Thursday, November 20, 2014

Photo Essay: Wildflowering at Poppy Peak

It may not be wildflower season for another couple of months, but it's never to early to plan ahead.

While the rest of the country is being buried in snow and bundling up, brining their Thanksgiving turkeys and planning their Christmas travels, I spent my Sunday tilling the land and seeding wildflowers on Poppy Peak in Highland Park, Northeast LA.

This spring was WildfloweringLA's inaugural year of bringing some color and life to a variety of lawns, gardens, fields, and abandoned lots around LA. Fifty sites were sown in Fall 2013 throughout LA County to bloom in Spring 2014.

Somehow, I managed to avoid seeing all 50 sites earlier this year, so I jumped at the chance to throw some seeds on a hill this year to see them bloom next spring.

Poppy Peak not only refers to the hill itself – named by Spanish settlers because it used to be covered in California poppies – but also the historic district to the north of it, designated in 2009, technically on the southwest corner of Pasadena, but bordering Highland Park and Eagle Rock.

It is at the top of Poppy Peak Drive off of Figueroa, but more easily accessible at the top of Annan Way.

The hill is brown with dead grass and twigs, various invasive species, and the corpses of last spring's wildflowers.

We had to weed all that out, and try to get our garden circles down to just...dirt.

Thankfully our wildflowering was limited to just those circles, and not the entire hill...

...which is privately owned, rises steeply, and stretches pretty far.

After tilling the soil, raking, and creating some burms for water collection...

...we watered the circles...

...sprinkled them with seeds of poppies, lupine and other wildflowers...

...and watered them again.

Although the pre-planting condition of the hill looked pretty dead, the life it has sustained was clear given all of the gopher holes, the green grass that peeked out when the dead ground cover was removed...

...and the sunflowers that were thriving at the top of the peak, near the power lines.

It was only a couple of hours until the sun started going down...

...but we had just enough time – and seeds – to finish before dark.

For now, it's still dirt, in a circle of rocks. I can't wait to see what it looks like when it sprouts in the spring.

In the meantime, it's an interesting lesson: when life won't give you flowers on a big empty hill, you can still plant them. If there's no rain, you can still water them.

If you don't have a garden of your own, and there's no water left in the hose, you can toss a seed bomb anywhere you choose, and grow a garden guerilla-style, letting it do what it may.

In a time of record-breaking drought and crippling economic recession such as now, though, it makes you wonder: what happens when there's no water and no seeds? What is life like with no flowers at all?

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Poppies Peaking in Antelope Valley
Where Does My Garden Grow?
Walk Softly and Carry a Plastic Scraper
A Day in the Life

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Photo Essay: Water Park, Thrice Abandoned (Circa 2009)

I keep ending up in Barstow. It's not my favorite city, but I keep ending up there.

And every time I do, I can't help but think about the abandoned amusement park just east of Barstow along the 15 freeway in Newberry Springs, on the way to Vegas.

There were such hopes for it to be a desert oasis. But after three tries, it appears to be finally abandoned...for good.

Back in 2009, I first noticed the Rock-a-Hoola Water Park (also known as Discovery Waterpark and Lake Dolores) on my way into Barstow for the first time.

Heading west from Zzyzx and the Mojave National Preserve, I spotted a red and white silo painted with the Cola-Cola logo, and thought, "What is that?! That is something."

But it was the end of the day and I was losing light, and I was anxious to get to my hotel and have dinner in Barstow after a long day of desert exploration, so I got up early and returned the next day.

It was early in my days of urban exploration, and I was easily spooked (as I sometimes still am)...

...but I was alone at the abandoned water park.

It was a curious thing, like being inside three amusement parks all in one.

You could see remnants and relics from all of its past iterations.

Much of its current theme, at the time, was around Route 66 and 1950s car culture...

...with a classic (yet somehow modern) gas station entrance...

...and lots of billboards of classic cars.

Back then, many of the structures were still there...

...though standing mostly empty...

...with some trash and a few leftover prizes stacked in the corner...

...but much of these buildings are gone today.

It was easy to imagine screaming kids and worn-out families wreaking havoc on the place...

...but honestly, it was never that popular...

...despite its key location on the way to and from Vegas.

Nobody really wanted to get off the 15 that badly to go there...

...and there weren't that many locals to sustain the business.

Sure, skaters took up occupancy of the pools and the ramps...

...given the empty surface area available for tricks...

...but mostly, it was a whole lot of nothing.

Closed for good in 2004, since then it has been heavily vandalized...

...and scavenged.

Most of the slides were removed because of an accident involving an off-duty worker...

