Ordinary magic

I was a free range child growing up and nowadays my parents would probably be arrested for letting us walk around on our own. I was driven to kindergarten but when I got to first grade my mom walked me to school once and then my grandmother did the next day but I think it might have been because she wanted to talk to the Scots family that lived on the way to school on the way back. And after that I walked the 7 blocks to school on my own.

I walked past the huge KMPC radio towers vast otherwise vacant lot and looked for horny toads and followed mourning cloak butterflies and robins on the way and on the way home. I always had to go by one house that was on a corner that enchanted me. Any adult with no eyes to see probably thought it was incredibly tacky. It had tiny cement squirrels hidden in and around a big deodar tree and plastic birds secreted in the tree and all sorts of magical things hidden in the yard and I had to check on it every day.

When we moved to Glendale we had to walk to school down a very steep hill and all three of the schools that we would eventually attend were across the street from each other and of course we walked to school because every one did. Even the kids from the mansions on the hill had to walk. It was just what you did unless you were really brave and rode a bike but our hill was so steep that if your brakes went out you’d end up with a broken arm at the very least and some kids did.

At about the half way point down the hill you could turn left and walk on the flat and then head down the hill or you could walk straight down the street. Both were good options depending on your mood. I usually turned left in the morning and went directly up the hill on the way home. If you turned left then there were two magical houses to go by. On the first corner was a kind of spooky house with a huge iron spider web with a spider on it around a yard you couldn’t see in, this was a yard of mystery and imagination and two houses farther on the next corner was my other favourite yard. It had a pond with koi and there were cement animals and gnomes hidden in it again under a huge deodar tree and they had two enormous cement deer in the front yard plus losts of flowers and tree roses. The yards in our neighborhood were minimum of a quarter of an acre and some were whole acres so 3 houses to a block sounds small but it wasn’t. So the yard with the hidden treasures was very enticing and since it was on a corner you got a big view to walk around and see all the magical things. I should also mention that on the north side of street was a house they were always filming something at and the neighborhood kids took great delight in disrupting the filming, at one point it was the main house on the Falcon Crest tv show so they were there a lot. It was modeled on the house Tara in Gone with the Wind and was on an enormous piece of land.

If you wanted to walk down or up the street and not turn, that took you by several enticements, the ice cream truck that parked at the end of the street and if you had the coins you could get something like a 7up popsicle or red hot cinnamon toothpicks which for some reason were extremely popular and burned the hell out of our lips.

There was also the gentleman that started Johnson Pies and after he sold that he started Johnson Yogurt and he had this huge horizontal freezer by the side of his house and he would sit by the sidewalk and he would taste test the flavours of pie and then yogurt on kids coming home from school. Now, some one would probably report him to the health dept or as pervert but it was fun to try some of them and he was harmless. I still don’t really like yogurt and his was the first I ever tasted.

So now our yard is the one that kids drag their grandparents and parents by on walks. We have bunnies and fairies hidden and a fairy door against the house. We have over 15 gnomes (at last count but there are more now) hiding and we periodically move them around because one little girl is certain they move and tells her little brother to look carefully.

We like to sit in the house and listen to the kids if they are speaking in English but we also hear Russian and Hebrew, Spanish and Armenian and sometimes Arabic and French. It makes us giggle and it’s a lot of fun. The gnome moving thing is hysterical to my sister and I because my great uncle had a gnome pushing a wheel barrow and he had all of us cousins convinced when we were little that if we were fast enough we would see him move. I love being “that” yard that I loved to walk by as a kid. Making magic for little kids to dream and see is one of my great pleasures and adding some real magic of our own doesn’t hurt either.

You lived long and prospered, farewell, Mr Spock

I’m old enough to have watched Star Trek when it debuted on network TV and my parents allowed us to watch anything science fiction. I was immediately enamoured of Mr Spock. He didn’t suffer fools gladly and he seemed to be the voice of reason when things went weekly down the toilet in that week’s crisis. I loved his calmness and his wisdom and I saw a kindred spirit in that stoic Vulcan.

All the subsequent series had a character that would be based on Spock’s template whether it was Data or Odo or Seven of Nine.

Leonard Nimoy was probably one of the reasons one of my children’s book characters is named Leonardo that and the other Leonardo, Da Vinci.

