Friday, March 08, 2013

In which I am homesick...

I'm really feeling homesick today, as I sit here in Fresno and look out at the gray sky and a wet patio and fence. It's probably the same in southern California, the place I'm homesick for, but that doesn't matter. That's home, and every so often I get so homesick for the south part of the state that I can hardly stand it.

It makes no sense, to be honest. I've lived in central California longer than I lived in southern California - about 14 years longer here than there, at this point - but as far as I'm concerned, southern California is home. It probably always will be.

I think this particular bout of homesickness has to do with having watched the Academy Awards ceremony when it was broadcast late last month. At one point, for some reason that I don't remember now, they showed a photo of the Capitol Records building. When I was growing up, we drove by that building on a fairly regular basis, and it has become one of the symbols of my childhood. Now, whenever I see it, it reminds me of home and all the warm, fuzzy stuff that goes with it.

That isn't the only place that has that effect on me. The Hollywood sign does it to a lesser extent. What does it even more than the Capitol Records building is the observatory and planetarium at Griffith Park. And, of course, Disneyland. I grew up going both of those places, and I love them, and seeing photos of them always makes me want to be there rather than here.

When it gets really bad, sometimes I go searching YouTube for videos of all the places I knew and loved growing up. There is quite a variety of them, some of them from places that no longer even exist. There's even some old, silent footage from the California Alligator Farm, which used to sit right across the street from Knott's Berry Farm, in Buena Park:

We used to go to the alligator farm every time we were in that part of the region. My father was a big fan of reptiles in all their forms, and he always liked the alligator farm a lot. Originally, the Alligator Farm was located in Lincoln Heights, a Los Angeles Neighborhood, but it was moved to Buena Park in 1953 and remained their until it closed in 1984, a victim of dropping attendance.

Another place that isn't there anymore is Pacific Ocean Park, which was located in Santa Monica. POP, as it was known, opened in July, 1958 and operated until October, 1967, when it closed due to low attendance and after a new owner couldn't pay his bills. But, it was fun while it lasted, and I remember the one visit my family made there with fondness. Here is a bit about POP from a 1959 documentary, around the same time as my visit there:

One of the things I remember most about that day was that I really, really wanted to go on the diving bell ride that you saw in the video. My mother, however, was frightened of water and refused to let me ride.

Here's an ad for another gone-but-not-forgotten southern California attraction, Movieland Wax Museum. I'm the first to admit that the wax museum was kind of cheesy, but it was a good kind of cheesy, and I was sorry to hear the news when it closed in 2005 after having been open since 1962:

At one time, the wax museum had a second wing, in which the wax figures were not of movie stars, but were set up in re-creations of famous works of art. It was called the Palace of Living Art, and the best part was neither inside the building nor made of wax. This was a Carrara marble replica of Michelangelo's David, with the marble, so legend says, taken from the same quarry where the artist got the marble for his original sculpture. It sat in the courtyard of the museum for a time after the Palace of Living Art closed, and was eventually sold to the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum in St. Augustine, Florida, according to the sources I've seen.

Well, sitting here and being homesick is not a productive use of my time, and so I'll leave this at that. I hope today's homesickness will pass as I get on with the day, since I really have other things to do than sit and ransack YouTube for scenes from my past. That book I'm writing will not ever get finished if I don't get to work. I'm already an hour behind today's self-imposed schedule.

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