Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 14: The Sidewalk Mime Artist's Prediction

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk seemed like a perfect venue for street performers, but I was a little surprised that I only witnessed one such artist. A young woman in whiteface sat amid a small altar of make believe, dressed as a dolly with a white parasol. I had been walking behind a little girl and her daddy, watching the child spin and twirl and dawdle down the walkway as her father encouraged her to come along, maybe a little faster, please?

The girl stopped in her tracks as her eyes settled on the Dolly Mime. She watched as the mime rose slowly, turning a graceful full circle as she stepped up on her platform. There, she struck a pose. The child was mesmerized.

The little one moved forward and touched the Dolly Mime's dress hem. It seemed as though she instantly believed the mime to be a life-sized doll. A crowd began to gather. A man in the crowd began to taunt "I saw you MOVE!" until his ladyfriend shushed him. The little girl continued to stare as the Dolly Mime broke the pose long enough to lean down prettily, taking a scrap of paper from her pocket to hand to the child.

I moved in, trying not to disturb the spell and tucked a dollar into the vase on the altar's edge, and stepped back to snap a picture. The child gazing at the living dolly was just too precious. The Dad fumbled with his cell phone to take a picture also, definitely a Kodak moment to carry home.

As I turned to walk away, someone in the crowd said, "Hey lady, the clown's got something for you!" I looked back, and the Dolly Mime was holding a scrap of paper out to ME. I mumbled thanks as I took it and stuffed it in my pocket. I didn't stop to look at it. Thought maybe it was a coupon for a local slice of pizza or something like that. Maybe her performance art was sponsored.

Instead it said this:

I was stunned. How could the Dolly Mime have known? I have been on this road trip and quest for two weeks, and tomorrow I return home to family, my Ojai home, and friends. It has been a wonderful vacation, also filled with family and friends. I feel renewed! But, I am going HOME, no magical red slippers, completely by choice, and the best is yet to come.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Road Trip/Quest, day 14: Santa Cruz! People watching on the Boardwalk...

The last overnight of my Road Trip/Quest! Here I am at the very crowded Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California, just because I have always wanted to experience it. And it's Saturday. And the weather is incredible. The beach is packed, there's no place to park - and since I thought to book ahead, I have accommodations AND a parking spot! Ah, life is good.

I love to people watch. People are the funniest looking critters that ever were, especially when they are on vacation, wearing their vacation costumes and exposing slabs of skin that haven't recently been introduced to the sun. I tend to draw cartoons inside my head, so I am easily entertained on days like today!

I decided that I needed a hot dog to celebrate the Coney Island atmosphere that I was experiencing. Thank God I remembered to bring my Tums! But check out the artistry of this All Beef Original With Everything:

It's truly an artistic statement, a work of art, although the kid that made it was named Sean. Anyway, I needed to share the visual with you, and I need another Tums.

Day 13: Visiting Michael and Pat

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard...

... and Shiloh, that big beautiful smiling dog. The two cats are named Jack Russell and his littermate whose name escapes me at the moment, and the yard is filled with flowers and veggies. The front house is a 1915 Craftsman style two story home that Michael and Pat have refurbished and decorated in period style. They lease it out to folks seeking to attend the Masterpiece School of Fine Woodworking in Fort Bragg, California.

Michael and Pat live in the back house. It's a very, very fine house...

Life used to be so hard, Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And Our House...

Each of them worked the original Renaissance Faire and subsequent offspring Faires for the life of their careers. Pat was a haberdasher - I guess that's what it is called - she made hats for sale at the Faires. Michael invented a drophammer show that stamps designs in metal while you watch, so that you may purchase a customized medallion to to take home as a souvenir. That's how I met Michael some 35 years ago, when he sought out my father's expertise in die making. Now somewhat retired, they have melded their long friendship into a longer term personal relationship and business agreement with their very, very fine house. Very, very cool people.

Day 13: Trees of Mystery!! This one's for you, Jessica...

My dad always hated "Tourist Traps". We kids were encouraged to loathe them, too, but when my kids came along, I wanted to indulge a little in forbidden territories such as The Trees Of Mystery, the little tourist trap that advertises with billboards for MILES and MILES of Hwy 101. The place is emblazoned in my eldest daughter's memory as a very cool place to include on a family vacation to Northern California. So, Jess, this one's for you.