...who became paraplegic after using one of the slides and plunging into a pool that wasn't filled with enough water.

In the desert where water is scarce...

...Lake Dolores was one of the few sources of natural water...

...having been built on top of a natural aquifer...

...and also artificial water, featuring a man-made lake.

But now everything at Lake Dolores is dried up.

You can still see the remnants of something along the north side of the 1-15 these days, but there isn't much left, the rides and platforms having been dismantled, the lamp posts stolen. The location is great, but it's doubtful whether anything new will ever be built there again – and if it does, if it will survive.

Then again, there are a lot of empty desert areas in Southern California that have been filled, developed and populated over the last few years. Never say never.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: The Living Ghost of Yermo

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Marrying Kind

So many of my past relationships didn't work out because the guy didn't want to be a boyfriend.

But at some point, he changed his mind.

If you were to go through the Facebook profiles of the guys I've hooked up with over the years, you'd see that a lot of them eventually did become boyfriends – and more than that, they got married and had kids.

Not to me, and not with me, of course.

But most of those guys don't matter, really. The only guys that matter are the guys I've loved.

Earlier this year, I found out that one of them got married to the girl he started dating when he was also dating me. It was particularly heartbreaking not only as a nail in the coffin of the relationship we never really got to have, but also as the defining moment that proved that he was The Marrying Kind. He was husband material. I'd picked a good one.

He just didn't pick me.

I loved another man before him, one who has been in and out of my life since 1997 – with two straight years of real closeness and intimacy that ended abruptly, devastatingly, and without explanation. But I knew from the beginning that he wasn't The Marrying Kind. He thinks that settling down – i.e. getting married – is settling. So, in some ways, I am comforted by the fact that he will never commit to anyone, because it's not me, it's him.

But what if, one day, he does? And it's not me?

The possibility haunts me.

The thing is, I thought I'd learned my lesson from him. I thought I'd moved on. I became drawn to the niceness of guys. I realized that I deserved love, and not just any love. I even fell in love with a new guy who I knew, from the beginning, was The Marrying Kind. He said he wanted to get married and have kids. He talked about his future wedding, who would be invited, what it would be like. On our first official date, he looked at me, baffled, and asked, "How are we not already married?"

And then whatever we had started ended abruptly, devastatingly, unbearably without explanation. And I am having post-traumatic déjà vu, suffering a heart broken twice in the same way by two different men, never truly healed in between.

So what went wrong?

How have I been single for 39 years?

I am The Marrying Kind. Despite any dalliances or tangents or distractions or regrets, I always have been.

But those times I thought I was on the right track, that something real was happening, turned out to be a fallacy. Maybe I made it all up. Maybe I imagined the feelings between us. Maybe I fabricated a two-sided relationship when there was really only one side.

But regardless, the problem is no longer that I'm picking the wrong guys.

So what makes me the wrong girl?

Related Posts:
This Is Why I'm Single
Excuses, Excuses
Excuses, Excuses Part 2
Oops, I Did It Again
The Love I Deserve
To Say "I Love You"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Photo Essay: Pasadena Doo Dah Parade 2014

Pasadena is known for one big annual street spectacle on New Year's Day, the Rose Parade. But this November, there was another parade in Pasadena – one for the misfits, the rejects, the eccentrics, and the absurd.

This is Doo Dah.

It's like the evil twin of the Rose Parade...

...or a silly version of Burning Man.

You can imagine some of the same characters flock here and also to the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval... This Guy...

...but there's a special place in East Pasadena... broad daylight...

...for people who don't have to explain what their costumes are...

...and don't have to be anything other than what they are.

Whatever that is.

There aren't floats, per se...

...but, like the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, there are plenty of cars and trucks...

...and a few local celebrities... members of local rock band Radioactive Chicken Heads (who arrived with comedic accordionist Count Smokula)...

...and Crimebo the Clown!

Integral to the Doo Dah Parade is the group of spectators, who throw soft tortillas at the participants...

...who either scoop them up and throw them back...

...swat them away...

...or recoil in horror. Either way, it's a full-on food fight, with kids running into the street to recycle their thrown tortillas and toss them back into the air.

It's all a reminder that despite LA's enormous size and population, we are surrounded by small town culture, and plenty of community. The Doo Dah Parade may only happen occasionally (last year it was in April), but throughout the whole year, at various times and places, we misfits find other ways of getting together and belonging. They're not always obvious. You have to really look for them.

Related Posts:
The Island of Misfit Toy
Photo Essay: Rose Parade 2014 Floats, In Progress
Photo Essay: West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval 2014
Photo Essay: West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval 2013