SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 1/15-26/2016-
Friday, January 15
California and San Bernardino County at 10:45, temp 53, odometer 119420, speed limit still 70. Yellow field off to my right, probably a farm, it seems to be plowed, doesn't seem to be desert, too regular, no sagebrush on it, looks like more farmland to my left past the other lane, mountains to left and right and up ahead. 3 ponds or small lakes to my right, something white around them (rocks?); in the middle of two of them something metal and reflective: a platform with a tower up to some kind of shiny shack on top. Mohave National Preserve. Coming into mountains (such as they are) at 10:58, temp 50, elevation 4000 feet, a sagebrush covered hill, beyond it a craggy mountain with patchy snow. A lot of strange looking cactus, branching out like bushes with spines at the ends. Snow on slopes to my right and left, pretty close on the right, a mile or more away on the right. Death Valley at Baker, Shoshone, 11:11, temp 61, "All Nude Showgirls," "Alien Fresh Jerky," "Mad Greek Cafe.'" A big mountain rising up in front of me, others to my right a lot smaller, full of folds, temp up to 65, time 11:52, a mountain ahead of me rises up, slopes to a rounded peak then slopes back down. Mountins directly to my left, mountains to my right with a bit of a stretch of desert a couple of yards or more between me and the mountains, the road flat, going slightly down, scattered sagebrush, a lot of empty space between them, small with other orange-yellow growths. Blue sky with a lot of cirrus streaking, puffs of cumulus along the horizon from left to ahead. Dunn, Newberry Springs at 12:15, temp 64, blue sky, a string of cumulus off to my left across in front of me then over to my right. An agricultural stop at 12:24, temp 63.
1967: "I'm living the kind of life I dreamed about when I went to TC with George, a 'beat' or 'hip' existence."
The California State Line to Barstow
Off of I-15 on the road to Calico (3 miles) at 12:31, temp 65. To my left an orange-brown hill then a red rock hill with Calico in white letters near its top, more red rock and yellow rock a little rounded peak, sharp little grayish-brown peaks, sandy scrawny little sagebrush types. Calico Ghost Town at 12:41, 61 degrees. A lot of old wagons scattered throughout, some houses still falling down, what I thought was a church is a schoolhouse, a photo studio where they take pictures of people dressed in period costume, a guy in a cowboy outfit, dance hall costumes. Walked through old silver mine. My camera card is full and I can't erase photos so I can't take any more photos and I can't unload them to my computer. I can't find my other camera so I leave at 1:47, temp 66.
Back onto I-15 at 1:54, temp 64, still a blue sky day with lots of cirrus ahead, some fluffy cumulus to my left, a couple small cumulus to my right. Barstow at 1:58, temp 63. The Days Inn at 2:12, temp 62, odometer 119547. Small room. Had a couple of eggs, 2 strips of bacon, hash browns, coffee, and a strawberry crepe at an IHOP.
Saturday, January 16
2006: "Three women and a guy approached me. The guy said, 'I caught these back there. There's five more.'
and I said, 'What are you using for bait?' and the women laughed and the best-looking one said, 'You're good.'"
Barstow to Pasadena
Well, it's over. The campus that once was my entire universe is now unrecognizable, full of buildings I didn't know. The old student houses are there, unchanged from the outside. I had the fantasy of walking into the courtyard and having someone say, "Can I help you?" And I would say, "Only if you could turn the clock back 59 years." And then I would regale them with tales of the "good old days." But the interior is locked and you need a pass card. I look in and see the courtyard now with little tables where we just sat on the low wall in the center. The lounge, once with couches and chairs and magazines, now has pool tables and probably computer games. The long tables of the dining room has been replaced with islands of more of the small tables in the courtyard. Many of the students I saw were Oriental; I only knew two Orientals in 1956-57. Probably a lot of foreign students. The only foreign student I knew came from Alabama. And the undergraduates were all male; now there's a lot of women on campus. The wide steps leading off California Street have been replaced by two smaller ones separated by a plaza of ground ivy.
