Thursday, October 8, 2009


Reduce, reuse, recycle

If a tree falls in your forest and you are not home to hear it, you will know what happened because it will be lying on top of your garden shed... and reaching out as far as the deep end of your OOL.


Long before we moved out to California ourselves and got a pool of our own, we had enjoyed a humorous sign at our uncle's home in Novato. It looked just like the one we eventually hung at our place. “Welcome To Our OOL Notice there is no P in it. Please keep it that way.” I'm pretty sure we and our many guests honored the letter of this law most of the time. As for the rest of the time... Better Living Through Chemistry, anyone?

We had an Atlas Cedar in our yard for many years, which I am sure all my siblings remember, some of them perhaps fondly. Although it was structurally ideal for climbing and tree-house hosting thanks to its dual (or triple- I am no longer sure which) trunks and numerous low branches, like almost any other tree it was also far from ideal for these purposes due to the great quantity of sticky, aromatic sap it exuded. I don't recall that we were much deterred by the sap, though I believe our mother noted its presence in her laundry pile with something less than complete delight. This tree, because of its somewhat spongy wood, was not very strong for its size, and suffered wind damage accordingly through the years; more than once, this wind damage rippled outward- a shed roof, a phone line. Something had to give, and we were tired of it always being that dear old tree, so bit by bit the once full and proud 70 footer was whittled down to about thirty rather ragged feet of snaggle-topped trunk with scarcely enough foliage to keep it alive, and then eventually was cut down to a forlorn stump of a few feet.

When, some years later, this stump had to be removed to make way for a brick patio I gathered some of the stump grindings and further ground them using an old coffee grinder which I had long used for reducing eucalyptus seed pods to powder. Don't ask me why I did either of these two grinding operation- or go ahead and ask me. I don't mind, it's just that I don't have any really interesting reasons. In both cases, I enjoyed the aromatic qualities of the material, which were enhanced by grinding; in the case of the Atlas Cedar, there were also sentimantal motivations- our old tree was finally gone, and I wanted to keep something around to remind me of it. I'm a physical, as well as psychical, collector. I'm a memory monger, and memory can have form. This coffee grinder, made by Girmi of Italy, bore a curiously Fascistic sticker declaring that the appliance had been approved by the City of Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety. You know a local government has gone far wrong when it can find the time to evaluate foreign consumer grade kitchen tools.

What once was lost now is found

Anytime you move something as big as a tree you're going to find things. In the case of a tree that was long used by children, some of those things will be toys. Remember Playmobil? If you do remember the blockily graceful little swing-arm people with removable hair, chances are you also remember some of the wonderful things they brought with them when they colonized our world, such as this dog, who was not born with a bobbed tail, and the accompanying marvelously detailed stave-side pail which is better designed, in my opinion, than 85% of all Playmobil accessories.

You may also remember little green army men- these crippled veterans are about the best preserved, and least destroyed of the hundreds who served and died in that part of our backyard. More fortunate than many, these guys did not fall to fire, airguns, or even the dread shovel-bomb. From their injuries, which include broken backs, missing feet, and one decapitation, I'd say these men were done in by brick artillery, and probably only one or two barrages, at that. Nonetheless when they were called to go forth, they answered the call. The orange-brown box trying to creep in at the right side of the picture is another Playmobil artifact, a non-descript handled crate. I do not consider it notable, and took pains to exclude it, with only about as much success as such pettiness deserves..

The Clown Who Came To Dinner

Things come and things go, staying as long in the backyard as they are needed, or unheeded. Then there are the things that are just passing through. When I first started bike buying about this time last year, I ran across this Miyata “clown bike”, a very goofy eccentric-hubbed machine designed to give an up-and-down ride, sort of a swoopy-bumpy gait. It was of no use to me, but I had been in correspondence with a bike-collecting gentleman in Baltimore who was interested, so I bought it and boxed it and put it on an Amtrak train. Total time on premises- a memorable 72 hours.

Blonde On Blonde

This guitar, which I bought about ten or fifteen years ago was the first of what has since become three mid 70s to early 80s Ibanez Concords, all with maple fretboards. At first, I enjoyed the guitar more for its effortless playability and its balanced sound output than for its stunningly beautiful wood. I didn't think the maple was such a big deal, even visually, though it was kind of nice. Soon, however, I was in love. The visual magic caught hold of my mind, yes, and strongly so, but it was the feel that really got me. After a month of playing this guitar, the regular old guitars with rosewood fretboards I picked up felt a lot less fluid, even downright cranky and resistant. It was the smoothness of the fretboard that made the difference. In fairness, I can't say that the maple is what makes the fretboard smooth, because I believe there is some applied finish -and fairly thick finish at that- involved, but the combination of feel and yellowy goodness proved almost irresistible, and I bought a couple more from this line, as chances came up. This one is a Model 671, and I still like it better than any of the others, though I do appreciate them all very much. I don't know why I never name guitars- it's certainly not that I object to the practice, far from it- but I don't, so I just refer to this one by model number or as the blonde beauty, but if I ever do start naming instruments, I think Ol' Yeller would be about right.

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