November 24, 2012

Since neither of us could go home this Thanksgiving Break, Christian and I decided to go to a few places we’ve been wanting to see for awhile but just haven’t had the time to visit.

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to Corona Del Mar. I LOVE walking around looking inside tide pools…this time we found all sorts of anemones. No starfish, but I was delighted to find Christian’s face inside one of the pools.

Thursday was a big day. We got an early start and drove 3 hours to Salvation Mountain. I have been waiting for years to go to this place, and it was just as beautiful as I imagined (and by “as I imagined,” I mean “as all the pictures online that I drooled over”). The “mountain” has a really interesting history… it was all built by one man, Leonard Knight, who used to live right near it in one of those trucks you see past Christian in the second picture.

After climbing all around and inside the mountain, Christian and I ate lunch at a (/the only?) local diner. It was delicious and also kind of sad (we were actually shocked anything was open on Thanksgiving Day, especially because the place felt like a ghost town).

Next, we went to a place called “Slab City,” just a few miles away from Salvation Mountain. It’s basically a community of squatters, but the diversity of the place is what made it so interesting/confusing/scary. One one side of the road there was a group of people with guitars laughing next to a rainbow school bus covered in flowers, and on the other side there was a trailer with a confederate flag waving high. (I didn’t take any pictures because I was already feeling a little too inappropriately tourist-y for the place).

Then we headed to the Salton Sea, famous for its shores lined with dead fish (instead of sand, there are fish bones everywhere…see the second picture). We also found this strangely beautiful red-ish pond(?) by the sea…it was especially strange because in the car just beforehand, we were listening to a Radiolab (on NPR) about why Homer described the sea as “wine dark” in the first lines of the Iliad. (Although, admittedly, the water we found was more like tomato soup than wine…).

Our last stop was a place called Pioneertown, a small town built as an Old West movie set in the 1940s, and still maintained today. All the little shops were closed because of the holiday, but it was cool wandering the dusty roads by ourselves (that is, until I bare-footedly stepped on about 10,000 mini burrs…ha).

On our way home, we stopped by our friend Joel’s house for some Thanksgiving leftovers and board games. I was happy to spend at least part of the day with a big, happy family, because to be honest, even awesome mini road trips are not as good as spending the day eating and being lazy with family. Also, there really are few funnier things than playing Pictionary with 6 little kids.

November 15, 2012

Saturday, a few of us drove up to a place called Oak Glen. It was 15 degrees colder (44! woo hoo!) and we ate lunch at a diner, went to a petting zoo, had mini doughnuts, and drank apple cider. Also, Christian’s hands (mysteriously) swelled up big time and we all oohed and aahed.

November 3, 2012

“There’s always something to do if you don’t have to work or consider the cost. It’s no real fun but the rich don’t know that. They never had any. They never want anything very hard except maybe somebody else’s wife and that’s a pretty pale desire compared with the way a plumber’s wife wants new curtains for the living room.” – Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

I don’t have much to add to the above quote, but I just like it. We are reading Chandler right now in my Mysterious Fiction class, and his protagonist/narrator, a tough guy detective named Marlowe, cracks me up. This book and Christian and I’s recent obsession with the TV show Twin Peaks have both convinced me that all I want to do after I graduate is be a secretary at a small-town detective agency.

This morning I turned in the longest paper of my semester, so Christian and I went to The Last Bookstore in LA to celebrate. We have been hearing about it a lot lately, and it did not disappoint. It is easily the coolest bookstore I have ever been to. There were tons of nooks and crannies and surprise, and also thousands and thousands of $1 books (I even found a copy of The Long Goodbye (which is perfect because at the start of the semester, I accidentally purchased A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier instead, and was, in a last-minute frenzy, forced to beg Christian to let me borrow the very Kindle I have been scoffing at for the past year). Consequently, my Friday night turned into cutting pictures out of old reference books while watching Dateline. And also, once Dateline was over, listening to the new Taylor Swift album. (I’ll be real…according to my iTunes library, I have listened to “I Knew You Were Trouble” 27 times this past week.)

In other music news (aren’t these paragraph transitions so natural?), Christian and I swallowed our pride and went for a couples costume this Halloween…he was Jeff Mangum, the lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel, and I was Anne Frank, his muse. Our costume really only makes sense if you agree that In An Aeroplane Over the Sea is one of the best albums ever made, and luckily, our friends are weird enough that we didn’t even have the most obscure costumes of the night (my favorites were Lars & The Real Girl [my roommate and her bf], River Phoenix, and Owen Wilson from the cover of Darjeeling Limited).