No human can live forever but at 83 he did love long and prosper. Ex Astris, Scientia, Mr Spock

1971 a rocking time, today is the anniversary of the Sylmar Quake

Today is a big anniversary for me, it’s the anniversary of the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. My first big one., I am amused by the fact that whoever wrote the page describes LA as having districts. LA has regions and no districts. Obviously written by a non-native Angeleno.

I was in 11th grade and it was right around finals time and it hit at exactly 6 am. My cat had just stood on the end of the bed and was yelling her head off when it hit. I was sharing a room with my 6 year old sister in those days and we had the kind of bookshelves on the wall that are boards hung on metal slats fixed the wall. I remember all my books and there were a lot of them on 5 long shelves started flying around the room and at my bed. I remember my overhead light had blown the night before but was going on and off during the quake.

Mom used to have earthquake drills when we were kids so we knew what to do. Some of us remembered and some of us didn’t. All I could think of was grabbing Alison because she was sound asleep. So I propped her standing in the doorway and held on. She stayed asleep until it was over, the kid could sleep through anything up until that day.

Dad, meanwhile was grabbing my mom because she was still really asleep and thought she was in the Long Beach earthquake that happened when she was a child. Dad saw what he thought was the wall coming at them but was really the huge mirror that they had hung on the wall over the lowboy dresser. It was about 6 ft long and 3 feet tall and framed in heavy wood. Dad said it came straight off the wall at them and turned 90 degrees and fell and hit the throw rug and slid under the bed. Scared Dad to death because that mirror was hung on 1000 lb wire in case of earthquake because Grandpa was an architect and civil engineer and insisted on it. Did I mention that that was when we found out the house was on a fault?

While this was happening our chimney was going down with a big thump on the neighbor’s porte cochere.

My brother had decided to try sleeping naked that night for the first time. He had a downstairs bedroom and evidently ran out the front door starkers in front of the neighbors and gave them quite the show before remembering he wasn’t wearing anything. I didn’t know that had happened until a neighbor told mom. Meanwhile, these were the days before plastic bottles and glass bottles had come raining out of the bathroom cabinets and down in the kitchen crashing onto the tiles. My dad went running into the bathroom at the same time my mom was yelling for him to put his shoes on. Too late, he ended up bandaged for awhile. For some reason, my parents, being my parents, it never occurred to them that he might need to go to the hospital for some stiches.

We could track the fault by whose chimney had fallen off during the quake and the house down the street that had a chimney at either end only lost the one on the south end so I guess that was the end with the fault under it. They all came down again in the Northridge quake many years later.

We had just gotten our first colour TV and for some reason the electricity came back on quickly so we were able to watch it in living colour and see the dam that almost broke among other things. It was only the second year my school had been open since they had finally built it to earthquake code but the next day it was apparent that still wasn’t enough because all the asbestos tile had come down along with the razor sharp metal that hung them. They hadn’t rebuilt the auditorium and it was from the late 1920s and I still remember watching the chandeliers sway during aftershocks and wondering if the glass was going to come down. The condemned it the next day until it could be brought up to code. That meant our spring musical got moved outside that year. I was taking Latin and Caesar lost his head in a fall that day. So he wasn’t stabbed in the rounda (old Latin joke) but was beheaded in the quake.

I remember driving down Brand Blvd and the buildings looked like dollhouses you could reach in and rearrange the upstairs apartments above the stores. The facades had all fallen off. I had friends that had been driving to Bible study at the Presbyterian church that said Glenoaks St looked like someone waving a ribbon up and down and how loud it had been. One of my friends was already at the church waiting for someone to come with the key when it started and the church started to come down around them. They had to be rescued because the bricks fell so high around the car, that they couldn’t get out but they still swear not one brick hit the car. They just fell around them.

For some reason all the moms from my Presbyterian churche’s Bible study decided we had to go and get out of their hair, so we went as usual to Bill’s house but not much Bible Study was going on because the 5 or 6 of us there couldn’t stop talking about the quake. Poor Bill, he was only a year older than us and it now a minister in the Valley so I guess we didn’t scar him for life. (We were considered snobs because so many of us didn’t go to Glendale’s two Presbyterian church but went to Hollywood Pres instead)

I still remember all the cracked roads and buildings and picking up a lot of glass and wiping all the stuff that had been in the bottles up. As I recall the refrigerator had come open too and all the eggs had been flung to freedom. Gross to clean up.

So do you have an earthquake kit in your car and extra stuff in your house like water?