I watched the live stream on the NASA website until the actual launch at 4:05 a.m. and then rushed out to my balcony armed with my old camera and looked West. The Pacific ocean is about 65 miles west of Pasadena and the flight path was supposed to be along the coast. Less than a minute later a red dot rose up in the distance. And less than thirty seconds after that it disappeared from my sight behind a towering eucalyptus tree on its way to Mars.
After an hour and a half ride across L.A. on the Metro I disembarked at the end of the Expo Line in Santa Monica, fully expecting the Third Street Promenade to be decked out with holiday decorations. It was — although they were non-traditional. Santa Monica Place, the shopping mall at the end of the Promenade, clung to the red/green color scheme commonly used for Christmas decorations.
So I set out, up the Promenade to see if a good old-fashioned Santa made an appearance anywhere along the way. Here are some of the things I saw.
When the weather forecast indicated that it was going to be over 100F this weekend, I escaped to Long Beach where it was supposed to only reach a high of 86F.
My goal was to take some pictures of all the water sports and activities on Alamitos Bay where the water is usually flat–no waves to speak of. Well, either the weatherman lied or lost his skill at forecasting. In a sudden spike, the temperature in soared to over 100F by 11 a.m. so I took my camera and left. Happily I’d already taken a lot of shots of all the water-related activities around Naples Island, a man-made island in the middle of the Alamitos Bay.
I am in the process of writing a novel set primarily in Toluca Lake, a neighborhood here in Los Angeles, and along the Los Angeles River. I’m working on it five days a week, but I want to keep up this blog, too, so it will be mostly photos today.
I didn’t ride in this CicLAvia, but took the Expo Metro Line out to Culver City, one of the hubs for the event. The next CicLAvia will be in downtown L.A. again on October 18th.
(My novel, untitled as yet, will be published this Fall.)
So here is what I saw at CicLAvia Culver City-to-Venice last Sunday, August 9th.
I fell into a very surprising conversation with a young-ish woman in the bookstore of the Santa Barbara Mission, as I was photographing some of the Mission’s historical photographs. She said she thought that the native peoples ‘volunteered’ to work for the Franciscan friars at the various Missions around California.
She was absolutely shocked when I told her that the Chumash people had been enslaved and forced to build the Mission. And build the water system from the hills to the Mission. And tend the orchards and herds. All of it involuntary — under the watchful eyes and guns of the Mexican militia. (At the time the Missions were built, California belonged to Spain, then Mexico.)
Prior to the advent of the Europeans via Mexico the Chumash people had numbered in the tens of thousands and had occupied about 7000 square miles of land extending from Paso Robles to Malibu. It was a very good life for them: good climate. Plenty of food. Not a lot of enemies. Today the Chumash Santa Inez tribe survivors own a 127 acre reservation with a casino on it north of Santa Barbara. 249 people live on the reservation; others live nearby. The Chumash were not the only people to suffer this enslavement. I have written elsewhere about the San Gabriel Mission Church, museum and gardens built by the Tongva people.
The Friars were not the only ones who treated the natives badly. In the book ‘Two Years Before the Mast‘, Bostonian Richard Henry Dana describes the Californios–as the Mexican landowners in California were called at that point–as only interested in riding horses, wearing beautiful clothes and going to parties. All the work on their massive cattle ranches was done by native peoples. The cattle were grown for their hides, which were sent back to New England on ships like the one Dana worked on. The hides were made into shoes.
I hadn’t intended to write about all this. My plan, after vewing the orchid show, had been to photograph some of the restoration work going on at Santa Barbara’s historic sites. The residence of the Guerra family, major Californio landowners in the area, has been privately restored and is now a commercial space. The old Presidio, the headquarters for the militia and other government offices, is also being restored. As beautiful as these building are, it is a good idea to keep in mind the conditions of the workers who actually created them–not just the people who owned them.
Over the years I’ve been to flower shows occasionally and have always found them to be like Victorian Curiousity Cabinets–full of both amazing beauty and strangeness. The Santa Barbara International Orchid Show last weekend definitely fit that description.
One of the first oddities: ‘Why is it called ‘International’ when it appeared that all the exhibitors were from southern California? The only international aspect I noted were the 5 tour bus loads of people (mostly overweight ladies speaking some sort of eastern European language) who arrived at the same time I did. I had hoped to see what growers were doing in places like Hawaii or South America or London, but none were there. (If you are interested in what the Europeans are doing with orchids, go here. The Royal Holticultural Society’s (RHS) Orchid Show is on April 9 – 12th in London.)
Next, I always wonder why grower/breeders seem to aim to create flowers that distort the natural beauty of the plants in endless search for novelty. This love of the unnatural took several forms.
There were orchids that appeared at first glance to be daffodils; others that looked vaguely like foxgloves and others, like yellow and red wistaria–which, of course, are wistaria colors that don’t exist.
Then there are the displays, which usually are slightly hokey and orchids, with their traditional association with glamour, really brought out strangeness.
I cannot even guess as to why slightly battered Barbie and Ken dolls were propped up on a purple table in one display.
For the best–most trend-setting–displays in the garden world, go to the RHS Chelsea Garden Show on May 19-23, 2015.
I did find something that brought back lovely memories: displays of orchid corsages. I can remember wearing orchid corsages pinned to the formal gowns I wore to dances as a teenager. The second prize winner embodied much of the elegance from that era: long white gloves with orchids attached to them. These orchids were exotically brown and yellow; the orchids of my teenage years back in the late 1950s were either white or magenta pink.
If you are traveling to Southern California and would like to visit some of the orchid growers near Los Angeles, take a trip on the Orchid Trail of growers.
So here are some of the people and flowers I saw at the show:
Most of the kites at the Redondo Beach Kite Festival were small ones. It was obvious that Dad had gone to the local kite store and bought a kite for the kids–although Dad was most often the person on the beach actually flying the kite.
There were, however, a few larger ones being flown in the strong, stiff wind by young men. Among the bigger kites was a large red-white-and-blue one which, appropriately, was being flown in Veterans Park adjacent to the beach.
Next weekend, March 14 and 15th, there is a kite festival in San Diego. I imagine there will be many of the spectacular large kites at that event. I will not be there. I’m going to the Orchid Show in Santa Barbara.