October 24, 2012

Here are some pictures from a wonderful weekend with Christian’s mom and step-dad.

We took them to the Getty, the Griffith Observatory (where I saw a girl wearing the most beautiful pants ever made…don’t worry, I took a picture), Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Laguna Beach.

For our favorite shots (and some actual faces of real people, unlike mine below), we made a contraption out of 2 disposable cameras that will hopefully yield some awesome 3-D pictures … we just have to finish off the cameras and do some photoshop magic.




October 8, 2012

This weekend Christian and I were both feeling a little homesick for the Midwest, and a little grumpy towards Southern California. So, we went to the town of Orange…the only place within a hundred miles of LA that remotely resembles home.

You can’t really tell from my pictures, but once you cross this one set of train tracks near the border of Orange, everything changes. The store fronts are old, with chipped paint and swooping fonts. There are American flags, sidewalk quartets, and even banners inviting townspeople to a “prayer breakfast” hosted by the mayor. Everyone is a little bit less skinny, and a little bit less gorgeous. It is seriously magical.

We went into a few antique stores, an old-fashioned soda shop, a Native American craft store (where I purchased some over-priced macaw feathers), a record store, a tiny cafe (where Christian applied the “just add salt to your sweets for instant class” principle to our toasted almost gelato…), AND a diner where a scene from That Thing You Do was filmed.

Hooray for small adventures, and more to come. (Including, this month: seeing Christian play with his new band [their show is Wednesday!!], my old roommate Tracy visiting from NYC, Biola’s annual Torrey Conference, Christian’s mom and step-dad visiting from Arkansas, and a Halloween party at my new house [I wonder if the pumpkin tree will last until then? It would make a great conversation-starter.]).








September 23, 2012

Yesterday Christian and I explored Malibu Creek State Park for the first time. It was hotter than we expected, but the dry kind of heat that is alright. Along the trail, there were lots of lizards, one very fast baby snake, and, to my relief, no mountain lions.

We spent the first half of our hike looking for the lake, but we found a dam instead. Christian swam to the edge, and I took pictures of him and scanned for alligators.

After Christian got out of the water, we thought we needed to climb a fence to get to the lake. This fence happened to be right on the edge of the dam, and it was a biiiiig drop (maybe that’s why the fence had barbed wire on it?). I was terrified, and then it wasn’t even the right way, so we had to go back over the fence of doom. For the rest of our hike I couldn’t get out of my melodramatic/existential/panic-y funk about how weird it is that you can slip off of a mountain and die (yeah… I was REALLY scared going over that fence), but I also didn’t want to leave, because everything was so beautiful. (I don’t have the brains/guts to say much more about this [I wonder what good old Ralph Waldo has to say about slipping off mountains?]…I just didn’t want to be all “our day was sooo gorgeous and serene” on here when really, it was more “gorgeous and strangely scary.”)

Once we found the lake, we stuck our feet in and watched people cliff jump for an hour or so. I wasn’t going anywhere near the edge of any cliffs, but it was nice to see people laughing and screaming and okay when they jumped off.

On our way out, we walked along the dried-up river, this time of year just a winding trail of white rocks. That was my favorite part, I think.

A surprise

September 13, 2012

One night last week, Christian said he was up for any sort of after-dinner adventure I could think of, so I putzed around my computer and ended up settling on Turnbull Canyon,  a “pretty drive” about 15 minutes from where we live. It was a pretty drive. But then we parked on a dead-end road and decided to keep walking, and found all this.

Emerson & the LA Arboretum

September 12, 2012

This week I am preparing to lead a Torrey session on Emerson. We were assigned a few of his essays to read, and I am expected to ask the “opening question,” which our group will discuss for our 3-hour class time.

Sometimes when I am reading the classics,  I think I focus too much on what I want the author to be talking about (as opposed to what they are actually talking about). This week, I have been wanting to agree with Emerson (probably because he is a genius, and an every man’s man, and some of his little snippets about the earth are just so darn beautiful), so I am tempted to simplify what he is really saying (i.e. just labeling him a “nature boy” like I did in high school) into something I can agree with.

I actually do think that the real Emerson has a lot to teach me, but I know I won’t get there by picking and choosing small quotes and taking them out of context (which is a REAL temptation because again, HIS WRITING IS SO LOVELY). I think I will get there by actually working through his worldview–one that, I am learning, starts with very different assumptions than my own–and then going from there? I’ve usually found that route to be a good one, but it does take some amount of faith.

In the meantime, one little quote couldn’t hurt : )

“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

Christian & I are convinced that turtle on the far right must be HUGE, but we never saw much more than its head. The water was too murky and it was not at all moved by my pleas for it to come out and play. [Also, I probably would have screamed if it did.]