The central area of the campus with its "mall" is basically unchanged but I recognized none of the buildings other than the student houses. Most of them were new but I'm sure there were a few from the 50s left. I walked the path I used to take to go to class and could recognize none of the buildings. Finally, I just stood there in the courtyard of an unknown building and I just wanted to cry so badly, wanting to go back and see what I saw then. It hurts. It hurts a lot. I was surprised. But there's nothing here for me any more.
There was nothing I recognized on Colorado Boulevard either, business after unknown business. Bob's Big Boy and the Orange Julius gone long ago.
Up at about 7:30 for cereal, a minwaffle, coffee, toast, orange juice. Called Burrie at 9 and left the motel 10:15, temp 40, odometer 119549, back to I-15 on a hazy day with the sun shining through. Past Barstow there was a railroad yard to my right down below me, jagged peaks up ahead. Sand and sagebrush, ridge mountains off to my left, one sharp peak some distance away ahead, low hills some distance off to my right, cirrus and blue, overcast, the sun shining through. Mountains up ahead have snow in them, to my right a low sandy hill with quite a few antennas on it, to my left quite a lot of mountains that go off into distance, snow on some of them.
I got off at Fair Valley Road in Lucerne Valley at 10:52 to see if Best Buy could do anything for my camera problem. They were unable to do anything, which was no great surprise.
Those snow-covered mountains ahead now slightly off to my right, a lot closer with a lot of patches and streaks of snow, clouds hanging over them, onelike a manta ray, another like a ghost, like Munch's "The Scream." Cajon Summit, 4260 feet, a bit of mist down below me, those mountains now rearing up above me, snow-covered peaks very clear, clouds hanging above them, one almost obscuring the highest peak, then down to the brown desert floor.
Coming into San Fernando Valley, low hills to my right covered with sagebrush, big white-covered mountains beyond them, ahead of me are mountains in mist, one like a pyramid, a lot of mist between us, maybe 5 ranges of mountains. Damn. So much beauty and unable to record it, not that you could record it with a camera anyway. So much beauty, and so much traffic. I can get no more than quick glimpses of the beauty off to my right, the roads way down there, thinking that I'm on an interstate when I should be down there on that road but this is the only way I know to go. On the East Coast I could take side roads because I knew the area fairly well. Here I have no idea where those roads go. But I want to be on them.
Oh, my God, the vistas! That's the only thing I can think of to say, range and ridges between me and those white capped mountains, it's impossible to describe.
Traffic is really backed up going the other way, Kleghorn Avenue, 60 degrees, 12:04. Off at California 210 at about 11:40. Hazy, overcast, no sun in my eyes. I stop at a diner for an English muffin and coffee and for directions to Pasadena. Then it's back on 210, Azusa City Limits at 12:48, temp 46, sun is bright, plenty of clouds. Off to my right mountains shrouded in cloud or smog, slopes crisscrossed with roads, palm trees, houses, the whole magical.
Knights Inn on Colorado Boulevard at 2:06, temp 66, odometer 119661. I tried to walk to Caltech then gave up, walked back, and drove there, parking on a side street. In the evening, I had a cobb salad and coffee at Denny's.
Sunday, January 17
1998: "A deer came bounding toward me, stopped when it saw me, moved gingerly toward me as I stopped still then finally fled."
This was a very frustrating day. I got up at 8:40 on a blue sky day with cirrus, left the motel, light brown and dark brown mountains ahead of me as I got on I-210 at 9:48 to California 134, sagebrush covered hills with nothing else on them even here in the LA area, to Route 2, the Glendale Freeway. I was looking for the exit for Route 110 when the Freeway ended at Glendale Road.
