Pico Adobe, Los Angeles, California

Inside the Pico Adobe

Inside Pico Adobe

One of the things that I love about Los Angeles, but also one of the things that makes its history so enigmatic, is the tendency to find very historic things next to very unglamorous things.  Earlier this week I got a chance to visit the Pico Adobe.  When it was built there was only one other second story house in existence in all of Los Angeles (according to the docent).  The core of the structure was built in 1834 and additional rooms were added on in following years.  Although it was blazing hot outside it was cool and comfortable inside, and I marveled at the usefulness of old timey construction methods.

The adobe is in the northernmost reaches of metro Los Angeles – and right next to a trailer park.  This juxtaposition of über historic California craftsmanship with a cluster of small thin walled dwellings is somehow appealing.  It’s this sort of tucked away quirkiness of Los Angeles history that often makes it difficult to parse, but also gives it its charm.

In the backyard of the Pico Adobe

In the backyard of the Pico Adobe

Trying something new by sticking to the old.

You can imbue all sorts of meaning into “Illuminated Past” as the title of a blog.

From time to time I’ve considered turning this into a more structured endeavor (see post here), but ultimately that starts to feel a little too much like work, and this is my playpen, not my paycheck. I threw a few categories up over the blog header so anyone wandering through and taking a gander can choose their poison (genealogists may be less interested in my rantings about TV and those who want to read self-absorbed posts about existence and identity might not have the faintest interest in my old dead family members – and then it’s all out there for those interested in reading general mental bric-a-brac).

This has pretty much been my lifelong writing/journaling strategy – write what I feel like when I feel like it.  I’ve hesitated to publicly claim my blog writing as I worry my slightly liberal leaning tendencies and/or rampant honesty might offend any potential future employers located in more conservative areas of the globe.

And as a human being my opinions are all subject to change over time. A post from 2010 might not accurately reflect my current 2014 attitudes.  You can learn and grow a lot in four years, but that old post will still be floating around the internet.  If someone lands on my 2010 post and reads it without noting the date they might judge my current self based on that.  I mean, it’s still me, but a younger less wise me (which is why my 10+ year old livejournal is all privacy blocked these days – I am no longer my 16 year old self, but it’s linked to my name and maybe someone would find my immature gushing over Legolas as a reason to not give me a job or be my adult friend?  I don’t know.  The world is full of judgy-mc-judgersons.).

On a personal level I’m proud to be myself at any age, but on a professional level I worry that written youthful folly might deter future potential job offers.  It’s silly really.  I’m a professional person at work and I don’t let any personal biases or opinions color the quality of what I do.  In this brave new internet era all I want is to continue to be myself in the online public in the same way I am myself in realtimes public, so I’m claiming Illuminated Past as my own.

It’s a space where I ask questions, where I muse about things, where I share stuff, and ultimately a place where I grow. (hearts and stars and rainbows sapfest time)  It’s all interests and all sides of me.  If you want to tag along put on your sweatpants and hop in – it’s like you’ve entered my living room and we’re gonna have a nice long chat over a cold beer.  Otherwise, ignore this and go find my LinkedIn profile or professional social media work and judge me as a workperson.  In this space, I’ve got my stretchpants on, Netflix is queued up, and I hear there’s a Dominos pizza on it’s way over.  Hope you like the Pacific Veggie.

Roadside: Thoughts, plus Blythe, California and Shields Date Garden, Indio, California

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I think the perfect roadside kitsch is a combination of authentically old remnants of past structures and cultures combined with an almost sideshow like willingness to exploit these remnants. Parking is always available and if you’re a city dweller there is something especially great about getting to talk to people who work and live in these areas.

I think part of why Wall Drug was fun to stop at but not as memorable was the lack of opportunity to really talk to anyone local. What made a small jewelry stand in Quartzsite, AZ so interesting and a stop at an old bar counter in Goodsprings, NV and Randsburg, CA so satisfying was the chance to talk to locals about where they come from and what they do.

On the Quartzsite trip me and my road trip buddies also stopped in Blythe, California at Courtesy Coffee Shop and at Shields Date Farm in Indio, California.  We didn’t spend too long at either place, but they were both worthwhile stops.

Courtesy was worth the stop for the ambiance.  We totally didn’t realize that there’s a nighttime mood lighting dinner menu side and a bright, cheery, family friendly diner on the other side of the building – we ended up eating diner breakfast in romantic mood lighting, whoops.  What rebels.

