Wednesday, November 28, 2012

For whom?

Bell and cross, Rubideaux, CA
I was finishing up the appraisal from hell, for an academic institution. I had tried to be the good guy and give a sweetheart price and forgot that no good deed goes unpunished. There had already been far too many changes and an interminable wait to get paid and now the deck was getting shuffled yet again and some items were now off the table and I was being required to sign an IRS affidavit.

I won't get into too many details but will tell you that the appraisal required me to take a trip into some of the funkier parts of the inland empire today. As I pulled off on my off ramp I noticed two panhandlers in the dingy dirt barrier. The man on my immediate left had deeply set eyes, eyes that long ago stopped connecting to anything that resembled what normally passes for human emotion. Tombstone eyes, as John Kay once penned in the song. He held a crude sign fashioned from a battered Corona 12 pack container. I would be lying if I said that I remembered the exact wording.

I averted my own eyes, fidgeted with my stereo and my vision ran squarely into the older woman directly in front of me who purposely held my stare. I may be mistaken but the look may have been "it could even be you standing here, buddy" and I suppose she was right. I did not avert my eyes this time, felt sorry about straits that could lead people to such a dire circumstance.

Of course there are now people standing in similar circumstances at practically every inner city offramp in the country and I am just not financially equipped to deal with the problem myself. Worrying about my own sorry ass. I quickly accelerated and left the two panhandlers to their eventual fate but the poor woman stayed on my shoulder for the better part of the day.

Jubea Chilensis Palms - White Park, Riverside
The appraisal went swimmingly, quickly finishing up all of the finalities except of course, my bill and I decided that I would antique shop the once proud city of Riverside and surroundings. In the old days Riverside was part of my regular flight plan but I hardly ever get up there anymore. Shops have vanished, pickings have got slim, gas is expensive. Ebay has cut out both the middleman and the allure. Kids today don't have much use for old stuff. What is left in the shops is now mostly garbage.

I went to eight or nine shops, almost bought a little painting of a snowy mountaintop but thought better of it. I walked up to one of the better used bookstores on the rout, a block up from the old Mission Inn. They always have a great selection of beat stuff and counterculture there, you can tell that they really love books.

The whole area around the Mission Inn is notable for its once glorious architecture and now much faded beauty. Riverside has such amazing remnants of the peak of both mission, spanish and spanish revival architecture. If I had been just a little bit more gung ho I would have spent the day shooting old buildings but I just didn't have it in me. It is shocking to me that an area that was once so beautiful was now so battered and worn.

I mostly watched people. I traveled south to a slightly seedier area. A young and quite tough looking couple walked by, both pierced and unwashed, he heavily tatted, with a very large pit bull in tow. Pit bulls are the dogs of choice in these kind of neighborhoods, the state over. Project the ultimate "don't fuck with me vibe" in an environment where you might not survive if you show weakness.

I passed Goodwills and pawn shops, a section of town where the hope is getting by, maybe another day. Termites sorting through the piles to find anything of value to buy or sell to feed the family hive. Not much different than what I do frankly. Area didn't look too much different from downtown Bakersfield actually, or take your pick of a large handful of other inland and central valley cities.

It is hard not to surmise that many of the trolls, billy goats and assorted characters that you find in neighborhoods like these and in encampments across America have been damaged beyond repair. I assume much of it is self inflicted.

The reality is that it wouldn't take much of a left turn for most of us to be knocked off our perch. Certainly could be me. People have been there to support me at critical times in my life. What if they hadn't been?

In search of a wayward shop, I found myself in a pirouette around an old donut shop that caused me to take a left turn off the main drag and into a low income neighborhood of tall white metal fences that seemed to be overwhelmingly black and mexican. Decent, hard working people by the looks of it but also very wary. I got lots of looks and saw a bunch of beware of dog signs. People in their driveways, eyes and ears at attention, very sensitive to any tremors in the force or temperature.

I have been had a penchant for walking and driving into poor and slum neighborhoods since I was a kid. Got fleeced for a camera while taking pictures in alphabet city when I was no older than 12. Used to love Harlem and Spanish Harlem.

It may just be a personal peccadillo of mine but I think that one can take a measure of him or herself when confronted with an awareness of what it looks like closer to the human edge and bottom. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are, how good we got it and watching the people who have to live it every day gives us a little reality check.

I passed the beautiful White Park and noticed the two beautiful specimens of my favorite palm tree, Jubea Chilensis, that had somehow eluded me all these years, right behind the gate.

Stopped off at Miguels Jr. on the way home. Famished, I hadn't eaten all day. A couple was caring for an autistic kid who was wildly flapping his arms in the air and mouthing unintelligible phrases. I realized that my problems were in fact minimal, imagined the burden that some people face every day.

Hit Granny's Antiques in Temecula, nothing there either except jelly beans, a strike out day. Drove back to deposit a check in the bank at the ATM. Found a whole bunch of money gone from my account, the modern day freakout nightmare. After a half hour inside trying to figure it all out I see that the check to me for the biggest sale from Del Mar has bounced. A 10k swing since I already paid the consignor. Mr. Bad Pay's out of the country and can't be reached. Looks like I will be faced with my own challenges this month. Shit Creek, the most prominent waterway on the whole fucking planet.

Never that far from the edge.

Moon almost full 11/27


Anonymous said...

Wow, I really enjoyed that. What was the picture of the white building?



Blue Heron said...

What do you mean, you enjoyed that? Me getting nailed with a fat bad check? Hysterical. But your comment is graciously accepted, brother John, in the spirit I am sure it was intended.

The white building is just north of White Park. Institute for something. Twenties spanish, sort of a plateresque deco amalgam. I will go back and take proper pictures one day as it is very beautiful.