I stopped at Astro's Diner (apparently owned by a stocky Oriental man in a suit) for 3 very large peach crepes and coffee for about the same price that 3 small crepes and coffee would have cost me at the IHOP. Got directions to Sunset Boulevard and then had to stop at a gas station to get more directions, which took me down Hyperion to Sunset.
Burrie Jenkins had told me that there are a lot of inexpensive hotels on Sunset Boulevard. I checked them out on the internet--they weren't inexpensive but not too bad. I got to Sunset Boulevard at 11:02 and checked out quite a few of them and none of them had any rooms at all and the few where I checked the rate were $10-$20 above those on the internet. I finally got $20 worth of $2.794 gas (the cheapest I've seen in the area so far) at an Arco (for cash).
Not wanting to get lost, I went back the way I had come, looking for motels on Hyperion and Glendale Road and not finding any. But I couldn't find the entrance to Route 2 so, after checking the map, I took I-5 to 134, passing the exit for Griffith Park.
So I finally wound up back in Pasadena, stopping at a Travelodge at 1:52, temp 71, odometer 119729, and having a roast beef dinner at Denny's. Los Angeles is ruining my budget.
Monday, January 18
1972: "I want the days to go as slowly as they did when I was 10."
Pasadena to Los Angeles
Up at 7:40 on a gray overcast day. 10:16, temp 56, overcast, odometer 119733. I tried to find the big camera store I saw on Colorado coming in a couple of days ago, couldn't find it, so it was back to I-210, California 134, and Route 2 to Astro's Diner at 10:42, temp 59, for a Spanish omelet, toast, cottage cheese, coffee, water. 11:32. I checked into the Hollywood Inn Express on Alvarado at 11:50, temp 63, odometer 119751. I had left my red travel bag in Pasadena. Checked out Tribal Cafe, a good place for breakfast, back to Pasadena again to pick up my gag then back to the Hollywood Inn Express. It's a nice large room, fridge, no microwave (which I don't use anyway), all in all not bad.
In the evening, I went to the Tribal Cafe open mike, not far from here, having a breakfast sandwich and coffee there. It turned out everyone else there was a comedian, almost all of them black or ethnic. I did "Spam Chowder."
Tuesday, January 19
1962: I left NYU.
Up at 8:30, partly blue, partly cloudy, a slight breeze and it feels good. Waffle, corn flakes, coffee, orange mango passion juice at the motel.
I drove to Griffith Park, taking a while to find the Griffith Observatory, which I got to at 10:29, temp 61, the Hollywood hills sign not too far away (but too far away to walk to). The observatory is a beautiful building, looking vaguely near Eastern with its 3 domes, one of which is the planetarium. There is a bust of James Dean on the outside walkway.
Since the building didn't open until noon, I walked around it then up one of the many hiking paths in Griffith Park, only about 15 minutes or so and back. Into the observatory, where there are all kinds of basic astronomical displays, including a Foucault pendulum, a Tesla coil, cloud and spark chambers, two large rotating globes of the moon and the earth, photos from Mars which you can look at stereoptically, the Zeiss planetarium projector that was used from 1964 to 2002, lots of photos of the universe and the solar system. The "Wormhole Stairway" is just another stairway.
You could go up to the roof and look at the Zeiss 12-inch refractor, which is used for public viewing at night (apparently no more research is done here). I finally left at 12:52, temp 67.
In the evening I went to the Pig and Whistle on Hollywood Boulevard. Knowing I was in the area, I saw a parking place and took it. Looked up and the Pig and Whistle was across the street. Next to my car was Fred Allen's star (I had just looked up Senator Claghorn on the internet an hour or so earlier!). It turned out to be $5 to play or listen and 2 songs. Since I was already there, I ponied up.