I thought I'd stop in to see if Paul Bunyan would talk to me as he had when I was about 13 or so, the one time when my brother Neal and I whined loudly and long enough to make a stop at the fabled Trees. Well, I probably did the whining. Neal was too cool to actually whine, even at 7 years old. Paul has a smooth deep radio voice that emanates from a speaker hidden in his chest hairs, and he keeps up a lively real-time conversation with the folks approaching the entrance, asking where they are from, how they like the weather today, have they met his friend Babe The Blue Ox?

I had always assumed that Babe was a girl, perhaps a sort of a life partner of Paul, the lonely North Woods Loggerman. I think this trip was a real eye-opener for me, and my Babe Epiphany was helped along by the family in my photo. Now, you'll have to take my word for most of the story, because when all the major action was taking place, I was in the middle of changing my camera batteries. I fail at being a action photojournalist. I will leave that up to Logan Hall.

The man and his son had ducked under the clueless Babe The Blue Ox. When I looked up from my battery fumbling, just as the woman was focusing and saying, "Are you ready?" I saw that they had each placed one hand on Babe's - um, bullsack. Yup, Babe's definitely male. Funny I had never noticed those before...

My Road Trip/Quest, day 13: From Crescent City, California, and beyond!

I broke out the watercolor box and just began. My daughter Jessica checked in with me by cellphone and when I told her my exciting news, she congratulated me. "You cracked it open, Mom! Now there's no stopping!" She knows me better than most, having raised me for 35 years.

I had hoped to paint a little each day of this quest, but driving and questing AND painting proved a little too ambitious as a steady job. I forgot about the necessary sleep time, those wasted hours between driving and musing. But on the 13th day, I got serious and just began. I haven't used watercolors much in the last few years, painting with acrylic on canvas instead. Whole different breed of medium. I love the way one has to allow the watercolor to lead, and to have its way with the paper. As an artist, I feel as if I have to surrender a little - if I get too pushy with watercolor it all turns to mud.

Hmmm, as I re-read that last paragraph, it sounds a little like a metaphor for my love life. Pretty sad, huh?

My Road Trip/Quest, day 12: Why do some settlements flourish and grow?

Ever since I was a little kid (I was a weird little kid, ask my brother) on family road trips, I wondered why some places seemed to take hold and grow in population and popularity and others just sorta stayed stillborn, becoming ghost towns, never flourishing, nothing left but a historical marker - if that. I went 8 miles off the main drag to check out the Hughes House. There were welcoming signs offering house tours, but I was the only person there. I wondered if a ghostly docent dressed in period clothing might materialize on the porch, eager for company. It was a little Twilight Zonish, so I read the outside self-guides and left without rapping on the door.

The ranch had been a prosperous dairy farm before the WWII but the war took away the manpower and the prosperity dwindled. No town grew up there. A little further down the road Port Orford took root and still stands, small-town style, even today. But the Hughes House stands alone.
I drove a little beyond the Victorian mansion of a farmhouse that was standing sentinel over the windswept mouth of the Sixes River, straight and tall and lonely. I came to the cemetery sign. I stopped to investigate. Another sign posted assured me that the remains had all been tidily re-interred elsewhere. Yeah, sure, I'll believe that... so I took a deep breath and walked down the recently weed whacked path to the cemetery's empty graves and read the handful of gravestones. Mr. Dowey had been there, and Mr. and Mrs. McMullen. I think McMaster had been there, too, but the limestone was hard to read. All had lived well into their 80's, though, with the Mrs. M living to 93. All Irish, undoubtedly Catholic, it being a St. Mary by the Sea Catholic cemetery. No other stones to be read. I imagined there had been plenty of souls laid to rest there, and if any were still around about, they must have been benevolent. No hackles were raised on the back of my neck, no creepy feelings on any other body parts, either. Did I actually write "body parts"? ewww, sorry.

My Road Trip/Quest, day11: Photo Ops, lots and lots...

I left Newport, Oregon, behind and headed down the Oregon Coast in a bubble of beautiful weather. I stopped several times to snap photos to bring home with me for inspiration. Plenty of watercolor paintings lie ahead of me to chronicle this trip. I think my next art show which is scheduled for the spring of 2011 at the Ojai Community Bank will feature this road trip prominently.