Shields blew away my conception of dates.  Thanks to a (generous, enthusiastic, date promoting) researcher at work I’d already had a chance to sample a couple different kinds of dates, but going to ground zero of datedom is an experience that further altered my feelings toward the fruit.  There are so many kinds of dates that I’m starting to believe there’s one for everyone (I liked the honey ones best, and the date bread was also pretty killer.).

Now, where to next?  I’ve got a full tank of gas and a case of the go-sies.

 

Roadside: The Tomb of Hi Jolly, Quartzsite, Arizona

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In the 19th century the U.S. Army decided to test out using camels in the deserts of the American southwest. If it worked in the deserts of the Middle East, why not in America? Well, the experiment didn’t quite play out the way the Army hoped and the U.S. Camel Corp shuttered. Lead camel driver Hadji Ali (who came to be known as Hi Jolly) was brought in to work with the camels while the project was running, but decided to stick around after the experiment tanked. He became a pretty beloved local and after his death a pyramid topped with a metal camel was erected in his honor in Quartzsite, AZ.

While driving between Los Angeles and Phoenix last week the Tomb of Hi Jolly was a must-visit. It’s located in a small cemetery off the 10. We hit the town just as the last sunlight was dipping over the horizon, so it took us awhile to figure out where the cemetery was located. If you get off the 10 and follow internet directions to go west, it’s likely you won’t see the sign pointing in the direction of the cemetery. As far as we could tell in the dark there is only a sign facing the road when you’re headed east down Main St. (just a tip if you venture out that way to pay your respects).

Flashlight in hand, we headed into the cemetery. I was a little bummed to not get to see much of the rest of the place, but there is a bit of a spooky bonus for wandering around a strange cemetery at dusk. The Tomb was pretty much as expected, but it was still satisfying to visit. Thanks Hadji Ali for your services – what a strange, strange life it must’ve been to be a Middle Easterner living out in this place in the 19th century.

As a bonus we stopped to pee at a gas station where one of my companions pointed out a little jewelry stand across Main St. It was the only store that looked open at that hour and we decided what the heck, let’s go check it out. My two friends picked up some jewelry souvenirs and a bonus story from the shopkeeper. He’d come out to Quartzsite decades ago, on his way to Oregon from Pennsylvania. A woman in a bar captured his interest and he stuck around, living a very different life than the one he probably would’ve had in Oregon, but no less worthwhile. Neat guy.

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Roadside: Charlie Brown Farms, Littlerock, California

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Charlie Brown Farms is pretty much a grocery store and a restaurant with ok food. I was pretty impressed they had a vegan chili (I guess it’s close enough to the Los Angeles health cult aura to merit throwing a few bones to the health conscious metropolitans passing through town.). I can’t judge a desert place on their vegan chili (I’ve had way better – thank you Phoenix Saloon in New Braunfels, TX for setting the veggie chili bar impossibly high), but my friend got the ribs and rated them only ok, so I’m gonna say food is not the reason to come here. They had a fun selection of honey, molasses, snacks, candies, and sodas, so I don’t regret the stop, but the charm is just not there. They had some small dinos hanging out by the parking lot, but nothing to write home about.

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Roadside: Randsburg General Store, Randsburg, California

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On a trip up to Red Rocks Canyon State Park (the California one), me and my hiking buddy stopped at Randsburg, CA. Randsburg is a bit more touristy than Goodsprings, NV, but it was still a heck of a lot more engaging than Calico. At the Randsburg General Store we got to sit at a 100+ year old counter in tiny little bar chairs constructed for the size of the average American circa 1900. The diner style food was only average but their lime phosphate was legit and it was fun talking to the cashier/server/waitress about her life out in the desert.

Roadside: Goodsprings, Nevada

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On the same Vegas trip that we visited Calico, we also stopped in Goodsprings, NV for lunch – now that was a cool town! People still live there and there is a great restaurant/bar with all the old timey saloon atmosphere you could hope for. The bartender was great to chat with and the food was pretty good. I had an Irish coffee because I wasn’t driving and I was still in Vegas weekend mode. It was more Irish than coffee, but I’m not complaining. Plus, if you’ve ever played Fallout: New Vegas, you might recognize Goodsprings as the town where your character first wakes up. The saloon and general store in the game were modeled on their real life counterparts, and it’s a lot of fun to geek out and pretend to be in a postapocalyptic wasteland.