Tara was first, a good-looking black-haired woman in her late 20s or early 30s. Then Ken, an older person, performed. Not very good. Sammy, a young lady from Austin, was third. Both she and Tara were okay guitar players and good singers but their songs didn't seem to have much structure. Eric preceded me, again very mannered and structureless. I followed with "New Kid in Town" and "Four O'Clock on the Highway" and later got a thumbs up from one guy. Another young lady performed next, no better than the first two women as far as guitar and voice were concerned but better structured songs. Then a guy got up who was just plain awful--poor guitar, bad voice, stupid songs. He was followed by Eric's friend, who wore a hat like Tom Waits, a very good guitar player, very good voice that he used well, projecting emotion not vocal tricks but only did one song. Greg, very tall, was good but projected (at least to me) that he thought he was too good for this scene. Then Melrose Larry Green, an older guy from New Yawk, talked for a while very entertainingly, playing some very good piano briefly. I left while a young lady in a short tight dress was singing. She had come in with her lesbian friends.
Back at the motel, I walked down the block to a donut shop and got a bagel with cream cheese.
Wednesday, January 20
1973: "A new depression is creeping towards me over the horizon. That old devil loneliness is gnawing at my bones again."
Up at 8:10. A bright gray day. A lot of people in the breakfast room this morning. I had originally planned to hit the Wednesday night open mike at the Pig and Whistle so I signed up for two more nights yesterday. But I don't want to pay 5 bucks to do two songs so I'm stuck here when there are a couple of open nights in Canoga Park. So I walked around some, bought candy, nuts, and trail mix at the 99 cent store. Watched a lot of TV. I'm bored. Los Angeles is a big bummer.
Thursday, January 21
1974: "I walk the streets in my fatigue cap, rimless glasses, and fatigue jacket, looking like a refugee from a Grade B flic about the revolution."
Los Angeles to Ventura
Up at 7:50, another bright hazy day here in southern California. I left the Hollywood Inn Motel at 10:12, temp 70, odometer 119820. Route 101, the Ventura Freeway, at 10:16, slightly less than half a tank of gas, past the exits to Little Bangladesh and Little Armenia. The Armenians have their own TV channel here, as well as 3 or 4 Oriental channels, and quite a few Spanish channels of course.
A little bit of a mess before Vermont Avenue but then clear sailing though a lot of traffic the whole way. It looked and sounded like a guy scrapped the Jersey barrier but didn't lose control. I passed Van Nuys Boulevard and got off at Topanga Canyon Boulevard but turned around when I realized that there was a whole lot of city to go through before I reached the canyon. Into scrub brush country, a lot like Topanga Canyon except it's a four-lane freeway. Passed by Malibu Canyon and Liberty Canyon. An almost perfectly round hill at the Malibu Canyon exit with two naked trees on it. Down into Camarillo, past some hills sculptured into steps by man, a beautiful view across the houses to mountains on the other side and maybe the ocean off to my left. Then again, maybe not. "Fencing and Toilets." Oxnard at 11:21, temp 75. A big slowdown half a mile from my exit due to a smashed-up pickup truck. The sky is blue with a lot of cirrus clouds.
I checked into the Vagabond Inn in Ventura at 11:40, temp 77, odometer 119889. You can see the ocean from here. Walked to the Sandbox Coffee House for coffee and a bagel with cream cheese, which was a bit of a hike. So I guess I'll drive there tonight for the open mike.
I walked a block down to the ocean. Not really a beach, a lot of rocks, a couple of guys trying to surf without much success, doesn't seem to be swimming territory, a lot of California rock squirrels with speckled backs hopefully looking up at me on the walkway several feet above them, a couple of very large gulls, a sandpiper flying over the waves, the pier is closed off, what looks like an island out there in the distance, Anacapa or Santa Cruz Island.
And I am happy, away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, temp in the high 70s, a gentle cool breeze blowing. There are three open mikes here tonight, two last night, and that apparently is that.