There were so many photo ops! This was Ono Beach. I like the way that so many varieties of plants, flowers and grasses grow right down to the sand in Oregon. Of course, this grass was on an overhanging cliff above Ono, but I am still impressed. I think it's pretty. Onolicious for da eyes, eh JoAnn? I headed for Coos Bay to stay overnight.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Cousin Randy, How to be in touch with one's Inner Child...

I have blogged that I visited with my Uncle Gheen and Cousin Chris in Tigard, Portland and Neahkawnie Beach but I have yet to mention my cousin Randy. Not an oversight, it is just that Randy needs an entry dedicated to Randy.

Since my Road Trip is a Quest of sorts, a Huh-Hell-Paying-Attention disconnection from my otherwise tightly connected current lifestyle, I am taking some time to muse about the random contacts that occur and the interconnectedness of it all. I write "It's all about ME!" and I am joking around, but in so many ways, this quest IS all about me and where I fit in - to the moment, to my road trip, to my family - it has been good. It is my study of contentment, and what that word means to each of us.

So it was very good to watch Cousin Randy share the delight of his "Inner Child" with all of us over the 4th of July holiday. He LOVES pyrotechnics, has made a lifelong avocation of experimenting with acetylene, a welding gas, with occasional dire consequences. This weekend, though, he was gleeful to share a milder, controlled display of his hobby in the form of homemade fireworks that he called a pinwheel. I captured one of his trials in the video attached.

I remember my cousin Randy as a little kid. He was very different then, as now. I am 4 or 5 years older than him, and the first memories I have of him as a toddler was his inability to communicate. He was mute and disconnected. There were no labels then that described his peculiarity, as there exist today. He just didn't talk. His folks eventually sent him to a school for the deaf, where he learned to sign a little bit, but he wasn't deaf.

Then his little brother was born. Chris was a baby dynamo, physically running circles around his disconnected brother and talking virtual circles around him, too. Eventually Randy forced himself to speak out, probably in self-defense. The Amazing Rando was born at that time, too. Even before he could communicate very well verbally, I remember that Randy shared his interests and absolute genius with those of us who recognized the clues - he couldn't say "HEY! Hey, look at me!" as so many little kids do, but if you took the time to watch, Randy beamed. And he still beams, when he shares his Inner Child's imagination. That may be a sort of contentment for my cousin. His brother STILL picks on him, calls him Rando and plenty of other names (some of which are unmentionable) and teases as brothers do - truly out of love. Chris would defend his brother fiercely, too, if there was any need for his defense. Randy expresses himself perfectly now, with words that reflect his intelligence and view of life which seems untainted by the involvement of emotion - at least outward emotion. Randy's inner emotions may be another story entirely, but he hasn't shared those with me. Perhaps he can't share them.

He HAS shared his pyro glee and his pinwheels. I came a long way to see them, and he has come a long way to share himself with me. I love you, Randy. Stay happy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Neskowen, Oregon: As far as the eye can see...

There were rolls and rolls of them in the farmlands outside of Neskowen along the coast route through Oregon. Rolling hills, atypically sunny weather, and these giant rolls stood out all over the hillsides against the green-gold backdrop.

Being a silly City Girl from Southern California, I never knew where toilet paper came from - I thought it grew on trees...

My Road Trip/Quest, day 10: Cheesy and delicious!

I took the suggestion of my friend Jennie and stopped in at Tillamook to check out the cheesemaking process and taste a cheese curd. I parked and waddled to the visitor's entrance and noticed that many of my fat sticky fellow tourists were settling around outside the entrance to enjoy their double-decker ice cream waffle cones. The weather was perfect, clear and beautiful, and their puffy arms and legs were bared to the sun. I silently wondered how many of them were obese due to the years of indoctrination we all received from the dairy industry about how incredibly healthy milk and milk products are for us Americans.

Having fought fat all my life, and still not winning the fight (but getting healthier by increments!) I could commiserate silently with my chubby uncomfortable-looking fellow humans. I would have loved to join them in slorping away at an oversized ice cream treat, but I have learned that the consequences for my personal bod are not worth the discomfort, and the long-term health problem with obesity only gets worse when I put milk and sugar on it!

