January 31, 2014
My son, Martin, has been working on a novel that involves some research into early Los Angeles. He asked me the other day about streetcars. It is amazing how a quick reference to something can evoke powerful images and bring the past into the present in a flash. He wanted to know if I used to ride them, what they looked like, smelled like. He wanted all the images I could pull up and he sent me some pictures of some Los Angeles street cars from the olden days!
I grew up in Highland Park in a little three-bedroom house that had belonged to my maternal grandparents. When my widowed grandmother was dying, my mother and dad moved into her house and took care of her. They then inherited that house where I lived until I graduated from college. It was snuggled in between South Pasadena, Eagle Rock, and Glendale -- and I went to Pasadena City College and then Occidental. My parents were not wealthy, and I saw no reason to live on campus when campus was so close. Besides, at that time girls had a 10:00 p.m. curfew and boys were not allowed in the dorms. I had more freedom living at home and a car to borrow also.
I remember going with my mother and/or neighbors by streetcar into Los Angeles to shop at the big stores or to have lunch at Clifton's Cafeteria. I thought it took from 45 minutes to an hour. When I was a teen, I remember taking the streetcar to Santa Monica to the beach. It seemed like a couple of hours. Four or five of us girls would sit in the back on the long, wooden seat, and probably drive the other passengers crazy with our chatter and laughter. After talking to Martin, I was shocked to Google Highland Park and find that we were only ten miles from downtown Los Angeles and twenty from Santa Monica -- distances that took longer on the streetcar for sure, but shorter distances than my childish brain remembers. It seemed forever to get home from the beach when you were damp, sandy, and very sunburned from lying on the beach all day.
I remember the cars being green, and it seems they were green and yellow. Perhaps they were mostly green inside. I remember metallic noises, our coins clunking into the glass/metal box after you climbed the high stairs to enter. I remember advertisements along the top of each side above large windows, and a cord that draped the length of the car that you pulled when you wanted to get off at the next stop. The streetcars were lighter and more industrial than trains.
I don't remember how much it cost to ride. I probably got my fare from my parents although I began working part time in Iver's Department Store when I was fifteen. I made a dollar an hour and worked three hours on Friday night and eight on Saturday. I actually don't remember how old I was or how often we went to the beach -- because after age sixteen, I could drive and so could many of my friends. Did I still ride the streetcar after I could drive? I also had some older friends and remember going to Palm Springs during Easter vacation with them as a sophomore and junior. For that reason, it seemed like the trips to the beach came in a less "sophisticated" era and with much sillier outings -- perhaps in Jr. High.
Memory is fascinating. I am such a global person. Walk me through a room and I can tell you the impressions and feelings I got -- but I can't tell you what might have caused those impressions unless I force myself to categorize them. As I thought and thought about streetcars, impressions came slowly -- and it was such fun. Many emails traveled back and forth with Martin asking questions while I'm trying not to invent but actually remember impressions.
Thanks, Martin, for the journey back through time. It was a pleasant trip.
January 17, 2014
I guess I'm a snob, but I have found myself in a variety of situations lately where insufferable behavior has driven me crazy.
Yesterday I was at City University in Renton for a supervisor meeting. CU occupies the third floor of a large complex that houses several other businesses. The first floor also has the largest bathrooms that always seem to be bustling with people. I stopped there on my way to my car after the meeting and discovered all the paper towel machines were out. Since I know how busy that bathroom is, I decided to mention it to someone.
I looked for a main entrance desk, but I only saw doors leading to various businesses. so, I went into the first one by the bathroom and said that they might want to tell someone that it was out of paper towels. The well dressed receptionist simply glared at me and said, "that is not MY business. Go tell the building management people." She was really annoyed. "And, how do I do that?" I asked. "Suite 100," she said loudly and clearly as if I were an imbecile. So, I went. And, I told a gentleman who was dressed in overalls who thanked me profusely.
Later, I wished I had talked further to the receptionist. I wish I had told her that I was a guest in the building, and as an employee of a firm, it would have been gracious to have thanked me for taking the time to mention that her bathroom was out of paper towels and nicely direct me to Suite 100. If I had been in her place, I would have thanked me and taken one second to call building management myself with that message.