Still probably my favorite plants in the whole place, found in the parking lot. I know these guys are common, but they never get old to me. The colors are so tacky/so me.

Getting settled.

September 6, 2012

This time around, it has taken me a little bit longer to adjust to California living than usual. Maybe it’s because our house, like a lot of others around here, doesn’t have air conditioning? (I only now realize how spoiled I have been the past 3 years…) I remember writing a post last year about how in California, you never have to adjust to the weather. Well, I take that back. These days, I try to avoid being home between 3-6pm because that is when the sunlight reaches our windows and our poor little fans are just no match.

But mornings are wonderful.

Chelsea, my sweet roommate & friend

our tiny room, from my bed

And lately, when it cools down in the evening, Christian and I have been going on walks. California sunsets are fantastic (even though most of the time smog is gross, it does add this strange fuzziness to sunsets that I love).

But just in case anyone gets the wrong idea about these walks (i.e. I am trying to be more “healthy” or “active”), let it be known that (on more than one occasion) these walks have been followed by dinners consisting of cheeze-its dipped in red pepper hummus and for dessert, extreme air heads. (What can I say…one of us IS still in college…)

My favorite night so far was last Friday, when Christian and I went to see Shakespeare in the Park with our friends Joel and Angi. Christian and Joel planned the whole thing, including a fancy picnic beforehand. The play was A Comedy of Errors, and it was so so good. We also saw a minor celebrity in the crowd (so minor none of us knew his name, but we all recognized his face from commercials)…oh LA.

Speaking of Shakespeare…classes have been great so far. I am really excited about my Creative Nonfiction class (I’m thinking of doing my semester-long project on teen girl-hood) and my Mysterious Lit class (which I actually haven’t had yet, because Monday was Labor Day…but our first book is one of my favorites of all time, G. K Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday!). I am so grateful to have another year at Biola, and another year in good old Cafilornia…even if it will be a year lacking in air conditioning.

And so I have come here to enact—not because I want to but because, once here, I cannot help it—the loneliness and the humbleness of my kind. I must see in my flimsy shelter, pitched here for two nights, the transience of capitols and cathedrals. In growing used to this place, I will have to accept a humbler and truer view of myself than I usually have.

– Wendell Berry, “An Entrance to the Woods”

Lately I have been reading a lot of nature writing for my American Renaissance class (Walden, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Into the Wild) and all this talk of outdoors/the pumpkin scented candle in my kitchen has made me really wish Los Angeles had seasons. I have been wearing sweaters and drinking hot tea at my house, but the fact that I usually have to strip down to a tank top and shorts to comfortably walk to class shatters any hope of maintaining the illusion that it’s actually getting colder outside. And this is discouraging not just because I love thick socks and rosy cheeks, but because I have begun to realize that the perpetual summer here actually changes the way I think about a lot of things.

Here in Los Angeles, I am constantly barefoot. I don’t think twice about stepping outside to grab the mail or chat with someone on the porch, and I never have to throw on a sweatshirt. At our house, we often leave our doors open, and even have a couch in our backyard. And while I really do appreciate such a seamless transition between outdoors and in, I think it’s only beautiful for a season. Nature feels too tame here.

And for some reason, this 80 degree weather makes me take everything just a little less seriously. I’m cheerful, but less thoughtful. I don’t have the spells of melancholy that dark afternoons in winter used to bring, but I am beginning to think that maybe a little melancholy never hurt anyone. There really is something to persevering through those wind-burned walks from the car, and about having to scrape your windshield free of ice before you can leave the house. It forces you to slow down and to submit, not unlike Berry’s experience of camping in the woods. Humility might not always involve that harmonious  “one with nature”-ness… maybe sometimes it involves that “I-can’t-feel-my-cheeks “-ness.

Plus, in Los Angeles, we don’t have to wait for anything. There isn’t any gray sludge along the curbs in January, so there is no green to look forward to in March. (Well, there is green in March, but we don’t look forward to it.) There’s no anticipation because there’s no change, and there’s not much to measure time by besides the academic year (although that will slowly start to change as I learn the rhythm of the church calendar…one thing I’m really looking forward to this semester). I haven’t quite figured out how these things affect me, but at the very least they make me less aware of my surroundings.

To be fair, it does get chilly at night during in December, and we do sort of have a rainy-ish season (which also means Chick-fil-a season, because they have a great rainy-day deal), but not much compared to the Midwest. Nothing like a tornado or some golf-ball sized hail to make you feel a little less self-important.