Didn't keep me away from the cheese curd entirely, though. You're right Jennie, good stuff! That's me in the picture above, turned into a cow. But only temporarily.

My Road Trip/Quest, days 8 & 9: The Beach House, Manzanita's Parade, My Cousins & Unk

Yeehaw! I made it to Tigard, just outside of Portland, Oregon, where my cousin Christopher Abbott lives. My entire road trip/quest bloomed because of conversations I have had with my cousin over the last year, particularly since October 2010 when I loosely promised to spend the 4th of July with him and extended family at their beach house in Manzanita/Neahkahnie. We planned to rally family from all points of the country to gather for a reunion celebration. It would be epic!

I showed up. Circumstances for everyone else shifted and melted and evaporated, hmmmm... sounds like my car's radiator and head gasket... interesting metaphor...

My Uncle Gheen Randolph Abbott is my dad's brother. That's him in the photo waving the flag and wearing the red, white and blue hat while hugging the Canadian beer. His reminiscence about family stories entertained me much of my time there at the beach house, no TV, no wifi. They've owned it for 43 years. My cousins busied themselves with repairs and upgrades to the big old house on a bluff overlooking a beautiful Oregon Pacific view. The weather was clear and spectacular. They accused me of bringing my California weather with me. They didn't complain, though. I explained that, since everything is all about ME, this was the weather I had ordered. I'm sure they were impressed. I know I was.

The Manzanita 4th of July parade was truly homespun and heartwarming. Homemade float riders tossed candy to the people lining the parade route. Unlike the multiple equestrian units of Ojai's parade, there was only one horse, and only one band, and they wore kilts and played bagpipes. The streets in town are narrow and tree-lined and hilly, as the town sits on bluff overlooking Neahkahnie Bay. There was lots of friendly interaction between parade participants and parade applauders, such as "Thank you!" to the veterans seated in beach chairs on a lowboy trailer towed by a dumptruck and "You're Welcome!" back with a wave, and a hard candy tossed tossed to your feet. My naughty cousin called out to another truck full of local high school cheerleaders who surrounded their buck-toothed mascot, "Nice Beaver!" but that's just Chris quoting Leslie Nielson. Okay, Cousin!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Road Trip/Quest, day 7: Cow Creek Roadside Rest: All the world's a stage...

The battered gold panning pan was next to a neat cardboard sign emblazoned with:


The hirsute fellow with the shillelagh at his side and the worn khaki-colored 'Nam campaign hat certainly looked the part. His ZZTop beard was properly ragged and untrimmed. He made no eye contact with the people making a pee stop at this beautiful forested glen. His pan had a handful of change and a couple dollar bills. I watched as a 40-something woman approached and said, rather apologetically, " I don't have any money but I have this..." she offered a Trader Joe's energy bar.

"Mmmm, thank you, peanuts!" The Vet said brightly.

"Yes. Uh, thank you for your service." A proper, politically correct exchange.

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players..."

"Thank you, ma'am," said The Vet, humbled and grateful. The nice lady retreated, ebullient and self-satisfied to have helped the poor homeless hungry Vet. I mused a bit about the exchange, our societal reaction to homelessness, veteran-ness... but, just a sec, something wasn't right here... The Vet was raggedy, but CLEAN... his eyes were downcast, but not beat down... he wore a campaign hat, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, but there were NO INSIGNIA adorning said hat. My curiosity was peaked.

The Vet had caught me staring at his gold pan and smiling to myself. I grinned at him and asked, "So, are you really A Vet?"

The Vet smiled back and said, "Yes, ma'am." He had all of his teeth. Hmmm... not all methed-out, perhaps. He was leaning heavily on the stick, he looked thin, could be frail, but after all, he was HOMELESS, ANYTHING WOULD HELP, and he was A VET, possibly wounded in combat, one could surmise.

"No peanut allergy, eh?" I said as I walked away. He laughed.

"Nope, I'm lucky, I guess!" I thought about how many of us make our own luck, be it good or bad. So much is based on our perception of any given moment. How could a homeless vet call himself lucky? I thought about the silver coins I brought along on this quest to give away as I choose. I had made them back in 1989 when I was cutting coin dies and pressing fine silver, one-ounce rounds, back when pure silver hovered around $6.00 per ounce. I went to my car trunk and dug one out. Maybe this Vet needed a lucky token. If he was really down on his luck, he could sell the silver now for $50.