Perhaps one reason why it hit me the way it did was because I'm still reeling from our Church Council meeting where we had a budget decision that included cutting the salaries of two employees. I was not in favor of doing that because I believe that is asking our employees to carry the burden of our loss of income. I was especially horrified because the same group that spent over two years trying to raise one of the salaries was now suggesting that we cut the hard-fought gain. Clearly, that employees was not favored by some of the people present. Since I was not a voting member, I tried only to speak once to give my point of view. But, I frankly was horrified by the dispassionate way that some spoke of the need to cut a salary of a person whose livelihood counts on that income and who, on our behalf, gave up other lucrative positions to expand her hours at church.
Comments I heard seemed to indicate, "She just has to suck it up," "We're cutting the position, not the person." and some insinuations (that were obviously based upon people not thinking she did a great job anyway) were couched in various ways. Many members were more centered on the argument than compassion. Clearly no one even felt responsibility that we had gotten ourselves into this financial situation in the first place. I've been in our church for 33 years and I've heard some doozy arguments around major issues -- that is what we do in a church where the congregation has the final word. But, never such a cavalier attitude centered on a person or personality.
During yesterday's drive, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts called, "On Being." Krista Tippett was interviewing two very famous Buddhists talk about honoring your enemies. It was certainly timely. But, I realized that I need to find kind and clear and better ways to respond to those people that I disagree with. I didn't mind losing the Council vote because you win some and lose some in life. I didn't want to continue to engage in an angry argument. Rather, I do want to speak to my convictions that we need to treat others with kindness and compassion even when we disagree or even don't like them.
I'm feeling sad about what I heard in the Council of the church I have loved for 33 years. Perhaps I need to follow my son-in-law into Buddhism.
January 9, 2014
Inch By Inch
When my father died, my mother was angry. That is the only interpretation that I can put on her actions that followed. First, she gave all of his beautiful handmade fishing poles to a rather distant neighbor instead of to my uncles who fished with him and loved the poles he crafted. We are talking about substantial items since they both surf and deep sea fished and those poles were capable of hauling in a tuna or a nice sized halibut. They were colorfully wrapped and beautifully varnished, and I'm not sure if her neighbor had ever been fishing in his whole life. I'm not even sure he wanted the poles. She just took them next door to be rid of them.
Next, without telling her children, she threw away all of the Christmas ornaments including those that came over from England when she was a wee child. My father was the holiday decorator, and I've mentioned before his hanging of Christmas balls by fishing line all over the ceiling in different lengths so that walking into our home was a psychedelic experience. It took him days to get the job done -- similarly, it took him several shopping expeditions just to find the perfect tree. My father was Christmas in our family. My mother was never going to celebrate Christmas again.
I have been thinking about this as I put Christmas decorations away inch by inch. I mentioned this on Facebook and others seem to be having the same difficulty saying goodbye to Christmas this year. I successfully dismantled the tree since it had to go out for the Boy Scout pickup last Saturday. During the week, I boxed up angels and Santas and some of the lights in the windows. I refreshed the candles that were mostly burned away and cleaned up the candelabra. My huge wreathe is still on the front porch, and today I began to take down the nativities and the other few decorations left.
I often rue the day that I bought such a large house and how much time both decorating and putting away decorations takes. But, somehow this year, I have loved doing the task just a bit at a time. It seems a few weeks is too little to fully enjoy the season and the decorations. I often leave out one nativity during the year on purpose (as well as forget something when I pack things away that I discover sometime around April).
I must be getting nostalgic in my old age. I told Dani the other day that I wanted to make a turkey dinner because I didn't get one at either Christmas or Thanksgiving -- maybe I just wanted the smell of a turkey to make me feel cozy and comfortable. Here are some pictures to last me a year. By the way, after my mom threw away all of the ornaments, I made her a little tabletop artificial Christmas tree that she faithfully put up every year for the rest of her life.
I think she felt a little sorry for throwing away all our family ornaments.