Friday, December 20, 2019

Notes From The Fields, or Coming Home

Note: originally written 5am PST, December 12th in Irvine, CA.

It is hard to come home again.  There are cliches about it, everyone has written about it, everyone knows it.  It’s hard.  People slip into old patterns of behavior, patterns they may have worked very diligently to change, but that are easy to fall back into when they are the behaviors that old family and friends expect.  Sometimes home is all too familiar, and one returns to a hometown that seems small and cramped compared with one’s now wider view of the world.  Sometimes returning home can be painfully different if a loved one has been lost or if one hails from Southern California where the bulldozer of progress has mown over all of the orange and avocado groves and replaced them with identical looking Spanish style shopping plazas.
Merry Christmas!

I have written much about returning home over the years, about the pitfalls and complications, and will endeavor to discourse more on it when I have had time to think.  For now here are a few notes from the field, or rather notes from the house I grew up in what used to be near a strawberry field.  

There Are So. Many. People. Here.
Southern California is crowded.  Duh.  Our forefather and mothers stole the land from a bunch of Native American tribes who were perfectly suited to living in its arable climate and turned it into a paradise and held it by stealing water from many surrounding cache basins, and people have flocked here for hundreds of years now from every direction.

Long story short, there are a lot of people here now.  A lot of people, each driving in their own car.  All at the same time. 

There are a lot of cars here now.

In Chicago and New York there are a lot of people too, but it is not as easy to see that as in LA and Orange County.  Here, the cities sprawl out horizontally, one city flowing into another endlessly until they meet the sea or the Mexico border, the Saddleback mountains or the Mojave.  Whenever Don is out in CA with me one of his favorite games to play while we are driving is to randomly shout “Where are we now!?” every ten minutes or so and see if I can name the exact city through which we are passing.  After 20 years away I’m not very good at this game anymore!

I flew into LAX this trip, and sitting in the back of my parents car (just like coming home from college!) in traffic on the freeway and I went into a trance just staring at the traffic patterns swirling around us.  The slow march of white and red lights becomes hypnotic after a time, and I start to lose myself in imagining all of the people inside each car, and wondering about their lives.  Where do they live?  Where do they work? Where do all of their coworkers live?  How far do they have to drive each day?  Did that truck really pass CA emissions standards?! Eventually I have to tear myself away from the sight and look through pictures of the girls on my phone for a minute to re-anchor myself in time and space.

Everyone Needs to Get Somewhere Faster Than You
You are a slow, worthless asshole.  

Everyone in front of you, next to you, and behind you is more important.  They need to get to their places much faster than you.  They are too important to be bothered with signaling their movements to you with a blinker.  They are too important to be bothered with stopping completely at that stop sign.  They are completely justified in cutting you off in order to gain 10 more feet in their race to the finish line.  That Trader Joe’s gingerbread mix is going like hot cakes and they need to score at least five boxes, and two bottles of Rosé, so get the fuck out of their way, pendejo!

But Also, Parrots
Around 6:30am the wild parrots fly toward the coast from their roosts near the mountains.  Around 5pm they fly back towards the mountains.  We get two wild parrot flock flyovers a day.  Probably not as exciting for people living here full time, especially people in whose backyard trees they roost for a few minutes, chattering nonstop in the early morning.  But pretty exciting for me.  There were no wild parrot flocks when I was growing up, just crows and ravens living in the eucalyptus trees in the parks and greenbelts.  Speaking of which…

Sometimes you will be driving along, cursing under your breath at the asshole who just cut you off for no logically apparent reason, and then it will hit you.  The pungent, life affirming odor of eucalyptus.  It is everywhere.  Lining the freeways and toll roads, in my backyard, right in front of my face in a vase on the kitchen table, along the railroad turned walking path greenbelts.  Eucalyptus.  


I can get fresh eucalyptus clippings twice a year at my farmer’s market, and occasionally imported from God Knows Where at the Whole Foods.  And anytime I order a wreath from my two preferred wreath ordering websites I get one with fresh CA eucalyptus included so that our entryway becomes a delicious home of homey smelling goodness.  But nothing beats the omnipresent odor of sun warmed eucalyptus out here!

Merry Christmas!  Edged weapon, anyone?

Found Grandmother Prentice's old recipe box!

Recipe box.  So tactile!

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