Friday, January 23, 2015

There Are Places I Remember

Spuds returns to New York on Sunday and the two week bacchanal of food, movies, art and food concludes. We discuss his return to Annandale. I start to say, “When you get home...” He interrupts balefully, “I am home.” A few days later I tell him how mortified I am to have said this. He shrugs and says flatly, “Yeah. Sometimes I say it too.”

We share the couch with Opie and watch Selma. It is not very good but as it is the 50th anniversary of the March, I've been seeing lots archival footage of the Civil Rights Movement. I do not remember whether I saw actual newscasts when I was seven years old but it has the look of TV that I remember and feels very much to be a part of my childhood. Holocaust footage evokes my parents. They reminded me that it had happened in their lifetime. Watching Selma, it is astounding to Spuds that such barbarism took place in the America of my own childhood.

As penance for too many tacos I have upped my walking. It seemed the hills would be dusty brown forever but voila! A bit of rain and bright green abounds in the fantastic light of now clear mornings. I explore the trails of Elyria Canyon and see for the first time a worn barn-ish house down in a hollow surrounded by several acres of shimmering field. I ascend a few feet and there is the evolving skyline of downtown and the ashes of the DiVinci apartment buildings, the fire attributable to a “crime of aesthetic passion.”

Despite his traffic apoplexy, Himself agrees to head west and attend a Hudson River School exhibit at LACMA. One of my empty nest consolations is that Spuds gets to live in the Hudson Valley and see the seasons change there. We cherish our memories of our own visits there. A couple of the paintings are of places the three of us have seen together. My highlight of the show is “The Course of Empire” by virtuoso of American Edenic, Thomas Cole. The quintet of paintings chronicle an imagined city. The first depicts the “Savage State,” followed by the “Bucolic State,” “Consummation,” “Destruction,” and finally “Desolation.”

In the adjacent gallery, a gigantic multimedia exhibit by Pierre Huyghe is alleged to have a live pink-legged dog. I am asked for my first and last name as I enter and it is announced like in a royal receiving line. Spuds spots the dog briefly but she eludes me. I ask all of the guards and they point me in different directions but I keep missing her. Finally I am told that the dog is having a rest in a private area. While looking for the dog however I encounter all sorts of grand scale modern-arty stuff. There's a buzzing beehive. Real falling snow. Big aquariums filled with symbolic objects. Production value! Gravitas! But no dog.

Photographer Larry Sultan was born in my Valley. There are the sixties stills with cocktails and Madmen spectacles. Sprinklers. Golf courses. Pools. Low slung ranch houses. I left in the seventies but Sultan stays to capture his polyester resplendent parents in Valley retirement. Then there is a series about porn production in Valley homes, each named for a street near where I grew up. Is it late stage “Consummation” or the beginning of “Destruction?”

When I was gone from the house on Fulton for any period of time I always expected it would appear exactly as it had in my earliest childhood. It never seemed right that the loveseat had been reupholstered and that my father's projection booth was given over to the blender and the Farberware Broiler. Somehow, I guess the most primal memory is the most resonant. It is jarring for my the kids to return and find changes or improvements. The aroma of gardenia and Myer lemons on the patio and the sparkle of tiny perfume atomizers on my mother's dressing table are permanently vivid.

The kids are pissed about traveling to a lot of different places that they have no memory of. Spuds asked if we hadn't seen a Beatles show when we were in London. He was around five. The show, Himself reminds me was called “All You Need is Love.” I do remember taking them to “The Lion King” and “Starlight Express” but not the Beatle show. My theatrical choices reflect the downside of having small children and but with regard to Spuds in London, except for a fleeting sense of a Beatles musical, he could have been watching TV or taking a nap.

We leave behind writings, photos and video but with the possible exception of some Facebook over-sharers this represents so little of what is felt and remembered in a lifetime. Memories waft through consciousness, so many glimmers of sense and feeling that will die forever when I die. My Valley of unpaved streets and walnut groves is dead. The camilla bush and ancient rosebushes of my childhood yard are ripped away. But Elyria Canyon and the Hudson Valley and so many places still in the “Savage State” are loved by me and also by people whom I love. It eases the hardness of the loss a life's memories to think that these savage places may be cherished too by my grandchildren and theirs. And so on.

Illustration: Thomas Cole-"Savage State" from "Course of Empire"

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