua Tree hit, it sparked a curiosity in me. In religious legends, the Joshua tree is said to be the tree that pointed Joshua, the successor of Moses, the way to Jericho, with its splayed and entwining branches. The name Joshua tree was given by a band of Mormons who crossed the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of that Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky. It is also said to be the “Jesus Tree” or “praying plant” with its resemblance to skyward outstretched hands.
As a child, my father was stationed in San Diego and so i saw little of the more famous natural resources other than those in my back yard. When we lived in southern California, my sister and i would play all day, run around with stray dogs in the neighborhood, ride horses bareback, avoid snake bites and catch lizard tails, slide down canyon hills on cardboard boxes, give made-up names to the plants we didn’t know, then sneak into farms and yards and pluck oranges and lemons and pomegranates off the trees and eat them for lunch. We took the occasional camping trip up into the mountains and saw some majestic Redwood Trees (Sequoia) and always, always hit the local beaches. My sister and i brought back so much sand, my father insisted we line the back seat and floorboards with towels to catch it all. On the way home, we curled and slept, folded in half, Gemini twins pinched in the middle with our feet touching, like broken hourglasses, the sand running out of our bathing suits and hair and the crevices of our golden skin.
Other than the beauty of Lake Tahoe, the most memorable trip was going whale watching. The deeper into the ocean we went, the bigger the creatures became. Mosquitoes, butterflies, crabs scuttling along the rocks, fish jumping, sea otters dog-rolling and cracking open shells on their bellies, sea lions ringing the buoy bells, dolphins following the boat and then we stood still, waiting for whale song and water movement and breeching. i felt the boat roll over a long, tall, soft wave and i looked down onto the surface and the eye of a humpback whale surfaced on the other side, peered up at me, big as a balled fist, a ruddy, glistening blue-black egg regarding me, making me wonder at the frighteningly HUGE body that must belong to an eye so impossibly large. It was beautiful, fearful, knowing, old, strange, beckoning and familiar in a way that reminded me how everything came out of the water, the cruel way we fall out of our mothers in a cascade of it, that we consist of it and are soft because of it, that we desire to see much of it laid out in a vast unending horizon, tumbling towards us, pooling at our feet, rising at our waistlines as we wade in, asking us, seducing us to come back to it: warm, wet, encompassing. The east coast has its ocean and its waterways, to be sure, but i am partial to the Pacific, and the memories still whisper to me and ask me to come back. i hear the ocean when i cup my hand and put it to the pillow every nite now . . .
When i planned to see California with adult eyes this time, i hoped to take it in as a mini-spiritual journey, to enjoy the sparseness of the desert instead, and so i told my sister i wanted to see the Joshua Trees, The Salton Sea and to drink wine in some part of wine country, which turned out to be, Santa Barbara, with the ocean to one side and the mountain ranges to the other . . . breathtaking!
If you’d like to see ALL MY PHOTOS from California, you can see them as a set called California Dreamin’ HERE on Flickr. Meanwhile i’ll just pepper them in as i go along.
From My sister’s room, you can see the Hollywood hills . . .
The drive out to the Joshua Tree National Park was spectacular! i shot some photos of the wind farms from the car as we went along . . .
And the trees themselves: all these open arms (prickly, yes) but inviting, and rock piles just begging to be climbed upon . . .
and me with my unintentional crown . . .
At one point, after a few pulls off a flask of tequila, we embarked on a Space Odyssey. This had us dressing in quasi-futuristic clothing and taking photos . . . (SEE the WHOLE SET HERE)
we also stopped off at the Cholla Gardens on the way out and met a few funny shapes and ornery cactus . . .
Then we high-tailed it down, racing against the light to get to the Salton Sea by sunset for the perfect photo opportunities. With the Matrix soundtrack driving our swift passage south like a futuristic techno mantra we arrived just in time to watch the sky dissolve into lemon yellows, powder blues and cotton candy pinks. And the pile of pelicans made it all the more interesting . . .
The following day my sister Racheal, her boyfriend Adam and i went to Santa Barbara (landing finally in Los Olivios) for wine tasting. We started off at The Santa Barbara Winery and took a scenic drive up to Los Olivos, this strange meld of stagecoach and upscale mountain town. You could just as likely imagine a posse riding in on horseback shooting up saloon doors as you could a pack of Luis Vuitton clad women walking a sweater-wearing poodle and clasping a wine glass with well-manicured hands.
