Month: June 2013

SoCal Driving

Just returned from a few days in Southern California with my daughter, and on this trip in particular, I was surprised to find myself missing a few things about driving at home (a small, rural, Northern CA town):

1. The ability to pull over or turn around at will. When you’re driving in 3-lane traffic past endless strip malls and shopping centers, pulling over to the side of the road is NOT an option. Sorry, lady, pull into the nearest parking lot, make sure you get the hell out of everyone else’s way, and THEN you might be able to idle and do whatever it was that you couldn’t do while driving. And a u-turn? You might need a writ of Congress for that. You better be watching for that place you  wanted to pull into, because a good 5 minutes will pass if you have to turn around and go back to it.

2. Easy-to-negotiate gas stations. We have two gas stations in town, and if one is crowded, you go to the other. Even in Sacramento, it isn’t unusual to be able to just pull into an empty pump and get gas. For whatever reason, getting gas was not an easy task last week. Except for the closed, empty, 24-hour pumps we pulled into at 2 a.m. That one was a breeze.

3. PARKING. Oh, God, parking. Plotting your whole plan based on where you are going to park. Ugh. Not a big Northern CA problem, even in San Francisco, where there never seems to be a shortage of parking structures ready to take your money.

4. TRAFFIC. Speaking of plotting. Plotting your whole day’s driving to avoid heavy traffic. So not possible when you need to take Highway 5 back and forth from Orange County to LA. Ugh.

I have never minded driving in LA — been doing it since I was 20 — but I found myself feeling very burdened by the tasks of getting to and fro on this trip. I don’t usually suffer that, but this trip I longed for the simplicity of driving at home. I longed for the simple u-turn. Somewhere easy to ditch the car. Wishing we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted instead of having to leave THEN because that’s when the traffic would be at its lightest. All the iPads and smartphones in the world can’t stop the 5 (and the 405 and the 605) from being jammed up from 2 p.m. to well past dark.

It made me think, “Wow, am I really a country girl all along? Do I really prefer my little rural town where I feel at home but also feel so detached from the rest of the world?”

And then I realized, NO. I just prefer a city where there is excellent public transit, like New York or Paris or Rome, where you don’t need a car. You don’t spend 30 minutes driving from one Target to another 5 miles away to try to find the right size of black shoes for your daughter. You don’t have to leave at 1 p.m. to drive 30 miles to get from your home base to the concert you’re going to later that evening. Where it’s all within a few Metro stops. Or maybe more than a few stops. But it’s all there.

I love living in my little town. I love driving in rural Northern CA. But there’s something very soothing and inviting about city transit, where it’s all taken care of for you, just buy a ticket and get on, and get off where you need to, anytime, day or night. Whatever you need.

I had a ball last week, even with all the driving and parking and crazy turns. But what I wouldn’t give for about 72 percent of all the other cars to have been removed from the equation.

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Picture Picture

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a quest for a big, gaudy frame to house some art in a particular spot here at home. Actually, to go outside by our pool. We have an ugly window in the side of our garage, which faces the pool — a perfect spot for some outdoor art with a frame to rival Versailles.

And where do we find the best gaudy frames (that we can afford)? Thrift shops, of course! Off I went in search of something I would never be caught dead REALLY looking for, but that would be perfect for the spot.

And in my own favorite local thrift shop, on my first try, I found it. The gaudy frame of my dreams. It was HUGE. It was faux gold. And in it was the heaviest mirror known to man. Good God, how did this mirror even stay on a wall? And the frame, which looks like wood, is actually plastic, which just adds to its complete and total cartoonishness. Seriously, like a movie prop. Perfect.

I bought The Gaudiness and took it home. It was the perfect size for the spot. I took out the mirror and put the frame around the painting I had created for this project, an abstract of various geometric shapes.

And it hit me.

My love of abstract art started with Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood.

Picture Picture.

For those who didn’t grow up watching Mister Rodgers, “Picture Picture” was a large picture frame on the wall inside his house that always displayed some sort of colorful artwork, usually abstract, when it wasn’t morphing into a video screen at Mister Rodgers’ command. When asked, Picture Picture showed interesting short films, usually how something is made, like the crayon-making short from the Crayola factory (everyone’s favorite, right?). The films never had dialogue or voice-over, but a jazz soundtrack (usually jazz pianist Johnny Costa) played throughout, which I also realize is probably the genesis of my love of jazz. But that’s another story.

Picture Picture with Mr Rodgers

As a child, I always wanted a Picture Picture on our wall, because I thought the dissolve from artwork to a moving film was just magical. And now I have software on my laptop to do exactly that, in a heartbeat. I never would have dreamed 40-something years ago, watching Mister Rodgers, that I would be able to make footage do that while sitting at my dining room table. Oh, but I can.

I also liked the fact that Picture Picture functioned while built into the wall, a far cry from our huge console TV of the 1970s that held a plant, a clock and our fishbowl, as well as TV Guide every week.

So, the huge frame isn’t going outside, for the elements to destroy it. It’s going somewhere in this house, with abstract art in it. Picture Picture style.

And the outdoor art project? A new plan is in the works, no frames required!

Just back from the past

Wow….you never know what you’ll find when you open boxes in your basement. Oy.

My mother was a saver. She saved big stuff, like all our projects. But she also saved crazy stuff, like papers from our school telling when the next parent-faculty club meeting was. She saved, well, everything. So, when we moved to this house, I actually threw away a lot of the parent-faculty club meeting notices and the like, and saved the good stuff. Mind you, it’s in dozens of different boxes in our basement, for various reasons, but it’s here.

So, today, when I went looking for something entirely different, I found two folders of “News” from second grade. They were four-line reports of what was going on that day, in January and February 1972. Mundane, trivial stuff. But the names included were the treasures….one of them a friend I haven’t seen in years. Another whose children ended in the same school classes as mine. Another one currently our neighbor who was our school librarian in 1972. I shot some photos of the pages and posted them on Facebook, tagging those I could. Comments abounded quickly. Everyone enjoys a trip backward every once in a while.

In the big world, it’s these little things, these little trips to the past, that stand out at the end of a day. I don’t advise anyone spend too terribly long going back….it can be so painful. But today’s short trip was fun, and fun to share it with others.