Saturday, February 10, 2018

Passage to the virtual stacks

One day about 30 years ago my sister Stacey and I had an adventure.
It’s been a long time and I don’t remember many details. I think it was late spring or early summer. We were traveling from Bakersfield to Los Angeles in my 1966 Volvo 122 Amazon Estate Wagon. Looked kind of like the VW squareback but a foot longer; engine in front.

“Historians speak of the area around Gorman, California (just south of the crest of the Tejon Pass), as "one of the oldest continuously used roadside rest stops in California." This is because pre-Columbian indigenous Californians would have stopped there when it was the Tataviam village of Kulshra'jek, a trading crossroads for hundreds [possibly thousands] of years.”

We were on Interstate 5, the section just south of the Tejon Pass and Magic Mountain. For as long as I can remember it has been 8 lanes of cars and big trucks moving fast 24/7 (fire and ice notwithstanding). 
The car started to overheat. It threw a belt.
That bigger gear is made
of pressed wood
The thing about the pre-solid state Volvos was that they were made to be worked on and made to withstand wannabe mechanics like myself. 
One example; in the workings of a car engine is what is called the crankshaft. The thing the pistons push on that make things go round and round. At one end it turns the transmission which turns the drive shaft which turns the wheels. At the front end on my Volvo's crankshaft was a big gear maybe 6” across. It turned a smaller gear that was essential to making the engine run (camshaft). It all has to be in perfect sync. One day I heard this loud knocking from under the hood. Turned out that the big gear was made out of pressed wood with a metal center. It had completely stripped out and the car still drove. The valves didn't shatter as far as I know. 
This time it was more simple. Except that while we did make it as far as the Lyons Ave - Newhall exit, at the time the only place to get the replacement belt was miles east of the freeway. A couple of gas stations near the freeway still had repair bays but no belts that would fit. The Volvo wasn’t going to make it any farther. So with some vague directions we walked east toward the parts store, getting lost, and meeting a few local characters. Mostly it was the heat that oppressed us. We walked past where the sidewalk ends to a highway of sorts with a few old storefronts. They had the belt and we made it back to the Volvo. Installing it was quick but the sun took it out of us. Whatever our original mission was I think we let it go and just went back home. 

For a decade I worked standing a massage table. Two more decades were spent sitting at a computer screen then behind the wheel 8 or 10 hours a day. That must be what busted my ass.
Now as a disabled, I mean retired, person my days are filled with dreams of hiring a housekeeper “When I win the Lottery” and a list of other things. I have projects to fill my time. Besides stand up comedy and writing blog posts I listen to audio books. Paper books don’t do it for me and the selection of audiobooks at the Kern county library is quite limited.

A few months ago I saw an article about the Los Angeles Library’s vast online library that includes quite a few audiobooks and many other resources. As a resident of California I can get an LA library card and access to all of their online goodness. The catch is that you have to apply for the card in person. At least a 2 hour car trip each way. sigh
Among my array of medical conditions. The one that limits me the most has defied a definition from doctors. If I sit longer than an hour or two during the same day a pain develops right on those bones you sit on. For a while they called it Ischial Bursitis. The latest doctor says arthritis. Same treatment for both: ineffective.  But what the hell it's only pain, right?

Fast forward to February 5th 2018. Stacey and I try to have an outing or adventure of some kind couple of times a year. She lives about 100 miles north, outside Fresno. The last one involving travel was in June of 2015? I got a gig doing my comedy Hypnosis show for a high school’s lock-in graduation party. The school was in the countryside near where she lives so she got enlisted as my assistant. What with me feeling better lately it was time to test the limits of my sitting. She suggested we take a day trip down south to get an LA library card. 
Kinda like this

As it turns out there are LA city and LA county library systems. The northernmost LA County library is right off I5 at Castaic squirrelled away behind a shopping center. Just a few miles south, not too far off the 210, in Sylmar is the northernmost LA city library. We set out before noon to hit both in her brother-in-law’s late model muscle car a Dodge Charger. 

We talked up a storm all day as we tend to do. I had printed out the library card application forms before we left town so when we got to the county library it was simple enough to hand the librarian the forms and our IDs. The city library was in a more urban-like setting the librarian, an old hippy gal, also made the process easy and painless. The one in Sylmar has interesting architecture. 

Business out of the way it was time for lunch. If you know me well at all you know I detest chain restaurants. Few survive having more than 2 locations before the food loses its soul. By the time they are extended beyond their home city the taste of the food is, at best, a weak imitation, at worst, concocted in a lab and manufactured off site, untouched by human hands. The people working in such establishments have never met or worked a shift with the owner. They can try but they can never genuinely care that specifically you showed up for a meal. Not to mention that profits leave the community. 

Cecily Willis’ watercolor tribute
Just so happens that we were in the vicinity of the oldest cafe in the state. The Saugus Cafe opened in 1886. It is supposedly in the same location which appears to have been updated as late at the 1950s. 
This local access video is so charming in a kitchy way. 

I had the Saugus Burger special and Stacey ordered the steak sandwich with au jus on the side. That was some good eat’in. 

Then a little surprise. Stacey and her husband Mike have business in the southland fairly often and have their own favorite non-chain restaurant in Newhall. Vincenzo’s Pizza Newhall started to become a chain but sold off the satellites years ago. This is the real deal pizza. As we got back into the Charger Stacey got out her phone and ordered a 20” to be picked up. Power of suggestion I suppose; as the call connected I could smell fresh handmade pizza. We found the place in a stripmall on Lyons Ave. not far from the I5 on ramp that would take us home. The big restaurant was empty midday on a Monday. The owner Steve was there and is clearly one of those ‘a force of nature’ people. He was just boiling over with genuine enthusiasm for his pizza. Before we said a word he was telling us that he likes the pizza even better a few hours later when the chewiness of the crust is at its best. We told him that it won’t be eaten till Fresno, 3 hours away. He thought that was awesome. The enormous pizza box was able to sit flat on the floor of the trunk. That pizza was for Mike so I will have to wait for another outing to see if the crust is "all that". Stacey assured me that it was. 

Summary: Mission accomplished on the library cards. I logged into the LA city library and have a Kevin Hearne book checked out. I suppose it’s technically illegal but I have software that catches audio just before it gets to the speakers and lets you save it as an mp3. That way I’m not rushed and can listen through whatever device. I don’t plan on sharing the files so the intent of the copyright is maintained, mostly. 

No more undeveloped (past the end of the sidewalk) land in the Newhall, Saugus, Valencia part of the world. 

It ended up being around 5 hours of sitting. I use a special seat cushion that lets most of my weight rest on the muscles around, not on, the troublesome spots. That is how I’ve gotten it up to 3 hours on some days. It all might have worked better if I would have brought the special cushion into the Saugus Cafe. That got painful. The the last hour of the ride home was a pain in the ass. I spent most of the next day on my side while the whole area of my posterior kind of throbbed. I'm posting this 5 days later and the area is still tender, fuck! But I didn’t die. 

Getting through that hurdle I am planning the next challenge. Not quite as far away though. For a couple of years the guys I do comedy with have talked about how much fun they have at a place called Barmageddon. One Yelp review starts with "This place is dope". How can I resist that kind of magniloquent rodomontade? It’s only 65 miles away and hopefully I can stand while I'm there for the Open Mic and other activities. If I have to spend most of the next day laying on my side, so what? 

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