One of my last strange adventures was taking lunch at Yang Chow in Los Angeles’ Chinatown with my sister on our last official day just before my trip to the airport.
i bought a black and red floral satin shirt with frog buttons and front snaps plus mary jane’s to match. There were pharmacies with boxes and jars of herbs lining the walls; groceries with bizarre vegetables, displays not in English but in character, even Chinese neon symbols, which were quite beautiful. For all i know they really said mundane things “dog food” or “we accept VISA” or “get out honkey round-eye” but those red, bended, glowing Chinese symbols entranced me from behind the glass. We had a wonderful lunch and fun doing a little shopping, but two strange things happened to tip off some odd omens . . . first, when i opened my fortune cookie, it was utterly blank. There was a slick, white strip of paper with no words on either side. i couldn’t decide if this was good or bad luck and so i asked for another from a passing waiter. The second cookie was a little more cheering as it foretold “The Current Year Will Bring You Much Happiness.”
The other strange occurrence was in one of the shops. We walked through cramped isles, crowded with tables packed end to end with boxes containing dusty tortoise shell hair clips, all manner of beaded jewelry, and enough jade to festoon a hundred palaces. Suddenly, there was a light buzzing in the air as something small and fast whirred past my ear and above, trailing circles in the ceiling. It was a hummingbird! It landed for a few moments, heaving lightly in the crook of chains that held a long ballast of fluorescent lights. i immediately thought of the hummingbird i saw in August, and saw it as yet another portent a sign that my life is on the right track. Well in so much as California is a good idea of increasing magnitude. Then we came out into the fading dusk and found our car to be, not there. Not where we left it. Nowhere near where we remembered parking it. In fact, it had been towed. Dude, where’s my car. Oy.
We called the number on the sign posted in the event that her car was actually impounded. It had been disconnected. We went across the street to a hideous Thai restaurant with a fountain in the middle of the dining room flanked by drooping near death plants and dark, sullied water. We asked for the number and called the local police station the tag hadn’t been reported, it hadn’t been stolen or taken in by them but they gave us the number to parking enforcement who then gave us the number for the tow yard that had her car. At first they couldn’t find it because it was so recently removed that it hadn’t arrived yet.
When they finally DID locate it by the tag, we set about getting a cab. The restaurant manager called us one and when he arrived, there was no indication, no illumination, not even a meter inside of his beat-up minivan. For a moment i thought i might have to kick someone’s ass if this random dude was carting us off to “get-in-the-hole-and-put-the-fucking-lotion-in-the-basket-land.” But it turned out he had a flat rate of $5 locally and if the trip ended up being a little more convoluted (which it certainly was, as this tow yard was in the middle of Unholy Hell on the corner of “God DAMN” and “Kill Whitey”). So we incurred a “pain in the ass surcharge” of $5 bringing the trip to a $10 fare. i tried tipping him, but he refused.
All the ever meanwhile, let’s not forget that i needed to make it to the fucking airport for my flight in the next 2 hours! As we waited in line we heard the attendants ask for driver’s license and registration. Racheal was in the process of doing her taxes and her registration was at home NOT in her car where it should be in such cases, so they would NOT release the car to her. She called a host of friends, one of whom (thank you Shazilla!) was finally able to swing by and pick Racheal up, drive her home, get the registration and come back.
“Yeah it’s off of Sunset,” Racheal snarled, then i snickered and added, “just tell her to look for razorwire and the homeless people camped out front.”
When Racheal and i got back to her apartment, we put down a beer apiece to unwind from the adventure and all too quickly, it was time to throw my bag together and get to the airport. We made good time and of course my flight was delayed 40 minutes. Awesome.
As i drifted off to sleep on my first red-eye flight, i thought of that blank fortune cookie. Was it bad luck? Should we have left earlier and been able to avoid the car towing debacle? Was it good luck? Did it mean that my future was SO wide open that i could write it myself, like a fill in the blank answer? Well certainly, my life hasn’t been void, but there are some blanks i’d like to fill.
Photographer Gordon Parks wrote in his autobiography. “I was just born with a need to explore every tool shop of my mind, and with long searching and hard work. I became devoted to my restlessness.” i have indeed been restless, and i am hoping to sharpen formerly used tools. And right now, i need a bigger workshop to do it all in, and that place is California. Everything in me is tripped on and alive with the mere prospect of it all. A bit terrified too as it will be a monstrous move, but hey if the Beverly Hillbillies did it and survived the culture shock, i can too.
ANDREA that is . . .
no swimming pools
no goddamn movie stars.