Friday, July 01, 2005

used stuff of california

The week had been jagged, full of lost kittens and big questions. I have concluded that, after weeks like this, if you live where we live, it’s good to take the scenic route home. After dinner at CafĂ© Metropol, we wove in and out of what I’ll call the Bridge District, white brick arching over lonely and surprisingly clean lots. It was still light out, but hazy in that inland-summer-Friday way. We were the only ones around, so it felt weird to follow orders, to Not Turn On Red.

We headed down Alameda, past Washington. A huge tangle of green erupted to our right: plot after little plot of prickly pear cactus, of corn as tall as a stop sign. It was a community garden, technically, but more than that it was farmland. We turned down 41st Street, and it was like a village. In the fading pink light, people cooked meat on corners, and barefoot kids chased each other down the street. We chugged along behind a pickup truck full of flattened cardboard boxes, past two Victorian houses. One was bright sea foam green, the color of vinyl booths in ‘50s diners. The other—at least the bottom half—was striped pink, purple and yellow. Matching paper lanterns were strung across the porch.

The world fails and fails, but tonight I looked around and thought: People are resourceful. You can take away their health insurance and summer school and they still paint things and cook things. Which is not to say that it’s okay to take away their health insurance, or that there are any simple answers at all. Just that people are resourceful. Villages can bloom anywhere.

We turned down Central. I pointed out the Dunbar Hotel, where another group of people made another world a few decades back. Then down Vernon, past a store called USC: Used Stuff of California, and soon we were home.

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