I have to admit that I wondered whether it was a smart idea to leave LA for Ventura. The emcee of the open mike at the Sandbox played the blues on a resonator for 10-15 minutes, sang a little but not much, and I knew I was in trouble. He started the open mike exactly on time (6:00) and the first two performers were very good. Gregg, who preceded me, looked like a 40-year-old Paul Kantner, played excellent guitar, had a very good voice and knew how to use it. I did my standard 3, "New Kid in Town," "Four O'Clock on the Highway," and "Allnight Diner." I only screwed up during "Four O'Clock" and, as I tried to find the chord, Greg mouthed "E." I moved on to the next verse and when I got to the same point, I played the A7 I had forgotten and Greg nodded his head and smiled. And so it went. Practically every one of 9 people who played was better than any of the people who played at the Pig and Whistle in Hollywood 2 nights ago. But it didn't end there. Allan Munson, a guy with a good head of white hair, said he had grown up in Connecticut although he had lived in California for 30 years. Afterwards I asked him where in Connecticut and he said, "North Haven." The town I grew up in! He was from the class of 64 and mine was class of 56. We had no acquaintances in common but we could talk about some of the places in town. It was only later than I realized my brother was the class of 62, although he didn't recognize my last name.
Friday, January 22
1977: "And where is the Fox of Life now? I see, feel, taste, smell, hear with renewed senses, alive because I don't have time to be alive."
Up at 8:10, continental breakfast of coffee, English muffin, Danish, some cereal bars, no juice or waffle or cereal. $30 (cash) worth of $2.699 gas at a 76. Western seagulls and ravens in a parking lot outside a Goodwill, where I got a couple of books. Shaving stuff at Big Lots, juice at a Family Dollar.
An hour's drive to get to Topanga Canyon and an hour drive back, and I'm not up to it. Yesterday I apparently turned the wrong way when I got off at Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Fifties or sixties Cadillac out on the street in front of the motel.
Walking the streets of Ventura. Founded in 1782. A couple of sushi places, a Thai restaurant, an Indian buffet, a number of taco places, a lot of places here on Main Street. A couple of legitimate massage places, including the Kali Institute for Massage and Somatic Therapies.
Nearly five o'clock, out on the beach, a little bit chilly, no rock squirrels, surfers coming in and calling it a day. On the other side of the pier, south, there were some pretty big breakers and there was still one guy out there and he went under pretty quickly and I got exhausted just watching him swim to the shore.
In the evening, I went to a place on Main Street where I had a pretty good portobello sandwich. The bars on Main Street in Ventura were doing a pretty good business on Friday night.
Saturday, January 23
2005: "The blizzard of 05 is looking like it will break all records--nearly 3 feet of snow. I took a walk around the block. It's kind of fun out there."
Didn't get up till nearly 9. English muffin, Danish, coffee at the motel.
Walked down to the beach at 10:30. It was still chilly and there were no ground squirrels in sight, a few surfers just showing up. Then I drove to a grocery store for some flavored water. Back to the beach at 11:30. The ground squirrels were out and there were a dozen or more surfers out there, one getting a pretty good ride, the surf better than Thursday but not as good as yesterday. One of the surfers looked like he was in his 50s, maybe his 60s, gray beard, gray hair, close-cropped, a physique to kill for.
had stayed in Ventura to watch the Patriots in their playoff game, only to find this is Saturday, not Sunday. Ah, well, I'm in no hurry to get anywhere.
I went for a walk. A lot of houses on the hillsides where I should hiking instead of along the street. The hillsides are brown and green with sagebrush. One has a large rectangular building flat-roofed with some very large antennas on it. A lot of motels on Thompson Street, the Topper Motel, the Rodeway, White Caps Motel, the Crystal Lodge Motel. Gourley Insurance. Bought some oatmeal creams at a 99 Cent Store.
Down Sanjon Road to throw some pieces of oatmeal creams to the ground squirrels. Middle-aged skate boarder definitely on the chunky side, not fat but very stocky. Some fluffy clouds which haven't moved very much in the past hour peeking over the hills to the east. Came back to the motel to find that someone had driven into the room next to mine, doing no damage to my room and somehow missing my car, which was parked next to him. Apparently he thought he was in reverse then panicked.
