save vs maudlin

(that’s from a tweet. when I get back to a regular computer I’ll embed it. I’m not sure I can do that on ye olde Transformer.)

I told C last night that I was working the nostalgia out of my system so that we could take a vacation together and just have fun here. And I kinda mean that. This particular trip has been all about: OMG HOMELAND. (Props to GA for the word “homeland” to refer to SoCal. “Hometown” is kinda fuzzy when you’re talking about a region, about multiple damn near overlapping towns, etc., etc.)

I thought I’d have more to say about GTA (I’m working on an essay) with this visit, and that’s true, but only up to a point. Because I’m realizing that the places I think of as the homeland aren’t really in GTA. Yeah, the wide bright streets. Yeah, Old Town’s acquired a certain poshness that seems familiar. But not so much the vibe that I wrote about in my last blog post. Jacaranda, lantana, jasmine, deodar, oak, olive, lemon.

Maybe it’s that I so often experienced it at human walking scale, and I am again now. I decided against renting a car, and instead got a multi-day transit pass. Which: best $25 I’ve spent since I’ve been here. And I’ve walked so much, at least 5 or 6 miles a day, and yesterday ELEVEN MILES. My calves!

But it’s not just that, because I had weird GTA echoes while I was in downtown. Dunno. I may have to let that simmer some more before I can really write it.

Relatedly? – Yesterday I went to Mountain View Cemetery. (Go with me.) On the one hand, when I was a teenager, I hopped the fence with Raul a few times to hang out in the graveyard. (LOL goth-ish early 90s teens. Also: “Hang out.” Snerk.) On the other hand, my great-grandmother is buried there, and I’d never actually seen her grave. It’s a lovely cemetery, lots of old (for SoCal) stones, big trees, and the staff was very helpful getting me the location of Great-Grandma Kellogg’s headstone.

Afterwards I was going to catch the bus to Eaton Canyon, but I’d just missed it, so I started walking. (Did I mention 11 miles?) I saw an adorable little house for sale…half a mil. !!!!!! And then the Little Red Hen Coffee Shop, which I felt like I’d heard of but maybe had never been to? And the reviews on Google were good, so I darted across the street.

Digression: I had seriously forgotten how absurdly wide even the side streets are around here. Then the main streets: I swear I’ve been on highways up north that were narrower.

I tweeted about this yesterday, but eventually I mentioned that I was on vacation, but from the area originally. And then I said that I couldn’t believe I had never been in before. (Because it was so delicious! Perfect bacon. Great pancakes. Water infused with lemon & mint. If you are in the area: GO NOW.) The woman looked at me and said “Your parents took you to Fox’s, right?” Which was….

Fox’s is a similar tiny joint probably a half-mile away, but on Little Red Hen is on the west side of Fair Oaks, and Fox’s is on the east side of Lake.

“Yeah, they did.” “Y’all didn’t cross the color line.”

Nope, we didn’t cross the color line. We lived in the zone where the color line was probably blurring in the early 80s; when I think really hard about my neighbors, about the places where I walked, about the houses around us, we probably lived right on the edge of the color line. But when it came to going out and being in a culture, we stayed on our side of the color line. (When we didn’t go all the way out to IHOP on Sierra Madre Villa.) We went to the breakfast joint with ketchup, not the one with hot sauce. The one with watercolor prints of lakes and mountains, not prints of Malcolm X and MLK.

I think I just gave her a crooked smile, and she shrugged, and I complimented the food again, both of us acknowledging: because racism.

With words I was brought up to believe color-blind was a thing. That you could just treat everyone equally. And at the same time

I’ve got so much going on in my head right now. The girls who threw my viola in the street when I was 12, and Edith, no more than 10, yelling at them to leave me alone, and one girl trying to choke her out. Mom calling the sheriff, and the dean, and that girl getting called in. I was mortified. MORTIFIED. I heard in high school, that she was still afraid of mom, and at the time I thought it was mostly because Mom is, well, a person of intense presence.

But now I’m connecting it to hearing a couple of black guys in my AP English class talking about being hassled by the sheriff up in northwest Altadena where they lived. (Altadena was and is unincorporated, so it’s patrolled by the LA County Sheriff’s Department.) I have to wonder if that girl’s fear was something else entirely.

I’m thinking of talking to people I know in Oly about my teen years, about the gang fight that got broken up by the police that I missed because I was working at the library; about being bused to a different neighborhood in high school (“as a black kid”, because I could definitely observe the difference between where I lived and where I was going); about being a numerical minority most of my school years. And then thinking about how I moved to such a white corner of the country, and after the initial alienation of college — which was mostly about class and money — how I’ve come to feel entirely at home there. And not really liking what that says about me. Which then feels ridiculously vain.

I do like Olympia for itself, I like the northwest for the weather, I like my town for its scale and its flora, for being able to bike to the river, for The Mountain in the distance on a clear day, for the friends I’ve made and the work I have.

But now I have some other things to put into perspective.

All of this is still pretty incoherent. (The related to GTA part? A section in the aforementioned essay-in-progress about music and race and time.) I’m glad I have the time and solitude to process it a little bit.

[I was gonna write about some other memory stuff, re save vs maudlin, but this is what needed to be said. Maybe later?]