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December 10th, 2003

three big things, three little things

Yesterday after my court hearing, I elected to ride the Los Angeles rail system back to the airport. After much controversy attending construction problems with the rail line, this actually has become a very nice way to travel.
It's part subway and part surface line.

My trip included a ride on the Blue Line, which rolls through South Central Los Angeles, Watts and Compton on its way to Long Beach. I always find this particular part of the ride interesting. I looked at little stucco houses, some with Christmas decoration up, others featuring bougainvillea in bloom. An aluminum building advised me, in Spanish, that it was the Body of Christ Church. One train station featured statues of a hammer, a screwdriver and various bolts. At one point, the train perched high over a lot filled with long brown poles stacked on the ground, that one day will no doubt be telephone poles. The Los Angeles Trade Technical College looked, as it always does, like some really hip Polytechnic in Bucharest, built in Second World lack of style by some benevolent but architecture-impaired in-law of a Communist autocrat. I feel an unexplainable momentary urge to chuck it all up, and learn a trade, and get a good job in a solid working class community like South Gate, near a good bus stop.

When one switches from the Blue Line to the Green Line, one waits in what amounts to the median of the 105 (Century) Freeway, between the traffic going hither and the traffic going thither. It's a somewhat stark reminder that everything moves way too fast, going determinedly in one direction or another, for no discernible reason.

My Feeder Guppy Rescue League Yahoo group has now reached 11 members, which I count as a form of success. I like the sense of creating something from nothing in less than a year. Three members have joined since I ran the ad in Aquarium Fish Magazine, although the group seems to draw members in through the normal "search" functions at yahoo groups, so it's hard to tell if the ad made a difference. I read up today on guppy relatives in Central America, including one newly discovered species (poecilia endler) which shimmers in particularly attractive colors so as to be seen in its problematic native habitat. It apparently lives only in two places, one of which is an algae-laden pond near a garbage dump in someplace like Venezuela. I like people who shimmer in problematic habitat such that they still radiate a bit.

When I was a kid, this time of year involved long sessions with the Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and Spiegel catalogs, making up Christmas lists. In my family, Christmases were a big deal, and the gift giving was (perhaps unduly) generous. One asked for three big things and three little things. I forget what the break point for a big thing was, but I think anything over ten dollars qualified. I remember still that part of the pleasure of the catalog was to examine things so expensive they were "bigger than a big thing", i.e., things that cost so much one would never ask for them for Christmas. I remember electric football fields in Super Bowl proportions, cheesy but pricey in kids' terms Sears electric guitars, and little electric cars any kid would love to have. In the "real world" that existed outside of catalogs, some kids got go karts, mini-bikes or even motorcycles, things that we-whose-dad-patched-kids-together-in-emergency-rooms were denied. But I never remember feeling envious that some kids got such cool stuff.

I don't think, when it all shakes out, that I was or am very interested in things as things. I was, and am, interested in things for the color they could bring to my life. I want to hook up that microscope with a TV-type screen I bought at Goodwill in order to put "on screen" pictures of green euglena with their whip tails and rotifers, who always remind me of the Norelco commercials that played during "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". I want to play "Silent Night" on my autoharp, and sing along, trying desperately to get that lilting up-rise on the penultimate "Heavenly Peace", rather than the mildly Daffy Duck raillery that marred my childhood renditions of the song. It's all a big Sears catalog, this life. Sometimes, as happened one Christmas, they run out of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots and send instead huge plastic figurines from the Man From Uncle, which we didn't even watch. Still, it's all about making the best of one's own toys--and Ilya Kurikin (or whatever that spy's name was) had many a battle with cowboys, indians, army men and navies made of Legos in my house.

Last year I made a particular point of asking for experiences for Christmas--a play, a day at a state park, and the like. Maybe for this holiday season, instead of asking for experiences, I can create a few. Maybe that's the trade school I need to attend--about creating something good with limited tools and earnest effort.