Went to the Busy Bee Diner for a cabbage roll dinner (mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, watermelon slice, iced tea). Very retro--red and white tile lining on the walls, waitress in red and white uniform with that short 50s drive-in waitress skirt, 3 pictures of James Dean. "Drink Coffee--Do Stupid Things Faster With More Energy." "Practice Safe Lunch--Use Condiments." Bars on Main Street Ventura open to the street, movie theatre decked out in neon, purple, light blue, green, red.
Sunday, January 24
1972: "My dream is right now. I'm living the moment, the day, it has come up behind me, and lo! I am what I always wanted to be."
Up at 8:40, a bit chilly, for the standard continental breakfast at the Vagabond Inn--coffee, English muffin, fruit bar, cheese Danish. A blue sky day, not a cloud in the sky. A lot warmer at 10:45.
At the boardwalk, none of the surfers I can see are young, all at least in their 30s, a lot in 40s or even 50s, still with great physiques although I did see one stocky one and one with a big belly in his tight wetsuit. The breakers were better than ever, though not monsters, thanks to the full moon last night, coming almost all the way to the sea wall. But it still seems like an awful lot of work for a short ride.
The ground squirrels were also out in full force and I fed them some pieces of oatmeal creams, trying to give them some tooth decay.
I watched the Patriots lose their playoff game then took another walk on the boardwalk, the surf now down, surfers gone, and only 2 ground squirrels. Having finally found my other camera, I took a few pictures, including one of the Mary Mitchell House, circa 1890, with Sweet D over one the doorways, next to 682 which is next to 692 so I guess it's 672 Thompson Road.
Went to the Hong Kong Inn for pork with mushrooms, where they will have jazz later tonight.
Monday, January 25
"When our memories outweigh our dreams, we have grown old." --Bill Clinton
Ventura to Calabasas and Topanga Canyon
Up at 8:35, a clear blue sky day, coffee, English muffin, Danish, fruit bar at the motel. Left at 9:46, odometer 119917, temp 65.
Mr. Gourley is a pretty good-looking dude, maybe in his late 30s or early 40s, family from Salinas and Chicago, did not know Max.
10:16, $200 from Citibank. 101 south. Back up into the mountains after Camarillo. Calabasas at 10:55. Into the Good Nite Inn at 11:16, odometer 119960.
To Malibu State Park at 11:39. Up the path to Inspiration Point, pretty steady uphill, some picturesque trees, a blue bird, couple of birds robin-shaped just silhouettes, a small lizard, another bird long-tailed. Some impressive rock formations. A Hindu temple down below. A lot of ducks out in a pond, some of them might have been wood ducks. What sounded like some kind of hawk, redwings. Back to the car at 1:17.
Paramount Ranch and Western Town at 1:37. Bwana Devil, an early 3-D movie was filmed here as well as many others. Back to the car at 1:53. Not much to it but I took a lot of pictures.
Mulholland Drive to Topanga Canyon at 2:47. Quite a view down there if I could stop and look, twisting 180-degree turn with Canoga Park underneath us. Top of Topanga overlook at 2:53. Onward pat Topanga Creek Outpost, The Great Wall of Topanga, Cheney Drive, Topanga Fish Market Restaurant. It is a fun road in a sports car, even in a sporty car but, with the sun in my eyes, it's hard to see very much. Rock cliffs to my left pretty impressive. A gingerbread style house/business encrusted with all kinds of stuff I couldn't see, Birds Nest Salon, Camp Wildwood Country Natural Foods Vitamins other stuff, Grand View Drive, Jalon Jalon Imports, a canyon off to my left. Lower Topanga Canyon south of the town of Topanga itself is pretty damn spectacular. Yeah!
Down to the ocean at 3:23. Malibu City Limits. Up Malibu Canyon Road at 3:41. Back to the motel at 4:00. A couple of tacos from Jack in the Box.