California

Posted by Ellen

Finally, the rains have come back to California. Recently, as the sun was going down over Los Angeles, a downpour was letting up.

Posted by Ellen

The late actor Anthony Quinn does his thing on the wall of Victor Clothing Company.

His thing, of course, was, and is here, and always will be that thing that Zorba did. But artist Eloy Torrez, who painted this mural in 1984, titled the work "The Pope of Broadway" because . . .  because . . .

Well, Quinn did once play an exiled Russian bishop who became pope, in Shoes of the Fisherman. And the mural is located at 220 S. Broadway in Los Angeles. But really.

Posted by Ellen

All we know about this photo is that it was apparently taken in Calaveras County, California, about a hundred years ago. Looks like the boys in the band were family men.

Calaveras County is a famous place in the gold-mining country of the Sierra foothills, settled in a hurry by forty-niners and immortalized (sort of) by Mark Twain in his story about competitive frog-jumping. 

Calaveras is Spanish for skulls.

Posted by Ellen

Photo from 1963, as captioned by the photographer:

On the left: Father's chair; on the right: Mother's chair; not shown: Father and Mother. Why they're not there is unknown; possibly I chased them out to take this panorama, which film grain fans may detect consists of two 35mm Tri-X negatives. Otherwise, Father would be reading the papers, Mother doing a crossword and both, perhaps, watching the TV, which was all the way across the room behind me. Up the stairs to the left is my room, and I'm otherwise evidence in a younger version in the photo on the desk. Elsewhere are displayed other family members, including my brother, sister, maternal grandmother, youngest nephew and aunt-by-marriage. Notable book collections: Heritage Press editions of Dickens, Twain and Carroll on the left, a c.1915 set of the Books of Knowledge on the right. Also, various beloved gimcracks and tchotchkes. Items on the erroneously-dubbed (by Mother) "tilt-top table" at the left indicate it's around Christmas. Finally, in the rack at right, a Sunset, "The Magazine of Western Living," which, of course, is the kind we were doing at the time.

Posted by Ellen

The Painted Mountains in Death Valley, California.

Posted by Ellen

California's self-inflicted budget mess is no secret, making it no surprise that the state has begun closing down at least seventy of its state parks and recreation areas. Kevin Forrester, a parks-department supervisor, is shown here in front of the locked, shuttered, and recently boarded-up visitor center at Mitchell Caverns, a state park unit in the Mojave Desert that was closed a few months ago because it needed budget-busting repairs to its water system.

Burglars broke into the closed-down visitor center and stole all its copper wiring and plumbing fixtures, along with two-way radios, binoculars, and other emergency gear. Those same intruders or other vandals broke all the windows and glass exhibit cases and caused an estimated $100,000 worth of damage.

After welding shut the doors to the visitor center, Supervisor Forrester observed that the state will need to find a pot of money if it is ever "to bring this place back to life." What happened at Mitchell Caverns, predicts Forrester, will happen again and again around the state as more and more parks are closed to visitors.

A Californian who gave his name as John Houck read about the troubles and offered assistance. "I am 60 years old and very healthy and able," he wrote in a message to the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know where this e-mail will end up, but I hope it might be read by someone of importance.

"I am a builder in many crafts (new construction and maintenance). I am currently unemployed and have been for quite some time now. I am just looking for for some kind of work to give me something to do, and maybe be helpful at the same time. I am not looking to become rich, just helpful. If anyone of any importance reads this e-mail, please contact me....."

What's the matter with this country?

Posted by Ellen

 


 

(Image removed at the request of the photographer, Cris Benton)


 

This view of Drake's Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore in California is another example of kite photography, one of the oldest applications of the photo arts.

During the American Civil War, kites and balloons were used to hoist cameras, and sometimes also cameramen, for spying expeditions. Kite photography was also used to survey the damage after San Francisco's 1906 earthquake and fire. 

Planes and satellites, of course, have relegated kite photography to niche status. On the other hand, modern digital cameras and wireless control technology have become so lightweight and inexpensive that it's a readily accessible niche.

Posted by Ellen

When I imagine a perfect Fourth, there would be water splashing in the afternoon, then hot dogs, watermelon, blueberry shortcake–or maybe boiled crabs, potato salad, corn on the cob–and finally sparklers and fireworks. In the air, at some point, there could be  band music and lightning bugs and American flags.

And a little bocce would be very, very nice. I don't know the people in this picture, who claim that they went up and down the coast of California playing bocce all along the way; this scene is from their stop in Sonoma County. A whole road trip of bocce is excessive–there's something way too over-the-top-West-Coast about it–and the guy on the right does appear to be wearing his beer can on top of his hat.

But the guy on the left has perfect form: bocce ball in one hand, beer in the other. Happy Birthday, America!

Posted by Ellen

Leaning against the family's 1955 DeSoto after a summer-vacation day with the leaping dolphins at Marineland, the California boys at right and their cousins from Texas settle back to enjoy an ice cream cone. Except for little brother at far right, who's not enjoying the moment all that much; his ice cream rolled off the cone and plopped down at his feet in the parking lot. . . .

Nothing says the 1950s like jeans rolled up at the bottom and a big DeSoto in a big parking lot.

Posted by Ellen

This has been an El Nino winter in California, meaning that the Pacific breezes have functioned as a conveyor belt bringing storm after storm into the state. Sheets of cold rain blow through the coastal cities and into the Central Valley, where the storms bump up against the Sierra Nevada mountains, try to crawl up over them, and get stuck. A single storm can last four or five days in the Sierras and dump 50 or 60 inches of snow or more at higher elevations. This year, the Sierras are by far the snowiest part of the country.

The cabin in these pictures is near Mammoth, California, a ski area where all the snow is properly appreciated. The snow in the doorway represents one night's accumulation.

Here in Maine, we've had our share of snow, followed by a January thaw last week--tons of rain that left things looking almost springlike till the cold came back. And in Maryland, it's snowing even as I type. But I hear tell that soon it will be February.