The Vet was from Fresno. He lived in safe hidey holes off the sides of abandoned logging roads now. (Maybe.) He dredged underwater for gold until his equipment was stolen from his truck a week ago. (So now he has a truck.) I asked him when he served. He countered with, "What year?"

"How about '67?" He was in high school in '67. (Hmmm, a youngster, then. In good enough shape to work underwater to dredge for gold.)

"Then, how about '69?" Still in high school. He mentioned the Army '72 through '74.

I said, "Where, in Germany?" and he looked at me in dumbfounded surprise. He'd been found out. "You served in Germany in 1972 through 1974? My first husband did, too, and he said it was an extended vacation!" The Vet laughed out loud. He agreed, he'd been very lucky, indeed. He only wished he'd stayed in until '02 and retired... but life occurred. And now, it appears, that he dredges for gold as his day job and panhandles as The Vet at rest stops on weekend gigs.

I gave him the silver coin, anyway, explaining that I hoped it would bring him good luck as a lucky token, that it was worth real money if he ever truly found himself down and out. I told him that I had learned cool engraving skills that nobody much needed anymore, and this coin was my proof, lots of detail, et cetera. I said I hoped he'd find the guy who stole his stuff, and whack him with the shillelagh and get his stuff back but not kill him while he carried my token. The Vet grinned again. "Yes, ma'am, thank you. Actually, I need the luck more than the money." Well, don't we all?

"They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts..."

As I drove away, I looked back. Germany, sheesh! The Vet was studying the details on the coin. Good luck, buddy.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My Road Trip/Quest, day 6: Adios, Modesto! on the road again...

My friend Glywn was kind enough to say that he enjoyed our quality time together. We met each day for a mealtime visit, to catch up on my exciting side trips, because of course, it is all about me. He followed my blog faithfully to find out what I was up to, and I want to thank him and the (maybe)five other people who have joined me on my quest via this blog. Aren't we the awesome road crew!?

Off to Oregon. No way I was gonna make it 12 hours to Portland, leaving from the car fixit joint at 1 PM. I had to trust that the car was put together right, too. Although I have Motor Motion's Two Year Guarantee in hand, I was going to spend much of that 2 years far afield from Modesto, starting today.

On the road again! I found myself whistling that song this morning while I packed... in my head it was not Willie's voice, but more like my friend Cowboy Mike Ley. The Camry runs better than ever. I stayed overnight in Grants Pass, at The Bestway Inn... I figured if it was the best way, it had to be right. Well, no bedbugs, at least. It was sufficient. I suppose The Sufficientway Inn would not be a suitable motel name.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Road Trip/Quest, day 5: Ode to Modesto, my temporary home, and Nobody's Got Modesto's Goat...

"In 1912, the downtown Modesto Arch, located at 9th and I streets, was built for a cost of $1,200. The illuminating arch holds 668 lights, stands 25 feet high at its center, and spans 75 feet across I Street. Details of a 1911 contest reveal that the slogan for the arch, "Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health," was selected by a committee of the Modesto Business Men's Association. They paid Sam Harbaugh $3 for his winning slogan."

One of the historic sites gave this straight-forward, no nonsense description of the birth of the Modesto Arch which still graces the I Street downtown Modesto entrance. But the site neglects to add the fact that this chosen slogan that paid out the big bucks to Sam Harbaugh is the second place winner. The first place slogan was:


When the arch was christened in 1912 with a bottle of canal water, nobody could disturb Modesto's calm self-assured sense of civic identity as a center of water, wealth, contentment and health. Nobody had their goat, which represents a level of confidence that could remain unflustered. (I had to Google the phrase to be sure of its true meaning!) From those odd but proud beginnings grew the Modesto of today... can you imagine arriving at the beginning of the 21st century with a civic landmark still standing tall, proclaiming a 19th century expression involving goat-snatching?

Gone are the two majestic flagpoles with the waving American flags. The neat rows of brick faced buildings are replaced by random, un-landscaped parking lots and scads of unmatched modern edifaces. The current close proximity to the monument about city pride of a McDonald's and a Taco Bell probably wasn't foreseen by the health touting Modesto founders. THAT might have got their goat, for sure...